Walker's Bookshelf

International Women’s Day

March 8th is International Women’s Day. To celebrate, here is a list of debut novels written by diverse female authors.
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Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham

Abraham’s fierce debut follows four Nigerian siblings living in Lagos from childhood in 1996 through early adulthood in 2015. Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike, and their younger brothers, Andrew and Peter, spend their early years in a relatively stable middle-class family. Then their mother loses her government job and their father wastes the rest of the family’s savings in a get-rich-quick scheme. Soon after, their mother leaves for New York, their father takes off for parts unknown, and the kids are left in the care of their grandmother. As the girls grow up, Ariyike becomes involved in a Pentecostal church and eventually marries its charismatic leader, while Bibike takes a series of more secular jobs. Both are sexually exploited time after time. The chapters involving their brothers focus on the horrors of life in a boarding school—incessant bullying by the older students, food deprivation—which the sisters can’t attend because they must work to support the family. The novel’s strength lies in its lush, unflinching scenes, as when a seemingly simple infection leads gradually but inexorably to a life-threatening condition, revealing the dynamics of the family and community along the way. Abraham mightily captures a sense of the stresses of daily life in a family, city, and culture that always seems on the edge of self-destruction. (Feb.) –Staff (Reviewed 11/11/2019) (Publishers Weekly, vol 266, issue 45, p)

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

Anappara’s witty, resonant debut tracks a series of child disappearances from an Indian slum through the  eyes of a nine-year-old boy. Jai lives with his friends Pari and Faiz in a slum next to a rubbish dump and the  crowded Bhoot Bazaar, part of an unnamed city constantly beset by smog. An opening tale of a local benevolent ghost named Mental introduces the  children’s shared magical thinking. When Jai and his friends learn that one of their classmates, Bahadur, has been missing for several days, Jai, a fan of police shows, decides that he and his friends will do their own detective work and find Bahadur since the  police show little interest in the  matter. Jai’s carefree nature lends a lighthearted tone to an increasingly grim tale as more children disappear and his team of sleuths find evidence pointing to a serial killer. His quest is aided by Pari’s voracious reading habits, which make her the  better detective, and Faiz’s Muslim faith, which helps them stay on  course when his community is blamed for the  kidnappings. Interspersed with the  trio’s investigation are single chapters devoted to each of the  disappeared children. The  prose perfectly captures all the  characters’ youthful voices, complete with some Hindi and Urdu terms, whose meanings, if not immediately obvious, become clear with repetition. Anappara’s complex and moving tale showcases a strong talent. (Feb.) –Staff (Reviewed 12/09/2019) (Publishers Weekly, vol 266, issue 50 , p)

The Eight Girl by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung
*COMING SOON: March 17, 2020

Meet Alexa Wú, a brilliant yet darkly self-aware young woman whose chaotic life is manipulated and controlled by a series of alternate personalities. Only three people know about their existence: her shrink Daniel; her stepmother Anna; and her enigmatic best friend Ella. The perfect trio of trust.

When Ella gets a job at a high-end gentleman’s club, she catches the attention of its shark-like owner and is gradually drawn into his inner circle. As Alexa’s world becomes intimately entangled with Ella’s, she soon finds herself the unwitting keeper of a nightmarish secret. With no one to turn to and lives at stake, she follows Ella into London’s cruel underbelly on a daring rescue mission. Threatened and vulnerable, Alexa will discover whether her multiple personalities are her greatest asset, or her most dangerous obstacle.

Electrifying and breathlessly compulsive, The Eighth Girl is an omnivorous examination of life with mental illness and the acute trauma of life in a misogynist world. With bingeable prose and a clinician’s expertise, Chung’s psychological debut deftly navigates the swirling confluence of identity, innocence, and the impossible fracturing weights that young women are forced to carry, causing us to question: Does the truth lead to self-discovery, or self-destruction? — Publisher’s Description

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare

Daré’s captivating first novel opens with  14-year-old Adunni hearing the  devastating news from her father that, instead of returning to school as she has longed to for three years, she has been sold in marriage to a much-older neighbor in their Nigerian village. Adunni is distraught, as life with  a husband, his two other wives, and his unrestrained young children is exactly the  fate from which, according to her deceased mother, having an education would spare her. Desperate to improve her life, she flees to the  city, where to support herself she accepts employment as a rich family’s servant. But why was the  position vacant? The  reasoning behind her predecessor’s departure is just one of the  things Adunni seeks to learn while in Lagos. Daré’s arresting prose provides a window into the  lives of Nigerians of all socioeconomic levels and shows readers the  beauty and humor that may be found even in the  midst of harrowing experiences. Although the  problems and antagonists Adunni faces would challenge even capable adults, she defies almost everyone’s expectations and not only survives but thrives. — Nicole Williams (Reviewed 1/1/2020) (Booklist, vol 116, number 9, p35)

The Mountains Sing by Que Mai Phan Nguyen

Nguyen’s lyrical, sweeping debut novel (after the  poetry collection The  Secret of Hoa Sen) chronicles the  Tran family through a century of war and renewal. As middle-aged writer Huong revisits her native Hanoi in 2012, she reflects on the  lessons shared by her late grandmother Diệu Lan (“The  challenges faced by Vietnamese people throughout history are as tall as the  tallest mountains . If you stand too close, you won’t be able to see their peaks”) and chronicles their journey of survival during the  Vietnam War. Huong was 12 when bombs encroached on Hanoi, where she lived with Diệu Lan after her mother, Ngọc, a physician, left to search for her father, a soldier in the  NVA. After an evacuation to the mountains , Diệu Lan “opened the  door of her childhood” to Huoung with stories of being raised by a wealthy family to pursue an education and resist old customs such as blackening her teeth. Diệu Lan also describes the  harrowing truth of the  Việt Minh Land Reform, during which her family’s land was seized in the  spirit of resource distribution, encouraging her to question what she’s been taught in schools. Grandma and Huong return to Hanoi and find their house decimated, and Ngọc, who survived torture and rape while imprisoned by South Vietnamese soldiers, comes home without Huong’s father. In a subtle coda, Nguyễn brilliantly explores the  boundary between what a writer shares with the  world and what remains between family. This brilliant, unsparing love letter to Vietnam will move readers. (Mar.) –Staff (Reviewed 01/06/2020) (Publishers Weekly, vol 267, issue 1, p)

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Black History Month

New Titles: Black History Month

The Missing American Book Cover

The Missing American 
by Kwei Quartey

Fans of Quartey’s Darko Dawson series ready for another armchair visit to Ghana will be pleased to meet Emma Djan, introduced here in the  same riveting blend of mystery a literary travel guide. After a horrifying #MeToo moment brings an abrupt end to Emma’s police career, she is taken on by a private detective agency.

Infatuated middle-aged widower Gordon Tilson sends money to a young Ghanaian woman he met online when she tells him her sister has been in a car accident. He then flies off to Ghana to meet her in person, only to find he has fallen prey to an online scam and subsequently finds himself caught up in the  deadly world of sakawa, a bizarre underground of con men who believe themselves armed with special spiritual powers bestowed by fetish priests. Tilson’s son is concerned when he loses contact and reports the missing American  to the  police, who do nothing, so he employs Emma’s agency.

There is an amazing force to be reckoned with behind her veil of politeness, and readers will want to hear more from Emma. Unlike Mma Ramotswe in McCall Smith’s celebrated series, Emma experiences violence and encounters dangerous criminals, but, like her Botswana sister, she is driven by a determination to honor her late father and is surrounded by an equally appealing cast of characters. — Jane Murphy (Reviewed 11/1/2019) (Booklist, vol 116, number 5, p25) 

Biased Book Cover Image

Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do 
by Jennifer L Eberhardt, PhD. 

An internationally renowned expert on implicit racial bias breaks down the science behind our prejudices and their influence in nearly all areas of society and culture. MacArthur Fellow Eberhardt (Psychology/Stanford Univ.; co-editor: Confronting Racism, 1998) challenges the idea that addressing bias is merely a personal choice. Rather, “it is a social agenda, a moral stance.”

Relying on her neuroscientific research, consulting work, and personal anecdotes, the author astutely examines how stereotypes influence our perceptions, thoughts, and actions. Stereotypes, such as “the association of black people and crime,” are shaped by media, history, culture, and our families. A leader in the law enforcement training movement, Eberhardt recounts high-profile cases of police shooting unarmed black people, and she documents her own fears as a mother of three black sons. Though “more than 99 percent of police contacts happen with no police use of force at all,” black people are stopped by police disproportionately and are more likely to suffer physical violence. Only a tiny fraction of officers involved in questionable shootings are prosecuted, and convictions are rare.

Through her work, the author teaches officers to understand how their biases inform their interactions with the communities they are charged with protecting and serving. She shares informative case studies from her work with Airbnb and Nextdoor, an online information-sharing platform for neighbors, when bias among the sites’ users led to racial profiling and discrimination. Eberhardt also looks at bias in the criminal justice system, education, housing and immigration, and the workplace.

A chapter on her visit to the University of Virginia after the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville is, much like the book  as a whole, simultaneously scholarly illuminating, and heartbreaking. Throughout, Eberhardt makes it clear that diversity is not enough. Only through the hard work of recognizing our biases and controlling them can we “free ourselves from the tight grip of history.” Compelling and provocative, this is a game-changing book  about how unconscious racial bias impacts our society and what each of us can do about it. (Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2019) 

All Blood Runs Red Book Cover

All Blood Runs Red: The Legendary Life of Eugene Bullard-Boxer, Pilot, Soldier, Spy 
by Phil Keith & Tom Clavin  

This dazzling biography, drawing on the subject’s unpublished memoir, explores the incredible life and times of the first African-American fighter pilot: Eugene “Gene” Bullard. At 12, he ran away from Columbus, Ga., to escape the vicious racism of the early-20th-century South for France, the country revered by his formerly enslaved father.

He crossed the Atlantic straight into minor fame as a boxer in Liverpool and Paris, and experienced partial freedom from the scorn and hatred of whites. In WWI, he joined the French Foreign Legion, fighting for his adopted homeland as a pilot. After a brief interwar interlude as a nightclub band drummer, manager, and owner—rubbing shoulders with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Josephine Baker, Langston Hughes, and Pablo Picasso, and spying on Germans for the French—he volunteered again with the French military when WWII broke out.

After being injured as the Germans advanced into France, military and consular personnel advised him to flee the country to avoid being executed by the Nazis. He settled in New York City with his teenage daughters and became variously a longshoreman, a traveling salesman of French perfumes, and an elevator operator at Rockefeller Center.

Keith vividly describes Bullard’s experiences—including his medal-worthy military exploits, the luck that allowed him to cheat death repeatedly, and the bizarre parallels between his life and the movie Casablanca. This may be a biography, but it reads like a novel. (Nov.) –Staff (Reviewed 09/02/2019) (Publishers Weekly, vol 266, issue 35, p)

Mighty Justice: My Life in Civil Rights Book Cover Image

Mighty Justice: My Life in Civil Rights  
by Dovey Johnson Roundtree  

The life of African-American civil rights lawyer Roundtree (1914–2018) is chronicled in this inspirational, history-rich memoir, a project coauthored by National Magazine Award–winning writer McCabe. Roundtree grew up in Charlotte, N.C., during the Jim Crow era: “Never for one moment of my life under Jim Crow did I grow accustomed to being excluded, banned, pushed aside, reduced,” she writes.

She recounts her time at Spelman College in the 1930s, when Atlanta was a “racial hell,” and tells of joining the newly established Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps during WWII, when she fought for the rights of black soldiers and attained the rank of captain. She later pursued a law degree at Howard University, where she was one of five women in her class; was sworn into the Washington, D.C., bar in 1951; and started a law firm.

In straightforward, somewhat dutiful prose, she covers her many transformative moments, including being in the courtroom as a spectator when Plessy v. Ferguson was overturned in 1954, and winning a critical travel-discrimination case in 1955 that helped end the segregation of bus passengers in America. This eye-opening, accessible book  documents the life of a trailblazing human rights advocate. (Nov.) –Staff (Reviewed 08/12/2019) (Publishers Weekly, vol 266, issue 32, p) 

Think Black Book Cover Image

Think Black : A Memoir of Sacrifice, Success, and Self-loathing in Corporate America  
by Clyde W Ford  

In this powerful memoir, Ford (Whiskey Gulf) tells the story of his father’s tenure as IBM’s first black systems engineer. Though he was recruited in 1947 by the company’s founder, Thomas J. Watson Sr., John Stanley Ford endured 25 years of racism from his white coworkers, who repeatedly tried to get him fired. “Like Robinson, my father had also stepped into a role elevating him as a symbol much larger than his individual self,” Ford writes.

Writing with a potent sense of outrage, Ford portrays his father as more conciliatory than he would have been when he himself was hired by IBM in 1971 and brought with him an African nationalist pride. Throughout, Ford details IBM’s racist history supporting both the Nazis and apartheid, and how his father, in his stoicism, fought back against the company’s racism (he obtained a document that contained answers to questions on IBM’s entry exam and gave it to black  applicants).

Ford came to see his father as a fighter who made his life as a black man better. “Whenever I hear the blips and beeps, the whines and whirs of a computer,” Ford writes, “I recall what I learned from my father about these machines, about being a man who’s Black, and about being first.” Ford’s thought-provoking narrative tells the story of African-American pride and perseverance. (Sept.) –Staff (Reviewed 08/12/2019) (Publishers Weekly, vol 266, issue 32, p) 

Haben Book Cover Image

Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law   
by Haben Girma 

With wit and passion, Haben , a disability rights lawyer, public speaker, and the first deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law, takes readers through her often unaccommodating world.

Born in the Bay Area in 1988, Haben  spent summers in her family’s homeland of Eritrea, in the capital Asmara, where her deafblind older brother hadn’t been allowed to attend school. While living in the U.S. afforded her more opportunity, she missed out on assignments, jokes, and life’s nuances: “It’s a sighted hearing classroom, in a sighted hearing school, in a sighted hearing society. In this environment, I’m disabled.”

At a young age, Haben  vowed to change that environment and pushed beyond her own comfort zones: dancing salsa, helping build a school in Mali, and climbing an iceberg. At Lewis & Clark College she advocated for a braille cafeteria menu; at Harvard Law, she developed a text-to-braille system, which allowed a second party to communicate details to her during classes, in court, and at a White House Americans with Disabilities Act celebration, where as guest speaker she was “starstruck around all these heroes who paved the way for Generation ADA.”

This is a heartwarming memoir of a woman who champions access and dignity for all. (Aug.) –Staff (Reviewed 04/08/2019) (Publishers Weekly, vol 266, issue 14, p) 

Overground Railroad Book Cover Image

Overground Railroad: The Green Book & Roots of Black Travel in America  
by Candacy Taylor

Many African American families possess a cache of generational travelogues, packed tight and out of sight. These reminiscences, shared sparingly, if at all, do not for a moment romanticize the adventures of the open road.  

They are nothing short of horror stories: The great uncle threatened at gunpoint and run out of a segregated sundown town; the father who racked up hundreds of miles to keep moving and avoid the potential indignity — or fury — of being turned away from lodging.  

In the opening pages of her meticulously examined history, “Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America,” Candacy Taylor relates one of her own family’s hard-won testimonials. It’s a memory so specific yet strikingly familiar.  

Her stepfather Ron, then a child, rides in the back seat of the family car — a shiny, fully loaded 1953 Chevy sedan. When a sheriff orders his father to the side of the road, the day shifts from bliss to dread. The questions land fast: “Where did you get this vehicle? What are you doing here?”  

The father’s answers, rehearsed and ready, are all fiction: It was his employer’s car, and he’s a hired driver. His wife is the employer’s maid.  

“Where is your chauffeur’s cap?” the sheriff demands.  

Ron’s father gestures to a hook above the backseat. “Until that day, Ron never paid attention to that cap,“ Taylor writes, “but now he realized that it wasn’t just any hat. It was a ruse, a prop — a lifesaver.”  

During the Jim Crow era and beyond, travel for African Americans was frequently yoked to humiliation or terror. Black travelers knew that even a simple road trip required props and a plan. Part of that essential prep included “The Negro Travelers’ Green Book,” a travel guide first published in 1936.  

Taylor’s new book revisits the nesting stories behind the “Green Book,” which helped black tourists navigate racial minefields implicit in a road trip — whether across counties or cross-country.  

Distributed by mail order and sold by black-owned businesses, the “Green Book” listed black-owned (or black-friendly) hotels, tourist homes, restaurants, nightclubs, haberdasheries, hair salons, barbershops and attorneys’ offices. It afforded black travelers the “courage and security” to pass through unknown territory.  

Publisher Victor Hugo Green, a black mail carrier in New York with a seventh-grade education, said he’d come to the idea while observing a Jewish friend consult a kosher guide to plan a vacation in the Catskills. Taylor, however, suspects a more complex origin story. Green, who also managed the career of his musician brother-in-law, had no doubt absorbed stories about the travails of securing safe accommodations on the road; those anecdotes would have been influential as well.  

