6 Essential Young Adult Books by Authors of Color

Young adult books by authors of color.

These are 6 great books by authors of color that highlight the minority experience. Great for the classroom or your home!

6 Essential Y.A. Books by Authors of Color

With so much talk about literacy lately, I have to remind myself that I teach middle school. Ha! I teach in an area comprised of mainly minorities. I speak from experience when I say representation is important. It is necessary.

I have hundreds of books in all areas of my class. When I allow students to choose books for themselves, which happens often, they usually choose books with covers that include people who look like them.

Children need to see themselves and others reflected positively in the books they read. My students will specifically ask for books that have pictures of people who look like them.

I think a lack of diversity can have negative impacts on young readers’ self-esteem and understanding of other cultures.

Therefore, it is crucial to introduce middle schoolers to books written by authors of color that represent different backgrounds and experiences.

By diverse books by authors of color, children can learn about different cultures, build empathy towards others, and develop a better understanding of the world around them.

In this blog post, we will explore popular middle school books written by authors of color and discuss the impact of reading diverse literature on young readers.

We will also provide resources for finding more middle school books by authors of color so that parents, educators, and librarians can expand their child’s reading diversity today!

List of Popular Middle School Books Written by Authors of Color

I have all of these books in my classroom. These are popular amongst my students and at least one student will read each of these every year. I hope you enjoy this list! If you have any suggestions, please do let me know!

Book 1: “Ghost” by Jason Reynolds

"Ghost" by Jason Reynolds is a great Y.A. book by an author of color.

“Ghost” is the first book in a four-part series about a young boy named Castle Cranshaw, nicknamed Ghost. The story follows Ghost as he navigates his way through middle school while dealing with the trauma of his past. Author Jason Reynolds delivers an emotional and heartwarming story that resonates with readers from all backgrounds.

Book 2: “The Crossover” by Kwame Alexander

"The Crossover" by Kwame Alexander

“The Crossover” is a novel-in-verse that tells the story of twin brothers Josh and Jordan Bell, who are basketball stars following in their father’s footsteps. The book explores themes of family, sibling rivalry, and identity. One of my favorite authors of color is Kwame Alexander because he uses poetry to create a unique reading experience that engages readers of all ages.

Book 3: “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson

"Brown Girl Dreaming" by Jacqueline Woodson is a great book by an author of color.

“Brown Girl Dreaming” is a memoir written in verse about author Jacqueline Woodson’s childhood growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. The book explores themes of race, identity, and family history through powerful imagery and lyrical language. Woodson’s writing style draws readers into her world and creates an emotional connection that stays with them long after they finish reading.

Book 4: “Inside Out & Back Again” by Thanhha Lai

"Inside Out and Back Again" by Thanhha Lai is a great book by an author of color.

“Inside Out & Back Again” is a historical fiction novel based on author Thanhha Lai’s experiences as a refugee fleeing Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The book tells the story of ten-year-old Ha as she adjusts to life in Alabama after leaving her home country behind. Lai’s writing captures Ha’s struggles with language barriers, cultural differences, and homesickness while also highlighting the resilience and strength of refugees.

Book 5: “Aru Shah and the End of Time” by Roshani Chokshi

"Aru Shah and the End of Time", by Rosani Choshi is a great story by an author of color.

“Aru Shah and the End of Time” is the first book in a fantasy series inspired by Hindu mythology. The story follows twelve-year-old Aru Shah as she embarks on a quest to save the world from destruction. Author Roshani Chokshi weaves together humor, adventure, and mythology to create an engaging story that introduces young readers to diverse cultures and beliefs.

Book 6: “Mexican White Boy” by Matt de la Pena

"Mexican White Boy" by Matt de la Pena is a great book by an author of color.

This novel centers around a tall, lanky boy named Danny. Danny is half white and half Mexican. Danny lives with his white mother in San Diego, CA, and Danny’s father is in Mexico. Danny’s mother has blonde hair and blue eyes. Danny doesn’t speak any Spanish. Danny is very aware that he doesn’t belong on either side. He is too brown for his predominately white private school but his lack of Spanish doesn’t allow him to be completely comfortable with his Mexican friends either. Danny decides to visit his father in Mexico and finds himself on a journey of self discovery.

