Just Read It is a regular feature in which the State Journal seeks recommendations from authors, literary enthusiasts and experts, focused on the contributor’s particular genre of expertise. This article ran last fall, however after running into Kekla at ALA in San Francisco, I want to give a shout out on my blog to some very timely diverse books!!!
Bridget Birdsall believes that books save lives. Despite dyslexic challenges, Bridget made a mid-life decision to pursue her dream to write. In 2005, she earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Her recent novel “Double Exposure,” about an intersex teen athlete who finds her personal power, was recently named a top anti-bully book by Publishers Weekly. Birdsall likes to write and read books that tackle tough topics. She supports the We Need Diverse Books (diversebooks.org) grassroots organization, which seeks to increase visibility for diverse books and their author
Here’s what she’s read and recommends:
1 and 2. “The Rock and the River,” and its companion novel, “Fire in the Streets,” by Kekla Magoon. A winner of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award, Kekla’s talent was evident to me when I heard her read at Vermont College. Set in Chicago in 1968, each book can stand alone, and both deal with civil rights issues of the time, yet they are eerily reminiscent of what we still see in our country today. Not only does Kekla delve deeply into the psyches of her teen characters, she provides incredible insight and historically significant details about the aspirations of the Black Panther Party. The first book follows the life of 13-year-old Sam Childs, who faces a life-altering decision, and the second follows Maxie, a young Black Panther wannabe, or at least she thinks she wants to be, until she realizes what she must give up.
3. “Fat Angie” by e.E Charlton-Trujillo. To better serve under-represented voices, I believe we must also consider the great need for young adult literature that portrays the lives of our LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer or questioning and intersex) youth. I loved “Fat Angie,” not only because it has a bit of basketball in it, but because Angie is someone who so many teen readers can relate to. She is an overweight, awkward teenager who believes her captured war-hero sister is still alive. Angie spends her days trying to forget her past, her grief, and the judgment that surrounds her at home and in school. Then a new girl comes to town. Not just any girl, either: A smart, hip, beautiful girl who sees Angie for who she really is. That’s when this anti-romance really shifts into gear and Angie, too, learns to stand in the power of who she is.