Truth be told, you could pick any James Baldwin book for your teen/young adult reader and you’d be winning. Go Tell It On The Mountain is his first major work — and it’s a great introduction to his breathtaking oeuvre. The novel covers two days and one night in the life of 14-year-old John Grimes as he grapples with faith, sexuality, and family dynamics. It’s a challenging pick for reluctant readers but encourage your reader to stick with it — and be prepared to talk about it afterward. 

From Amazon

"The 2000 winner of the Goscinny Prize for outstanding graphic novel script, this is the harrowing tale of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, as seen through the eyes of a boy named Deogratias. He is an ordinary teenager, in love with a girl named Bénigne, but Deogratias is a Hutu and Bénigne is a Tutsi who dies in the genocide, and Deogratias himself plays a part in her death."

A devastating read, providing an accessible window into very recent Rwandan history. This read should be followed up with discussion and encouragement for your reader to explore further nonfiction investigation.

As this cover will indicate, Dusu: Path of the Ancient isn’t for young readers. But if the young person in your life is accustomed to/old enough to view violent imagery, Dusu may be a good pick for you. The 4-comic-book story of a human raised by a tribe of black elves, Dusu has breathtaking imagery and a gripping narrative to match it, about family, identity, and defense of a home. Also: it’s free for e-readers.

Walter Dean Myers will be mentioned here quite a bit. Not only is he prolific, but he writes some of the most captivating, timeless work for minority young adult readers on the market. Fallen Angels is a classic, which sees teenage Perry shipped off to the Vietnam War, where young black men were routinely placed on the front lines. The story unfolds around his platoon from his point of view.

Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay, and Coming of Age in the Streets of New York is an important read for any teen/post-adolescent reader of color. From Amazon

"[Kai] Wright tells these stories and more, weaving in years of reporting on the broader social, economic, and political dynamics that box in gay men of color as they come into their own. By the end, a powerful and sometimes troubling story has unfurled that offers a unique and vital snapshot of the often overlooked lives of young people like Manny, Julius, Carlos, and their friends."

Upstate is a fantastic epistolary novel that would be wonderful for a teen or young adult, who’s already somewhat invested in seeing a novel through to the end. The fact that it’s told entirely in letters makes it palatable. And it follows the life of a couple who’s love is cut short when the male lead lands in prison. Heartbreaking, riveting, and relatable, it’s truly a great read.

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