It’s been a wild and sometimes scary ride lately with the political climate changing in the wake of the United States Presidential election last November and, unfortunately, racism and hatred spreading wildly. It’s hard to know where to start when you can’t vote and may not be old enough to work. The best first step: Getting information. These books can help teens do just that as you get informed and inspired.
- Strike! The Farm Workers’ Fight for Their Rights by Larry Dane Brimner: A carefully researched account of the 1965 strike and the ones that followed as migrant Filipino American workers fought to negotiate a better way and set off one of the longest and most successful strikes in American history.
- Yes You Can! Your Guide to Becoming An Activist by Jane Drake and Ann Love: This book includes accounts of the founding of organizations like Amnesty International and Greenpeace along with practical steps for social change including how to run meetings, write petitions, and lobby the government.
- It’s Getting Hot in Here: The Past, Present, and Future of Climate Change by Bridget Heos: With so many people denying its impacts, it’s more important now than ever to know the full story about climate change. This book features real talk about global warming and ways we can all help by taking action.
- The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip M. Hoose (2017 Excellence in Nonfiction, 2017 Great Graphic Novels for Teens, 2017 Michael L. Printz Award): The true story of the teenage boys whose acts of sabotage (and eventual arrests) helped spark the Danish resistance during WWII.
- Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World edited by Kelly Jensen: A essay and art-filled guide to what it means to be a feminist from forty-four unique voices.
- We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson (2013 Excellence in Nonfiction): In May 1963 4,000 African American children and teenagers marched in Birmingham, Alabama where they were willingly arrested to help fill the city’s jails. These young marchers were crucial to the desegregation of Birmingham–one of the most racially violent cities in America at the time.
- The Teen Guide to Global Action: How to Connect With Others (Near & Far) to Create Social Change by Barbara A. Lewis (2010 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults): This book has everything you need to know as a teen to get involved and make a difference at the local, national, or even global level.
- The March Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (2014 Great Graphic Novels for Young Adults, 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Lifelong Learners, 2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teens, 2016 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2017 Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, 2017 Great Graphic Novels for Teens, 2017 Michael L. Printz Award): These graphic novels share Lewis’ firsthand account of his lifelong involvement in the fight for human rights including his key role in the Civil Rights movement from his early years in a segregated classroom through the 1963 March on Washington.
- Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks (2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teens, 2016 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults): The true story of three of the most important scientists of the twentieth century–women who risked their lives pursuing their research and protecting the primates they studied.
- Queer There and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager: Queer author and activist Prager delves into the world’s queer history and heritage through the lens of these twenty-three trailblazers.
- This Land Is Our Land: The History of American Immigration by Linda Barrett Osborne (2017 Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults): This book follows the changing reception immigrants to the United States have faced from both the government and the public from 1800 through the present.
- You Got This! Unleash your Awesomeness, Find your Path, and Change your World by Maya Penn: Everything you need to know to find your passions, reach your potential, and speak up from teen entrepreneur, animator, eco-designer, and girls rights activist Maya Penn.
- Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History by Kate Schatz (2016 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers): This book highlights forty women from around the world and from all walks of life along with their varied accomplishments and contributions to world history.
- The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin (2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults, 2015 Excellence in Nonfiction): In 1944 hundreds of African American servicemen in the Navy refused to work in unsafe conditions after Port Chicago explosion. Fifty of those men were charged with mutiny. This is their story.
- Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters by Laurie Ann Thompson: A step-by-step guide to identifying social issues, getting informed, and taking action.
- How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of A War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana: In her memoir Uwiringiyimana discusses her survival of the Gatumba massacre and her move to America where she began to recover through healing and activism.
- I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb (2015 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults): Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Her story started when the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley and she fought for her right to an education but that’s only the beginning.
This list is by no means comprehensive. If I’ve missed any key titles, please share them in the comments.
— Emma Carbone, currently reading Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta