2021 Inclusive Summer Reading Book List

*In alphabetical order

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American Poison: How Racial Hostility Destroyed Our Promise by Eduardo Porter

In American Poison, the New York Times veteran shows how racial animus has stunted the development of nearly every institution crucial for a healthy society, including organized labor, public education, and the social safety net. The consequences are profound and are only growing graver with time. Leading us through history and across America--from FDR's New Deal through Bill Clinton's welfare reform to Donald Trump's retrograde and divisive policies--Porter pieces together how racial hostility has blocked American social cohesion at every turn, producing a nation that fails not only its black and brown citizens but white Americans as well.

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An African American and Latinx History of the United States (REVISIONING HISTORY) by Paul Ortiz

Spanning more than two hundred years, An African American and Latinx History of the United States is a revolutionary, politically charged narrative history, arguing that the "Global South" was crucial to the development of America as we know it. Scholar and activist Paul Ortiz challenges the notion of westward progress as exalted by widely taught formulations like "manifest destiny" and "Jacksonian democracy," and shows how placing African American, Latinx, and Indigenous voices unapologetically front and center transforms US history into one of the working class organizing against imperialism.
Drawing on rich narratives and primary source documents, Ortiz links racial segregation in the Southwest and the rise and violent fall of a powerful tradition of Mexican labor organizing in the twentieth century, to May 1, 2006, known as International Workers' Day, when migrant laborers--Chicana/os, Afrocubanos, and immigrants from every continent on earth--united in resistance on the first "Day Without Immigrants." As African American civil rights activists fought Jim Crow laws and Mexican labor organizers warred against the suffocating grip of capitalism, Black and Spanish-language newspapers, abolitionists, and Latin American revolutionaries coalesced around movements built between people from the United States and people from Central America and the Caribbean. In stark contrast to the resurgence of "America First" rhetoric, Black and Latinx intellectuals and organizers today have historically urged the United States to build bridges of solidarity with the nations of the Americas.

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Black Boy Out of Time by Hari Ziyad

Heartwarming and heart-wrenching, radical and reflective, Hari Ziyad's vital memoir is for the outcast, the unheard, the unborn, and the dead. It offers us a new way to think about survival and the necessary disruption of social norms. It looks back in tenderness as well as justified rage, forces us to address where we are now, and, born out of hope, illuminates the possibilities for the future.

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Black Fatigue: How Racism Erodes the Mind, Body, and Spirit by Mary Frances-Winters

This book, designed to illuminate the myriad dire consequences of living while Black, came at the urging of Winters's Black friends and colleagues. Winters describes how in every aspect of life--from economics to education, work, criminal justice, and, very importantly, health outcomes--for the most part, the trajectory for Black people is not improving. It is paradoxical that, with all the attention focused over the last fifty years on social justice and diversity and inclusion, little progress has been made in actualizing the vision of an equitable society.

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The Black Friend: On Being a better White Person by Frederick Joseph

Speaking directly to the reader, The Black Friend calls up race-related anecdotes from the author's past, weaving in his thoughts on why they were hurtful and how he might handle things differently now. Each chapter features the voice of at least one artist or activist, including Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give; April Reign, creator of #OscarsSoWhite; Jemele Hill, sports journalist and podcast host; and eleven others. Touching on everything from cultural appropriation to power dynamics, "reverse racism" to white privilege, microaggressions to the tragic results of overt racism, this book serves as conversation starter, tool kit, and invaluable window into the life of a former "token Black kid" who now presents himself as the friend many readers need. Backmatter includes an encyclopedia of racism, providing details on relevant historical events, terminology, and more.

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Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Career Strategies for Asians by Jane Hyun

Leading Asian American career coach and advocate Jane Hyun explains that the lack of Asian Americans in executive suite positions is brought about by a combination of Asian cultures and traditions strait-jacketing Asian Americans in the workplace, and how the group's lack of vocal affirmation in popular media and culture, afflicts them with a "perpetual foreigner syndrome" in the eyes of Americans who don't know enough to understand the challenges placed on Asian Americans in the corporate environment.

Filled with anecdotes and case studies from her own consulting experience covering the gamut of Asian Americans from various backgrounds, the book discusses how being Asian affects the way they interact with colleagues, managers, and clients, and will offer advice and real world solutions while exposing the challenges encountered.