Green teamed up with fellow postal worker George I. Smith to create the guide. “The first edition was only ten pages,” writes Taylor, “but it was a mighty weapon in the face of segregation.” Green’s brother, William, later joined Victor and his wife, Alma, to produce the guide out of their Harlem home.  

At the outset, 80% of the listings were clustered in traditionally African American communities, including Harlem, Chicago’s Bronzeville and Los Angeles’ black enclaves stipulated by racial housing covenants and held in place for decades by redlining. The “Green Book” became a trusted brand and an emotional touchstone due to Green’s vision, grit and stamina and the guide’s consistency and reliability.  

Taylor assiduously retraces the “Green Book’s” history, from 1936 to 1967, and the Denver-based writer and photographer embarked on her own cross-country road trip seeking what remains. This was a grueling, faith-testing journey of loss and heartbreak that enlarges and shapes her book’s vision. After three years of scouting nearly 5,000 locations named in the guide, she learned that fewer than 5% are still in operation. Many of the early buildings in black communities have vanished, about 75%, she reports, “destroyed in the name of urban renewal.”  

In scope and tone, “Overground Railroad” recalls Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Suns,” which explored the waves of the Great Migration as many African Americans moved during the 1900s from the rural South to Northeastern, Midwestern and Western cities.  

Taylor creates a vivid, multi-voiced travelogue, drawing on interviews, archival documents and newspaper accounts. Historic photographs provide context. Her contemporary images drawn from her travels — landscapes of boarded-up or graffiti-laced wastelands, empty vistas where sites once stood — also play a dynamic, before-and-after role in storytelling. At its center, the book is a nuanced commentary of how black bodies have been monitored, censured or violated, and it compellingly pulls readers into the current news cycle.  

While “Overground Railroad” honors Green’s prescience within the context of the country’s cycles of racism, Taylor asserts that the “Green Book” was never overtly political. It did, however, provide an alternative approach to creating a resilient social network. In this, Green’s dream provided a way to work within the system, to manifest one’s own aspirations.  

Taylor draws a compelling map connecting the legacy of institutional racism — decades of government disinvestment, redlining and the fight for adequate schools — that has left neighborhoods as discards or afterthoughts. She advocates for readers to use these stories as inspiration to actively build on the foundation Green laid.  

The “Green Book” was never a money-making venture. “The reward was so much more valuable than money,” Taylor writes, “because [with] every business listed he may have saved a life.”  

Review by Lynell George, The Los Angeles Times January 10, 2020 

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Black History Month Week 3: Graphic Novels

For Black History Month Week 3, we are featuring graphic novels that explore the life of prominent black and/or African American figures.

Josephine Baker
by Jose-Louis Bocquet

Sassy and exuberant, Josephine Baker , born Freda Josephine  McDonald (1906–75), clowned her way through her St. Louis childhood to become one of the first black stars on the world stage. Infamous originally for her Folies Bergère cabaret act wearing only a skirt of (fake) bananas, her fresh and alluring charm infused her half-century of dancing and singing in her adopted country of France and many other places. Pablo Picasso, Charles de Gaulle, Martin Luther King (who introduced a speech by Baker  at the 1963 March on Washington), Grace Kelly, and Fidel Castro all admired her. She entertained troops during World War II and spied for the Allies, adopted 12 children, and crusaded for civil rights. Bocquet (with Muller, Kiki de Montparnasse) does Baker’s  complicated life justice in both appeal and detail. A lengthy chronology anchors key milestones and a massive biographical appendix provides background about important people in the entertainer’s life. Muller’s high-contrast, black-and-white inks finesse a mostly realistic whimsy and is especially good at rendering people recognizably in few lines. VERDICT Highly enjoyable, this is a wonderful work. For teens and up; some minor nudity.—MC –Martha Cornog (Reviewed 06/01/2017) (Library Journal, vol 142, issue 10, p84)

Muhammad Ali
by Sybille Titeux de la Croix

A canny Louisville, KY, police officer guided 12-year-old Cassius Clay toward boxing when the kid wanted to whup the thief who stole his bike. One of the greatest and most popular fighters in history, Ali  (who changed his name upon converting to Islam) also fought against discrimination and the Vietnam War, becoming a symbol of black activism as well as success. This stellar account brings the details of Ali’s  life, fights, and legacy into clear focus, complete with a diagram of his boxing technique. Photo-realistic art with tan/red emphasis; tweens and up. –Martha Cornog (Reviewed 01/01/2018) (Library Journal, vol 143, issue 1, p87)

The Life of Frederick Douglass
by David Walker

The story of Frederick Douglass (d. 1895), from his birth into slavery to his celebration by dignitaries around the world, is brought to readers in this spectacular graphic novel from author Walker (Luke Cage; War for the Planet of the Apes) and illustrators Smyth and Marissa Louise. Brief chapter interludes titled “Lessons” provide context for Douglass’s experiences and reference specific writings, depicting a long and often times heartrending journey in a way that is respectful and realistic. Walker states in the introduction that he aimed to have Douglass “narrate” the book  himself by using his subject’s published works to guide the narrative voice. A range of traditional multipaneled and fully illustrated pages rendered in vivid color reveal the depth and intricacies of each scene. A comprehensive bibliography and index assist in locating references to specific people or places discussed throughout. VERDICT This thoughtfully crafted portrait will delight and inform, regardless of readers’ prior knowledge of Douglass’s life and legacy. [See Prepub Alert, 7/16/18; Martha Cornog’s “Diverse Voices and Viewpoints: Must-Have Graphic Novels for Black History Month and Beyond,”] –Tom Batten (Reviewed 12/01/2018) (Library Journal, vol 143, issue 20, p65)

Fire!!: The Zora Neale Hurston Story
by Peter Bagge

Meet Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960): anthropologist who worked with Franz Boas, folklore collector with Alan Lomax, novelist (Their Eyes Were Watching God), essayist, playwright, eccentric intellectual, life of the party, and adventurous fashionista. With friends and enemies black and white, Hurston faced criminal charges, poverty, ill health, and fickle associates (e.g., poet Langston Hughes) who didn’t always stand up for her. Bagge (Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story) bends his manic, rubbery characters around Hurston’s chutzpah for a warts-and-roses portrait of this woman who stirred up controversy both within and outside of the Harlem Renaissance. Hurston insisted on reproducing black speech idiomatically as she heard it, and Bagge follows her lead. (FIRE!! was a 1926 magazine “devoted to younger Negro artists,” including Hurston.) Hurston shouldered her way up through multiple glass ceilings, and here Bagge captures her zest, humor, frustration, brain power, and accomplishments. VERDICT Current and future fans of Hurston plus anyone interested in American literary history will be entertained as well as enlightened. (See interview with Bagge on p. 69.)—MC –Martha Cornog (Reviewed 04/01/2017) (Library Journal, vol 142, issue 6, p66)

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Black History Month Week 2: YA Titles


February is Black History Month. To celebrate, we are featuring books that are written by African American and black writers each week.
This week, we are highlighting young adult titles.

Who Put This Song On?
by Morgan Parker

Seventeen-year-old Morgan is struggling with depression, and her family just doesn’t understand. When she tells her doctor that it sucks being alive sometimes, he thinks it’s because she doesn’t have a boyfriend, and even though she’s in therapy following a failed suicide attempt, her mother thinks she just needs more Jesus. But when she meets David, he gets it. Within their new friend group, there is a traveling notebook where they record their thoughts, feelings, and affirmations for each other. In many ways, Parker’s debut models what introspective teens may go through when questioning the world around them. Through this  story based loosely on  her own life, she takes readers on  a journey of self-exploration, full of all the universal teenage angst and drama that surround school, identity, sex, rejection, and friendship. This  is all layered into Morgan’s coming-of-age realizations about her Blackness as she becomes interested in researching specific periods of her identity’s history, hoping to understand how it—and she—fits into present-day America. When, thanks to a terrible teacher, she makes a huge scene at school, her actions may seem familiar to readers. This  fresh read provides a positive and inclusive take on  mental health and wellness and offers readers some tools to survive on  their own. — Jessica Anne Bratt (Reviewed 9/1/2019) (Booklist, vol 116, number 1, p105)

by Akwaeke Emezi

The only world Jam has ever known is that of Lucille, a town where the angels have ostensibly banished the monsters and dismantled the structures that allowed monsters and monstrous deeds to pervade. Lucille is a post-prison, post–school shooting, post–police brutality society. A society where someone like Jam, a selectively mute transgender teen, can live with complete acceptance, support, and love. Still, she can feel the hard truths of the world, can sense them in the air, hear them in words unsaid. When Jam steals into her mother Bitter’s painting studio and unleashes Pet , a winged, horned, eyeless creature and monster hunter, from one of the paintings and into their world, life as she’s known it begins to dissolve. Jam must confront the harsh realities of her world as she tentatively partners with Pet  and ventures forward to avenge a wrong not yet discovered. This is a heart-stirring atmospheric page-turner, a terrific and terrible yet quiet adventure. Emezi spins a tale that defies categorization as strikingly as their characters, forcing readers to deeply rethink assumptions about identity, family structure, and justice. VERDICT A riveting and important read that couldn’t be more well timed to our society’s struggles with its own monsters.—Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, NJ –Jill Heritage Maza (Reviewed 07/01/2019) (School Library Journal, vol 65, issue 6, p49)

