It is incredibly important to teach race, racism, and anti-racism within students at all ages. I am very fortunate to have such incredible secondary colleagues that teach ethnic studies to their high school and middle school students. Throughout my time working with them and other experiences, I have read so many books about race, racism, and anti-racism. I am hoping that you are able gather some resources from this Anti-Racist Books for Middle and High School Students post. 

With the calling for anti-racism in education, Colorful Pages and I have gotten countless (and I am talking countless) requests for an Anti-Racist Book List! It has taken me a long time to get this list together because, when talking about race, racism, and anti-racism, it has to be done right. I am splitting up this Anti-Racist Book List into two posts: one for elementary students and one for middle school and high school students. Every book on this list is written by an author of color because I feel we, as Black Indigenous, People of Color, need to be the ones to tell these stories since we are the ones that have experienced the racism discussed within them. I have listed 18 books for middle school and high school students: 5 diverse books about race and identity; 8 books about racism, prejudice, and anti-racism in a modern context; and 5 books about racism, prejudice, and anti-racism in a historical context. 

Diverse Books About Race & Identity** 

**Note: A lot of these deal with sub-themes of racism and prejudice too, but I find them crucial in also talking about racial identity development.

We Could Be Brothers, by Derrick Barnes

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Conversation

Age Range: 11+ years

We Could Be Brothers is about two thirteen-year-old Black boys coming together during a three-day after-school suspension. Robeson Battlefield and Pacino Clapton seem like they come from two different worlds, but eventually come together and talk about many different topics that affect them and their community, including the use of the N-word, masculinity, and identity.

American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Exploration and Conversation

Age Range: 12-18 years

American Born Chinese is a deep, page-turning young adult graphic novel! It engages in the most relatable human dilemma: the need to fit in. Gene Luen Yang manages to tell three storylines: Jin Wang who starts at a new school and struggles when a boy from Taiwan joins too; Danny who is an all-American boy visited by his obnoxious Chinese cousin; and the Monkey King who is trying to find his place in heaven. 

Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me, by Lurline Wailana McGregor

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Exploration & Conversation

Age Range: Young Adult +

Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me is a young adult novel about Moana Kawelo who has a glamorous life in California. However, when her father suddenly passes away, she is brought back to her home in Hawai’i. Moana struggles to find her identity in Hawai’i and questions her success on the Mainland. This book won the 2010 Best Young Adult Book from the American Indian Library Association.

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, by Isabel Quintero

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Between Exploration and Conversation

Age Range: Young Adult +

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Isabel Quintero authored this young adult novel that features Gabi Hernandez’s diary. Gabi writes about her last year of high school as she tries to push through teenage obstacles and understand her identity. This is one of my favorite young adult novels. Quintero does a compelling job at capturing the thoughts of a teenage woman who is trying her best to navigate life.

Mexican WhiteBoy, by Matt De La Peña

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: Young Adult +

On The Spectrum of Multicultural Literature, Mexican WhiteBoy is a Conversation Book because the main character’s identity is challenged by discrimination and self-discovery. It would be a great book to engage students in important conversations about race and identity.

Diverse Books About Racism, Prejudice, & Anti-Racism in a Modern Context

New Kid, by Jerry Craft

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Conversation

Age Range: 8-12 years old

I have been in love with this graphic novel since it was first published and I am really happy that Jerry Craft is getting the recognition he deserves for it! New Kid is a graphic novel about Jordan Banks, a seventh grader. Jordan is being forced to go to a prestigious private school that his parents enrolled him in. He struggles with the transition to a new school in addition to navigating the different cultures between the neighborhood he grew up from and the private school.

Black Brother, Black Brother, by Jewell Parker Rhodes

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 8-13 years old

This book was recommended to me by several people who loved Ghost Boys and were impressed by how this book tackles racism, the School-to-Prison Pipeline, and colorism in a middle grade novel! In Black Brother, Black Brother, Jewell Parker Rhodes writes about two brothers, one who presents as White and one who presents as Black. The novel mostly follows 12-year-old Donte, who faces a lot of racism and prejudice and is dubbed the “Black Brother”. He is constantly being told that he should be more like his light-skinned brother, Trey. Donte is suspended from school and arrested because of another student and takes up fencing at a local youth center in order to process through the injustices he is facing. The book does delve into racism and colorism in an engaging and age-appropriate way. 

