Even though people will always say that the book is better than the movie, there are so many incredible libros that deserve to become films. Not only because the stories are worth telling on either the small or big screen (or both), but because they are narratives that aren’t being shared in Hollywood. This is especially true of POC stories, written by POC authors. That’s why when Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel, Crazy Rich Asians, became a massively successful film ($238.5 box office worldwide), it was such a triumph and an important moment. It was proof that you didn’t have to have an all-white cast to have a successful movie, or a book full of characters of European descent to have a best-seller. In fact, it went further than that, proving that something that featured a mostly Asian cast and characters could win.
We need more stories about people of color, by people of color to be seen on TV and in the movie theaters. To get the ball rolling, we selected 26 books that would make for great films–producers take note!
I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez
The first book we think should become a film is Erika L. Sanchez’s I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. The National Book Award Finalist and New York Times bestseller tells the story of Julia and Olga, who are Mexican sisters in Chicago. When Olga, the perfect older daughter, is killed in a traffic accident, the family suffers, and Julia is suddenly the recipient of her mother’s pain and grief. Julia, who has always been the more independent sister, finds out that Olga might not have been as perfect as she seemed.
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Another book that would make for a good film is The Wedding Date, by New York Times Best Seller author Jasmine Guillory. She penned the novel last year, and it has quickly become a rom-com fave. When Alexa, who lives in San Francisco, and Drew, whose home is in L.A., meet in a faulty elevator, he convinces her to be his date for his ex’s wedding. They hit it off, but is the long-distance romance that follows a fling or something more?
The Joy of Doing Things Badly: A Girl’s Guide to Love, Life and Foolish Bravery by Veronica Chambers
Some of the best films are about celebrating your imperfections and learning to live life imperfectly. That’s why Veronica Chambers’ book, The Joy of Doing Things Badly: A Girl’s Guide to Love, Life and Foolish Bravery, would make for the perfect comedic film. In it, she tells personal stories that encourage us all to live with “foolish bravery.” Because life isn’t about doing everything perfectly, it’s about living life.
Number One Chinese Restaurant: A Novel by Lillian Li
When TIME, InStyle; NPR; The Village Voice; The Wall Street Journal; O, The Oprah Magazine, and other big publications rave about a book, you take heed. The all loved Lillian Li’s book, Number One Chinese Restaurant, a novel about the inner workings of The Beijing Duck House in Rockville, Maryland. Amazon calls it “an exuberant and wise multi-generational debut novel about the complicated lives and loves of people working in everyone’s favorite Chinese restaurant.” We can see this being turned into a good movie!
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Elizabeth Acevedo hit a home run with her immensely successful book, The Poet X, and she’s back with another Latinx novel. With the Fire on High is a story about Emoni Santiago, a teenage mom who has to balance her obligations to her child and abuelita, with her desire to be a chef. We need narratives like this to make it onto the big screen. This story represents our stories, our drive to succeed, and our balance between our dedication to family and our own dreams.
Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza
Optic Nerve is a book by Maria Gainza, her first work to be translated into English. It focuses on an Argentinian woman, who narrates her story, intermingling it with art, which she is obsessed with. This would make for a visually stunning film, where we get to see the intersection of world-famous art and this woman’s own life.
Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis’ Fleet-of-Foot Girl by Megan Reid
We need to see as many films about black and brown excellence as much possible. We need to show the younger generations that anything is possible and teach them about those trailblazers who made it possible for the stars of today to shine. Like Althea Gibson, “the first Black athlete to cross the color line of international tennis,” the first African-American to win a Grand Slam, and also the first African-American to compete on the Women’s Professional Golf Tour.
Waking Up in the Land of Glitter: A Crafty Chica Novel by Kathy Cano-Murillo
Kathy Cano-Murillo, the Latina behind The Crafty Chica also writes popular novels! Her book, Waking Up in the Land of Glitter, would make for one of those equally popular, heartfelt made-for-TV movies. It’s about Estrella “Star” Esteban, whose family owns La Pachanga Restaurant. When Star jeopardizes the family business, her relationship with her boyfriend, and her career, she agrees to join a national craft competition, with her BFF and a local TV personality, to redeem herself and make things right.
The Right Swipe: A Novel Paperback by Alisha Rai
Dating has definitely gone digital, so rom-coms have to keep up with the times, no? Alisha Rai’s The Right Swipe is a story about Rhiannon Hunter, a successful dating app creator who finds herself ghosted after a romantic rendezvous with former professional football player Samson Lima. Months later, she sees him again — working with a business rival. He’s back in her life for a second chance, but is she game? Does this not sound like the perfect 2019 romantic comedy?
You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
Another fabulous story that would look great on the big screen is Mitali Perkins’ You Bring the Distant Near. The National Book Award Nominee follows five generations of the Das family, who immigrated from India first to Britain, then to America. It shows the differences between five females from the different generations, living amongst two cultures — one is concerned with preserving Indian culture and tradition, another wants to be an actress, and a third is involved in an interracial relationship. As one Amazon reviewer said, “Who is getting the movie rights to this one?”
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
On the Come Up is the latest novel from Angie Thomas, author of the #1 New York Times best-selling book-turned-film, The Hate U Give. The story is about Bri, a 16-year-old aspiring rapper whose first song goes viral “for all the wrong reasons.” Her family is facing eviction, her mom lost her job, and Bri is facing controversy due to her rhymes. But she has to make it in order to save the day. We see this book becoming a big movie as well.
How to Leave Hialeah by Janine Capó Crucet
Films that offer glimpses into several different lives and stories are cool. You learn so many little lessons, and get to see various narratives in one production! Janine Capó Crucet’s How to Leave Hialeah tells different tales, with the common thread being the experiences of Cubans in Hialeah. Telling these stories together in a film invites viewers to see the neighborhood come alive through those who live there.
What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan
Luxury. Family secrets. Drama. We are here for it! Lucy Tan’s book, What We Were Promised is just the novel to make into a juicy film. It follows the Zhen family, who just moved to modern Shanghai after living and working in the U.S. Wei and Lina are in an arranged marriage, and Lina still has feelings for Wei’s brother Qiang. Of course, Qiang shows up in their lives again!
Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen by Queen Liliʻuokalani
Another true story that is worth making into a film is that of the last Queen of Hawaii, Queen Liliʻuokalani. When Hawaii was annexed to the United States, the Hawaiian monarchy became a thing of the past. Lili’uokalani wrote a book, first published in 1898, where she talks about the history of the islands, and pleas for the United States to restore the Hawaiian monarchy — these pleas went unheard. We owe it to Queen Liliʻuokalani and the Hawaiian people to learn about her story, their story, and what really happened before Hawaii became a state.
The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang
The Wangs vs. the World is an adorable story that would work well as a movie. It teaches us all that money is great, but family is everything. When Charles Wang loses his riches during a financial crisis, his family goes from a Bel-Air mansion, private school, and luxury cars to the bare minimum. The Wangs are forced to pack up and head out to upstate New York, where eldest daughter Saina lives. This major life shift ends up uniting the family in a way nothing else has before.
Nisei Daughter by Monica Sone
Movies based on true stories give us glimpses into someone else’s real-life experiences. In order to truly understand and represent America in all its facets, we should have narratives from as many different backgrounds represented at the movies. Nisei Daughter is an important story that should be told. It’s Monica Sone’s story about growing up Japanese-American in Seattle during the 1930s. During WWII, her family is forced into an internment camp, a terrible fate that so many Japanese families, including those who were born in the U.S., had to unjustly endure.
The Go-Between by Veronica Chambers
The Go-Between, a novel by Afro-Panamanian author Veronica Chambers, is another book-made-into-film that should happen. The story centers around Camilla del Valle, the rich Mexican daughter of a big actress mother and voice-actor father. She’s living the glamorous life, but when her mom gets a role in Hollywood, the sudden change to L.A. proves difficult for Cammi.
