25 Audiobooks for Black History Month and Beyond

Start Black History Month with these edifying, entertaining audiobooks by Black writers about Black experiences starring Black charactersand keep listening throughout the year. 

February is Black History Month, so why not start with these edifying, entertaining audiobooks by Black writers about Black experiences starring Black characters? 


Early Elementary

Adjepong, Eric. Sankofa: A Culinary Story of Resilience and Belonging. narrated by Eric Adjepong. 14 min. Listening Library. Oct. 2023. $5. ISBN 9780593745045.
Gr 1-3–The potluck is Monday, which means students need to “bring a dish that best represents [their] family’s culture.” Kofi worries his home food is “so different from all the dishes.” It makes him feel “as if he didn’t belong.” Kofi’s parents and grandfather are immigrants from Ghana where he’s never been. His parents can’t help with the cooking that weekend, but his Nanbarima (grandfather) steps in, taking Kofi to the market where the ingredients help connect him to his heritage. Kofi shares jollof with his class, and also “the story of his people, of the dish, and of his African culture.” Top Chef–featured Adjepong draws on his own Ghanaian American background to create his debut picture book—which he also invitingly, gently reads. VERDICT Lala Watkins’s vivid art further highlights important details (market stalls, history, clothing) which makes pairing audio with print highly recommended.

Brantley-Newton, Vanessa. Nesting Dolls. narrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. 6 min. Listening Library. Oct. 2023. $5. ISBN 9780593746141.
K-Gr 2–Brantley-Newton’s delightful story is clearly meant as a read-along: both the print and audio prove equally important for gratifying enjoyment. The back matter features her own family photographs, which need to be viewed to understand who’s who. Hearing Brantley-Newton’s voice is a must to fully appreciate how her Gullah Geechee people featured here speak in a melodic combination of Creole, African, and European languages. Brantley-Newton energetically self-narrates (her fourth as reader), ensuring a mellifluous experience discovering Anyiaka’s extended family is “so beautiful and so smart.” Anyiaka doesn’t think she looks like her mother, and she’s convinced she can’t be helpful in the kitchen. Anyiaka worries she “stick[s] out like a sore thumb” until Grandma shows how they all fit wholly together just like nesting dolls. VERDICT Libraries considering one format should invest in all formats to entice and engage young readers.

Ford, Juwanda G. Together for Kwanzaa. narrated by Yinka Ladeinde. 11 min. ­Listening Library. Nov. 2023. $5. ISBN 9780593826744.
K-Gr 2–Originally published in 2000, Ford’s holiday story proves timeless with an ­audiobook appearing almost a quarter-century later. Nigerian-born voice actor Ladeinde’s performance is sweetly understanding as young Kayla shares her love for Kwanzaa, her “favorite time of the year,” and her sadness that her older brother Khari can’t travel home due to a heavy snowstorm. Kayla “loved celebrating her African heritage,” but missing Khari weighs heavily. Upholding her family’s traditions means dressing in colorful African clothing and setting up the Kwanzaa table with the kinara, and its seven candles to be lit over seven nights to celebrate the seven Kwanzaa principles: umoja (unity); kujichagulia (self-determination); ujima (working together and being responsible); ujamaa (supporting Black ­businesses), nia (purpose); kuumba (creativity); and imani (faith). Sometime in between, Khari surprises everyone. VERDICT Ladeinde relates a lovely and joyous celebration of all things Kwanzaa through one family’s experiences.

King, Coretta Scott with the Reverend Dr. Barbara Reynolds. Coretta: The Autobiography of Mrs. Coretta Scott King. narrated by January LaVoy. 15 min. ­Macmillan Young Listeners. Jan. 2024. $1.99. ISBN 9781250877437.
Gr 1-5–Seven years after the 2017 publication of King’s autobiography for adults, My Life, My Love, My Legacy (also written with Reynolds), and 18 years after her 2006 death, the powers-that-be gift younger readers with an enlightening adaptation. LaVoy is a superb cipher, her gentle gravitas both intimate and respectful. An enhancing soundtrack underscores her performance: jazzy music as Coretta and Martin’s romance develops, moving feet signaling the March on Washington, an ominous phone ringing that will announce Martin’s assassination. For decades after, King continued the nonviolent struggle for human rights, including serving in the United Nations supporting gay rights, fighting apartheid in South Africa; she also pushed Martin’s birthday holiday into federal law in 1983. Important back matter—the “Six Principles of Nonviolence” and a “Civil Rights Timeline”—is also aurally appended. VERDICT Although a read-along is certainly encouraged (it’s illustrated by Caldecott Honor illustrator Ekua Holmes), LaVoy’s impressive narration ensures a memorable standalone audiobook.

Magoon, Kekla. She Persisted: Simone Biles. narrated by Nekia Renee ­Martin & ­Chelsea Clinton. 42 min. (She ­Persisted). Listening Library. Oct. 2023. $10. ISBN 9780593745243.
Gr 1-4–National Book Award finalist Magoon grows her presence in the expanding chapter book adaptations of the original “She Persisted” series. Magoon’s Simone Biles follows her Ruby Bridges and precedes upcoming Naomi Osaka. Clinton reads her series introduction, a shout-out to the “sisterhood of writers” championing persistent women. Actor Martin gives softly determined voice to multi-Olympics champion Simone Biles’s journey from a difficult childhood to becoming the most ­decorated and famous gymnast in history. Martin slips with “masted” rather than “mastered” (a production glitch?), but remains otherwise committed and convincing, especially through Biles’s courageous decision to use her fame to speak out against inequity, abuse, and racism. VERDICT As Biles’s unparalleled accomplishments continue beyond the page, young readers’ interest will only increase. Libraries should prepare for probable 2024 Summer Olympics–fueled demand.

Moore, Tanisia. I Am My Ancestors’ Wildest Dreamsnarrated by Nile Bullock, Tanisia Moore & Robert Paul, Jr. 18 min. Scholastic Audio. Nov. 2023. $6.99. ISBN 9781339044408.
PreS-Gr 3–Moore’s empowering debut celebrates a young Black boy’s unbridled pride and joy for who he is: “I AM FLY. From my crown down to the kicks on my feet … I AM my ancestors’ wildest dreams.” Those ancestors include 10 heroes, from Chadwick Boseman to Charles Drew, from John Lewis to Thurgood Marshall. Already uplifting in print, the audio is an even greater exhilarating enhancement. Spirited, youthfully persuasive Bullock performs a confident narration over a dynamic soundtrack by Matthew Head. The same narration repeats, with a techo-rattle to cue page turns. Moore then reads her bolstering author’s note (“you, my friend, can change the world”), and adds “A Little About These Ancestors” she’s chosen. The final track concludes with artist Paul voicing his “imagination is the seed of greatness”—encouragement; his heroes are 11—Martin Luther King Jr is visible only in print. VERDICT All libraries should invest in this impeccable collaboration.

Moses, Shelia P. She Persisted: Opal Lee. narrated by Karen Chilton & ­Chelsea Clinton. 42 min. (She Persisted). ­Listening Library. Dec. 2023. $10. ISBN 9780593823194.
Gr 1-4–Poet/playwright/producer and National Book Award finalist Moses presents the latest “She Persisted” chapter book; as with previous volumes, Clinton’s encouraging reading of her series introduction also opens this audio. Chilton follows, her mature, resounding voice underscoring Opal Lee’s resilience through almost a century of accomplishments—from fearless child to teacher, community leader, and activist. Beginning in 2016, at age of 89, Lee walked over 1,400 miles between Ft. Worth, TX, and Washington, D.C., to convince lawmakers of the significance of nationally recognizing Juneteenth—which marked the end of the enslavement of Black Americans in 1865. Born Opal Flake in 1926, she and her family lost their home to fire (for the second time) on June 19, 1939. More than 80 years later, spurred by Lee’s decades-long persistence, President Joe Biden declared Juneteenth the 11th federal holiday on June 17, 2021. VERDICT Libraries should persist in acquiring titles from this empowering series.

