A Book of the Month selection, which I've been meaning to read since The Tenement Museum in NYC called it a must-read immigrant story. The publisher calls this "a compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream—the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy." A 2016 Book of the Year for all kinds of publications.
From the publisher: "The poems in Nikky Finney's breathtaking new collection sustain a sensitive and intense dialogue with emblematic figures and events in African American life: from civil rights matriarch Rosa Parks to former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, from a brazen girl strung out on lightning to a terrified woman abandoned on a rooftop during Hurricane Katrina. Finney's poetic voice is defined by an intimacy that holds a soft yet exacting eye on the erotic, on uncanny political and family events, like her mother's wedding waltz with South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond, and then again on the heartbreaking hilarity of an American president's final State of the Union address. Artful and intense, Finney's poems ask us to be mindful of what we fraction, fragment, cut off, dice, dishonor, or throw away, powerfully evoking both the lawless and the sublime."
- by Angie Thomas
- 15 debut novels for your Reading Challenge, 50 Contemporary Books Every Woman’s Gotta Read: Contemporary Fiction, a book by an #ownvoices or #diversebooks author, Books That Have Been Banned At Some Point, Books with Serious Literary Recognition, Past Summer Reading Guide audiobooks, Thought-provoking Stories
At age 16, Starr Carter has lost two close friends to gun violence: one in a drive-by; one shot by a cop. The latter is the focus of this novel: Starr is in the passenger seat when her friend Khalil is fatally shot by a police officer. She is the sole witness. Thomas seamlessly blends current events with lower-stakes themes common to teens everywhere, with great success. Fun fact: the title comes from a Tupac lyric. Publication date: February 28.
Engaging coming-of-age story about a 16-year-old African American girl struggling to find her place in the world. This is a nuanced but easy read about feeling out of place, coming into your own, and the perils of good intentions.
“Lydia is dead, but they don’t know this yet.” That’s not a spoiler, that’s the opening line of Ng’s stunning debut. When this unexpected loss is discovered, the family begins to fall apart, and as they struggle to understand why it happened, they realize they don’t know their daughter at all. Ng’s use of the omniscient narrator is brilliant: she reveals what’s going on in her characters hearts and minds, allowing the reader to learn the truth of the tragedy, even if the family never does. An exploration of love and belonging, fraught with racial and gender issues. This is one that will stay with you long after you turn the last page. Powerful, believable, utterly absorbing.
Dimple and Rishi are destined to marry—their parents arranged it years ago. And when both teens decide they want to attend the same residential summer program, their parents think there's no harm in letting them get to know each other. Rishi can't wait to meet—and woo—his future wife over the summer. But, unbeknownst to Rishi, Dimple's parents haven't told her anything. Can you saw awkward? When they meet, sparks fly—and not the good kind. At least not at first. This is bubble-gum feel-good Bollywood YA, tons of fun and surprisingly insightful. Publication date: May 30.
- by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- 50 Contemporary Books Every Woman's Gotta Read: Biography/Memoir, a book by an #ownvoices or #diversebooks author, Audiobooks You Can Listen To in 6(ish) Hours or Less, Memoirs for your Reading Challenge, National Book Award winners, What to read when you feel like the world is falling apart
- 2015 Reading Challenge
This is an incredible book, and a timely one. From Entertainment Weekly: "A work that’s both titanic and timely . . . the latest essential reading in America’s social canon." I listened to the fantastic audio edition myself.
This well-crafted YA release smoothly bridges the divide between present-day Tulsa, Oklahoma and the little-known race riots that occurred there during two terrifying days in 1921. During renovations of seventeen-year-old Rowan Chase's historic family home, a skeleton is unearthed in the backyard. The police don't care who the bones belong to, but Rowan sure does. Unbeknownst to her, this skeleton links Rowan with another teen, Will Tillman, who lived in Tulsa nearly a hundred years ago. Latham flips back and forth in time, between two teens facing their own kinds of crossroads, to give her readers a page-turning history/mystery mash-up, as her young protagonists wrestle through issues of family, friendship, identity, and belonging. I read this in an afternoon—I couldn't put it down. Publication date: February 21.
I'm reading this for the banned books category of the 2016 Reading Challenge. From the publisher: "Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot."
The Daily Show star does a masterful job of alternating the deathly serious with the laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes even combining the two, in this collection of coming-of-age essays about his South African childhood. His mischievous childhood and unconventional youth provide wonderful fodder for not-quite-polite (thus the "scandalous" part of this juicy memoir) but always entertaining stories. I highly recommend the audiobook, read by the author.
