Download high-resolution image
Listen to a clip from the audiobook
audio pause button
0:00
0:00

Cool. Awkward. Black.

Listen to a clip from the audiobook
audio pause button
0:00
0:00
Real or imaginary, geekdom is where it's at in this multi-genre YA anthology that celebrates "the geek," with stories by some of today's top bestselling, critically acclaimed Black authors.

Contributors include Amerie, Kalynn Bayron, Terry J. Benton-Walker, Roseanne A. Brown, Elise Bryant, Tracy Deonn, Desiree S. Evans, Isaac Fitzsimons, Lamar Giles, Jordan Ifueko, Leah Johnson, Amanda Joy, Kwame Mbalia, Tochi Onyebuchi, Shari B. Pennant, K. Arsenault Rivera, Julian Winters, and Ibi Zoboi.

A girl who believes in UFOs; a boy who might have finally found his Prince Charming; a hopeful performer who dreams of being cast in her school’s production of The Sound of Music; a misunderstood magician of sorts with a power she doesn’t quite understand.

These plotlines and many more compose the eclectic stories found within the pages of this dynamic, exciting, and expansive collection featuring exclusively Black characters. From contemporary to historical, fantasy to sci-fi, magical to realistic, and with contributions from a powerhouse list of self-proclaimed geeks and bestselling, award-winning authors, this life-affirming anthology celebrates and redefines the many facets of Blackness and geekiness—both in the real world and those imagined.
© Vania Stoyanova
Karen Strong is a lifelong technology and science geek and the author of the critically acclaimed middle grade novels Just South of Home and Eden’s Everdark. She has also written short fiction for Star Wars and other award-winning anthologies. A graduate of the University of Georgia, Karen lives in Atlanta. You can visit Karen Strong online at Karen-Strong.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @KarenMusings. View titles by Karen Strong
COOL. AWKWARD. BLACK.
Editor Introduction

I was a quiet girl who read comics and fantasy. A Star Wars fan who cos-played Princess Leia with huge afro puffs. A Black girl living beyond what others envisioned for her; a studious teen who loved coding and astronomy, an artistic daydreamer who danced on pointe shoes and composed music. None of these spaces seemed to truly cater to a Black girl from the American South. I didn’t see many dark-skinned girls who had adventures or superpowers in the pages of the comics and novels I read. Nobody taught me about the Black women scientists making vital discoveries. Where were all the brown girls who performed onstage or wrote film scores? The scarcity of Black people in these spaces made it easy to believe that what I loved maybe couldn’t love me back.

I wasn’t proud of myself when I won an academic award during my freshman year of high school—I was ashamed. It didn’t help that my nerdy interests and straight As had already made me a target for bullying. But then my father told me something that I still remember to this day: Your brain is the most beautiful thing about you. Knowledge was an asset, and if I kept feeding my brain everything it loved, then it would take me anyplace I wanted to go—much farther than the country dirt roads of my small town. My father’s words convinced me that the labels other people gave me were wrong, because they were too small to contain me. I began to understand that I was the only one who could define my identity.

The good news is that I eventually found my people. Black geeks who loved to code. Blerds with epic comic-book collections, and brown bookworms with library cards. Black girls who embraced science and math, and Black boys who were passionate about the arts and music. With our shared interests and passions, we created communities that thrived, and I embraced the truth that my Blackness has no boundaries.

I believe stories are important. Black teens deserve to see themselves at the center of storytelling. But just as importantly, I believe everyone can benefit from reading about Black teens who push past the limitations set upon them. We all need to see Black teens celebrating their passions, embracing their magic, falling in love, and saving the world (or themselves). These eighteen stories from bestselling, critically acclaimed Black authors span many genres and introduce an exciting new voice, Shari B. Pennant. I chose this rising star from an open submission call of over one hundred fifty stories.

