Thought-provoking fiction and nonfiction books to read or listen to, in print and online for teens and adults.
Adult fiction book, and e-audiobook. Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick is an outstanding collection of stories about love and migration, gender and class, racism and sexism that proudly reflect African American folk culture. Brought together for the first time in one volume, they include eight of Hurston’s “lost” Harlem stories, which were found in forgotten periodicals and archives.” —book jacket. Age: Adult.
Adult fiction book, e-book, e-audiobook, and large print. An African-American woman searches for a fulfilling relationship through two loveless marriages and finally finds it in the person of Tea Cake, an itinerant laborer and gambler. Age: 14+
YA fiction book, e-book, and e-audiobook. When families go missing in Baltimore County, Jane McKeene, who is studying to become an Attendant, finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy that has her fighting for her life against powerful enemies. Age: 14+
YA fiction book. Biggie Smalls was right. Things done changed. But that doesn't mean Quadir and Jarrell are cool letting their best friend Steph's music lie forgotten under his bed after he is murdered—not when his rhymes could turn any Bed-Stuy corner into a party, not after years of having each other's backs. With the help of Steph's younger sister, Jasmine, who is eager to see justice for her brother, Quadir and Jarrell come up with a plan to promote Steph's music under a new rap name: the Architect. Age: 12+
YA fiction book. 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. Age: 14+
YA fiction book. Told from multiple viewpoints, Shae Tatum, an unarmed, thirteen-year-old black girl, is shot by a white police officer, throwing their community into upheaval and making it a target of demonstrators. Age: 14+
Adult fiction book. Sugar, a young prostitute arrives in Bigelow, Arkansas, to start her life over, far from her haunting past. She moves in next door to Pearl, who is still grieving for her daughter, murdered 15 years before. Over sweet-potato pie, an unlikely friendship begins. Age: Adult.
Adult fiction book, e-book, e-audiobook, and large print. After Paul D. finds his old slave friend Sethe in Ohio and moves in with her and her daughter Denver, a strange girl comes along by the name of "Beloved." Sethe and Denver take her in and then strange things begin to happen. Set in rural Ohio several years after the Civil War, this profoundly affecting chronicle of slavery and its aftermath is Toni Morrison's greatest novel, a dazzling achievement, and the most spellbinding reading experience of the decade. A brutally powerful, mesmerizing story ... read it and tremble. Age: 15+
Adult fiction book, e-book, audiobook on cd, e-audiobook, and large print. It is the story of eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove -- a black girl in an America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all others -- who prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful, so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different. This is the story of the nightmare at the heart of her yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment. Age: 14+
YA fiction book. Bethany C. Morrow's A Song Below Water is the story for today’s readers — a captivating modern fantasy about black mermaids, friendship, and self-discovery set against the challenges of today's racism and sexism. --From the publisher. Age: 13+
Adult science fiction book. “Rooted in foundational loss and the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is both a global dystopian narrative and an intimate family story with quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience. Ella and Kev are brother and sister, both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by structural racism and brutality. Their futures might alter the world. When Kev is incarcerated for the crime of being a young black man in America, Ella-through visits both mundane and supernatural-tries to show him the way to a revolution that could burn it all down"-- Provided by publisher. Age: 15+
YA fiction book, e-book, and e-audiobook. Told in two voices, sixteen-year-old Audre and Mabel, both young women of color from different backgrounds, fall in love and figure out how to care for each other as one of them faces a fatal illness. Age: 14+
YA fiction book, e-book, and e-audiobook. When Norris, a Black French Canadian, starts his junior year at an Austin, Texas, high school, he views his fellow students as clichés from "a bad 90s teen movie." Age: 14+
YA fiction book, e-book, and e-audiobook. 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. Age: 13+
YA fiction book, e-book, and e-audiobook. Soon after his mother's death, Matt takes a job at a funeral home in his tough Brooklyn neighborhood and, while attending and assisting with funerals, begins to accept her death and his responsibilities as a man. Age: 12+
Child fiction book, e-book, and e-audiobook. “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."-- Provided by publisher. Age: 10+
Adult fiction book and e-book. “In a near-future Southern city, everyone is talking about a new experimental medical procedure that boasts unprecedented success rates. In a society plagued by racism, segregation, and private prisons, this operation saves lives with a controversial method--by turning people white. Like any father, our unnamed narrator just wants the best for his son Nigel, a biracial boy whose black birthmark is getting bigger by the day. But in order to afford Nigel's whiteness operation, our narrator must make partner as one of the few black associates at his law firm, jumping through a series of increasingly absurd hoops--from diversity committees to plantation tours to equality activist groups--in a tragicomic quest to protect his son. This electrifying, suspenseful novel is, at once, a razor-sharp satire of surviving racism in America and a profoundly moving family story. In the tradition of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, We Cast a Shadow fearlessly shines a light on the violence we inherit, and on the desperate things we do for the ones we love."-- Provided by publisher. Age: Adult.
