19 Enlightening & Highly Engaging Nonfiction Titles for Teens | Summer Reading 2020

Tackling everything from racism to politics and elections to sexual abuse, these works of YA nonfiction will leave teens informed and inspired to help make a better world.

Tackling everything from racism to politics and elections to sexual abuse, these works of YA nonfiction will leave teens informed and inspired to help make a better world.

One Person, No Vote: How Not All Voters Are Treated Equally by Carol Anderson with Tonya Bolden. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781547601073.

Just in time to educate those newly eligible to vote in the 2020 election, Bolden’s adaptation of Anderson’s New York Times best seller covers the systematic, racially motivated legal, physical, and psychological tactics used since the end of Reconstruction to suppress black, poor, and/or otherwise marginalized voters.

SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson. Viking. ISBN 9780670012107.

Anderson’s haunting memoir in free verse addresses her history of trauma and the sexual assault that inspired her novel Speak; the author also discusses the fans, contemporaries, and survivors she has met and been impacted by in the last 20 years as an author and advocate.

VIRAL: The Fight Against AIDS in America by Ann Bausum. Viking. ISBN 9780425287200.

Bausum’s comprehensive account of the AIDS crisis in America charts the social and medical conditions that led to the terrifyingly fast spread of the disease and relays the reactions from various parts of society.

What Linnaeus Saw: A Scientist’s Quest To Name Every Living Thing by Karen Magnuson Beil. Norton. ISBN 9781324004684.

Many students can explain biological classification in its simplest terms. But how many know scientist Carl Linnaeus, the creator of that system? Beil offers fascinating details about Linnaeus’s travels as a young man, as well as the prevailing cultural and religious beliefs of his time.

Accused!: The Trials of the Scottsboro Boys: Lies, Prejudice, and the Fourteenth Amendment by Larry Dane Brimner. Calkins Creek. ISBN 9781629797755.

Exploring the trials of the Scottsboro boys, nine African Americans falsely accused of raping two white women, Brimner draws parallels between the Scottsboro boys and present situations, reminding readers how far we’ve come—and how we continue to come up short.

A Queer History of the United States for Young People by Michael Bronski. adapt. by Richie Chavet. Beacon. ISBN 9780807056127.

This rich, sensitive young readers adaptation of the author’s 2012 title illuminates contributions to American history by a wide variety of queer individuals and groups, from Indigenous tribes who have long embraced two-spirit people to poets, musicians, politicians, and activists.

Ms. Gloria Steinem: A Life by Winifred Conkling. Feiwel & Friends. ISBN 9781250244574.

Conkling follows feminist icon Gloria Steinem from an unconventional childhood to college to her role as a leader in the second wave of feminism. Readers will find Conkling’s portrayal of Steinem to be authentic and relevant as she fights for equality for women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and marginalized groups.

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. adapt. by Debbie Reese & Jean Mendoza. Beacon. ISBN 9780807049396.

In this adaptation of Dunbar-Ortzi’s adult title, Reese and Mendoza offer an Indigenous perspective of U.S. history, one that offers a vital counterpoint to whitewashed history curricula and textbooks. Essential.

Flowers in the Gutter: The True Story of the Teenagers Who Resisted the Nazis by K.R Gaddy. Dutton. ISBN 9780525555414.

This expertly researched, compelling narrative follows the Edelweiss Pirates, groups of young Germans committed to resisting the Nazis, through the perspectives of three individuals: Gertrud Kühlem, Jean Jülich, and Fritz Theilen. A unique addition to the YA World War II literary canon.

Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir by Nikki Grimes. Wordsong. ISBN 9781629798813.

In long poems, short poems, and the occasional prose poem, Grimes guides us through her past tragedies and triumphs while keenly observed moments build her inner world. A memoir that doesn’t demand a time line, this work is a personal history in poems that readers can read backward and forward.

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Troublemaker for Justice: The Story of Bayard Rustin, the Man Behind the March on Washington by Jacqueline Houtman & others. City Lights. ISBN 9780872867659.

While Martin Luther King Jr. became the face of the March on Washington, LGBTQ activist Bayard Rustin, long marginalized because of his sexuality, was the man behind the scenes. This excellent biography brings Rustin out of King’s shadow and into the foreground, chronicling how his upbringing and Quaker roots acted as a catalyst for his lifetime commitment to nonviolent activism and equal treatment for all.

Brave Face: A Memoir by Shaun David Hutchinson. S. & S./Simon Pulse. ISBN 9781534431515.

In this raw and moving memoir, YA novelist Hutchinson looks back on his life: his depression, his sexuality, and how he moved forward after contemplating suicide at 19.

Call Me American: The Extraordinary True Story of a Young Somali Immigrant by Abdi Nor Iftin. Delacorte. ISBN 9781984897114.

Iftin tells his story: growing up in Mogadishu, Somalia, as war raged; becoming obsessed with American culture; and finally leaving for America. The author’s optimism and sense of humor balance the sadness he experienced, and his challenges upon reaching the United States provide a critique of the notion of the American Dream.

All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto by George M. Johnson. Farrar. ISBN 9780374312718.

Journalist and activist Johnson takes readers through his life from childhood through young adulthood, reflecting on how his identity as a queer Black boy was shaped, refracted, and often suppressed for his own safety. Part memoir and part manifesto, the text infuses personal reflections with observations about white supremacy, toxic masculinity, and homophobia.

The Other F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce, edited by Angie Manfredi. Amulet. Abrams/Amulet. ISBN 9781419737503.

Renée Watson, Alex Gino, and others share their experience growing up fat and their work to reclaim the meaning of that word. A powerful anthology that creates an important discourse celebrating body diversity.

The Miracle & Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets by Sarah Miller. Random/Schwartz & Wade. ISBN 9781524713812.

Miller examines the Dionne quintuplets, five identical girls born in 1934 who were taken from their family and put on display for sightseers, in this poignant, meticulously researched story of exploitation.

Proud: Living My American Dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316477000.

Fencer and Olympic medalist Muhammad pens an eminently readable account of her childhood through her win at the 2016 Rio Olympics, discussing manipulative coaches, college and scholarship applications, racist and Islamophobic abuse from teammates, and the challenge of balancing practice, school work, and personal academic interests.

Ripples of Hope: Your Guide to Electing a New President by David Plouffe. Holt. ISBN 9781250259752.

Barack Obama’s campaign manager encourages pre-voters to get active in the 2020 presidential election to defeat President Trump, urging them to knock on doors, man phone banks, and travel to battleground states to volunteer.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award–Winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316453691.

Reynolds’s adaptation of Kendi’s National Book Award–winning title teaches readers to think critically about racism and antiracism in the United States and the Western world. Arguing that there are three mind-sets—segregationist, assimilationist, and antiracist—the authors evaluate the actions of figures such as Thomas Jefferson, W.E.B. DuBois, and Angela Davis as they eloquently challenge the common narrative.

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