Book Lists, Fiction, Poetry/Verse, Realistic

Black History Month – Black Voices Matter (Part 1)

To celebrate Black History Month we’ll be highlighting Young Adult books by Black Authors each week.

This week features: Books that focus on social justice, novels in verse, and short stories.*

Social Justice

How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon

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.

I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina

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.


Monster by Walter Dean 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.



All American Boys by Jason 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.


Dear Martin by Nic 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.



The Hate U Give by Angie 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.




Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson

Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends on a mission–they’re sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post their work online–poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial microaggressions she experiences–and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by trolls. When things escalate in real life, the principal shuts the club down. Not willing to be silenced, Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices–and those of other young women–to be heard. These two dynamic, creative young women stand up and speak out in a novel that features their compelling art and poetry along with powerful personal journeys that will inspire readers and budding poets, feminists, and activists.

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi

From Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. The story that I thought was my life didn’t start on the day I was born. Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white. The story that I think will be my life starts today. Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?

Novels in Verse

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking Harlem. 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.

Solo by Kwame Alexander

Seventeen-year-old Blade endeavors to resolve painful issues from his past and navigate the challenges of his former rockstar father’s addictions, scathing tabloid rumors, and a protected secret that threatens his own identity.



Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh

“Ada” means first daughter, means oldest girl, means most pressure. When Ada leaves home for her freshman year at a historical Black college, it’s the first time that she’s been able to make her own choices. As she stumbles deeper into the world of dance and explores her sexuality, she also begins to wrestle with her past– her mother’s struggle with addiction, her Nigerian father’s attempts to make a home for her. Will she find the courage to shape a life of her own?

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

There are three rules in the neighborhood: Don’t cry ; Don’t snitch ; Get revenge. Will takes his dead brother Shawn’s gun, and gets in the elevator on the 7th floor. As the elevator stops on each floor, someone connected to Shawn gets on. Someone already dead. Dead by teenage gun violence. And each has something to share with Will.

Short Stories

Look Both Ways by Jason 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.



Black Enough

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 theme for Black History Month 2021 is – The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity

*Book blurbs from the Wheaton Public Library catalog.

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