Tag Archives: multicultural

The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena

The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena. February 26, 2019. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 368 p. ISBN: 9780374308445.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Susan is the new girl―she’s sharp and driven, and strives to meet her parents’ expectations of excellence. Malcolm is the bad boy―he started raising hell at age fifteen, after his mom died of cancer, and has had a reputation ever since.
Susan’s parents are on the verge of divorce. Malcolm’s dad is a known adulterer.

Susan hasn’t told anyone, but she wants to be an artist. Malcolm doesn’t know what he wants―until he meets her.

Love is messy and families are messier, but in spite of their burdens, Susan and Malcolm fall for each other. The ways they drift apart and come back together are testaments to family, culture, and being true to who you are.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Underage drinking, Cigarettes, Domestic abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 12))
Grades 9-12. In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Susan attended an all-girls school where she excelled in her studies, striving to meet the high expectations of her parents. Now, however, Susan and her mother have moved to Mississauga, Ontario, for Susan’s final year of high school. It’s all joltingly strange, from the absence of Susan’s father, who keeps pushing back his arrival date, to the presence of boys everywhere. One boy, Malcolm, manages to befriend Susan despite her resistance. Malcolm has his own demons, rendering him defiant and academically disengaged. The two make wary progress towards a relationship, with each teen narrating alternating chapters. Both of them are of East Indian heritage, as are many of their friends, and the portrayal of transplanted culture heightens the appeal of their story. Their struggles with expectations and traditions born in a faraway land will ring true for any reader with immigrant parents. At the same time, both Susan and Malcolm bear witness to their own parents’ marital failings, in contrast with the stereotype of traditional families. A good recommendation for readers interested in romance.

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2018)
Opposites attract in this teen romance shaped by immigration, grief, and loss. Susan Thomas and Malcolm Vakil could not be more different. Susan is a shy, bookish Malayali Christian perfectionist who grew up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, before moving to Canada for her senior year of high school. Malcolm is a hell-raising Parsi Canadian still reeling from his mother’s death, his father’s abuse, and his ex-girlfriend’s betrayal. Despite their better judgment, the two teens strike up a tentative romance, their feelings quickly deepening from infatuation to true love. But as Susan grapples with her parents’ impending divorce and her desire to go to art school and Malcolm confronts his conflicted feelings for his ex-girlfriend and his damaged relationship with his father and stepmother, the two must learn to overcome their insecurities to support each other. The story is told from each of their points of view, and each perspective is nuanced and distinct. Susan’s character arc is convincing and compelling, defying her initial characterization as a clichéd, overprotected Indian girl. But while the action is fast-paced and the characters refreshingly diverse, Bhathena’s (A Girl Like That, 2018) clumsy prose and stilted dialogue limit the narrative’s emotional impact. The Parsi elements of the book ring true, particularly refreshing considering how little Parsis are represented in Western YA literature. In contrast, the book is riddled with cultural inaccuracies and stereotypes about southern Indians that unfortunately render those characters less believable. A diverse, entertaining love story that falls just short of extraordinary. (Romance. 14-18)

About the Author

Tanaz Bhathena was born in Mumbai and raised in Riyadh, Jeddah and Toronto. Her short stories have appeared in various journals, including Blackbird, Witness and Room Magazine. A Girl Like That is her first novel.

Her website is tanazbhathena.com

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A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi. October 16, 2018. HarperTeen, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062866561.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Racism, Strong language, Racist slurs, Islamophobia

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 2))
Grades 9-12. Mafi (Whichwood​, 2017) tackles the life of an American Muslim teenager in the wake of 9/11 in this visceral, honest novel. Jaded and cynical in the face of humanity’s repeated cruelty at the sight of her hijab, Shirin only plans to get through high school as quickly as she can and let no one past her guarded exterior. It works until she meets Ocean James, who sees more than just her headscarf and is charmingly persistent about learning who she is, from her love of music to her burgeoning skills on the break dancing team her brother starts. But while Ocean’s presence is a breath of fresh air, it also terrifies her: What happens when he gets past her walls? What happens when they shatter and she’s left more vulnerable than ever before? Sympathetic Shirin’s sharp, raw voice narrates the novel, and her captivating story opens a window onto a different narrative from the one typically dominating the airwaves after 9/11. As usual, Mafi excels at highlighting the relationships between her characters, whether it’s the warm, supportive teasing between Shirin and her brother or the bittersweet agony of the deep connection between her and Ocean. Rich characters, incisive writing, and a powerful story will thrill readers beyond Mafi’s already stalwart fans.

