A necessary reckoning of tensions within the African diaspora—an introduction to its brokenness and a place to start healing.

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DREAM COUNTRY

Gibney (See No Color, 2015) skillfully navigates centuries of colonial violence, emphasizing the importance of privileging impact over intention in historical texts.

A comprehensive, but not entirely cohesive, timeline introduces a family beginning in 1827 at a plantation in Virginia. The story moves through the brutal colonization of Liberia, detailed further in the backmatter, by Europeans alongside white Americans and freed or escaped black slaves and ends with the prescient voice of Angel, a “black-African-queer” woman in present-day Minnesota. Gibney creates clear voices for her characters, most strikingly with 16-year-old Kollie, a Liberian refugee whose experience at his high school explores a microcosm of real discord between African-Americans and immigrants or refugees from myriad African countries living in the U.S. The naming of specific tribes in what became Liberia, and the inclusion of traditional proverbs alongside quotations from African-American writers, further spotlights the complicated, ever intertwined existences of black people all over the world. A nuanced focus on Liberia through the perspective of this one family, five generations described in five parts, therefore becomes a moving and melancholic metaphor for the struggle for place and home experienced by those still trapped by the legacy of the triangle of trans-Atlantic trade.

A necessary reckoning of tensions within the African diaspora—an introduction to its brokenness and a place to start healing. (author’s note, further resources, timeline) (Historical fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3167-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A stunning novel that exposes modern fascism and elevates human resilience. (author’s note, research and sources, glossary,...

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THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE

The pitiless dictatorship of Francisco Franco examined through the voices of four teenagers: one American and three Spaniards.

The Spanish Civil War lasted from 1936-1939, but Franco held Spain by its throat for 36 years. Sepetys (Salt to the Sea, 2016, etc.) begins her novel in 1957. Daniel is a white Texan who wants to be a photojournalist, not an oilman; Ana is trying to work her way to respectability as a hotel maid; her brother, Rafael, wants to erase memories of an oppressive boys’ home; and Puri is a loving caregiver for babies awaiting adoption—together they provide alternating third-person lenses for viewing Spain during one of its most brutally repressive periods. Their lives run parallel and intersect as each tries to answer questions about truth and the path ahead within a regime that crushes any opposition, murders dissidents, and punishes their families while stealing babies to sell to parents with accepted political views. This formidable story will haunt those who ask hard questions about the past as it reveals the hopes and dreams of individuals in a nation trying to lie its way to the future. Meticulous research is presented through believable, complex characters on the brink of adulthood who personalize the questions we all must answer about our place in the world. 

A stunning novel that exposes modern fascism and elevates human resilience. (author’s note, research and sources, glossary, photographs) (Historical fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-16031-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging

STALKING JACK THE RIPPER

Audrey Rose Wadsworth, 17, would rather perform autopsies in her uncle’s dark laboratory than find a suitable husband, as is the socially acceptable rite of passage for a young, white British lady in the late 1800s.

The story immediately brings Audrey into a fractious pairing with her uncle’s young assistant, Thomas Cresswell. The two engage in predictable rounds of “I’m smarter than you are” banter, while Audrey’s older brother, Nathaniel, taunts her for being a girl out of her place. Horrific murders of prostitutes whose identities point to associations with the Wadsworth estate prompt Audrey to start her own investigation, with Thomas as her sidekick. Audrey’s narration is both ponderous and polemical, as she sees her pursuit of her goals and this investigation as part of a crusade for women. She declares that the slain aren’t merely prostitutes but “daughters and wives and mothers,” but she’s also made it a point to deny any alignment with the profiled victims: “I am not going as a prostitute. I am simply blending in.” Audrey also expresses a narrow view of her desired gender role, asserting that “I was determined to be both pretty and fierce,” as if to say that physical beauty and liking “girly” things are integral to feminism. The graphic descriptions of mutilated women don’t do much to speed the pace.

Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging . (Historical thriller. 15-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-27349-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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