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2/2020 - To fight back against spam comments, I am closing comments to all older posts. Current blog posts will still have comments open. I apologize for this inconvenience.

September 27, 2021

Graphic Novels, Picture Books, MG & YA Books, Adult Romance / Recommendations + Reviews


This post goes with the one I shared back in July: Diverse Children's Books.

Why another blog post featuring (mostly) diverse reads?

Because I enjoy them! Because diverse rep is crucial! Because readers should read widely and diversify their bookshelves/book stacks. Because publishers should have more diverse rep among their authors and the books that they publish.

I understand that some people are immediately turned off by the word "diverse."

I want to challenge those people to pick up a book with diverse rep (set aside any prejudgments they may have before they even give a book/author/character a chance) and expand their horizons.



Here's my recommendations and reviews. I hope you enjoy them and find at least one book to add to your TBR list.


GRAPHIC NOVELS:


The Prince and the Dressmaker - I adored this book. ADORED it! I wouldn’t even tell you to read the blurb. Just read the title, look at the cover, know it’s about a prince who likes to wear dresses, and then dive right in. This story is cute and sweet and just perfect. I don’t know what else to say but that I loved it and read it in one sitting. I’ve been reading a lot of graphic novels and this one was my favorite of all the ones I’ve read.



Toi and MJ recommended this series to me in my last book post. Thank you both!

The March series of graphic novels are powerful and important. They depict events that should be taught in all schools, to all children. Book One is about the sit-ins at segregated lunch counters. Book Two is about the Freedom Riders and their dangerous, brave journey. Book Three is about voting rights and the marches that took place in Selma.

I have highly recommended books before, but these three graphic novels are above all those other books. These graphic novels are more than pieces of history that need to be told. They are eye-opening and inspiring in a time when we need our eyes opened and to be inspired the most.

Content Warning - N-word



Kid Gloves - This graphic novel isn’t just about pregnancy, although that is the majority of the content. It’s also about a woman’s body, history of gynecology and childbirth, myths and superstitions, miscarriage, fertility options, and loads of pregnancy research, which I really liked and appreciated. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to be pregnant (but perhaps not to someone who is currently pregnant), but also to anyone simply interested in these topics, regardless of whether you want to have a baby or not.



*The novel format of this book has been banned, challenged, and restricted, and this week is Banned Books Week.

Speak: The Graphic Novel - I love the novel Speak, and I love the graphic novel. That’s it. That’s my review.



Hot Comb - The f-bomb and “b*itch” do appear in this graphic novel, but, honestly, kids know these words. Kids say these words, even if they don’t say them around their parents. This is an important graphic novel since there is so much discrimination against natural Black hairstyles. We’ve seen it happen. We’ve seen a referee force a high school student to cut his locs or forfeit his match. We’ve seen schools claim Black hairstyles are “inappropriate.” We see it in the workplace, too. So, yes, this is important.

The story about Lena broke my heart. Her white teammates wanted to touch her hair and talk about her hair so much that Lena developed a disorder and started to pull her hair out strand by strand. This is an example of how damaging it can be to focus so much on someone’s hair and to treat it as unnatural. The following story after Lena’s is an example of what a white dude should never say to or about his Black girlfriend. The sad thing is, I can see white dudes saying and thinking what the guy in this story did.

Now, please learn about and support The CROWN Act.

Sign the petition asking for the CROWN Act to be passed in all 50 states.

Email your senator.



The Best We Could Do - This is a great story about a multi-generational family and how what your parents and grandparents go through (especially if they lived during times of war and in a war-torn country) could impact later generations. I didn’t know much about the Vietnam War and Vietnamese history. I appreciate this graphic novel for sharing stories about people who lived these experiences. 



 PICTURE BOOKS:


Eyes that Kiss in the Corners - This book was so sweet. It warmed my heart, and the illustrations were gorgeous. All eyes and all people should be celebrated. My sister is Asian and has eyes that kiss in the corners. My oldest nephew has round eyes like his dad but straight lashes like my sister, and my youngest nephew has eyes that kiss in the corners like my sisters and curled lashes like his dad. I love all of their eyes.

Don’t Touch My Hair - This is an important story about boundaries when it comes to touching someone without their permission, especially a Black person’s hair. Hair is diverse. Hair is personal. Never touch someone else’s hair without asking for permission first. Not only is it rude, but hands are icky. When you touch someone’s hair without asking, you’re putting the germs and dirt on your hands on their hair. And always respect if someone says you can’t touch their hair. This was a cute story with cute, bright illustrations.


