"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Friday, June 5, 2020

Black Lives Matter: a look at books to bring the discussion forward

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” — Desmond Tutu

 “I don’t want your love and light if it doesn’t come with solidarity and action. I have no interest in passive empathy.” — Rachel Cargle

In light of the events of this week we all are called to action, to speak up on behalf of our brothers and sisters of color. No longer should anyone feel comfortable sitting quietly on the sidelines, no matter how empathetic they feel toward the cause of true equality for ALL.

But what can I do to help? Today it hit me. I can use my voice to talk about what I know: books. More specifically, books about racism/anti-racism, inclusion, and justice. And to highlight the works of authors who are truly making a difference writing and illustrating books so that children, teens, and adults recognize their own stories in literature.

This is not an exhaustive list, but I want it to be a more extensive list than I can compile alone. So help me out. In the comment section below (or on my email link on the sidebar) add selections and descriptions of additional books you suggest and I will add them to this list. Together we can make this a great resource for people looking for ways to educate themselves about how to become anti-racists today and to raise up a new generation of anti-racists for tomorrow!

Adult nonfiction:
  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. If you want to start someplace impactful, start here. "A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice — from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time." Today the movie about Stevenson and his work is available free for Amazon Prime members. Act quickly. 
  • Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi. "As Kendi shows, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. They were created to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation's racial inequities. It offers us the tools we need to expose racist thinking. In the process, he gives us reason to hope." I haven't read this version of the book but was so interested by what I learned from the YA version (see description below.)
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. A letter from a father to his black son. "Between the World and Me offers a powerful new framework for understanding America's history and current crisis, and a transcendent vision for a way forward." This is not an easy book to read, but a vital one.
  • White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo. "Groundbreaking book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when discussing racism that serve to protect their positions and maintain racial inequality."(Suggested by Helen at Helen's Book Blog)
  • An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Justice is justice and it needs to be extended everywhere. “Justice-seekers everywhere will celebrate Dunbar-Ortiz’s unflinching commitment to truth—a truth that places settler-colonialism and genocide exactly where they belong: as foundational to the existence of the United States.”
    Waziyatawin, PhD, activist and author of For Indigenous Minds Only. A YA version is also available. (Suggested by Helen at Helen's Book Blog)
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. "Widespread reporting on aspects of white supremacy--from police brutality to the mass incarceration of Black Americans--has put a media spotlight on racism in our society. Still, it is a difficult subjec by t to talk about. How do you tell your roommate her jokes are racist? Why did your sister-in-law take umbrage when you asked to touch her hair--and how do you make it right? How do you explain white privilege to your white, privileged friend" (Suggested by Sandy WB.) 
  • How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. "Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism—and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other." (Suggested by Sandy WB)
  • No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America by Darnell L. Moore. "Moore is an award-winning writer, a leading Black Lives Matter activist, and an advocate for justice and liberation. In No Ashes in the Fire, he shares the journey taken from scared, bullied teenager who not only survived, but found his calling." (Suggested by Sandy WB)
  • White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson. "From the Civil War to our combustible present, acclaimed historian Carol Anderson reframes our continuing conversation about race, chronicling the powerful forces opposed to black progress in America." Even the title makes me angry. We have got to do better. (Suggested by Emma at Words and Peace
  • An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago by Alex Kotlowitz. "Alex Kotlowitz doesn’t provide solutions to the violence that plagues Chicago. Instead, he eloquently bears witness to a single summer on its streets, chronicling a community’s ongoing struggle with murder, misery, and rage. This deeply empathetic and perceptive book isn’t easy to read. But we can only see into the neglected corners of America when someone shines a light."--Christian Science Monitor. (Suggested by Deb Nance at Readerbuzz)
  • They Can't Kill Us All: The Struggle for Black Lives by Wesley Lowrey. "A deeply reported book that brings alive the quest for justice in the deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Freddie Gray, offering both unparalleled insight into the reality of police violence in America and an intimate, moving portrait of those working to end it." (Suggested by Lynn at Lynn's Film and Book Reviews)
  • Be the Bridge: Pursuing God's Heart for Racial Reconciliation by LaTasha Morrison. "With racial tensions as high within the church as outside the church, it is time for Christians to become the leaders in the conversation on racial reconciliation."
  • Black is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother's Time, My Mother's Time, and Mine by Emily Bernard. "The author has led an interesting life, growing up African American in the South, going to an Ivy League college and moving to the very white state of Vermont, marrying a white man, and adopting two little girls from Ethiopia. Bernard's interconnected personal essays cover a wide range of topics." (Recommended by Sue at Book by Book) 
