• Edd Tello

10 Amazing YA Books About LGBTQ+ Characters of Color

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This month I'm celebrating two things. First, it's Pride Month. (I posted a list with my favorite Young Adult books with LGBTQ+ main characters) But also I'm celebrating all those culturally diverse authors who published their novels during the last years!

It brings me so much joy to see amazing new stories with queer protagonists from diverse backgrounds on the bookshelves every year. And even when teens of color are still underrepresented, there are wonderful and essential books out there to help developing empathy, respect, and kindness in the world.

I've put together a 10 Young-Adult-book list comprising ten novels with characters of color as protagonists.

1. The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg

Max and Jordan are different. Jordan is a talented poet, but a very insecure kid, while Max is an athlete, the 'dude bro' type with two straight friends, and a mother who accept him.

Jordan and his mother are forced to work aboard the old truck that was run by his father. But when Jordan realizes it is an impossible task for her, he tries to do it alone. Then Max, one of his schoolmates, volunteers to help him.

Max has some dark secrets of his own. After a sexual encounter with an older kid at a college party, things didn't end well. Something that he tries to ignore. As they work in the food truck, they inevitably fall in love with each other, and both kids will have to face their biggest fears that summer if they want to stay together.

Buy The Music of What Happens here!

2. Julie Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

Juliet Milagros is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon for her summer internship. The night before she leaves, Juliet comes out as a lesbian with her Puerto Rican family. With her mother's disapproval, Juliet is not sure if she will ever speak to her again. However, Juliet feels this internship with her favorite feminist writer could help her to find the answers she needs. Thing is this writer, who is white, comes from a different culture.

As Juliet navigates queer brown community and intense explorations of race and identity that summer, she learns that the most important thing is how she feels about herself. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Buy Juliet Takes a Breath here!

3. The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

Seventeen-year-old Cal is forced to move from Brooklyn to Houston with his family after his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars. But Carl is a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, and moving to another city is not part of the dream internship he's pursuing. Soon his life turns into a media circus when Cal and his parents are part of a space-themed reality television show called Shooting Stars.

When Carl meets Leon, another fellow astronaut's son, he falls out for him. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so makes their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

Buy The Gravity of Us here!

4. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Written in verse, Clap When You Land tells the story of two girls whose tragic circumstances force them to forge a bond.

Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic and wants to go to Columbia University in New York City where her father works. Yahaira Rios, meanwhile, hasn't spoken with her father after she found out he has another family in the Dominican Republic. But when their father dies in an airplane crash, the half-sisters, separated by distance and Papi’s secrets, are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Buy Clap When You Land here!

5. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Set in El Paso, Texas, this story follows the lives of two fifteen-year-old teens, who apparently don't have anything in common, except for the fact they both are Mexican-American.

Ari Mendoza suffers from self-doubt. With a brother in prison who his parents never talk about, and a father dealing with his ghosts of the Vietnam war, Ari hasn't had an easy life. Dante Quintana, meanwhile, is self-assured. He was an extraordinary family who loves him and accepts him.

One day, they meet at the town's swimming pool. Dante offers to teach Ari how to swim. They start to spend time together, and their friendship slowly grows.

Buy Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe here!

6. The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

Bangladeshi Irish teen Nishat desperately wants to be accepted by her parents, but when she comes out with them, their reaction isn't positive. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians.

Things get harder with a childhood friend walks back into her life. Flávia is beautiful and charismatic and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat choose to do henna, even though Flávia is appropriating Nishat’s culture. Amidst sabotage and school stress, their lives get more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush on Flávia, and realizes there might be more to her than she realized.

Buy The Henna Wars here!

7. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto finds his dad lying in the bathtub dead. After this traumatic event, it seems like he can't find happiness anywhere. His girlfriend Genevieve and his mother, try to support him after the family tragedy. But it's until he meets Thomas, a new guy in the neighborhood, when Aaron starts to remember what happiness feels like.

As their friendship grows, Aaron can't deny what he feels for this new friend, so he decides to open up about those feelings. As he navigates Bronx neighborhood, his family, Aaron considers the Leteo Institute procedure as an option, which is a memory-altering procedure that will straighten him out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.

Buy More Happy Than Not here!

8. Dear Twin by Addie Tsai

After the vanishing of her twin sister Lola, Poppy has a lot to handle. She wants to go to college and have a normal life, but things at home are complicated. Poppy's father has been depressed, so she feels she needs to convince Lola to come home. Poppy decides to send her eighteen letters; one for each year of their lives.

On the other hand, Poppy has a beautiful relationship with her girlfriend, Juniper, apparently the one person who understands her. Poppy navigates the complexities of queer romance and childhood trauma. But soon she will realize that she needs to help herself first, and procure her freedom, which won't be easy.

Buy Dear Twin here!

9. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys. Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren't Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson's emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.

Buy All Boys Aren’t Blue here!

10. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (expected publication September 1, 2020)

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

Buy Cemetery Boys here!

🌈 What are your favorite LGBTQ YA books with POC protagonists? 🌈