For this week’s Sapphic Reading Challenge category, read a book in which at least one of the main characters is of a different race, ethnicity, or culture than you.
Please pick a book that is own voices, meaning the author shares the character’s racial, ethnic, or cultural background.
Read more diversely
Reading books is a wonderful way to walk in somebody else’s shoes for a while. I encourage you to read diverse books, including books by authors whose race, ethnicity, or culture is different from your own, for ALL categories of the Sapphic Reading Challenge, not just for today’s category. If you check my recommended reading lists, you’ll find suggestions for each category.
Books featuring a Latinx character, written by a Latinx author
Prize Money by Celeste Castro (all Latina and Indigenous cast of characters)
Eva Angeles is a professional barrel racer headed for her third world title when a competition mishap throws her in the path of an on-the-loose bull. She is saved from impending disaster by a tall, dark, and handsome bullfighter—a woman.
Toma Rozene is an equestrian stuntwoman fresh off the set of a blockbuster film when a family emergency calls her home to help run the family business: rescuing fallen rodeo riders before blustering bulls and bucking broncos trample their dreams.
Eva and Toma’s shared passions and competitive spirits make friendship easy, but, as their feelings deepen, they must decide if the divergent futures they seek will stand in the way of love.
Queerleaders by M.B. Guel (latinx character, Mexican author)
“Mack snuck a look over her shoulder at the cheerleaders just as Veronica took her place at the top of the pyramid. Time seemed to slow as Veronica swung her long, blond ponytail over her shoulder, pompoms high in the air…”
Mackenzie is used to being different from other kids—and to being bullied for not fitting into the rigid social expectations of her Catholic high school. Luckily, Mack’s best friend Lila has her back so school isn’t the total hell it could be. But it’s pretty damn close.
Until something very mysterious happens—Mack becomes a cheerleader magnet. Even she has a hard time believing it. And Lila is not too happy about her friend’s sudden popularity with the cool kids.
Is Mack being set up for an epic fail? Or is she finally headed for acceptance–and maybe even romance…
Mangos and Mistletoe by Adriana Herrera (Dominican character)
Kiskeya Burgos left the tropical beaches of the Dominican Republic with a lot to prove. As a pastry chef on the come up, when she arrives in Scotland, she has one goal in mind: win the Holiday Baking Challenge. Winning is her opportunity to prove to her family, her former boss, and most importantly herself, she can make it in the culinary world. Kiskeya will stop at nothing to win, that is, if she can keep her eyes on the prize and off her infuriating teammate’s perfect lips.
Sully Morales, home cooking hustler, and self-proclaimed baking brujita lands in Scotland on a quest to find her purpose after spending years as her family’s caregiver. But now, with her home life back on track, it’s time for Sully to get reacquainted with her greatest love, baking. Winning the Holiday Baking Challenge is a no brainer if she can convince her grumpy AF baking partner that they make a great team both in and out of the kitchen before an unexpected betrayal ends their chance to attain culinary competition glory.
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera (Puerto Rican character)
Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.
Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle?
With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself.
The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante (Salvadorian character)
Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol’s mother as a maid. When she pictured an American life for herself, she dreamed of a life like Aimee and Amber’s, the title characters of her favorite American TV show. She never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under threat of death and stealing across the US border as “an illegal”, but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister, Gabi’s, life is also placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl named Liliana, Pablo might still be alive, her mother wouldn’t be in hiding and she and Gabi wouldn’t have been caught crossing the border.
But they have been caught and their asylum request will most certainly be denied. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She’s asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It’s a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love, a love that may even be powerful enough to finally help her face her own crushing grief.
Lobizona by Romina Garber (Argentinian character)
Some people ARE illegal.
Lobizonas do NOT exist.
Both of these statements are false.
Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.
Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.
Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past—a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.
As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal….it’s her entire existence.
The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado (graphic novel, Latinx main character, black main character)
Shudder-To-Think, Pennsylvania, has been on fire for years. The coal mines beneath it are long since abandoned. The woods are full of rabbits with human eyes, a deer woman who stalks hungry girls, and swaths of skinless men. And the people in Shudder-to-Think? Well, they’re not doing so well either.
When El and Octavia wake up in a movie theater with no memory of the last few hours of their lives, the two teenage dirtbags begin a surreal and terrifying journey to discover the truth about the strange town that they call home. Like so many women in Shudder-to-Think before them, all they have is a void where the truth once was. But as time passes, El finds herself needing to know more about what has happened, while Octavia wants nothing more than to forget the forgetting. Can these two teens reconcile their differences before the horrible things lurking beneath their town emerge and swallow them whole?
Dear Taylor by Eija Jimenez (Latinx main character, black main character)
Taylor Phillips was working as a barista in NYC the day the twin towers came crashing down. Seeing her city in shambles, coated in ash, and American lives lost, she enlisted to fight the War on Terror.