  • Tell Me Who You Are: Sharing Our Stories of Race, Culture, and Identity by Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi "The authors recount their experiences talking to people from all walks of life about race and identity on a cross-country tour of America. " (Recommended by Rummanah Aasi at Books in the Spotlight)
Adult fiction:
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. "Homegoing follows the parallel paths of two sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation." If you want to understand the long term effect of slavery, read this book. It will break your heart.
  • Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.What if the underground railroad was a literal railroad? And what if each state, as a runaway slave was going north, was a different state of American possibility, an alternative America?” (WSJ) Though this book is about slavery, it is also very NOW. Colson Whitehead has won two Pulitzers, one for this book and one for The Nickel Boys. He has a lot to tell us. Be prepared to think new thoughts and to grow.
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Explores the impact that incarceration has on marriages and relationships.
  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates. "Coates brings his considerable talent for racial and social analysis to his debut novel, which captures the brutality of slavery and explores the underlying truth that slaveholders could not dehumanize the enslaved without also dehumanizing themselves. Beautifully written, this is a deeply and soulfully imagined look at slavery and human aspirations." Booklist (Starred Review)
  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin. A moving story about love in the face of injustice. Written in 1974, the story remains pertinent today.
YA nonfiction:
  • Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults): A True Story of a Fight For Justice by Bryan Stevenson. "Stevenson's story is one of working to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society--the poor, the wrongly convicted, and those whose lives have been marked by discrimination and marginalization. Through this adaptation, young people of today will find themselves called to action and compassion in the pursuit of justice." I liked the adult version better than this YA version, but I'm an adult. Ha! Both are very good.
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. "A timely, crucial, and empowering exploration of racism — and antiracism — in America." A remix of the National Book Award winning, Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi. This book has been reworked with a YA audience in mind, but it is excellent for any age group.
  • One Person No Vote: How Not All Voters are Treated Equally by Carol Anderson with Tonya Bolden. "In gripping, enlightening detail Anderson explains how voter suppression works, from photo ID requirements to gerrymandering to poll closures. And with vivid characters, she explores the resistance: the organizing, activism, and court battles to restore the basic right to vote to all Americans as the nation gears up for the 2020 presidential election season." I got so angry I wanted to throw this book against the wall. There is lots of room for action on this topic. This is the YA version of the adult book by the same title.
  • March: Book 1, 2, and 3 by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell. The story of Civil Rights Activist and Congressman John Lewis told in three graphic memoirs. Lewis, who marched alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted his memoir to be published in the comic-book style because it was a comic of MLK that got him activated in the first place back in the late 1950s.
YA fiction:
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This book could have been written about what happened in Minneapolis this past week: police kill unarmed black teen, the community erupts in violence. I haven't seen the movie of the same title, but the book is excellent and eye-opening on many levels. Thomas' next book, On the Come Up, takes a hard look at many of the issues that teens of color must deal with on a daily basis. The latter book is also worth the read.
  • Black and White by Paul Volponi. Two best friends, one black and the other white, commit a crime together. After they are caught, the disparity in their experiences with the justice system could not be more stark. Volponi, a white author, wrote this book after seeing for himself the unequal nature of the justice system when he was a teacher for incarcerated youth.
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Keily. "In this New York Times bestselling novel, two teens--one black, one white--grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension." I recommend reading any book written by Jason Reynolds.
  • With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. "The acclaimed author follows up her celebrated The Poet X with a love letter to food and a tribute to young, single mothers... Acevedo's second serving offers a much-needed nuanced exploration of teen parenting that belongs on all shelves." School Library Journal (Starred Review). What I liked best about this book is the positive message it gives about making the most of your life. The main character is a teen mom who works hard to make her dreams come true and she never regrets her decision to have and keep 'baby-girl.' The author's first book is similarly inspiring. It is time we start changing the narrative of what to expect from characters of color. A "don't-miss-her-books" author. 
  • X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Keikla Magoon. A novelization of the life of Malcolm X written by his daughter.
  • Dear Martin by Nic Stone.“A powerful, wrenching, and compulsively readable story that lays bare the history, and the present, of racism in America.” –John Green. It's sequel, Dear Justyce is coming out later this summer. (Suggested by Deb Nance at Readerbuzz)
  • Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson. "When Monday goes missing, only one friend notices and no one is doing anything about it." BIPOC women often go missing without so much as an investigation into their whereabouts. (Recommended by Rummanah Aasi at Books in the Spotlight)
