Introduction

Individuals and communities regularly experience injustice, yet the fight to create a more just world is ongoing. This list features narratives about people confronting injustice. We hope this list, which includes a range of topics and genres, will have something that resonates with you.

Archival Quality

Ivy Noelle Weir

Steenz

Elevator Pitch

After accepting an archivist job in a creepy old museum, Cel finds herself haunted by Celine, a resident who lived there when the museum was an asylum. As Cel begins to investigate, she finds the museum has a dark history, and both she and Celine are running out of time.

Appeals to

Fans of ghost stories with strong social commentary; bloody nose

Content Notes

Mental illness

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • Black
Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Banned Book Club

Kim Hyun Sook

Ko Hyung-Ju

Elevator Pitch

Kim Hyun Sook is excited to start her studies in college in 1983 South Korea. She joins a book club and finds herself in the middle of the underground student revolution against a military regime.

Appeals to

An astonishing read for anyone who values knowledge and freedom.

Content Notes

graphic violence

Creator Identities

  • Creator of Color
    • South Korean

Main Character Representation

    Recommended by

    Sunny Carito

    Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s Journey to Justice

    Debbie Levy

    Whitney Gardner

    Elevator Pitch

    Follow cultural icon Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s legal career to the Supreme Court and her impact on civil rights with this lively graphic novel!

    Appeals to

    Fans of RBG; Readers looking for a biography on a woman who made a significant impact on the United States

    Content Notes

    Sexism

    Recommended by

    Megan Rupe

    Darkroom: A Memoir

    Lila Quintero Weaver

    Elevator Pitch

    When Lila’s family moved from Argentina to the United States, they found themselves trying to achieve the American dream in the Jim Crow South. This quiet, subtle memoir explores Lila’s struggles to fit in a country where she’s neither white nor black and her efforts to navigate a racially divided society during the Civil Rights era. Reading Lila’s story highlighted how much racism is baked into our culture and education. It’s less of an activist story, but it does show a view into experiencing racism when you’re not clearly white or black.

    Appeals to

    Fans of stories focusing on immigrants; individuals looking for another memoir after reading March

    Content Notes

    racist language; violence

    Creator Identities

    • Creator of Color
    • Own Voices
      • Argentinian

    Main Character Representation

    • Latinx Characters

      • Argentinian

    Recommended by

    Megan Rupe

    Displacement

    Kiku Hughes

    Elevator Pitch

    During a trip to San Francisco, Kiku finds herself transported back in time to the Japanese internment camps, where her grandmother was imprisoned with the rest of her family. With its strong characterization, artwork, and powerful, reflective storyline, this is a compelling look at how an act of injustice can continue to affect descendants in the present.

    Appeals to

    Readers who like time travel stories such as Kindred and Devil’s Arithmetic; Readers who enjoyed George Takei's They Called Us Enemy

    Creator Identities

    • Own Voices
    • Creator of Color
      • Japanese American/Mixed

    Main Character Representation

    • Multiracial Characters

    • Japanese American

    • Lesbian Characters

    Recommended by

    Megan Rupe

    Excellence

    Brandon Thomas

    Emilio Lopez

    Elevator Pitch

    Spencer's father is high up in Aegis, a secret society of black magicians sworn to never use their magic for themselves, only as guardians over a protected class. Spencer's trained his whole life to follow him but he begins to question the system and look for those who can help him create a better future.

    Appeals to

    Fans of Star Wars, The Magicians, and anyone who's questioned why a system fails those who must uphold it.

    Content Notes

    violence, brief instance of sex/partial nudity

    Creator Identities

    • Creator of Color
      • Black

    Main Character Representation

    • Black Characters
    Recommended by

    Sunny Carito

    Flamer

    Mike Curato

    Elevator Pitch

    Aiden's soft-spoken manner and taste for feminine roles doesn't win him many friends in his scout troop at summer camp, but they are hints at his dormant homosexuality. With precious few outlets in which to confide, he feels sad and alone among bullies but for the camp activities and moments of friendship. How will his self-discovery change how he and his fellow scouts see him?

    Appeals to

    Fans of coming-of-age stories, confronting juvenile attitudes toward homosexuality and gender.

    Content Notes

    Some swearing, abusive father

    Creator Identities

    • LGBTQIA+ Creator
    • Own Voices
    • Creator of Color

    Main Character Representation

    • Multiracial Characters

    • Half-White, Half-Filipino

    • Gay Characters
    Recommended by

    Thomas Maluck

    Flying Kites: A Story of the 2013 California Prison Hunger Strike

    Stanford Graphic Novel Project

    Elevator Pitch

    Did you know guidelines from the United Nations limit the use of solitary confinement to 14 days maximum, yet incarcerated people in the United States have spent years or even decades in isolation?

