It’s been well-documented that Black authors are underrepresented and discriminated against in the publishing and environmental fields. Though GreenLearning doesn’t publish in the traditional sense of book publishing, we do provide free educational programming, challenges and resources. This year, we’ve put together a list of books we’ve read or have on our to-read lists that touch on the environment and are written by Black authors. From memoirs to poetry to cli-fi (climate-centred sci-fi), we’ve put together a genre-based list with options for teachers, parents and students of all ages.
As always, try a library, used bookstore or go indie to get your hands on these titles! Supporting local is great for the local economy and the environment. Now, let’s get reading!
There’s Something in the Water by Ingrid R.G. Waldron
In There’s Something in the Water, Waldron examines the legacy of environmental racism and its health impacts in Indigenous and Black communities in Canada, using Nova Scotia as a case study, and the grassroots resistance activities by Indigenous and Black communities against the pollution and poisoning of their communities.
The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection by Dorceta E. Taylor
In this sweeping social history Dorceta E. Taylor examines the emergence and rise of the multifaceted U.S. conservation movement from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century. She shows how race, class, and gender influenced every aspect of the movement, including the establishment of parks; campaigns to protect wild game, birds, and fish; forest conservation; outdoor recreation; and the movement's links to nineteenth-century ideologies.
The Unlikely Thru-Hiker: An Appalachian Trail Journey by Derick Lugo
Derick Lugo had never been hiking. He certainly couldn't imagine going more than a day without manicuring his goatee. But with a job cut short and no immediate plans, this fixture of the New York comedy scene began to think about what he might do with months of free time. He had heard of the Appalachian Trail, but he had never seriously considered attempting to hike all 2,192 miles of it. Suddenly he found himself asking, Could he do it?
The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors by James Mills
In 2013, the first all-African American team of climbers, sponsored by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), challenged themselves on North America’s highest point, the dangerous and forbidding Denali, in Alaska. Mills uses Expedition Denali and its team members’ adventures as a jumping-off point to explore how minority populations view their place in wild environments and to share the stories of those who have already achieved significant accomplishments in outdoor adventures—from Mathew Henson, a Black explorer who stood with Peary at the North Pole, to Kai Lightner, a teenage sport climber currently winning national competitions.
The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature by J. Drew Lanham
Dating back to slavery, Edgefield County, South Carolina—a place "easy to pass by on the way somewhere else"—has been home to generations of Lanhams. In The Home Place, readers meet these extraordinary people, including Drew himself, who over the course of the 1970s falls in love with the natural world around him. As his passion takes flight, however, he begins to ask what it means to be "the rare bird, the oddity.”
Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney
Why are African Americans so underrepresented when it comes to interest in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism? In this thought-provoking study, Carolyn Finney looks beyond the discourse of the environmental justice movement to examine how the natural environment has been understood, commodified, and represented by both white and black Americans. Bridging the fields of environmental history, cultural studies, critical race studies, and geography, Finney argues that the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial violence have shaped cultural understandings of the "great outdoors" and determined who should and can have access to natural spaces.
Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability edited by Alison Hope Alkon and Julian Agyeman
Popularized by such best-selling authors as Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, and Eric Schlosser, a growing food movement urges us to support sustainable agriculture by eating fresh food produced on local family farms. But many low-income neighborhoods and communities of color have been systematically deprived of access to healthy and sustainable food. These communities have been actively prevented from producing their own food and often live in “food deserts” where fast food is more common than fresh food. Cultivating Food Justice describes their efforts to envision and create environmentally sustainable and socially just alternatives to the food system.
Gloryland by Shelton Johnson
Born on Emancipation Day, 1863, to a sharecropping family of black and Indian blood, Elijah Yancy never lived as a slave—but his self–image as a free person is at war with his surroundings: Spartanburg, South Carolina, in the Reconstructed South. Exiled for his own survival as a teenager, Elijah walks west to the Nebraska plains—and, like other rootless young African–American men of that era, joins up with the US cavalry.
The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
At the end of the world, a woman must hide her secret power and find her kidnapped daughter in this "intricate and extraordinary" Hugo Award winning novel of power, oppression, and revolution. (The New York Times)
Dominoes at the Crossroads by Kaie Kellough
In this collection of stories, Kaie Kellough’s characters navigate race, history, and coming-of-age by way of their confessions and dreams. Through the eyes of jazz musicians, hitchhikers, quiet suburbanites, student radicals, secret agents, historians, and their fugitive slave ancestors, Kellough guides us from the cobblestones of Montreal’s Old Port to the foliage of a South American rainforest, from a basement in wartime Paris to an underground antique shop in Montréal during the October Crisis, allowing the force of imagination to tip the balance of time like a line of dominoes.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
The radically speculative odyssey of a young Black woman in a post-apocalyptic America and the community she cultivates despite the horrors of climate change and social inequality
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch's father is growing concerned. A hard drinker, largely absent, he doesn't show concern for much else. Esch and her three brothers are stocking food, but there isn't much to save. Lately, Esch can't keep down what food she gets; she's fourteen and pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pitbull's new litter, dying one by one in the dirt. Meanwhile, brothers Randall and Junior try to stake their claim in a family long on child's play and short on parenting.
