Monday, September 25, 2017

Ten Great Novels Featuring Women of Color

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's theme is the open-ended "Ten Books That Feature Characters _________." I don't know about you, but I know that my reading skews way too heavily white and male (especially in a year like this, when I'm trying to read more of the "classics"). I thought I'd take this opportunity to highlight some of my favorite works of fiction told from the viewpoint of a woman (or women) of color. Most of the authors are also women of color. (LaCour, Talley, and Hosseini are not.)

1. American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Through the story of a Haitian immigrant coming to live with her cousins in inner-city Detroit, we get the perspectives of multiple complex female characters who are trying to survive with bad options on all sides.

2. The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan
This story is told from two perspectives: Ruth, a first-generation Chinese-American woman, and LuLing, her mother. As an old woman, LuLing is difficult to live with and presents constant struggles for Ruth, but through LuLing's journal of her childhood in China we (and Ruth) gain a richer understanding of her life and personality.

3. Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
This is one of my favorite books I've read this year. Emi's identity as a biracial lesbian isn't central to the plot, but neither is her character like a straight white YA protagonist with some adjectives and pronouns changed.

4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Obviously this list would not be complete without this powerhouse of a contemporary classic. If you haven't picked it up yet, it's time.

5. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
This novel is based on the true story of the Mirabal sisters, who took on the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in 1960. It's told from the perspective of the fourth sister, the only one not assassinated by the government.

6. Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Told as a series of short poems aimed at the middle grade level, this is the story of a Vietnamese girl whose family emigrates to the United States right before the fall of Saigon in 1975.

7. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Sarah Dunbar is one of a few black students chosen to integrate an all-white Virginia high school in 1959. Her experience of brutal harassment closely matches what Melba Pattillo Beals describes in the memoir Warriors Don't Cry... except for the part where Sarah falls in love with a white girl.

8. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
I still maintain that this should be the definitive book read in schools about racism in the 1930s American South, as it's just as good or better than To Kill a Mockingbird but it's told from a black girl's perspective instead of a white one's (and her black father is the hero).

9. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
This is a beautiful and painful story of female friendship set in rural 19th-century China. It's also powerful for its insights into the lives of women at that time and place.

10. A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hosseini
This book is really, really dark and depressing, but its unflinching portrayal of women in Afghanistan is ultimately rewarding. Mariam and Laila are both excellent characters who will take hold of your heart.

Which are your favorite novels featuring women of color?

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