My YA Book Recommendations for Black History Month

I’m sorry this is a few days late – life, man. It does not always unfold as your calendar dictates that it should.

I started last year REALLY trying to read more outside my own experience. I tried to seek out authors and characters that are NOT cisgendered white women in heterosexual relationships and my world has been so expanded because of this effort. I thought I’d pull from that list the books I’ve enjoyed written by authors of color and post them for Black History Month.

Nnedi Okorafor wrote the Akata Witch and Akata Warrior books and I enjoyed them both. They are fantasy reads which can be a miss for me sometimes, but these were outside of the realm of the fantasy I usually read that I found them mesmerizing. Here is the Goodreads Summary for the first one:

Akata Witch transports the reader to a magical place where nothing is quite as it seems. Born in New York, but living in Aba, Nigeria, twelve-year old Sunny is understandably a little lost. She is albino and thus, incredibly sensitive to the sun. All Sunny wants to do is be able to play football and get through another day of school without being bullied. But once she befriends Orlu and Chichi, Sunny is plunged in to the world of the Leopard People, where your worst defect becomes your greatest asset. Together, Sunny, Orlu, Chichi and Sasha form the youngest ever Oha Coven. Their mission is to track down Black Hat Otokoto, the man responsible for kidnapping and maiming children. Will Sunny be able to overcome the killer with powers stronger than her own, or will the future she saw in the flames become reality?

I’ve recommended Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give before, but it belongs on this list too. This books stayed with me for a very long time. Here is the Goodreads summary for it:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

If you loved The Hate U Give, you will love Renee Watson’s Piecing Me Together. This one really appealed to the artist in me in terms of the compulsion to create as an expression of experience. Here is the Goodreads summary:

Jade believes she must get out of her neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother says she has to take every opportunity. She has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Except really, it’s for black girls. From “bad” neighborhoods.

But Jade doesn’t need support. And just because her mentor is black doesn’t mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference.

Friendships, race, privilege, identity—this compelling and thoughtful story explores the issues young women face.

I’ve not Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon but NikkiZ did and she HIGHLY recommends it. HOWEVER, I did read The Sun Is Also A Star and loved it! It does have a little bit of a non-traditional narration, which I often dislike, but it added a great depth to the story that I don’t think she could have pulled off otherwise. Here is the Goodreads Summary:

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

I found Ibi Zoboi’s American Street on the “Best of 2017” wall in the YA section of my library and I am SO VERY GLAD I checked it out. It’s definitely outside my world of experience in 100 different ways but the message about love and family and loyalty was simply profound. Here is the Goodreads Summary:

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?

Kwame Alexander’s Solo was ALSO on that same wall at my library. THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD USE YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY! It’s another with an atypical narration method – this one done in song lyrics. And I was very suspect that I would find it annoying and not really able to feel the story but I was so very wrong. It’s a must read, for sure. Here is the Goodreads Summary:

Blade never asked for a life of the rich and famous. In fact, he’d give anything not to be the son of Rutherford Morrison, a washed-up rock star and drug addict with delusions of a comeback. Or to no longer be part of a family known most for lost potential, failure, and tragedy. The one true light is his girlfriend, Chapel, but her parents have forbidden their relationship, assuming—like many—that Blade will become just like his father.

In reality, the only thing Blade has in common with Rutherford is the music that lives inside them. But not even the songs that flow through Blade’s soul are enough when he’s faced with two unimaginable realities: the threat of losing Chapel forever, and the revelation of a long-held family secret, one that leaves him questioning everything he thought was true. All that remains is a letter and a ticket to Ghana—both of which could bring Blade the freedom and love he’s been searching for, or leave him feeling even more adrift.