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Topic: Looking for Multicultural YA Literature

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Subject: Looking for Multicultural YA Literature
Date Posted: 11/3/2008 1:23 AM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2008
Posts: 573
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Hello All,

I'm new to Paperback Swap. Very impressed and still learning to navigate my way around the site. I am particularly interested in multicultural lit for YA. If you have recommendations and especially if you have desired titles among your offerings, please let me know.




Date Posted: 11/6/2008 10:33 AM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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Here are a few my daughter has read:

The Watson's Go To Birmingham, 1963 - Christopher Paul Curtis. The civil rights movement and its impact on an African American family.

Blood on the River, James Town 1607 - Elisa Carbone. First English Settlers at James Town and their interactions with the Native Americans. I just finished reading this one to my children and it was riveting.

Heat by Mike Lupica. Latino boys, baseball, citizenship.

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord. Chinese American.



Date Posted: 11/7/2008 1:15 AM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2008
Posts: 573
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Hi Sheila,

We have The Watsons'  Go To Birmingham. Thoroughly enjoyed it.  We don't have a big call for sport themed books, but thanks for the recommendations.


Date Posted: 11/16/2008 1:23 AM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,485
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Gary Soto.  Some are even younger than YA.  Many on Latinos in LA area.

Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea trilogy.  Was ground breaking as multicultural SFF before anyone else.

Octavia Butler.

Toni Morrison.

Some of Zora Neale Hurston.  She has folklore that was collected in 1930's.

Date Posted: 11/16/2008 2:09 AM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2008
Posts: 573
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What specific titles by these authors have you read and enjoyed?

With the exception of The Bluest Eye, I find Morrison a hard sale for many adults. I think Morrison is a lot of work for teens.

Date Posted: 11/16/2008 6:40 AM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,485
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I was thinking Fledgling by OB, but after reading some of the reviews, I'm not sure about that.   Next I'd have to reread Blood Child or Kindred.  And for Toni Morrison, I'd think Song of Solomon or Bluest Eye.  But it has been years since I read either book. 

I loved ZNH's Tell My Horse, but that might not be for YA as it is about voodoo.  (I didn't find ZNH until college.)  I'd choose her folklore or animal stories.  There are alot of collections of her stories.  She traveled with WPA collecting folktales.  And she did write in dialect.

I read almost only SF and F as a teen.  And that still tends to not be multicutural.  But way back then, it was the place for books about girls who were active rather than passive.


Subject: Bud, Not Buddy
Date Posted: 11/16/2008 6:46 AM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,485
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The author of The Watson's Go To Birmingham, 1963 - Christopher Paul Curtis, also wrote Bud, Not Buddy.  My niece, the jazz music fan, loved it.

Date Posted: 11/16/2008 6:55 AM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2008
Posts: 573
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Yes, same author. I've read them both.

I read Fledgling. It's graphic in the beginning. The main character looks like a child and has sex with adults. I can  see a lot of folks flipping out over that.

Last Edited on: 11/16/08 6:57 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 11/16/2008 1:24 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,485
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Yes.  That is what I noticed in reviews.  And there is sex in several other books of hers.  Often as an power issue. 

Date Posted: 11/16/2008 3:21 PM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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Thought of a few more:


Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa by Micol Ostow Puerto Rican/Jewish themes.


Three Against the Tide by Love. Slavery


Lily’s Crossing by Giff. American girl’s friendship with a Hungarian refugee. WW2 era.


Children of the River by Linda Crew. Cambodian girl in America.


We like books by Gloria Whelan a lot. These are some we have read:


Homeless Bird – Hindu culture


Listening for Lions – English girl in Africa


Once On This Island – during the War of 1812, American/British/Native American cultures

Date Posted: 11/16/2008 6:35 PM ET
Member Since: 6/25/2007
Posts: 5,637
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I'm a big fan of Walter Dean Myers.  His 145th Street Stories and the sequel (of sorts) What They Found: Love on 145th Street are both excellent titles.

Both take place in the same Harlem neighborhood.

Another good one is: Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah. It's about a teenage Muslim (I believe she is Palestinian and Australian) girl who decides to wear the Hijab full-time.

I'll have to take a look at the several booklists I've collected over the past year or so that deal with multicultural lit. If you are interested I can send them to you.

