Tag Archives: Racism

Dreams on Fire by Annette Daniels Taylor

Dreams on Fire by Annette Daniels Taylor. October 1, 2018. West 44 Books, 200 p. ISBN: 9781538382486.  Int Lvl: YA; Lexile: 400.

With an incarcerated father and an estranged drug-addicted mother, Shanequa’s dreams of higher education feel like a fantasy. When Shanequa gets the chance to attend a prestigious private prep school, she feels like her dreams might become reality. Shanequa finds it easier to lie to her new friends than tell them the truth about her family. When her lies are found out, and Shanequa strikes back in blind rage, her path changes forever.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Drugs, Racism, Underage drinking, Underage smoking

 

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Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2018 (Online))
Grades 9-12. Using realistic, raw, and powerful poetry that will reach the reluctant reader, Taylor’s novel tells a difficult story entirely through the poems of its young protagonist. Shanequa starts at a prestigious private prep school and, ashamed of her drug-addict mother, omits the truth about her family situation to the students there. When her new best friend Ashley proves false and provokes her, Shanequa’s punch to Ashley’s nose sets Shanequa on the same path as her incarcerated father. But she is smart and strong, as we see through her writing, and with the help of her family and an understanding teacher, she sets herself right. This is one of six titles in West 44’s YA Verse series, which effectively uses poetry to tell a story simply and with no frills, and yet ensure honesty flows through every word. Shanequa’s teacher Miss Precious says it best: “Shanequa’s poems have / meaning, strength, and power. / Writing honestly about the / painfully difficult / is her gift.” A beautiful, empowering choice for a wide spectrum of readers.

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2018)
America’s systemic race and class problems are viscerally rendered in this evocative account of a black teenage girl’s coming-of-age in a novel for reluctant readers. Shanequa’s life is one of constant heartbreaking struggle. Her father is in jail for second-degree murder, and her mother, depressed by the loss of her husband, succumbs to drugs and abandons her children, leaving Shanequa and her younger sister, LaKecia, to be raised by their grandmother. Yearning for a better life, Shanequa works her way into the prestigious Bidwell Academy for Girls, where she must strive to move forward while dealing with the ghosts from her past. Told in a series of short narrative poems, Shanequa’s struggles, dreams, and fears come alive on the page as she grapples with shame at being poor in a rich world and the indignities of being black and exoticized in a predominantly white educational environment. Taylor (Street Pharmacist, 2016, etc.) nicely employs the story’s framework to turn the protagonist into a shrewdly observational character with a unique voice by giving the readers small glimpses into her thoughts. Descriptions of the two sisters reveal that the darker-skinned Shanequa feels ugly in comparison to her lighter sibling, and casual discussion of various students’ cellphones underscores the class disparities at her school. A haunting and honest depiction of adversity and triumph that reveals America’s continuing struggle to give equal opportunities to all. (Verse novel. 15-18)

About the Author

Annette Daniels Taylor, an award winning playwright, poet and artist-filmmaker. Her debut YA novel, Dreams on Fire (October 2018) with West 44 books is an poetic urban teenage journey written in verse.The author of two poetry chapbooks, Street Pharmacist; and Hush now, Annette’s work explores identity, class, memory, place, and public history. Her drama A Little Bit of Paradise, available at Amazon.com, won the 2008 Artie Award for Outstanding New Play. Daniels Taylor is also a 2018-19 New York State Public Humanities fellow, a 2016-18 Arthur A. Schomburg fellow with the Department of Media Study, SUNY University at Buffalo and a Pink Door Poetry alum.

Her website is www.annettedanielstaylor.com

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Rising Out of Hatred by Eli Saslow

Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist by Eli Saslow. September 18, 2018. Doubleday, 304 p. ISBN: 9780385542869.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

From a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, the powerful story of how a prominent white supremacist changed his heart and mind

Derek Black grew up at the epicenter of white nationalism. His father founded Stormfront, the largest racist community on the internet. His godfather, David Duke, was a KKK Grand Wizard. By the time Derek turned nineteen, he had become an elected politician with his own daily radio show–already regarded as the “the leading light” of the burgeoning white nationalist movement. “We can infiltrate,” Derek once told a crowd of white nationalists. “We can take the country back.” Then he went to college.

