Set in the
Wild West in 1877, inspired by the legend of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine, a
rich gold mine hidden in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona, this suspense
and action-filled novel follows Kate Thompson who sets out on a pursuit to seek
vengeance for her father’s death. On her mission to search for her father’s
murderers, she disguises herself as a boy named Nate and along the way, meets
new friends throughout her journey.
I have never read a western book before and being that I grew up
watching Old Western movies, I’m not sure what took me so long, but after
reading this novel I’m happy I started. This book was out of the ordinary from
other YA novels I’m used to reading and had many twists and turns that kept me
from putting the book down! Vengeance Road is the perfect mix of suspense, humor,
mystery, and romance, and I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for an
Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee is a heartfelt and uplifting novel about Mattie, a bookworm and star student whose had a crush on one of her fellow classmates Elijah for about a year. Her friends Lucy and Tessa know she had a crush on him for the longest, but one day at a party, Mattie meets the new girl, Gemma, and starts to develop an interest in her. As time passes, her crush for Gemma grows, as well as her confusion considering she was just crushing on Elijah. When Mattie’s English teacher announces who will be casted in Romeo and Juliet, Mattie is delighted to hear that she will be taking over the role of Romeo since the other student casted broke his arm; and Gemma will be playing Juliet. Despite her nervousness and not wanting others to find out, the play was still a success.
reading this book because it was like none I’ve ever read before. It was an
adorable and sweet story on life, friendships, and family dynamics. I loved how
normal and totally fine everyone was with her having a crush on a girl. Her
sister and friends were very supportive and reminded her there’s nothing to be afraid of. Overall, it’s
clear she learns to stay true and honest with herself. I believe this is a
great book every middle-school library should have.
Want to see the analysis for Star-Crossed? Click here to check it out.
There are very few books, specifically picture books, that explain
transgender people to young children. There are even fewer that do so delicately
and skillfully. Introducing Teddy: A
Gentle Story About Gender and Friendship by Jessica Walton boldly takes the
reins to explain transgender people to younger audiences in an easy-to-understand
and age appropriate manner. The illustrations, by Dougal MacPherson, add
tremendous depth to the story. We see the anguish on Tilly the Teddy Bear’s
face as she struggles to tell her best friend that she is not a boy teddy, but
a girl teddy. The anxiety and sadness are palpable on Tilly’s face and any
reader of any age can see the importance of this decision and its impact on her
life. The illustrations translate to real life as countless youth make the
difficult decision to come out every day.
Children are incredibly perceptive, and they will
immediately pick up upon the acceptance and friendship that Errol extends to
his teddy bear. His compassion is shown in both the text and the illustrations.
Errol is mindful of how his friend is feeling and comes out in full support of
Tilly’s true identity. Introducing Teddy teaches
children how to empathize and the importance of being there for your friends.
These lessons in kindness and consideration are incredibly important,
especially as the world continues to grow more diverse.
Want to read the analysis for Introducing Teddy? Click here to check it out.
In 2014, I attended a bookstore event for Shannon Hale—a
children’s and young adult author—where she was promoting her newest book, Dangerous. Dangerous tells the story of Maisie Danger Brown, a biracial
teenager born with a congenital limb difference who gains superpowers at an
ultra-secretive, highly-exclusive space camp. At the event, Shannon Hale
described a criticism she’d received from an early reader: “A homeschooled,
biracial Paraguayan American girl with one hand who wants to be an astronaut?
That’s too specific. Teens won’t be able to relate to her.” As if teenagers who
are both biracial and disabled don’t exist in the real world. As if white,
able-bodied teens could wrap their minds around superpowers bestowed by alien
technology, but not a character whose identity deviated too far from their own
Intersectionality is a term coined by activist and legal scholar
Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, while discussing issues of feminism and race.
