Over the last few years, there’s been a push for greater diversity in media, particularly in children’s and young adult literature, and for good reason. Representation in media matters, especially to students from marginalized groups. 

When students see themselves reflected in the books they read, they recognize that their identities are valid and worthy. Conversely, presenting students with stories featuring experiences unlike their own allows them to see the world from someone else’s perspective.

Part of the diversity in literature conversation centers around the #OwnVoices movement. Created by author Corinne Duyvis, #OwnVoices is a social media hashtag that promotes stories in which the main character and the author share the same diverse identity. For instance, a book featuring a Black female protagonist written by a Black woman is considered to be an #OwnVoices novel. As such, #OwnVoices works tend to be more authentic and accurate representations of diverse experiences. 

Are you ready to introduce #OwnVoices books to your students? Consider adding a few of our favorites to your classroom library!

Black Authors

On the Come Up
Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas, the author of The Hate U Give, presents a moving story of the pursuit of dreams in this bestselling novel. As the daughter of a late underground rap legend, sixteen-year-old Bri wants to become a hip-hop star of her own—not for the fame, but to lift her family out of poverty. Brilliantly interspersed with Bri’s rap lyrics, On the Come Up will hook your high school students with its diverse, complex characters and timely themes of inequality, prejudice, personal growth, and perseverance.
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I Am Alfonso Jones
Tony Medina, Stacey Robinson, and John Jennings

Perfect for teenage readers, this graphic novel examines the cost and consequences of racism and injustice. Alfonso Jones, a gifted black student, is shot by a police officer who mistakes a clothes hanger for a gun. When Alfonso awakens in the afterlife, he boards a ghost train with other victims of police brutality. Meanwhile, his family and friends struggle with their grief and seek justice through political protests. As they face their new realities, both Alfonso and his loved ones realize the work that lies ahead in the fight for a better world.
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With the Fire on High
Elizabeth Acevedo

From the award-winning author of The Poet X comes another inspiring story of empowerment and identity. High school senior Emoni Santiago aspires to be a professional chef, but responsibilities must come first. Between caring for her daughter and supporting her abuela, Emoni barely has time for her school’s new culinary arts class, let alone participate in the class’s trip to Spain. Even so, she can’t help but feel free in the kitchen. With a little self-confidence, a dash of courage, and a lot of hard work, Emoni realizes the future of her dreams isn’t so far out of reach.
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Asian Authors

The Astonishing Color of After
Emily X. R. Pan

On the day she kissed her longtime crush, Leigh Chen Sanders learned her mother died by suicide. In the aftermath, Leigh begins seeing a red bird that she believes is her mother reincarnated. Driven by the bird’s appearance, Leigh travels to Taiwan to meet her estranged maternal grandparents for the first time. As she searches for the truth behind her mother’s pain, Leigh must learn to accept her own feelings of grief and guilt. Winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, this novel weaves magical realism with lyrical prose to create a coming-of-age story your students will remember.
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Patron Saints of Nothing
Randy Ribay

Jay Reguero planned on coasting by his last semester of high school before heading to college in the fall. But after learning that his Filipino cousin Jun was mysteriously murdered as part of President Duterte's war on drugs, Jay goes against his family’s wishes and journeys to the Philippines to uncover the truth—no matter the consequences. Tackling themes of grief and guilt, this coming-of-age tale masterfully explores the complexities of cultural identity and the importance of familial bonds.
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Butterfly Yellow
Thanhha Lai

In the last days of the Viet Nam War, Hang’s little brother, Linh, is taken away to America as part of Operation Babylift, leaving Hang behind. Six years later, Hang journeys from Viet Nam to Texas in search of Linh. At first, Hang is overjoyed when she reunites with Linh. But when she realizes he doesn’t remember her, their family, or Viet Nam, her heart is crushed. Though the distance between them feels greater than ever, Hang will do anything to help bridge the gap. Winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, Butterfly Yellow is a deeply moving story of family, friendship, and identity.
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Latino Authors

