**Editors' Note: Each of the books recommended here is suited to readers age 12 and up, although some contain more mature themes, and may be better suited to high school readers.  
 

 

Night Talk
by Elizabeth Cox
Graywolf Press, 1997

Evie and Janie Louise are best friends at the cusp of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. Along with their mothers, they share the same house, even, secretly, the same room. No one must be allowed to know that Janie Louise shares Evie's room, because it is not considered "appropriate": Janie Louise is the African-American daughter of Volusia, the house-keeper to Evie's mother. Despite these challenges from the outside world, the two girls keep their "night talks" long and active, telling most everything to one another. Eventually, they are divided by the race wars that Evie cannot understand, but are tearing Janie Louise and her family apart. As other mysteries begin to trouble the two girls, their friendship falters, until, as adults, they meet again, to face trouble together once more. Written with simplicity and quiet evocation, this book is recommended for readers 12 and up.


The Loom and Other Stories
by R.A. Sasaki
Graywolf Press, 1997

A collection of fine stories that speak to each other and to the reader in the graceful terms of accomplishment, this book gives a portrait of a Japanese-American family, focusing especially on the different experiences of two sisters. Sasaki writes with an simplicity that draws new readers of multicultural literature easily into the book, developing characters with whom most young readers will identify.


The House on Mango Street
by Sandra Cisneros

Every young person should read this popular and engaging collection of interrelated stories about a young girl growing up in the Latino barrio. Esperanza is a young Chicana who lives among many types of people, and as she grows older, each new short chapter tells the reader more about her discoveries. Struggling against poverty, racism, and the dangers of being a young girl on the streets, the hardy narrator of this modern classic is a true American heroine.


Bless Me, Ultima
by Rudolfo Anaya

The acclaimed novel by leading Chicano author Anaya, this coming-of-age novel transcends the boundaries of earth, body, and spirit, to bring a young boy and his curandera (healer) grandmother closer together, as the boy finds his way to his own spiritual and worldly homeland. Beautifully crafted and detailed with astonishing grace, this book is sure to delight every teen reader, as well as adults. Another U.S. classic.


The Rain God
by Arturo Islas

A gripping novel of pain, nurturance and forgiveness, this is the story of one Chicano family's tribulations. Set in the deserts of the U.S. Southwest, the imagery here is gritty and intense, as are some of the themes. What does it mean to fail? To want the honor and respect of your family? What damage can secrets really do? Recommended for mature readers, from teens to adults.


Ricochet River
by Robin Cody
Blue Heron Press

A taut and graceful coming-of-age novel set in a small Oregon logging town, in the 1960s, and the 3 main characters are high school students: one of them, Wade, is the quarterback of the high school football team and local hero, because, in a town of that size, there's not much else to think about. The stage that Cody sets is traditional to the point of cliche: the local hero; his girlfriend; and his best pal, "the Indian." At the time that the three of them meet, Jesse ("the Indian") moves into the town, and Wade befriends him, because he's a prankster, not unlike the Coyote Trickster, about whom Jesse often tells stories. Wade's girlfriend Lorna, who is too smart and too independent for her location or generation, becomes a part of the trio reluctantly, because she sees Jesse as someone who squanders opportunity. Against the metaphorical backdrop of the river, revelations and transformations come about, as each of the characters examines their past, their presents, and their futures, understanding that they don't want to participate the roles that the mix of cultures has cast upon them, and the unexpected begins to happen.



The Glory Field
by Walter Dean Myers
Scholastic, 1994


Beginning in 1753 to 1994, the author introduces us to the Lewis family, in this multi-generational story of faith and renewal.


Sheltering Rebecca
by Mary Baylis-White
Lodestar, 1991


Set during the Holocaust, the young girl in this story is sent away from Germany by her family, and must come to terms with the absence of her parents, as well as her Jewish identity.


The Devil's Arithmetic
by Jane Yolen
Viking, 1988


What if it were all happening now? In this gripping novel, a young girl is mystically transported from her home in present-day New York, to the Poland of World War II, where she gathers the courage to enter a gas chamber to save the life of another.


Hiroshima
by Laurence Yep
Scholastic, 1995


The author of the best-loved Dragon Series for juvenile readers here tells of the tragedy of the Hiroshima nuclear bombing, through the story of two sisters, only one of whom survives.


Jump Up and Say!: A Collection of Black Storytelling
Goss, Linda and Clay Goss, eds.
Simon & Schuster/Touchstone, 1995


A wondrous collection of the spoken word, as preserved through storytelling. Humorous, inviting, and challenging, this is a great book for sharing with friends or taking into the classroom.


Crossing the Danger Water: Three Hundred Years of African-American Writing
Deirdre Mullane, ed.
Anchor/Doubleday, 1993


Reading through this wonderful collection doesn't feel like studying at all; it's more like discovering a whole new world of knowledge. From the controversial "Before Columbus" to the texts of speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X., Jesse Jackson, and the formidable Maxine Waters, this book offers something for everyone. A necessary part of every library.


Black Magic: A Pictorial History of the African American in the Performing Arts
Langston Hughes and Milton Meltzer, eds.
Da Capo Press, 1990


A truly magical and inspiring introduction to African American arts, from the earliest works in the U.S., through the amazing spirit of the Harlem Rennaissance, up to the modern works of the 1960s.


Mixed Blessings : New Art in a Multicultural America
by Lucy Lippard
Pantheon, 1990


This book of astonishing breadth is authored by one of the United State's most prolific art critics, and includes a scintillating array of contemporary works by artists of color. Lippard includes quotes from various artists, activists, and cultural scholars along the margins of each page. A truly unique and intriguing book.

 


 


 

  All of these authors have widely-anthologized works of poetry or short fiction. Try to read as many as you can!  
 

 

Allison, Dorothy. Whether it's love or hides, Allison's works are the place to define what you mean by "tough." Look for her short story collection, Trash, as well as her novels Bastard Out of Carolina and the recent Cavedweller. Allison grew up being called "white trash," yet has become a national icon for U.S. feminists (both male and female) and lovers of gritty writing. Also check out her collections of poetry and criticism.

Angelou, Maya. If you haven't already looked into the collected works of this U.S. Poet Laureate, start with the contemporary classic autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and keep reading all the way through every work of fiction, poetry, drama, and nonfiction you can find by this profoundly important author.

Bambara, Toni Cade. African-American author of incredible wit and insight, who crafts wonderful stories about growing up. See especially "The Lesson," found in many anthologies.

Chrystos. This "urban Indian" poet, of the Menominee tribe, writes with intense passion and equal anger. Be prepared, when you step into the world of Chrystos! Check out her collection of poetry, Not Vanishing.

Clifton, Lucille. A respected stateswoman of African American letters, Clifton is a mighty and proud poet. Find her works, like "What the Mirror Said," in many collections.

Erdrich, Louise. One of the most astonishly talented writers in any culture or language, this Native American author pens poetry, short fiction, and some of the best novels, world-wide.

Hagedorn, Jessica. Stylish, funky, and with an urban beat, Hagedorn blends the Latino and Asian cultures that thrive and collide in her native Phillipines into her poetry.

Kincaid, Jamaica. Any one of the short stories or collections by this Carribean woman will be sure to give readers a fresh new perspective.

Niatum, Duane. Lovely, rich poetry from one of the most popular Native American writers and editors.

Soto, Gary. Humorous and straight-shooting, this Chicano writer tells it like it is, and has a great time doing it. Readers will have as much fun exploring his works.

Su, Adrienne. This Chinese American poet of brazen grace and tender honesty is sure to become one of the most respected writers of coming years.

 
     

 



 

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