These Books Will Save Lives: A Holiday Book Guide

>>>>These Books Will Save Lives: A Holiday Book Guide
These Books Will Save Lives: A Holiday Book Guide2021-12-22T11:15:32-06:00
These Books Will Save Lives A Holiday Book Guide

Our schools are places where children from all backgrounds come together to learn from the past, better understand the present, and prepare for the future. But some politicians are trying to erase Black, queer, and other marginalized children from school libraries. This holiday season, we’re meeting that hatred with the spirit of giving through our holiday book guide.

Our staff, interns, and Young Advocates reviewed the list of books targeted by Texas leaders, and we’ve curated our favorites for you and yours. Pick up a book or two at your local library or bookstore, or find a gift for a loved one this December. And THANK YOU for supporting Texas youths’ freedom to learn.

Maggie Stern
Maggie SternYouth Civic Education and Engagement

Growing up in a culturally and economically diverse school district, I knew from a young age that not every person came from the same roots. While our diversity enabled us to connect to something greater than ourselves, it certainly did not eliminate barriers that separated us from individuals who did not see the impact of their inconsiderate comments or narrow perspectives.

The book New Kid by Jerry Craft takes readers on the journey of a black student who experiences microaggressions as he ventures through the halls of a wealthy white school. Many students in marginalized communities will strongly connect to the protagonist in this graphic novel. They will thoroughly enjoy this uplifting story that intends to empower the underrepresented and educate others on the injustices their peers experience in every step of their lives.

Recommended by Cameron Samuels, Young Advocate and High School Student

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz is a book I have always wanted to read. Based on the reviews I have seen, it seems like it tells a very important story for young readers, especially LGBTQ teens. 

Overall, I think it is important to add YA fiction books that center on LGBTQ stories and relationships to school libraries. It’s really important for young teens to see themselves in these stories and not be stuck with a selection that only features heterosexual relationships.

Recommended by Olivia Prior, Young Advocate and High School Student

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The book I chose is 100 questions You’d Never Ask Your Parents by Henderson and Armstrong. This is a good book to read as a teenager to become educated and to feel supported. Many cultures and families do not talk about sexual health and sex-related questions because the topic is considered taboo. That leads children, teens, and young adults to turn to media for answers that may not always be healthy or accurate. I think this book is important to keep in school libraries.

Recommended by Angelica Carroll, Young Advocate and High School Student

Read the Book

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli means the world to me. This book introduces an LGBTQ journey through the struggle of self-expression. Simon’s story is portrayed in a unique way as it is written through anonymous email exchanges. Many young people will be able to relate to this format, now that we’re in a more modern era. Overall, this teenage love story is a start in the representation of LGBTQ folks in media. – David Dzul

This book was one of the first mainstream books I knew of that displayed a gay character as the main character. This book fit perfectly into the array of other YA Fiction novels I loved, and it made me happy to see well-rounded representation, rather than seeing another depiction of a gay character playing a supporting role or being the butt of a joke.

I recommend this book to young Texans and their families who are trying to navigate a world where being gay is still seen as an alternative, not a norm. Despite major progress, being gay has historically been weaponized by our country, and the best way to combat that is to read stories like these. Those somewhat-corny teen romance stories were so important to me when I was young, and any LGBTQ+ teen should be given the chance to read those same stories that are made for them. – Kennedy Rodriguez

Recommended by David Dzul, Young Advocate and High School Student and Kennedy Rodriguez, Youth Programs Intern

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There are many things to love and learn from I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson regardless of how your own personal story intertwines—or does not—with the Sweetwine twins. For me, I learned a lot about my own identity in witnessing Jude and Noah find themselves over and over again—despite many attempts to deny or change who they are—and find one another again as well. It reassured my young teenage self—someone who often attempted to deny the parts of myself that I felt were unlovable or unredeemable—that great things can and will happen when you choose to live an authentic life. 

Recommended by Sydney Ramon, Youth Civic Education and Engagement Intern

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I have carried this book around since I was 17. My family was close friends with Ed Guinan, a social justice advocate who founded the “Community for Creative Nonviolence” (CCNV) in DC. I attended a reading of excerpts from this book, published in 1973, at CCNV and Ed gave me a copy. It has readings from Daniel Berrigan, Cesar Chavez, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, MLK Jr., Thich Nhat Hanh and others. But Ed’s introduction remains one of the most powerful essays about the nature of peace, violence and non-violence I have ever read. These excerpts in particular have informed my lifelong dedication to taking down systems that create injustice and rain down violence on the most marginalized in our society:

“Non-violence means an active opposition to those acts and attitudes that demean and brutalize another, and it means active support of those values and expressions that foster human solidarity. . . Non-violence is an attempt to find truth and love even in the midst of hatred, destruction and pride.”

“Under the umbrella of violence there reside two distinctively different phenomena. First there is the violence of men and women who act out of frustration, hopelessness and anger in an attempted grasp at life. The other type of violence is the violence of the respectable, the violence of the powerful that seeks personal gain and privilege by maintaining inhumane conditions . . . This latter type of violence is what we must become aware of and actively dismantle if the future is to hold any possibility for peace…”

“Hunger, poverty, squalor, privilege, powerlessness, riches, despair, and vicarious living are forms of violence – forms that a society approves and perpetuates.” 

