Book List

Best YA Nonfiction of 2018

Revealing our racialized past and arguing that we must refashion our nation in pursuit of a new, beloved, and just society.

WE ARE NOT YET EQUAL

UNDERSTANDING OUR RACIAL DIVIDE

“It is time to rethink America.”

Adapted from Anderson’s bestselling White Rage (2016), this book summons young people to bear witness to the devastatingly expansive strategies white citizens have taken up to preserve the racialized violence that emerged from the founding of the nation. What is white rage? White rage works “subtly, almost imperceptibly” in American halls of power, utilizing an array of policy assaults, legal contortions, and physical violence to punish black resolve and block efforts toward full and equal citizenship. Anderson writes in an accessible narrative form, showing young people through pivotal historical events the ways in which white rage has been able to effectively undermine black-led social movements for equality and justice. It begins with the rise of the 19th-century Black Codes and the emergence of Jim Crow during the betrayal of Reconstruction. It continues into the Great Migration, when many black families chose to move North for opportunities and were met with extreme racist violence from white hate groups. The text carries us up to the current president and is enhanced by archival photographs. In her foreword, celebrated young adult author Nic Stone (Odd One Out, 2018, etc.) reminds us that it’s not just about exposing the roots of American racism, but what we do about it now.

Revealing our racialized past and arguing that we must refashion our nation in pursuit of a new, beloved, and just society. (discussion guide, sources, resources, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0076-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

Insightful and clever, at times infuriating and disheartening, this serves as a reminder that the hardships women face today...

BRAZEN

REBEL LADIES WHO ROCKED THE WORLD

This French graphic novel offers a satisfying collection of minibiographies about bold women—some contemporary, others from centuries ago—who overcame fearsome odds to achieve a variety of goals, becoming the first black woman in space, a rapper in Afghanistan, a pioneering volcanologist, and more.

The lives of 33 women of varying geographical, ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds are highlighted in about 10 pages each of colorful, expressive, and often humorous cartoon panels—enough to serve as a catalyst for learning more. Some names are relatively recognizable, such as Temple Grandin and Nellie Bly, while others may be less so, such as Las Mariposas, Dominican sisters who became revolutionaries and human rights activists; Naziq al-Abid, a Syrian humanitarian and feminist; Agnodice, a fourth-century B.C.E. Athenian who disguised herself as a man in order to practice gynecology; and Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian social worker who escaped an abusive marriage and assisted other female survivors of violence. Bagieu delivers a pièce de résistance that succinctly summarizes the obstacles and victories of these daring women.

Insightful and clever, at times infuriating and disheartening, this serves as a reminder that the hardships women face today have been shared—and overcome—by many others. (Graphic collective biography. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62672-868-4

Page Count: 306

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

A chilling look at a time when the government waged war on civil liberties, with the public a complicit ally.

BLACKLISTED!

HOLLYWOOD, THE COLD WAR, AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT

Brimner brings to life a shameful episode in American history when citizens working in the film industry were accused of disloyalty and subversion and persecuted for defending their First Amendment rights.

In 1947, tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States were at an all-time high. The House Committee on Un-American Activities, which included members with ties to the KKK, called Hollywood actors, directors, producers, and screenwriters to answer accusations that they were Communists. Ten who appeared refused to answer questions, citing their Constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly. The “Hollywood Ten” were afterward denied work by all Hollywood studios. Brimner vividly chronicles the hearings and their fallout, braiding stories of individuals into the overall narrative. Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo worked under pseudonyms; director Edward Dmytryk, unable to work covertly, later cooperated with the committee and named names. Drawing heavily on hearings transcripts, Brimner also includes a great deal of historical background to put the story in context. He notes that the origins of HUAC were rooted in America’s first “Red Scare” following the Russian Revolution, and he challenges readers to consider if things are all that different today, citing contemporary examples. The many archival photographs included are testament to the overwhelming whiteness of both Hollywood and Congress.

A chilling look at a time when the government waged war on civil liberties, with the public a complicit ally. (bibliography, source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62091-603-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

Almost a century after women’s right to vote was secured, Conkling delivers a tour de force—fairly neutral, at times...

