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Reading to Understand - Black Lives Matter & Antiracism

For many of us, reading is something we do for fun. We turn to books to escape for a few hours by wandering the streets of a fantasy world, solving a mystery with a beloved crime fighter, or getting swept off our feet by a love story. But books are also the medium we use to help us learn and understand the world around us.

We recommend the adult, teen, and children's titles below for readers looking to learn more about prejudice and systemic racism. We will continue to curate resources and update our website with more reading lists and links for additional learning.

ADULT NONFICTION

Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad

 Me and White Supremacy takes readers on a 28-day journey, complete with journal prompts, to do the necessary and vital work that can ultimately lead to improving race relations. Updated and expanded from the original workbook (downloaded by nearly 100,000 people), this critical text helps you take the work deeper by adding more historical and cultural contexts, sharing moving stories and anecdotes, and including expanded definitions, examples, and further resources, giving you the language to understand racism, and to dismantle your own biases, whether you are using the book on your own, with a book club, or looking to start family activism in your own home.

 

 

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 subject 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? In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to "model minorities" in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.

 

How to Be an Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and re-energizes the conversation about racism--and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. At its core, racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value; its warped logic extends beyond race, from the way we regard people of different ethnicities or skin colors to the way we treat people of different sexes, gender identities, and body types. Racism intersects with class and culture and geography and even changes the way we see and value ourselves. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas--from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilities--that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their poisonous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves. Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science with his own personal story of awakening to antiracism. This is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond the awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society.

ADULT FICTION  
 

The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

 In 1924, Josephine is the proud owner of a thriving farm. As a child, she channeled otherworldly power to free herself from slavery. Now her new neighbor, a white woman named Charlotte, seeks her company, and an uneasy friendship grows between them. But Charlotte has also sought solace in the Ku Klux Klan, a relationship that jeopardizes Josephine's family.

Nearly one hundred years later, Josephine's descendant, Ava, is a single mother who has just lost her job. She moves in with her white grandmother, Martha, a wealthy but lonely woman who pays Ava to be her companion. But Martha's behavior soon becomes erratic, then threatening, and Ava must escape before her story and Josephine's converge.

Note: This title is also available as an eBook on OverDrive.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

When Elwood Curtis, a black boy growing up in 1960s Tallahassee, is unfairly sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, he finds himself trapped in a grotesque chamber of horrors. Elwood's only salvation is his friendship with fellow "delinquent" Turner, which deepens despite Turner's conviction that Elwood is hopelessly naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble. As life at the Academy becomes ever more perilous, the tension between Elwood's ideals and Turner's skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does--or does not--say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Note: This title is also available as an eBook and an audiobook on OverDrive.

 

TEEN NONFICTION

   

Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

A history of racist and antiracist ideas in America, from their roots in Europe until today.

Note: This title is also available as an eBook and an audiobook on OverDrive.

 

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man's relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother- his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

Note: This title is also available as an eBook on OverDrive.

 

No Choirboy: Murders, Violence and Teenagers on Death Row by Susan Kuklin

This nonfiction collection for teens of true stories features the experiences of teenage convicts on death row. Incorporating the voices of their families, victims, and those involved in their cases, it provides a complex view of our legal system and raises important questions about justice and racial equality in America.


 

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The author presents a history of racial discrimination in the United States and a narrative of his own personal experiences of contemporary race relations, offering possible resolutions for the future.

Note: This title is also available as an eBook and an audiobook on OverDrive.

 

 

They Can’t Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery

A behind-the-scenes account of the #blacklivesmatter movement shares insights into the young men and women behind it, citing the racially charged controversies that have motivated members and the economic, political, and personal histories that inform its purpose.

Note: This title is also available as an eBook and an audiobook on OverDrive.

 

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March by Lynda Blackmon Lowery; as told to Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley; illustrated by PJ Loughran

As the youngest marcher in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, Lynda Blackmon Lowery proved that young adults can be heroes. Jailed nine times before her fifteenth birthday, Lowery fought alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. for the rights of African-Americans. In this memoir, she shows today's young readers what it means to fight nonviolently (even when the police are using violence, as in the Bloody Sunday protest) and how it felt to be part of changing American history.

 

 

March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

The groundbreaking graphic novel memoir of a living legend of the civil rights movement, MARCH- BOOK ONE has swiftly become an iconic work. Created by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, this #1 New York Times bestseller is also a Coretta Scott King Honor book, a required text in classrooms across America, and the first graphic novel to win a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.

Note: March: Book One, March: Book Two, and March: Book Three are available on OverDrive and Hoopla Digital.

