In celebrating Black History Month, we can’t help but be grateful for the long and rich history of stories penned by African-American authors across the centuries and into our present day. Through the forms of fiction and poetry, prose and nonfiction, their written worlds serve to inform, challenge, enthrall, and ignite the creativity of young learners. Yet, in spite of their contributions, it is undeniable that the publishing industry underrepresents authors of color—there’s less marketing, fewer books published about non-white communities, and fewer people of color in leadership roles. Educators serve an important function in closing these gaps. Because we love lightening the load for educators, we compiled a list of books whose topics deal with the intersection of race, young people, and our contemporary reality.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley, Malcolm X & Alex Haley
“The ability to read awoke inside of me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.”
Red at the Bone, Jaqueline Woodson
“Finally sixteen and the moment like a hand holding me out to the world.”
Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi
“Black is urban and rural, wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, and more—because there are countless ways to be Black enough.”
Passage: A Novel, Khary Lazarre-White
“This here is the story of a man. It is the story of a man who could fly, or believed he could, all depends on who you ask. This is the story of a man and his dreams.”
The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevado
“I only know that learning to believe in the power of my own words has been the most freeing experience of my life. It has brought me the most light. And isn’t that what a poem is? A lantern glowing in the dark.”
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
“There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought and thought on sound and sight. Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought.”
The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
“The world may be mean, but people don’t have to be, not if they refuse.”
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
“You are growing into consciousness, and my wish for you is that you feel no need to constrict yourself to make other people comfortable.”
Sonny’s Blues, James Baldwin
“Freedom lurked around us and I understood, at last, that he could help us be free if we would listen, that he would never be free until we did.”
Beloved, Toni Morrison
“124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children.”
Literature, in many ways, serves as a mirror for our times. Those that came before and those that are yet to come. That which we live in today. A book in the hands of a young reader is more than pages and print—it is a door into the lives and minds of others both like them and not, and therein lies the beauty.
At XQ, we believe that when young learners explore our histories, when they walk in the shoes of those who have struggled and succeeded, when they give themselves over to the experiences of others, their worldviews expand. With that expansion comes a greater ability to think critically and creatively; curiosity is stoked; learning happens. Let’s read! Let’s discuss! Let’s share!
We’d love to know what books you’re sharing with your students—give us a shout on Twitter @XQAmerica and let us know! Have a great idea for a blog on multicultural education? Head on over to our XQ blog contributor page and tell us about it!