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Books & Authors

Black Lives Matter

A powerful way to develop empathy for those of different identities and backgrounds is by attending to their stories and perspectives. The first part of this Own Voices list offers memoirs by Black authors who explore their intersecting identities and the impacts of racism and injustice on themselves and those whom they love. The second part collects empowering anti-racist nonfiction and fiction for teen readers. Links to reading lists for children are included at the bottom of this list.

Memoirs

No ashes in the fire : coming of age black & free in America by Darnell L. Moore

The editor-at-large of CASSIUS and original Black Lives Matter organizer describes his own direct experiences with prejudice, violence and repression, his search for intimacy in the gay neighborhoods of his youth and his participation in key civil movements where he found his calling as an advocate on behalf of society's marginalized people.

 

 

Black is the body : stories from my grandmother's time, my mother's time, and mine by Emily Bernard

Bernard details the experience of growing up black in the south, surviving a random stabbing at a New Haven coffee shop, marrying a white man from the North, adopting two children from Ethiopia, and living in a primarily white New England college town. Each of these essays sets out to discover a new way of talking about race and of telling the truth as the author has lived it.

 

 

What doesn't kill you makes you blacker : a memoir in essays by Damon Young

For Damon Young, possessing black skin while searching for space to breathe in America is enough to induce a ceaseless state of angst where questions such as "How should I react here, as a professional black person?" and "Will this white person's potato salad kill me?" are forever relevant. Young celebrates the distinctions of Blackness and critiques white supremacy and how we define masculinity.

 

 

Men we reaped : a memoir by Jesmyn Ward

In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five men in her life--to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these losses made Ward ask the question: Why? Her brother and her friends all died because of who they were and where they were from, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle that fostered drug addiction and the dissolution of relationships.

 

 

How we fight for our lives : a memoir by Saeed Jones

Jones tells of being a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself. Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence--into tumultuous relationships with his mother and grandmother, lovers, friends and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we do for--and to--one another as we fight to become ourselves.

 

 

Ordinary light : a memoir by Tracy K. Smith

This memoir explores coming-of-age against a complex backdrop of race, faith, and the bond between a mother and daughter. Smith interrogates her childhood in suburban California, her independence at Harvard, and her Alabama-born parents' recollections of the Civil Rights era. With lyricism and wry humor, Smith's writing is a kaleidoscope of self and family that combines a child's and teenager's perceptions with adult retrospection.

 

 

Heavy : an American memoir by Kiese Laymon

Laymon writes about the physical manifestations of violence, grief, trauma, and abuse on his own body. Through self-exploration, storytelling, and honest conversation with family and friends, Laymon seeks to bring what has been hidden into the light and to reckon with all of its myriad sources, from the most intimate--a mother-child relationship--to the most universal--a society that has undervalued and abused black bodies for centuries.

 

 

Survival math : notes on an all-American family by Mitchell S. Jackson

This book explores gangs and guns, near-death experiences, sex work, masculinity, the concept of "hustle," and the destructive power of addiction--framed within the story of Jackson, his family, and his community. Lauded for its breathtaking pace, tender portrayals, stark candor, and luminous style, Jackson's memoir reveals on every page the intellect and originality of its author.

 

 

 

Nonfiction and Fiction for Teens

This book is anti-racist by Tiffany Jewell; illustrated by Aurelia Durand

Learn about identities, true histories, and anti-racism work. This book is written so young people will feel empowered to stand up to the adults in their lives, and will give them the language and ability to understand racism and a drive to undo it.

 

 

 

We are not yet equal : understanding our racial divide by Carol Anderson with Tonya Bolden

A compelling and timely YA adaptation of Anderson's "New York Times" bestseller "White Rage," written in a narrative style with additional historical context and featuring new content on race in post-Obama America.

 

 

 

Stamped : racism, antiracism, and you by Jason Reynolds

This reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi's "Stamped from the Beginning" reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited.

 

 

The hate u give by Angie Thomas

After witnessing her friend's death at the hands of a police officer, Starr Carter's life is complicated when the police and a local drug lord try to intimidate her in an effort to learn what happened the night Kahlil died.

 

 

 

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Writing letters to the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., seventeen-year-old college-bound Justyce McAllister struggles to face the reality of race relations today and how they are shaping him.

 

 

 

The poet X : a novel by Elizabeth Acevedo

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

 

 

 

 

Book Lists for Children and Teens

See Our World (ages 0-2)

Celebrate Our Differences (ages 3-5)

Talking to Kids About Race (ages 6-8)

Stand Up, Speak Out (ages 9-12)

Black Voices, Black Lives (teen)

Black Voices, Black Lives: Nonfiction (teen)

 

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