Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, March 29, 2022


Forge: Project Namahana by John Teschner

From My Shelf

Honoring Indigenous Women's Histories & Stories

Recently, I saw a trivia question posted at a coffee shop: When was Women's History Month created in the U.S.? The answer surprised me: 1987. But of course, women--and their histories and stories--have been in North America for millennia, long before the United States existed. To close the month, here are six outstanding works by or centering Indigenous women.

Tiffany Midge's Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese's is abundant with brilliant satire: "For a thousand dollars," she promises, "I'll teach you sacred Native American rituals. The first cleansing rite involves you, a brush, ammonia, and my kitchen floor." She also offers cutting commentary without the balm of humor: "When a language dies, a piece of humanity dies with it." Next, Alicia Elliott echoes this theme in her affecting Canadian bestseller A Mind Spread Out on the Ground (Melville House, $18), named for a rough translation of the Mohawk phrase for depression: "[W]hen you learn a people's language, you learn their culture. It tells you how they think of the world, how they experience it."

In Red Paint (Counterpoint, $25), Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe, poet and songwriter from the Nooksack and Upper Skagit Indian tribes, reflects incisively on her own life and the lives of powerful women throughout her family's lineage. Kali Fajardo-Anstine, in her 2020 American Book Award winner, Sabrina & Corina: Stories (One World, $17), crafts nuanced short stories of complex women reckoning with love, systems and land, centering Latinas of Indigenous descent.

I recommend Natalie Diaz's entire catalogue, but start with her 2021 Pulitzer Prize-winner for Poetry, Postcolonial Love Poem (Graywolf, $16). Finally, cherish the The Tao of Raven: An Alaska Native Memoir (University of Washington Press, $17) by Ernestine Hayes. It offers moving multi-genre meditations on place and identity, and possibilities eclipsed and futures envisioned. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer


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The Writer's Life

LeUyen Pham and Shannon Hale: 'A Peek into Our Bubble'

Shannon Hale (l.) and LeUven Pham
(photo: Alex Puvilland

LeUyen Pham and Shannon Hale are the team behind the graphic novels Real Friends, Best Friends and Friends Forever and, with Dean Hale, the early chapter book series The Princess in Black. Pham lives in Los Angeles; Hale lives in Utah. They are both moms of kids who aren't afraid to get messy, wives to husbands who make art, Honor award winners (Caldecott and Newbery, respectively), caretakers of cats and believers in unicorns. Here they chat here about co-writing, the magic of friendship and the follow-up to their picture book Itty-Bitty Kitty-Corn, Pretty Perfect Kitty-Corn (Abrams Books for Young Readers, $18.99).

LeUyen Pham: Okay, Shannon, why don't you start by telling how we first came up with the idea for Kitty-Corn.

Shannon Hale: We were on tour for Best Friends. You and I are similar--when we're on tour, we're still working. Between two school visits, we were in a coffee shop. I was supposed to be revising a manuscript and you were working on a picture book, but we started talking about what would it be like if writers and illustrators created picture books together, side-by-side.

Pham: This was such a departure from anything I'd done before. It was like returning to childhood with your best friend and scribbling in a corner and doing something for the pure joy of it, rather than with the intent of anyone reading it. For that alone, it was so special. We could have been snuggled up at a sleepover together, scribbling away in the dark and producing this special thing. That's where Itty Bitty Kitty-Corn was born, between two friends.

Hale: We've often said, "Oh, if only we had grown up together, we would have been making books together all the time." This was like stepping back through time, being kids together, and coming up with a book as a game. It was pure delight.

Pham: The longer I've been in this industry, the more I realize that true connections between creators is not common. It's rare, what you and I have, and I'm not saying that because you're my best friend. I'm saying that because I feel like it's hard to make these connections in a visual and creative way. Between us, there's no ego involved. And when there's no ego involved, it becomes all about the joy of making art. I love that I'm never scared to share any ideas with you. You're always going to be protective of everything that I say and do and I'm going to be equally protective of you. That goes beyond friendship--it goes beyond anything I've experienced in my creative life. I think the closest it comes to (and my husband will hate hearing this) is marriage. I feel very, very taken care of. There's this creative bubble between us where we make stories for each other. And every once in a while, we share those stories with the rest of the world. That's what Kitty-Corn is, a peek into our bubble.

