1. Spike Lee’s Crooklyn
This semi-autobiographical film was co-written and directed by Lee. Head back to Bed-Stuy, ‘73 and let the summer take you over.
2. The Coldest Winter Ever By Sista Soulja
Also set in Brooklyn, this novel follows a notorious drug dealer’s daughter in one of the worst snow storms in New York’s history.
3. A Bronx Tale
Head uptown for Robert De Niro’s directorial debut.
4. The Dragon Can’t Dance by Earl Lovelace
From Trinidadian author Earl Lovelace, this novel follows Aldrick Prospect as he prepares for Carnival. Lovelace takes on not just the toils of growing up but how humans cope racial tensions and colonialism.
5. Conversations in Sicily by Elio Vittorini
First published in 1941 as Nome e Lagrime, this book follows Silvestro Ferrauto as he battles his families demons. If Hemingway endorses it, it’s good enough for you.
6. Boaz Yakin’s Fresh
This 1994 film follows 12-year-old Michael as comes into the world of selling drugs (oh, yeah and Samuel L. Jackson anyone?)
7. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
This powerhouse novel follows Oscar Wao, a character that Diaz calls a ‘ghetto nerd.’ It also won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
8. Team Seven
A debut novel from Iowa grad Marcus Burke, Team Seven follows Andre Battel as he navigates life in a neighborhood south of Boston. From hitting the basketball court to pushing weed to dealing with a father who appears as quickly as he vanishes, this book shows the just how tough growing up can be.
“This is one of those rare first books you’ll read again and again. The prose surges forward: relentless, plainspoken and artful, the people it describes laid bare, the tender heart at the center pulsing through each chapter. Unforgettable.”
—Ayana Mathis, author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie