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52 Weeks of Women of Color Post 3

I came across the 52 Weeks of Women of Color challenge late last year. When I jumped aboard I had no idea just how wonderful my reading experience was going to be. More than half of these books were from new-to-me authors and they span a gambit of genres.

As this month is #NonfictionNovember here is My post“Nonfiction Works by Women of Color.”

Book #19 – Hitting A Straight Lick With a Crooked Stick

Rating: 5 out of 5.

My Review


Book #20 – The Talented Ribkins

Rating: 4 out of 5.

From Goodreads“Inspired by W. E. B. Du Bois’s famous essay “The Talented Tenth” and fuelled by Ladee Hubbard’s marvelously original imagination, The Talented Ribkins is a big-hearted debut novel about race, class, politics, and the unique gifts that, while they may cause some problems from time to time, bind a family together.”

I enjoyed this family and their hijinks. My favorite part was when Johnny was teaching Eloise about their family history. The moral of the story was knowing who you are and what your gift is. That everyone has a special spark or super power to brighten the world.


Book #21 – Breathe: A Letter to My Sons

Rating: 5 out of 5.

From GoodReads: “Emotionally raw and deeply reflective, Imani Perry issues an unflinching challenge to society to see Black children as deserving of humanity. She admits fear and frustration for her African American sons in a society that is increasingly racist and at times seems irredeemable. However, as a mother, feminist, writer, and intellectual, Perry offers an unfettered expression of love–finding beauty and possibility in life–and she exhorts her children and their peers to find the courage to chart their own paths and find steady footing and inspiration in Black tradition.”

So glad I had access to both the audio and the hard copy. I liked hearing the author’s words and experiences in her own voice. Yet I felt that what she was saying was so important that I had to see the words, mark them down. Absorb them.


Book #22 – Who Put This Song On?

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is a semi-autobiographical YA novel about a young girl that struggles with anxiety and depression. Written by poet Morgan Parker, it rings true and is very relatable. Parker captures the aughts (2000s), its music and a young black girl’s struggle with fitting in with humor and grace.


Book #23 – This Is Just My Face Try Not To Stare

Rating: 4 out of 5.

FUNNY! I would definitely recommend listening to the audiobook for this one. Sidibe narrates it herself and will have you in stitches! Who would have known that Precious was so funny?


Book #24 – Split Tooth

Rating: 5 out of 5.

My GoodReads review


Book #25 – The Revisioners

Rating: 4 out of 5.

From GoodReadsThe Revisioners explores the depths of women’s relationships—powerful women and marginalized women, healers and survivors. It is a novel about the bonds between a mother and a child, the dangers that upend those bonds. At its core, The Revisioners ponders generational legacies, the endurance of hope, and the undying promise of freedom.


Book #26 – Know My Name

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was a heartbreaking memoir. Chanel Miller recalls her attack by Brock Turner and describes the anguish she went through in the days after and during the trial. I applaud her strength in coming forward and telling her story as a victim, then a survivor and now an activist.


Book #27 – The Queen’s Assassin

Rating: 4 out of 5.

From GoodReadsPerfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Red Queen, this is the first novel in a sweeping YA fantasy-romance duet about a deadly assassin, his mysterious apprentice, and the country they are sworn to protect from #1 NYT bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz.

The books showcased in this post were all read in February this year.

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Blog Tour: Foreshadow

fore·shad·ow
/fôrˈSHadō/
verb
to predict something or to give a hint of what is to come.

Foreshadow was originally an online literary project that featured new and emerging authors from marginalized groups. Each of their stories is introduced here by some of the most highly recognized and beloved voices in YA today. Following each tale is a brief glimpse into the writer’s mind:

  • What myths are incorporated into their stories and why?
  • Why the story is narrated in first person or second person voice and how does this change how the audience views the characters?
  • The importance of humor in driving the story.

At the end of each tale editors Emily X. R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma add their analysis. This look into the writing process and how it informs the writing style is eye-opening and adds another depth of understanding to the work. Foreshadow goes further to include writing prompts for the audience based on some of the stories.

This anthology had a vast array of genres and facets of life. Overall Foreshadow was clever and magical and uplifting. I personally found it refreshing to see girls and women given so much freedom to be who they are and exercise their power and gifts. I can see and would hope that high school teachers would include this book as part of their curriculum. I hope that the authors and editors realize their goal of “foreshadowing” where the landscape of YA fiction is going. We certainly need more of these new voices and their stories.


Meet the Editors

Nova Ren Suma is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The Walls Around Us, which was an Edgar Award finalist. She also wrote Imaginary Girls and 17 & Gone and is co-creator of FORESHADOW: A Serial YA Anthology. She has an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and teaches writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts and the University of Pennsylvania. Originally from the Hudson Valley, she spent most of her adult life in New York City and now lives in Philadelphia.

Emily X.R. Pan is the New York Times bestselling author of The Astonishing Color of After, which won the APALA Honor Award and the Walter Honor Award, received six starred reviews, was an LA Times Book Prize finalist, and was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit Emily online at exrpan.com, and find her on Twitter and Instagram: @exrpan.

