50 Years of Young Adult Literature +

Right now, there are two things that bother me.

  1. The suggestion that a marginalized artist wins an award for the sake of affirmative action. Such reasoning diminishes both the artists work AND the organization that grants the award.
  2. Every single article Almost every article I read about diversity in children’s literature begins with the statistics about how little diversity exists in children’s literature. While these numbers are extremely significant, they lull is into a deficit framework that simply states we don’t have enough books by Native Americans and People of Color and, the low numbers simply call for more numbers, not better books. In fact, they ignore quality because that’s what numbers do. While it’s important to look for more books, that cannot be all we track.

I’m suggesting we consider other ways to measure progress.

For the past year or so, there has been an observation of the 50 years of young adult literature as someone arbitrarily decided that the publication of The Outsiders should be the anniversary of young adult literature. However, books with teen characters that were enjoyed by teen readers were published throughout the 20th century. Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly was probably the first book published specifically for teens in the US and it released in 1942.

This makes young adult literature sound awfully white, doesn’t it? It’s not! The following timeline paints the past 50 years with outstanding diverse contributions. The list is a work in progress. I’ll be adding earlier works while I discover important gems during the era on the timeline. Simply put, this is a 50 year timeline of significant diverse young adult books. I’ve included #ownvoices from authors of color, Native Americans and LGBT+ authors. I wish I could do the same for those with disabilities, but I could only find titles that reflect the characters disabilities. I have concentrated mainly on ALA Youth Media Awards. I have not listed all the YA winners of the ethnic caucus awards. To Newbery or not??? Most of the diverse winners of the Newbery Awards seem to be written for 12-14 year olds, so I’m including them. Suggestions for improvement would be appreciated as this is a list in progress. I’ve had some help on this from Debbie Reese, Marilisa Jimenez, Aisha Saeed and Sarah Park Dahlen and I’m extremely grateful to them.

Marginalized people have always been awarded for their artistry. Have they been awarded to their fullest potential? Particularly if you consider the massive numbers of authors of color, Native American authors, those with disabilities or who are LGBT+ whose work never sees the light of day, then you have to admit that NO, these authors do not receive any sort of equitable recognition for their work. While I’m suggesting we celebrate the successes we have, there are not enough on these lists, not nearly enough.

But these here, these outstanding writers? To paraphrase Javaka Steptoe, they are gold.

Note: This list is a work in progress.

1948 Bontemps, Arnold. Story of the Negro, Knopf. African American. 1949 Newbery Honor Book

1965 Council on Interracial Books for Children (CIBC) formed with the objective “to promote a literature for children that better reflects the realities of a multicultural society.”

1968 Hamilton, Virginia. House of Dies Drear, Macmillan. African American. 1968 Edgar Allen Poe Award; New York Times Best Books for Children and Young Adults 1968

1968 Jackson, Jesse C. Tessie, Harper & Row. African American

1968 Lattany, Kristin Hunter. Soul Brothers and Sister Lou, Avon Books. African American. Lewis Carroll Shelf Award 1971

1968 Lester, Julius. To Be A Slave, Dial. African American. 1969 Newbery Honor Book

1969 Donovan, John. I’ll Get There, It Better Be Worth the Trip, Harper and Row. Cited as the first novel to center on a gay character 

1970 Byars, Betsy. Summer of the Swans, Viking Books. 1971 Newbery Medal. Intellectual Disability

1971 Hamilton, Virginia. The Planet of Junior Brown, MacMillan. African American. 1972 Newbery Honor Book

1973 Mohr, Nicholasa. Nilda, Rituals of Survival: A Woman’s Portfolio, Harper and Row. Puerto Rican. 1974 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award; 1974 SLJ Best Book of the Year for Children and Young Adults

1973 Childress, Alice. A Hero Ain’t Nothing But A Sandwich, Avon Books. African American. 1973 ALA Notable Books for Children and Young Adults; 1974 Coretta Scott King Honor Book; 1974 Jane Addams Honor Book; 1975 Lewis Carroll Shelf Award; 1973 School Library Journal Best Books for Children and Young Adults

1974 Mathis, Sharon Bell. Listen for the Fig Tree, Puffin Books. African American. Visual Impairment

1974 Hamilton, Virginia. M. C. Higgins the Great. MacMillan. African American. 1975 Newbery Medal Winner

1974 Corcoran, Barbara. A Dance to Still Music, Atheneum. Hearing Impairment

1974 National Council for the Social Studies established the Carter G. Woodson Book Award for the most distinguished social science books appropriate for young readers that depict ethnicity in the United States.

