Diversity and representation in books are so important and is something that I have strived to meet this year more so than ever. Not just during pride month or in the light of recent events, but always. I think it’s really important to try and engage with own-voices literature, and to read about the experiences of others so we can best educate ourselves. So, I wanted to share with you some of my favourite books with LGBTQ+ representation, books written by, and sharing the experiences of POC, particularly black authors, and even a few that capture both!
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Elizabeth Acevedo is one of my favourite contemporary authors, full stop. She has such a wonderful way of telling deep, poignant stories full of real experiences that also capture the beautiful, diversity of her culture, as well as the hardships she has faced. Like The Poet X, Clap When You Land is told in verse. I used to be quite apprehensive about reading a book told fully in verse, however, Acevedo absolutely nails it. Her latest release was possibly my favourite of her work so far, and as the verse makes for such a quick read, I think its best going into this knowing as little as possible, and just letting Acevedo’s powerful narration tell this heartbreaking yet inspiring story. If possible, I would highly recommend picking up her work in audiobook format; she narrates her own books and does so fantastically, you can feel the passion she puts into her stories.
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
Also told in verse, The Black Flamingo is one of the boldest stories I have ever read, and I have nothing but good things to say about it. The story follows a teenage boy who is at first struggling to come to terms with his identity as a mixed-race, gay teenager. However, when he goes to university, he finally begins to learn to embrace his uniqueness and self-identity when he becomes The Black Flamingo; a drag artist. This book was awarded the Stonewall Book Award (2020) and was a Carnegie Medal Nominee (2020). Atta is known for his inspiring, own-voices fiction; however, I think that The Black Flamingo is an excellent starting point if you want to support his work.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Callender is another Stonewall award-winning author, and for a very good reason. This beautiful story follows Felix Love, a transgender teen who is trying to come to terms with their self-discovery and identity, whilst also experiencing love for the first time. What I especially love about Felix Ever After is that our protagonist is already proud of his identity, all of them in fact, however what he struggles with is whether he is “one marginalisation too many”, as a black, queer transgender teen. Callender perfectly captures the experience of being self-accepting not always being the end of the journey; there is more beyond that. This book takes on a lot, but I feel it is one of very few YA novels that manages to deeply discuss everything it covers in a heartwarming, poignant manner.
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
If you’re a fantasy lover, then this book may be the ideal one for you. Two best friends, TTavia and Effie, are sirens in a world where being a siren is something you should keep under wraps, especially in Portland, where there are only a small number of black community members, let alone black community members with magic powers. However, when their favourite internet fashion icon reveals that she too is a siren, the community becomes torn apart. Soon, their community faces tension in the form of racism, politics, and social injustice. This book is powerful, thought-provoking, and a great reflection on problems in today’s society, with an awesome magical twist.
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson, and The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar.