Reading a book by an author of color in July can help you complete a Summer Reading Challenge activity! Do you need some help finding a book written by an author of color? Let this blog post be your guide!
Before we begin, a note about what we mean by "authors of color." When speaking about books published in the United States, for example, we are referring to authors of non-Euro American backgrounds. In other words, authors who are not white.
If we do not make the effort, it is very easy to only read books written by white authors. According to a 2020 report by The New York Times, 95% of the fiction titles published between 1950 and 2018 were written by white authors.
In children's literature, we talk about readers needing books that are "windows and mirrors." Coined by Rudine Sims Bishop, Professor Emerita of Education at The Ohio State University, books are windows when they introduce the reader to worlds—people, places, ways of thinking— unfamiliar to them. Books are mirrors when the reader sees themself and their world reflected back to them.
For some readers, then, it is that much easier to find books that are mirrors. But we need both. Take this opportunity during Summer Reading Challenge to read a book outside of that 95 percent.
Lists Curated by NPL Staff
Part of a librarian's work is Readers' Advisory, or connecting patrons with the books best suited to their interests. Another part of our work is promoting our collection, highlighting the wide range of books available at the library. One way NPL staff accomplish both of these tasks is by curating lists of books available in our collection. If you want to read to a book written by an author of color, NPL staff have already done some of the legwork to help you find the ideal book.
If you are looking for children's books by authors of color, one of the first places you should visit is our diverse books lists on the NPL website. Under "Books & More," look for Audiences, and click on "Children." Scroll until you come to the heading "Diverse Books," with the linked lists immediately following. Below is a screenshot from our website so you know what you are looking for.
You can search for more staff curated lists in the library catalog by entering your search terms in the search bar and selecting "Lists" in the drop down menu. It should look like the picture below. "Lists" is circled in red.
A quick search for "Black Authors," for example, yielded this awesome list of YA books put together by Teen staff at Main! Searching for "Asian Authors" brought me to this list of children's chapter books written by authors of Asian American or Pacific Islander background.
Try different search terms and see what you discover. A search for "YA," for example, returned an absolute bevy of lists from which to choose your next read. Entering "Children" in the search bar led me to even more lists. Consider other search terms, such as "chapter books," "picture books," or "biography."
Lest you think that only Children and Teen librarians are putting together these helpful lists, here are some lists featuring recent fiction and nonfiction books for Adults:
- Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: New Fiction
- AAPI Heritage Month: New Nonfiction
- Black History Month 2023: New Nonfiction
- Black History Month 2023: New Fiction
Hispanic Heritage Month 2023 will not be upon us until later this year, but you can still avail yourself of the books highlighted last year by Collection Development staff:
I personally put together the following three lists, all featuring books written by Puerto Rican authors.
Use NoveList to Find Your Next Read
The NoveList database, available on the NPL website under "Education & Research," is a great tool to help you find your ideal book. To search specifically for books by authors of color, first try the Explore! Diversity Resources page. There are tips and resources to find books written by authors from specific backgrounds.
On the left hand side of the NoveList homepage, check out the topics under "Recommended Reads Lists." Under the Fiction tab you will find the "All Kinds of Lives" heading. The orange colored tab above allows you to select books for Adults, Teens, and Children. Books for children are further organized by age: those appropriate for ages 0-8 or 9-12. To guide you, check out the screenshot below, with the "All Kinds of Lives" heading circled in red.
Under this heading you can find books written by authors representing a diversity of ethnic and religious backgrounds. The Nonfiction tab has a "Biography and Memoir" heading to explore, as well as "Real Life Stories" for Teens and Children.
If you find a title by an author of color that piques your interest and NPL doesn't have the book in our collection, try Interlibrary Loan! For more information about the ILL process, check out this FAQ.
Interested in more "bespoke" Readers' Advisory from NPL staff? Check out our Library Concierge service! NPL Librarians can help you find the perfect book, and moreover, using Library Concierge in July can help you complete another Summer Reading Challenge Activity! Way to go, Library Maven!