Reynolds, Jason. There Was a Party for Langston: King O’ Letters. narrated by Jason Reynolds. 6 min. Recorded Books. Oct. 2023. $7.99. ISBN 9798890594921.
PreS-Gr 3–Reynolds is a richly resonating, flawless cipher for his exuberant celebration of Langston Hughes. His author’s note explains how he discovered a photo of “two of [his] favorite word makers, Maya Angelou and Amiri Baraka … dancing” and had to know why, then had to share that revelation in a book. For utmost enlightenment, combining audio and print is essential. Award-winning Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey’s illustrations are pure brilliance, transforming Reynolds’s words into pictures—“BLUES” becomes a musical trio, “MOTHER” a woman enveloping her child, “MAYA” and “AMIRI” boogie-ing partners. The party’s details are never mentioned in audio and solely visible in the brothers’ art. Only in print can audiences revel in the chorus of legendary witnesses (in alphabetical order, mimicking library shelves)—from Octavia Butler to Richard Wright—who overlook the “dazzle.” VERDICT Reynolds and the Pumphreys lovingly bestow upon “the king of letters” exactly what he deserves.

Scipio, Fatima. I Love Everything About Me. narrated by Jasmin Walker. 3 min. ­Recorded Books. Oct. 2023. $7.99. ISBN 9798890593818.
PreS-Gr 2–Walker’s metamorphosis from simply reciting the credits to performing the text instantly grabs attention, as she transforms Scipio’s empowering words into a marvelous mantra of self-love. From the opening declaration of “I love everything, absolutely everything about ME!” Walker calls out eyes, cheeks, lips, teeth as parts of “me” to love. Whatever color or type of clothing, whichever activity wherever whenever, Walker joyously shouts out that “everything” falls into the celebratory category. In print, artist Paige Mason’s illustrations enthusiastically highlight an adventurous, assured little Black girl enjoying her day from rise to rest. Walker’s effusive performance is proactively timed for a read-along, but it’s also a rare example of an autonomous aural adaptation of a picture book. VERDICT Ageless audiences might consider listening on repeat anytime a boost of confidence proves necessary.

Wiley, DeAnn. Homegrown. narrated by Erin Ruth Walker. 15 min. Macmillan Young Listeners. Jan. 2024. $1.99. ISBN 9781250329165.
PreS-Gr 2–Self-taught artist Wiley makes her author/illustrator debut with a celebration of multiple generations of family bonds. Walker’s loving, reassuring, childlike voice invitingly narrates over a soft rhythmic musical soundtrack. Her warm, clear pronunciation and careful, thoughtful pacing enable an easy-to-follow read-along with the printed book, because audiences will not want to miss Wiley’s vibrant, vivacious drawings of a young Black girl discovering all the inclusive meanings of being homegrown from her mother and grandmother. Together, their extended family demonstrates the ways homegrown encompasses “homemaking,” “homemade,” “homeland,” “homework,” “home-cooked.” Affirmations are many: “It’s the moments, family, traditions and love that make us who we are.” VERDICT Wiley and Walker’s complementary pairing creates one of the too-rare full productions that markedly augments the printed book.

Middle Grade

Amos, Shawn. Ellis Johnson Might Be ­Famous. narrated by Shawn Amos. 4:27 hrs. (Cookies & Milk: Bk. 2). ­Hachette Audio. Oct. 2023. $18.99. ISBN 9781668631652.
Gr 3-6–Amos delectably continues his toothsome “Cookies & Milk” series “rooted in [his] own real-life childhood” as cookie legend Famous Amos’s son. He’s again his own extraordinary cipher, immediately displaying his impressive harmonica-playing musical skills with an introductory mini-performance just to announce credits and a bonus PDF. His bluesy harmonica is intermittently interwoven through the audio since his stand-in Ellis is, of course, also a gifted player, even if he isn’t quite ready for his close-up. In 1970s Hollywood, Sunset Cookies is thriving with Ellis as his dad’s right-hand man. Although being in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade turns out to be the most embarrassing—nationally ­broadcast!—day ever, Ellis has plenty of other strategies at home that demand his attention. VERDICT Amos’s already delicious story, further sweetened by his narration, is another recipe for satisfying success.

