The school year is about to begin and I always get requests from teachers for books to add to their reading lists. Others haven’t figured out yet that those old dusty 1982 explorations of life in an idyllic Iowa suburb aren’t really connecting with their increasingly diverse student populations. So, whichever camp you fall into I’ve got a list for you that will increase your diversity quotient, engage readers AND align with the standards. I’ve added  Georgia Performance Standards because I know them best, but I’m sure your state has a similar listing.

Shame the Stars by Guadalup Garcia McCall

Description: Eighteen-year-old Joaquín del Toro’s future looks bright. With his older brother in the priesthood, he’s set to inherit his family’s Texas ranch. He’s in love with Dulceña—and she’s in love with him. But it’s 1915, and trouble has been brewing along the US-Mexico border. On one side, the Mexican Revolution is taking hold; on the other, Texas Rangers fight Tejano insurgents, and ordinary citizens are caught in the middle.

BONUS: It’s a Romeo and Juliet retelling

Genre: Historical Fiction

Standards: SSUSH14 The student will explain America’s evolving relationship with the world at the turn of
the twentieth century.


Grace by Natshia Deon

For a runaway slave in the 1840s south, life on the run can be just as dangerous as life under a sadistic Massa. That’s what fifteen-year-old Naomi learns after she escapes the brutal confines of life on an Alabama plantation and takes refuge in a Georgia brothel run by a gun-toting Jewish madam named Cynthia. Amidst a revolving door of gamblers and prostitutes, Naomi falls into a love affair with a smooth-talking white man named Jeremy.

The product of their union is Josey, whose white skin and blond hair mark her as different from the others on the plantation. Having been taken in as an infant by a free slave named Charles, Josey has never known her mother, who was murdered at her birth. Josey soon becomes caught in the tide of history when news of the Emancipation Proclamation reaches her and a day of supposed freedom turns into one of unfathomable violence that will define Josey—and her lost mother— for years to come.

Genre: Historical Fiction


SSUSH8 The student will explain the relationship between growing north-south divisions and
westward expansion.


The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Description: As the daughter of a time traveler, Nix has spent sixteen years sweeping across the globe and through the centuries aboard her father’s ship. Modern-day New York City, nineteenth-century Hawaii, other lands seen only in myth and legend—Nix has been to them all.

But when her father gambles with her very existence, it all may be about to end. Rae Carson meets Outlander in this epic debut fantasy.

Genre: Fantasy

Standards: US History curriculum only focuses on the New England Colonies and not the acquisition and occupation of Hawaii. Change that!!


Incognegro by Mat Johnson

Description:  In the early 20th Century, when lynchings were commonplace throughout the American South, a few courageous reporters from the North risked their lives to expose these atrocities. They were African-American men who, due to their light skin color, could “pass” among the white folks. They called this dangerous assignment going “incognegro.”

Zane Pinchback, a reporter for the New York-based New Holland Herald barely escapes with his life after his latest “incognegro” story goes bad. But when he returns to the sanctuary of Harlem, he’s sent to investigate the arrest of his own brother, charged with the brutal murder of a white woman in Mississippi.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Graphic Novel

Standards: SSUSH22 The student will identify dimensions of the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1970



Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

Description: San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty of Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Standards: SSUSH11 The student will describe the economic, social, and geographic impact of the growth of
big business and technological innovations after Reconstruction.
b. Describe the impact of the railroads in the development of the West; include the transcontinental railroad, and the use of Chinese labor.

SSUSH14 The student will explain America’s evolving relationship with the world at the turn of the twentieth century.
a. Explain the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and anti-Asian immigration sentiment on the west coast.


The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Description: Life in Amira’s peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when Janjaweed attackers arrive, unleashing unspeakable horrors. After losing nearly everything, Amira needs to find the strength to make the long journey on foot to safety at a refugee camp. She begins to lose hope, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind — and all kinds of possibilities.

Genre: Poetry

Subject alignment: Human migration patterns and their cause and effect (Geography)

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

Description: All Ida Mae Jones wants to do is fly. Her daddy was a pilot, and years after his death she feels closest to him when she’s in the air. But as a young black woman in 1940s Louisiana, she knows the sky is off limits to her, until America enters World War II, and the Army forms the WASP-Women Airforce Service Pilots. Ida has a chance to fulfill her dream if she’s willing to use her light skin to pass as a white girl. She wants to fly more than anything, but Ida soon learns that denying one’s self and family is a heavy burden, and ultimately it’s not what you do but who you are that’s most important.

Genre: Historical Fiction


SSUSH19 The student will identify the origins, major developments, and the domestic impact of
World War II, especially the growth of the federal government.
d. Describe war mobilization, as indicated by rationing, war-time conversion, and the role of
women in war industries.

