Alternate Summer Reading List: Dr. Ibram X. Kendi's Antiracist Book Recommendations

Author of How to Raise an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi, Ph.D., offers eight antiracist titles for Parents 2022 Alternate Summer Reading Lists for kids and teens.

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
Photo: Getty | Michael Loccisano

Summer's nearly here, and as an antidote to those stale—and sometimes problematic—school-suggested summer reading lists, Parents has collaborated with some of the most stellar names in book publishing to offer Alternate Summer Reading Lists, curated by authors and educators to reflect the world as kids today really see it.

Our first comes from Ibram X. Kendi, Ph.D., professor of Humanities at Boston University, and founding director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, as well as the New York Times bestselling author of books including How to Be Antiracist, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, and Antiracist Baby.

His latest, How to Raise an Antiracist, offers parents, caregivers, and educators solid guidance for tackling racism and systemic structures head on and creating an antiracist mindset for adults and kids alike. The book delves deep into scientific research on child development and the impact racism and societal structures have on kids, presented in the thoughtful and accessible voice we've come to expect from Dr. Kendi. But it also follows Dr. Kendi's own journey as a parent trying to navigate talking to his kid about racism, offering lessons for parents of kids of all ages. Here, Dr. Kendi offers eight titles that might help start those critical conversations.

Dr. Kendi How to Raise An Antiracist
STEPHEN VOSS and Penguin Random House

One of the greatest regrets of my life is not something I did. It is something I did not do.

I did not read as a youngster. I barely read books in middle school and high school. This is almost certainly one of the reasons I left high school "functionally illiterate about racist policy and unknowingly fluent in racist ideas, as I write in my new book, How to Raise an Antiracist.

For the longest time, I yearned to go back into time and deliver a bookbag to myself at 10 years old, at 13 years old, at 16 years old. All I ever needed to become a voracious reader were books placed into my hands that related to my experience, books that answered my questions, books that answered questions I did not even know I should be asking. I needed different books at different ages. Books that are antiracist. Books that are too often banned today. Books like the titles on this list.

brown girl dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming
Nancy Paulsen Books

Like me, Jacqueline Woodson struggled with reading as a child. And still, she was mesmerized by the power of the story. In brown girl dreaming, she shares her journey as an African American girl growing up in the 1960s and 70s. As she moved through the world, she questioned whether she belonged anywhere really. Always living in between two worlds. Always searching for places of belonging. Tweens are curious and making sense about who they are and who their people are.

All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto, by George M. Johnson

All Boys Aren't Blue
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

George M. Johnson pours his emotions and insight onto the page in All Boys Aren't Blue, describing his adolescence as a Black queer boy. It is a story every child needs to read whether Black or not, whether queer or not, whether a boy or not—to better understand themselves, to better be able to relate across differences. The story is not winding. It is straight to the point, as many kids can be.

In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse, by Joseph Marshall III

In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse
Amulet Books

When I was a tween, my ignorance abounded about Native peoples and settler colonialism. I did not receive the full picture of history and humanity. No one told me about Native heroes. No one told me the incredible story of Crazy Horse. He is a hero, not only for the Lakota people, but for justice. Young people can be the grandchild in this story listening to their grandfather share this heroic and fascinating life story.

We are Not Free, by Traci Chee

We Are Not Free
Clarion Books

The United States has a history of imposing family separation policies onto communities of color, like when Japanese Americans were taken to incarceration camps during World War 2. In this moving book account, we gather a glimpse into how 14 Japanese American teens experienced this brutality, and how they managed to maintain their solidarity despite it all.

An Emotion of Great Delight, by Tahereh Mafi

An Emotion of Great Delight

To raise empowered and empathetic children, it's crucial we allow them to experience all emotions. That is the case with An Emotion of Great Delight, which centers on Shadi, a Muslim girl coming of age in the aftermath of 9/11, who grapples with grief, loss, and a broken heart. Shadi goes from bottling up all her emotions, to letting herself free by expressing herself. What a model Tahereh Mafi creates for all our young people.

Love is a Revolution, by Renée Watson

Love Is a Revolution

The home is the first classroom for lessons of love. As caregivers, we must examine how we show love and how we grapple with love. Not only romantic love, but familial, friendship, and love of self. Watson's beautiful book teaches youngsters that all humans, regardless of their identity, their culture, and their appearance, deserve to be loved. At a time when our teenagers are deepening their human connections, this is a must read.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L. Sanchez

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Some 16-year-olds are under tremendous pressure to excel in school, in their relationships, in how they show themselves to the world. Other 16-year-olds are under tremendous pressure to closet themselves, to conceal their unorthodox interests, to hide themselves in all their uniqueness. The pressure of succeeding or failing can be overwhelming at times. But this fascinating story shows the costs of that pressure; it shows a more humane way to be.

Dear Martin, by Nic Stone

Dear Martin
Crown | Ember

In this electric book, a Black male teenager is striving to understand and express himself, to really grasp his own identity amid the confines of anti-Black racism. His medium is writing journal entries to Martin Luther King Jr. The journal facilitates the honest recognition of thyself, what every teenager is struggling to do.

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