Race and Social Justice Books for Teens

Teen Specialists Staff Image

The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and subsequent protests in Pittsburgh and across the country have been triggering and traumatic events for our community. The American Library Association (ALA) Executive Board announced that they stand in solidarity with Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) and the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Inc. (BCALA) in condemning increased violence and racism towards Black Americans and people of color. You can read their responses from ALA Executive Board herefrom APALA here, and from BCALA here.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is a reliable source for information and resources to help understand and process these events. During the past week, we have seen a significant increase of digital holds and checkout on books relating to race and social justice. The public library is an institution that stands behind equity of access, where people can access the information and ideas they need, regardless of age, education, ethnicity, language, income, physical limitations or geographic barriers. You can read more about the ALA Bill of Rights and Equity of Access here.

This list contains fiction titles for teens that speak to the demonstrations, headlines, hashtags and ongoing dialogue about race in America. There are also many titles that share diverse, non-tragic experiences of teens of color. Ask a Librarian for additional suggestions, or explore Black, Indigenous and People of Color in Books for Teens and African American Booklists.

An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People

Going beyond the story of America as a country “discovered” by a few brave men in the “New World,” Indigenous human rights advocate Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz reveals the roles that settler colonialism and policies of American Indian genocide played in forming our national identity. You can also check out this title as eBook on Overdrive/Libby.

Anger is a Gift

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Now, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals in their own school. The students decide to organize and push back against the administration. When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift. You can also check out this title as eAudio on Overdrive/Libby, as eBook on Overdrive/Libby or as eAudio on Hoopla.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

Presents the life of the Alabama teenager who played an integral role in the Montgomery bus strike, once by refusing to give up a bus seat, and again, by becoming a plaintiff in the landmark civil rights case against the bus company. You can also check out this title as eBook on Overdrive/Libby.

I’m Not Dying with You Tonight

Lena knows she’s going to make it big. Campbell is just trying to get through the year at her new school. One is black, one is white. When both girls attend the Friday-night football game, neither expects everything to descend into sudden mass chaos. Chaos born from violence and hate. Chaos that unexpectedly throws them together. When the city is up in flames, they only have each other to rely on if they’re going to survive the night. You can also check out this title as eBook on Overdrive/Libby or as eBook on Hoopla.

Light it Up

Told from multiple viewpoints, Shae Tatum, an unarmed, thirteen-year-old black girl, is shot by a white police officer, throwing their community into upheaval and making it a target of demonstrators. You can also check out this title as eBook on Overdrive/Libby.

Slay

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. You can also check out this title as eAudio on OverDrive/Libby or as eBook on OverDrive/Libby.

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. You can also check out this title as eAudio on Overdrive/Libby or as eBook on Overdrive/Libby.