Ruthie’s Multicultural Book List

I’m THAT person, the one who’s constantly distracted by letters, words, print. It could be a menu or a magazine cover or a newspaper. Sometimes I have to remind myself that it comes across wrong, I look nosy or inconsiderate when glancing at words that are written on something that’s not mine. Oops. I can’t help it.

Whenever I go into someone’s home, I gravitate toward their book shelves. I think books say a lot about someone’s interests, personality, and life. My book shelf is an eclectic combination of children’s literature and critical race theory (and that about sums me up).

So for our month on words, I thought I’d be fun to give a list of books that combine two of my favorite topic: diversity & books. Most are ones I grew up with, some are newer ones that I love, others are just classics I think everyone should read, but they all offer a different narrative of our world. 

1.The Horse and His Boy (C.S. Lewis, 1954)

Although this isn’t *technically* cross-cultural, this is one of my favorite of the Narnia Series. I always imagined this book taking place in a setting like India or another beautiful, ancient culture. What if we say because it takes place in a land within Narnia it’s crossing imaginary cultures? 🙂


2. The House on Mango Street (Sandra Cisneros, 1984)

I was introduced to this book in through a college course on multicultural lit. I immediately fell in love. Some of it reminded me of growing up on my block in Miami. She shares moments and stories through poetry of immigrant life. Mostly, it just felt warm and familiar. 


3. Carlos The Street Boy Who Found a Home (Marcos Carpenter, 1987)

I’ll admit, this title is a little off and shows how dated it is! But it’s been an important book to me growing up. I loved this book when I was younger because it was long (cue later bed time), but also because it normalized adoption. 


4. People (Peter Spier, 1988)

I swear this book was ahead of its time, it was and still is one of my favorite books. I went back and found it as an adult and ordered myself a copy. I still find myself quoting small lines like “There are lots and lots of people in the world… isn’t it wonderful that each and every one of us is unlike any other?” to myself when I’m introduced to new ideas. 


5. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (Mildred D. Taylor, 1991)

I remember getting this book as a reading assignment early on in elementary school. Fun fact: this book has a sequel, too, titled Let The Circle Be Unbroken. Both are worth a read. 


6. Walk Two Moons (Sharon Creech,1994)

This book taught me about empathy, learning and the power of story. It was the first book I remember wanted to understand and re-read even though it was a homework assignment. I still have my copy from 4th grade. 


7. The Colors of Us (Karen Katz, 2002)

This is a newer book, introduced to me by one of our fellow writers, Grace Cho! I got it for my nephews last year for Christmas, and I loved it so much I bought a copy for myself!


8. A is for Activist (Innosanto Nagara, 2012)

One of my favorite parts of having friends with kids is I continually have reason to peruse new books (and cute tiny clothes!). A few years ago I came across this book and it became my “gift of the year” for all my friends who had kids. My favorites are letters “D”, for ‘democracy” & “I” for immigrants and indigenous people. 


9. Legend (Marie Lu, 2013)

This book is part of a trilogy. If you love dystopian-themed books, I think this blows Hunger Games out of the water. I loved reading a book centered on Asian characters and the interplay between June and Day. The back and forth narrative is fun to see build through this series. 


10. Brown Girl Dreaming (Jacqeline Woodson, 2014)

This book lives up to its name and gives your heart and mind space to dream. I found myself in the words of her poems and return to it often for a breath of fresh air. 


11. When God Was a Little Girl (David R. Weiss, 2015)

This book was gifted to me by a fellow Mudroomate (Thanks, Karen!), and I LOVE it. It’s reminiscent to me of the Magicians Nephew. I love the way song, myth and story show the importance of femininity in expressing the beautiful diversity of life. 

Ruthie Johnson

4 thoughts on “Ruthie’s Multicultural Book List

  1. “House on Mango Street” is an all-time favorite. And I’m definitely going to have to get “A is for Activist” for my girls! Thanks for this list, Ruthie!

  2. Love this list, Ruthie! One of my childhood favorites is The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton. It’s still a favorite. Thanks for sharing. Sandra Cisneros is a favorite as well.

  3. Thanks for this list Ruthie! Also, where in Miami did you grow up???

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