Adolescence hits different when you’re a Black kid. Today’s YA authors are going into the nuances of growing up while Black in different countries, neighborhoods, family structures, and body types. They are inventing characters that speak to the unique challenges our children are facing today, and could be facing tomorrow.
Scribes are embracing mystical traditions by tapping into ancestral knowledge to create fantasy work that highlights our history. They are allowing kids to escape through engaging storylines that provoke interest in their own cultures and those of nations across the diaspora.
They are also grounding their works in relatable mundane experiences by using a variety of settings that include back tables at open mic nights, the trails of clandestine forests, behind the other side of a Youtuber’s ring light, and the common rooms of physical rehabilitation centers.
African woman working at her own bookstore
The stories they are telling include conflicted influencers, soulless real estate developers, disabled bodies, deceased parents, overpacked schedules, family obligations and race related climate change struggles. There are elder siblings fighting to set an example, athletes fighting to become effective leaders, young activists looking to prevent erasure, and lovestruck girls working their way to learning the lesson that who they are is enough.
Every plot point does not center around stealing a standardized test so they can get into an Ivy or finding a perfect prom date for a picture they’ll forget about in five years. These characters are finding themselves by connecting to authentic experiences that are occurring everyday in neighborhoods across the country. The characters find out what happens when you try your best and still lose, or you’re faced with a friend whose suddenly has more clout than you know how to handle.
These books dispense wisdom by tapping into the moments that take place between the big games or the annual recitals and they’re better for it.
See 15 YA novels you should pass on to the teen in your life below.
Feminist AF: A Guide to Crushing Girlhood – Brittney Cooper, Chanel Craft Tanner, and Susana M. Morris Overview
This manual to mastering girlhood helps young girls, parents, and guardians of teens and tweens figure out how to handle issues that are unique to growing up Black.