Diverse Dystopias: A Book List

In honor of the upcoming release of our new YA anthology, Diverse Energies, we thought we’d put together a list of dystopias with diversity. For the purposes of this list, our definition of diversity is: 1.) A book with a main character of color (not just secondary characters), or 2.) A book written by an author of color. Of course, all types of diversity are worth celebrating, so if you know of other diverse dystopias (with, for example, LGBT diversity) please share them in the comments as well.

Note: I have not personally read all of these books, but have tried to confirm the inclusion of diverse main characters whenever possible. However, mistakes are bound to be made, so if you’ve read something and don’t think it belongs on this list, please let us know. Likewise if we’ve missed something that should be here.

If you’re a visual learner, the whole thing is on Pinterest:

Diverse Dystopias book list

And now, onward:

Above World, by Jenn Reese: (middle grade) In this dystopia, overcrowding has led humans to adapt so that they can live under the ocean or on mountains.

The Boy at the End of the World, by Greg van Eekhout: (middle grade) In this dystopia, the last boy on earth teams up with an overprotective broken robot to survive.

Black Hole Sun, by David Macinnis Gill: (YA) A science fiction dystopia set on a terraformed Mars.

Diverse Energies, by 11 speculative fiction authors: (YA)This anthology features dystopian stories that all feature diverse main characters. Contributing authors include Paolo Bacigalupi, Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon, and Ursula K. Le Guin. Coming in September 2012.

Dualed, by Elsie Chapman: (YA) A dystopia coming in February 2013. The author is a woman of color, but I’m not sure about the main character. If you’ve read it, feel free to comment.

Extras, by Scott Westerfeld: (YA) The fourth installment in Westerfeld’s “Uglies” series takes place in what was once Japan.

The Forgetting Curve (Memento Nora #2), by Angie Smibert: (YA) Dystopia where memories can be erased with a single pill.

For the Win, by Cory Doctorow: (YA) Science fiction dystopia focused on a group of young gamers from around the world who begin to organize.

The “Galahad” Series, by Dom Testa: (YA) In this post-apocalyptic series, a crew of teens must colonize a distant planet when a virus infects all those on Earth who are over 18.

The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer: (YA) This dystopia about the struggle between science and humanity won both a Newbery Award Honor and a Printz Award Honor when it was released in 2003.

The Immortal Rules, by Julie Kagawa: (YA) This dystopia is set in a future world where vampires reign.

Legend, by Marie Lu: (YA) In this dystopia, the western US has become the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors.

Noughts & Crosses, by Malorie Blackman: (YA) This dystopia is a look at racism and prejudice in an alternate society ruled by the Crosses, the dark-skinned ruling class.

Partials, by Dan Wells: (YA) This science fiction dystopia takes place after a weaponized virus has all but extinguished humanity. Mixed-race MC.

Rot & Ruin, by Jonathan Maberry: (YA) This post-apocalyptic zombie novel has dystopian elements, along with a main character who is half Japanese.

Shadows Cast by Stars, by Catherine Knutsson: (YA) This dystopian tale features a main character of aboriginal heritage.

Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi: (YA) Dystopia about a girl whose touch can kill. The author is a woman of color.

Ship Breakerby Paolo Bacigalupi: (YA) This Printz Award-winning dystopia is set in America’s Gulf Coast region, which has been ravaged by hurricanes.

Stormdancer, by Jay Kristoff: (YA) This novel set in an alternate Japan may be more steampunk than dystopia, but has some dystopian elements as well.

Tankborn, by Karen Sandler: (YA) This science fiction dystopia is set on the planet Loka, where a strict caste system separates trueborns from Genetically Engineered Non-humans.

What’s Left of Me, by Kat Zhang: (YA) A dystopia about two souls in one body. Coming in September 2012.

Battle Royale, by Koushun Takami: (adult) This novel, first published in Japan, has the same premise as The Hunger Games (but an entirely different tone and more explicit violence), and many have wondered if that book was inspired by it in some way.

Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E. Butler: (adult) A dystopia about a society plagued by social chaos and violence.

Smoketown, by Tenea D. Johnson: (adult) This dystopian science fiction novel takes place in Appalachia, now a tropical environment in post-climate-change US.

The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi: (adult) Another science fiction dystopia from the author of Ship Breaker. This one is for adults and takes place in future-Thailand.

Further Reading:

YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels with Protagonists of Color

Multicultural Science Fiction and Fantasy (middle grade and YA)

Diversity in YA (no longer active, but still a good resource)

More fun booklists about diversity

9 thoughts on “Diverse Dystopias: A Book List”

  1. Great list. One correction though, Battle Royale is adult. It’s incredibly graphic in terms of volent content and used to come with an 18+ rating on the back.

    Having said that, it’s an excellent book and has little in common with the Hunger Games aside from the ‘game’ aspect (the tone of the book is different, the games aren’t broadcast, the violence of the games isn’t played down or hidden from the reader, the reason for the games is different, etc).

  2. @Strider66 Thanks for the correction! I’ve seen the Battle Royale movie but haven’t yet read the book. But the movie is much more violent than The Hunger Games, and a very different tone as well. I’ll correct.

  3. What’s truly messed up about Doctorow’s “For the Win” is that it’s only science-fiction in the way the events were extrapolated and advanced from what’s already happening right now. The events could take place next week, from what I remember of the story.

    Should also be noted as the only novel to explain complex economics in a way that not only makes sense but is actually interesting.

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