Asian

Tiger Girl by May-Lee Chai

In this sequel to the acclaimed Dragon Chica, college student Nea Cchim is haunted by her memories of the Cambodian Killing Fields. She decides to confront the past and goes on a cross-country trip to search for her biological father. She eventually finds a man wounded by survivor’s guilt and refusing to acknowledge the family’s secrets. It is up to Nea to uncover a lifetime of lies. Tiger Girl is a quietly powerful story about a young woman’s painful confrontation with her family’s past.

 

Wait for Me by An Na

From the outside, Korean American Mina’s life seems perfect: A straight-A student and Honor Society president, she is bound for Harvard. But on the inside, she feels that her life is a lie, aimed only at satisfying her overbearing mom who expects Mina to escape their small-town dry-cleaning store and do better for herself. With the help of her Mexican immigrant friend Ysrael, Mina tries to figure out what she really wants. Wait For Me is a heartfelt novel about loyalty, betrayal and self-discovery.

 

Up From the Sea by Leza Lowitz

In March 2011 a tsunami devastates the coast of Japan. Young survivor Kai loses almost everyone and everything. When he is offered a trip to New York to meet kids affected by 9/11, Kai uses this opportunity to also look for his estranged American father. When he visits Ground Zero, Kai realizes he needs to return home and help rebuild his town. Up From The Sea is a heartbreaking yet hopeful novel-in-verse about loss, survival, and starting anew.

 

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Young Hong Kong immigrant Kimberly leads a double life: Straight A-student during the day, Chinatown sweatshop worker at night. Struggling between these two worlds, she tries to disguise the degree of her poverty, the weight of her family’s future on her shoulders, and her secret love for a factory boy. Girl in Translation is a fresh and moving story about hardship and triumph, heartbreak and love, and everything that gets lost in translation.

Black Characters and Black History

Orangeboy, Patrice Lawrence  *New*

A young man has an impossible choice to make, in this powerful urban story that will challenge preconceptions and melt the hardest heart.

Punching the Air, Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam *New*
Amal’s name means Hope, but when he’s imprisoned after a fight with a gang of white boys, he finds it hard to hold on to the future. He’s always been an artist, but there’s little scope for his talent in prison. An extraordinary verse novel.

Staying Power, Peter Fryer

Staying Power is a panoramic history of black Britons. Stretching back to the Roman conquest, encompassing the court of Henry VIII, and following a host of characters from Mary Seacole to the abolitionist Olaudah Equiano, Peter Fryer paints a picture of two thousand years of Black presence in Britain.

 

Hell and High Water, Tanya Landman

Mystery turns to mortal danger as one young man’s quest to clear his father’s name ensnares him in a net of deceit, conspiracy, and intrigue in 1750s England.

 

Empathy and Kindness

The following books are not specifically on the topic of empathy but have been suggested as empathy-inducing reads for teen and young adult readers.  Please check content for suitability. 

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chobosky

Charlie is a freshman. And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But Charlie can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

 

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

A deeply moving novel about prejudice and injustice as seen through the eyes of a little girl, the daughter of a lawyer who defends a black man against an unfair rape charge in a Southern town in the 1930s. The film starring Gregory Peck is also glorious and provides wonderful discussion opportunities about conscience, empathy, tolerance, respect, and unfairness. The movie is also strongly recommended.

I Know Why The Caged Birds Sing, Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s coming-of-age autobiography illustrates the power of literature in a young girl’s life and how books gave her the strength to overcome the racism and trauma she experienced in her early years.

 

No Longer At Ease, Chinua Achebe 

This novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe illuminates the struggles of a young villager adapting to a Western lifestyle after leaving Nigeria for a British education and a job in the Nigerian colonial civil service.

