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Wandering in Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims Her Roots, by Morgan Jerkins. (Harper)
Jerkins travels south on a quest to connect with her ancestors, discovers the complexity of her genetic heritage, dating back 300 years, and peels back layers of myths in Black culture. Readers are engulfed in the Gullah Geechee nation, the world of Louisianan Creoles, and the struggle of freedmen to be accepted in their respective Native American tribes . . . She helps ground the experience of disenfranchised Black people throughout U.S. history with an intensity that is both eye-opening and educational. —LaParis Hawkins
Adult Fiction These Ghosts Are Family, by Maisy Card. (Simon & Schuster)
Across generations, a family reckons with the ghosts of enslavement’s legacy in this stunning, kaleidoscopic debut. In an opening revelation, readers learn that Stanford Solomon intends to reveal his life’s secret: he used a tragic accident as an opportunity to reinvent himself. Taking his dead friend’s name, he severed ties with the wife and children relying on him in Jamaica and started over in New York . . . Meanwhile, present-day family members are deeply affected by the suffering and crimes of their ancestors in colonial Jamaica. —Emily Dziuban Adult Graphic Novels
Year of the Rabbit, written and illustrated by Tian Veasna, translated by Helge Dascher. (Drawn & Quarterly).
The U.S.’s withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975 enabled the so-called Vietnam War to spread into Laos and Cambodia, where Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime stormed Phnom Penh and dispersed its inhabitants—mostly to brutal labor camps—eliminating 1.7 to 2 million Cambodians. Veasna was born into that hell, miraculously escaping to France in 1980 with his parents. . . In this powerfully detailed graphic work of personal and world history, Veasna reveals starvation, betrayal, torture, imprisonment, and death. Unexpected kindness and uncanny coincidences help keep (some of) the family alive. —Terry Hong Adult Audio The Girl with the Louding Voice, by Abi Daré and read by Adjoa Andoh. (Books on Tape). In a patois-rich, first-person narrative, Adunni recounts her journey out of a forced marriage and servitude. Andoh, a Black British actress, is a force, telegraphing Adunni’s every emotion and development toward literacy with compassion, respect, and nuance, and contrasting her earnest nature with the varied tones and accents of those around her. ––Heather Booth Youth Nonfiction All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team, by Christina Soontornvat (Candlewick) In summer 2018, the eyes of the world were on Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand, where the coach and 12 members of a boys’ soccer team, the Wild Boars, became trapped in a flooding cavern. Soontornvat selects details and measures her pacing with the practiced hand of a skilled storyteller, and while everything is supported by meticulous research, the prose never suffers from information density; rather, every aside—whether on hypothermia, ketamine, or Navy SEAL training—adds tension through understanding. Readers who already know the outcome will nonetheless be enthralled by this singular tale that captures the importance of STEM education, the beauty of Thailand, and the best of humanity. —Ronny Khuri Youth Fiction Burn, by Patrick Ness (Harper/Quill Tree) It’s 1957, and tensions between Russia and the U.S. are strained. In Frome, Washington, Sarah Dewhurst waits with her father in a gas station to meet the new worker they’ve just hired to help on their failing farm. In Canada, an assassin raised by a religious cult makes his way south while two FBI agents try to catch his trail. These tense, mysteriously connected Cold War–era story lines would be enough to hook any audience, but that hired hand that Sarah and her dad are waiting for? He’s a centuries-old Russian blue dragon named Kazimir, and he brings with him knowledge of a prophecy that may change the course of history. —Maggie Reagan Picture Book Nana Akua Goes to School, written by Tricia Elam and April Harrison (Random/Schwartz & Wade) Zura worries that her classmates might laugh at her grandmother because of the traditional marks on her face, placed there in childhood to designate her tribal family in Ghana and to symbolize beauty and confidence. Nana Akua, Zura’s grandmother and “favorite person in the whole universe,” finds the perfect solution. On Grandparents Day, after explaining her facial marks and their meanings, Nana Akua invites everyone to choose one of the 50 traditional Adinkra symbols on Zura’s quilt . . . and Nana Akua paints one on each person’s face while Zura looks on proudly. —Carolyn Phelan Youth Graphic Novel Dragon Hoops, written by Gene Luen Yang and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang and Lark Pien (First Second) Yang teaches at California’s Bishop O’Dowd High School, home to the Dragons, a basketball team with a hallowed and, as it turns out, complicated history. Over and over again, the team almost wins State. Pursuing material for his next graphic novel, Yang surprises himself by latching onto the team and its long-time coach, Lou Richie. Combining visual flair, like speeding backgrounds, with nearly diagrammatic movement, he creates pulse-pounding game sequences. Most important, through recurring visual motifs . . . he illuminates the risks that every one of us must take and has, once again, produced a work of resounding humanity. —Jesse Karp Youth Audio Clap When You Land, by Elizabeth Acevedo and read by the author and Melania Luisa Marte. (HarperAudio).
Acevedo ciphers her verse novel in two voices into aural alchemy, voicing angry, frustrated, longing, searching Yahaira. Marte agilely balances Camino’s vulnerability, tenacity, admiration, disappointment, and hope. Together, the dynamic duo with #OwnVoices casting transforms strangers into sisters. ––Terry Hong
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