Social Justice and Activism in YA Lit

Yesterday, I started noticing tweets about literature related to the events unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri. The events there and the very different reactions to them just confirm that we need diverse literature.

One YA title that immediately popped into my mind was Kekla Magoon’s The Rock and the River. In that book and in the sequel, young people see injustice around them and are moved to action. What I really appreciated about The Rock and the River was that Magoon acknowledged that there are gray areas. Activism is messy and it’s not just perfect people against evil people. In her excellent blogpost, “The Violence in Missouri: Writers and Artists Respond,” Lyn Miller-Lachmann also mentioned Kekla Magoon’s books among others. In her own book GringolandiaLyn has also written about social justice issues and activism.

There are quite a few titles available for children and young adults that deal with social justice issues and activism. There are already a few lists circulating online. School Library Journal created a list of resources on their blog, Understanding Ferguson: Resources on Protest, Nonviolence, and Civil Rights. In that post, they pointed to the work that Left Bank Books (a bookstore in St. Louis) is doing. Left Bank is curating a list they have named #Ferguson – How We Got Here. Their list includes titles from picture books through adult. There are also two hashtags on Twitter that are related to this subject if you want more titles. For any and all ages see #FergusonReads and for children’s lit see #KidLit4Justice.

Here are a few titles that are specifically YA.

rockThe Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon
For thirteen-year-old Sam it’s not easy being the son of known civil rights activist Roland Childs. Especially when his older (and best friend), Stick, begins to drift away from him for no apparent reason. And then it happens: Sam finds something that changes everything forever.

Sam has always had faith in his father, but when he finds literature about the Black Panthers under Stick’s bed, he’s not sure who to believe: his father or his best friend. Suddenly, nothing feels certain anymore.

Sam wants to believe that his father is right: You can effect chnage without using violence. But as time goes on, Sam grows weary of standing by and watching as his friends and family suffer at the hands of racism in their own community. Sam beings to explore the Panthers with Stick, but soon he’s involved in something far more serious — and more dangerous — than he could have ever predicted. Sam is faced with a difficult decision. Will he follow his father or his brother? His mind or his heart? The rock or the river?

fire

Fire in the Streets by Kekla Magoon
Maxie knows all about how fire can erupt at a moment’s notice, especially now, in the sweltering Chicago summer of 1968. She is a Black Panther—or at least she wants to be one. Maxie believes in the movement. She wants to belong. She wants to join the struggle. But everyone keeps telling her she’s too young. At fourteen, she’s allowed to help out in the office, but she certainly can’t help patrol the streets.

Then Maxie realizes that there is a traitor in their midst, and if she can figure out who it is, it may be her ticket to becoming a real Panther. But when she learns the truth, the knowledge threatens to destroy her world. Maxie must decide: Is becoming a Panther worth paying the ultimate price?

revolutionThe Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano
There are two secrets Evelyn Serrano is keeping from her Mami and Papo? her true feelings about growing up in her Spanish Harlem neighborhood, and her attitude about Abuela, her sassy grandmother who’s come from Puerto Rico to live with them. Then, like an urgent ticking clock, events erupt that change everything. The Young Lords, a Puerto Rican activist group, dump garbage in the street and set it on fire, igniting a powerful protest. When Abuela steps in to take charge, Evelyn is thrust into the action. Tempers flare, loyalties are tested. Through it all, Evelyn learns important truths about her Latino heritage and the history makers who shaped a nation. Infused with actual news accounts from the time period, Sonia Manzano has crafted a gripping work of fiction based on her own life growing up during a fiery, unforgettable time in America, when young Latinos took control of their destinies.

angel Angel de la Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery by M. Evelina Galang
Angel has just lost her father, and her mother’s grief means she might as well be gone too. She’s got a sister and a grandmother to look out for, and a burgeoning consciousness of the unfairness in the world—in her family, her community, and her country.

Set against the backdrop of the second Philippine People Power Revolution in 2001, the contemporary struggles of surviving Filipina “Comfort Women” of WWII, and a cold winter’s season in the city of Chicago is the story of a daughter coming of age, coming to forgiveness, and learning to move past the chaos of grief to survive.

surrender The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle
It is 1896. Cuba has fought three wars for independence and still is not free. People have been rounded up in reconcentration camps with too little food and too much illness. Rosa is a nurse, but she dares not go to the camps. So she turns hidden caves into hospitals for those who know how to find her.

