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True Crime: Books, Podcasts, and Documentaries

With Season 2 of the popular podcast Serial nearing the end of this current season, the FX original limited series, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, and the runaway Netflix hit Making a Murderer, our fascination with crime stories doesn’t seem to wane. Maybe the draw is that we want to see justice served, or we want to know if we could spot the true crime in a situation, or maybe it has something to do with the fact that, as one of the lawyers in Making a Murderer says, “We could all say that we’re never going to commit a crime. But we can never guarantee that someone else won’t accuse us of a crime.” Whatever the reason, one thing it does is challenge our worldview.

true crime stories for young adults
CC image via Flickr user Tony Webster

 

For readers that enjoy a suspenseful or thriller type mystery, true crime can be a great nonfiction option. True crime can also be a great gateway to other narrative nonfiction for readers that don’t see themselves as nonfiction readers; through it they might find themselves spellbound. Here is a list of heart-pounding true crime books and other media.

Borden Murders Cover                  Chasing Lincoln's Killer              hole-in-my-life-cover

The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden & the Trial of the Century by Sarah Elizabeth Miller

One of the most followed crime cases of the late 1800s, Miller reexamines the brutal crime that left Lizzie Borden’s father and step-mother hacked to death with an ax, and why so many thought it was Lizzie’s doing.

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson (2010 Best Books for Young Adults)

Relive the heart-racing account of the twelve-day chase and capture of John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices in this historical thriller.

Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos (2003 Printz Honor Book, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults 2006, 2003 Best Books for Young Adults, 2004 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Shortly after graduating from high school, Gantos accepted an offer of $10,000 to help sail a boat full of hash from St. Croix to New York, eventually landing him in prison.

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Documentaries for Teens: Feminism

Though feminism has been around, arguably, since the Suffragette Movement, and though girls and young women have benefited hugely from the accomplishments of Second Wave Feminism, many teens are still hesitant to self identify as feminists or feminist allies. This may be due to a lack of understanding of what feminism actually means, or a false notion that sexism no longer exists and feminism’s work is done. However, just as Second Wave Feminists engaged in consciousness raising groups in order to make their fellow women aware of everyday patriarchal injustices, many young women, particularly on social media sites such as Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook, are actively engaged in drawing attention to everyday sexism as well as the intersections of racism, classicism, cissexism, ableism, and the ways in which mainstream feminism has (and in many cases still does) excluded other marginalized groups.

The library can serve as an excellent place for consciousness raising whether through book clubs, service projects, or topic specific forums. Documentaries can serve as a jumping off point for these discussions. Here are a few to get you started.

Miss Representation (2011)

The recent release of female-centric films and television shows such as Suffragette, Grandma, and Supergirl may spark young women’s thinking about why there isn’t more female representation in media. Miss Representation, directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Kimberlee Acquaro addresses the lack of good representation of women in media and the implications it has for female leadership. This documentary makes a compelling case for teaching media literacy in schools. Available for streaming on Netflix. Visit the official website’s curriculum page.

Girl Rising (2013)

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Documentaries for Teens: LGBTQIA+ Issues

Documentaries are sometimes overlooked forms of media for both education and for entertainment. They cover all types of subject matter and can tell intimate, moving stories. This series focuses on documentaries that may appeal to teens, and each installment will focus on a particular theme. To honor LGBTQ history month, this installment spotlights documentaries that portray the LGBTQIA+ experience of today’s teens or historical queer communities.

I’m Just Anneke

This short documentary is the story of a gender-nonconforming teen and their supportive family. Libraries can purchase it through New Day films. Educators can also find a discussion guide.

Do I Sound Gay? 

This thought-provoking documentary explores the idea of a “gay voice” in popular culture, with commentary from George Takeii, Margaret Cho, David Sedaris, and more. It will be available on DVD (and Netflix) in November.

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Documentaries for Teens: Varieties of Teen Experiences

Documentaries are sometimes overlooked forms of media for both education and for entertainment. They cover all types of subject matter and can tell intimate, moving stories. This series focuses on documentaries that may appeal to teens, and each installment will focus on a particular theme. This month, we’re highlighting documentaries that capture modern teen experiences from around the world.

Rich Hill

This documentary is an “examination of challenges, hopes and dreams of the young residents of a rural American town.” It focuses on the lives of three young men and their everyday lives. The intimate look at this small Missouri town is deeply moving. Rich Hill is readily available on DVD.

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