Monday, August 30, 2010

Funny Books Featuring Multicultural Protagonists

The number one request from booksellers during our conversation last week about selling multicultural titles was for "less serious books that are more fun."

I put out a call on twitter for Kid/YA books featuring multicultural protagonists, and below are the responses. Feel free to add more suggestions of funny books in the comments and I'll update the list.

Younger Readers

NERDS by Michael Buckley
THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM by Christopher Paul Curtis
BINDI BABES by Narinder Dhami
OPERATION REDWOOD by S. Terrell French
KIMCHI AND CALAMARI by Rose Kent
YEAR OF THE DOG by Grace Lin
ALVIN HO by Lenore Look
RUBY LU by Lenore Look
LUV YA BUNCHES by Lauren Myracle
8TH GRADE SUPERZERO by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY by Adam Rex
DAVID MORTIMORE BAXTER series by Karen Tayleur
ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia
BOBBY VS. GIRLS (ACCIDENTALLY) by Lisa Yee
MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS by Lisa Yee
STANFORD WONG FLUNKS BIG TIME by Lisa Yee


Young Adult

DOES MY HEAD LOOK BIG IN THIS? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT ME by Randa Abdel-Fattah
THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie
FREAK MAGNET by Andrew Auseon
THE MAKING OF DR. TRUELOVE by Derrick Barnes
SHE'S SO MONEY by Cherry Cheva
WHALE TALK by Chris Crutcher
WE WERE HERE by Matt De La Peña
SOPHOMORE UNDERCOVER by Ben Esch
SOUL ENCHILADA by David Macinnis Gill
BORN CONFUSED by Tanuja Desai Hidier
MUCHACHO by Louanne Johnson
SKUNK GIRL by Sheba Karim
MY MOST EXCELLENT YEAR by Steve Klugman
PERFECT SHOT by Debbie Rigaud
THE KAYLA CHRONICLES by Sherri Winston
AMERICAN BORN CHINESE by Gene Yuen Yang
STOP ME IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE by David Yoo
GOOD ENOUGH by Paula Yoo

14 comments:

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

What really strikes me is how far we've come on this front lately.

Years ago, Greg and I gave a few presentations on Humor in MC Lit, and really struggled to come up with a list of recommended reads, though the author community was in agreement that this was an area that needed more attention:
http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/2004/07/multicultural-humor-seriously.html

That said, back in the day, we did meet some resistance.

There were folks that simply couldn't get past the idea that humor plus race/ethnicity/religion/etc. automatically equaled racism, laughing at instead of laughing with--though we were careful to explain our thoughts on the subject.

Also, there were a number who seemed to think that highlighting anything other than very earnest stories--usually based on landmark historical tragedies--was minimizing.

And we had to push back against that a little, too.

From the talk:

...one African American young reader asked, “Why is it that it’s only the white kids in books who seem to laugh and have fun?”

E. Kristin Anderson said...

I was actually on the phone with one of my friends while trying to come up with titles for this list. She asked "how many do you have so far?" And I said, "Three. And now I'm depressed."

I think, like Cyn said, we've come a long way in representing POC protags in humorous books, but I also see that they are often relegated to the role of sidekick instead of getting to be the hero.

That said, I'm glad to see that this list is pretty extensive, compared to what I thought I could find. Thanks for putting this together, Mitali!

*bookmarks*

Sayantani said...

I too have been seeking MC humorous reads for my kids - my 8yo son highly recommends Grace Lin's "Year of the Dog" and Lenore Look's "Alvin Ho" and "Ruby Lu" books.

I'm in the process of getting one multicultural protagonist MG novel out, and editing a MC YA fantasy full of fun, adventure, and very little cultural angst. I actually just posted on my new blog about it:

http://storiesaregoodmedicine.blogspot.com/2010/08/i-wanna-be-dr-seuss-only-snarkier.html

And in fact, I think a similar issue may be at play with LGBT protagonists. David Levithan, co-author of the wonderful "Will Grayson, Will Grayson" writes in a recent Brown Alumni Monthly about representing "happy gay kids" in YA literature, not only stories of "misery and death and being the outsider"

http://www.brownalumnimagazine.com/content/view/2605/28/

Wonderful Post!

gfishbone said...

Awesome list, Mitali. For now I'm going to link to it from my author page, but I'm hoping to add a few books as well (starting with GALAXY GAMES in Fall 2011).

Jennie said...

Maybe it doesn't count, because it's British, but the Bindi Babes (about three Indian-British sisters) series by Narinder Dhami is absolutely hysterical.

Doret said...

Perfect Shot by Debbie Rigaud and

Nerds by Micheal Buckley are both very funny

Doret said...

One more - Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French

Mitali Perkins said...

Thanks for the links and suggestions, everybody.

Julia Karr said...

Some laugh-out-loud funny books on this list! The ones I haven't read are going on my TBR list now! Thanks!

Greg Leitich Smith said...

I agree with Cyn - we do seem to have made prgoress since my own NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO and TOFU AND T.REX came out, possibly because we're more willing to recognize the truths that humor speaks.

rockinlibrarian said...

What about Curtis's YA, Bucking the Sarge? That one made me laugh out loud so many times....

This is a great list! I know when I feel people staring accusingly at me saying "Why don't you read more books with minority MCs?!" I know my answer is really "because too many of them are too SERIOUS!" More more more like these!

youngandwriterly said...

This is a great list!
Another great series is the Girls of Many Lands by various authors.
It's true a lot of multicultural books seem very dramatic and serious in dealing with issues of identity and such.
I'm having a hard time balancing the seriousness in my novel of my main character's struggle to find herself and bringing enough humor in it to keep it enjoyable and fun to read.

MissAttitude said...

Thank you for compiling this list Mitali!

I just read Girl v. Boy by Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout and it's 'battle of the sexes' type humor. It was a refreshingly light read with some tongue-in-cheek moments.

@Cynthia-That was an excellent post (that you linked to in your comment). Thank you for sharing it! I can't believe some people didn't think multicultural literature needed some humor. We deserve variety.

Anonymous said...

Loved to read that and I also liked the cover which (I'm not racist) made me laugh because of the green face of this kid :)

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