1975 Mathis, Sharon Bell. The Hundred Penny Box, Viking. African American. 1976 Newbery Honor Book.

1975 Yep, Laurence. Dragonwings, Harper. Chinese American. 1976 Newbery Honor Book

1975 Mantlo, Bill and George Pérez create Héctor Ayala, known as the White Tiger in DC comics. He’s the first Puerto Rican Superhero in the history of Comics

1976 ALA document “What To Do Until Utopia Arrives” created by ALA’s Gay Task Force to help librarians evaluate the treatment of gay themes in children’s & YA lit

1976 Taylor, Mildred. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, Bantam Books. African American. 1976 ALA Notable Books for Children and Young Adults; 1977 Coretta Scott King Honor Book; 1977 Jane Addams Honor Book; 1977 John Newbery Medal Award; 1976NY Times Best Books for Children and Young Adults

1976 Guy, Rosa. Ruby. Viking Press. African American. cited as the first YA lesbian novel; first YA to center on LGBT teen of color

1979 Arte Público Press begins

1979 Myers, Walter Dean. The Young Landlords,Viking. African American. In 1980 becomes first YA winner of the Coretta Scott King Author Awards (established 1969)

1982 Hamilton, Virginia. Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush, Philomel. African American. 1983 Newbery Honor Book

1984 Murder Charles Howard, a 23 year old gay man in Bangor, Maine inspires Betty Greene to write The Drowning of Stephen Jones (Bantam Books, 1992)

1985 Cinco Puntos Press is established

1985 Betancourt, Ernesto. The Me Inside of Me, Lerner. Latinx

1985 Kincaid, Jamaica. Annie John, Farrar, Strauss, Giroux. Antiguan American

1987 Velez, Ivan Jr. Tales of the Closet, Planet Bronx Productions. Gay Latino author writes first of eight comics published from 1987 – 1992 about eight LGBT teens in Queens

1987 Just Us Books begins

1988 Hamilton, Virginia. In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World. Harcourt. African American. 1989 Newbery Honor Book

1988 Myers, Walter Dean. Scorpions, Harper. African American. 1989 Newbery Honor Book

1989 Kadohata, Cynthia. The Floating World, Viking. Japanese American

1989 Lo, Steven. The Incorporation of Eric Chung, Algonquin. Chinese American

1991 Lee & Low Books is founded by Tom Low and Philip Lee

1992 Myers, Walter Dean. Somewhere in the Darkness, Scholastic. African American. 1992 ALA Notable Books for Children and Young Adults; 1992 Boson Globe-Horn Book Honor List; 1993 CSK Honor Book; 1992 SLJ Best Books for Children and Young Adults.

1992 McKissack. The Dark-thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural. Knopf. African American. 1993 Newbery Honor Book

1993 Yep, Laurence. Dragon’s Gate. HarperCollins. Chinese American. 1994 Newbery Honor book

1994 Curtis, Christopher Paul. The Watsons Go to Birmingham, Delacorte. African American. 1996 Newbery Honor Book; Coretta Scott King Author honor book; 1996 ALA Notable Children’s Book

1994 Walter Dean Myers receives the Margaret A. Edwards Award

1995 Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award established as annual award given to the most distinguished books for children and young adults that authentically reflect the lives and experiences of Mexican Americans in the United States

1995 Cofer, Judith Ortiz. An Island Like You: Stories of the Barrio Melanie Kroupa / Orchard Books. Puerto Rican. First winner of the Pura Belpré Award in 1996

1996 Martinez, Victor. Parrot in the Oven : mi vida, Rayo Publishing. Mexican American. 1996 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature

1997 Nye, Naomi Shihab. Habibi,. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. Palestinian American. 1998 Addams Children’s Book Award for Older Children; 1998 Judy Lopez Memorial Award for Children’s Literature; 2013 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature

1999 Myers, Walter Dean. Monster, HarperCollins. African American. Winner of the first Printz Award

1999 Erdrich, Louis. Birchbark House,Hyperion Books for Children. Enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, a band of the Anishinaabe Nation. First YA winner of the American Indian Youth Literature Award in 2006. 1999 National Book Award Finalist

2001 Na, An. A Step from Heaven, Speak. Korean American author debuts as 2002 Printz Award winner and in 2002 as the first winner of the Children and Young Adult Author Award of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature (award established 2001)

2001 Park, Linda Sue. A Single Shard, Clarion Books. Korean American. 2002 Newbery Medal Winner

2001 Nelson, Marilyn. Carver : A Life in Poems. Front Street. African American. 2002 Newbery Honor Book

2003 Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis, Pantheon Graphic Novels. Iranian American. 2004 ALA Alex Award; 2004 YALSA Best Books for Young Adults

2003 Johnson, Angela. The First Part Last, Simon and Schuster. African American. 2004 Printz Award Winner; 2004 CSK Author Award Winner

2003 Maas, Wendy. A Mango Shaped Space, Little, Brown becomes the first YA winner of the newly established Schneider Family Book Award. Synesthesia

2003 Johnson, Angela. First Part Last, Simon and Schuster. African American. 2004 Printz Award. 2004 Coretts Scott King Author Award

2004 Cynthia Kadahata. Kira-Kira, Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Japanese American. 2005 Newbery Medal Winner

2005 Woodson, Jacqueline. Show Way, G. P. Putnam’s Sons. African American/LGBT. 2006 Newbery Honor book

2005 Nelson, Marilyn and Phillip Lardy. A Wreath for Emmitt Till, HMH Books. African American. 2006 Printz Honor

2006 Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese, First Second. Chinese American. First graphic novel to win the Printz Award; 2007 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album; 2006 Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year; YALSA Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Lifelong Learners; 2007 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year

2006 Jacqueline Woodson receives the Margaret A Edwards Award

2007 Alexie, Sherman. Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Little, Brown. Spokane-Coeur d’Alene. 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature; 2008 American Indian Youth Literature Awards; American Indian Library Association Best Young Adult Book; 2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award

2007 Curtis, Christopher Paul. Elijah of Buxton, Scholastic. African American. 2008 Newbery Honor

2007 Woodson, Jacqueline. Feathers, Putnam. African American/LGBT. 2008 Newbery Honor book

2007 Barakat, Ibtisam. Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood, Farrar, Strauss, Giroux. Palestinian American. In 2008 was the first YA winner of the Arab American Book Award (award was established in 2006)

2008 Engle, Margarita. The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom. Henry Holt. Cuban American. 2009 Newbery Honor Book; 2009 Pura Belpre Medal for Narrative; 2009 Bank Street – Claudia Lewis Award; 2009 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year

2008 Woodson, Jacqueline. After Tupac & D Foster, G.P. Putnam’s Sons. 2009. African American/LGBT. Newbery Honor book

2009 The Rainbow Book List is created by the Rainbow Book List Committee of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

2009 Perkins, Mitali. Secret Keeper, Random House. Indian American. 2009 Skipping Stones Honor Book; 2010 Amelia Bloomer Book; IRA Notable Book for a Global Society

2009 Stork, Francisco X. Marcelo in the Real World, Scholastic. Mexican American. 2010 Top Ten Books for Young Adults; 2010 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults; 2010 Schneider Family Book Award winner

2009 Lin, Grace. Where the Moon Meets the Mountain, Little, Brown & Company. Asian American. 2010 Newbery Honor book

2009 Burd, Nick. Vast Fields of Ordinary, Dial Books. African American/LGBT. First YA book to win Stonewall’s newly created award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature

2010 Williams-Garcia, Rita. One Crazy Summer, Amistad/HarperCollins. African American. 2011 Newbery Honor book

2011 Lai, Thanhha. Inside Out and Back Again. HarperCollins. Vietnamese American. 2012 Newbery Honor Book. 2011 National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature

2012 Venkatraman, Padma. Island’s End (G.P. Putnam’s Sons,2011) Indian American. YA winner of the first South Asia Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature

2012 Saenz, Benjamin Alire. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Mexican American/LGBT. 2013 Stonewall Award; 2013 Notable Children’s Book; 2013 Printz Honor Book; 2013 Pura Belpré Award

