“Your imperfections are beautiful!” She-Ra and the power of autistic representation

Princess Entrapta, working on a project off the left side of the frame, smiles.  She appears calm and content.
Princess Entrapta in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

(Warning for spoilers for Seasons One and Two, with vague discussion of events in later seasons.)

Toward the end of the first season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Princess Entrapta is told, possibly for the first time in her life, “You definitely belong here with us.” She reacts with genuine surprise. Then, in a blink-and-you-miss-it moment before she starts monologuing about plot-related science, she smiles. For me, this scene epitomizes why Entrapta is one of the most nuanced, respectfully-written autistic characters I have ever seen on TV.

Entrapta’s autism is clear from her introduction, even though showrunner Noelle Stevenson only confirmed it after the series finished in May 2020. She stims, infodumps, hyperfocuses, and struggles to stay in tune with the people around her. She has unbelievably strong splinter skills in engineering, as well as specific and idiosyncratic needs around food. She is earnest and literal, often missing the complexities of social situations. In a later season, we learn that Entrapta interprets interactions and relationships the same way that she processes everything else: through recorded observations and data analysis.

What makes Entrapta such a great example of autistic representation? There are a number of things. Let’s start with the most important one:

1. Entrapta’s creation was heavily influenced by an autistic member of the creative team.

Noelle Stevenson also confirmed in May 2020 that board artist Sam Szymanski, who is autistic, played a major role in creating Entrapta, including her physical actions and story arcs.

I am far from the first person to state the importance of allowing marginalized people to represent themselves in fiction. Check out the hashtag #OwnVoices for more information on that.

“Stories about autism” have been told by non-autistic people over and over and over again for decades, resulting in a whole spectrum (so to speak) of harmful tropes, from ableist jokes to inspiration porn to pity-parties for non-autistic family members.

If you want to tell a story about an autistic character in an authentic and inclusive way, you need to involve autistic people in its creation. We know what it’s like to live in a world that ostracizes us unless we camouflage ourselves, a world that makes unfair assumptions about what we can and cannot do, a world that sees our uniqueness as a fault and grieves for people forced to interact with us. We understand the experience of autism in a way that non-autistics don’t, and if you put our perspective into your story, you will speak to autistic people in a way that cannot be done without our input.

2. Entrapta lacks many of the stereotypes found in autistic characters.

Entrapta is not your typical autistic character. For starters, she is a woman, designed and often interpreted as a person of color. She shows a huge range of emotions and she genuinely cares about the people around her. She is nothing like the stoic, white, autistic boys that we are accustomed to seeing.

Entrapta displays a wide range of emotions throughout the series.

Entrapta shows an interest in romantic relationships. It is even implied, in a few humor-for-the-adults moments, that she is sexually active. The non-traditional nature of her interests aside (if you know who she’s looking at in that middle picture, you understand), it’s nice to see an autistic character – or a disabled character in general – who is not assumed to be aromantic and/or asexual by default. The real-life autistic and disabled communities contain a range of romantic and sexual orientations, so it’s refreshing to see something new represented.

Characters who get to know Entrapta discover that she is surprisingly self-aware. She wants to help people and she wants to be liked, but she knows that emotional connection is difficult for her in a way that it isn’t for other people. She also knows where her strengths lie and she tries to use them to make up for her interpersonal struggles.

In an interview just before the release of season five (warning for potential spoilers through season four), Noelle Stevenson talked about one of Entrapta’s most unique areas of strength:

(Entrapta) sees humanity in everything. Not just in humanoid or organic creatures, but she sees humanity in robots. She sees humanity in the AI that drives ships. She sees humanity in one clone in a million identical clones and knows their personality and knows who they are and knows how to connect with them… I think she does more than almost any other character in humanizing characters who have never been humanized before by anyone.

Entrapta sees humanity where no one else thinks to look. This strength flies in the face of the all-too-common stereotype that autistic people lack the ability to see humanity in ourselves, more or less in others. In this sense, Entrapta is more skilled at emotional connection than most of the non-autistic characters, which in media is a rare and exciting trait to see.

