The Hate U Give and Turning 15...covers

Seven Books about the African American Experience

The terrible events in Charlottesville over the weekend are on everybody’s mind, so we have rounded up a series of the best books that look at the history of the treatment of people of color in US society from the race riots of the 1920s to the present day. 



The Hate U Give‘ by Angie Thomas


Cover of The Hate U Give

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Starr is the only witness to the murder of her unarmed friend Khalil at the hands of a white cop. Khalil is vilified in the press, while his murder sparks national outcry. Meanwhile, Starr is the only person who knows what really happened, and this knowledge throws her community into upheaval and her and her family’s lives in danger. A damning commentary on police brutality and the treatment of people of color in US society, ‘The Hate U Give’ became an instant bestseller and a movie starring Amandla Sternberg is currently in production. 


Monster‘ by Walter Dean Myers

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The story of Steve Harmon, a teenage boy in juvenile detention and on trial. The book, which is presented as a screenplay of Steve’s own imagination, and interspersed with journal entries, looks at the treatment of black youth within the American justice system. Walter Dean Myers was a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and was known for his commitment to realistically depicting the lives of young people in Harlem. A movie version of ‘Monster’ was released in 2017, starring Jennifer Hudson and A$AP Rocky. 


Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March‘ by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, Elspeth Leacock, Susan Buckley, and PJ Loughran


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Lowery was the youngest person to march in the 1965 voting rights march, and as such was jailed eleven times before her fifteenth birthday. Lowery shares what she learned about peaceful protest in the face of injustice from marching along side Dr. Martin Luther King.


Dreamland Burning‘ by Jennifer Latham


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This historical thriller moves between 1920s Tulsa and the present, examining the 1921 race riots through the eyes of two main characters, William and Rowan. The book is a searing commentary on race relations in the USA, then and now. 


American Street‘ by Ibi Zoboi


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Fabiola is a young Haitian immigrant adjusting to her new life in Detroit while her mother is detained by American immigration. Despite this, she must navigate her new school and home, as well as juggling a blossoming romance. This story explores the every day lives of young immigrants in the US today. 


Beloved‘ by Toni Morrison


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This unflinching novel explores the deep trauma of slavery. Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is unable to feel free of Sweet Home where so many hideous things happened. She is haunted by the ghost of her child, Beloved, whom she killed rather than having her grow up a slave. This breathless novel will stay with the reader, and does not shy away from the psychological trauma inflicted on generations of African American victims of slavery. 


Brown Girl Dreaming‘ by Jacqueline Woodson


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This poetry book was a President Obama ‘O’ Book Club pick, and, through beautiful poems, explores Woodson’s life growing up in American in the 1960s and 70s, dealing with the aftermath of Jim Crow and becoming aware of the Civil Rights Movement. 


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