Publishers Weekly (August 20, 2018)
Hijabi Shirin, 16, starts at a new school in small-town America shortly after 9/11. She rages at those who assume that her religion and headscarf make her a terrorist, but instead of letting her anger “grip both sides of my mouth open and rip me in half,” she uses indifference as armor against the hostile stares of her peers. That is, until she meets Ocean James in her biology class. Against her better judgment, Shirin lets Ocean in and slowly begins to fall for him. But the new couple soon becomes targets of racism, xenophobia, and bigotry. Meanwhile, Shirin finds solace by starting a breakdancing crew with her brother and his friends. Mafi (the Shatter Me series) infuses a contemporary love story with a heartbreakingly realistic portrait of one post-9/11 Muslim life in the United States. Mafi openly addresses many common misconceptions about Islam and what it means to be a woman of color in the face of racism, showing how differences can be applauded, not feared. Ages 13-up.

About the Author

Tahereh Mafi is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Shatter Me series. She was born in a small city somewhere in Connecticut and currently resides in Santa Monica, California with her husband, fellow author Ransom Riggs. She can usually be found over-caffeinated and stuck in a book.

Her website is www.taherehbooks.com

Teacher Resources

A Very Large Expanse of Sea Reading Guide

A Very Large Expanse of Sea review on Common Sense Media

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Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Summer Blue Bird by Akemi Dawn Bowman. September 11, 2018. Simon Pulse, 375 p. ISBN: 9781481487757.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile:.

Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.

Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Violence

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 7-12. For Rumi Seto, creating music with her younger sister, Lea, was everything. But when Lea dies in a car accident, Rumi’s life is over, too. Beset by survivor’s guilt, she is plagued by the knowledge that Lea was the outgoing, perfect daughter who was closest to their mamo (mother). When Mamo sends Rumi to live with Aunt Ani in Hawaii, Rumi plunges into bottomless grief, constantly reminding herself that Mamo abandoned her because she loved Lea more. Rumi also mourns the loss of music and feels unable to recapture what she had with Lea, until she meets the two “boys” next door: lovable teen surfer Kai Yamada, who offers easygoing friendship, and gruff 80-year-old George Watanabe, who understands the pain that consumes her. Strengthened by their honest and individual outlooks on life, Rumi plumbs her courage to complete her and Lea’s unfinished song and find the will to live again. Rumi’s narration, fueled by raw and intense emotions, will leave readers breathless. Memories of Lea are smartly unfurled, allowing fascinating glimpses into the sisters’ bond. Bowman, whose Starfish (2017) was a Morris Award finalist, proves again that she isn’t afraid to dive headlong into challenging issues, such as asexuality, grief, resentment, and forgiveness. This beautiful story sparkles as its complex characters dare to find footholds in the seemingly inescapable dark.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 1, 2018)
Music helps a Washington state teenager overcome guilt and grief after the death of her beloved younger sister. After a car accident that takes the life of Rumi Seto’s younger sister, Lea, Rumi feels guilt about surviving and is certain that her mother wishes Rumi had died instead. With her mother checked out and blank with sorrow, an angry, hardened Rumi is sent to stay with her Aunty Ani in Hawaii, where she meets a host of local characters, including Kai, a charismatic half-Korean/half-Japanese boy. Rumi also spends some time with Mr. Watanabe, her aunt’s gruff elderly neighbor, who has dealt with his own tragedy. Eventually, as Rumi is able to find her way back to the music she and Lea had shared and write the song that she believes she owes her sister, she becomes able to fully grieve. She also makes a discovery that helps reconcile her with her mother. Rumi’s mother is half-Japanese/half-Hawaiian, and her estranged father is white. Accurately reflecting the setting, the book is populated with a host of hapa (biracial) and Asian- and Pacific Islander–American characters. One subplot follows Rumi as she becomes comfortable with her aromantic and asexual feelings. Convincing local details and dialogue, masterful writing, and an emotionally cathartic climax make this book shine. A strikingly moving book about teenage grief. (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Akemi Dawn Bowman is the author of Starfish and Summer Bird Blue. She is also a Ravenclaw and Star Wars enthusiast, who served in the US Navy for five years and has a BA in social sciences from UNLV. Originally from Las Vegas, she currently lives in Scotland with her husband, two children, and their Pekingese mix.

