More YA and YA-friendly Books About LGBT Characters of Color

Originally posted at Diversity in YA

Last October, I posted a list of YA books about LGBT characters of color. It’s been tough to find more books, so these additions expand the goal slightly and are about (1) a queer person of color protagonist; (2) a queer protagonist in a romantic relationship with a POC; or (3) a main character dealing with queer POC parents as the central story line.

Please note: Not all of these were published as “young adult” novels; some are technically “adult” novels but are about young queer people of color coming of age. Links go to Barnes & Noble; descriptions are from Worldcat.






The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson and Sarah Rees Brennan (Margaret K. McElderry Books)

Ten short stories about bisexual, half-Asian warlock Magnus Bane from Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices trilogies.

Angry Management by Chris Crutcher (Greenwillow Books)

A collection of short stories featuring characters from earlier books by Chris Crutcher.

Happy Families by Tanita S. Davis (Random House Children’s Books)

In alternating chapters, sixteen-year-old twins Ysabel and Justin share their conflicted feelings as they struggle to come to terms with their father’s decision to dress as a woman.

Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara Dole (Bella Books; originally published by HarperTeen)

Laura, a seventeen-year-old Cuban American girl, is thrown out of her house when her mother discovers she is a lesbian, but after trying to change her heart and hide from the truth, Laura finally comes to terms with who she is and learns to love and respect herself.

The Culling by Steven dos Santos (Flux)

In a futuristic world ruled by a totalitarian government called the Establishment, Lucian "Lucky" Spark and four other teenagers are recruited for the Trials. They must compete not only for survival but to save the lives of their Incentives, family members whose lives depend on how well they play the game.

For Today I Am a Boy by Kim Fu (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Peter, the only boy among four siblings born to Chinese immigrants, is convinced he is a girl and must fight the confines of a small town as well as the expectations of his parents to forge his own path into adulthood.

Mariposa Club by Rigoberto Gonzalez (Lethe Press)

Four gay high school boys start a club, and when one of them is targeted in a homophobic incident, the entire school turns to them as a symbol of grief, fear and hope.

Sister Mischief by Laura Goode (Candlewick)

Esme Rockett, also known as MC Ferocious, rocks her suburban Minnesota Christian high school with more than the hip-hop music she makes with best friends Marcy (DJ SheStorm) and Tess (The ConTessa) when she develops feelings for her co-MC, Rowie (MC Rohini).

A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar (Penguin)

Nidali, the rebellious daughter of an Egyptian-Greek mother and a Palestinian father, narrates her story from her childhood in Kuwait, her early teenage years in Egypt (to where she and her family fled the 1990 Iraqi invasion), to her family’s last flight to Texas. 

Chulito by Charles Rice-Gonzales (Magnus Books)

Set against a vibrant South Bronx neighborhood and the youth culture of Manhattan, Chulito is a coming-of-age, coming out love story of a sexy Latino man and the colorful characters that populate his block.

Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal (Kensington Books)

Satyal’s lovely coming-of-age debut charts an Indian-American boy’s transformation from mere mortal to Krishnaji, the blue-skinned Hindu deity. Twelve-year-old Kiran Sharma’s a bit of an outcast: he likes ballet and playing with his mother’s makeup. He also reveres his Indian heritage and convinces himself that the reason he’s having trouble fitting in is because he’s actually the 10th reincarnation of Krishnaji. He plans to come out to the world at the 1992 Martin Van Buren Elementary School talent show, and much of the book revels in his comical preparations as he creates his costume, plays the flute and practices his dance moves to a Whitney Houston song. But as the performance approaches, something strange happens: Kiran’s skin begins to turn blue. Satyal writes with a graceful ease, finding new humor in common awkward pre-teen moments and giving readers a delightful and lively young protagonist.

Street Dreams by Tama Wise (Bold Strokes Books)

Tyson Rua has more than his fair share of problems growing up in South Auckland. Working a night job to support his mother and helping bring up his two younger brothers is just the half of it. His best friend Rawiri is falling afoul of a broken home, and now Tyson’s fallen in love at first sight. Only thing is, it’s another guy. Living life on the sidelines of the local hip-hop scene, Tyson finds that to succeed in becoming a local graffiti artist or in getting the man of his dreams, he’s going to have to get a whole lot more involved. And that means more problems, the least of which is the leader of the local rap crew he’s found himself running with. Love, life, and hip-hop never do things by half.

