Visionary YA author and activist Angie Thomas became an overnight sensation on the 2017 publication of her debut novel, The Hate U Give. Inspired by childhood experiences with gun violence, and Tupac’s THUG LIFE tattoo – an acronym for “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody” – the book explores the damaging, intergenerational effects of police brutality and systemic racial oppression on Black communities.

Her follow-up novels, 2019’s On The Come Up and this year’s Concrete Rose, take place in the same fictional universe and were released to rave reviews. Poignant, searing, and honest, they’ve only solidified Thomas’ position as one of the most brilliant and vital writers on Black identity today.

Sharing the books that meant the most to her with Oprah Magazine, Thomas included stories of race relations and the civil rights movement, as well as young adult favorites. Find her reading list below, and check out the bookshelves of other iconic authors right here.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
“This was one of my favorites as a child and still is. Though Cassie Logan’s story is set decades before I was born, she, like me, was a black girl living in poverty in Mississippi. She was the hero I aspired to be, and as a reader, this was the first time I read a book and saw myself on its pages.” -AT
“As a teenager, I started to dislike reading, mainly because it was hard to find books I identified with. This is one of the few books that pulled me in at that time.” -AT
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
“A sixteen-year-old waits in a jail cell to be tried for murder; Monster stays with you long after you put it down, and though published in 1999, it sadly remains relevant today.” -AT
“In college, I attended an elite, mostly white school and shrank myself to make others comfortable. But this was the novel that opened my eyes and helped me become my own person.” -AT
“It’s no secret that I’m a huge Tupac fan, but at first, I didn’t know that he wrote poetry—and not just in songs. This book gives insight into Tupac the person and the artist, and it also gave me a sense of myself as a rose growing in concrete.” -AT
“Like many in my generation, Harry Potter was a huge part of my life as a kid. The series as a whole comforted me when I needed it most; Harry’s adventures helped me drown out and ignore the nightly gunshots in my neighborhood as I tried to go to sleep. Thank you, J.K. Rowling, for giving me an escape that in some ways saved me.” -AT
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
“Jesmyn is one of the most brilliant writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. When I first read this book about a young pregnant girl and her family as they faced Hurricane Katrina, I was not only blown away by her gift, but also by the fact that she, too, is a Black woman from Mississippi. So many of Mississippi’s well-known authors are old, white, or dead—and she is none those things, nor am I. Seeing her succeed showed me that maybe my own author dreams were possible.” -at
Death of Innocence by Mamie Till-Mobley
“Before I started working on The Hate U Give, I read this memoir by Emmett Till’s mother. She’s one of the unsung heroes of the civil rights movement, and her strength, bravery, and resilience are truly inspirational.” -AT
“This book nurtured my love for young adult fiction. As soon as I started reading it, I was hooked.” -AT
“Every single person in America needs to read this book. Enough said.” -AT

(via Oprah Magazine)

Categories: Activists Writers