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#SJYALit, Social Justice in YA Lit – The 2017 TLT Project


Since November 9th, 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center has been keeping track of the tremendous increase in hate crimes in the United States. This news, combined with increasing threats to education, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, attacks on healthcare and more, has left the librarians at TLT worrying about the teens that we have committed ourselves to serving, both now and in the future. So we have decided to respond in the only way we know how – through books and information.

Beginning in 2014, we began our campaign on sexual violence (#SVYALit). In 2015, we focused on faith and spirituality (#FSYALit). This year, we focused on mental health (#MHYALit). All those campaigns will continue.

In 2017, we will focus on social justice. #SJYALit. We want to talk about poverty, racism, sexism and all the other issues which have been more fully brought to the surface in this election. This year, we are working to more fully understand the issues and will share our journey with our readership. It is our hope that we can equip those who work with teens with background and information sources that will grow their understanding of and compassion for our teens. Together, we can teach teens to be knowledgeable, compassionate members of society who understand their value.

Social justice is defined as “… promoting a just society by challenging injustice and valuing diversity.” It exists when “all people share a common humanity and therefore have a right to equitable treatment, support for their human rights, and a fair allocation of community resources.” In conditions of social justice, people are “not be discriminated against, nor their welfare and well-being constrained or prejudiced on the basis of gender, sexuality, religion, political affiliations, age, race, belief, disability, location, social class, socioeconomic circumstances, or other characteristic of background or group membership” (Toowoomba Catholic Education, 2006). (Robinson,

My daughter is 14. She will be voting in the next presidential election. So will all of her friends. So will many of your children. So will the teens I work with every day here in my library.

“ . . . social justice is about assuring the protection of equal access to liberties, rights, and opportunities, as well as taking care of the least advantaged members of society.” (Rawls,

Please help us. Those of us at TLT are all white women. We know there are many issues that we cannot speak to. But not all of us are straight, not all of us are Christians, and many of us struggle with mental health issues. And all of us love many people who don’t love, think, or believe like us. We care and we need your help.

So here’s what we’re going to do and we are asking for your help. Next year, we will read books, recommend books, and talk about books that focus on social justice issues. We will compile lists. We will compile resources. We will raise awareness and do our best to listen and grow and ask others to listen and grow with us.

The topics we will be covering include:

  • Civil Rights
  • Disabilities
  • Dystopian (A look at the role of government)
  • Education
  • Environmental Rights and Protection
  • Feminist YA
  • GLBTQ Issues and Representation
  • Healthcare
  • Homelessness
  • Immigration
  • Incarceration
  • Labor (Jobs, Employment, Wages, etc.)
  • Mental Health
  • Own Voices/Representation
  • Politics (Government, Voter’s Rights)
  • Poverty & Income Inequality
  • Religious Freedom (Faith and Spirituality)
  • Reproductive Freedom and Education
  • Sexual Violence
  • Social Justice 101
  • Teen Activism

Each member of TLT will be responsible for coordinating posts on various topics. It will look something like this:

Karen Jensen – Dystopian Lit, Environmental Rights & Protections, Homelessness, Labor, Politics

Heather Booth – Healthcare, Immigration, Own Voices/Representation

Amanda MacGregror – LGBTQIA+,  Muslim Rep/Own Voices, Reproductive Freedom, Sexual Violence, Disability Representation

Robin Willis – Civil Rights, Education, Incareration, Poverty/Income Inequality

Ally Watkins – Feminist YA, Mental Health, Religious Freedom


 Please Contact Us to Participate

You can contact any of us to participate through Twitter or Email:

Karen Jensen – @tlt16, kjensenmls at yahoo dot com

Heather Booth – @boothheather, teenreadersadvisor at gmail dot com

Amanda MacGregor – @CiteSomething, amanda dot macgregor at gmail dot com

Robin Willis –  @robinreads, robinkwillis at gmail dot com

Ally Watkins – @aswatki1, allison dot watkins at eagles dot usm dot edu

In addition, we will be asking you to join us for a monthly book club read and online Twitter chat. We will kick off January with All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. More information will be coming soon.

