Tuesday, January 16, 2018

MLK Week: Timely YA

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and our president continues to say awful racist things, and I have so little control over any of this.

So I'm making book lists.  Tune in every day all week for a new list of books related to race in America, mostly  YA and MG fiction, mostly backlist, and mostly looking at the black/white issue. Starting off, we have:

Backlist YA Novels to Read if You Loved, THUG, Dear Martin, and All American Boys

You like your fiction timely, you're pissed off about police violence and the school-to-prison pipeline, you're not afraid of shades of grey, and you're not going to get all bent out of shape if someone starts talking about white privilege. Have I got some books for YOU! 

How It Went Down A favorite of mine, this 2015 release starts with a black teen getting shot by a white adult. Multiple points of view weigh in on what they saw that day, and how their lives are affected by the event.

When I Was the Greatest Jason Reynolds has been writing good books for awhile now. In this one, the narrator befriends two brothers, one of whom is looking for trouble. It all comes down in an instant.

Lockdown Walter Dean Myers is iconic, and this is one of my favorites of his. Told in vivid first person, the book shows how hard it is to stay out of trouble once you're already in jail.

The First Part Last I don't think this book is high literature, but it's a gripping story about a teen dad trying to do the right thing. It's also super short, if you're trying to tempt reluctant readers.

The Silence of our Friends A graphic novel loosely based on the authors' experience growing up as neighbors in a Texan town that wasn't yet comfortable with "mixed" neighborhoods.

This Side of Home I've reviewed this one before, and have yet to read her latest, but I have to include hometown author RenĂ©e Brown and her look at gentrification.

Monster (or its graphic novel adaptation) Another WDM classic, this one is told as if it were a screenplay the main character writes in his head. Steve was the lookout for a robbery in which someone was shot and killed. But is he a monster? Honestly, I found the graphic novel easier to follow.

Boy 21 This is the only book on this list that isn't #ownvoices, but it's too good to leave off.  Matthew Quick's narrator is Boston Irish, but lives in a largely African American neighborhood. He is asked to mentor a young black man whose family has just been killed. The newcomer is a basektball phenom, and Finley is torn between sympathy for the kid, and fear that he will take his place on the team, thereby ruining his one shot at escape from their mob-run town. Probably my second favorite on this list after How It Went Down.

Tune in tomorrow for MG Historical Novels about the African American Experience from Colonialism through the Civil Rights era!


  1. Thank you for this list! I have How It Went Down sitting on my TBR shelf right now. I read The First Part Last and Monster when I was in grad school. I liked them both.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. I love this idea, and I love this list! I just added a couple to my Goodreads list!


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