Walker's Bookshelf

Black History Month Week 2: YA Titles

February is Black History Month. To celebrate, we are featuring books that are written by African American and black writers each week.
This week, we are highlighting young adult titles.


February is Black History Month. To celebrate, we are featuring books that are written by African American and black writers each week.
This week, we are highlighting young adult titles.

Who Put This Song On?
by Morgan Parker

Seventeen-year-old Morgan is struggling with depression, and her family just doesn’t understand. When she tells her doctor that it sucks being alive sometimes, he thinks it’s because she doesn’t have a boyfriend, and even though she’s in therapy following a failed suicide attempt, her mother thinks she just needs more Jesus. But when she meets David, he gets it. Within their new friend group, there is a traveling notebook where they record their thoughts, feelings, and affirmations for each other. In many ways, Parker’s debut models what introspective teens may go through when questioning the world around them. Through this  story based loosely on  her own life, she takes readers on  a journey of self-exploration, full of all the universal teenage angst and drama that surround school, identity, sex, rejection, and friendship. This  is all layered into Morgan’s coming-of-age realizations about her Blackness as she becomes interested in researching specific periods of her identity’s history, hoping to understand how it—and she—fits into present-day America. When, thanks to a terrible teacher, she makes a huge scene at school, her actions may seem familiar to readers. This  fresh read provides a positive and inclusive take on  mental health and wellness and offers readers some tools to survive on  their own. — Jessica Anne Bratt (Reviewed 9/1/2019) (Booklist, vol 116, number 1, p105)

by Akwaeke Emezi

The only world Jam has ever known is that of Lucille, a town where the angels have ostensibly banished the monsters and dismantled the structures that allowed monsters and monstrous deeds to pervade. Lucille is a post-prison, post–school shooting, post–police brutality society. A society where someone like Jam, a selectively mute transgender teen, can live with complete acceptance, support, and love. Still, she can feel the hard truths of the world, can sense them in the air, hear them in words unsaid. When Jam steals into her mother Bitter’s painting studio and unleashes Pet , a winged, horned, eyeless creature and monster hunter, from one of the paintings and into their world, life as she’s known it begins to dissolve. Jam must confront the harsh realities of her world as she tentatively partners with Pet  and ventures forward to avenge a wrong not yet discovered. This is a heart-stirring atmospheric page-turner, a terrific and terrible yet quiet adventure. Emezi spins a tale that defies categorization as strikingly as their characters, forcing readers to deeply rethink assumptions about identity, family structure, and justice. VERDICT A riveting and important read that couldn’t be more well timed to our society’s struggles with its own monsters.—Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, NJ –Jill Heritage Maza (Reviewed 07/01/2019) (School Library Journal, vol 65, issue 6, p49)

Children of Blood and Bone
by Tomi Adeyemi

Eleven years ago, King Saran cemented his grip on the throne by banishing magic from Orïsha and  slaughtering the realm’s maji—Zélie Adebola’s mother included. The maji’s descendants—dark-skinned, white-haired people called divîners—have lived under tyranny ever since, but now there is cause for hope. Thanks to information gleaned from Saran’s kindhearted daughter, Amari, 17-year-old Zélie has a chance to restore magic to Orïsha and  activate a new generation of  maji. First, though, Zélie, Amari, and  Zélie’s brother Tzain must outrun the crown prince, Inan, who is determined to finish what his father started by eradicating magic for good. Book one in the Orïsha Legacy trilogy, Adeyemi’s devastating debut is a brutal, beautiful tale of  revolution, faith, and  star-crossed love. By making tangible the power that comes from embracing one’s heritage, Adeyemi conjures a story that resonates with magic both literal and  figurative while condemning apathy in the face of  injustice. Complex characters, colossal stakes, and  a kaleidoscopic narrative captivate, and  the book’s punishing pace catapults readers to a jaw-dropping conclusion that poses as many questions as it answers. Ages 14–up. Agent: Alexandra Machinist and  Hillary Jacobson, ICM. (Mar.) –Staff (Reviewed 01/01/2018) (Publishers Weekly, vol 265, issue 01, p)

Watch Us Rise
by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan

This is a refreshingly unapologetic celebration of young women’s voices in a format that encompasses poetry, blog posts, essays, and prose. Best friends Jasmine and Chelsea intend to start junior year at their progressive, social-justice-focused high school on a high note in their respective clubs: for Jasmine, the August Wilson Acting Ensemble and for Chelsea, the Peaceful Poets. When both are (ironically) met with resistance to new, more inclusive ideas, they decide to leave their clubs and form a new one focused on elevating women’s voices, especially those of activists and people of color. When their blog, Write Like a Girl, goes viral, the school’s administration attempts to shut them down. Watson and Hagan keep Jasmine and Chelsea’s voices distinct and allow them to resound with authenticity. Despite facing very real hardships like fat-shaming, sexism, and loss of a parent, Jasmine and Chelsea are steadfast in their convictions and relentlessly supportive of both each other and their own emotions. Readers won’t be able to help feeling empowered and uplifted by the end of the novel. — Caitlin Kling (Reviewed 4/19/2019) (Booklist, vol 115, number 16)