 

When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele

A memoir by the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement explains the movement's position of love, humanity, and justice, challenging perspectives that have negatively labeled the movement's activists while calling for essential political changes.

Note: This title is available as an eBook and audiobook on OverDrive, and as an audiobook on Hoopla Digital.

   

TEEN FICTION

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

After witnessing her friend's death at the hands of a police officer, Starr Carter's life is complicated when the police and a local drug lord try to intimidate her in an effort to learn what happened the night Kahlil died.

Note: This title is also available as an eBook and an audiobook on OverDrive, and as an audiobook on Hoopla Digital.

 

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

When sixteen-year-old Bri, an aspiring rapper, pours her anger and frustration into her first song, she finds herself at the center of a controversy.

Note: This title is also available as an eBook and audiobook on OverDrive, and as an audiobook on Hoopla Digital.

 

 

All American Boys by Brendon Kiely & Jason Reynolds

When sixteen-year-old Rashad is mistakenly accused of stealing, classmate Quinn witnesses his brutal beating at the hands of a police officer who happens to be the older brother of his best friend. Told through Rashad and Quinn's alternating viewpoints.

Note: This title is also available as an eBook and audiobook on OverDrive.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Writing letters to the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., seventeen-year-old college-bound Justyce McAllister struggles to face the reality of race relations today and how they are shaping him.

 

Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson

Biggie Smalls was right. Things done changed. But that doesn't mean Quadir and Jarrell are cool letting their best friend Steph's music lie forgotten under his bed after he is murdered ; not when his rhymes could turn any Bed-Stuy corner into a party, not after years of having each other's backs.

Note: This title is available as an eBook and audiobook on OverDrive and Hoopla Digital.

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi

A collection of short stories explore what it is like to be young and black, centering on the experiences of black teenagers and emphasizing that one person's experiences, reality, and personal identity are different than someone else.

Note: This title is available as an eBook and audiobook on OverDrive and as an audiobook on Hoopla Digital.

   

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

As Will, fifteen, sets out to avenge his brother Shawn's fatal shooting, seven ghosts who knew Shawn board the elevator and reveal truths Will needs to know.

Note: This title is available as an eBook and audiobook on OverDrive.

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

While on trial as an accomplice to a murder, sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon records his experiences in prison and in the courtroom in the form of a film script as he tries to come to terms with the course his life has taken.

Note: This title is available as an eBook and audiobook on OverDrive and as an eBook and graphic novel on Hoopla Digital.

 

 

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

Tired of being singled out at her mostly-white private school as someone who needs support, high school junior Jade would rather participate in the school's amazing Study Abroad program than join Women to Women, a mentorship program for at-risk girls.

 

I'm Not Dying With You Tonight by Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones

An NAACP Image Award Nominee, I'm Not Dying with You Tonight follows two teen girls--one black, one white--who have to confront their own assumptions about racial inequality as they rely on each other to get through the violent race riot that has set their city on fire with civil unrest.

Note: This title is available as an eBook on OverDrive and Hoopla Digital.

 

 

Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan

Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends on a mission--they're sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women's Rights Club. They post their work online--poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine's response to the racial microaggressions she experiences--and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by trolls. When things escalate in real life, the principal shuts the club down. Not willing to be silenced, Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices--and those of other young women--to be heard.

 

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable--more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn't turn up for the few weeks of school, Claudia knows something is wrong. As she digs deeper into her friend's disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing she's gone?

Note: This title is available as an audiobook on OverDrive and as an eBook and audiobook Hoopla Digital.

   

CHILDREN'S NONFICTION

A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

A is for Activist is an ABC board book written and illustrated for the next generation of progressives: families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and everything else that activists believe in and fight for.

Note: This title is available as an eBook on Hoopla Digital.

 

The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson. Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton

Meet the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, in this moving picture book that proves you're never too little to make a difference.

Audrey Faye Hendricks was confident and bold and brave as can be, and hers is the remarkable and inspiring story of one child's role in the Civil Rights Movement.

 

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

This beautifully illustrated board book edition of instant bestseller Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History showcases 18 trailblazing black women in American history. You'll find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things - bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come.

 

Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison

An important book for readers of all ages, this beautifully illustrated and engagingly written volume brings to life true stories of black men in history. Among these biographies, readers will find aviators and artists, politicians and pop stars, athletes and activists. 

 

 

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

Years before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez, an eight-year-old girl of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, played an instrumental role in Mendez v. Westminster, the landmark desegregation case of 1946 in California.