Love & Lies: Marisol’s Story by Ellen Wittlinger (Simon & Schuster) (America Latina lesbian MC)

When Marisol, a self-confident eighteen-year-old lesbian, moves to Cambridge, Massachusetts to work and try to write a novel, she falls under the spell of her beautiful but deceitful writing teacher, while also befriending a shy, vulnerable girl from Indiana.

From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jacqueline Woodson (Penguin)

Almost-fourteen-year-old Melanin Sun’s comfortable, quiet life is shattered when his mother reveals she has fallen in love with a woman.

Thanks to Daisy Porter of Queer YA for many suggestions.

My Guide to LGBT YA

Over the past several years I’ve written a lot about YA with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender characters or issues. Here is an index to all of those posts: Statistics


Book Covers

Writing Advice


  • Len Barot — president and founder of Bold Strokes Books, an independent LGBT publisher
  • emily m. danforth — author of The Miseducation of Cameron Post
  • Sarah Diemer — author of The Dark Wife and Twixt
  • Mayra Lazara Dole — author of Down to the Bone
  • Sara Farizan — author of If You Could Be Mine, interviewed by author E.M. Kokie (Personal Effects)
  • Madeleine George — author of The Difference Between You and Me
  • Brent Hartinger — author of Geography Club and The Elephant of Surprise
  • Laura Lam — author of Pantomime
  • David Levithan — author of Two Boys Kissing and Boy Meets Boy
  • Carrie Mac — author of Crush and The Beckoners
  • Sarah Rees Brennan — co-author of The Bane Chronicles with Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson, author of Untold (The Lynburn Legacy)
  • Alex Sanchez — author of Rainbow Boys, Boyfriends With Girlfriends, and more
  • Scott Tracey — author of the Witch Eyes trilogy
  • Ellen Wittlinger — Author of Hard Love and Parrotfish

Book Lists

Recommended Reads

YA Pride Guest Posts

Wrapping up YA Pride 2013

Logo for YA Pride 2013Thank you to everyone who stopped by my website this past month to read about LGBT YA during my YA Pride theme month. I have to give a special thanks to the writers who wrote guest posts for me, and the authors who agreed to be interviewed. A lot of work went into this month, and it wasn’t only on my part. I really appreciated everyone’s contributions. Winners

If you entered the Giant YA Pride 2013 Giveaway, winners have now been selected and notified by email. So check your in boxes to see if you won so that we can send you your books!


I’ve learned that I missed one 2013 LGBT YA book in my post on 2013 LGBT YA by the Numbers: Replica by Jenna Black (Tor Teen), a sci-fi novel featuring two protagonists, one of whom is gay. I’ve noted this omission in the original post.

Index to YA Pride 2013

The following is an index of all the posts in this year’s YA Pride month; posts are written by me unless otherwise noted:


Guest Posts


  • Len Barot — president and founder of Bold Strokes Books, an independent LGBT publisher
  • Sarah Diemer — author of The Dark Wife and Twixt
  • Sara Farizan — author of If You Could Be Mine, interviewed by author E.M. Kokie (Personal Effects)
  • Brent Hartinger — author of Geography Club and The Elephant of Surprise
  • Laura Lam — author of Pantomime
  • David Levithan — author of Two Boys Kissing and Boy Meets Boy
  • Sarah Rees Brennan — co-author of The Bane Chronicles with Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson, author of Untold (The Lynburn Legacy)

Book Lists

YA Books About LGBT Characters of Color

Logo for YA Pride 2013There may be few LGBT YA books out there compared to the number of books about straight characters, but there are even fewer books about characters who are both of color and LGBT. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, and yet even I was a little bit taken aback by the sheer paucity of books I could find about queer characters of color — and I am in real life a queer Asian American woman. Since I’ve been keeping track of LGBT YA and YA with characters of color for a few years, here are the books I’ve found that are about queer characters of color. This is a very short list, and I have probably missed some. ((I want to acknowledge my debt to Liz Chapman, who has been researching LGBT fiction and compiling an extensive list of LGBT titles published around the world, and was kind enough to share her list with me.)) (I hope I have!)

The descriptions that follow come from WorldCat; the notes are my own.


Crash Into Me by Borris Albert (Simon Pulse) — Four suicidal teenagers go on a “celebrity suicide road trip,” visiting the graves of famous people who have killed themselves, with the intention of ending their lives in Death Valley, California. Note: One of the four points of view in this book is from Korean-American lesbian Jin-Ae.

