One of my favorite things about teenagers is their passion. They feel and believe things deeply, which often results in actions based on those feelings and beliefs. With the evolution of the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements, I’ve seen teens take to the streets, seeking justice and equality. Eighteen-year-old Greta Thunberg has become famous for fighting climate change. The brave students who survived the devastating Parkland high school shooting became activists for gun control. Famous or not, teens everywhere make their voices heard in their classrooms and on social media every day. Here are 20 fiction and nonfiction books that are sure to encourage the young activists in your library.
Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fight for Their Rights by Mikki Kendall
The ongoing struggle for women’s rights has spanned human history, touched nearly every culture on Earth, and encompassed a wide range of issues, such as the right to vote, work, get an education, own property, exercise bodily autonomy, and beyond.
Banned Book Club by Hyun Sook Kim
The autobiography of a South Korean woman’s student days under an authoritarian regime, and how she defied state censorship.
The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph
Frederick Joseph calls up race-related anecdotes from his past, explaining why they were hurtful and how he might handle things now. Each chapter features the voice of at least one artist or activist, including Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give; April Reign, creator of #OscarsSoWhite; Jemele Hill, sports journalist and podcast host; and eleven others. Touching on everything from cultural appropriation to power dynamics, “reverse racism” to white privilege, microaggressions to the tragic results of overt racism, this book serves as a conversation starter, tool kit, and an invaluable window into the life of a former “token Black kid” who now presents himself as the friend many readers need.
Enough Is Enough: How Students Can Join the Fight for Gun Safety by Michelle Roehm McCann
Explores the complexities of gun violence in America by explaining the myths, facts, causes, and obstacles surrounding the issue, and provides resources for students to get involved in gun safety activism.
Go with the Flow by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann
High school students embark on a crash course of friendship, female empowerment, and women’s health issues.
In Good Hands: Remarkable Female Politicians from Around the World Who Showed Up, Spoke Out and Made Change by Stephanie MacKendrick
Shares the inspiring stories of 18 women role models behind recent political activism, counseling prospective young activists on the qualities of leadership and the necessary steps for organizing an effective campaign.
Into the Streets: A Young Person’s Visual History of Protest in the United States by Marke Bieschke
Prominently featured photos, artwork, and other visual elements will guide young adult readers through this lively, informative exploration of significant protests, sit-ins, and collective acts of resistance throughout US history.
Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian
An Iranian youth who hides his sexual orientation from his family, an openly gay photographer and an aspiring fashion designer with an HIV-positive uncle fall in love and find their voices as activists during the height of the AIDS crisis in New York City.
Love Is a Revolution by Renée Watson
Falling for an activist during an open-mic party, plus-sized Nala tells increasingly complicated lies about how much she shares her crush’s interests, before learning unanticipated lessons in radical love and self-love.
One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet by Anuradha Rao
This nonfiction book for teens profiles twenty environmental defenders of color from around the world. Their individual stories show that the intersection of environment and ethnicity is an asset to protecting our planet. Illustrated with photos of each of the people profiled.
One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite
When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic. One of the good ones. Even as the phrase rings wrong in her mind, why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed? Happi and her sister Genny embark on a journey to honor Kezi in their own way, using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. But there’s a twist to Kezi’s story that no one could’ve ever expected, one that will change everything all over again.
The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat and Fierce by Angie Manfredi
A crossover anthology for teens and activists shares essays, prose, fashion tips, and art to offer strategies for overcoming today’s narrow definitions of beauty and styling oneself in accordance with body positivity and acceptance of all sizes.
Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott
Inspired by the African American Policy Forum’s #SayHerName campaign and the work of such notables as Lucille Clifton and Nikki Giovanni, a collection of poems stands as a tribute to Black Lives Matter activists and victims of police brutality.
Shout: A Poetry Memoir by Laurie Halse Anderson
A poetic memoir and urgent call-to-action by the award-winning author of Speak blends free-verse reflections with deeply personal stories from her life to rally today’s young people to stand up and fight the abuses, censorship, and hatred of today’s world.
The Suffragist Playbook: Your Guide to Changing the World by Lucinda Robb and Rebecca Boggs Roberts
A look at some of the prominent women behind the suffragist movement in the U.S. offers readers an eye-opening look at the tactics and strategies employed in one of the largest, longest, and least well-known movements in American history, as well as a clear-eyed view of some of the movement’s key figures, including Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frances Willard, Ida B. Wells, Alice Paul and many more.
Take the Mic: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance edited by Bethany C. Morrow
An anthology of young adult stories and poems conveys acts of resistance by people marginalized by racism, discrimination, and hatred, offering contributions by diverse literary masters ranging from Jason Reynolds and Samira Ahmed to Laura Silverman and Sofia Quintero.
This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell
Who are you? What is racism? Where does it come from? Why does it exist? What can you do to disrupt it? Learn about social identities, the history of racism and resistance against it, and how you can use your anti-racist lens and voice to move the world toward equity and liberation.
This Is My America by Kim Johnson
Sending weekly letters to an organization she hopes will save her innocent father from death row, 17-year-old Tracy uncovers racist community secrets when her track star brother is wrongly accused of murder.
The Vinyl Underground by Rob Rufus
In small-town Florida in 1968, four teens who bond over music and their objection to the Vietnam War decide to take a stand against the U.S. government and violent racism.
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Story of Black Lives Matter and the Power to Change the World by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele
This is the story of how the movement that started with a hashtag–#BlackLivesMatter–spread across the nation and then across the world and the journey that led one of its co-founders, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, to this moment.