I was one of those kids who got bullied/excluded when I was little, which means, as an adult, I have a minor obsession with making sure everyone feels included.
So I was determined this holiday season to incorporate not just Christmas books but Hanukkah and Kwanzaa titles into my book display.
Surely, I thought, there would be a bevy of titles I could incorporate. After all, we have an unholy amount of picture books on the subject. There just had to be titles for teens as well, right?
After countless hours of searching the Internet, pestering Facebook friends, authors, and so on, I realized that there’s next to nothing available for non-Christian teens during the holidays.
It was baffling. I mean, it’s 2014 for goodness’ sake. But after sifting through dozens of (admittedly lovely) holiday titles, I only found two non-Christmas titles for teens: one for Hanukkah and one for Kwanzaa. I ended up having to add two middle grade titles – The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming and Feast of Lights – to my display just to balance things out.
Now I get it. We all have cultural biases. But we need to work to overcome those biases so no one is left out. Teens, just like children, need to see themselves and their traditions represented in the books they read. And diversity in books isn’t just something for our little ones: our middle and high schoolers need it as well.
So to all my author friends: Gimme some YA Hanukkah and Kwanzaa books. Stat.
For everyone else, here are the two diverse YA holiday titles I ended up going with:
My True Love Gave to Me: 12 Holiday Stories
A beautiful, well thought out, much-needed addition to the YA holiday marketplace. As the publisher states, “Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or Kwanzaa, there’s something here for everyone.”
Listen for the Fig Tree by Sharon Belle Mathis
An older yet moving YA novel about a blind sixteen year-old, Muffin Johnson, who struggles with an alcoholic mother. Muffin is trying to find light in her dark world and Kwanzaa plays a role in that quest.
Any diverse YA holiday titles I’ve missed? Help a librarian out. Post them in the comments section below. Thanks and Happy Chrismakwanzikkah!