Recipes for Resilience: Books About Food | Read Woke

These fiction and nonfiction titles nourish the body, soul, and imagination.

When a student asked for a Read Woke book recommendation to read ­during her Culinary Arts Team ­competition, I bought Kwame ­Onwuachi’s Notes from a Young Black Chef for the whole team. Chef Kwame happened to be at the competition and autographed their books. These kids read, write, and cook woke—and they placed top 10 in the nation! Here are titles to inspire young chefs in your life. Serve to all ages.

A Day with Yayah. Nicola I. Campbell. illus. by Julie Flett. Crocodile. 2018. K-Gr 3.
This vividly illustrated book portrays the story of a First Nations family’s day out collecting edible plants and mushrooms. The author, who is Interior Salish and Metis, celebrates First Nations languages that nearly vanished due to colonization and policies of the Indian residential school system. A pronunciation guide and glossary are included.

4 cups endangered language
2 teaspoons stunning illustrations
Sprig of information about lightning ­mushrooms


Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Dee Romito. illus. by Laura Freeman. little bee. 2018. K-Gr 3.
When I asked my students to write about an inspiring African American, almost 90 percent chose Martin Luther King Jr. Georgia Gilmore was one of the many unsung civil rights heroes who supported him. This beautifully illustrated story spotlights a woman who used her gift of cooking to support the seminal 1955–56 boycott. Gilmore had to keep her mission a secret, and her brave women bakers became known as the “club from nowhere.”

3 ounces captivating illustrations
1 unsung hero
2 tablespoons black girl magic


Foodie Faces. Bill Wurtzel and Claire Wurtzel. Hachette. June 2020. PreK-Gr 3.
Photographs of fruits, vegetables, grains, and other food artfully arranged to look like faces are a fun way to start conversations about feelings and healthy eating. The book explores 22 emotions while providing ideas for better eating and nutritional health.

1/2 cup grumpy, confident, curious, and calm facial expressions


With the Fire on High. Elizabeth Acevedo. HarperTeen. 2019. Gr 9 Up.
Cooking is an escape for teenage mother Emoni Santiago, who loves spicing things up and adding her own flavors to dishes. With the burdens of motherhood and school, Emoni has limited opportunities. A culinary arts class will involve travel to Spain, and she dreams of a brighter future. Recipes like “When the World Tries to Break You, Break Beer Bread with Those You Love” inspire.

1 pound Emoni’s magic recipes
2 teaspoons strong female protagonist
1/4 cup passion for cooking and love of family


Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir. Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein. Knopf. 2019. Gr 9 Up.
In this story of survival and triumph, Onwuachi calls out the injustices of the cooking world: “the thousands of black and brown chefs—dubbed cooks, domestics, ­servants, boys, and mammies who are kept out of restaurant kitchens or overlooked in them.” A must-read for anyone whose dream feels impossible. Recipes for chicken curry, gumbo, and Egusi stew revolutionize fine dining.

2 cups inspiration
3 tablespoons honesty
1/2 teaspoon spotlight on the plight of ­minorities in the culinary world

Cicely Lewis (Twitter: @cicelythegreat) welcomes ­your reading suggestions.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing