Black Voices, Black Lives

Submitted by rabbott on December 1, 2017 - 11:25am

Black books matter... and not just in February.

People, Woman, Happy, Black American

Did you know that books are powerful tools of social justice? 

Books hold a place in our culture as mirrors, windows, and doors.

Everyone should be able to walk into a library and see books that mirror their own life experiences.  “When [people] cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part.” (Bishop) 

Books allow the reader to look through the lens of a window and delve into a world different from their own, offering opportunities for greater understanding and empathy with others. 

Reading can also be a way of actually stepping through 'sliding glass doors' into a reality that you never even knew existed.

Below you'll find a list of various titles by/for/about black lives and experiences.  Go ahead...  look in the mirror.  Open the window, and walk through the door.  It's worth the scroll.

Purple Hibiscus

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi


Library Call Number:  ADICHIE

In the city of Egunu, Nigeria, fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a somewhat cloistered life. Their father is a wealthy businessman, they live in a beautiful home, and attend private school. But, through Kambili's eyes, we see that their home life is anything but harmonious. Her father, a fanatically religious man has impossible expectations of his children and his wife, and if things don't go his way he becomes physically abusive. Not until Kambili and Jaja are sent away from home for the very first time to visit their loving aunt, does Kambili's world begin to blossom. But when a military coup threatens to destroy the country, the tension in her family's home escalates, and Kambili must find the strength to keep her loved ones together.

He Said, She Said

Alexander, Kwame


Library Call Number:  Y ALEXANDER

When a popular football 'playa' and ladies man and the smartest girl in school lead a school protest, sparks fly as their social media-aided revolution grows.


Booth, Coe


Library Call Number:  Y BOOTH

Fifteen-year-old Tyrell, who is living in a Bronx homeless shelter with his spaced-out mother and his younger brother, tries to avoid temptation so he does not end up in jail like his father.

The Skin I’m In

Flake, Sharon


Library Call Number:  Y FLAKE

Thirteen-year-old Maleeka, uncomfortable because her skin is extremely dark, meets a new teacher with a birthmark on her face and makes some discoveries about how to love who she is and what she looks like.

Fake ID

Giles, L.R.


Library Call Number:  YM GILES

An African-American teen in the Witness Protection Program moves to a new town and finds himself trying to solve a murder mystery when his first friend is found dead.


Jackson, Tiffany


Library Call Number:  Y JACKSON

When Mary, a teenager living in a group home, becomes pregnant, authorities take another look at the crime for which Mary was convicted when she was nine years old.

The First Part Last

Johnson, Angela


Library Call Number:  Y JOHNSON

Bobby's carefree teenage life changes forever when he becomes a father and must care for his adored baby daughter.

Don’t Fail Me Now

LaMarche, Una


Library Call Number:  Y LAMARCHE

Interracial half-siblings come together for the first time and embark on a cross-country road trip to confront their absentee father before he dies.

How It Went Down

Magoon, Kekla


Library Call Number:  Y KEKLA

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.

This Way Home

Moore, Wes


Library Call Number:  Y MOORE

Elijah, seventeen, has always been sure of just one thing--basketball--and believes it will be his way out of West Baltimore, but when gang violence knocks him down, helping a veteran repair his rickety home helps Elijah see what really matters.

Not Otherwise Specified

Moskowitz, Hannah


Library Call Number:  Y MOSKOWITZ

Auditioning for a New York City performing arts high school could help Etta escape from her Nebraska all-girl school, where she's not gay enough for her former friends.


Myers, Walter Dean


Library Call Number:  Y 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.

Darius & Twig

Myers, Walter Dean


Library Call Number:  Y MYERS

Two best friends, a writer, and a runner deal with bullies, family issues, social pressures, and their quest for success coming out of Harlem.


