Review: Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tonya Bolden

She wanted to stay awake, wanted to see what freedom looked like, felt like at midnight, then at the cusp of dawn. Freedom. Mariah has bar...

Review: Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tonya Bolden

Monday, June 18, 2018

Crossing Ebenezer Creek
She wanted to stay awake, wanted to see what freedom looked like, felt like at midnight, then at the cusp of dawn.

Freedom. Mariah has barely dared to dream of it her entire life. When General Sherman’s march through Georgia during the Civil War passes the plantation where she is enslaved, her life changes instantly. Joining the march for protection, Mariah heads into the unknown, wondering if she can ever feel safe, if she will ever be able to put the brutalities of slavery behind her.

On the march Mariah meets a young man named Caleb, and a new dream takes root—one of a future with a home of her own and a true love by her side. But hope often comes at a cost. As the treacherous march continues toward the churning waters of Ebenezer Creek, Mariah sees that the harsh realities of her and her peoples’ lives will always haunt them.


When I first saw this book, I didn't know what to expect. I don't tend to gravitate toward historical fiction but this was an amazing book. This is the story of freed slaves traveling with union soldiers through the south. We learn of the trials and tribulations of these newly freed slaves and watch love bloom. But most importantly, we continue to learn that there's more to the Civil War than we're taught in school. Not all union soldiers were good men who wanted to help. Some of them hated freeing slaves. Some of those union soldier though the slaves traveling with them were a burden.

This book isn't very long. I honestly can't say more without a ton of spoilers. But PLEASE read this book even if you're not a fan of historical fiction. When you read this book, keep in mind that this book is based on a real event that happened at Ebenezer Creek. You'll never think about the Civil War the same way.

If you're interested in learning about other unknown events that took place during the Civil War, you should listed to the Uncivil Podcast. I can't recommend if enough!
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Review: Pieces of Me by Renee Watson

Sunday, June 10, 2018

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"Jade believes she must get out of her neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother says she has to take every opportunity. She has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Except really, it’s for black girls. From “bad” neighborhoods.

But Jade doesn’t need support. And just because her mentor is black doesn’t mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference.

Friendships, race, privilege, identity—this compelling and thoughtful story explores the issues young women face.
"

What a great book that smashed stereotypes in the BEST of ways.

There are some crap thoughts that people have about "urban" communities, especially communities where there are a lot of black and brown people. In those communities we assume that there are drugs, gangs, guns, prostitution, and crappy educational systems. Because we assume that those things make up the community we make assumptions about the people in those communities, the people aren't to be trust, they're up to no good, they're uneducated. Well this book killed all that.

Yes, it is true that Jade went to a mostly white school on the good side of town, let's get back to that later. I loved Renee Watson's portrayal of Jade's community and the people in it. When Jade and her best friend were discussing homework, it's possible that the work Jade was assigned at her school would better prepare her for "the real working world", but the friends work better connected her with their black culture. I also loved that Jade's friend was an amazing poet. It isn't often that we get to see black people doing anything other than sports. Moving away from Jade's BFF there was the nice man at the corner store who gave the kids extra food just because he was a nice man and they were nice kids. Jade's mom! There's this thought that single parents who work more than one job don't parent their children. This particular stereotype isn't always mean, typically the person who falls into this thought pattern feel bad for the hard working parent (normally the mom). But Jade's mom squashed that. Their schedule was kept on a white board on the fridge. Her mom was not going to let Jade wander into the world with someone she didn't know. While this mom may not have been in the house all the time, she was NOT an absentee parent and I loved it!

Now we have the life Jade lived while she was at school. Oh boy do I understand that. The amount of people who've mimicked words and phrases that I've said, or people who said they wished they could see me "pat my head like black women with a weave" is... disturbing. At a white affluent school, Jade had to make sure that she presented herself in a very specific way in order to make her time there as easy as possible. The teachers, the school its self did something very common. Every program that the school suggested Jade for was something to help "fix" her, as opposed to something that she might enjoy. I can understand where they were coming from (kind of), the school wanted to do what was best for Jade, and what they assumed was best was SAT prep, as opposed to something that encouraged her interest.