Baptist, Kelly J. Ready, Set, Dough! narrated by Bahni Turpin. 3:55 hrs. ­Listening Library. Oct. 2023. $15. ISBN 9780593747711.
Gr 4-6–Chameleonic, prolific favorite Turpin has plenty of spot-on attitude to enliven not just sixth-grader Zoe—her last name is Sparks with good reason!—but also the rest of her family and friends drawn into her scheme to finally get her “dream laptop.” Zoe’s an aspiring journalist in desperate need of a functioning screen. Her parents can’t afford a new computer, but serendipitously, the coveted Horizon WordPro GT is the top prize for the top seller of cookie dough for the school’s fundraiser. Zoe’s determination is ferocious—which makes her oblivious to the needs and struggles of those she cares about most, including her hardworking parents, her could-be-remarkably talented brother, her swim star best friend. Turpin, however, ensures every voice gets thoroughly, recognizably heard. VERDICT ­Baptist’s latest gets aurally elevated, thanks to Turpin’s triumphant tenacity.

Burch, Ciera. Finch House. narrated by Joniece Abbott-Pratt. 4:08 hrs. S. & S.Audio. Sept. 2023. $17.99. ISBN 9781797167251.
Gr 3-7–An impending move means Micah will be an hour away from her beloved grandfather, Poppop, with whom she’s lived most of her 11 years. Micah will specifically miss “networking” with P­oppop—what Mom calls “digging through other people’s trash.” Out one last time seeking possible treasure, Micah unintentionally arrives at Finch House where Poppop has always ­vehemently forbidden her to go. She finds the Victorian newly restored and occupied by Theo and his family. Mom reveals Finch House has history—which includes a great-aunt who went missing. Naturally, Micah’s curiosity sends her seeking (dangerous) answers. Versatile Abbott-Pratt animates intrepid Micah’s need to know with rousing aplomb, then effortlessly shifts to embody Micah’s supporting cast with warmer tones for Mom, slightly gruffy for Poppop, and just-enough-creep for Finch House. VERDICT Abbott-Pratt spiritedly creates an eerily haunted fun home.

Comrie, Courtne. Rain Remembers.­ narrated by Angel Pean. 3:45 hrs. ­Harper Audio. Oct. 2023. $27.99. ISBN 9780063159792.
Gr 5-7–Pean’s return is undoubtedly appreciated in Comrie’s second novel-in-verse, following Rain Rising, which continues the teen’s journey of self-discovery and self-love. Rain bravely faces substantial changes as she enters City High School. Older brother Xander has left for college. She’s missing her middle school support system: new counselor Dr. Sherif is no Dr. McCalla, which also means no Circle Group. Alyssa and Umi are good friends, but she’s becoming distracted by sophomore Tommy who showers her with enough compliments and attention that she risks lying to spend time with him. Meanwhile, Alyssa’s uncle is facing deportation. Xander is distant—not just in miles. And maybe last year’s sadness isn’t a thing of the past. Pean lyrically embodies Rain’s many layers: her protective bravado, her inner doubts, her growing struggles. VERDICT Once more, Pean adds rhythmic empathy to Comrie’s revealing verses.

