This list of Read in Color recommended reads explores themes of antiracism and inclusion. These titles are recommended by Little Free Library’s Diverse Books Advisory Group and others. The list of books includes options for early readers, middle and YA readers, and adults and advanced readers.
View all of the Read in Color Recommended Reading lists. These lists are far from exhaustive, but they offer a starting point for exploring different perspectives. We recognize that categorizing books can be limiting and are working to show the intersectionality within our reading lists.
Antiracism + Inclusion (Early Readers)
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All Are Welcome
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman (44 pp, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2018). Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where students from all backgrounds learn from and celebrate each other’s traditions. A school that shows the world as we will make it to be. Ages 4 – 8.
Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky (32 pp, Kokila, 2020). With bold art and thoughtful yet playful text, Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism. Providing the language necessary to begin critical conversations at the earliest age, Antiracist Baby is the perfect gift for readers of all ages dedicated to forming a just society. Ages 2 – 3.
I Am Human
I Am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (32 pp, Harry N. Abrams, 2018). I Am Human affirms that we can make good choices by acting with compassion and having empathy for others and ourselves. When we find common ground, we can feel connected to the great world around us and mindfully strive to be our best selves. Ages 4 – 8.
I Promise by LeBron James, illustrated by Nina Mata (40 pp, Harper Collins, 2020). Just a kid from Akron, Ohio, who is dedicated to uplifting youth everywhere, LeBron James knows the key to a better future is to excel in school, do your best, and keep your family close. I Promise is a lively and inspiring picture book that reminds us that tomorrow’s success starts with the promises we make to ourselves and our community today. Ages 4 – 8.
IntersectionAllies: We Make Room for All
IntersectionAllies: We Make Room for All by Chelsea Johnson, LaToya Council, and Carolyn Choi; illustrations by Ashley Seil Smith (56 pp, Dottir Press, 2019). The brainchild of three women-of-color sociologists, IntersectionAllies is a smooth, gleeful entry into intersectional feminism. The nine interconnected characters proudly describe themselves and their backgrounds, involving topics that range from a physical disability to language brokering, offering an opportunity to take pride in a personal story and connect to collective struggle for justice. Ages 6 – 12.
Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You
Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael López (32 pp, Philomel Books, 2019). Feeling different, especially as a kid, can be tough. But in the same way that different types of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and enjoyable, different types of people make our world more vibrant and wonderful. In Just Ask, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrates the different abilities kids (and people of all ages) have. Ages 4 – 8.
A Kid's Book About Racism
A Kid’s Book About Racism by Jelani Memory (A Kid’s Book About, 2019). Yes, this really is a kids book about racism. Inside, you’ll find a clear description of what racism is, how it makes people feel when they experience it, and how to spot it when it happens. This is one conversation that’s never too early to start, and this book was written to be an introduction for kids on the topic. Ages 5 – 9.
Last Stop on Market Street
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson (32 pp, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2015). Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them. Ages 3 – 5.
Love by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Loren Long (40 pp, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2018). In this heartfelt celebration of love, Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age. Ages 4 – 8.
Milo Imagines the World
Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson (40 pp, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2021). Milo is on a long subway ride with his older sister. To pass the time, he studies the faces around him and makes pictures of their lives. There’s the whiskered man with the crossword puzzle; Milo imagines him playing solitaire in a cluttered apartment full of pets. There’s the wedding-dressed woman with a little dog peeking out of her handbag; Milo imagines her in a grand cathedral ceremony. And then there’s the boy in the suit with the bright white sneakers; Milo imagines him arriving home to a castle with a drawbridge and a butler. But when the boy in the suit gets off on the same stop as Milo–walking the same path, going to the exact same place–Milo realizes that you can’t really know anyone just by looking at them. Ages 4 – 8.
Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Anitracism, and You
Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Anitracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, adapted by Sonja Cherry-Paul, illustrated by Rochelle Baker (176 pp, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2021). Adapted from the groundbreaking bestseller Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, this book takes readers on a journey from present to past and back again. Kids will discover where racist ideas came from, identify how they impact America today, and meet those who have fought racism with antiracism. Along the way, they’ll learn how to identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their own lives. Ages 6 – 10.
A Place Inside of Me
A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Noa Denmon (176 pp, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2021). In this powerful, affirming poem by award-winning author Zetta Elliott, a Black child explores his shifting emotions throughout the year. Summertime is filled with joy―skateboarding and playing basketball―until his community is deeply wounded by a police shooting. As fall turns to winter and then spring, fear grows into anger, then pride and peace. Ages 4 – 8.