Impact of Reading Diverse Literature on Young Readers

The impact of reading diverse literature on young children.

Reading diverse literature has a significant impact on young readers. It exposes them to different cultures, experiences, and perspectives, which can broaden their understanding of the world and help them develop empathy for others. When children read books by authors of color, they can see themselves reflected in the characters and stories, which is crucial for building self-esteem and a sense of belonging.

Moreover, reading diverse literature can also improve cognitive skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving. When children encounter different viewpoints and ideas, they are forced to think deeply about what they are reading and make connections to their own lives. This process helps them develop analytical skills that will serve them well in school and beyond.

In addition to these benefits, reading diverse literature can also help combat prejudice and discrimination. By exposing children to stories that challenge stereotypes and promote understanding, we can help create a more tolerant society. Children who read diverse literature are more likely to question assumptions about race, gender, and identity, which can lead to greater acceptance of differences.

Online Resources

Online resources to help you find diverse authors of color for young adults.

One of the best ways to find more middle school books by authors of color is through online resources. There are many websites dedicated to promoting diverse literature for children, including middle grade books.

One such resource is We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), a non-profit organization that advocates for and promotes diversity in children’s literature. Their website includes a list of recommended middle grade books by authors of color, as well as other resources for finding diverse literature.

Another great online resource is the Brown Bookshelf, an organization that highlights Black voices in children’s literature. They have a section on their website specifically dedicated to middle grade books written by Black authors.

In addition, they feature interviews with these authors and provide resources for educators and librarians who want to incorporate more diverse literature into their classrooms or collections.

Local Bookstores and Libraries

Local bookstores and libraries can help you find books by authors of color.

Local bookstores and libraries can also be great resources for finding more middle school books by authors of color. Many independent bookstores have staff members who are knowledgeable about diverse literature and can recommend titles based on your child’s interests. Similarly, librarians are trained to help patrons find books that match their reading preferences.

If you’re not sure where to start, try searching for bookstores or libraries in your area that specialize in diverse literature or have a designated section for it. You can also ask friends or family members if they know of any local resources.

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, you should visit Reparations Bookstore. It is a black woman-owned business. I’ve purchased several books for my classroom from them, and they always have GREAT recommendations. They also have cool events and author signings. The address is 3054 S. Victoria Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90016

By exploring these various resources, you can help expand your child’s reading diversity and expose them to new perspectives and experiences through literature.


Photos of books by authors of color in my classroom.

In conclusion, exploring middle school books written by authors of color is essential for promoting diverse representation in children’s literature.

By reading books that feature characters from different backgrounds and experiences, young readers can broaden their perspectives and develop empathy towards others.

It is crucial to continue to seek out and promote books by authors of color to ensure that all children have access to literature that reflects their own experiences and the experiences of others.

As parents, educators, and librarians, we have a responsibility to provide our children with a range of reading materials that reflect the diversity of our world.

By doing so, we can help create a more inclusive society where everyone’s stories are valued and celebrated. Let us continue to expand our children’s reading diversity by exploring the works of authors of color and promoting diverse representation in all aspects of children’s literature.


I am an educator with almost 15 years of experience teaching in Japan, Hawaii, and in Los Angeles. My goal is to change education and the way we view literacy instruction in America.

5 thoughts on “6 Essential Young Adult Books by Authors of Color

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  • Adam
    4 September 2023 at 08:00

    I love this well curated list of books. It’s introduced me to many new contemporary authors, and highlighted a variety of lived experiences that are essential for students to relate to. I also like that you’ve included a section that mentions local bookstores, especially those that are BIPOC owned and run!

  • Ann
    4 September 2023 at 08:37

    I have not heard of these books and they sound like some great reads. I want to read the one called, Brown Girl Dreaming. This is a great list to pass on to my kids.

  • Christine
    4 September 2023 at 10:58

    Love this list! My sister is a teacher, so I’ll definitely be sharing this with her. I’ve heard so many good things about Inside Out and Back Again I’m tempted to read it as an adult as well!

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