Because of her parents’ arguing at home, racist comments and insensitivity from classmates at school, stress induced anxiety, and the typical horrors of high school, Quinn Jackson keeps a journal filled with lists.  A coping mechanism of sorts, her lists serve to calm her mind, provide a sense of focus, and give her a foundation.  She also lists her goals and dreams, her fears and worries.  Her journal contains her feelings when she doesn’t know how to express them out loud. When her journal turns up missing and she instead has a red-covered spiral that belongs to Carter Bennett, Quinn determines that Carter must haveRead More →

Told in 33 chapters by seven voices, Linked by Gordon Korman shares the story of a swastika that sets in motion a series of unintended consequences.  Because the administration at Chokecherry Middle School believes that information is the best antidote to the poison of prejudice, the 600 students who attend are subjected to tolerance education. Still, the swastikas continue to show up. What initially seemed to be a sick joke turns into something more sinister. The persistence dredges up 40-year-old memories of the Ku Klux Klan in Shadbush County and the Night of a Thousand Flames.  Soon, the quiet town of Chokecherry, Colorado, is madeRead More →

We humans are social creatures, highly gregarious and communicative. We are wired to be open to the world, so I am always shocked when I encounter intolerance, blatant displays of ignorance, or various other forms of hate. Life just seems too complicated as it is to add to the challenges with human pettiness. This is the frustration in which seventeen-year-old Shadi Nasreen navigates two years after the 9/11 attacks.  She is a Persian girl who detests the posturing of people trying to prove piety in the face of persecution and despises the bullying she must endure because she wears the face of the enemy. InRead More →

Readers of Zara Hossain Is Here accompany driven, intelligent, community-minded social justice advocate, Zara Hossain on her mission to bring awareness to the sacrifices and struggles that immigrants face in the United States. In response, I vacillated between tears, anger at the injustice that brown, non-gender conforming individuals endure, and the occasional sense that some generalizing was taking place under the influence of Sabina Khan’s pen. Without wanting to minimize the challenges faced on a daily basis by someone who experiences otherness, I—a white, heterosexual, cisgender female—couldn’t help but say, “I don’t belong to that hate group, and I am always appalled that people’s coreRead More →

With her middle grade novel I Am Defiance, Jenni L. Walsh joins the group of authors who have written about the chilling period in human history that reminds us of the power of hate and the danger of silence: World War II-era Germany and Adolph Hitler’s reign of terror. However, Walsh takes her readers of historical fiction beyond that era to remind us all of the power of action, resistance, words, and asking questions rather than blindly accepting what we are told. This book comes out in time to mark Hitler’s April 20th birthday so that readers might examine the truth through the curious eyesRead More →

By their own definition, Naomi and Malcolm Smith used to “live in sin” and had their first baby, Jemima Genesis (aka Genny), out of wedlock while in their teens. However, being God-fearing individuals and believers in the notion of God’s mercy in granting second chances, they marry and eventually answer the call to enter the seminary. Now, they serve as co-pastors at Resurrection Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California. Naomi and Malcolm completed their family with two more daughters, naming each one after Job’s girls from the Bible. Of the Smith trinity, Genny went on to become the youngest Black woman to earn her PhDRead More →

With her recent autobiographical account in Out of Hiding: A Holocaust’s Survivor’s Journey to America, Ruth Gruener (aka Luncia Gamzer) tells her story of survival. Her memoir joins those stories told by other survivors of this unimaginable time in history. This was a time when anxiety turned to cold, raw fear as the Nazis burned synagogues and committed murder without regard for the sanctity of human life—a time when choice was taken, freedom was scarce, and normal took on an entirely different definition. Gruener tells of her feeling like a nonperson, “a body that took up space” (27). She describes hunger, loneliness, hiding, and aRead More →

Kim Johnson’s debut young adult novel is a stunning work of realistic fiction. It joins the ranks of stories written by Angie Thomas, Jason Reynolds, and Jesmyn Ward.  With This Is My America, Johnson uses art as a tool to inspire social action. Drawing on the idealism, perseverance, and passion of her protagonist Tracy Beaumont, Johnson encourages us to use our voices to demand justice and to become advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Rooted in United States history, where we have inherited a legacy of racial segregation and hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, this narrative reminds us that the past is alwaysRead More →

Three Keys

Try as I might, I was unable to limit my review of Three Keys by Kelly Yang to three keys to its greatness.  I started with It’s about a goat named Scape and the issue of immigration and how it’s easy to blame those in a weak spot; It proves that although most people don’t change, some people do; and It shares how small interactions have the power to change minds and to make a big impact for those vulnerable to exploitation, abuses, misinformation, and hopelessness. But I realized I couldn’t stop with that short list.  Yang’s book goes beyond any simple storyline to capture someRead More →