In view of the increasing awareness of the many cultures which make up the ever-shrinking world in which we live, those who teach young adults need to be familiar with quality literature which can give the reader a realistic look at those many cultures. As a former first-grade teacher, I read many books to my students that helped them to realize that, though our world has much diversity, people of all cultures have the same needs. Now that I am an elementary librarian, I find that I can help to ensure that the students and teachers in my school have a good variety of multicultural books at their disposal.
During the past few months, I have read and reviewed several books for young adults, most of them about young adults from other cultures. Inspired by the quality of these books, I began to compile a bibliography of multicultural books for young adults. It includes fiction and nonfiction, poetry, drama, and short story collections which are award winners or which have been recommended by reviewers or booklists. By no means exhaustive, this bibliography is intended to give a sampling of books representative of the many cultures and peoples of our world.
The following sources were used in compiling this multicultural bibliography:
Gillespie, John T. Best Books for Junior High Readers. R. R.Bowker, 1991.
_________. Best Books for Senior High Readers. R. R. Bowker,1991.
Miller-Lachmann, Lyn. Our Family Our Friends Our World: An Annotated Guide to Significant Multicultural Books for Children and Teenagers. R. R. Bowker, 1992.
Nilsen, Alleen, and Kenneth L. Donelson. Literature for Today's Young Adults. 4th ed. HarperCollins College Publishers, 1993.
Bless Me, Ultima: A Novel
. TSQ Publications, 1972. 249 pp. Grades 10-12.
Ultima, the local faith healer of the plains in Guadalupe, New Mexico, comes to live with seven-year-old Antonio Marez and his family. The subject of a witch hunt, Ultima's residence with the Marez family greatly affects Antonio. Skillfully written, this work has received many awards, and is considered a classic of Chicano literature.
Cannon, A. E.
The Shadow Brothers
. Delacorte Press, 1990. 179 pp. Grades 7-12.
Henry Yazzie and Marcus Jenkins have been foster brothers since Henry was seven. When a Hopi boy comes to their high school, Henry is forced to deal with his own Navajo heritage.
Children of the River
. Delacorte, 1989. 213 pp. Grades 7 up.
Seventeen-year-old Sundara has fled the Khymer Rouge in Cambodia and is struggling to gain the understanding of her aunt and uncle who hold on to their old culture while Sundara is drawn toward the American lifestyle which surrounds her in her new life in Oregon.
Davis, Russel, and Brent Ashabranner.
Ten Thousand Desert Swords: The Epic Story of a Great Bedouin Tribe
. Little, Brown, 1960. 158 pp. Grades 5-9.
The stories of the Bani-Hillel, the great desert warriors of Arabia, constitute one of the great epics of Arabic folk literature. Here they are retold with grace and dignity, romance and zeal. These tales provide an entertaining introduction to the Arab ideals of loyalty, courage, and honor.
Homesick: My Own Story
. Putnam, 1982. 176 pp. Grades 4-10.
The author tells the story of her childhood in China during the late 1920s, when the Communists and Nationalists were in the midst of their struggle for power.
George, Jean Craighead.
Julie of the Wolves
. Harper Honor Books, 1972. 179 pp. Grades 7 up.
A young Eskimo runaway becomes lost on the vast Tundra. In her struggle to survive, she is adopted by a wolf pack and learns to live as her ancestors.
Summer of My German Soldier
. Dial, 1973. 199 pp. Grades 7-12.
In Georgia in World War II, a young Jewish girl befriends an escaped Nazi POW, giving him a place to hide, food, and clothing. When her family and the community learn what she has done, Patty becomes the object of their hatred.
. Holt, 1973. 203 pp. Grades 7-12.
Having immigrated to Harlem from the West Indies with her family, Phyllisia is taught that she is "too good" for her neighborhood. When she befriends a poor "ragamuffin" girl, Edith, Phyllisia's father is horrified.
M. C. Higgins, the Great.
Macmillan, 1974. 278 pp. Grades 7 up.
