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Black Lives Matter

This book list, created by Chelsea Couillard-Smith, a librarian for Hennepin County (MN) Library, is presented as a selected list of “good conversation starters for teens engaged in discussions about race and justice.” We offer this list for all of our teen patrons, as well as anyone in our community, who are looking for starting points for exploring issues around race, justice, and privilege.

Click on the cover to search our catalog for these titles.


Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Winner, Kirkus Prize for Non-Fiction, 2015 In the 150 years since the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, the story of race and America has remained a brutally simple one, written on flesh: it is the story of the black body, exploited to create the country's foundational wealth, violently segregated to unite a nation after a civil war, and, today, still disproportionately threatened, locked up and killed in the streets. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can America reckon with its fraught racial history? Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ attempt to answer those questions, presented in the form of a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son the story of his own awakening to the truth about history and race through a series of revelatory experiences: immersion in nationalist mythology as a child; engagement with history, poetry and love at Howard University; travels to Civil War battlefields and the South Side of Chicago; a journey to France that reorients his sense of the world; and pilgrimages to the homes of mothers whose children's lives have been taken as American plunder. Taken together, these stories map a winding path towards a kind of liberation—a journey from fear and confusion, to a full and honest understanding of the world as it is. Masterfully woven from lyrical personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me offers a powerful new framework for understanding America's history and current crisis, and a transcendent vision for a way forward. Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent for the Atlantic and the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle. Coates has received the National Magazine Award, the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism, and the George Polk Award for his Atlantic cover story 'The Case for Reparations'. He lives in New York with his wife and son. ‘Coates offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son's life...this moving, potent testament might have been titled Black Lives Matter.’ Kirkus Reviews ‘I’ve been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died. Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates. The language of Between the World and Me, like Coates’ journey, is visceral, eloquent and beautifully redemptive. And its examination of the hazards and hopes of black male life is as profound as it is revelatory. This is required reading.’ Toni Morrison ‘Extraordinary…Ta-Nehisi Coates…writes an impassioned letter to his teenage son—a letter both loving and full of a parent’s dread—counselling him on the history of American violence against the black body, the young African-American’s extreme vulnerability to wrongful arrest, police violence, and disproportionate incarceration.’ David Remnick, New Yorker ‘A searing meditation on what it means to be black in America today…as compelling a portrait of a father–son relationship as Martin Amis’s Experience or Geoffrey Wolff’s The Duke of Deception.’ New York Times ‘Coates possesses a profoundly empathetic imagination and a tough intellect...Coates speaks to America, but Australia has reason to listen.’ Monthly

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Brown Girl Dreaming Jacqueline Woodson Cover
jBIOG, TEEN BIOG Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming

Jacqueline Woodson

A New York Times Bestseller and National Book Award Winner 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. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become. A Newbery Honor Book A Coretta Scott King Award Winner Praise for Jacqueline Woodson: Ms. Woodson writes with a sure understanding of the thoughts of young people, offering a poetic, eloquent narrative that is not simply a story . . . but a mature exploration of grown-up issues and self-discovery.”—The New York Times Book Review From the Hardcover edition.

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The Boy in the Black Suit Jason Reynolds Cover
TEEN FIC Reynolds

The Boy in the Black Suit

Jason Reynolds

A 2016 Coretta Scott King Author Honor book. Just when seventeen-year-old Matt thinks he can’t handle one more piece of terrible news, he meets a girl who’s dealt with a lot more—and who just might be able to clue him in on how to rise up when life keeps knocking him down—in this “vivid, satisfying, and ultimately upbeat tale of grief, redemption, and grace” (Kirkus Reviews) from the Coretta Scott King – John Steptoe Award–winning author of When I Was the Greatest. Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died—although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. So while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. Crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy stuff than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness—and who can maybe even help take it away.

