Toward the end of every year, YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) releases a shortlist of titles for the Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. The winner is announced at the ALA Youth Media Awards in January. This year’s winner was John Lewis’ March:Book Three. Here’s a quick rundown of the other titles that made the list of finalists.
What made me pick them up: Each year I try to read all of the finalists before the winner is announced, but this year I’m running a little behind.
Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History by Karen Blumenthal
What it’s about: This book follows Hillary Clinton’s life and political career through the beginning of her 2016 Presidential campaign.
My favorite things: I appreciated that the author didn’t shy away from the controversies that have popped up throughout her life and career. Blumenthal effectively explains many of the difficulties and criticisms Clinton has faced throughout her career and how she has worked to overcome them.
Who it’s great for: Teens and adults who want to know more about Clinton’s life and career leading up to her history making campagin as the first woman to be nominated for president by a major party.
In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives by Kenneth C. Davis
What it’s about: Davis presents the lives of five enslaved people and the four presidents who counted them as property.
My favorite things: There’s a very powerful section at the beginning where Davis names several beloved founding fathers and their contributions to the nation, and then lists how many enslaved people they owned. He does an incredible job throughout the book of highlighting the complexities of slavery in early American history and pointing out the inconsistencies in the words and actions of the men who designed the nation.
Who it’s good for: Teens interested in concrete examples of the contradictions between the rhetoric of liberty and the reality of slavery during the early days of the United States.
Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner.
What it’s about: This traces the early years of samurai rule in Japan by following the life of Minamoto Yoshitsune.
My favorite things: This is a really fun, and often funny, look into the history of samurai rule in Japan. Turner blends storytelling and historical accounts for an exciting peek into the life of a Japanese legend: Minamoto Yoshitsune, the “ultimate samurai”.
Who it’s good for: Teens interested in learning about Japanese history and samurai culture. Reluctant nonfiction readers who need an action packed story to maintain interest.
This Land is Our Land: A History of American Immigration by Linda Barrett Osborne
What it’s about: A concise history of immigration into the United States.
My favorite things: Osborne looks at more than immigration statistics. She considers the lived experience of immigrating to the United States by examining the restrictions and hostile attitudes that have targeted various immigrant groups throughout the nation’s history.
Who it’s good for: Teens and adults who want to understand the history of immigration policies and why it is such a divisive issue.