On the day before the U.S. election, I started writing this post about books about hope and didn’t know how it would turn out. As soon as Biden-Harris won on November 7, I ran out into the streets and sucked in the air with the happiness I haven’t felt in a long time. New York City (and many other cities) had one of the happiest weekends ever.
It’s much easier to feel hopeful in this kind of setting. As someone who cares about climate justice, civil rights, and international cooperation, the future looks a lot better to me now. However, I know that even if the American people had voted for the minority-vote-loser want tobe-dictator, I would still have had to look for hope. A lot of people in the United States have been killed by COVID, and the police are still very aggressive. It’s very unlikely that we’ll get out of this period without having a major homelessness crisis. There’s also a power change in the U.S., so I need some hope to balance it out. I don’t want to be pessimistic, but remembering all of these things makes me want to read the best books about hope, so I read them. Even if you’re a kid or an adult, a reminder of hope is always good to have. They should make you feel warm and fuzzy, not cold and sharp.
Growing Up With Hope Books
Ambitious Girl by Meena Harris and Marissa Valdez
Too-this or too-that labels don’t bother a young girl anymore. She can pursue her dreams in the way that works best for herself, without having to worry about them being too big or small. A girl who wants to be herself takes us on a joyful journey through the world. People who are excited about having a voice in the U.S. government and want to knock down the house should read this book!
You Matter by Christian Robinson
This book shows you how you can make a big difference even with small, everyday things. Author Christian Robinson jumps between characters to show kids how important it is to see the world through different eyes. All of you are important, but you are also important.
We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade
Young Native American girl works to save her community’s water from an evil threat in this fantasy version of real events that is based on true events. If you want to talk about what it means to be an environmentalist, this story is a great way to do that. It’s based on the fight for water protection by Native American groups in the U.S. It will give water protectors hope and give them a sense of support.
All Because You Matter by Tami Charles and Bryan Collier
As a child, I used to love reading lyrical books at night that had beautiful illustrations. This book reminds me of those books. Charles’s love letter to black and brown kids is a perfect match for Bryan Collier’s bright art. It’s a great book for kids who might be overwhelmed or feel like they’re not in the world right now.
Teenage Books About Hope
I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb tell her well-known story in this great book. This is how Malala tells her story. She tells it with the clear-eyed honesty of a girl who knew that the story of her life was so much bigger than her own. Despite the terrible attack that almost killed her, she still stands up for the principles of education and freedom that were important to her as a child. Now that Malala is about to become an adult and go to college, I want to go back and find out why she’s so popular around the world.
Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration Edited by Rose Brock
If you need a little pick-me-up, this is a great set to have on your desk. People who write good books for teenagers these days tell stories about how they found hope in hard times. They come from all kinds of different backgrounds, which makes the book as a whole exciting and hopeful. Libba Bray: Nic Stone: Jason Reynolds: Angie Thomas: and so many more!
How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana, with Abigail Pesta.
After leaving the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sandra found herself through art and activism, and she did this after she left. Sandra came to New York with her family after surviving a terrible war in her home country. The United Nations runs a refugee program for people who have been forced to flee their home country. Though there has been a lot of trauma and cultural gaps, she finds hope in her own creativity and strength.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
A book I read as a child made my heart believe in strangers’ kindness in very bad times. On the cover: This book is about Annemarie Johansen’s and her family’s efforts to protect her Jewish best friend, Ellen. They want to get her to Sweden, out of Nazi-occupied Copenhagen. Because Annemarie has to fight so hard to protect her friend, this book is a classic for a good reason. She doesn’t give up even when things are scary.
Hope Books For Adults Who Need a Reminder
The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear by Paul Rogat Loeb
Paul Rogat Loeb put together a group of activists, writers, and movement leaders to write about how they kept going even when things seemed impossible. From all over the world, they tell us about their fights for civil rights and personal problems that made them have to find a way to get hope and keep going.
My Glory Was I Had Such Friends: A Memoir by Amy Silverstein
She has had two heart transplants in a near-impossible turn of events, but she is still alive. They all agreed to help her out by going to California to be with her while she waited for a new donor heart. Make sure to reach out to your friends from all stages of your life and remember the bad times you had together. It’s a very interesting and hopeful story.
Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC Edited by Faith S. Holsaert, Martha Prescod, Norman Noonan, Judy Richardson, Betty Garman Robinson, Jean Smith Young, and Dorothy M. Zellner
As someone who worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, I love this book because all of the writers are so honest and unflinching when they talk about the hard work of organizing and the small steps forward in their civil rights fights. It’s a good book for people who want to get an overall picture of hope and who want to make multigenerational connections.
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
A good follow-up to Hands on the Freedom Plow. There will be a lot of protests in the summer of 2020 because of the work done by Black Lives Matter organizers, especially their advice on how to protest safely because they’ve been through the worst of it. Here, we look at where we were in 2016 and how to fight for Black liberation in the future, giving hope and a sense of direction.
Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith
In a book of poetry that is filled with anger and trauma, Danez Smith still manages to show joy and love. Their poems also show how they live their lives and who they are at the intersection of groups that have been historically underrepresented: Black, queer, nonbinary, and HIV-positive. One of the best things about this book of poetry is that it’s both deeply hopeful and fun to read. It’s good for people who find poetry a little dry at times.
As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
This story takes place in Philadelphia during the pandemic of 1918. It follows a mother and her two daughters as they deal with the long-term effects of a postwar, disease-ravaged time. Orphan: The family takes in an orphan, and he becomes a source of hope.
The work doesn’t end with one election, and many of us know this already. As people who want a better, more equitable future show up and bother our elected officials, we have to keep it up, too! However, hope and self-care are important parts of this, too. The hope books can make you happy and the uplifting ones help get you through dark times. Romance novels can make you feel like you’re getting a really good hug, too.