 This book was awesome. There was so much to take in here. I can't even get to it all. Do yourself a favor, read it friends! 
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Review: Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

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Esperanza thought she'd always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico--she'd always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn't ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances--Mama's life, and her own, depend on it. 

I read this book a long time ago... actually I did the audiobook which I really suggest, but I think this book is too important to forget about.

LIKED:
Can we talk about how this book is so under rated. Esperanza Rising is about a girl (conveniently named Esperanza) who grew up... basically rich in Mexico. Can you think of a time when you've heard of rick people (specifically Mexicans) living in Mexico? I haven't. Not once.

The book is so fascinating because Esperanza has to go from a life of privilege (and we hardly ever seen minorities in a position of privilege except in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air) and she's has to live the life of a migrant work in California.

This is an interesting coming of age story like no other.

NOT SO MUCH:
It's been a while since I've read this book but I can't remember anything that I didn't like. Esperanza was hard to like. She was spoiled, entitled, bratty, and annoying. But she was suppose to be. So it's fine. :)

IN CONCLUSION:
I know this review is shorter than most, but read this book.

4 Stars
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Review: The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

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Matthew Corbin suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. He hasn't been to school in weeks. His hands are cracked and bleeding from cleaning. He refuses to leave his bedroom. To pass the time, he observes his neighbors from his bedroom window, making mundane notes about their habits as they bustle about the cul-de-sac.

When a toddler staying next door goes missing, it becomes apparent that Matthew was the last person to see him alive. Suddenly, Matthew finds himself at the center of a high-stakes mystery, and every one of his neighbors is a suspect. Matthew is the key to figuring out what happened and potentially saving a child's life... but is he able to do so if it means exposing his own secrets, and stepping out from the safety of his home?
 

 
Full disclosure, I listed to this book via Hoopla, and I tend to like the audio book version of something, that I KNOW I wouldn't have liked if I'd only read it.

LIKED:
Normally, I would never have picked up this book but I'm darn glad I did. Matthew has severe OCD. He only eats pre-packaged food, he keeps a box of gloves hidden under his bed and refuses to go without them, he refuses to let anyone into his room, and he talks to a section of the wall paper that looks like a lion. I was most impressed by how Thompson chose to keep readers in the dark about what triggered Matthews OCD without beating us over the head. There are so many book where the main character spends more time reminding us that they're keeping a secrete, than doing anything else, Saving Red is full of it. In Goldfish Boy, we knew that there was an inciting incident, we might even have been able to guess that it involved Matthews baby brother, and although Matthew mentioned "what he did", he wasn't overwhelming about it.

I liked the email exchanges between Matthew and the kids in the neighborhood and the way Thompson peppered past interactions with them throughout the book. (P.S. The little girl next door was pure evil. I'm sure of it.)

At then end of the book when Matthew finally explained what triggered his OCD, my heart broke. It wasn't what I expected AT ALL. I have never been so sad for a little boy in my life.

NOT SO MUCH:
I struggled with the parents, particularly the dad. I have very... specific parents. so I can spend a lot of my time thinking "do people have parents who really do that?" I'm not sure if was the audio book reader, or the actual character, but I struggled, and I'm not even sure why. Matthews mom tried to act as if everything was normal. She'd attempt to pull him into conversation and invite him out to family events that she knew darn good and well he wasn't going to go to. Matthew's dad, kind of did that as well, but there was a scene (SMALL SPOILER) where he went into Matthews room and pulled down, the wall paper, repainted, cleaned, and basically destroyed Matthew's life. It didn't sit well with me. As i'm typing this, I think my issue with the book was that Matthew's parents acted as if they had no idea was OCD was, like they had never heard of it, and couldn't recognize it in their own son. It would be one thing if they knew he had OCD and we upset and overwhelmed by it, but it was almost as if their internal dialogue was something along the lines of, "my son scrubs down everything with bleach, he wont let us touch him, he wont go outside, he's terrified of germs and everything that breads them, and I have no idea what's wrong with him. Whatever could it be." This book seemed to take place in the modern day. Don't they have Google. The parents did ultimately get him to therapy but... I don't know, they just didn't read right.

That being said, they parents didn't bother me enough to not like the book. 

