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Reflections on 15 Years of Taiwanese Diaspora Children’s Literature

Welcome to my Taiwanese American Heritage Week feature series! Taiwanese American Heritage Week is celebrated every year in May starting on Mother’s Day and ending the following Sunday. Each year during TAHW I spotlight Taiwanese authors and books in some form or fashion on my blog. You can find all of the past features in my Post Index.

In this article and personal essay, I trace the 15-year history of #OwnVoices Taiwanese representation in English language children’s literature, with a primary focus on middle grade and young adult novels (including graphic novels). I also reflect on what Taiwanese representation means to me, discuss some of the difficulties of finding Taiwanese representation, and draw attention to some of the gaps in Taiwanese representation that I want to see filled in the future.

The First Taiwanese Diaspora Children’s Novels

2006 was a watershed year for Taiwanese representation in English language children’s literature. In February of 2006, The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin was published. In April of 2006, Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen (referred to here on out as Nothing But the Truth) came out. Later that year, the graphic novel American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang1 was released. These three books were my first exposure to Taiwanese representation in English language media and, if I’m not mistaken, the first of their kind, at least in traditional publishing.

In 2006, I was 13. That spring, my parents attended the North American Taiwanese Women’s Association Annual Conference, where Grace Lin and Justina Chen—as well as Alvina Ling, the editor for their respective books released that year—were the guest speakers. My parents returned from the conference with a set of signed books from the two authors, personalized for me and my younger sister2. Avid reader that I was, I devoured both The Year of the Dog and Nothing But the Truth in no time.

Although I had consumed plenty of media with Taiwanese people up to that point, courtesy of my mother’s love for Taiwanese romance dramas, this was the first time I’d really encountered any stories featuring Taiwanese people like me in diaspora. Reading The Year of the Dog and Nothing but the Truth, I felt seen in a way that I had never experienced before.

As for American Born Chinese, I didn’t read it until several years later as an older teen. However, Gene Luen Yang was the first among all the Taiwanese children’s authors that I got to meet in person. In 2010, he appeared as one of the author guest speakers at the Montgomery County Teen Book Festival, which was hosted at my high school that year. Because of my limited book-buying budget, I did not get a copy of American Born Chinese signed when I met him. Instead, I asked him to draw a llama (one of my obsessions at the time) for me since he was taking doodle requests from readers. I remember him looking at me with surprise and telling me that it was the first time he could remember getting such a request. Needless to say, I felt special. I kept the signed llama drawing safely tucked away in a folder, and it remains among my treasured mementos of my high school years.

The following year, I met Justina Chen at the same book festival. As a member of my school’s Literary Club, I had the special privilege of volunteering as an author escort for the festival every year, making sure that the author in my care knew where to go for each session and that they had access to pencil, paper, water, and tissues as needed. Justina was one of the authors I served that year. I was so stoked. Her debut had left a deep impression on me when I read it several years prior, to the point where I emulated aspects of the book’s epistolary format and writing style in my own personal journal narrating my life in 8th grade. It was a book that helped me realize that I could write stories about people with my own background and get published. The personalized inscription she’d written in my copy of the Nothing But the Truth, “Taiwanese girl-writers3 are STRONG & SMART,” stayed with me for years.

The Search for Representation

Fast forward several years to my undergrad life. In 2014, I declared Asian American studies as a second major after having a quarter-life crisis about my future career and feeling that aerospace engineering had lost all of the appeal it once had when I was applying to college. As a result of taking multiple classes relating to race and media, I understood the importance of representation in shaping perceptions of marginalized groups. With a newfound hunger for books representing Asian Americans, I began a quest to read as much Asian American literature as possible. For various reasons, I had practically stopped reading for leisure altogether starting in my freshman year of college, so I had a nearly four-year gap to catch up on. While I did seek out a number of adult titles, I also returned to children’s literature, which had fostered my love for reading to begin with.

Since their respective 2006 releases, Grace Lin, Justina Chen, and Gene Luen Yang had all published more books. Of the three, only Grace Lin had written any with explicitly Taiwanese main characters, found in two additional books about her fictional alter-ego Pacy: The Year of the Rat and Dumpling Days. Dumpling Days was especially important to me because it emphasized Pacy’s specifically Taiwanese American identity. The Year of the Dog had mentioned Taiwan as the place where Pacy’s parents had immigrated from, but the language of the story used Chinese as a descriptor. Since writing The Year of the Dog, Grace had undergone her own journey of understanding the differences between Chinese and Taiwanese; Dumpling Days reflected that evolved understanding. I distinctly remember reading the following passage from the book and posting a photo of it to Facebook:

“You’re Taiwanese-American,” Mom said. “And, no matter what, that’s what you’ll always be.”

Forever, I thought. I’d always be Taiwanese-American, no matter if I spoke Chinese, made my eyes bigger, or was called a Twinkie. Even if I didn’t like it. Being Taiwanese-American was like making a brush stroke. The mark couldn’t be erased, and the ink and the paper could never be separated. They were joined forever.

“Mom!” I said, grabbing her arm before she walked away. “For my name chop, can I have my name carved in Chinese and English? Can they do that?”

“Yes.” Mom nodded, a little surprised. “I’m sure they can. I’ll order them today.”

“Good,” I said, and I felt as if I had just taken off a winter coat after discovering it was summer. I was glad I had found my identity.

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Sometime in 2015, after catching up on all of Grace Lin’s middle grade novels, I wrote her a fan letter, a physical one sent by snail mail4. I wrote about how important her work was to me, among other things. As promised on her author website, she wrote back. Since I hadn’t met her in person yet at the time, this letter was the next best thing on the reader fan bucket list.

I did eventually meet Grace Lin in person a few years after, at the 2018 ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans. Despite the weight it added to my luggage, I brought along all of the middle grade books by her that I owned and didn’t already have signed. At that same conference, I also met Alvina Ling, whom I mentioned earlier, the editor behind a good number of the Taiwanese American children’s books that exist today. Like 2006, 2018 was the year of the dog. It had been twelve full years, a whole zodiac cycle, since I’d first read The Year of the Dog, and I was meeting the author and editor of that book in person. It felt like my childhood had come full circle.

Dumpling Days was published in 2012. Between 2006 and 2012, the only other children’s novel with an #OwnVoices Taiwanese American protagonist that came out, besides the ones I’ve already mentioned, was Peiling and the Chicken-Fried Christmas by Pauline A. Chen5. Published by Bloomsbury in October 2007, this short middle grade novel did not have nearly the same amount of exposure as the Taiwanese American-authored books of 2006, which received various awards and accolades between them (notably, the Asian Pacific American Book Award/Honor and the Printz Award). I had to order it from a third-party seller on Amazon because it was out of print.

Upon reading Peiling and the Chicken-Fried Christmas, I discovered, much to my ire, that the synopsis on the dust jacket referred to Peiling as Chinese even though the content of the book mentioned her Taiwanese heritage, and the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) on the copyright page also labeled it as being about Taiwanese Americans. Amazon’s synopsis for the book said Taiwanese rather than Chinese, but that error in the book bugged me all the same because it mirrored the constant microaggressions about my identity I’d faced throughout my life and still have to contend with even today.

A Golden Age of Taiwanese Diaspora Representation

After 2012, there was a dry spell of almost five years where, to my knowledge, no middle grade or young adult novels with #OwnVoices Taiwanese representation were published. While Grace Lin had managed to build a successful career writing Asian main characters, the publishing industry was still largely hostile or apathetic to diversifying its output at the time. Then in 2014, We Need Diverse Books was founded, representing a critical turning point for diversity in children’s literature. The seeds of change planted that year bore fruit for Taiwanese representation in summer 2017 with the publication of Want, a sci-fi dystopian YA novel by Cindy Pon set in a near-future version of Taipei. I was already a fan of Cindy through her Chinese-inspired YA fantasy duologies, but Want was extra special because it was Taiwanese through and through.