Woke Baby by Mahogany L. Brown, illustrated byTheodore Taylor III (22 pp, Roaring Brook Press, 2018). Woke babies are up early. Woke babies raise their fists in the air. Woke babies cry out for justice. Woke babies grow up to change the world. This lyrical and empowering book is both a celebration of what it means to be a baby and what it means to be woke. Baby – 3.
Your Name Is a Song
Your Name Is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Luisa Uribe (40 pp, The Innovation Press, 2020). Frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronouncing her beautiful name, a little girl tells her mother she never wants to come back to school. In response, the girl’s mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names on their lyrical walk home through the city. Ages 5 – 10.
Antiracism + Inclusion (Middle Readers)
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All American Boys
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (336 pp, Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2017). A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter. There were witnesses. Soon the beating is all over the news. In this novel, two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension. Ages 12 and up.
Everything Sad Is Untrue
Everything Sad Is Untrue (a true story) by Daniel Nayeri (368 pp, Levine querido, 2020). A sprawling, evocative, and groundbreaking autobiographical novel told in the unforgettable and hilarious voice of a young Iranian refugee. In an Oklahoman middle school, Khosrou (whom everyone calls Daniel) stands in front of a skeptical audience of classmates, telling the tales of his family’s history, stretching back years, decades, and centuries. At the core is Daniel’s story of how they became refugees. Ages 12 and up.
Fresh Ink by Lamar Giles (224 pp, Crown Books for Young Readers, 2019). Thirteen of the most accomplished YA authors deliver a label-defying anthology that includes ten short stories, a graphic novel, and a one-act play from Walter Dean Myers never before in-print. This collection addresses topics like gentrification, acceptance, untimely death, coming out, and poverty and ranges in genre from contemporary realistic fiction to adventure and romance. Ages 12 – 17.
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson (192 pp, Puffin Books, 2020). It all starts when six kids have to meet for a weekly chat–by themselves, with no adults to listen in. There, in the room they soon dub the ARTT Room (short for “A Room to Talk”), they discover it’s safe to talk about what’s bothering them. When the six are together, they can express the feelings and fears they have to hide from the rest of the world. And together, they can grow braver and more ready for the rest of their lives. Ages 10 – 13.
I Was Their American Dream
I Was Their American Dream by Malaka Gharib (160 pp, Clarkson Potter, 2019). Malaka Gharib’s triumphant graphic memoir brings to life her teenage antics and illuminates earnest questions about identity and culture, while providing thoughtful insight into the lives of modern immigrants and the generation of millennial children they raised. Malaka’s story is a heartfelt tribute to the American immigrants who have invested their future in the promise of the American dream. Ages 12 and up.
Not Your All-American Girl
Not Your All-American Girl by Wendy Wan-Long and Madelyn Rosenberg (256 pp, Scholastic Press, 2020). Lauren and her best friend, Tara, have always done absolutely everything together, including the sixth grade school play. But when the show is cast, Lauren lands in the ensemble, while Tara scores the lead role. Their teacher explains: Lauren just doesn’t look the part of the all-American girl. What audience would believe that she, half-Jewish, half-Chinese Lauren, was the everygirl star from Pleasant Valley, USA? Ages 8 – 12.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi (320 pp, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020). The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. Ages 12 and up.
The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love & Truth
The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love & Truth by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson (160 pp, Crown Books for Young Readers, 2020). As long as racist ideas persist, families will continue to have the difficult and necessary conversations with their young ones on the subject. In this inspiring collection, literary all-stars such engage young people in frank conversations about race, identity, and self-esteem. Ages 10 – 16.
This Book Is Anti-Racist
This Book Is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell (160 pp, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020). Who are you? What is racism? Where does it come from? Why does it exist? What can you do to disrupt it? Learn about social identities, the history of racism and resistance against it, and how you can use your anti-racist lens and voice to move the world toward equity and liberation. Ages 11 – 15.
We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices
We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson (96 pp, Yearling, 2019). What do we tell our children when the world seems bleak, and prejudice and racism run rampant? With 96 lavishly designed pages of original art and prose, fifty diverse creators lend voice to young activists. Featuring poems, letters, personal essays, and art, this anthology empowers the nation’s youth to listen, learn, and build a better tomorrow. Ages 8 – 12.
