WRC 2021: We Need Diverse Books

    Image shows six covers from book list

    Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam – Sheltering in a New York beach house with a couple that has taken refuge during a massive blackout, a family struggles for information about the power failure while wondering if the cut-off property is actually safe.

    The Cat I Never Named: A True Story of Love, War, and Survival by Sabic-El-Rayess Amra – A Muslim-Bosnian teen describes her experiences during the Bosnian genocide and her remarkable relationship with a stray cat who followed her home and saved the lives of her family members.

    The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – Separated by their embrace of different racial identities, two mixed-race identical twins reevaluate their choices as one raises a black daughter in their southern hometown while the other passes for white with a husband who is unaware of her heritage.

    Naamah by Sarah Blake – Imagines the life of Noah’s wife, Naamah, a woman torn between faith and fury, lending her strength to her sons and their wives, caring for an unruly menagerie of restless creatures and silently mourning the lover she left behind.

    Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen – A journalist, using her own perspective along with those of a diverse group of asexual people, presents a careful cultural analysis that explores how societal norms limit understanding of sex and relationships and celebrates the breadth of sexuality and queerness.

    The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavinencio – An Ivy League-educated DACA beneficiary reveals the hidden lives of her fellow undocumented Americans, from the volunteers recruited for the 9/11 Ground Zero cleanup to the homeopathy botanicas of Miami that provide limited health care to non-citizens.

    Sweet on You by Carla de Guzman – “For barista and café owner Sari Tomas, Christmas means parols, family, and no-holds-barred karaoke contests. This year, though, a new neighbor is throwing a wrench in all her best-laid plans. The baker next door —”some fancy boy from Manila”— might have cute buns, but when he tries to poach her customers with cheap coffee and cheaper tactics, the competition is officially on.”

    Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev – The author of Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors adapts Jane Austen’s Persuasion in the story of a chef who partners with her celebrity first love during a reality-show competition she hopes will save her restaurant.

    The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi – In the wake of a southeastern Nigerian mother’s discovery of her son’s body on her doorstep, a family struggles to understand the enigmatic nature of a youth shaped by disorienting blackouts, diverse friendships and a cousin’s worldly influence.

    Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi – A sixth-year PhD candidate grapples with the childhood faith of the evangelical church in which she was raised while researching the science behind the suffering that has devastated her Ghanaian immigrant family.

    Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong – An award-winning poet and essayist offers a ruthlessly honest, emotionally charged exploration of the psychological condition of being Asian American.

    The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin – Every great city has a soul. Some are ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York? She’s got six. When a young man crosses the bridge into New York City, something changes. He doesn’t remember who he is, where he’s from, or even his own name. But he can feel the pulse of the city, can see its history, can access its magic. And he’s not the only one.

    (Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health by Kelly Jensen – Essays, lists, poems and art explore the ways 33 best-selling authors and celebrity contributors have coped with and thrived in the face of mental illness, in an anthology that includes entries by Kristen Bell, Nancy Kerrigan and Libba Bray.

    The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones – Four American Indian men from the Blackfeet Nation, who were childhood friends, find themselves in a desperate struggle for their lives, against an entity that wants to exact revenge upon them for what they did during an elk hunt ten years earlier by killing them, their families, and friends.

    The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi – A talented henna artist for wealthy confidantes finds her efforts to control her own destiny in 1950s Jaipur threatened by the abusive husband she fled as a teenage girl.

    The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune – Given a curious classified assignment to evaluate the potential risks posed by six supernatural orphans, a case worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth bonds with an enigmatic caregiver who hides dangerous secrets.

    The Missing American by Kwei Quartey – Turning private detective when her ambition to be a police officer is dashed, Emma Djan teams up with a first client to search for a man whose disappearance is linked to the email scams and fetish priests of Ghana.

    Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune by Roselle Lim – Inheriting her grandmother’s restaurant in a crumbling San Francisco Chinatown neighborhood, Natalie Tan is advised by the local seer to prepare three recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook to help their struggling community.

