Literature provides not only a gateway of empathy into the lives of others, but also a mirror for readers whose lives have been affected by difficult circumstances. It can provide everyone with opportunities for self-reflection and growth.
The American Library Association’s Great Stories Club is a unique book club model that uses powerful stories to engage and inspire.
In 2017, ALA collaborated with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and an Implementation Team of content experts to develop a new book club series exploring race, identity and relationship-building. The result was the Great Stories Club series on Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT).
To learn more about the Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Framework, visit http://healourcommunities.org.
How to Use the Great Stories Club
Materials from Great Stories Club — including book lists, discussion questions, related reading lists and promotional materials — are available for non-commercial use by any individual, book club, community nonprofit or library, free of charge.
The following titles were selected for the series by experienced librarians and humanities scholars:
- Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. by Luis J. Rodriguez
- American Street by Ibi Zoboi
- Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices, edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale
- Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina
- March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
- Mother of the Sea by Zetta Elliott
- Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
- Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson
- The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
- The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano
- The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by Sonny Liew
- Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
- The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
- X: A Novel by Ilyashah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
Explore the materials in the themes below.
The “Deeper Than Our Skins” theme is grounded in literature that can help us look beneath the surface of racism in America to reveal how the past is alive in the present. This theme uses powerful stories of oppression, resistance, suffering, and triumph to identify the roots of racialized experience in the United States, and to inspire discussions around how to construct more equitable futures for the people in our nation and world. Get materials for this theme.
Throughout history, young people have been vital to making change. The “Finding Your Voice” series includes texts that highlight the necessity and power of young people speaking up despite challenges, social pressure, and even the threat of bigger dangers. Whether it is finding righteous anger as a superpower or speaking up through poetry and art, “Finding Your Voice” features young people speaking out against racism and other injustices to make the world better. Get materials for this theme.
"Growing Up Brave on the Margins" explores what it means to be brave. How does a young person — whether a teen or a young adult — decide to strike out against conformity and stand out from the crowd? How do they fight against powers bigger than themselves? How do marginalized young people — those who exist on the fringes of mainstream society because of their religion, gender, race, sexuality, ability, or class — find the courage to not only be themselves, but assert their very right to exist? The books in this series feature strong protagonists who rise to challenges and fight for justice in their communities in the face of parents who may not always understand them, peers who doubt them, and communities who dismiss them or even find them dangerous. Get materials for this theme.
Vital to discussing the complex issues of race is a common vocabulary that helps prevent misunderstandings and misinterpretations. Words can have different meanings to different people based on their experiences.
The concepts and phrases in the TRHT Glossary can help avoid misunderstandings. While not everyone may agree on the definition of each word, a common understanding of how words are being used in particular circumstances can help more productive conversations to take place.
Resources on Structural Racism
One of the goals of the TRHT Great Stories Club is to help people see a role for themselves in shifting structural racism within their communities and beyond. The following readings provide information about structural racism.
- The Aspen Institute's Glossary for Understanding the Dismantling Structural Racism/Promoting Racial Equity Analysis
- Race, Power and Policy: Dismantling Structural Racism
- Racial Equity Tools: System of Inequity
- Everyday Democracy: Understanding Structural Racism Activity
- People's Theater: Institutional Racism Workshop
- Race Forward: What is Systemic Racism? [Videos]
- Institutional Racism in US explained through a Michael Jackson song
Reading Lists about Race and Racism
- Reading for Change: Booklist-Recommended Antiracism Titles for All Ages, The Booklist Reader, American Library Association
- Tools to Talk about Race and Racism, Hennepin County (Minn.) Library
- Books White People Need to Read, Goodreads
- Tools for Talking to Kids about Race, Oak Park (Ill.) Public Library
- Black Lives Matter: A Reading List for Children & Families, Skokie (Ill.) Public Library
- Black Lives Matter: A Reading List for Adults, Skokie (Ill.) Public Library
- Anti-Racist Reading List from Ibrahim X. Kendi, Chicago (Ill.) Public Library
- Race in the United States Reading List, Clackamas (Ore.) Community College Library
About Racial Healing Circles
Part of the Kellogg Foundation’s TRHT Framework is the convening of racial healing circles. "Restoring to Wholeness," a publication from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, can help you understand more about what racial healing is and how racial healing circles can help you deepen engagement.
You can host a conversation on your own using the book-specific racial healing prompts, or contact the ALA Public Programs Office if you would like to connect with a fellow library professional who has received racial healing circle facilitation training.
As further context, you may wish to access the archived Webinar "Preparing to Implement Effective Racial Healing Circles," download the transcript, or review the post-webinar Q&A provided by the presenters.