YA Friday: #ReadWoke

black background with fists raised below. Text: Hashtag Read Woke

What is Woke?

The word "woke" being used as an adjective isn't a particularly new expression. To "stay woke" is to be aware and know what's going on in the community. Its use has specific ties to racism and social injustice. To use "woke" accurately in a sentence, one that captures its connotations and nuances, you'd need to reference someone who sees the ways in which racism, sexism and classism affect how we lives our lives on a daily basis. #StayWoke often accompanies social media posts about police brutality, systematic racism and the industrial prison complex. #StayWoke reminds readers to look past the provided narrative, to examine their own privilege (or lack thereof) and reminds others that there is more than one reality to life in the United States.

Capitan Holt from Brooklyn Nine-Nine saying, "They were not as the kids say, 'awake.'"

What is #ReadWoke?

It’s a feeling. A form of education. A call to action, and our right as lifelong learners. It means arming yourself with knowledge to better protect your rights. Learning about others so you treat people with respect and dignity, no matter their religion, race, creed, or color.

A Woke Book must:

  • Challenge a social norm
  • Give voice to the voiceless
  • Provide information about a group that has been disenfranchised
  • Seek to challenge the status quo
  • Have a protagonist from an underrepresented or oppressed group

The list below is by no means a comprehensive one, but is a great introduction to some amazing books that will hopefully open eyes up to the experiences of different cultures, races, and religions.

Woke YA

All American Boys book cover

All American Boys, written by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

When sixteen-year-old Rashad is mistakenly accused of stealing, classmate Quinn witnesses his brutal beating at the hands of a police officer who happens to be the older brother of his best friend. Told through Rashad and Quinn's alternating viewpoints.

Dear Martin book cover

Dear Martin, written by Nic Stone

Writing letters to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., seventeen-year-old college-bound Justyce McAllister struggles to face the reality of race relations today and how they are shaping him.

Girl Mans Up book cover

Girl Mans Up, written by M.E. Girard

In Ontario, Pen is a sixteen-year-old girl who looks like a boy. She's fine with it, but everyone else is uncomfortable--especially her Portuguese immigrant parents and her manipulative neighbor who doesn't want her to find a group of real friends.

Saints and Misfits book cover

Saints and Misfits, written by S.K. Ali

Fifteen-year-old Janna Yusuf, a Flannery O'Connor-obsessed book nerd and the daughter of the only divorced mother at their mosque, tries to make sense of the events that follow when her best friend's cousin--a holy star in the Muslim community--attempts to assault her at the end of sophomore year.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter book cover

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, written by Erika L. Sánchez

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents' house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family. But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga's role. Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

The Librarian of Auschwitz book cover

The Librarian of Auschwitz, written by Antonio Iturbe

Follows the true story of Dita Kraus, a fourteen-year-old girl from Prague who after being sent to Auschwitz is chosen to protect the eight volumes prisoners have smuggled past the guards.

Further Reading

The Hate U Give book coverThe Education of Margot SanchezThe 57 Bus book coverShadowshaper book coverHow It Went Down book coverGabi A Girl In Pieces book coverAmerican Panda book coverYaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass book coverThe Inexplicable Logic of My Life book coverJuliet Takes A Breath book coverDisappeared book coverIf I Was Your Girl book cover

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