100 books like The Girl I Am, Was, and Never Will Be

By Shannon Gibney,

Here are 100 books that The Girl I Am, Was, and Never Will Be fans have personally recommended if you like The Girl I Am, Was, and Never Will Be. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Everything I Never Told You

SunAh M Laybourn Author Of Out of Place: The Lives of Korean Adoptee Immigrants

From my list on family belonging.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a Korean transracial adoptee, it seems like I’ve always been thinking about family, or even if I didn’t want to, other people’s intrusive questions about my family makeup forced me to. More than solely thinking about my own family–whether my Korean biological family or my white adoptive family–it led me to be curious about the broader systems, policies, and practices behind something that seems so personal and private. It’s no surprise that I formalized my inquiry into the social world by becoming a sociologist and professor. As a sociologist, my primary research interests are race, identity, and belonging, and yes, Korean transnational transracial adoption is part of that focus. 

SunAh's book list on family belonging

SunAh M Laybourn Why did SunAh love this book?

I could not put this down. This book immediately drew me in and never let me go.

The way the characters were written made me feel like I intimately knew each person, and the many mysteries and secrets among and between each family member made me want to know more. The undeniable effect of how we deal–or don’t deal–with grief is a thread throughout the book, one that I definitely connected with.

But, it was how each family member pursued, put down, or attempted to pass down their hopes and dreams that made me think about the dynamics within my own family.

By Celeste Ng,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Everything I Never Told You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The acclaimed debut novel by the author of Little Fires Everywhere and Our Missing Hearts

"A taut tale of ever deepening and quickening suspense." -O, the Oprah Magazine

"Explosive . . . Both a propulsive mystery and a profound examination of a mixed-race family." -Entertainment Weekly

"Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet." So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia's body…


Book cover of The Space Between Worlds

Hannah Fergesen Author Of The Infinite Miles

From my list on queer stories about time and space travel.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a queer writer whose early love of science fiction and fantasy gave me an outlet for my creativity and new ways of seeing myself in the world. It was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle and Timeline by Michael Crichton that first introduced me to time and space travel in fiction, but it was the new Doctor Who and shows like Twelve Monkeys that made me realize how mad and wonderful stories about time and space travel could be. And once I came to terms with my own queer identities, I saw an obvious space for my own contribution to the time travel canon. 

Hannah's book list on queer stories about time and space travel

Hannah Fergesen Why did Hannah love this book?

The Space Between Worlds is less time travel than it is parallel dimensional travel but I think it’s worth fibbing for.

Cara is a traverser – someone who can travel between different versions of her world. She retrieves data about those worlds – what went wrong and what went right – and brings it back to her own for study. She can do this because the Caras in these worlds are all dead. Except when one isn’t, royally mucking up her job.

This book is gritty and queer (though I’m not going to promise an ending wrapped up in a bow) and the method of travel the author created makes for a unique and thought-provoking read.

By Micaiah Johnson,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Space Between Worlds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Sunday Times bestseller. Winner of the Kitschies Golden Tentacle award.

A stunning science fiction debut, The Space Between Worlds is both a cross-dimensional adventure and a powerful examination of identity, privilege, and belonging.

'My mother used to say I was born reaching, which is true. She also used to say it would get me killed, which it hasn't. Not yet, anyway.'

Born in the dirt of the wasteland, Cara has fought her entire life just to survive. Now she has done the impossible, and landed herself a comfortable life on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley…


Book cover of In the Key of Us

Jas Hammonds Author Of We Deserve Monuments

From my list on stories by Black authors to give you all the feels.

Why am I passionate about this?

When people ask me what makes me fall in love with a book, good characters will always be my first answer. And by good, I don’t mean perfect individuals who make no mistakes. I mean characters who make me feel something, whether it’s rage or hope or longing or disgust. As an author, I like filling my stories with messy, desperate characters who aren’t afraid to show emotion. And as an introverted flight attendant, I spend a lot of time observing people and I’m often fascinated by what I discover. The best stories—like people—have layers and depth to their characters. I like finding out what’s underneath.

Jas' book list on stories by Black authors to give you all the feels

Jas Hammonds Why did Jas love this book?