3. Entrapta’s autistic traits are often an asset.

Although it is not explicitly stated that Entrapta can see humanity in everything because of her autism, her ability to connect with non-humans can certainly be read that way. Entrapta knows what it’s like to have to learn the rules and complexities of interaction that come naturally to other people. As a result, she recognizes this struggle in other characters.

In Season Five, Entrapta teaches a non-human character about the subtle art of producing and interpreting facial expressions. It starts with a quick exchange:

[Name redacted]: You appear to have a facial tic. Is it cause for concern?

Entrapta: Oh, I’m winking. It signals unspoken intent behind my words. In this case, our mutual deception of [redacted]. Now you try.

This type of lesson comes naturally to Entrapta because, similar to the person she’s talking to, she interprets the world through concrete rules and definitions. She knows what works for her, and so she is uniquely qualified to impart these lessons to characters who struggle in the same way that she does.

Entrapta recognizes when characters use unorthodox ways to express appreciation, affection, or any kind of connection, because she does that too. She knows from experience what these characters need to hear: “I see you.” “I like you.” “I appreciate you.” “I want to be your friend.” And folks, this skill changes the direction of the series in a way I never would have predicted.

Entrapta, her hands folded under her chin, smiles at a character off-screen.
Entrapta finds humanity in places where no one else thinks to look.

Obviously, there is also the matter of her cartoonishly strong talents in STEM and her interest in robotics, First Ones technology, and space travel. Savant-level genius in science and technology is not a unique feature of autistic characters in fiction. However, Entapta’s skills and passions are vitally important to many of the major plot points in the series. A number of events would have been impossible without her interest, focus, and talents. Although these traits are somewhat cliche for autistic characters, it is worth mentioning how much of the story would not have happened if Entrapta were neurotypical.

4. Interpersonal conflicts with Entrapta are multi-sided.

A few weeks ago I wrote a Twitter thread about a scene in Season Five (spoilers for Episodes One and Two in the thread), when a group of non-autistic characters drastically misinterpret Entrapta’s intentions. Entrapta seems so wrapped up in her interests that other characters assume she doesn’t care about people. This is definitively not the case, as she is in fact using her interests to try to help them, but Entrapta doesn’t realize anything is wrong until it’s almost too late.

Aspects of this scene ring painfully true to me as an autistic person. “Are you all…mad at me?” Entrapta asks, and my heart shatters. I have asked that exact question many times. I know very few autistic people who haven’t.

Entrapta is not completely at fault, which the show makes very clear. Non-autistic characters interpret her actions through a neurotypical perspective, which brings them to the wrong conclusions about her. Yes, previous events inform this particular conflict, but this pattern of communication breakdown appears as early as Season One.

Entrapta’s first episode introduces her as an eccentric and socially awkward genius. She doesn’t fit in with the Princesses, and to them it doesn’t seem like she’s trying. There are moments of escalating conflict culminating in the moment when the Rebellion abandons Entrapta in enemy territory.

In the Princesses’ defense: they have reason to believe she’s dead. In Entrapta’s defense: no one thinks to double-check.

A close-up of Entrapta's face.  She is looking down, and there are tears in her eyes.
‘They’re not coming back for me.”

If a different member of the Rebellion had been in Entrapta’s position, it’s likely that someone would have gone back for them, even with the evidence that they didn’t survive. But this is Entrapta. This is the Princess who doesn’t fit in. Without her, the Rebellion’s access to technology is limited, but their plans go the way they expect. The Princesses are more comfortable mourning Entrapta’s loss than interacting with her before her “death.”

However you interpret the situation, Entrapta’s perspective is clear. The Rebellion, whose motto until this point is “No Princess Left Behind,” leaves her behind enemy lines. She did not see it coming. She does not know why it happened. Her analysis of the available data indicates that the members of the Rebellion are not her friends. So it is understandable, if not justifiable, why she starts using her talents to support the Horde instead.

This is not to say that Entrapta is faultless (see #7), more that it is easy to understand why she makes the decisions that she does, given the circumstances.

Entrapta’s series-long arc is not about learning how to improve her social behavior and “fit in.” Yes, she makes an effort to express herself more clearly, but any character who wants to earn (or regain) her trust must first accept that her communication style is different from theirs, and sometimes that’s a good thing. Wrongs on both sides need to be addressed. Characters need to accept – even appreciate – Entrapta for who she is. The ones who do this become her closest and truest friends.