Hale: It's no coincidence that this book is about that kind of a friendship. We've got a tall, majestic unicorn and an adorable fluffy kitty--two characters who the world views very differently--but they see in each other this kinship. They are both kitty-corns, and their friendship meets in that place where they are so similar.

Pham: The first book came about very easily, because again, we were just two kids having fun with each other and trying to make each other laugh. The second book was tougher. Do you think it's because we had expectations? Because now we were anticipating an audience? Why was it so hard?

Hale: I think co-writing is always harder. It can be rewarding emotionally, and you end up with something unique, but it's challenging to balance someone else's ideas with your own. There's a reason why improv comedy is so scary! The first book was serendipitous, but with the second we didn't discover the heart of the story right away--we went back and forth for months. I revised the script, you revised the sketches, over and over. We could both tell it wasn't working, but we didn't know why. We might have given up, but I think that we were lucky that we've both been doing this for so many years, we have the muscle memory that when it's not working, you just keep working.

Pham: We were also exposing more of the personality of the characters than we did before. You and I have a very clear idea of who Kitty and Unicorn are, we're already very familiar with their universe beyond just the books. You and I have this ongoing debate as to which of us is Unicorn, usually depending on how good we feel about ourselves that day. But in this new book, I heavily identified as Kitty because she's the artist. And poor Unicorn is subjected to embarrassment and gets to be the silly one, all to try to please her kitty friend. And that is so YOU, Shannon! You're definitely the star of this one.

We're working on the third and fourth one now, and these are coming much more easily. I'm guessing it's because our co-writing gears are turned on. It's a little more fun to come up with ideas where we surprise each other with the solutions. We can't talk much about the third book, but you came up with a great solution for that one. You had called me with the cleverest solution, and as you were describing it to me, my brain was reaching the same conclusion at the same time. KISMET!

Hale: That's happened to me with you, too! If I can get mystical for a second, I think about how everything is made of energy, and it doesn't matter that you and I are in different states. We're still linked energetically just like anybody that really cares for somebody else. And when we sync up like that creatively, it is so cool.

Pham: Yeah, it's a bit magical, I can't find any other way to describe it. Kitty-Corn is the greatest manifestation of what our friendship is. I feel like we have so much to say about these characters, because they're US. And we'll always have something to say as long as we stay friends. Kitty-Corn is evidence of what a genuine friendship is.

Hale: Yes! We wanted it to be funny. But at the heart we are so sincere in our love of these two characters and their friendship because we're creating it out of our own genuine friendship.


Tundra Books (NY): Professor Goose Debunks Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Paulette Bourgeois, illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths


Book Candy

Fascinating Facts About Scrabble

Mental Floss shared "15 fascinating facts about Scrabble."

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"A cast of 12 astrological words" was offered by Merriam-Webster. "We predict that you will not know them all."

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The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture offered "a short bibliography of the Black elite: books about Black high society in the Gilded Age."

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"Netflix shows turned into children's storybook covers are flipping amusing," Design Taxi noted.

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"The Drolatic Dreams of Pantagruel: 120 woodcuts envision the grotesque inhabitants of Rabelais' world (1565)." (via Open Culture)


Tyndale House Publishers: Long Way Home by Lynn Austin


Great Reads

Rediscover: Pachinko

On March 25, Apple TV+ released the first three episodes of Pachinko, based on the 2017 novel by Min Jin Lee. It follows four generations of a Korean family in occupied Korea and as immigrants in Japan between 1910 and 1989, where they struggle to survive severe poverty and racism. The book takes its name from pachinko machines, similar to slot machines and extremely popular in Japan, highlighting the capricious paths of the characters' lives. Min Jin Lee's book received rave reviews and was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction. It is available in paperback from Grand Central ($17.99).

The series, written and executive produced by Soo Hugh (The Terror), is told in three languages: Korean, Japanese and English. The cast includes Min Ho Lee (Boys over Flowers, The Heirs), Jin Ha (Devs, Love Life), Anna Sawai (Fast & Furious 9, Ninja Assassin), Minha Kim (Call, After Spring), Soji Arai (Cobra Kai, Legacies) and Kaho Minami (Angel Dust, Household X). Filmmakers Justin Chon and Kogonada each directed four episodes of the eight-episode first season. Apple TV+ will release a new episode every Friday until the season finale on April 29. The series thus far has received outstanding reviews. --Tobias Mutter


Book Review

Fiction

Disorientation

by Elaine Hsieh Chou


A Taiwanese American doctoral student uncovers an academic conspiracy of epic proportions against a backdrop of campus unrest in Elaine Hsieh Chou's gleefully dark and incisive first novel, Disorientation.

