Hey everyone! So I was recently reading Counting Down With You by Tashie Bhuiyan and she was speaking throughout the novel (it’s a contemporary YA) about Brown girl rep in literature, sometimes specifically in romance. Another book that brought this up was Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado (another contemporary YA). These two books got me thinking (again) about how little representation (read as none) I remember seeing growing up in books where Black & Brown girls like me got to be centered in romantic story lines.
When book events were in-person (*cries silently*), I could remember events with Dhonielle Clayton where she would talk about how Black Girls deserved to be kissed in books and I would mentally church scoot when she would say this. As a teen, I had plenty of crushes as I may have been a liiiiiittle boy crazy and as much I imagined those kisses, I didn’t have books that made me feel like those kisses could actually be possible for me (not sure if they would’ve made me any braver but it still would’ve been nice to see myself in). Part of what I loved about Charlie Vega is that she imagined those kisses just as much as I did as a teen, which made me feel seen though her character is Latinx while I identify as Black. There is something special about having a character that looks like you or has some other similarities to you experiencing the things you wish for yourself.
So, since I didn’t have a specific book in mind to talk about this week & wanted to talk about this, I figured that I would do a short list of books that center Black & Brown Girls in their romances that warmed my heart & a bit of what I loved about that particular story (for some).
Counting Down With You by Tashie Bhuiyan: Not only did I love that this story is focused around a daughter/first born of immigrants but that she loved English & Bollywood movies as much as I did! I felt like so many of her struggles were mine too… She also mentioned RuPaul’s Drag Race which is a more recent obsession for me but still made me happy to see mentioned. The romance in this story was also nice because of how respectful & attentive her love interest was. I appreciated how romance was woven throughout the story but didn’t overwhelm the narratives that were really important (family dynamics, speaking your truth, being first gen in the US, etc).
Fat Chance Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado: This was a story that I devoured because Charlie & I thought so much alike. She loved to write stories and read as well as had a best friend who was constantly dating like I did. I laughed so much throughout this book because her responses were EXACTLY what I thought of and I appreciated having a main character I felt so in sync (not the band) with. I also appreciated how organically the romance developed and felt the need to cheer her/them on throughout the story.
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett: This story is such an important one as the main character is HIV+. I absolutely adored this book, it was incredibly funny and the love interest was a total dream (he is like my ideal boyfriend, if he was an adult, lol). While the MC constantly acknowledged her status, it wasn’t the definition of her personhood which I think is really important when anyone reads this book. There is so much to learn from this book as you read but it didn’t feel too heavy or overwhelming (though part of the plot involves blackmail).
Here are a few more that I enjoyed:
- Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest
- When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (really, all of the books in the Dimpleverse!)
- A Song Of Wraiths And Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
- Odd One Out by Nic Stone
- The Meet-Cute Project by Rhiannon Richardson
- Beasts Of Prey by Ayana Gray
- Love Is A Revolution by Renee Watson
- Instructions For Dancing by Nicola Yoon
- Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk and Nicola Yoon
- Once Upon A Quinceañera by Monica Gomez-Hira
- The Mirror Shattered Midnight by Dhonielle Clayton (the pub date was moved to 2022, FYI)
- Radha & Jai’s Recipe For Romance by Nisha Sharma
- For All Time by Shanna Miles
I wanted to make this list one that didn’t involve books I’ve previously posted (read: ranted) about so that you all can discover a new book or few! These books are so important to the YA canon because they allow Black & Brown girls everywhere to see themselves in another light… where they aren’t sexualized or villainized but are rather understood and are cared for in a validating way. Everyone deserves that sort of mirror while reading.
I’m really glad that we have so many amazing authors that have taken up the mantle to represent Black & Brown Girls in literature, whether there is or isn’t romance in the story line. Authors such as Nic Stone, Dhonielle Clayton, Kristina Forest, Debbie Rigaud, Sandhya Menon, Nandini Bajpai, all the ones mentioned above and so many others that I don’t have enough time to type their names that really take care in making sure that Black & Brown girls everywhere see themselves on the page. Of course, I hope more authors will continue to step forward so that the canon continues to grow larger.
Alright y’all, I’m going to end this here because I’m ready to leave my laptop alone for the rest of the night, lol! If you want to holler at me on the interwebs then you can find & follow me on Instagram @bookishgirlmagic, Twitter @bookishgrlmagic and Clubhouse @bookishgrlmagic where you can find me mostly in book centered clubs/rooms (primarily on Tuesdays and Fridays). Also subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already because it gives me huge heart eyes like when I look at my bookshelves after organizing them! Peace Y’all!