For the Asian reader, the book will help them to see the cultural barriers they subconsciously place in their own career paths and how to overcome them. For the non-Asian reader, the book serves as a primer for promoting optimal working relationships with Asians, and will help start a dialogue that will benefit all.

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Children of the Land: A Memoir by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

When Marcelo Hernandez Castillo was five years old and his family was preparing to cross the border between Mexico and the United States, he suffered temporary, stress-induced blindness. Castillo regained his vision, but quickly understood that he had to move into a threshold of invisibility before settling in California with his parents and siblings. Thus began a new life of hiding in plain sight and of paying extraordinarily careful attention at all times for fear of being truly seen. Before Castillo was one of the most celebrated poets of a generation, he was a boy who perfected his English in the hopes that he might never seem extraordinary.

With beauty, grace, and honesty, Castillo recounts his and his family's encounters with a system that treats them as criminals for seeking safe, ordinary lives. He writes of the Sunday afternoon when he opened the door to an ICE officer who had one hand on his holster, of the hours he spent making a fake social security card so that he could work to support his family, of his father's deportation and the decade that he spent waiting to return to his wife and children only to be denied reentry, and of his mother's heartbreaking decision to leave her children and grandchildren so that she could be reunited with her estranged husband and retire from a life of hard labor.

Children of the Land distills the trauma of displacement, illuminates the human lives behind the headlines and serves as a stunning meditation on what it means to be a man and a citizen.

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Detransition, Baby: A Novel by Torrey Peters

Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn't hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

Ames isn't happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese--and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames's boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she's pregnant with his baby--and that she's not sure whether she wants to keep it--Ames wonders if this is the chance he's been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family--and raise the baby together?

This provocative debut is about what happens at the emotional, messy, vulnerable corners of womanhood that platitudes and good intentions can't reach. Torrey Peters brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel.

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Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey

Procrastination. Disorganization. Distractibility. Millions of adults have long considered these the hallmarks of a lack of self-discipline. But for many, these and other problems in school, at work and in social relationships are actually symptoms of an inborn neurological problem: ADD, or Attention Deficit Disorder.

Through vivid stories of the experiences of their patients -- both adults and children -- Dr. Edward R. Hallowell and Dr. John J. Ratey show the varied forms ADD takes -- from the hyperactive search for high stimulation to the floating inattention of daydreaming -- and the transforming impact of precise diagnosis and treatment.

Driven to Distraction is a must listen for everyone intrigued by the workings of the human mind.

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Everybody (Else) Is Perfect: How I Survived Hypocrisy, Beauty, Clicks, and Likes by Gabrielle Korn

Gabrielle Korn starts her professional life with all the right credentials. Prestigious college degree? Check. A loving, accepting family? Check. Instagram-worthy offices and a tight-knit group of friends? Check, check. Gabrielle's life seems to reach the crescendo of perfect when she gets named the youngest editor-in-chief in the history of one of fashion's most influential publication. Suddenly she's invited to the world's most epic parties, comped beautiful clothes and shoes from trendy designers, and asked to weigh in on everything from gay rights to lip gloss on one of the most influential digital platforms.

But behind the scenes, things are far from perfect. In fact, just a few months before landing her dream job, Gabrielle's health and wellbeing are on the line, and her promotion to editor-in-chief becomes the ultimate test of strength. In this collection of inspirational and searing essays, Gabrielle reveals exactly what it's truly like in the fashion world, trying to find love as a young lesbian in New York City, battling with anorexia, and trying not to lose herself in a mirage of women's empowerment and Instagram perfection.

Through deeply personal essays, Gabrielle recounts her struggles to reconcile her long-held insecurities about her body while coming out in the era of The L Word, where swoon-worthy lesbians are portrayed as skinny, fashion-perfect, and power-hungry. She takes us with her everywhere from New York Fashion Week to the doctor's office, revealing that the forces that try to keep women small are more pervasive than anyone wants to admit, especially in a world that's been newly branded as woke.

From #MeToo to commercialized body positivity, Korn's biting, darkly funny analysis turns feminist commentary on its head. Both an in-your-face take on impossible beauty standards and entrenched media ideals and an inspiring call for personal authenticity, this powerful collection is ideal for fans of Roxane Gay and Rebecca Solnit.