How to Be a Chicana Role Model by Michele M. Serros
The late author Michele M. Serros left us with gems of books that need to be turned into movies. One is the novel How to Be a Chicana Role Model. In it, she tells the story (through several vignettes) of a writer who is trying to balance living between two cultures. The theme, and it’s content, is something us Latinxs can all relate to!
The Dirty Girls Social Club by Alisa Valdes
The Dirty Girls Social Club written by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez is similar to Sex and the City and Waiting to Exhale, but recast with all Latinas. These six friends meet at Boston University and catch up every few months after, dishing on what’s going on in their very different lives. We need more fun, fashionable, and cool films that focus on Latinx women, and this would be a great one!
The Tattooed Soldier by Hector Tobar
The Tattooed Soldier, by Hector Tobar, gives a glimpse into the conflict that many immigrants are trying to escape when they flee their countries. Protagonist Antonio Bernal has settled in Los Angeles from Guatemala, where his wife and child were murdered by a man with a yellow tattoo. Antonio is blindsided when he sees the man in his neighborhood and recognizes the same tattoo, a symbol of the Jaguar Batallion of the Guatemalan Army. Just reading this makes you want to know what happens next, no? Imagine if this were a movie!
Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors: A Novel by Sonali Dev
Our next read that should become a film is Sonali Dev’s Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors: A Novel. The story takes us to San Francisco, where the Rajes family lives. Descended from royalty, their surgeon daughter Trisha finds herself to still be the rebel. DJ Caine is a chef hired by the Rajes, who comes from less lavish beginnings. He quickly butts heads with Trisha, but Caine soon finds out that Trisha is the only doctor who can save his sister’s life. This celebrated read is a fresh take on the Jane Austen classic, Pride and Prejudice.
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
Havana in 1958 and Miami in 2017 are the two locations and years that will tell the tales of Cuban sugar heiress Elisa Perez and her granddaughter Marisol in Chanel Cleeton’s novel Next Year in Havana. When Elisa dies, Marisol travels to Cuba and learns about her grandmother’s life before she was forced to leave the island during the revolution. Marisol learns family secrets, while also really realizing what it means to be Cuban. With the different time periods, locations, and interesting storyline, this would make for one good film!
Chicana Falsa: And Other Stories of Death, Identity, & Oxnard by Michele M. Serros
Another book by Michele M. Serros that we can see being turned into a film, be it for TV or movie theaters, is Chicana Falsa. In it, different poems and stories talk about what it’s like to grow up Chicana in Oxnard, California. Being Latinxs who live in the United States automatically makes us part of two very different cultures, and having someone describe how that looks and feels in their own way is at the same time helping us all to tell our story. We need more of this, in all forms (books, TV, films, plays, etc.)!
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Queenie is such a good book, that it has already been acquired in a six-figure deal, and gotten “massive film and TV interest.” The story follows 25-year-old Queenie Jenkins, a Jamaican British woman in London, who works at a national newspaper, and broke up with her long-term white boyfriend. In this funny relatable story, Jenkins balances dating, her family, and comparisons with her white peers.
Sarong Party Girls: A Novel by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
Sarong Party Girls by Cherly Lu-Lien Tan has been described as “Emma set in modern Asia.” The story takes us to Singapore, where Jazzy plans to get her and her BFFs all married to rich white Western expats before the year is over. Written in “Singlish,” you get a view into the nightclub scene, the obsession with designer names, Singaporean culture, and being a woman in this country. Can you imagine how glam this movie would be?
The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
The last book we will be looking at that should be made into a movie is Luis Alberto Urrea’s The House of Broken Angels. The novel tells the story of the De la Cruz family, brought together in San Diego to celebrate the last birthday of Big Angel, Miguel Angel De La Cruz, who is dying of cancer, and the life of his mother, who just passed away. During this weekend, Little Angel, Miguel’s half-brother, and namesake is reunited with his family, one that he hasn’t had a life with. This is a tale of family, and what it means to be both Mexican and American.