2024 WRC: #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Banner with five book covers from the We Need Diverse Books list for the 2024 Winter Reading Challenge
Ab(solutely) Normal: Short Stories That Smash Mental Health Stereotypes edited by Nora Shalaway Carpenter and Rocky Callen – Sixteen diverse and notable authors draw on their own lived experiences with mental health conditions to create works of fiction that will uplift and empower you, break your heart and stitch it back together stronger than before. Through powerful prose, verse, and graphics, the characters in this anthology defy stereotypes as they remind readers that living with a mental health condition doesn’t mean that you’re defined by it. Each story is followed by a note from its author to the reader, and comprehensive back matter includes bios for the contributors as well as a collection of relevant resources.

The List by Yomi Adegoke – A high-profile female journalist’s world is upended when her fiancé’s name turns up in a viral social media post critiquing inappropriate behavior.

Cross Stitch by Jazmina Barrera, translated by Christina MacSweeney – When her childhood friend Citlali dies in a tragic accident, needlecrafter Mila sifts through her old scrapbooks, reflecting on their shared youth in Mexico City, wondering if she missed the signs that Citlali needed help.

Love in Winter Wonderland by Abiola Bello – Seventeen-year-olds Trey and Ariel embark on a hate-to-love journey when they band together to save Trey’s family’s business, the longest-running Black-owned bookshop in London.

To Shape a Dragon’s Breath by Moniquill Blackgoose – Revered as a Nampeshiweisit, a person in a unique relationship with a dragon, by her people, 15-year-old Indigenous girl Anequs, at odds with the “approved” way of doing things, is forced by Anglish conquerors to attend a proper dragon school – and if she cannot succeed there, her dragon will be killed.

The Lost Journals of Sacajewea by Debra Magpie Earling – Stolen from her village and then gambled away to a French Canadian trapper and trader, Sacajewea, determined to survive and triumph, crosses a vast and brutal terrain with her newborn son, the white man who owns her and a company of men who wish to conquer the world she loves.

American War by Omar El Akkad – A first novel by an award-winning journalist depicts a second American Civil War and devastating plague in the late 21st century that forces a family into a camp for displaced people, where a young woman is befriended by a mysterious functionary who would transform her into a living weapon.

Where You See Yourself by Claire Forrest – Effie Galanos’ goals for her senior year include her navigating her way through her high school that is not really wheelchair-friendly, getting into the perfect college, and getting her crush Wilder to accompany her to the prom–but by spring she is beginning to see herself entirely differently.

Airplane Mode: An Irreverent History of Travel by Shahnez Habib – A woman of color raised in a Third World country traces the power dynamics of tourism as a Euro-American mode of consumerism and explores what it means to travel amidst the ruins of colonialism and the ravages of climate change.

The Vanishing Song by Jay Hulme – A trans Christian poet goes in search of the ‘beautiful and holy and wild’ way of the saints, and the alluring, perplexing mystery of the places they chose for themselves – forests, caves, rocky outcrops in the sea.

Much Ado About Nada by Uzma Jalaluddin – Attending the massive Muslim conference in downtown Toronto with her recently engaged friend Haleema, Nada Syed encounters someone from her past, complicating things and bringing a moment of reckoning—saying goodbye to what once was, or holding tight to her dreams.

The House of Eve by Sadeqa Johnson – In 1950s Philadelphia and Washington, DC, the lives of 15-year-old Ruby Pearsall, whose taboo affair threatens her dreams of being the first in her family to attend college, and Eleanor Quarles, who hopes having a baby will gain her husband’s wealthy family’s acceptance, collide in the most unexpected of ways.

The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years by Shubnum Khan – Moving into Akbar Manzil, a ruined mansion off the coast of South Africa, Sana stumbles upon the long-forgotten story of Meena, the original owner’s second wife who died there tragically 100 years ago, awakening a grieving djinn, an invisible spirit who has haunted the mansion since Meena’s mysterious death.

The Liberators by E.J. Koh – Spanning continents and four generations of two Korean families forever changed by fateful past decisions made in love and war, this elegantly wrought family saga of memory, trauma and empathy serves as a brilliant testament to the consequences and fortunes of inheritance.

The Leftover Woman by Jean Kwok – Fleeing a controlling husband and searching for the daughter taken from her at birth, Jasmine Yang arrives in New York City from a small village in China. Meanwhile, publishing executive Rebecca Whitney, whose contented life includes a newly adopted Chinese daughter, suddenly faces an industry scandal. Their paths will cross thunderously. (10/10) (summary from Library Journal)

When the Angels Left the Old Country by Sacha Lamb – When a young emigrant from their tiny village goes missing while heading to America, angel Uriel and demon Little Ash set off to find her and encounter many humans in need of their help as they face obstacles ahead of them as difficult as what they’ve left behind.

