The Heart of the "Matter"

Read Feed

The Heart of the "Matter"

Young Adult books surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement

Young adult literature has done a remarkable job in covering social issues and recent events, and there have been quite a few to choose from as of late. Among those issues in recent years has been the relationship between police officers, and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter Movement. For those interested in learning about this organization, and the circumstances surrounding it, here are a few YA novels that speak to the Black Lives Matter movement.
 
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.
After a black teen is beaten by a police officer to the point of hospitalization, two of the witnesses are left to contemplate the incident: Quinn, who is friends with the officer's brother, and Rashad, the young man who was beaten. While the teens are two different races, the story (thankfully) isn't reduced to Black or White. Yes, Quinn shares a familial relationship with the officer- but what about his basketball teammates, many of whom are friends with Rashad? How does Rashad interact with his own father, a former officer who seems to doubt his son’s story? New relationships begin, and old ones are severed as each teen seeks to discover the truth, and - more importantly - what to do about it.
 
How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon 
Two things are certain: 16-year-old Tariq is dead and White passer-by Jack Franklin is the one that shot him. How it got to that point and how to process everything that follows is what gives this story life. This story is told from the viewpoints of multiple people - eye-witnesses and beyond - that all have conflicting opinions about the incident and just who Tariq was. From the reverend who sees Tariq’s case as good PR, to the best friend Tariq made a pact with to stay out of a gang - everyone believes with certainty they know “how it went down”.
 
Bright Lights, Dark Nights by Stephen Emond.
Walter Wilcox is adjusting to life with his father since his parent's divorce, and is more than content to live his senior year of high school without any additional excitement, good or bad.  His life of tedium is broken when he meets Naomi, a black girl with an affinity for Foo Fighters and random conversation. Their budding romance, based on awkwardness and music, comes to an abrupt crossroads when Walter's father, a police officer, is caught up in a racial profiling and police brutality scandal.
 
Monster by Walter Dean Myers 
Sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon is on trial for serving as the lookout for a robbery that resulted in the death of a store owner. The story is only told from his perspective, but Steve is well aware of the conflicting perceptions of him, some coming from his own father. The view that sticks with him the most is the prosecuting attorney’s portrayal of him as a monster, just as guilty as if he’d pulled the trigger. Journaling as if his life were a screenplay (which makes for some interesting reading), Steve reviews his life and actions, in the hopes that he’ll truly discover who he is.
 
Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates  
While this is technically an adult novel, this is a relatively easy read, in terms of reading level. The theme - growing up as a person of color in America - is much more complex. Coates addresses this issue in a series of essays, written as letters to his son. Beginning with his own experiences, and branching out into the country's complex systems, Coates gives a unique perspective on how systemic racism can impact all of America. 
 
*As a bonus, be on the lookout for Angela Thomas’ The Hate U Give. Coming in February 2017, this novel declares itself as the first book to be inspired specifically by the Black Lives Matter movement. After witnessing her best friend being killed by a police officer, 16-year-old Starr must decide whether or not to speak out. Her decision will have consequences for both her family and her community.