Ghost Boys, by Jewell Parker Rhodes

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 10+ years old

This is another beautiful masterpiece by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Ghost Boys delves into the effects of racism and police brutality on a community. Jerome, a twelve-year-old boy who was playing with a toy gun, was murdered by a police officer who mistakes his toy for a real gun. As a ghost, Jerome sees how his murder effects his community and begins to procsses it with the ghost of Emmett Till. This would be a great book for history courses to draw parallels between the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Lives Matter movement while doing some deep analysis of the layers of history. 

Here to Stay, by Sara Farizan

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: Young Adult +

In Here to Stay, Bijan Majidi gains new fame as he makes the winning basket in a varsity playoff game. In his new popularity, he becomes the target of a cyberbully who sends a racist photo depicting him as a terrorist. Bijan tries to navigate islamophobia while still staying proud of his Middle Eastern heritage. 

How It Went Down, by Kekla Magoon

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: Young Adult +

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

How It Went Down surrounds a single event: the murder of Black sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson by a white shooter. The impact of Tariq’s death on the community and family is weaved together by multiple narrators of the story. The author, Kekla Magoon, masters keeping each voice unique and authentic while shedding light on how a community grapples with such injustice. This story needs to be read in every classroom in order to introduce conversations of racism and racial trauma in a community.

They Could Have Named Her Anything: A Novel, by Stephanie Jimenez 

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: Young Adult +

Stephanie Jimenez tackles racism, class, and privilege in this novel. They Could Have Named Her Anything: A Novel is about Maria, a seventeen-year-old from Queens who goes to a private high school on the Upper East Side. At the private high school, Maria struggles to fit in as one of the only Latina students. Soon, she becomes friends with Rocky, a white student who uses his privilege to get away with anything.

Hearts Unbroken, by Cynthia Leitich Smith

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation (with some Representation)

Age Range: Young Adult +

This young adult novel follows Louise Wolfe who is dealing with heartbreaks and crushes while navigating racism and prejudice against her Native community. I love how this book sheds light on the fact that often teens of color and Native teens not only have to navigate the high school drama, but also have to deal with the negativity of racism, discrimination, and prejudice. As we mentioned before, Cynthia Leitich Smith is a proud member of the Muscogee Creek Nation.

This Book is Anti-Racist, by Tiffany Jewell

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 11-15 years old

This is an engaging book that helps readers go through 20 lessons around identity, prejudice, racism, and activism. Each chapter acts almost as a lesson inside an anti-racist classroom. There is a section of knowledge to read and then several activities to do to reflect and really apply the learning to your own life. Tiffany Jewell’s book would be perfect for middle school and high school classes to go through together to learn about anti-racism and empowerment through action. 

Diverse Books About Racism, Prejudice, & Anti-Racism in a Historical Context

Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You, by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 12+ years old

I have been loving that Ibram X. Kendi has been reimagining his famous book, Stamped from the Beginning, for younger and younger crowds. Jason Reynolds, another brilliant author, teamed up with Kendi in order to write this version of Stamped geared towards younger students. It shares the history of racism within our nation and shines a light on how racism is still very real today. 

Stella By Starlight, by Sharon M. Draper

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 9-13 years old

Stella By Starlight tackles racism in the Depression Era. It follows Stella, a young girl who lives in segregated North Carolina. Stella and her family face racism and the Ku Klux Klan. Author Sharon M. Draper gives readers the chance to discuss race and class issues through historical events. 

March series, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 10+ years

As an Ethnic Studies teacher, I was immediately intrigued by this graphic novel. March is co-written by John Lewis, a prominent Civil Rights Activist, about his life’s work. The first book starts in the present day showing John Lewis as a congressman, and then goes into detail about his upbringing and work in the Civil Rights Movement.

They Called Us Enemy, by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, & Harmony Becker

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 12+ years

They Called Us Enemy is George Takei’s memoir of his childhood experiences during World War II. Takei and his family were forced into concentration camps as Japanese-Americans were ordered to be imprisoned. This Graphic Novel is incredibly engaging and can be used to have many conversations around racism in this period of history. 

Escape to Gold Mountain: A Graphic History of the Chinese in North America, by David H.T. Wong

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 12+ years

The captivating graphic novel follows the fictional (but representative) Wong family as they immigrate from China to America and assimilate over 150 years. It delves into discrimination, racism, and other complex issues of the immigrant experience rooted in history!

“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” — Angela Davis

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