Derek had been home-schooled by his parents, steeped in the culture of white supremacy, and he had rarely encountered diverse perspectives or direct outrage against his beliefs. At New College of Florida, he continued to broadcast his radio show in secret each morning, living a double life until a classmate uncovered his identity and sent an email to the entire school. “Derek Black…white supremacist, radio host…New College student???”

The ensuing uproar overtook one of the most liberal colleges in the country. Some students protested Derek’s presence on campus, forcing him to reconcile the ugliness his beliefs for the first time. Other students found the courage to reach out to him, including an Orthodox Jew who invited Derek to attend weekly Shabbat dinners. It was because of those dinners–and the wide-ranging relationships formed at that table–that Derek started to question the science, history, and prejudices behind his worldview. As white nationalism infiltrated the political mainstream, Derek decided to confront the damage he had done.

Rising Out of Hatred tells the story of how white-supremacist ideas migrated from the far-right fringe to the White House through the intensely personal saga of one man who eventually disavowed everything he was taught to believe, at tremendous personal cost. With great empathy and narrative verve, Eli Saslow asks what Derek’s story can tell us about America’s increasingly divided nature. This is a book to help us understand the American moment and better understand one another.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism

 

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Reviews

Booklist (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
As the son of infamous white supremacist Don Black, Derek Black was a rising star among white nationalists, preaching racial separatism from his own radio-show pulpit by the age of 19. After enrolling at the leftist-leaning New College of Florida in 2010, where Black reasoned he could work his subversive influence from the inside, his views about racial tolerance underwent a radical shift away from his elders’ philosophy. Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporter Saslow’s decision to recount Black’s transformation with politically neutral detachment makes his story no less captivating. Saslow notes that Black, unlike his father and fellow racist cohorts, chose to strip his rhetoric of inflammatory language and cleverly reframe the movement in terms of white persecution by Jews and minorities. Yet, while Black’s unearthed presence at the New College quickly triggered protests, his growing friendships with a Hispanic roommate and a Jewish student forced him to reexamine his formative indoctrination and eventually break with his family. Amid the current swirling controversies around racial issues, Saslow’s work is both timely and encouraging.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2018)
Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporter Saslow (Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President, 2011) delivers a memorable story of a prodigal son who broke with white supremacy thanks to the kindness of strangers.It is a small irony that Derek Black abandoned the nationalist, white power movement at just about the time that a president entered the White House who consciously put white nationalist rhetoric at the center of his campaign. Black came by his race hatred naturally, following his father’s ideology as the founder of Stormfront, the neo-Nazi clearinghouse, and that of his godfather, KKK stalwart David Duke. From his father, Black carried the urgent message that whites were being made victims of cultural genocide in their own country, a grievance of the loss of privilege. However, he had a different vision in which hooded, hidden supremacists would become respectable, persuading his father to outlaw “slurs, Nazi insignia, and threats of violence or lawbreaking” from the Stormfront website. Thus Charlottesville, with its clean-cut, polo shirt–wearing torchlight parade marchers. By then, though, Derek was long gone. Bright, well-read, and skilled in debate, he had gone off to college in Florida, and there, his home-schooling parents’ worst nightmare was realized: He formed a bond with a Jewish girl, though he continued his agitating, and when his identity as a white nationalist was exposed, a Jewish conservative invited him to exchange ideas. Black’s eventual renunciation of the nationalist cause threw his parents into turmoil; as Saslow writes, his father hoped that “maybe Derek was just faking a change in ideology so he could have an easier life and a more successful career in academia.” But absent widespread changes of heart, Black’s story is an anomaly, if an instructive one—and one that closes with a dark message that conflict is looming as the white nationalist movement appears to be mushrooming. A sobering book that deserves a wide audience among politics-watchers in an age of reaction.