I cannot overstate how powerful it is to see an autistic person written with this perspective. Autistic characters, She-Ra tells us, are worth being seen. We are worth the effort. We are not at fault for every conflict, and other people deserve blame when they treat us unfairly. Not every breakdown is entirely ours to fix.

5. People falsely assume that Entrapta does not have empathy.

One of the biggest sources of conflict between Entrapta and other characters is the assumption that she lacks empathy. This misconception hits home with many members of the autistic community, who are often falsely accused of the same thing.

Because we don’t process or respond to emotions or situations in the same way that non-autistic people do, we are often assumed to not know – or worse, not care – how other people are feeling. Entrapta faces this problem from viewers as well as from characters.

Entrapta, wearing safety goggles, looks bemused at a character off-screen. The character is resting a hand on Entrapta's shoulder.
Entrapta is mistakenly assumed, by characters and some viewers, to lack empathy.

After Season One aired, I read an otherwise fantastic article about Entrapta describing her as a “truly Chaotic Neutral” person. My only problem (and the reason I’m not linking to it here) is that the author assumed that Entrapta does not care how other people feel, how people view her, or about the harm her experiments cause.

Some of the otherwise sympathetic characters do the same thing, making claims such as, “You don’t care about [name redacted] or any of us. You only care about tech,” and “You don’t consider how your actions affect other people. People who are supposed to be your friends.” They are wrong on both counts. However, if you interpret Entrapta’s actions as if she were neurotypical, you might logically reach the same conclusion. These characters don’t understand that Entrapta doesn’t intuit emotions from indirect cues the way they can, or process or express information in the same way they do.

From the start, the show makes it clear that Entrapta does care about other people. She constantly uses her skills to try to help the people around her, and she genuinely enjoys making people happy. In a heartbreaking moment in Season One, her eyes fill with tears when she realizes the Rebellion has left her behind. Like many autistic people, Entrapta expresses her regard for others in ways that are unexpected, understated, or unusual, which causes non-autistic people – both fictional and non-fictional – to misinterpret her.

There’s a satisfying irony in this, as an autistic viewer who knows the “autistic-people-don’t-have-empathy” stereotype far too well. Entrapta is such an accurately-written autistic character that even non-autistic viewers think she doesn’t have empathy! Entrapta’s story isn’t just about us, it’s also for us.

6. Entrapta’s desire for friendship makes her a target for manipulation.

When discussing Entrapta’s allegiance with the Horde, there are two important considerations to make. First: in the Horde, Entrapta makes genuinely positive connections with people who accept and appreciate her for who she is, something that she did not have in the Rebellion. Second: her eagerness for companionship is taken advantage of, and she is deliberately manipulated into doing harmful things.

Again, none of this is intended to justify or minimize what Entrapta did when she was with the Horde. See #7.

The Horde is the first place where Entrapta interacts with people who like her for her uniqueness, not in spite of it. She forms real, lasting friendships and feels more comfortable with the Horde than she ever did with the Rebellion.

Catra, Entrapta, and Scorpia sit together on a couch watching something on a screen in front of them.  All three of them are relaxed and happy.
Joining the Horde is arguably the first time Entrapta makes non-robotic friends.

For the first time in Entrapta’s life, people show interest in her as a person, not just because of what she can do for them. People ask about her theories and share their experiments with her; even characters who understand less than a quarter of her work want to spend time with her simply because she is their friend. We are led to believe that Entrapta has never had interactions like this with non-robotic beings before.

Unfortunately, Entrapta’s openness and eagerness to please make her a target for manipulation. One character in particular takes advantage of Entrapta’s sense of betrayal and abandonment, deliberately using her desire for acceptance and appreciation to convince her to work for them. It takes a long time for Entrapta to figure out the difference between people who are genuinely her friends and people who are using her for their own gain. This too aligns with the experiences of autistic people, many of whom find themselves in situations of emotional abuse or manipulation because it is difficult for us to identify when we are being used.