Black, white, Cuban, Spanish—Rosa does her best for everyone. Yet who can heal a country so torn apart by war? Acclaimed poet Margarita Engle has created another breathtaking portrait of Cuba.

 

gringo

Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Daniel’s papá, Marcelo, used to play soccer, dance the cueca, and drive his kids to school in a beat-up green taxi—all while publishing an underground newspaper that exposed Chile’s military regime. After papá’s arrest in 1980, Daniel’s family fled to the United States. Now Daniel has a new life, playing guitar in a rock band and dating Courtney, a minister’s daughter. He hopes to become a US citizen as soon as he turns eighteen.

When Daniel’s father is released and rejoins his family, they see what five years of prison and torture have done to him. Marcelo is partially paralyzed, haunted by nightmares, and bitter about being exiled to “Gringolandia.” Daniel worries that Courtney’s scheme to start a bilingual human rights newspaper will rake up papá’s past and drive him further into alcohol abuse and self-destruction. Daniel dreams of a real father-son relationship, but he may have to give up everything simply to save his papá’s life.

This powerful coming-of-age story portrays an immigrant teen’s struggle to reach his tortured father and find his place in the world.

march March: Book One by John Robert Lewis and Andrew Aydin with artist Nate Powell
Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

dreamer The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle
“I find it so easy to forget / that I’m just a girl who is expected / to live / without thoughts.” Opposing slavery in Cuba in the nineteenth century was dangerous. The most daring abolitionists were poets who veiled their work in metaphor. Of these, the boldest was Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, nicknamed Tula. In passionate, accessible verses of her own, Engle evokes the voice of this book-loving feminist and abolitionist who bravely resisted an arranged marriage at the age of fourteen, and was ultimately courageous enough to fight against injustice. Historical notes, excerpts, and source notes round out this exceptional tribute.

freedom The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell
To coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Summer murders, this will be the first book for young adults to explore the harrowing true story of three civil rights workers slain by the KKK.

In June of 1964, three idealistic young men (one black and two white) were lynched by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi. They were trying to register African Americans to vote as part of the Freedom Summer effort to bring democracy to the South. Their disappearance and murder caused a national uproar and was one of the most significant incidents of the Civil Rights Movement, and contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

yummy Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri with illustrations by Randy DuBurke In August of 1994, 11-year-old Robert “Yummy” Sandifer — nicknamed for his love of sweets — fired a gun at a group of rival gangmembers, accidentally killing a neighborhood girl, Shavon Dean. Police searched Chicago’s southside for three days before finding Yummy dead in a railway tunnel, killed by members of the drug gang he’d sought to impress. The story made such an impact that Yummy appeared on the cover of TIME magazine, drawing national attention to the problems of inner city youth in America.

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty relives the confusion of these traumatic days from the point of view of Roger, a neighborhood boy who struggles to understand the senseless violence swirling through the streets around him. Awakened by the tragedy, Roger seeks out answers to difficult questions — was Yummy a killer or a victim? Was he responsible for his actions or are others to blame?


 

While the final title (Yummy) is not really about activism, it brings up many questions about justice, violence, and our communities. These are issues that young people are seeing in the news and possibly experiencing in their own lives. Literature is one way to open the door for discussion. If you know of any other titles that would fit in with this list, please let us know in the comments.

— Cover images and summaries are from Goodreads

Audrey’s Summer Reading List

Today I thought it would be fun to highlight some of the books that I’ve either read or am planning to read this summer. If you’re looking for something to take with you on your last-minute vacation or just to enjoy by the pool, you should give these books a chance!

The Girl From the WellThe Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gently, as your poet encourages, into the good night.

A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.

The Girl from the Well is A YA Horror novel pitched as “Dexter” meets “The Grudge”, based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.

KaleidoscopeKaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories
Edited by Julia Rios and Alisa Krasnostein.

Kaleidoscope is an anthology of diverse contemporary YA fantasy and science fiction stories.

What do a disabled superhero, a time-traveling Chinese-American figure skater, and a transgendered animal shifter have in common? They’re all stars of Kaleidoscope stories!

Kaleidoscope collects fun, edgy, meditative, and hopeful YA science fiction and fantasy with diverse leads. These twenty original stories tell of scary futures, magical adventures, and the joys and heartbreaks of teenage life.

the livingThe Living by Matt de la Peña
Shy took the summer job to make some money. In a few months on a luxury cruise liner, he’ll rake in the tips and be able to help his mom and sister out with the bills. And how bad can it be? Bikinis, free food, maybe even a girl or two—every cruise has different passengers, after all.

