I apologize, folks. I did not write a blog about Black authors like I said I would, and I feel terrible about that. Sometimes, I forget about this blog because I am too busy reading, and I feel like reading middle grade and YA books is a requirement for my position as 8th grade English teacher because I need to keep up with amazing authors for my students. It’s not a bad gig!
Because I failed in my attempt to celebrate Black authors, this blog will focus on a bunch of authors who are authors of color and write with young people of color as their main characters. It’s such a great time to be a reader of middle grade and YA literature! Support your authors of color!
Love Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
I finished this book a few minutes ago, and that’s what prompted me to write a new blog post. This book is a must for all to read! Author Samira Ahmed creates a strong story with Maya Aziz as the protagonist. Maya is torn between two worlds: her parents world and what she wants for herself.
A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.
American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.
There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Okay, I finished this book in about a day once I had time to read it. I am not a fantasy fan, but . . . OMG! This book is amazing!! Romance (in all different directions), action, corruption, morality, magic – this book has it all! I am waiting anxiously for the second book, A Torch Against the Night, to be delivered to our local indie book store – Buffalo Books and Coffee. (FYI – Support your local book stores!) One of my 8th grade students and I are fighting over who gets to read the second book first since she is waiting for me to pick up the book when it comes in. (I might be selfish with this one and read it before her.)
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
American Panda by Gloria Chao
I was laughing out loud on the first page, so that was a good sign! Author Gloria Chao weaves parts of her life story and other’s stories into one fictional story about Mei, who like Maya from Love Hate & Other Filters, has to determine if she wants to lead the life she wants or the life her parents want for her.
An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.
At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.
With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.
But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?
Watched by Marina Budhos
I didn’t rate this book as high as the other three books in this post, but it is a decent book. It simplified things a bit too much for me, but I think that simplification would actually work for the 7th, 8th, and 9th graders who read it. It’s a deep topic, so the simplification might help kids understand better.
Marina Budhos’s extraordinary and timely novel examines what it’s like to grow up under surveillance, something many Americans experience and most Muslim Americans know.
Naeem is far from the “model teen.” Moving fast in his immigrant neighborhood in Queens is the only way he can outrun the eyes of his hardworking Bangladeshi parents and their gossipy neighbors. Even worse, they’re not the only ones watching. Cameras on poles. Mosques infiltrated. Everyone knows: Be careful what you say and who you say it to. Anyone might be a watcher.
Naeem thinks he can charm his way through anything, until his mistakes catch up with him and the cops offer a dark deal. Naeem sees a way to be a hero—a protector—like the guys in his brother’s comic books. Yet what is a hero? What is a traitor? And where does Naeem belong?
Acclaimed author Marina Budhos delivers a riveting story that’s as vivid and involving as today’s headlines.
On a side note . . . I read a few other books along with these since my last post, but they were just okay and I didn’t find much value to them as an adult reader reading with kids in mind. Not gonna share those.