In the pages of this anthology, you’ll meet a girl invited to a secret magical book club, a boy who can summon souls of the dead with music, and a group of teens searching for UFOs on their last summer trip before college. You’ll find stories of sweet romance, dark magic, self-discovery, fledgling superpowers, and geeky shenanigans.

Cool. Awkward. Black. is a celebration of Blackness beyond the mainstream. A shout-out to the lovers of manga and anime. A head nod to the cosplayers and gamers. An homage to the book nerds and STEM geeks. An invitation to the devotees of the arts and the stars. As a teen, it would have meant everything to have a book like this. It’s a gift to see a reflection of yourself on the page and realize the true power of your identity.

I hope these stories can reveal that truth and beauty for you.
Praise for Cool. Awkward. Black.:

* "The collection...moves beyond representation to inspiration, serving as a touchstone for young readers and writers to build on creatively. The intentional blending the rules of genre fiction magnifies the idea of authorshipyour story, your rules, societal expectations be damned." –The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review

“This energetic compilation of narratives is a beautiful tribute to and for young people who often find themselves on the margins of their social settings…A fearless and satisfying collection of expansive stories.” –Kirkus Reviews

"Utilizing varying literary genres...the creators deftly interrogate issues of racism, homophobia and transphobia, and intimate partner violence, and depict everyday joys and pains of varied Black experiences." –Publishers Weekly

"Reading [this anthology] feels like a mystery box where every story is the most coveted prize. [A] necessary purchase."  –School Library Journal

About

Real or imaginary, geekdom is where it's at in this multi-genre YA anthology that celebrates "the geek," with stories by some of today's top bestselling, critically acclaimed Black authors.

Contributors include Amerie, Kalynn Bayron, Terry J. Benton-Walker, Roseanne A. Brown, Elise Bryant, Tracy Deonn, Desiree S. Evans, Isaac Fitzsimons, Lamar Giles, Jordan Ifueko, Leah Johnson, Amanda Joy, Kwame Mbalia, Tochi Onyebuchi, Shari B. Pennant, K. Arsenault Rivera, Julian Winters, and Ibi Zoboi.

A girl who believes in UFOs; a boy who might have finally found his Prince Charming; a hopeful performer who dreams of being cast in her school’s production of The Sound of Music; a misunderstood magician of sorts with a power she doesn’t quite understand.

These plotlines and many more compose the eclectic stories found within the pages of this dynamic, exciting, and expansive collection featuring exclusively Black characters. From contemporary to historical, fantasy to sci-fi, magical to realistic, and with contributions from a powerhouse list of self-proclaimed geeks and bestselling, award-winning authors, this life-affirming anthology celebrates and redefines the many facets of Blackness and geekiness—both in the real world and those imagined.

Author

© Vania Stoyanova
Karen Strong is a lifelong technology and science geek and the author of the critically acclaimed middle grade novels Just South of Home and Eden’s Everdark. She has also written short fiction for Star Wars and other award-winning anthologies. A graduate of the University of Georgia, Karen lives in Atlanta. You can visit Karen Strong online at Karen-Strong.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @KarenMusings. View titles by Karen Strong

Excerpt

COOL. AWKWARD. BLACK.
Editor Introduction

I was a quiet girl who read comics and fantasy. A Star Wars fan who cos-played Princess Leia with huge afro puffs. A Black girl living beyond what others envisioned for her; a studious teen who loved coding and astronomy, an artistic daydreamer who danced on pointe shoes and composed music. None of these spaces seemed to truly cater to a Black girl from the American South. I didn’t see many dark-skinned girls who had adventures or superpowers in the pages of the comics and novels I read. Nobody taught me about the Black women scientists making vital discoveries. Where were all the brown girls who performed onstage or wrote film scores? The scarcity of Black people in these spaces made it easy to believe that what I loved maybe couldn’t love me back.

