When I Was the Greatest is Jason Reynolds' first novel, but his voice is already fully-formed. He guides us through the life of Ali, a teenager living in Brooklyn, the non-Cosby part. Ali's mom complains about white gentrification raising the price of rent, but Ali does not fully follow.
I don't really get that. I mean, if I'm in a restaurant, and I order some food, and a white person walks in, all of a sudden I have to pay more for my meal? Makes no sense, but that's what she says.
In his autobiographical novel for young people, Bad Boy, Walter Dean Myers wrote of a world--1940s Harlem--that was markedly different from that of today. Most families were tightly-knit as was the community itself. Even so, it wasn’t a perfect place. As he grew up his family struggled to get by, and, as he became a teenager, he became more aware of racism and how it could affect his future.
But during his early years, he didn’t think too much about race. He had friends who were white and black, and the woman he thought of as his mother was of German and Native American ancestry. The man who raised him, though not his biological father, was African American. Herbert and Florence Dean took Walter and his half-sisters in to be fostered when they needed a loving and caring home.
A fifteen-year-old Mexican American has experienced a series of tough breaks before finding himself completely on his own. He decides to try to keep his lack of a home a secret from his school while working hard and staying out of trouble.
Myers takes readers inside the walls of a juvenile corrections facility in this gritty novel. Fourteen-year-old Reese is in the second year of his sentence for stealing prescription pads and selling them to a neighborhood dealer. He fears that his life is headed in a direction that will inevitably lead him “upstate,” to the kind of prison you don’t leave. His determination to claw his way out of the downward spiral is tested when he stands up to defend a weaker boy, and the resulting recriminations only seem to reinforce the impossibility of escaping a hopeless future.
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Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
Growing up in the flamboyant 1980's, Tracy Ellison is a smart and charming teenager who uses her good looks to attract any boy she wants. With a life of promiscuity as she approaches womanhood, she learns valuable lessons that impels her to examine her reckless lifestyle.
If you like Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree you might like:
Boss Lady by Omar Tyree (follows Flyy Girl)
Rescued by now successful filmmaker Tracy, Vanessa finds herself immune to Hollywood's parties and smooth-talking players. She is at the top of her game, thoroughly in charge, and taking life strictly on her own terms. She tries to persuade Tracy to film Flyy Girl, and Tracy is prepared to do anything to make sure it's done right. (Adult Fiction)
The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah
Ghetto-born, Winter is the young, wealthy daughter of a prominent Brooklyn drug-dealing family. Quick-witted, sexy, businessminded, and fashionable, Winter knows no restrictions. No one can control her. She's nobody's victim. And her Pops lets her know she deserves the best. No slum jewelry, cheap shoes, or knockoff designer stuff ... Winter knows the Brooklyn streets like she knows the curves of her own body. She maneuvers skillfully, applying all she has learned to come out on top, no matter how dramatically the scenes change. But a cold Winter wind is about to blow her life in a direction she could never have expected. (Adult Fiction)
The First Part Last by Angela Johnson
Sixteen-year-old Bobby and his girlfriend, Na, had planned to put their baby, Feather, up for adoption, but Feather becomes impossible to relinquish. (Young Adult Fiction)
A Girl Like Me by Ni-Ni Simone
She's got a voice like Keisha Cole, attitude to burn and is the body-rockin', Bebe-sporting girl everyone in her high school wants to be...or be with. But in real life, sixteen-year-old Elite has a crack-addicted mother, no father in sight, and is secretly raising her sister and two brothers on her own. Now a radio contest has put her up-close-and-personal with mega-hot singer Hanseef and their chemistry is too sizzling for Elite to stop pretending. And as the clock ticks down fast for this hood Cinderella, she has only one shot to save her family and make all of her dreams come true. (Young Adult Fiction)
Glitter by Babygirl Daniels
Asia Smith is still reeling from her rich father's death, but she looks forward to starting high school with her best friend, Tracey, until she loses Tracey in a fight over a boy who subsequently gets her pregnant and dumps her. (Young Adult Fiction)
"The summer before D Foster's real mama came and took her away, Tupac wasn't dead yet. From this first line in her quiet, powerful novel, Woodson cycles backward through the events that lead to dual tragedies: a friend's departure and a hero's death. In a close-knit African American neighborhood in Queens, New York, the unnamed narrator lives across fromÂ her best friend, Neeka. Then D Foster wanders onto the block, and the three 11-year-old girls quickly become inseparable.
While studying the Harlem Renaissance, students at a Bronx high school read aloud poems they've written, revealing their innermost thoughts and fears to their formerly clueless classmates.