This past month has seen more than what anyone could have dreamed up. During a worldwide pandemic, the senseless murder of a black man named George Floyd erupted the country (and several others across the world) into protest. Though the Black Lives Matter (#blacklivesmatter) movement has been around since 2013, in the past it has been almost taboo. BLM was developed as a response to the acquittal of the murderer who famously shot an unarmed Trayvon Martin, 16 years old, while he was walking home from a convenience store. Since then it has grown into a global organization that fights for the rights and liberties of black communities, and against white supremacy.
For the entire month of June, protests have been held in cities across the country. People are paying attention, and asking how they can help. There have been numerous posts/websites/organizations/petitions and more shared throughout the month.
But one big way people felt they could help was to “re-educate” themselves of the black experience through reading. As a reader myself, I felt it was one of the best ways for me (personally) to help with the cause. Actually, people were so passionate about supporting the black book community that many bookstores are currently sold out or back ordered on many of the titles that have been shared online.
I may have went a little overboard, but I ordered from several different black owned independent bookstores and selected a mix of fiction and nonfiction. I have some plans for the nonfiction books in the future but for now, I want to spend the summer reading these black authors and reflecting on how I can make myself better, and educate those around me. For the last several years I have been vocal about my desire to read and share diverse books. That message, and that passion is sure to be amplified even more.
Anyway, here are the books I ordered, and plan to read in the next couple of months.
** I also ordered African American and Latinx History of the United States, but it was back-ordered and didn’t come in until July.
A poetic and powerful memoir about what it means to be a Black woman in America—and the co-founding of a movement that demands justice for all in the land of the free.
Raised by a single mother in an impoverished neighborhood in Los Angeles, Patrisse Khan-Cullors experienced firsthand the prejudice and persecution Black Americans endure at the hands of law enforcement. For Patrisse, the most vulnerable people in the country are Black people. Deliberately and ruthlessly targeted by a criminal justice system serving a white privilege agenda, Black people are subjected to unjustifiable racial profiling and police brutality. In 2013, when Trayvon Martin’s killer went free, Patrisse’s outrage led her to co-found Black Lives Matter with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi.
Condemned as terrorists and as a threat to America, these loving women founded a hashtag that birthed the movement to demand accountability from the authorities who continually turn a blind eye to the injustices inflicted upon people of Black and Brown skin.
Championing human rights in the face of violent racism, Patrisse is a survivor. She transformed her personal pain into political power, giving voice to a people suffering in equality and a movement fueled by her strength and love to tell the country—and the world—that Black Lives Matter.
When They Call You a Terrorist is Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele’s reflection on humanity. It is an empowering account of survival, strength and resilience and a call to action to change the culture that declares innocent Black life expendable.
Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side, where apartments are small and parents suffer addictions to the white rocks. Yet there is magic . . . everywhere. New portals begin to open when Echo transfers to the rich school on the West Side, and an insightful teacher becomes a pivotal mentor. Each day, Echo travels between two worlds, leaving her brothers, her friends, and a piece of herself behind on the East Side. There are dangers to leaving behind the place that made you. Echo soon realizes there is pain flowing through everyone around her, and a black veil of depression threatens to undo everything she’s worked for.
Heavily autobiographical and infused with magical realism, Black Girl Unlimited fearlessly explores the intersections of poverty, sexual violence, depression, racism, and sexism—all through the arc of a transcendent coming-of-age.
When St. Ivory Academy, a historically white wizarding school, opens its doors to its first-ever black student, everyone believes that the wizarding community is finally taking its first crucial steps toward inclusivity. Or is it? When Tom Token, the beneficiary of the school’s “Magical Minority Initiative,” begins uncovering weird clues and receiving creepy texts on his phone, he and his friend, Lindsay, stumble into a conspiracy that dates all the way back to the American Civil War, and could cost Tom his very soul.
Americans like to insist that they are living in a post-racial, color-blind society. In fact, racist thought is alive and well; it has simply become more sophisticated and more insidious. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, racist ideas in America have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit.
In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti–Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the lives of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and anti-racists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brilliant scholar W. E. B. Du Bois to legendary anti–prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading pro-slavery and pro–civil rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America.
As Kendi provocatively illustrates, racist thinking did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Racist ideas were created and popularized in an effort to defend deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and to rationalize the nation’s racial inequities in everything from wealth to health. While racist ideas are easily produced and easily consumed, they can also be discredited. In shedding much–needed light on the murky history of racist ideas, Stamped from the Beginning offers tools to expose them—and in the process, reason to hope.
You can’t rewrite the past, but you can always choose to start again.
It’s been twenty-seven days since Cleo and Layla’s friendship imploded.
Nearly a month since Cleo realized they’ll never be besties again.
Now, Cleo wants to erase every memory, good or bad, that tethers her to her ex–best friend. But pretending Layla doesn’t exist isn’t as easy as Cleo hoped, especially after she’s assigned to be Layla’s tutor. Despite budding new friendships with other classmates—and a raging crush on a gorgeous boy named Dom—Cleo’s turbulent past with Layla comes back to haunt them both.
Alternating between time lines of Then and Now, When You Were Everything blends past and present into an emotional story about the beauty of self-forgiveness, the promise of new beginnings, and the courage it takes to remain open to love.
I masquerade in makeup and feathers and I am applauded.
A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.
Spanning more than two hundred years, An African American and Latinx History of the United States is a revolutionary, politically charged revisionist history, arguing that Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa—otherwise known as “The Global South”—were crucial to the development of America as we know it. Ortiz challenges the notion of westward progress, as exalted by widely-taught formulations like “Manifest Destiny” and “Jacksonian Democracy,” and shows how placing African American, Latinx, and Indigenous voices unapologetically front and center transforms American history into one of the working class organizing themselves against imperialism.
In precise detail, Ortiz traces this untold history from the Jim Crow-esque racial segregation of the Southwest, the rise and violent fall of a powerful tradition of Mexican labor organizing in the 20th century, to May 1, 2006, International Workers’ Day, when migrant laborers—Chicana/os, Afrocubanos, and immigrants from every continent on earth—united in the first “Day Without Immigrants” to prove the value of their labor.
Incisive and timely, An African American and Latinx History is a bottom-up history told from the viewpoint of African American and Latinx activists revealing the radically different ways that brown and black people of the diaspora addressed issues plaguing the United States today
All descriptions and images courtesy of Goodreads.
For those of you who are curious, here are a few book lists of suggested reading in both Non Fiction and Fiction, Adult and YA:
For more information about the Black Lives Matter movement, visit their website here. They have so many articles, videos and other information on their website. It is certainly worth a look over.
Teen Lit Con 2019 had a panel called Social Justice and Activism in YA Literature where Teen Librarian Toolbox contributor (and elementary school librarian) Amanda MacGregor led a discussion. She posted her handouts for that session on her website here.
- Social Justice in Young Adult Literature Recommended Reading List
- Social Justice in YA Lit Resources (websites for further education)
If you would like to see more content like this, personal reading recommendations based on fiction I have already read, and loved, let me know down in the comments.