VOTES FOR WOMEN!

AMERICAN SUFFRAGISTS AND THE BATTLE FOR THE BALLOT

Spanning multiple centuries, this work may be the most comprehensive account for young readers about the founders, leaders, organizers, and opponents of the American suffragist movement.

Conkling takes readers back to a time when giving birth to a girl elicited sighs of pity. Women did not have the right to own property, could not enter into contracts or sign legal documents, could not keep their wages, had limited options for work, and had few legal rights overall. Over half of this thorough account focuses on the first wave of the suffragist movement, exploring the lives—personal and activist—of key players; coverage of the second wave moves faster, as women protest nonviolently, march, picket in silence, and endure unjust prison sentences. From hunger strikes to cruel and deplorable jail conditions, women endured much to get Congress to consider their vote. History buffs won’t be surprised when reading about the multiple occasions in which white suffragists would put their needs before others’, getting tangled in racial and class tensions with abolitionists and African-Americans who were fighting for similar rights. With black-and-white portraits, newspaper clippings, historical renderings, and photographs interspersed, the well-documented narrative is propelled by diary and autobiography accounts, speeches, newspaper articles, and conventions and court records.

Almost a century after women’s right to vote was secured, Conkling delivers a tour de force—fairly neutral, at times infuriating, occasionally graphic, and reminiscent of disturbing news today. (selected sources, timeline, bibliography, notes) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61620-734-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

A powerful, awe-inspiring basketball-driven history.

ATTUCKS!

OSCAR ROBERTSON AND THE BASKETBALL TEAM THAT AWAKENED A CITY

Acclaimed author Hoose (The Boys Who Challenged Hitler, 2015, etc.) returns to his home state with the true story of the all-black high school basketball team that broke the color barrier in segregated 1950s Indianapolis, anchored by one of the greatest players of all time.

Recently honored with the NBA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Oscar Robertson is known for his accomplishments both as an athlete and advocate for NBA players. However, few know the story of how the Naptown basketball savant was able to lead his segregated high school to back-to-back state championships. Hoose does a brilliant job of portraying the surrounding historical context, exploring the migration of black families from the South to Indiana, showing how Jim Crow practices were just as present in the North as in the South, and describing the deep groundswell of support for basketball in Indiana. The inspiration for the book was the Big O himself, who told Hoose that the Ku Klux Klan “did something they couldn’t foresee by making Attucks an all-black school. The city of Indianapolis integrated because we were winning.” Could basketball have served as a pathway to racial progress within the Hoosier state? Attucks! doesn’t pretend that we’ve outlived the racism of the American past, all the while showing readers how being grounded in one’s self-worth and committed to the pursuit of excellence can have a lasting impact on a community.

A powerful, awe-inspiring basketball-driven history. (biographies, sources, notes, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-30612-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

A smart, honest, and comprehensive education on movement building and menstrual rights.

PERIOD POWER

A MANIFESTO FOR THE MENSTRUAL MOVEMENT

The story of how one young woman turned her passion for menstrual rights into an international movement.

When debut author Okamoto was 16, her family experienced financial hardships that led to housing instability. The Portland, Oregon, teen, now a Harvard undergraduate, was deeply shaken by this crisis. She began speaking to homeless women about their experiences living on the streets, and as she developed relationships with them, she was shocked to discover that many had no access to safe menstrual hygiene products, often resorting to discarded newspapers or grocery sacks. These conversations inspired her to found PERIOD, a nonprofit dedicated to making menstrual health a universal human right. Part memoir and part manifesto, the book uses Okamoto’s personal journey as a teen activist as a springboard to discuss everything from the technical aspects of menstruation to the history of menstrual taboos in the United States to the menstrual movement’s policy priorities and environmental sustainability. The book is truly intersectional, and Okamoto is refreshingly open about her commitment to amplifying the menstrual experiences of transgender and nonbinary people as well as menstruators of various races, religions, sexualities, and class backgrounds. The final chapter is dedicated to taking action and will be a useful guide for activists inspired by this work. The friendly, chatty writing style ensures that the information-packed text remains accessible. Art not seen.