Daniella Melo, a Rhode Island American History teacher, challenges her class to write letters to soldiers fighting overseas. With one name left and a student short, Daniella takes it upon herself to write letters to Private Taylor Phillips stationed in Afghanistan.
Over the next two years, the women exchange letters, sharing stories of their daily lives: Daniella trailing after her rambunctious daughter, Jackie, and dealing with overeager seniors planning prom while Taylor trudges through sand and dirt, driving her humvee in cold deserts. Their friendship continues to grow until it becomes something so much more than either woman expect.
Fiebre Tropical by Juliana Delgado Lopera (Colombian character)
Uprooted from her comfortable life in Bogotá, Colombia, into an ant-infested Miami townhouse, fifteen-year-old Francisca is miserable and friendless in her strange new city. Her alienation grows when her mother is swept up into an evangelical church, replete with Christian salsa, abstinent young dancers, and baptisms for the dead.
But there, Francisca also meets the magnetic Carmen: opinionated and charismatic, head of the youth group, and the pastor’s daughter. As her mother’s mental health deteriorates and her grandmother descends into alcoholism, Francisca falls more and more intensely in love with Carmen. To get closer to her, Francisca turns to Jesus to be saved, even as their relationship hurtles toward a shattering conclusion.
Books featuring a Black character, written by a Black author
Friends and Lovers by Ava Freeman
Victoria’s long term relationship has gone stale and the beautiful stranger she meets on her trip to her hometown has her ready to risk it all.
Alexis is committed to her girlfriend Sera and wants to pop the question. That is until she discovers even the woman of your dreams can have secrets.
Stevie has been a player most of her life but she loves a challenge. Chloe is ready to give it to her but it may not have the outcome she expects.
New York is heating up but will the ladies be able to stand it?
The Rules by S. Renee Bess
Blackmail, murder, missing persons, and hidden identities link lives that otherwise, would have remained unconnected.
London Phillips’ suburban black middle class background has made her vulnerable to the alienation she feels as she tap dances between the expectations she holds for herself and the expectations other people impose upon her. A full-time realtor and part-time writer, London encounters frustration when she tries to contact Milagros Farrow, a revered lesbian author whose work London would like to include in an anthology she’s compiling. Milagros has disappeared from the face of the earth.
Rand Carson is a prominent newspaper journalist who is forced to deal with the sudden loss of her financial security and the dissolution of her long term interracial relationship with Willa. Rand seems compelled to pursue London, although it’s possible she’s more attracted to London’s ethnicity than to London herself.
Candace Dickerson, a corporate event planner, is married to avarice. In order to chase a more lucrative future, Candace has abandoned her lover, Lenah and Lenah’s perceived lack of ambition. She’s moved into the city where she executes a plot designed to augment her earnings with other people’s money.
Lenah Miller is content with her job at a local hospital’s Emergency Department. For reasons known only to her, she distrusts women she considers too ambitious or from different social strata. Steeped in cynicism and memories held in secret, Lenah finds it easier to criticize a woman whose gentle nature differs from hers than to accept their differences.
The threads entwined around London’s desire to connect with a kindred spirit, Lenah’s wary skepticism, Rand’s inappropriate ardor, and Candace’s greed come undone when three people fall victim to blackmail, one reappears, and another succumbs to murder.
SBF Seeking by LaToya Hankins
Four months before her wedding, Yvette Thurman realizes this might be her last chance to have a sexual fling with a white man. But she never thought placing a personal ad would lead her to discover she was a lesbian.
Yvette’s small town life in eastern North Carolina never prepared her for the personal journey she undertakes as she struggles to find her heart’s path.
Through personal ads and late night visits to an adult bookstore, Yvette learns more about her own personal desires than she ever did when she was engaged to be married. If she embraces her true self, can she find acceptance and love from her family and friends? Or will she be forced to hide who she really is from those she cares about the most?
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.
But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.
The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?
That Could Be Enough by Alyssa Cole
Mercy Alston knows the best thing to do with pesky feelings like “love” and “hope”: avoid them at all cost. Serving as a maid to Eliza Hamilton, and an assistant in the woman’s stubborn desire to preserve her late husband’s legacy, has driven that point home for Mercy—as have her own previous heartbreaks.
When Andromeda Stiel shows up at Hamilton Grange for an interview in her grandfather’s stead, Mercy’s resolution to live a quiet, pain-free life is tested by the beautiful, flirtatious, and entirely overwhelming dressmaker.
Andromeda has staid Mercy reconsidering her worldview, but neither is prepared for love—or for what happens when it’s not enough.
Femme Like Her by Fiona Zedde
Nailah Grant only dates studs, races her Camaro for therapy, and believes in leaving her exes in the past where they belong.