Her website is www.akemidawnbowman.com

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Proud: Living My American Dream by Ibtijah Muhammad

Proud: Living My American Dream by Ibtijah Muhammad. July 24, 2018. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 304 p. ISBN: 9780316477000.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 960.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Ibtihaj Muhammad smashed barriers as the first American to compete wearing hijab, and made history as the first Muslim-American woman to medal. But it wasn’t an easy road–in a sport most popular among wealthy white people, Ibtihaj often felt out of place. Ibtihaj was fast, hardworking, and devoted to her faith, but rivals and teammates (as well as coaches and officials) pointed out her differences, insisting she would never succeed. Yet Ibtihaj powered on. Her inspiring journey from a young outsider to an Olympic hero is a relatable, memorable, and uniquely American tale of hard work, determination, and self-reliance.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism

 

Author Video

Short Biography via ESPN

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 21))
Grades 6-12. “Black but Muslim. Muslim but American. A hijab-wearing athlete.” Ibtihaj Muhammad, an Olympic medalist in fencing and the first Muslim woman to represent the U.S. in international competition, explores identity, her path to the 2016 Olympics, and their intersection in this eye-opening memoir adapted for young readers. Muhammad was always competitive, especially when it came to sports. Wearing a hijab and coming from a large family, she realized that fencing allowed her an easier way to maintain her faith than in other sports and work toward a scholarship for college. And it turned out she was excellent! More difficult than the rigorous physical and mental training, however, was trying to fit into a predominantly white, male sport. Muhammad describes her struggles with classmates, teammates, referees, and even the public at large, who only saw her as an outsider. She also relates how finding a community of fencers of color, supportive family and trainers, perseverance, and, above all, her faith helped her overcome adversity. As she succeeded and gained media attention, she recognized that she could be a role model for other young women, young Muslims, and young people of color. Indeed, Muhammad’s story is an inspiring one that will encourage readers to question what it means to be American.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2018)
Muhammad, Olympic medalist for the U.S. fencing team, presents a memoir emphasizing the role of sports in her life. Muhammad, a black, Muslim American who grew up in New Jersey, was raised by loving, supportive parents in a stable home. Her parents had many expectations of her and her siblings, one of which was that they would always participate in a sport. Some readers know the general story of how Muhammad finally picked and stayed with fencing—a sport in which she could wear the team uniform without compromising the modest attire required of her faith—but there are surprises in the details. Muhammad’s experiences in schools, in sports, in social situations, and in national and international competitions include moments of joy and exhilaration as well as many periods of isolation and self-doubt. The honesty in her writing makes it easy to connect with her journey, so that even readers who are not interested in the details of fencing will want to keep going to see how she made it all the way. Her dedication is impressive, and the many other people populating the pages of her memoir create a portrait of what it takes to make a champion. Readers who are already fans of Muhammad will love her even more, and all readers will gain much inspiration from this heartfelt memoir of a true American hero. Like Muhammad herself, this book is a timely gift to us all. (glossary, interview) (Memoir. 10-18)

About the Author

Ibtihaj Muhammad, an American sabre fencer, is a 2016 Olympic medalist, 5-time Senior World medalist and World Champion in the sport of fencing. In August 2016, she became the first American woman to compete in the Olympics in hijab and is also the first Muslim woman to win an Olympic medal for the United States. Ibtihaj is a 3-time All American from Duke University, with a dual degree in International Relations and African Studies. In 2014, Ibtihaj launched her own clothing company, Louella, which aims to bring affordable modest fashion to the United States market.

Ibtihaj is a sports ambassador with the U.S. Department of State’s Empowering Women and Girls through Sport Initiative, and works closely with organizations like Athletes for Impact and the Special Olympics. Named to Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential list, Ibtihaj is an important figure in a larger global discussion on equality and the importance of sport. Her voice continues to unite both the sports and non-sports world

Her website is www.ibtihajmuhammad.com/

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Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed. May 8, 2018. Nancy Paulsen Books, 240 p. ISBN: 9780399544682.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.9; Lexile: 600.

Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when–as the eldest daughter–she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens–after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal–especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Book Talk

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 15))
Grades 4-6. Pakistani Amal loves going to school and looks forward to becoming a teacher in the future. She only becomes aware of nuances in gender roles and the lack of opportunities afforded to girls after her father tells her that she must take care of the household while her mother recovers from childbirth. Amal hopes to continue her schooling once her mother is well, but that goal drifts further away when an accidental encounter lands her in a humongous heap of trouble. In order to spare her family from incurring further wrath and unfair consequences, Amal becomes an indentured servant to the odious Khan family. Readers will find that a little perseverance and a heart filled with hope can eventually surmount a harsh reality. Saeed fills her prose with lush descriptions of Pakistani life, while still managing to connect with readers whose surroundings and experiences will be starkly different. Hand to any reader who struggles with definitive gender roles, norms, and expectations held in place by societal structures.

Publishers Weekly (March 12, 2018)
Saeed (Written in the Stars) infuses this true-to-life story of unjust power dynamics in a poor Pakistani village with a palpable sense of dread regarding the fate of the inquisitive, industrious, poetry-loving titular character. Twelve-year-old Amal is troubled by her parents’ obvious distress that her newborn sibling is yet another girl, and she is vexed that her responsibilities as eldest daughter require her to run the household while her mother is bedridden. Amal unleashes her frustration on the wrong person when she talks back to Jawad Sahib, the wealthy landowner, who demands she work off her debt for the insult . Amal’s experience navigating an unfamiliar social hierarchy in the landlord’s lavish estate exposes her to pervasive gender inequities and unfair labor practices, like being charged for room and board but receiving no pay. While her growing indebtedness makes it unlikely she will ever leave, Amal’s ability to read grants her a dangerous opportunity to expose the landlord’s extensive corruption, if she dares. Saeed’s eloquent, suspenseful, eye-opening tale offers a window into the contemporary practice of indentured servitude and makes a compelling case for the power of girls’ education to transform systemic injustice. Ages 10-up

About the Author

Aisha Saeed also wrote Written in the Stars, and is a Pakistani-American writer, teacher, and attorney. She has been featured on MTV, the Huffington Post, NBC and the BBC, and her writings have appeared in publications including the journal ALAN and the Orlando Sentinel. As one of the founding members of the much talked about We Need Diverse Books Campaign, she is helping change the conversation about diverse books. Aisha lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and sons.

Her website is www.aishasaeed.com

Teacher Resources

Amal Unbound Teacher’s Guide

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A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena. February 27, 2018. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 378 p. ISBN: 9780374305444.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 890.

A timeless exploration of high-stakes romance, self-discovery, and the lengths we go to love and be loved. 

Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school.  You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.

This beautifully written debut novel from Tanaz Bhathena reveals a rich and wonderful new world to readers. It tackles complicated issues of race, identity, class, and religion, and paints a portrait of teenage ambition, angst, and alienation that feels both inventive and universal.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong sexual themes, Smoking, Rape, Physical abuse

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2018)
When Zarin Wadia dies in a car crash with a boy named Porus, no one in her South Asian community in Jeddah is surprised—what else would you expect from a girl like that? Originally from Mumbai, half-Parsi, half-Hindu Zarin moved in with her aunt and uncle after her mother died. The family relocated to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to escape rumors about Zarin’s mother’s death, plunging her into a world of abuse and gender-based restrictions against which she rebelled. It was only after Porus, a Parsi friend from Mumbai, moved to Jeddah for work that Zarin began to reconsider her behavior—and her capacity for love. Featuring a diverse cast of Arab and South Asian characters of various classes and faiths, the story is a gripping and nuanced portrait of how teens, both boys and girls, react to patriarchy (the novel contains graphic descriptions of abuse and sexual assault). Bhathena’s prose can be stilted, and her excessive use of multiple voices limits both character development and the resolution of some storylines. In addition, the beginning and ending chapters narrated by Zarin’s ghost feel disjointed from the otherwise searingly realistic narrative. All in all, though, the book is a fast-paced, fascinating read about a community rarely seen in young adult novels in the West. A refreshingly nuanced narrative about gender in the Middle East. (Romance. 16-adult)