But everything changes when the Big One hits. Shy’s only weeks out at sea when an earthquake more massive than ever before recorded hits California, and his life is forever changed.

The earthquake is only the first disaster. Suddenly it’s a fight to survive for those left living.

midnightMidnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs.

But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

Diverse Lit Conversations & Summer Reads

My head has been spinning with all of the discussions and activism around diversity in children’s and YA lit lately. It has been a wild ride since February actually. The CCBC-Net discussion in February was centered around Multicultural Literature. I loved that Sarah Hamburg asked us what activism would look like to each of us. It made me stop and think about the many possible ways that an individual could work toward change. I responded and many others did also. Ultimately, Sarah gathered the results and they were posted on many blogs such as Crazy QuiltEdi. During that discussion, School Library Journal announced that they would be devoting an entire issue to Diversity in May. I was able to write an article from the Teacher Librarian perspective. In case you missed it, the issue is still available online and has many excellent articles.

Next up was the announcement of a BookCon panel of all stars from the kid lit world which they planned with all white men. Kelly Jensen explained it well here. The result of that particularly glaring example of ignoring diversity inspired the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign. Amazing things have been happening ever since and I am excited about the potential for change.

One of the best ways to support diverse lit is to buy it, read it, and let other people know about the amazing books you find. Here are some of the books I plan to read and talk about this summer. Do you have some books on your summer reading list? Have you read any amazing books already this summer? We’d love to hear about any that have caught your attention.

dance

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revolution

Rebellion FC

firefly

ldsjd

proxy

other

 

 

“Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy”

I’m on a quest to write a short story (as I seem to prefer novel writing) and know that the best way to really understand the form is to study short stories. So, part of my summer reading will be to read a number of collections/anthologies of short stories. The YA ones on my list are:

Matter of soulsA Matter of Souls by Denise Lewis Patrick
Published by Carolrhoda Books
From the shores of Africa to the bowels of a transatlantic ship to a voting booth in Mississippi to the jungles of Vietnam, all human connection is a matter of souls. In this stirring collection of short stories, Denise Lewis Patrick considers the souls of black men and women across centuries and continents. In each, she takes the measure of their dignity, describes their dreams, and catalogs their fears. Brutality, beauty, laughter, rage, and love all take their turns in each story, but the final impression is of indomitable, luminous, and connected souls.

 

 

shermanBlasphemy by Sherman Alexie
Published by Grove Press
A bold and irreverent observer of life among Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, the daring, versatile, funny, and outrageous Alexie showcases all his talents in his newest collection, Blasphemy, where he unites fifteen beloved classics with fifteen new stories in one sweeping anthology for devoted fans and first-time readers.

An indispensable collection of new and classic stories, Blasphemy reminds us, on every thrilling page, why Sherman Alexie is one of our greatest contemporary writers and a true master of the short story.

 

defy darkDefy the Dark
Published by HarperTeen

The seventeen original stories in Defy the Dark, an eerie, mind-bending YA anthology, could only take place in darkness.

Open the pages and discover: A creepy guy who stares too long. The secrets of the core of the earth. Dreams of other people’s lives. A girl who goes mad in the darkness. Monsters in Bavaria. A generational spaceship where night doesn’t exist. And other mysteries and oddities.

The contributors to the enthralling collection are: Sarah Rees Brennan, Tessa Gratton, Rachel Hawkins, Christine Johnson, Valerie Kemp, Malinda Lo, Myra McEntire, Saundra Mitchell, Sarah Ockler, Jackson Pearce, Aprilynne Pike, Dia Reeves, Beth Revis, Carrie Ryan, Jon Skovron, Courtney Summers, and Kate Espy, winner of the Defy the Dark new author contest.

afterAfter: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia
Published by Hyperion Book

If the melt-down, flood, plague, the third World War, new Ice Age, Rapture, alien invasion, clamp-down, meteor, or something else entirely hit today, what would tomorrow look like? Some of the biggest names in YA and adult literature answer that very question in this short story anthology, each story exploring the lives of teen protagonists raised in catastrophe’s wake—whether set in the days after the change, or decades far in the future.

Features stories by N.K. Jeminsin and Nalo Hopkinson. Two writers whose books I’ve loved. Cecil Castellucci and Sarah Rees Brennan, authors whose books we’ve shared here are also in this anthology.