Date Posted: 11/16/2008 8:35 PM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2008
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Fledgling is about vampires so no one should be surprised there is a lot of sex. The dynamics of the relationships are challenging for some readers. And anyone who reads Butler knows she's always questioning, commenting on social mores. Her work challenges our beliefs and moral compass. While the main character looks like a child she is 71. But the perception poses a complex, conflicting dynamic for reader and characters. More suitable for teens are the Parable novels.

Thanks Shelia,

I'll check these out.


I have read and enjoyed 145th Street. We don't own. I haven't found it on trade yet. I've read Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah. I laughed quite a bit. I also live in Michigan which has the largest Arab-American population in the country. I love Middle Eastern food and am no stranger to the culture so I really enjoyed this. It is on our wish list. I'd love to see the lists. Thank you.

Last Edited on: 11/16/08 8:39 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 11/18/2008 5:47 PM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2008
Posts: 573
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Has anyone read Third and Indiana?

Date Posted: 11/22/2008 8:05 PM ET
Member Since: 11/13/2008
Posts: 15
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Lensey Namioka writes for a pre-teen audience in such a way that I love her books as an adult.  Yang the Youngest and his Terrible Ear is about a young Chinese boy adjusting to life in America and the fact that his entire family is musical - except for him.  He'd rather play baseball, but his parents aren't into 'American' sports.  The book is a stitch, and brings up good issues about poverty, parental expectation, family issues, and ethnicity.

If you accept fantasy as 'multicultural' simply because it takes place on another world, then Robin McKinley's books The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown are good reads with strong female leads.

Depending on the age and maturity of the young adult, you might want to look into the Virgil Tibbs series by John Ball.  Forget the TV movie In the Heat of the Night, it had no relation to the book.  These are murder mysteries, but I don't remember off hand any real descriptions of things a teen shouldn't read, except that The Cool Cottontail takes place in a nudist camp and that's up to your discretion.

Date Posted: 11/23/2008 3:24 AM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2008
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Thanks Kris,

I'm going to check out Namioka. I've read The Hero and The Crown. Fantasy doesn't move much in our library but I appreciate learning more about the genre just in case.

Subject: Here's a few.....
Date Posted: 11/25/2008 2:04 PM ET
Member Since: 6/3/2008
Posts: 46
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The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
Alexie, Sherman (YA ALE)
"Imagine that your own shadow on the wall is a perfect door."

Faces in the Moon
Bell, Betty (FIC BEL)
"I am your worst nightmare: I am an Indian with a pen!"

Sacajawea: The Story of Bird Woman and the Lewis and Clark Expedition
Bruchac, Joseph (YA BRU)
Translator. Peacemaker. Caretaker. Guide. The story of an expedition and the woman who made it successful.

Shadow Brothers
Cannon, A.E. (YA CAN)
Two brothers are inseparable until one rediscovers his heritage.

Eye Killers
Carr, A.A. (FIC CAR) A father invokes ancient traditions to try to save his daughter from shape-shifting vampires who have lived - and murdered - for centuries.

Who Will Tell My Brother
Carvell, Marlene (YA CAR)
"My eyes search for answers, looking for those who also see the shame and seeing no one."

Mountain Windsong
Conley, Robert (FIC CON)
Separated by a genocidal march, betrothed Waguli and Oconeechee struggle to reunite.

Deloria, Ella (FIC DEL)
"Giving was basic to Dakota life. The idea behind it was this: if everyone gives, then everyone gets; it is inevitable."

A Yellow Raft in Blue Water
Dorris, Michael (FIC DOR)
Three generations-beset by hardship, torn by angry secrets, joined by the bonds of kinship.

The Antelope Wife
Erdrich, Louise (FIC ERD)
"I had this awful thought - us Indians are turning into the bottom-feeders of white culture."

Garland, Sherry (YA GAR)
Ipa-tah-chi is caught between two worlds when Spanish explorers enslave her people.

Glancy, Diane (FIC GLA)
"They were all poor.... There was only the hope of marrying, having children, and continuing the struggle with her nose pushed into the dirt."

Twilight Boy
Green, Timothy (YA GRE)
Is it decades-old guilt that haunts Jesse's grandfather or is it a Skinwalker, a Navajo witch?

Hillerman, Tony (FIC HIL MYS)
Officer Chee and Lt. Leaphorn join in a frightening investigation that takes them into a dark world of ritual, witchcraft, and blood.

Hobbs, Will (YA HOB)
Cloyd learns the hard lessons taught by his totem, the black bear.

Hogan, Linda (FIC HOG)
"They say that to speak an animal's name is to call out to the powers inside it."

Truth and Bright Water
King, Thomas (FIC KIN)
"A better game was one where you shot at your own feet and tried to come as close as you could without hitting anything."

Pigs in Heaven
Kingsolver, Barbara (FIC KIN)
When a Cherokee tribal lawyer comes to claim Taylor's illegally adopted Indian daughter, she must face the fact that her life is about to be torn apart.

Last Standing Woman
LaDuke, Winona (FIC LAD)
"She never professed to understand war or understand revenge...but something inside of her pulled her there."

Storm Riders
Lesley, Craig (FIC LES)
A father struggles to raise his adopted son, a Tlingit Indian boy cursed with fetal alcohol syndrome and an abusive childhood.

Prophecy Rock
MacGregor, Rob (YA MAC)
Visiting his Hopi tribal police chief father, Will is drawn into an unusual murder investigation that may be linked to a powaqu-a witch.

The Sacrifice
Matchek, Diane (YA MAT)
"How do you know I will not turn on you now and kill you?"

House Made of Dawn
Momaday, M. Scott (FIC MOM)
Can Abel reconcile the traditional ways of his people with demands of the 20th century?

Eclipse of Moonbeam Dawson
Okimoto, Jean (YA OKI)
It's hard enough being a normal teenager. But when your name is Moonbeam and you've grown up on a commune run by a bunch of refugees from the 60s--who's to say what's normal?

Vanishing Act
Perry, Thomas (FIC PER M)
Jane Whitefield: a one-woman witness protection program!

Silko, Leslie (FIC SIL)
"You don't have anything, if you don't have the stories."

Rain is Not My Indian Name
Smith, Cynthia Leitch (YA SMI)
After the death of her best friend, Rain learns to connect with family and community through the lens of a camera.

The Heartsong of Charging Elk
Welch, James (YA WEL)
"He understood that his people would not be allowed to go back to the buffalo ranges. What he didn't know was what would become of them."

Wood, Nancy (FIC WOO)
Thunderwoman, co-creator of the universe, returns to Earth in human form to try to save her people.

A Spirit Line  by Aimee and David Thurlo

Crystal, a Navajo teen grieving her mother and questioning her cultural identity, must examine herself and her beliefs as she searches for the thief who stole the rug she was making for her coming-of-age ceremony.

Code Talker by Joseph Brushac

The United States is at war, and sixteen-year-old Ned Begay wants to join the cause—especially when he hears that Navajos are being specifically recruited by the Marine Corps. So he claims he’s old enough to enlist, breezes his way through boot camp, and suddenly finds himself involved in a top-secret task, one that’s exclusively performed by Navajos. He has become a code talker. Now Ned must brave some of the heaviest fighting of the war, and with his native Navajo language as code, send crucial messages back and forth to aid in the conflict against Japan. His experiences in the Pacific—from Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima and beyond—will leave him forever changed

The Diary of Sara Nita - The Story of a Navajo Girl by Ann Turner


Subject: Standing Against the Wind by Traci L. Jones
Date Posted: 11/29/2008 4:51 AM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2008
Posts: 573
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Standing Against the Wind by Traci L. Jones

I read a lot of YA, but typically on the higher end of the grade level. The issues are usually complex and often darker so I was a little surprised when I discovered this title was actually geared towards younger readers. Still, realistic fiction but the treatment is softer and hopeful. Plucked from a loving, nurturing home in Georgia and transplanted to a crowded though loving household in Chicago, Patrice is a bright student but a social outcast. With a chance to earn scholarship to a prestigious boarding school, she focuses on her chance to leave a place she doesn’t fit in. Luckily, Monty befriends Patrice. Monty is tough on the outside and sensitive on the inside. Along the way, he taps into something good in himself.

Over the course of tutoring Monty’s younger brother, Michael, and learning to enjoy her growing friendship with Monty, our protagonist gets a much need boost of self-esteem. There must be drama though, and there is enough to keep readers interested. Wasn’t what I had expected, but pleasantly surprised. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Jones’ work

Last Edited on: 11/29/08 4:51 AM ET - Total times edited: 1