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#Weneeddiversebooks: YA Titles for your Classroom Library

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Representation matters. So much. It’s really important to have diverse books, in your classroom library and in your curriculum. Kids need to see themselves in their books, and they also need to see and learn about the experiences of others to help them understand all people better. 
Now that we’re heading into summer, it’s a good time to peruse used book options online or start a Donors Choose project (here’s some help for getting started) or an Amazon Wishlist with the books you want to be putting into your students’ hands. Today I’m rounding up my favorites from the last few years to share with you. I also recommend checking out the booklists at Project Lit. 


Nicola Yoon is incredible! In this gripping tale, an undocumented girl who has been living in the U.S. almost her whole life is about to be deported to Cuba with her family when she meets a first generation Korean-American boy who falls in love with her almost instantly. The book takes place on that one day, slowly unwinding their memories and stories and struggles as they get to know each other.

Everything, Everything, Yoon’s breakout hit, is just as wonderful. And the surprise ending will knock your students’ socks off.


This book is in every way compelling. There are many threads and themes bound up in the story, as it touches on border crossings, drug violence, mental health, cultural pressures, and much more.

The Hate U Give has been called the novel of the Black Lives Matter movement, though now Jason Reynolds’ and Brendan Kiely’s All American Boys is another incredible work that approaches the same themes. In T.H.U.G., the protagonist, Starr, loses her best friend to police violence at the start of the book, and then we follow along as she reluctantly becomes an activist. Her story is powerful, relatable, and impossible to put down. 
Angie Thomas’s second novel, On the Come Up, is just as good (maybe even better!). 
Birthday is the impactful story of two close friends, one of whom is a transgender girl wanting to break away from the body she was born into, but struggling within a small, conservative community to be who she really is. Russo shows snatches of their lives together, one each year, on their birthdays (which they share). This book is an #ownvoices story, making it all the more powerful as the author has also lived through the experience of gender transition. 


Samira Ahmed shares this powerful story of a teen videographer dealing with prejudice in her high school and community following a local act of terrorism. The book intermingles her story with the story of the terrorist – what shaped him, what terrified him, and what compelled him. In every way, this book promotes understanding and empathy.


I also recommend Samira Ahmed’s novel, Internment, a dystopian tale set almost in the present day, in which Muslim-Americans are forced into camps. Internment is a more intense story with a similar theme of breaking down hate and fear.


Darius the Great is not OK features a Persian-American teen who visits Iran with his family when his grandfather is sick. Darius and his dad both struggle with depression, and at the start of the book, they don’t get along very well. Through the experiences he has on the trip, Darius begins to understand himself and his culture and history more, finds a best friend, and re-connects with his father. It’s not as easy as it sounds.


Everything Jason Reynolds’ writes is amazing! I’m going to refer you to this blog post for a close-up look at four of his books and why they all deserve a place on your shelf. The Library of Congress didn’t name this prolific author their “Ambassador of Youth Literature” for nothing.

Elizabeth Acevedo is a poet and novelist. I loved her first book, The Poet X, and With the Fire on High is wonderful too. In this book, a teen mom struggles with how to juggle her life at home with her grandmother, her schoolwork, her daughter, her daughter’s father and his family, and her desire to become a chef and take a trip with her school to study the culinary arts in Spain. There’s a romantic interest too, as well as the looming question of college or no college. 
I also hear great things about Acevedo’s newest, Clap when you Land, though I haven’t gotten to read it yet. But with a title like that, how could it go wrong? 

Finally, high on my TBR pile are Born a Crime, The Marrow Thieves, and Just Mercy. I just need a library to open so I can get them because my Amazon book orders have been extensive lately.

What wonderful titles would you add to this list? Please share in the comments below.

Want to remember these titles for later? Pin them below! You might also want to follow along with my board, “Great Titles for your Classroom Library.” 


Do you find your inspiration in VISUALS? I love ‘em too. Let’s hang out on Instagram! Click here to get a steady stream of colorful ideas all week long.

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I'm Betsy

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