Ten Social Justice Books You—and Your Child—Won’t be Able to Put Down

A collage of books shortlisted for the Goddard Riverside book prizes

The shortlists for our book prizes are in, and they’re packed with challenging and inspiring works on subjects from homelessness to immigration. Stay tuned: we’ll announce the winners of the Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice and the Goddard Riverside CBC Youth Book Prize for Social Justice on October 13. 

“Great social justice books like these give us important new insights and motivate us to work for change,” said Goddard Riverside Executive Director Roderick L. Jones. “We hope people will engage with them, learn from them, and carry those learnings forward.”

The Russo prize, now in its sixth year, celebrates the power of the written word to create change in the name of justice for all. It is named in honor of former Goddard Executive Director Stephan Russo. 

The shortlisted titles are: 

  • Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families–and How Abolition Can Build a Safer World, by Dorothy E. Roberts (Basic Books) Drawing on decades of research, legal scholar and sociologist Dorothy Roberts reveals that the child welfare system is better understood as a “family policing system” that collaborates with law enforcement and prisons to oppress Black communities. 
  • His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice, by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa (Viking) This biography by two prizewinning Washington Post reporters reveals how systemic racism shaped George Floyd’s life and legacy—from his family’s roots in the tobacco fields of North Carolina, to ongoing inequality in housing, education, health care, criminal justice, and policing—telling the story of how one man’s tragic experience brought about a global movement for change. 
  • Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City, by Andrea Elliott (Random House) Pulitzer Prize winner Andrea Elliott follows eight dramatic years in the life of Dasani, a girl whose imagination is as soaring as the skyscrapers near her Brooklyn shelter.  
  • One Fair Wage: Ending Subminimum Pay in America, by Saru Jayaraman (The New Press) The author of Behind the Kitchen Door examines how the subminimum wage and the tipping system exploit society’s most vulnerable. 
  • Streets of Gold: America’s Untold Story of Immigrant Success, by Ran Abramitzky and Leah Boustan (PublicAffairs).  Using the tools of modern data analysis and ten years of pioneering research, this book provides new evidence about the past and present of the American Dream—debunking myths fostered by political opportunism and sentimentalized in family histories, and drawing counterintuitive conclusions 
  • The Stolen Year: How COVID Changed Children’s Lives, and Where We Go Now, by Anya Kamenetz (Public Affairs) An NPR education reporter shows how the pandemic disrupted children’s lives—and how our country has nearly always failed to put our children first. 

The youth prize recognizes nonfiction books for children and teens related to urban life and issues that support values such as community, equality, opportunity, mutual understanding, respect, caring and justice – in accordance with Goddard Riverside’s mission. 

The shortlist is: 

  • Our World is a Family, by Miry Whitehill and Jennifer Jackson, illustrated by Nomar Perez (Sourcebooks Explore) From the creators of Miry’s List, the nonprofit that has helped thousands of refugees, Our World is a Family is an all-ages picture book exploring the complicated topic of human migration in a gentle, loving, and affirming way.  
  • Your Planet Needs You: A Kids’ Guide to Reducing Waste and Recycling, by Philip Bunting (Bloomsbury Children’s) Your Planet Needs You! is packed with simple explanations of  how kids and their families can reduce, re-use, and recycle to help clean up our planet. 
  • EVICTED! The Struggle for the Right to Vote, by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by Charly Palmer (Calkins Creek/Astra Books for Young Readers) This civil rights book for middle-graders examines the little-known Tennessee’s Fayette County Tent City Movement in the late 1950s and reveals what is possible when people unite and fight for the right to vote. 
  • Sanctuary: Kip Tiernan and Rosie’s Place, the Nation’s First Shelter for Women, by Christine McDonnell and Victoria Tentler-Krylov (Candlewick Press) The inspirational story of a singular woman and what her vision and compassion brought to life.