Narrative Nonfiction with Social Justice Themes

Just like the term literacy, social justice has many arms. And just like literacy, we can focus on pieces or the whole of the concept. In this post, we’re focused on narrative nonfiction and how people individually or collectively have pushed for equal rights. The books can be seen as a call to action or providing context for fights still happening abroad and at home.


People Who Said No: Courage Against Oppression by Laura Scandiffio (2012)

peoplewhosaidnoA collection of stories about revolutionaries from across the globe, Scandiffio explains why and how individuals or groups stood up for the oppressed and made changes. For The White Rose is was against Hitler, for Helen Suzman is was against apartheid, but there are more highlighted in these chapters. Their courage shows teens that revolutions have happened and continue to happen with the inclusion of the contemporary uprising in Egypt as its last entry.

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick (2014)

Read in conjunction with the adult biography Yousafzai wrote in 2013 and the picture book For the Right To Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story by Rebecca Langston-George and Janna Bock (2015) these three texts at varying degrees of interest and reading level, do not focus on the shooting that maimed her but on her family’s encouragement to be educated and to speak out against the Taliban and its oppression of women.

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik (2015)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become a cultural icon with Halloween costumes and memes, but it is her career in politics and as a Supreme Court justice that proves how integral her voice, whether in agreement or dissension, has affected American policies and women’s rights. The book is a mix of biography, history, and politics that provide a look behind the curtain.

This Land is Our Land: A History of American Immigration by Linda Barrett Osborne (2016)

With an in-depth history of immigration in the United States, the point is to show that American attitudes toward immigrants has always been complicated. These feelings ebb and flow based on a multitude of factors that Osborne clearly articulates alongside images and quotations from immigrants from the 1800s through present day. The inclusion of a summary, timeline, bibliography, and index are helpful for research, but it is an important read to understand the context of  today’s discussion about immigration.marchofthesuffragettes

March of the Suffragettes: Rosalie Gardiner Jones and the March for Voting Rights by Zachary Michael Jack (2016)

Social change starts with a step and for Rosalie Gardiner Jones who gathered a group of people to walk with her to Albany from New York City to win rights for women in the voting booth. There were many voices that contributed. Some we know well and others like Jones need accessible texts like this one that highlight the outspoken bravery it took to fight for certain rights.

-Alicia Abdul, currently reading Breakthrough! How Three People Saved “Blue Babies” and Changed Medicine Forever