Plenty of problems throughout the series are Entrapta’s fault at least in part. This, the show makes clear, is not among them. Entrapta is allowed to want to have friends, and it is not her fault when other people take advantage of her. We end up with a complicated and nuanced arc about a messy situation, told with a tone of dignity and respect.

7. Entrapta, like neurotypical characters, is allowed to make mistakes and atone for them.

One of the most common criticisms from autistic people is that Entrapta’s autism is used to explain the terrible things she did with the Horde. This is a fair assessment; Entrapta switches sides in part so she can better complete her experiments and inventions using the resources available to her. On several occasions, she watches her inventions wreak havoc on the Rebellion or the planet, too focused on evaluating the results to acknowledge the harm that she’s causing. It takes her a long time to recognize when her experiments go too far. The “autistic mad scientist” trope is not a new or fun stereotype, and Entrapta arguably falls into it for a while.

Entrapta, seen through a tracker pad screen, is making a delighted proclamation.  She is smiling, her left hand pointing upward and her right hand on her hip. A small Robot with an orange bow tie is on her left side, watching her.
Entrapta is on the side of science and anyone who will ask about her theories.

Part of what makes Entrapta’s story different is her capacity for redemption, which is one of the central themes of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Characters who acknowledge their mistakes and actively work to fix them deserve to be forgiven, not punished. Princess Entrapta is neither the first nor the last character on the show to have this arc. Her redemption is messy and complicated, with steps forward and backward, making the payoff all the more satisfying.

Beyond finding peace and redemption for herself, Entrapta has the chance to forgive people on both sides of the war who wronged her. In turn, her capacity for forgiveness and understanding gives other characters the opportunity for redemption. As rare as it is to see autistic characters given a story with this much nuance, it is even rarer to see us acknowledged as a source for improvement for other people.

This also means that Entrapta is allowed to not forgive characters who don’t deserve it. “You don’t understand what makes us strong,” she tells someone, in a powerful moment late in the series, “And that’s why you’ll never win.” This line is particularly compelling coming from Entrapta, who has had to work harder for that understanding – to become part of the “us” in her statement – than most of the characters on the show. She has seen humanity where no one else thought to look, she has shown characters that different ways of perceiving and interacting with the world can be strengths, and she has given seemingly irredeemable characters the chance to become better people.

Entrapta gives a shy smile to a character off-screen.
Entrapta, more than anyone else, understands what makes people strong.

Are there flaws? Of course. No single portrayal of autism is going to reflect everyone’s experience, and every story will have aspects that don’t resonate. In particular, the “autistic mad scientist” trope is an understandable dealbreaker for some people. Entrapta’s story is not perfect, but for me she resonates more strongly than almost any other character on television.

Entrapta makes me feel seen and heard and appreciated. She gives people like me permission to be different, permission to be ourselves and to seek out people who appreciate us for who we are, not just what we can do for them or how much we can make ourselves conform. People like her, people like me, are worthy of friendship and love and forgiveness and respect.

All five seasons of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power are currently streaming on Netflix.

Books by people of color: A rec list

In early 2016 I realized that the overwhelming majority of books I had read were written by white authors. It was one of those “duh” moments that formulated my privileged-white-person-becoming-aware-of-pervasive-systemic-racism process.  To some extent, I blame American public schools, the media, and the publishing industry, but the bottom line is that I had neglected to examine all of the ways that white supremacy has seeped into the cracks and seams of my life.  So, I made a resolution to only read books by authors of color for a year.

I highly recommend that other white readers do this: if not a full year of avoiding white authors, then a close examination of the diversity of the authors you’ve read and conscious effort to expand it.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: listening to people of color has never been more important than it is now.

I’ve created a list of some of my favorites.  I did my best to include a variety of genres, but there are definite trends.

Feel free to add your recs if you have any!

Nonfiction – Essays

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

This is a collection of thoughtful, well-written, and occasionally hilarious essays on gender, race, sexuality, body type, higher education, and Scrabble. Anything by Roxane Gay is worth a read (I’m currently reading Difficult Women, which I love so far), and this award-winning bestseller is a fantastic place to start.

