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Unsurprisingly, we’re a fan of disabled representation—and it’s important to us that this representation is not limited to only straight and white characters. We’d like to highlight some books that break this mold.

Six MG/YA novels featuring disabled Black protagonists:

Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth
The Other Half of my Heart by Sundee T. Frazier
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor 
Pinned by Sharon G. Flake
Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan
Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

We have not yet reviewed any of these books at Disability in Kidlitthough we’d like to!—so we’d love to find out more about how well the characters are portrayed. Have you read any of these? What did you think? Share your thoughts!

How did I manage to miss this yesterday? Tsk!

The only one I have read is “The Other Half of my Heart”.  I can’t speak from the perspective of a black person (whether someone very light like the main protagonist, or someone darker like her twin sister), nor can I speak from the perspective of someone with dyslexia, like the twin sister. But I loved the book: it’s about the protagonist exploring what her identity as a black person means when she is so very light, and figuring out how to relate to her twin sister in a world that sometimes treats the two of them differently because the protagonist is usually assumed to be white unless it’s made obvious otherwise.  Her sister’s dyslexia is not a major part of the story, but it’s there.  A sweet story about figuring out who you are and what that means to you and how to be a better sister.

I need to try Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor … I love fantasy, so disability plus fantasy sounds great, and set in Nigeria even better.  I should also try Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan partly just because it’s set in Tanzania and involves someone with albinism: I know that violence against people with albinism in Eastern Africa (including in Tanzania in particular) is a HUGE real world problem.  Will be interesting to see how well the author handles this, though I am not close enough to this experience to be in a position to judge well.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Andrea! It sounds like a very intriguing book. I was actually under the impression that the sister with dyslexia was also a PoV character in the novel, which is why I included it in the list—it was intended to be protagonists only. My bad.

We haven’t featured any content regarding albinism on the website yet—I’d love to correct that oversight, including by reviewing Akata Witch and Golden Boy! We’re particularly hoping to find reviewers who are familiar with life as a Black person with albinism/life with albinism in Nigeria and Tanzania and can discuss those aspects in addition to the technical and meta aspects. Fingers crossed! 

And on a personal note—YES, I want to read so many of the books on the lists I’ve been putting together! They look just amazing. 


An anonymous reader requested more books like Janet Taylor Lisle’s The Art of Keeping Cool, so here are a few ideas.

World War II, both at the front (the many fronts) and back at home, is simply chock full of amazing stories.  Some are small, and some are very grand.  And so many stories have yet to be told, even after almost 70 years.

So, here are my ideas about where to go from The Art of Keeping Cool, which zeroes in on the the home front, takes on wartime fears and paranoia, and the prejudices every community faces around just who is labeled an enemy. 

As always, click on a title to request it from the library.

The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

This is a tale that begins before the War but tangles expertly with the dangerous messages of Nazi era Germany to their own people.  Pressure mounts from all side on Karl Stern, a young Jewish man drawn in to boxing but increasingly concerned over his idol’s loyalties, and this is a great addition to the many teen titles addressing Germany’s civilian side just before the War.

Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle

If you want more from the Art of Keeping Cool’s author, this local bit of history, featuring the bootlegging trade in Rhode Island during Prohibition, works in to a solid mystery and thriller.  Lisle does a great job here in making the late 1920s come to life, just as she did with the 1940s.

The Boys on the Boat by Daniel James Brown

This title is still in high demand, but it’s very worth seeking out — a combination of a portrait of the US before the war, through the individual lives of the US crew team heading to the Berlin Olympics, and a fascinating history of crew itself.  I loved it for everything it is: exciting, thoughtful, a snapshot of the period right before the War, and an edge-of-your-seat sports story.

City of Spies by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan, art by Pascal Dizin

This graphic novel features a lot of the same elements of The Art of Keeping Cool, and the art (which is beautifully reminiscent of the Adventures of Tintin) is bright, evocative, and very true to the period.  For another adventure among the suspicious theories that were bound to rise up on the homefront, check it out.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

I have already gone on about the various reasons I love Code Name Verity on this very site, but for this list, it’s the central spy and complicated puzzle that could make it a great next read.

Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac

I admit it still surprises me when folks haven’t heard of the Navajo code talkers, but if you haven’t yet encountered them, this novel is a great way to get their story.

Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben MacIntyre

If you’re interested in the real shenanigans (and talents) behind spycraft during World War II, you can’t go wrong with the many books by Ben MacIntyre on the subject.  His Operation Mincemeat is delightful, and his latest, A Spy Among Friends, about Kim Philby and The Cambridge Spies has been been getting great buzz.  But my favorite has to be Double Cross — all about the oddball group of spies who essentially misdirected the Germans so that D-Day could happen.  It’s a remarkable story among remarkable stories, and it reminds all of us that actual spycraft is quite different than James Bond would have us believe.

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

I admit, I fall back on recommending Flygirl a lot, but…it’s so good, I’m just going to keep doing it.  Flygirl is the tale of a young pilot who passes as white to join the Women Air Service Pilots (WASP), and it’s a complicated but engaging look at how those at home could help the war…but only if they were deemed the “correct” sort of person to lend a hand.  Prejudice is addressed through a different lens here, but no less powerful.

Resistance by Carla Jablonski and art by Leland Purvis

This graphic novel series, followed by Defiance and Victory, tells the story of the young children in a French town who participated in the now famous French resistance during the Nazi occupation.  Told from the younger and supposedly weaker point of view, this is a great series to learn more about just how the civilians fought tooth and nail in the French countryside.

Sekret by Lindsey Smith

This is a different era of spying, set in the 1960s, but the suspense is no less tense!  Sekret takes place during the Cold War between the US and Russia, and Smith simply nails the paranoia, mindgames (in this case literal), and vicious expectations that plagued both countries during this period.  A smart, speculative thrill ride.

Jai Rani Alisha: The Glorification of White Crime



Take a facet of crime, and then look at television shows/movies that feature those criminals as protagonists.

White mobs.


White serial killers.


White political corruption


White drug dealers


I mostly want to talk about this as a TV phenomenon, but pick a crime, any crime, and Western media has probably made a movie/TV series/play/etc. with a white person that romanticizes the criminal activity. No matter what, a white person can do whatever terrible crimes and still have a TV/movie fanbase that loves them.

When you see black or brown people committing crimes on screen, you are to see them thugs and criminal masterminds and people to be beat down.

When you see white people committing crimes on screen, you see a three-dimensional portrait of why someone might commit that crime, how criminals are people too, and how you should even love them for the crimes that they commit because they’re just providing for their families or they’ve wronged or they’re just people and not perfect. This is particularly a luxury given to white male characters, since there few white female criminals as protagonists.

If and of the above shows were about black or brown folks, there would be a backlash of (white) people claiming that TV and movies are romanticizing criminals and are treating them too much like heroes and that it will affect viewers and encourage violence and “thuggish” behavior. And yet fictional white criminals get to have a deep fanbase who loves these white criminals, receive accolades and awards, get called amazing television that portray the complexities of human nature. Viewers of these characters see past the atrocious crimes and into their humanity, a luxury that white characters always have while characters of color rarely do. The closest that mainstream TV has come to showing black criminals as main characters is probably The Wire, and even then, the criminals share equal screen time and equal status as main characters as the police trying to stop them.

The idea that crime can be so heavily romanticized and glorified to such a degree is undoubtedly a privilege given to white characters. The next time you hear someone talk about Dexter Morgan or Walter White in a positive way, it may be an opportunity to rethink how white people can always able to be seen as people no matter what they do, while everyone else can be boiled down to nothing but a criminal.

I always felt extremely uncomfortable with this trope because, not only is it racist, but it tends to feed into the already too common propensity society has to humanize, romanticize and exonerate irrevocably terrible white men. Like if you’re a white man and you commit awful crimes, you will likely go down in history as a legendary celebrity and historical figure

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