The Must-Reads of 2018 from We Need Diverse Books

Posted by Marie on December 6, 2018
Goodreads Choice Awards 2018

Caroline Tung Richmond is an award-winning YA author and the program director of We Need Diverse Books. Run by authors, librarians, teachers, and volunteers, this nonprofit organization has spent the last four years advocating for diversity in children's publishing.

Richmond spoke to Goodreads about the need for diverse books and the changes she's seen since her organization was founded in 2014. She also shared her team's favorite YA recommendations for fans to add to their Want to Read shelf.


Goodreads: How did your organization start?

Caroline Tung Richmond: In 2014, Book Con announced their list of presenters, the majority of which were white male authors. As a response to that, a hashtag was created: #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

It was started by a group of writers who came together and asked people on social media to post about why they need diverse books. It took all of us by surprise at how popular it became and how it started trending on Twitter.

From there, a Book Con panel called "We Need Diverse Books" was added to the roster. At the heart of this was the core team of our executive committee (many of them have now taken on advisory or honorary roles with WNDB).

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This included our CEO and cofounder Ellen Oh, and she really helped get that momentum swinging in the direction we're now in. After the panel, we started an Indiegogo campaign, which raised the funds to turn WNDB into an organization, not just a hashtag.

Goodreads: How have things changed since then?

CTR: It's really heartening nowadays to see The New York Times' bestseller list populated with diverse writers. Because even just a few years ago, it was still rare to have that. To see people like Dhonielle Clayton, Tomi Adeyemi, Angie Thomas, Adam Silvera, and McKenzie Lee getting the recognition they deserve is really rewarding.

One thing I've seen is how publishers are starting to see that there's hunger for diverse stories, that there's a market there. And it's always been there! But finally, these books are finding their ways onto the main tables of bookstores and aren't just hidden away, gathering dust on the shelves anymore.

Speaking as a writer, I've also noticed that pitch contests on Twitter are gaining a lot of popularity. DVpit, a pitch contest for diverse writers, just wrapped up this week, and they've signed on many aspiring authors who have gotten book deals. That wasn't even on the radar five years ago. So now we're seeing agents and editors excited about DVpit coming around every year.

Goodreads: Why do young readers need diverse books?

CTR: A lot of us have personal stories about why we need diverse books. For me, I was a bookworm growing up. My nose was always in a book, and I loved bookstores and libraries. But it wasn't until I was a freshman in high school where I came across a book where I really saw myself, and that was The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.

For the first time, the story I was reading felt like my own, and it was such a turning point for me. As a parent, I don’t want my kids to have to wait as long as I did to find a book that resonates with them. Some people on the WNDB team don’t find themselves in a book until college or later. Others, not at all, and they're writing that book they wished they had as a kid. On that side, that's why we need diverse books because we feel like every child deserves to be able to find themselves within the pages.

Conversely, reading builds empathy. So for kids in the majority, they also need diverse books just as much as those who are marginalized. Books can be the key that shows kids what life is like for people who don't look like them; they're a bridge.

Goodreads: A big thank you to your team for this list of recommendations! Can you tell us how you put it together?

CTR: I think what's heartening is that when you first asked me to put together this list, I had a hard time keeping that number under 30. We have so much more to choose from compared with five years ago, and that's really, really cool.

I started compiling the list by going through WNDB's Our Story app (since we have a vetting process there), then I opened it up to our board and our librarian liaison. Dhonielle was very helpful here, too, because she's also a former librarian and she has a very good pulse on what's being published and what I could include. So it was really a group effort.

Contemporary

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Graphic Novel & Poetry

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Historical

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Anthologies

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Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Which diverse YA books would you recommend? Let us know in the comments!


Check out more recent articles:
Announcing the Winners of the 2018 Goodreads Choice Awards!
The Most-Read Books of the 2018 Reading Challenge
Do Good: 12 Literary Nonprofits to Support This Holiday

Comments Showing 1-16 of 16 (16 new)

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message 1: by Amina (new)

Amina Flame in the Mist


message 2: by Cheyenne (new)

Cheyenne Aru Shah and the End of Time

Sadly it gets left off YA lists because it's classified under middle grade, but that's just the youngest level it can be read by, I highly recommend it! :D <3


message 3: by Glenda (new)

Glenda Nelms I read 2 books on this list: A Blade so Black by LL McKinney and The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton. These are my favorite reads of 2018!


message 4: by Cendaquenta (new)

Cendaquenta I think it's wonderful that books for young people contain so much representation, but I do wish the diverse books movement would spread beyond YA.


message 5: by Maisie halton (new)

Maisie halton I think it's wonderful that book for young people like me


message 6: by Elise (new)

Elise I can vouch for The Prince and the Dressmaker--I love that one!


message 7: by Louie (new)

Louie Glenda wrote: "I read 2 books on this list: A Blade so Black by LL McKinney and The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton. These are my favorite reads of 2018!"

I just read A Blade So Black recently and I loved it!!! I can't wait for the sequel!


Tara♥ {MindforBooks} Even though I didn't LOVE IT love it I think A Very Large Expanse of Sea is an important and insightful read for YA readers. As an adult I found it very enlightening. I'm not great with contemporaries in general and that's the only reason I didn't love it big time.


message 9: by Murphe (new)

Murphe I would have added "All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages" to the anthologies! And I can too highly recommend Poet X and Pride, especially the audiobooks which are both narrated by Elizabeth Acevado <3


message 10: by Booklover925 (new)

Booklover925 yay this is so awesome!


message 11: by Zsófi (new)

Zsófi I'm new here and I don't know where I should write this kind of things but can somebody recommend a book for a boy please. He is 18 and he likes historical, political books and books which is in a fictional universe (Star wars, Harry Potter).


Nitya (semi hiatus) On this list- The Astonishing Color of After and The Prince and the Dressmaker! Both are beautiful books and are truly unforgettable. Read My So-Called Bollywood Life too... it was cute but not really my favorite.

Not on this list- This is What It Feels Like, From Twinkle with Love and Pashmina


message 13: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn Zsófi wrote: "I'm new here and I don't know where I should write this kind of things but can somebody recommend a book for a boy please. He is 18 and he likes historical, political books and books which is in a ..."

He may like that book, The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson...


message 14: by Danielle (new)

Danielle Graham Several friends recommended me to read All the Stars Denied.I put off reading it for a long time, because I don’t really like this genre, but I really liked it.Now I'm looking for similar books...


message 15: by Kristi (new)

Kristi Children of Blood and Bone and Forest of a thousand lanterns.


message 16: by Aislign (new)

Aislign Zsófi wrote: "I'm new here and I don't know where I should write this kind of things but can somebody recommend a book for a boy please. He is 18 and he likes historical, political books and books which is in a ..."

If he hasn't read it, give him the Dune series. Classic, and amazing, they contain everything you've outlined (well, history may be a stretch but it works). I'd also recommend Strange the Dreamer. Lovely book for any gender.


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