Books to Educate and Inform

We are sharing this list of resources with our community to educate and inform about systemic racism in our country. All of these books are part of the holdings of the Harding Academy library, and you are welcome to check them out at any time. We can also direct you to other titles that are not listed here.

We know that in recommending to our community, we are entrusted with making sure parents know what is in the books we recommend. So we have added more than a bibliographic entry and have attempted to provide valuable information about each book.

Books to Read to Children

Title: ColorFull: Celebrating the Colors God Gave Us
Author: Dorena Williamson
Date: 2018
ISBN: 978-1-4627-7764-8
Category: Children’s Book

Why you should read this book: Friends Imani and Kayla learn about the beauty in the many different colors God created, including their skin tones. Rather than teaching colorblindness, this book encourages children to see the beauty in the diversity of God’s creations.

Title: God Made Me and You: Celebrating God’s Design for Ethnic Diversity
Author: Shai Linne
Date: 2018
ISBN: 978-1-9481-3013-4
Category: Children’s Book

Why you should read this book: This book helps teach young children about the beauty of diversity in the world God created while also stressing the unity we share as God’s creations.

Title: Not Quite Snow White
Author: Ashley Franklin 
Date: 2019
ISBN: 978-0-0627-9860-2
Category: Children’s Book

Why you should read this book: Tameika is a young girl who loves to perform on the stage. But when her school announces a production of Snow White, she overhears other kids talking and worries about whether she looks right for the part. In the end, the book tells the story of self-worth and body positivity with an encouragement for overcoming discrimination.

Title: Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Author: Doreen Rappaport 
Date: 2007
ISBN: 978-1-4231-0635-7
Category: Children’s Book

Why you should read this book: This illustrated book helps introduce children to the story of Martin Luther King, Jr. This is a great book to start discussions about one of the more influential people of the last century.

Title: The Name Jar
Author: Yangsook Choi
Date: 2003
ISBN: 978-0-4404-1799-6
Category: Children’s Book

Why you should read this book: In this story, young Unhei struggles to choose an “American” name to go by at her new school. However, by the end of the story, her classmates come to realize the meaning and importance of her Korean name, and they fully encourage and support her using it rather than adopting one that sounds like theirs.

Title: Antiracist Baby
Author: Ibram X. Kendi
Date: 2020
ISBN: 978-0-5931-1050-8
Category: Children’s Book

Why you should read this book: Kendi’s picture book for young children is a nice, short read-aloud. However, it’s true value is in the last two pages which provide suggestions and guidance for having conversations about racism and antiracism with your child.

Title: Juneteenth for Mazie
Author: Floyd Cooper
Date: 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4795-5820-9
Category: Children’s Book

Why you should read this book: In this story, Mazie remembers Juneteenth as she prepares to celebrate. It is a great choice to introduce or remind children about Juneteenth.

Books for Middle School and Young Adult Readers

Title: Ghost Boys
Author: Jewel Parker Rhodes
Date: 2018
ISBN: 978-0-316-26228-6
Category: Middle grade fiction
Intended Audience: Middle Grade and up
Language Warning: N/A

Why you should read this book: Written by best-selling author and educator Jewel Parker Rhodes, Ghost Boys discusses the pervasive and evil killings of Black men and boys at the hands of the police. This novel deals with police brutality and injustice in a way that allows younger readers to enter the discussion. Author Nikki Grimes states that “by exploring the fear that is at the core of these murders, Jewel Parker Rhodes suggests ways the living can crack that fear and, eventually, end this epidemic of death.”

Title: A Good Kind of Trouble
Author: Lisa Moore Ramée
Date: 2019
ISBN: 978-0-06-283668-7
Category: Middle grade fiction
Intended Audience: Middle grade and up
Language Warning: One instance of offensive language

Why you should read this book: The first novel by author Lisa Moore Ramée, A Good Kind of Trouble teaches children the power in standing up for what is right. We follow the life of middle school student, Shayla, as she learns to stand up for what she believes in. This book allows children to think about what it means to protest and to find a voice. It also touches on the tricky subject that just because someone is older than you and in a position of authority does not mean that they are always right.

Title: New Kid
Author: Jerry Craft
Date: 2019
ISBN: 978-0-06-269119-4
Category: Middle Grade Fiction (Graphic Novel)
Intended Audience: Middle Grade / Middle School and up
Language Warning: N/A

Why you should read this book: Winner of the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award, New Kid is a delightful, compelling, and powerful graphic novel. It chronicles the journey of seventh grader Jordan Banks as he transitions to a new school. As a new student and as one of the only Black students at his new school, he navigates a variety of experiences ranging from silly to the very serious. This book tackles topics such as racism, elitism, and microaggression in a way that is approachable and understandable to a younger reader.

Title: The Skin I’m In
Author: Sharon G. Flake
Date: 1998
ISBN: 978-136801943-9
Category: Middle School / Young Adult Fiction
Intended Audience: Middle School / Young Adult
Language Warning: N/A

Why you should read this book: Winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, The Skin I’m In follows the story of Maleeka, a student who is harassed daily—sometimes because of her good grades or her homemade clothes, but often because of her dark skin. Throughout the story we watch her grow in self-acceptance as she realizes her beauty and her courage. Author Renée Watson says that “Maleeka’s story will resonate with girls today who are finding their voice and speaking up—girls who have the courage to love themselves just the way they are.”

Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Date: 2017
ISBN: 978-0-06-24853-3
Category: Young Adult (YA) Fiction
Intended Audience: Young adult
Language Warning: Extensive use of language including the F word and the N word

Why you should read this book: The Hate U Give, a William C. Morris Award winner and Coretta Scott King Honor book, tells the powerful story of Starr Carter—a Black teenage girl who witnesses her friend, Khalil, be shot and killed by a white policeman. As the sole witness to the killing, every aspect of Starr’s life is affected. Among the myriad of trials she must face, she is also tasked with deciding how to stand up for her beliefs, her rights, and for Khalil. Acclaimed author Jason Reynolds states,“As we continue to fight the battle against police brutality and systemic racism in America, The Hate U Give serves as a much needed literary ramrod.”

Books for Older Students and Adults

Title: The Cross and the Lynching Tree
Author: Dr. James H. Cone
Date: 2011
ISBN: 978-1-62698-005-1
Category: African American History, Theology
Intended Audience: Adult
Language Warning: This book discusses lynchings, often in detail; therefore, some graphic descriptions, as well as use of racial slurs from quoted historical actors are present.

Why you should read this book: James H. Cone was the founder of Black Liberation Theology which aims to reconcile the Gospel with the lives and experiences of African Americans. In one of his final published works, Cone highlights the history of African Americans through what he terms the “lynching period,” the early 20th century. In the series of essays, he compares and contrasts how Christianity has been framed by the white and Black communities during that period, specifically comparing the innocent suffering of Christ on the cross with the innocent death of African Americans at the hands of white lynchers. It provides an excellent starting point for anyone hoping to understand how such startlingly different viewpoints of our country can exist. Furthermore, it deeply questions the call of the Gospel in our current context, and what the church should be devoting itself towards.

Title: Letters to a Birmingham Jail: A Response to the Words and Dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
Author: Dr. Bryan Loritts (ed.)
Date: 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8024-1196-9
Category: Religion, Social Justice
Intended Audience: Adult
Language Warning: none

Why you should read this book: This compilation of essays organized by Bryan Loritts, formerly the pastor at Fellowship Memphis, reflects on King’s seminal letter responding to white, moderate clergy telling him to be patient during the Birmingham campaign. Although each entry in the collection tells a different story, many of which focus upon the city of Memphis, there are two common threads that link them. First, it is the duty of the church to build multi-ethnic churches and communities. Secondly, the time for action is now, and it is imperative that this work commences at high speed with significant intentionality. Each author brings a unique perspective from different churches at different phases of attempting to become multiethnic, and the work provides valuable insight for individuals or churches attempting to make progress in that journey.

Title: The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity
Author: Dr. Soong-Chan Rah
Date: 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8308-3360-3
Category: Evangelicalism, history
Intended Audience: Adult
Language Warning: none

Why you should read this book: In his book, Soong-Chan Rah examines mostly white Evangelical churches and how their past practices have diluted the impact of the Gospel and their potential for growth by giving in to American individualism and consumerism. Throughout the book, Rah encourages the average white churchgoer to reconsider some basic assumptions while also explaining why diverse churches are experiencing large growth. The key is for largely white congregations to learn lessons from African American and migrant church traditions, to see how consumerism and individualism have truly skewed the role of the church in the United States. This is a thought-provoking read for anyone trying to understand how Christians can view our present moment in such vastly different ways.

Title: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Era of Colorblindness
Author: Michelle Alexander
Date: 2010
ISBN: 978-1-62698-005-1
Category: criminal justice, racial discrimination
Intended Audience: Adult
Language Warning: The book discusses stories of racial discrimination by police and corrections officers; therefore, it includes some graphic descriptions as well as use of racial slurs from quoted historical actors.

Why you should read this book: In this groundbreaking secular work, longtime civil rights litigator Michelle Alexander argues that the criminal justice system in the United States has become a new form of the Jim Crow society prevalent in the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries. Marshalling large amounts of data as well as stories from her litigating experience, she tells a powerful story about how this system was created and how it continues to create disadvantages for the African American community. This is an excellent book for anyone beginning an investigation into how this pipeline was created, and how it continues to create inequities today.

Title: Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?
Author: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
Date: 1968
ISBN: 978-0-8070-0067-0
Category: African American history, Civil Rights
Intended Audience: Adult
Language Warning: Originally published in 1968, King utilizes some racial terminology that would be considered offensive today.

Why you should read this book: In his classic work, King responds to the aggressiveness of the Black Power movement. King tries to chart a course for how the Black freedom struggle should respond. In 1968, shortly before his assassination, the Civil Rights Act outlawing legal segregation, and the Voting Rights Act, aggressively protecting the right to vote, had already been passed. However, many were still concerted about inequities that remained between the white and Black communities in housing, employment, and education. As many of his contemporaries were beginning to advocate for how to address these issues, Dr. King again offered a vision of the way forward guided by his Christian theology.

Title: Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance
Author: Barack Obama
Date: 1995
ISBN: 1-4000-8277-3
Category: Biography, Personal Memoir
Intended Audience: Adult
Language Warning: It contains some strong and offensive language, including the F word and the N word and other racial slurs.

Why you should read this book: Written well before the presidency, in this book, Barack Obama shares part of his life. In the introduction, he describes it as “a record of a personal, interior journey—a boy’s search for his father, and through that search a workable meaning for his life as a black American.” He sees the variety of stories that surround being Black in America, and hopes that his, as just one and not representative of the whole, will allow him to “embrace” and “affirm a common destiny without pretending to speak to, or for, all our various struggles.” In a very intimate book that deals with such issues as belonging and identity, the reader is allowed a special view into the life of the man who would later become our 44th president.