claudette colvin twice toward justice

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, by Phillip Hoose, Melanie Kroupa Books / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2009. Designed by Jay Colvin

/ «These are the people whom we have to thank for imagining a different universe and making it possible for us to inhabit this present. There was Claudette Colvin, too, who has a wonderful book, Twice Toward Justice. All of you should read it because Claudette Colvin refused to move to the back of the bus before Rosa Parks’s action. Claudette Colvin was also arrested before. You see, we think individualistically, and we assume that only heroic individuals can make history. That is why we like to focus on Dr. Martin Luther King, who was a great man, but in my opinion his greatness resided precisely in the fact that he learned from a collective movement. He transformed in his relationship with that movement. He did not see himself as a single individual who was going to bring freedom to the oppressed masses.» Angela Y. Davis, Political Activism and Protest from the 1960s to the Age of Obama, Speech at Davidson College, February 12, 2013; in Davis, A. Y., Freedom Is a Constant Struggle, Edited by Frank Barat, Haymarket Books, Chicago, IL, 2016, p. 118 /

Why Reading Young Adult Books Is Good For Adults, Too

We hear a lot about the growing numbers of adults reading young adult novels (also known as YA), and how that impacts the publishing industry. Why might adults be coming to YA in droves? For nine very good reasons.

1. Great Page-Turners

I’m a bookseller in my spare time, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve had an adult come in saying they want something highly readable—a book that will keep them fully engaged and turning those pages. So often in those moments I turn to the young adult section. The most recent YA I just couldn’t put down? Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.

2. Shorter Reads

Of course YA comes in all shapes and sizes, but on average they tend to be shorter than literary fiction, making it possible to read a full book on a weekend getaway, while still making time for a frolic on the beach, a glass of wine, and a hot tub under the stars. Shorter books are also great for book clubs filled with overscheduled, overworked people (sound familiar?).

3. Cheaper Prices

Perhaps because of reason #2 (shorter books), but also because teens don’t always have the same pocket money adults have, young adult novels are often significantly cheaper than adult fiction—$16.99-18.99 in hardcover for YA as opposed to $24.95-34.95 in hardcover for adult fiction. Read YA—and save up for your next vacation at the same time!

4. Strong Voices

YA is often written in the first person—not always, of course, but often—which means you find some of the strongest voices in that genre. M. T. Anderson’s Feed blows me away with its futuristic slang—its voice is so strong it feels like its own dialect.

5. Formative Stories

One of the reasons I am so drawn to children’s literature (which we define at Chronicle Books as ages 0 to 18, so the term includes YA) is that childhood is so formative, shaping who we become as adults. Reading children’s literature connects us with our younger selves, and those moments that define us. I just read Lauren Wolk’s gorgeous older middle grade novel Wolf Hollow, about a girl’s friendship with a homeless veteran, and the manhunt that ensues when he’s suspected of a crime. That novel transported me back to my childhood, bringing back vivid memories of my own. Similarly, Hundred Percent by Karen Romano Young will transport you to the coming-of-age angst of middle school. And Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell will transport you back to your first love.

6. Literary Masterpieces

YA sometimes gets dismissed as lighthearted or “dumbed down,” which just hurts my soul. The genre is filled with literary masterpieces, from M. T. Anderson’s The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing to Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun to Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls. All of these books are highly decorated award-winners—check out the Printz, Morris, and National Book Award winners every year for ideas on what to read next.

7. Genre Lit

In adult literature, mysteries, fantasies, sci-fi, and romance are all separated out in separate sections, somehow implying that they’re lesser genres, and that readers don’t read across all of those genres. In YA, those genres are (nearly always) shelved together, giving them equal weight. So many novels are combinations of multiple genres, defying the categorizations so often applied in the adult literature world. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith is a coming out story, with the voice of a contemporary realistic YA novel—but it also features giant man-eating grasshoppers, clearly flirting with sci-fi in genre. Looking for page-turning YA fantasy? Read Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, and The Falconer by Elizabeth May—if you haven’t already.

8. Pioneering

So often children’s literature is seen as derivative of adult literature, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Children’s literature literally pioneers new research—material never before published for adults or children, such as in Phillip Hoose’s brilliant Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, based on original interviews with Claudette herself. But children’s literature also takes on topics not always tackled elsewhere, like Sara Farizan’s If You Could Be Mine, featuring the complexities of gay and transgender life in Iran. And it takes on forms not seen before, such as Helen Frost’s stunning YA-in-verse Keesha’s House, or Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson’s highly visual Gena/Finn, a novel told entirely in primary sources like emails, online journals, and fanfiction (complete with a moving scroll bar going down the right-hand side of the novel!).

9. A Little Hope

You’ll find content of all kinds in YA—it’s not all lighthearted romps. But although you’ll find tough topics, some sexy scenes, and a lot of depth, it’s nearly always accompanied by a little hope. And who doesn’t need a little more hope in their life? One of the happiest books I’ve ever read—a book I adore—is My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger. Next time you need a heavy dose of joy, check it out. Also, I hate to be a tease, but I can’t help but mention a book that’s not out yet, but which you’ll want to remember. Get a pen and write this down: Piper Perish by Kayla Cagan. Piper may live in a small town, but her artistic ambitions are much bigger, and her journey to create not only distinctive art but also to craft a future for herself will leave you glowing. It’s worth the wait, I promise.

If you need some YA to get you started, try these!

Gena/Finn By Kat Helgeson, By Hannah Moskowitz

The Falconer and Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May

The Stoker & Holmes Series by Colleen Gleason

Novels of Intrigue and Romance by Michaela MacColl

SourceAriel Richardson is a children’s book editor at Chronicle Books. Check out her other posts, So You’ve Written a Children’s Book…Now What? and So You Want to Work in Publishing: Advice from a Chronicle Books Editor.

The third installment of our Honoring Black Women series!

Claudette Colvin, a young activist in Montgomery, AL, was the FIRST to refuse to give up her seat on a bus. She defended her actions saying she paid her fare just like everybody else.

Rosa Parks was deemed a more “appropriate” symbol for the boycott because Colvin did not have the preferred skin and hair texture, as well as becoming an unwed mother shortly after.

Colvin is getting credit where credit is long overdue now. Phillip Hoose is writing a book, Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justiceabout the woman who was miles ahead of us all.

There’s an interview with Colvin at NPR, here!



With a look back at some of the National Book Award Honored books that celebrate the heroes and heroines of the Civil Rights movement. 

(From top, left to right)

1. Ralph EllisonArnold Rampersad (2007 National Book Award Finalist, Nonfiction)

2. Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward JusticePhillip Hoose (2009, National Book Award Winner, Young People’s Literature)

3. Head Off & SplitNikki Finney (2011 National Book Award Winner, Poetry)

4. Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin, John D'Emilio (2003 National Book Award Finalist, Nonfiction)

5.  W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race: 1868-1919, David Levering Lewis (1993 National Book Award Finalist, Nonfiction)

6. One with Others, C.D. Wright (2010 National Book Award Finalist, Poetry)

7. Malcom X: A Life of ReinventionManning Marable (2011 National Book Award Finalist, Nonfiction)

8. Carver: A Life in PoemsMarilyn Nelson (2001 National Book Award Finalist, Young People’s Literature)

9. The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil RightsSteve Sheinkin (2014 National Book Award Finalist, Young People’s Literature)

10. At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968Taylor Branch (2006 National Book Award Finalist, Nonfiction)