Merriam-Webster defines it as “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects
of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism)
combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized
individuals or groups.” Young adult books featuring characters who live in the
intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and disability have become more
common in the five years since Dangerous was
published, but as with most issues related to diversity in young adult and
children’s literature, there is still plenty of room for improvement and
The following books feature teenage characters who belong to
more than one marginalized group:
Two Moms” is a great children’s book. I read it a while back because it truly
piqued my interest. The fact that it is a Spanish book that outwardly speaks on
homosexuality is quite groundbreaking. These kinds of books are not very
common. Most children-targeted media normally tries to stay in a neutral and
non-controversial state. This is especially true for more conservative
countries like Spain. I truly appreciate this book because it steps outside
boundaries and defies the norm. Additionally, I especially love that it is a
book dedicated and targeted to children. I love the idea of exposing children
to diversity from a younger age. I believe that if we begin to expose our
children from a younger age to such topics, they will grow to be a more
open-minded and accepting generation. The book gives great insight into the
real struggles of what it is like to grow up with two moms rather than the
stereotypically-assumed mom and dad. It was especially interesting to
understand how living in a small town factors into how the child’s experience
will turn out to be. The book is thought-provoking, even as an adult reader and
I can only imagine how much it could positively affect the perspective of a
child. This book is also a great resource to a child who has two moms; it is
relatable to them and it can give them support when they are going through a
Want to read the analysis for Aitor Has To Moms? Click here to check it out.
The Letter Q: A Queer Writers’ Notes to Their
Younger Selves is a
captivating life changing read. In this book, we have an endless stream of queer
writers explore what advice they would give a younger version of themselves. We
get to see deep into the lives of what it was like to be different from a young
age. Through stories of hardships and self-discovery, The Letter Q gives hope for a better future where one is not only
happy with oneself but with those around them. This book brought me to tears
multiple times by the vulnerability and transparency of the authors. Each
author had separate battles—from mental illnesses to rejection—from their
family. As a reader, we
get to see hurt be transformed to art and the beauty of self-growth.
Reading this book will make you feel like you are time traveling in the past
and leave you self-reflecting on your own life. Offering advice from all walks
of life, it gives insight to the authors’ secrets and comfort in diversity.
Everyone’s journey is unique to themselves regardless of what they identify as.
This book is a reminder to young queer teenagers that they are greater than the
sum of their experiences.
Want to read the analysis for The Letter Q: A Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves? Click here to check it out.
I’ve had the opportunity to
read many of the books that are currently in the DIVerse Families database; one
that has stood out to me was Punkzilla
by Adam Rapp. This book is about a 14-year-old boy named Jamie, but also known
as Punkzilla who is fleeing away from military school to reach his brother who
is dying from cancer. The plot was definitely a roller coaster with all kinds
of twists and turns adding to the narrative. I enjoyed reading this book
because it showed me a new perspective on diversity and gave me clarity on how
important the DIVerse Families database was. I feel like representation is very
important; seeing yourself represented feels really good and motivating.
Growing up, I’ve always gravitated towards books that represented me in some
kind of way because I wanted to relate to the storyline. But lately, these past
few months I’ve realized
that just because a character doesn’t look like me or didn’t grow up in the
same background as me, doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the book and learn something
new. Diversity isn’t just about seeing yourself in media but seeing
everyone else as well. Seeing and understanding that people come from all walks
of life, and just because they are different from you doesn’t mean their story
should go unheard. I enjoyed reading Punkzilla
because it was a breath of fresh air from what I’ve always been used to reading
in the past. This coming-of-age story touched on multiple topics of diversity
from Family Relationships, to LGBT+ topics, to even Disability and Health, and much
more. I learned about problems and issues I didn’t even know existed, and for
that, I’m very grateful for getting the chance to read this book. I highly
recommend for everyone to go check out the book, whether you identify with the
character or not, come join Jamie on his adventure to reaching his brother.
Want to read the analysis for Punkzilla? Click here to check it out.