    Created collaboratively by the Stanford Graphic Novel Project class of 2018-2019, Flying Kites tells the story of a fictional family caught up in the real events of the 2013 California Prison Hunger Strike. Balancing education with emotional impact, the book follows college student Luz Santiago and her incarcerated father, Rodrigo, as they begin to speak out against and challenge the human rights abuses of solitary confinement in California prisons.

    Appeals to

    Readers interested in learning more about the topic of solitary confinement and/or incarcerated people and the abuses they face. Readers who are interested in learning about real historical events through fiction. Classroom teachers (or other readers) who would like to use the book as part of a discussion on prison reform and human rights abuses.

    Content Notes

    Nothing is graphically depicted, but readers should be aware there are mentions of death, suicide, self-harm, mental illness, and other disturbing effects of the psychological torture that is solitary confinement.

    Creator Identities

    • Creator of Color
    • LGBTQIA+ Creator

    Main Character Representation

    • Latinx Characters

    • Black Characters
    Recommended by

    Sharona Ginsberg

    Go With The Flow

    Lily Williams

    Lily Williams

    Elevator Pitch

    Sophomores Abby, Brit, Christine, and Sasha are fast friends, united by their cheerfulness for one another as well as their growing alarm at their school's refusal to offer any kind of relief for students on their periods. Sasha enters the friend group after the other three comfort her over some period embarrassment. Abby starts a blog to raise awareness about tampon access and related feminist issues. Christine's periods cause enough pain to raise medical concern. Brit handles attention from a jerk classmate while harboring secret feelings for Abby.

    Appeals to

    Fans of tight-knit friend groups, feminist activism, speaking up against institutional injustice, anyone looking for more information about periods of various kinds

    Content Notes

    Bullying, Blood on clothing

    Main Character Representation

    • Black Characters

    • Lesbian Characters

    Recommended by

    Thomas Maluck

    Grass

    Keum Suk Gendry-Kim

    Elevator Pitch

    A cartoonist shares her in-depth interviews with Lee Ok-sun, a Korean woman who experienced bitter poverty as a child and was forced into sexual service for the Japanese Army during WWII. The optimism and pluck of senior Lee Ok-sun, still fighting for compensation and recognition of the wrongs done to her and other "comfort women", powerfully contrasts the horrifying recounting of her life's events.

    Appeals to

    Fans of Maus, the comics of Joe Sacco, and comics journalism of marginalized groups will be gripped by this.

    Content Notes

    Violence (shown), rape and sexual violence (described but not shown)

    Creator Identities

    • Creator of Color
      • Korean

    Main Character Representation

    • Korean
    Recommended by

    Sunny Carito

    Green Arrow Vol. 1: The Death and Life Of Oliver Queen

    Benjamin Percy

    Otto Schmidt

    Elevator Pitch

    Oliver Queen fancied himself a modern-day Robin Hood, but an encounter with the heroine Black Canary leaves him questioning how much his crime-fighting really does to help people when he uncovers the existence of a sinister cabal that engages in human trafficking and worse! Thus begins one man's journey to overcome his privilege to become a hero and a legend.

    Appeals to

    Fans of the show Arrow, superheroes, and action movies.

    Green Lantern: Legacy

    Minh Lê

    Andie Tong

    Elevator Pitch

    "Tai Pham isn’t looking for trouble. He’s just living his life: helping in his beloved grandmother’s store, filling sketchbooks with drawings, and hanging out with his best friends. But sometimes, trouble finds him anyway, like when vandals target the store with thrown bricks and racist graffiti. Or when his grandmother passes away, and her jade ring starts following Tai around. It seems he’s been chosen to take over her role as a Green Lantern. But how can Tai become a member of a superpowered intergalactic peacekeeping force? He’s only thirteen!" (from the NFNT review)

    Appeals to

    Fans of communities banding together, sci-fi superpowers, superhero legacies

    Content Notes

    Funeral scene

    Creator Identities

    • Creator of Color
    • Own Voices
      • Second-generation Vietnamese American

    Main Character Representation

    • Vietnamese American
    Recommended by

    Thomas Maluck

    Guantanamo Voices: True Accounts From the World’s Most Infamous Prison

    Sarah Mirk

    Various

    Elevator Pitch

    In Guantanamo Voices, journalist Sarah Mirk, with the help of several artists, portrays the interviews of individuals involved with Guantanamo Bay, a prison that started detaining Muslim men accused of terrorism in the early 2000s. Former prisoners, military personnel, and lawyers tell their stories of trying to get justice. While there’s no real resolution to this ongoing story, readers will learn about the experiences of living and working within a place deliberately constructed to be outside the law.

