African American Identity & Everyday Life: Books for High School

Teen Specialists Staff Image

Teens in grades 9-12 can gain confidence and joy in seeing themselves and those around them represented in books. The following stories present African American teens as leading characters. Caregivers and educators can encourage reading books with racially diverse characters by offering these and other titles on class reading lists, in a shared reading space, and through conversations.

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America

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’s.

A Blade So Black

Swords will shatter, hearts will break, heads will roll…drive back the dark.

B.R.U.H.

A collection of parody illustrations depicting familiar male superheroes as Black women.

Home and Away

Tasia Quirk is a senior with great friends and a supportive family, and she even plays football as the only girl on her private high school’s team. A mystery surrounding her mother makes Tasia wonder about her identity, leading her on a journey to unravel the lies that have taken over her life.

Let's Talk About Love

Alice’s last girlfriend, Margo, ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual. Now Alice is sure she’s done with dating and then she meets Takumi. She can’t stop thinking about him or the rom-com-grade romance feelings she did not ask for. When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library-employee badge, Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated or understood.

Long Way Down

Sixty seconds, seven floors, three rules, one gun.

Will’s older brother, Shawn, has been shot. Dead.  Will feels a sadness so great, he can’t explain it.  But in his neighborhood there are the RULES

No. 1 :  Crying.  Don’t no matter what.

No 2 :  Snitching.  Don’t no matter what.

No 3 :  Revenge.  Do no matter what.

But bullets miss.  You can get the wrong guy.  And there’s always someone else who knows to follow the rules… .

On The Come Up

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.

The Poet X

Ever since her body grew into curves, Xiomara Batista has felt unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood and she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking, but Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers.

Sellout (Teen)

NaTasha loves her life of affluence in Park Adams, but her grandmother fears she has lost touch with her roots and whisks her off to Harlem, where NaTasha meets rough, street-wise girls at a crisis center and finds the courage to hold her own against them.

Tyler Johnson Was Here

Twins Marvin and Tyler Johnson know that the police are often not on their side – they’ve seen it first hand, getting a gun drawn on them as bystanders to a police chase, and later at a house party, after a shooting breaks out. In the confusion, Marvin loses track of his brother. Later, his body is found, shot, and police attribute his death to gang violence. But that’s not the truth – a cop killed Tyler and a video exists proving it. Marvin and his family struggle to survive this trauma and the trauma of being Black in America.