Add These Books About Social Justice and Diversity to Your Tween or Teen’s Summer Reading

Expand your teen’s library and start important conversations.

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June 26, 2020
By: Amanda Mushro

Photo By: Farknot_Architect

Conversation Starters

If you are looking for ways to start conversations about racism with your teens or tweens, introducing them to books that examine diversity and social justice can help. From novels that give a historical context, to stories about racism, prejudice and teen characters fighting for social justice, here are 10 books to add to your teen or tween’s summer reading list.

Piecing Me Together

A powerful story about a young girl striving for success in a world that seems to work against her. Jade is working to get out of her poor neighborhood. She’s a high-achieving student and artist that attends a private school away from her neighborhood where she feels like an outsider. She's tired of being singled out as someone who needs help and wants to speak, create and express her feelings. When she's given the chance to take part in a mentorship program with an African American mentor, Jade doesn’t want to lose herself but also doesn’t want to lose an opportunity at a full college scholarship. Can she do both without losing pieces of herself?

BUY IT: Amazon, $7

Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case

This is true story of the landmark Civil Rights case Loving vs. Virginia, and the couple, Richard and Mildred Loving, that made a path for legalized marriage between people of different races. It begins in 1955, where two teens fall in love, in spite of segregation and prejudice in Caroline County, Virginia. At this time their love broke the law and they were determined to change it. Richard and Mildred Loving faced discrimination, fought it and won.

BUY IT: Amazon, $17

The Hate You Give

In this award-winning and New York Times Best Selling book, readers are introduced to Starr, a 16-year-old girl who is living in two different worlds—the poor neighborhood she lives in and the fancy prep school she attends. When Starr witnesses the fatal police shooting of her best friend, Khalil, an unarmed Black teen, her life is changed forever. When the story goes viral, Starr has to decide if she will speak up and if her voice even matters.

BUY IT: Amazon, $11

This Time Will Be Different

This coming of age novel tells the story of 17-year-old CJ Katsuyama. Her mother thinks she has no ambition because CJ fails at everything she tries -- including coding camp, ballet, soccer and piano. However, CJ is enjoying working at her aunt’s flower shop, which is about to go out of business. When CJ learns about McAllister Venture Capital, the company that has made an offer to buy the store so they can tear it down and redevelop the land, she learns that the company became rich by buying up property for pennies on the dollar from Japanese Americans being sent to internment camps during World War II. One of those properties they bought was the Katsuyamas' flower shop, and it took years for the family to afford to buy it back. CJ is determined that this time, things will turn out very differently for the McAllisters.

BUY IT: Amazon, $11

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives

Sasha and Richard were both high school students from Oakland, California. Even though it’s one of the most diverse cities, they lived in very different worlds. Sasha is a white teen who lives in a middle-class neighborhood and attends a small private school. Richard is a Black teen, lives in a crime-plagued neighborhood and attends a large public school. However, they cross paths on the same bus every day. One day a reckless act leaves Sasha severely burned and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The true story garnered international attention and thrust both teenagers into the spotlight.

BUY IT: Amazon, $13

The Lions of Little Rock

Marlee is a 12-year-old girl who starts middle school in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1958. When she meets Liz, the new girl at school, the two quickly become friends. So, when Liz leaves school suddenly, rumors swirl that Liz was caught passing for white. Marlee doesn’t care and wants her friend back. Together, Marlee and Liz take on segregation and the dangers their friendship could bring to both of their families.

BUY IT: Amazon, $7

Dear Martin

Justyce McAllister is a good kid and an Ivy League-bound honor student, but none of that matters to the police officer who racially profiles him and arrests him. Justyce begins to confront injustices and micro-aggressions he experiences from the fallout. He turns to the words and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. but isn’t sure they are relevant anymore. Looking for answers, Justyce begins journaling to Dr. King.

BUY IT: Amazon, $6

Barely Missing Everything

This story tells about the lives of two Mexican American high school friends and a single mom who are trying their best to turn their lives around. Juan wants to get out of El Paso, Texas by way of a basketball scholarship so he can make something of himself. He’s tired of his mom’s cruddy apartment, her string of loser boyfriends and his dead dad. Basketball is Juan’s ticket out, but widespread racism and prejudice surround him every day.

BUY IT: Amazon, $11

Watch Us Rise

This book tells the story of two best friends, Jasmine and Chelsea, who are sick of the way women are treated in high school. They start a Women's Rights club and post their poems, essays and videos online, and they quickly go viral. The club is targeted by trolls and when things escalate, the principal shuts the club down. Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices, and those of other young women, to be heard.

BUY IT: Amazon, $10

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March

This beautifully illustrated book tells the inspiring story of the youngest marcher in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Lynda Blackmon Lowery’s memoir proves anyone can be a hero, even at a young age. She was jailed eleven times before her fifteenth birthday for protesting for Civil Rights, and even fought alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. She explains what it means to fight nonviolently, even when the police are using violence, and how it felt to be a part of changing American history.

BUY IT: Amazon, $9

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