    The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai – Years after a family is forced by Vietnam’s Communist Land Reforms to abandon their farm, a granddaughter comes of age as her loved ones depart for the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

    Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot – The author recounts her coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest where she survived a dysfunctional childhood and found herself hospitalized with a dual diagnosis of PTSD and bipolar II disorder.

    His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie – Enduring a life of minimal prospects among her uncles many wives, a young seamstress relocates to Accra when she is married in absentia to a wealthy man whose family would separate him from the woman he loves.

    The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan – Chloe Fong has plans for her life, lists for her days, and absolutely no time for nonsense. Three years ago, she told her childhood sweetheart that he could talk to her once he planned to be serious. He disappeared that very night. And now Jeremy Wentworth, the Duke of Lansing, is back. He’s realized being serious is incompatible with his personality. So he has to convince Chloe to make room for a mischievous trickster in her life, then disclose that in all the years they’ve known each other, he’s failed to mention his real name, his title… and the minor fact that he owns her entire village.

    Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – A dark fairy tale inspired by folklore is set against the Jazz age in Mexico’s underworld, where a young dreamer is sent by the Mayan God of Death on a life-changing journey.

    Beijing Payback by Daniel Nieh – Shocked to discover that his murdered restaurateur father was actually a member of a vast crime syndicate with ties to communist China, Victor Li is confronted by decades-old grudges, escalating rivalries and an ambitious new plot.

    A Disability History of the United States by Kim E. Nielsen – Drawing on primary source documents, Nielsen (disability studies, University of Toledo) explores familiar themes and periods of American history, such as immigration, slavery, labor, and gender discrimination, as seen through the lens of the concept of disability and through the experiences of people with physical and mental disabilities. Coverage encompasses not only individual stories, but also mass movements and trends. (A second edition is in process.)

    The Eagles of Heart Mountain: A True Story of Football, Incarceration, and Resistance in World War II America by Bradford Pearson – A painstakingly researched account details the tragic and triumphant story of the Eagles, a high school football team from Cody, Wyoming’s World War II Japanese-American incarceration camp.

    Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – Seeking justice for a young black babysitter who was wrongly accused of kidnapping by a racist security guard, a successful blogger finds her efforts complicated by a video that reveals unexpected connections.

    Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell & Faith Erin Hicks – Working at a pumpkin patch every autumn, two seasonal best friends organize ultimate Halloween plans to celebrate their last working year together.

    Lean on Me by Pat Simmoms – When her well-ordered life is upended by the caregiving needs of her Alzheimer’s patient aunt, Tabitha clashes with a neighbor, Marcus, a man of faith who hires former inmates to staff his family’s cleaning business.

    Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas – Determined to prove himself a real brujo to the traditional Latinx family that does not accept his true gender, a trans boy summons the ghost of the resident bad boy, who refuses to return quietly to death.

    Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn – When a child falls overboard and is returned safely to his mother by a shark, his miraculous rescue is hailed as a sign from ancient Hawaiian gods, complicating his family’s troubles amid a collapsing sugarcane industry.

    Memorial by Bryan Washington – A Japanese-American chef and a Black daycare teacher begin reevaluating their stale relationship in the wake of a father’s death and the arrival of an acerbic mother-in-law who becomes an unconventional roommate.

    The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson – A concubine in the royal court of Granada at the height of the Spanish Inquisition and her mapmaker friend risk their lives to escape when the latter is accused of sorcery.

    The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson – An epic history covering the period from the end of World War I through the 1970s chronicles the decades-long migration of African Americans from the South to the North and West through the stories of three individuals and their families

    White Ivy by Susie Yang – Years after she is sent away from Boston to China for shoplifting, a conflicted Chinese-American woman reconnects with her golden-boy childhood crush before a ghost from the past threatens her ambitions.

    How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang – Two orphaned Chinese immigrant siblings flee the threats of their gold rush mining town across an unforgiving landscape where their survival is tested by family secrets, sibling rivalry and disparate goals.