It makes total sense that Book Lovers Day would fall right in the middle of the hottest days of summer, when there really isn’t anything better than sitting in front of the air conditioning (or some other cooling device) and reading. As it happens, as I’ve been in the homestretch of finishing a work in progress for young adults, I’ve also been immersed in reading books for young readers of color by writers of color — like a message of love from the universe. Here are some of the books I’ve read & been reading lately that have won my heart:
- Fresh Ink: An Anthology: I got a sneak peek at this one (Oh, the rewards of being a book nerd are few, but feel so enormous sometimes…) since the pub date is next week, on August 14th. I love the color, and adore the mission of We Need Diverse Books, cofounded by the anthology’s editor, novelist Lamar Giles. Here, he’s compiled fresh, and beautiful short stories by a constellation of YA’s strongest voices. I’m not all the way through, but stand-outs so far are “Why I Learned to Cook” by Sara Farizan, (whose third novel, Here to Stay, is incredibly timely and comes out this fall) Walter Dean Myers’ “Tags,” a one-act play that’s previously never been published and Melinda Lo’s (adorable) “Meet Cute.” I can’t wait to dig into the rest of the collection, especially stories from Daniel Jose Older & Melissa de la Cruz and Nicola Yoon. This is a collection that isn’t to be missed — it fully represents the world in which our youth live, which is what makes it so fresh. There are parts of Eric Gansworth’s “Don’t Pass Me By,” that are laugh out loud funny, and other moments of regular ‘ol teen angst that show that stories in own voices are also universal stories of kids who are just kids. The book is a relief.
- Courage: One of the things that’s inspiring about talking to writers who write for a young audience and particularly for children of color (who often don’t see themselves reflected in literature, so get turned away from books at a young age) is that they often have such an interesting path to get to the page. Barbara Binns is one such author — and I interviewed her for Kirkus about her first middle-grade novel to be published by a large press, Courage. After other careers, Binns took a brief foray into romance writing for adults before she learned that the Black boys, in particular, are often resistant or struggling readers because no one really writes for them. She’s written to try and fill the gap for years, and Courage is another, larger step in that effort. It’s the story of 12-year-old T’Shawn, who is navigating the loss of a parent, the homecoming of a formerly incarcerated older brother, a crush and being the newest addition to his swimming team.
- Proud: Young Reader’s Edition: “People think that there are limitations to what women and people of color can achieve,” Muhammad said when I interviewed her for Kirkus Reviews. She made history in spite of a number of odds as the first woman to compete in hijab, and more adversities that she describes in both the adult and young adult versions of her memoir. “It’s part of my life’s work to break through that box people try to put you in.”
I’m reading some other books, of course, but I’ll save all that for another time. What are you reading this summer? How are you liking it? What’s your favorite?