- Gabby Womack
Where Wild Peaches Grow - Cade Bentley
Rep: Black American (Biracial, Southern)
This contemporary fiction novel is about two estranged sisters who are forced to reunite after their father’s untimely death. Although it’s been 15 years since Nona “Peaches” Davenport left her family and friends behind in Natchez, it’s clear that she never got over her reason for leaving and neither has her sister Julia. Neither has forgiven the other for perceived abandonment and betrayal so when they meet again, the messy truth comes out.
Review: I enjoyed the way Bentley unraveled the story in a way that felt gossipy and mysterious. She connected it to so many issues without weighing it down. Topics covered: how family secrets can lead to more pain, how white southerners view history, and how difficult it can be to uncover the truth about both.
The Thread Collectors - Shaunna J. Edwards & Alyson Richman
Rep: Jewish-American (NY), Black American (New Orleans, Mulatto/Quadroon)
The Thread Collectors is a historical fiction novel set during the Civil War. With multiple POVs, it brings together the stories of two couples, one white and Jewish, the other Black and enslaved. Stella is a mixed race woman who uses her role as the mistress of a well-connected white man and skills in embroidery to create maps for the enslaved men who seek to escape and join the Union troops. Meanwhile, her real love William enlists and bonds with another soldier over their musician backgrounds. This soldier’s wife Lily is a devoted abolitionist in NYC and joins a sewing circle to craft quilts for soldiers. When months go by without a letter from her husband, she heads South to find him herself.
Review: This was such a fascinating read! I love that it had multiple POVs that wove into one another so well that I wasn’t overwhelmed by them. I love that the authors didn’t shy away from the complicated views that Black folks in New Orleans and white Jews in the U.S. held at the time about their own people and slavery.
Common Courtesy: In Which Miss Manners Solves the Problem That Baffled Mr. Jefferson - Judith Martin
Genre: Nonfiction (culture & humor)
“In this short book, Miss Manners (a.k.a. Judith Martin) discusses the issue of American etiquette, using historical and contemporary examples to hone in on a solution for a code of behavior that is both democratic and functional.”- Goodreads
Review: I read this book because my boyfriend’s dad really wanted someone to discuss it with. It was published in 1985, so I was nervous about what homegirl would say in her book since it was connected to Jefferson. Y’all know, I don’t think the best person to reference in relation to etiquette is an enslaver and pedo so yeah… Jefferson apparently tried to figure out a way for folks in this new country to show manners to one another without using the social rules of the monarchy. Miss Manners explains that (at the time of writing this) it is easy to inadvertently insult others because everyone seems to have their individual set of social rules which also leads to some people thinking that if they can explain why they said or did something, they will be absolved of responsibility. Sounds familiar. She also points out that people are expected to be available to everyone at all times now that technology has made it easy to connect which leads some to consider a person rude for not responding immediately. Miss Manners believes that all of this could be resolved if we all (in the U.S.) agreed on a set of rules for etiquette. She tried to talk about this topic with some humor and I understood her points but I thought that her idea was unrealistic of a society with so many different cultures interacting.
Blood Like Magic - Liselle Sambury
Rep: Black Canadian (Trini & Creole), Mexican, Transgender, Blended Family
I read this book for the Homies in Outer Space book club and through our discussion this past Sunday, I think I’m able to finally share my thoughts. Blood Like Magic takes place in a dystopian/futuristic Toronto where a community of witches live and genetics are used for just about everything. Voya has been eagerly awaiting her Calling, a trial she must pass in order to gain her powers. The task is always assigned by an ancestor and Voya’s turns out to be a nightmare. She must “destroy” her first love. As she tries to figure out how to complete her task, Voya enrolls in a brand new genetic matchmaking program by NuGene that matches her with Luc. Luc is a grumpy teen who interns at NuGene. As she gets to know him so she can succeed in her Calling, Voya begins to feel uneasy about going through with it.
Review: I was super excited to read a witchy book with a Black girl as the MC, especially since the cover is gorgeous. However, my excitement faded as I read. It took almost 10 chapters for any action to happen because Voya’s fatal flaw is that she’s extremely indecisive. I wish I knew that was going to be a big part of the story before I went in. This book has so many things going on that it fell flat for me. It’s dystopian/futuristic but it’s also fantasy and includes romance and eugenics and generational trauma. I could see what the author was trying to do but the book was too detailed for me to feel any real connection with Voya and the ending just pissed me off. It was definitely a good way to show how dysfunctional a family can become when the adults hide everything from their children and then expect them to function fully in life without crucial information. Miscommunication and indecisiveness irk me for this very reason, which is why it was so hard for me to enjoy this book.
