Layla was a regular American teenager until the new Islamophobic president enacted Exclusion Laws.
Muslims are being rounded up, their books burned, and their bodies encoded with identification numbers. Neighbors are divided, and the government is going after resisters. Layla and her family are interned in the California desert along with thousands of other Muslim Americans, but she refuses to accept the circumstances of her detention, plotting to take down the system. She quickly learns that resistance is no joke: Two hijabi girls are beaten and dragged away screaming after standing up to the camp director. There are rumors of people being sent to black-op sites. Some guards seem sympathetic, but can they be trusted? Taking on Islamophobia and racism in a Trump-like America, Ahmed’s (Love, Hate & Other Filters, 2018) magnetic, gripping narrative, written in a deeply humane and authentic tone, is attentive to the richness and complexity of the social ills at the heart of the book. Layla grows in consciousness as she begins to understand her struggle not as an individual accident of fate, but as part of an experience of oppression she shares with millions. This work asks the question many are too afraid to confront: What will happen if xenophobia and racism are allowed to fester and grow unabated?
A reminder that even in a world filled with divisions and right-wing ideology, young people will rise up and demand equality for all.
(Realistic fiction. 13-18)
“This is the story of a girl who lost her voice and wrote herself a new one.”
The award-winning author, who is also a rape survivor, opens up in this powerful free-verse memoir, holding nothing back. Part 1 begins with her father’s lifelong struggle as a World War II veteran, her childhood and rape at 13 by a boy she liked, the resulting downward spiral, her recovery during a year as an exchange student in Denmark, and the dream that gave her Melinda, Speak’s (1999) protagonist. Part 2 takes readers through her journey as a published author and National Book Award finalist. She recalls some of the many stories she’s heard during school visits from boys and girls who survived rape and sexual abuse and calls out censorship that has prevented some speaking engagements. In Part 3, she wraps up with poems about her family roots. The verse flows like powerful music, and Anderson's narrative voice is steady and direct: “We should teach our girls / that snapping is OK, / instead of waiting / for someone else to break them.” The poems range in length from a pair of two-line stanzas to several pages. Readers new to Anderson will find this accessible. It’s a strong example of how lived experience shapes art and an important book for the #MeToo movement.
Necessary for every home, school, and public library.
(Verse memoir. 13-adult)
The shooting of an unarmed African American teen by police serves as catalyst for racial tension in a community still recovering from a previous tragedy.
This time, Shae Tatum, a 13-year-old girl, is shot by a white police officer. Two years have passed since the killing of Tariq Johnson, and the community organizations that arose in the aftermath are more active. Social media scrutiny has intensified, with the media and police focusing on public messaging. The officer’s family copes with being in the spotlight, and a minister who was in the limelight is now a senator. Tariq’s friend Tyrell is now focused on college and reluctant to dredge up bad memories, but his white roommate, Robb, is intrigued by the shooting and seems insensitive to Tyrell’s silence. The engagement of white supremacists and white women who protest in support of the police at Shae’s funeral add new wrinkles. As tensions escalate, divisions harden while the police and community await the decision of the grand jury. This follow-up to the author’s acclaimed How It Went Down (2014) uses multiple distinctive narrators, transcripts, and social media posts to convey the charged atmosphere as people must carry on with their lives while turmoil brews around them. The wide range of personalities, rich details, and nuanced connections make this a stellar and important read.
This companion to a modern classic offers an even deeper, more layered depiction of the impact of a police shooting.
Born on the poor side of El Paso, Juan and JD fight for their dreams, knowing the odds are stacked against them.
Mendez (Twitching Heart, 2012) tells the touching story of two teenage buddies, their troubled families, and the injustices they endure as a result of being poor and brown. Juan wants to play college basketball. JD wants to be a filmmaker. But following a single bad decision at a party in a wealthy neighborhood, their dreams begin to fall like dominoes. In a setting of police profiling and violent streets, it becomes obvious that the pain in this community is intergenerational. The boys must cope with parental secrets—Juan’s mother never told him who his father is, and JD’s father makes him an accomplice in a dishonest affair. As they seek answers, readers see that the future is a tidal wave pushing them to the brink even as they act with courage and good intentions. Studying, working hard on the court, impressing coaches and teachers, the teens come to understand that the world has labeled them failures no matter how hard they try. In this novel with a deep sense of place and realistic dialogue, characters who are vivid and fallible add deep psychological meaning to a heart-wrenching story.
