STEM and Race: Non-Fiction Books That Change The Narrative

By Jennifer Sunami

I’ve been thinking about the intersection of science and equity lately, especially as we look to technology to solve more and more of our problems, from ending climate change, to fighting hate on social media, to providing clean water in poor communities, to a thousand other challenges we face. The topic is vast and complex—examining the biases of the invisible algorithms in our tech is a huge topic in itself! However, one thing we can work on is making sure that we view science and tech as a field where people of all backgrounds and skin colors belong and can excel. One of the failures in our increasing reliance on new technologies is that we are still struggling to make sure that everyone gets a chance to participate in creating these cutting-edge solutions. Representation in STEM isn’t just about job opportunities and bringing fresh perspectives to difficult problems, though that’s important. It’s also about bringing attention to problems that affect communities of color that might otherwise be ignored.

Since the best way to replace negative stereotypes is with positive narratives, here are few fun non-fiction books that highlight diversity in STEM:

For All Ages:

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race (Young Readers’ Edition)

You knew the hit movie was based on a book, right? Learn the real history behind the Black women at NASA who helped land the first men on the moon.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Young Readers’ Edition)

Also adapted as a movie by the actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, this incredible story is about science and perseverance. It is also a reminder that technology isn’t something that you find only in a lab or Silicon Valley. It’s also all the on-the-ground stuff that people make in response to real-life difficulties.

For Younger Kids:

Look What Brown Can Do! by T. Marie Harris

Learn about the accomplishments of Black scientists, writers, musicians, and more in this colorful picture book.

Shark Lady by Jess Keating

The true story of ichthyologist Eugenie Clark, who became the unlikely champion of these fierce ocean predators.

The Girl with a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague by Julia Finley Mosca

Raye Montague wants to design ships and succeeds despite racism and sexism along the way.

For Older Kids:

Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World by Reshma Saujani

Discover real-life stories of girls and women using the power of computer coding to build careers in technology and science.

What Color Is My World? by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

An entertaining overview of Black inventors, presented within a story about two twins and an eccentric handyman.