Antiracist Books for Teens

Antiracist Books for Teens

A list of books to help put current events into perspective, provide a window into another person’s experience, and help confront white privilege. Many items on the list have a digital and physical format.


Compiled by:
Jen H., Lizzy S., Macklin, Sam O.

YA Fiction

Akata Witch

Nnedi Okorafor
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Okorafo)

Twelve-year-old Sunny Nwazue, an American-born albino child of Nigerian parents, moves with her family back to Nigeria, where she learns that she has latent magical powers which she and three similarly gifted friends use to catch a serial killer.


All American Boys

Jason Reynolds
(Young Adult Fiction - YA Reynold)

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.


Beasts Made of Night

Tochi Onyebuchi
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Onyebuc)

After he eats the sin of a royal, Taj, a talented aki, or sin-eater who consumes the guilt of others whose transgressions are exorcised from them by powerful but corrupt Mages, is drawn into a plot to destroy the city, and he must fight to save the princess he loves and his own life.


Black Boy/White School

Brian F. Walker
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Walker)

When fourteen-year-old Anthony "Ant" Jones from the ghetto of East Cleveland, Ohio, gets a scholarship to a prep school in Maine, he finds that he must change his image and adapt to a world that never fully accepts him, but when he goes home he discovers that he no longer truly belongs there either.


Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America
- Ibi Zoboi
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Black)

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.


The Black Flamingo

Dean Atta
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Atta)

Michael is a mixed-race gay teen growing up in London. All his life, he’s navigated what it means to be Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican—but never quite feeling Greek or Black enough. As he gets older, Michael’s coming out is only the start of learning who he is and where he fits in. When he discovers the Drag Society, he finally finds where he belongs—and the Black Flamingo is born.


Black Girl Unlimited

Echo Brown
(Young Adult Fiction - YA Brown)

Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side of Cleveland, where apartments are small and parents suffer addiction to the white rocks. Yet there is magic everywhere. Every day Echo travels between worlds, attending a rich white school on the West Side. But there are dangers to leaving behind the pace that made you.


Children of Blood and Bone

Tomi Adeyemi
(Young Adult Fiction - Toni 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, but they are ruthlessly pursued by the crown prince, who believes the return of magic will mean the end of the monarchy.


Dread Nation: Rise Up

Justina Ireland
Young Adult Fiction - Y Ireland)

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania -- derailing the War between the States and changing the nation forever. In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Negro and Native Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities, and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It's a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. But that's not a life she wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston's School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn't pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a desperate fight against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.


Felix Ever After

Kacen Callender
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Callender)

Felix Love, a transgender seventeen-year-old, attempts to get revenge by catfishing his anonymous bully, but lands in a quasi-love triangle with his former enemy and his best friend.


Ghost Boys

Jewell Parker Rhodes
(Young Adult Fiction - YA Rhodes)

After seventh-grader Jerome is shot by a white police officer, he observes the aftermath of his death and meets the ghosts of other fallen black boys including historical figure Emmett Till.


The Hate U Give

Angie Thomas
(Young Adult Fiction - 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.


I'm Not Dying with You Tonight

Kimberly Latrice Jones
(Young Adult Fiction - YA Jones)

Told from two viewpoints, Atlanta high school seniors Lena and Campbell, one black, one white, must rely on each other to survive after a football rivalry escalates into a riot.


Internment

Samira Ahmed
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Ahmed)

A terrifying, futuristic United Sates where Muslim-Americans are forced into internment camps, and seventeen-year-old Layla Amin must lead a revolution against complicit silence.


Let Me Hear a Rhyme

Tiffany D. Jackson
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Jackson)

Three Brooklyn teens plot to turn their murdered friend into a major rap star by pretending he's still alive. Brooklyn, 1998. Biggie Smalls was right: Things done changed. But that doesn't mean that Quadir and Jarrell are cool letting their best friend Steph's music lie forgotten under his bed after he's murdered -- not when his rhymes could turn any Bed Stuy corner into a party. With the help of Steph's younger sister Jasmine, they come up with a plan to promote Steph's music under a new rap name: the Architect. Soon, everyone wants a piece of him. When his demo catches the attention of a hotheaded music label rep, the trio must prove Steph's talent from beyond the grave. As the pressure of keeping their secret grows, Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine are forced to confront the truth about what happened to Steph. Only, each has something to hide. And with everything riding on Steph's fame, they need to decide what they stand for or lose all that they've worked so hard to hold on to -- including each other.


Light It Up

Kekla Magoon
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Magoon)

A girl walks home from school. She's tall for her age. She's wearing her winter coat. Her headphones are in. She never makes it home. In the aftermath, while law enforcement tries to justify the response, one fact remains: a police officer has shot and killed Shea Tatum, an unarmed thirteen-year-old black girl. The community is thrown into upheaval, leading to unrest, a growing movement to protest the senseless taking of black lives, and the arrival of white supremacist counter demonstrators. 


Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks

Jason Reynolds
(Juvenile Fiction - Reynolds)

Jason Reynolds conjures ten tales (one per block) about what happens after the dismissal bell rings, and weaves them into one funny, poignant look at the detours we face on the walk home, and in life.


On the Come Up

Angie Thomas
(Young Adult Fiction - Y 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.


Pet
Pet

Akwaeke Emezi
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Emezi)

There are no monsters anymore. In the city of Lucille, Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with this lesson all their life. Then Jam meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colors and claws, who emerges from one of her mother's paintings and a drop of Jam's blood. Pet has come to hunt a monster-- and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption's house. How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist? 


The Poet X

Elizabeth Acevedo
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Acevedo)

Ever since her body grew into curves, Xiomara Batista has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. She pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers-- especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. Mami is determined to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, and Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. When she is invited to join her school's slam poetry club, she can't stop thinking about performing her poems.


Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Kwame Mbalia
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Mbalia)

Seventh-grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he's going to spend on his grandparents' farm. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up and steals Eddie's notebook. Tristan chases after it, and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to get it away from the creature, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters. Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American folk heroes John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?


Tyler Johnson Was Here

Jay Coles
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Coles)

When Marvin Johnson's twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid. The next day Tyler is missing, and it's up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels, mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.


Graphic Novels

Black AF: America's Sweetheart

Kwanza Osajyefo
Graphic Novels - GN Osajyef Black AF Americas Sweetheart

Can a black woman be America's first superhero? Eli Franklin is a 15-year-old girl living in rural Montana-- and she just happens to be the most powerful person on the planet. In the aftermath of the world learning that only black people have superpowers, Eli makes her debut as the superhero Good Girl, on a mission to help people and quell the fear of empowered blacks. When a super-terrorist threatens to take away everything Eli has worked toward, will donning a patriotic costume be enough for her to find acceptance?


Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Vol. 1

Ta-Nehisi Coates
Graphic Novels - GN Black Panther v. 1 (2016-)

A new era begins for the Black Panther! MacArthur Genius and National Book Award-winning writer Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me) takes the helm, confronting T'Challa with a dramatic upheaval in Wakanda that will make leading the African nation tougher than ever before. When a superhuman terrorist group calling itself The People sparks a violent uprising, the land famed for its incredible technology and proud warrior traditions will be thrown into turmoil. As suicide bombers terrorize the population, T'Challa struggles to unite his citizens, and a familiar villain steps out of the shadows. If Wakanda is to survive, it must adapt - but can its monarch, one in a long line of Black Panthers, survive the necessary change? Heavy lies the head that wears the cowl!


Hot Comb

Ebony Flowers
Graphic Novels - GN Flowers Hot Comb

Hot Comb offers a poignant glimpse into Black women's lives and coming of age stories as seen across a crowded, ammonia-scented hair salon while ladies gossip and bond over the burn. The titular story "Hot Comb" is about a young girl's first perm--a doomed ploy to look cool and to stop seeming "too white" in the all-black neighborhood her family has just moved to. In "Virgin Hair" taunts of "tender-headed" sting as much as the perm itself. It's a scenario that repeats fifteen years later as an adult when, tired of the maintenance, Flowers shaves her head only to be hurled new put-downs. Realizations about race, class, and the imperfections of identity swirl through Flowers' stories and ads, which are by turns sweet, insightful, and heartbreaking.


I Am Alfonso Jones

Tony Medina
Graphic Novels - GN Medina I Am Alfonso Jones

The ghost of fifteen-year-old Alfonso Jones travels in a New York subway car full of the living and the dead, watching his family and friends fight for justice after he is killed by an off-duty police officer while buying a suit in a Midtown department store.


Illegal

Eoin Colfer
Graphic Novels - GN Colfer Illegal

Ebo is alone. His brother, Kwame, has disappeared, and Ebo knows it can only be to attempt the hazardous journey to Europe, and a better life, the same journey their sister set out on months ago. But Ebo refuses to be left behind in Ghana. He sets out after Kwame and joins him on the quest to reach Europe. Ebo's epic journey takes him across the Sahara Desert to the dangerous streets of Tripoli, and finally out to the merciless sea. But with every step he holds on to his hope for a new life, and a reunion with his family.


March: Book 1

John Lewis
Graphic Novels - GN 921 Lewis Lew

March is a vivid first-hand account 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. Rooted in Lewis' personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.


New Kid

Jerry Craft
Graphic Novels - GN Craft New Kid

After his parents send him to a prestigious private school known for its academics, Jordan Banks finds himself torn between two worlds.