Ed dedicated this book to “a new generation of resisters who accept neither plunder nor clichés.” 

Be a resister.

Recommended by Patrick Bresette, Executive Director

Read the Book

I have read books similar to We March by Shane W. Evans with my 5-year-old son.  I love showing him how people have stood up for their rights and the rights of others over the ages.  My hope is to inspire him to speak up when people are being treated unfairly. To me, doing so is a sign of someone with a good and moral character.

Recommended by Laura Guerra-Cardus, Deputy Director

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As a student who saw the beginning of the integration period first hand, the book that resonates with me still today is: The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles and illustrated by George Ford. At every Freedom School summer, I read this book as a way to keep the young scholars informed that children can make a difference in this world. It is a shame that our great state has decided this is one of the books that should be on the list of books under investigation. This is their history as well, even if they choose not to acknowledge it. I met Ms. Bridges at one of the summer trainings and we talked about how brave she was and how all she wanted to do was learn. I wonder how she feels now that they are trying to erase her from the history books.  Shame on Texas!

Recommended by Cecilia Joseph, Director of Operations

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When the Moon Was Ours: Nobody blends magical realism, Latinx folklore, and queer love stories like Anna-Marie McLemore. The heart of their books is their characters deepening their relationships and finding the words and the freedom to be their most authentic selves. I read this book half wanting to read faster to know what happened next and half wanting to slow down to fully absorb the lyrical language. When the Moon Was Ours is one of those books that will make your heart feel full by the time you finish the last word.

As a queer woman, I wish I had read more LGBTQ+ literature as a kid. I don’t remember any required reading, and very few recommended books, that featured queer characters. The library was my refuge to read and learn everything I didn’t receive in the classroom, and it was through reading that I first found words to understand my own identity. One of my favorite descriptions of reading is that a good book can be both a mirror and a window—a mirror that reflects parts of our selves and experiences, and a window that lets you see and understand the world more deeply. We should all be building more mirrors and windows by encouraging young people to read and learn freely.

Recommended by Maggie Stern, Youth Civic Education and Engagement Coordinator

Read the Book

When I was a child, I wish I had read A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory. I grew up in what I now know was a very privileged, majority-white community. I never thought much about racism, injustice, inequity or anything else, I just did my thing. It never occurred to me that my black and brown friends from school were probably having a completely different experience of childhood than I had. I wish my eyes had been opened to that a lot sooner than, I’m sorry to say, age 38 or so. I recommend this book, or books like this that deal with important topics because being aware is the key to creating more equity in our communities. Once our eyes are opened, we cannot close them again.

Recommended by Clarissa Webb, Youth Programs Coordinator

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I recommend Mikki Kendall’s Hood Feminism to young Texans and their families. This book does an incredible job blending the author’s personal stories with extensive data and statistics to make a clear case for how interconnected issues like hunger, education, and gun violence are and why they are important for all of us, not just those directly affected, to understand and push for justice on.

Recommended by Adrienne Lloyd, Senior Health Policy Associate

Read the Book

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson: This book helps you think about the deepest wounds we as a society carry through a fresh lens. She places the American history of race, slavery, and Jim Crow into an international perspective, saying that systemic racism, as we call it, is actually and very clearly a caste system such as implemented in India and in Nazi Germany. This is not to say that she paints the topic lightly. She writes in a beautiful prose, and confronts the brutality of this history clearly, unflinchingly, and empathetically. 

Our educational system glosses over so much of the extraordinary violence it took (and continues to take) to build this caste system, to organize people into races, and enforce the rules and laws that scaffold the American caste system. This absence of information, of course, is part of the system itself, and as a result, much of this history has been little known. Fortunately, things are changing.  This is a marvelously useful book to read.

Recommended by Cheasty Anderson, former Director of Immigration Policy and Advocacy

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I’m excited to recommend Austin-author Tillie Walden’s, Spinning, a graphic novel, coming-of-age memoir centered on her experience as a queer skater in competitive figure skating, a world that clings to one strict standard of girlhood and femininity. Every chapter is rich with feeling: joy, despair, betrayal, love, loneliness, connection, and so much more. And however intense or wild her experiences are, she finds a way to move on and be all right. I also hope more adults see graphic novels as a rich art form & storytelling medium, and pick this up. I read Spinning in grad school, and Tillie Walden’s visual storytelling was such a welcome break from days of dense reading!

Recommended by Cindy Ji, Communications Director

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Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake is the tale of a middle school girl whose sketchbook full of secrets about her sexuality and identity is revealed after her family is caught in a tornado.

This book looks into the hearts and minds of artists everywhere—thoughtful souls whose thoughts come alive in sketchbooks. As an artist myself, this book reminds me of one of my deepest fears in middle school, having my secrets (and my art) shown to the world before I was ready to reveal them. This is a book that I wish had been on my bookshelf during those early years.

Recommended by Ana Ruiz, Communications and Outreach Associate

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