We've recommended many, many books to our community over the years that speak to the issues and conversation surrounding the black experience, Black Lives Matter movement, and anti-racism. We wanted to compile a list including all genres and backgrounds for our readers looking to delve deeper into these topics and better understand their nuances.
There are more titles that we have suggested in the past than we could possibly include here (unfortunately due to our website's capability limits), and many of the authors listed below have multiple titles on these topics that we also hope you'll discover and read - simply click on the author's name for their full list of publications. For audiobook listeners, Libro.fm has put together their own playlists about racism and anti-racism, and which amplify black voices, which you can view here. Read, listen, discuss, and act for positive change.
Why do people hate one another? Who gets to speak for whom? Why do so many people combat prejudice based on their race, sexual orientation, or disability? What does segregation look like today? Enter UnMute, the popular podcast hosted by Myisha Cherry, which hosts a diverse group of philosophers and explores their cutting-edge work through casual conversation. This book collects 31 of Cherry's lively and timely interviews.
Alfonso Jones can't wait to play the role of Hamlet in his school's rendition of the classic Shakespearean play. But as he is buying his first suit, an off-duty police officer mistakes a clothes hanger for a gun, and he shoots Alfonso. When Alfonso wakes up in the afterlife, he's on a ghost train guided by well-known victims of police shootings. Meanwhile, Alfonso's family and friends struggle with their grief and seek justice for Alfonso in the streets. As they confront their new realities, both Alfonso and those he loves realize the work that lies ahead in the fight for justice.
To see John Jennings's illustrated adaptations of works by Octavia Butler, click his name above.
In this collection of short stories, Nalo Hopkinson dances us on the border of reality: our fears, sadness, losses, ugliness, and cruelties are those of this life, but in these stories, the dead grant forgiveness, the girl who doubts her beauty and worth swallows a seed and becomes a monster that frightens the cruel boy off of her before the real damage can be done. At the end of most stories, you will need to stop to allow the aching of your heart to subside before hungrily diving into the next. But don't get too comfortable; sometimes a partner will do anything for love, and then you'll not want to turn the lights off until you've read another. - Linda
Taggert walks uncomfortably with the likes of Tracker, gives Frodo a powerful shove and tells him to human-up, and asks Spider-Man to consider exactly to whom that great responsibility is owed. Beautifully wrapped inside a page-turning sci-fi adventure mystery are the questions of great literature: what happens to the children our world abuses and discards? What kinds of damage can damaged people enact? What happens when the wisp of family ties wraps those on the edge into embrace? Now what happens if these people have powers? Welcome to the world of Liminal People! - Linda
This novel is more looking glass or cyrstal ball than bound pages, offering a slippery-slope image of this country's future - and it's far from bright. Resources have dwindled, egotistcal politicians jockey for power, and the middle class is nearly extinct. Outside community walls, the poor froth in chaos, with crimes ranging from petty to catastrophic. In the midst of the chaos, sixteen-year-old Lauren Olamina, a preacher's daughter and one of the educated few, cultivates a religion whose main goal is the survival of mankind. Out of the ashes of a dystopia, Lauren rallies a group of destitute travelers as, in her capable hands, they make their way up the California coast. Poignant, gripping, and terrifyingly real, Butler's vision of the near-future pairs the emotional wit of Beyonce's Lemonade with the gritty tension of The Walking Dead. - Destenie
If you find yourself looking closely at the state of our world - all the anger, hatred, violence, and ugliness - and need words of hope, wisdom, kindness, and love, get this book. With poetry, letters, artwork, and essays by people of color, We Rise paints our world with the brush of truth and path to change. A book to keep close, read often and as needed, helping us to stand and resist. - Linda
In the fall of 1969, Sportcoat, an older deacon of a church in the housing projects of Brooklyn, shoots a young drug dealer in front of the entire neighborhood. The motivation seems obvious, but enter these pages to discover that obvious is rarely just so, and the ghosts of hope, disappointment, and struggle are ever present. Every character from the pastor's wife to the Italian mobster is infused with such depth and complexity that stereotypes are washed away in the cool water of these pages. McBride brilliantly gives us joy without diminishing the difficulties of poverty and racism, and humor so warm and loving you will be sad to leave this community. - Linda
If story is the ground in which we plant the seeds of our stronger, prouder selves, more comfortable in our skins no matter what shade, what gender or non-conforming gender, then give Caldwell's collection to every teen you know and watch the blooms. The power of self-worth in the face of centuries of marginalization is magic, and these characters, some on alien planets, some deemed alien in their own lands, gather that magic and explode it onto these landscapes. Brilliant! - Linda
