In 1982 a charismatic and popular young man went out to celebrate his bachelor's party. What happened next would be the subject of several court cases and intense debate. What's undeniable is that a bar fight turned fatal ending with a white father and son beating a Chinese-American man to death. Vincent Chin would never see his wedding day, leaving the friends and family gathering for his wedding to observe his funeral rites instead. When the two white men received only a $3,000 fine and 3 years probation for this heinous crime, it was hard to believe that race hadn't played a role. Soon Vincent Chin's friends and family would rally together to protest the verdict and get the crime retried as the first federal civil rights trial involving a crime against an Asian American. Uncover the story behind this crime through case files, trial transcripts, and interviews with the people who were there. This is a hard but important story, and one that sheds light on what's happening today.
From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement by Paula Yoo
Erica's Picks 7th & up tags: history, nonfiction, People of Color, social justice
Nala was hoping to find love this summer, but she never thought she'd find it at an Inspire Harlem event. The activist organization is her cousin-sister-friend Imani's thing. Tye is perfect and she can't believe he's into her, so she pretends to be a vegetarian and acts like she's volunteering at a local retirement home instead of just hanging out doing puzzles with her grandmother. At first being with Tye is better than her wildest dreams. But soon she gets tired of pretending to be someone she's not. What will happen when Tye finds out she's been lying to him? Why shouldn't she be enough as she is? Soon her dream summer turns into a nightmare.
The theme of the novel is captured by the title and watching it all unfold was incredibly moving. Topics ranging from self-image to activism are explored without it ever feeling preachy. Every character is well-drawn and layered and the way the plot all comes together is masterful. I absolutely adored this novel and highly recommend it
Love Is a Revolution by Renée Watson
Erica's Picks 7th - 8th tags: character driven, contemporary fiction, family life, issues fiction, People of Color, romance, social justice, summer vacation
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
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:
After three years of traveling in a wagon, Hanna is excited when they pull up to the frontier town of LaForge. She hopes that she and her father can finally settle down and open a dress shop. She even dares to dream that she can fulfill her mother's dying wish of graduating from school. But when she shows up to the one-room school house, the town is scandalized. Most of them have never met an Asian person before and don't want their children going to school with one. Will Hanna's dreams finally come true? Or will she never find a place that will accept her?
This novel is Park's answer to Little House on the Prairie and set in the same time and place. Fans of the series will recognize much and think about the series in a new light. I particularly enjoyed reading about Hanna's dress-making and designing. Hanna is a strong heroine and easy to root for with her sense of humor and determination to fight for what is right.
Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park 5th - 7th grades tags: character driven, family life, historical fiction, People of Color, SEL, social justice
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
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
1890s Atlanta is not an easy place for Chinese Americans. Jo, abandoned at birth, lives with her adopted father in an abandoned hideout left over from the underground railroad. She grew up listening to the conversations in the newspaper offices above. When she hears that they are struggling, she anonymously submits articles for a new advice column. “Miss Sweetie” becomes wildly popular and controversial. As Jo tries to keep her identity a secret, she tries to uncover who her parents were. But some secrets are best left alone and these ones put her in the crosshairs of a notorious criminal.
I loved this historical fiction. It transported me back in time and kept me turning pages with the hint of mystery and romance.
Erica's Picks The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
6th - 8th Tags: Character Driven, Historical Fiction, Issues Fiction, Mystery, People of Color, Romance, Social Justice