I wasn’t proud of myself when I won an academic award during my freshman year of high school—I was ashamed. It didn’t help that my nerdy interests and straight As had already made me a target for bullying. But then my father told me something that I still remember to this day: Your brain is the most beautiful thing about you. Knowledge was an asset, and if I kept feeding my brain everything it loved, then it would take me anyplace I wanted to go—much farther than the country dirt roads of my small town. My father’s words convinced me that the labels other people gave me were wrong, because they were too small to contain me. I began to understand that I was the only one who could define my identity.

The good news is that I eventually found my people. Black geeks who loved to code. Blerds with epic comic-book collections, and brown bookworms with library cards. Black girls who embraced science and math, and Black boys who were passionate about the arts and music. With our shared interests and passions, we created communities that thrived, and I embraced the truth that my Blackness has no boundaries.

I believe stories are important. Black teens deserve to see themselves at the center of storytelling. But just as importantly, I believe everyone can benefit from reading about Black teens who push past the limitations set upon them. We all need to see Black teens celebrating their passions, embracing their magic, falling in love, and saving the world (or themselves). These eighteen stories from bestselling, critically acclaimed Black authors span many genres and introduce an exciting new voice, Shari B. Pennant. I chose this rising star from an open submission call of over one hundred fifty stories.

In the pages of this anthology, you’ll meet a girl invited to a secret magical book club, a boy who can summon souls of the dead with music, and a group of teens searching for UFOs on their last summer trip before college. You’ll find stories of sweet romance, dark magic, self-discovery, fledgling superpowers, and geeky shenanigans.

Cool. Awkward. Black. is a celebration of Blackness beyond the mainstream. A shout-out to the lovers of manga and anime. A head nod to the cosplayers and gamers. An homage to the book nerds and STEM geeks. An invitation to the devotees of the arts and the stars. As a teen, it would have meant everything to have a book like this. It’s a gift to see a reflection of yourself on the page and realize the true power of your identity.

I hope these stories can reveal that truth and beauty for you.

Praise

Praise for Cool. Awkward. Black.:

* "The collection...moves beyond representation to inspiration, serving as a touchstone for young readers and writers to build on creatively. The intentional blending the rules of genre fiction magnifies the idea of authorshipyour story, your rules, societal expectations be damned." –The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review

“This energetic compilation of narratives is a beautiful tribute to and for young people who often find themselves on the margins of their social settings…A fearless and satisfying collection of expansive stories.” –Kirkus Reviews

"Utilizing varying literary genres...the creators deftly interrogate issues of racism, homophobia and transphobia, and intimate partner violence, and depict everyday joys and pains of varied Black experiences." –Publishers Weekly

"Reading [this anthology] feels like a mystery box where every story is the most coveted prize. [A] necessary purchase."  –School Library Journal

Books for LGBTQIA+ Pride Month

In June we celebrate Pride Month, which honors the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan and highlights the accomplishments of those in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual + (LGBTQIA+) community, while recognizing the ongoing struggles faced by many across the world who wish to live as their most authentic selves. Here is

Read more

PRH Education High School Collections

All reading communities should contain protected time for the sake of reading. Independent reading practices emphasize the process of making meaning through reading, not an end product. The school culture (teachers, administration, etc.) should affirm this daily practice time as inherently important instructional time for all readers. (NCTE, 2019)   The Penguin Random House High

Read more

PRH Education Translanguaging Collections

Translanguaging is a communicative practice of bilinguals and multilinguals, that is, it is a practice whereby bilinguals and multilinguals use their entire linguistic repertoire to communicate and make meaning (García, 2009; García, Ibarra Johnson, & Seltzer, 2017)   It is through that lens that we have partnered with teacher educators and bilingual education experts, Drs.

Read more

PRH Education Classroom Libraries

“Books are a students’ passport to entering and actively participating in a global society with the empathy, compassion, and knowledge it takes to become the problem solvers the world needs.” –Laura Robb   Research shows that reading and literacy directly impacts students’ academic success and personal growth. To help promote the importance of daily independent

Read more