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July 31, 2018

Exploring cultural diversity: Books for adults and kids

It may already be August, but there’s still time to pack in a few more summer adventures and a few more summer reads! I’m excited to share some of my top picks for great summer reading that explores topics of cultural diversity and narratives we may not encounter in our everyday lives. The titles below represent a small sample of culturally diverse titles for you and any young reader in your life.

Think of this list as suggested reading for your final beach days, backyard barbecues, and weekend getaways of the summer. Each recommendation is a pair — one book to treat yourself, one book to share with a younger reader. We hope these titles spark conversations about the diverse experiences, challenges, and strengths of people throughout the world.

Illustrated lives of Vietnamese-Americans

The Best We Could Do

Thi Bui’s graphic memoir The Best We Could Do is like nothing else you will read this year. Bui shares the story of her family’s migration from South Vietnam to the United States in the wake of the Vietnam Conflict. In both her writing and her black, white, and orange illustrations, Bui examines her parents’ hardships in light of her own relationship with her son.

A Different Pond

We also find Bui’s illustrations in the 2018 Caldecott honoree A Different Pond, a book written by Bao Phi that is suggested for readers in the kindergarten to 2nd grade range. A Different Pond is a loving cut-scene from the life of an immigrant family in which a Vietnamese-American father and son wake in the wee hours of the morning to fish.

Narratives of blackness in America

Between the World and Me

Since it was published in 2015, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me has topped the New York Times bestseller list and earned a National Book Award. If you haven’t read it yet, we’re happy to be your excuse. Part memoir, part epistle, Between the World and Me is a no-punches-pulled delineation of life in a black male body in the United States.


A kindergarten to 3rd grade student-friendly text in conversation with Coates’s work is Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes. Gordon C. James’s textured and vibrant illustrations make this book incredibly fun to look at as it preaches confidence and self-love.

The circumstances of Syrian refugees

The New Odyssey
The New Odyssey by Patrick Kingsley is an in-depth explanation of the international refugee crisis. Kingsley contextualizes the big picture with the true story of a Syrian man who made the treacherous voyage across the Mediterranean not once but twice in the hope of reaching Sweden, where he could apply to have his family resettled.

My Beautiful Birds

For young readers in 1st through 3rd grade, Suzanne Del Rizzo’s My Beautiful Birds offers a glimpse into the life of a child in a refugee camp. Sami is a young Syrian boy who is forced to leave his home and his pet pigeons behind, but who finds comfort in caring for the colorful birds who visit the camp.

Whatever you’re reading this summer, we hope you expand your horizons and share what you discover with the striving readers in your life. Your enthusiasm for literature can inspire others to be lifelong learners!


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