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African-American Voices

A selection of teen books, both historical and contemporary fiction written by and about African Americans.


 

Historical Fiction

Becoming Billie Holliday/ Carole Boston Weatherford
Jazz vocalist Billie Holiday looks back on her early years in this fictional memoir written in verse
.

Caucasia
/ Danzy Senna
A sensitive coming-of-age bestseller about two sisters divided by politics and race at the beginning of the 1970s

Chains: Seeds of America / Laurie Halse Anderson
After being sold to a cruel couple in New York City, a slave named Isabel spies for the rebels during the Revolutionary War.

Copper Sun / Sharon Draper
Two fifteen-year-old girls--one a slave and the other an indentured servant--escape their Carolina plantation and try to make their way to Fort Moses, Florida, a Spanish colony that gives sanctuary to slaves.

Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue / Julius Lester
Emma has taken care of the Butler children since Sarah and Frances's mother, Fanny, left. Emma wants to raise the girls to have good hearts, as a rift over slavery has ripped the Butler household apart. Now, to pay off debts, Pierce Butler wants to cash in his slave "assets", possibly including Emma. (SLJ gr. 6-10)

Fallen Angels /  Walter Dean Myers
Seventeen-year-old Richie Perry, just out of his Harlem high school, enlists in the Army in the summer of 1967 and spends a devastating year on active duty in Vietnam. (SLJ gr 10+)

Flygirl / Sherri L. Smith
During World War II, a light-skinned African American girl "passes" for white in order to join the Women Airforce Service Pilots.
 
Good Fortune/ Noni Carter
Ayanna Bahati lives in a small African village when she is brutally kidnapped, along with her mother and brother, and forced onto a slave ship to America. Risking everything to escape the plantation, Ayanna makes it to the North and to freedom, eventually settling in the free black community of Hadson, Ohio, and educating herself to become a teacher.
 
Guardian / Julius Lester
In a rural southern town in 1946, a white man and his son witness the lynching of an innocent black man. Includes historical note on lynching.

The kingdom on the waves: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation ; vol. II /
M.T. Anderson
When Octavian hears that Lord Dunmore, governor of Virginia, will free all slaves who join his "Ethiopian Regiment," the recent runaway gladly signs up. Upon enlisting, Octavian is reunited with his friend Pro Bono. The two comrades, who once shared a master, are thrilled to meet again, but their joy quickly subsides.

The Land.
/ Mildred Taylor
After the Civil War in 1880s Mississippi, Paul, the son of a white father and a black mother, finds himself caught between the two worlds of colored folks and white folks as he pursues his dream of owning land of his own.  Prequel to Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry. (SLJ gr 7-10)

Legend of Buddy Bush / Sheila P. Moses
In 1947, twelve-year-old Pattie Mae is sustained by her dreams of escaping Rich Square, North Carolina, and moving to Harlem when her Uncle Buddy is arrest for attempted rape of a white woman and her grandfather is diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor.

Mare's War
/ Tanita S. Davis 
Teens Octavia and Tali learn about strength, independence, and courage when they are forced to take a car trip with their grandmother, who tells about growing up Black in 1940s Alabama and serving in Europe during World War II as a member of the Women's Army Corps.

Nightjohn / Gary Paulsen
Twelve-year-old Sarny's brutal life as a slave becomes even more dangerous when a newly arrived slave offers to teach her how to read.

North by night: a story of the Underground Railroad /
Katherine Ayres
Presents the journal of a sixteen-year-old girl whose family operates a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Riot / Walter Dean Myers
In 1863, fifteen-year-old Claire, the daughter of an Irish mother and a black father, faces ugly truths and great danger when Irish immigrants, enraged by the Civil War and a federal draft, lash out against blacks and wealthy "swells" of New York City.

The Rock and the River / Kekla Magoon
In 1968 Chicago, fourteen-year-old Sam Childs is caught in a conflict between his father's nonviolent approach to seeking civil rights for African Americans and his older brother, who has joined the Black Panther Party.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry / Mildred D. Taylor A black family living in the South during the 1930's are faced with prejudice and discrimination which their children don't understand.

Stealing Freedom / Elisa Lynn Carbone
A novel based on the events in the life of a young slave girl from Maryland who endures all kinds of mistreatment and cruelty, including being separated from her family, but who eventually escapes to freedom in Canada.
 
A Thousand Never Evers / Shana Burg
As the civil rights movement in the South gains momentum in 1963--and violence against African Americans intensifies--the black residents, including seventh-grader Addie Ann Pickett, in the small town of Kuckachoo, Mississippi, begin their own courageous struggle for racial justice.

True North: A Novel of the Underground Railroad / Kathryn Lasky
Because of the strong influence which her grandfather, an abolitionist, has in her life, fourteen-year-old Lucy assists a fugitive slave girl in her escape. (SLJ gr 6-9)

The Watsons Go to Birmingham
/ Christopher Paul Curtis
The ordinary interactions and everyday routines of the Watsons, an African American family living in Flint, Michigan, are drastically changed after they go to visit Grandma in Alabama in the summer of 1963.
 
 Contemporary Fiction
 
Acting / Sherri Winston
Longing to escape from her small Michigan town, sixteen-year-old Eve, an aspiring actress, is forced to confront both her family's and her own expectations when her twin sister announces her pregnancy.

After Tupac & D Foster / Jacqueline Woodson
In the New York City borough of Queens in 1996, three girls bond over their shared love of Tupac Shakur's music, as together they try to make sense of the unpredictable world in which they live.

