These Books Embrace the Spirit of Beyoncé’s Renaissance Tour—and Movie | Read Woke

Cicely Lewis recommends books for the BeyHive.

Photo of Beyonce from the Renaissance tour, amongst a montage of book covers from this article.

Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour was more than a celebration of her music. Along with her killer dance moves, catch beats, and iconic outfits, she delivered a message that celebrates individuality, nonconformity, and empowerment.

That message will resonate far and wide beginning December 1, when her concert film, Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé, hits theaters.

Queen Bey thanks many people for Renaissance: Uncle Jonny, a gay man and her “godmother” who exposed her to inspiring music, along with “the pioneers who originate culture” and “the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long.”

In the song “Alien Superstar,” Beyoncé highlights the power of being different:

We dress a certain way, we walk a certain way
We talk a certain way, we-we paint a certain way
We-we make love a certain way, you know
All of these things we do in a different
Unique, specific way that is personally ours
We just reaching out to the solar system

Keeping you in Renaissance mode, these books also celebrate individuality and difference. They show that if you believe in yourself, no one can break your soul.


Beyonce: A Little Golden Book Biography by Lavaille Lavette. illus. by Anastasia Williams. Golden Books. Jan 2023.
PreS-Gr 3–
Little bees will enjoy this pared-down life story of Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, from her Houston, TX, childhood performing in singing and dancing competitions, to her 1990s fame with the girl group Destiny's Child, to her blockbuster stardom of today.

Does My Body Offend You? by Mayra Cuevas and Marie Marquardt. Knopf. 2022.
Gr 7 Up–
When Puerto Rico is destroyed by Hurricane Maria, Malena must move to Florida, where she meets Ruby, a certified rebel seeking a cause. After Malena is reprimanded for a dress code violation (going braless after a painful sunburn), Ruby, outraged, wants to take a stand. But for Malena, standing up for herself goes against everything she’s been taught, and their impassioned friendship turns implosive. “These are the bodies we were born into. The bodies given to us by our mamis and abuelas. What is so wrong with these bodies?” Malena asks. Told in alternating chapters, Malena and Ruby’s story empowers readers to be comfortable in their skin.

Friday I’m In Love by Camryn Garrett. Knopf. Jan 2023.
Gr 7 Up–
This book’s cover screams, “I’m that girl!” Mahalia Harris misses her chance for a Sweet Sixteen party and decides to save up to throw herself a coming out party instead. But it’s no easy feat. Mahalia struggles to save money because she must help her mom pay bills, and she is also dealing with her strained relationship with her dad, racism, and a crush. A beautiful story that shares the bitter and sweet parts of being poor and having a crush,  while celebrating Black joy and queer joy.

Kween by Vichet Chum. HarperCollins. Oct 2023.
Gr 8 UpSoma Kear is a 16-year-old Cambodian American queer girl with a unique voice. When her father is deported back to Cambodia, Soma channels her impassioned frustration into rhymes and posts them, and her first video goes viral. Divided between two worlds, Soma realizes she needs to embrace her talent and explore the possibilitiesincluding getting on stage for the school’s spoken-word competition. But that means putting herself, her story, and her fears for her father out there for all to see.

A Quantum Life: My Unlikely Journey from the Street to the Stars by Hakeem Oluseyi. adapt. by Joshua Horowitz. Ballantine. 2021.
Gr 8 Up–
Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi is an alien superstar: astrophysicist, cosmologist, inventor, educator, and memoirist. Born into poverty as James Edward Plummer, Oluseyi loved science and books, which made him a target for bullies. He moved constantly as a child, struggled to survive on the streets, and persevered to join the Navy, attend college, and earn a PhD at Stanford. This book covers family, addiction, systemic racism, and space science; a must-have for every collection.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. 2020.
Gr 9 Up
Half Jamaican and Greek-Cypriot, Michael grew up wishing for Barbies but settling for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Being gay and mixed race is hard for Michael, and he struggles to fit in. At college, he finds his wings at the Drag Society. In a world of toxic masculinity, Michael embraces his true self. This coming-of-age verse novel celebrates love, uniqueness, blackness, and queerness.

Champion of Fate by Kendare Blake. Quill Tree. Sept 2023.
Gr 9 Up–
Fantasy warriors, get in formation! in the opener to the epic “Hero Maker” duology, Blake delivers a strong, intelligent, passionate female lead. After Reed’s parents were killed in a raid of her settlement, she was saved by two women riders and raised by the Aristene, an order of mythic female warriors. To be championed by them means the chance to become a legend. For her initiation, Reed  must shepherd a hero into battle; their alliance gets complicated when it turns into something deeper. Readers will fall into this fantasy world with a slow burn, forbidden romance, and more.

The Blackwoods by Brandy Colbert. HarperCollins. Oct 2023.
Gr 9 Up–
This ode to Black Hollywood tells the story of four generations of a celebrity family. Blossom Blackwood was one of the most famous actors of her time, but to her granddaughters, Hollis and Ardith, she was just “Bebe.” After Bebe passes, a spotlight on Hollis and Ardith will test their personal limits and erase their privacy. Colbert masterfully crafts their stories in this showstopper.

Cicely Lewis, 2020 School Librarian of the Year, is the media specialist at Meadowcreek High School in Norcross, GA.

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