Educate yourself and build empathy with these contemporary fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, and dystopian titles for teens that tackle themes of racism and social justice. Looking for nonfiction titles instead? We have those too! Links to the Digital Library of Illinois are provided; many of these titles are also available in print and you can find them by searching our catalog.
Black enough : stories of being young & black in America, edited by Ibi Zoboi
“Featuring some of the most acclaimed, bestselling Black authors writing for teens today--this is a ... collection of captivating coming-of-age stories about what it's like to be young and Black in America” - from the publisher.
A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope by Patrice Caldwell - Black girls, including gender non-conforming individuals, star in this collection of sixteen stories of fantasy, science fiction, and magic.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi - Seventeen-year-old Zélie, her older brother Tzain, and rogue princess Amari fight to restore magic to the land and activate a new generation of magi in this West African-inspired fantasy.
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.
I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Gilly Segel and Kimberly Jones - Over the course of one night, two girls with two very different backgrounds must rely on each other to get through the violent race riot that has enveloped their city.
Dreamland Burning by Kekla Magoon - When Rowan finds a skeleton on her family's property, investigating the brutal, century-old murder leads to painful discoveries about the past. Alternating chapters tell the story of William, another teen grappling with the racial firestorm leading up to the 1921 Tulsa race riot, providing some clues to the mystery
Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson - A powerful story about a girl striving for success in a world that too often seems like it's trying to break her.
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.
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brandon Kiely- Sixteen-year-old Rashad is mistakenly accused of stealing. Classmate Quinn witnesses his brutal beating at the hands of a police officer who's the older brother of his best friend.
How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon - When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson is shot to death, his community is thrown into an uproar because Tariq was black and the shooter, Jack Franklin, is white, and in the aftermath everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events agree.
Slay by Brittney Morris - An honors student at Jefferson Academy, seventeen-year-old Keira enjoys developing and playing Slay, a secret, multiplayer online role-playing game celebrating black culture, until the two worlds collide.
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.
Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez - Loosely based on a school explosion that took place in New London, Texas in 1937, this is the story of two teenagers: Naomi, who is Mexican, and Wash, who is black, and their dealings with race, segregation, love, and the forces that destroy people.
Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard by Echo Brown - From age six through her high school valedictory speech, believing she and her mother are wizards helps young Echo cope with poverty, hunger, her mother's drug abuse, and much more.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender - Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he's painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it's like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What's worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he's one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi - In a near-future society that claims to have gotten rid of all monstrous people, a creature emerges from a painting seventeen-year-old Jam's mother created, a hunter from another world seeking a real-life monster.
Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X.Kendi - A history of racist and antiracist ideas in America, from their roots in Europe until today, adapted from the National Book Award winner Stamped from the Beginning.
March: Book One, by Jon Lewis and Andrew Aydin and Illustrated by Nate Powell (also Book Two and Book Three) - This graphic novel is a vivid first-hand account in three volumes 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.
An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz - Spanning more than 400 years, this classic bottom-up history examines the legacy of Indigenous peoples' resistance, resilience, and steadfast fight against imperialism.
All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto by George M. Johnson - In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia.
Obviously, Stories from my Timeline, by Akilah Hughes - Akilah pens revealing and laugh-out-loud funny essays about her life, covering everything from her racist fifth grade teacher, her struggles with weight and acne, her failed attempts at joining the cheerleading team, how to literally get to New York (hint: for a girl on a budget, it may include multiple bus transfers) and exactly how to "make it" once you finally get there.