    Appeals to

    Older teens and adults who like comics journalism and/or want to learn about Guantanamo Bay

    Content Notes

    Torture, racism

    Creator Identities

    • LGBTQIA+ Creator
    Recommended by

    Megan Rupe

    In Real LIfe

    Cory Doctorow

    Jen Wang

    Elevator Pitch

    Anda enjoys playing an online video game called Coarsegold Online, where some players mine valuable items and sell them to other players. When she meets Raymond, a Chinese gold farmer who is suffering from health issues, Anda tries to help him. However, Anda’s actions put Raymond and his livelihood at risk. With its strong characterization and artwork, this is a great story about learning to help even if you don't get it exactly right the first time.

    Appeals to

    Readers looking for stories about kids trying to make a difference; Gaming fans

    Content Notes

    Brief stereotyping

    Recommended by

    Megan Rupe

    La Voz de M.A.Y.O. Tata Rambo

    Henry Barajas

    J. Gonzo

    Elevator Pitch

    Author Henry Barajas recounts the history of his great-grandfather Ramon Jaurigue, an orphan and WWII veteran who co-founded the Mexican, American, Yaqui, and Others (M.A.Y.O.) organization. Through community organization and protest, M.A.Y.O. successfully lobbied the Tucson City Council to improve living and working conditions for members of the Pascua Yaqui tribe, paving the way to their federal recognition. This biography does not shy from less flattering aspects of Ramon’s life and also examines Barajas's role as an investigator of this slice of American history and what it means to him.

    Appeals to

    Fans of indigenous people's rights, Latinx history, lobbying for local change, family/oral histories

    Content Notes

    Police and war violence, smoking, alcohol

    Creator Identities

    • First Nations or Indigenous Creator
    • Own Voices
    • Creator of Color

    Main Character Representation

    • First Nations or Indigenous Characters

    • Latinx Characters
    Recommended by

    Thomas Maluck

    March

    John Lewis

    Nate Powell

    Elevator Pitch

    Congressman John Lewis tells the story of his introduction and participation in the Civil Rights movement alongside Martin Luther King Jr. With its strong black and white art that gives its own weight to the story, March is essential reading about the civil rights history of the United States.

    Appeals to

    Readers looking for an eyewitness account of the Civil Rights movement; fans of graphic memoirs and biographies

    Content Notes

    Violence, racist language

    Creator Identities

    • Own Voices
      • African American

    Main Character Representation

    • Black Characters

      • African American

    Recommended by

    Megan Rupe

    Palimpsest

    Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom

    Elevator Pitch

    Lisa was adopted from Korea as a child in 1979 and raised in Sweden. Facing cruel racism and often debilitating depression, she tries to locate her birth parents in Korea. What unravels is a story littered with misleading documents, unreliable officials and relatives, and the dark side of international adoption.

    Appeals to

    Fans of memoirs and anyone who wants to understand more facets of international adoption.

    Content Notes

    attempted suicide

    Creator Identities

    • Creator of Color
      • Korean

    Main Character Representation

    • Korean
    Recommended by

    Sunny Carito

    Second Avenue Caper: When Goodfellas, Divas, and Dealers Plotted

    Joyce Brabner

    Mark Zingarelli

    Elevator Pitch

    During the early days of the AIDs epidemic, a team of queer friends organized a marijuana operation to provide care to their community. Although AIDS is no longer seen as a disease exclusive to the queer community, it’s important to understand the historical context and see that fight in the form of love, care, and activism. This is a sad story, but it also shows intense love and strength in a very difficult situation.

    Appeals to

    Readers who enjoy LGBTQ history

    Content Notes

    Drug use and drug dealing

    Main Character Representation

    • Gay Characters
    Recommended by

    Megan Rupe

    Strong Female Protagonist

    Brennan Lee Mulligan

    Molly Ostertag

    Elevator Pitch

    College student Allison Green has invulnerability and super strength, so naturally, she became a superhero. After a key event stops her on her path, she quits being a superhero in order to figure out how to really solve the world’s problems. With its top-tier action and thoughtful social commentary, Strong Female Protagonist is a compelling look at the use of power to build a better world. Add artwork by Witch Boy creator Molly Ostertag and you've got a great read!

