Book Recommendations from Jebeh Edmunds

Looking to add books by Black authors to your reading list? We asked Jebeh Edmunds, multicultural education expert, educator and owner of Jebeh Cultural Consulting to share a list of some of her favorites for kids and adults.

Books for adults (18+)

Stamped (Racism, Antiracism, &You) by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited.

The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah Jones

The 1619 Project is a long-form journalism endeavor developed by Nikole Hannah-Jones, writers from The New York Times and The New York Times Magazine, that aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of  and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States‘ national narrative. The first publication stemming from the project was in The New York Times Magazine of August 2019 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the English colony of Virginia, slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States‘ national narrative.

The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner

At the age of 20, Milwaukee native Chris Gardner, just out of the Navy, arrived in San Francisco to pursue a promising career in medicine. Considered a prodigy in scientific research, he surprised everyone and himself by setting his sights on the competitive world of high finance. Yet no sooner had he landed an entry-level position at a prestigious firm than Gardner found himself caught in a web of incredibly challenging circumstances that left him as part of the city’s working homeless and with a toddler son. Never giving in to despair, Gardner made an astonishing transformation from being part of the city’s invisible poor to being a powerful player in its financial district.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes

In this poignant, hilarious and deeply intimate call to arms, Hollywood’s most powerful woman, the mega-talented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of Bridgerton, For the People and How to Get Away with Murder, reveals how saying YES changed her life—and how it can change yours too.

 

Children’s books (by grades)

K-3: Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey

Ruth and the Green Book is the story of one black family’s trip from Chicago to Alabama by car in the late 1940s. Along the way they encounter prejudice, but they also discover The Green Book, a real guide to accommodations that was published for decades to aid African American travelers as they faced prejudice on the roads across the country.

3-12: 100 African Americans Who Shaped American History by Chrisanne Beckner

From Benjamin Banneker to Harriet Tubman, Duke Ellington to Rosa Parks, Malcolm X to John Lewis and many more, readers will be introduced to artists, activists, icons, and legends throughout history. Organized chronologically, 100 African Americans Who Shaped American History offers a look at the prominent role these men and women played and how their talents, ideas, and expertise have influenced the country from its very beginning all the way through the present day.

2-5: The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis

When the Watson family—10-year-old Kenny, Momma, Dad, little sister Joetta, and brother Byron—sets out on a trip south to visit Grandma in Birmingham, Alabama, they don’t realize that they’re heading toward one of the darkest moments in America’s history. The Watsons’ journey reminds us that even in the hardest times, laughter and family can help us get through anything.

4-8: Child of the Dream (A Memoir of 1963) by Sharon Robinson

In January 1963, Sharon Robinson turns 13 the night before George Wallace declares on national television, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” in his inauguration speech as governor of Alabama. It is the beginning of a year that will change the course of American history. As the daughter of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, Sharon has opportunities that most people would never dream of experiencing. Her older brother, Jackie Robinson Jr., is having a hard time trying to live up to his father’s famous name, causing some rifts in the family. And Sharon feels isolated—struggling to find her role in the civil rights movement that is taking place across the country. This is the story of how one girl finds her voice in the fight for justice and equality.

4-8: Stamped (For Kids) by Jason Reynolds Ibram X. Kendi

Adapted from the award-winning, bestselling Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, this book takes readers on a journey from present to past and back again. Kids will discover where racist ideas came from, identify how they impact America today, and meet those who have fought racism with antiracism. Along the way, they’ll learn how to identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their own lives.

4-8: The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

When Candice finds a letter in an old attic in Lambert, South Carolina, she isn’t sure she should read it. It’s addressed to her grandmother, who left the town in shame. But the letter describes a young woman. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding the letter-writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle. The challenge will lead them deep into Lambert’s history, full of ugly deeds, forgotten heroes, and one great love: and deeper look into their own families, with their own unspoken secrets.

5-12: Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round by Kathlyn J. Kirkwood

Aint Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round is a deeply moving middle grade memoir about what it means to be an everyday activist and foot solider for racial justice, as Kathlyn recounts how, drawn to activism from childhood, she went from attending protests as a teenager to fighting for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday to become a national holiday as an adult. A blueprint for kids starting down their own paths to civic awareness, it shows life beyond protests and details the sustained time, passion, and energy it takes to turn an idea into a law.

5-12: The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Finally, Amira is 12. Old enough to wear a toob, old enough for new responsibilities. And maybe old enough to go to school in Nyala—Amira’s one true dream. But life in her peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when the Janjaweed arrive. The terrifying attackers ravage the town and unleash unspeakable horrors. After she loses nearly everything, Amira needs to dig deep within herself to find the strength to make the long journey—on foot—to safety at a refugee camp. Her days are tough at the camp, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind—and all kinds of possibilities.

6-12: As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds

Genie’s summer is full of surprises. The first is that he and his big brother, Ernie, are leaving Brooklyn for the very first time to spend the summer with their grandparents all the way in Virginia—in the COUNTRY! The second surprise comes when Genie figures out that their grandfather is blind. Thunderstruck, Genie peppers Grandpop with questions about how he hides it so well (besides wearing way cool Ray-Bans). Then Ernie lets him down in the bravery department. It’s his 14th birthday, and Grandpop says to become a man, you must learn how to shoot a gun. Genie thinks that is AWESOME until he realizes Ernie has no interest in learning how to shoot. None. Nada. Dumbfounded by Ernie’s reluctance, Genie is left to wonder—is bravery and becoming a man only about proving something, or is it just as important to own up to what you won’t do?

6-12: Hurricane Child by Kacen Callendar

Being born during a hurricane is unlucky, and 12-year-old Caroline has had her share of bad luck lately. She’s hated and bullied by everyone in her small school on St. Thomas of the US Virgin Islands, a spirit only she can see won’t stop following her, and—worst of all—Caroline’s mother left home one day and never came back. But when a new student named Kalinda arrives, Caroline’s luck begins to turn around. Kalinda, a solemn girl from Barbados with a special smile for everyone, becomes Caroline’s first and only friend—and the person for whom Caroline has begun to develop a crush. Now, Caroline must find the strength to confront her feelings for Kalinda, brave the spirit stalking her through the islands, and face the reason her mother abandoned her. Together, Caroline and Kalinda must set out in a hurricane to find Caroline’s missing mother—before Caroline loses her forever.

6-12: Sweet Words So Brave: The Story of African American Literature by Barbara K. Curry and James Miachel Broddie

Bidding his granddaughter to sit by him while he tells stories of “orators turned into writers, brave all in all,” the narrator of this enlightening book adopts a folksy, conversational tone as he chronicles the history of African American writing. Yet this is more than a celebration of a remarkable literary legacy. From early “slave narratives” to the poetry of Langston Hughes and autobiographical writing, the literature discussed here becomes a springboard to an account of the African American experience. Speaking with genuine passion and immediacy, the narrator introduces many writers as though they were his personal friends, often giving his story the sound of an eyewitness account; at one point, he even notes, “Sure enough, youngster, I was there.” Excerpts from several authors’ works and clearly reproduced, large-scale photos offset the book’s considerable text. But what really catches the eye here are Butler’s stunning, stylized paintings featuring groups of African Americans in a variety of settings. At times evocative of the work of Jacob Lawrence, these compositions contain cogent images and symbols, and are often iconic in their impact.

 

We hope you found some books that sparked your interest. When reading these books with children, spark up a conversation with real-world examples they might notice. Remember to continue to educate yourself and others, support Black-owned businesses, and speak out when you come across injustices.