14 Diverse Thought Catalog Books That You Need To Read Right Now

In support of Ellen Oh’s #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, we wanted to share our own diverse library of books covering deeply personal and challenging topics like racism, sexuality, bullying, and more from our own LGBTQ writers and writers of color.

I, like many others, grew up reading books featuring mainly white characters written by white authors. While I’ve come to love and admire these authors, there was an emptiness there–an almost silent voice asking, Where’s the real connection? Because as a teenager attending an all-white high school, I had racial slurs thrown in my face on a daily basis (You’re a chink; go back to your country!; hey eggroll, why are your eyes so small?), conflicted by a double-consciousness – Korean at home, American everywhere else. But it’s not so black and white. I had no tangible support system, no books to turn to where I could find characters struggling with the same issues I struggled with. I didn’t learn what double-consciousness was until I was a junior in college taking Asian-American studies and critical theory classes. Even writing that out breaks my heart because what about the teenagers going through that now? What support do they have? I only learned these concepts existed because I voluntarily chose to take those classes, they weren’t (and still aren’t) mandatory. We need diverse literature, and we need it now.

So, while this campaign is for children and young adults (rightly so), it’s also for those who may not have had any sort of support system as adolescents and who are still seeking out answers to unresolved conflicts of self-identity.

Stay up-to-date with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and attend the BookCon panel on Saturday, May 31st at the Javits Center in New York featuring these amazing authors: Aisha Saeed, Ellen Oh, Grace Lin, I.W. Gregorio, Jacqueline Woodson, Lamar Giles, Marieke Nijkamp, Matt de la Peña, Mike Jung.

Here’s the list of diverse Thought Catalog Books that are waiting to be added to your library.

1. Different Racisms by Matthew Salesses

In Different Racisms, Matthew Salesses explores the unique racism Asian Americans face, including the model minority myth, the impact of Jeremy Lin’s fame on Asian American representation in national media, and America’s perception of “Gangnam Style” singer and K-Pop sensation, Psy.

Salesses’ essays (and his insightful and anecdote-filled footnotes) also give an honest and personal account of growing up as a Korean adoptee raised by white parents, all the while struggling with the many conflicts associated with double-consciousness, and reflecting on the common experience the adopted child has when he looks into the mirror and all of a sudden realizes that his skin color is not the same as his parents’.

2. Boys, An Anthology edited by Zach Stafford & Nico Lang

As hilarious as it is honest, as heartbreaking as it is empowering,Boys is an anthology unlike any you’ve read, a collection of essays showcasing the voices, stories, and lives of gay, queer, and trans* men from around the world. Through these true stories, readers are offered a glimpse into intimate moments rarely shared: the moment one boy accidentally came out as gay on MySpace; the time one was kidnapped by his mother who wished to “pray the gay away;” the first time a boy went to a leather bar after transitioning to male, before he became a famous porn artist and performer. The confessions in Boys will stay with you, as will the point they make: there isn’t one type of boy in the world, but lots of boys, each with their own story, if only we’d listen.

3. My Transgender Coming Out Story by Parker Marie Molloy

A book for anyone who has ever felt out of place, out of touch with themselves or the world around them, My Transgender Coming Out Story is the memoir of Parker Marie Molloy, a transgender woman from Chicago whose provocative and candid writing about gender, coming, and self-discovery have won her fans and followers from around the world. Detailing her upbringing, the struggles she had coming to terms with her transgender status, her experience starting hormone replacement therapy, and the act of building and sustaining relationships in a post-transition life, this is the brave account of one woman embracing who she is–and inspiring others to do the same.

4. Confessions of a Token Black Girl by Danielle Small

Confessions of a Token Black Girl is a snappy comedic tale framing Danielle’s first-hand experiences in Wisconsin and other places as the perpetual ‘token black girl,’ fraught with dark moments and hate crimes. It’s a coming-of-age-story but instead of finding herself during a road trip, Danielle found herself through the effects of racism. This book humorously chronicles Danielle’s quest for understanding what black identity means to her–instead of what it means to everyone else.

5. Love, Sex, and Other Things You Might Find at the Airport by Zaron Burnett III

This book is like a cross-country road trip with your favorite cousin the first summer you’re old enough to get high with him and he decides to tell you what he knows about life. These essays are as wise as they are laugh-out-loud funny, and as useful as the best advice you ever got about matters of modern love, great sex and the necessity of romance. Reading Zaron Burnett III’s essays is a rare opportunity to experience curiosity about all things expressed without judgment, clarity tempered with compassion, and truth as the most exhilarating aphrodisiac. Within these timely observations and candid confessions, you will find a ton of insight, provocative theories, an equal amount of humor and an unexpected optimism that will not be denied.

