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Books to Encourage Activism

by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)

As teachers, we often look to our students for inspiration: sometimes, their energy and enthusiasm for the world pushes us to be activists. But sometimes, we know, they need some inspiration, too. And that's where books can come in. Here are 9+ books we think are inspiring for young people.

Mark Oshiro's Anger Is a Gift - In my post about this book, I said, "Mark Oshiro's Anger Is a Gift confronts activism and anger through the lens of Moss. Moss's experiences with police brutality go back to his father's death as an unarmed victim of a police officer. Ever since, Moss has dealt with crippling anxiety. His mother, an activist, is an amazing parent who models vulnerability, empathy, and tolerance. Oshiro deals with SO many issues so effectively. Moss's school initiates random locker searches, which ends with their school police officer assaulting a young woman. When the footage goes viral, the school's response is to escalate with metal detectors and an increased police presence.

"In the midst of this turmoil and trauma at school, Moss also has a rich social life, filled with supportive friends and a new romance with Javier. As Moss's involvement in the unjust treatment at his school increases, he has to decide how much to involve himself, what risks to take, and how to stand up for himself and his friends."

Malala Yousafzai's I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban - I knew I loved my son's first-grade teacher when my kiddo came home talking about Malala Yousafzai. They had been doing a unit about activism, discussing the movements centered on Martin Luther King, Jr., related to civil rights and on Malala related to education for everyone. If you haven't read her memoir, you're missing out: while the outline of her accomplishments demonstrates her brilliance, you won't fully appreciate all that she has achieved and overcome unless you read her full story.


There are also some books that have been well represented on the podcast:

Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give - We devoted episode 41 to The Hate U Give and have never stopped recommending this amazing book, which explores the impact of police violence and the power of young people to work toward change.

Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely's All American Boys - We discussed All American Boys as one of our Unabridged Podcast Buddy Reads. It was my first time re-reading the book since it was first published, and the nuance of the alternating perspectives in this novel was striking. Here's my review.

Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi's Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You - We discussed this amazing remix of Stamped from the Beginning for Book Club in episode 137.

Tiffany Jewell's This Book Is Antiracist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work - This amazing handbook would work well for middle school- or high school-age students to help them understand antiracism in context and to consider how they can become antiracists. Here's my review.

Jacqueline Woodson's Harbor Me - This is a recent favorite that I loved on my own, reading with my son, and as part of an Unabridged Buddy Read. It is a gorgeous novel that explores the ways we can stand up for each other in ways both large and small. Here's my review.

Nic Stone's Dear Martin and Dear Justyce - I have great affection for these books: Dear Martin was our first Unabridged Podcast Buddy Read, and so I was thrilled when Dear Justyce came out recently. It's a brilliant companion to book one. Both novels explore the ways that teenagers can work through the complexities of system racism and can begin to combat its effects. Here's my review of Dear Justyce.

On episode 152, coming out on Wednesday, we talk about three other books that encourage activism, as well. Check it out! (The link won't be active until November 18!)

(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)

Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.

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