Dockery, Patricia Williams. Slavery and the African American Story. narrated by Carmen Jewel Jones. 5:47 hrs. (Race to the Truth). Listening Library. Sept. 2023. $18. ISBN 9780593747667.
Gr 5-7–The second in the “Race to the Truth” series centers slavery as “our shared history,” a necessary reminder that “all Americans continue to benefit from slavery whether we want to believe it or not.” Jones nimbly channels scholar/activist Dockery’s conversational text, augmenting the history missing from textbooks and classrooms. Highlights include “sixteenth-century black conquistadors,” the “Door of No Return,” using Christianity to validate slavery. Uncommon facts are many, from the etymological origin of “slave” from Slav (when Arabs enslaved Bosnians before Africa became a trafficking source), to second U.S. President John Adams as the only Founding Father who opposed slavery, to Adams’s son, sixth U.S. President John Quincy Adams, who represented the 53 (surviving) African men of the Amistad in court. Most sobering are the unacknowledged, ongoing, slavery-originated profits, from our cotton/textiles to banking/insurance, and even the loftiest Harvard educations. VERDICT Dockery and Jones are a powerfully illuminating pair.

Hudson, Wade. The Reckoningnarrated by Guy Lockard. 5:17 hrs. Listening Library. Jan. 2024. $18. ISBN 9780593795569.
Gr 3-7–Ebulliently versatile Lockard performs the transformative emotional ­journey necessary in Hudson’s all-too-real contemporary fiction. At 12, Lamar already knows he wants to be a filmmaker like his idol Spike Lee. His gramps would make an ideal documentary subject: “It took me a while . . . to get my bearings back after your grandmother made her transition,” he tells Lamar, but now he’s ready to share his—and their Louisiana small town’s—civil rights history. Just as Lamar’s “getting to really know him,” Gramps is shot during a traffic incident by a white man with links to the KKK who claims self-defense, and who’s supported by the collusion of racist police. Lamar plays a key role in exposing systemic injustice and exposing the murderer. VERDICT Despite the potential roadblocks of anger, frustration, and fear, Lockard ensures the rallying demand of “do the right thing” is clearly, inspiringly, definitively heard.

McBride, Amber. Gone Wolf. narrated by Ariel Blake. 8:24 hrs. Macmillan Young Listeners. Oct. 2023. $19.99. ISBN 9781250911117.
Gr 4-6–National Book Award finalist ­McBride’s middle grade debut is an impressive genre-bending puzzle that opens with lulling piano notes, perfectly accompanying sweetly voiced Blake through the introductory credits and epigraphs. Blake deftly maintains a striking innocence through most of McBride’s three intriguing sections. In “Blue,” Blake haunts as wide-eyed Inmate Eleven in 2111, allowed only her dog Ira for companionship while she’s been training her entire life to serve her assigned white Clone. In “Black,” Blake is muted, mourning, 12-year-old Imogen trying to heal from traumatic racist violence and devastating pandemic losses. In “Blue & Black,” McBride reveals her intertwined narrative brilliance, emphatically underscored by Blake’s chilling recitation near the book’s end of “and”s—denoted on the page as repeated &s (like twisted bodies) to represent the three million African lives lost along the Middle Passage. VERDICT What seems to be dystopic terror is the reality of the Black experience; author and narrator embody the lifesaving validation of storytelling—and story-listening.

Rhodes, Jewell Parker. Treasure Island: Runaway Gold. narrated by Miles Harvey. 6:51 hrs. Harper Audio. Oct. 2023. $27.99. ISBN 9780063335677.
Gr 5-7–Rhodes’s opening epigraph from Robert Louis Stevenson’s late-19th-century classic immediately credits her inspiration. Harvey, who laudably ciphered Rhodes’s Ghost Boys, enlivens her latest cast featuring three swashbuckling Rockaway, Queens, middle schoolers bound for the island of Manhattan. Zane’s father’s sudden death forced his exhausted mother to open their house to boarders; eviction, alas, still looms. Just before their elderly resident Captain Maddie dies, she appoints Zane her First Mate, and extols him to “[f]ind the treasure.” The riches could save Zane’s home, his buddy Jack might escape his abusive father, and meanwhile, their friend Kiko just wants to help. Mysterious Captain John appears to spin yarns of high seas adventures—but is he friend or foe? The memorable discoveries highlight long-buried Black history and culture. VERDICT From heroes-in-the-making to a lawless pirate crew with a salty talking parrot, Harvey’s energy convincingly ensures a valuable aural adventure.