While We Runthreeproxy

Since a number of my favorite series ended this past spring, I’m on the lookout for a new series to get lost in, or read all the books in one go. Of course I have to buy “While We Run” as I read the first book over spring break and loved it. I also think I’ll check out Kristen Simmon’s Article 5 trilogy since I know it just recently completed. And lastly, I’ve heard too much of the hype about Proxy and it’s sequel Guardian to not be in the know any longer. I have to read and understand what everyone is talking about.

Lastly, I’m also influenced by the reviews my fellow Rich In Color bloggers post, so adding these books to the list. Check in our archives for our blogger reviews to learn more.

pointeashalaldsjd

This list may seem like a lot of books, but trust me, I allow myself to indulge in my book reading addiction during the summer. I’ll read all of them, no problem! My vacation starts in two weeks; I can’t wait.

Novels in Verse

April is one of my favorite months because it finally starts to look like spring where I live and more importantly – it’s poetry month. If you’re interested in grabbing up some poetry for April, we had a post with suggestions back in October. In that post I included novels in verse, poetry collections and novels that focused on poetry in any way. Today I’d like to share a more thorough list of novels in verse. I’ve read some of them, but the others are on my list of books to be read. If you’ve read some of the titles, let us know what you thought of them. If you know of any others to add to list, please tell us in the comments.

dreamer

Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle
Harcourt Children’s Books

Summary: Newbery Honor-winner Margarita Engle tells the story of Cuban folk hero, abolitionist, and women’s rights pioneer Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda in this powerful new YA historical novel in verse.

mesquite

 

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Lee & Low Books

Summary: When Lupita discovers Mami has been diagnosed with cancer, she is terrified by the possibility of losing her mother, the anchor of their close-knit Mexican American family.

In the midst of juggling high school classes, finding her voice as an actress, and dealing with friends who don’t always understand, Lupita desperately wants to support her mother by doing anything she can to help. While Papi is preoccupied with caring for Mami, Lupita takes charge of her seven younger siblings. Struggling in her new roles and overwhelmed by change, Lupita escapes the chaos of home by writing in the shade of a mesquite tree, seeking refuge in the healing power of words.

Told in evocative free verse, Lupita’s journey is both heart-wrenching and hopeful. Under the Mesquite is an empowering story about the testing of family bonds, the strength of a teenage girl navigating pain and hardship, and the kind of love that cannot be uprooted.

braider
The Good Braider by Terry Farish
Marshall Cavendish

In spare free verse laced with unforgettable images, Viola’s strikingly original voice sings out the story of her family s journey from war-torn Sudan, to Cairo, and finally to Portland, Maine. Here, in the sometimes too close embrace of the local Southern Sudanese Community, she dreams of South Sudan while she tries to navigate the strange world of America a world where a girl can wear a short skirt, get a tattoo or even date a boy; a world that puts her into sharp conflict with her traditional mother who, like Viola, is struggling to braid together the strands of a displaced life.

Terry Farish s haunting novel is not only a riveting story of escape and survival, but the universal tale of a young immigrant s struggle to build a life on the cusp of two cultures.

 

inside

The Language Inside by Holly Thompson
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Summary: A nuanced novel in verse that explores identity in a multicultural world.

Emma Karas was raised in Japan; it’s the country she calls home. But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Emma’s family moves to a town outside Lowell, Massachusetts, to stay with Emma’s grandmother while her mom undergoes treatment.

Emma feels out of place in the United States.She begins to have migraines, and longs to be back in Japan. At her grandmother’s urging, she volunteers in a long-term care center to help Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write down her poems. There, Emma meets Samnang, another volunteer, who assists elderly Cambodian refugees. Weekly visits to the care center, Zena’s poems, dance, and noodle soup bring Emma and Samnang closer, until Emma must make a painful choice: stay in Massachusetts, or return home early to Japan.

dancers

Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck by Margarita Engle
Henry Holt and Co.

Summary: Quebrado has been traded from pirate ship to ship in the Caribbean Sea for as long as he can remember. The sailors he toils under call him el quebrado—half islander, half outsider, a broken one. Now the pirate captain Bernardino de Talavera uses Quebrado as a translator to help navigate the worlds and words between his mother’s Taíno Indian language and his father’s Spanish.