M. C., a young black boy growing up in the southern Appalachians, travels the road to maturity in this Newbery Medal winner.
. Philomel, 1989. 159 pp. Grades 5-9. 160 pp.
Sweetgrass is a fifteen- year-old Blackfoot girl in the 1830s. Her story tells of the many problems that arrive with the Europeans, especially the epidemic of smallpox that threatens to annihilate her people. Sweetgrass proves herself to be a brave, heroic daughter.
. Harper and Row, 1986. 279 pp. Grades 7-10.
A young Scottish gypsy called Cat is the protagonist in this realistic quest, depicting her family's hardships and fierce independence.
Number the Stars
. Houghton Mifflin, 1989. 137 pp. Grades 4-7.
Ten-year-old Annemarie helps smuggle her Jewish neighbors to freedom in this Newbery Award winning story set in Denmark during World War II.
. Macmillan, 1987. 266 pp. Grades 9 up.
A suspense-filled fantasy, The Tricksters is set in new Zealand at Christmastime. The Hamilton family is torn apart when three mysterious men visit their vacation home.
Okomoto, Jean Davies.
Molly by Any Other Name
. Scholastic, 1990. 257 pp. Grades 7-9.
Molly, age seventeen, is an adopted child of Asian heritage. Her curiosity about this heritage leads her to have her court records opened, but she isn't sure she wants to find the person who gave her up so long ago.
. Bradbury, 1985. 177 pp. Grades 7 up.
Paulsen allows the past to blend with the present and the future, as Russel, an Eskimo boy, journeys alone by dogsled into the wilderness.
Pettepice, Thomas, and Anatoly Aleksin, eds.
Face to Face
. Putnam/Philomel, 1990. 233 pp. Grades 7-12.
The first collection of Soviet and American stories for young people, published simultaneously in both countries, Face to Face introduces readers in both countries to well known young adult authors and stories in the other.
. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1990. 196 pp. Grades 10-12.
Clover is a ten-year-old black girl whose father dies just after marrying a white woman, Sara Kate. Black relatives want Clover to live with them, but Sara Kate has promised to take care of her. The portrayal of an interracial family's adjustment to the death of a loved one gives this story its strength.
The Adventures of High John the Conqueror
. Orchard, 1989. 128 pp. Grades 4 up.
High John the Conqueror was a popular legend among blacks in the American South. High John always outwitted the Old Master, so his stories were enjoyed by slaves and later free black citizens. This collection retells the stories of High John and includes an introduction and explanation of each story, and a bibliography.
A Hand Full of Stars
. Translated from German by Rika Lesser. Dutton, 1990. 197 pp. Grades 7-12.
The narrator, a fourteen-year-old Syrian boy in the mid-1960s, writes about his life in a diary. Encouraged by a warm, elderly mentor, the narrator begins to take his writing seriously, and eventually becomes an important part of the underground struggle for freedom.
Baseball in April and Other Stories
. Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1990. 111 pp. Grades 7 up.
The author focuses on the everyday life of typical Hispanic youths in this collection of eleven short stories. Although culture-specific, the universal concerns and conflicts in these stories appeal to a broad teenage audience.
Staples, Suzanne Fisher.
Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind
. Knopf, 1988. 240 pp. Grades 7 up.
Having worked as a UPI correspondent in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India, the author was inspired to write this story of a young nomadic girl's betrothal and life in the Cholistan desert.
The Rainbow People
. HarperCollins, 1989. 194 pp. Grades 3-7.
Yep has retold twenty traditional Chinese folktales, which Chinese immigrants have brought to the United States. These tales offer the reader a glimpse of Chinese culture and tradition.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
. Random House, 1970. 280 pp. Grades 10-12.
The first of several books that are considered Angelou's autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings presents the first sixteen years of her life. Her story is both inspiring and heart-wrenching.
An Ancient Heritage: The Arab-American Minority
. HarperCollins, 1991. 160 pp. Grades 5-9.
This beautifully presented photoessay presents in a positive light a wide variety of American Arabs.