About the Author

Eli Saslow is an author and a staff writer for The Washington Post, where he travels the country to write in-depth stories about the impact of major national issues on individual lives. He won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting for a series of stories about the rise of food stamps and hunger in the United States. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing in 2013, 2016 and 2017. An occasional contributor to ESPN the Magazine, four of his stories have been anthologized in Best American Sportswriting. He grew up in Denver, graduated from Syracuse University and now lives in Portland, Or., with his wife and three children.

Her website is www.elisaslow.com

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Rising Out of Hatred on Amazon

Rising Out of Hatred on Barnes and Noble

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Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes. April 17, 2018. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 224 p. ISBN: 9780316262286.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.9; Lexile: 360.

Only the living can make the world better. Live and make it better.
 
Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.
Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions.
Once again Jewell Parker Rhodes deftly weaves historical and socio-political layers into a gripping and poignant story about how children and families face the complexities of today’s world, and how one boy grows to understand American blackness in the aftermath of his own death.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Discrimination, Drugs, Bullying

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 11))
Grades 5-8. Jerome, a young black boy gunned down while playing in a park with a toy gun, invites readers to bear witness to his story, to the tragedy of being dispatched simply because of a policeman’s internalized prejudice masquerading as fear. One day at school, while he and his new friend Carlos are being bullied, Carlos pulls out a toy gun to scare their attackers. Afterward, he gives it to Jerome so he can have a chance to play with it, to pretend that he is in charge. But when he is shot in the back while running from the police, his soul leaves his body and he becomes one of the army of ghost boys hoping to communicate with those still consumed with racial bias. While looking in on the preliminary court hearing, Jerome realizes that the police officer’s daughter can see and talk to him, and together they try to understand how the world around them could be so cruel. Rhodes (Sugar, 2013; Towers Falling, 2016) beautifully weaves together the fictional and the historical—Jerome comes across the ghosts of real-life individuals like Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin—in this gripping and all-too-necessary novel about police brutality, injustice, and the power of bearing witness to the stories of those who are gone.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2018)
In a story that explicitly recalls the murder of Tamir Rice, Jerome, a 12-year-old black boy killed by a white Chicago cop, must, along with the ghosts of Emmett Till and others, process what has happened and how. With the rising tide of today’s Movement for Black Lives, there has been a re-examination of how the 1955 murder of Emmett Till became the fuel for the mid-20th-century civil rights movement. With this narrative in mind, Rhodes seeks to make Till’s story relevant to the post-millennial generation. Readers meet Jerome, who’s bullied at his troubled and underfunded neighborhood school, just at the time that Latinx newcomer Carlos arrives from San Antonio. After finding that Carlos’ toy gun may help keep the school bullies at bay, Jerome is taken by surprise while playing in the park when a white arriving police officer summarily shoots him dead. The police officer’s daughter, Sarah, is the only character who can truly see the ghost boys as they all struggle to process that day and move forward. Written in nonlinear chapters that travel between the afterlife and the lead-up to the unfortunate day, the novel weaves in how historical and sociopolitical realities come to bear on black families, suggesting what can be done to move the future toward a more just direction—albeit not without somewhat flattening the righteous rage of the African-American community in emphasizing the more palatable universal values of “friendship. Kindness. Understanding.” A timely, challenging book that’s worthy of a read, further discussion, and action. (Fiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Jewell Parker Rhodes has always loved reading and writing stories. Born and raised in Manchester, a largely African-American neighborhood on the North Side of Pittsburgh, she was a voracious reader as a child. She began college as a dance major, but when she discovered there were novels by African Americans, for African Americans, she knew she wanted to be an author. She wrote six novels for adults, two writing guides, and a memoir, but writing for children remained her dream.

Her website is www.jewellparkerrhodes.com/children/

Teacher Resources

Ghost Boys Reading Guide

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Ghost Boys on Amazon

Ghost Boys on Goodreads

Ghost Boys Publisher Page

Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz

Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz. January 2, 2018. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (BYR), 256 p. ISBN: 9780374306106.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.6; Lexile: 810.