Around the same time that Want was published, several other Taiwanese diaspora authors had started breaking into the kidlit industry with agents and book deals. That year, I decided to put together the inaugural Taiwanese American Heritage Week author interview series on my blog to shine a spotlight on them. Out of the five featured authors from 2017, four write for young readers: Cindy Pon, Gloria Chao, Emily X.R. Pan, and Judy I. Lin6.

Since that 2017 interview series, Gloria Chao has published three books featuring Taiwanese American main characters (American Panda, Our Wayward Fate, and Rent a Boyfriend), and Emily X.R. Pan has published one (The Astonishing Color of After) with a second book on the way in 2022. Their debuts both came out in early 2018, but I had a chance to read them in late 2017 thanks to some friends and acquaintances who sent me advance reader copies. Although neither really claimed any “firsts” in Taiwanese diaspora children’s literature (with maybe the exception of mental illness representation in The Astonishing Color of After), they still felt groundbreaking in their own way. The only other contemporary YA with a Taiwanese American main character in existence at the time was Nothing But the Truth, which had resonated with my younger self but felt rather dated in 2018. These new debuts heralded what I like to think of as a mini Golden Age of Taiwanese diaspora representation in children’s literature. A few #OwnVoices Taiwanese diaspora books a year isn’t much when the total of children’s publishing amounts to several thousand books published annually (most of which are very white), but it’s a welcome step up from the near invisibility of the past.

As far as middle grade is concerned, I’ve been heartened to see fantasy series inspired by Taiwanese geography, history, and culture appear in recent years. Henry Lien’s Peasprout Chen trilogy was the first to come along, with book 1 in the series published in 2018 (the year that I interviewed him). In 2019 and 2020, Cindy Lin (no relation to Grace Lin) published a fantasy duology drawing on her Taiwanese heritage, mixing Japanese and Chinese influences that reflect Taiwan’s layered colonial history. Neither one is prominently as marketed as Taiwanese-inspired, and it would be easy for a cultural outsider to miss those influences and think they’re simply Chinese or more broadly East Asian, but to me, there were obvious aspects to both stories that pinged the “look, a Taiwanese thing” alerts in my head. Fantasy set in alternate universes obviously carries different implications for representation than fiction set in the real world, but seeing those little bits of Taiwan in fantasy books was still affirming in its own way.

The Struggles of the Search

One thing I think is important to note about Taiwanese representation in children’s literature is how hard it can be to find it even where it exists. This difficulty is in part a function of the fluid, dynamic, and contested nature of Taiwanese identity, as well as the publishing industry’s biases in labeling and classifying books by authors of color.

Just recently, Pew Research Center released a report in which they analyzed U.S. Census data, and they made the decision to count anyone who wrote in Taiwanese for their ethnicity under the Chinese category in a blatant act of erasure and data manipulation. The problem is not that no Taiwanese people are or identify as Chinese, but rather the assumption that all Taiwanese people are Chinese and identify as such. For those who aren’t aware, people who trace their roots to Taiwan typically identify as exclusively Chinese, exclusively Taiwanese, or both/either Chinese and/or Taiwanese, with the first being the least common and on the verge of fading out completely. I won’t explain the history behind this trend in too much detail, but suffice to say that due to this Venn diagram of identification patterns, it’s very easy for Taiwanese representation to fall through the cracks if the book uses the term Chinese in the synopsis and/or promotional materials.

While gains have been made in representation for people of color in literature, the labeling of race/ethnicity by publishers and catalogers is often either done tokenistically or discouraged, especially when it comes to talking about the content of children’s books. When a book is about [or is perceived as being primarily about] racial/ethnic identity, it is usually labeled with that specific race/ethnicity in the synopsis and in the LCSH, if those are provided on the copyright page. However, for books that are not primarily about identity or racism, the likelihood of the character’s race/ethnicity being mentioned in the synopsis or LCSH goes down. This may sometimes be done with the intention of reducing the Othering of people of color as a “marked category” in opposition to whiteness, but the reality is that gatekeepers often treat race and ethnicity as unimportant and irrelevant in stories that aren’t about identity struggles or racism. In these cases, the “colorblind” approach to labeling stories dominates, which ultimately erases how people of color move through the world differently from white people beyond experiencing racism. The tendency to only label race and ethnicity for “issue books” also stigmatizes racial/ethnic difference by tying it exclusively to trauma and suffering.

Given the above problems, I sometimes have to do a lot of digging to find Taiwanese representation. Many Taiwanese diaspora books appear on my radar through book deal announcements and official synopses that explicitly state that they are Taiwanese. However, those summaries don’t always mention a character’s ethnicity. Some of the gaps are filled by my book community network since I follow tons of people who talk about racial/ethnic diversity and representation and make a point of mentioning it for all the books that include it. However, it’s impossible for me to see every single tweet, and my network doesn’t always catch everything.

To compensate, I spend a lot of time at bookstores just methodically combing through the books on the shelves, hunting for any POC representation that slipped through the cracks. Author last names and cover illustrations are my first indicators that there might be POC representation in a book. Then, I check the synopsis.

For many ethnicities, the name of a character alone is a fairly reliable indicator of their ethnicity, but for Taiwanese people, most of whom have Chinese family names, last name alone isn’t sufficient. While Taiwan uses a different romanization system for personal names than China, there is overlap in the romanization of certain sounds and therefore names, and the correlation between romanization and country of origin isn’t quite one-to-one. If the synopsis doesn’t have any conclusive information, I check the copyright page for LCSH tags. Unfortunately, not all publishers include LCSH assignments in the book. Another option is to Google the author’s name and “Taiwanese” to see if anything comes up.

If all else fails, I start skimming the book or read it to see if it references a particular label or country. This is how I figured out that the main character in The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh is Taiwanese American prior to its publication. The ARC I received did not have the LCSH tag “Taiwanese Americans—Fiction” that appeared in the final version, so it took a bit of reading to find what I needed. I followed a similar process to ferret out the existence of the Taiwanese representation in This Is My Brain in Love by I.W. Gregorio.

The Future of Taiwanese Representation in Children’s Literature

Despite all the gains made in the past few years, there is still so much more I want to see in terms of Taiwanese representation. One experience I’m desperately craving more of is that of people who identify as Taiwanese and only Taiwanese. There are only a few I can think of in the Taiwanese diaspora children’s books that exist right now (one of these being Lily LaMotte’s middle grade graphic novel Measuring Up). There’s an entire array of microaggressions and political tensions that come with that experience that hasn’t been fully explored yet in children’s literature, only hinted at in a few places.

I also want to see more queer Taiwanese representation. I can only think of one queer Taiwanese main character in children’s literature by a Taiwanese author (Poppy from Dear Twin by Addie Tsai). Even though Taiwan is touted as the most queer-friendly Asian country, I don’t really see that reflected in diaspora narratives.

Another type of representation I want more of is books with disabled Taiwanese characters. In particular, I crave stories about mentally ill Taiwanese characters and the complexity of navigating multiple cultures that don’t make much space for those tough conversations about trauma. On a related note, I also want to see the history of the White Terror explored in children’s literature. It’s a heavy topic, but a necessary one to reckon with Taiwan’s history and the intergenerational trauma that lingers in the diaspora.

