Last month I wrote a brief essay (Disrupt the Text & Decolonize Your Mind) encouraging all teachers to rethink the books they read in the classroom if they are truly committed to having an anti-racist curriculum. A few days after my post a friend called me asking for recommendations and I thought, I didn’t go far enough with that last essay; I didn’t give any book recommendations. Well, now I’m here to fix that mistake. Behold a massive book list for your perusal. The books link to Bookshop.org where you can support independent book stores.
If you’re interested in stories about Black Lives, I wrote a book list in June, Celebrating All Aspects of Black Lives, that listed a number of books that didn’t focus on Black pain but the diversity of Black life.
Short Story Collections
2. Body Talk: 37 Voices Explore Our Radical Anatomy
3. Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy
4. A Thousand Beginnings and Endings
Books on Friendship
1. The Inexplicable Logic of Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz
2. Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali
3. Mexican White Boy by Matt De La Pena
4. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova
Teens Changing the World
1. Yes, No, Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed
2. This is My Brain in Love by I. W. Gregorio
3. Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith
4. Watch Us Rise by Ellen Hagan and Renee Watson
Teens Finding Themselves in the World
1. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
2. Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
3. I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez
4. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
5. The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan
1. All Boys Are Blue by George M. Johnson
2. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
3. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
4. Almost American Girl by Robin Ha
5. Banned Book Club by Ryan Estrada and Kim Hyun Sook
I also had some friends who teach AP books and wanted more mature recommendations so here is a list of some adult books that would also be great for the classroom, and for your own reading as well.
1. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
2. The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson
5. Book of Lost Saints by Daniel Jose Older
This list is just a small sampling of the different types of books you can include in your class. If your district mandates what books you can read, you can use these books as a supplemental or even counter narrative. In addition, you can encourage your colleagues to use diverse books as a supplemental as well. For example, before COVID sent us all home, our 6th grade Social Studies teacher was reading Aru Shah and the End of Time as her students studied India. And let me share a heartwarming story with you. Before we decided to shun Sherman Alexie I was teaching “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” to my 7th graders. The kids went wild for the novel, but there was one young man who really connected to it. He was a new student to my class who had just moved to Los Angeles from a reservation. Prior to the book, he hated reading but he saw himself in the novel and got really into the book. In a parent meeting, his aunt informed me that he had checked out of school emotionally but the book, and the activities we did in class, brought him back in. He was excited to read and excited to do his work and excited to come to school. That is the power that seeing yourself in the literature can do for young kids. And that should be our goals as teachers. Not to turn our students away from their education but to make them run towards it.
Lastly, I want to send love to all my fellow educators out there. Those of you who are back in the classroom full time – I see you. Those of you who are doing in class and online – I see you. Those of you who have already started via distance learning – I see you. Those of you who are still preparing for distance learning – I see you too. We are facing a unique challenge this year and we are all trying our best. We are also getting hammered by folks who don’t understand all that we do and it can be extremely demoralizing when we know we are working harder than ever before trying to meet the needs of all our students. So, I see you as I am one of you and am sending you all my love for a healthy, safe, and wonderful school year.