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Family in Six Tones: A Refugee Mother, an American Daughter by Lan Cao

In 1975, thirteen-year-old Lan Cao boarded an airplane in Saigon and got off in a world where she faced hosts she had not met before, a language she didn't speak, and food she didn't recognize, with the faint hope that she would be able to go home soon. Lan fought her way through confusion, and racism, to become a successful lawyer and novelist. Four decades later, she faced the biggest challenge in her life: raising her daughter Harlan--half Vietnamese by birth and 100 percent American teenager by inclination. In their lyrical joint memoir, told in alternating voices, mother and daughter cross ages and ethnicities to tackle the hardest questions about assimilation, aspiration, and family.

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Four Hundred Souls by Ibram X Kendi

The story begins in 1619--a year before the Mayflower--when the White Lion disgorges "some 20-and-odd Negroes" onto the shores of Virginia, inaugurating the African presence in what would become the United States. It takes us to the present, when African Americans, descendants of those on the White Lion and a thousand other routes to this country, continue a journey defined by inhuman oppression, visionary struggles, stunning achievements, and millions of ordinary lives passing through extraordinary history.

Four Hundred Souls is a unique one-volume "community" history of African Americans. The editors, Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, have assembled ninety brilliant writers, each of whom takes on a five-year period of that four-hundred-year span. The writers explore their periods through a variety of techniques: historical essays, short stories, personal vignettes, and fiery polemics.

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Halsey Street by Naima Coster

Penelope Grand has scrapped her failed career as an artist in Pittsburgh and moved back to Brooklyn to keep an eye on her ailing father. She's accepted that her future won't be what she'd dreamed, but now, as gentrification has completely reshaped her old neighborhood, even her past is unrecognizable. Old haunts have been razed, and wealthy white strangers have replaced every familiar face in Bed-Stuy. Even her mother, Mirella, has abandoned the family to reclaim her roots in the Dominican Republic. That took courage. It's also unforgivable.

When Penelope moves into the attic apartment of the affluent Harpers, she thinks she's found a semblance of family--and maybe even love. But her world is upended again when she receives a postcard from Mirella asking for reconciliation. As old wounds are reopened, and secrets revealed, a journey across an ocean of sacrifice and self-discovery begins.

An engrossing debut, Halsey Street shifts between the perspectives of these two captivating, troubled women. Mirella has one last chance to win back the heart of the daughter she'd lost long before leaving New York, and for Penelope, it's time to break free of the hold of the past and start navigating her own life.

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The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Here is Sandra Cisnero's greatly admired and best-selling novel of a young girl growing up in the Latino section of Chicago. Acclaimed by critics, beloved by children and their parents and grandparents, taught everywhere from inner-city grade schools to universities across the country, and translated all over the world, "The House on Mango Street" has entered the canon of coming-of-age classics even as it depicts a new American landscape. Sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous, "The House on Mango Street" tells the story of Esperanza Cordero, whose neighborhood is one of harsh realities and harsh beauty. Esperanza doesn't want to belong - not to her run-down neighborhood, and not to the low expectations the world has for her. Esperanza's story is that of a young girl coming into her power, and inventing for herself what she will become. "The San Francisco Chronicle" has called "The House on Mango Street" "marvelous... spare yet luminous. The subtle power of Cisnero's storytelling is evident. She communicates all the rapture and rage of growing up in a modern world." It is an extraordinary achievement that will live on for years to come.

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How to Pronounce Knife: Stories by Souvankham Thammavongsa

A failed boxer painting nails at the local salon. A woman plucking feathers at a chicken processing plant. A housewife learning English from daytime soap operas. A mother teaching her daughter the art of worm harvesting. In her stunning debut story collection, O. Henry Award winner Souvankham Thammavongsa focuses on characters struggling to make a living, illuminating their hopes, disappointments, love affairs, acts of defiance, and above all their pursuit of a place to belong. In spare, intimate prose charged with emotional power and a sly wit, she paints an indelible portrait of watchful children, wounded men, and restless women caught between cultures, languages, and values. As one of Thammavongsa's characters says, "All we wanted was to live." And in these stories, they do--brightly, ferociously, unforgettably.

Unsentimental yet tender, taut and visceral, How to Pronounce Knife announces Souvankham Thammavongsa as one of the most striking voices of her generation.

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I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

Julia isn't the perfect daughter – that's her sister Olga's job. But when Olga is killed in a tragic bus accident, Julia has to bear the brunt of her mother's grief. But was Olga really as perfect as her mom always thought? This coming-of-age story pulls out what it's like growing up in a Mexican household, in a way that will have you both chortling and wiping tears away.