Additionally, I think the intra-Taiwanese diversity of origin and migration histories needs to be reflected in children’s literature. Taiwan is home to many different groups: the dozens of Indigenous tribes, the Hoklo and Hakka people who have been in Taiwan for hundred of years, and the Southeast and South Asian people who migrated to Taiwan more recently—and beyond. The diaspora is spread out across different parts of the U.S. as well as outside of the United States and so far there haven’t been any books with multiracial Taiwanese main characters that are by multiracial Taiwanese authors.

Translated Children’s Literature from Taiwan

Another area of Taiwanese literary growth I long for is more English language translations of children’s literature from Taiwan. The Western Anglophone literary sphere is rather averse to translated literature with the exception of adult literary fiction, leaving behind everything else that doesn’t conform to elitist standards of artistic value. Taiwan has a much smaller publishing industry than the U.S., but it still has much to offer—in general and as far as children’s literature is concerned. The Taiwanese government’s Ministry of Culture has a sub-agency called the Taiwan Creative Content Agency that maintains a site, Books from Taiwan, showcasing some of the literature from Taiwan with the intent to convince foreign publishers to acquire the rights to these titles. There are so many titles on the list that have caught my eye and made me wish I were an industry professional who could acquire them and/or translate them. Some are books I will eventually buy in Taiwan to read in their original Traditional Chinese form, but I want others who can’t read Chinese to be able to enjoy them, too.

Among the books I hope to see translated are several comics, sometimes referred to in English as “manhua,” the Mandarin equivalent of the Japanese word “manga,” to distinguish their origins. Unlike their Japanese (and to a lesser extent, Korean “manhwa”) counterparts, Taiwanese comics do not have the same global distribution and cultural influence. During the summers I spent in Taiwan in my youth, I read multiple manhua series by Selena Lin (林青慧), nicknamed Taiwan’s 漫畫小天后, the “little heavenly empress of comics,” and I wish there were more people I could talk to about her work.

Bilingual/Multilingual Children’s Books

Last but not least, I wish there were bilingual/multilingual books for children by Taiwanese authors, in English plus any languages commonly spoken in Taiwan. Unfortunately, the Anglophone supremacist tendencies of publishing means that the use of non-English (and more broadly, non-Western European) languages is discouraged to cater to an assumed monolingual English-speaking audience. As far as children’s books are concerned, Spanish is probably the only language with bilingual books available in a significant number. I own one bilingual children’s book in English and Mandarin that’s not explicitly meant for language-learning purposes. It’s called Alice in Dreams艾莉絲夢遊記 and was a limited print run picture book written by Hsuan-fu Chen and Scott Alexander and illustrated by Martin Hsu. There are more out there, but they are mostly independently published, some through crowdfunding, making them more difficult to find and obtain.

Writing the Stories I Want to See

Those of you who have been following me for a while know that I write children’s literature in addition to maintaining this blog. I hope to fill some of the gaps in representation I’ve identified through the stories that I myself write. I’m not query ready yet at this time, but I’m getting there, slowly but surely. Hopefully, in a few years, you’ll see my books on the shelves, too.


Footnotes:

  1. The protagonist of American Born Chinese is identified as Chinese American, but one of the major supporting characters is from Taiwan, so I counted it here, with consideration for the long-lasting influence ABC has had in children’s publishing.
  2. I also have an older sister, but at the time she had mostly stopped reading English language novels, and she was a bit older than the target age for the books, so I’m guessing that’s why my parents didn’t have it personalized to her as well.
  3. This was prior to realizing I was trans, when I still identified as a girl.
  4. Grace Lin doesn’t accept emails from young readers for privacy and safety reasons, so instead you can write physical letters to her. If you include a self-addressed and stamped envelope with your letter, she’ll send you the response with bookplates and bookmarks!
  5. Not to be confused with Pauline F. Chen, a Taiwanese American doctor and the author of an adult memoir called Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflection on Mortality.
  6. Judy is actually Canadian, not American, but I included her because I believe that everyone in Taiwanese diaspora is welcome to be featured and celebrated in the heritage week series.

Bibliography of Books Referenced by First Publication Date

 Here’s a list of all the middle grade and young adult books with Taiwanese representation (or that are inspired by Taiwan, in the case of secondary world fantasy) organized chronologically by first publication date. I incorporated as many as I could into the body of the article, but there were at least two I didn’t touch on here but are featured in this week’s author interviews. If I’ve missed any #OwnVoices middle grade and young adult books with Taiwanese representation that are already published, please let me know. I’ll be talking about upcoming releases with Taiwanese representation in another post featuring upcoming books by Taiwanese authors more broadly, regardless of content.

  1. Lin, Grace. The Year of the Dog. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2006.
  2. Chen, Justina. Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies). Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2006.
  3. Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. First Second, 2006.
  4. Chen, Pauline A. Peiling and the Chicken-Fried Christmas. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2007.
  5. Lin, Grace. The Year of the Rat. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2008.
  6. Lin, Grace. Dumpling Days. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012.
  7. Pon, Cindy. Want. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017.
  8. Yeh, Kat. The Way to Bea. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017.
  9. Chao, Gloria. American Panda. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018.
  10. Pan, Emily X.R. The Astonishing Color of After. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018.
  11. Lien, Henry. Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword. Henry Holt & Company Books for Young Readers, 2018.
  12. Lien, Henry. Peasprout Chen: Battle of Champions. Henry Holt & Company Books for Young Readers, 2019.
  13. Lin, Cindy. The Twelve. HarperCollins, 2019.
  14. Tsai, Addie. Dear Twin. Metonymy Press, 2019.
  15. Chao, Gloria. Our Wayward Fate. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019.
  16. Chang, Victoria. Love, Love. Sterling Children’s Books, 2020.
  17. Gregorio, I.W. This is My Brain in Love. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020.
  18. Lin, Cindy. Treasures of the Twelve. HarperCollins, 2020.
  19. LaMotte, Lily and Ann Xu. Measuring Up. HarperAlley, 2020.
  20. Lin, Ed. David Tung Can’t Have a Girlfriend Until He Gets Into an Ivy League College. Kaya Press, 2020.
  21. Chao, Gloria. Rent a Boyfriend. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020.
  22. Yen, Jennifer. A Taste for Love. Razorbill, 2021.

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[Blog Tour] Miss Meteor Book Playlist and Book Recommendations

Hello and welcome to the second part of my stop for the Miss Meteor blog tour hosted by Karina @ Afire Pages. I’ve curated a short playlist inspired by the book. As with my previous playlists, I’ll add some commentary and lyrics translations where appropriate. I also have a few book recommendations based on Miss Meteor. If you missed my review with all the details about the book, you can read it here.

Book Playlist

Links redirect to YouTube.

1. Dreams – Alysha

2. I Will Show You – Ailee

This song is actually about bouncing back from heartbreak/being dumped, but it’s also about a makeover and getting revenge, so I felt like the vibe fit this story about empowerment.

3. Watch Me Shine – S.H.E

This song is a remake of a song by the same name originally sung by Joanna Pacitti and was apparently featured in Legally Blonde, but I was exposed to this remake sung by this popular Taiwanese girl group first. The lyrics of the Chinese version are much more poetic and include a lot of starry imagery. I’ve translated some of the lyrics below (please do not repost):

Your heart that flashes light and dark still wavers
I can only feel a faint electricity
If you want a bright, hot love, then you cannot hesitate
Sincerity demands that you have confidence in yourself

Even if there’s a great distance from me to you
Love is a star that can be plucked

No matter how many light-years separate my love
As long as you concentrate, you will see it
There’s such an intense hint in my eyes

No matter how many light-years remain in forever
As long as we start, it can be realized
If you want to know how dazzling love is
Watch me shine

4. Makin’ My Way (Any Way That I Can) – Billie Piper

5. Explosive Remix – Bond

Book Recommendations

Miss Meteor is a story about underdogs joining a competition and growing into themselves. Here are three other YA novels featuring queer girls of color who challenge the preconceived notion of stardom and prove their detractors wrong. I read all of these back in June and they were all amazing.

I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee

I’ll Be the One follows the story of bisexual Korean American Skye Shin, who goes against her mother by entering a kpop competition. She passes her audition and becomes part of an internationally broadcast elimination contest. Unfortunately, the industry is not welcoming of fat girls, so she must find a way to win without compromising herself. Along the way, she also falls for her rival Henry Cho.

If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann

Winnie was expecting to pass her summer uneventfully working at her Granny’s diner and hanging out with her ungirlfriend (kind of like a queerplatonic partner), but the universe has other plans. When she is crowned Misty Haven Summer Queen, she’s thrust into the spotlight and a newfound friendship-with-attraction with her Misty Haven Summer King. Brimming with humor and heart, If It Makes You Happy is a story about learning to assert your desires and draw your boundaries with the people you care about.

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

In order to attend her dream college, Liz Lighty makes the decision to campaign for prom queen with its promise of a scholarship. Winning a popularity contest as a poor Black girl in a very rich white town isn’t the easiest thing to do, though. She finds a bit of solace in the new girl Mack, who knows what it’s like to be a misfit, but falling for her rival could spell disaster for Liz’s goals.

[Blog Tour] 5 Books to Read After Lupe Wong Won’t Dance

Hello and welcome to the second half of my stop on the blog tour for Lupe Wong Won’t Dance hosted by Colored Pages. You can read my review of the book here if you haven’t already.
Since I love middle grade books and want to spread the love, I thought I would feature and recommend some middle grade novels by Asian and Latinx authors with similar themes or vibes as Lupe Wong Won’t Dance.

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly

I reviewed this book several years ago and knew that I would read everything by Erin Entrada Kelly after I finished it. Blackbird Fly features a Filipino American girl who wants to be a famous rock star but is struggling to fit in at her predominantly white school, where she ends up on a horrible list called the Dog Log ranking the girls considered the ugliest in their grade. This book gets very real about racism and bullying but emphasizes the beauty of true friendship.

Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

Merci Suarez Changes Gears features a Cuban American protagonist and captures the essence of middle school perfectly: the troubles of fitting in among peers, the frustration of butting heads with your parents, puberty and the confusing aspects of people around you developing crushes and acting weird. It also tackles classism and the experience of being poor in an environment where everyone else is rich and the alienation that comes with it.

My Year in the Middle by Lila Quintero Weaver

My Year in the Middle is set in 1970 in Alabama and features an Argentinian American girl who loves to run track and is figuring out her place in a school where classrooms seating is segregated into Black and white. Lu is a passionate, sensitive protagonist whose personality jumps off the page. This story provides a nuanced view of racism in history and sets a great example in showing young readers how to stand up for what is right in spite of doubts and peer pressure.

Pippa Park Raises Her Game by Erin Yun

Pippa Park Raises Her Game is a modern reimagining of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Pippa is a Korean American girl from a lower class background who attends a private school on a basketball scholarship and has major impostor syndrome from having to hide her family’s laundromat from her classmates. Unfortunately, an anonymous troll on social media threatens to expose her secret.

Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom by Booki Vivat

Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom is the first in a hilarious middle grade series featuring Abbie Wu, who is an anxious Asian American tween trying to keep her head above the water as she enters the dreaded institution known as middle school. The story is told in a combination of simple but expressive doodles and prose that’s super dynamic and fun to read. If you’re prone to catastrophizing and overthinking, you’ll probably find this book super relatable.

[Blog Tour] Books to Read After We Are Not Free

This is the second part of my tour stop for the We Are Not Free tour hosted by Colored Pages.
As I noted in my review, at the end of We Are Not Free, the author provides a bibliography of further readings, and I’d like to add a few recommendations of my own for novels by Japanese American authors that address Japanese/Japanese American experiences during World War II.

The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw

The Last Cherry Blossom is a middle grade historical fiction book that chronicles the tale of a young girl who experiences and survives the bombing of Hiroshima. This book takes you through a lot of emotions as you witness the tragedy through the eyes of Yuriko, who lives in the shadow of a terrible war whose purpose she does not understand but whose effects she feels deeply nonetheless. It’s a moving story of family secrets, love and loss, survival and hope. It is based on the author’s mother’s real life story. For more on the background of this book, you can read my interview with Kathleen Burkinshaw from 2017.

This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura

This Time Will Be Different is a contemporary young adult novel that centers on CJ, a Japanese American teen who is still trying to figure out her life and spends her time helping her aunt Hannah at the flower shop her family has run for multiple generations. When her family is pressured to sell the shop to the very people that swindled them back during the era of Japanese American incarceration, CJ finds a sense of purpose and ignites a campaign for reparations that polarizes her family and her community. This is an engaging story that depicts a teen dipping her toes into social justice activism and being realistically messy that also has a complex portrayal of mother-daughter relationships.

This Light Between Us by Andrew Fukuda

This Light Between Us is young adult historical fiction novel with an emotionally gripping and harrowing portrayal of World War II and Japanese American incarceration. It depicts the war through the eyes of a Japanese American boy named Alex and his pen pal, a Jewish girl named Charlie living in France. This book totally blew me away when I read it earlier this year. I felt completely immersed in Alex’s world, as if I were experiencing the events alongside him as he moved from home to internment camp to the battle front in Europe. The letters and bond between him and Charlie were sweet and a ray of light in the looming darkness, a testament to deep friendship. The parallels between Alex and Charlie’s lives as minorities facing persecution were striking and skillfully emphasized. The complexity of Japanese Americans’ feelings about their citizenship/identity and serving in the military were also explored in a nuanced and thought-provoking way.

Displacement by Kiku Hughes

Displacement by Kiku Hughes is a young adult graphic novel that weaves fact and fiction, jumping between present and past. In this book, a fictionalized version of the author/artist Kiku is suddenly transported to the time of World War II and experiences incarceration alongside her late grandmother, who was a teenager at the time. Displacement is a timely, poignant, and introspective examination of history, family, and intergenerational trauma, as well as the need to make sure history does not repeat itself in the present. The dominant color palettes of brown and orange and blue-green-gray convey the muted atmosphere of the camps very well. I also really loved the use of lines, shadows, and silhouettes to convey movement and contrast. Displacement makes a perfect complement to We Are Not Free because it includes some of the same locations: San Francisco, Tanforan Assembly Center (San Bruno, California), and Topaz City, Utah. You can see the details and events brought to life in a different medium.

When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka

When the Emperor was Divine is an adult historical fiction novel. It was my introduction to Japanese American incarceration in fiction. I read it in one of my Asian American studies courses, Gender and Sexuality in Asian American Literature. Like We Are Not Free, When the Emperor was Divine narrates the events through multiple points of view, following the four members of a single family forced into the camps. While the viewpoint characters in We Are Not Free are all teens or young adults, the ones in When the Emperor was Divine are either adults or younger children (ages 11 and 8). The characters are also nameless. This authorial choice creates a sense of narrative distance that contrasts with We Are Not Free, but it is still evocative in its own way, like watching a black and white film.


Don’t miss out on the other stops in the blog tour!