Middle Grade nonfiction:
  • Locked Up for Freedom: Civil Rights Protestors at the Leesburg Stockade by Heather E. Schwartz. "In 1963, more than 30 African-American girls ages 11 to 16 were arrested for taking part in Civil Rights protests in Americus, Georgia. They were taken without their families' knowledge to a Civil War-era stockade in Leesburg, Georgia, where they were confined in unsanitary conditions and exposed to brutal treatment." I read this book with my mouth hanging open. How could this happen in America?
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. A memoir of this celebrated author's life growing up during the Civil Rights era. Written in poems.
  • Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Russell Freedman. "Now a classic, Freedman's book tells the dramatic stories of the heroes who stood up against segregation and Jim Crow laws in 1950s Alabama." Grade 6 and up. (Suggested by Deb Nance at Readerbuzz)
Middle Grade fiction:
  • New Kid by Jerry Craft. This is a graphic novel about a new kid at school where the diversity is low and the desire to fit in is high. This was the 2020 Newbery Medal award winning book. This book is spot-on about the way people often inadvertently treat students of color, without malice aforethought. Yet the remarks are so hurtful. This would be a wonderful book to read with your kids and discuss.
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. Your kids will likely read this one in school. If not, read it together.
  • All the Days Past, All the Days to Come by Mildred D. Taylor. "Mildred Taylor completes her sweeping saga about the Logan family of Mississippi, which is also the story of the civil rights movement in America of the 20th century." (Suggested by Deb Nance at Readerbuzz)
  • Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams. "This is the story of a thirteen-year-old girl who is filled with self-loathing and must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself." (Recommended by Rummanah Aasi at Books in the Spotlight)
  • From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks. "Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime? A crime he says he never committed." (Recommended by Rummanah Aasi at Books in the Spotlight)
  • Revolution by Deborah Wiley.  "Revolution is about The Freedom Summer – the summer of 1964 when college students and other volunteers from all over the country traveled to Mississippi to help end discrimination and segregation in a part of the country that was outright ignoring federal laws to that effect." (Recommended by Sue at Book by Book)
  • Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood. "A Mississippi town in 1964 gets riled when tempers flare at the segregated public pool." (Recommended by Sue at Book by Book)
Children's nonfiction:
  • Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. This book is a love letter, written in poetic form, to black life in America. "It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world's greatest heroes." Both this author and the illustrator are not-to-be-missed talents.
  • I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr., illustrated by Kadir Nelson. This book also contains an audio CD (remember those) of King delivering his famous speech. Once again, do not miss books illustrated by Kadir Nelson. For ages 7 and up.
  • Rosa by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Bryan Collier. "Award-winning poet, writer, and activist Nikki Giovanni's evocative text combines with Bryan Collier's striking cut-paper images to retell the story of this historic event from a wholly unique and original perspective."
  • Separate Is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh. "Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school." This is an inspiring story about the Hispanic community's fight to desegregate schools in California. I read this book yesterday as Amazon offered the e-book for free.
Children's fiction:
  • Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson. Acts of kindness can make all the difference.
  • A is For Activist by Innosanto Nagara. A board book for very young children, the future of our country.
  • White Water by Michael Bandy and Eric Stein, illustrated by Shandra Strickland. A young boy has an epiphany. A good discussion starter for young children.
  • Something Happened In Our Town: A Child's Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin. "Something Happened in Our Town follows two families -- one White, one Black -- as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community. The story aims to answer children's questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives." (Suggested by Deb Nance at Readerbuzz)
  • Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney. "Andrea's stunning poetic requiem, illustrated with Brian's lyrical and colorful artwork, brings a fresh perspective to Martin Luther King, the Gandhi-like, peace-loving activist whose dream of equality -- and whose courage to make it happen -- changed the course of American history. And even in his death, he continues to transform and inspire all of us who share his dream." Also by this writing duo, Boycott Blues. Grade 4 and up.
  • Selected Poems of Langston Hughes: A Classic Collection of Poems by a Master of American Verse by Langston Hughes. Includes: "Montage of a Dream Deferred"; "I, Too"; "Refugee in America." *Note: I tried to check out an e-book of Langston Hughes poetry from my library. They are all checked out! When does that happen?
  • And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Admit it. You should just read ALL the Maya Angelou books and poetry collections.
  • Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankin. "A book-length poem about race and imagination."-The New Yorker. (Suggested by Deb Nance at Readerbuzz)
  • Don't Call Us Dead: Poems by Danez Smith. "Don’t Call Us Dead is an astonishing and ambitious collection, one that confronts, praises, and rebukes America—“Dear White America”—where every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle."
Now it is your turn. Please help me make this list as exhaustive as possible. Make suggestions of books I should include in the comments below.