Note: This title is available in multiple formats on Hoopla Digital.

 

Racism and Intolerance by Louise Spilsbury

In Racism and Intolerance, children can get answers to questions like: "What does it mean to be a racist--or intolerant?" and "How can I help?" Children will begin to understand the way others struggle with these issues and become empowered to make a difference. Award-winning illustrator Hanane Kai uses a deft hand to create powerful illustrations that help children visualize the people impacted by poverty, hunger, war, racism, and more.

 

 

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni

This picture- book tribute to Rosa Parks is a celebration of her courageous action and the events that followed. 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. Rosa is a 2006 Caldecott Honor Book and the winner of the 2006 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.

Note: This title is available in multiple formats on Hoopla Digital.

 

Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged! by Jody Nyasha Warner

Like Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks, who many years later, in 1955, refused to give up their bus seats in Alabama, Viola Desmond's act of refusal awakened people to the unacceptable nature of racism and began and process of bringing an end to racial segregation in Canada.

Note: This title is available as an eBook on Hoopla Digital.

 

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles; Illustrated by George Ford

A Pulitzer Prize-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning illustrator bring to life the true story of an extraordinary six-year-old who helped shape American history when she became the first African-American sent to first grade in an all white school. This moving picture book captures the courage of a little girl standing alone in the face of racism. 

 

 

Through My Eyes: The Autobiography of Ruby Bridges by Ruby Bridges

In November 1960, all of America watched as a tiny six-year-old black girl, surrounded by federal marshals, walked through a mob of screaming segregationists and into her school. An icon of the civil rights movement, Ruby Bridges chronicles each dramatic step of this pivotal event in history through her own words.

 

 

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson

We've Got a Job tells the little-known story of the 4,000 black elementary, middle, and high school students who voluntarily went to jail between May 2 and May 11, 1963. The children succeeded --where adults had failed--in desegregating one of the most racially violent cities in America.
 

This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell

Gain a deeper understanding of your anti-racist self as you progress through 20 chapters that spark introspection, reveal the origins of racism that we are still experiencing, and give you the courage and power to undo it. Each chapter builds on the previous one as you learn more about yourself and racial oppression. 20 activities get you thinking and help you grow with the knowledge. All you need is a pen and paper.

Note: This title is available as an eBook on Hoopla Digital.

 

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson, the acclaimed author of Another Brooklyn, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement.

Note: This title is available as an eBook and audiobook on OverDrive.

 

CHILDREN'S FICTION

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o

From Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o comes a powerful, moving picture book about colorism, self-esteem, and learning that true beauty comes from within.

 

 

Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness by Anastasia Higginbotham

A white child sees a TV news report of a white police officer shooting and killing a black man. "In our family, we don't see color," his mother says, but he sees the colors plain enough. An afternoon in the library's history stacks uncover the truth of white supremacy in America. Racism was not his idea and he refuses to defend it.

Note: This title is available as an eBook on Hoopla Digital.

 

 

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman

Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yarmulkes play side-by-side with friends in baseball caps. A school where students grow and learn from each other's traditions and the whole community gathers to celebrate the Lunar New Year. All Are Welcome lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, they are welcome in their school.

 

Something Happened in Our Town by Marriane Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard

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.

Note: This title is available as an audiobook on Hoopla Digital.

 

It All Comes Down to This by Karen English

It's 1965, Los Angeles. All twelve-year-old Sophie wants to do is write her book, star in the community play, and hang out with her friend Jennifer. But she's the new black kid in a nearly all-white neighborhood; her beloved sister, Lily, is going away to college soon; and her parents' marriage is rocky. There's also her family's new, disapproving housekeeper to deal with. When riots erupt in nearby Watts and a friend is unfairly arrested, Sophie learns that life--and her own place in it--is even more complicated than she'd once thought.

Note: This title is available as an eBook on Hoopla Digital.

 

 

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée

12 year-old Shayla's sister, Hana, is involved in Black Lives Matter, but Shay doesn't think that's for her. After experiencing a powerful protest, though, Shay decides some rules are worth breaking. She starts wearing an armband to school in support of the Black Lives movement. Soon everyone is taking sides. And she is given an ultimatum.

 Note: This title is available as an eBook on OverDrive, and as an audiobook on Hoopla Digital.

 

 

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Only the living can make the world better. Live and make it better.

Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that's been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.

 

 

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Powerful and emotionally gripping, Black Brother, Black Brother is a careful examination of the school-to-prison pipeline and follows one boy's fight against racism and his empowering path to finding his voice.