A powerful middle-grade novel about the childhood activism of Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X’s wife, written by their daughter.

In Detroit, 1945, eleven-year-old Betty’s house doesn’t quite feel like home. She believes her mother loves her, but she can’t shake the feeling that her mother doesn’t want her. Church helps those worries fade, if only for a little while. The singing, the preaching, the speeches from guest activists like Paul Robeson and Thurgood Marshall stir African Americans in her community to stand up for their rights. Betty quickly finds confidence and purpose in volunteering for the Housewives League, an organization that supports black-owned businesses. Soon, the American civil rights icon we now know as Dr. Betty Shabazz is born.

Collaborating with novelist Renée Watson, Ilyasah Shabazz illuminates four poignant years in her mother’s childhood, painting a beautiful and inspiring portrait of a girl overcoming the challenges of self-acceptance and belonging that will resonate with young readers today.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Violence, Mentions of lynchings, Whipping, Racial prejudice

 

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Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 7))
Grades 4-6. Ilyasah Shabazz and Watson breathe life into a lightly fictionalized account of the childhood of her mother, Dr. Betty Shabazz. The story spans from 1945 to 1948, bookended by the life-changing experience of seeing lynching firsthand in Georgia, and the beating of Leon Mosley, a black 15-year-old, by a white police officer in Detroit. When the aunt who raised her dies, Betty leaves the segregated South to live with her birth mother in Detroit. Their fractious relationship forms the spine of the book, gaining complexity when Betty finds a more loving home with another family in the neighborhood. Betty finds purpose volunteering with the Housewives’ League, encouraging black women to spend their money in black-owned and black-staffed businesses. Short chapters and lucid prose make for an accessible read, with key details bringing the era to life for contemporary young readers. Extensive back matter provides further context for educational use. The lessons from Betty’s life are abundant: forgiveness, gratitude for life’s blessings, and planting seeds for the future. Her response to hardship and injustice is timeless.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 1, 2017)
A passion for social justice blossoms during the middle school years for the girl who grew up to become Dr. Betty Shabazz. Loved but unwanted by her mother, 11-year-old Betty finds solace in friends and church. In 1945 Detroit, Betty’s African-American church community is a hub for activism in the face of Jim Crow racism, police brutality, and economic inequality. With renowned guests such as Thurgood Marshall and Paul Robeson coming to speak and perform, Betty and her friends are swept up in the fervor and demand for social justice that would become a movement. They volunteer for the Housewives’ League, a group that encourages the community to give its dollars to black-owned and -employing businesses. But the movement is also personal for Betty, who struggles to find her place in a world that treats brown-skinned black girls as lesser—less beautiful, less worthy, less deserving. Authored by her daughter Ilyasah Shabazz in collaboration with Watson, this moving fictional account of the early life of the late civil rights leader and widow of Malcolm X draws on the recollections of family and friends. The result is a heart-rending imagining of Shabazz’s personal challenges as well as a rare, intimate look at the complex roots of the American civil rights movement. A personal, political, and powerful imagining of the early life of the late activist. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Ilyasah Shabazz, third daughter of Malcolm X, is an activist, producer, motivational speaker, and the author of the critically acclaimed Growing Up X and the picture book Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X. She lives in Westchester County, New York.

 

Teacher Resources

Betty Before X Reading Guide

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Betty Before X on Amazon

Betty Before X on Goodreads

Betty Before X Publisher Page

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Dear Martin by Nic Stone. October 17, 2017. Crown Books for Young Readers, 224 p. ISBN: 9781101939505.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 720.

Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League–but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up–way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Racially motivated violence, Racist slurs

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. Perhaps a bright young man who is fourth in his graduating class, captain of the debate team, and on his way to an Ivy League school shouldn’t have too many worries. But Justyce McAllister’s grades have no influence on the police officer who handcuffs him while he’s trying to help his inebriated ex-girlfriend. The African American teen is shocked and angered when the officer is cleared of all charges, and so he turns to the written work of Martin Luther King Jr. for direction, inspiration, and therapy. He presents a simple question to the late civil rights leader: “What would you do, Martin?” After Justyce witnesses the fatal shooting of his best friend by an off-duty officer, and his name is negatively spread through the media, he begins to withdraw from friends and family, only finding solace in his teacher, new girlfriend, and his continued ruminative letter writing to Dr. King. Stone’s debut confronts the reality of police brutality, misconduct, and fatal shootings in the U.S., using an authentic voice to accurately portray the struggle of self-exploration teens like Justyce experience every day. Teens, librarians, and teachers alike will find this book a godsend in assisting discussions about dealing with police, as well as the philosophical underpinnings of King’s work. Vivid and powerful.

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2017)
“I know your kind: punks like you wander the streets of nice neighborhoods searching for prey. Just couldn’t resist the pretty white girl who’d locked her keys in her car, could ya?” So seventeen-year-old Justyce McAllister, who is black, hears after being shoved to the ground by a police officer (“CASTILLO [the officer’s nameplate] reads, though the guy looks like a regular white dude”). Thing is, the girl is mixed-race and is Justyce’s sometime-girlfriend (and drunk), and he was helping her get home. The opening scene is one of several that illustrate Justyce’s feeling that “no matter what I do, the only thing white people will ever see me as is a nig–an ‘n’-word.” Ranked fourth in his class at exclusive Braselton Preparatory Academy, he’s been accepted to Yale, but his classmates assume it’s only because of affirmative action. In his own neighborhood, people criticize him for being a “race-traitor” who’s “gotta stay connected to the white man for the ride to the top.” To sort his life out, Justyce begins writing “Dear Martin” letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Alternating with the main narrative, the letters are an effective device. What would Dr. King think about recent events surrounding Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and the many others who have died and become headlines, the real-life people who inspired this novel? Stone veers away from easy resolutions while allowing hope to reside in unexpected places. dean Schneider

About the Author

Nic Stone was born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, GA, and the only thing she loves more than an adventure is a good story about one. After graduating from Spelman College, she worked extensively in teen mentoring and lived in Israel for a few years before returning to the US to write full-time. Growing up with a wide range of cultures, religions, and backgrounds, Stone strives to bring these diverse voices and stories to her work.

Stone lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons. Her website is www.nicstone.info

Teacher Resources

Dear Martin Educator’s Guide

Around the Web

Dear Martin on Amazon

Dear Martin on Goodreads

Dear Martin Publisher Page

A Few Red Drops by Claire Hartfield

A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 by Claire Hartfield. January 2, 2018. Clarion Books, 208 p. ISBN: 9780544785137.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1120.

On a hot day in July 1919, three black youths went swimming in Lake Michigan, unintentionally floating close to the “white” beach. An angry white man began throwing stones at the boys, striking and killing one. Racial conflict on the beach erupted into days of urban violence that shook the city of Chicago to its foundations. This mesmerizing narrative draws on contemporary accounts as it traces the roots of the explosion that had been building for decades in race relations, politics, business, and clashes of culture.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 7-10. This well-documented text outlines the events leading to the race riot in Chicago in the summer of 1919, which caused 38 deaths and more than 500 injuries. The prologue, the first two chapters, and the last three chapters (out of 20) address the riot; the rest provide a detailed and accessible history of the growth of Chicago as a meat-processing center, the formation and influence of trade unions, the influx of European immigrants, and the WWI-era black migration from the South. Quotes, statistics, and period photos help build background. An epilogue describes the partly successful results of a commission charged with instigating change and mentions other unhappy events of the “Red Summer” of 1919: 25 additional race riots across the U.S. The conclusion paints a positive picture of diverse, present-day Chicago, noting that the past century has brought many needed changes. This solid entry covers a topic not often mentioned in YA literature, and will support researchers looking for balanced coverage for history, civil rights, and economics reports.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2017)
A clash on a hot summer’s day served as catalyst for a deadly race riot in 1919 Chicago.The deep racial and ethnic resentments that permeated Chicago in the early years of the 20th century exploded into violence when the death of a young African-American teen was caused by a rock-throwing young white man, whom a white policeman refused to arrest. The incident quickly escalated, and after days of unrest, 38, whites and blacks, were dead, and more than 500 were wounded. From the epigram taken from a Carl Sandburg poem, this detailed work is deeply grounded in Chicago history. Details about the actual riot bookend the narrative. In between, Hartfield introduces black Chicagoans from the middle of the 19th century as well as later arrivals who fled the racial violence of the South. She includes the role of the black press in articulating the demands of the black community as they became urban dwellers. The stories of white ethnic groups, their struggles to achieve the American dream, and their racial animosity are examined, as is the role of labor unions. Richly illustrated with contemporary photographs, the narrative is also carefully researched, drawing on accounts from the time. There is a great deal to digest, and it sometimes overwhelms the core story. However, it is successful in demonstrating that past conflicts, like current ones, have complex causes. A comprehensive, careful account. (source notes, bibliography, map, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Claire Hartfield received her B.A from Yale University and her law degree from the University of Chicago. As a lawyer, she has specialized in school desegregation litigation. More recently, she has been involved in setting policy and creating programs in a charter school setting on Chicago’s African-American West Side. She heard stories of the 1919 race riot from her grandmother, who lived in the Black Belt in Chicago at the time, and was moved to share this history with younger generations.