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This Side of Home Renée Watson Cover
TEEN FIC Watson

This Side of Home

Renée Watson

Identical twins Nikki and Maya have been on the same page for everything-friends, school, boys and starting off their adult lives at a historically African-American college. But as their neighborhood goes from rough-and-tumble to up-and-coming, suddenly filled with pretty coffee shops and boutiques, Nikki is thrilled while Maya feels like their home is slipping away. Suddenly, the sisters who had always shared everything must confront their dissenting feelings on the importance of their ethnic and cultural identities and, in the process, learn to separate themselves from the long shadow of their identity as twins. In her inspired YA debut, Renee Watson explores the experience of young African-American women navigating the traditions and expectations of their culture.

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Slump Kevin Waltman Cover
TEEN FIC Waltman

Slump

Kevin Waltman

D-Bow's back--with a sophomore slump. Still, with some help, he just might find more basketball magic.

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Coffee Will Make You Black April Sinclair Cover
TEEN PBK FIC SIN

Coffee Will Make You Black

April Sinclair

An African American girl comes of age during the civil rights movement in April Sinclair’s hilarious, insightful novel that was named Book of the Year (Young Adult Fiction) for 1994 by the American Library Association Jean “Stevie” Stevenson lives in Chicago’s South Side, a neighborhood that acutely feels the social changes of the 1960s. Curious and witty, bold but naïve, Stevie ponders questions such as what makes good hair, and which skin shade is better in light of “Black Is Beautiful.” Amid the War on Poverty, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., race riots, and the Black Power movement, Stevie grows into a socially aware young adult with a burgeoning sexuality and pride in her identity. Learning as much from her mother’s strictness, her father’s steady encouragement, and her grandmother’s strength as she does from her wild friend Carla and her white teacher Nurse Horne, Stevie makes the sometimes harrowing, often hilarious, always enthralling journey into adulthood. Coffee Will Make You Black received the Carl Sandburg Award from the Friends of the Chicago Public Library.

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All the Right Stuff Walter Dean Myers Cover
TEEN FIC MYERS

All the Right Stuff

Walter Dean Myers

New York Times bestselling author Walter Dean Myers tackles the social contract from a teen’s perspective in his novel All the Right Stuff. In one of his most thought-provoking novels to date, Myers weaves together political philosophy, basketball, and making soup in Harlem, with the depth that defines his writing career. After his father is shot and killed, Paul Dupree finds a summer job at a Harlem soup kitchen. Elijah, the soup man, questions Paul about tough life choices, even though Paul would rather be playing basketball. Over the summer, Paul begins to understand the importance of taking control of your life. All the Right Stuff includes a Q&A between Walter Dean Myers and Ross Workman, coauthor of Kick.

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Like No Other Una LaMarche Cover
TEEN FIC LaMarche

Like No Other

Una LaMarche

Living on opposite sides of their Brooklyn neighborhood, strict Hasidic Devorah and fun-loving nerd Jaxon forge an unexpected connection when they become trapped in an elevator during a hurricane, after which they pursue a secret romance. Simultaneous eBook.

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The Other Wes Moore Wes Moore Cover
TEEN BIOG MOORE

The Other Wes Moore

Wes Moore

Traces the parallel lives of two youths with the same name in the same community, describing how the author grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar and promising business leader while his counterpart suffered a life of violence and imprisonment.

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Fire in the Streets Kekla Magoon Cover
TEEN RL MAG

Fire in the Streets

Kekla Magoon

What means more, shared values or shared blood? Maxie’s choice changes everything in this acclaimed companion to The Rock and the River. Bad things happen in the heat, they say. Maxie knows all about how fire can erupt at a moment’s notice, especially now, in the sweltering Chicago summer of 1968. She is a Black Panther—or at least she wants to be one. Maxie believes in the movement. She wants to belong. She wants to join the struggle. But everyone keeps telling her she’s too young. At fourteen, she’s allowed to help out in the office, but she certainly can’t help patrol the streets. Then Maxie realizes that there is a traitor in their midst, and if she can figure out who it is, it may be her ticket to becoming a real Panther. But when she learns the truth, the knowledge threatens to destroy her world. Maxie must decide: Is becoming a Panther worth paying the ultimate price?

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Bright Lights, Dark Nights Stephen Emond Cover
TEEN FIC Emond

Bright Lights, Dark Nights

Stephen Emond

Walter Wilcox's first love, Naomi, happens to be African American, so when Walter's policeman father is caught in a racial profiling scandal, the teens' bond and mutual love of the Foo Fighters may not be enough to keep them together through the pressures they face at school, at home, and online.