At once accessible and artful, this is an important book about Mexican teens holding onto hope and friendship in the midst of alcoholism, poverty, prejudice, and despair.
Sugiura’s (It’s Not Like It’s a Secret, 2017, etc.) sophomore novel deftly questions accountability for past injustices.
Seventeen-year-old Japanese American CJ Katsuyama lives with her single mother and free-spirited aunt in present-day Silicon Valley. Though pushed by her mother to aspire to greatness, CJ feels she only excels at arranging flowers at the family flower shop. CJ is intimately familiar with the history of the store, sold for a pittance to Robert McAllister, a white man, while her family was interned during World War II, purchased back at the market rate after 30 years, and now floundering while the McAllisters have prospered (CJ’s high school is even named after them). A discovery about the McAllister patriarch leads CJ and other student activists to embark on a campaign that creates tension within their community and further complicates CJ’s relationship with her mother, a partner at McAllister Venture Capital. Sugiura tackles an abundance of topics with finesse, including social and economic injustice, allyship, and feminism, simultaneously breaking down the Asian American immigration narrative and the myth of the model minority. CJ lacks confidence and is flawed but grows, along with other characters, into self-realization in part through addressing prejudices. A majority of the cast members are people of color, and many characters are biracial; several are queer. Two nations who first lived in the area, the Miwok and Ohlone, are named in the text.
A critical compilation of stories from unaccompanied Central American teen refugees who make tremendous sacrifices to cross the U.S.–Mexico border.
Told in short vignettes that offer dynamic perspectives, this harrowing book provides readers with snapshots of dire, foreboding situations faced by migrants. The first story, “Where Are Your Kids?” spotlights 16-year-old Kevin and his 10-year-old sister, Nicole, whose mother in the U.S. learns from an immigration officer that her kids are not in Guatemala on a school trip as she believed but rather detained at the San Ysidro border. In another account titled “I’d Rather Die Trying to Get Out,” the two siblings are moneyless and lost, resorting to asking a random truck driver for a lift. The author’s introductory note indicates that all these stories are true save for some changes to protect the 11 immigrant minors’ identities. Most narratives leave readers with (all the right) questions: How long were the teens detained? Are they OK? Why did they receive such horrible treatment in detention cells? What aren’t they telling readers? Villalobos (Breve historia del ya merito, 2018, etc.) records the chilling details of the refugees’ treks, framed against a background of politics and the reality of today’s migration crisis.
At the center of every story lies credible fear; this essential volume is deserving of more than one read.
(author’s note, about the refugees, glossary, further reading)
Sophie Scholl was a young German student who wanted to see the end of Hitler and the Nazi regime. She gave her life for that cause.
As children, Sophie and her brother Hans were enthusiastic members of Hitler Youth organizations. But as the Nazis’ chokehold increased and the roundups and arrests of dissenters and Jews escalated, they became determined to resist. After conscription into the National Labor Service, Hans, Sophie, and trusted university friends formed the secret White Rose resistance group. Hans began to compose treasonable leaflets, promoting an uprising against Hitler. Sophie helped get the leaflets out to influential people as well as to other university students. Their work attracted the attention of Nazi sympathizers, who informed the Gestapo of suspicious activities—and they were ultimately caught by a university custodian. Intensive interrogation and imprisonment, followed by a sham trial led by a fanatical judge, led to the sentence of death by guillotine. Organized in repeated sections that move forward and backward in time, readers hear Sophie’s thoughts in brief, pointed, free-verse poems in direct, compelling language. Other poems give voice to individuals such as her boyfriend, Fritz, who served in the German army, and the Gestapo interrogator, adding to readers’ understanding of the inevitability of the outcome and the tragic futility of their sacrifice.
Real events made deeply personal in an intense, bone-chilling reading experience.
(dramatis personae, glossary, author’s note, sources)
(Verse historical fiction. 12-adult)