If you’re eager to provide the high schoolers in your life with an important antiracism education but you feel overwhelmed with the abundance of resources available, you’re in the right place! I’m recommending 10 important antiracism books for teens that are compelling, educational, and critical to understanding systemic racism.
There is currently an current of increased societal awareness surrounding systemic racism and the abundance of ways that our BIPOC (Black, Indigenious, People of Color) friends, loved ones, neighbors, coworkers, and fellow human beings have been discriminated against on the basis of race.
Many parents and educators are looking for resources to share with the teens in their lives. It’s critical that we don’t gloss over teaching our kids difficult and heart-wrenching truths. We must provide them with the education and resources necessary for an honest and comprensive history of systemic racism. One of the best way to teach our kids about racism is starting with books!
My hope is that these books will provide you and the teens in your life with the desire and motivation to seek social justice through learning, growing compassion, and grassroots activism.
10 important Antiracsim Books for Teens
Note: These are books that I am comfortable with my own children reading and I’m comfortable recommending them to other parents and educators. But as always, please be sure to review these titles to make sure they’re a good fit for the teens in your life.
by Ijeoma Oluo
This is an informative and helpful book, offering honest conversations about race and racism within the United States. Tackling subjects like white supremacy, policy brutality, and affirmative action, we’re presented with impactful ways to understand racism and works towards racial equality and social justice.
A great book to begin with!
by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
This history of the United States covers more than 400 years and is told from the perspective of the Indigenous people. It provides information often left out of mainstream infromation channels and challenges the stories most of us were told about how the United States was formed.
We learn about the policies against Native Americans that led to genocide, displacement, and trauma.
Essential reading for a more thorough (and truthful) history of the United States.
by Ibram X. Kendi
A powerful and convincing look at how “not being a racist” is not enough to combat systemic racism – we must strive to be antiracists. This concept of antiracism offers ways for us to understand the roots of racism, dismantle the horrific system, and ultimately work towards healing and transformation.
With a deep dive into our history, science, and ethics, we examine the hierarchical design and implementation of racism within society.
This is really important reading as we continue the work towards peace and equality.
by Nic Stone
This is a story about Justyce, a good student and friend. But he experiences racial profiling and looks to the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. for understanding and hope.
Then one day Justyce is driving with his best friend and they get pulled over. What happens next is heated and intense, with a media frenzy following the event. We’re left with tough questions about racism, discrimination, and social justice.
Be sure to check out the other powerful books by author Nic Stone!
by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston
This is the true story of Jeanne Wakatsuki and her family, during their stay at the Japanese Internment Camp, Manzanar, during World War II. In 1942, they were forced to leave their fishing business in Long Beach, California and head to the high desert where the camp was established.
A vivid account of a dark period in American history.
by Jamie Ford
This work of fiction introduces us to Henry Lee as he discovers a crowd gathered outside of a hotel that was once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. While it has been boarded up for a long time, the new owner has discovered the belongings of Japanese families who were forced from their homes and sent to internment camps during World War II.
Henry finds a parasol and is convinced that it belongs to his childhood friend, Keiko. He begins to search for clues of Keiko’s family’s whereabouts as his memories take him back to the turbulant time of World War II, when blackouts, curfews, and raids were the norm.
As a Chinese American with a strict Chinese father loyal to China, Henry experiences anti-Asian discrimination from his classmates at school and the surrounding community, but he escapes the internment that inevitably forces Keiko’s family to a camp.
This powerful story is one of intensity, friendship, resilience, and hope during a terrifying time in history.
by Victor H. Green
A replica of the actual Negro Travelers’ Green Book from 1959 (originally named The Motorist Green Book). This guide was originally created by Victor Hugo Green in 1936. Green was a mailman who saw a need for a travel guide to help Black people who were driving through the Jim Crow south.
During a time of segregation, Black people had to be extremely cautious while traveling as they were unwelcome in many areas. This travel guide was updated annually and included hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses, listed by state and city, that were open to Black customers. This allowed them greater security while driving through the south.
A fascinating peek into a significant time in history.
by Jennifer De Leon and Elena Garnu
Liliana Cruz is a first-generation American Latinx. She lives in a diverse inner-city Boston neighborhood but attends a mostly white, wealthy suburban school. She does everything she can to blend in and fit in with her peers, going so far as to minimize her cultural heritage.
Eventually she must decide whether to stay silent or to speak up for truth and justice.
by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal
The two main characters in this book, Lena and Campbell, aren’t friends, but they find themselves forced to rely on each other. They both attend a football game which ends in a night of chaos sparked by hate and violence. It’s this chaos that pushes the two girls together.
The girls don’t understand each other, nor do they share the same viewpoint. But they must learn to rely each other as they navigate a city in flames and try to make it safely home.
A great way to discuss the prejudice and the racism in America
by Erika L. Sánchez
Julia’s sister has recently passed away after a horrible accident. Her sister was the “perfect” Mexican daughter but now Julia is left to fill that role as she also tries to manage her family’s grief.
She can’t seem to do anything right, however, since her mother criticises everything she does. But as Julia tries to navigate living up to what feels like an impossible standard, she discovers that her sister actually may not have been as perfect as she seemed.
An engaging look at the stereotypes and expectations of growing up in a Mexican American home.
I hope this list of 10 important antiracism books for teens has inspired you to check out some of these titles with the teen(s) in your life!
be sure to check out these other resources too:
- Empowering Antiracism Books for Young Readers
- 10 Powerful Antiracism Books for Middle Schoolers
- How to Teach Your Kids About Racism
- 10 Important Books About Japanese Internment for Kids
- My Visit to Heart Mountain Japanese Internment Camp
- 25 Empowering Books for Girls
- A Special Holiday Celebrating Interracial Marriage
- How to Raise Compassionate Kids
- How to Raise Respectful Kids
Do you have any recommendations to add to this list? If so, please let me know in the comments below!