This collection, edited by the cofounder of the We Need Diverse Books movement, gathers stories from some of my favorite authors. In these stories characters who were rarely seen in American stories for youth, or only as sidekicks, are the stars. These realistic stories tackle a diverse range of subjects and tones from serious to light-hearted. But they all give you a glimpse into someone's life. Great for fans of realistic fiction looking for more diverse stories.
Fresh Ink: An Anthology edited by Lamar Giles Erica's Picks 7th & 8th tags: contemporary fiction, issues fiction, LGBTQ, People of Color, short stories, social justice
When Khosrou was just a child he had to flee his home in Iran with his older sister and mother. After spending years as a refugee, he finally finds a new home in America. But Oklahoma isn't the paradise he dreamed of. His days of wealth and privilege were left behind in Iran, and in America his family struggles to get by. He even loses his name, changing it to Daniel. But he is determined not to lose his memories and stories from home. So he tells his patchwork story like Scheherazade with one tale leading into another. It's a story of heart and humor and, much like the fabled King, you'll always be left eager for another.
I absolutely adored this story. I went through a whole pack of post-its marking my favorite passages. The story is based on the author's own experiences and his family history which ranges from the verifiable to the legends of his great-great-great-great grandparents. My heart occasionally broke at the great injustices he faced, but ultimately the thing that came through most was Nayeri's wonderful sense of humor. The style is unique with the Scheherazade-style tangents and his habit of addressing the reader directly. It is a story you won't soon forget.
Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri Erica's Picks 5th - 8th grade tags:
First impressions can be deceiving. When Zuri first met the wealthy family that moved into the new mini-mansion across the street in her gentrifying neighborhood, she instantly hated the stuck-up Darius. Her sisters and mother fell all over themselves swooning over the handsome boys, but she knew they were nothing but trouble that her family and her neighborhood did not need. But when fate throws them together Zuri starts to question if she judged Darius fairly.
Even if you've never heard of Pride and Prejudice, you can enjoy this modern romance that tackles issues of identity, authenticity, and gentrification. But if you are an Austen fan, there's even more to delight in. The parallels Zoboi creates makes me appreciate both even more and she adds such rich details to this new setting while deftly weaving in more modern issues alongside the timeless themes. Strongly recommended.
Pride by Ibi Zoboi Erica's Picks 7th & 8th grade Tags:
When a plane crashes on its way from New York to the Dominican Republic, the lives of two girls are changed forever. They live in the same time zone but worlds apart. Yahaira is a chess champion who lives in an urban apartment with her mother and is dating the girl next door. Camino lives in a rural house with her aunt who is a healer and dreams of going to America to study medicine one day. When tragedy strikes, they are forced to question everything they thought they knew as they cope with loss and unexpected gains.
This novel in verse is a quick, impactful read. The alternating chapters explore each girl's point of view and paint two very different but equally compelling pictures.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo Erica's Picks 8th grade tags: character driven, contemporary fiction, family life, global perspectives, issues fiction, LGBTQ, novels in verse, People of Color, SEL, summer vacation, tear-jerker
Muiriel was left at the John Muir Medical Center as a baby. She has taken her namesake as a role model and has spent her life bouncing from one foster home to another, only feeling truly at home when she can go for a walk outside. She is prepared to age out of the foster system without any attachments, until she moves to a small island in Washington for her Senior year. There she meets people who seem to truly understand her and she starts to break her rules and open her heart to them. But her eighteenth birthday is fast approaching and she knows that soon she'll be on her own. What will happen when she has to leave the island, and everyone on it, behind?
This book was inspired by the author's daughter who lived in three different foster homes before being adopted. It works hard to portray a balanced picture even as it points out the inequities inherit in the system. Seeing how foster care as affected Muir is heartbreaking but watching her slowly come out of her shell and bloom warms your heart back up and puts it together again.
What I Carry by Jennifer Longo 7th & 8th grades tags: character driven, contemporary fiction, friendship, issues fiction, romance, school stories, SEL, social justice, tear jerker
Miles Morales is done being Spider-Man. His spidey sense has gone haywire and got him in trouble at school. He has enough to worry about with a confederacy-obsessed history teacher who has it out for him and the nightmares about his uncle that have been plaguing Miles ever since his death. His best friend thinks he should just use his powers to pull stunts and make money. But when people from his neighborhood start disappearing, he discovers a supernatural conspiracy designed to keep Miles and his family down. Miles knows he has to don the suit once more and fight for what's right.
