The best books empowering youth to speak up against hatred, bigotry, and injustice

The Books I Picked & Why

Dear Mr. Dickens

By Nancy Churnin, Bethany Stancliffe

Book cover of Dear Mr. Dickens

Why this book?

Nancy Churnin shares the incredible story of the famous author, Charles Dickens, and Eliza Davis, the brave woman who wrote to Dickens to express her disappointment for his antisemitic portrayal of a Jewish man in Oliver Twist. Her letter had a profound impact on Dickens. In his next book, he included a wonderful Jewish character, making Eliza proud and grateful. I love how this book shows an ordinary person’s positive impact on a literary legend.

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This Is My America

By Kim Johnson

Book cover of This Is My America

Why this book?

When Tracy Beaumont’s father is convicted for a murder he didn’t commit, she refuses to accept the verdict. Her unwavering determination to fight the long-standing racism in her small town shows the depth of its hateful history and its horrific impact on her father and family. This unforgettable, heartbreaking, and hopeful novel provides a mirror and window into the courage needed to fight against injustice.

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The House in the Cerulean Sea

By TJ Klune

Book cover of The House in the Cerulean Sea

Why this book?

As a caseworker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, Linus Baker is summoned by Extremely Upper Management to determine the future of six unique and potentially dangerous youth kept at an orphanage on Marsays Island. This novel is one of the most creative, imaginative books that addresses the impact of prejudice. TJ Klune draws readers into the magic spun by his brilliant storytelling. Respect, acceptance, and tolerance are major themes, and it’s a perfect book to celebrate diversity and individual differences.

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American Betiya

By Anuradha D. Rajurkar

Book cover of American Betiya

Why this book?

When Rani Kelkar secretly dates the tattooed, charismatic, artistic Oliver—her mother’s worst nightmare—cultures collide. This exquisitely written novel explores appropriation, identity, and self-respect. Bigotry can show its ugly head in micro-aggressions and Anuradha Rajurkar does a phenomenal job illuminating this form of hatred. An eye-opening and thought-provoking novel, readers will recognize that sometimes speaking up for oneself is one of the most important ways to fight against bigotry, hatred, and injustice.

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Turtle Boy

By M. Evan Wolkenstein

Book cover of Turtle Boy

Why this book?

Seventh-grader, Will Levine, has a condition that causes his chin to shrink during puberty. Bullied at school, kids call him Turtle Boy. The nickname is a double entendre since Will also loves turtles. As he prepares for his bar mitzvah, copes with the death of his father, and navigates a friendship with a terminally ill boy, Will also finds himself in a battle to preserve a marsh filled with endangered turtles. Will has to come out of his shell to prevent developers from destroying this environment. This book will inspire readers to speak up against injustices.

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