5 New YA Books on Black History and Life

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on February 22, 2022

Here at Facing History, we see heritage and awareness months as opportunities to deepen our knowledge of and attention to the histories and contemporary experiences of historically marginalized communities. However, the focus on celebrating these communities over one particular month can further marginalize the very experiences we are hoping to elevate. With this in mind, what follows is an invitation to engage with important themes raised by Black History Month this February and throughout all of the months of the year.

Some members of the Facing History staff are exploring these five new books published within the last year, and we invite you to explore them alongside us and share your reactions with us. These 5 titles cover essential topics from Black history with young audiences and address contemporary experiences of young Black people.

Below is excerpted promotional text from each book’s publisher and a link to a related Facing History resource to empower educators to bring parallel themes into the classroom:

Defiant: Growing Up in the Jim Crow South
by Wade Hudson

“Born in 1946 in Mansfield, Louisiana, Wade Hudson came of age against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement. From their home on Mary Street, his close-knit family watched as the country grappled with desegregation, as the Klan targeted the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and as systemic racism struck across the nation and in their hometown. Amidst it all, Wade was growing up. Getting into scuffles, playing baseball, immersing himself in his church community, and starting to write. Most important, Wade learned how to find his voice and use it. From his family, his community, and his college classmates, Wade learned the importance of fighting for change by confronting the laws and customs that marginalized and demeaned people. This powerful memoir reveals the struggles, joys, love, and ongoing resilience that it took to grow up Black in segregated America, and the lessons that carry over to our fight for a better future.” –Crown Books for Young Readers

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Topics: American History, Literature, Black History

Why and How to Teach Brown Girl Dreaming

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on January 31, 2022

Brown Girl Dreaming (2014) is Jacqueline Woodson’s celebrated coming-of-age memoir written with young readers in mind. Named one of TIME Magazine’s Best YA Books of All Time among countless other accolades, Brown Girl Dreaming recounts Woodson’s experience growing up as a young Black girl in Ohio, South Carolina, and New York during the era of Jim Crow as her sense of herself as a young woman and writer begin to take shape. While remaining grounded in her own personal and familial journey, Woodson gracefully touches upon a host of issues that continue to face the African American community, ranging from the health consequences of substandard housing to mass incarceration as they touched her own family, all written from the vantage point of herself as a child. Far from a one-note tale of woe, however, Woodson’s narrative glimmers with the abundant hope, love, and humanity that coexists with these phenomena in Woodson’s own heart, and in her circle of relatives and friends. Though her story includes themes likely to be relatable to most readers—such as feeling a lack of belonging in the place where she lives and her process of discovering her own unique brilliance in the shadow of a precocious sibling—it also highlights experiences unique to African American history, culture, and the nuances of Woodson’s own biography. This movement from universal to particular and back again makes Brown Girl Dreaming an ideal book to teach in the middle school classroom, and Facing History is offering a guide and live event with the author to help educators do just that. 

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Topics: American History, Literature, Black History

Remembering Toni Morrison

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on August 9, 2019

On August 5th in New York City, legendary writer, editor, and educator Toni Morrison died. As countless figures around the country reflect upon her legacy, we find an opportunity to consider her impact on American culture and the responsibilities of educators everywhere.

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Topics: Teaching, Race and Membership, Literature, Black History

5 Reads to Inspire and Challenge You This Winter

Posted by Tracy O'Brien on December 26, 2016

Daylight hours are dwindling, and temperatures are cooler. What better time to hunker down inside and take a book break? Books can fulfill many human needs: increasing our knowledge, broadening our empathy, making us laugh, inspiring us, or entertaining us. The best books achieve several at once. Here are a few titles that we hope you find engaging and take you deeper into the themes, histories, and questions at the heart of Facing History and Ourselves.

Teachers, find suggested Facing History resources and tools that tie into each book recommendation to build upon and expand your lessons.

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Topics: Books, Reading, Literature, Reading List

5 Summer Reads to Open Your Mind and Heart

Posted by Tracy O'Brien on June 9, 2016

Nothing says summer like sitting in the sun with a good book. Check out five summer reads, recommended by Tracy O'Brien, Facing History's Director of Library Services. 

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Topics: Books, Reading, Literature, Summer, Reading List

At Facing History and Ourselves, we value conversation—in classrooms, in our professional development for educators, and online. When you comment on Facing Today, you're engaging with our worldwide community of learners, so please take care that your contributions are constructive, civil, and advance the conversation.


Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

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