    Appeals to

    Fans of superhero comics and social justice

    Content Notes

    Discussion of sexual assault/rape; some grisly murders; abuse

    Creator Identities

    • LGBTQIA+ Creator
      • Lesbian
    Recommended by

    Megan Rupe

    Superman Smashes the Klan

    Gene Luen Yang

    Gurihiru

    Elevator Pitch

    When the Lee family moves to Metropolis, they quickly catch the negative attention of the Klan of the Fiery Cross. Join Roberta Lee as she helps Superman to bring the Klan to heel. This story weaves the thread of confronting injustice with finding your place, making this a compelling story; both Roberta and Superman are working on the latter while working together to do the former. Roberta is a particularly delightful character because, even though she’s anxious, she’s smart and brave.

    Appeals to

    Readers who love smart and strong female protagonists; fans of stories about superheroes confronting realistic situations

    Content Notes

    Cross-burning (no one gets hurt); kidnapping; bigoted language

    Creator Identities

    • Creator of Color
      • Chinese

    Main Character Representation

    • Chinese
    Recommended by

    Megan Rupe

    The Best We Could Do

    Thi Bui

    Elevator Pitch

    Thi Bui was born in Vietnam and her family fled on a boat after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, settling in the United States as refugees when she was a child. In this memoir, she tells her family's story of immigration and how the trauma they experienced, but also their resilience, had a lasting effect on several generations.

    Appeals to

    Those interested in refugee stories, intergenerational trauma and resilience.

    Content Notes

    Some nudity and violence, war imagery.

    Creator Identities

    • Own Voices
      • Vietnamese

    Main Character Representation

      Recommended by

      Martha Boksenbaum

      The Oracle Code

      Marieke Nijkamp

      Manuel Preitano

      Elevator Pitch

      Barbara Gordon is left partially paralyzed from a gunshot. At the Arkham Center for Independence, she enters a live-in rehabilitation program with other teens adapting to new physical disabilities. When a young girl she befriends disappears she digs into a mystery that distracts her from therapy and new friendships. Is it a ghost story? Is it Barbara trying to ignore her new reality? Or is it a dark descent into medical ethics?

      Appeals to

      A great book for any teen or tween that enjoys a good mystery and stories about overcoming obstacles.

      Content Notes

      some violence and fight scenes

      Creator Identities

      • LGBTQIA+ Creator
      • Creator with Disability
        • non-binary, queer (front author's website)

      Main Character Representation

      • Characters Ability

        • Partial Paralysis, wheelchair user

      Recommended by

      Sunny Carito

      The Silence of Our Friends

      Mark Long

      Nate Powell

      Elevator Pitch

      Against the backdrop of the civil rights movement in Houston, Jack and Larry and their families became friends. Jack struggles to accurately cover the nonviolent student movement in a racist city while Larry works with the local movement to get rights and justice for the black community. As things become fraught, will every one act to make sure justice prevails?

      Appeals to

      This story highlights the difficulty of navigating a fraught situation while trying to do the right thing and highlights the complexities of this era. This would be a good one to read while waiting for your hold on March to come through.

      Content Notes

      Racism, police brutality

      Main Character Representation

      • Black Characters

        • African American

      Recommended by

      Megan Rupe

      They Called Us Enemy

      George Takei

      Harmony Becker

      Elevator Pitch

      Actor and activist George Takei recounts his experiences in the Japanese internment camps. Takei’s reflections paired with the portrayal of his naïve youthful behavior is a painful portrayal of injustice, and the book does an excellent job of explaining the internment camps and their significance. Additionally, the work does a strong job of tying this historical injustice to contemporary ones, making this a timely read. The relative accessibility makes this a read for tweens and up.

      Appeals to

      Readers wanting to know the history of the Japanese internment camps; fans of George Takei

      Content Notes

      Some violence

      Creator Identities

      • Own Voices
      • Creator of Color
      • LGBTQIA+ Creator

      Main Character Representation

      • Japanese

      • Gay Characters
      Recommended by

      Megan Rupe

      • Megan

        | She/Her

        Features Writer

        Megan earned her MLIS from Simmons College and is currently the evening librarian at Bay State College in Massachusetts. She satisfies her voracious appetite for graphic novels and manga through regular visits to her local public libraries and puts her love of graphic novels to good use by adding to Bay State’s collection whenever possible. Megan maintains a personal blog, Ferret with a Strobe Light, where she discusses awesome books she’s read lately. When not engaged in reading or library work, she likes running, drinking tea, and working on her own stories and art.

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