I Am J by Cris Beam (Little, Brown) — J, who feels like a boy mistakenly born as a girl, runs away from his best friend who has rejected him and the parents he thinks do not understand him when he finally decides that it is time to be who he really is. Note: J is Puerto Rican and Jewish.

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan (Algonquin) — In Iran, where homosexuality is punishable by death, seventeen-year-olds Sahar and Nasrin love each other in secret until Nasrin’s parents announce their daughter’s arranged marriage and Sahar proposes a drastic solution. Note: Sahar and Nasrin are Iranian.

M+O 4evr by Tonya Hegamin (Houghton Mifflin) — In parallel stories, Hannah, a slave, finds love while fleeing a Maryland plantation in 1842, and in the present, Opal watches her life-long best friend, Marianne, pull away and eventually lose her life in the same Pennsylvania ravine where Hannah died. Note: Opal is African American.


Huntress by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown) — Seventeen-year-olds Kaede and Taisin are called to go on a dangerous and unprecedented journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen, in an effort to restore the balance of nature in the human world. Note: This is an Asian-inspired fantasy novel.

Dramarama by E. Lockhart (Disney Hyperion) — Spending their summer at Wildewood Academy, an elite boarding school for the performing arts, tests the bond between teens Sadye and her best friend Demi. Note: Demi is African American and gay.

Proxy by Alex London (Philomel) — Privileged Knox and and his proxy, Syd, are thrown together to overthrow the system. Note: In the dystopian future world of this novel, Syd is gay and of color.

The Necessary Hunger by Nina Revoyr (Simon and Schuster) — The rivalry and love of two high school girls playing basketball in Los Angeles. One is a shy Japanese-American, the other an aggressive African-American, and both are lesbian. Their relationship receives a new twist when the mother of the African-American moves in with the father of the Japanese-American and the girls begin living under one roof. A first novel.


Boyfriends With Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez (Simon and Schuster) — When Lance begins to date Sergio, who’s bisexual, he’s not sure that it’ll work out, and when his best friend Allie, who has a boyfriend, meets Sergio’s lesbian friend, she has unexpected feelings which she struggles to understand. Note: Sergio is Latino, and Sergio’s lesbian best friend, Kimiko, is Japanese American.

The God Box by Alex Sanchez (Simon and Schuster) — When openly gay Manuel transfers to Paul’s high school, Paul, a born-again Christian, begins to question his own sexuality. Note: Paul and Manuel are Mexican American.

Also, note that Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys trilogy includes a gay Latino character, Jason Carrillo.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Bejamin Alire Saenz (Simon and Schuster) — Fifteen-year-old Ari Mendoza is an angry loner with a brother in prison, but when he meets Dante and they become friends, Ari starts to ask questions about himself, his parents, and his family that he has never asked before. Note: Ari and Dante are both Latino.

Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz (Cinco Puntos Press) — Eighteen-year-old Zach does not remember how he came to be in a treatment center for alcoholics, but through therapy and caring friends, his amnesia fades and he learns to face his past while working toward a better future. Note: Zach is Mexican American.


The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson (Delacorte) — When thirteen-year-old Staggerlee, the daughter of a racially mixed marriage, spends a summer with her cousin Trout, she begins to question her sexuality to Trout and catches a glimpse of her possible future self. Thirteen-year-old Staggerlee used to be called Evangeline, but she took on a fiercer name. She’s always been different–set apart by the tragic deaths of her grandparents in an anti-civil rights bombing, by her parents’ interracial marriage, and by her family’s retreat from the world. This summer she has a new reason to feel set apart–her confused longing for her friend Hazel. When cousin Trout comes to stay, she gives Staggerlee a first glimpse of her possible future selves and the world beyond childhood. Note: Staggerlee is African American.

Orphea Proud by Sharon Dennis Wyeth (Delacorte) — While reciting her poetry at a club in Queens, New York, seventeen-year-old Orphea recounts her childhood in Pennsylvania, leaving after her parents and the girl she loves die, and learning about her family and herself while living with her great-aunts on a Virginia mountaintop. Note: Orphea is African American.

