EducationDaily Booklist: multicultural diversity titles for YA readers


During Book Week – 19 to 25 August – EducationDaily will publish a daily book list, with recommended reading across picture books, and books for primary-aged readers, as well as YA  fiction and non-fiction.

When my 15-year old mixed-race daughter – who is well past her Disney era – joyfully referred to herself as (Halle Bailey’s) The Little Mermaid on a recent snorkelling trip, I was reminded again of just how much representation matters.

In the words of Marian Wright Edelman, an American activist for the rights of children who believes children have the right to be inspired about their futures, “you can’t be what you can’t see”.

For that to happen, being able to see visible role models who look and live like they do matter. Beyond that, reading multiculturally diverse books promotes cultural understanding, critical thinking, empathy, and inclusivity.

Here’s a list of Australian multicultural diversity-themed books to get you started.

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When Michael Met Mina

by Randa Abdel-Fattah

When Michael Met Mina (also known as The Lines We Cross) tackles cultural differences and the fallout of racism within a community, as teenagers Michael and Mina, who first meet on opposite sides of a refugee rally, fall in love as this political issue divides their hometown.

Mina fled Afghanistan on a leaky boat with her mother, landed at a refugee camp, and transferred to a detention centre. In the town where they’re now settling, Michael’s parents have founded a new political party called Aussie Values, to stop those very boats.

An excerpt from the book reads, “I’m starting to realise that being born into this social world is a little like being born into clean air. You take it in as soon as you breathe, and pretty soon you don’t even realise that while you can walk around with clear lungs, other people are wearing oxygen masks just to survive”.

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Randa Abdel-Fattah is a Palestinian-Australian human right activist, columnist and author. Her fiction and non-fiction books explore identity and what it means to be Muslim.

Book cover for When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah

The Hate Race

by Maxine Beneba Clarke

The Hate Race is a memoir that shares Maxine’s experience of growing up as a person of colour (poc) in suburban Australia in the 1980s and 1990s. Maxine faced racism and discrimination at a young age, while simultaneously navigating the teenage complexities of identity and belonging.

The book’s opening line reads, “Photographs of the time show my father in flared cords and tightly fitted shirts, his oval-shaped afro rising high above his head”.

Maxine Beneba Clarke is the award-winning Afro-Caribbean-Australian writer of 14 children and adult books, including the short story collection Foreign Soil. She’s known for her poetry, short stories, and essays that explore themes of race, identity, and migration.

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Book cover for The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba-Clarke

The Family Law

by Benjamin Law

In this more humorous family memoir, which was adapted into a six-partSBS TV series, Benjamin Law chronicles his experiences growing up in a Chinese-Australian family in Nambour, Queensland. Follow along as he navigates cultural clashes and family dynamics.

The Family Law was published in 2010 and recently updated with a new chapter dedicated to Benjamin’s family’s more recent antics of the last decade.

The book’s opening lines read, “Lately, I’ve been stitching together a zine for my family that gets passed around over Christmas. It’s called The Family Dictionary.”

Benjamin Law is a Chinese-Australian author, journalist, and TV screenwriter. His Cantonese Dad and Malaysian Mum migrated from Hong Kong to the Sunshine Coast in the 1970s and he’s known for candid and witty writing that delves into his cultural experiences.

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A book cover for The Family Law by Benjamin Law

I Am Out With Lanterns

by Emily Gale

I Am Out With Lanterns portrays the lives of three teenagers. They’re from different cultural backgrounds and form a deep friendship as they deal with personal struggles and family dynamics. The opening line of the book reads, “It has taken nine years to get back to our front gate”.

Emily Gale is an Australian author and editor who “really nails that feeling of being on the cusp of growing up”. She writes for children and teenagers and her books explore multiculturalism and diverse perspectives.

book cover for I Am Out With Lanterns by Emily Gale

Freedom Swimmer

by Wai Chim

Freedom Swimmer is based on true events and follows the journey of Ming and Li. They escape China during the Cultural Revolution by swimming from mainland China, poverty and oppression, to Hong Kong, freedom and a better life.

The opening lines of the book transport the reader to Dapeng Peninsula, Longgang, Guangdong in the winter of 1962, with Ming’s words, “Mama is gone. I fought back tears, gripping the handle of the wheelbarrow so her body wouldn’t tip out too soon”.

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Wai Chim is a New York-born Chinese author who has lived in Australia for 10 years (and former contestant on Australian Survivor: Brains V Brawn). She writes about migration, displacement, and cultural identity.

A book cover for Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chin

The Protected

by Claire Zorn

In The Protected, protagonist Hannah struggles to cope with the loss of her family in a tragic accident. As she navigates grief, she forms an unexpected friendship with a new student.

The opening lines of the book read, “I have three months left to call Katie my older sister. Then the gap will close and I will pass her. I will get older. But Katie will always be fifteen, eleven months and twenty-one days old”.

Claire Zorn is an Australian author known for exploring complex emotions and relationships in her YA novels The Sky So Heavy, The Protected and One Would Think the Deep.

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A book cover for The Protected by Megan Jacobson


by Megan Jacobson

Yellow follows Kirra, a teenager who’s being bullied at school. She also happens to communicate with ghosts. As her story unfolds a teenage ghost is speaking to her through a broken phone booth and they make a pact: she’ll solve his murdered if he makes her popular, gets her parents back together – and promises to stop haunting her.

The book’s opening lines read, “They would be pretty. Their eyes and lips and noses are arranged in all the proper places, in the proper proportions. They would be pretty, except for the furious expressions they’re all wearing as they look at me”.

Megan Jacobson is an Australian author who grew up in Darwin and the far north coast of New South Wales. She has a journalism degree and  lives in Sydney, working in TV news production, game show writing, and script editing. Her short stories incorporate diverse perspectives and themes of cultural significance. Yellow is her first novel.

A book cover for Yellow by Megan Jacobson


by Shivaun Plozza

Frankie is the story of a tough and street-smart girl who forms an unlikely friendship with a mysterious boy. As they set out to solve the disappearance of Frankie’s half brother they uncover painful pasts that could change their lives.

The opening lines of the book read, “’Don’t tell him where you live. Don’t give him any money. Don’t trust a word he says. That’s what Aunt Vinnie said about Xavier.”

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Shivaun Plozza is an Australian author of books for children and teens. She pens diverse characters and explores tough themes in her YA literature which appears in journals, magazines and anthologies.

A book cover for Frankie by Shivaun Plozza

The Sidekicks

by Will Kostakis

In The Sidekicks teenagers Ryan, Harley and Miles – the swimmer, the rebel and the nerd – navigate grief after the sudden death of a fourth best friend, Isaac. It’s a story told in three parts as the boys explore connection, self-discovery and identity in light of this missing link.

The opening lines of this book set the scene with the words, “‘Oh, we are not actually friends.’ I have to give Miles credit. It takes real skill to be that insensitive”.

Will Kostakis is an Australian author and former Sydney Morning Herald Young Writer of the Year. He signed his first book deal in high school and released his first novel Loathing Lola when he was just nineteen. His YA novels explore friendship, identity, and diversity.

A book cover for The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

These authors and their books contribute significantly to the Australian literary landscape by offering diverse perspectives and stories that reflect the multicultural society of this country.

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By Charlie
Charlie Writes is a Sydney based, London born, Caribbean writer, interviewer and poet. A colourful 27 year career has taken Charlie from typing poems on the spot on her 1970’s typerwiter named June, to donning a hard hat as a roving reporter in the construction industry. All while living out her favourite quote that the greatest adventures begin with a simple conversation.