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Knowledge is power. (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

The complete summer reading syllabus on Black Lives Matter

It’s been a difficult summer in the United States, marred by a string of heartbreaking and inexplicable killings. After the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of law enforcement officers earlier this month, there were the retaliatory killings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. Last week, on July 20, another unarmed black civilian was shot while trying to assist an autistic man.

“Only we can prove that we have the grace and the character and the common humanity to end this kind of senseless violence, to reduce fear and mistrust within the American family, to set an example for our children,” said US president Barack Obama in a July 17 statement.

Over the past year, librarians around the country have been working to do that, creating lists of the books that Americans can read in order to take a step back from tragedy and gain perspective and history on the nation’s complex issues of race, policing and civil rights. With their help, Quartz has compiled a broad syllabus of Black Lives Matter readings, spanning from fiction for young adults to history tomes.

As New York teacher and conservationist Algeria Barclays writes in a blog post, fiction has a unique power to create empathy—especially when it comes to divisive and deeply personal issues like race and inequality. “You step into someone’s life when you read a novel, even when you’re reading the story of someone who is radically different from yourself,” she says.

In the syllabus below, Quartz includes 52 titles recommended by California Oakland Library’s list Institutional Racism: History and Context, created by librarian Amy Sonnie; Minnesota’s Hennepin County Library’s Read This: #BlackLivesMatter Reads for Teens by Chelsea Couillard-Smith; the Kansas’s Lawrence Public Library’s Black Lives Matter book list by Polli Kenn; and the Young Adults Library Services Association’s Black Lives Matter: Building empathy through reading by Barclays.

But first, here are a few recurrent titles, from the books that were most frequently recommended:

1) Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2015 bestseller, Between the World and Me: The book of letters from a father to his teenage son is Coates’ reflection on race in America through personal experience and deep history. “It is at turns very academic, but also very personal, so I think it covers the whole reading experience,” says Kenn, who included the title in her recommendations for the Lawrence Public Library.

2) Kekla Magoon’s 2014 novel How it All Went Down is another librarians’ favorite, in which a chorus of narrative voices describe police brutality, showing the complexity of weaving a single truth from different perspectives.

3) Jason Reynold and Brendan Kiely’s 2015 teen fiction All American Boys is told from the alternative narratives of a black and a white teen: After one is brutalized by a police officer, the other finds himself torn between the man who raised him and loyalty to his classmate.

4) Michelle Alexander’s 2012 non-fiction work, The New Jim Crow, argues that black success—as embodied by celebrities like Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey—does not reflect the realities of an enduring “racial caste” in the US, perpetuated by the US criminal justice system.

5) US Congressman John Lewis’s March: Book One, published in 2013, is a graphic novel and the first tome of the trilogy that recounts Lewis’s childhood, how he came to meet Martin Luther King and became the youngest leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Couillard-Smith says this title is on her top recommendations for teens. “Just because they are teenagers doesn’t mean they do not have an important role in social justice,” she says.

6) Walter Dean Myer’s 2009 novel Monster recounts the tale of a teenage boy trapped in the juvenile criminal justice system after being accused of involvement in a murder-robbery. The novel comes in form of a screenplay interspersed with journal entries written in the voice of the protagonist.

7) Marilyn Nelson’s 2009 A Wreath for Emmett Till is a series of of 15 sonnets, written in memory of the 14-year-old boy whose 1955 lynching in Mississippi spurred the Civil Rights Movement. His killers were acquitted for the murderous crime.

The full list:

autobiography2012The Souls of Black FolkW.E.B. DuBois
biography2009Claudette ColvinPhilip M. Hoose
fiction2015Stella By StarlightSharon M. Draper
fiction2015Stand your GroundVictoria Christopher Murray
fiction2015Jam on the VineLaShonda K. Barnett
fiction2015DisgruntledAsali Solomon
fiction2015Blue Talk & LoveMecca Jamilah Sullivan
fiction2015All American BoysJason Reynolds
fiction2014RevolutionDeborah Wiles
fiction2014How it Went DownKekla Magoon
fiction2012CrowBarbara Wright
fiction2012Copper SunSharon M. Draper
fiction2010Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside ShortyG. Neri
fiction2010One Crazy SummerRita Williams-Garcia
fiction2010Invisible manRalph Ellison
fiction2009MonsterWalter Dean Myers
fiction2009Black BoyRichard Wright
fiction2006HushJacqueline Woodson
historical fiction2014Lies We Tell OurselvesRobin Talley
historical fiction2013March: Book OneJohn Lewis
historical fiction2012Gathering of WatersBernice L. McFadden
historical fiction2011ChainsLaurie Halse Anderson
historical fiction2010The warmth of other suns: the epic story of America’s great migrationIsabel Wilkerson
historical fiction2009The Rock and the RiverKekla Magoon
history2003Getting Away With MurderChris Crowe
letters2015Between the World and MeTa-Nehisi Coates
letters1963The Fire Next TimeJames Baldwin
memoir2010Unbought and UnbossedShirley Chisholm
non fiction2017Making all Black Lives Matter: reimagining Freedom in the Twenty-First CenturyBarbara Ransby
non fiction2016The Fire This Time: a New Generation Speaks About RaceJesmyn Ward
non fiction2016Post Traumatic Slave SyndromeJoy DeGruy
non fiction2016Invisible Man, Got the Whole World WatchingMychal Denzel Smith
non fiction2016From #BlackLivesMatter to Black liberationKeeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
non fiction2016A Good Time for the TruthDiverse
non fiction2015The Beast SideD. Watkins
non fiction2015Black Lives MatterSue Bradford Edwards
non fiction2014The Half Has Never Been Told: slavery & the making of American capitalismEdward Baptist
non fiction2014Racism without Racists: color-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in AmericaEduardo Bonilla-Silva
non fiction2013No ChoirboySusan Kuklin
non fiction2013News for All the People : the epic story of race and the American mediaJuan González and Joseph Torres
non fiction2012The New Jim CrowMichelle Alexander
non fiction2012The Meaning of FreedomAngela Y. Davis
non fiction2012Sister outsiderAudre Lorde
non fiction2012Savage Inequalities: children in America’s SchoolsJonathan Kozol
non fiction201112 Angry Men: true stories of being a Black man in America todayed. Parks and Hughey
non fiction2010How Race Survived History: from settlement & slavery to the Obama phenomenonDavid Roediger
non fiction2007Golden Gulag: prisons, surplus, crisis, and opposition in globalizing CaliforniaRuth Gilmore
non fiction2003Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?Beverly Daniel Tatum
non fiction1996Killing Rage: ending racismBell Hooks
poetry2014CitizenClaudia Rankine
poetry2009We Troubled the WatersNtozake Shange
poetry2009A Wreath for Emmett TillMarilyn Nelson

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