In the wake of recent protests against racism and police brutality across the country, many are asking what they can do to combat bigotry and discrimination. One simple answer continues to rise above the rest: read.

Those of us in the English language arts space know the profound impact of literature. Reading has the power to irrevocably transform people’s understanding of the world around them. It also gives them opportunities to see things from someone else’s view.

To help your students broaden their perspectives on race in America, consider introducing them to the titles in this list. From fiction and graphic novels to memoirs and historical accounts, these 15 books can help your students understand how racism works and what they can do to fight against it.

Harbor Me
Lexile Measure: 630L
Honest and powerfully written, Harbor Me is a story of friendship that students of all ages will appreciate. Encouraged by a supportive teacher, six troubled kids meet for a weekly chat—by themselves, with no adults to listen in. There, they talk about what's bothering them, from bullying and racism to economic insecurity and parental loss. When they’re together, this group of unlikely friends can show their true selves and, in turn, grow more confident to take on the world.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You
Lexile Measure: N/A
This insightful book by acclaimed author Jason Reynolds adapts Stamped from the Beginning, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s original bestselling book, into a gripping narrative for students. Both accessible and informative, this book informs readers about the history of racist ideas in America, from before the country’s founding to the present, explaining why racism continues to linger in society. It also discusses the insidious nature of racist ideas while offering ways readers can identify and end racist thoughts—conscious or not—in their daily lives.

All American Boys 
Lexile Measure: HL770L
In this novel co-authored by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, one single act of violence is all it takes to completely change the lives of two teenagers. Everything starts when Rashad, a Black student, is brutally beaten by a police officer over a misunderstanding. Quinn, a white teenager at Rashad’s school, saw the whole thing. Worst of all, Quinn knows the officer who did it. As Rashad’s case goes viral, Quinn realizes he can’t remain silent about what really happened. This novel will foster necessary discussions about racism, privilege, police brutality, and the meaning of community in modern America.

Between the World and Me
Lexile Measure: 1090L
Written as a letter to his teenage son, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s National Book Award-winning memoir offers a new perspective for understanding race in modern America. As Coates revisits pivotal moments from his personal past, including his youth in Baltimore, his time at Howard University, and his journalistic debut, he explores the historical ways in which racism has been woven intrinsically into the fabric of American society and culture.

Lexile Measure: 940L
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s award-winning Americanah follows the story of Ifemelu, a young woman who emigrates from military-ruled Nigeria to the United States to attend college. In this unfamiliar country, Ifemelu is exposed to racism and discrimination for the first time, prompting her to blog about race issues in America. Across the ocean, Ifemelu’s lover, Obinze, hopes to join her, but when his US visa is denied, he moves to London instead. With themes about social inequality, immigration, and cultural identity, Americanah is a brilliant book for readers who desire to see the world from others’ perspectives.

Ghost Boys
Lexile Measure: HL360L
After twelve-year-old Jerome is killed by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real weapon, his ghost observes the fallout that occurs within his family and community. In the afterlife, Jerome meets a spirit who shared a similar fate, a boy named Emmett Till. With Emmett as his guide, Jerome realizes how historical racism led to the events that ended his life. Ghost Boys weaves past and current events together into an unforgettable story about what it means to be Black in America.

How to Be an Antiracist
Lexile Measure: N/A
Antiracism is a transformative concept that reignites the conversation about racism and inspires new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to Be an Antiracist, author and historian Dr. Ibram X. Kendi takes readers through key antiracist ideas—from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilities—that will help readers clearly see all forms of racism, understand their toxic consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves.

I Am Alfonso Jones
Lexile Measure: GN640L
Perfect for teenage readers, this graphic novel examines the cost and consequences of racism and injustice. Alfonso Jones, a gifted Black student, is shot by a police officer who mistakes a clothes hanger for a gun. When Alfonso awakens in the afterlife, he boards a ghost train with other victims of police brutality. Meanwhile, his family and friends struggle with their grief and seek justice through political protests. As they face their new realities, both Alfonso and his loved ones realize the work that lies ahead in the fight for a better world.

Just Mercy
Lexile Measure: 1130L
Early in his career, Bryan Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice for the poor, the wrongly convicted, and children. One of his first cases, that of a man sentenced to death for a murder he didn’t commit, drew Stevenson into a messy world in desperate need of compassion. This powerful, true story of one of America’s most committed lawyers examines the inequalities of the justice system through a life dedicated to defending those most in need.

The Hate U Give
Lexile Measure: HL590L
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter feels torn between two worlds: the low-income, mostly Black neighborhood in which she lives, and her affluent, predominantly white preparatory school. But when a police officer kills her childhood best friend, her world is irrevocably upended. Torn between her two identities, Starr endures pressure from both sides as she tries to process what happened that night. With weighty themes about racism, police brutality, and societal injustice, this novel will undoubtedly spark insightful conversations among your students. 

Lexile Measure: GN760L
In this graphic novel series created in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell, the late congressman John Lewis, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, presents the incredible story of his life. This first volume covers Lewis’s early involvement with activism, including his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King Jr., and his participation in the Nashville sit-ins. Stunning artwork and the powerful lessons presented in Lewis’s story make March an excellent resource for learning about one of the most turbulent times in United States history.

Dear Martin
Lexile Measure: HL720L
Justyce McAllister is a scholarship student at his preparatory school. He’s smart—ranked fourth in his class—and has a bright future ahead of him. None of that matters the night he is unjustly arrested. After the violent incident, Justyce begins writing letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a way to cope with his emotions, detailing the racism, both subtle and overt, he experiences in his daily life. 

Born a Crime
Lexile Measure: HL770L
In this memoir, actor and comedian Trevor Noah reflects on his youth in South Africa through eighteen personal essays, beginning with his birth during the dark days of apartheid. Students will find Noah’s hilarious accounts of his childhood antics and awkward high school years all too relatable. Aside from being a witty coming-of-age tale, Born a Crime is also an insightful look into South African culture and makes an excellent resource for learning more about the country’s history.

The New Jim Crow
Lexile Measure: NC1390L
This nonfiction work by legal scholar Michelle Alexander explores the rippling effects of racial discrimination by the American justice system on individuals, families, communities, and society at large. Although Jim Crow laws no longer exist in the United States, mass incarceration, an arguably new form of legal oppression, has disproportionately affected minorities—notably Black men. The New Jim Crow takes an unflinching look at this epidemic by examining court cases, historical events, statistics, case studies, and other data.

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
Lexile Measure: N/A
In this book, antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo explores the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged. These reactions, dubbed “white fragility,” are characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. Through this in-depth analysis, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what readers can do to engage with others more constructively.

What books would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.