YA girls, figure skating, and police brutality

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

First, what a beautiful cover! This book has been on my list for a while, and I was happy to finally read it. It pairs nicely with Ahimsa. It’s a little bit simplified, but it does tell the story of slavery and how it can happen TODAY, in the age of cellphones. (In the story, Amal’s owner takes her cellphone away so she has no connection to the outer world.) I am really glad that there is an opportunity for South Asian authors and artists to tell their stories now, especially in the kidlit world.

Spinning by Tillie Walden

This is a graphic novel memoir about figure skating, but it’s really about growing up and being unsure of who you are. Tillie Walden grew up figure skating and it was a huge part of her life, before and after school. The part that resonated with me the most was how ambivalent Tillie was throughout the whole thing–both toward skating and toward life. That is how I felt a lot, basically most of my life. There are a few brief periods in my life when I felt very passionate and present in life, but I’ve more often felt like life was something to be endured rather celebrated. The book ends with Tillie feeling apathetic and quitting figure skating, but we don’t find out what happens next. In the end note, Tillie talks about how Spinning didn’t necessarily have a point–it’s based entirely on her memory and she purposely did NOT do research by revisintg her old skating rinks. It was a way for her to process her childhood and teenage years.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

This book is a poem. It’s about police brutality and the African American boys (truly, they are boys) killed by White police officers. The ghost of Emmett Till visits the protagonist, Jerome, and Jerome really doesn’t know why. The most powerful part of this book is probably making the reader see that they are BOYS. They are not adults, they are boys who are confused and scared. They are not perfect or brave boys. Yet the police feared them, whether it is real fear or an excuse. Rhodes made it really clear that this is not a book attacking law enforcement–it is a book to call us to do better, and there are opportunities every one of us, including police officers, the children of police officers, bystanders, citizens, to do better. Thank you Jewell Parker Rhodes for writing this book.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

Oh my gosh, this book blew me away. People have said that the best art begs to come out, and the artist is just the medium. When I was reading this book, I certainly felt like the story of Julia and Olga was begging to be told, and Erika L. Sanchez was the only person who could have told it. Julia, the protagonist, is rude and obnoxious and decidedly imperfect. Her dead sister, Olga, was the obedient and perfect Mexican daughter, who was having an affair with her boss. (BTW, I think her boss was a predator.) I could feel Julia’s desperation and the way she wants so much out of life, but is limited by the circumstances. I really felt like I knew Julia and Olga, and I loved both of them?! Thank you for giving us the deepest dive into a Mexican teenager’s life, author.

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

I have not read this year, but will come back to it!

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