 

Night, Elie Wiesel

Wiesel tells a wrenching story based on his own experiences in the concentration camp during World War II in which he witnesses the death of his family. It is unforgettable and sends a clear message of how immoral intolerance can be and the impact of a complete lack of empathy.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, John Boyne

Nine-year-old Bruno knows nothing of the Final Solution and the Holocaust. He is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he knows is that he has been moved from a comfortable home in Berlin to a house in a desolate area where there is nothing to do and no one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel, a boy who lives a strange parallel existence on the other side of the adjoining wire fence and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pyjamas. Bruno's friendship with Shmuel will take him from innocence to revelation. And in exploring what he is unwittingly a part of, he will inevitably become subsumed by the terrible process.

 

A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest J. Gaines. 

Set in a small Cajun community in the late 1940s, a young black man is unjustly accused of murder and is sentence to death. Enormously moving tale of compassion, unfairness, mercy, and unfairness.

 

Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin. 

A true story about a white man in the 1950s who darkens his skin so he can “become” a black man living in the deep South. The racism and unfairness he encounters are just wrenching.

 

Children of the River, Linda Crew

A thirteen-year-old girl has fled Cambodia with her aunt’s family to escape the Khmer Rouge army, leaving behind her family and the boy she has loved since she was a child. Now, four years later, she struggles to fit in at the high school. Depicts the emotional grief for her lost family and the consequences of war. For advanced readers.

 

Farewell to Manzanar, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston

The touching true story of a Japanese American family who was uprooted from their home and set to live at the Manzanar internment camp because of their Japanese ancestry.

 

Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

This literature classic is the story of a young orphan boy who mysteriously acquires a great fortune and then tries to discover his benefactor. The crux of the novel is his relationship with two men: his foster father, a simple, kind man and the evil Abel Magwitch, an escaped convict who the boy befriends.

 

Lord of the Flies, William Golding

A group of English schoolboys become stranded on a desert island during a nuclear war. Gradually throughout the ordeal their character transforms from “civilized” and “proper” into cruel, greedy savages without an ounce of kindness.

 

Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck.

The friendship between two stirring characters: mentally handicapped and warm-hearted Lenny and his protector, George. Heartbreaking moments depicting a world that can sometimes be cruel and selfish make for ripe moral discussions. 

 

Manchild in a Promised Land, Claude Brown

First published in 1965, this is one of the most remarkable autobiographies of our time. It is a thinly fictionalized account of Brown’s childhood as a hardened, streetwise criminal trying to survive the toughest streets of Harlem and makes it. It is affirmative, inspiring and rich with values.

 

Please Stop Laughing At Me!, Jodie Blanco 

An inspirational memoir about how one child was shunned and even physically abused by her classmates from elementary to high school. Impossible not to be moved! 

 

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

The classic about the prejudice that occurred between the 19th century classes and the pride, which would keep lovers apart. Look carefully at the “supposed arrogance” of a few of the characters: particularly the uncle. What becomes apparent in the ending is that some people put on airs to cover up insecurities or traumatic earlier experiences. 


Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson 

A tough, tender and funny story of a teenage outcast. It captures the harsh conformity of cliques and a teen’s struggle to find acceptance. Beware: the issue of rape is addressed but her ultimate triumph (and her surprise “rescuers”) will make you cheer. 

 

The Color of Water, James McBride

A moving memoir of a young black boy growing up at a time of racial polarization. The unforgettable character is his compassionate mother who raises her children to see themselves as human beings who have something to give to others.

 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. This novel is funny, poignant and fascinating and it helps the read perceive the world of the character.  

 

The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank 

Talk about Anne’s indomitable optimistic spirit and ability to find goodness despite horrendous circumstances. It is just plain magnificent and should be read by every child. 

 

The Hate Crime, Phyllis Karas

High-school sophomore, Zack, never thought being Jewish was any big deal until someone painted anti-Semitic graffiti on the Temple Israel.

 

The Invisible Thread, Y. Uchida

This is a powerful memoir of a Japanese American girl who was held with her family along with 130,000 other Japanese American citizens in U.S. internment camps during World War II.

 

The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton

This remains a favorite of boys and does present great discussion possibilities. It addresses a vicious gang of kids whose idea of good time is beat up the greasers until one night things go too far. There is also a movie version of the book.

