Ten Books to Diversify Your School’s Reading List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish in which book bloggers list their top ten picks for whatever the current prompt is.

Wow, it’s been ages since my last Top Ten Tuesday! Where is the handbook for this?

With the recent horrifying incident in Charlottesville and this article and that regarding YA Twitter, lists that talk about diversity in literature are relevant more than ever. And since today’s prompt is all about required reading, I thought I’d tweak it a bit and give you Ten Books to Diversify Your School’s Reading List. Or, you know, the school you graduated from. Because you’re already a 20-something adult. Like me. But I digress! I cannot stress this enough. We still need diverse books and there’s still a lot of work to do. We can start by taking a cue from Kate McKean and “support the things [we] want to exist in the world.” (Hint: one easy way is to request these titles from your local libraries if they don’t already have them. Or if you have the money, maybe it’s time to update your shelves at home.)

NOTE: The list is in chronological order of publication and I included #ownvoices from the information I can find in the internet.

*Click the cover to be directed to the book’s Goodreads page.*

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian 01   Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe   We Should All be Feminists 01

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Spokane-Coeur d’Alene-AmericanI would like to begin with a work that probably is on your reading list. Although, there’s a good chance that this oft-banned book has been removed from it. So. Call for a repeal!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Mexican-American, gay. By now, you should be well aware of my inexorable love for this breathtaking and breathtakingly poignant story of two Mexican-American boys who learn the wonders and power of friendship.

We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Nigerian. Allow me to convince you with a quotation from the author herself:

“But by far the worst thing we do to males – by making them feel they have to be hard – is that we leave them with very fragile egos. The harder a man feels compelled to be, the weaker his ego is.
And then we do a much greater disservice to girls, because we raise them to cater to the fragile egos of males.
We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller.
We say to girls, ‘You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man. If you are the breadwinner in your relationship with a man, pretend that you are not, especially in public, otherwise you will emasculate him.'”

Brown Girl Dreaming 01   Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda   Challenger Deep 01

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
African-American, lesbian. Jacqueline Woodson has won multiple awards not for nothing. In Brown Girl Dreaming, she recounts her childhood—growing up as a black girl both in the North and the South—in these beautiful and moving vignettes. The author looks at race, family, self-discovery, and how stories helped her find her voice. It is faintly elegiac but also deeply comforting.

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
I mean. C’mon. You definitely saw this one coming. It’s about a closeted gay whose identity is at risk of being exposed by a classmate and who is also maybe falling in love with a boy he’s been exchanging e-mails with. But more than anything, it’s a thoughtful, adorable tale of coming out and coming of age with a spot-on voice.

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
This National Book Award-winning novel is a keen observation on schizophrenia.

Fans of the Impossible Life 01   All American Boys 01   History is All You Left Me 03   The Hate U Give 01

Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa
Lesbian. In 2015, I pronounced this as a title champions of the We Need Diverse Books campaign should be talking about. It’s 2017 and I still often find myself shoving it to people. Intersectional diversity, you guys! Plus, fine storytelling.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
African-American (Reynolds). Police brutality and systemic racism are at the center of this 2016 Coretta Scott King Author Honor book.

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
Puerto Rican-American, gay. Silvera brings a lot to the table and he’s a name you’d always find in my arsenal of book recommendations. In his latest, he delivers a surprisingly quiet, thoughtful exploration of friendship, grief, love, and loss. His MC also happens to be gay with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). 

The Hate U Give by Angie C. Thomas
African-American. I have yet to pick this one up but by all accounts from people whose opinion I value, Thomas’ debut is an important contribution to YA.

Complement this with SLJ’s 42 Diverse Must-Have YA Titles for Every Library and Elizabeth Campbell’s 50 Years of Young Adult Literature +.

Have you read any of these? Tell me about your lists!

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Monthly Bookish Awesomeness: July 2015

In which I recap what went down in the last four weeks here and outside the blog.

July had been utterly wondrous. I met the lovely Robyn Schneider—as smart and funny and nerdy as her work. My dearest godson Carlisle, who is the adorablest, turned three. I was more actively present in our church than ever and still had the energy to help organize a bloggers/readers meet up. I had my visa interview. And on top of these I managed to blog regularly and finish six (6!) books. Time is a peculiar thing.

Books I Read

Extraordinary Means 02Fans of the Impossible Life 02The Night We Said Yes 02

Other Stuff I Posted

Book Birthdays

Paperweight   You and Me and Him 01   Go Set a Watchman 01

Happy book birthday to Paperweight (7th, HarperTeen), You and Me and Him (7th, HMH Books for Young Readers), and Go Set a Watchman (14th, Harper), which all found a place in the shelves this month!