Ingrid Yang, a student at the "firmly middling institution" Barnes University, wanted to become a professor of modernist literature. She never intended to write her dissertation on Xiao-Wen Chou, the "so-called Chinese Robert Frost" and former Barnes professor, the college's single claim to fame. Her academic adviser Michael Bartholomew, a white professor of East Asian Studies, cajoled her into the topic with the lure of a tenured professorship named after the famous poet. Now 29, with student loan debt rising, and secretly hoping she'll develop ulcers so she can fail her dissertation blamelessly, Ingrid has made almost no progress. She can't find a fresh angle on the widely researched poet.

During another desperate research session, she finds a mysterious, insulting correction on a page of her notes, signed with a fake name. Ingrid becomes obsessed with finding the writer, first hiring a PI and then playing sleuth herself. The truth she uncovers will shake Barnes to its foundation.

Though mainly a traditional third-person narrative, the story occasionally veers into a multiformat approach evocative of Charles Yu's Interior Chinatown, including a dream sequence told through a courtroom transcript in which secondary characters try Ingrid for dating only white men. Chou's examination of the catch-22s faced by Asian Americans, particularly women, straddles the line between satiric and searing. Disorientation is the best combination of entertaining and thought-provoking, and Chou is an exciting new voice in fiction. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: A struggling Taiwanese American Ph.D. student uncovers a conspiracy at her university in this gleefully incisive satire.

Penguin Press, $28, hardcover, 416p., 9780593298350

Mystery & Thriller

Nine Lives

by Peter Swanson


Echoes of Agatha Christie reverberate through Nine Lives as Peter Swanson (Every Vow You Break; Eight Perfect Murders), in his eighth novel, brings a fresh, contemporary approach to the classic And Then There Were None.

As the title suggests, nine characters--strangers to each other and hailing from different parts of the country--inhabit the brisk plot that begins on a high note and maintains that standard through the various, plausible twists. Despite the large cast of characters, Swanson deftly delves into each personality, investing readers in their backstories. Each death is expected, yet still surprising.

Each of them--a stressed father, an aspiring actor and stalker, a singer-songwriter, a resort owner, a retired businessman, a wealthy man's mistress, an English professor and an oncology nurse--receives an envelope containing an identical list of nine names, including their own. There's no return address to hint at the sender. Jessica Winslow, an FBI agent in Albany, N.Y., is also listed. She is the first to notice when someone on this list is murdered, and she tries to track down the others across the country--the names are not that unusual--and discover the link. But Winslow's investigation stalls--some of the people have just tossed out the list while others refuse to return a call from the FBI.

Swanson takes his cue from Christie regarding plot development, but his intense storytelling energizes Nine Lives. Swanson delivers a surprising but believable resolution that ties together all the characters in this solid thriller. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer 

Discover: In Peter Swanson's energetic thriller, nine strangers receive an envelope that contains only a list of names, including their own--and then the murders start.

Morrow, $27.99, hardcover, 336p., 9780062980076

The Long Weekend

by Gilly MacMillan


In The Long Weekend, Gilly MacMillan's haunting and captivating seventh thriller, three couples are spending the weekend at Dark Fell Barn, a rustic outpost so far removed from civilization that it doesn't even have cell phone reception. The women head out one night before the men, who have all delayed their arrival for various shady-sounding reasons. This is plenty of time for everything to fall apart. Within moments of their arrival, the women receive a sinister note claiming one of their husbands has been murdered. At first they suspect the threat is another prank by Edie, their estranged friend who is absent from the retreat after the sudden death of her husband--but as their mounting anxiety unravels their mental and emotional well-being, it becomes clear there is a much more menacing force at play--one that has the power to change their lives permanently.

In addition to the dangerous secrets that threaten to undermine this tight-knit group of friends, each of the women faces demons of her own--former army intelligence officer Jayne is haunted by PTSD; young and naïve Emily struggles to trust her much-older husband; and Ruth, a doctor and new mother, must confront her worsening alcoholism. These individual challenges create even more tension as the women do everything they can to learn their husbands' fates. MacMillan also delivers several shocking plot twists that turn the perceived truth on its head and make this a fast-paced, compelling read all the way to its surprisingly satisfying ending. --Angela Lutz, freelance reviewer

Discover: In this haunting and captivating thriller, dangerous secrets resurface when three women on a weekend retreat receive a note claiming one of their husbands has been murdered.

