Column by Brandy Colbert
One of the best parts about the creation of We Need Diverse Books is that while the campaign is so important at getting the word out about the diversity gap in publishing and the myriad ways in which we can help close it, it’s also forced me to think about my own reading. Was I supporting enough diverse books? Did I actively think about my purchases and library requests or was I guilty of reading only the newest books, or those getting the most hype?
I’m happy to say that over the past year, but especially in 2015, I’ve been conscious of the books I choose to support. It’s become second nature to seek out diverse reads, and it’s a way of putting my money where my mouth is, in hopes that more will be published (and perhaps receive more publisher support).
The following are my personal recommendations for some of the best diverse books that I’ve read over the past several months:
This was a quiet book from the start, but one that I loved from the first few pages. First off, two MexicanAmerican teen boys coming of age in 1980s Texas? Yes. At times, the loneliness, anger, and discomfort of Ari and the sensitivity of Dante was almost too painful to endure—this is not a book that will let you get away without a whole mess of feelings. But it is a book about friendship and all types of love (romantic, familial, platonic) told through spare but lyrical prose, a book that is hopeful and sweet and on my list of favorite love stories.
I fell in love with Sarah McCarry’s writing in her first book, All Our Pretty Songs, which is the first part to this brilliant companion series, retellings of famous Greek myths. I didn’t know what to expect from Dirty Wings, which chronicles the mothers of the two main characters from AOPS, but what I got was a heartstoppingly beautiful book about a road trip down the California coast, about friendship, about love. Maia is Vietnamese, adopted by a white, wealthy couple who believe it’s imperative that she strive for perfection at the cost of developing her own personality and wants. Cass is a hippie runaway, surviving on the streets and in need of love. Together, they are wonderful and terrible, powerful and tragic. Wrapped up in some of the most gorgeous prose I’ve ever read, Dirty Wings is a mustread about the magic and danger of human connection.
This book comes out this month, the third by Stephanie Kuehn, whose Morris Award–winning Charm & Strange and critically acclaimed sophomore novel Complicit were welcome additions to literary young adult fiction. Anyone who’s read Kuehn’s previous novels knows that she is a master of quiet suspense and unreliable narrators, and Delicate Monsters is no exception. It follows Sadie Su, the halfChinese daughter of a wealthy, vineyardowning family and a teen who’s been kicked out of her third boarding school in nearly as many years for almost killing a classmate. Sadie is unapologetically drawn to trouble and would likely laugh in your face if you dared to call her unlikeable. She soon finds herself intertwined in the lives of two brothers, Emerson and Miles, and what ensues is a twisted tale of three damaged teens thrown together in a world that isn’t interested in shielding them from its darkness.
Brandy Colbert’s debut novel, Pointe (Putnam), won the 2014 Cybils Award for young adult fiction and was named a best book of 2014 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, and is a team member of We Need Diverse Books.