diVERSEity: Verse Novels with People of Color as Main Characters, by Skila Brown (Guest Post)
As we celebrate verse novels all this week, let’s take a moment to highlight those stories that feature a person of color as the main character. This is not a complete list, but a list of some of the best.
If you have favorites not listed below, tell us about them in the comments!
The Good Braider by Terry Farish
Viola leaves war-torn Sudan for a new life in the United States. Such a great story of strength and loss of innocence. Beautiful cover! Beautiful writing!
Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
Kek escapes a war in Africa and immigrates to the United States where he hopes to hear word from his family. The verse works well in this book to show the experiences Kek is having from seeing snow to the first time to making friends with a cow.
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Hà leaves war-torn Vietnam and moves to Alabama where she struggles with assimilating. The author poured a lot of her own life into this story and it shows. We’re immediately sucked into Hà’s life and journey, and we feel what she feels.
Keesha’s House by Helen Frost
Teens in trouble, looking for a safe place to live. Frost takes a novel in poems to the next level with this one, weaving sestinas and sonnets together into poetic story magic.
Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson
Lonnie is separated from his sister because of a tragedy in his past. He writes poems to talk about what happened. This novel is full of heart and suspense and is a great example of why poetry is sometimes the best form for talking about difficult stuff.
Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff
Lavaughn takes a baby-sitting job to save money for college and encounters single mother Jolly. They both teach each other about growing up and life. This book forces us to question every stereotype we might have had in our heads. It’s a close-up look at how hard life can be.
The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan
A diverse mix of teenagers detail their struggles and joys. Readers will find someone to connect to within this motley group. The format and style of this book is edgy and eclectic. It works to drive home the theme that despite all our differences, we have more in common than we think.
Sold by Patricia McCormick
Lakshmi journeys to India from Nepal to be a maid, but actually, she’s been sold into prostitution. This novel is in vignettes, not quite verse, but I’m including it just the same. It’s bold and powerful and deals with a very real and difficult problem that persists even today.
The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle
A portrait of 19th century Cuba as it struggles for freedom and the role of one girl who tried to help many. I love that we see Rosa wanting to help everyone, regardless of their class or where they fall politically. This is a great portrait of what war and suffering can really look like to those living in the middle of it.
Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Lupita is left to care for her younger siblings and keep the family together when her Mami becomes ill. I love the way Lupita shows us how important and overwhelming family can be. This is a journey about growing up but also, too, about how hard it can be to be a woman.
Those are some of my favorites, but what about you? Drop off some diVERSE titles in the comments to add to our list.
Skila Brown holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She grew up in Kentucky and Tennessee, lived for a bit in Guatemala, and now resides with her family in Indiana. Her debut novel, Caminar, just released from Candlewick Press. Set in 1981 Guatemala, it is a novel in verse about a boy who must decide what becoming a man during a time of war really means.
Find her at skilabrown.com.
Set in 1981 Guatemala, a lyrical debut novel tells the powerful tale of a boy who must decide what it means to be a man during a time of war.
Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet—he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist.
Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.
25 March 2014
ages 10 and up