Morrow, $27.99, hardcover, 352p., 9780063074323

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Wild and Wicked Things

by Francesca May


Glamorous parties and sinister secrets weave throughout a postwar prohibition on magic in this dark, lush first fantasy from British novelist Francesca May, who also writes suspense novels as Fran Dorricott (The Lighthouse).

As May's alternate-history England recovers from the strain of a magical war, Annie Mason travels to the fabled Crow Island. Magic is illegal following the war, but rumor says that real magic is alive on the island and "wealth seeped from the place like honey." Annie's father, who left their family for the island when Annie was a baby, has died, and his final wish was that she sell his belongings. Lured by much-needed inheritance money, Annie journeys to the island, where she reunites with childhood friend Bea. She also becomes overwhelmingly drawn to Emmeline, a stunning witch who wears impeccable menswear and throws glitzy soirees with illegal magical liquor. However, Bea's fairy-tale marriage to a rich, handsome man has a dark side, and Emmeline and her magic are clearly at the center. Annie's quest for the truth will become a fight for their lives.

May envisions a time similar to the Roaring Twenties in Britain with the U.S. policy of Prohibition added, with bright young things drawn to outlawed witchcraft rather than alcohol. Shades of Fitzgerald occasionally thread into the narrative: Emmeline is the Gatsby of the piece, with her extravagant parties and hidden pain; sheltered Annie the Carraway. The romantic and necromantic Wild and Wicked Things lives up to its title. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: In this dark, romantic fantasy, a young woman falls for a compelling, wealthy witch who sells bootleg magic in a Roaring Twenties-style alternate Britain.

Redhook, $28, hardcover, 432p., 9780316287159

Sweep of Stars

by Maurice Broaddus


A broad chorus of voices launches readers into the heart of an interplanetary struggle in Sweep of Stars, the first in the Astra Black trilogy from Maurice Broaddus (Buffalo Soldier).

The Muungano empire stretches from Earth to Titan. More than 70 years after its secession from Original Earth, a series of strikes targets the Muungano leadership, a threat likely tied to "O.E." A band of elite soldiers makes first contact with an alien race on the edges of the explored regions of space, and stumbles directly into an intergalactic conflict. Neither of these clashes makes it any easier to decide how to handle an artificial wormhole in their territory, a conundrum that a starship captain wrestles with while also ferreting out enemies on her own vessel.

Broaddus steeps this Pan-African society in the legacies of precolonial Africa and the civil rights movement--with the specters of colonialism, slavery and the racist institutions created by them still looming over imperial relations. He catapults readers into the story using an array of characters, switching among first-, second- and third-person narration (sometimes singular and sometimes plural) as he shifts viewpoints. The opening chapter kicks off in a second-person voice, creating an immediate intimacy with the first narrator. With plenty of fascinating characters faced with steering their empire through threats internal and external, Sweep of Stars will leave readers eager for the next entry in this series. --Kristen Allen-Vogel, information services librarian at Dayton Metro Library

Discover: The thrilling Black Astra trilogy kicks off with an array of intriguing characters, each of whom faces threats from across the solar system and beyond.

Tor Books, $27.99, hardcover, 368p., 9781250264930

Biography & Memoir

Truly, Madly: Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, and the Romance of the Century

by Stephen Galloway


Before there was Brangelina (or even celebrity portmanteaus), we had Vivien and Laurence, the English stars with multiple Oscars, whose headline-generating love affair broke up two marriages. Truly, Madly: Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, and the Romance of the Century is Stephen Galloway's compassionate, intrepid inquiry into the 20-year marriage of Leigh (1913-1967) and Olivier (1907-1989) and the "dark currents" that were its undoing.

Hollywood producer David O. Selznick may have been the actors' professional nemesis, but Leigh's bipolar disorder was their downfall. Leigh (Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind) and Olivier (Maxim de Winter in Rebecca) have been the subjects of multiple biographies, and Truly, Madly features well-chosen quotes from such titles. But Galloway seizes a fresh approach. In his acknowledgments, he writes that, given the medical community's strides in understanding mental illness since Leigh's day, "I wanted to apply that to the past and ask: How different does a relationship look with new information?" Galloway's readers can affirm that it looks both more interesting and more tragic.

