Current scholarship in literacy education underscores the inefficacy of standardized education in public schools, particularly for minority students. At the same time, a longstanding lack of understanding between the various culture groups that live in the United States often results in minority groups that are either stereotyped, misunderstood, or viewed as Other. Both of these issues can be traced to the literature that students read in school, which focuses on "classic" literature—often synonymous with "white" literature—that excludes minority narratives. While minorities struggle more with "academic literacy" (the ability to read and write in an active, reflective manner), there is also a pressing need to educate all students in "cultural literacy," or a knowledge of and appreciation for difference in worldview, culture, and opinion. One possible solution is a more effective implementation of multiethnic young adult literature in the classroom. Careful consideration of specific cultural texts can help minority students connect positively with literature, increasing student engagement with academics. Providing educators, librarians, and parents with a framework for selecting literature that begins to address this issue is a critical first step in empowering minority students with emotional and intellectual development as well as providing mainstream students with alternative perspectives that establish common ground, develop social awareness, and reduce stereotyping across groups. This thesis examines literacy and education studies to develop criteria and rationales for selecting books that appeal not only to minorities, but to readers from outside those groups. These criteria provide useful guidelines for educators and librarians in selecting multicultural novels for young adults that (1) act as "mirrors" of relatability to boost self-esteem and foster a love of reading in minority youth, and (2) provide "windows" into other cultures that promote greater cross-cultural respect and understanding. After setting up a theoretical framework that lays out the challenges and benefits to this approach as well as criteria for selecting these novels, this paper provides analyses of several books that meet these criteria as well as a booklist of additional titles. Addressing these issues within the context of young adult literature is crucial to the development of self-assertive, productive adults who value themselves and the different individuals that they interact with on a daily basis; on the other hand, failure to address these issues early perpetuates a cycle of marginalization and distrust that is difficult to break in the adult world.



College and Department

Humanities; English



Date Submitted


Document Type





multicultural education, multiethnic literature, cultural literacy, academic literacy, young adult literature