I consider myself lucky that my office is in the library at the middle school where I work. When students come in to look for books, I often find myself talking to them about books, suggesting books, or helping them find books. If you know me at all, you know how much fun this is for me!
This week a student came in looking for a book. I asked her if I could help her find anything specific and she said no, she was just looking at books to see if she found something she liked.
"What was the last book you read that you liked?" I asked her.
"Everything Everything," she explained. "And then I saw the movie this weekend." She liked the movie and thought they did a good job even though some parts were different from the book.
I asked, "What did you like about Everything Everything?"
She paused. And then she admitted, "The romance."
I squeed. That's the only and best word to describe my reaction.
It's not often that a student comes in looking for romance and it happens to be my favorite genre. I've read all the books in The Princess Diaries series, all the books in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, tons of Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Perkins, Elizabeth Eulberg, John Green, Jordan Sonnenblick, and David Levithan.
Aisle to aisle, I scanned the shelves, thinking of some of my favorites, spotting others that stood out to me, handing them to the student until she had a stack to look through.
Not one of them featured a person of color as a protagonist.
There is a Latinx character in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
...but it hit me right in the gut that I didn't have a book to give her that was about a person of color falling in love. Maybe if I had taken a little more time to search, I would have come up with one but none stood out to me as I went through the stacks.
In the last year or so I've read Yaqui Delgado Wants To Kick Your Ass, Gabi, A Girl In Pieces, Piecing Me Together, The Hate U Give, and Always and Forever, Lara Jean, the third book in Jenny Han's To All The Boys I've Loved Before series and Always and Forever, Lara Jean is the only one that truly stands out to me as a contemporary young adult romance....though there are elements of romance in others.
Obviously, I'm aware of the We Need Diverse Books campaign and the need for people of color to be represented more in children's and young adult literature. I get it. But when I had a student standing in front of me wanting to read one of my favorite genres and I couldn't come up with more than one or two books with a protagonist who was a person of color, I wanted to cry.
People of color fall in love just like white people fall in love.
We fall in love too.
We need more romance books with people of color as the protagonists.
Now I'm on a mission to find contemporary young adult romance books with protagonists who are people of color for this student and for myself. I'm going to buy books if I have to but I'm determined to give her books that feature protagonists who are people of color.
Rich In Color has a list of YA Reads with POC-Centric Romances
and I compiled a list here from my research of recently published or soon to be published. I haven't read any of these yet
so if you have any thoughts to share on these or others I should add, please share in the comments.
Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann
A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena
In Search of Us by Ava Dellaira
The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk
The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet with stories by Jennifer L. Armentrout,
Sona Charaipotra, Dhonielle Clayton, Katie Cotugno, Jocelyn Davies,
Nina LaCour, Emery Lord, Katharine McGee , Kass Morgan, Meredith Russo,
Sara Shepard, Nicola Yoon, Ibi Zoboi, Julie Murphy
Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
King Geordi the Great by Gene Gant
The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera
I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan
American Panda by Gloria Chao
Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi
That Thing We Call A Heart by Sheba Karim
Again, I haven't read any of these books so please let me know if there is one here I should bump to the top of my stack to read or others I should add!
Suggested titles from Twitter:
You Bring The Distance Near by Mitali Perkins
I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
Solo by Kwame Alexander
The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon
Fire In The Streets by Kekla Magoon