But with a layoff looming and her retired parents about to take a life-changing step Nailah isn’t ready for, her world becomes far from stable. Enter Scottie, the only femme she’s ever allowed close enough to touch her heart. They say trouble comes in threes, and this femme is one with a capital T.
Scottie is an ex though, and somebody Nailah never should have been with in the first place. Yet, when the foundations of her life crumble fast, Scottie is the one Nailah finds herself clinging to. Just as things settle into a semblance of something Nailah could only dream about, a shattering secret from Scottie’s past threatens to destroy everything the two women have built together.
Will Nailah stay the course with Scottie, or allow her fears to ruin her chance at a real and passionate love?
Keile’s Chance by Dillon Watson
Sometimes, life offers you a chance to see what you’ve been missing…
Everything Keile Griffen ever loved was taken away, including her family. Surviving a youth in Child Support Services has left her driven to succeed as an adult—and she has. A successful, sought after planning consultant, she maps out solutions for other people, but never for herself.
When Hayden Davenport’s partner walked out on her in the midst of planning their family, she decided to go it alone. It hasn’t been easy, and she’s not used to help. When her missing son is found by a stranger at the park, she’s overwhelmingly grateful to the young woman. When her gratitude blossoms into something more, her first impulse is to protect her child—and her battered heart.
All Keile knows is that fateful day in the park she fell for a pair of big, brown eyes. But if she wants a family she has to take a chance, a big one. She could win it all…or lose everything.
Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Alice had her whole summer planned. Nonstop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting—working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating—no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.
But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).
When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library-employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.
When I Was Your Girlfriend by Nikki Harmon
How can you be sure that your first love wasn’t your true love?
In When I Was Your Girlfriend, African-American lesbian Dee Armstrong leads a seemingly charmed life. She has a successful midwifery practice, a supportive family, and an exciting romantic life. But when Dee mistakenly believes she will have to confront her first love and first heartbreak, Candace, it sends her tumbling back into her memories to re-live the terrifying and exhilarating joy of being a teenager in love … with another girl.
Convinced that Candace was her one true love, Dee sets off on a tumultuous cross country journey to find her in hopes of renewing their relationship. When she does not find the reconciliation she had hoped for, she dives into a new relationship with Noema, an outspoken artist. She feels completely vindicated until she makes the awful discovery that this too, has been more fantasy than the real love she desires. Dee’s quest leads to some serious soul searching and the realization that maybe love wasn’t the only thing that she lost all those years ago.
Books featuring an Asian or Pacific Islander character, written by an Asian or Pacific Islander author:
It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura (Japanese American main character)
Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like the fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.
When Sana and her family move to California, she begins to wonder if it’s finally time for some honesty, especially after she meets Jamie Ramirez. Jamie is beautiful and smart and unlike anyone Sana’s ever known.
There are just a few problems: Sana’s new friends don’t trust Jamie’s crowd; Jamie’s friends clearly don’t want her around anyway; and a sweet guy named Caleb seems to have more-than-friendly feelings for her. Meanwhile, her dad’s affair is becoming too obvious to ignore.
Sana always figured that the hardest thing would be to tell people that she wants to date a girl, but as she quickly learns, telling the truth is easy…what comes after it, though, is a whole lot more complicated.
I Can’t Think Straight by Shamim Sarif (Indian main character & Palestinian main character)
Spirited Christian Tala and shy Muslim Leyla could not be more different from each other, but the attraction is immediate and goes deeper than friendship.
Moving between Middle Eastern high society and London’s West End, this story explores the clashes between East and West, love and marriage, and convention and individuality creating a humorous and tender tale of unexpected love.
Falling Colours (The Vision Painter Book 1) by R J Samuel (Irish-Indian character)
Kiran is the only vision painter working in Ireland, the only female in the ancient Indian profession. As a vision painter, she paints the hopes and dreams of her clients into existence. Her practice is not doing well and she works as a waitress in a struggling restaurant in Connemara.
When Kiran is asked to paint the forbidden, forces are unleashed that she cannot contain, including two infuriating women with whom she must work in a race to restore order and save her gift.
Falling Colours is the first book in The Vision Painter series and introduces the unique concept of vision painting and Kiran, a woman who struggles with a fascinating gift.
You, Me, U.S. by Brigitte Bautista (Filipino character)
Best friends Jo and Liza are as opposite as night and day. Sex worker Jo swears by the worry-free, one-day-at-a-time dance through life. Salesclerk Liza has big plans for her family’s future, and there is nothing bigger than a one-way trip to the U.S.
But an almost-kiss, a sex dare, and news of Liza’s engagement to her American boyfriend unveil feelings Jo and Liza never thought they had. Deciding between staying together and drifting apart puts Liza’s best-laid plans and Jo’s laidback life in jeopardy.