I love books that make me feel like a teenager again. That makes me remember the swoon of first love and how vulnerable it can be figuring out who you are. In the Key of Us not only accomplishes this once, but twice through the dual-POV narration of Andi and Zora, two of the only Black girls at a summer music camp. This middle grade novel tackles topics such as death and anxiety and mental health with such delicacy and warmth. This book felt like a crackling bonfire, lighting up young aches that I’d forgotten were there.

By Mariama J. Lockington,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked In the Key of Us as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, Andi is grappling with grief following the death of her mother. Zora is exhausted by trying to please her success-oriented parents. Both feel very much alone. Until a summer music camp brings them together.

The only two Black girls at camp in a sea of white children, Andi and Zora slowly begin to connect and reveal their deepest fears and dreams. While Andi is a natural on trumpet, Zora doesn't know if she wants to be a floutist since she also loves to dance.

As Andi and Zora struggle to figure out who they really are,…


Book cover of Deep in Providence

Jas Hammonds Author Of We Deserve Monuments

From my list on stories by Black authors to give you all the feels.

Why am I passionate about this?

When people ask me what makes me fall in love with a book, good characters will always be my first answer. And by good, I don’t mean perfect individuals who make no mistakes. I mean characters who make me feel something, whether it’s rage or hope or longing or disgust. As an author, I like filling my stories with messy, desperate characters who aren’t afraid to show emotion. And as an introverted flight attendant, I spend a lot of time observing people and I’m often fascinated by what I discover. The best stories—like people—have layers and depth to their characters. I like finding out what’s underneath.

Jas' book list on stories by Black authors to give you all the feels

Jas Hammonds Why did Jas love this book?

I was first captivated by the stunning cover, but stayed because I love stories about groups of friends and the emotions and connections that bind them for better or worse. Deep in Providence showcases this beautifully through the lenses of Miliani, Inez, and Natalie, three girls whose lives are shattered when their friend Jasmine is killed by a drunk driver. The girls turn to Filipino spells and folklore in an attempt to bring Jasmine back from the dead. Desperation and yearning bleed through these pages, and by the end, I was sobbing. This book is a beautiful exploration of grief, told in the tenderest way.

By Riss M. Neilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Deep in Providence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

"Haunting, intimate, and beautifully told: a magical debut novel from a writer to watch.” —Emily M. Danforth, national bestselling and award-winning author of The Miseducation of Cameron Post

A spellbinding young adult fantasy debut following three best friends who turn to magic when they're haunted by a friend's death...and perhaps her spirit, combining the atmospheric thrills of The Hazel Wood with the nuanced realism of Erika L. Sanchez.

For best friends Miliani, Inez, Natalie and Jasmine, Providence, Rhode Island has a magic of its own. From the bodegas and late-night food trucks on Broad Street to The Hill that watches…


Book cover of The Weight of the Stars

Jas Hammonds Author Of We Deserve Monuments

From my list on stories by Black authors to give you all the feels.

Why am I passionate about this?

When people ask me what makes me fall in love with a book, good characters will always be my first answer. And by good, I don’t mean perfect individuals who make no mistakes. I mean characters who make me feel something, whether it’s rage or hope or longing or disgust. As an author, I like filling my stories with messy, desperate characters who aren’t afraid to show emotion. And as an introverted flight attendant, I spend a lot of time observing people and I’m often fascinated by what I discover. The best stories—like people—have layers and depth to their characters. I like finding out what’s underneath.

Jas' book list on stories by Black authors to give you all the feels

Jas Hammonds Why did Jas love this book?

I try to limit the amount of physical books I purchase because my apartment is already overflowing with them. But there are some books so good, I need a copy of my ownThe Weight of the Stars is one of those. Told in short, micro-fiction style chapters is the story of Ryann, a girl who dreams of traveling to space but doesn’t see a way out her trailer park on the “wrong” side of town. But then she meets Alexandria, a mysterious loner who is angry at the world because her own mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a one-way trip to the edge of the solar system. Lush and heartbreaking, this queer, big-hearted book cemented Ancrum as one of my must-read authors.

By K. Ancrum,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Weight of the Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Ryann Bird dreams of travelling across the stars. But she settles for acting out and skipping school.

Until she meets Alexandria, a furious loner. After a horrific accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, the girls are brought together despite themselves - and Ryann learns Alexandria's secret: Her mother is an astronaut on a one-way trip past the edge of the solar system.

Every night, Alexandria waits for radio signals from her mother. And now Ryann lifts Alexandria onto the roof day after day, until the silence between them grows into friendship . . . . and eventually something more.


Book cover of The Leavers

D. Dina Friedman Author Of Immigrants

From my list on books portraying the human side of the immigration “crisis”.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2019 I spent several days on a ladder witnessing children who were locked in a detention center in Homestead, and in early 2020, I traveled to the Brownsville/Matamoros border, where the stories people told me broke my heart. Often, it was not threats to their own lives but to their children’s lives that triggered their decision to flee. I wrote Immigrants and an accompanying book of poetry (Here in Sanctuary–Whirling) not to make political points, but to tell some of these stories and highlight the gaps between our human propensity toward kindness and the way we fall into the trap of “othering” those who are not exactly like us.  

D.'s book list on books portraying the human side of the immigration “crisis”

D. Dina Friedman Why did D. love this book?

This was one of the most sensitive portrayals of the effects of deportation on families that I’ve ever read.

I resonated even more strongly because it was set in New York City (my hometown), and the descriptions of different neighborhoods really came to life. I also appreciated the dual point of view narration (the story is told from both the mother and son’s perspective), and I could relate to both characters, even when they made difficult choices that ended up being hurtful. 

By Lisa Ko,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Leavers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One morning, Deming Guo's mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her. With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an "all-American boy." But far away from all he's ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life…


Book cover of All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir

Rebecca Wellington Author Of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

From my list on straight up, real memoirs on motherhood and adoption.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am adopted. For most of my life, I didn’t identify as adopted. I shoved that away because of the shame I felt about being adopted and not truly fitting into my family. But then two things happened: I had my own biological children, the only two people I know to date to whom I am biologically related, and then shortly after my second daughter was born, my older sister, also an adoptee, died of a drug overdose. These sequential births and death put my life on a new trajectory, and I started writing, out of grief, the history of adoption and motherhood in America. 

Rebecca's book list on straight up, real memoirs on motherhood and adoption

Rebecca Wellington Why did Rebecca love this book?

Chung was born and adopted five years after me, also in Washington state. Like me, she wrestled her whole life with feelings of shame and discomfort around her adoption. Unlike me, Chung is a woman of color, adopted into a white family in a super-white town where she stood out like a sore thumb. Unlike me, Chung took the brave step, before having her own children, of searching for her birth family.

While I read this vulnerable and beautifully written memoir, I felt like I was walking with Chung on her journey as an adoptee and mother, all the while wishing I could be as brave as Chung. This is a truly inspiring story.

By Nicole Chung,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked All You Can Ever Know as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A NATIONAL BESTSELLER

This beloved memoir "is an extraordinary, honest, nuanced and compassionate look at adoption, race in America and families in general" (Jasmine Guillory, Code Switch, NPR)

What does it means to lose your roots—within your culture, within your family—and what happens when you find them?

Nicole Chung was born severely premature, placed for adoption by her Korean parents, and raised by a white family in a sheltered Oregon town. From childhood, she heard the story of her adoption as a comforting, prepackaged myth. She believed that her biological parents had made the ultimate sacrifice in the hope of…


Book cover of Jesus Land: A Memoir

Matthew Pratt Guterl Author Of Skinfolk: A Memoir

From my list on heartbreaking memoirs of race and adoption.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised as one of two white kids in a large, multiracial adoptive family by loving parents who wanted to change the world. Our parents were thoughtful about adoption, ambitious about the symbolism of our family, and raised us all to be conscious about race, to see it, and to guard against it. But the world is a lot bigger than our house and racism is insidious and so, in a way, we all eventually got swallowed up. So I started thinking hard about the dynamic relationship between race and adoption and family when I was just a kid, and I’ve never really stopped. 

Matthew's book list on heartbreaking memoirs of race and adoption

Matthew Pratt Guterl Why did Matthew love this book?

When I picked up this book at a local bookstore in Indiana, I knew that it was going to take me places – the cover photo of two adorable children, one white and one black, standing in front of a yellow school bus told me that.

Julia Scheeres’s parents adopted an African American child her age named David, and the two became inseparable. Their extraordinary story – their intense commitment to each other as they move through dystopian settings ranging from the bleakness of rural Indiana to a strict religious reform school in the tropical Caribbean – was inspiring.