Untethered Sky by Fonda Lee – Overwhelmed with the need to kill the manticores that took her family, Ester joins the King’s Royal Mews, where giant rocs of legend are flown to hunt manticores, and is paired with a fledging roc named Zahra, forming a terrifying partnership that leads her on a journey of perseverance and acceptance.

Better Hate than Never by Chloe Liese – Making a rare visit home, Katerina Wilmot finds her and Christopher Petruchio’s fiery animosity rekindled into a raging inferno until a drunken night leads to a confession and an impassioned kiss, forcing them to decide if it’s truly better to hate than to never risk their hearts.

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride – In 1972, when workers in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, were digging the foundations for a new development, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Who the skeleton was and how it got there were two of the long-held secrets kept by the residents of Chicken Hill, the dilapidated neighborhood where immigrant Jews and African Americans lived side by side and shared ambitions and sorrows. Chicken Hill was where Moshe and Chona Ludlow lived when Moshe integrated his theater and where Chona ran the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store. When the state came looking for a deaf boy to institutionalize him, it was Chona and Nate Timblin, the Black janitor at Moshe’s theater and the unofficial leader of the Black community on Chicken Hill, who worked together to keep the boy safe.

Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Helping a cult horror director shoot the missing scene from his magic film that was never finished to lift a curse, sound editor Montserrat and her best friend Tristán start seeing strange things and must unravel the mystery of this film and the obscure occultist who once roamed their city. Set in ’90s Mexico City

Murder by Degrees by Ritu Mukerji – A pioneering woman doctor in 19th century Philadelphia investigates the death of a former patient when the body of the young chambermaid is found in the Schuylkill River.

Everything Sad is Untrue (A True Story) by Daniel Nayeri – A sprawling, evocative, and groundbreaking autobiographical novel told in the unforgettable and hilarious voice of a young Iranian refugee.

Night Wherever We Go by Tracey Rose Peyton – To protect themselves, six enslaved women meet in the woods under the cover of night to formulate a plan against the plantation owners who have decided to turn around their Texas plantation’s bleak financial prospects by making the women bear children.

A Grandmother Begins the Story by Michelle Porter – The story of the unrivaled desire for healing and the power of familial bonds across five generations of Mâetis women and the land and bison that surround them.

You Make It Feel Like Christmas by Toni Shiloh – Starr Lewis returns home for the holidays, jobless and single, to attend her sister’s wedding to Starr’s ex-boyfriend. But when her brother’s best friend offers to go with her to the wedding activities and she gives his struggling Christmas shop a makeover, she wonders if the holidays could bring her a love to keep all year long.

Flores and Miss Paula by Melissa Rivero – A 30-year-old living with her Peruvian immigrant mother in a Brooklyn apartment after her father’s passing discovers a weird note under his urn that forces the pair to confront their complicated past.

Charlotte Illes Is Not a Detective by Katie Siegel – A former child detective still living with her mom, searching for a job and going on endless first dates is pulled back into sleuthing for one more case and discovers that mystery-solving is much more complicated as an adult.

How to Say Babylon by Safiya Sinclair – This story of the author’s struggle to break free of her strict Rastafarian upbringing ruled by a father whose rigid beliefs, rage and paranoia led to violence shows how found her own power and provides a unique glimpse into a rarefied world we know little about.

The Fraud by Zadie Smith – In 1873 Victorian London, with the city mesmerized by the “Tichborne Trial,” wherein a lower-class butcher from Australia claims he is the rightful heir of a sizable estate and title, Mrs. Eliza Touchet becomes determined to find out if he’s really who he says he is or if he’s a fraud.

Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto – When she discovers a dead man in the middle of her tea shop, Vera Wong, a suspicious Chinese mother with time on her hands, calls the police but not before swiping the flash drive from the body, setting a trap for the killer that becomes complicated by unexpected friendships with her customers.

Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle – Situated high up in the mountains, Camp Damascus offers a sin-free and “saved” life to its ultra-conservative Christian patrons as the self-proclaimed “most effective” gay conversion camp in America, while hiding a host of very unholy secrets

The Brightest Star by Gail Tsukiyama – Arriving in Hollywood to become an actress, Anna May Wong discovers her beauty and talent aren’t enough to overcome the racism that relegates her to supporting roles and, over the years, fights to win lead roles, accept risqué parts and keep her illicit love affairs hidden—even as she finds global stardom.

The Museum of Failures by Thrity Umrigar – Returning to Bombay to adopt a baby and see his elderly mother, Remy Wadia, stumbling upon a photograph that reveals shocking family secrets, reevaluates his entire childhood, his relationship to his parents and his harsh judgment on the decisions and events long hidden from him.

The #WeNeedDiverseBooks (or #wndb) hashtag originated April 24, 2014, on Twitter (now X), as part of organized efforts by several authors, bloggers and publishing industry folks including Aisha Saeed to increase diversity in youth literature. Their efforts led to the We Need Diverse Books™ organzation, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people. For more information, visit https://diversebooks.org/about-wndb/