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Suggested Summer Reading Guide 2021: Suggested books

Suggested summer reading guide: Recommended books


This list includes fiction, graphic novels and memoirs. Most of them center around social justice and the value of the rich variety of cultures in the world. Read one or read ten! They are all amazing, and I think everyone will find at least one book they will enjoy here. Happy reading!

--Mrs. Hanson


Cover of Almost American Girl title in white type against blue background with illustration of girl with ponytail holding a sketchbookAlmost American Girl by Robin Ha
Graphic novel memoir
Grades 9-12.  Ebook available on SORA.

A teen graphic novel memoir about a Korean-born, non-English-speaking girl who is abruptly transplanted from Seoul to Huntsville, Alabama, and struggles with extreme culture shock and isolation, until she discovers her passion for comic arts. (from the publisher)



cover of Apple, a cartoon drawing of an apple with a spiraled peel against a gray blue background it's really quite attractiveApple: Skin to the Core by Eric Gansworth
Memoir in verse
Grades 9-12. E and audiobook available on SORA.

Originally conceived as a series of paintings, this ambitious memoir in verse by Gansworth (Give Me Some Truth), an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation, explores intersectional identities alongside matters of generational and personal experience, erasure, and memory: “So much of my culture feels on the verge of vanishing. I wonder what part of that I’m contributing to with my own lack of knowledge.” Gansworth first describes his family’s history, beginning with his grandfather’s time in Native American boarding schools, where “you are being taught systematically to forget so that you will have nothing left to pass on to your children.” Subsequent sections detail variations on feeling like an outsider: Onondaga Gansworth’s childhood on a Tuscarora reservation, the way his early interest in art and pop culture (Batman, the Beatles) made him stand out among his peers, and his adulthood as a gay man after leaving the reservation. Phrases and concepts circle and repeat throughout—“apple,” for example, appears both as a pejorative (“red on the outside, white on the inside”) and in reference to the Beatles’ Apple Records, after which the work is structured—creating a raw, layered story about love and loss of community, culture, and place. Family photos, black-and-white reproductions of the author’s paintings, and project “liner notes” round out the telling. (Publisher’s Weekly)


a drawing of Malcolm X, the title of the book in blue in an energetic font against a beige backgroundThe Awakening of Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz with Tiffany D. Jackson
Historical fiction
Grades 9-12.  Ebook and audiobook available on SORA.

The Awakening of Malcolm X is a powerful narrative account of the activist's adolescent years in jail, written by his daughter Ilyasah Shabazz along with 2019 Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe award-winning author, Tiffany D. Jackson.



New york city skyline with a big bridge over it. The title is written in yellow type. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
Science fiction
Grades 11-12. Ebook and audiobook available on SORA.

Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city. Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She's got five. But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all. (From the publisher)


bright yellow background, fingerprint, title font looks handwrittenDear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas
Grades 9-12. Ebook and audiobook available on SORA.

Here's another book every American should read. Not because it will cause us all to be of one mind concerning immigration but because it will give us all a starting point for civil discourse. It is the story of one real person behind the statistics. Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who discovered he was undocumented when he went to apply for a driver's license at age 16. Originally from the Philippines, Vargas has lived in the U.S. for 25 years. He's now 37 and hasn't seen his mother since she put him on a plane when he was 12. His story is one of incredible resilience and bravery and also lying and homelessness (as in having no country he can call home). I feel called to become more educated about immigration and to become part of the solution to our current struggles. (Shirley Freeman, Goodreads)


graphic of a gray butterfly against a black background with the title Ordinary Hazards in green typeOrdinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes
Memoir in verse
Grades 10-12. Ebook and audiobook available on SORA.

Growing up with a mother suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and a mostly absent father, acclaimed children's and young adult poet Nikki Grimes found herself terrorized by babysitters, shunted from foster family to foster family, and preyed upon by those she trusted. At the age of six, she poured her pain onto a piece of paper late one night—and discovered the magic and impact of writing. For many years, Nikki's notebooks were her most enduring companions. In this memoir, Nikki shows how the power of those words helped her conquer the hazards—ordinary and extraordinary—of her life. (publisher)


Red background, boy superimposed in with an aura of a halo around his bodyPatron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
Grades 9-12. Ebook and audiobook available on SORA.

A coming-of-age story about grief, guilt, and the risks a Filipino-American teenager takes to uncover the truth about his cousin's murder.

Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte's war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story.


white background and a rainbow text of the title, speak okinawaSpeak, Okinawa by Elizabeth Miki Brina
Grade 12

A searing, deeply candid memoir for mature readers about a young woman's journey to understanding her complicated parents--her mother an Okinawan war bride, her father a Vietnam veteran--and her own, fraught cultural heritage. Decades later, Elizabeth comes to recognize the shame and self-loathing that haunt both her and her mother, and attempts a form of reconciliation, not only to come to terms with the embattled dynamics of her family but also to reckon with the injustices that reverberate throughout the history of Okinawa and its people. (from the publisher)


Blue background enlarged photo of fist with pink nail polish , title in white typeThe Resisters by Gish Jen
Science fiction
Grades 11-12. Ebook and audiobook available on SORA.

In the near future, the Internet is sentient and her name is Aunt Nettie. Gish Jen’s novel “The Resisters” imagines a dystopian world with two classes: the “netted” (people who work) and the “surplus” (people who merely consume). The book follows Gwen, a terrific baseball pitcher from a surplus family that’s politically active. When her pitching attracts the attention of Aunt Nettie, she must choose between realizing her talents or staying with her family and being a resister. (New York Radio Hour)


Small group of teenagers against the side of a shed. The title in black type. We are not Free by Traci Chee
Historical fiction
Grades 9-12 

The collective account of a tight-knit group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose lives are irrevocably changed by the mass U.S. incarcerations of World War II. (from the publisher)

**Available on SORA. Book discussion on August 12 at 7pm.


rainbow on a card that a girl is holding with the title of the book when they call you a terrorist written on it.When They Call You a Terrorist (Young Adult edition): A Story of Black Lives Matter and the Power to Change the World by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
Grades 9-12. Ebook and audiobook available on SORA.

“This is a powerful memoir. Cullors speaks on mass incarceration, poverty, police brutality, neglected mental health and other moments from her childhood that has shaped the activist that she is today. She chose not to give up in the struggle which ultimately lead to the #BlackLivesMatter formation. Many times throughout the book I experienced heartbreak and anger when reading about the constant injustices faced by her, her community and Black & brown communities all over the U.S. We must continue to fight the struggle. A must-read for ALL.” (Celine, Goodreads)