A thoughtful and entertaining how-to guide weakened by serious diversity-related missteps.



This thorough, well-voiced guide to becoming a writer covers everything you need to be published, starting with developing the right attitude.

From building believable characters to finding an agent to designing a book cover, Van Draanen’s (Wild Bird, 2017, etc.) guide to becoming a writer has it all. Beginning with her personal history as the child of hardworking Dutch immigrants, the author encourages future writers to be gritty, describing her own relentless pursuit of her craft even during a decade of constant rejections from major publishing houses. She then moves from the attitudes necessary for creative work to the more practical details: how to find a narratorial voice, how to structure a mystery, and how to find and work with an editor. Throughout, she uses moments of perseverance and struggle from her own life to urge aspiring writers to keep going, no matter what challenges—internal and external—they must face down. Van Draanen’s voice is charmingly no-nonsense, and the themes she explores are sure to benefit aspiring writers of many ages. Unfortunately, though, by insisting on the connection between hard work and success, Van Draanen ignores structural issues that prevent writers from marginalized backgrounds from breaking into publishing with the same ease as mainstream peers. Furthermore, small moments of ignorance unredeemed by self-reflection—such as shaming her childhood bully for her looks and repeatedly using the charged term "hoodlum" in a context that is loaded with class-based assumptions—make her unexamined privilege difficult to ignore.

A thoughtful and entertaining how-to guide weakened by serious diversity-related missteps. (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9466-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Small but mighty necessary reading.


From the Pocket Change Collective series

A miniature manifesto for radical queer acceptance that weaves together the personal and political.

Eli, a cis gay white Jewish man, uses his own identities and experiences to frame and acknowledge his perspective. In the prologue, Eli compares the global Jewish community to the global queer community, noting, “We don’t always get it right, but the importance of showing up for other Jews has been carved into the DNA of what it means to be Jewish. It is my dream that queer people develop the same ideology—what I like to call a Global Queer Conscience.” He details his own isolating experiences as a queer adolescent in an Orthodox Jewish community and reflects on how he and so many others would have benefitted from a robust and supportive queer community. The rest of the book outlines 10 principles based on the belief that an expectation of mutual care and concern across various other dimensions of identity can be integrated into queer community values. Eli’s prose is clear, straightforward, and powerful. While he makes some choices that may be divisive—for example, using the initialism LGBTQIAA+ which includes “ally”—he always makes clear those are his personal choices and that the language is ever evolving.

Small but mighty necessary reading. (resources) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09368-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A beautiful meditation on the tender, fraught interior lives of Black boys.


The acclaimed author of Between the World and Me (2015) reflects on the family and community that shaped him in this adaptation of his 2008 adult memoir of the same name.

Growing up in Baltimore in the ’80s, Coates was a dreamer, all “cupcakes and comic books at the core.” He was also heavily influenced by “the New York noise” of mid-to-late-1980s hip-hop. Not surprisingly then, his prose takes on an infectious hip-hop poetic–meets–medieval folklore aesthetic, as in this description of his neighborhood’s crew: “Walbrook Junction ran everything, until they met North and Pulaski, who, craven and honorless, would punk you right in front of your girl.” But it is Coates’ father—a former Black Panther and Afrocentric publisher—who looms largest in his journey to manhood. In a community where their peers were fatherless, Coates and his six siblings viewed their father as flawed but with the “aura of a prophet.” He understood how Black boys could get caught in the “crosshairs of the world” and was determined to save his. Coates revisits his relationships with his father, his swaggering older brother, and his peers. The result will draw in young adult readers while retaining all of the heart of the original.

A beautiful meditation on the tender, fraught interior lives of Black boys. (maps, family tree) (Memoir. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984894-03-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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