15 Young Adult Books That Highlight Culture Through Food

    A snapshot of some recent young adult reads that immerse readers in different cultures all through mouthwatering cuisines.

    As a kid growing up in a tight-knit Nigerian-Canadian community, I’ve never attended a gathering where food wasn’t the main focus. It’s how a lot of kids like me, children of the diaspora, stay connected to our cultures; it’s how parents pass on traditions.

    I remember attending several events with my parents — two-hour meetings about the goings-on in my dad’s tribal land back in Nigeria — and instead of current affairs being top billing, the one thing that had to be decided on before we scheduled anything was “who will host?" Who’s hosting, who’s bringing the food? How much and how many items? And when will we break for lunch?

    That’s the same lens I looked through to write my sophomore young adult contemporary novel, Twice as Perfect. In it, high-schooler Adanna (aka Sophie, amongst her peers) is feeling the weight of being the only child of her Nigerian immigrant parents. She has to be the golden child to make up for her family’s immense shame. Because the truth is she’s not an only child — she has an older brother named Sam who disappeared without a trace. Until one day, that is. Now, Ada is trying to navigate new ideas, relationships, and her future with a perspective she’d never once considered before. Oh, all while trying to help plan her cousin’s wedding to an Afrobeats superstar. No pressure, obviously.

    In a book chock-full of Nigerian and Nigerian diaspora culture and anecdotes, it only makes sense that some of my favorite Nigerian dishes would find their way to the surface (Moin-moin is my ride or die). I love when an author’s culture comes out in their writing, and even more so if those come with mouth-watering food descriptions. This list is a sample of recent YA books that showcase culture through food.

    Full disclosure: You probably shouldn’t browse this list before lunch.

    1. A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

    2. Kisses and Croissants by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau

    3. Blood Like Fate by Liselle Sambury

    4. A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen

    5. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

    6. Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp

    7. Well, That Was Unexpected by Jesse Q. Sutanto

    8. Jasmine Zumideh Needs a Win by Susan Azim Boyer

    9. Drizzle, Dreams, and Lovestruck Things by Maya Prasad

    10. Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee

    11. The Loophole by Naz Kutub

    12. The Noh Family by Grace K. Shim

    13. Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez

    14. The Jasmine Project by Meredith Ireland

    15. Salt and Sugar by Rebecca Carvalho