I picked up this book because I’m from
Brooklyn myself and something about the cover picked at my interest. Throughout
the book, the main character’s gender/sexual identity is somewhat hidden. Kid’s
parents kicked him out after they found out about his sexuality and he resorts
to living on the streets. He finds a guy who offers him a place to stay and
he’s perfect to Kid, even with his heroin addiction. Kid loves everything about
him and seems to be the only one that understands him really. Fast forward to
the summer, Kid is still living on the streets, he’s found a bar whose owner
looks out for him sometimes and he has a new love interest: Scout. Scout is an
extremely talented singer who also plays guitar to perfection. Kid describes
Scout’s music almost lovingly. Kid goes through ups and downs during that time,
figuring out whether moving back home should be an option, being banned from
the bar because of his age (no worries the owner sets him up with his own
little place in the cellar/behind the bar) and most importantly the police
accusing him of burning down a warehouse that the kids on the street used to
live in. My favorite thing about Kid is his approach to life. Almost everything
in this kid’s life falls apart but he still manages to remain calm, funny, and
so sweet. Throughout the book, I was amazed at how easily he moved through life
despite every bad thing that’s happened to him. Luckily, he finds Scout, falls
in love with him and the music, gives him a place to stay and goes as far as
organizing a concert for him. Throughout the book, Felix’s faith is shrouded in
mystery. Whenever anyone mentions him, there’s a sadness/nostalgia that comes
with it. The book is great overall and towards the middle we find out the sad
news that Felix killed himself by overdosing on heroin in the very bar Kid
still goes to every day. Although I expected a tragedy, it still hit hard, but
Kid moved on thanks to his own strength but also through his wonderful support
system. I teared up many times while reading this book, but I truly didn’t put
it down until I was done.
Want to see the analysis for Brooklyn, Burning? Click here to check it out.
During my year and a half working on the DIVerse Families
collection, I have read many incredible works showcasing diversity. One in
particular that has made a lasting impact on me is a photography book called, Gay in America, with photographs taken by
Scott Pasfield. This book encompasses a series of portraits and stories of 140 gay
men across all 50 states. The photography book depicts gay men of different
races, lifestyles, and careers. By doing so, it shatters the stereotypes that usually
surround what being a gay man means and shows them in their reality. One of the
most striking things about this book is it’s cover. The cover shows a man named
Dan Choi, a former army lieutenant and LGBTQ activist, standing in his military
uniform. I’m glad Scott put him on the cover to represent this book because in
American society today, there is such terrible discrimination of LGBTQ military
service members. This stemming from the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Act from 25 years
ago, later repealed, to the transgender ban that is now in effect. This book is
real, honest, and doesn’t sugarcoat the ups and downs of what being gay in
America means for these men. The series of portraits and stories gave me a
realistic view of the lives of gay men in our country, and I hope by others
reading this book, it will do the same for them.
Want to see the analysis for Gay in America? Click here to check it out.
Finlater is a book about a boy on the wrong side of the tracks. Reading this book, I found many similarities between Cliffy, the main character, and I. He is a sweet, smart, sensitive, and wonderfully honest boy who, despite his circumstances and his lack of a father figure growing up, still sees the bright side of life while using his gifts to advance himself (he skips a grade in school and is the spelling bee champion). He is himself despite his environment and he manages to find humor in most, if not all, his misfortunes. Cliffy is intelligent, thoughtful, well-spoken, and open to trying new things. In racially tense Cincinnati in 1969, he finds himself becoming close to this Jewish boy at school and they affectionately refer to each other as “soul brothers.” As they learn more about each other, Cliffy falls for Noah and vice versa. Through the troubled times at home—Noah’s dad struggling with mental illness and Cliffy’s dad reappearing in his life many years too late without anything to show for it—the two boys still found a way to blossom into their sexuality. Not once did either think less of himself for how they were feeling for each other and Noah, being a little more experienced, eases Cliffy into this new world and watching them fall deeper and deeper for each other is the most beautiful thing. Cliffy’s love for Noah is innocent, full, and honest and Noah loves him back just the same. This book is written by someone who obviously understands his characters well. Each one is well written and perfectly put in perspective. At first, I was wary of the tone and some of the language used in the book, but then I found out that the author himself was black and gay. The author did an awesome job depicting the realness and grittiness of Cliffy’s environment while also sugarcoating it in just the right amount of comedy and lightheartedness. I cried and laughed with Cliffy all the way up until the end.
Want to see the analysis for Finlater? Click here to check it out.