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Diversify Your Bookshelf: 5 Inclusive Novels to Expand Your Perspective

Several years ago, I remember looking at my bookshelf and realizing that many of the stories I was reading had primarily White, straight protagonists. The Hunger Games, Twilight, and Divergent are just a few examples. Not only was I disappointed in the books themselves, but I was also disappointed in myself that I hadn’t taken notice of this before. With winter break just around the corner, now is the perfect time to pick up a new book. So to help you all out, I took a look at my Goodreads account and picked out a couple books I’ve read recently as well as a couple that I’ve added to my TBR (to be read). Even better, all of them highlight people of color, people in the LGBTQ+ community, or both!

Take A Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

I finished this book a couple weeks ago during one of my many bouts of procrastination. It’s the second book in the Brown Sisters trilogy, all of which can be read separately and highlight interracial couples. Danika Brown is a Black, bisexual PHD student who’s chronically averse to committed relationships. Zafir, our Muslim Pakistani-British ex-Rugby player turned security guard, however, is quite the opposite. He reads romance novels and isn’t into casual hookups. On paper they look like opposites, but you’ll soon find that it’s a match made in heaven. This fake-dating-to-lovers story is guaranteed to have you smiling from ear to ear and wishing you could #girlboss as much as Dani does.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

You might be getting the impression that I’m a fervent romance reader, and you’re not wrong. The Kiss Quotient is absolutely adorable and perfect for hopeless romantics like myself. It follows Stella, a young woman on the autism spectrum who hires Michael, a Vietnamese and Swedish (and extremely hot) escort to teach her about relationships. Honestly, need I say more? It demonstrates what consent looks like and how important it is, and it’s sure to make you feel all sorts of warm, fuzzy feelings inside. As an added bonus, it’s an ownvoices novel, as the author Helen Hoang is also on the autism spectrum.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid 

This book has been all over the internet in the past year, and to be completely honest, I first heard about it on TikTok. This is one of those books that simply doesn’t get bad reviews – a masterpiece so to speak. It’s about a Cuban woman named Evelyn Hugo as she recounts her life in Hollywood from the 1950’s to the 80’s. Contrary to the title, this story isn’t really about her many husbands at all, but rather about Evelyn herself and the love she had for another woman. It tackles a variety of important topics, especially concerning the disparities between how men and women are treated — whether it be in the workplace, the media, or the aftermath of divorce. We see firsthand how Evelyn is expected to tone herself down, be less independent, be less intelligent, etc. to make herself more appealing or acceptable in the eyes of men. Filled with feminist and queer themes, this book is a must read.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

I don’t normally read poetry, but the raving reviews for this book made me pick it up. It’s about a Dominican teenager from Harlem named Xiomara who discovers slam poetry as a way to help her understand and cultivate her own identity. The pieces tackle many issues from sexism, to family life, to questioning one’s faith. Moreover, it provides an impactful look into what it means to become your own person. If you’re looking for something thought-provoking, relevant, and full of beautiful prose, this book is for you. Acevedo’s masterful writing will have you hanging onto her every word.

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

I won’t lie…this book is thick. Its 850 pages will require some massive commitment, but perhaps we can tackle it together. Fantasy lovers, I’m looking at you. The book follows four main characters living in a world on the brink of war. The universe Shannon creates is full of magic, political intrigue, and deception. The plot centers on the return of The Nameless One, a mystical dragon who threatens to destroy the world and everything in it. The western and eastern kingdoms must unite, putting aside their differences, to face this threat. I’ve been hyping myself up for this one for a while, and with winter break approaching, I’ll finally have time to finish it. I hope you all will give it a try, too!

As always, be mindful that some of these books deal with mature topics like homophobia, sexual harassment, and misogyny, so please, please look up any triggers before reading.

If you have any other suggestions for our fellow readers, feel free to let us know on Instagram @hercampusupenn!

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Anna Shumway

U Penn '24

Anna is a sophomore at UPenn studying philosphy, political science, and economics.
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