But when a hurricane sinks the ship and most of its crew, it is Quebrado who escapes to safety. He learns how to live on land again, among people who treat him well. And it is he who must decide the fate of his former captors.

lemonade
Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff
Henry Holt & Co.

Summary: Viginia Euwer Wolff’s groundbreaking novel, written in free verse, tells the story of fourteen-year-old LaVaughn, who is determined to go to college–she just needs the money to get there.

When she answers a babysitting ad, LaVaughn meets Jolly, a seventeen-year-old single mother with two kids by different fathers. As she helps Jolly make lemonade out of the lemons her life has given her, LaVaughn learns some lessons outside the classroom.
firefly

The Firefly Letters by Margarita Engle
Henry Holt & Co.

Summary:The freedom to roam is something that women and girls in Cuba do not have. Yet when Fredrika Bremer visits from Sweden in 1851 to learn about the people of this magical island, she is accompanied by Cecilia, a young slave who longs for her lost home in Africa. Soon Elena, the wealthy daughter of the house, sneaks out to join them. As the three women explore the lush countryside, they form a bond that breaks the barriers of language and culture.

In this quietly powerful new book, award-winning poet Margarita Engle paints a portrait of early women’s rights pioneer Fredrika Bremer and the journey to Cuba that transformed her life.

dark sons
Dark Sons by Nikki Grimes
Jump at the Sun

Summary: Sam can’t believe it when his father leaves the family to marry another woman–and a white woman, at that. The betrayal cuts deep–Sam had been so close to his dad, he idolized him. Now who can he turn to, who can he trust? Even God seems to have ditched him.

Ishmael is his father’s first son, the heir, his favorite. But when his father is visited by mysterious strangers who claim that Abraham’s wife, Sarah, will finally give birth to a legitimate son, Ishmael is worried. And when baby Isaac arrives, Ishmael becomes more isolated from his father. Could Abraham’s God, who had spoken to Ishmael’s mother, to whom he has made countless sacrifices, now betray him in favor of this new son?

dance

A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman
Nancy Paulsen Books

Summary: Padma Venkatraman’s inspiring story of a young girl’s struggle to regain her passion and find a new peace is told lyrically through verse that captures the beauty and mystery of India and the ancient bharatanatyam dance form. This is a stunning novel about spiritual awakening, the power of art, and above all, the courage and resilience of the human spirit.

Veda, a classical dance prodigy in India, lives and breathes dance—so when an accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, her dreams are shattered. For a girl who’s grown used to receiving applause for her dance prowess and flexibility, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling. But Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she starts all over again, taking beginner classes with the youngest dancers. Then Veda meets Govinda, a young man who approaches dance as a spiritual pursuit. As their relationship deepens, Veda reconnects with the world around her, and begins to discover who she is and what dance truly means to her. (pub date May 1, 2014)

poet

The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano by Margarita Engle
Henry Holt & Co.

Summary: Born into the household of a wealthy slave owner in Cuba in 1797, Juan Francisco Manzano spent his early years by the side of a woman who made him call her Mama, even though he had a mama of his own. Denied an education, young Juan still showed an exceptional talent for poetry. His verses reflect the beauty of his world, but they also expose its hideous cruelty.

Powerful, haunting poems and breathtaking illustrations create a portrait of a life in which even the pain of slavery could not extinguish the capacity for hope.

jimmi Jimi & Me by Jaime Adoff
Jump at the Sun

Summary: After his father is murdered, Keith and his mother try desperately to pick up the pieces of their lives. But his father s death has left them devastated-both emotionally and financially. Forced to leave Brooklyn and move in with his aunt, Keith urgently clings to every last reminder of his dad, discovering comfort in his own music and that of the late legend-and his father s idol-Jimi Hendrix. In Jimi s music, Keith finds solace, and brief moments of reprieve from his chaotic new life. But just as he begins to get a handle on his father s death, he discovers the secrets of his father s life–secrets that threaten to tear apart what s left of his fragile family.
girlnamedmister

A Girl Named Mister by Nikki Grimes
Zondervan

Summary: Mary Rudine, called Mister by almost everyone, has attended church and sung in the choir for as long as she can remember. But then she meets Trey. His long lashes and smooth words make her question what she knows is right, and one mistake leaves her hiding a growing secret.

Another Mary is preparing for her upcoming wedding and has done everything according to Jewish law. So when an angel appears one night and tells her that she—a virgin—will give birth, Mary can’t help but feel confused, and soon finds herself struggling with the greatest blessing the world will ever know.