IN CONCLUSION:
I can't say if this is a proper representation of a person who suffers from OCD because I don't have it. I also can't say if this book is Own Voices or what insight the author might have into the life of a person with OCD because there were no authors notes, but I can say that I think this book can go a long way toward helping children understand life might be like for someone who's different from them, and give them some insight on how to act accordingly. These types of books are important because it teaches kids that there are people in the world who are different from them, but at the end of the day, they're still people.
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2018 Discussion Challenge- Reading Slump

Friday, March 16, 2018




The 2018 Blog Discussion Challenge is run by Nicole at Feed You Fiction Addiction and Shannon at It's Starts at Midnight.

I have been in one of the worst reading slumps on and off for the last six months or so. I have no idea why, and I honestly hate it. I just started a new job as the Head of a Youth Services department at the end of January, but before that, I worked an hour and a half away from my house for about a year. Driving was a nightmare because it was all traffic both ways. During that time I was able to listen to a lot of podcasts, audio books, and show tunes, but by the time I made it home after a full day of work and three hours in the car, all I wanted to do was eat my feelings and watch Criminal Minds. It became a horrible cycle and I was honestly too tired to hold a book and process words, oh and did I mention it was also my last year of grad school so I was basically useless. But since I've started this new job I'm an 8 minute drive from work, so what's wrong with me!!??

Anyway, I feel like I can't break that pattern. There was a time when I read three books a week and the reviews were pouring out, but now all I can seem to do is sit under my electric blanket and watch hoarders, and hair videos on YouTube. When I do pick up a book to read, I feel like I'm forcing myself to do it. Does anyone else ever feel like that? Has that feeling ever lasted like six months? At this point I don't know if I should force myself to read books I know I'll like to get myself back into it, or hope this feeling runs it's course.

My library is finally beginning to catalog some of my "most anticipated reads of 2018" and I hope I can muster up the energy to actually read them.

Do you feel my pain internet friends???
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Review: The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah

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Boy meets girl. Girl changes everything.

Michael likes to hang out with his friends and play with the latest graphic design software. His parents drag him to rallies held by their anti-immigrant group, which rails against the tide of refugees flooding the country. And it all makes sense to Michael.

Until Mina, a beautiful girl from the other side of the protest lines, shows up at his school, and turns out to be funny, smart—and a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan. Suddenly, his parents’ politics seem much more complicated.

Mina has had a long and dangerous journey fleeing her besieged home in Afghanistan, and now faces a frigid reception at her new prep school, where she is on scholarship. As tensions rise, lines are drawn. Michael has to decide where he stands. Mina has to protect herself and her family. Both have to choose what they want their world to look like.


This book wasn't on my radar... at all... and I'm so mad about this. As you know internet friends, this is a diversity blog, and when I talk about diversity and diverse books, I try not to preach or get super angry, or make people feel bad about themselves. People who don't understand or appreciate the importance of diversity in books aren't inherently evil, and be race and religion can cause such emotion, that can be easy to forget. I started this blog because as someone said to me (and a room full of people) yesterday, "diverse books can either be a mirror, or a window." Best quote ever! The Lines We Cross is both a mirror (well if you're a refugee, or a Muslim, or you can relate to their story from a racial or religious point of view), or a window. And here's why...

LIKED:
By far my favorite aspect of this book was the "window" aspect, so I'll be talking more about Michael. Michael was a normal kid, at a normal (although affluent) school, and jerk-ish friends but I guess that happens sometimes. He seems like a perfectly normal guy until you realize that his father is the creator of a group called Aussie Values, a group protest against certain types of refugees. Michael did that thing that a lot of children do, they take their parents words at face value. Michael's parents weren't evil KKK members. They didn't burn crosses on poeple's lawn, or spit on them, or physically attack them. They just had thoughts and feelings and spoke out about them. That being said, there were members of Aussie Values who did cross the line. For a nice chunk of the book, Michael parrots his parents, but... it's almost like he's mimicking them just for the sake of mimicking them, not because he actually cares one way or another. The more he and Mina debate in class about refugees and politics, the more Michael starts to think about Aussie Values, his parents values, and his personal values. When Michael sits down to do some research about refugees and Afganistan himself, an amazing thing happens... he's still confused. This stuff isn't always easy to understand, everything isn't always black and white, it's confusing and hard and heart breaking and ... a mess. However, Michael did know, that he could no longer support his parents and  Aussie Values.