What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado (144 pp, Yearling, 2019). Anything his friends can do, Stephen should be able to do too, right? So when they dare each other to sneak into an abandoned building, he doesn’t think it’s his lane, but he goes. Here’s the thing, though: Can he do everything his friends can? Lately, he’s not so sure. As a mixed kid, he feels like he’s living in two worlds with different rules—and he’s been noticing that strangers treat him differently than his white friends. Ages 10 and up.
Woke: A Young Poet's Call to Justice
Woke: A Young Poet’s Guide to Justice by Mahogany L. Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo, et al. (224 pp, Roaring Brook Press, 2020). Woke: A Young Poet’s Guide to Justice is a collection of poems to inspire kids to stay woke and become a new generation of activists. Historically poets have been on the forefront of social movements. Woke is a collection of poems by women that reflects the joy and passion in the fight for social justice, tackling topics from discrimination to empathy, and acceptance to speaking out. Ages 12 – 17.
You Should See Me in a Crown
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (336 pp, Scholastic, 2020). Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay—Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor. But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down … until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington. The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams … or make them come true? Ages 12-18.
Antiracism + Inclusion (Adult Readers)
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Caste by Isabel Wilkerson (496 pp, Random House, 2020). In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings. Beyond race, class, or other factors, this powerful caste system influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate.
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein (368 pp, Liveright, 2018). Exploding the myth of de facto segregation arising from private prejudice or the unintended consequences of economic forces, Rothstein describes how the American government systematically imposed residential segregation, with undisguised racial zoning, public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities, and more.
A Good Time for Truth
A Good Time for Truth by Sun Yung Shin (240 pp, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2019). In this provocative book, sixteen of Minnesota’s best writers provide a range of perspectives on what it is like to live as a person of color in Minnesota. They give readers a splendid gift: the gift of touching another human being’s inner reality, behind masks and veils and politeness. They bring us generously into experiences that we must understand if we are to come together in real relationships.
Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall (288 pp, Penguin Books, 2021). Today’s feminist movement has a glaring blind spot, and paradoxically, it is women. Mainstream feminists rarely talk about meeting basic needs as a feminist issue, argues Mikki Kendall, but food insecurity, access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care are all feminist issues. All too often, however, the focus is not on basic survival for the many, but on increasing privilege for the few. That feminists refuse to prioritize these issues has only exacerbated the age-old problem of both internecine discord and women who rebuff at carrying the title. Moreover, prominent white feminists broadly suffer from their own myopia with regard to how things like race, class, sexual orientation, and ability intersect with gender. How can we stand in solidarity as a movement, Kendall asks, when there is the distinct likelihood that some women are oppressing others?
How to Be an Antiracist
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (624 pp, Random House, 2020). Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism—and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas—from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilities.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (368 pp, One World, 2015). Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.
Just Us by Claudia Rankine (352 pp, Graywolf Press, 2020). As everyday white supremacy becomes increasingly vocalized with no clear answers at hand, how best might we approach one another? Claudia Rankine, without telling us what to do, urges us to begin the discussions that might open pathways through this divisive and stuck moment in American history.
Me and White Supremacy
Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad (256 pp, Sourcebooks, 2020). This eye-opening book challenges you to do the essential work of unpacking your biases, and helps white people take action and dismantle the privilege within themselves so that you can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too.
The New Jim Crow
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (352 pp, The New Press, 2020). Seldom does a book have the impact of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. It has spawned a whole generation of criminal justice reform activists and organizations motivated by Michelle Alexander’s unforgettable argument that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”
So You Want to Talk about Race
So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo (272 pp, Seal Press, 2019). In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to “model minorities” in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.
Stamped from the Beginning
Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi (608 pp, Bold Type Books, 2017). The National Book Award winning history of how racist ideas were created, spread, and deeply rooted in American society. Some Americans insist that we’re living in a post-racial society. But racist thought is not just alive and well in America–it is more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues, racist ideas have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit.
The Sum of Us
The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee (448 pp, One World, 2021). Heather McGhee’s specialty is the American economy—and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a common root problem: racism. But not just in the most obvious indignities for people of color. Racism has costs for white people, too. It is the common denominator of our most vexing public problems, the core dysfunction of our democracy and constitutive of the spiritual and moral crises that grip us all. But how did this happen? And is there a way out?
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum (464 pp, Basic Books, 2017). Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see Black, White, and Latino youth clustered in their own groups. Is this self-segregation a problem to address or a coping strategy? Beverly Daniel Tatum, a renowned authority on the psychology of racism, argues that straight talk about our racial identities is essential if we are serious about enabling communication across racial and ethnic divides