Take a look at your bookshelf. What do you see? Is it full of male names? White, straight male names, at that?
What we read should reflect the world around us, don't you think? It should be as colorful as we are. We should see ourselves in the pages we read — our struggles, and our triumphs — and what's more is we should be learning from the struggles and the triumphs of those around us, too. Reading diverse voices expands our world views, our senses of empathy, and, hey, turns us on to incredible authors with important stories to tell. And isn't that what reading is all about?
That's a big reason why We Need Diverse Books, first a hashtag and now a campaign, emerged in 2014. Readers are becoming increasingly aware of the lack of diverse voices being promoted, and therefore being read. Although there's a heightened consciousness around the issue, a problem still remains. What can you do? Stock your bookshelf with more diverse voices. These 25 female authors are a great start.
'An Untamed State' by Roxane Gay
In ways, Roxane Gay’s first novel An Untamed State is a fairytale. Of sorts. Mireille Duval Jameson comes from a wealthy family, has a loving husband, and an infant son. But the fairytale takes an abrupt turn when Mireille is kidnapped and held for ransom, shaking her entire world. Releasing two books in 2014, Gay is a powerful new voice, and one who is, frankly, unmissable.
'Everything I Never Told You' by Celeste Ng
Featured on many Best Books of 2014 lists (including ours!), Celeste Ng’s debut Everything I Never Told You is the story of the Lee family, a Chinese-American family in Ohio in the 1970s. This happy family is not as happy as they seem, however. When the favorite daughter, Lydia, is found drowned in the lake by their home, they begin to unravel.
'Brown Girl Dreaming' by Jacqueline Woodson
2014’s winner of the National Book Award for Children’s Literature, Brown Girl Dreaming is a memoir by popular YA author Jacqueline Woodson, written entirely in verse. This is an important, beautifully written work and is a quick read for anyone looking for a striking, impactful book.
'A Tale for the Time Being' by Ruth Ozeki
Ruth Ozeki’s writing is a treasure. A Tale for the Time Being starts out with a Japanese girl named Nao setting out to write the life story of her great grandmother, Old Jiko. Jiko is an anarchist, feminist, Buddhist priest, and Nao loves and admires her. A woman name Ruth finds this attempted biography along a beach in Canada, and the stories collide in a mind bending way. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2013, A Tale for the Time Being is criminally underrated.
'Island of a Thousand Mirrors' by Nayomi Munaweera
Island of a Thousand Mirrors is the dual tale of two young girls during the Sri Lankan civil war. It is both heartbreaking and gritty, telling the story with vivid details so not a minute of their lives is lost. A fictional story telling an incredibly real history, this is one to pick up for a dose of history and a lot of emotion.
'The Land of Love and Drowning' by Tiphanie Yanique
The Land of Love and Drowning is a beautiful debut that has been compared to the work of Toni Morrison and Gabriel García Márquez. Spanning three generations of the Bradshaw family from 1916 to the 1970s, full of love and magic, and set against the tropical climate, it’s perfect book to warm you up in the cold weather.
'Girl in Translation' by Jean Kwok
When Kimberly Chang moves with her mother from Hong Kong to Brooklyn, you can imagine her culture shock. Kimberly begins to lead a double life: schoolgirl by day, sweatshop worker by night, learning English along the way. Girl in Translation feels personal, because it is. Jean Kwok emigrated to America at a young age much like Kimberly, giving readers a glimpse into the life of someone making a foreign land her home.
'Pointe' by Brandy Colbert
Pointe is the story of Theo: recovering from an eating disorder and on her way to becoming an elite ballet dancer. But when Donovan, a friend from her past, returns after four years being kidnapped, life as she know it changes. Pointe challenges typical ballet ideals, and makes way for a great new YA voice.
'Ripper' by Isabel Allende
Mother Indiana and daughter Amanda have been on their own for years. Amanda is a high school senior addicted to crime novels and an online game called Ripper. When her mother disappears amongst a string of Jack the Ripper-esque murders, she investigates on her own, determined to find her mom. Isabel Allende’s works are timeless, and this page-turner is a great way to spend a winter night.
'Legend' by Marie Lu
The first in a trilogy perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent, Marie Lu’s Legend takes place in what was once the United States, but is now known as the Republic. June was born to immense wealth, Day was born into poverty. When they happen to cross paths, the truth about the Republic comes to lie in their hands.
'Dove Arising' by Karen Bao
Phaet Theta lives in a colony on the Moon, minding her business and staying out of the way. When her mother is arrested and her younger siblings are taken to the Shelter, Phaet is forced to join the Militia, and her whole world is turned upside down. The 20-year-old Bao writes a brilliant new YA heroine in a world of true science fiction.
