Megan Atwood, Young Adult Books expert at About.com, asked me to put together a short list of recommended books. As Megan says, “not all these are YA–Christine gives a wide range of must-reads. But I think they all contribute to the YA conversation, especially in terms of the much-needed diversity movement. These books are vital to illuminating society’s treatment of marginalized groups and one step of many toward a greater understanding of how to change the system.”
HONOR GIRL by Maggie Thrash
This graphic memoir (graphic as in graphic novel) follows Maggie as she goes to camp one summer as she has done since she was a little girl. As a summer camp veteran, Maggie isn’t expecting anything different–let alone for her whole world to be blown apart. But blown apart it is when she unexpectedly falls for her older female counselor. As a first love, Maggie couldn’t be more surprised and saddened–the time and place is not friendly toward same-sex love. Maggie goes on a journey of self-discovery and raw emotion as she navigates love’s landscape–both terrifying and thrilling.
ZAMI: A NEW SPELLING OF MY NAME by Audre Lorde
Hailed as a biomythography, this book from the great and amazing pioneering Audre Lorde is one that should grace everyone’s library. Lorde writes as a poet, unfurling her prose to traverse her childhood and experiences as she grew up in the 1950s. As a young, Black lesbian, Lorde’s path was anything but easy and with her beautiful voice and sensuous descriptions, readers get to enter a world both terrible and beautiful and to understand better this hero of social justice in so many forms.
UNSPEAKABLE THINGS: SEX, LIES, AND REVOLUTION by Laurie Penny
Penny digs into feminism and class and asks you to dig in deeper with her. A book that challenges gender roles and classism, talks about social justice and intersectionality, this is one of those books that will get you fired up and ready to take some action.
THE LAST LEAVES FALLING by Sarah Benwell
This book is not some lighthearted candy-reading. No, this book will punch you in the gut in the best way. Abe has been diagnosed with ALS and has already lost the use of his legs. Taken out of school as his symptoms progress, Abe finds comfort in friends from an online teen chat group. And when he makes the ultimate choice to leave the world on his own terms–in the tradition of the Samurai–Abe knows he can count on his friends when he needs them.
BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Unflinching. Harsh. Heartbreaking. Amazing. This book is all of these things and a million other amazing adjectives. Ta-Nehisi Coates writes his memoir illuminating the experience of being Black in the U.S., discussing the horrific history on which America was built. Through the medium of letters to his son, Coates heartbreakingly explores his experiences of living in a Black body and the ramifications of being devalued in society, conveying the danger and damage of living in a racialized society.