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Blog Tour: Girlhood – Teenagers From Around the World in Their Own Voices

Synopsis

What do the lives of teenage girls look like in Cambodia and Kenya, in Mongolia and the Midwest? What do they worry about and dream of? What happens on an ordinary day?
 
All around the world, girls are going to school, working, creating, living as sisters, daughters, friends. Yet we know so little about their daily lives. We hear about a few exceptional girls who make headlines, and we hear about headline-making struggles and catastrophes. But since the health, education, and success of girls so often determines the future of a community, why don’t we know more about what life is like for the ordinary girls, the ones living outside the headlines? From the Americas to Europe to Africa to Asia to the South Pacific, the thirty-one teens from twenty-nine countries in Girlhood Around the World share their own stories of growing up through diary entries and photographs. They invite us into their day-to-day lives, through their eyes and in their voices, in a full-color, exuberantly designed scrapbook-like volume. 


My Review

This is a colorful anthology that gives you a glimpse into the lives of teenage girls from all over the world. From as far away as Kazakhstan to as close to home as Bayonne, New Jersey, we get to see these girls’ hopes, their dreams, their aspirations. Ahuja includes maps and statistics for each country showing the challenges faced by women in those societies. The personal journal entries allows you to hear each girl’s perspective and what she values most in life. Teenage girls will see that despite the differences there are many shared experiences. It is a wonderful to show young girls that they are not alone and that they have it in them to persist and rise above the challenges they face.

I started reading Girlhood with my 9 year old daughter. I wanted her to see how other girls from around the world lived. Although she enjoyed the first few stories, I soon realized that some of these girls’ experiences were beyond her scope and maturity level. These were conversations that I was not ready to have with my daughter just yet. As a woman though, I am grateful that this anthology exists and wish that it was available when I was a teenager.

That being said, I think this book would serve well as either a social studies or writing text. Middle school girls would benefit from having this as part of their curriculum.

Special thanks to Amanda Dissinger for access to this title.


Meet the Author

Masuma Ahuja is a freelance journalist reporting on gender, migration and human rights. She was previously a producer at CNN and national digital editor at the Washington Post. She uses words, photos and emerging media to report and tell stories about gender, migration and the impact of politics of people. Her projects have ranged from long-form stories to sending disposable cameras to women around the world to document their days to crowdsourcing voice mails from Americans about the impact of the 2016 election on their lives. She was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014.

Blog Tour: Take it Back

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Synopsis

From author Kia Abdullah, Take It Back is a harrowing and twisting courtroom thriller that keeps you guessing until the last page is turned.

One victim.

Four accused.

Who is telling the truth?

Zara Kaleel, one of London’s brightest legal minds, shattered the expectations placed on her by her family and forged a brilliant legal career. But her decisions came at a high cost, and now, battling her own demons, she has exchanged her high profile career for a job at a sexual assault center, helping victims who need her the most. Victims like Jodie Wolfe.

When Jodie, a sixteen-year-old girl with facial deformities, accuses four boys in her class of an unthinkable crime, the community is torn apart. After all, these four teenage defendants are from hard-working immigrant families and they all have proven alibis. Even Jodie’s best friend doesn’t believe her.

But Zara does—and she is determined to fight for Jodie—to find the truth in the face of public outcry. And as issues of sex, race and social justice collide, the most explosive criminal trial of the year builds to a shocking conclusion.


Review

At the center of this compelling drama is the rape of a deformed 16 year old girl by four of her classmates. In and of itself this premise has enough bones for a great legal thriller. But Abdullah takes us beyond “He said, she said” and has us take a good hard look at how societies respond to such high profile cases.

Our protagonist Zara has started on a new path in life. She has left behind her career as a barrister and has now assumed the role of advocate. We know that some trauma has brought her here and we see the fallout – strained relationships, substance abuse, casual sexual encounters. But the one area where Zara does not falter is in her unshakeable belief in Jodi’s story. Despite the ease with which Jodie has lied, her stories differing between advocate, police and lawyers. Despite the wholesome well bred reputation that the boys have. Despite her family’s pleas for her to leave the case alone. Despite the Muslim community denouncing her as a traitor.

As you turn the pages Take It Back develops into a complex shape that is layered with feminism, race and religion. We are asked as readers to view the case from all angles. To think about why men rape. To consider how physical beauty, or lack thereof, impacts how people perceive our character. Take it Back asks us to think about how society and culture mold us into individuals that can accept “boys just being boys”. We are tasked with looking at how our prejudices color and impede our quest for the truth.

Take It Back was a gripping novel. I look forward to reading Truth Be Told, the second installment in the Zara Kaleel series.


Meet the Author

KIA ABDULLAH is an author and travel writer. She has contributed to The Guardian, BBC, Channel 4 News, and The New York Times. Kia currently travels the world as one half of the travel blog Atlas & Boots, which receives over 200,000 views per month.

Where You Can Find Her

Blog Tour: A House is a Body

Synopsis

INTRODUCING A DAZZLING NEW LITERARY VOICE

In two-time O. Henry-prize winner Swamy’s debut collection of stories, dreams collide with reality, modernity collides with antiquity, myth with true identity, and women grapple with desire, with ego, with motherhood and mortality. In “Earthly Pleasures,” Radika, a young painter living alone in San Francisco, begins a secret romance with one of India’s biggest celebrities. In “A Simple Composition,” a husband’s moment of crisis leads to his wife’s discovery of a dark, ecstatic joy and the sense of a new beginning. In the title story, an exhausted mother watches, distracted and paralyzed, as a California wildfire approaches her home. With a knife blade’s edge and precision, the stories of A House Is a Body travel from India to America and back again to reveal the small moments of beauty, pain, and power that contain the world.

Review

A House is a Body is an intimate collection of stories that explores a range of human emotions, conditions and relationships. It is tender and riveting. The prose is simple yet searing. Even though each story embodied a different soul, together these stories came together to reveal a humanity that is full of beauty, hope and pain.

“She was like hearing your own heartbeat. If you stop for a minute and are entirely still you can hear it. All along she’s with you, but you never notice until you think to notice.”

In this passage Swamy is talking of mothers but in her intuitive way her female characters call to attention many nuanced perspectives of looking at the world.

“When he lifted his eyes to me for a moment I felt the wind knocked out: I was a bell, and he’d rung me.”

A House is a Body using electric prose and imagery to bring both the realistic and surreal alive. It is definitely worth your time to pick this book up and steep in its well of emotions.

Meet the Author

From the author’s website: “The winner of two O. Henry Awards, Shruti Swamy’s work has appeared in The Paris Review, the Kenyon Review Online, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. In 2012, she was Vassar College’s 50th W.K. Rose Fellow, and has been awarded residencies at the Millay Colony for the Arts, Blue Mountain Center, and Hedgebrook.

She is a Kundiman fiction fellow, a 2017 – 2018 Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University, and a recipient of a 2018 grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation.”

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