'None of the Above' by I.W. Gregorio
High school is tough for anyone. Imagine being Kristin Lattimer, a teenage girl who discovers she is not quite a girl, not quite a boy. Oh, and then the whole school finds out your secret, and life as you know it is over. So begins None of the Above. Pre-order this one now.
'If You Could Be Mine' by Sara Farizan
Written by an Iranian-American woman, If You Could Be Mine gives readers a glimpse into a world that is taboo in Iranian culture: the love story of two young women. Farizan breaks down the wall of cultural difference in this debut novel.
'The Round House' by Louise Erdrich
One day in 1988, a woman living on an Ojibwe reservation is attacked, and the details of the crime are slow to surface. Geraldine, the victim of the attack refuses to tell her husband, the tribal judge, or her son about the events of her attack. The quest to find answers leads them eventually to The Round House, a sacred tribal house, in this National Book Award-winner.
'The Septembers of Shiraz' by Dalia Sofer
Rare-gem dealer Isaac Amin is arrested after being (wrongly) accused of being a spy. In the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution, his family is understandably terrified by his sudden disappearance. His wife searches for him, his daughter engages in illicit activities, and his son tries to make his way in America.
'The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing' by Mira Jacob
Mira Jacob’s debut novel is a family saga spanning 30 years. It moves from India to New Mexico to Seattle, telling the story of Thomas Eapen and his family as they try to come to terms with Thomas’ recent experience hearing the voices of his Indian ancestors. Alternately light hearted and heartbreaking, Sleepwalker’s Guide is a deep-diving family saga.
'Everything Leads to You' by Nina LaCour
A young Hollywood set designer, Emi is professionally successful and romantically confused. She has gone back to the same girl time and time again with the same result. When she is about to give up hope, a mysterious letter leads her to Ava, and everything changes before her eyes.
'A Time to Dance' by Padma Venkatraman
Veda, a young Indian girl lives for dance. She is considered a prodigy until an accident shatters her knee and leaves Veda an amputee. Prosthetic in place, she is more determined than ever to live her dream and become a dancer. An inspiring YA novel of courage and perseverance, A Time to Dance is a reminder to anyone young and old to never give up.
'The Last Illusion' by Porochista Khakpour
In an Iranian village, a young boy, Zal, is kept in a birdcage by his mother because he has pale skin. She is convinced that she gave birth to a “white demon,” and it is not until he is rescued by a behavioral analyst that Zal is given a shot at a normal adolescence in New York. Told with a dark sense of humor, this coming of age story is not just the story of a boy’s struggle to become a normal man, but an American, as well.
'She Weeps Each Time You're Born' by Quan Barry
A girl named Rabbit is born under a full moon in Vietnam, and is born with the ability to hear the voices of the dead. Rabbit’s insight into the words and thoughts of the dead gives readers a look into history in a whole new, unique way.
'The Book of Unknown Americans' by Cristina Henríquez
Arturo and Alma Rivera fell in love, married, and had their daughter Maribel in Mexico: the only home they’ve ever known. When Maribel sustains a serious injury, leaving them wondering if she’ll ever be the same, they journey to America to get her the proper medical care she needs, thrusting them into life as immigrants and all of the unsettling new troubles it brings. An important story of love, trust, and humanity, The Book of Unknown Americans allows you to walk in the shoes of another person.
'We Need New Names' by NoViolet Bulawayo
NoViolet Bulawayo’s award winning debut novel is the story of Darling, a 10-year-old girl whose home in Zimbabwe was destroyed by militant policemen, who flees to her aunt’s home in America. Life in America, the land of plenty, is not what she thought it would be. Not for a Zimbabwean refugee. A powerful coming of age story, We Need New Names is a hard-hitting debut.
'The Girl From the Well' by Rin Chupeco
Okiku is a lonely spirit who passes her time setting free the souls of people who were murdered, and getting revenge on the murders themselves. Kind of a eerier version of Dexter, The Girl From the Well is a chilling YA ghost story that will keep you up late into the night flipping pages.
'Americanah' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s award winning book of identity, race, and gender is also the love story of Ifemelu and Obinze, who flee violent Nigeria for separate lives in America and London. Both are forced to deal with their race and culture in the post-9/11 world. Fifteen years later, the two are reunited in Nigeria, and their love is reignited. Powerfully moving, Americanah is a love story with an important message.
'Like Water On Stone' by Dana Walrath
Set during the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1914, Like Water on Stone is the story of a family torn apart by violence. Three orphaned sisters flee to the Armenian mountains, watched over by an eagle as they make their way over the mountains to safety. Emotional and brutal, Like Water On Stone is the perfect book to pick up for the historical fiction fan.