Merci Suárez Changes Gears
Meg Medina

Winner of the 2019 Newbery Medal, this novel brilliantly captures the struggles of growing up in a way that readers of all ages will appreciate. As a scholarship student, sixth-grader Merci Suárez feels out of place at her elite private school in Florida. Life in her multigenerational household isn’t going so well either; Merci’s grandfather has been acting oddly lately, and her parents won’t explain what’s going on. With pressure at school and uncertainties at home, Merci is left alone to navigate the confusion and change that only middle school can bring.
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I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Erika L. Sánchez

Appropriate for high school audiences, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter follows Julia Reyes, a rebellious teenager and the child of Mexican immigrants, as she struggles with severe depression and family tensions after the unexpected death of her older sister, Olga. Unlike Julia, Olga lived a seemingly ideal life, but that illusion is shattered when Julia discovers a dark secret in the weeks following her sister’s passing. Part mystery, part coming-of-age tale, this book will have students eager to see where Julia’s story ultimately leads.
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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Junot Díaz

Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, this is the story of Oscar, an overweight teen struggling to reconcile his love of science fiction and fantasy with the cultural expectations set by his Dominican heritage. It’s also the story of Oscar’s family—and the terrible curse that was placed upon them by a brutal dictator. Full of lively prose and built on Dominican history, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is multicultural magical realism for today’s reader. Adult themes make this selection appropriate for mature students.
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First Nations and Indigenous Authors

There There
Tommy Orange

The untold story of urban Native Americans is brought to life in this groundbreaking story of twelve people who attend the Big Oakland Pow Wow. They each have a different relationship with their native backgrounds, but they all have been shaped by a hardship that goes back generations. Winner of the 2019 PEN/Hemingway Award, this book will speak to students who feel powerless in the face of the invisible forces that influence their lives.
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The Marrow Thieves
Cherie Dimaline

In Cherie Dimaline’s dystopian world, people have lost the ability to dream—and it’s believed the Indigenous people of North America carry the cure within their bones. To save both their lives and their cultural history, Frenchie and his companions must journey north to safety, avoiding those who seek to harvest their marrow on the way. Winner of the 2017 Kirkus Prize for Young Readers' Literature, this futuristic story of survival comments on the true impact of colonialism and systemic racism Indigenous peoples in Canada still experience today.
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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie’s first young adult novel has won at least five national school library awards and has been included in two Top Ten lists. In the intervening years, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has become a favorite in classrooms around the country. This compelling story of a teenage boy struggling to define his own identity as both a Native American and an individual will spark great classroom discussions on identity, bullying, expectations, poverty, and the value of education.
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LGBTQ+ Authors

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante are two vastly different Latino boys who randomly meet at a public pool, but this chance encounter changes their lives in ways neither of them could have predicted. This young adult novel effortlessly captures the feelings and fears of being a teenager, thanks to its deep themes on identity, sexuality, friendship, and family.
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They Both Die at the End
Adam Silvera

One night in September, Rufus Emeterio and Mateo Torrez each receive a phone call from Death-Cast, a company that is able to predict one’s death, informing them that they have 24 hours left to live. Rufus and Mateo are total strangers, but after connecting on an app called Last Friend, they meet up to do the impossible: to live a lifetime in a single day. Though the title reveals the story’s conclusion, readers will undoubtedly follow Rufus and Mateo to the end. Named one of Book Riot’s Best Queer Books of 2017, They Both Die at the End tackles heavy subjects like loss, love, acceptance, and the meaning of life.
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Akwaeke Emezi

Winner of the Stonewall Book Award, Pet is a genre-defying novel that deftly tackles themes of identity and justice. There are no monsters in the utopian city of Lucille. Jam, a transgender girl, and her friend Redemption have grown up with that lesson. But when Jam meets a ghastly creature named Pet, she must reconsider what she's been taught. Pet has come to hunt a true monster—and something grim lurks in Redemption's house. Jam must fight not only to protect her friend, but also to find the answer to the question: How do you save the world from monsters if everyone denies they exist?
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