When love clashes with lifelong ambitions and family expectations, someone has to give in.
Question is: who?
Deadline (Harrietta Lee #1) by Stephanie Ahn (Korean American character)
Disgraced witch Harrietta Lee has made a lot of mistakes in her life; there’s a reason she’s got a sizable burn scar slapped across the side of her neck and a formal letter of excommunication from the international underground magical community. But who has time to dwell on the past when you’re trying to make rent in New York?
Things are mostly clean and simple, until her next odd job is brought to her by the representative of a powerful corporate family—a family she once had close personal ties to. As she unwillingly digs through six years’ worth of personal baggage, she’s also got to contend with an inhuman admirer shadowing her in the street.
But hey, maybe it’ll be worth it for the beautiful women she gets to kiss…
Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan (Persian character)
Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is a relief. As an Iranian-American, she’s different enough; if word got out that Leila liked girls, life would be twice as hard.
But when beautiful new girl Saskia shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would. As she carefully confides in trusted friends about Saskia’s confusing signals, Leila begins to figure out that all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and some are keeping surprising secrets of their own.
Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin (Taiwanese characters)
Set in the post-martial-law era of late-1980s Taipei, Notes of a Crocodile is a coming-of-age story of queer misfits discovering love, friendship, and artistic affinity while hardly studying at Taiwan’s most prestigious university. Told through the eyes of an anonymous lesbian narrator nicknamed Lazi, this cult classic is a postmodern pastiche of diaries, vignettes, mash notes, aphorisms, exegesis, and satire by an incisive prose stylist and major countercultural figure.
Afflicted by her fatalistic attraction to Shui Ling, an older woman, Lazi turns for support to a circle of friends that includes a rich kid turned criminal and his troubled, self-destructive gay lover, as well as a bored, mischievous overachiever and her alluring slacker artist girlfriend.
Falling into Place by Sheryn Munir (Indian characters)
Romance is not for Tara. Embittered after a college fling, she vows to never fall in love again–especially since she believes there’s no future for same-sex love in her home in urban India.
Then, one rain-drenched evening, an insane decision brings the bubbly Sameen into her life and everything changes. Sameen is beautiful, a breath of fresh air…and almost certainly straight. All Tara’s carefully built-up defences start to crumble, one after the other. But is this relationship doomed before it can even start?
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar (Bengali characters)
Everyone likes Hani Khan – she’s easy going and one of the most popular girls at school. But when she comes out to her friends as bisexual, they don’t believe her, claiming she can’t be bi if she’s only dated guys. Panicked, Hani blurts out that she’s in a relationship… with a girl her friends can’t stand – Ishu Dey.
Ishu is the polar opposite of Hani. An academic overachiever, she hopes that becoming head girl will set her on the right track for university. Her only problem? Becoming head girl is a popularity contest and Ishu is hardly popular. Pretending to date Hani is the only way she’ll stand a chance of being elected.
Despite their mutually beneficial pact, they start developing real feelings for each other. But some people will do anything to stop two Bengali girls from achieving happily ever after.
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo (Vietnamese American character)
Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer and Asian, a Vietnamese adoptee treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.
But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.
Parachutes by Kelly Yang (Chinese character)
They’re called parachutes: teenagers dropped off to live in private homes and study in the United States while their wealthy parents remain in Asia. Claire Wang never thought she’d be one of them, until her parents pluck her from her privileged life in Shanghai and enroll her at a high school in California.
Suddenly she finds herself living in a stranger’s house, with no one to tell her what to do for the first time in her life. She soon embraces her newfound freedom, especially when the hottest and most eligible parachute, Jay, asks her out.
Dani De La Cruz, Claire’s new host sister, couldn’t be less thrilled that her mom rented out a room to Claire. An academic and debate team star, Dani is determined to earn her way into Yale, even if it means competing with privileged kids who are buying their way to the top. But Dani’s game plan veers unexpectedly off course when her debate coach starts working with her privately.
As they steer their own distinct paths, Dani and Claire keep crashing into one another, setting a course that will change their lives forever.
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Leave a comment and let us know which book you’ll be reading for the “character of a different race, ethnicity, or culture than you” category! Feel free to also add more book suggestions in the comments.
3 thoughts on “Sapphic book with a character of a different ethnicity, culture, or race than you (Sapphic Reading Challenge #22)”
Indian Main characters and very witty: When Tara meets Farah
This was going to be my suggestion, but you beat me to it. Even though its characters are a bit on the young side of my usual reads, this one was quite enjoyable.
Chinese main character in 1950s-San-Francisco novel, ‘Last Night at the Telegraph Club’ by Malinda Lo. A queer coming-of-age and coming-out YA story.