Diversifying Your Reading: Non-Male & Non-White Author Recommendations

Even if you’re not on board with committing to the exclusion of race-and/or-gender default-positioned writers, you can still commit to more diversity in your reading. I have only included books that I’ve read in this listing. Feel free to add your recommendations as well as weigh in on the ones given below. Please keep in mind that some of these authors may be problematic. Also, I might not be classifying some of them correctly because I don’t have all the racial or sexual identity information for all of them.

Non-Male Queer/LGBT Authors of Color

Non-Male Authors of Color

  • Bad Feminist
     by Roxane Gay
    Excellent and timely work of non-fiction about the complexities of feminist identity, written in Gay’s typical accessible and intelligent style.
  • Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal
     by Sana Amanat, G. Willow Wilson, and Adrian Alphona
    I initially subscribed to Kamala Khan’s story because I was worried it wouldn’t be profitable enough for Marvel to let it continue. My pessimism was misplaced. Everything about this comic is astoundingly well-done and the series has rocketed to incredible popularity on its merit and relatability. The creator, Sana Amanat, just got a promotion at Marvel because this was so successful. The writer, G. Willow Wilson, is a white convert to Islam and the artist, Adrian Alphona, is a man of color.
  • Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels
     & Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars
     by Sikivu Hutchinson
    Both of these are must-reads for anyone concerned with the atheist movement and its intersection with racial justice.
  • Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love & Fashion
     by Virgie Tovar
    Virgie is a bad-ass. This anthology contains views from many perspectives: queer, self-accepting, struggling, body image issues, etc.
  • Sexual Healing: A Novel
     by Jill Nelson
    A very silly romp of a heterosexual-focused novel, but it’s fun.
  • Bharati Mukherjee
    Almost anything she’s written is interesting and compelling, although some of her novels get repetitive with their plot devices and storylines. I do advise content notices/trigger warnings all over the place because she writes a lot about sexual assault from a very heart-rendingly personal perspective.
  • bell hooks
    She is a(n unintentional) hoot on Twitter and is learning when it comes to trans issues, but her works are essential for anyone who cares about feminists of color and womanists.
  • Fatima Mernissi

    Her wit and non-fiction writing ability are both superb, and she has a lot of good things to say and teach about Moroccan women’s experiences.
  • The Complete Persepolis
     by Marjane Satrapi
    Autobiographical graphic novels are my weakness thanks to this series, which is about an Iranian woman’s life journey.
  • Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
    One of the more memorable books I read in my African lit course. It’s a coming-of-age story about a young African girl.
  • So Long a Letter
    Another bit of African lit, this one styled as a letter between a woman and her best friend and dealing with issues like polygyny.
  • It Does Not Die: A Romance
     by Maitreyi Devi
    A white man wrote a book exoticizing and fetishizing her teenage self through a disgusting “mysteries of the Orient” angle (even calling it “Bengal Nights), so she wrote the story from her own perspective and got it published. The lady is an inspiration to me.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God
     by Zora Neale Hurston
    It’s one of the few classic novels that I think is a classic for a reason. It’s concise and poetic with a compelling narrator.
  • Soul Kiss
     by Shay Youngblood
    This was the first “dark” YA novel I read. It’s by and about a young woman of color. All the content notices/trigger warnings.
  • Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee
     by Meera Syal
    Funny and touching story of friendship between British-Indian women.
  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
    Roy is a class activist and rabble-rouser. This is the novel that led her to fame and with good reason.

Non-Male Queer/LGBT Authors

Non-Male Authors

Non-White Authors

Honorary Mentions

Clicking the above links might lead to a little Amazon credit for me. Consider that I spent 5 hours compiling this list.

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Diversifying Your Reading: Non-Male & Non-White Author Recommendations

23 thoughts on “Diversifying Your Reading: Non-Male & Non-White Author Recommendations

  1. 1

    I recommend “Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution” by Shiri Eisner. Eisner’s a bi genderqueer Mizrahi. Plus they’re awesome!

