Diversify Your Shelves with WNDB--December 7, 2015
Contributed by Brandy Colbert
Growing up as a teenager in the ’90s, there weren’t a whole lot of young adult books to choose from. I read whatever I could get my hands on, through either the library, the bookstore, or book fairs, but I wasn’t lucky enough to have the wide selection of YA books that exists today. And no matter how hard I looked, it was next to impossible to find stories about girls like me—black girls, who faced a variety of challenges related and not at all related to their skin color and cultural background.
While I’d still like to have a bigger selection on the shelves, I’m happy to see there are many more books celebrating the lives and experiences of black girls from all different walks of life. Here are three personal recommendations that I wish had been available when I was a teen.
This Side of Home is a coming-of-age story about identical twin sisters Maya and Nikki, whose predominantly black community in Portland, Oregon, is undergoing gentrification. While Maya is bothered by the influx of new businesses taking over their familiar streets, Nikki finds it to be a welcome change. Told in Watson’s gorgeous prose, this story never shies away from frank
discussions about race and class, and offers a unique look at the varying opinions on and results of gentrification in a city well known for its hipster culture. (Bonus: The cover features a face front image of a beautiful black girl, which is all too rare in YA fiction these days.)
Gibney’s See No Color combines sports, transracial adoption, and biracial identity into a powerful story about learning where you came from and wondering where you’ll go. Sixteen yearold Alex, adopted by a white family, is a force on the baseball field, coached by her father, who used to play professionally. Alex’s family has always proclaimed to “see no color,” and when she learns they’ve hidden letters from her biological black father, she begins to wonder where she came from and whether that has a place in her current life. See No Color is a beautiful and honest exploration of coming to terms with an identity shaped by various people, circumstances, and cultures.
Another story focused on the lives of identical (and HaitianAmerican) twin sisters, Untwine is narrated by 16yearold Giselle, who wakes up in the hospital unable to talk or move after her family is involved in a horrible car accident. While trapped in her injured body, Giselle has
ample time to think about the life she had before the accident, including the people most important to her. She reflects on her parents, who were having marital troubles prior to the accident, and wonders who she would be without her twin sister and best friend, Isabelle, a talented flutist who was next to her when their car was hit. Untwine is a gorgeous tale of the loss, grief, and hope that occur after a tragedy, while Danticat’s lyrical prose seamlessly blends in the importance of family and love.
Brandy Colbert’s debut novel, Pointe (Putnam), won the 2014 Cybils Award for young adult fiction and was named a best book of the year by Publishers Weekly, BuzzFeed, Book Riot, the Chicago Public Library, and the Los Angeles Public Library. She has worked as an editor for several national magazines and is currently a copy editor for both books and magazines. She lives and writes in Los Angeles.