Children of Blood and Bone
by Tomi Adeyemi

Eleven years ago, King Saran cemented his grip on the throne by banishing magic from Orïsha and  slaughtering the realm’s maji—Zélie Adebola’s mother included. The maji’s descendants—dark-skinned, white-haired people called divîners—have lived under tyranny ever since, but now there is cause for hope. Thanks to information gleaned from Saran’s kindhearted daughter, Amari, 17-year-old Zélie has a chance to restore magic to Orïsha and  activate a new generation of  maji. First, though, Zélie, Amari, and  Zélie’s brother Tzain must outrun the crown prince, Inan, who is determined to finish what his father started by eradicating magic for good. Book one in the Orïsha Legacy trilogy, Adeyemi’s devastating debut is a brutal, beautiful tale of  revolution, faith, and  star-crossed love. By making tangible the power that comes from embracing one’s heritage, Adeyemi conjures a story that resonates with magic both literal and  figurative while condemning apathy in the face of  injustice. Complex characters, colossal stakes, and  a kaleidoscopic narrative captivate, and  the book’s punishing pace catapults readers to a jaw-dropping conclusion that poses as many questions as it answers. Ages 14–up. Agent: Alexandra Machinist and  Hillary Jacobson, ICM. (Mar.) –Staff (Reviewed 01/01/2018) (Publishers Weekly, vol 265, issue 01, p)

Watch Us Rise
by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan

This is a refreshingly unapologetic celebration of young women’s voices in a format that encompasses poetry, blog posts, essays, and prose. Best friends Jasmine and Chelsea intend to start junior year at their progressive, social-justice-focused high school on a high note in their respective clubs: for Jasmine, the August Wilson Acting Ensemble and for Chelsea, the Peaceful Poets. When both are (ironically) met with resistance to new, more inclusive ideas, they decide to leave their clubs and form a new one focused on elevating women’s voices, especially those of activists and people of color. When their blog, Write Like a Girl, goes viral, the school’s administration attempts to shut them down. Watson and Hagan keep Jasmine and Chelsea’s voices distinct and allow them to resound with authenticity. Despite facing very real hardships like fat-shaming, sexism, and loss of a parent, Jasmine and Chelsea are steadfast in their convictions and relentlessly supportive of both each other and their own emotions. Readers won’t be able to help feeling empowered and uplifted by the end of the novel. — Caitlin Kling (Reviewed 4/19/2019) (Booklist, vol 115, number 16)

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YALSA 2020 Best Fiction for Young Adults

YALSA 2020 Best Fiction for Young Adults

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) announced its 2020 Best Fiction for Young Adult. Here is the list of titles that made it to top ten.

For more information, please visit

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager
by Ben Philippe

Seventeen-year-old Norris Kaplan has just had his world turned upside-down. When his mother has to relocate to find work in her field, Norris finds his identity as a Black, French-Canadian hockey fan challenged by his new existence in the suburbs of Austin, Texas. While on the surface this is a classic fish-out-of-water tale, there are many more layers to the story. Lots of different elements of identity are brought to bear in Norris’s narration: his Haitian/immigrant heritage, racial identity, and viewpoint on American high school stereotypes. The protagonist’s smart and funny demeanor will engage readers, even when he makes obviously bad decisions. Norris is particularly adept at letting his assumptions about his peers impact his ability to relate to them as individuals, either as friends or romantically. The authorial decision to have the “outsider” be the character influenced by stereotypes rather than the opposite makes for a very compelling reversal that ultimately works. The unresolved ending allows teens to revel in the messiness of high school social blunders and see the value in doing the hard work of making amends. VERDICT A witty debut with whip-smart dialogue that will find much love among fans of authors like John Green and Jason Reynolds.—Kristin Lee Anderson, Jackson County Library Services, OR

Girls on the Verge
by Sharon Biggs Waller

Camille has just wrapped a successful summer with her theater troupe and is ready for a prestigious theater camp with her crush. Then one missed period becomes two, and Camille faces the  truth: her first sexual encounter, a one-time thing, has led to pregnancy. Camille knows she can’t have a baby now, but she doesn’t want to involve her parents, and her best friend, Bea, can’t reconcile her religious views with Camille’s decision. Complicating the  situation are Texas’ prohibitive abortion laws: it’s a year after Senator Wendy Davis’ filibuster and Governor Rick Perry’s restrictive bill. Desperate, Camille turns to Annabelle, a girl  she admires but hardly knows, who offers to drive her to Mexico for pills that will induce an abortion. At the  last minute, despite her reservations, Bea decides to come as well. Waller (The  Forbidden Orchid, 2016) hammers home the  immense difficulties that girls  in Camille’s situation face. The  story occasionally has the  unnerving feel of a dystopia, despite taking place in the  recent past: Camille travels hundreds of miles, crosses into dangerous border towns, and faces the  judgment of legal and medical professionals as well as people she knows. The  narrative sometimes treads into the  expository, but Camille’s story is absolutely essential, as is the  underlying message that girls  take care of each other when no one else will. — Maggie Reagan (Reviewed 4/1/2019) (Booklist, vol 115, number 15, p70)

by Mindy McGinnis

All it takes is one prescription to kick-start a student athlete’s frightening descent into opioid addiction. After surgery following a car accident, Ohio softball phenom Mickey Catalan is prescribed OxyContin for pain. When she starts to run out of the Oxy she relies on to get through her physical therapy, she gets pills from a dealer, through whom she meets other young addicts. Mickey rationalizes what she’s doing and sees herself as a good girl who’s not like others who use drugs (like new friend Josie, who uses because she’s “bored”). Mickey loves how the pills make her feel, how they take her out of herself and relieve the pressures in her life. Soon she’s stealing, lying, and moving on to heroin. Her divorced parents, including her recovering addict stepmother, suspect something is going on, but Mickey is skilled at hiding her addiction. A trigger warning rightfully cautions graphic depictions of drug use. In brutally raw detail, readers see Mickey and friends snort powders, shoot up, and go through withdrawal. Intense pacing propels the gripping story toward the inevitable conclusion already revealed in the prologue. An author’s note and resources for addiction recovery are appended. This powerful, harrowing, and compassionate story humanizes addiction and will challenge readers to rethink what they may believe about addicts. VERDICT From the horrific first line to the hopeful yet devastating conclusion, McGinnis knocks it out of the park. A first purchase for all libraries serving teens.—Amanda MacGregor, Parkview Elementary School, Rosemount, MN –Amanda MacGregor (Reviewed 03/01/2019) (School Library Journal, vol 65, issue 2, p115)

Like a Love Story
by Abdi Nazemian

When Reza, a  closeted teen, moves from Toronto to New York City (“by way of Tehran”) in 1989, the city feels like  the epicenter of the AIDS crisis. In a  heart-wrenching and bittersweet unfolding of events, he gravitates toward Art, the only openly gay student at his school, and to Art’s best friend, Judy, who represents everything he feels that he should desire. Though Reza tries his hardest to keep his attractions secret, dating Judy despite his chemistry with Art, he finds that he can’t live a  lie, whatever that might cost him. A  first-person narrative moves among the three characters as they discover their inner truths at a  time that sometimes feels apocalyptic for their community and loved ones. Under the nurturing guidance of Judy’s gay activist uncle, the characters subtly investigate different family dynamics. The intense and nuanced emotions evoked by the characters’ journeys help to give this powerful novel by Nazemian (The Authentics) a  timeless relevance. Ages 13–up. Agent: Curtis Brown, Curtis Brown Ltd. (June) –Staff (Reviewed 04/22/2019) (Publishers Weekly, vol 266, issue 16, p)