    Another great one I read recently is “Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink and Blue” by the late great Leslie Feinberg. Ze was white, though, so not sure if that counts.

  2. 2

    Thanks for doing all this work, Heina! I’ll try to look at some of these.

    I’ve got a good one who isn’t on your list. For sf-lovers, check out Nalo Hopkinson (I went to Clarion with her a long time ago). She’s published quite a few excellent fantasy and sf novels, as well as edited a few anthologies of Caribbean fiction. I know she deals positively with LGBT themes in her work — not sure how she identifies personally these days. Many of her works focus on balancing between two worlds.

  3. K
    4

    Can I rec 3 fantasy novels?

    Sing the FourQuarters by Tanya Huff? not only is the author a queer woman, but many of her characters are too. it’s really really really good. Also funny!

    Also: The Door Into Fire by Diane Duane. Female author. The majority of the protagonists aren’t straight. Really good.

    Also: The Hundeed Thousand Kingdoms by N K Jemison. Female author of color, one of *The Best* things I’ve read in the last few years.

  4. 5

    This is hard. Just a few favorites then. None of these books are vetted for utmost political correctness on all fronts…

    Alain Mabanckou, esp. Tales of the Porcupine (Congo, male)
    Abdourahman Waberi, I liked The United States of Africa, but hear that Passage of Tears may be even better (Djibouti, male)
    I read several slave narratives last year, my favorite will always be Olaudah Equiano, but the one by William and Ellen Craft is very interesting. There are others by women. N.B they vary as to how ghost written they are and how obvious this is made to the reader.
    Hari Kunzru – Gods Without Men, (British (south) Asian heritage)
    Keri Hulme – The Bone People (unmissable classic – Maori, woman)
    Doris Pilkington – Rabbit Proof Fence (Aboriginal Australian, woman, also classic)
    I’m currently reading Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider. (Maori, male)
    PS I liked Mohanraj too, but that one’s already included.
    I have to mention British author Jeanette Winterson, even though it’s been years since I read any of her work. (lesbian)

    I don’t read as much non-fiction but I like Susan Sontag and Hannah Arendt. Would like to get through Naomi Klein but can’t for some reason. Rachel Carson, obviously. My guilty pleasure is Mary Daly. Oh, and Alexandra David Neel, if you can stand the Great White (female) Explorer thing.

  5. 7

    I would definitely recommend The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I also read a couple Octavia Butler books, including Kindred, which is her most popular book, and Fledgling, which is, well, interesting.

    My mother has a doctorate in women’s literature, so I should probably be able to recount some more off the top of my head.

  6. 8

    For anyone reading manga who is considering this challenge, don’t think most manga is going to work for it. Japanese men are the most privileged group in Japan, so something they produce from that position of comfort (manga and media made in Japan) will reflect the most privilege-blind position they have to offer. Much manga is spectacularly sexist and rape-happy. Even almost universally lauded authors used fairly disgusting rape tropes in their most well-regarded work.

    Work by Japanese Americans, on the other hand, fits the bill. Also, there are a lot of Japanese ladies making manga. In their stuff, you’ll still find some exploitative content, body shaming, slut shaming, etc., but no more so than fiction by American women. And it’s a very diverse range of content, so you’d have no trouble reading nothing but lady manga artists for two years.

  7. 10

    I’ve definitely read more female authors as an adult. But that’s mainly due to my obsession with trashy lesbian novels. I also try to prioritize those by people of color when I find them (they go toward the top of the list). Excluding that it’s teen and sci-fi and fantasy. In those it’s definitely favoring white authors (by a huge margin), and I think gender is maybe 5050.

    Some recomendations!
    Jacqueline Koyanagi:
    Ascension (her only book, but it’s apparently going to be a series) a Sci-fi novel featuring a black lesbian protagonist with poly themes. The main story is kinda standardish, but it’s told really well and the details are unique. Also, the cast suffer from “quirky space crew syndrome,” but it’s not too distracting.

    Malinda Lo:
    She’s a teen novelist with lots of lesbianbi themes in her books. She wrote the Cinderella re-imagining, Ash and its companion Huntress. She also has a sci fi series.