Autobiography of My Dead Brother /  Walter Dean Myers
Jesse pours his heart and soul into his sketchbook to make sense of life in his troubled Harlem neighborhood and the loss of a close friend.

Battle of Jericho  / Sharon M. Draper
A high school junior and his cousin suffer the ramifications of joining what seems to be a "reputable" school club.

Boy 21 / Matthew Quick
Finley, an unnaturally quiet boy who is the only white player on his high school's varsity basketball team, lives in a dismal Pennsylvania town that is ruled by the Irish mob, and when his coach asks him to mentor a troubled African American student who has transferred there from an elite private school in California, he finds that they have a lot in common in spite of their apparent differences.

Bucking the Sarge / Christopher Paul Curtis
Deeply involved in his cold and manipulative mother's shady business dealings in Flint, Michigan, fourteen-year-old Luther keeps a sense of humor while running the Happy Neighbor Group Home For Men, all the while dreaming of going to college and becoming a philosopher.

Dope Sick / Walter Dean Myers
Seeing no way out of his difficult life in Harlem, seventeen-year-old Jeremy "Lil J" Dance flees into a house after a drug deal goes awry and meets a weird man who shows different turning points in Lil J's life when he could have made better choices.

Emako Blue / Brenda Woods
Monterey, Savannah, Jamal, and Eddie have never had much to do with each other until Emako Blue shows up at chorus practice, but just as the lives of the five Los Angeles high school students become intertwined, tragedy tears them apart.

First Part Last / Angela Johnson
Bobby's carefree teenage life changes forever when he becomes a father and must care for his adored baby daughter.

Harlem Hustle / Janet McDonald
Eric "Hustle" Samson, a smart and street-wise seventeen-year-old dropout from Harlem, aspires to rap stardom, a dream he naively believes is about to come true.

Heaven: A Novel  / Angela Johnson
Fourteen-year-old Marley's seemingly perfect life in the small town of Heaven is disrupted when she discovers that her father and mother are not her real parents.

I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This  / Jacqueline Woodson
Marie, the only black girl in the eighth grade willing to befriend her white classmate Lena, discovers that Lena's father is doing horrible things to her in private.

Jason & Kyra / Dana Davidson
Handsome and popular Jason tries to come to terms with his irascible, often absent father and his growing attraction to the quiet, studious Kyra.

Jazmin's Notebook / Nikki Grimes
Jazmin, an Afro-American teenager who lives with her older sister in a small Harlem apartment in the 1960s, finds strength in writing poetry and keeping a record of the events in her sometimes difficult life.

Hotlanta / Denene Miller & Mitzi Miller 
Living a privileged life in Atlanta, wealthy and beautiful African American twin sisters, Sydney and Lauren, must deal with family secrets and scandal when their father is released from prison.

Hollywood & Maine / Allison Whittenberg
In 1976 Pennsylvania, middle-schooler Charmaine Upshaw contemplates a career as a model or actress while coping with boyfriend problems and the return of her uncle, a fugitive who cost her family $1,000 in bail money a year earlier.

The Hoopster / Alan Lawrence Sitomer
Andre Anderson is a black teenager who loves to play basketball, When he is viciously attacked, it calls his whole world into question--even his deadly jumpshot. Followed by Hip-Hop High School  and Homeboyz.

Lena / Jacqueline Woodson 
Thirteen-year-old Lena and her younger sister Dion mourn the death of their mother as they hitchhike from Ohio to Kentucky while running away from their abusive father.

Like Sisters on the Homefront Williams-Garcia, Rita
Troubled 14-yr. old Gail is sent down South to live with her uncle & aunt, where her life begins to change as she experiences the healing power of family.

Miracle’s Boys / Jacqueline Woodson
Twelve-year-old Lafayette's close relationship with his older brother Charlie changes after Charlie is released from a detention home and blames Lafayette for the death of their mother.

Monster / Walter Dean Myers 
While on trial as an accomplice to a murder, sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon records his experiences in prison and in the courtroom in the form of a film script as he tries to come to terms with the course his life has taken.  Winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.

No Laughter Here / Rita Williams-Garcia
In Queens, New York, ten-year-old Akilah is determined to find out why her closest friend, Victoria, is silent and withdrawn after returning from a trip to her homeland, Nigeria.

On the Come Up / Travis Hunter
While DeMarco Winslow finds that his frequent trips to a juvenile detention house provide better living conditions than his own home, his twin sister Jasmine becomes close with the DIVAs, a dangerous gang.

Rikers High / Paul Volponi
Arrested on a minor offense, a New York City teenager attends high school in the jail facility on Rikers Island, as he waits for his case to go to court. Volponi taught on Riker's Island for several years.

The Skin I'm In / Sharon Flake
Thirteen-year-old Maleeka, uncomfortable because her skin is extremely dark, meets a new teacher with a birthmark on her face and makes some discoveries about how to love who she is and what she looks like.

Shooting Star / Fredrick Mckissack, Jr. 
Jomo Rogers, a naturally talented athlete, starts taking performance enhancing drugs in order to be an even better high school football player, but finds his life spinning out of control as his game improves.

Standing Against the Wind / Traci L. Jones
As she tries to escape her poor Chicago neighborhood by winning a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school, shy and studious eighth-grader Patrice discovers that she has more options in life than she previously realized.

Tyrell / Coe Booth
Fifteen-year-old Tyrell, who is living in a Bronx homeless shelter with his spaced-out mother and his younger brother, tries to avoid temptation so he does not end up in jail like his father.  Kendra is the sequel