17 New Authors of Color Writing Much-Needed Stories for Kids
by Charnaie Gordon
I read a wide array of books with my children that includes everything from classics to new releases to nonfiction. I also aim to fill my children’s reading experiences with a full spectrum of Brown and Black characters in a variety of books. It’s important for me to read enriching books that include people of all colors, particularly people whom my children can imagine being like. I think it’s critical for my children to constantly be reminded they can achieve anything, and reading books that serve as mirrors, with characters that look like them reflected on the pages, helps confirm their existence and their potential.
While I don’t specifically choose books based on the author’s race or ethnicity, I do get excited when I come across well-written children’s books by authors of color. Why? Because there are so few to choose from. Sadly, many diverse books that feature protagonists of color are not actually written by authors of color. So while I don’t discriminate when I choose what books to read with my children, I am deliberate in seeking out and sharing great books by authors of color.
Below I’ve rounded up a list of new(ish) authors of color who write diverse books aimed at children, teens, and young adults. They produce works that resonate with the times, speak to the future, and give children of color the opportunity to see themselves reflected in books. Their books also allow many other children to experience stories as windows, inviting them into a new culture or life experience.
Angie Thomas grew up witnessing drug dealing and gun crime but always dreamed of being a writer. Her debut YA novel The Hate You Give is deserving of every bit of praise it has received.
Why she’s an author to know: Angie writes powerful and relatable prose that pulls readers in right from the start. She's a skillful storyteller and has a natural way with words. In The Hate You Give, she took a very complex theme and made it universal to all readers.
Bao Phi has been a performance poet since 1991. His first children’s book, a picture book, is entitled A Different Pond and it is a moving read.
Why he’s an author to know: It’s easy to tell Phi is a poet from his beautiful and powerful prose. He intricately weaves together the past and present while telling important and poignant stories.
Celia is the daughter of a Mexican mother and Cuban father. Originally from Miami, Florida, she now lives in Chicago with her family and works as a community college librarian. Her middle grade novel, The First Rule of Punk, is her first book for young readers.
Why she’s an author to know: Pérez writes with passion. I fell in love with her debut novel because it had so many themes that are relevant to the times we live in: standing up for what you believe in, embracing your culture, and being yourself. Perfect for middle grade readers!
Connie Schofield-Morrison has been writing since she was a young girl and is inspired every day by the big sounds and bright colors of the world around her. I Got the Rhythm is her first picture book. Her second picture book, I Got the Christmas Spirit, is slated for release in 2018.
Why she’s an author to know: She took the simple concept of exploring the neighborhood around you and turned it into a fun, musical celebration for children everywhere. Her writing pairs easy-to-read sentences with amazing illustrations by her talented husband, illustrator Frank Morrison.
Daria Peoples-Riley’s first job was at nine years old, in the children’s section of her hometown library. She now works as a full-time author and illustrator. Her first picture book, This Is It, is a celebration of individuality, self-expression, and dance.
Why she’s an author to know: Daria is multi-talented, writing simple, lyrical text and drawing striking illustrations. Her forthcoming picture book will encourage and inspire young dancers everywhere.
Debbi Michiko Florence
Debbi Michiko Florence has been writing for some time — authoring nonfiction books for children in the Kaleidoscope Kids Series (China and Japan) — but has more recently ventured into writing fiction for kids. She is a third generation Japanese American, and many of her ideas for the new Jasmine Toguchi series come from family experiences. Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth are the first two books in this highly readable chapter book series.
Why she’s an author to know: With the Jasmine Toguchi series, she’s helping to fill the diversity gap in books featuring Japanese American children as the main protagonist. Jasmine is a spunky, strong, determined, and charming little girl who will resonate with lots of readers.
Fracaswell "Cas" Hyman is an award-winning television writer (Humanitas Prize, Alma Award, Peabody Award) and screenwriter. He is also a playwright, theater and television director, and producer who has created and executive produced the successful animated television series “Little Bill” for Disney and Nickelodeon. Mango Delight is his first novel.
Why he’s an author to know: The characters in Mango Delight are filled with just the right amount of attitude, spunk, and humor, making this a modern-day, relatable story.
JaNay Brown-Wood has always had a passion for writing. She loves coming up with new characters and watching them grow. She is the author the picture books Imani's Moon and Grandma's Tiny House.
Why she’s an author to know: Her books are filled with cute illustrations and well-written text, and you can feel her passion for writing come across as you read them.
Jason Reynolds is a New York Times bestselling author, a National Book Award Honoree, a Kirkus Award winner, a Walter Dean Myers Award winner, an NAACP Image Award Winner, and the recipient of multiple Coretta Scott King honors. He is the author of several YA and middle grade books including Miles Morales: Spider-Man, Ghost, and Patina.
Why he’s an author to know: His writing immediately draws you in with its great storytelling and he makes you care about the characters and their complex yet highly relatable struggles.
Starting out as an artist with DreamWorks and Disney, Kenard Pak has also illustrated children’s books such as Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? and The Dinner That Cooked Itself. He is the author of Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn and Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter.
Why he’s an author to know: Readers will appreciate the simplicity of text, diverse cast of characters, and use of color throughout his books.
Juana grew up in Bogotá, Colombia, getting in lots of trouble for drawing cartoons of her teachers. She is the author and illustrator of the delightful picture books Juana and Lucas and 1 Big Salad.
Why she’s an author to know: Medina’s writing is charming and empathetic, and she does a lovely job of peppering in Spanish words that are easy for little readers to understand.
Monique Gray Smith
Monique Gray Smith is of Cree, Lakota, and Scottish descent; the proud Mom of 12-year-old twins; and the author of books for babies, kids, and teens, including the picture books You Hold Me Up and My Heart Fills with Happiness and the YA novel Tilly.
Why she’s an author to know: Her writing is fresh, thoughtful, and heartwarming. I also love that she features Native and Indigenous characters in her empowering and hopeful books.
Nadia Hohn is a writer, musician, and educator. She is the author the picture book Malaika’s Costume and the forthcoming follow-up, Malaika's Winter Carnival.
Why she’s an author to know: Nadia writes engaging children's books centered around family, community, tradition, and celebration.
In addition to being a model, singer, dancer, and actress, Quvenzhané Wallis is the author of the Shai & Emmie chapter book series and the picture book A Night Out with Mama.
Why she’s an author to know: Her writing is lighthearted and understandable for young readers with minimal text that is easy to read. She's also very relatable to tweens and teens since she's currently just 14 years old.
Sandhya Menon is the New York Times bestselling author of the YA novel When Dimple Met Rishi and the upcoming From Twinkle, With Love.
Why she’s an author to know: Sandhya writes with passion, humor, and delight, and brings a new voice to the experience of being an Indian American young adult. Her writing is refreshing, informative, and fun — a pleasure to read.
Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian American writer and creative writing coach based in San Diego, California. Her debut West African YA fantasy novel is Children of Blood and Bone, which is also being turned into a movie.
Why she’s an author to know: I love how she shares her unique points of view through her writing creating empathy in return.
Vashti Harrison earned her MFA in Film/Video from CalArts and BA from the University of Virginia. She is now a freelance graphic designer and the author and illustrator of the forthcoming picture book Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History.
Why she’s an author to know: Harrison is a talented visual storyteller, as seen through her gorgeous illustrations that feature people of color.
What other authors have you discovered recently? Share your new favorites with us in the comments below.