As the twelve days that make up the novel's framework yield to their dramatic conclusion, this unforgettable family--motherless children sacrificing for one another as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce--pulls itself up to face another day. A big-hearted novel about familial love and community against all odds, and a wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, Salvage the Bones is muscled with poetry, revelatory, and real.
What Storm, What Thunder by Myriam J.A. Chancy
At the end of a long, sweltering day, as markets and businesses begin to close for the evening, an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude shakes the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince.
Award-winning author Myriam J. A. Chancy masterfully charts the inner lives of the characters affected by the disaster——Richard, an expat and wealthy water-bottling executive with a secret daughter; the daughter, Anne, an architect who drafts affordable housing structures for a global NGO; a small-time drug trafficker, Leopold, who pines for a beautiful call girl; Sonia and her business partner, Dieudonné, who are followed by a man they believe is the vodou spirit of death; Didier, an emigrant musician who drives a taxi in Boston; Sara, a mother haunted by the ghosts of her children in an IDP camp; her husband, Olivier, an accountant forced to abandon the wife he loves; their son, Jonas, who haunts them both; and Ma Lou, the old woman selling produce in the market who remembers them all. Artfully weaving together these lives, this gripping story gives witness to the desolation wreaked by nature and by man.
The Annual Migration of Clouds by Premee Mohamed
A novella set in post–climate disaster Alberta; a woman infected with a mysterious parasite must choose whether to pursue a rare opportunity far from home or stay and help rebuild her community.
YOUNG ADULT FICTION
Orleans by Sherri L. Smith
After a string of devastating hurricanes and a severe outbreak of Delta Fever, the Gulf Coast has been quarantined. Years later, residents of the Outer States are under the assumption that life in the Delta is all but extinct… but in reality, a new primitive society has been born.
Fen de la Guerre is living with the O-Positive blood tribe in the Delta when they are ambushed. Left with her tribe leader’s newborn, Fen is determined to get the baby to a better life over the wall before her blood becomes tainted.
War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi
Two sisters are torn apart by war and must fight their way back to each other in a futuristic, Black Panther-inspired Nigeria.
Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood by Tony Hillery, Illustrated by Jessie Hartland
Discover the incredible true story of Harlem Grown, a lush garden in New York City that grew out of an abandoned lot and now feeds a neighborhood.
What We Found in the Corn Maze and how it Saved a Dragon by Henry Clark
When three kids discover a book of magic spells that can only be cast during a few short minutes a day, they'll need all the time they can get to save a dying magical world, its last dragon, and themselves.
Rocket Says Clean Up! by Nathan Bryon, Illustrated by Dapo Adeola
Plucky science-lover Rocket returns in another inspiring picture book about getting a community to notice the world around them, and, in this book, to CLEAN UP! their shoreline.
The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson, Illustrated by Nikkolas Smith
The 1619 Project’s lyrical picture book in verse chronicles the consequences of slavery and the history of Black resistance in the United States, thoughtfully rendered by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and Newberry honour-winning author Renée Watson.
Kamala and Maya's Big Idea by Meena Harris
A beautiful, empowering picture book about two sisters who work with their community to effect change, inspired by a true story from the childhood of the author’s aunt, Kamala Harris, and mother, lawyer and policy expert Maya Harris.
Gone to Drift by Diana McCaulay (Middle-Grade)
From award-winning Jamaican author Diana McCaulay, Gone to Drift is a powerful voice-driven middle grade novel about family set in Jamaica.
Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry by Camille T. Dungy
Black Nature is the first anthology to focus on nature writing by African American poets. Camille T. Dungy has selected 180 poems from 93 poets that provide unique perspectives on American social and literary history to broaden our concept of nature poetry and African American poetics. This collection features major writers such as Phillis Wheatley, Rita Dove, Yusef Komunyakaa, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sterling Brown, Robert Hayden, Wanda Coleman, Natasha Trethewey, and Melvin B. Tolson as well as newer talents such as Douglas Kearney, Major Jackson, and Janice Harrington.
eat salt | gaze at the ocean by Junie Désil
eat salt | gaze at the ocean explores the themes of Black sovereignty, Haitian sovereignty, and Black lives, using the original Haitian zombie as a metaphor for the condition and treatment of Black bodies. Interspersed with textual representations of zombies, Haitian society, and historical policies is the author’s personal narrative of growing up Black and Haitian of immigrant parents on stolen Indigenous Lands.
Burning Sugar by Cicely Belle Blain
In this incendiary debut collection, activist and poet Cicely Belle Blain intimately revisits familiar spaces in geography, in the arts, and in personal history to expose the legacy of colonization and its impact on Black bodies. They use poetry to illuminate their activist work: exposing racism, especially anti-Blackness, and helping people see the connections between history and systemic oppression that show up in every human interaction, space, and community. Their poems demonstrate how the world is both beautiful and cruel, a truth that inspires overwhelming anger and awe - all of which spills out onto the page to tell the story of a challenging, complex, nuanced, and joyful life.
Topics: Black History Month, reading list, Environmental Education, Environmental Justice, Personal Development, ResourcesBack to Blog