Lovely War
by Julie Berry

Berry (The Passion of Dolssa) brings to life wartime horrors and passions with commentary from Olympian gods in this love story filled with vivid historical detail. To show her husband, Hephaestus, the real meaning of love and its connection to war  and art, Aphrodite (with the help of Apollo, Hades, and Ares) tells the emotion-packed WWI saga of two besotted couples drawn together by music and war : British pianist Hazel and soldier James; African-American jazz musician Aubrey and Colette, a Belgian war  orphan with a remarkable singing voice. After James reports to duty, Hazel follows, taking a wartime volunteer position in France. There, she meets Colette, who is still reeling from her wartime losses, and introduces her to Aubrey, who quickly steals Colette’s heart. James and Aubrey witness horrors on and off the battlefield, and Hazel and Colette cling to each other during the best of times, such as when Hazel has the opportunity for a brief reunion with James, and the worst, as when Aubrey goes missing. Berry’s evocative novel starts slow but gains steam as the stories flesh out. Along the way, it suggests that while war  and its devastation cycles through history, the forces of art and love remain steady, eternal, and life-sustaining. Ages 12–up. (Mar.) –Staff (Reviewed 12/24/2018) (Publishers Weekly, vol 265, issue 52, p)

On the Come Up
by Angie Thomas

–Aspiring rapper Bri records “On the Come Up ” to protest the  racial profiling and assault she endured at the  hands of white security guards at her high school. The  song goes viral, and Bri seizes the  opportunity to follow in the  footsteps of her late father and lift her family out of poverty, but her loved ones worry, especially when some listeners paint her as an angry black girl inciting violence. Tension mounts as Bri’s mother loses her job, Bri’s relationship with her beloved aunt and musical mentor splinters, and a new manager dangles the  prospect of fame and wealth—at a price. Set in the  same neighborhood as Thomas’s electrifying The  Hate U Give, this visceral novel makes cogent observations about the  cycle of poverty and the  inescapable effects of systemic racism. Though the  book never sands over the  rough realities of Garden Heights, such as gang warfare, it imbues its many characters with warmth and depth. While acknowledging that society is quick to slap labels onto black teens, the  author allows her heroine to stumble and fall before finding her footing and her voice. VERDICT Thomas once again fearlessly speaks truth to power; a compelling coming-of-age story for all teens.—Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal –Mahnaz Dar (Reviewed 02/01/2019) (School Library Journal, vol 65, issue 1, p77)

Patron Saints of Nothing
by Randy Ribay

Integrating snippets of  Tagalog and Bikol, author Ribay displays a deep friendship between two 17-year-old cousins: Jay, born in the Philippines but raised in the United States since infancy, and Jun, born and raised in a gated community in Manila. Jay, considered white in an all-white school, is starting to get acceptances (and rejections) from colleges and finds out while playing video games that Jun, with whom he corresponded for years via “actual letters—not email or texts or DMs,” is dead. His Filipino father doesn’t want to talk about it, but his North American mother reveals that Jun was using drugs. Jay blames his uncle, a police chief, for his murder after researching the dictatorship of  Rodrigo Duterte (the book includes a handy author’s note and a list of  articles and websites), who has sanctioned and perpetrated the killing of  between 12,000 and 20,000 drug addicts by police and vigilantes since 2016. Jay, armed with his stack of  letters, returns to Manila to search for the truth. Ribay weaves in Jun’s letters so readers witness Jun’s questions and his attempts to reconcile the inequity around him with his faith. Jay follows Jun’s footsteps into the slums of  Manila, the small house of  his activist aunts, and the Catholic parish of  his uncle, a village priest, and learns painful truths about his family, his home country, and himself. VERDICT Part mystery, part elegy, part coming of  age, this novel is a perfect convergence of  authentic voice and an emphasis on inner dialogue around equity, purpose, and reclaiming one’s lost cultural identity.—Sara Lissa Paulson, City-As-School High School, New York City –Sara Lissa Paulson (Reviewed 06/01/2019) (School Library Journal, vol 65, issue 5, p84)

by Akwaeke Emezi

Carnegie Medal–nominee Emezi (Freshwater for adults) makes their young adult debut in this story of a transgender, selectively nonverbal girl named Jam, and the monster that finds its way into their universe. Jam’s hometown, Lucille, is portrayed as a utopia—a world that is post-bigotry and -violence, where “angels” named after those in religious texts have eradicated “monsters.” But after Jam accidently bleeds onto her artist mother’s painting, the image—a figure with ram’s horns, metallic feathers, and metal claws—pulls itself out of the canvas. Pet , as it tells Jam to call it, has come to her realm to hunt a human monster––one that threatens peace in the home of Jam’s best friend, Redemption. Together, Jam, Pet , and Redemption embark on a quest to discover the crime and vanquish the monster. Jam’s language is alternatingly voiced and signed, the latter conveyed in italic text, and Igbo phrases pepper the family’s loving interactions. Emezi’s direct but tacit story of injustice, unconditional acceptance, and the evil perpetuated by humankind forms a compelling, nuanced tale that fans of speculative horror will quickly devour. Ages 12–up. Agent: Jacqueline Ko, Wylie Agency. (Sept.) –Staff (Reviewed 06/17/2019) (Publishers Weekly, vol 266, issue 24, p)

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them
by Junauda Petrus

Trinidadian native Audre uses the labels placed upon her as a shield, fearing those around her will discover the real reason her mother sent her to live with her distant father in Minneapolis: she was caught wrapped in the arms of another girl. Struggling with her own questions surrounding her sexuality and depleting health, Mabel holds no faith that she’s going to have anything in common with Audre, the daughter of a family friend who’s just arrived from Trinidad and has a bit of a church-girl reputation. But they find themselves drawn to each other in inexorable ways. Told through unflinching prose and poetry laced with astrological themes, Petrus’ work breaks the mold of traditional writing and uses unconventional dialogue and voice to bring life to the story of two authentic, unapologetic Black girls as they face the hardest truths head on and discover everlasting love that reaches even the most distant corners of the cosmos. Through the intersplicing of poetry, Petrus provides compelling depth to both Audre and Mabel while conveying the powerful message that those we love on earth remain with us through a connection that can only be described as celestial. Striking an agile balance between humor and heartbreak, Petrus delivers an immersive queer romance set in in a world much like our own but touched with the slightest tint of magic realism. — Tiana Coven (Reviewed 8/1/2019) (Booklist, vol 115, number 22, p60)

With the Fire on High
by Elizabeth Acevedo

In this stunning sophomore novel from National Book Award and Printz winner Acevedo (The Poet X), Afro–Puerto Rican and African-American Emoni Santiago, a high  school senior, lives in Philadelphia with  her two-year-old daughter, Emma—nicknamed Babygirl—and paternal grandmother, ’Buela. A talented cook, Emoni balances school, work at a local burger joint, and motherhood—including shared custody with  her ex-boyfriend, Tyrone—with  moments in the  kitchen, where her “magical hands” create dishes that allow the  eater to access deep, surprising memories. But she’s not sure what to do with  her passion, or after high  school, until enrolling in a culinary arts elective helps her to hone her innate cooking skills in the  classroom and during a hard-won weeklong apprenticeship in Spain. As she gains practice at leadership and fund-raising, she also cautiously develops a budding relationship with  new student Malachi, a boy who respects Emoni’s boundaries. Acevedo expertly develops Emoni’s close female relationships, which are often conveyed through the  sharing of food and recipes, and which shape and buoy Emoni’s sense of her own direction and strength. With  evocative, rhythmic prose and realistically rendered relationships and tensions, Acevedo’s unvarnished depiction of young adulthood is at once universal and intensely specific. Ages 13–up. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (May) –Staff (Reviewed 03/04/2019) (Publishers Weekly, vol 266, issue 9, p)

For the full list of 2020 Best Fiction for Young Adults, please visit

-list by E.D.

Walker's Bookshelf Youth Services

100th Anniversary of the 19th Ammendment

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gives women the right to vote. Here’s a list of books you can borrow to explore the history of women’s suffrage.
We also encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote.

Voting Down the Rose: Florence Brooks Whitehouse and Maine’s Fight for Women Suffrage
by Anne B. Gass

Voting Down the Rose is a lively account of Maine native Florence Brooks Whitehouse’s efforts to win women voting rights in the decisive final years of the campaign, 1914-1920. Considered radical for picketing the White House, Florence helped win women suffrage against a backdrop of conservative views of women’s roles, political intrigues, WWI, and the 1918 influenza epidemic (Publisher).