This book is so well done. It shows just how hard to understand the topics of race, religion, and refugees are. It shows two "villains", Michael's parents, who aren't the typical villains. They're average people. They're the type of people who say "I'm not racist, but Hermione isn't suppose to be black." (Talking about The Cursed Child stage play.) Those people GENUINELY don't see that as a racist and upsetting comment. They don't understand why someone would feel taken aback hearing it. I lived with a person for 3 years who had that mindset. She isn't a horrible person. She isn't evil. She's a product of her upbringing and it's sad. When you can look at your black friend and say that you don't date black people because you just don't find them attractive, that's it's just not your preference, it's just sad.

ANYWAY, this book showed us a different kind of "villain", and I think we needed to see it.

NOT SO MUCH:
Small spoiler
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I wish Michael and Mina hadn't started dating. I honestly have a hard time imagining two people who butt heads over Mina's life and over her existence entering into a romantic relationship. If they had become closer friends as Michael's opinions began to change, that would have been cool and acceptable, but I really struggled with the romantic aspect.

IN CONCLUSION:
I give them 4 stars. Read the darn book.






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Review: Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Thursday, February 15, 2018

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Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting--working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she's asexual). Alice is done with dating--no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.
 


I. Love. This. Book. As the description said, Let's Talk About Love is a book about an asexual, black, teenage girl. On the surface this is just another love story. The writing isn't super complex. I would have read this book in one sitting if I didn't have to stop for my book club. There are even some (I'm looking at you Kirkus) who think this is just another generic love story with a small twist.

YOU'RE WRONG.

Alice was not only asexual, she was black. Alice spent her entire life explaining and defending her right to exist in the world exactly as she was. There's a section in the book where someone mentions her new hairstyle, and she's immediately defensive because she's had so many people make back handed comments about her hair and touch it like it's a lost dog on the street (my words not hers fyi. lol). She had a "friend" who claimed that she wouldn't win a contest (a dumb contest at that) for attracting the most online dating messages because she was black and black women and Asian men are the least desired. She was also cornered by a guy who had "never been with a black girl before" and she was "Cute for a black girl". She had spent and will continue to spend the rest of her life existing as "the black girl" why in the world should she want to exist as the asexual girl too. A branch of sexuality that people don't really understand. So, for most of this book, to many people in her life, Alice is very deep in the closet.

Claire Kann has managed to write a book (and her first one at that) where the characters "blackness" doesn't completely engulf them. As a black girl, Alice has to deal with certain crap that other girl don't. Kann didn't ignore those things, as other authors might, but they didn't overshadow the story, because Alice's issue wasn't that she was black, it was that she was asexual, and her parents wanted her to be a lawyer but she didn't want to, and her best friend started to act like a jerk, and she felt abandoned and misunderstood, and her body was doing new and unusual things that she wasn't prepared for. Alice was a simply written, yet well rounded character.

I don't know Claire Kann's sexual orientation, and I don't want to know, it's none of my business. But she did a great job of showing that Alice was loving and able to love without wanting to make love. She did a great job of showing (she didn't have to tell, she showed us) readers that even though a person doesn't want to have sex, doesn't mean they aren't physically affectionate. Alice loved hugs, and snuggles, and kisses, and spooning (I don't think they spooned but I'm sure she would have), and holding hands, and  literally EVERY THING ELSE. The problem is, when you cuddle, and kiss, and hold hand, and hug, that always leads to sex. Ugh.

Clearly there are a lot of my own feeling mixed up with this review. Alice and I are the same human.

I think if I had to pick one gripe, it would be the bff, Feenie. I can't even go into it. She was so wrong. I think the way Feenie treated Alice was wrong. I almost wish Alice hadn't let Feenie get away with it, but...

(SMALL SPOILER)

 
Also, I seriously don't know if it's possible for an sexual person to date anyone who isn't asexual. But who wants a book to end in sadness. 




I really like this book. It's not perfect, but it's very good. This was the first book I've read with a black asexual woman. For all I know, it's the only one in the world. Honestly I don't think I've ever read any books with asexual characters. No matter what their race. I'm so glad this book exists.
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