There’s no secret about the general lack of diversity when it comes to women of color in film and books. If this past year has taught us anything, it’s that representation matters. It’s important for all readers to be able to be feel included in the narrative and have society reinforce positive views of themselves. That’s why we’ve curated a list of books featuring powerful and inspiring female characters who are BIPOC.
Books Featuring Powerful and Inspiring Female Characters Who Are BIPOC
1. Wings of Ebony by J. Elle
“Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue, a Black teen from Houston. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon—a hidden island of magic wielders.
What happens when Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston? She learns to embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground.
2. These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.
A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.
3. Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
Bree in Legendborn shows that strength doesn’t mean fighting every battle and admitting that you need help doesn’t make you weak. After her mother died, Bree shut out the memories of her family, it was easier to live with the pain when it was locked away deep inside her head. But when she witnesses a demon attack and a mysterious teenage mage attempts—and fails—to erase what Bree saw from her mind, it unlocks a magic deep inside herself as well as memory that shows her that her mother’s death might not have been an accident. To find out the truth, Bree joins a secret society of the descendants of King Arthur. This modern-day twist on the Arthurian legend is filled with Southern Black Girl Magic and once you start reading you won’t be able to put it down.
4. Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
It’s been three years since ICE raids and phone calls from Mexico and an ill-fated walk across the Sonoran. Three years since Sia Martinez’s mom disappeared. Although she presumes her mom dead, every new moon Sia drives into the desert and lights candles to guide her mom home. Then one night, under a million stars, a blue-lit spacecraft crashes in front of Sia’s car…and it’s carrying her mom, who’s very much alive. She uncovers secrets as profound as they are dangerous in this stunning and inventive exploration of first love, family, immigration, and our vast, limitless universe.
5. Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells
Raised among the ruins of a conquered mountain nation, Maren dreams only of sharing a quiet life with her girlfriend Kaia—until the day Kaia is abducted by the Aurati, prophetic agents of the emperor, and forced to join their ranks. Desperate to save her, Maren hatches a plan to steal one of the emperor’s coveted dragons and storm the Aurati stronghold.
6. The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed
Set in Los Angeles, 1992 against the background of the Rodney King Riots, The Black Kids centers on the charmed life of Ashley Bennett. Ashley’s family is wealthy; she attends an expensive private school and lives in a fancy neighborhood of L.A. But when four police officers are acquitted after beating a Black man, Rodney King, half to death, she’s no longer just one of the girls—she’s one of the Black kids. Ashley tries to continue living as she always has, but when a rumor Ashley starts threatens to derail the future of her classmate and fellow Black kid, Lashawn, she’s forced to confront uncomfortable truths about the world, and about herself.
7. SLAY by Brittney Morris
By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she’s a gamer in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer. But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the virtual world, SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals.
Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera strives to preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness.
8. Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon
When Liliana is accepted into Westburg, the wealthy—and white—suburban high school, she does what it takes to fit in.
So what if she changes her name? So what if she changes the way she talks? So what if she’s seeing her neighborhood in a different way? But then light is shed on some hard truths: It isn’t that her father doesn’t want to come home—he can’t…and her whole family is in jeopardy. And when racial tensions at school reach a fever pitch, the walls that divide feel insurmountable.
Liliana must choose: Use this foundation as a platform to speak her truth, or risk crumbling under its weight.
9. Facing the Sun by Janice Lynn Mather
This Caribbean-set story follows four friends—Eve, KeeKee, Faith, and Nia—who experience unexpected changes in their lives during the summer when a hotel developer purchases their community’s beloved beach. Ready or not, it’s time for these four friends to face the sun.
10. Bruised by Tanya Boteju
This beautiful and vibrant coming-of-age story is about a teen girl who navigates first love, identity, and grief when she immerses herself in the colorful, brutal, beautiful world of roller derby.
11. Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju
Perpetually awkward Nima Kumara-Clark is bored with her insular community of Bridgeton, in love with her straight girlfriend, and trying to move past her mother’s unexpected departure. After a bewildering encounter at a local festival, Nima finds herself suddenly immersed in the drag scene on the other side of town.
This funny, feel-good debut novel is about a queer teen who navigates questions of identity and self-acceptance while discovering the magical world of drag.
12. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, and from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” As she attends a summer program for aspiring web developers, what she doesn’t know is that her parents conspired to arrange her marriage with the parents of a guy also attending the program.
13. A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey
For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. The plan was 1) take over her abuela’s role as head baker at their panadería, 2) move in with her best friend after graduation, and 3) live happily ever after with her boyfriend. But then the Trifecta happened, and everything—including Lila herself—fell apart.
Her parents send her off to England to relax and reset. This charming, heartfelt story follows a Miami girl who unexpectedly finds love—and herself—in a small English town.
14. Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley
Phantoms, massive beasts of nightmare, began terrorizing the world. At the same time, four girls—the Effigies—appeared, each with a unique power to control a classical element. Since then, they have protected the world from the Phantoms. At the death of one Effigy, another is chosen, pulled from her normal life into the never-ending battle.
When Maia unexpectedly becomes the next Fire Effigy, she resists her new calling. A quiet girl with few friends and almost no family, she was much happier to admire the Effigies from afar. Never did she imagine having to master her ability to control fire, to protect innocent citizens from the Phantoms, or to try bringing together the other three Effigies.
15. Rima’s Rebellion by Margarita Engle
An inspiring coming-of-age story told in prose and “spare, lyrical” verse (The Horn Book Magazine) from award-winning author Margarita Engle about a girl falling in love for the first time while finding the courage to protest for women’s right to vote in 1920s Cuba.