The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote
by Elaine Weiss

Weiss (Fruits of Victory) chronicles the  crucial and contentious struggle to make Tennessee the  final state to ratify the  19th Amendment during the  sweltering summer of 1920. She traces the  history of the  suffrage movement, and profiles the  principle players. Social, political, regional, economic, and racial factors complicated the  fight. Suffragists were disunited; Carrie Catt (protégé of Susan B. Anthony) created the  National American Women  Suffrage Association, which warred with Alice Paul and Sue White’s radical National Woman’s  Party. Tennesseans and other Southerners used trickery to prevent the  imposition of yet another national amendment to invite federal election oversight and threaten white supremacy. Corporate interests believed female voters would threaten their corrupt stronghold over state government. President Woodrow Wilson courted women’s  votes to gain support for the  League of Nations, and waffling presidential candidates used the  suffrage issue to suit their advantage. VERDICT This well-researched and well-documented history reveals how prosuffragists sometimes compromised racial equality to win white women’s  enfranchisement, and that, although the  19th Amendment was ratified, there exists to this day an ongoing battle to effect universal, unrestricted suffrage. Essential for all libraries and readers interested in this vital issue. [See “Editors’ Spring Picks,” p. 29.] –Margaret Kappanadze (Reviewed 02/01/2018) (Library Journal, vol 143, issue 2, p113)

The Secret History of Wonder Woman
by Jill Lepore

New Yorker writer Lepore (David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of History , Harvard Univ.) presents an engaging, well-researched look at the  unconventional family behind the  character and stories of Wonder Woman . The  author focuses on the  character’s creator, William Moulton Marston, and his family: Elizabeth Holloway Marston, his wife and partial inspiration for the  character; Olive Byrne, who lived with the  couple in a polyamorous relationship; and Margaret Huntley, who also lived with the  family on and off through the  years. Also featured are the  family’s four children: two with Holloway Marston and two with Byrne. Marston was a psychologist, one of the  originators of the  modern lie detector, and a fervent propagandist of  female sexual power, if not necessarily female emancipation. Lepore handles her potentially thorny topic well and manages to avoid being salacious or gossipy. Readers looking for an exploration of Wonder Woman  herself would do better to try Tim Hanley’s Wonder Woman  Unbound . Lepore uses the  character more as a touchstone to guide her exploration of the  Marston family. VERDICT Fans interested in the  background of the  character and readers who appreciate well-written popular history  will enjoy this thought-provoking volume. [See Prepub Alert, 4/21/14.]— Hanna Clutterbuck, Harvard Univ. Lib., Cambridge, MA –Hanna Clutterbuck (Reviewed September 15, 2014) (Library Journal, vol 139, issue 15, p96)

All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation
by Rebecca Traister

As Beyoncé sang, “Now put your hands up!” Today, only 20 percent of  adults under the  age of  29 are married, compared with nearly 60 percent in 1960, a dramatic shift in which unmarried women  played a major role. In this compelling narrative, Traister (Big Girls Don’t Cry: The  Election That Changed Everything) investigates how scores of single women  have contributed to important social and  political movements that have changed U.S. history—before and  after Betty Friedan and  Gloria Steinem. A thoughtful journalist, Traister explores the  history of the  “spinster” and  explains how issues such as class, race, sexuality, and  religion have impacted single women  throughout time, and  how they in return have influenced the  workplace, personal space, and the  concept of  family. In addition to her painstaking research, Traister includes stories from the  unattached ladies  themselves in more than 100 interviews and  draws on pop culture references such as Sex & the  City and  Bridesmaids. While the  image of the  free, independent woman  is considered a modern sensation, Traister reveals that she has always fought for the  right to own her self-identity as well as for the  rights of  others. VERDICT This fast-paced, fascinating book will draw in fans of  feminism, social sciences, and  U.S. history, similar to Gail Collins’s When Everything Changed. [See Prepub Alert, 9/28/15.] –Venessa Hughes (Reviewed 02/15/2016) (Library Journal, vol 141, issue 3, p121)

A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women’s Rights
by Kate Hannigan

Hannigan presents an invigorating account of the life of Belva Lockwood, taking readers from her childhood in Niagara County, N.Y., to her career as one of the first women lawyers in the U.S. to her 1884 run for president (“Are women not worth the same as men? Belva spent her whole life asking that question.”). Working in her distinctively crackled folk style, Jay depicts powerful moments of resistance and courage from Lockwood’s life—whether storming into a classroom or protesting before the Supreme Court. Endnotes provide a timeline of Lockwood’s life and beyond, highlighting significant events in the ongoing fight for women’s rights and concluding with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run. Ages 9–12. Author’s agent: Jennifer Mattson, Andrea Brown Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Lorraine Owen, the Organisation. (Jan.) –Staff (Reviewed 11/20/2017) (Publishers Weekly, vol 264, issue 47, p)

Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragist, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles
by Mara Rockliff

A car made up of bright primary colors—yellow hood, blue doors, and red luggage compartment—transports suffragists Nell Richardson and Alice Burke, a kitten, and readers across the United States all in the name of “Votes for Women!” Throughout, the pacing is excellent, and Rockliff begins the adventure with a litany of items found inside the petite yellow vehicle (“tools,/spare parts,/a teeny-tiny typewriter”) and introduces Richardson and Burke and emphasizes their determination to get the word out (“V. for W.!”). Readers will follow the two women (and their kitten) from New York City to Philadelphia, through a blizzard, a stop at an all-yellow luncheon, a stint in a circus parade, and more as they drive down South and along the U.S. and Mexican border all the way to California and back. Rockliff communicates the boundless energy of these two figures and adds touches of humor to lift the narrative; this small but significant historical moment is presented as accessible and fun without undermining the importance of Richardson, Burke, and the fight for women’s equality. Hooper shows the women working together (a concluding image of Richardson handing Burke a daffodil is wonderful), the curiosity and interest on the faces of passersby (mainly white folks), and the dress and style of the times. While this is an excellent introduction to the efforts of suffragists, when discussing this text and the Nineteenth Amendment, librarians may want to clarify that statements such as “At last, American women had won the right to vote” (mentioned in the back matter section titled “Winning the Vote”) did not always reflect the reality of African American women and other women of color, who often faced legal and illegal barriers to vote (especially in the South) until well into the 1960s. VERDICT Prepare for the arrival of the “little yellow car” into the hearts of readers; this charming and vibrant account of two lesser-known figures will bolster historical collections.—Della Farrell, School Library Journal –Della Farrell (Reviewed 07/01/2016) (School Library Journal, vol 62, issue 7, p95)

A Time for Courage: The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen
by Kathryn Lasky

Kat Bowen records her days in Washington, DC, in a diary from her mother. A typical 13-year-old from a well-to-do family, she expresses her dreams and hopes as she recounts her thoughts on school, homework, relationships, parties, and her special bond with her cousin Alma. As the early days of 1917 pass, Kat becomes increasingly aware of the political issues that are prevalent, particularly the inevitable involvement of the U.S. in World War I and women’s suffrage. Her physician father is quietly supportive of his wife’s activism in the movement, while his brother-in-law, Alma’s father, demeans it and forbids the women in his family to participate in any way. Kat soon joins her mother sewing banners and bringing hot bricks for warmth on the picket line. Lasky entwines some of the real characters of the day with her fictional figures. She gives a good overview of the harsh treatment these women endured during their picketing and imprisonment and touches on divorce, the plight of African-American citizens in the South, and President Wilson’s disinterest in rights for women. Kat is well developed into a young woman whose exposure to the politics and consequences allow her to mature and decide what true liberty and justice for all really means. A historical note and reproductions of photos are appended.–Rita Soltan, Baldwin Public Library, Birmingham, MI –Rita Soltan (Reviewed August 1, 2002) (School Library Journal, vol 48, issue 8, p190)

The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba
by Margarita Engle

This engaging title documents 50-year-old Swedish suffragette and novelist Fredrika Bremer’s three-month travels around Cuba in 1851. Based in the  home of a wealthy sugar planter, Bremer journeys around the  country with her host’s teenaged slave Cecilia, who longs for her mother and home in the  Congo. Elena, the  planter’s privileged 12-year-old daughter, begins to accompany them on their trips into the  countryside. Both Elena and Cecilia are inspired by their guest’s independence, Elena to wonder if she can avoid eventual marriage and Cecilia to dream of freedom for her unborn child. Using elegant free verse and alternating among each character’s point of view, Engle offers powerful glimpses into Cuban life at that time. Along the  way, she comments on slavery, the  rights of women, and the  stark contrast between Cuba’s rich and poor. The  author takes some license with the  real Bremer’s journey; Elena is fictional, which the  author is careful to point out in her author’s note. She also includes a reference list for readers who want to learn more about Bremer. The  easily digestible, poetic narrative makes this a perfect choice for reluctant readers, students of the  women’s movement, those interested in Cuba, and teens with biography assignments.—Leah J. Sparks, formerly at Bowie Public Library, MD –Leah J. Sparks (Reviewed February 1, 2010) (School Library Journal, vol 56, issue 2, p129)

Walker's Bookshelf

Beautiful Book Cover Thursday

Brighten up your day with today’s #beautifulbookcoverthursday post, featuring three titles that you can borrow or request now!

Three Flames
by Alan Lightman

Novelist and physicist Lightman has traveled twice yearly since 2003 to Cambodia to work with his Harpswell Foundation which empowers women leaders in Cambodia and Southeast Asia. In his first novel in seven years, Lightman’s opening dedication directly spotlights Harpswell’s “strong and courageous young women,” some of whose stories have inspired his intimate examination of a Cambodian family’s post-Khmer Rouge lives, driven by survival, redeemed by resilience. Each of six chapters, named for each family member, is paired with a pivotal year. Mother Ryna in 2012 confronts her father’s murderer. In 2009, teenage, pregnant eldest daughter Nita plots to escape her much older husband. Marriage eludes only son Kamal in 2013. In 2008, middle daughter Thida is forced to become a debt equalizer. Father Pich, a young man in 1973, earns rejection from his parents. In 2015, youngest daughter Sreypov refuses a future constrained by the “three flames :” never air family problems, never forget parental sacrifices, always serve the husband. After four decades of submission, defiance just might break the family’s cycle of desperation and humiliation. — Terry Hong (Reviewed 9/1/2019) (Booklist, vol 116, number 1, p56)

The Sweetest Fruits
by Monique Truong

He began life in 1850 as Patricio to his Greek mother, immigrating at two from the  island of Lefcada to the  Emerald Isle, his father’s birthplace, where he became Patrick. By 19, he landed in New York, made his way to Cincinnati, and married a formerly enslaved woman who called him Pat, although as a struggling journalist, he was known as Lafcadio. His restlessness pushed him to New Orleans, then Martinique in the  West Indies, until he settled on his final island, Japan, where he became Koizumi Yakumo and lived with a samurai-descendant wife and, eventually, their four children. More than a century since his 1904 death, Lafcadio Hearn remains one of Japan’s preeminent literary expatriates. Truong, whose family’s violent 1975 displacement from Vietnam when she was six makes her intimately familiar with peripatetic longing, stupendously imagined the  life of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas’ Vietnamese Parisian cook in her award-winning debut, The  Book of Salt (2003). She displays similar ingenuity in her extraordinary new book (an eight-year effort) presenting Lafcadio Hearn through the  four most important women in his life: his willful Greek mother, his determined first wife, his protective last wife, and his tenacious first biographer, Elizabeth Bisland. By reclaiming these exemplary women’s voices, Truong enhances history with illuminating herstory too long overlooked. — Terry Hong (Reviewed 8/1/2019) (Booklist, vol 115, number 22, p25)

Dead Astronauts
by Jeff VanderMeer

Vandermeer’s follow-up to Borne (2017) explores the multiple pasts and futures of the City and the sinister Company that twists and destroys countless living things. The fragmented narrative centers primarily on the dead astronauts  at the crossroads from Borne, revealed to be three revolutionaries consisting of former Company workers/experiments Chen and Moss and the formerly lost-in-space Grayson. As these three lovers and companions come to the latest version of the City and the sinister Company, the established patterns of their war across realities begin to shift, with factors such as the demented and tortured Charlie X, a mysterious blue fox, a vast leviathan, and the dark bird known as “”the duck with a broken wing”” all come into play. The varied points of view and stylistic shifts of the narrative allow the reader to experience reality through the eyes of different characters, human and otherwise, and the struggle of different forms of life trying to survive unites the vignettes that form the bulk of the novel. Highly recommended for those interested in sf invested in ecological concerns and speculative fiction that plays with narrative form. New readers will want to read Borne before diving in to its multi-dimensional sequel. — Nell Keep (Reviewed 11/1/2019) (Booklist, vol 116, number 5, p31)

Walker's Bookshelf

Black History Month Week 1


February is Black History Month. To celebrate, we are featuring books that are written by African American and black writers each week.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf
by Marlon James

As with his Man Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings, James’s first foray into fantasy demonstrates epic sweep, an intensely layered structure, and raw if luscious language that pins readers to the page with enough concrete detail to discourage a breezy skim-through. Placed firmly in the genre by its dark magic, unstoppable twists and turns, dangerous kingly aspirations, and imperfect but essential fellow-creature bonding, the narrative is refreshingly distinctive in its grounding in African history and folklore. Its protagonist is the Tracker, a tough-talking loner whose sense of smell leads him to his quarry and here to a momentous task. The opening pages show the Tracker as a young man leaving home both to escape his family and confront his people’s enemies, as he refines his skills, discovers a shocking secret about his parentage, helps a group of children (e.g., Smoke Girl, Giraffe Boy) abandoned for their weirdness as cursed, and meets the sardonic, shapeshifting Leopard , with whom he forms a close but testy relationship. But the journey’s the thing, as the Tracker is later engaged by a slaver to find a kidnapped child, reputedly the son of a North Kingdom elder who riled the king and was slaughtered with his family. In his efforts, the Tracker grudgingly allows himself to be joined by the Leopard , the Moon Witch Sogolon, the perfidious Nyka, and others. As they move through the Darklands and subsequent fraught territories toward the Southern Kingdom, they encounter witches and demons, flesh-eating trolls, splendidly dressed mercenaries, vampires, necromancers, ancient griots, and a wise, magisterial buffalo. References to harsh pansexual encounters often shift events forward, and the entire story is framed as a tale told to an inquisitor, though we are a long way from understanding from whence he came—this is the first in the “Dark Star” trilogy. VERDICT As the Tracker realizes, “The only way forward is through,” and it’s the same for readers. Highly recommended for fantasy lovers who welcome a grand new challenge, as James launches an unglorified if gloriously delivered story that feels eminently real despite the hobgoblins, and for literary readers, eager to see the world—and James’s particular talents—in a new light. [See Prepub Alert, 7/31/18; Editors’ Spring Picks, p. 22.] –Barbara Hoffert (Reviewed 02/01/2019) (Library Journal, vol 144, issue 2, p68)

Girl, Woman, Other
by Bernardine Evaristo

Shortlisted for the 2019 Man Booker Prize, Anglo-Nigerian writer Evaristo’s (Mr. Loverman, 2014) courageous and intersectional novel explores Black British identity and unfolds in a single night, or over the course of 100 years, depending on how readers look at it. It opens with the story of Amma, a formerly fringe, lesbian playwright whose newest work, The Last Amazon of Dahomey, opens tonight at London’s National Theatre. Her daughter, Yazz, uber-confident thanks to Amma’s emotionally affirming parenting, goes next, followed by Dominique, Amma’s longtime friend and one-time partner in artistic consciousness- and hell-raising. Following chapters expand the novel’s web three characters at a time (a table of contents lists their names, but it’s exciting to be surprised by the revelation of who will take center stage) until there are 12: 11 women  and 1 nonbinary person. Evaristo uses minimal punctuation and fluid paragraphs for a high-velocity style of exposition. And, oh, what is exposed. Hearing from mothers and their children, teachers and their students across generations, readers might expect that they’ll get to see just what these characters can’t know about one another, but they won’t imagine the dazzling specificities nor the unspooling dramas; they will be entertained, educated, and riveted. — Annie Bostrom (Reviewed 11/1/2019) (Booklist, vol 116, number 5, p17)

Call Me American: A Memoir
by Abdi Nor Iftin

Nor Iftin’s experience was the “gory terrorism” of Mogadishu, Somalia, the setting of Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down. His pastoral parents retreated to the city when drought decimated their herds. A brief period of prosperity soon descended into warfare with Islamic terrorist activity infiltrating the city and affection for American  ways endangering one’s life. Nicknamed “Abdi American ,” the author had a love of Western movies that was dangerous. He quickly parlayed that affinity into learning English fluently and met reporter Paul Salopek, who featured him in a 2009 Atlantic article. Opportunities for public radio reporting generated American  connections that finally led him to resettle in Maine. While focusing on his life in Somalia, the horror and tribulations of his family become explicit. Sadly, the volume ends with President Trump’s stance on immigration, which prevents Nor Iftin from visiting his family in Somalia and them from joining him in America. VERDICT A harrowing success story of escaping terrorism, overcoming government bureaucracy, and experiencing pure luck, this insightful debut yields an inside look at a largely forgotten conflict that continues to rage. –Jessica Bushore (Reviewed 05/01/2018) (Library Journal, vol 143, issue 8, p72)