Galloway (Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker) re-creates scenes of Leigh's erratic behavior and offers firsthand interpretations from present-day experts in the mental health field. Readers of Truly, Madly will find themselves as beguiled by the love story at its center as they will be heartbroken over the thought that, had Leigh been alive when lithium was in commercial use and there was less stigma around mental illness, her emotional flights could have been reserved for the stage and screen. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: This compassionate and perceptive portrait of two English acting legends presents a marriage plagued by both mental illness and the day's primitive attitude toward treating it.

Grand Central, $30, hardcover, 416p., 9781538731970

Essays & Criticism

You Tell the Stories You Need to Believe

by Rebecca Brown


You Tell the Stories You Need to Believe collects a series of short, introspective essays that Rebecca Brown (decorated author of The Gifts of the Body) wrote for Seattle's alternative newspaper The Stranger between 2014 and 2016. Each of the four essays considers a single season of the year from several vantage points--memories, music, mythology, poetry, psychology--which she ruminates on with candor, solidarity and humor. "Whenever I hear the opening of 'Spring,' from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons," she admits, "I want to scream."

No one escapes the rhythms of time, and Brown's prose carries an expansive yet steadfast sense of calm in the face of the inexorable, recognizing that what is refreshing for some may be stifling to others. While hot weather may invite plenty of people to sunbathe on beaches, Brown knows that "in summer you didn't see certain people--only the people you didn't feel ugly around." What further elevates this wise, cleansing meditation on seasons is the clarity of perspective that Brown exhibits in her afterword, written in 2021; she holds the devastating events of recent years in tension with an urgent dare for readers--and herself--to hope in new, more restful times ahead. "Maybe like how in the winter it's hard to imagine spring," she muses, "I forgot there was anything else besides despair. I needed--I need--to remember the seasons change."

Both timely and timeless, You Tell the Stories You Need to Believe is a gift, one appropriate for all occasions. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: These four brief essays about the seasons are both a reassuring and challenging call to believe that change can bring relief.

Chatwin Books, $15, paperback, 98p., 9781633981348

Now in Paperback

Whereabouts

by Jhumpa Lahiri


Jhumpa Lahiri's beautifully refined, slender third novel, Whereabouts, immerses readers in the captivating orbit of an unnamed narrator as she wanders alone through the Italian city she calls home. In these short, elegant vignettes, there is a hypnotic quality and melancholy hum to the flow of the character's days as she walks to her job in academia, eats at her favorite trattoria, swims at the public pool, bumps into an ex-lover at the bookstore and pays guilt-inducing visits to her mother.

The author's fascination with identity, alienation and belonging are recurring themes in her fiction (The Lowland; The Namesake; the Pulitzer-winning collection Interpreter of Maladies), and Whereabouts is no exception. Lahiri's graceful writing explores the protagonist's voyeuristic tendencies, her craving for solitude and her wistfulness over not attaining conventional standards of success. Along the way readers experience a vivid sense of her days and the people she encounters, whether strangers, friends or shopkeepers. She ruminates over a lonesome childhood and reveals her attraction to a married man with whom she shares a "chaste, fleeting bond."

Whereabouts gently concludes with a new beginning for the middle-aged narrator, a fresh chapter yet to be written and a farewell to her "urban cocoon." Originally published to critical acclaim in Italian under the title Dove mi trovo (Where I Find Myself) and translated into English by Lahiri herself, the scenes in Whereabouts weave together to form a profoundly intimate story of the delicate interplay between one's exposed outer self, the person one reveals to others, and the shaded complexity of one's inner life. --Shahina Piyarali, reviewer

Discover: A Pulitzer Prize-winning author's shimmering jewel of a novel features an enigmatic female academic and her intriguing relationship with her Italian hometown and its inhabitants.

Vintage, $16, paperback, 176p., 9780593312087

Good Company

by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney


Following The Nest, Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney once again tests the bonds between people in Good Company. Though it treads familiar ground--infidelity, the ups and downs of lifelong friendships, raising and letting go of a child--the author freshens the story by setting it against the backdrop of stage and screen productions.

Good Company is told mostly in three points of view: middle-aged mother and voice actor Flora; television actress Margot; and charismatic actor and theater founder Julian. Moving back and forth through 20 years, Sweeney draws out each character, exposing their flaws and strengths as they support and hurt each other.