Publishers Weekly (November 27, 2017)
Bhathena makes an impressive debut with this eye-opening novel about a free-spirited girl in present-day Saudi Arabia. Orphaned at a young age, Zarin Wadia moves in with her uncle and abusive aunt, who constantly shames and beats her. “Some people hide, some people fight to cover up their shame,” Zarin explains. “I was always the kind of person who fought.” Her treatment at school is even worse-she’s shunned for being different (she’s Zoroastrian, for starters) and responds by smoking cigarettes and sneaking out with boys. After Zarin gets reacquainted with a childhood friend, Porus, she becomes dependent on him for escape, protection, and the type of gentle affection she has not felt since her mother’s death. Readers know from the outset that Zarin and Porus die in a gruesome car accident, and their reflective post-death narratives share space with chapters written from the perspectives of others in their orbits. Bhathena’s novel should spur heated discussions about sexist double standards and the ways societies restrict, control, and punish women and girls. Ages 14-up. Agent: Eleanor Jackson, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Feb.)

About the Author

Tanaz Bhathena was born in Mumbai and raised in Riyadh, Jeddah and Toronto. Her short stories have appeared in various journals, including Blackbird, Witness and Room Magazine. A Girl Like That is her first novel.

Her website is tanazbhathena.com

Around the Web

A Girl Like That on Amazon

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A Girl Like That Publisher Page

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk. March 6, 2018. Delacorte Press, 336 p. ISBN: 9781524715892.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 810.

Told from three diverse points of view, this story of life and love after loss is one Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give , calls a “stunning, heart-wrenching look at grief that will stay with you long after you put it down.” 

We’ve lost everything…and found ourselves.

Music brought Autumn, Shay, and Logan together. Death might pull them apart.

Autumn always knew exactly who she was: a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan has always turned to writing love songs when his real love life was a little less than perfect.

But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan is a guy who can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger who’s struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.

Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Underage drinking, Suicide, Marijuana, Alcohol abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 7))
Grades 9-12. Autumn, Shay, and Logan have something in common: the loss of a loved one. Autumn’s best friend, Tavia, has died in a car wreck; Shay’s twin sister, Sasha, has died of leukemia; and Logan’s erstwhile boyfriend, Bram, has died of an apparent suicide. The three teens are further linked by their love of music, though each reacts to the various deaths in individual, at first unhealthy, ways. Autumn obsesses, Shay has panic attacks, and Logan drinks heavily. Despite these differences, all three have one common coping mechanism: they cry. Boy, do they cry. Gallons of tears are shed in this novel, too many, really, since their quantity tends to mitigate their impact. That quibble aside, Woodfolk has done an exemplary job of character creating and building. Her three co-protagonists are fully realized, empathetic individuals for whom readers will care. They grow and change believably as they begin to find ways to deal with their grief, and the resolutions of their emotional crises are lucid and deeply satisfying, as, ultimately, is this fine first novel.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2017)
Isolated by three untimely deaths, a diverse assortment of teen millennials seeks healing in friendship and music. Shy Autumn, a Korean-American adoptee, was stunned when her best friend, Tavia, a lively Latinx extrovert, died in a one-car accident returning from a party. Autumn’s guilt over having skipped the party to hang out with Tavia’s brother, Dante, threatens to derail their dawning romance. Bram died months after he’d left Logan for Latinx Yara, a girl. In pain, blocked emotionally and creatively, Logan, a white, singer/songwriter, self-medicates with alcohol. Black identical twins Shay and Sasha were close until leukemia took Sasha’s life. Shay was a strong student and runner; now panic attacks prevent her from focusing on school or the music fan site the two started, on which they’d promoted a once-promising, now-defunct band called Unraveling Lovely—made up of Logan, Dante, and Sasha’s boyfriend, Rohan. Their intersecting stories chart how the void left by death reshapes relationships among survivors: friends, parents, children. Sasha’s long illness defined her three-person family; now Shay and her mother must remake their connection. For Logan, Yara proves an unexpected ally. While Shay and Logan have strong, distinctive voices, Autumn’s agony—with her shorter emotional journey and narrative arc—is less convincing. (That her adopted status might affect her reaction to loss is suggested but unexplored.) All cherish images and voices of those lost, preserved in digital media, but the sensitively wrought narrative braid argues that only the living can comfort and heal. An ambitious debut from a writer to watch. (Fiction. 14-17)

About the Author

Ashley Woodfolk graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in English and her life-long love of books led her straight to the publishing industry. She’s a member of the CBC Diversity Committee and markets books for children and teens. In her abundance of “spare” time, she writes contemporary YA. Indie movies, beer, books, and burgers are a few of her favorite things. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and pit bull puppy, Winnie. The Beauty That Remains is her debut novel.

