It’s time to step outside your comfort zone, outside your borders, or outside of your own country or culture. Tell us about the books that transported you to a different world, taught you about a different culture, and/or helped you step into the shoes of someone different from you. What impacted you the most about this book? What books would you recommend to others who are ready or not ready to step over the line? In essence, let’s start the conversation about diversity and keep it going!
YA that Taught Me about Other Cultures
- Life of Pi by Yann Martel
- Spirited by Nancy Hold
- Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson
- The Chosen by Chaim Potok
I tend to read a lot of fantasy, so I may not run across books that bring me to other cultures within our own world as often as I could.
These four books, however, did, and the two in the middle are actually right up my alley: fairy tale retellings! Spirited is a reimagining of “Beauty and the Beast” set during the French and Indian war, where the British protagonist falls in love with a Mohican–and with his culture. Heather Tomlinson’s version of Toads and Diamonds sets the originally French fairy tale in India.
The Chosen is not technically marketed as YA, but it features teenage protagonists and I think would appeal to YA fans. Chaim Potok, in this book and others, taught me more about Judaism than I had previously learned anywhere else.
Life of Pi, being a modern classic and having recently been made into a movie, probably needs no explanation.
YA Featuring Diversity
- The Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor
- Proxy by Alex London
- Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
- The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer
For this category, I tried to pick books that incorporate diversity naturally, books that include characters of different races, genders, ages, or sexual orientations simply because that is how many societies are built, not because they are trying to put forward some particular message about diversity. I also wanted to pick books that were truly diverse and had a mix of characters of all types–main characters, minor characters, and characters that just walk by in the background–and not books that featured a diverse protagonist and stopped there. The best things about these books, though: they are all great stories.