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The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers--especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.

With Mami's determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school's slam poetry club, she doesn't know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can't stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

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The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.

Isaiah was Samuel's and Samuel was Isaiah's. That was the way it was since the beginning, and the way it was to be until the end. In the barn they tended to the animals, but also to each other, transforming the hollowed-out shed into a place of human refuge, a source of intimacy and hope in a world ruled by vicious masters. But when an older man--a fellow slave--seeks to gain favor by preaching the master's gospel on the plantation, the enslaved begin to turn on their own. Isaiah and Samuel's love, which was once so simple, is seen as sinful and a clear danger to the plantation's harmony.

With a lyricism reminiscent of Toni Morrison, Robert Jones, Jr., fiercely summons the voices of slaver and enslaved alike, from Isaiah and Samuel to the calculating slave master to the long line of women that surround them, women who have carried the soul of the plantation on their shoulders. As tensions build and the weight of centuries--of ancestors and future generations to come--culminates in a climactic reckoning, The Prophets masterfully reveals the pain and suffering of inheritance, but is also shot through with hope, beauty, and truth, portraying the enormous, heroic power of love.

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Punch Me Up to the Gods: A Memoir by Brian Broome

Punch Me Up to the Gods introduces a powerful new talent in Brian Broome, whose early years growing up in Ohio as a dark-skinned Black boy harboring crushes on other boys propel forward this gorgeous, aching, and unforgettable debut. Brian's recounting of his experiences--in all their cringe-worthy, hilarious, and heartbreaking glory--reveal a perpetual outsider awkwardly squirming to find his way in. Indiscriminate sex and escalating drug use help to soothe his hurt, young psyche, usually to uproarious and devastating effect. A no-nonsense mother and broken father play crucial roles in our misfit's origin story. But it is Brian's voice in the retelling that shows the true depth of vulnerability for young Black boys that is often quietly near to bursting at the seams.

Cleverly framed around Gwendolyn Brooks's poem "We Real Cool," the iconic and loving ode to Black boyhood, Punch Me Up to the Gods is at once playful, poignant, and wholly original. Broome's writing brims with swagger and sensitivity, bringing an exquisite and fresh voice to ongoing cultural conversations about Blackness in America.

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The Taste of Sugar by Marisel Vera

It is 1898, and groups of starving Puerto Ricans, los hambrientos, roam the parched countryside and dusty towns begging for food. Under the yoke of Spanish oppression, the Caribbean island is forced to prepare to wage war with the United States. Up in the mountainous coffee region of Utuado, Vicente Vega and Valentina Sanchez labor to keep their small farm from the creditors. When the Spanish-American War and the great San Ciriaco Hurricane of 1899 bring devastating upheaval, the young couple is lured, along with thousands of other puertorriquenos, to the sugar plantations of Hawaii--another US territory--where they are confronted by the hollowness of America's promises of prosperity. Writing in the tradition of great Latin American storytelling, Marisel Vera's The Taste of Sugar is an unforgettable novel of love and endurance, and a timeless portrait of the reasons we leave home.

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Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism by Barry M. Prizant

A groundbreaking book on autism, by one of the world's leading experts, who portrays autism as a unique way of being human--this is "required reading....Breathtakingly simple and profoundly positive" (Chicago Tribune).

Autism therapy typically focuses on ridding individuals of "autistic" symptoms such as difficulties interacting socially, problems in communicating, sensory challenges, and repetitive behavior patterns. Now Dr. Barry M. Prizant offers a new and compelling paradigm: the most successful approaches to autism don't aim at fixing a person by eliminating symptoms, but rather seeking to understand the individual's experience and what underlies the behavior.

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Untold: Defining Moments of the Uprooted, edited by Gabrielle Deonath and Kamini Ramdeen

"untold: defining moments of the uprooted" — a Brown Girl Magazine anthology — is a collection of real stories that explores the South Asian experience in the U.S., U.K., and Canada through the lens of identity, being, and relationships. Thirty-two emerging voices share deeply personal moments relating to immigration, infertility, divorce, mental health, suicide, sexual orientation, gender identity, racism, colorism, casteism, religion, and much more, all while balancing the push and pull of belonging to two cultural hemispheres. Every story sheds light on the authentic truths of living as womxn with hyphenated identities that have only been whispered — until now.

"untold: defining moments of the uprooted" contains sensitive content. Recommended for ages 16+.

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