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Alum-Recommended Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List

We’re all spending more time than usual at home during this atypical summer—what better time to dive into some good books? Enjoy these informative, entertaining titles. 

Photo of girl reading at a table.

July 7, 2020

Ashley's Recommendations

Ashley Williams (Charlotte-Piedmont Triad ‘11) works as a consultant for Public Impact supporting school districts in implementing an Opportunity Culture so that their best teachers can reach more students.

'The Nickel Boys' by Colson Whitehead

Set in the Jim Crow era, the main character is wrongly accused of a crime and instead of going to college as he had planned, he instead gets sent to an all-boys reform school. This book, which was very well written and is based on a true story, uncovers a part of America's segregated history that isn't taught in schools.

'Parable of the Sower' by Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler was well before her time with this sci-fi novel. The main character is an empath who seeks to create her own religion after the world seems to fall apart around her. I read this book before the current pandemic, but with everything happening in the world today with virtual technology, racism, and economic instability, this book makes you wonder in an eerily way, "what if?"

'The Memo' by Minda Harts

This is a book about how women of color can navigate their careers and the common issues that we face in the workplace. I loved this book because I felt like the author wrote from a real space by including her own experiences as a Black woman in corporate America. As a Black woman myself, this book felt like the closest thing to a "career guide" that I've ever read.

On My List: 'The Vanishing Half' by Brit Bennett

This is a book about twin sisters who grow up in a light-skinned Black community. As they grow up, one decides to "pass" and the other takes a different path. I'm only about 30 pages in, so that's what I know so far about this book!

Jaelyn's Recommendations

Jaelyn Felder (Charlotte-Piedmont Triad ‘18) is entering her third year of teaching English Northeast Guilford High School in Greensboro.

'Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls In School' by Monique W. Morris

This book gives great insight on how the school system is consistently oppressing Black girls. I loved this book because as a Black woman, I have felt as if my experience in the school system is sometimes overlooked and this book brings light to these issues. I definitely think this book can give educators helpful tools for teaching not only Black girls, but all students. 

'The Hate U Give' by Angie Thomas

This novel dives into the essence of police brutality through the eyes of Starr Carter, the sixteen year-old protagonist. I love the narrative and the voice of this book. It’s a great read for educators AND a great book to use in the classroom! 

'Teaching for Black Lives' by Dyan Watson

This book is a collection of writings written to help educators connect the principles of the Black Lives Matters movement and the education system. I enjoyed this book because the writing is REAL and it gives lots of ideas for bringing Black Lives Matter ideals into the classroom. 

On My List: 'The Adventures of Awkward Black Girl' by Issa Rae

I am a big Issa Rae fan and this book is all about her plight as a Black woman on the rise. If you’ve read this book already, let's compare thoughts afterwards!

Natalie's Recommendations

After teaching middle school in Charlotte for three years, Natalie Ornat (Charlotte-Piedmont Triad ‘12) earned her MSLS from UNC-Chapel Hill. She currently serves as the Humanities Librarian and an assistant professor at UNC-Charlotte.

'The Nickel Boys' by Colson Whitehead

The Nickel Boys is a powerful story about a segregated reform school in Florida and the horrors inflicted on its young Black boys, whose childhood mistakes cost them their freedom and, potentially, their lives. Written by novelist Colson Whitehead and winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, this story is a gut-punch in a little over 200 pages. 

'Moxie' by Jennifer Mathieu

This delightful YA novel about a teenage girl rediscovering the power of feminist zine culture to wage a campaign against her high school’s misogynistic administration is *chef’s kiss* an incredibly satisfying story. For those teachers planning for the fall, this novel could provide the foundation for an empowering class project that would allow students to express themselves through zines, a genre historically used by marginalized communities to share their individual and collective voice. 

'Red, White, and Royal Blue' by Casey McQuiston

I cannot think of a more perfect summer read than a heartwarming romance set in an alternative universe where the United States ended up electing its first female president in 2016 and the British royal family actually defends its marginalized members. Author Casey McQuiston (who identifies as bisexual and queer) creates a romance between David Rose-esque and First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz and Britain’s Prince Henry whose meet-cute involves a contentious royal wedding cake debacle. You won’t want to tear yourself away from this endlessly enjoyable escapist romance. 

 On My List: 'Conjure Women' by Afia Atakora 

In her debut novel, Atakora tells an intergenerational story of women living on a plantation from the antebellum period through Reconstruction. For me, it checks all the boxes for a must-read: literary or historical fiction with a dash of magical realism that centers on women’s experiences cultivating power through community.