Stone takes the great white savior myth and twists it up in a family complicated by race, the ugly realities of the Jim Crow laws of the 60s, family stories untold, and the loves so deep and powerful they'll make you cry through your smile. Mind you, this is also a hilarious book. William "Scoob" Lamar is on lockdown at home by a dad who refuses to hear his side of why he hit that kid at school, so when his G'ma invites him to join her in her brand new mobile home, he's all in, even leaving his phone at home so he doesn't have to hear his dad yell. But when G'ma pulls our her "treasure box" and the Traveler's Green Book, Scoob realizes this trip may be more than he bargained for. Brilliant weaving of historical realities into a funny, heartbreaking coming of age. Welcome to middle-grade, Nic! - Linda
You know you're in for a sharp satire when the graphic novel you've picked up is bookended by a character defending Illuminati conspiracy theories and a white woman claiming the accolades of a traumatic experience from her black friend. Darla just moved into a newly-renovated building in an area of Chicago's south side affectionately dubbed the Bottomyards. Hoping to advance her career in fashion and somehow survive financially in the meantime, Darla ends up having to defend herself against not only the desperate attacks of a symbiotic monstrosity feeding off her apartment building, but the equally horrifying racial and class abuses of her friends, neighbors, and potential employers. Full of the wit expected of this incredible duo, BTTM FDRS is the perfect comic horror for our times. My recommendation, though? Don't read this on your lunch break. - Destenie
Don't be fooled by the pleasant cover with lovely trees lining the edges of the book. You are about to enter a hell that is even more terrifying because you are complicit in its continuation. The stories of the poor, the black, the disabled, and the minors, who have been caught up in a seriously flawed judicial system that still, unlike most of the world, allows capital punishment to continue will break you. Stevenson asks us to "embrace our broken natures" so that we can express our humanness and compassion, and he does so in beautiful, powerful language. This is one of the best, most painful books I have ever read. - Linda
Stamped From the Beginning is the brilliant, courageous history of racism in the U.S., and Ibram X. Kendi has put it into the hands of Jason Reynolds, a writer whose respect for kids and young adults draws readers powerfully to him. Reynolds has remixed Stamped so that kids can understand, define, and explain the racism they swim through daily as well as the historical framework that makes it so powerful. In order to fight racism we need to understand it, not as rooted in ignorance and hatred, but as an insidiously woven justification of some of the ugliest policies and perceptions rearing their scaly heads continuously throughout United States history. Read this book (it's not just for kids!); then gift it to a friend, a student, a teacher, a principal, a school board member. Go to your school board, suggest it - no, demand it - as a One Community/One Read. Then continue on to our City Council. There is hope within these pages but only with a commitment to understand, acknowledge, and work to change. - Linda
To say that this book is about two murders is to ignore the power of a finely wrought mystery that illuminates a place, time, and culture deftly. This is a book about the despair and anger of now, of race in America, of a past so intertwined and conflucted that blame and responsibility are often difficult to parse out. Darren is a Texas RAnger, a black Texas Ranger in an East Texas where the Aryan Brotherhood more brazenly rears its ugliness. Brilliant mystery, uncomfortable vision of America, and a nuanced perception of human beings. I will read anything Attica Locke writes! - Linda
In a careful exploration of race and privilege, Kiley Reid defies you to put this book down. Emira is a relatable 25-year-old with a bachelor's degree and not a clue what to do with it. A part-time typist and a part-time babysitter, one night Emira finds herself in the now far-too-common situation of living while black. After agreeing to take a late night walk around a grocery store with two-year-old Briar, a last-minute favor for the affluent white family she works for, Emira is accused by the store's security guard of kidnapping her charge. Alix, her well-meaning employer, is in a state of shock and makes it her mission to befriend her babysitter and show just how much she cares, regardless of how Emira feels. Like a shot, this book takes off and doesn't let go until the last page. In an incredibly poignant debut, Such a Fun Age will make you laugh, cringe, and ultimately think about the ways we can let our relationships define us. - Elisa
Imagine a world where oppression is a thing of the past. It has been completely irradicated along with racism, sexism, and all of the other monsters in existence. This is the world Jam has grown up in. This is the New Lucille. So when a creature arises from a combination of a drop of Jam's blood and her mother's painting claiming to be on the hunt for a monster, Jam isn't quite sure what to believe. And worse, the monster is supposedly in her best friend Redemption's house. In their timely young adult debut, Akwaeke Emezi renders an incredible story that deftly takes on the current perils of our world while upending Jam's. Fighting to save her reality as she has always known it, Jam realizes just how hard it can be to take on a monster in a world where everyone around her refuses to acknowledge that they exist. - Elisa
If every family read these pieces together, called their elders with questions about their memories (don't use the internet - this is about memory and the soul), and then wrestled with the truths these writers and illustrators are gifting us, there would be real change. These seventeen pieces drawn from the "talks" parents have had with their children about racism, identity, and self-esteem will destroy that harmful illusion of a post-racial America and replace it with realities that demand action. This is not an impossible mission, and this book invites us into intimate conversations that will begin other conversations, and if we are all participating, there is hope.
