Antiracism YA Fiction

Typically, when choosing books for my Dive into Diversity posts, I mostly try to avoid titles that focus on racism, police or gun violence, or other trauma. Instead, I prefer to highlight books that show a diverse range of teens dealing with everyday life. In this moment, though, it's time to feature books that demonstrate the impact of violence and oppression on teens. These stories are heavy, but they are important. Especially if you don’t identify with the protagonist, I challenge you to read and consider the character’s situation with an open mind. Let these stories be windows into another person’s life and perspective, helping build empathy–that is what we need right now.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Grades 8 and up
OverDrive: eBook and audiobook
“Rashad Butler is a quiet, artistic teen who hates ROTC but dutifully attends because father insists ‘there's no better opportunity for a black boy in this country than to join the army.' He heads to Jerry's corner store on a Friday night to buy chips, and ends up the victim of unwarranted arrest and police brutality: an event his white schoolmate Quinn Collins witnesses in terrified disbelief. Quinn is even more shocked because the cop is Paul Galluzzo, older brother of his best friend and Quinn's mentor since his father died in Afghanistan. As events unfold, both boys are forced to confront the knowledge that racism in America has not disappeared and that change will not come unless they step forward.” –School Library Journal

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
Grades 9 and up
OverDrive: eBook
“When 16-year-old Tariq, a black teen, is shot and killed by a white man, every witness has a slightly different perception of the chain of events leading up to the murder. Family, friends, gang members, neighbors, and a well-meaning but self-serving minster make up the broad cast of characters. The police bring their own personal biases to their investigation of the case. When all points of view are combined, the story of a young man emerges and with it, a narrative that plays out in communities across the country every day. Heartbreaking and unputdownable, this is an important book about perception and race.” –School Library Journal

Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
Grades 8 and up
OverDrive: eBook
Hoopla: audiobook
“At an early age, Moss witnessed the murder of his father, shot by the police in a case of mistaken identity. When Moss’s underfunded school partners with the police to pilot a new safety program, Moss and his classmates experience treatment more fitting for criminals than students. When the students and community stand together to challenge the unfair treatment, violence breaks out, and Moss has to again confront the horrors of brutality and death against the people he loves.” ––VOYA Reviews

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Grades 8 and up
OverDrive: eBook and audiobook
“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school. Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil's death becomes national news, where he's called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr's best friends at school. The police's lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone.” –Kirkus Reviews

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Grades 8 and up
OverDrive: eBook and audiobook
“After 15-year-old Will sees his older brother, Shawn, gunned down on the streets, he sets out to do the expected: the rules dictate no crying, no snitching, and revenge. Though the African-American teen has never held one, Will leaves his apartment with his brother's gun tucked in his waistband. As he travels down on the elevator, the door opens on certain floors, and Will is confronted with a different figure from his past, each a victim of gun violence, each important in his life. They also force Will to face the questions he has about his plan. As each ‘ghost' speaks, Will realizes how much of his own story has been unknown to him and how intricately woven they are.” –Kirkus Reviews

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson
Grades 7 and up
OverDrive: eBook
“For two years, Jade has been a scholarship student at a predominantly white private high school where she is one of few African-American students—the only one from her ‘bad' neighborhood in Portland, Oregon…. At school, Jade has many opportunities, steppingstones to move beyond her neighborhood someday, maybe even travel the world. But sometimes these opportunities and her white guidance counselor make Jade feel like a charity case. Through Jade's insightful and fresh narration, Watson presents a powerful story that challenges stereotypes about girls with ‘coal skin and hula-hoop hips' who must contend with the realities of racial profiling and police brutality.” –Kirkus Reviews

I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones
Grades 9 and up
OverDrive: eBook and audiobook
“A high school football game between rival schools sounds innocuous enough, right? This night will become anything but for seniors Campbell and Lena, as a racially motivated fight breaks out, leading to shots fired, a peaceful protest, and then, just as suddenly—looting, fires, chaos, a riot. Relatively unknown to each other before, cool, stylish Lena—obsessed with her up-and-coming but aloof rapper boyfriend—and new girl Campbell—accustomed to being abandoned by everyone in her life—are thrust together and forced to walk across the dangerous streets of Atlanta to make it to safety. But will the issues of internalized racism, poverty, and the role the media may play in increasing and inciting violence, bring the girls closer together or make them, physically and emotionally, miles apart?” –VOYA Reviews

All the Days Past, All the Days to Come by Mildred D. Taylor
Grades 9 and up
OverDrive: eBook and audiobook
“This absorbing historical novel concludes the five-volume story of the Logan family, which began in 1975 with Song of the Trees, followed by the Newbery Award–winner Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Here, narrator Cassie, now a grown woman, describes an era of sweeping social change, which begins with the post-WWII Great Migration north and culminates with the civil rights movement. Cassie’s struggles and joys are decidedly adult, as she graduates from college and moves to Toledo to live with her brother’s family, seeks work in California, marries and becomes a widow, and eventually decides to fulfill a childhood dream of becoming a lawyer, a profession she eventually employs to register black voters in her home state of Mississippi.” –Publisher’s Weekly

American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Grades 9 and up
OverDrive: eBook
Hoopla: eBook and audiobook
“After her mother is detained by immigration officials, Fabiola Toussaint has to finish her move from Port-au-Prince to Detroit alone. The tough-as-nails cousins and exhausted aunt who greet her in Michigan bear little resemblance to the warm family she had dreamed of when she was in Haiti. Left with a mother-size hole in her life, Fabiola begins the unsteady process of assimilation, holding on to her family's spiritual traditions while navigating the disconnectedness and violence of her new home. A sweet romance and her cousins' fierce and complex support ease the teen into a halfway space between worlds, but her eyes remain on the prize of reuniting with her mother. When Fabiola is approached by the police to inform on her cousin's volatile boyfriend in exchange for information about her mother, she must work around the gaps in her understanding to make some explosive decisions.” –School Library Journal

March: Book One by John Lewis
Grades 8 and up
OverDrive: eBook
Hoopla: eBook
“Beginning with a dream sequence that depicts the police crackdown on the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March, this memoir then cuts to Congressman John Lewis's preparations on the day of President Obama's inauguration. Lewis provides perspective on the occasion, explaining and describing his own religious and desegregationalist origins in Alabama, his early meeting with Dr. King, and his training as a nonviolent protester.” –School Library Journal

Categories: Authors & Books, Featured, Homepage Teens, Library News, and Teens.

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