Unsurprisingly, we’re a fan of disabled representation—and it’s important to us that this representation is not limited to only straight and white characters. We’d like to highlight some books that break this mold.
Six MG/YA novels featuring disabled Black protagonists:
Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth
The Other Half of my Heart by Sundee T. Frazier
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
Pinned by Sharon G. Flake
Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan
Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
We have not yet reviewed any of these books at Disability in Kidlit—though we’d like to!—so we’d love to find out more about how well the characters are portrayed. Have you read any of these? What did you think? Share your thoughts!
How did I manage to miss this yesterday? Tsk!
The only one I have read is “The Other Half of my Heart”. I can’t speak from the perspective of a black person (whether someone very light like the main protagonist, or someone darker like her twin sister), nor can I speak from the perspective of someone with dyslexia, like the twin sister. But I loved the book: it’s about the protagonist exploring what her identity as a black person means when she is so very light, and figuring out how to relate to her twin sister in a world that sometimes treats the two of them differently because the protagonist is usually assumed to be white unless it’s made obvious otherwise. Her sister’s dyslexia is not a major part of the story, but it’s there. A sweet story about figuring out who you are and what that means to you and how to be a better sister.
I need to try Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor … I love fantasy, so disability plus fantasy sounds great, and set in Nigeria even better. I should also try Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan partly just because it’s set in Tanzania and involves someone with albinism: I know that violence against people with albinism in Eastern Africa (including in Tanzania in particular) is a HUGE real world problem. Will be interesting to see how well the author handles this, though I am not close enough to this experience to be in a position to judge well.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Andrea! It sounds like a very intriguing book. I was actually under the impression that the sister with dyslexia was also a PoV character in the novel, which is why I included it in the list—it was intended to be protagonists only. My bad.
We haven’t featured any content regarding albinism on the website yet—I’d love to correct that oversight, including by reviewing Akata Witch and Golden Boy! We’re particularly hoping to find reviewers who are familiar with life as a Black person with albinism/life with albinism in Nigeria and Tanzania and can discuss those aspects in addition to the technical and meta aspects. Fingers crossed!
And on a personal note—YES, I want to read so many of the books on the lists I’ve been putting together! They look just amazing.
#black young adult fiction
Behind the Mountains
First Person Fiction is dedicated to the immigrant experience in modern America. In Behind the Mountains Edwidge Danticat tells the story of Celiane and her family’s struggles in Haiti and New York.
It is election time in Haiti, and bombs are going off in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. During a visit from her home in rural Haiti, Celiane Espérance and her mother are nearly killed. Looking at her country with new eyes, Celiane gains a fresh resolve to be reunited with her father in Brooklyn, New York. The harsh winter and concrete landscape of her new home are a shock to Celiane, who witnesses her parents’ struggle to earn a living, her brother’s uneasy adjustment to American society, and her own encounters with learning difficulties and school violence.
was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1969. Her parents separately moved to the United States in the next several years, and then Danticat followed them there at the age of 12. Danticat grew up speaking French and Creole and she spoke no English upon moving to the United States. However, after only two years, she began writing in English and now is an accomplished writer of English short stories and novels. Her work has been translated into several languages including Korean, Italian, German, Spanish and Swedish…continue reading
I Saw Your Face
Before Tom Feelings passed away in August of 2003, he had been working on a picture book with his friend, poet Kwame Dawes. As Kwame explains, “One day, Tom gave me a folder of drawings of young people from his journeys around the world. I saw a story of resilience and pride, and wrote my poem as a response.” These wonderful drawings, paired with lyrical text, offer a fresh encounter with one of our most evocative illustrators.
is the award-winning author of sixteen books of poetry (most recently, Wheels, 2011) and numerous books of fiction, non-fiction, criticism and drama. He is the Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner, and a Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska. Kwame Dawes also teaches in the Pacific MFA Writing program.
#jeanette franklin caines
#tw: child molestation
Whenever Sandy’s Uncle Jim comes to visit, he hugs and kisses her in ways she doesn’t like and she gets a chilly stomach.
An exuberant African-American child and her family share a very special relationship in an effective story about adoption… . [The text is] simple, amusing, and disarmingly sweet and natural.
A child of separated parents describes the special activities she shares with her father on Saturdays.
Jeanette Franklin Caines’s…
works…are generally concerned with parent-child communication and other social and political issues. Jeanette Caines often presents these topics in the voice of a child. Abby (1973) explores the dynamics of adoption and the complex issues surrounding the expansion of the family, while her second book, Daddy (1977), deals with divorce and the necessity of maintaining healthy relationships between the child and both parents. Chilly Stomach (1986) concerns the difficulties of defining and confronting sexual abuse. Often Caines’s books end without a resolution to the problem. This encourages thought and discussion and facilitates effective communication and problem solving between parents and children…Read more
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"You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it."
"'There are two answers to things they will teach you about your land: the real answer and the answer you give in school to pass…They will teach you that a white man called Mungo Park discovered River Niger. That is rubbish. Our people fished in the Niger long before Mungo Park's grandfather was born. But in your exam, write that it was Mungo Park.'"
'All of the philosophers I studied were white (with a few Eastern exceptions), and, for that matter, they were all male. Africa, the cradle of civilization, seemed to have no footing in the highest form of human thought.'
-Walter Mosley. American Novelist.