How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana

Description:This profoundly moving memoir is the remarkable and inspiring true story of Sandra Uwiringiyimana, a girl from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who tells the tale of how she survived a massacre, immigrated to America, and overcame her trauma through art and activism.

Genre: Non-Fiction Memoir

Subject alignment: Human migration patterns and their cause and effect (Geography)

The Astonishing Life of Octavion Nothing: Traitor to the Nation by MT Anderson

Description: Young Octavian is being raised by a group of rational philosophers known only by numbers — but it is only after he opens a forbidden door that learns the hideous nature of their experiments, and his own chilling role them. Set in Revolutionary Boston, M. T. Anderson’s mesmerizing novel takes place at a time when Patriots battled to win liberty while African slaves were entreated to risk their lives for a freedom they would never claim. The first of two parts, this deeply provocative novel reimagines past as an eerie place that has startling resonance for readers today.

Genre: Historical Fiction


SSUSH3 The student will explain the primary causes of the American Revolution.
b. Explain colonial response to such British actions as the Proclamation of 1763, the Stamp Act, and the Intolerable Acts as seen in Sons and Daughters of Liberty and Committees of Correspondence.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Descriptions:Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as “Human Computers,” calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts by Jim Crow laws, these “colored computers,” as they were known, used slide rules, adding machines, and pencil and paper to support America’s fledgling aeronautics industry, and helped write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Standards:SSUSH21 The student will explain the impact of technological development and economic
growth on the United States, 1945-1975.
c. Analyze the impact of technology on American life; include the development of the personal
computer and the expanded use of air conditioning.
d. Describe the impact of competition with the USSR as evidenced by the launch of Sputnik I and
President Eisenhower’s actions.


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Description: Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Standards: SB2. Students will analyze how biological traits are passed on to successive generations.

SCSh9. Students will enhance reading in all curriculum areas.


March: Book 1 by Nate Powell, John Lewis, Andrew Aydin

Description: MARCH tells the story of how a poor sharecropper’s son helped transform America, from a segregated schoolhouse to the 1963 March on Washington and beyond.

BOOK ONE spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Dr. King, the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Genre: Graphic Novel, Memoir

Standards: SSUSH22 The student will identify dimensions of the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1970.


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian By Sherman Alexie

Description: Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Standards: ( The last time Native Americans are mentioned in the US History curriculum is the 19th century, soooo change that)

SSUSH12 The student will analyze important consequences of American industrial growth.
c. Describe the growth of the western population and its impact on Native Americans with
reference to Sitting Bull and Wounded Knee.

A Tyranny of Petticoats by Jessica Spotswood

Description: Crisscross America — on dogsleds and ships, stagecoaches and trains — from pirate ships off the coast of the Carolinas to the peace, love, and protests of 1960s Chicago. Join fifteen of today’s most talented writers of young adult literature on a thrill ride through history with American girls charting their own course. They are monsters and mediums, bodyguards and barkeeps, screenwriters and schoolteachers, heiresses and hobos. They’re making their own way in often-hostile lands, using every weapon in their arsenals, facing down murderers and marriage proposals. And they all have a story to tell.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Standards: Pretty much all US History standards!


Copper Sun by Sharon M. Draper

Description: Amari’s life was once perfect. Engaged to the handsomest man in her tribe, adored by her family, and living in a beautiful village, she could not have imagined everything could be taken away from her in an instant. But when slave traders invade her village and brutally murder her entire family, Amari finds herself dragged away to a slave ship headed to the Carolinas, where she is bought by a plantation owner and given to his son as a birthday present.

Survival seems all that Amari can hope for. But then an act of unimaginable cruelty provides her with an opportunity to escape, and with an indentured servant named Polly she flees to Fort Mose, Florida, in search of sanctuary at the Spanish colony. Can the illusive dream of freedom sustain Amari and Polly on their arduous journey, fraught with hardship and danger?

Genre: Historical Fiction

Standards: SSUSH2 The student will trace the ways that the economy and society of British North America
b. Describe the Middle Passage, growth of the African population, and African-American culture.


Plus One Lost Primary Document

A Hairdresser’s Experience in High Life by Eliza Potter

Description: Here is the first fully annotated edition of a landmark in early African American literature–Eliza Potter’s 1859 autobiography, A Hairdresser’s Experience in High Life. Potter was a freeborn black woman who, as a hairdresser, was in a unique position to hear about, receive confidences from, and observe wealthy white women–and she recorded it all in a revelatory book that delighted Cincinnati’s gossip columnists at the time. But more important is Potter’s portrait of herself as a wage-earning woman, proud of her work, who earned high pay and accumulated quite a bit of money as one of the nation’s earliest “beauticians” at a time when most black women worked at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.

Genre: Memoir

Standards:  SSUSH7 Students will explain the process of economic growth, its regional and national impact
in the first half of the 19th century, and the different responses to it.


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