If you are searching for non-fiction that provides a solid, thoughtful vision into the struggle for decent white southerners on the road to change, read this book. Landrieu comes from a line of progressive southern politicians, and when faced with Wynton Marsalis's request to remove the confederate statues from the streets of New Orleans, he must reconsider his perspectives and privilige. Thoughtful, respectful, and honest look at how being mindful of how the world looks from another's perspective can help us all move foreward. - Linda
In her bold follow-up to Citizen: An American Lyric, Rankine is pulling no punches in this unique and thoughtful play. In one act, Rankine calls into question how racial equality can never be achieved when the concepts of whiteness and white priviege are so quick to be avoided. She introduces you to Charlotte, a black artist on the rise, who is attending a dinner party at the home of Virginia and Charles, a wealthy older white couple with a particular interest in artists of color. With slight nods to works like Get Out that play with the trope of the "white savior complex" in less than classic ways, Charlotte confronts her potential white benefactors and all of their seemingly good intentions as the dinner party begins to spiral. While this play is one of those pieces that will only take you a little over an hour to read, it is a work that you will still be thinking about long after you've absorbed the last line. - Elisa
This was one of those books that I needed to mark up. I flagged pages and highlighted sentences. I put it down multiple times because I needed to let the words fully settle in and absorb what was said. In this incredible debut, Brandon Taylor dives into the fine nuances of microagressions and so much more. Wallace is black, gay, southern, and trying on a daily basis to navigate his daily life as a grad student in the biochem department at a Midwestern University. Wallace's collective inner monologue gives the reader real perspective of what everyday life looks like for him. From the complexities of the relationships with his all-white group of friends to what it's like for him daily as a black student in a white dominated field; Real Life breaks down the bleak truth behind the emotional implications faced by so many like Wallace. It should be read and talked about and shared. It is timely, necessary, and a complete feat of a debut novel. - Elisa
Blended is a book that uses its title in the fullest sense of the word. From the idea of a child being an intricate mix of their mother and father, to the complexities of being mixed race, to what it means when parents get divorced and find new love. Isabella is an eleven-year-old girl with more to deal with than most. Her mother is white, her father is black, and she's never quite sure where she fits in. It also really doesn't help that the courts have decided that she has to change houses every week now that her parents have divorced and have shared custody. When racially-motivated incidents keep happening all around her, Isabella starts to feel even more split, even though all she really wants to focus on is her upcoming piano recital. Tackling tough subjects with care and grace, Blended is the perfect middle grade novel for our current social climate and for anyone trying to find their place in the world. - Elisa
If I had to pick one word to describe this book, it would be feral. James creates a fantastical Africa that invokes the violence and brutality of the old world, but wraps it in delicate layers of myth and magic that make the reader want to cozy up to the savagery in order to get a better look. The characters add to the effect, as they are mysterious enough to entice and real enough to despise. The sense of displacement and lack of certainty enforces the message that nothing and nobody in this world can be trusted, not even the self. If people want to call this the African Game of Thrones, I won't necessarily argue, but I will say that the Tracker and his frenemies would make any of the big baddies in Westeros run for cover with their tail cut off. - David
Six kids - each facing the difficulties of growing up in a world that purports to shelter and protect them but challenges their visions of family, country, and race - are placed in a room once a week for one hour by a brilliant teacher who trusts their innate kindness and ability to actually see each other. Harbor Me is a beautiful testament to hope and the humanity in each of us. If we just took the time to discover each other, perhaps we, too, would shelter rather than attack. May it be so, Jacqueline, may it be so. - Linda
A powerful debut short story collection from a promising young voice in the vein of popular movies like Get Out, Sorry to Bother You, and BlackKklansman. Everyone needs to read this book. Intriguing, heart-wrenching, and often absurd at times; these stories demand the reader's attention long after they've eneded. This is satirical look at what it means to be young and black in America and all of the heartbreak that often comes with it. With stories like "The Finkelstein Five," where a number of unarmed young black children are brutally murdered under the guise of "stand your ground," these stories will enrage you as well as give you pause. From its dark humor comes glimmers of hope, but only if the reader chooses to see it. - Elisa
What can I add to the myriad praise Ta-Nehisi Coates has garnered? He has been compared to James Baldwin - what more need be said? His words carry a vision of this country so intensely disturbing and powerfully rendered that to turn from it without action must cause anyone pain. In We Were Eight Years in Power, Coates has compiled eight articles written over the course of the eight years President Obama was in office, and before each, has written current commentary, giving us a bleak picture of race relations with very little hope, and a mandate to continue to try anway. - Linda