Book Radar

Never Always Sometimes 01   Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes 01   Another Day 01   The Rest of Us Just Live Here 01

This coming month, I’m excited for Never Always Sometimes (4th, Harlequin Teen), Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes (18th, Disney Hyperion Books) (!!!!!), Another Day (25th, Alfred A. Knopf BFYR), The Wild Ones (25th, Philomel Books), and The Rest of Us Just Live Here (27th, Walker Books).

Gold Star

#BOOKWORMSUNITE YOU GUYS!!!

It’s strange how we pulled this off but we did. Three weeks maybe. Three weeks was all it took to, in a whim, suggest a meet up, get an enthusiastic response, brainstorm, put the words out and make it happen. But stranger is the event itself. Stranger is people actually showing up. Stranger is people actually having fun. In fact, standing in that room, in a coffee shop roughly sixty miles from home, I’ve never felt more myself, more at ease with my own skin, amongst people I’ve only either met briefly before or known online. Some even were just introduced that afternoon. But I felt the camaraderie. It was heartwarming. And I’m grateful Dianne, Hazel, Inah, Faye and Aimee all said yes that fortunate day.

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Around the Interwebs

Now that I actually have a news feature, aptly called Unmissable Weekly, there will be less items in this section.

How was your month? What was the amazing book or film or music or dessert you consumed? Is there a post you think I should check out? Also, HAVE YOU READ Go Set a Watchman? Sound of in the comments below!

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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REVIEW: Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa

Fans of the Impossible Life 02

Title: Fans of the Impossible Life
Author: Kate Scelsa
Format: ARC, 356 pages
Publication: September 8th 2015 by Balzer + Bray/HarperTeen
Source: Gifted by the author (thank you so much Kate!)
Genre: Fiction—Coming of Age, Contemporary, Realistic
Other classifications: Depression and Mental Illness, LGBTQIA, Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository | Fully Booked

Synopsis

MIRA is starting over at Saint Francis Prep. She promised her parents she would at least try to pretend that she could act like a functioning human this time, not a girl who can’t get out of bed for days on end, who only feels awake when she’s with Sebby.

JEREMY is the painfully shy art nerd at Saint Francis who’s been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn, it’s as if he’s been expecting him.

SEBBY, Mira’s gay best friend, seems to carry sunlight around him. Even as life in his foster home starts to take its toll, Sebby and Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and impromptu road trips, designed to fix the broken parts of their lives.

As Jeremy finds himself drawn into Sebby and Mira’s world, he begins to understand the secrets that they hide in order to protect themselves, to keep each other safe from those who don’t understand their quest to live for the impossible.

Review

I received a review copy from the author which in no way swayed my opinion about the work.

As eloquent as it is heartfelt, Fans of the Impossible Life takes storytelling to a higher class and diversity higher still.

Let me be the first to say that this is a novel—if not the novel—champions of the We Need Diverse Books campaign should be talking about. Scelsa delivers a coming of age at once achingly moving and softly poetic told from the perspectives of her three MCs. Her play at different points of view is nothing short of adroit—Jeremy’s chapters are in first person, Sebby’s in second and Mira’s in third. And it totally works, both in function and aesthetic. It provides a window into the complexities of her characters, and boy are they complex.

“… you lay awake on that night’s floor thinking about what you could have said to them to make them understand. What it felt like to know that the two people who knew you best couldn’t ever really know what your life was like.”

The author also doesn’t shy away from the hard edges of her story. Fans of the Impossible Life covered many important issues without once feeling overwhelming nor romanticized. There’s drug abuse, identity crisis, depression, suicide, bullying, racism—you name it, it’s probably in here. And Scelsa approached these with insight and sensitivity. Just as much as she paid her secondary characters attention. I am particularly impressed by the fact that they have these stuff going on for them. Like, Talia is whatever, I’m incredibly furious at her for what she did in the end BUT she was the one who helped Jeremy through his catastrophic episode, who apologized to him for not speaking up. And there’s Julie, perfect Julie who doesn’t wanna deal with Mira’s drama BUT who shows up, not attending her lecture to be with her as soon as she comes home.

“I had been nothing before that moment and one day I would be nothing again. But there and then my life was real. With his lips, and his lovely mouth.”

