As CivMix’s resident librarian, I‘m here to offer a few suggestions for titles you may find of interest. I work with middle school students, who are an ever
contradictory interesting population with an unpredictable blend of child and teen, and most of my reading material comes from “my” library. The books below, like many items in my collection, are appropriate for interested readers in a wide range of ages.
First up, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You, a collaboration between Ibram X. Kendi and superstar YA writer, Jason Reynolds. This nonfiction book “remixes” Kendi’s National Book Award winning Stamped from the Beginning and packages it in a readily accessible format and language for younger readers and those seeking a succinct, clear history of 400+ years of racial discrimination in America.
The tone of this book is conversational and informal with brief chapters. The information conveyed is like that of a history book which has been written by the likes of Saratoga author, Steve Sheinkin. Stamped is incredibly informative, while also being digestible, even for upper middle grade students. There’s a familiarity to the history presented to readers because so many of the book’s facts are already documented and taught, just not quite from the same angle.
I know I’m a sucker for well expressed words, sometimes to my downfall, but the chronology and perspective presented here is irrefutable – our entire country is constructed on racial discrimination and white supremacy. And it must change. Read this and pass it on. Please.
While Stamped spanned hundreds of years, my next pick is smaller in scope. This Light Between Us, a historical fiction novel written by Andrew Fukuda, is primarily set during WW II. The main character, Alex Maki, is a first generation Japanese-American born and raised on Washington’s Bainbridge Island. His family are strawberry farmers who, caught up in the anti-Japanese fervor post Pearl Harbor, are among the first to be sent to Manzanar, a government prison created to contain Japanese Americans who were perceived to be a threat to our society.
Alex, a young teen when we meet him, has a Parisian penpal, Charlie Lèvy, whom he is initially disappointed to learn is a girl. As their letter exchange continues, through volatile times, each of them experience discrimination and the loss of freedom at the hands of their own nation. The forge a bond of friendship despite the distance between them and the myriad of ways in which they differ from one another, focusing instead on their common humanity. It’s a terrific book with significant parallels to contemporary circumstances.
Now, the last of my titles is not nearly as easy to categorize as the two above. It’s historical fiction with mythology and a touch of fantasy. If that combination of genres doesn’t appeal to you, I feel you. I had the same response. Lovely War, by Julie Berry, was by no means the first title I pulled off the cart of new books, but eventually it found its way to my bedside TBR* pile.
The story begins with infidelity amongst Greek Gods. The lovers are nearly caught in the act by the husband of Aphrodite, who must then make her case for Love. She tells her story, with the assistance of Hephaestus, Apollo, Hades, and Ares, among others, by offering two tales of love. Set during The Great War, Lovely War touches on timely topics such as racism, a health pandemic and the sheer brutality of war. I couldn’t have loved this book more!
So, those are my recommendations for you. What do you have for me?
*TBR = To Be Read. It’s librarianspeak.