6. Virgin: A Memoir on Rape, and Relationships and Life Thereafter by Ella Ceron

1 in 6 women in America will experience sexual assault of some kind. As many as 96% of these women will never report it. Few will ever talk about it, much less say that it happened to them.

“Virgin” tells the story that is all too common now: teenagers go to parties, have a few too many drinks, and find themselves in situations they never banked upon, situations they thought they were smarter than. At 16, Ella Ceron was date-raped at a party. Until now, she’s never revealed the details of that night to anyone because of fear, shame, and feelings of utter confusion. This is a story of how, eventually, Ella began to realize that this one horrible event did not define her and even in spite of her unwillingness to deal with it, she found that she had moved past it.

Social stigma and cultural taboo keep victims and survivors silent. But their stories need to be told, because theirs are the stories we seldom hear, and rarely listen to. “Virgin” is just one story, but it doesn’t belong to Ella Ceron. It belongs to every survivor who has learned to cope, every survivor who is still coping, and every person who did not deserve to have something as terrible as rape in their lives.

7. A Ph.D. Takes Your B.S. to a Whole New Level: Survive Grad School with the Right Mentality by Anita Chandra

This non-fiction piece describes the many facets of graduate school that most people are not aware of. Additionally, there are helpful and quirky tips for overall success. This book was not designed to provide cliché tips on how to study better or how to manage time better. It’s simply an enlightening tool that graduate students and pre-graduate students can keep close to them when they feel like they are in one big anxiety factory. Most people understand that it is beneficial to keep a positive outlook on life, but when grad school makes life even more difficult than it should be, it’s nice to have something for motivation.

8. Gethsemane by Grace Jung

LJ and Mark continue to stay together despite all the bad feelings they harbor for each other. When Mark’s friend Garo visits town for the week, he becomes the perfect buffer for those feelings to finally air out. In outbursts at bars and cafes in the East Village and lofts of Fort Greene, LJ and Mark finally say the things they kept from each other for too long.

9. The Young People Who Traverse Dimensions While Wearing Sunglasses by Nico Lang

When most people say they have “crazy” families, they mean that their family is wacky and weird — but they love them for it. They are just like a David Sedaris story. With family, there’s a boundary of social acceptably dysfunctional, the difference between huggable and restraining order. We are way, way over that line. This is not a David Sedaris story.

10. How To Be Beyoncé by Madison Moore

We’re in a Beyoncé moment. The pop sensation has more fans, more fame, and more cultural influence than ever before. But what makes her so iconic? Is she really that perfect? And why do we love her so much? How to Be Beyoncé isn’t a biography (mostly because nobody wants to get sued by someone who does everything so perfectly). Instead, it’s a meditation on her place in culture, why we love her so much, and what we can learn from her image and work-ethic so we can reach our own potential.

11. Number 24 by Heidi Liu

Number 24 is a collection of stories based on true accounts of an Asian-American girl’s encounters with American assimilation, racism, friendship, and sex. It simultaneously reaffirms the importance of age as well as the insignificance of it: how the world has little regard to whether one is too young or not to handle its tribulations. Number 24 offers an uncensored and, at times, immature perspective of survival, and recovery.

12. I Love Life, I Just Wish I Were Better At It: Best Of Christopher Hudspeth, Vol. 1

You know the phrase “sugar, spice and everything nice?” Well, this collection of essays and lists is more like self-conscious, awkward and everything relatable. Christopher Hudspeth is a writer in Tucson, Arizona. He created the pop culture blog-to-book Things 90s Kids Realize and has been featured on College Humor and HuffPost Comedy. “I Love Life, I Just Wish I Were Better At It: The Best Of Christopher Hudspeth, Vol. 1″ is a collection of his most relevant, self-deprecating, and neurotic writings on Thought Catalog.

13. Dear Depressive by Jimmy Chen

Asked anonymously over the internet by today’s troubled youth, questions concerning relationships, dating, sex, depression, emotional problems, popular culture, and education/career choices are perilously answered by Jimmy Chen, who emphatically offers suspect advice — at once sarcastic, brutally honest, unabashed, but ultimately in empathy —from a place of inner turmoil, manic plight, and spiritual darkness.


14. My Kazakhy by Sal Ramirez

Dodging secret police on the daily, and haggling prices for dried fruit and vintage leathers in heroin-laced bazaars, My Kazakhy is filled with all the gems you wouldn’t expect to find from a queer Latino boy serving in the Peace Corps in a third world, Muslim country.

If you have a story to tell, feel free to submit to me. I’d love to hear from you.

And for more reading on this long-lasting, ongoing issue, read these articles:

MFA VS. POC by Junot Diaz

Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? by Walter Dean Myers

Diversity Is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing by Daniel José Older

Diversity in Children’s Books: Moving From Outcry to Real, Market-Driven Solutions by Kyle Zimmer Thought Catalog Logo Mark

I read, edit, and publish books for fun.

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