I love how this story has a solid grounding in real-life issues that teens can relate to. As an educator, I hated every moment reading about Miles's awful history teacher obsessed with teaching the lost-cause propaganda of the civil war. Unfortunately, teachers like that do exist and I love how Miles and his fellow students stand up to him. I love all the supporting characters from Miles's mom to his best friend Ganke. A great mix of real-world social justice and super hero justice.
Miles Morales Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds Erica's Picks 5th - 8th Tags: adventure, family life, friendship, issues fiction, people of color, school stories, social justice, supernatural
Kat is a jiu-jitsu champion, so when one of her classmates tries to assault her, she's able to fight him off. But because her attacker is injured as well, no one believes her story. Robin was adopted from an Indian orphanage by two wealthy, white parents. He loves them, but he yearns to learn more about his heritage and where he came from. When their church organizes a service trip to help victims of human trafficking, both are eager to sign up. Kat sees an opportunity to teach other girls how to fight back and Robin sees a chance to go back to the orphanage and find out more about his past. The trip does not go as planned for either of them, but both their lives are changed forever.
This is such a moving novel that touches on so many important issues. The topics of sexual assault and human trafficking are both by nature disturbing, but neither are discussed with graphic detail. The story is more about the after-effects and healing process that follows. Their story switches between Kat and Robin/Ravi's perspectives but there is a large cast of characters beyond them and all are well-drawn and have their own engrossing stories and unique perspective. Highly recommended.
Forward Me Back to You by Mitali Perkins 8th grade Erica's Picks Tags:
Regina has lived all her life on a reservation in Oregon with her friends and family. Everything changes one day when the federal government terminates her tribe. Her family moves to Los Angeles to start over. Life in LA is very different from life back home with the Umpqua tribe. She meets people with different traditions and cultures, and it's hard to adapt, but she soon makes friends. Just when it looks like her luck is changing, something happens that shakes her family to its core.
This book is based on the author's own life and the the effects of the US government's tribal termination policy. Regina struggles with her identity as her friends tell her that she doesn't act like a "real Indian" based on the stereotypes they've learned from cowboy shows and movies. Even though the book is set in the late 50's the issues Regina faces are ones that continue to this day. A great book for discussion and gaining empathy.
Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis and Traci Sorell Erica's picks 4th - 7th grade Tags: character driven, family life, historical fiction, issues fiction, people of color, social justice
While not a sports fan, I loved this book including the fast paced basketball action. The main character Adam was adopted in Poland when he was 11 and immigrated to American with his new mom, a U.S. citizen. Adam is not very communicative with any one but his mom and good buddy Barry as he is embarrassed about his English proficiency. His voice is so well written, I can hear his accent and foreign phrasing. This attracts the attention of Kase whose bullying and ridicule trigger Adam’s anger management issues. When his basketballs skills attract the attention of star player Carli and her coach father, things begin to look up for Adam. All the side characters are well crafted and interesting. When Adam makes some insensitive racial comments, these are fully worked out in a realistic manner that he accepts and learns from. This quote sums it up for me: "I know I will fight injustice, and sometimes that means a protest and a battle....but I think many times that means just being a good, kind person in the world." You will be a better person for seeing into the lives of these engaging characters. And entertained…sports, romance, interpersonal relationships, humor, identity woven into a brilliant book. Tessa's Picks, 7-8th grade, Character driven, Contemporary fiction, Issues fiction, Romance, Sports, Social justice
Kidnapped by a rebel group as a child, Imara has grown up among rough men doing terrible deeds. The only reason she has survived is that they believe she has supernatural powers. She has accepted her fate and the devil inside her. Imara has learned to keep her feelings bottled up safe inside and not let anything touch them. Then the rebels kill a silverback gorilla and kidnap its baby. She is put in charge of caring for it until they can sell it as a pet. The innocent baby chips away at all her defenses as tempts her to forget all the lessons that have kept her safe and risk it all to save another.
This heart-wrenching novel completely absorbed me as I eagerly rooted for Imara. Gorillas are my favorite animal, so I was hooked instantly. Even though it's fiction it's firmly rooted in reality and opened my eyes up to issues that I knew very little about.
Gorilla Dawn by Gill Lewis Erica's Picks 5th -8th grade Tags: