THE BOY IN THE RED DRESS

This LGBTQ–themed historical mystery is far from a drag.

1930 rings in with calamity at the Cloak and Dagger, a queer speak-easy hidden in the French Quarter of New Orleans. And while drama may normally run high at the club, things boil over when 17-year-old drag headliner Marion Leslie is accused of murdering society’s darling Arimentha “Minty” McDonough. Thankfully, Millie, who is Marion’s best friend, de facto manager of the Cloak and Dagger, and the 17-year-old narrator, won’t let her friend be railroaded for the crime based on his orientation. Aiding Millie in her hunt for the real killer are her potential love interests, the bronze-skinned waitress Olive and Italian American bootlegger Bennie. (Subplot: Which, if either, of the two will Millie ultimately choose?) As Millie uncovers clues and stumbles over red herrings, the book seamlessly interweaves themes of class, race, abuse, and privilege. Readers will get a taste of what life was like for queer people, albeit white queer people, of the time. Lambert plays fair with the clues, allowing savvy readers to keep pace with Millie. The book is a glittering tribute to the end of the Roaring ’20s, and mystery aficionados of any sexual orientation will think it’s the bee’s knees.

A hotsy-totsy read! (Mystery. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11368-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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An optimistic, sophisticated portrayal of one facet of Chinese American—and simply American—history.

THE DOWNSTAIRS GIRL

Jo Kuan leads a double life: a public role as a quiet lady’s maid and a secret one as the voice behind the hottest advice column in 1890 Atlanta.

Chinese American Jo is mostly invisible except for occasional looks of disdain and derisive comments, and she doesn’t mind: Her priority is making sure she and her adoptive father, Chinese immigrant Old Gin, remain safe in their abandoned abolitionists’ hideaway beneath a print shop. But even if she lives on the margins, Jo has opinions of her own which she shares in her newspaper advice column under the byline “Miss Sweetie.” Suddenly all of Atlanta is talking about her ideas, though they don’t know that the witty advice on relationships, millinery, and horse races comes from a Chinese girl. As curiosity about Miss Sweetie mounts, Jo may not be able to stay hidden much longer. And as she learns more about the blurred lines and the hard truths about race in her city and her own past, maybe she doesn’t want to. In her latest work, Lee (The Secret of a Heart Note, 2016, etc.) continues to demonstrate that Chinese people were present—and had a voice—in American history. She deftly weaves historical details with Jo’s personal story of finding a voice and a place for herself in order to create a single, luminous work.

An optimistic, sophisticated portrayal of one facet of Chinese American—and simply American—history. (Historical fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4095-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Both a poignant contemplation on 9/11 and a necessary intervention in this current political climate.

ALL WE HAVE LEFT

This election cycle, with its exacerbated Islamophobia, makes author Mills' (Positively Beautiful, 2015) fictive meditation on 9/11 and the 15 years after especially timely.

The book opens with Travis McLaurin, a 19-year-old white man trying to protect Alia Susanto, a 16-year-old hijab-wearing Indonesian-American Muslim, from the debris caused by the South Tower's destruction. The next chapter takes place 15 years later, with Travis' younger sister, Jesse, defacing a building with an Islamophobic slogan before the police catch her. The building, readers learn later, is the Islam Peace Center, where Jesse must do her community service for her crime. Between these plot points, the author elegantly transitions between the gripping descriptions of Alia and Travis trying to survive and Jesse almost falling into the abyss of generational hatred of Islam. In doing so, she artfully educates readers on both the aspects of Islam used as hateful stereotypes and the ruinous effects of Islamophobia. With almost poetic language, the author compassionately renders both the realistic lives, loves, passions, and struggles of Alia ("There's a galaxy between us, hung thick with stars of hurt and disappointment) and Jesse ("I'm caught in a tornado filled with the jagged pieces of my life") as both deal with the fallout of that tragic day.

Both a poignant contemplation on 9/11 and a necessary intervention in this current political climate. (timeline, author's note) (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61963-343-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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