*I forgot to take a picture of this book.

Fry Bread - A great story about family and community and, of course, fry bread. I loved the pages at the end where the author provided more information about fry bread, history, and more.  My mom makes fry bread. It’s different from the recipe in this book, which the author acknowledges. This book is a great addition to classrooms and schools. Below are pictures of the fry bread I made using my mom's recipe.






We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga - This was a simple book that teaches about what it means to be grateful throughout the entire year, not just on one day or one month. It even teaches how to say words in Cherokee, with pronunciation guides.



MIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT NOVELS:



Long Way Down - Wow. This is powerful. Full of grief and heartache. From the blurb: “Sixty seconds. Seven floors. Three rules. One gun." What happens to Will on that elevator as he goes down, down, down gave me chills. Multiple times. And that ending!

This story is written in verse, and I read it in one sitting.

I also read the graphic novel. It was very good, but I definitely recommend the novel because it’s beautiful and heartbreaking and chilling all at once. The illustrations for the graphic novel are amazing, though, exactly what I had pictured.



Esperanza Rising - I’d been meaning to read this book for a long time. I wish I had read it sooner because it is a great story. In the beginning, I didn’t like Esperanza too much because she’s a spoiled, privileged brat, but her circumstances kept me reading. I had to know what was going to happen to her next. Also, she was written that way for a reason. I loved her transformation by the end of the book. 

There’s threads woven through the story from the very beginning to the end that I enjoyed seeing (her grandmother’s crotchet, her papa’s roses, the yarn doll her mom makes, feeling the earth’s heart beat, etc.).

This story made me think about immigrants now, immigration laws, detention centers, ICE, and all the people who leave Mexico looking for a better life. Although dated back in the 30s, Esperanza’s story is relevant today.

At the end of the book, the author talks about an event that happened in the story and shares historical facts. I never learned about the Deportation Act that was signed into law in 1929, which led to the so-called “voluntary repatriation”…involuntary deportations. The numbers of Mexicans deported (including those who were US citizens and had never lived in Mexico) were greater “than the Native American removals of the nineteenth century and greater than the Japanese-American relocations during World War 11.” Both of those horrible events are usually left out of our history teachings, as well.

The yarn dolls I made using the instructions at the back of the book.


Flight to Freedom - I would’ve preferred more closure at the end of the book (like what happens to her brother and cousin), but I still very much appreciated this book about a young girl and her family who flee to Miami, Florida to escape Fidel Castro’s hold on Cuba. This book shows what it was like for her living in a new country and going to a new school not knowing or understanding English, and what it was like for her family leaving loved ones behind and being exiles.

This book is set during 1967 and 1968. The US had made negotiations with Cuba to get people out, resulting in the Freedom Flights that happened twice a day from December 1965 to April 1973. Nowadays, immigration laws are stricter and people fleeing Cuba (as well as Haiti) by boat are not allowed to enter the US.


Positively - I was watching season two of Pose when I remembered that I owned a copy of this book. I appreciated a look into what it’s like for young people with HIV/AIDS. Emmy was four when she was diagnosed as HIV-positive. Now she’s thirteen. She experiences all the phases of grief throughout this story after losing her mom to AIDS.

NOTE: This book was published in 2009. I want to point out the use of the phrase “Indian style” for sitting cross-legged and a conversation between the main character and her mom’s best friend (Lisa) about an “Indian name” for Lisa’s baby being “Chief Fist to Face” because of how the baby sits. As well as: “He was born to be a chief.” These are white characters saying these things, which makes it problematic.



ADULT ROMANCE:


Get A Life, Chloe Brown - I started reading this book while waiting the 15 minutes after I got my second dose of the vaccine. Right away I said, “I like these characters!” Chloe has fibromyalgia and chronic pain. And Red is a kind-hearted artist with tattoos who can’t deal when a woman cries. 




Take a Hint, Dani Brown - Dani is a witch, and Zaf is super grumpy. His grumpiness is everything. Zaf is officially my new favorite book boyfriend. 




Act Your Age, Eve Brown - Eve and Jacob are both on the autism spectrum. Eve is an adorable, delightful character. Enemies to lovers trope.