Money Boy by Paul Yee (Groundwood Books) — Young immigrant Ray Liu is struggling to adjust to North American life. When his father discovers Ray has been cruising gay websites, the teen is kicked out of the family home. He heads to downtown Toronto, where the harsh reality of street life hits him. Note: Ray is Chinese Canadian.


Don’t forget to check out the Giant YA Pride 2013 Giveaway to win tons of wonderful LGBT YA novels.

Write the Book You Want to Read

By Audrey Coulthurst

Logo for YA Pride 2013We all have our favorite flavors of candy. Maybe for you it’s cherry, sweet as the first days of summer, or perhaps lemon, a spark of citrus on the tongue. For me it’s cinnamon. I’d eat Red Hots or Atomic Fireballs off a filth-encrusted city sidewalk for an embarrassingly small sum of money. Sweet isn’t sweet enough for me unless it burns.

As a reader, I’m on a quest for cinnamon books—the ones that cater to my taste, burn inside me, and leave me thinking of them for days after I finish reading. Those books are important, because they speak both to my fantasies and my experience. They are worlds to which I can escape and also worlds that I understand because they reflect a part of me.

Malinda Lo’s Ash was a cinnamon book for me. Before Ash, I’d indulged my taste for young adult books with queer female protagonists through what stories I could find, which were mostly contemporary issue books. Those books helped me navigate the challenges of being queer in a world that isn’t, especially back in high school when I suffered from a terrible Xena: Warrior Princess haircut and a doomed crush on my best friend.

Photos of a bunch of different kinds of candy

But as an adult, I craved more. I longed to see GLBTQ heroes in young adult fantasy, my favorite genre. I wanted to read the stories of queer protagonists living in worlds where their sexuality didn’t matter, or where the central conflict of their stories wasn’t dictated by the homophobia of the society in which they lived. Ash began to answer the question that haunted me every time I entered a bookstore—where was the book that would indulge me with the literary convergence of everything I loved?

The fact was that it didn’t exist.

Still, finding Ash on the shelves was a revelation, and a huge step toward understanding the anatomy of my ultimate cinnamon book. Ash taught me that a book in which the protagonist’s sexuality wasn’t an issue could exist. After years of reading countless books, it was literally the first time I’d experienced a fictional world like that. Kaisa and Ash shared the kind of love I wish I’d known as a teenager. It would have been so different to fall in love with my high school best friend in a world where gender didn’t matter.

So I picked up Ash and devoured it in a single sitting, aching for more at the end. But it wasn’t only the familiar ache of wanting to spend more time with a certain set of characters or in an author’s world. This ache was different, and honestly kind of a jerk. It said, “Hey clunge-biscuit, you’ve been writing crappy first drafts of novels for five years. Stop waiting for the ultimate cinnamon book and write it yourself. No one else is going to write it for you.”

But it was harder than just sitting down to write. While it was true that I’d been writing books for a while, I also had a habit of doing everything short of lighting my manuscripts on fire and pitching them off a bridge as soon as they were finished. My commitment to writing fell far short of my commitment to telling myself I wasn’t good enough. After Ash, that changed.

In previous years, I had started every draft by writing about ten pages of pure garbage before figuring out the story. But the novel I began to write after reading Ash didn’t have to figure itself out. From page one, the story poured out through the eyes of two characters that I fell in love with right away. I threw in every reading kink I’d ever hoped to indulge: horses, music, magic, and a princess who falls in love with her fiancé’s sister. Best of all, the book didn’t have to be about demonizing men or my characters being persecuted by a world that criminalizes homosexuality. It’s just the story of a girl who falls madly in love with the wrong person—a person who happens to be female.

The funny thing is that my quest isn’t over as a writer or a reader. I’m getting ready to query my princess manuscript and still looking for cinnamon books every time I step into a bookstore. But the world needs cherry and lemon and orange and even black licorice & spinach soufflé, if that’s your favorite flavor. So if the book you want to read doesn’t exist—get out there and write. It’s up to all of us to create the fictional worlds we want to inhabit, and there’s an audience for every flavor.


yap-author-coulthurstAudrey Coulthurst writes YA books that tend to involve magic, horses, and kissing the wrong people. Her debut novel, OF FIRE AND STARS, will be published by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins. When she’s not dreaming up new stories, she can usually be found painting, singing, or on the back of a horse. Find her on the web at or on Twitter @audwrites.


Don’t forget to check out the Giant YA Pride 2013 Giveaway to win tons of wonderful LGBT YA novels.