2020 ITM Top Ten

2020 Top Fiction Title


Spillett-Sumner, Tasha and Donavan, Natasha.  Surviving the City November 2018 . Highwater Press. Paperback  $18.98.  56 pages.  9781553797562.  Middle Grades.

Milkwan and Dez are best friends.  Milkwan is Anishinaabe and Dez is Inninew.  When Dez disappears after finding out she might be sent to a group home because her grandmother is too sick to care for her, it brings back the memories of the disappearance of Milkwan’s mother.  The resilience, cultural, and spiritual support needed by Milkwan to overcome the resurging anguish is addressed in this haunting story that highlights the alarming numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. “The committee is very much aware of the crisis that surrounds missing and murdered Native women as one that has been disregarded by law enforcement and federal agencies for generations.  With the overwhelming response our committee received from the youth reviews gathered for this title, it is our hope that this novel in graphic form spotlights the disproportionalities of this critical issue to youth throughout the country who are seldom made aware of such injustices, and that it may be transformative in growing the community needed to abate such crises,” said Sabrina Carnesi, ITM committee chair.



Patel, Sonia.  Bloody Seoul.  August 2019.  Cinco Puntos Press.  Hardback $17.95.  224 pages.  9781947627208.  Young Adults. 

Rocky has a future full of hate and violence ahead of him if he follows his father’s footsteps.  Feared and respected because of his bullying tactics and family connections, he is haunted by the memory of his mother who disappeared years beforeHis tough exterior hides the abuse he suffers at the hands of his father, and the love he desperately misses from his mother. Is it too late for him to change the path his life has taken?


Laínez, René Colato  and Broeck, Fabricio Vanden.  My Shoes and I:  Crossing Three Borders / Mis Zapatos y Yo: Cruzando tres Fronteras (Bilingual). May 2019.  Arte Público Press.  Hardback  $17.95.  32 pages.  9781558858848. Middle Grades and Younger. 

A perilous journey awaits young Réne and his father as they leave their home in El Salvador.  Wearing new shoes, a gift from his mother who is already in the United States and awaiting their arrival offers Réne a way to channel his fears into imaginative self-encouragement as his struggles to survive threatens to overwhelm him. Will his family be reunited in the country that offers hope and opportunity?


Taylor, Annette D.  Dreams on Fire.  October 2018.  West 44.  Hardback $19.95.  200 pages.  9781538382486.  Paperback  $12.90.  200 pages.  9781538382479. Young Adult.

Free verse poetry shares Shanequa’s fight to rise above a family history involving drugs and incarceration. When she has a chance to attend a prestigious prep school, she lies to cover the truth about her background in order to fit in. Friends won through falsehoods aren’t true, she discovers, and as her grandmother tells her, a friendly person isn’t necessarily a friend. When the truth comes out, Shanequa resorts to violence to defend herself from bullying. Has she ruined her opportunity to make her dreams of attending college come true?


Wurth, Erika T.  You Who Enter Here. March 2019.  SUNY Press.  Paperback $19.95.  248 pages.  9781438473161.  Older Teens and New Adults.

A storyline that takes its cues from Dante’s Inferno, the tragedy laid before us by Erika Wurth leads readers into the destitute and barren world of Matthew who identifies as part-Diné (Navaho).  His life’s journey lead him through surviving the nonparenting abuse from an alcohol addicted mother, to a quest that sought out gang membership and lovers’ acceptance in an attempt to find self-worth.  Matthew’s entanglements with the sordid characters he associated with eventually forced him to decide whether he should continue on the destructive path he has chosen to walk, or bring it to a halting stop.

2020 Top NF Title


Wells, Tytianna N. M. and Ashley Cathey, When Hip Hop Met Poetry: An Urban Love Story.  May 2019.  Honey Tree Publishing.  Paperback.  $12.95.  pages 370. 9780991031870.  Young Adult. 

In multiple formats of song lyrics, poetic verse, and journal entries author Tytianna Wells shares her passionate memoir from ages 13 to 19 which looks beneath the surface of a good-girl-bad-boy relationship where she becomes a teen mom who loses her baby to stillbirth before graduating from high school.  The loss of her daughter, Nadia Michelle, became a catalyst that broke all the stereotypes and barriers to Tytianna’s healthy growth and development into adulthood.  As the author of six children’s books and CEO of her own publishing company, Tytianna plans to use proceeds from her memoir to fund the Nadia Michelle Scholarship Foundation for the educational support and personal development of youth.



Harris, Johnathan and Leach, Gary.  Colorblind: A Story on Racism.  April 2019.  Zuiker Press.  Hardcover Paperback $12.99.  96 pages.   9781947378124.  Middle Grades. 

Colorblind is a graphic novel with Great artwork about how African Americans deal with racism in America told through the eyes of a 15 year old boy name Johnathan, who learns to deal with psychical and verbal abuse based on his race. While coming from a tight knit family, the person who had the greatest influence on Johnathan’s life was his’s incarcerated Uncle Russell who taught him how counterproductive it was to allow hatred into his heart based on the abuse he’s endured.


Mendoza, Jean, Reese, Debbie, & Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne. An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People (ReVisioning American History for Young People).  July 2019.  Beacon Press. Paperback $18.95.  272 pages.  9780807049396.  Middle Grades and Young Adults.

The original text is adapted by renowned curriculum experts, Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza for middle grade and young adult teens. This book provides an in-depth look at 400 years of Indigenous history in America with stories of resistance and resilience. The text provides an unflinching critical analysis of settler colonialism and violence against Indigenous groups.


Ogle, Rex.  Free Lunch.  September 2019.  Norton.  Hardback $16.95.  208 pages.  9781324003601.  Middle Grades.

All kids need food, clothes, shelter, and love. How does someone in sixth grade who struggles to acquire all of these basics cope? Rex knows it shouldn’t be this way, but his inability to change his circumstances leads him to more difficulties with frustration, humiliation, and anger. Free Lunch offers a painfully honest perspective on poverty in American through the eyes of a child. In this gripping memoir, Rex does get through, but that really isn’t enough. Free Lunch is a powerful story – and a clear reminder that we need to do better.


Young, Damon.  What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger.  Ecco.  March 2019.   Hardback $27.99. 320 pages.  9780062684301.  Older Teens and Adults.

Written in essay as a memoir, Damon Young provides readers with a collection of personal perspectives and experiences that focus on the perennial struggle to find breathing space in a society where one must endure the structural racism that accompanies living while being black in America.  Through this personal selection of stories the committee feels unanimously that Young– one of the co-founders and editor-in-chief of VerySmartBrotha who is now a writer, critic, and humorist for The Root, has used this opportunity as “a humorist yet always poignant platform to exercise a voice of advocacy for the cultural angst and neuroses this country’s tolerance of white supremacy has bred within himself and others who mirror his identity of blackness.”

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Other 2020 Nominations and Awards