August 30th

Book Rambler – Welcome post & interview

Mellas Musings – Favorite quotes

Debjani’s Thoughts – Review Only

Sophie Schmidt – Review in Gifts

August 31st

The Reading Fairy – Review Only

Her Book Thoughts – Favorite Quotes

What Irin Reads – Review Only

September 1st

Sometimes Leelynn Reads – Author Interview

The Confessions Of A Music And Book Addict – Review Only

Emelie’s Books – Mood Board

Too Much Miya – Fanart /Art related to the story

September 2nd

Yna the Mood Reader – Favorite Quotes

The Writer’s Alley – Review Only

Marshmallow Pudding – Favorite Quotes

September 3rd

Div Reads – Reading vlog

Clairefy – Review Only

Know Your Books – Favorite Quotes

September 4th

READING (AS)(I)AN (AM)ERICA – Book Recommendations Based on Book

Per_fictionist – Favorite Quotes

Mamata – Review Only

September 5th

Wilder Girl Reads – Review Only

Lives In Books – Book Recommendations Based on Books

A Fangirl’s Haven – Review Only

[Blog Tour] SFF YA Duologies by Authors of Color to Read After Mirage

If you’re following my blog, you might have noticed the pinned post featuring SFF YA trilogies by POC and Indigenous authors. For the #CourtOfLionsTour I’ve decided to round up a bunch of SFF YA duologies by authors of color since Court of Lions is itself part of a duology and the story focuses on two young women whose fates are intertwined. Disclaimer: This list is not exhaustive! Also, this is based on the information I was able to find; some of these may actually be longer than 2 books but have not announced further installments to date.

Completed Series

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

  1. Mirage
  2. Court of Lions (my review)

Want by Cindy Pon (my interview with the author)

  1. Want (my review)
  2. Ruse

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee (my interview with the author)

  1. The Epic Crush of Genie Lo (my review)
  2. The Iron Will of Genie Lo

Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne (my interview with the author)

  1. Rosemarked
  2. Umbertouched

SOS by E.C. Myers

  1. The Silence of Six
  2. Against All Silence

The Blood of Stars by Elizabeth Lim

  1. Spin the Dawn (my review)
  2. Unravel the Dusk

Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan

  1. Ignite the Stars
  2. Eclipse the Skies

Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi

  1. Beasts Made of Night
  2. Crown of Thunder

Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

  1. Empress of a Thousand Skies
  2. Blood of a Thousand Stars

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

  1. The Belles
  2. The Everlasting Rose

Exo by Fonda Lee (my interview with the author)

  1. Exo
  2. Cross Fire

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

  1. The Star-Touched Queen
  2. A Crown of Wishes

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

  1. The Girl from Everywhere
  2. A Ship Beyond Time

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

  1. Wintersong
  2. Shadowsong

Warcross by Marie Lu

  1. Warcross
  2. Wildcard

Rise of the Empress by Julie C. Dao

  1. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
  2. Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix

The Final Six by Alexandra Monir

  1. The Final Six
  2. The Life Below

Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh (my interview with the author)

  1. Rebel Seoul
  2. Rogue Heart

Tower of Wind by Makiia Lucier

  1. Isle of Blood and Stone
  2. Song of the Abyss

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

  1. We Set the Dark on Fire
  2. We Unleash the Merciless Storm

Circle of Shadows by Evelyn Skye

  1. Circle of Shadows
  2. Cloak of Night

The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi

  1. The Beast Player
  2. The Beast Warrior

Gumiho by Kat Cho

  1. Wicked Fox
  2. Vicious Spirits

Caster by Elsie Chapman

  1. Caster (my review)
  2. Spell Starter (my review)

Ongoing or Unreleased Series

Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

  1. Shatter the Sky
  2. Storm the Earth (out October 13th, 2020)

War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi

  1. War Girls
  2. Rebel Sisters (out October 20th, 2020)

The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco

  1. The Never Tilting World (my review)
  2. The Ever Cruel Kingdom (out November 10th, 2020)

Sands of Arawiya by Hafsah Faizal

  1. We Hunt the Flame
  2. We Free the Stars (out January 19th, 2021)

The City of Diamond and Steel by Francesca Flores

  1. Diamond City
  2. Shadow City (out January 26th, 2021)

The Queen’s Secret by Melissa de la Cruz

  1. The Queen’s Assassin
  2. The Queen’s Secret (out March 2nd, 2021)

Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

  1. Scavenge the Stars
  2. Ravage the Dark (out March 9th, 2021)

A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy

  1. A River of Royal Blood
  2. A Queen of Gilded Horns (out March 16th, 2021)

The Girl King by Mimi Yu

  1. The Girl King
  2. Empress of Flames (out March 16th, 2021)

The Wrath of Ambar by Tanaz Bhathena

  1. Hunted by the Sky
  2. Rising Like a Storm (out June 22nd, 2021)

The Light at the Bottom of the World

Light the Abyss by London Shah

  1. The Light at the Bottom of the World
  2. Journey to the Heart of the Abyss (out 2021)

Rebelwing by Andrea Tang

  1. Rebelwing
  2. Renegade Flight (out 2021)

Hollow Crown by Zoraida Córdova

  1. Incendiary
  2. Illusionary (out 2021)

The Good Luck Girls

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

  1. The Good Luck Girls
  2. Untitled

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

  1. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
  2. A Psalm of Storms and Silence (out 2021)

Raybearer

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

  1. Raybearer
  2. Untitled

Kingdom of Cards by Janella Angeles

  1. Where Dreams Descend
  2. When Night Breaks (out June 8th, 2021)

Blazewrath Games

Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz

  1. Blazewrath Games (out October 6th, 2020)
  2. Untitled

Magic Number 3: SFF YA Trilogies by POC and Indigenous Authors

Even though POC and Indigenous authors are finding success in SFF YA more so than in the past, it’s still hard to find longer series by POC and Indigenous authors, especially ones that are #ownvoices or feature POC and Indigenous characters. I can only think of one prominent SFF YA series by an author of color featuring protagonists of color that’s longer than three books, and that’s An Ember in the Ashes, which is planned for four books total (Book 4 is coming in 2019). Anyway, in order to put the spotlight on some SFF YA series by POC and Indigenous authors, I decided to put together this post of trilogies because I seemed to come across a lot of them in my reading journey. Three is the magic number, I guess. (Note: I’ve included some series that only have 3 books announced so far that may end up being longer.)
Completed Series

The Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu (Chinese American)

  1. Legend
  2. Prodigy
  3. Champion

The Young Elites by Marie Lu (Chinese American)

  1. The Young Elites
  2. The Rose Society
  3. The Midnight Star

Blood of Eden by Julie Kagawa (Japanese American)

  1. The Immortal Rules
  2. The Eternity Cure
  3. The Forever Song

The Feral Trilogy by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek Nation)

  1. Feral Nights
  2. Feral Curse
  3. Feral Pride

The Prophecy Series/Dragon King Chronicles by Ellen Oh (Korean American)

  1. Prophecy
  2. Warrior
  3. King

The Vicious Deep Trilogy by Zoraida Córdova (Ecuadorian American)

  1. The Vicious Deep
  2. The Savage Blue
  3. The Vast and Brutal Sea

The Dove Chronicles by Karen Bao (Chinese American)

  1. Dove Arising
  2. Dove Exile
  3. Dove Alight

Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki Nation)

  1. Killer of Enemies
  2. Trail of the Dead
  3. Arrow of Lightning

Penryn and the End of Days Trilogy by Susan Ee (Korean American)

  1. Angelfall
  2. World After
  3. End of Days

The Tribe Series by Ambelin Kwaymullina (Palyku Nation)

  1. The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf
  2. The Disappearance of Ember Crow
  3. The Foretelling of Georgie Spider

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey (Puerto Rican)

  1. The Girl at Midnight
  2. The Shadow Hour
  3. The Savage Dawn

Forget Tomorrow Trilogy by Pintip Dunn (Thai American)

  1. Forget Tomorrow
  2. Remember Yesterday
  3. Seize Today

Ruined by Amy Tintera (Mexican American)