Adult fiction book. The story of emancipated slave Elizabeth Mayfield traces her rise as the matriarch of a family of musically gifted Southern women who overcome brutal obstacles while witnessing key moments in American history. Age: Adult.
YA fiction book, and e-book. "Set in a futuristic, hostile Orleans landscape, Fen de la Guerre must deliver her tribe leader's baby over the Wall into the Outer States before her blood becomes tainted with Delta Fever."--Provided by publisher. Age: 13+
Adult science fiction book, e-book, and e-audiobook. “Yetu holds the memories for her people--water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners--who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one--the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu. Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities--and discovers a world her people left behind long ago. Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past--and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they'll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity--and own who they really are. Inspired by the hit song by Clipping (comprised of Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes), The Deep will resonate long after the last page is turned." --book jacket. Age: Adult.
YA fiction book, e-book, and e-audiobook. 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. Age: 14+
YA fiction book. “Taja Brown, growing up in a conservative and tightly knit African American family, battles family expectations to discover a sense of self and find her unique voice and purpose."-- Provided by publisher. Age: 14+
YA fiction book. “Cassie Logan, first met in Song of the Trees and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, is a young woman now, searching for her place in the world, a journey that takes her from Toledo to California, to law school in Boston, and, ultimately, in the 60s, home to Mississippi to participate in voter registration. She is witness to the now-historic events of the century: the Great Migration north, the rise of the civil rights movement, preceded and precipitated by the racist society of America, and the often violent confrontations that brought about change. Rich, compelling storytelling is Ms. Taylor's hallmark, and she fulfills expectations as she brings to a close the stirring family story that has absorbed her for over forty years. It is a story she was born to tell."--Goodreads.com. Age: 12+
YA fiction, e-book, audiobook on cd, and e-audiobook. Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least win her first battle. As the daughter of an underground hip-hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri's got massive shoes to fill. But it's hard to get your come up when you're labeled a hoodlum at school and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral—for all the wrong reasons. Bri soon finds herself at the center of a controversy, portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. But with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri doesn't just want to make it—she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public made her out to be. Age: 14+
YA fiction book, e-book, audiobook on cd, e-audiobook, and large print. 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. Age: 14+
Adult fiction book, e-book, audiobook on cd, and e-audiobook. “Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she's high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie's children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise."-- Provided by publisher. Age: Adult.
YA fiction book, and e-book. Tired of being singled out at her mostly-white private school as someone who needs support, high school junior Jade would rather participate in the school's amazing Study Abroad program than join Women to Women, a mentorship program for at-risk girls. Age: 13+
YA fiction book. Frustrated by the way women are treated--even at their progressive New York City high school--two best friends start a Women's Rights Club, post their essays and poems online, and watch it go viral, attracting positive support as well as trolls. Age: 14+
Adult fiction book, e-book, e-audiobook, and large print. As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is "as good as anyone." Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South in the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called The Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides "physical, intellectual and moral training" so the delinquent boys in their charge can become "honorable and honest men." In reality, The Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors, where the sadistic staff beats and sexually abuses the students, corrupt officials and locals steal food and supplies, and any boy who resists is likely to disappear "out back." Age: 15+
YA fiction book, and e-book. Everyone on campus knows Remy Cameron. He's the out-and-proud, super-likable guy who friends, faculty, and fellow students alike admire for his cheerful confidence. The only person who isn't entirely sure about Remy Cameron is Remy himself. Under pressure to write an A+ essay defining who he is and who he wants to be, Remy embarks on an emotional journey toward reconciling the outward labels people attach to him with the real Remy Cameron within. Age: 13+