Celebrate and Understand with YA: Juneteenth

As summer begins for libraries everywhere, it marks a time to celebrate and understand Juneteenth. Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19th, marks the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas were first informed of their freedom as a result of Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Now a national day of observance , it is a perfect time to celebrate and understand Juneteenth with YA titles featuring black voices. Check out some of the Hub’s title selections that spotlight family, identity, and history which are cornerstones of Juneteenth celebrations as noted in this New York Times article.

Title Spotlight: Family

Brittney Morris’ The Cost of Knowing is a powerful story of two brothers, Alex and Isaiah, and their experiences as young Black men in America. The story highlights the power of the past, the ability of the future to overwhelm, the strength of familial bonds across generations, and the joy that is possible.

The saga of the Logan family is one that spans across generations of readers. The family’s story by Mildred D. Taylor began with Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry in 1976 and concluded with All the Days Past, All the Days to Come in 2021. Following Cassie Logan and her family, the saga is compelling and showcases how time, history, and the promise of the future can shape a family’s story that leaves an impact on the world.

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite follows the story of sisters Happi and Genny as they grapple with the death of their sister Kezi under suspicious circumstances after attending a social justice rally. As Happi and Genny go on a road trip using the original Green Book as their guide they rediscover the importance of family and sisterhood with a story interwoven with flashbacks and alternating perspectives.

Title Spotlight: Identity

The graphic novel Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers offers poignant coming-of-age stories with a glimpse into the lives of black women in the setting of a hair salon. The stories and interspersed ads recreated by Flowers touch on race, class, and the imperfections of identity. This is essential for any library’s graphic novel collection.

George M. Johnson’s collection of personal essays, All Boys Aren’t Blue, offers the powerful story of a young black man discovering himself and his identity from his childhood to his college years. The title has also been optioned for a television series by Gabrielle Union which is sure to draw more eyes to Johnson’s work which is a reassuring story for young queer men of color.

Nubia The Real One by L.L. McKinney is a great graphic novel that follows Nubia and her Amazonian strength as she figures out her identity in a world that sees her as a threat. The story is filled with social justice themes and relatable characters that is perfect for any superhero graphic novel readers.

Title Spotlight: History

The 1921 Tulsa Massacre is something that has often been left out of the history books. Black Birds in the Sky by Brandy Colbert is a searing nonfiction title that shines a light on the history and legacy of that deadly and destructive day on June 1, 1921. As noted by Harper Collins, “this book…explores the ways in which the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre is the story of America—and by showing us who we are, points to a way forward.”

The March series by John Lewis has become a staple graphic novel series for libraries. Congressman John Lewis was an American icon and key figure of the civil rights movement. The series spans three books and is a first hand account of Lewis’ lifelong work for civil and human rights.

Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon is a comprehensive look into the history of the Black Panther Party. The nonfiction title moves the Panthers into context with American history and offers young readers background information and inspiration in their own lives.  

Be sure to view our post Juneteenth – A Celebration and Remembrance for more title suggestions on the history and importance of Juneteenth.