Her website is www.ashleywoodfolk.com.

Around the Web

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Voices in the Air by Naomi Shihab Nye

Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners by Naomi Shihab Nye. February 13, 2018. Greenwillow Books, 208 p. ISBN: 9780062691842.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Acclaimed and award-winning poet, teacher, and National Book Award finalist Naomi Shihab Nye’s uncommon and unforgettable voice offers readers peace, humor, inspiration, and solace. This volume of almost one hundred original poems is a stunning and engaging tribute to the diverse voices past and present that comfort us, compel us, lead us, and give us hope.

Voices in the Air is a collection of almost one hundred original poems written by the award-winning poet Naomi Shihab Nye in honor of the artists, writers, poets, historical figures, ordinary people, and diverse luminaries from past and present who have inspired her. Full of words of encouragement, solace, and hope, this collection offers a message of peace and empathy.

Voices in the Air celebrates the inspirational people who strengthen and motivate us to create, to open our hearts, and to live rewarding and graceful lives. With short informational bios about the influential figures behind each poem, and a transcendent introduction by the poet, this is a collection to cherish, read again and again, and share with others. Includes an index.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. “All the voices ever cast out into the air are still floating around,” award-winning poet Nye (The Turtle of Oman, 2014) suggests. In this contemplative collection of more than 100 free verse poems, Nye summons them, channeling writers, educators, music icons, and more, from Lucille Clifton and Bruce Springsteen to Hawaiian hairdresser Mary Endo. Over the course of three sections, Nye delivers graceful dedications and intimate recollections, playful musings and sharp rebukes. In the John O’Donohue–inspired “Bowing Candles,” Nye celebrates the late Irish poet: “all poems belong to anyone who loves them.” In “Oh, Say Can You See,” Nye envisions Donald Trump in Palestine: “I’d wrap a keffiyeh around his head, / tuck some warm falafels into his pockets,” she writes. And in “A Lonely Cup of Coffee,” Nye admires the “redolent / rich / ripe / round” of a beverage enjoyed in solitude. These are “poems for listeners,” as the subtitle asserts, and there’s no doubt that Nye’s nimble, clear-eyed, and quietly political poems—supplemented by meticulous biographical notes—may make an avid listener out of anyone.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2017)
A rich collection of poems celebrating diverse lives.Poet and National Book Award finalist Nye (19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, 2005, etc.) here showcases a variety of largely contemporary vantage points. In the prose introduction to this collection of over 90 free-verse poems, Nye invites teen readers to take a break from the lure of digital devices, asking, “With so much vying for our attention, how do we listen better?” and gently reminding all that “quiet inspiration may be as necessary as food, water, and shelter.” Inspiration for Nye here often comes from the crossing of cultures and results from the consummate attention she pays to the slightest of natural phenomena (“never say no to peonies”) alongside such grave societal ills as the displacement or disenfranchisement of whole peoples, whether happening in Gaza, Baghdad, or Ferguson. Using thoughts from a number of famous literary and historical figures as springboards, Nye presents political issues with ease, seeking always to “translate us / all into a better world,” as when she movingly describes the plight of the refugee in “Arabs in Finland”: “What they left to be here, / in the cold country, / where winter lasts forever, / haunts them in the dark.” Asking tough questions and demonstrating the beauty of the voices on the fringe, Nye once again deftly charts the world through verse: not to be missed. (biographical notes) (Poetry. 13-17)

About the Author

Naomi Shihab Nye was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother. During her high school years, she lived in Ramallah in Jordan, the Old City in Jerusalem, and San Antonio, Texas, where she later received her B.A. in English and world religions from Trinity University. She is a novelist, poet and songwriter.

She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas. She was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2010.