Hosseini's followup to his bestselling debut The Kite Runner was inspired by his first visit to his homeland, Afghanistan, in nearly thirty years. Moved by the stories of the women he met there, he wrote his second novel about Laila and Mariam, two women from radically different backgrounds, oppressed for different reasons, struggling to survive while their country is in upheaval. Amazingly, this story never veers into "depressing" territory, buoyed by the spirit and courage of the women at its core.
Yoon's latest is a YA novel with ALL THE FEELS. Daniel and Natasha meet and fall in love over the course of one whirlwind day in NYC, the day before her family is set to be deported to Jamaica; they lack the documentation to stay. In his own way, Daniel is also trapped: his Korean family has big plans for his future, plans that don't align with what he wants for himself. Yoon tackles serious issues here—identity, family, fate—but she does it with such a light touch, it almost reads as breezy. I read this in an afternoon.
- by Yaa Gyasi
- 10 novels in short stories, 15 debut novels for your Reading Challenge, 25 house and home books, 50 Contemporary Books Every Woman’s Gotta Read: Contemporary Fiction, a book by an #ownvoices or #diversebooks author, Compulsively Readable Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Quick Lit August 2016, Sweeping Family Sagas
- Quick Lit
I keep hearing this new debut novel mentioned in the same breath as "best of the year" and now I understand why. For the first hundred pages I didn't quite grasp what the author was up to, but when it hit me it was powerful. By exploring the stories of two sisters, who met different fates in Ghana more than 200 years ago, Gyasi traces subtle lines of cause and effect through the centuries, illuminating how the deeds of ages past still haunt all of us today. A brilliant concept, beautifully executed. Read it.
From the publisher: "Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. Most people—her teachers and doctors included—don't think she's capable of learning. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows . . . but she can't, because Melody can't talk. Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind—that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice . . . but not everyone around her is ready to hear it."
I loved this book, an MMD Book Club flight pick and a book recommended on today's episode of WSIRN. Not an easy read, but so good, and one that I still think about even though I read it many moons ago. In this coming-of-age story, debut author Bennett shows us how grief predictably consumes a 17-year old girl growing up in a tight-knit community in Southern California, and how two friends get pulled into the tangled aftermath. Bennett tells the story through the eyes of the community's mothers—the community pillars who show up with casseroles when somebody's sick—but in this story, the mothers' vicious gossip causes nothing but trouble.
From the publisher: "Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she's determined not to get too close to anyone. But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can't help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It's that at her old school, she used to be Andrew."
From the publisher: "In this universally accessible bestseller named for her wildly popular web series, Issa Rae—"a singular voice with the verve and vivacity of uncorked champagne" (Kirkus Reviews)—waxes humorously on what it's like to be unabashedly awkward in a world that regards introverts as hapless misfits and black as cool. I'm awkward—and black. Someone once told me those were the two worst things anyone could be. That someone was right. Where do I start?" I'm awkward—and black. Someone once told me those were the two worst things anyone could be. That someone was right. Where do I start?" Add Audible narration (read by the author) for $11.99.
From School Library Journal: "Before her mother and older brother Scott come home, George has a few, treasured moments to experience life as she's always wanted to live it. She looks in the mirror and calls herself Melissa, combs her hair over her forehead to mimic the appearance of bangs, and reads glossy magazines full of ads for lipstick, perfume, and tampons. Once her mom and brother come home, however, the magazines must go back to their secret hiding place. While George has no doubt she's a girl, her family relates to her as they always have: as a boy. George's mother remarks that while she can handle having a gay child, she simply can't accept her as 'that kind of gay.' George hopes that if she can secure the role of Charlotte in her class's upcoming production of Charlotte's Web, her mom will finally see her as a girl and be able to come to terms with the fact that George is transgender."
This is a fantastic pick for the #ownvoices or #diversebooks category of the 2017 Reading Challenge. January 29, 2035. That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. Denise and her family—along with everyone else—are racing to secure passage on the ships that will transport them off the planet. From Kirkus: "...what makes this a winner is the nerve-racking adventure. Life-affirming science fiction with spaceships, optimism in the apocalypse, and a diverse cast that reflects the real world."
In her graphic memoir, Cece Bell tells the story of her own childhood, when a case of meningitis at age 4 left her unable to hear. She was promptly fitted with a hearing aid, the Phonic Ear, which allows her to hear her teacher, even when her teacher is in another part of the school. The other kids think it's pretty cool. It's like a superpower, even (just call her El Deafo). But as Cece puts it, "Superheroes might be awesome, but they are also different. And being different feels a lot like being alone." A wonderful, touching story (that many readers assume to be a novel). Don't miss the afterword from the author.