The Old Drift
by Namwali Serpell

Serpell’s debut is a rich, complex saga of three intertwined families over the  course of more than a century. The  epic stretches out from a single violent encounter: in the  early 20th century, a British colonialist adopts North-western Rhodesia (now Zambia) as his home, settling in the Old Drift , a settlement near Victoria Falls, where the  colonist gets into a fateful skirmish with a local hotelier. After this, readers first meet Sibilla, the  hotelier’s granddaughter, a woman born with hair covering her body, who runs away to Africa with a man who frequents the  wealthy Italian estate at which her mother is a servant; then, in England, there’s Agnes, the  colonialist’s granddaughter, a rich white girl and talented tennis player who goes blind and falls in love with a student who, unbeknownst to her, is black; and Matha, the  servant’s granddaughter, a spirited prodigy who joins a local radical’s avant-garde activism. In part two, Agnes’s son, Lionel, has an affair with Matha’s daughter, which leads to a confrontation that also involves Naila, Sibilla’s granddaughter. Serpell expertly weaves in a preponderance of themes, issues, and history, including Zambia’s independence, the  AIDS epidemic, white supremacy, patriarchy, familial legacy, and the  infinite variations of lust and love. Recalling the  work of Toni Morrison and Gabriel García Márquez as a sometimes magical, sometimes horrifically real portrait of a place, Serpell’s novel goes into the  future of the  2020s, when the  various plot threads come together in a startling conclusion. Intricately imagined, brilliantly constructed, and staggering in its scope, this is an astonishing novel. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (Mar.) –Staff (Reviewed 01/07/2019) (Publishers Weekly, vol 266, issue 1, p)

Walker's Bookshelf

Non-fiction Friday: History Books

Non-fiction Friday: History Books

Renowned historian David McCullough once addressed the graduating seniors of Wesleyan University and said, “History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” If you’re looking for titles that explores the past to help understand the present, here is a list of recently published history books you can borrow now.

This Land is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving
by David J. Silverman

What it’s about: the complex 50-year alliance between the Wampanoag tribe and European colonizers that ended with King Philip’s War, a three-year conflict that almost completely annihilated the Wampanoag.

Why you might like it: This impassioned narrative centers the Wampanoag people’s experiences, offering insights into why the alliance was brokered and how the tribe persisted in the face of devastation. 

Don’t miss: profiles of Wampanoag activists, including Frank James (1923-2001), who established the National Day of Mourning in 1970. 

The Ship of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era
by Gareth Russell

What it is: an extensively researched, evocatively detailed account of the Titanic‘s fateful voyage as experienced by six first-class passengers.

Featuring: Lucy Leslie, Countess of Rothes, who rowed a lifeboat full of passengers to safety; Jewish American immigrant Ida Strauss, who chose to die with her husband rather than board a lifeboat without him.  

Don’t miss: Author Gareth Russell’s debunking of many of the popular conspiracy theories and falsehoods about the ship’s sinking.  

Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism Indifference and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
by Jessica McDiarmid

What it is: a heart-wrenching exposé on British Columbia’s Highway 16, known as the “Highway of Tears” because of the disappearances or murders of many Indigenous girls and women in the area.

Why it matters: Journalist Jessica McDiarmid’s “powerful must-read” (Booklist) illuminates how these unsolved and under-reported crimes are a microcosm of the systemic forces that continue to fail vulnerable Indigenous populations throughout Canada.

Checkpoint Charlie: The Cold War, the Berlin Wall, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth
by Iain MacGregor

What it’s about: how Cold War tensions spurred the construction of Checkpoint Charlie, the border crossing separating East and West Germany that became a powerful symbol of the era.

Why you might like it: This dramatic, well-researched account was published to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

What sets it apart: never-before-seen interviews with border guards, intelligence operatives, and escapees.

Broke: Hardship & Resilience in a City of Broken Promises
by Jodie Adams Kirshner, foreword by Michael Eric Dyson

What it is: an eye-opening portrait of Detroit, Michigan following the city’s 2013 bankruptcy filing. 

What’s inside: profiles of seven Detroit citizens trying to make a better life while facing poverty, urban blight, and government negligence. 

Try this next: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist (and Detroit native) Charlie LeDuff’s Detroit: An American Autopsy similarly surveys the lives of everyday citizens navigating the Motor City’s tumultuous changes. 

Walker's Bookshelf

Winter Weather Whodunit

There is something about mystery/crime fiction that goes well with the winter season. If you crave the gritty, atmospheric, and claustrophobic feeling that this book genre offers, here is a list of recently published books that you can borrow from the library now.

The Butterfly Girl by Rene Denfeld

In Denfeld’s second novel, Naomi Cottle returns and focuses her attention on a case close to her. Naomi wants to find her missing sister, whom she left behind when she fled captivity as a child. But how would Naomi solve the mystery if she cannot remember the time before or during her captivity? While in Portland, Oregon, figuring out the mystery of her missing sister, Naomi learns that missing girls are ending up dead. The story explores how people deal with traumatic experiences. This mystery is for those who enjoy fast-paced and compelling stories in the style of Harlan Coben’s Runaway and Lisa Gardner’s Love You.

Heaven, my Home by Attica Locke

Nine-year old Levi King has disappeared. His family has ties to the Aryan Brotherhood. His father, Bill “Big Kill” King, is known for killing a black man but never being convicted for it. Levi was last seen on Caddo Lake in Jefferson, a community steeped in antebellum history. When African American Texas Ranger Darren Matthews is sent to investigate, his initial suspicions are confirmed that there is more to the child’s disappearance than familial problems. Attica Locke’s second novel does not disappoint. It is a well-written and compelling crime novel that explores the mindset and culture of a small-town community in the Southwest. If you enjoy crime stories by Walter Mosley, Greg Iles, and Thomas Mullen, you will enjoy Attica Locke’s Heaven, My Home.

Gallow’s Court by Martin Edwards

Set in London in 1930, Rachel Savernake, a 24-year old heiress turns her interest to sleuthing. When she beats Scotland Yard in solving a recent murder, Rachel attracts the interest of both police inspectors and Fleet Street reporters, specifically one by the name of Jacob Flint, who has started looking into the case a bit more. Jacob slowly finds that Rachel has something to hide. This atmospheric mystery is intricately plotted with suspense that will keep readers turning the page. If you like Rhys Bowen and Agatha Christie, you will enjoy Martin Edwards’ latest novel.

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup

The Chestnut Man is Soren Sveistrup’s (creator and writer of the Danish TV Series The Killing) first foray into writing novels. He covers all the bases about what makes a great crime fiction story. Set in Copenhagen, a woman is found murdered with a small doll made of chestnut beside her. Newly paired Detectives Naia Thulin and Mark Hess are asked to investigate the case. When they find a fingerprint of a missing girl on the chestnut doll, both Detectives Thulin and Hess know that they have serial killer on the loose. With unexpected plots and twists, Sveistrup leaves his readers with bated breath as we follow the unlikely heroes as they race to catch the killer known as the “Chestnut Man”.

The Truth Behind the Lie by Sara Lovestam

Swedish children’s and young adult author, Sara Lovestam’s debut mystery novel first appeared in 2015 and won both the Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy Award and the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere. The story revolves around two characters who live on the fringe of society. Kouplan, an undocumented Iranian refugee, is struggling to survive in Stockholm, Sweden. He decides to place an ad online claiming that he is a private investigator, even though he has neither credentials nor any prior experience. When Pernilla’s six-year-old daughter goes missing, she sees the ad online and decides to hire Kouplan. Despite his fears of the police and deportation, Kouplan diligently investigates the missing person’s case. Lovestam’s novel slowly builds and readers will find themselves invested in its two fully-realized characters, Kouplan and Pernilla.

Bad Axe County by John Galligan

In 2004, Heidi White has just given a speech as the Wisconsin Dairy Queen when she learns that her parents have been shot on their farm. The police concludes that it was a murder-suicide, but Heidi believes that is not the case. Fifteen years later, Heidi finds herself the first female sheriff of Bad Axe County, Wisconsin. Still known as the Dairy Queen, she not only struggles with endless crimes in the town but also with sexism. Upon hearing that the old sheriff of Bad Axe County is dead, Angus Beavers, a long-time native who used to be known as the local baseball star, returns home and pursues a cold murder case. Slowly, John Galligan brings the stories of these characters together in a mystery that involves misogyny, human trafficking, child abuse, and murder. A portrait of the midwest that’s never seen before, Galligan’s Bad Axe County is all you could ask for in atmospheric noir fiction.