I am excited for all of you to get to know Arianna. I meet her for the first time the 2018 ALAN Workshop in Houston. She is an enthusiastic promoter of YA in the classroom. As she works on and finishes her graduate work I am sure we will find her one of the new emerging scholars as well.
Hearing my upbeat and courageous students sound despondent and defeated left me at a loss for words. Because I felt I didn’t have the right words to comfort my students or reassure them that things would be okay, I turned to YAL and directed them to do the same. I hoped they would find solace in reading stories that showed them that they could find themselves in the pages of a book, that it was okay to be scared, and that they weren’t alone. I also hoped they could apply Rudine Sims Bishop’s oft cited “windows and mirrors” metaphor to many of these stories. I hoped they could gain an understanding of another culture, relate it back to their life, and become more empathic people. In 2016, some of the titles I recommended were: All We Have Left by Wendy Mills, Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai, When I Was The Greatest by Jason Reynolds, and The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicole Yoon.
Sara Farizanwww.workman.com/authors/sara-farizan’s, Here to Stay
Sara Farizan’s, Here to Stay, would have been an instant hit with my students if I had it two years ago. Here To Stay is a poignant, witty, and frank story that features Bijan, a high school student who is unremarkable to his peers until he makes the winning shot during the varsity basketball playoff game. While Bijan’s popularity explodes with that winning shot, some people at school aren’t happy that Bijan is getting such positive attention. A picture with Bijan photoshopped to look like a terrorist is e-mailed to the entire student body and while the school promises to find the anonymous sender, Bijan is left conflicted. He is proud of his Middle Eastern heritage, but he also doesn’t want to lead a movement protesting Islamaphobia. As Bijan navigates high school after the e-mail, he is left to wonder who his real friends are and how to move on while staying true to himself and his heritage. Bijan’s story will resonate with many students who feel unfairly stereotyped. Here To Stay will make you laugh, cheer, and shed a tear as you root for Bijan to make his next move on the court and in his personal life.
Shannon Gibney's Dream Country
Students who want to understand how immigration and family history aren’t as simple as they seem will appreciate the raw storytelling in Dream Country by Shannon Gibney. Dream Country demonstrates the complicated history between the United States and Liberia through tracing the lineage of one family in the novel. Each section of the novel follows one family member’s story as Gibney depicts five generations of young people in the family. The novel begins in Minnesota where seventeen-year-old Kollie is struggling to fit in at his high school. Kollie is a Liberian refugee who is somehow “too African,” but “not black enough” to fit in with his African-American peers. The boys at Kollie’s school taunt him about his accent, his food, and his culture. Kollie’s anger is palpable as he struggles to ignore the hate he endures on a daily basis. Kollie’s struggle of wanting to stand up for himself and his culture while trying to stay out of trouble to make his parents proud is one many adolescents will be able to relate to. Kollie makes a choice and sets into motion a chain of events that change the lives of his family forever.
- Yasmine- a mother who leaves the United States for the promise of a better life in Liberia after years of working on a southern plantation.
- Togar- an indigenous husband and father who flees his village when militia men invade. The militia men are there to force men to work on plantations created by the African-American descendants who colonized Liberia centuries ago.
- Ujay and Evelyn- Two young people whose love story is disrupted by the Liberian revolution and assassination of the Liberian president.
- Angel- Kollie’s younger sister who recounts the stories of her family members and explores how complicated family history can be.
Ibi Zoboi’s American Street
Ibi Zoboi’s American Street deals with the extremely relevant topic of immigration in our country. The protagonist, Fabiola, and her mother immigrate to the United States from Haiti, but Fabiola’s mother is detained at the JFK airport by U.S. Immigration officials. Fabiola is allowed through security and sent on to live with her cousins in Detroit. Fabiola must learn about a new city, new school, and a new culture without the help of her mother. While Fabiola fears for her mother and tries to adjust to a new country, she also has to navigate the crazy world of her three cousins. Her three cousins have a tough reputation at school and are known as the “Three Bees” for their brawn, beauty, and brains. As Fabiola starts to find her footing in Detroit, and develops a love interest, a dangerous proposition arises that may help her get her mother back. Fabiola is left with a tough choice and the realization that America is not what she thought it would be. American Street is a novel students will appreciate for its fast paced, gritty, and realistic portrayal of immigrating to a new country.
Tahereh Mafi’s A Very Large Expanse of Sea
Tahereh Mafi’s A Very Large Expanse of Sea tells Mafi’s semi-autobiographical and relatable experience of being a teenager trying to fit in during high school, dealing with prejudice, and finding love. Adolescents who have experienced stereotyping and struggling to find their place in the world will find themselves in the pages of A Very Large Expanse of Sea. The novel’s protagonist, Shiren, is a sixteen year old Muslim teen living in the US one year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She is proud of her culture and wears a Hijab, but feels apprehensive and fearful when interacting with new people as Islamaphobia begins to take hold in the country. Shiren is determined to steel herself toward outsiders and deal with life on her own. However, when her brother introduces Shiren to his break-dancing crew and a popular boy named Ocean takes an interest in Shiren, her walls begin to break down. Students will appreciate Shiren’s range of emotions from anger to hope as she navigates high school and living in a post 9/11 world. A Very Large Expanse of Sea is a funny, witty, and heartbreaking novel.
Guadualupe Garcia McCall’s All the Stars Denied
Guadualupe Garcia McCall’s novel, All the Stars Denied, brilliantly depicts the unjust mass deportation of Mexican-Americans during the Great Depression. The protagonist of the story, Estrella, is a brilliant and passionate young activist who wants to confront the cruelty targeted towards the Mexican-American people in her town. Students who feel like they’re too young to make a difference will be inspired by Estrella’s determination to stand up for herself and her community members. As signs stating “No Mexicans Allowed” and others with varying insults are posted outside buildings in Estrella’s town, Estrella works with her classmates to organize a peaceful protest. The families in Estrella’s community also voice their concerns to the city council about the unfair raids, discrimination, and cruelty taking place in their town. Although done peacefully, the local government does not look favorably upon Estrella and her family speaking out. Despite being American citizens, Estrella’s family is targeted for repatriation.
Until next week