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Blog Tour: Punching the Air

Synopsis

From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

The story that I thought

was my life

didn’t start on the day

I was born

Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.

The story that I think

will be my life

starts today

Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?

With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.


Review

I can remember vividly the days surrounding the Central Park jogger case. I remember the collective fear that held New York City in a vice. The way the press preyed on our emotions with descriptions of roving gangs of teens “wilding out”. Five teens — black and brown — were accused of this depraved act. They were villainized. Trump took out a full page ad in the New York Times demanding the death penalty in their case. In the days the followed one person stood out for me. Yusef Salaam’s mother. Because of her stoicism. She never faltered. In the heat of the frenzy she boldly proclaimed her son’s innocence across her chest.

In the end the five would spend 6-13 years behind bars for a crime they did not commit.

Punching the Air is a collaboration between award winning author Ibi Zoboi and Exonerated Five member Yusef Salaam. It tells the story of a teenage boy Amal who has been wrongfully convicted of a crime. The book is a beautifully rendered piece that delves into the disenfranchisement of young black men.

“Locking you up isn’t enough
for them They will try to crush your spirit until
you’re nothing but —

Dust
we both say
together”

Written in verse, Punching the Air shows Amal whose name means hope draw strength through creativity. His poems and art are glimpses of freedom that give him hope to carry on.

” And what does dust do, Amal?
What did Maya Angelou say about dust?
Umi asks
It rises, I whisper”


“It was this one dude
who said that’s why we’re always
fucking up, we’re always making
mistakes
because ain’t no butterflies in the hood

See, if there were butterflies
we would have what’s called
the butterfly effect

A butterfly’s wings can
change the path of a storm

Something so small
can change
one big thing in the world
one big thing in the universe

If there are no butterflies here
no pretty little wings flapping in the
hood
then we can’t change a thing, he said

We’re the butterflies, I said
and the things we do are like wings”


Meet the Authors

Ibi Zoboi

Ibi Zoboi was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her novel American Street was a National Book Award finalist and a New York Times Notable Book. She is also the author of Pride and My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, a New York Times bestseller. She is the editor of the anthology Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America. Raised in New York City, she now lives in New Jersey with her husband and their three children.


Dr. Yusef Salaam

Dr. Yusef Salaam was just fifteen years old when his life was upended after being wrongly convicted in the “Central Park Jogger” case, along with four other boys who are now known as the Exonerated Five. Their story has been documented in the award winning film The Central Park Five by documentarians Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon and in Ava DuVernay’s highly acclaimed series When They See Us, one of Netflix’s most-watched original series of all time. Yusef is now a poet, activist, and inspirational speaker who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama.

Blog Tour Spotlight: In the Neighborhood of True

Synopsis

A powerful story of love, identity, and the price of fitting in or speaking out.

After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.

Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes.


Thoughts on the Book

“The story may be set in the past, but it couldn’t be a more timely reminder that true courage comes not from fitting in, but from purposefully standing out . . . and that to find out who you really are, you have to first figure out what you’re not.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of A Spark of Light and Small Great Things


“gorgeous story about a teenage girl finding her voice in the face of hate, heartbreak, and injustice” —Nova Ren Suma, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Room Away from the Wolves


“Carlton captures the racism, anti-Semitism, and social interactions of the time and place with admirable nuance. The dialogue and setting are meticulously constructed, and readers will feel the humidity and tension rising with each chapter.” — Publisher’s Weekly; starred review

My Thoughts

In the Neighborhood of True is a captivating novel based on the 1958 bombing of Hebrew Benevolent Congregation Temple. As Atlanta’s first official Jewish institution The Temple not only served as a beacon within the Jewish community, but under the leadership of Rabbi Jacob Rothschild it also was a center for social justice and the burgeoning civil rights movement.

Carlton manages to capture this fraughtful time through the eyes of a Jewish girl coming of age in the wake of her father’s death. Ruth is smitten with the debutante scene and the handsome young Davis Jefferson. She is warned by her grandmother that her Jewishness might set her apart from the in-crowd and so at first she “passes” for Christian. But as time goes by she realizes that her lies of omission are a wedge between her and true acceptance by her new friends. Ultimately, she must decide which side she wants to be on — somewhere “in the neighborhood of true” where no one knows who she really is — or on the side of truth and justice and doing what’s right.


Meet the Author

From the author’s website:

“I grew up in San Francisco and its suburbs, went to college in Portland, Oregon and interned in the White House. From there, I got a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and worked in magazines—Self, Elle, Mademoiselle, and others. That may explain my perennial crush on polka dots, poodles, and vintage stores.

A while ago, my family moved to Atlanta where we became members of a temple not so very different from the one in In the Neighborhood of True. We were welcomed with a hearty “Shabbat shalom, y’all,” but the memories of what happened there still reverberated. Our younger daughter attended Sunday school in one of the classrooms that had been bombed decades before. And the hate has continued to echo. In 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, where our older daughter is in school, white nationalists brandished torches in front of Thomas Jefferson’s rotunda, yelling, “Jews will not replace us.” And then the next year in Pittsburgh, eleven congregants were shot during Saturday morning services. I watched the unfolding horror on TV news with my eighty-eight-year-old father, remembering the bat mitzvah the whole family had attended at a different synagogue nearby. As the names of the dead were read, I kept thinking that my dad could have been one of them. And then I thought, it could have been any of us—over and over, across decades and state lines.