And the jaw-dropping ending of the book just broke me into pieces. 

By Julia Scheeres,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jesus Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A page turner . . . heart-stopping and enraging . . . focused, justified, and without a trace of self-pity. Shot through with poignancy." ––New York Times Book Review

Over a decade after its first publication, Jesus Land remains deeply resonant with readers. Now with a new preface by the author, this New York Times bestselling memoir is a gripping tale of rage and redemption, hope and humor, morality and malice―and most of all, the truth: that being a good person takes more than just going to church.

Julia and her adopted brother, David, are sixteen years old. Julia is…


Book cover of That Mean Old Yesterday

Matthew Pratt Guterl Author Of Skinfolk: A Memoir

From my list on heartbreaking memoirs of race and adoption.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised as one of two white kids in a large, multiracial adoptive family by loving parents who wanted to change the world. Our parents were thoughtful about adoption, ambitious about the symbolism of our family, and raised us all to be conscious about race, to see it, and to guard against it. But the world is a lot bigger than our house and racism is insidious and so, in a way, we all eventually got swallowed up. So I started thinking hard about the dynamic relationship between race and adoption and family when I was just a kid, and I’ve never really stopped. 

Matthew's book list on heartbreaking memoirs of race and adoption

Matthew Pratt Guterl Why did Matthew love this book?

I should have read this book years ago. This singularly brilliant memoir is an undoing of the most pernicious adoption myth: that which traces the success of adopted children to their new families.

In this case, a bright and talented young woman makes it out of the foster system before eventually going to Penn and becoming an accomplished journalist and professor, but her adoption out of foster care turns into yet another traumatic experience.

Ambitiously, Patton spins that trauma outward, expanding the background until it spans centuries. When, by the close, she makes the start of a career for herself, that triumph is pretty much hers alone.

By Stacey Patton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked That Mean Old Yesterday as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An astonishing coming-of-age memoir by a young woman who survived the foster care system to become an award-winning journalist On a rainy night in November 1999, a shoeless Stacey Patton, promising student at NYU, approached her adoptive parents' house with a gun in her hand. She wanted to kill them. Or so she thought. No one would ever imagine that the vibrant, smart, and attractive Stacey had a childhood from hell. After all, with God-fearing, house-proud, and hardworking adoptive parents, she appeared to beat the odds. But her mother was tyrannical, and her father turned a blind eye to the…


Book cover of Surviving the White Gaze: A Memoir

Matthew Pratt Guterl Author Of Skinfolk: A Memoir

From my list on heartbreaking memoirs of race and adoption.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised as one of two white kids in a large, multiracial adoptive family by loving parents who wanted to change the world. Our parents were thoughtful about adoption, ambitious about the symbolism of our family, and raised us all to be conscious about race, to see it, and to guard against it. But the world is a lot bigger than our house and racism is insidious and so, in a way, we all eventually got swallowed up. So I started thinking hard about the dynamic relationship between race and adoption and family when I was just a kid, and I’ve never really stopped. 

Matthew's book list on heartbreaking memoirs of race and adoption

Matthew Pratt Guterl Why did Matthew love this book?

The writing is gorgeous, but it is the story – heartbreaking at first and then, as it closes, heartwarming – that grabs you.

Rebecca Carroll, marked as black, is adopted by white parents and raised in an all-white town. Determined to learn more about herself, she sets out to reconnect with her birth parents, but what she learns is a set of hard, painful truths. As the thread slowly unspools, her white birth mother is also revealed as abusive and controlling.

Still searching for a sense of who she is, Carroll discovers her own blackness through found family, and by doing so challenges her readers to cling tight to anyone who makes us whole. 

By Rebecca Carroll,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Surviving the White Gaze as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An Esquire Best Book of 2021

A stirring and powerful memoir from black cultural critic Rebecca Carroll recounting her painful struggle to overcome a completely white childhood in order to forge her identity as a black woman in America.

Rebecca Carroll grew up the only black person in her rural New Hampshire town. Adopted at birth by artistic parents who believed in peace, love, and zero population growth, her early childhood was loving and idyllic—and yet she couldn’t articulate the deep sense of isolation she increasingly felt as she grew older.

Everything changed when she met her birth mother, a…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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