Ijeoma Oluo’s articles

Okay, you caught me. Two items on this list aren’t physical books. To my knowledge, Oluo hasn’t published anything off the internet (except for the Badass Feminist Coloring Book, which I discovered while researching her and will be placing on my wish list right…now.) Nonetheless, her writing is too important to exclude, especially now.  I specifically recommend “Welcome to the Anti-Racism Movement” and “When a Woman Deletes a Man’s Comment Online.”

Nonfiction – History

God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 by David Levering Lewis

This one was obviously written for people who either read about history for a living or want to read about history for a living. I am not one of those people. Still, it was worth pushing through the dense material in order to see a perspective on Medieval Europe that we never got in my overwhelmingly-white American public school.

Nonfiction – Memoir

The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin

Staceyann Chin, a lesbian speaker and activist from Jamaica, describes her childhood, biracial identity, adolescence, coming-out, and emigration to the United States.  Her story is emotional, charming, and powerful, and the audiobook – which she narrates – absolutely blew me away.

Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama

This memoir was published long before Obama ran for president, and it beautifully outlines the way that his biracial identity and early activism uncovered complex issues about American race relations.

Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching by Mychal Denzel Smith

I think, at a minimum, every American needs to read or listen to this book. Smith uses his life experience to illustrate hard and complicated truths, not just about the experience of black men in America but also the experiences of women, LGBTQ+ people, people with mental illness, and people with multiple marginalizing identities. There’s an audiobook narrated by actor Kevin R. Free, and it is phenomenal.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

A lawyer in Alabama who started a non-profit organization to provide legal counsel for Death Row prisoners – among a myriad of other things – Stevenson uses tragic and horrifying case examples to highlight the cruelty and racism in the American criminal justice system. This is another book that all Americans – especially white Americans and/or people who feel complacent with our justice system – need to read or listen to. (Stevenson reads the audiobook.)

Fiction – Non-speculative

Trumpet by Jackie Kay

A famous jazz musician dies, and his death reveals to the world that he was transgender in an age when trans* issues were even more poorly-understood than they are today. The book uses alternating points of view between between the late musician’s wife, adult son, and people with varying degrees of involvement in his life in order to weave a tragic and heartwarming story.

Burnt Shadows by Kamala Shamsie

I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Kamala Shamsie (see also: In the City by the SeaKartography), but this one is my favorite. It follows a survivor of the atomic bomb in Nagasaki as she transitions from houseguest in a British home in Delhi, to refugee in Pakistan, to wife and mother in Karachi, to elderly woman watching New York City struggling to recover after 9/11.  There is love and tragedy and destruction and the sense that everything is endless and cyclical.

(Kamala Shamsie is my former creative writing professor, which is how I found out about her. I wish she were better-known because she is a fantastic writer with important things to say, especially about politics in the Middle East and the USA.)

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

Tragic and complex and layered, this series of interconnected anecdotes centers on two Native American families living on a reservation in North Dakota.  The book meanders between time period and point-of-view as aimlessly as many of its characters wander through life.  Several of Erdich’s other books are on my to-read list.

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is a good one for people who like unreliable narrators and hazy, ambiguous non-solutions to mysteries (I’m told that many of Ishiguro’s books are like that, so check him out if that’s your thing).  Slightly creepy, it’s a beautifully written study of mothers and daughters in post-WWII Japan and beyond.

Guapa by Saleem Haddad

A man in an unnamed Arab country narrates the 24 hours of his life after his grandmother discovers him and his boyfriend in bed together.  As he attempts – and fails – to go about a normal day, we see commentary on politics, society (Arab and Western), marginalization, and family secrets, all through the eyes of a traumatized man trying to redefine himself in a world that consistently fails to understand him.

Fiction – Spectulative (Sci Fi/Fantasy/Magical Realism)

Parable of the Sower/Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler

Anything by Octavia Butler is necessary reading (I read and loved Kindred, and the rest of her books are on my to-read list). She was woke before most white people knew woke was a thing, and she used sci fi/fantasy to illuminate difficult truths about racism, sexism, and classism in America. These two books, about a new religion fighting to emerge in a harsh, dystopian America, are beautiful, tragic, and surprisingly prophetic.  The second book in particular has some frightening parallels to our current political environment.

