Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone is one of the finalists for the 2014 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. Great nonfiction can encourage readers to find out more about its subject matter, which often leads them to seek out great fiction based on the same topic.
Racism and discrimination of all kinds on the home front and in the military didn’t stop when the US entered the war in 1941. Just like in Tanya Lee Stone’s Courage Has No Color, the following novels examine the wartime experiences of young African Americans at home and in the armed forces during World War II.
(The following book summaries are from the publishers’ jacket copy.)
Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis – Octavia and Tali are dreading the road trip their parents are forcing them to take with their grandmother over the summer. After all, Mare isn’t your typical grandmother. She drives a red sports car, wears stiletto shoes, flippy wigs, and push-up bras, and insists that she’s too young to be called Grandma. But somewhere on the road, Octavia and Tali discover there’s more to Mare than what you see. She was once a willful teenager who escaped her less-than-perfect life in the deep South and lied about her age to join the African American battalion of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.
Caleb’s Wars by David L. Dudley – A powerful novel about growing up black on the World War II home front in the Jim Crow South. Caleb lives in a world at war. War news is on everyone’s mind, and Caleb’s older brother, Randall, is likely to be sent overseas. The presence of German POWs in Caleb’s rural Georgia community is a constant reminder of what’s happening in Europe. Locked in a power struggle with his domineering father and fighting to keep both his temper and his self-respect in dealing with whites, Caleb finds his loyalties shifting and his certainties slipping away. This coming-of-age story, set in a time before the civil rights movement emerged, traces one young man’s growing commitment to justice and to the courage needed to protect it.
Jump Into the Sky by Shelley Pearsall – It’s May 5, 1945. Carrying nothing but a suitcase and a bag of his aunt’s good fried chicken, 13-year-old Levi Battle heads south to a U.S. Army post in search of his fatherâ€”a lieutenant in an elite unit of all black paratroopers. The fact that his father doesn’t even know he’s coming turns out to be the least of his problems. As Levi makes his way across the United States, he learns hard lessons about the way a black boy is treated in the Jim Crow South. And when he arrives at his destination, his struggles are far from over. The war may be ending, but his father’s secret mission is just beginningâ€”and it’s more dangerous than anybody imagined. . . .
- Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith – All Ida Mae Jones wants to do is fly. Her daddy was a pilot, and years after his death she feels closest to him when she’s in the air. But as a young black woman in 1940s Louisiana, she knows the sky is off limits to her, until America enters World War II, and the Army forms the WASP – Women Airforce Service Pilots. Ida has a chance to fulfill her dream if she’s willing to use her light skin to pass as a white girl. She wants to fly more than anything, but Ida soon learns that denying one’s self and family is a heavy burden, and ultimately it’s not what you do but who you are that’s most important.
-2014 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults committee