Whew, it has been a minute since I’ve done a Top Ten Tuesday post. Did you know there’s a new host? And that today is the meme’s tenth birthday? Whew, time passes so quickly.
Today’s prompt is to pick a past TTT topic you’ve done and re-do/update it, which is perfect because I’m still mad about all the books/movies/TV shows being promoted as Black stories but that only show Black pain or Black poverty or just read my original post about it. In fact, I’m mad enough about it that I’ve had more than one conversation with friends about how stupid and annoying it is, and I have concluded (again) that Toni Morrison is right about racism functioning as nothing but a distraction.
The point is that I was already planning to update this particular topic when I first saw this prompt, but I’m even more motivated to do so now that my anger levels have risen again. Oh, and not to put too fine a point on it again, but this is also why Black people are so angry and tired: We literally keep saying the same things over and over again and nobody listens to us until you see a man murdered right in front of your eyes.
I wrote my original post in 2013, and here’s what I said then:
My list is inspired by a conversation I had with my friend Jasmine about the lack of books about middle class black teens. As she pointed out, if you go into any bookstore, it’s easy to find books about black teens who live in the hood or are dealing with jail or street drugs. Suuuuuper easy to find books about slavery or about Being Black. But it’s really hard to find books about black teens outside of those stereotypical narratives. So, here are some books about black middle class teens doing middle class teen things.
Seven years (or 400+ years) later and we’re still having the exact same conversations.
Anyway, on to the list. I will note that this time the list includes books written only by Black authors and that these are books I’ve read since May 2013 (when I wrote the last post). I have also included some middle grade books (the protagonists are 12) because I do what I want. Also, some stories are set in the hood but not about “the hood.” And you know exactly what I mean when I say that.
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Aya: Life in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
Pointe by Brandy Colbert
Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri
The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
A Certain October by Angela Johnson
Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff by Walter Dean Myers
This Side of Home by Renée Watson
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor
Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Shadows of Sherwood by Kekla Magoon
Calling My Name by Liara Tamani
Perfect Liars by Kimberly Reid
The Blazing Star by Imani Josey
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley
Here’s what’s sad: I read over 200 books since 2013, and these are the only ones I had on my list. This is mostly because I know that most books about Black teens that are heavily marketed or praised are not books I want to read because they are all about Black kids getting murdered or in prison or being in prison or Being Black. (LL McKinley recently wrote about this, and I agree with pretty much every single thing she said.) And while I love supporting Black authors, those are also not the books I want to read most of the time. But you know what’s harder to find? Books that are not about those things! So, anyway, now we all have somewhere to start (even though many of these books are older–I am terrible at keeping up with most new reads because of my to-read backlog), and now many of you can balance out your Issue/Problem books with books that explore the full spectrum of the Black experience.