Older, Daniel Jose


Library Call Number:  Y OLDER

When the murals painted on the walls of her Brooklyn neighborhood start to change and fade in front of her, Sierra Santiago realizes that something strange is going on--then she discovers her Puerto Rican family are shadowshapers and finds herself in a battle with an evil anthropologist for the lives of her family and friends. *Book #1 in the series


Quick, Matthew


Library Call Number:  Y QUICK

Finley, an unnaturally quiet boy who is the only white player on his high school's varsity basketball team, lives in a dismal Pennsylvania town that is ruled by the Irish mob, and when his coach asks him to mentor a troubled African American student who has transferred there from an elite private school in California, he finds that they have a lot in common in spite of their apparent differences.

All American Boys

Reynolds, Jason


Library Call Number:  Y 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.

Long Way Down

Reynolds, Jason


Library Call Number:  Y REYNOLDS

As Will, at 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.

Reynolds, Jason


Library Call Number:  Y REYNOLDS

Brooklyn Visions Academy student Miles Morales may not always want to be a superhero, but he must come to terms with his identity--and deal with a villainous teacher--as the new Spider-Man.

True Story*

Simone, Ni-Ni


Library Call Number:  Y SIMONE

Just as Seven McKnight moves on from ex-boyfriend Josiah Whitaker, he steps back into her life, and Seven must decide between her old feelings and her new relationship with Zaire St. James. *Book #1 in the Ni-Ni Girl Chronicles series.

Monster:  a graphic novel

Sims, Guy

Graphic Novel

Library Call Number:  YG SIMS

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.

Dear Martin

Stone, Nic


Library Call Number:  Y 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.


Thomas, Angie


Library Call Number:  Y 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.

Piecing Me Together

Watson, Renee


Library Call Number:  Y 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.

Everything, Everything

Yoon, Nicola


Library Call Number:  Y YOON

The story of a teenage girl who's literally allergic to the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she's ever known. The narrative unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, texts, charts, lists, illustrations, and more.

American Street

Zoboi, Ibi


Library Call Number:  Y ZOBOI

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie -- a good life. But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola's mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit's west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own. Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?


The Griots of Oakland: Voices from the African American Oral History Project

Compiled and edited by Zusman, Angela


Library Call Number:  Y305.38896 GRI

What is it like being a young African American man? The media repeats the same stereotypes again and again, yet the reality is much more diverse. This eye-opening and beautifully presented book shares the voices and images of a group of young black men in Oakland, interviewed by their peers in a groundbreaking oral history project.

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: my story of the Selma Voting Rights March

by Lynda Blackmon Lowery


Library Call Number:  Y 323.1196 LOWERY

A 50th-anniversary tribute shares the story of the youngest person to complete the momentous Selma to Montgomery March, describing her frequent imprisonments for her participation in nonviolent demonstrations and how she felt about her involvement in historic Civil Rights events.

March.  Book One*

Lewis, John


Library Call Number:  Y 328.73 LEWIS

Book One spans John Lewis' youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall. *Book #1 of a trilogy

The Port Chicago 50

by Steve Sheinkin


Library Call Number:  Y 940.54 SHEINKIN

Presents an account of the 1944 civil rights protest involving hundreds of African-American Navy servicemen who were unjustly charged with mutiny for refusing to work in unsafe conditions after the deadly Port Chicago explosion.

Buck:  a memoir

Asante, Molefi


Library Call Number:  811 ASANTE

An account of the author's youth in Zimbabwe and in violent Philadelphia street gangs explores how his life was shaped by his father's absence, his brother's imprisonment, and his mother's and sister's struggles with mental illness.

Yummy: the last days of a Southside Shorty

By Greg Neri

Non-Fiction Graphic Novel

Library Call Number:  YG NERI

A graphic novel based on the true story of Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, an eleven-year old African American gang member from Chicago who shot a young girl and was then shot by his own gang members.

People, Woman, African American, Tatoo 

Teenspace Blog References:

Post by Rosalie C. Abbott, Sebastopol Regional Library

Black Lives, Black Voices book list by Lara Mayelian, Rincon Valley Regional Library

Bishop, R.S. (1990a). Mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Perspectives, 6(3), ix–xi.

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