 

Warriors Don’t Cry, Melba Pattillo Beal 

The true remarkable story of Melba Pattillo, one of the nine teenagers chosen to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School and the racism they endured.

 

Refugee, Alan Gratz

This book follows Josef, a German Jew in the 1930's, who tries to escape Germany to Cuba, Isabel, a Cuban girl in 1994, who tries to escape Cuba's hunger crisis following the dissolution of the Soviet Union to the US, and Mahmoud, a Syrian youth in 2015 whose house gets destroyed by a missile and whose family decides to emigrate to Germany. It received positive reviews that praised style and historical accuracy. Similar novels written by Alan Gratz also include Prisoner B-3087 and Allies.

 
 

Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik

A great book for teenagers set in an imaginary medieval kingdom, this is a fairytale/folktale story suffused with Jewish history and culture, and depicts a metaphorical telling of the dangers of anti-semitism. 

Yes No Maybe So, Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeedamie

Jamie Goldberg, who chokes when speaking to strangers, and Maya Rehrman, who is having the worst Ramadan ever, are paired to knock on doors and ask for votes for the local State Senate candidate.

Zoe Rosenthal is Not Lawful Good, Nancy Werlin

High school senior Zoe Rosenthal is a serious life planner in a serious relationship with serious plans. When she becomes obsessed with the sci-fi/horror TV show Bleeders and runs off to Dragon Con to see the Season 2 premiere, she knows this is a secret adventure.

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
Liesel grows up in Nazi Germany. Her world is overturned by the Nazi regime and her parents hiding a Jew, Max, in their basement. Chillingly narrated by Death, this novel introduces readers to themes of innocence, complicity and acts of every day heroism. 

 

Dancing at the Pity Party, A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir

From before her mother's first oncology appointment through the stages of her cancer to the funeral, sitting shiva, and beyond, Tyler Feder tells her story in this graphic novel that is full of piercing--but also often funny--details.

The Photographer of Mauthausen by Salva Rubio 
A dramatic retelling of the true story of Spanish photograher Francisco Boix who was imprisoned in the Mauthausen concentration camp and stole photographic negatives of the atrocities.

 

LGBTQ+

If You Believe in Mermaids...Don't Tell, A. A. Phillips

Todd Winslow has just finished seventh grade. He has always struggled with his own identity and what it means to be a boy, being perpetually measured against what his father views as the ‘perfect son.’ Philips presents a difficult gender issue to readers in a delicate manner.

 

Arab, Middle Eastern & Muslim

Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood, Ibtisam Barakat *NEW*

In this groundbreaking memoir set in Ramallah during the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, Ibtisam Barakat captures what it is like to be a child whose world is shattered by war. Winner of the Arab American National Museum Book Award for Children's/YA Literature.

Where The Streets Had A Name, Randa Abdel-Fattah, *NEW* 

Thirteen-year-old Hayaat is on a mission. She believes a handful of soil from her grandmother's ancestral home in Jerusalem will save her beloved Sitti Zeynab's life. The only problem is the impenetrable wall that divides the West Bank, as well as the check points, the curfews, the permit system and Hayaat's best friend Samy, who is mainly interested in football and the latest elimination on X-Factor, but always manages to attract trouble. But luck is on their side. Hayaat and Samy have a curfew-free day to travel to Jerusalem. However, while their journey may only be a few kilometres long, it may take a lifetime to complete. The story, told through Hayaat’s eyes, provides readers with a clear window into a young teen’s life under the Israeli occupation.

Children of Israel, Children of Palestine (Children of Conflict), Laurel Holliday *NEW*

Israeli Jews and Palestinians appear side by side for the first time in this remarkable book to share powerful feelings and reflections on growing up in one of the world's longest and most dangerous conflicts. Here, thirty-six men and women, boys and girls, tell of their coming-of-age in a land of turmoil. From kibbutzim in Israel and the occupied territories to Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israeli Jews and Palestinians tell of tragedy and transcendence as they face their deepest fears and dream of a peaceful future.

