Young Adults reading options by POC

We are homeschooling my 14 year old daughter this semester and have been looking for a book to read and analyze as an option to To Kill a Mockingbird which is the assigned book in her 8th grade class (Why are we still teaching To Kill a Mockingbird in schools?). We just finished Animal Farm. I wanted an alternative to the general list of classics that continue to represent a white supremacist view of the world, whether intentionally or complicity. I asked an author friend on Facebook and she asked her friends and here is the list. It’s awesome. I wanted to keep and share.

Book Titles and Authors

(descriptions are quoted from

I Know Why the Caged Bird Singby Maya Angelou
Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.

Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl, prays every day for beauty. Mocked by other children for the dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes that set her apart, she yearns for normalcy, for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to finally fit in.Yet as her dream grows more fervent, her life slowly starts to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife. A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, Toni Morrison’s virtuosic first novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterized her writing.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston 
One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.

Brown Girl Brownstones by Paule Marshall
Hailed by the Saturday Review as “passionate” and “compelling” and by The New Yorker as “remarkable for its courage,” this 1959 coming-of-age story centers on the daughter of Barbadian immigrants living in Brooklyn during the Depression and World War II. A precursor to feminist literature, this novel was written by and about an African-American woman.

the House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Told in a series of vignettes – sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous – it is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become.

Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid
Lucy, a teenage girl from the West Indies, comes to North America to work as an au pair for Lewis and Mariah and their four children. Lewis and Mariah are a thrice-blessed couple–handsome, rich, and seemingly happy. Yet, almost at once, Lucy begins to notice cracks in their beautiful facade. With mingled anger and compassion, Lucy scrutinizes the assumptions and verities of her employers’ world and compares them with the vivid realities of her native place. Lucy has no illusions about her own past, but neither is she prepared to be deceived about where she presently is. 

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe 

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf  by Ntozake Shange

Kindred by Octavia Butler

The Leavers  by Lisa Ko

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Other authors:

  • Salman Rushdie
  • James Baldwin
  • Langston Hughes
  • Audre Lorde
  • Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Gloria Naylor
  • Edwidge Danticat
  • Nikki Giovanni (poet)


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