Books are mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors.
You might have heard that phrase before, but what does it really mean?
Books are mirrors because they reflect a reader’s experiences back at them in the stories they tell. Like windows, literature gives a view from someone else’s perspective. They even allow the reader to step into another space and into another person’s shoes. Rudine Sims Bishop used this metaphor to emphasize the importance of diverse identities in books, especially children’s literature.
Do you remember the first time you connected with a character in a story? Every child deserves that magical moment!
Young readers (and all readers) need books that are not only mirrors they can “see themselves” in but also windows or sliding glass doors to another life experience. Diverse storytelling can nurture understanding, perspective, connection, empathy, and respect for marginalized identities. Harvard Business Review said it best,
When people hear stories that feel representative, it creates a vehicle for nuanced conversations, which are what truly drive change.
Below we’ve curated a collection of audiobooks that celebrate our differences for listeners of all ages.
Each story gives you a glimpse into a mirror, window, or sliding door into another person’s perspective on our beautifully different world!
Written by Ghassan Zeineddine, narrated by Sarab Kamoo and Qarie Marshall
Spanning several decades, Ghassan Zeineddine’s debut collection examines the diverse range and complexities of the Arab-American community in Dearborn, Michigan.
In ten tragicomic stories, Ghassan explores themes of identity, generational conflicts, war trauma, migration, sexuality, queerness, home and belonging, and more.
Zeineddine, a Lebanese-American, lived in Dearborn, Michigan for three years while teaching at the local University of Michigan campus. Census data reveals the city is home to the largest Arab population in the United States.
The House on Sun Street
Written by Mojgan Ghazirad, narrated by Sarab Kamoo
The House on Sun Street is an autobiographical novel based on Iranian author Ghazirad’s memories of living in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution and the war between Iran and Iraq afterward.
Moji, our titular character, must endure the harrowing first days of the violent revolution, a fraught passage to the US where there is only hostility from her classmates during the Iranian hostage crisis, her father’s detainment by the Islamic Revolutionary Army, and finally, the massive change in the status of women in post-revolution Iran.
The Mountains Sing
Written by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, narrated by Quyen Ngo
The Mountains Sing follows the Trần family through years of conflict during the Việt Nam War and brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves while showing us the true power of kindness and hope.
Quế Mai was born during the Việt Nam War in a small northern village. Her family later migrated to South Vietnam for better educational opportunities and beneficial growing conditions for her family’s farm, although she faced discrimination from locals.
Her background of living in both regions, as well as witnessing the war’s devastation on her country, has given her a better understanding of how to unite Vietnamese people through literature.
So Far From God
Written by Ana Castillo, narrated by Frankie Corzo
Over two decades in Tome, New Mexico, Sofia tries to hold things together for her four daughters following the disappearance of her husband, Domingo. The story navigates the lives of Sofia, Esperanza, Caridad, Fe, and La Loca as they rebel against the stereotypical roles they find themselves in. The story explores themes of religion, spirituality, culture, gender, and sexuality.
So Far From God is a feminist classic from Chicana novelist Ana Castillo, known for her experimental style and intervention in Chicana feminism known as Xicanisma.
Chicana is defined as “an ethnic identity for Mexican Americans who have a non-Anglo self-image, embracing their Mexican Native ancestry.” Castillo proposed Xicanisma to modernize Chicana feminism; specifically, to reclaim indigenous roots and spirituality, embrace “feminine principles of nurturing and community”, and challenge the patriarchal bias of the Spanish language.
Written by Norma Dunning, narrated by Tanis Parenteau and Eric Schweig
Dunning, an Inuk Canadian author, draws on lived experience and cultural memory in this short story collection centering on modern-day Inuk characters.
Ranging from homeless to extravagantly wealthy, from spiritual to jaded, from young to elderly, and even from alive to deceased, the characters are united by shared feelings of alienation, displacement, and loneliness resulting from their experiences in southern Canada, but also of familial and community connections.
The Braid Girls
Written by Sherri Winston, narrated by Erin Ruth Walker; Tyla Collier; Jade Wheeler
Maggie, her best friend, and her new half-sister team up to create the ultimate hair-braiding business in their neighborhood, but the Braid Girls aren’t the only hairstylists on the scene when a rival starts up her own braiding business at summer camp.
A former journalist, Winston lets her inner kid tell stories, often centering around issues such as self-esteem, anti-blackness, and generational trauma.
The Ghosts of Rancho Espanto
Written by Adrianna Cuevas, narrated by Anthony Rey Perez
After getting caught stealing a school slushie machine, Rafa, a Cuban American boy, is sent to work on a ranch in New Mexico. There he meets a new friend, Jennie, and the two decide to uncover the mystery behind the strange events happening at Rancho Espanto.
Cuevas is a first-generation Cuban-American dedicated to preserving her family history through writing.
Baseball’s Leading Lady
Written by Andrea Williams, narrated by Deanna Anthony
The Negro Leagues Baseball owe their existence and success to Effa Manley, the first and only woman in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
As the team’s business manager, she led her team, the Newark Eagles, to win the Negro World Series in 1946. But this victory was bittersweet: Integration was on its way, and the demise of the Negro Leagues would soon follow.
Williams has a personal connection to this story, having previously worked in marketing and development for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in her hometown of Kansas City, Missouri.
Call Me Miss Hamilton
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford, narrated by Adenrele Ojo
A Freedom Rider for the Civil Rights Movement, Mary Hamilton was arrested again and again for what she believed in. When a white prosecutor in an Alabama court called her by her first name, she refused to answer unless he called her “Miss Hamilton.” The judge charged her with contempt of court, a charge she fought all the way to the Supreme Court… and won.
Weatherford is an African-American author “[mining] the past for family stories, fading traditions, and forgotten struggles.”
Her books focus on the stories of African-American historical figures like Miss Hamilton or recounting historical events such as the Tulsa Race Massacre.
Written by Tiffany Golden, narrated by Karen Chilton
Jelaya (jeh-LAY-uh) hates wash day. That is, until her big sister Jasmine explains that this wash day will be different. Jelaya is going to wash Jasmine’s hair instead! Offering gentle guidance and framing the all-day affair as an act of self-care, this story serves as an avenue to demystify and educate others on natural haircare routines, which are often misunderstood and stigmatized.
Pulling from her experiences as a Black, disabled woman, Golden writes stories to “celebrate the joy and resilience of life.”