Woodson, Jacqueline. Remember Us. narrated by Jacqueline Woodson. 2:53 hrs. Listening Library. Oct. 2023. $15. ISBN 9780593795149.
Gr 5 Up–Over the last decade or so, Woodson has chosen to narrate her own books—either hauntingly solo or in a notable ensemble, gifting audiences with gratifying aural enhancements of already gorgeous text. For Sage, “the world I had known so well the year I was twelve” means the Bushwick section of 1970s Brooklyn. She’s recently lost her father, a fireman killed in the line of duty; local conflagrations continue, enough to earn the neighborhood the dangerous moniker “The Matchbox.” While her mother works hard to move them out, Sage spends that summer before seventh grade hanging with neighborhood newbie Freddy and playing basketball. A teen’s aggressive taunt on the court, “What kind of girl are you, anyway?,” triggers Sage’s growing insecurities about gender, identity, families, and friendship. The author’s note is a moving ode to being “able to go home again.” VERDICT Woodson lyrically, empathetically presents another feelings-full coming-of-age treasure.

Young Adult

Barrow, Rebecca. And Don’t Look Back. narrated by Jade Wheeler & Kimberly Woods. 9:31 hrs. S. & S. Audio. Oct. 2023. $19.99. ISBN 9781797166957.
Gr 9 Up–Seventeen-year-old Harlow and her mother Cora have always only had each other, constantly changing identities and locations. Cora’s latest “We have to go” sends Harlow “dismantling what passes for a life,” and the pair are driving away in less than 10 minutes. But this time, tragedy—via truck—strikes, and Cora dies, but not before telling Harlow about the safety deposit box in which Harlow will find precious pieces of her missing past: a house deed, $15,729, and photos of never-known family. Can she (safely) go home? Wheeler is Harlow, adroitly capturing the distrust of a child mature before her time. Woods has lesser but more vocally varied airtime smoothly articulating the “Before” chapters of pre-running Cora, her sisters and their disappeared mother, secret loves, and desperate decisions. VERDICT In ­interwoven tandem, Wheeler and Woods deftly unravel Barrow’s eerie ­mother/­daughter thriller.

Bello, Abiola. Love in Winter Wonderland. illus. by Ben Bailey Smith & Nneka Okoye. 732p. Recorded Books. Oct. 2023. $19.99. ISBN 9798889567950.
Gr 9 Up–Popular Trey seems to live a charmed life at school, but at home, he sees his family struggling to hold on to Wonderland, their independent Black-owned London bookstore founded by his great-grandfather. He barely knows his classmate Ariel, until his mother hires her despite their financial woes after Trey’s father is sidelined from work after an unfortunate accident. Grateful Ariel needs the job to help fund her dreams of attending the same art school as her late father. The teens initially seem to have nothing in common, until they realize they really, really do. Actor Smith (he’s also Zadie Smith’s brother!) is an easygoing fit for Trey, smoothly shifting between detached, vulnerable, and earnest. Okoye, who shares Bello’s Nigerian background, provides a lilted, invitingly emotive delivery, as Ariel learns to claim well-deserved attention. VERDICT Cue the charming British accents in Bello’s swoony he said/she said YA debut.

Bromfield, Asha Ashanti. Songs of Irie.­ narrated by Asha Ashanti Bromfield. 11:06 hrs. Macmillan Young Listeners. Oct. 2023. $26.99. ISBN 9781250290441.
Gr 10 Up–Bromfield, who narrated her debut, also voices her second novel. For audiences who might struggle with reading Caribbean patois in print, Bromfield’s confident performance—seamlessly navigating between speech patterns and accents—is to be relished. Bromfield also sings, although repetition of the same lyrics becomes tiresome. Most frustrating is the lack of clear distinction between her two protagonists, who (unevenly) alternate chapters to reveal their polarized realities. In 1976 Jamaica, BFFs Irie and Jilly have just graduated high school to utterly diverging futures: Irie dreams of escaping the ghetto with her music, while wealth cages Cambridge-bound Jilly who’s expected to marry into the island’s reigning political family. Over their final summer together, friendship turns to forbidden love amid the dangers of a racialized, haves vs. have-nots, fatal revolution. VERDICT Little-known Jamaican history—colonialism, widespread corruption, the unifying power of reggae music—­vibrantly enhance an intense teen romance.