Ten Things I Hate About Me, Randa Abdel-Fattah *NEW*

A 16-year-old Australian-Muslim-Lebanese teen wonders who she really is as she straddles two cultural realities.  Randa Abdel-Fattah's award-winning novel (suggested for readers aged 11-18) is about finding your place in life and learning to accept yourself and your culture.

Ask Me No Questions, Marina Budhos

A Muslim immigrant teen struggles to hold her family together in the wake of 9/11 in this poignant novel from acclaimed author Marina Budhos.

 

19 Varieties of Gazelle, Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye has been writing about being Arab-American, about Jerusalem, about the West Bank, about family all her life. Sixty new and collected poems of the Middle East. 

 

In Search of Fatima - A Palestinian Story, Ghada Karmi

Tells of the author's personal experiences of displacement, loss and nostalgia against a backdrop of the major political events which have shaped Middle East conflict.

 

The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, Mohja Kahf

Syrian immigrant Khadra Shamy is growing up in a devout, tightly knit Muslim family in 1970s Indiana, at the crossroads of bad polyester and Islamic dress codes. 

 

Guantanamo Boy, Anna Perera

Khalid, a fifteen-year-old boy from Rochdale, is abducted from Pakistan while on holiday. Taken to Guantanamo Bay and held without charge, his hopes and dreams are crushed.

 

A Little Piece of Ground, Elizabeth Laird

Karim Aboudi and his family are trapped in their Ramallah home by a strict curfew. When the curfew ends, he and his friend discover an unused patch of ground perfect for a football pitch. 

 

When Wings Expand, Mehded Maryam Sinclair

Writing on the pages of her journal, Nur, a teenage girl in Canada, charts her mother's cancer. When family and friends begin to encroach, Nur must face the prospect of her mother's death

Punching the Air, Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam *New*

Amal’s name means Hope, but when he’s imprisoned after a fight with a gang of white boys, he finds it hard to hold on to the future. He’s always been an artist, but there’s little scope for his talent in prison. An extraordinary verse novel.

 
 

Refugee

Children of Israel, Children of Palestine (Children of Conflict), Laurel Holliday

Israeli Jews and Palestinians appear side by side for the first time in this remarkable book to share powerful feelings and reflections on growing up in one of the world's longest and most dangerous conflicts. Here, thirty-six men and women, boys and girls, tell of their coming-of-age in a land of turmoil. From kibbutzim in Israel and the occupied territories to Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israeli Jews and Palestinians tell of tragedy and transcendence as they face their deepest fears and dream of a peaceful future.

 

Refugee, Alan Gratz

This book follows Josef, a German Jew in the 1930's, who tries to escape Germany to Cuba, Isabel, a Cuban girl in 1994, who tries to escape Cuba's hunger crisis following the dissolution of the Soviet Union to the US, and Mahmoud, a Syrian youth in 2015 whose house gets destroyed by a missile and whose family decides to emigrate to Germany.

 

Strong Female Characters

The Wind on the Moon, Eric Linklater

In the English village of Midmeddlecum, Major Palfrey asks his two daughters to behave themselves while he is off at war. Sighing, Dinah says, “I think that we are quite likely to be bad, however hard we try not to be,” and her sister, Dorinda, adds helpfully, “Very often, when we think we are behaving well, some grown-up person says we are really quite bad. It’s difficult to tell which is which.” Sure enough, the mischievous sisters soon convince a judge that minds must be changed as often as socks, stage an escape from the local zoo (thanks to a witch’s potion that turns them into kangaroos), and—in the company of a golden puma and silver falcon—set off to rescue their father from the tyrant of Bombardy.

 

Lumberjanes, Sharon Watters and others

A series built on the power of friendship and positivity! At Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams! Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together...and they're not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here.

 

Song of the Lioness Series, Tamora Pierce

Set at a time and place where girls are forbidden from becoming knights, this series details Alanna of Trebond's training as a knight as (swapping places with her brother who would rather learn magic) she hides her real gender from teachers and fellow pages.

Savage Her Reply, Deirdre Sullivan

A feminist retelling of the favourite Irish fairytale The Children of Lir. 

Latinx

Coming soon!