Feeling abandoned, Mister is drawn to Mary’s story, and together both young women discover the depth of God’s love and the mysteries of his divine plan. — Cover images and summaries via Goodreads

Looking for Non-Fiction?

For some people, the only kind of reading they want to do involves fiction, but for others, non-fiction is the winner. I generally read more fiction, but I do like a dash of non-fiction here and there – especially excellent narrative non-fiction. Here are a few I have enjoyed or am looking forward to reading soon. Unless otherwise noted, the cover images and summaries are from Indiebound.

howHow I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson

Dial, 2014

Summary: A powerful and thought-provoking Civil Rights era memoir from one of America’s most celebrated poets.

Looking back on her childhood in the 1950s, Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist Marilyn Nelson tells the story of her development as an artist and young woman through fifty eye-opening poems. Readers are given an intimate portrait of her growing self-awareness and artistic inspiration along with a larger view of the world around her: racial tensions, the Cold War era, and the first stirrings of the feminist movement.

A first-person account of African-American history, this is a book to study, discuss, and treasure.

courageCourage Has No Color, The True Story of the Triple Nickles by Tanya Stone

Candlewick, 2013

Summary: World War II is raging, and thousands of American soldiers are fighting overseas against the injustices brought on by Hitler. Back on the home front, the injustice of discrimination against African Americans plays out as much on Main Street as in the military. Enlisted black men are segregated from white soldiers and regularly relegated to service duties. At Fort Benning, Georgia, First Sergeant Walter Morris’s men serve as guards at The Parachute School, while the white soldiers prepare to be paratroopers. Morris knows that for his men to be treated like soldiers, they have to train and act like them, but would the military elite and politicians recognize the potential of these men as well as their passion for serving their country? Tanya Lee Stone examines the role of African Americans in the military through the history of the Triple Nickles, America’s first black paratroopers, who fought in a little-known attack on the American West by the Japanese. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, in the words of Morris, “proved that the color of a man had nothing to do with his ability.”

imprisonedImprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II by Martin W. Sandler

Walker Childrens, 2013

Summary: While Americans fought for freedom and democracy abroad, fear and suspicion towards Japanese Americans swept the country after Japan’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Culling information from extensive, previously unpublished interviews and oral histories with Japanese American survivors of internment camps, Martin W. Sandler gives an in-depth account of their lives before, during their imprisonment, and after their release. Bringing readers inside life in the internment camps and explaining how a country that is built on the ideals of freedom for all could have such a dark mark on its history, this in-depth look at a troubling period of American history sheds light on the prejudices in today’s world and provides the historical context we need to prevent similar abuses of power.

 

daylightLooks Like Daylight: Voices of Native American and Aboriginal Young People by Deborah Ellis

Groundwood Books, 2013

Summary: After her critically acclaimed books of interviews with Afghan, Iraqi, Israeli and Palestinian children, Deborah Ellis turns her attention closer to home. For two years she traveled across the United States and Canada interviewing Native children. The result is a compelling collection of interviews with children aged nine to eighteen. They come from all over the continent, from Iqaluit to Texas, Haida Gwaai to North Carolina, and their stories run the gamut — some heartbreaking; many others full of pride and hope.

Many of these children are living with the legacy of the residential schools; many have lived through the cycle of foster care. Many others have found something in their roots that sustains them, have found their place in the arts, the sciences, athletics. Like all kids, they want to find something that engages them; something they love.

Deborah briefly introduces each child and then steps back, letting the kids speak directly to the reader, talking about their daily lives, about the things that interest them, and about how being Native has affected who they are and how they see the world. — summary via Goodreads

You may also download a sample here.

open micOpen Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices edited by Mitali Perkins

Candlewick, 2013

Summary: Listen in as ten YA authors — some familiar, some new — use their own brand of humor to share their stories about growing up between cultures. Henry Choi Lee discovers that pretending to be a tai chi master or a sought-after wiz at math wins him friends for a while — until it comically backfires. A biracial girl is amused when her dad clears seats for his family on a crowded subway in under a minute flat, simply by sitting quietly in between two uptight white women. Edited by acclaimed author and speaker Mitali Perkins, this collection of fiction and nonfiction uses a mix of styles as diverse as their authors, from laugh-out-loud funny to wry, ironic, or poingnant, in prose, poetry, and comic form.

 

Have you read some outstanding non-fiction by or about people of color lately that we shouldn’t miss?