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How It Went Down Kekla Magoon Cover
TEEN FIC Magoon

How It Went Down

Kekla Magoon

When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white. In the aftermath of Tariq's death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth. Tariq's friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy, and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down.

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All American Boys Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely Cover
TEEN FIC Reynolds

All American Boys

Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely

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.

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Monster

Walter Dean Myers

Sometimes I feel like I have walked into the middle of a movie. Maybe I can make my own movie. The film will be the story of my life. No, not my life, but of this experience. I'll call it what the lady who is the prosecutor called me. MONSTER. FADE IN: INTERIOR COURT. A guard sits at a desk behind Steve. Kathy O'Brien, Steve's lawyer, is all business as she talks to Steve. O'BRIEN Let me make sure you understand what's going on. Both you and this king character are on trial for felony murder. Felony Murder is as serious as it gets. . . . When you're in court, you sit there and pay attetion. You let the jury know that you think the case is a serious as they do. . . . STEVE You think we're going to win ? O'BRIEN (seriously) It probably depends on what you mean by "win." Sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon is on trial for murder. A Harlem drugstore owner was shot and killed in his store, and the word is that Steve served as the lookout. Guilty or innocent, Steve becomes a pawn in the hands of "the system," cluttered with cynical authority figures and unscrupulous inmates, who will turn in anyone to shorten their own sentences. For the first time, Steve is forced to think about who he is as he faces prison, where he may spend all the tomorrows of his life. As a way of coping with the horrific events that entangle him, Steve, an amateur filmmaker, decides to transcribe his trial into a script, just like in the movies. He writes it all down, scene by scene, the story of how his whole life was turned around in an instant. But despite his efforts, reality is blurred and his vision obscured until he can no longer tell who he is or what is the truth. This compelling novel is Walter Dean Myers's writing at its best. 2000 Coretta Scott King Honor Book, 2000 Michael L. Printz Award, 1999 National Book Award Finalist, 01 Heartland Award for Excellence in YA Lit Finalist, 00-01 Tayshas High School Reading List, and 00-01 Black-Eyed Susan Award Masterlist 2000 Best Books for Young Adults (ALA), Hornbook Fanfare 2000, Michael L. Printz Award 2000, 2000 Coretta Scott King Award Author Honor Book, 2000 Quick Picks for Young Adults (Recomm. Books for Reluctant Young Readers), and 2000 Best Books for Young Adults (ALA)

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The Crossover Kwame Alexander Cover
TEEN FIC Alexander

The Crossover

Kwame Alexander

A middle-grade novel in verse follows the experiences of twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan, who struggle with challenges on and off the court while their father ignores his declining health. 20,000 first printing.

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A Wreath for Emmett Till  Cover
TEEN 820 Nelson

A Wreath for Emmett Till

In 1955 people all over the United States knew that Emmett Louis Till was a fourteen-year-old African American boy lynched for supposedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. The brutality of his murder, the open-casket funeral held by his mother, Mamie Till Mobley, and the acquittal of the men tried for the crime drew wide media attention. In a profound and chilling poem, award-winning poet Marilyn Nelson reminds us of the boy whose fate helped spark the civil rights movement.

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Claudette Colvin Phillip Hoose Cover
TEEN BIOG COLVIN

Claudette Colvin

Phillip Hoose

Presents the life of the Alabama teenager who played an integral but little-known role in the Montgomery bus strike of 1955-1956, once by refusing to give up a bus seat, and again, by becoming a plaintiff in the landmark civil rights case against the buscompany.

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Black Lives Matter Edwards, Sue Bradford Cover
TEEN 305.8 Edwards

Black Lives Matter

Edwards, Sue Bradford

Black Lives Matter covers the shootings that touched off passionate protests, the work of activists to bring about a more just legal system, and the tensions in US society that these events have brought to light. Aligned to Common Core Standards and correlated to state standards. Essential Library is an imprint of Abdo Publishing, a division of ABDO.

