- Lena Mano, V.S. Santoni, and Idris Grey are all young, LGBTQ+ authors of colour.
- “It’s really important for people to have a diverse reading list because it allows them to expand their humanity and empathy,” Grey told Insider.
- Each author gave a list of books that they believe can help readers to become better allies to people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Lena Mano, V.S. Santoni, and Idris Grey are young, LGBTQ+ authors of colour who have each written at least one book for Wattpad, an online storytelling platform.
As Pride Month comes to a close, each author shared their perspective on why it is important to read books by LGBTQ+ authors, as well as authors of colour.
For those who want to be better allies to both the LGBTQ+ community and people of colour, each author gave a list of recommended reading.
Lena Mano, who writes coming-of-age stories about LGBTQ+ people of colour, believes representation helps readers feel seen.
Mano’s story, “Our Strange Love,” follows 18-year-old Riley, a high schooler seeking direction in his life. Riley meets Eran, a 24-year-old grad student, and though the two young men are in different places in their lives, they begin a relationship and must decide if love truly does conquer all.
Mano told Insider that it’s important to have a diverse reading list “not only for people who are LGBTQ+, but also for people who aren’t, and even allies, because they can all get something different out of it.”
Mano said that LGBTQ+ readers “might be able to relate to a character or see a character who has something in common with them, but with a different experience,” while “allies can see different experiences that LGBTQ+ people have as individuals.”
For those who aren’t familiar with LGBTQ+ experiences, they can “learn a lot, and build empathy and sympathy,” according to Mano.
Mano’s recommended reading includes “The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali,” which features a queer Muslim girl as its main character.
Mano recently read “The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali” by Sabina Khan, which is about a queer girl, and though her culture was different from Mano’s, Mano “still felt a connection with the character because both of our families aren’t completely accepting of our orientations.”
“I think it’s impossible to completely immerse yourself in an experience if you haven’t lived that life, but at the same time you can make connections,” Mano said.
Mano also recommended “Felix Ever After,” which centres on a transgender teen facing an online bully.
“Felix Ever After” by Kacen Callender is about a transgender teen who struggles with his identity and wonders if he’ll ever fall in love. Felix faces an anonymous online attack from someone who posts his deadname and photos of him before his transition, which ends up leading to a surprising love interest.
Mano’s last recommendation was “You Should See Me in a Crown,” which tells the story of a poor black girl in a Midwestern town.
“You Should See Me in a Crown” is about a girl named Liz Lightly, who struggles with being poor and Black in a small Midwestern town, and has aspirations of attending a prestigious college, playing in its orchestra, and becoming a doctor.
Idris Grey writes young adult novellas, and her work subverts popular culture to create narratives that centre on queer people of colour.
Grey’s Wattpad story, “Legally Black,” is loosely based on the hit movie “Legally Blonde.” It follows high schooler Yves as she tries to prove herself to her ex-girlfriend by running for student body president.
Grey won a Watty Award for another story, “Girls Chase Girls.” Grey said the story is basically a “female queer ‘The Outsiders'” and it gives “women and non-binary people the chance to shake free of the image of who they should be.”
“It’s really important for people to have a diverse reading list because it allows them to expand their humanity and empathy,” Grey told Insider. “It’s easy for us to look at people who look like us or have lived experiences similar to us, and understand that they are people. But especially for people who live in areas that are not diverse in different ways, it’s kind of astonishing that people can forget that other people aren’t hypothetical, and that they’re not caricatures or stereotypes. Reading can really bridge that gap.”
Grey recommended “Cemetery Boys,” which follows a transgender Latinx teen, who wants his family to accept him.
Grey stressed the importance of reading non-fiction books for those who want to learn more about intersectionality or “interlocking oppressions” as she described it.
However, as a fiction writer herself, she recommended some of her favourite fiction books, which included two of the books Mano recommended, “You Should See Me in a Crown” and “Felix Ever After,” as well as “Cemetery Boys” by Aiden Thomas.
“Cemetery Boys” is about a trans boy who summons a ghost while trying to get his traditional Latinx family to accept his gender.
Grey is Black, and describes herself as queer. She said that “even reading about people with other queer identities is a breath of fresh air.”
“It helps me redefine myself and learn more about myself, not just in the sense of my own identity, but in understanding other people’s. I think that’s why it’s so important – it helps you become a better person,” she said.
Grey also recommended “The Black Flamingo.” which is about a mixed-race gay teen who discovers the art of drag.
“The Black Flamingo” by Dean Atta won the Stonewall Book Award. It is about Michael, a gay teen from London who is Jamaican and Greek/Cypriot, and struggles with his racial identity. However, when Michael discovers the Drag Society, his life changes.
Grey said that for marginalised people, who don’t see themselves portrayed often, representation gives “a human credential.” She said that it tells marginalised people that “your story is important too.”
V.S. Santoni writes fantasy genre books, and believes that the authors people read should reflect the diverse world they live in.
Santoni’s debut novel, “I’m a Gay Wizard,” was written after they heard that J.K. Rowling told readers that Dumbledore was gay. “I thought that was such a cop-out,” they said. “I wrote it at first to make fun of that whole idea,” they said.
“I’m a Gay Wizard” follows Johnny and Alison as they enter the Marduk Institute for Wizards. Unlike in “Harry Potter” the Marduk Institute is a prison, in which the young wizards must fight for acceptance, love, and their futures.
Santoni had a different take on the importance of diversifying reading lists.
“I think the whole idea of diversity is kind of weird because it’s weird to me that we’re other. You talk about books from authors that are Black or Latinx, or from a different background, and it seems weird to frame them as diverse titles because that normalizes the idea that the norm is white, straight, and cis,” they said.
“I think people should move away from the idea that they are reading ‘diversely or inclusively.’ Just read from the people you live around, our world is integrated, it’s not just a cis, white, straight world, so why are you only reading books by cis, straight, white authors?” they said.
Santoni recommended “Given,” which tells the story of a black warrior princess.
“Given” by Nandi Taylor is about Yenni, a Yirba warrior princess who must find a cure for her father’s illness before it kills him. She meets a mysterious dragon named Weysh, who can turn into human form and tells her that she is his “Given,” or mate.
Santoni also recommended the “A Blade So Black” series, which is a reimagined “Alice in Wonderland” with a black female lead.
The “A Blade So Black” series by L.L. McKinney follows Alice as she enters a dark and sinister version of Wonderland and must fight evil creatures. However, Alice’s real life in Atlanta, Georgia, becomes more complicated as she spends more time in Wonderland.
Santoni’s last recommendation was “The Broken Earth” trilogy, which is about a future Earth plagued by continuous apocalyptic events.
N. K. Jemisin’s “The Broken Earth” trilogy, which ends with “The Stone Sky,” pictured above, is set on the Stillness, a super-continent on a future Earth. The Stillness is constantly facing the Seasons, which are disasters that wreak havoc on the planet. The surviving individuals must find a way to exist in the constant chaos.