Early this year, Malinda Lo wrote an essay on perceptions of diversity in book reviews—in fact it’s just one in a four-part series which you need to read if you care about diversity. In it, she cited a critique that blatantly pronounced ““perfectly ethnically and sexually diverse” cast as “scarcely plausible,”” a suggestion that “this diversity would not have existed naturally; it needed effort.” Okay. Not only do I call total BS on this problematic trade review, I have Fans of the Impossible Life to reinforce my claim. Scelsa’s debut has multiple POC characters and characters representing three (3!) different orientations from the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. But what’s really remarkable is the ease with which the author handled sexual and racial diversity. It doesn’t just look at individual experiences, it’s reflected in the family structures of her main players. One of the leads has two gay dads. Another has interracial parents. They get loads of crap for this and I’m thinking, that’s reality. It feels natural because this happens today, no matter how much we long for the contrary.

“At that point she was keeping the crying hidden. When it first started, she let people see it because she didn’t know what else to do. She thought if they could witness her in the middle of this thing, then they might be able to understand. But they couldn’t. It was exhausting for others to watch. For herself to experience. So she stopped showing them.”

I’m not you, but if I were, I’d be a fan of Fans of the Impossible Life too.

4.5 out of 5

Author

Kate Scelsa

Kate Scelsa has performed in New York and around the world with experimental theater company Elevator Repair Service in their trilogy of works based on great American literature, including an eight-hour-long performance that uses the entire text of The Great Gatsby. Kate lives in Brooklyn with her wife and two black cats.

Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Website

Blogger’s note: I buddy-read this book with Wesaun @ Oreo and Books and it is SO GOOD we both finished it in a 24-hour time frame.

Is this on your TBR list? If not, have I convinced you to include it? (Because, really, you definitely should check this out.) Do you think there are such works with “too much issues” or “too diverse”? And what about you, what was the last awesome book you read that celebrates diversity? Or just any solid 5-star read. Let’s talk!

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases for the Rest of 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish in which book bloggers list their top ten picks for whatever the current prompt is.

As if the pool of new releases from the first half of 2015 isn’t loaded enough with brilliant, incredibly moving books…

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*Click the cover to be directed to the book’s Goodreads page.*

Untitled-4   Go Set a Watchman 01   Another Day 01

The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibaldi (June 16th, HarperTeen)
There’s something quietly sublime that instantly jumped at me when I first came across this debut novel. Here’s me hoping it turns out to be that and more.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (July 14th, Harper)
Notwithstanding all the shady accounts circling the publication of probably the most anticipated summer release of the year, which also happened to break the internet in February, I’m really looking forward to picking this one up. There’s no mention of Jem in the bajillion articles, but I hope he’s still part of the story somehow.

Another Day by David Levithan (August 25th, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)
For obvious reasons like, say, I love Every Day. In fact, I started sticking note pads on my wall after reading it.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here 01   Cut Both Ways 01   Fans of the Impossible Life 01

(Side note: look at those pulchritudinous covers in a row!)

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (August 27th, Walker Books)
THIS. I mean, if “What if you aren’t the Chosen One?” doesn’t get you on board, I’m not sure what else would.

Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian (September 1st, HarperCollins)
Dysfunctional family? Yes please! Plus, the synopsis reminds me of the Austin-Shann-Robby situation from Grasshopper Jungle.

Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa (September 8th, Balzer + Bray)
You know how the world is tired of the token gay best friend, where said best friend gets to have the extraordinary defining quality of, well, “just gay”? That and that alone. Okay, Scelsa promises to smash this archetypal ridiculousness. Also, best friend stories—especially ones that don’t turn into romance—are up my alley. So.

Stand-Off 01   This Monstrous Thing 01   Carry On 01   The League of Unexceptional Children 01

Stand-Off by Andrew Smith (September 8th, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Um, DUH?

This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee (Semptember 22nd, Katherine Tegen Books)
Maybe it’s that I am not close with my elder brother, maybe not, but narratives with a focus on siblings relationship are four-point-five-out-of-five in the Things Shelumiel is a Sucker for Rating System.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (October 6th, St. Martin’s Griffin)
Rainbow Rowell Rainbow Rowell Rainbow Freakin’ Rowell! (And again, cover score!)

The League of Unexceptional Children by Gitty Daneshvari (October 20th, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
This will be the Underdog Anthem! Or whatever the bookish equivalent is. And just, for a minute, drool over that cover!

So now you know that when I told you last week that I have an affinity for HarperCollins titles I’m not giving you BS. And allow me a moment to call myself out; I have only one (1!) POC author. And while women writers are up on 70%, I still feel terrible because I can do better. I should do better.

What’s on your list? Are there titles I missed?

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