Hunted - Meagan Spooner
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Hunted is a Beauty and the Beast retelling where Beauty aka Yeva is the one hunting the beast instead of the villagers. Yeva’s father loses his fortune and has to relocate to the outskirts of town. She’s relieved, because she loves hunting in the forest more than considering a wealthy guy’s marriage proposal. So when her father goes missing in the woods, Yeva jumps to find him. Her absence lasts years.
Review: I don’t want to ruin the twist of this story for anyone so I’ll just say that it was an interesting take on the original tale and I liked the more mystical elements that Spooner added to it. I enjoyed it but I already don’t remember much of the details of the story. I’m not sure if it’s because it wasn’t memorable to me or because of regular ole memory problems.
One For All - Lillie Lainoff
Rep: POTS (Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), LGBTQ+
As you might have guessed, One For All is a “gender-bent retelling of The Three Musketeers.” This story follows Tania de Batz, a chronically-ill teen who’s father (a former Musketeer) was just brutally murdered. Tania is crushed because her father was the one person who didn’t see her as a pathetic sick girl with no prospects. In fact, he had trained her in fencing. Tania soon finds out that her father’s dying wish was for her to attend L’Académie des Mariées. Turns out, it isn’t a finishing school, it’s a society of women Musketeers. She’s basically trained to be a spy sitting in plain sight among the upper classes to gain intel. Despite their duty to protecting the young King of France, Tania is more dedicated to finding out who murdered her father and bringing them to justice.
Review: I loved this book! It’s the first time I’ve ever read a story where the MC has the same condition as me and reading it made me feel less alone with my struggle. I love that Tania meets people who have also been disregarded by society and bonds with them over it. These new friends truly have her back, understand her illness, and don’t infantilize her or underestimate what she can do. Instead, they help her when she needs it and act as a team. I was also excited to see that the author also has POTS and is a fencer! Definitely read the notes after the story because they are amazing. Although POTS is a very common condition (especially in young women) not many people know about it, there’s no cure, and the symptoms vary drastically. For example, Tania’s symptoms are frequent dizziness, body weakness, and her eyesight is affected. My symptoms are similar but I don’t have issues with eyesight and I deal with a number of other issues, too.
The Lesbiana's Guide to Catholic School - Sonora Reyes
Rep: Mexican-American, Chinese-American, Queer
Genre: YA Coming of Age & Romance
Yamilet Flores starts attending a new school after being outed by her ex-best friend at her former high school. Well, she's technically at this Catholic school with her brother because he got in a fight at the old one. Yami plans to start fresh. Her plan is to help her mom out financially with work, do well in school, keep her brother out of more trouble, and hide the gay away. Her plans are shaky after she meets Bo who is the only openly gay person at school. Unfortunately, she's perfect and Yami's growing crush on Bo threatens to ruin everything. She fears her mom will kick her out for her sexuality and doesn't want to make her home life harder.
Review: This book felt so real for me. Having that tough mom who loves hard but also sends the message that she disapproves of queerness. I love that Yami and her brother are so close. Her connection with Bo is also super sweet. Bo is an awesome love interest and she's so bold. Like Yami, I admire her. I wish I had this book when I was growing up. It really hit me in the feels!!!!
Coyote Songs - Gabino Iglesias
Rep: Mexican, Mexican-American, Dominican?
Coyote Songs is a short mysterious thriller that ties folk lore with present-day issues of immigration, racism, sexual assault, the prison industrial complex and more. We follow the lives of 6 people: Pedrito, Alma, Jaime, La Bruja, The Coyote, and The Mother. Pedrito wants to seek revenge for his father’s murder, Alma seeks to create art that really means something, Jaime just got released from prison for a crime he didn’t commit, La Bruja tries to cross the Southwest border with her family, The Coyote shuttles children across that same border, and The Mother is carrying a baby that she believes may be a monster. The stories come together over time and deliver a really powerful punch in the end.
Review: The multiple POVs made the experience all-encompassing and it’s bilingual. So if you don’t know Spanish or are a bit rusty, be sure to use a translator app or try out the camera feature on Google translate to help. There were so many really beautiful and arresting lines in this book that I couldn't mark them all! Really well done, I just wasn’t a fan of the random moments of blatant fatphobia.