  1. Ruined
  2. Avenged
  3. Allied

The Beyond the Red Trilogy by Gabe Novoa (Latinx)

  1. Beyond the Red
  2. Into the Black
  3. The Rising Gold

The Sea of Ink and Gold Trilogy by Traci Chee (Japanese and Chinese American)

  1. The Reader
  2. The Speaker
  3. The Storyteller

The Effigies Trilogy by Sarah Raughley (Black American)

  1. Fate of Flames
  2. Siege of Shadows
  3. Legacy of Light

The Timekeeper Trilogy by Tara Sim (Indian American)

  1. Timekeeper
  2. Chainbreaker
  3. Firestarter

The Bone Witch Trilogy by Rin Chupeco (Filipino)

  1. The Bone Witch
  2. The Heart Forger
  3. The Shadowglass

The Shadowshaper Cypher by Daniel Jose Older (Cuban American)

  1. Shadowshaper
  2. Shadowhouse Fall
  3. Shadowshaper Legacy

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa (Japanese American)

  1. Shadow of the Fox
  2. Soul of the Sword
  3. Night of the Dragon

Starswept Trilogy by Mary Fan (Chinese American)

  1. Starswept
  2. Wayward Stars
  3. Seize the Stars

Brooklyn Brujas by Zoraida Córdova

  1. Labyrinth Lost
  2. Bruja Born
  3. Wayward Witch

Ongoing Series

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (Nigerian American)

  1. Akata Witch
  2. Akata Warrior
  3. Untitled, TBA

Legacy of Orïsha by Tomi Adeyemi (Nigerian American)

  1. Children of Blood and Bone
  2. Children of Virtue and Vengeance
  3. Untitled, TBA

The Celestial Trilogy by Sangu Mandanna (British Indian)

  1. A Spark of White Fire
  2. A House of Rage and Sorrow
  3. A War of Swallowed Stars (out June 1st, 2021)

Shadow Players by Heidi Heilig (Chinese American)

  1. For a Muse of Fire
  2. A Kingdom for a Stage
  3. On This Unworthy Scaffold (out March 16th, 2021)

The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala (Indian American)

  1. The Tiger at Midnight
  2. The Archer at Dawn
  3. The Chariot at Dusk

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (Indian/Filipino American)

  1. The Gilded Wolves
  2. The Silvered Serpents
  3. Untitled

A Forgery of Magic by Maya Motayne

  1. Nocturna
  2. Oculta
  3. Untitled

Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron (Black American)

  1. Kingdom of Souls
  2. Reaper of Souls (out February 16, 2021)
  3. Untitled

Shamanborn by Lori M. Lee (Hmong American)

  1. Forest of Souls
  2. Broken Web (out June 15th, 2021)
  3. Untitled

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn (Black American)

  1. Legendborn
  2. Untitled (out 2021)
  3. Untitled

Upcoming Series

Deathless by Namina Forna

  1. The Gilded Ones (out February 9th, 2021)
  2. Untitled
  3. Untitled

For more SFF YA series, check out my list of duologies by authors of color!

March and April 2018 MG/YA Releases by POC/Indigenous Authors

Disclaimer: These are all of the ones I know of, not all of the ones that exist! Also if I’m wrong about any of the descriptions/categorizations feel free to drop a comment. Detailed synopses can be found by clicking the hyperlinks in the titles, which redirect to the books’ Goodreads pages. 🙂


  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (March 6th) – YA, Contemporary, Novel-in-Verse, Afro-Latina Dominican(?) MC, Own Voices
  • Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi (March 6th) – YA, Nigerian-inspired Fantasy, Black MC, Own Voices
  • The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller (March 6th) – MG, Contemporary, biracial Korean American MC, Own Voices
  • The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani (March 6th) – MG, Historical Fiction, Multifaith Muslim/Hindu Indian MC, Own Voices

  • The Sky at Our Feet by Nadia Hashimi (March 6th) – MG, Contemporary, Afghan American MC, Own Voices
  • After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay (March 6th) – YA, Contemporary, MCs of Color (one Black, one biracial but exact ethnicity I’m not sure of)
  • The Beauty that Remains by Ashley Woodfolk (March 6th) – YA, Contemporary, Black MC with Anxiety (Own Voices for both?), Korean American Adoptee MC, Queer White MC
  • Lies That Bind (Anastasia Phoenix #2) by Diana Rodriguez Wallach (March 6) – YA, Mystery/Thriller

  • Restore Me (Shatter Me #4) by Tahereh Mafi (March 6th) – YA, Dystopian
  • The Final Six by Alexandra Monir (March 6th) – YA, Science Fiction
  • Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones (March 13th) – YA, Contemporary, Gay Indigenous MC (author is Cree/Métis), Own Voices
  • Like Vanessa by Tami Charles (March 13th) – MG, Historical Fiction, Black MC, Own Voices

  • The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (March 20th) – YA, Contemporary Fabulism, Biracial White/Taiwanese American MC (Own Voices for Taiwanese but not biracial)
  • Along the Indigo by Elsie Chapman (March 20th) – YA, Fabulism, Biracial White/Chinese MC (Own Voices for Chinese but not biracial rep)
  • Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles (March 20th) – YA, Contemporary, Black MC, Own Voices
  • The Heart Forger (The Bone Witch #2) by Rin Chupeco (March 20th) – YA, Fantasy, Secondary World POC MC

  • The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson (March 27th) – MG, Mystery, Black MCs, Own Voices
  • Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender (March 27th) – MG, Contemporary Fantasy/Horror, Queer Black MC in the Virgin Islands, F/F Romance, Own Voices
  • The Place Between Breaths by An Na (March 27th) – YA, Contemporary, Korean American MC, Own Voices

  • Cilla Lee-Jenkins: This Book is a Classic (Cilla Lee-Jenkins #2) by Susan Tan (March 27th) – MG, Contemporary, Biracial White/Chinese American MC, Own Voices
  • Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi (March 27th) – YA, Contemporary, Korean American MC, Own Voices
  • Aru Shah and the End of Time (Pandava #1) by Roshani Chokshi (March 27th) – MG, Fantasy, Indian American MC, Own Voices
  • Damselfly by Chandra Prasad (March 27th) – YA, Contemporary, Biracial White/Indian American MC, Own Voices

  • Love Double Dutch by Doreen Spicer-Donnelly (April 3rd) – MG, Contemporary, Black MC, Own Voices
  • Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl (Jasmine Toguchi #3) by Debbi Michiko Florence (April 3rd) – MG, Contemporary, Japanese American MC, Own Voices
  • Rebound (Prequel to The Crossover) by Kwame Alexander (April 3rd) – MG, Contemporary, Novel-in-Verse, Black MC, Own Voices
  • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (April 3rd) – YA, Historical Fantasy/Alternate History, Black MC, Own Voices

  • Isle of Blood and Stone (Isle of Blood and Stone #1) by Makiia Lucier (April 10th) – YA, Fantasy
  • Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert (April 10th) – YA, Contemporary, Gay Chinese American MC (Own Voices for Chinese American rep)
  • You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly (April 10th) – MG, Contemporary, MCs of Color(?)
  • Sunny (Track #3) by Jason Reynolds (April 10th) – MG, Contemporary, Black MC, Own Voices

  • The Lost Kids (Never Ever #2) by Sara Saedi – YA, Fantasy
  • Running Through Sprinklers by Michelle Kim (April 17th) – MG, Contemporary, Biracial white/Korean MC, Own Voices
  • Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes (April 17th) – MG, Fiction, Black MC, Own Voices
  • Krista Kim-Bap by Angela Ahn (April 18th) – MG, Contemporary, Korean Canadian MC, Own Voices

  • Inferno (Talon #5) by Julie Kagawa (April 24th) – YA, Fantasy
  • Trouble Never Sleeps (Trouble is a Friend of Mine #3) by Stephanie Tromly (April 24th) – YA, Contemporary

And that’s the end! I do roundup posts like this bimonthly (I started in July 2017, skipped November-December 2017 due to lack of time/smaller volume of releases), so check back in late April/early May for the May and June releases. 🙂

These posts take a lot of time and effort on my part, and I’m not paid by anyone for the labor. If you have a little money to spare, you can donate to my ko-fi: www.ko-fi.com/theshenners.