Ms. Hartfield lives in Chicago. Her website is clairehartfield.com

Teacher Resources

1919 Chicago Race Riots Lesson Plan & Materials

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A Few Red Drops on Amazon

A Few Red Drops on Goodreads

A Few Red Drops Publisher Page

Backfield Boys by John Feinstein

Backfield Boys by John Feinstein. August 29, 2017. Farrar Straus Giroux, 353 p. ISBN: 9780374305925.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 840.

In Backfield Boys, renowned sports journalist and New York Times–bestselling author John Feinstein tells a thrilling story of friendship, football, and a fight for justice.

Freshman footballers Jason Roddin and Tom Jefferson are a perfect pair: Jason is a blazing-fast wide-receiver, while his best friend Tom has all the skills a standout quarterback needs. After summer football camp at an elite sports-focused boarding school, the boys are thrilled to be invited back with full-ride scholarships.

But on day one of practice, they’re shocked when the team’s coaching staff makes Tom, a black kid, a receiver and Jason, a white kid, a quarterback. Confronted with mounting evidence of deep-seated racial bias, the boys speak out, risking their scholarships and chances to play. As tensions ratchet up with coaches and other players, Tom and Jason must decide how much they’re willing to lose in a conflict with powerful forces that has nothing―and everything―to do with the game they love.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination, Mild sexual themes, Racism

 

Video Review

 

About the Author

John Feinstein is the author of more than thirty books, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers A Season on the Brink and A Good Walk Spoiled. He is also the author of numerous kids mysteries. His first young adult mystery, Last Shot, won the Edgar Allen Poe Award. John also works for The Washington Post, The Golf Channel, Sirius XM Radio, and Comcast Sportsnet.

Her website is jfeinsteinbooks.com.

Around the Web

Backfield Boys on Amazon

Backfield Boys on Goodreads

Backfield Boys on JLG

Backfield Boys Publisher Page

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. February 28, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 444 p. ISBN: 9780062498533.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 590.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Racially motivated shooting, Discussion of racist jokes, Marijuana

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two very different worlds: one is her home in a poor black urban neighborhood; the other is the tony suburban prep school she attends and the white boy she dates there. Her bifurcated life changes dramatically when she is the only witness to the unprovoked police shooting of her unarmed friend Khalil and is challenged to speak out—though with trepidation—about the injustices being done in the event’s wake. As the case becomes national news, violence erupts in her neighborhood, and Starr finds herself and her family caught in the middle. Difficulties are exacerbated by their encounters with the local drug lord for whom Khalil was dealing to earn money for his impoverished family. If there is to be hope for change, Starr comes to realize, it must be through the exercise of her voice, even if it puts her and her family in harm’s way. Thomas’ debut, both a searing indictment of injustice and a clear-eyed, dramatic examination of the complexities of race in America, invites deep thoughts about our social fabric, ethics, morality, and justice. Beautifully written in Starr’s authentic first-person voice, this is a marvel of verisimilitude as it insightfully examines two worlds in collision. An inarguably important book that demands the widest possible readership.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2016)
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school. Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family. This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She can also still rap if needed. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Meyers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg set to star.