Note: All the hyperlinks will take you to an Indy bookstore's website. Whenever you can, support small business owners and keep as many bookstores open as possible.  Right now many books about racism and social justice are sold out. Take that as a good sign and get yourself in line to get the books you want when they become available. Also check out your library homepages. They may have e-books available for check out even if your library is still closed due to the pandemic.

Quotes not attributed to a specific source come from the material provided by the publisher.


  1. I'm glad we've read (or are reading) some of these for Book Club.

    1. I agree. We have picked some really good ones. I think it is time we read JUST MERCY or WHITE FRAGILITY---a nonfiction selection on the topic.

  2. A brilliant list, thank you for curating this. I have Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race, I Will Not Be Erased by the Gal-Dem collective and The Good Immigrant (UK) on my TBR, as well as Our City which is about the effect of immigrants of all kinds on my home city in the UK. I want to read White Fragility and Me and White Supremacy and I really want to find a UK-centric Anti-Racism book but have yet to track one down.

    1. I understand that Amazon's top book right now all have something to do with race and justice. Yay! Let's all read more and let the facts soak into our souls.

  3. Great list. I would also add White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and An Indigenous People's History of the United States. I feel like I have so much reading and learning to do. We must remember this is a life journey, not just something we can "fix" in a month.

    1. Adding your suggestions to my list. Thank you. I think if people start reading then the facts will start taking hold. Let's hope.

  4. This is an exceptionally comprehensive list. I can think of Russell Freedman's Freedom Walkers; Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levin; The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson; An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago; All the Days Past, All the Days to Come and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor; Citizen: An American Lyric; Dear Martin; and The Power of Her Pen as some other possibilities.

    1. I was just reminded of a picture book that I remember as being very good. It's Something Happened in Our Town.

    2. Thank you. I knew you would have good ideas of book titles to add to the lists.

    3. A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 is another excellent title for young adults.

  5. Great list! I love Homegoing and The Hate U Give, a lot of these books are on my tbr and I'm definitely going to check the others out.
    I read They Can't Kill Us All a couple of years ago and thought it was very informative. I don't live in the U.S. so it helped me get a bit of an overview of the horrible events that happened and why/how the movement was created.

  6. Thanks for this awesome list! I'm glad I helped with a suggestion. Suddenly came to me Brown Girl Dreaming, glad to see you read it. It's such a wonderful book, and its author is such a beautiful soul, it seems.

    1. Thanks for your suggestion. I hope to read it soon.

  7. Great list. I would also suggest Allegedly and Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson (both YA), Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams (MG and YA), From the desk of Zoey Washington by Janae Marks (MG), Front Desk by Kelly Yang (MG)

  8. I love this list! So many great titles and even more that I hadn't yet added to my TBR! I particularly love that you have selections for various different age groups. It's so important for us to be talking to our kids about race and racism, and to make books that feature diverse representation and important historical info available. I did a similar post, if you want to take a look it's here, but off the top of my head I'd add Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man (I'm reading it right now and it's great) by Emmanuel Acho, Born A Crime by Trevor Noah, How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston, Antiracist Baby (a board book) by Ibram X. Kendi, The Skin We're In by Desmond Cole (about a year in anti-Black racism in Canada), The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (I know you have another of his books here already, so ignore if you purposely just chose one!), Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, The Autobiography of Malcolm X and one I haven't read yet but want to, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. Such a great list, hats off to you, and thank you for sharing!


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