January and February 2018 MG/YA Releases by POC

I don’t about the rest of y’all, but I am so ready for 2017 to be over, not only because it’s been a hell year but also because 2018 has so many great kidlit releases in store for us. If you would like to greet the new year by being hit in the face by a bunch of awesome middle grade and young adult books, you’ve come to the right place. Below I’ve compiled a list of 28 MG/YA books by POC and anthologies including POC that are releasing in January and February. (Special thanks to Aimal at Bookshelves and Paperbacks for making me aware of King Geordi the Great. Her Ultimate Guide to Diverse YA Books Releasing 2018: January – June includes diverse books of all kinds and is an excellent reference.) Note: Links redirect to Goodreads. 🙂

  • Meet Cute edited by Jennifer L. Armetrout (January 2nd) – YA anthology – authors of color included: Dhonielle Clayton, Nina LaCour, Nicola Yoon, Ibi Zoboi
  • Someone to Love by Melissa De La Cruz (January 2nd) – YA, Contemporary, biracial Mexican American MC
  • Chainbreaker (Timekeeper #2) by Tara Sim (January 2nd) – YA, Fantasy/Steampunk, Queer MC and biracial Indian MC, own voices
  • Black Panther: The Young Prince by Ronald L. Smith (January 2nd) – MG, Superhero, Black MC, own voices

  • A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi (January 23rd) – YA, Contemporary, Syrian refugee MC
  • Markswoman (Asiana #1) by Rati Mehrotra (January 23rd) – YA(?), Asian-inspired Fantasy, Secondary world Asian MC
  • I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan (January 25th) – YA, Contemporary, Muslim Pakistani MC, own voices
  • The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos (February 1st) – YA, Contemporary, MC of color (race/ethnicity unknown)

  • Shadowsong (Wintersong #2) by S. Jae-Jones (February 6th) – YA, Fantasy, Bipolar MC (own voices)
  • American Panda by Gloria Chao (February 6th) – YA, Contemporary, Taiwanese American MC, ownvoices
  • Checked by Cynthia Kadohata (February 6th) – MG, Contemporary
  • Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi (February 6th) – YA, Contemporary, Iranian American MC, own voices

  • The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (February 6th) – YA, Fantasy, Black MC, own voices
  • The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (February 13th) – YA, Historical Fiction, Graphic Novel
  • Prettyboy Must Die by Kimberly Reid (February 13th) – YA, Contemporary/Thriller, Black MC, own voices
  • Blood of a Thousand Stars (Empress of a Thousand Skies #2) by Rhoda Belleza (February 20th) – YA, Science Fiction/Fantasy

  • Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda (February 20th) – YA, Science Fiction/Horror, Latina MC, own voices
  • A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena (February 27th) – YA, Contemporary, Indian MC, own voices
  • The Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) by Sayantani DasGupta (February 27th) – MG, Fantasy, Bengali MC, own voices
  • All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages edited by Saundra Mitchell (February 27th) – YA anthology, authors of color included: Malinda Lo, Anna-Marie McLemore, Nilah Magruder, Alex Sanchez, Sara Farizan, Tehlor Kay Mejia
  • Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration edited by Rose Brock (February 27th) – YA nonfiction anthology – authors of color included: Atia Abawi, Renée Ahdieh, Howard Bryant, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, I.W. Gregorio, Marie Lu, Jason Reynolds, Aisha Saeed, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Nicola Yoon

To support my work, you can donate to my ko-fi: www.ko-fi.com/theshenners. I also have a Patreon that you can pledge to: www.patreon.com/theshenners.

Most Anticipated MG/YA Releases of September and October

So September and October are a gift because there are so many great kidlit titles coming out from authors of color. Here’s a [far from exhaustive] list of ones I’ve had on my radar! I’ve had the privilege of reading many of these already (16 out of 24, which is 2/3), and I can tell you that they are amazing. 🙂

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (Sep. 5th) – Young Adult, SFF, Gay Puerto Rican (#ownvoices) and Bisexual Cuban American MCs, M/M romance

  • 2 boys who are going to die meet and bond over the course of about 24 hours

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins (Sep. 12th) – Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Indian/Bengali American MCs (#ownvoices), Biracial Black/Bengali MC

  • 5 women spanning 3 generations of a Bengali family in the U.S. negotiate their multicultural identities

Shadowhouse Fall (Shadowshaper #2) by Daniel Jose Older – Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Afro-Latina Puerto Rican MC

  • Supernatural and real world forces of evil threaten the lives and community of Sierra Santiago, who will do anything to protect her own

Warcross by Marie Lu (Sep. 12th) – Young Adult, Science Fiction, Chinese American MC, #ownvoices

  • A gamer girl/bounty hunter hacks her way into the world’s biggest virtual reality game tournament and is hired to track down a suspicious figure lurking in the game

Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh (Sep. 15th) – Young Adult, Science Fiction/Dystopian, Korean MC, #ownvoices

  • A boy who has risen in the military of a future Korea is drafted into a special weapons project that turns girls into war machines and starts to fall for his charge

Rise of the Jumbies (The Jumbies #2) by Tracey Baptiste (Sep. 19th)- Middle Grade, Fantasy, Black Trinidadian MC, #ownvoices

  • Corinne La Mer makes a dangerous journey across the Atlantic to find a way to save the missing children of her island home

One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns #2) by Kendare Blake (Sept. 19th) – Young Adult, Fantasy

  • The deadly race for the throne has begun, the last sister standing wins.

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore (Sep. 19th) – Middle Grade, Contemporary, #ownvoices Black MC, secondary Black Autistic character

  • Following his brother’s gang-related Death, a boy struggles to cope and avoid the gang life and finds solace in building Lego creations at the community center.

The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh (Sep. 19th) – Middle Grade, Contemporary, #ownvoices Taiwanese American MC, secondary Autistic character

  • One summer away has upended Bea’s life and friendships, forcing her to make new ones and develop confidence in being herself.

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman (Sep. 26th) – Young Adult, Contemporary, Biracial white/Japanese American MC, Social Anxiety rep, #ownvoices

  • An anxious aspiring artist flees her abusive home with an old friend-turned-crush and embarks on a journey that will transform her.

Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar (Oct. 2nd) – Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Indian MC, #ownvoices

  • A girl is swept up in the freedom movement of India through her mother’s participation and becomes involved herself in radical change.

Akata Warrior (Akata Witch #2) by Nnedi Okorafor (Oct. 3rd) – Middle Grade/Young Adult, Fantasy, Nigerian American MC, #ownvoices

  • A girl and her friends develop their powers as Leopard people to face down and vanquish a threat to humanity.

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore (Oct. 3rd) – Young Adult, Magical Realism, Bisexual Latina/Mexican American MC, #ownvoices

  • The Nomeolvides sisters are blessed and cursed. Flowers flow from their hands, but their love makes those they love disappear. A mysterious boy who emerges from their garden estate may be the key to unlocking the secrets of the past and even breaking the curse.

