Representation in literature is critical, especially for young audiences. There is an incredible amount of power in seeing parts of yourself reflected in the main character or storyline, and helps unite people through shared experiences and perspectives. While there has been some great progress in regards to having increased WOC/POC representation in the media and publishing world, we clearly have more work to do.
Recently, five new WOC authors have taken center stage and shared their moving stories, experiences, and perspectives on often overlooked social justice and human rights issues that are unfortunately still present in our society today.
Even if reading is not your thing, I would encourage you to give one of these books a try. Reading is a great way to develop critical thinking skills, learn something new, and challenge your perspective. I hope you love these books as much as I do, and take something important out of them and apply it to your daily life in one way or another.
Without further ado, here are five powerful new books written by WOC you need to read.
1. The Black Kids - Christina Hammonds Reed
The Black Kids is Christina Hammonds Reed's debut novel and one you do not want to miss. The book is set in 1992 and follows Ashley Bennet and her friends as their senior year of high school comes to an end and they look forward to summer and college. However, the bliss of the upcoming summer is soon shattered after four LAPD police officers are acquitted that April after nearly beating Rodney King to death. As riots and protests plague LA, Ashley tries to continue living her life as normal but soon realizes that nothing will ever be the same again. Considering the current political climate, this novel about the exploration of race, class, and violence is more important than ever.
2. Lobizona - Romina Garber
Lobizona by Romina Garber follows Manuela Azul, an undocumented immigrant whose life becomes uprooted when her grandmother is attacked and her mother is taken into ICE custody. Without her family and home, she feels more alone than ever. However, she comes upon a single clue from her past and discovers that there is a magical world beneath our own where she feels a sense of belonging for the first time. This novel does an excellent job of combining a moving tale of loss, hardship, and belonging with elements of mystery and fantasy. Without a doubt, it is certainly worth a read.
3. Don't Ask Me Where I'm From - Jennifer De Leon
Don't Ask Me Where I'm From by Jennifer De Leon details the story of a young woman named Liliana as she tries to find a sense of belonging in a mostly white-washed school. Liliana, half Guatemalan and half Salvadoran, transfers from a failing inner-city school to a predominately white, high-performing school in Westburg, MA. As family secrets become unveiled and the racism at her school ramps up, she must decide what she believes in and take a stance. The book seamlessly combines elements of coming-of-age, self-identify, and an important discussion of racism and microaggressions within the educational system of America.
4. This is My America - Kim Johnson
This is my America by Kim Johnson deeply explores the racial injustices of the American justice system through Tracy Beaumont, a 17-year-old young woman who is fighting to get her innocent father off of death row. After 7 years, Tracy is running out of time—her dad has 267 days left. Grappling with this issue, another one presents itself: Police arrive during the night to inform Tracy that her brother, Jamal, was just accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother and father, will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of a Texas town's racist history that still haunts the present?
5. Transcendent Kingdom - Yaa Gyasi
Transcendent Kingdom follows Gifty, a 6th-year neuroscience Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University School of Medicine where she studies reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a star high school athlete who became addicted to OxyContin—an opioid medication for chronic pain—after an ankle injury and subsequently passed away from an overdose. Gifty is determined to discover the biological basis for all the suffering she sees around her, but through her scientific research she finds herself going against her Christian faith and grapples with the Evangelical church in which she was raised. The Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving tale of a Ghanian immigrant family raised in the southern U.S. as they are ravaged by addiction, loss, and grief through combining elements of faith, science, religion, and love.
On a lighter note, I really hope that one of these books interested you, and I encourage you to look into purchasing it through the links provided or renting it from your local library. After all, fall is one of the best times of the year to find a good read and I think one of these books will do just the trick. Go on, find a cozy nook, grab a coffee, a soft blanket, an optional cat, and dive on into one of these remarkable books.