All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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History & Cultures

A YALSA committee of librarians selected these books to open doors on new worlds, exciting ideas, eccentric personalities, unfamiliar cultures, and distant time periods. Use it to broaden students' horizons as they prepare for college entrance exams and courses.

New Found Land: Lewis and Clark's Voyage of Discovery

New Found Land: Lewis and Clark's Voyage of Discovery

Age Level: 9-12

The epic journey of Lewis and Clark comes alive as each member of the expedition tells an intimately personal story of struggle and discovery in this sweeping poetic rendition.

Bitterly Divided: The South’s Inner Civil War

Bitterly Divided: The South’s Inner Civil War

Age Level: 16-18

The Civil War was lost long before the first shot was ever fired, thanks to deep and violent divisions of class and political allegiance that resulted in "a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight."

Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA

Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA

Age Level: 16-18

With considerable research and extensive interviews, Tim Weiner shows the grave miscalculations that have plagued the Central Intelligence Agency since its inception.

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

Age Level: 16-18

The perils of life under the brutal Pol Pot regime change a young woman’s life forever, as she and her family find themselves fugitives of war, without even their names to remind them of what they lost.

The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale

The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale

Age Level: 16-18

A man struggles to come to terms with his parents' brutal past at Auschwitz in this seminal graphic novel.

The Complete Persepolis

The Complete Persepolis

Age Level: 16-18

Marjane Satrapi's memoir of her childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution is beautifully rendered in this graphic novel series.

Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood

Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood

Age Level: 14-16

This Hollywood is a barrio in 1968 New Mexico, where the students at Las Cruces High School struggle through heartbreak, loss, and an entrenched racial divide to find their place in the world.

The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation

The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation

Age Level: 16-18

When Harry Reasoner thrust a microphone at an angry mob, and yelled "I don't care what you're going to do to me, but the whole world is going to know it!" he spoke for all the reporters and photographers, black and white, north and south, who played a critical role in bringing the reality of the Civil Rights movement into the living rooms and consciousness of the American public.

The Night Birds

The Night Birds

Age Level: 16-18

Three generations of settlers and native Dakota weave a dark tale of family secrets and brutal injustice in Civil War era America.

The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City

Age Level: 16-18

The 1893 Chicago World's Fair captured the imagination of the whole world, and also provided a playground for a cunning serial killer.

A Voyage Long and Strange

A Voyage Long and Strange

Age Level: 16-18

Pulitzer prizing winning journalist Horwitz uses humor and candor to literally follow in the footsteps of the first American explorers—from the Vikings and French utopians to America's first African-American trailblazer—whose discoveries took place hundreds of years before the mythical landing on Plymouth Rock.

The Known World

The Known World

Age Level: 16-18

In this Pulitzer Prize winning novel Jones approaches a little explored chapter in antebellum history, that of African American slave owners. Set several decades before the beginning of the Civil War, this title skillfully weaves plot, time, and perspective amongst a diverse and powerful cast of characters in order to explore the moral complexities inherent to human freedom (or the lack thereof).

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam

Age Level: 14-16

In his day, Long Tack Sam was an acrobat, a magician, an entrepreneur, a world traveler, a celebrity, a father, a ladies man, and a husband. This graphic collage biography pairs narrative writing, handbills, photographs, and news clippings along with interviews, comics, and commentary to convey the inevitable effects of cultural shifts and global politics on individual lives.

What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng

What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng

Age Level: 16-18

As a young boy Valentino witnessed Arab militia men destroy his village, hid from hungry lions, wandered through wasted, desert landscapes, and narrowly escaped fatal disease, capture, starvation, and enlistment. The will to survive displayed here is almost as miraculous as this Sudanese "Lost Boy's" ability to recount the harrowing genocide of home and people with such thoughtfulness and grace.

The Worst Hard Time

The Worst Hard Time

Age Level: 16-18

Award winning New York Times reporter Egan tackles the great dust bowl phenomenon of the 1930's and 40's in this multi-tiered account. He shares incredible eye-witness accounts as well as the overwhelming convergences of failed agricultural practices, ill-fated government policies, and the costs of "get rich quick" schemes.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Age Level: 16-18

"Ghetto nerd," outcast, and anime-loving Oscar Wao is the latest in a long line of doomed generations to suffer the dreaded fuku curse of his native Dominican Republic. With humor and talent as his weapons, he perseveres, knowing "you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in."

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Age Level: 16-18

What do the lack of Icelandic fisherman, the 2008 Chinese Olympics, and Easter Island tree cutters all have in common? Much more than you might think. Collapse explores the political, technological, and ecological decisions which merge in order to sustain or destroy societies.

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

Age Level: 16-18

The secretive world of Communist North Korea remains a mystery to French-Canadian cartoonist Delisle, even after spending two months inside its borders.

Daniel Half Human: And the Good Nazi

Daniel Half Human: And the Good Nazi

Age Level: 12-14

From Hitler Youth to hunted "mischling," Daniel's world unravels when he discovers his mother's hidden history "taints" him with Jewish blood and marks him for extermination.

The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II

The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II

Age Level: 14-16

Barely a postscript in official Japanese history, the horrific torture and murder of hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens took place over the course of just seven weeks.

Imperial Life in the Emerald City

Imperial Life in the Emerald City

Age Level: 16-18

A journalist explores the pristine "Emerald City," the American government's enclave in the middle of war-torn Baghdad.

Forgotten Fire

Forgotten Fire

Age Level: 12-14

"Who will remember the Armenians?" Hitler asked, referencing the Armenian genocide as his inspiration for the final solution. This brutal hidden chapter of history is seen through the eyes of 12-year-old survivor Vahan Kendarian, whose world was shattered within a matter of days.

Rotten English: A Literary Anthology

Rotten English: A Literary Anthology

Age Level: 16-18

Language is power and for the dizzying array of writers collected here, displaying an authentic voice is a means to reclaim what has been stolen, oppressed, or colonized. Rotten English collects the poetry, essays, short stories, and novels of the best in global vernacular writing from Mark Twain to Junot Diaz.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

Age Level: 14-16

This non-fiction account of a medical crisis in the Hmong community is as compelling as any novel. When baby Lia is born to a Hmong family, she shows signs of possibly epilepsy. Conflicting medical opinions between the traditional Hmong and the American medical establishment show that neither side is completely right.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Age Level: 14-16

When Junior gets a chance to leave the reservation school and attend a far-away white high school, he must deal with prejudice not only from his new schoolmates, but from those he left behind.