The Silence of Our Friends

Mark Long
Graphic Novels - Long Silence Of Our Friends

This semi-autobiographical tale is set in 1967 Texas, against the backdrop of the fight for civil rights. A white family from a notoriously racist neighborhood in the suburbs and a black family from its poorest ward cross Houston's color line, overcoming humiliation, degradation, and violence to win the freedom of five black college students unjustly charged with the murder of a policeman.


They Called Us Enemy

George Takei
Graphic Novels - GN 791.4392 Takei Tak

A stunning graphic memoir recounting actor/author/activist George Takei's childhood imprisoned within American concentration camps during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon -- and America itself -- in this gripping tale of courage, country, loyalty, and love. 


Nonfiction

The 57 Bus

Dashka Slater
Adult Nonfiction - 364.1555 Sla

One teenager in a skirt. One teenager with a lighter. One moment that changes both of their lives forever. If it weren't for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight.


All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto

George M. Johnson
Adult Nonfiction - 921 Johnson, George

A first book by the prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist shares personal essays that chronicle his childhood, adolescence and college years as a Black queer youth, exploring subjects ranging from gender identity and toxic masculinity to structural marginalization and Black joy.


Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates
Adult Nonfiction - 305.896 Coa

For Ta-Nehisi Coates, history has always been personal. At every stage of his life, he's sought in his explorations of history answers to the mysteries that surrounded him--most urgently, why he, and other black people he knew, seemed to live in fear ... In [this book], Coates takes readers along on his journey through America's history of race and its contemporary resonances through a series of awakenings--moments when he discovered some new truth about our long, tangled history of race, whether through his myth-busting professors at Howard University, a trip to a Civil War battlefield with a rogue historian, a journey to Chicago's South Side to visit aging survivors of 20th century America's 'long war on black people,' or a visit with the mother of a beloved friend who was shot down by the police.


Brown Girl Dreaming

Jacqueline Woodson
Juvenile Nonfiction - J 811.54 Woo

Jacqueline Woodson, one of today's finest writers, 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. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child's soul as she searches for her place in the world.


Electric Arches

Eve Ewing
(Adult Nonfiction - 811.6 Ewi)

Blending stark realism with the surreal and fantastic, Eve L. Ewing’s narrative takes us from the streets of 1990s Chicago to an unspecified future, deftly navigating the boundaries of space, time, and reality. Ewing imagines familiar figures in magical circumstances―blues legend Koko Taylor is a tall-tale hero; LeBron James travels through time and encounters his teenage self. She identifies everyday objects―hair moisturizer, a spiral notebook―as precious icons.

Her visual art is spare, playful, and poignant―a cereal box decoder ring that allows the wearer to understand what Black girls are saying; a teacher’s angry, subversive message scrawled on the chalkboard. Electric Arches invites fresh conversations about race, gender, the city, identity, and the joy and pain of growing up.


Our Stories, Our Voices: 21 YA Authors Get Real About Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing Up Female in America

Amy Reed
- Editor
Adult Nonfiction - 305.4209 Our

This collection of twenty-one essays from major YA authors—including award-winning and bestselling writers—touches on a powerful range of topics related to growing up female in today’s America, and the intersection with race, religion, and ethnicity. Sure to inspire hope and solidarity to anyone who reads it, Our Stories, Our Voices belongs on every young woman’s shelf.


Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools

Monique W. Morris
Adult Nonfiction - 371.82996 Mor

Fifteen-year-old Diamond stopped going to school the day she was expelled for lashing out at peers who constantly harassed and teased her for something everyone on the staff had missed: she was being trafficked for sex. After months on the run, she was arrested and sent to a detention center for violating a court order to attend school. Black girls represent 16 percent of female students but almost half of all girls with a school-related arrest. The first trade book to tell these untold stories, Pushout exposes a world of confined potential and supports the growing movement to address the policies, practices, and cultural illiteracy that push countless students out of school and into unhealthy, unstable, and often unsafe futures. For four years Monique W. Morris, author of Black Stats, chronicled the experiences of black girls across the country whose intricate lives are misunderstood, highly judged-by teachers, administrators, and the justice system-and degraded by the very institutions charged with helping them flourish. Morris shows how, despite obstacles, stigmas, stereotypes, and despair, black girls still find ways to breathe remarkable dignity into their lives in classrooms, juvenile facilities, and beyond.


Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

Jason Reynolds
Adult Nonfiction - 305.800973 Rey

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.


Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves

Glory Edim
- Editor
Adult Nonfiction - 810.9896 Wel

An inspiring collection of essays by black women writers, curated by the founder of the popular book club Well-Read Black Girl, on the importance of recognizing ourselves in literature.