Good Company is bookended by two photographs, aptly capturing moments that tell just one part of the truth. The story begins as Flora searches for a photo taken the year they all went to upstate New York and put on a play, when her daughter was five. Instead, she finds, tucked in a drawer, the wedding band her husband, Julian, claimed to have lost that summer--a discovery that calls her entire reality into question. By the time Flora and Julian, their daughter, Ruby, now 18, and their friends Margot and David all return to Stoneham for their annual retreat, readers have seen two marriages stretch and change, a child grow to adulthood, and four careers take off, flounder and settle.

Ruby takes a photo and everyone smiles. Despite this snapshot ending, Sweeney makes it clear that things are still in flux. Life, after all, isn't wrapped up neatly with a bow, and the betrayals and heartbreaks in Good Company won't be smoothed over any time soon. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels

Discover: Good Company is an emotional and thought-provoking novel about the strains of marriage, friendship and motherhood.

Ecco, $16.99, paperback, 336p., 9780062876010

Children's & Young Adult

Where Butterflies Fill the Sky: A Story of Immigration, Family, and Finding Home

by Zahra Marwan


Debut author/illustrator Zahra Marwan's inviting, evocative picture book, Where Butterflies Fill the Sky, presents her family's relocation from one desert to another on the opposite side of the world. Her poignant opening dedication, "To my parents, who should have never had to leave," immediately foreshadows forced departure and the challenges to follow.

Once upon a time, home was "where one hundred butterflies are always in the sky," in a desert near the sea where her father swims, her mother reads, her aunties drink tea and "ancestors... are always watching." But her family is no longer welcome, and Zahra must "say [her] goodbyes without knowing why." Her father promises magic in the new place but "each day feels like a year" to the girl who is deprived of familiar language, culture and beloved relatives. And yet, "people dance. They are happy." Instead of butterflies, "one hundred balloons fill the sky." This "place of high desert," Zahra realizes, is also home.

Marwan draws on her own family's removal from Kuwait to New Mexico. In her touching back matter about family and art, she reveals the historical reasons for her father's "stateless" status despite her family's generations of Kuwait residency. "So much of my memory of childhood feels dreamlike," Marwan writes, which she mirrors in her "traditionally"-created art. Her initial sketches are refined then enhanced with ink and watercolor washes, creating enchanting, winsome scenes. Without erasing the difficulties of displacement and reinvention in a strange land, Marwan ensures a colorful, captivating odyssey for younger readers. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: Zahra Marwan draws on her family's displacement from Kuwait to their eventual home in New Mexico in an animated, timely picture book debut.

Bloomsbury Children's Books, $18.99, hardcover, 48p., ages 4-8, 9781547606511

All My Rage

by Sabaa Tahir


This unforgettable multigenerational contemporary YA novel delivers pain, heartache and anger--but also love, hope and redemption.

In an arranged marriage years ago, 18-year-old Misbah and Toufiq Malik began their life together in Lahore, Pakistan. Not long after, an unspeakable tragedy caused them to move to the United States, where they purchased a motel to start fresh. Now, in Juniper, Calif., best friends Salahudin "Sal" Malik and Noor Riaz face their own struggles. Sal's mother, Misbah, is deathly sick and his dad, Toufiq, is a drunk. Sal balances attempting to save his parents' failing motel with trying to understand why an accidental touch from a stranger can feel "like an attack." Eighteen-year-old Noor lives with her resentful, angry uncle from whom she desperately tries to hide her future plans. The friends' bond is tested when Sal's efforts to protect the family business sweep them into a precarious, life-changing situation.

Sabaa Tahir (Ember in the Ashes) skillfully explores guilt, racism and grief in All My Rage. The story alternates between Sal's and Noor's perspectives, with Misbah's past threaded throughout. Tahir's characters are broken and filled with rage--a response to parents who can't show up for their kids, to the "occasional snide comment or shove in the hall," to the classmate who refuses to pronounce a name correctly. This tangible rage is evocative and ever-present, but the characters' commitment to music, to their culture and to each other brings a much-needed levity. With her first foray into contemporary fiction, Tahir leaves a lasting impression. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader

Discover: Two Pakistani American teens struggle to survive in this unforgettable, evocative contemporary YA novel that spans generations.

Razorbill, $19.99, hardcover, 384p., ages 13-up, 9780593202340

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