Her website is www.angiethomas.com

Teacher Resources

The Hate U Give Discussion Guide

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The Hate U Give Publisher Page

The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters. March 8, 2016. Harry N. Abrams, 352 p. ISBN: 9781419719158.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 880.

A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance in a state gone terribly rotten.

1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now her father’s killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalee’s father wasn’t killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a “haint” wandering the roads at night.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes; Racist language and violence; Homophobic language and practices

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. Hanalee Denney’s father has been haunting the crossroads of Elston, Oregon, right where Joe Adder ran him down in his Model T after a night out drinking. Now that Joe’s out of prison, Hanalee’s ready to get her revenge, but before she can fire the bullet home, Joe convinces her to take a closer look at her stepfather, Uncle Clyde, who married her mother quickly after her father’s death. If that plot sounds vaguely Shakespearian, you wouldn’t be wrong. Winters retells Hamlet in a grandly realized Prohibition-era Oregon setting, featuring biracial Hanalee in the title role, while the prejudices of the day simmer in the background. Compellingly, Winters doesn’t cleave faithfully to the Hamlet story. Instead, Hanalee discovers something far more rotten than a murderous uncle: the KKK are eager to rid Oregon of anyone who doesn’t conform to their ideals, and Hanalee, along with her parents and Joe Adder, is at the top of their list. Hanalee’s investigation of her father’s murder and her growing friendship with Joe are engrossing enough, but Winters amplifies the story by weaving Oregon’s troubling true history—state-sanctioned discrimination, eugenics, forced sterilization—throughout the tale, adding weighty, unsettling context to the slow-burning mystery. A powerful, gripping, and exceptionally well-executed glimpse into a little-known corner of U.S. history.

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2016)
In 1923 small-town Oregon, Hanalee Denney has some friends, but she’s well aware of the prejudice surrounding her. After the death of her African American father, Hank Denney — apparently from injuries sustained when he was hit by a car driven by young Joe Adder — Hanalee’s white mother married Clyde Koning, the doctor who treated Hank after the accident. Convicted of the murder, Joe has been released from prison and returns to town an outcast, which brings Hanalee and Joe together even though she knows him as her father’s killer. When she begins to see Hank’s ghost, it leads her to suspect foul play. Was it in fact her new stepfather, not Joe, who killed her father? The more Hanalee investigates, the more she uncovers of her town’s shadowy underbelly, including a thriving local Ku Klux Klan chapter that targets not just Hanalee and other nonwhite people but also Joe, who is gay. As in her previous novels, Winters (In the Shadow of Blackbirds; The Cure for Dreaming, rev. 11/14) incorporates historical photos into the text, adding a documentary-like feel. While the influences from Shakespeare’s Hamlet are clear, the novel is not so attached to its inspiration that it fails to let its plot flow naturally. The unique setting and thorough research take the book beyond Racism 101: the KKK has it out for anyone who’s not “white, Protestant, American-born, or sexually normal in their eyes,” and readers might be surprised to learn of the Klan’s Rotary-like activities, which allowed it to keep its hate crimes hidden. This is genre-pushing historical fiction that will surprise and enlighten readers. sarah hannah gómez

About the Author

Cat Winters is an award-winning, critically acclaimed author of fiction that blends history with the supernatural. Her young adult works include In the Shadow of Blackbirds, The Cure for Dreaming, The Steep and Thorny Way, and the forthcoming Odd & True (Sept. 2017). Her adult novels are The Uninvited and Yesternight. She has been named a Morris Award finalist, a Bram Stoker Award nominee, and an Oregon Spirit Book Award winner, and her books have appeared on numerous state and “best of” lists.

