Narrative Nonfiction with Social Justice Themes Part II

Previously, I shared a list of nonfiction that tackles issues related to social justice. But there’s not shortage of narrative nonfiction with social justice themes, so today I’m back with even more resources for teens These titles include biographies and historical nonfiction, and cover issues ranging from the denial of basic human rights in foreign countries or rape on college campuses. These books aim to share this information,  but also include  storiesthat can inspire action.  


Every Falling Star:The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee (2016)

When is father loses his government job and abandons him, Lee struggles to survive with a gang of boys. This moving memoir showcases the hardships of life in North Korea In addition to fighting for basics like food and shelter, Lee and his family also live in fear of what would happen if they tried to escape the country. This book can serve as a jumping off point for discussions on basic human rights. 

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin (2015)

Steve Sheinkin writes narrative nonfiction for every reader and his award finalist is no different. This book chronicles the lives of  segregated sailors working the docks in Port Chicago when they were charged with mutiny for refusing to return to work after an explosion. Sheinkin addresses the prejudice in the military, where men and women served their country but were also fighting for basic rights.

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer (2015)

Using Missoula, Montana as a case study in reported (and underreported) rape on its college campus, Krakauer shows how college campuses are mishandling rape investigations and failing to provide justice for rape victims.  

Breaking Free: True Stories of Girls Who Escaped Modern Slavery by Abby Sher (2014)

A collection of stories from exploited girls around the globe puts modern slavery into perspective. Even in the twenty-first century, prostitution, servitude, and human trafficking all continue to thrive even with the continued effort of groups and organizations dedicated to their eradication. While the justice system tries to keep up with the law and prosecuting offenders when so much of it happens in the dark and behind closed doors.  

Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling by Sabrina Jones and Marc Mauer (2013)

The United States has the highest incarceration rate on the planet at over two million individuals. Jones and Mauer explain how sentencing policy, race, and the criminal justice system in the US have lead to this sobering statistic and discuss how policy changes that favor rehabilitation over punishment can create a more just society.

These are just a sampling of nonfiction that can prompt discussion of social justice. Do you have books you recommend to teens that touch on these issues? Share in the comments! 

— Alicia Abdul, currently reading Strong Inside: The True Story of How Perry Wallace Broke College Basketball’s Color Line (Young Readers Edition) by Andrew Maraniss