These days, I teach writing at Boston University and write young adult novels about complicated girls in complicated times. My husband and I have moved our two amusing and good-natured daughters up and down the East Coast. We now live in Hanover, New Hampshire, where we think we’ll stay.”

Where you can find Susan K. Carlton

Blog Tour: Foul is Fair

Synopsis

Hannah Capin’s Foul is Fair is a bloody, thrilling revenge fantasy for the girls who have had enough. Golden boys beware: something wicked this way comes.

Jade and her friends Jenny, Mads, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Jade’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Jade as their next target.

They picked the wrong girl.

Sworn to vengeance, Jade transfers to St. Andrew’s Prep. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.


“Vicious and beautifully brutal, Foul is Fair gives a sword to every girl who has ever been a victim and makes them a warrior. This book is pulls no punches and will make anyone think twice before uttering the phrase ‘just a girl’. An unapologetic feminist battle-cry that leaves you breathless and thirsting for vengeance.”Sonia Hartl, author of Have a Little Faith in Me


Review

Foul is Fair is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s MacBeth.  The title derives from a quote in the play where the three witches chant “Foul is fair and fair is foul.” to indicate what is bad for others works quite well for them.  For the most part Capin capitalizes on the saying’s other meaning  that appearances may be deceiving – where golden boys are tarnished and revenge may just be the equivalent of justice. 

While reading this book I couldn’t help thinking of this English class I took in college called The Revenge Theory.   We read books like Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and Hamlet.  We watched The War of the Roses and both versions of Fatal Attraction with Glenn Close.  What stuck with me most was the idea that the avenger must be careful to not let their emotions rule them lest they themselves be destroyed.  Swimming in my head as I read this book were Confucious’ warning – “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, first dig two graves.” and the adage “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”   I kept waiting for the axe to fall; part of me expecting Jade to suffer for her vengefulness, the other part of me hoping that the boys got their just desserts. 

I recognize that revenge and justice are typically polar opposites.  Revenge is driven by anger.  Justice is meted out with considerable thought.  Revenge is often a cycle where violence begets more violence.  Justice brings closure.  But Foul is Fair had me asking or perhaps wanting for them to be the same thing.  I was hoping that Jade could keep her stuff together long enough to think rationally and execute her plan.   When Elle was raped her attackers did not even own their guilt.  To them she was not a person but only a means to their gratification.  In their eyes they were not responsible for her pain.   They were assured and confident because they were used to wielding the power and dominating the landscape.  Their wealth had always granted them a shield of invincibility.  They thought they were untouchable. 

Throughout the novel Capin plays on the “foul is fair” motif asking the reader to dig deeper to derive from the symbolism in the text.  In numerology the number 7 stands for perfection and realization.  In Foul is Fair there are seven perpetrators, seven intended victims of Jade’s wrath.  People whose life path number is seven are said to not take things at face value.  Instead they search for understanding to get at the truth.

Metaphors with animals are used to describe the characters and reveal their true natures.  The boys are likened to wolves as they rove and hunt in packs and to denote their cruelty.  The second string girls are called birds.  They flock and flitter and fly off at the flick of a wrist.  This is to emphasize their social stature within the school.  Birds are also used as a bad omen as they perch in Oleander trees. 

Although many of the characters names have direct counterparts in Shakespeare’s MacBeth a few of the names serve as banners for their personalities.  Lilia for the flower Lily as she comes off as pretty, fragile and delicate.  Connor is the conman that nobody really trusts.  Piper is a common bird.  The female sandpiper is polyandrous – she mates with several males during breeding season.  I’m not sure whether this is a hint to Piper’s commonality, an allusion to the fact that she will never be Queen or a nod to her unfaithfulness to Lilia, that she cannot be trusted.  Another interesting factoid about female spotted sandpipers is that it is the female that lays claim to and defends nesting grounds.  Within her couple Piper certainly had the stronger backbone and had no problem marking her territory.  Jade, the color, represents envy.  Her green eyes serve as mirror to reflect the jealousy in the hearts of the boys as they each covet Duncan’s position.  Jade, the gem, symbolizes balance or in this case the scales of justice.

I really enjoyed reading Foul is Fair.  The symbolism gave me a lot to think about.  Even though this is a retelling you do not have to read MacBeth to appreciate this book.  The book may be purchased from Wednesday Books or your local bookstore. 


Meet the Author

Hannah Capin is the author of Foul is Fair and The Dead Queens Club, a feminist retelling of the wives of Henry VIII. When she isn’t writing, she can be found singing, sailing, or pulling marathon gossip sessions with her girl squad. She lives in Tidewater, Virginia.

Author Website: Hannahcapin.com

Author’s Twitter/Instagram: @tldaaollf