FINAL THOUGHTS:

I've seen a lot of negative comments about diverse books lately, like: 

1) how there's such a big push for diverse books (marginalized voices) that publishers are concerned more about quantity than quality.

(In other words, most of the diverse books that are being published are not good, which is false. Let's not forget all the bad [truly awful] non-diverse books there are out there...)

2) that some readers want to escape reality and can't do that in books with diverse rep.

(Books can reflect the diverse world we live in and still offer us an escape.)

NOTE: It is 100% possible to read a book featuring characters who are not of your same race, sexual orientation, or religion and still connect with that character in some way: being the new kid at school, dealing with a boss who is a huge jerk, looking for love and romance, even small things like a shared hobby. You don't have to totally relate to the main character or their life or struggles to appreciate and enjoy the story.

3) that white authors couldn't possibly write diverse books well enough and aren't getting published anymore because of that. (said by white folks.)

(Plenty of white authors are still getting published with books featuring all-white characters. That hasn't changed. What has changed? More BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ authors and stories with BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ characters are being published, which is a good thing. There's plenty of room for these authors and these characters.)

Let's not continue spreading these harmful narratives about books with diverse rep.

Thank you!


QUESTIONS: Have you read any of these books? Are you adding any of these books to your TBR list? Do you have any recommendations for me?



17 comments:

  1. I agree that the March books should taught in schools. If they had been around back when I was teaching, I would have had them in my classroom. I did have Speak in my classroom (not the graphic novel, but the other one), though.

    I've been seeing the Talia Hibbert books around the Internet and thought they looked like great reads. So glad to hear you enjoyed them!

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    1. Talia Hibbert's The Brown Sisters Series is definitely worth all the hype. I usually don't find that true, but it is for these books...and these sisters.

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  2. Hi Chrys - thanks for this very interesting post ... also good to have recommendations ... and if one doesn't like a book - it doesn't mean someone else won't enjoy it. I struggle sometimes reading about or reading American books ... so I'm careful. I must look out some of these - see if I can get them from the library to read ... interesting post and relevant to today - cheers Hilary

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    1. I can see and understand why you (or anyone else outside the US) may struggle with American books. I found most of these through my local library system, so I hope you can find them at yours. :) Thank you for commenting!

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    1. Thanks, Toi. I appreciate that. And thank you for recommending the March series to me. Have you read Run by John Lewis. I recently got it from the library, but I haven’t read it yet. It’s Book One if a new graphic novel trilogy.

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  4. These look so awesome! I had not heard of most of them, and I really love graphic novels. Like I need more for my TBR pile, right?

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    1. Oh, but graphic novels are quick reads. ;) That’s what I tell myself every time I pick up a stack from my local library. lol

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  5. I haven't read any of the books, but I thank you for standing up for diversity.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I am giving you the biggest virtual hugs ever. Thank you so much for saying that. ❤️

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  6. I wish I had known about the March books when I was at the alternative education center in July. There was a student who connected with a graphic novel on Nat Turner, and he would have loved those. (I'm not there any longer, so I don't have a way of recommending them now.)

    I live in a very diverse area. I can't understand why people wouldn't relate to diverse reads.

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    1. Oh, shucks. That’s really too bad that you can’t recommend the March books to that student. If only I had read these books and posted this sooner. I read most of these books (including the March series) in August. But…at least you know about them now, in case the opportunity to recommend them to anyone comes up again. :)

      I can’t understand it, either.

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  7. I hadn't heard of these books, but they sound great. I agree with you that it's important to read and share more diverse books. I've been reading more of them and featuring diverse authors on my blog

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    1. I love what you do on your blog, Natalie. I always find many great authors and books there.

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  8. You've picked some great ones here. I'll have to check out The Prince and the Dressmaker. It sounds right up our alley (our, because my youngest and I read a lot of graphic novels together/in turn). I often seek out more diverse reads. At age 50, I've read enough straight white guys to last me for the next 50, and I value the WINDOW aspect of reading more than the MIRROR. I want the chance to see lives that are different than mine. Thanks for sharing this list!

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    1. "I've read enough straight white guys to last me for the next 50..." *nods* I applaud that.

      And I like how you put this: "the WINDOW aspect of reading more than the MIRROR."

      Thank you so much for visiting, Samantha, and for your comment!

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