The Fifth Season/The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

The first two books in what is so far an incomplete series, these novels represent epic fantasy at its finest.  My words can’t do them justice, except to say that Jemisin 110% deserved the Hugo award she earned for the first book.  She is another author with several books on my “to-read” list. The audio books, read by Robin Miles, are also mind-blowingly good.

Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan

Most people know Amy Tan from The Joy Luck Club, though I actually enjoyed this one more. This book fits the “magical realism” genre because the narrator is speaking to us not long after her tragic and sudden death, describing a group tour through China and Myanmar that goes horribly wrong in part because she isn’t alive to lead it. The Bonesetter’s Daughter is also a good real-world-fantasy book.

Infomacracy by Malka Older

In the somewhat-distant future, our political, social, corporate, and globalization systems will have undergone some massive changes. Two parts political thriller, one part biting social commentary, this book (the first in a yet-incomplete series) holds up a funhouse mirror to politics, capitalism, and the information age, showing us a caricature of where we could be headed.

Fiction – Young Adult

Akata Witch by Neddi Okorafor

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed the Harry Potter series. There is magic, detailed world-building, compelling friendships, and an emphasis on standing up for what you believe in, even when it’s hard, even when it’s terrifying, and even when you have virtually no idea what you’re doing.  (I also enjoyed Lagoon and Binti.)

The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Think Diary of a Wimpy Kid only far more profound and compelling, with an added focus on disability, segregation, poverty, death, and injustice to Indigenous people. At the same time, it somehow manages to be uplifting and occasionally hilarious. I fell head-over-heels for the protagonist and was genuinely upset when the story ended.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Another disabled-underdog protagonist with a sharp voice and compelling fish-out-of-water story; simply subtract the illustrations and add alternating points-of-view to create a more comprehensive look at this character’s life.

(If you liked one of the above two books, chances are good that you’ll like the other. Obviously, I highly recommend both.)

Shadowshaper by Daniel Older

This urban fantasy condemns police brutality, white supremacy, cultural appropriation, and gentrification. The magic is fascinating, the world-building complex, the story twisting and mysterious.  The audiobook, narrated by Anika Noni Rose, is phenomenal to the point where I would almost recommend that over the written version.  Her performance adds life and depth to the characters, sweeping you along with every step of the plot.

If You Could be Mine by Sarah Farzian

A teenage girl in Iran is in love with her (female) best friend, in a country where being gay is a crime but being transgender is not. This book uses the forbidden-queer-teenage-love story (see also: Finlater by Shawn Stewart Ruff) to explore issues of sexuality and gender identity in a way that is thoughtful, sad, and surprisingly uplifting at the same time.

Short Stories

Happiness, Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta

A series of moving and beautifully written short stories about Nigerian women of different ages, classes, and sexualities.  I also enjoyed Under the Udala Trees, which is a full-length novel about a gay woman growing up in 60s/70s Nigeria.

Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin

Yet another fantastic author who has produced a bunch of excellent works, Baldwin is particularly focused on the intersection between the black male identity and the queer identity in America.

Karma and Other Stories by Rishi Reddi

I actually read this series of somewhat-interconnected stories a few years ago. Each story depicts Indian American culture in a different way, presenting the different struggles, losses, and successes that Indian people of multiple generations face in America.

The Water that Falls on You from Nowhere by John Chu

This one is actually a single short story, rather than a collection.  It’s available to read for free here at Tor.com, so I’ll let the story speak for itself. Check it out!

Honorable mentions: 

(books and authors I enjoyed but didn’t include because I had to cap this list somewhere)

Nonfiction: A Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Non-speculative Fiction: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

Speculative Fiction: Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord, The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino,  The Between by Tananarive Due.

Young AdultWaters Between by Joseph Bruchac, Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova.

Short Stories: Let the Dead Bury Their Dead by Randall Kenan, The Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Other authors to check out: Isabel Allende, John Chu, Toni Morrison, Gene Luen Yang, Malinda Lo, Salman Rushdie.

Authors I haven’t read but I’ve heard good things about from multiple and/or reliable sources: Shamim Sarif, Audre Lourde, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Junot Diaz, Nalo Hopkinson, Gabby Rivera, Zadie Smith, Manil Suri.