Black activism finds voice in YA novels


Lily Tran, Feature Editor

The Young Adult fiction world has worked tirelessly to increase the diversity in popular stories. Movements led through social media like the “We Need Diverse Books” campaign advocate for more diverse characters in adolescent and children’s stories. These campaigns have made small gains, but the battle lives on.

More often, people of color typically remain on the sidelines while the protagonists are usually caucasian. However, a new genre of YA — known as activist fiction — is garnering more attention and recognition on the bestsellers lists.

A handful of stories feature black leading characters and follow their lives through the hardships and discrimination they face daily. These stories tell startlingly truthful and painful accounts of the conflicts that plague African-American youth.

“This isn’t a literary trend,” author Jason Reynolds said in an interview for “The New York Times.” “This is an issue of our time.”

Reynolds wrote the novel “All American Boys” with Brendan Kiely that spoke out about racial injustice and prejudice facing the black community.

Another novel, “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, is a story about the differences in attitude and thought that black people face in contrasting environments. It centers on the effects of gun violence and the Black Lives Matter movement. In this book, an unarmed man is shot and killed by a police officer and the entire community is drastically affected.

“I wanted to make this as personal as possible, so that people can understand why so many of us are so hurt and so angry,” Thomas said in the same interview for “The New York Times.”

The novel has reigned number one on “The New York Times” best-seller list for the past six weeks and it’s catching a lot of attention for the author, who gained a two-book deal with publisher Balzer & Bray and sold movie rights to Fox 2000.

The future holds even more stories about black activism with “Dear Martin” by Nic Stone to be published in October of this year and “Ghost Boys” by Jewell Parker Rhodes to be published in 2018. Both detail stories about police brutality targeted towards blacks.

“[Black activism in YA] is a great opportunity to expand awareness and offer additional perspective to black activism while serving as an additional platform for young adults interested in [bringing about] social and policy reform,” junior Destiny Farley said.

Indeed, the surge in books that tell the truthful stories of the inequality African Americans face has opened many eyes. These stories have circulated all over social media and have brought a greater understanding of black activism.

“Most people who are against black activist movements oppose them because they feel it is a movement for black supremacy,” junior Richard Emiko said. “They fail to understand that the movement calls for no superiority of any kind of race. Its purpose is of complete equality and impartiality.”

The more young adult books continue to represent and address the social conflicts that blacks are faced with today, the more knowledgeable and aware people will become. Ultimately, the rise of activism in books can work to resolve these societal problems.