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March: Book One John Robert Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell Cover
OVERSIZE TEEN GRAPHIC March

March: Book One

John Robert Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell

Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper's farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president. Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole). 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. 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. Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1958 comic book Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story. Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

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A Good Time for the Truth

Sun Yung Shin

In this provocative book, sixteen of Minnesota’s best writers provide a range of perspectives on what it is like to live as a person of color in one of the whitest states in the nation. They give readers a splendid gift: the gift of touching another human being’s inner reality, behind masks and veils and politeness. They bring us generously into experiences that we must understand if we are to come together in real relationships. Minnesota communities struggle with some of the nation’s worst racial disparities. As its authors confront and consider the realities that lie beneath the numbers, this book provides an important tool to those who want to be part of closing those gaps. With contributions by: Taiyon J. Coleman, Heid E. Erdrich, Venessa Fuentes, Shannon Gibney, David Grant, Carolyn Holbrook, IBé, Andrea Jenkins, Robert Karimi, JaeRan Kim, Sherry Quan Lee, David Mura, Bao Phi, Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria, Diane Wilson, Kao Kalia Yang

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We Troubled the Waters Ntozake Shange Cover
j811 Sha

We Troubled the Waters

Ntozake Shange

Jim Crow; Brown v. Board of Education; Bull Connor; KKK; Birmingham; the Lorraine Motel; Rosa; Martin; and Malcolm. From slavery to the separation of "colored" and "white" and from horrifying oppression to inspiring courage, there are countless stories—both forgotten and immortalized—of everyday and extraordinary people who acted for justice during the civil rights movement that changed our nation. Award-winning poet Ntozake Shange and illustrator Rod Brown give voice to all those who fought for their unalienable rights in a triumphant book about the power of the human spirit.

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Getting Away with Murder Chris Crowe Cover
364.152 Crowe 2003

Getting Away with Murder

Chris Crowe

The kidnapping and murder of Emmett Till is famous as a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement. Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old Black teenager from Chicago, was visiting family in a small town in Mississippi during the summer of 1955. Likely showing off to friends, Emmett allegedly whistled at a white woman. Three days later his brutally beaten body was found floating in the Tallahatchie River. The extreme violence of the crime put a national spotlight on the Jim Crow ways of the South, and many Americans-Black and white-were further outraged at the speedy trial of the white murderers. Although the two white men were tried and acquitted by an all-white jury, they later bragged publicly about the crime. It was a galvanizing moment for Black leaders and ordinary citizens, including such activists as Rosa Parks. In clear, vivid detail Chris Crowe investigates the before-and-aftermath of the crime, as well as the dramatic court trial, and places it into the context of the nascent Civil Rights Movement. With lively narrative and abundantly illustrated with forty fascinating contemporaneous photographs, this impressive work of nonfiction brings fresh insight to the case in a manner that will be accessible and eye-opening for teenagers and adults alike.

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No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row Susan Kuklin Cover
364.66 Kuklin 2008

No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row

Susan Kuklin

In-depth interviews with teenage prisoners who have been sentenced to death and are awaiting execution on death row provides a powerful look at life behind bars, the effects their decisions have had on themselves and others, and their personal views on the death penalty itself.

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X Ilyasah Shabazz, Kekla Magoon Cover
TEEN FIC Shabazz

X

Ilyasah Shabazz, Kekla Magoon

Winner of the 2016 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens A 2016 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book Cowritten by Malcolm X’s daughter, this riveting and revealing novel follows the formative years of the man whose words and actions shook the world. Malcolm Little’s parents have always told him that he can achieve anything, but from what he can tell, that’s a pack of lies—after all, his father’s been murdered, his mother’s been taken away, and his dreams of becoming a lawyer have gotten him laughed out of school. There’s no point in trying, he figures, and lured by the nightlife of Boston and New York, he escapes into a world of fancy suits, jazz, girls, and reefer. But Malcolm’s efforts to leave the past behind lead him into increasingly dangerous territory. Deep down, he knows that the freedom he’s found is only an illusion—and that he can’t run forever. X follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path and command a voice that still resonates today.

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