Children of the Maya: A Guatemalan Indian Odyssey
. Dodd, 1986. 97 pp. Grades 6-9.
Focusing on the Mayan Indian immigrants of one Florida community, Ashabranner interviews and allows the Mayans to tell in their own words why they left Guatemala and about their life since arriving in the United States.
To Live in Two Worlds: American Indian Youth Today
. Dodd, Mead, 1984. 149 pp. Grades 7 up.
Speaking in their own words, a number of Native Americans present the contemporary problems, dilemmas and triumphs of a proud people.
Ashabranner, Brent, and Melissa Ashabranner.
Into a Strange Land
. Dodd, 1987. 120 pp. Grades 7 up.
Created for teenagers, this book focuses on true experiences of many Southeast Asian refugees who have come alone to America. The traumas of separation and adjustment to a new culture, language, and life are movingly described.
In Kindling Flame: The Story of Hannah Senesh 1921-1944
. Lothrop, Lee and Shepherd Books, 1985. 214 pp. Grades 7 up.
The story of Hannah Senesh, a fifteen-year-old Jewish girl living in Hungary during World War II, is told through the diary that Hannah kept.
Criddle, Joan D., and Teeda Butt Mam.
To Destroy You Is No Loss: The Odyssey of a Cambodian Family
. Little, Brown/Atlantic Monthly, 1987. 289 pp. Grades 10-12.
Teeda Butt Man's story is a gripping narrative of a girl who spent her adolescence under the most horrifying of conditions after the Khmer Rouge victory in Cambodia. From the desire to commit suicide to the fierce determination that has been a part of her success in America today, this highly recommended work will give older teenagers personal insight into one of the great atrocities of this century.
Downie, Mary Alice, and Barabara Robertson, comps.
The New Wind Has Wings: Poems from Canada
. Previous edition entitled
The Wind has Wings
, 1968. Oxford University Press, 1984. 110 pp. Grades 7-up.
This new edition of the Canadian Classic, The Wind Has Wings includes 19 more poems, and outstanding illustrations. Many of these poems have been translated from the original Yiddish, French, or Eskimo. They feature subjects that young readers will enjoy time and time again.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
. translated by B. M. Mooyaart. Doubleday, 1967. 312 pp. Grades 5-12.
Anne's diary, discovered after she died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in World War II, has become a world classic.
. Holiday House, 1987. 160 pp. Grades 7 up.
Including maps, photographs, and an index, this Newbery Award-winning book chronicles the stories of six Native American chiefs of the western tribe during the last half of the nineteenth century.
. Putnam, 1985. 143 pp. Grades 7-9.
Having grown up in China, the author returns after 55 years to rediscover the people, the land, and even the very house in which she lived as a child. The book includes a chronology of Chinese history, several pages of notes, and an intriguing and useful bibliography.
Hill, Errol, ed.
Black Heroes: 7 Plays
. Applause Theatre Book Publishers, 1989. 426 pp. Grades 10-12.
Historical moments from the lives of seven men and women have provided the inspiration for the seven plays spanning the years 1935-1988. A short biography of the hero and the playwright introduces each play.
The Dream Keeper and Other Poems
. Knopf, 1962. 78 pp. Grades 3 up.
A collection of poetry by Hughes, with beautifully etched illustrations.
Black Americans: A History in their Own Words
. Crowell, 1984. 320 pp. Grades 6 up.
Using historic documents, the author creates an overview of African-American history from 1619 to 1983. Letters, speeches, diaries, et cetera provide a glimpse of the people and the times. Each document includes an introduction that summarizes the period.
Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk, ed.
Dancing Teepees: Poems of American Indian Youth
. Holiday House, 1989. 32 pp. Grades 7-9.
Simple yet eloquent in their language, the poems in this collection were written by young Native Americans. The themes reflect traditional Native American culture, as well as the conflicts between the traditional and modern life.
. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992. Grades 7 up.
A collection of Soto's poems, Neighborhood Odes depicts everyday events of the Los Angeles Hispanic neighborhood in which the author grew up.