 #SJYALit Post Index

Book Lists

Take 5: Using YA Lit to Talk Government, Power, Politics, Corruption

Engaging Teens

#SJYALit: Making a Social Justice Book Display that Engages Teens

Screening The 13th: Questions to ask yourself #SJYALit

For National Poetry Month: A Social Justice Poetry Project for Teens, a guest post by Laura Shovan

#SJYALit: Social Justice Reading in Schools, a guest post by Alex B.

#SJYALit: More Social Justice Reading in Schools, a guest post by Alex B.

Feminism, Including Sexual Assault Awareness and Reproductive Rights

#SJYALit: Ten Young Adult Novels for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a guest post by Clara Kensie

#SJYALit: Rape Culture–Twenty-five years ago and today, a guest post by Clara Kensie

#SJYALit: Good Girls Don’t Wear That! a guest post by Kim Baccellia

#SJYALit: How to be Female, a conversation between Mindy McGinnis and Amber J. Keyser

#SJYALit: Breaking Taboos, Telling Secrets, a conversation between Isabel Quintero and Elana K. Arnold


“Nevertheless, She Persisted” A Take 5 List, plus 1

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World – Kelly Jensen talks with contributor Alida Nugent about social justice, feminism & finding and using your voice

My Voice is Louder Now: HERE WE ARE editor Kelly Jensen talks with Brandy Colbert about Feminism

Feminism is for Everyone: HERE WE ARE editor Kelly Jensen interviews contributor Daniel Jose Older

Still Learning Every Day: HERE WE ARE editor Kelly Jensen interviews contributor Sarah McCarry

GLBTQA+ Rights

National School Climate Survey results about LGBTQ students’ experiences in school

#SJYALit: If You Don’t Get It, You Won’t Get It Right, a guest post by Shaun David Hutchinson

#SJYALit: LGBTQ+ YA lit in the 90s/00s versus now, a guest post by Alex B.

“Not for Everyone”: The continuing marginalization of LGBTQ literature for kids, a guest post by M.G. Hennessey

Government and Politics

#SJYALit: The Lunar Chronicles as a Reflection of Current U.S. Political Climate, a guest post by Emily Keyes

Librarianship and Social Justice

#SJYALit Hello, I’m Your Social Justice Librarian, a guest post by Perlita Payne

#MHYALit: How books and being a librarian help me cope with anxiety, a guest post by Erin

Social Justice

#SJYALit Preserving the Right to Peaceful Protest in 2017 America, a guest post by Sabrina Fedel

Love and Justice: What I’ve learned from those seeking refuge in the U.S., a guest post by author Marie Marquardt

Socio Economic Diversity and Poverty

#SJYALIt: Socio-Economic Diversity in YA Lit


Spotlight on Salaam Reads

Life-enhancing things that matter to young Muslim women, a guest post by Khadija

Additional Resources

#SVYALit (2014) – Sexual Violence in YA Lit

#FSYALit (2015) – Faith and Spiritiuality in YA Lit

#MHYALit (2016) – Mental Health in YA Lit

#Poverty in YA Lit

Disability in Kidlit

The Brown Bookshelf

We Need Diverse Books


  1. This sounds FANTASTIC – cannot wait to read these posts!!

  2. I’ve been wondering what the new theme would be, and this is perfect! I’m so excited for this.

  3. This is so wonderful! Thank you for all you do!

  4. This sounds awesome!

  5. Carol Cordall says:

    This sounds wonderful – we don’t have this kind of group at my school in the UK, but I will liaise with our sociology/PSCHE Department as it sounds like something we could usefully do together.

  6. This is fabulous – it coincides perfectly with a new book club I’m starting with one of our Upper School English teachers where we will focus on “controversial” topics that don’t get talked about in the classroom; coincidentally, our first book will mostly likely be All American Boys. I’ll definitely check here for recs and reviews!

  7. This is a good idea. Thank you.

  8. Thank you for doing this. It is certainly needed. In addition to dystopian lit, I suggest that you also include historical and international literature because others have faced what we’re about to face and we can learn from them. There are a lot of stories of survival, standing up for what is right, and hope — true stories and fiction based on true stories.

    • Karen Jensen, TLT Karen Jensen, TLT says:

      Lyn, I am so worried about what we are about to face. And if you want to make any book lists – let us know. We would be glad to have you participate.
      Thank you,


  1. […] am so excited about Teen Librarian Toolbox’s theme for 2017: Social Justice! Check out the social justice themed book display they created with no slogans or headings to […]

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