    Sara Farizan:
    Tell Me How A Crush Should Feel (Teen novel) Persian-American lesbian coming of age story. It’s really cute and funny.

  8. 12

    Is this another blog where I don’t make my first comment until the author talks about books? If I am a first time commentator, hi!

    I was lucky enough to receive a book spa experience as a gift so last month, I spent a couple of hours sat in a lovely independent bookshop talking through books I enjoyed before being presented with a stack of books I’d never previously have found. Several of them would fit your criteria, and may be of interest – I’d possibly pick out the following from my list:

    A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki/The Garden of Evening Mists – Tan Twang Eng – NB, not read either of these 2 yet but they come really highly recommended and are as far as I know the 2 non-white authors on the list (a Japanese-American woman who divides her time between Canada and America, and a Malaysian man who divides his time between Malaysia and South Africa). Unfortunately, having looked him up to see if he qualifies, he doesn’t, but I’m really looking forward to reading The City and The City, by China Mieville and I just found this interview with him which I think might contain some relevant comments – https://www.goodreads.com/interviews/show/38.China_Mi_ville – that make me even more keen to read the book.

    1222 – Anne Holt. This one is translated from Norwegian and gives you a slightly Agatha Christie-esque mystery story, if Miss Marple were a 50 year old Norwegian paraplegic lesbian with a Muslim wife (of Turkish origin) and a good grasp of domestic and international politics. I really enjoyed it, and am keen to read more by this author.

    Butterflies in November – Audur Ava Olafsdottir. Translated from Icelandic and set in the middle of winter. The mental impact of almost permanent darkness is really well described. A translator runs over a goose and gets dumped twice in the same day, which sort of ultimately leads to her taking a road trip around Iceland’s circular ringroad with her best friend’s deaf-mute 4 year old son.

    And Deathless, by Catherynne M Valente – I totally and utterly adored this one and the book hangover when I finished it lasted several days – all the way through the next book on my reading pile. Blends Russian history and folklore in a buildup to the Siege of Leningrad. When I finished it, I was stunned and slightly heartbroken that it was over, and I sat there stroking the cover while writing 2 1/2 incoherent pages of a letter telling a friend that they had to read it. It almost felt like the book had a heartbeat. The reviews of this one either seem to love it, or hate the author for daring to write about Russian folklore without herself being Russian (she first heard the stories from her husband and his family) so there are accusations of cultural appropriation – personally I take the view that if an author only ever wrote about exactly their experiences, literature would be quite dull, and I think she did it well enough that I’ll be putting in the effort to learn more about the original material behind the inspiration, so this doesn’t worry me so much in this case, but understand other people feel differently – just thought you’d like the warning.

    I’ve also been getting quite interested in Elizabeth Gaskell recently. She was a contemporary of the Brontes and the daughter and wife of Unitarian ministers, but her social commentary is like nothing you’d expect from a middle class Victorian woman. I was surprised by how gritty Mary Barton was – in it, she talked about textile mills, the effects of grinding poverty on the psyche, unions and strike breaking, opium, murder and prostitution. It really wasn’t what I expected from the author of Cranford! I really don’t see the BBC turning this one into a Sunday night costume drama!

  9. CJO
    13

    Achak Deng (a real person, the protagonist of What is the What by Dave Eggers) was never a child soldier; he was one of the “Lost Boys” of the Sudanese civil war and basically grew up in refugee camps in Ethiopia after traveling hundreds of miles on foot with a band of children. As of the end of the book, he was living in the US, and I presume he still does. I quite enjoyed the book.

    Thanks for the list!

  10. 17

    Recommendation: I just finished the audio book version of Ru Freeman’s “A Disobedient Girl” and love love LOVED every minute of it. Narrator Anne Flosnik is amazingly talented. Freeman is a Sri Lankan woman, and her imagery is astoundingly beautiful, her characters deep and complex, and their observations on life as women are heartbreaking and ring true universally. TW: DV

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