13 Hard-Hitting Nonfiction, Immersive Poetry, and Magnetic Thrillers for Teens | We Are Kid Lit Collective

Part of We Are Kid Lit Collective's 2022 Summer Reading selections, this YA booklist features a range of authors, formats, and subjects. 

School Library Journal has proudly partnered with We Are Kid Lit Collective to share and promote the group's annual summer reading recommendations.

This week, SLJ will publish individual posts featuring their recommendations for picture books, transitional books, middle grade, and young adult titles. A PDF of the full list is also available for download.

Part of We Are Kid Lit Collective's 2022 Summer Reading selections, this YA booklist features a range of authors, formats, and subjects. 

The We Are Kid Lit Collective works to create materials and opportunities to recognize the humanity of Indigenous and People of Color (IPOC) in youth literature. Their work is premised upon the principles of social justice, equity, and inclusion and centers IPOC voices in children’s literature in order to identify, challenge and dismantle white supremacy and both internalized and systematic racism.  

Their intended audience includes educators, librarians, caregivers, and young people. They look for ways to improve the literacies of IPOC children, promote books written by and about IPOC, and encourage gatekeepers to bring a lens of critical literacy to their work.

Àbíké-Íyímídé, Faridah. Ace of Spades. (Feiwel & Friends, 2021). English.
Devon is shocked when he’s selected to be a prefect at the elite private school he attends, but Chiamaka knows she deserves it. It’s their senior year and the privileges that come with this new title are exciting. But that quickly wears off when Devon’s and Chiamaka’s deepest secrets are revealed to the entire school. Who, or what, is behind these efforts to ruin them socially and academically?

Ak’abal, Humberto; illustrated by Amelia Lau Carling; translated by Hugh Hazelton. Aquí era el paraíso: Selección de poemas de Humberto Ak’abal/Here Was Paradise: Selected Poems of Humberto Ak’abal. (Groundwood, 2020). Bilingual (Spanish; English).
A selection of poems based on the Mayan poet’s memories of his days as a child in the village of Momostenango, Guatemala. Ak’abal is known as one of the greatest Indigenous poets in the Americas.

Allaire, Christian. The Power of Style: How Fashion and Beauty Are Being Used to Reclaim Cultures. (Annick Press, 2021). English.
This beautifully illustrated nonfiction book displays the many ways the clothes, jewels and other adornments we wear are personal expressions of our cultures and our own true selves.

Johnson, George M. We Are Not Broken. (Little, Brown, 2021). English.
Award winning Black non-binary author and activist George M. Johnson delivers a powerful memoir of their childhood that reflects on the joys and tribulations of growing up in their grandmother’s home.

Liu, Jennie. Like Spilled Water. (Carolrhoda Lab, 2020). English.
When her younger brother dies suddenly from an alleged suicide after doing poorly on his university entrance exams, Na, a 19-year-old student at a vocational school in China, must drop out and rush home to care for her devastated parents. There, she uncovers the truth about both his death and her arranged marriage.

Morales, Ricardo Levins. Color for Justice, Color for Calm. https://www.rlmartstudio.com/product-category/coloring-pages/ (Self-published, 2020). English; Spanish.
The artist Ricardo Levins Morales designed these meditative coloring sheets so that anyone could use his art as social medicine. The pages can be downloaded from his site and are freely available for anyone who needs to color for calm or for justice.

Nelson, Vaunda Micheaux; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller. (Carolrhoda Lab, 2012). English.
Nelson combines meticulous research along with a storyteller’s flair to document the life and times of her great-uncle Lewis Michaux, an extraordinary African American literacy pioneer of the Civil Rights era.

Pink, Randi. Angel of Greenwood. (Feiwel & Friends, 2021). English.
It’s 1921, and two Black teens, rule-following Angel and rebel Isaiah, seem to have little in common other than a desire to succeed in and contribute to their prosperous Black neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, known as Greenwood. But somehow, a romance blossoms between the two in the days before armed white people cross into the town to massacre and destroy Greenwood and its residents.

Takei, George; Justin Eisinger; & Steven Scott; illustrated by Harmony Becker. They Called Us Enemy. (Top Shelf Productions, 2019). English.
Japanese American writer and actor George Takei recounts his childhood in a US incarceration camp during World War II. The graphic novel personalizes this imprisonment by detailing Takei’s family’s struggles as they faced an uncertain future in their own country.

Thakur, Sophia. Somebody Give This Heart A Pen. (Candlewick, 2020). English.
In this collection of poems, slam poetry artist Sophia Thakur explores life as a young mixed-race woman trying to make sense of life and all it has to offer.

Williams-Garcia, Rita. A Sitting in St. James. (Quill Tree, 2021). English.
Williams-Garcia weaves a tale of Thisbe, a young Black woman rendered invisible by enslavement in St. James Parish, Louisiana, in this deeply researched historical fiction novel. Readers become aware of the peculiarities of enslavement in that region of the country and the ways oppressions and violent abuses based in race, gender, and sexual orientation were enacted.

Wong, Alice, ed. Disability Visibility: 17 First-Person Stories for Today (Adapted for Young Adults). (Delacorte, 2021). English.
Asian American disabilities activist Alice Wong edited this collection to share a few of the many first-person stories from people with disabilities. These are unexpected, honest, enlightening and something we all need to read.

Yoo, Paula. From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry. (Norton, 2021). English.
A compelling account of the 1982 killing of Chinese American Vincent Chin, the verdicts that took the Asian American community to the streets in protest, and the groundbreaking civil rights trial that followed.

2022 WE ARE KID LIT COLLECTIVE MEMBERS: Sam Bloom, Edith Campbell, Sujei Lugo Vázquez, and Lyn Miller-Lachmann.

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