A smart, honest, and comprehensive education on movement building and menstrual rights. (notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 13-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3021-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

A valuable complement to existing nonfiction about the Vietnam War for young people, adding an intimate dimension to the...

BOOTS ON THE GROUND

AMERICA'S WAR IN VIETNAM

A personal, moving foray into the Vietnam War and its impact on the country and individuals whose lives it forever changed.

Partridge (Dogtag Summer, 2011, etc.) takes readers on a chronological, multidimensional journey through the Vietnam War years via the personal stories of eight individuals: six American soldiers from diverse social and ethnic backgrounds, a biracial (Chinese- and Italian-American) nurse, and a Vietnamese refugee. Each segment moves readers forward in time and is interspersed with brief snapshots of what was happening at home, from glimpses of the American presidents’ handling of the escalating crisis to the growing anti-war movement at home, viewed through the lens of leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and protest singer Country Joe McDonald. Of particular interest is the segment on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a collaboration between veterans, government officials, and its young Chinese-American designer, Maya Lin. Emphasizing the lasting emotional legacy of the war for those who served, even as the rest of the country seemed content to put it behind them, Partridge’s narrative storytelling is incisive and masterfully woven together. A superb selection of photographs puts an indelible face on the individuals whose lives the war affected.

A valuable complement to existing nonfiction about the Vietnam War for young people, adding an intimate dimension to the larger history. (bibliography, source notes, index, photo credits) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-670-78506-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

This is required reading, embracing the ideals that “we all need mercy, we all need justice, and—perhaps—we all need some...

JUST MERCY

A TRUE STORY OF THE FIGHT FOR JUSTICE

"Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done,” proclaims Stevenson’s adaptation for younger audiences of his 2014 New York Times bestseller, a deeply moving collage of true stories dedicated to transforming the U.S. criminal justice system.

The story begins in 1983, when 23-year-old Stevenson, a Harvard Law intern, found the moral resolve to join the pro bono defense team of a capital punishment case in Georgia. Throughout his journey, he highlights numerous cases that demonstrate unfair policies and practices throughout our criminal justice system. These examples form an incisive critique of mass incarceration resulting from state and federal policy changes in the late 20th century. He continues to lead the Alabama-headquartered Equal Justice Initiative, whose mission it is to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable. Stevenson argues that, “The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.” These important stories put a human face on statistics and trends and give us tested strategies to reverse the oppressive consequences of racial and economic injustice in our country. This inspiring book will ignite compassion in young readers and show connections between the history of slavery, Reconstruction, and the present day.

This is required reading, embracing the ideals that “we all need mercy, we all need justice, and—perhaps—we all need some measure of unmerited grace.” (notes, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-58003-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

An important contribution to the understanding of a complex period in United States history that still reverberates today.

CHASING KING'S KILLER

THE HUNT FOR MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.'S ASSASSIN

Swanson, bestselling author of Chasing Lincoln’s Killer (2009), here explores all aspects of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

From the foreword by Congressman John Lewis to the epilogue, this volume places Dr. King and his loss in its historical context. The story begins with a detailed look at an unsuccessful attempt on Dr. King’s life, a foreshadowing of what was to come. Dr. King’s life and work to gain full civil and economic rights for all Americans are presented briefly, but the crux of the narrative is directed at the assassination; the man behind it, escaped convict James Earl Ray; and the aftermath. Swanson describes the events that brought King to Memphis, Tennessee, as part of a larger push for economic justice. In addition to the real-life thriller aspects of the hunt for Ray after King was shot, Swanson’s narrative adds poignant details, such as the experiences of King’s heartbroken aides and their reluctance to cooperate with law enforcement as well as the nation’s mourning of Dr. King. He also addresses conspiracies around the assassination as well as distrust of the FBI due to their wiretapping of King and other activists. This is page-turning nonfiction that captures the tenor of the times with meticulous research and a trove of photographs. Exhaustive, exemplary backmatter further enhances the text.

An important contribution to the understanding of a complex period in United States history that still reverberates today. (Nonfiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-545-72333-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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