8 Diverse Books for Middle School

For middle school teachers, it can be difficult to find books to add to a classroom library. Some books are too mature for grades 6, 7, and 8, while others seem too babyish. This post features eight books that are perfect for middle grades.

8 Diverse Books for Middle School

All of these books feature characters dealing with multicultural issues or disabilities. All of the settings are in the United States, although some stories are set in other time periods. For teachers looking to expand their range of books, here are eight new books featuring a diverse set of characters. 
8 Diverse Books for Middle School

Amina's Voice by Hena Khan

Amina Khokar is a Pakastani-American who loves to sing, but is afraid to perform in public. She wants to enter a singing Now that she is in middle school, her life seems more complicated. As things in her life change, she feels lost and unsure. Her best friend, Soojin, decides to change her Korean name to something more American and isn't sure they are best friends anymore when Soojin becomes friends with someone else. At home, Amina is facing parental pressure to compete in a Quran reciting competition, and then her mosque suffers a hate crime.

This story really captures the awkward transition kids face when they leave elementary and begin middle school. Just like many students, Amine tries to figure out how to fit in yet still be true to herself.

8 Diverse Books for Middle School

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez

Malu (Maria Luisa) is a seventh grader who wants to do well - but also follows her heart to do what she believes is right. Her mother recently moved them to Chicago, away from her record store-owning father in Gainesville, Florida. Malu is not interested in connecting with her Mexican roots (she thinks.) Instead she loves punk and making Zines, which are featured throughout the book. 

Malu is forced to figure out who she is and what she stands for when her punk attitude and style aren't accepted by the principal at her new school. Malu is a true preteen, figuring out who she is throughout the story. This character will appeal to a lot of students!

8 Diverse Books for Middle School

It Ain't So Awful Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas

It's the late 1970s, and Zomorod (Cindy) Yousefzadeh is the new kid in Newport Beach, California. No longer wanting to be the smart loner kid, Cindy is determined to start fresh and become more American with her family's latest move. However, her attempts to fit in become even harder when the Iran Hostage Crisis occurs. Cindy is now asked to explain her culture at school and is shunned by some students simply for being Iranian.

This protagonist stands out because she struggles through phases that many immigrant children go through: being embarrassed by her parents, deciding if she wants to be more American, having to speak for her entire culture, etc. Cindy's story may also help students to see events from an immigrant's perspective - such as understanding how the international news affects her family personally, although they themselves had nothing to do with what was happening in Iran. Another great story about fitting in and finding yourself.

8 Diverse Books for Middle School

Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Jason, a 12 year old with autism, tells this story in a first person narrative, As many people with autism, he struggles to connect with people and is frequently bullied at school. Jason is loved and supported by his family, although they don't always understand him. 

Because of his struggles, he goes to an online website, Storyboard, to write stories and be himself. There, he becomes friends with Phoenixbird (Rebecca). Although he would love to go to the Storyboard convention to meet Rebecca in person, Jason is afraid he will be rejected once she knows he has autism. Again, this book focuses on discovering who you are and accepting yourself. 

8 Diverse Books for Middle School

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

Jade comes from a poor neighborhood and is determined to get out in order to succeed. When she is offered a scholarship to a mostly-white private high school, she accepts. There, Jade struggles to feel understood. Opportunities feel like put-downs, like the mentorship program. It's for "at-risk" girls, but the girls are all Black from "bad" neighborhoods. Even her mentor, a successful Black woman, doesn't really understand her.

This book explores identity and self-worth, as well as how race and class affects relationships. Jade makes collages throughout the story, and they serve as an analogy for her "piecing" her identity together.

8 Diverse Books for Middle School

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

Aven's family moves from Kansas to Arizona, where her family has been hired to manage a run-down Western theme park. Starting over is a challenge for Aven, because she was born without arms. Meeting new people can be awkward, because they don't always know how to interact with her.

She meets Connor while eating in the school library (to avoid staring eyes watching her eat with her feet.) He has been barking at her, because he has Tourette's Syndrome. They soon become friends and end up exploring a mystery at the theme park. A great book about acceptance.

8 Diverse Books for Middle School

This is Just a Test by Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang

Set in the 1980s, David is trying to plan his bar-mitzvah while trying to please his Jewish and Chinese grandmothers, who argue about everything. He also has to police his friends who don't get along, and all David really wants is for everyone to be happy. They are on a trivia team together, but Scott doesn't like his best friend, Hector. Scott talk him into digging a bomb shelter after they see The Day After on television. To complicate matters even more, David has a crush on Kelli Ann, but doesn't know how to talk to her.

This book portrays the kids in a realistic way, with normal problems and not knowing how to deal with things. At the same time, the book is pretty funny, with the warring grandmas added an extra dimension!

8 Diverse Books for Middle School

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman

Growing up in a multicultural home can be difficult. Although Tara Feinstein's mom converted to Judaism, she grew up a Hindu. As Tara begins planning her Bat Mitzvah, she worries that it will make her lose her Indian roots. Does she really want to have a Bat Mitzvah? Does embracing one part of her family mean she has to let go of the other?

At the same time, she is also dealing with coming-of-age issues, such as wondering if her best friend Ben-o might really like her. Her other best friend, Sheila, seems to have made a new friend.  Tara has to deal with these issues and other middle school problems all while trying to figure out who she is.

8 Diverse Books for Middle School

Do you have any must-have diverse books for middle school?

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