If you glance at the news on any given day you’ll notice that the current climate is a tumultuous time for civil rights and environmental protection around the world. It can be sad and discouraging to read about the injustice going on but I find reading fiction can help process these feelings. Here are some great current titles about social justice issues.
Two years ago Daisy’s friend Natalie went off to Europe and then when she came back she started bullying her. Daisy makes friends with a new girl, Hannah, who then comes out as a lesbian. When Daisy hears that her school doesn’t allow same-sex dates to school dances, she decides she wants to change that. However the media wrongly assumes that Daisy herself is not straight and instead of correcting them, her and the LGBTQIA+ club at her school let her keep telling the lie as it is helping give them national recognition. What’s more, Hannah is now dating Natalie which causes Daisy to feel abandoned once more. Daisy encounters uncomfortable truths about her own privileges (along with actually being straight, she is white, wealthy, and cisgender). She can go on national TV but doesn’t actually experience the difficulties of being a member of the LGBTQIA community. There are a lot of different representations of LGBTIA characters in this novel and the novel examines how Daisy sometimes oversteps her bounds as an ally to the community.
Hawk by Jennifer Dance.
Hawk is a story about a First Nations boy from Northern Alberta, Adam, as well as a pair of fish hawks named Three Talons and White Chest. Adam is training for cross-country competition in Fort McMurray when he discovers he has leukemia, which puts a halt to his athletic activities. When he rescues one of the fish hawks from a toxic pond in the oil sands he starts a journey to fight for the environment and all the creatures that live there. He learns from his grandfather that over the years there have been more and more diseased animals in the area and that he suspects it is because of the oil sands. Adam also reclaims the name of “Hawk”, examines his anger at being abandoned at a young age by his parents and learns about the damage caused to his family by the residential school system.
Sugar Falls: A Residential School Story by David Alexander Robertson and Scott B. Henderson.
Sugar Falls is a short graphic novel about a boy named Daniel who gets a school assignment in which he has to interview a residential school survivor. He doesn’t know anyone but his friend April tells him that he can talk to his grandma, Betsy. Betsy tells him the story about how she was adopted at age 8 to a loving family but then taken to a residential school where she was abused and stripped of her culture and identity by the priests and nuns who ran the school. She held on to the words her father told her which made her determined to survive and tell her story, and in turn help others in similar situations find healing and justice. The story is based on the real life story of residential school survivor Betty Ross. David Alexander Robertson also wrote the graphic novel “The Life of Helen Betty Osborne”, a graphic novel about another residential school survivor who was kidnapped and murdered in The Pas. Betty Ross was her close friend and she changed her name from Betsy to Betty to honour her.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give is a story inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. Starr Carter lives in two worlds—she resides in a poor neighbourhood but attends a suburban prep school. She witnesses her childhood best friend being fatally shot while unarmed by a police officer. The murder gets national headlines—the media paints him as a drug dealer and a criminal, protestors take to the streets demanding justice, while the cups and a local drug lord intimidate her and her family. Starr is well aware that she is in a system which is built against her, where she has to be careful around cops because of the colour of her skin. She starts to feel the divide between herself and her white boyfriend and white classmates and friends. Starr is afraid—she does not know whether or not she will have the courage to speak up and tell the truth about what she saw.