Around the Web

Voices in the Air on Amazon

Voices in the Air on Goodreads

Voices in the Air Publisher Page

Americanized by Sara Saedi

Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi. February 6, 2018. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9781524717803.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1030.

The hilarious, poignant, and true story of one teens’s experience growing up in America as an undocumented immigrant from the Middle East, perfect for fans of Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham’s books.

At thirteen, bright-eyed, straight-A student Sara Saedi uncovered a terrible family secret: she was breaking the law simply by living in the United States. Only two years old when her parents fled Iran, she didn’t learn of her undocumented status until her older sister wanted to apply for an after-school job, but couldn’t because she didn’t have a Social Security number.
Fear of deportation kept Sara up at night, but it didn’t keep her from being a teenager. She desperately wanted a green card, along with clear skin, her own car, and a boyfriend.
Americanized follows Sara’s progress toward getting her green card, but that’s only a portion of her experiences as an Iranian-“American” teenager. From discovering that her parents secretly divorced to facilitate her mother’s green card application to learning how to tame her unibrow, Sara pivots gracefully from the terrifying prospect that she might be kicked out of the country at any time to the almost-as-terrifying possibility that she might be the only one of her friends without a date to the prom. This moving, often hilarious story is for anyone who has ever shared either fear.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Smoking, Clinical discussion, Clinical discussions of sex and menstruation

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. Imagine finding out when you’re almost 13 that you’re an undocumented immigrant and can be deported from the U.S. at any time. This is just one of the secrets that Saedi, now 37, reveals in this often funny and deeply moving memoir based on entries from her teenage diary. Born in 1980 in Iran during the Iranian Revolution, Sara fled to the U.S. with her family when she was two. She humorously relates stories of angst over her high-school crush, confusion over her birth date, idolization of her “perfect” older sister, annoyance at being the surrogate mother of her younger U.S.–born brother, zit and “skin-shaming” issues, hatred of her large Iranian nose, embarrassment over her unibrow, obsession with acting, experimentation with smoking and alcohol, prom date dilemmas, and incidents from her parents’ and grandparents’ difficult lives. Black-and-white photos are interspersed with intriguing chapter titles (“Sporting the Frida Kahlo,” “I Am the Product of Incest”), while, at the same time, the narrative offers a brief look at the history of Iran (pronounced E-ron, she emphasizes, not I-ran, as many Americans say). Her encouraging advice for undocumented immigrants is invaluable, honest, and heartfelt. This irresistible and timely memoir is hard to put down.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2017)
Saedi recounts her teen years growing up and coming of age in 1990s California while fearing deportation for herself and her undocumented family. Born in Iran, Saedi came to the United States at 2 with her secular family as “illegal aliens” fleeing the Iraq-Iran War. In Chapter 1 and with humor, candor, and accessibility, she breaks down historical and geopolitical facts about Iran and her family’s reason for leaving their home; in doing so, she debunks myths about Iran, its people, and Tehran—a city that looked less like Agrabah than New York City. Facing topics such as religion and tensions in the Middle East, handled with delicacy, Saedi asserts a fearless voice for Gen Xers and millennials. Saedi wields satire and hyperbole as she balances compelling points about world leaders and politicians with nostalgic references to Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no to drugs” campaign, celebrities, and music icons. Iranian women and families are depicted in all ways: religious, secular, strict, trusting, educated, independent, passionate, traditional, nontraditional. Zits, teenage angst, boy drama, drugs, alcohol, and sex are handled with humanity. No topic is off limits it seems, as she takes on illegal immigration protocols that bleed into today’s turbulent times, with mentions of DACA and the “Muslim ban.” Interspersed throughout are photographs, FAQs, and excerpts from the author’s diary from her teen years. With gumption, Saedi draws from her American-ness and Iranian-ness for a successful depiction of immigrant life in the U.S.: a must-read. (Memoir. 14-18)

About the Author

Sara Saedi was born in Tehran, Iran smack-dab in the middle of a war and an Islamic Revolution. She received a B.A. in Film and Mass Communications from the University of California, Berkeley and began her career as a creative executive for ABC Daytime. Since then she’s penned three TV movies for ABC Family and a pilot for the Disney Channel, won a Daytime Emmy for What If…, a web series she wrote for ABC, and worked as a staff writer on the FOX sitcom The Goodwin Games.

Her first novel for young adults, Never Ever, was published in 2016 and its sequel, The Lost Kids, will publish in spring 2018. Her memoir, Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card was released in February 2018.

She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and pug, where she writes for the hit CW show iZombie. Her website is www.sarasaediwriter.com

Around the Web

Americanized on Amazon

Americanized on Goodreads

Americanized Publisher Page

Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed. January 16, 2018. Soho Teen, 281 p. ISBN: 9781616958473.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 660.

In this unforgettable debut novel, an Indian-American Muslim teen copes with Islamophobia, cultural divides among peers and parents, and a reality she can neither explain nor escape. 

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Child abuse

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 2))
Grades 8-11. Competing crushes verging on love, looming decisions about college, and a terrorist attack factor into Ahmed’s searing YA debut, a coming-of-age portrait of a contemporary Indian American Muslim teen, Maya Aziz. It’s spring of Maya’s senior year in Batavia, Illinois, as she weighs dually defying her parents: first, by eschewing their pick for her, the dreamy and charming desi Kareem, in favor of Phil, the white football player she’s long crushed on who’s finally showing her attention. And second, by choosing to study filmmaking at NYU, where she secretly applied and was accepted, over the close-to-home University of Chicago. A terrorist attack in nearby Springfield eclipses these big decisions: the suspect bears the last name Aziz, too, and Maya and her parents become targets of local anti-Muslim rage. Maya’s daily concerns are upended, as she notes, “in this terrible moment, all I want is to be a plain old American teenager . . . who isn’t presumed terrorist first and American second.” Ahmed crafts a winning narrator—Maya is insightful, modern, and complex, her shoulders weighted by the expectations of her parents and the big dreams she holds for herself. Brief interstitials spread evenly throughout the text key readers into the attack looming ahead, slowly revealing the true figure behind its planning with exceptional compassion. Utterly readable, important, and timely.

Kirkus Reviews (October 1, 2017)
High school senior Maya Aziz works up the courage to tell her parents that she’s gotten into the film school of her dreams in New York City, but their expectations combined with anti-Muslim backlash from a terror attack threaten to derail her dream.Maya, the only brown girl in her school with the only immigrant parents, loves parts of her Indian culture but blames everything she thinks she can’t have on her cultural constraints and on the fact that she’s different. Time is running out to break the news to her parents that her filmmaking is more than just a hobby. Meanwhile, two potential love interests command her attention. Her matchmaking parents like Kareem, an intriguing young Indian man Maya meets and dates, while Phil, a white classmate who’s been her longtime crush, remains a secret from her parents. Interspersed with Maya’s intimate first-person account are brief, cinematic interludes tracking a disturbed young man who commits a terror attack. First reports blame someone who shares Maya’s last name, and the backlash they suffer leads her parents to restrict Maya’s options. Maya is not especially religious, but she is forced to grapple with her Muslim identity as bullying takes a dangerous turn. Her feelings of entrapment within her parents’ dreams are laid on thick, and Maya herself notes a clichéd moment or two in her story, but the core relationships are authentic and memorable, and the conclusion is satisfying. A well-crafted plot with interesting revelations about living as a second-generation Muslim-American teen in today’s climate. (Fiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Samira Ahmed was born in Bombay, India, and grew up in Batavia, Illinois, in a house that smelled like fried onions, spices, and potpourri. She currently resides in the Midwest. She’s lived in Vermont, New York City, and Kauai, where she spent a year searching for the perfect mango.

A graduate of the University of Chicago, she taught high school English for seven years, worked to create over 70 small high schools in New York City, and fought to secure billions of additional dollars to fairly fund public schools throughout New York State. She’s appeared in the New York Times, New York Daily News, Fox News, NBC, NY1, NPR, and on BBC Radio. Her creative non-fiction and poetry has appeared in Jaggery Lit, Entropy, the Fem, and Claudius Speaks. Her website is samiraahmed.com

Teacher Resources

Love, Hate, and Other Filters Discussion Questions

Love, Hate, and Other Filters Book Club Guide

Around the Web

Love, Hate, and Other Filters on Amazon

Love, Hate, and Other Filters on Goodreads

Love, Hate, and Other Filters Publisher Page