Davis, Dana L. Fake Famous. narrated by Dana L. Davis. 10:14 hrs. ­Brilliance Audio. Nov. 2023. $29.99. ISBN 9781491596166.
Gr 9 Up–Davis’s latest novel is just pure fun. Iowa farm girl Red can really sing, even when she falls in porcine excrement channeling pop star Zay-Zay. Red’s sister catches the comical moment and, despite denials, posts the video that brings Zay-Zay to the family’s combine shed with a lucrative proposal: be Zay-Zay for a week to give her a spiritual break. This could work: Red resembles Zay-Zay down to the same ­purple bruise in the exact same spot on their foreheads. Most importantly, Red could help save the family farm. After way too many legal signatures, Red’s off to sunny ­California to make the world believe—including herself. No more spoilers because listening will prove addictive: Davis, who’s also an actor, is unconditionally wondrous voicing every character with distinct accents, mannerisms, quirks. Live, laugh, love sums up her perfect performance. VERDICT Nothing fake here, just pure magic.

Sawyerr, Hannah V. All the Fighting Parts. narrated by Hannah V. Sawyerr. 5:13 hrs. Recorded Books. Sept. 2023. $15.99. ISBN 9798890592552.
Gr 9 Up–Sawyerr, the 2016 Youth Poet Laureate of Baltimore, began her verse novel in 2020 while awaiting her abuser’s trial. Although this work is fiction, the overlapping elements are many—Baltimore, church leader, violation. Sawyerr opens with 16-year-old Amina in a police station, “remembering all that I have forced myself forgetful.” Sawyerr goes back to “4 months before the assault” and restarts Amina’s story, about being the only Black girl in her honors history class, whose outburst (even if he deserved it) against another student earns her a call home. Her father decides that helping at church will tame “all the fighting parts” Amina inherited from her late mother—putting her in predatory Pastor Johnson’s path. Despite the debilitating trauma, Amina courageously refuses to stay silent. VERDICT That Sawyerr succinctly, solemnly reads her searing debut is an empowering gift, particularly for anyone who’s ever said me, too.

Walls, Dale. The Queer Girl Is Going to Be Okay. narrated by Tamika Katon-Donegal. 7:58 hrs. Recorded Books. Nov. 2023. $19.99. ISBN 9798890596208.
Gr 7 Up–Walls’s debut features three queer girls; their title’s verb-in-action aptly emphasizes the trio’s transformative journeys, centered on Latinx transgirl Dawn’s documentary-in-progress about queer love. Dawn’s excerpt makes the second judging round for the Austin Film Festival; winning would mean a scholarship to UT Austin’s film school, enabling a dream come true without the guilt of abandoning her ailing father. When finishing the film is suddenly derailed, Dawn’s BFFs—despite their own struggles—make miracles happen. Black girl Edie almost loses the nonbinary love of her life trying to please her religious parents. Korean American Georgia, still without a college acceptance, needs to tell her mother the truth about her new boyfriend. Katon-Donegal has many characters to aurally track—occasionally, she falters, inadvertently interchanging voices. She’s also facing some clunky writing, but give her an hour-ish because these girls will impress you. VERDICT Yep, Katon-Donegal’s performance is going to be (more than) okay.

Terry Hong was Library Journal’s 2016 Reviewer of the Year for Fiction and Audio.



Featured image SLJ montage with illustration by OksanaTkachova/Getty Images

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