Seize Today (Forget Tomorrow #3) by Pintip Dunn (Oct. 3rd) – Young Adult, Science Fiction/Dystopian

  • The conclusion to a series about a girl who foresees her own future in which she kills her sister and must work to stop herself.

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani (Oct 3rd) – Young Adult, Contemporary/Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Indian American MC, #ownvoices

  • An Indian American girl connects with her heritage through a magical pashmina that transports her to India.

Not Your Villain (Sidekick Squad #2) by C.B. Lee (Oct. 5th) – Young Adult, SFF, Black trans boy MC

  • Bells becomes a fugitive due to a coverup by the Heroes’ League and has to take down a corrupt government while applying to college and working up the courage to confess his feelings to his best friend.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao (Oct. 10th) – Young Adult, Fantasy/Retelling, Chinese MC

  • Xifeng has a great destiny awaiting her, but her path to becoming Empress of Feng Lu requires her to embrace the darkness within her.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone (Oct. 17th) – Young Adult, Contemporary, Black MC, #ownvoices

  • A Black teen processes his feelings about antiblack racism through a journal dialogue with Martin Luther King Jr. and becomes the center of a media storm when he and his friend become victims of police brutality.

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo (Oct. 17th) – Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller, Queer Chinese American MC, #ownvoices

  • Jess harbors a crush on her best friend Angie and through Angie, is drawn into a wealthy but seedy social circle with dangers they cannot escape unscathed.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez (Oct. 17th) – Young Adult, Contemporary, Mexican American MC, #ownvoices

  • After her sister’s death, a girl feels alone and pressured to take her sister’s place, only to discover that her sister may not have been as perfect as she seemed.

Like Water by Rebecca Podos (Oct. 17th) – Young Adult, Contemporary, Besexual Latina MC, Secondary qenderqueer character

  • A small-town girl falls for someone who brings to the surface secrets she’s been trying to suppress.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Oct. 24th) – Young Adult, Contemporary/Thriller, Novel-in-Verse, Black MC, #ownvoices

  • His brother is dead, and he’ll make the killer pay, but as he goes down the elevator, someone new appears who is connected to his brother, and he may not make it to the bottom.

Calling My Name by Liara Tamani (Oct. 24th) – Young Adult, Contemporary, Black Christian MC, #ownvoices

  • A girl navigates her budding sexuality in an ultra-religious environment that treats sex as forbidden and dirty.

Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi (Oct. 31st) – Young Adult, Nigerian-inspired Fantasy, Black MC, #ownvoices

  • Sin-eaters practice magic to rid people of their guilty feelings but pay the price in a being permanently marked and a short life-span. Taj is called to eat the sin of a royal and is forced to fight against an evil that threatens his entire home.

Most Anticipated 2017 & 2018 Anthologies

I love anthologies because it’s a great way to collect a bunch of talent in one place and also because you can create anthologies that focus on diverse stories and marginalized authors. Here are some anthologies coming out in 2017 and 2018 that I’m looking forward to. Some of these are explicitly for diverse stories, and others have a significant number of marginalized authors involved. Hopefully you will find something here for your TBR. 🙂

Where the Stars Rise

Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Lucas K. Law and Derwin Mak (October 8th, 2017)

Where the Stars Rise is an indie science fiction and fantasy anthology featuring stories that are set in Asia or draw from Asian cultures. Almost all the authors are Asian, and the majority of these are #ownvoices stories. You can find the full Table of Contents with the story titles and authors on Laksa Media’s page.

Three Sides of a Heart

Three Sides of a Heart: Stories about Love Triangles, edited by Natalie C. Parker (December 19th, 2017)

Love triangles are among the most hated trope in YA, so this may not be for everyone, but if you don’t mind a bit of love rivalry and messiness, then this anthology may be for you. Authors of Color in this anthology: Brandy Colbert, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Sabaa Tahir, Renee Ahdieh, Justina Ireland, Lamar Giles

Meet Cute

Meet Cute: Some People are Destined to Meet, edited by Jennifer L. Armentrout (January 2nd, 2018)

This anthology features YA short stories of two characters meeting and falling in love. The cover is really cute and promises good things. Authors of Color in this anthology: Dhonielle Clayton, Nina La Cour, Nicola Yoon, Ibi Zoboi. Other marginalized authors in this anthology: Julie Murphy, Meredith Russo.

All Out

All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages, edited by Saundra Mitchell (February 2yth, 2018)

The title is pretty self-explanatory. Authors included: Kody Keplinger, Anna-Marie McLemore, Malinda Lo, Dahlia Adler, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Scott Tracey, Tessa Gratton, Natalie C. Parker, Elliot Wake, Kate Scelsa, Robin Talley, Shaun David Hutchinson , Tess Sharpe, Alex Sanchez Nilah Magruder, Sara Farizan, Mackenzi Lee

 

The Radical Element

The Radical Element: 12 Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes, & Other Dauntless Girls, edited by Jessica Spotswood (March 13th, 2018)

This is a follow-up of sorts to A Tyranny of Petticoats, an anthology that released in 2016. It contains a bunch of historical fiction YA short stories focusing on girls whose voices and contributions were sidelined in history. Authors of color in this anthology: Sara Farizan, Meg Medina, Stacey Lee, Dhonielle Clayton, Anna-Marie McLemore, Sarvenaz Tash.

Power and Magic Immortal Souls

Immortal Souls (The Next Queer Witch Comics Anthology), edited by Joamette Gil (March 2018), cover illustrated pictured above by Stephanie Son

If you haven’t heard of Power & Magic: The Queer Witch Comics Anthology, you should check it out. It features comics from women and non-binary creators of color. Immortal Souls is the second in the queer witch comics series and is currently fundraising on Kickstarter.

Fresh Ink, edited by Lamar Giles (summer 2018)

We Need Diverse Books is behind this diverse YA anthology (as well as Flying Lessons, the diverse middle grade anthology from early 2017), which features stories by various nonwhite authors, including: Melissa d.e la Cruz, Sara Farizan, Sharon Flake, Eric Gansworth, Malinda Lo, Walter Dean Myers, Daniel José Older, Thien Pham, Jason Reynolds, Gene Luen Yang, Nicola Yoon, and others.

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman (June 26th, 2018)

This YA anthology is one of my most anticipated releases of 2018! It is a collection of short stories by Asian authors reimagining East, Southeast, and South Asian mythology, folklore, and fairy tales. Authors in this anthology: Elsie Chapman, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Renee Ahdieh, Roshani Chokshi, Alexander Chee, Aliette de Bodard, Cindy Pon, Alyssa Wong, Sona Charaipotra, Aisha Saeed, Lori M. Lee, Shveta Thakrar, Preeti Chhibber, E.C. Myers, Rahul Kanakia.

Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction (Uncanny Magazine Special Issue), edited by Dominik Parisien, Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, Judith Tarr, S. Qiouyi Lu, Nicolette Barischoff

For those who are unfamiliar with Uncanny Magazine, they publish science fiction and fantasy prose and poetry as well as nonfiction essays. This special issue focuses on disabled writers and will feature contributions from: Rachel Swirsky, Nisi Shawl, William Alexander, Fran Wilde, Mishell Baker, Alice Wong, Bogi Takács, Rose Lemberg, Khairani Barokka, and more.

Toil & Trouble

Toil & Trouble, edited by Tess Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood (August 28th, 2018)

This YA anthology features feminist stories of witchcraft. Authors in this anthology: Brandy Colbert, Zoraida Cordova, Andrea Cremer, Kate Hart, Emery Lord, Elizabeth May, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Karuna Riazi, Lindsay Smith, Nova Ren Suma, Robin Talley, Shveta Thakrar, Tristina Wright, and Brenna Yovanoff.