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Dr. FYA takes the SATs

Dr. FYA recommends some diversity in your YA.

Dr. FYA takes the SATs

Well, I'm not REALLY taking the SATs. I did that years ago. But I did just get an email from a reader who does SAT tutoring, and she has an excellent question.

I'm hoping you ladies can help me out. I'm tutoring some girls for the SAT, and I'm trying to encourage them to read. I am having a hard time finding books to recommend that are useful for familiarizing them with English idioms (and fun, of course). I have to read the book too so we can discuss it, and I'm allergic to moral improvement. They both say they like romance, and I read a lot of romance, but I might get into trouble if I gave them the kind of romance I like. The girls are also so totally over vampires.

They both speak English fluently, although it is not their native language (they are both Dominican). So there seems to be a bit of a trend in YA with privileged white protaganists, be they Upper East Siders or wealthy suburbanites.

The girls are hoping to go to school for architecture and interior design; they are quite bright, and far better behaved than your average 16-year-old. If they do go to college, they would be the first person in their families to do so. They almost always do their homework if I bribe them with candy. This is about all the info I have to give you, although I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have if it would help you to come up with recommendations for me.

First, I'm so glad you asked about this! Honestly, more books need to be about not-privileged-white-kids, AND FYA needs to review more of the great ones that are out there already! So keep an eye out for book reports on the (many) books listed that haven't yet made it to FYA.

Before I give you the whole list, I want to give you a caveat. This is not a list about only Latinas. It's also a list that includes Latinas who are not Dominicanas, and not all books about being different need to be ABOUT being different, yanno? So there's all kinds of diversity here, whether it's race or sexuality or size, whether it's the point of the book or just happens to be part of the characters' lives, and while some books focus on struggles, others are just about having fun and falling in love.

The only thing I could think about while writing this was those college brochures showing their DIVERSITY! via carefully staged multicultural/ethnic/racial groups of students laughing and studying on the grass in some quad. Like this one from the University of Utah, where nobody is actually making eye contact.

What Can't Wait by Ashley Hope Pérez -- Marisa works her ass off to help support her family. She also works her ass off to get good grades in school, especially math. If she gets into college, she'll be one of the first in her family to do so, but they might not be as proud of her as you think.

The Knife and the Butterfly by Ashley Hope Pérez has sixteen year old Azael waking up in a jail cell, last night's gang fight mostly a confusing haze. Sounds normal, but being forced to observe Lexi Allen, a strung-out white chick who's been locked up for reasons Azael doesn't understand, is not so normal.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray is a book every teenage girl needs to read -- it's about being a woman, being different, being liked, being loved, being beautiful. It's awesome. Don't let the cover stop you (I actually like the cover, but some protective parents might not).

Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson is a retelling of a French fairy tale, set in Mughal India. Two stepsisters receive gifts -- or curses -- from a goddess: One's words turn to flowers and jewels, while the other's become toads and snakes. Hey, it's a sneaky way to explore the meanings of words.

Finding Miracles is a good starting place for Julia Alvarez, who was born in the States but lived in the Dominican Republic until she was 10, but any of her novels would be great. Miracles is about a Dominican girl, adopted by a Vermont family, whose life is turned upside down when a Dominican boy moves to her town. There's also How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents and Once Upon a Quincanera, which is nonfiction.

Accidental Love by Gary Soto is a sweet love story between tough Marisa and skinny nerd Rene, and a good starting point for Soto's books (although it has a glossary, and y'all know how we feel about glossaries)

In Wait for Me by An Na, Korean-American Mina is the perfect daughter -- or so her mother thinks. She falls for Ysrael, a Latino migrant worker, and is forced to start figuring out what she really wants -- and who she really is.

Boyfriends with Girlfriends is Alex Sanchez's latest, and explores sexuality and bisexuality with an ethnically diverse cast.

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea (see the above caveat that I do realize not all Latinas are Mexican, that the Dominican experience is not the same as the Mexican or Puerto Rican, but just that this book is supposed to be beautifully written, funny, and about non-white, non-privileged teens with a lot of guts).

Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Franciso X. Stork is about two young men, one dying of cancer and one planning a murder. Also check out Stork's Marcelo in the Real World.

Gloria, the heroine of Freak Magnet by Andrew Auseon, inexplicably attracts freaks and weirdos. When Charlie claims to fall in love with her, she thinks he's just another freak until she gets to know him. PS Oh yeah, Gloria's Arab-American.

Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara Doyle is about a Cuban-American girl who gets kicked out of school (and her house) after one of her love letters is read aloud in class -- a love letter to another girl.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler has been on the to-review-here list for years. When environmental crises make even gated communities uninhabitable, Lauren Olamina sets out into the wilderness to find a new destiny. This is the first of two Earthseed books.

I got several of these books from Library Thing, and there are lists of lists and shelves of shelves on Goodreads -- check those out for more ideas, and let us know if any of these work! What do you guys recommend?

Categories: Dr. FYA Tags: diversitydr. fya