Winters was born and raised in Southern California, just a short drive down the freeway from Disneyland, which may explain her love of haunted mansions, bygone eras, and fantasylands. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two kids.

Her website is www.catwinters.com.

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Hidden by Miriam Halahmy

Hidden by Miriam Halahmy. Septmber 15, 2016. Holiday House, 224 p. ISBN: 9780823436941.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.8; Lexile: 820.

For fourteen-year-old Alix, life on Hayling Island off the coast of England seems insulated from problems such as war, terrorism and refugees. But then, one day at the beach, Alix and her friend Samir pull a drowning man out of the incoming tide. Mohammed, an illegal immigrant and student, has been tortured by rebels in Iraq for helping the allied forces and has spent all his money to escape. Desperate not to be deported, Mohammed’s destiny now lies in Alix’shands, and she is faced with the biggest moral dilemma of her life.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Underage drinking; Smoking; Racism and racist epithets; Harsh realities of war

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (September 15, 2016)
A British teen comes face to face with anti-immigrant xenophobia. It’s 2007. Alexandra “Alix” Miller is nearly 15 and admittedly “Number One Nerd in Year 10” when she diverts town bully Terrence Bellows from harassing Samir, an Iraqi refugee new to her school. But Terrence isn’t alone: many people on Hayling Island say and do Islamophobic things, from Alix’s classmates and her boss to her best friend; even Alix herself thinks of Samir and his brother, Naazim, as “foreign,” worries they might be “terrorists,” and jokes that Samir’s a “suicide bomber.” Alix’s opinions—and Samir’s affection—shift as they rescue Mohammed, an undocumented Iraqi immigrant escaping torture and seeking asylum, from drowning and hypothermia, then strive to keep him safe. Unfortunately, in her efforts to bring understanding to Britain’s immigrant crisis and the country’s role in the Iraq War, Halahmy (whose husband is Iraqi) indulges in other stereotypes, such as the broken English of Samir’s Chinese neighbor. Even more unfortunate in a book specifically about cultural awakening, only people of color are described explicitly; all other characters, including narrator Alix, are assumed to be white, an assumption that undercuts the book’s effectiveness and limits its reach. While Alix eventually works to address her cultural cluelessness, her proprietary actions with Mohammed have a whiff of the white savior about them. This all-too-timely book means well, but it may not be the age-of-Brexit corrective it clearly wishes to be. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

School Library Journal (August 1, 2016)
Gr 6-9-When teenager Alix and her new friend, Samir, see a man tossed out of a speeding boat into the churning waters off the coast of their small English island, they leap into the strong current to pull out the battered man. When they realize he’s an Iraqi refugee seeking asylum, Alix is hesitant to help him, but Samir-who himself was once a refugee fleeing Iraq-begs Alix to help harbor the stranger. Over the course of the novel, Alix confronts her own perceptions and prejudices, as well as those of her friends, family, and neighbors. Her development from a self-involved child to a broad-thinking and selfless young adult is gradual and realistic, with Alix making plenty of mistakes-and actually learning from them-along the way. The writing is simple and straightforward, and though it won’t challenge strong readers, this novel will appeal to younger teens as well as to reluctant readers. VERDICT An engaging, fast-paced story that pushes teens to consider all sides of the immigration issue, this is a great choice for middle school libraries or for struggling readers.-Leighanne Law, Scriber Lake High School, WA

About the Author

Miriam Halahmy is a novelist, a former special needs educator and a poet. She writes for adults, teens and children and has published five novels, three poetry collections and many short stories. Miriam is inspired by social and political issues in both contemporary lives and in the recent past. Her writing highlights the dilemmas ordinary young people are often faced with and how they tackle the difficulties in their lives. Miriam is married with two children and two grandchildren. She lives in London, England but she loves to travel and has a great interest in different cultures and languages.

Her website is www.miriamhalahmy.com.

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Hidden on Amazon

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