2013 Gansworth, Eric. If I Ever Get Out of Here, Scholastic. Enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation. 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2014 International Reading Association’s Notable Books For a Global Society; 2014 American Indian Youth Literary Awards Honor Book; 2013 Junior Library Guild Selection; 2014 Horn Book Summer Reading List

2013 Garnder, Sally and Julian Crouch. Maggot Moon, Candlewick. 2014 Printz Honor Book; 2013 Carnegie Medal Winner. Dyslexia

2014 Farizan, Sara. If You Could Be Mine. Algonquin Press. Iranian American/LGBT. 2014 Lambda Literary Award Winner

2014 Tamaki, Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. This One Summer, First SecondBooks. Japanese Canadian. LGBT. 2015 Printz Honor Book

2014 Venkatraman, Padman. A Time To Dance, Nancy Paulsen Books. Indian American. 2015 ALA Notable Book; 2015 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults; 2015 International Board on Books for Young People Outstanding Book for Young People with Disabilities; 2015 International Reading Association Notable Book for a Global Society. Physical Disability

2014 Alexander, Kwame. The Crossover. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. African American. 2015 Newbery Medal Winner; 2015 Coretta Scott King Honor Award Winner

2014 Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. Nancy Paulsen Books. African American/LGBT. 2015 Newbery Honor Medal; 2014 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature; NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Young Adults; 2015 Coretta Scott King Award

2014 #WeNeedDiverseBooks develops into a nonprofit organization that advocates for diversity in publishing

2014 Bell, Cece. El Deafo. Amulet Books. Hearing Impairement
2015 Eisner Award; 2015 Newbery Honor Book

2015 Sharon Draper receives the Margaret A. Edwards Award. African American

2015 Shusterman, Neal. Challenger Deep. HarperCollins. 2015 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature; Golden Kite Award. Schizophrenia

2015 de la Peña, Matt. Last Stop on Market Street. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers. Mexican American author; African American illustrator
Winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal; 2016 Caldecott Honor Book; 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book; New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2015; NPR Best Book of 2015; Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2015; 2015 Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year; Horn Book Best Book of 2015; Chosen for the New York Public Library’s 100 Books for Reading & Sharing List; Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature “Best Multicultural Books of 2015” Pick; A Scholastic Instructor 50 Best Summer Book

2015 Reynolds, Jason and Brendan Kiely. All American Boys, Atheneum. African American and European American. 2016 ALA Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book; 2016 Amazing Audiobooks for YA; 2016 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award (NCTE/ALAN); 2106 Bank Street Best Books of the Year – with Outstanding Merit; 2016 CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book; 2016 CCBC Choices (Cooperative Children’s Book Council)

2015 Engle, Margarita and Edel Rodriguez. Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir, Atheneum. Cuban American. 2016 YALSA Nonfiction Award

2016 Salaam Reads, Imprint of Simon and Schuster begins.
2016 Ryan, Pam Muñoz Ryan. Echo. Scholastic Press. Mexican American. 2016 Newbery Honor Book

2016 We Need Diverse Books announces the Walter Dean Myers Award is to honor the memory of Walter Dean Myers and his literary heritage, as well as celebrate diversity in teen literature

2016 Bryan, Ashley. Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life, Atheneum. African American. 2017 Newbery Honor Book

2016 Lewis, John and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell. March: Book Three, Top Shelf Productions. African American. 2017 YALSA Nonfiction Award. 2016 National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature; 2017 Printz Award Winner; 2017 Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner; 2017 Sibert Medal Winner; 2017 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Winner; 2017 Walter Award Winner

2016 Patel, Sonia. Rani Patel In Full Effect, Cinco Puntos Press. Indian American. 2017 Morris Award

2016 Reynolds, Jason. Ghost, AntheneumAfrican American. 2017 Charlotte Huck Award. National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature

2 thoughts on “50 Years of Young Adult Literature +

  1. Love this, thanks! FYI – I agree with you about counting Daly’s book as the start, though sometimes I waffle between that and Outsiders. But if you want/need to go further back, I have seen some scholars argue for Little Women (1868) as the start of young adult lit.


Comments are closed.