For roughly the past month, in an effort to support diversity in children's literature, as well as to enjoy some amazing stories, I've been reading books by and about people different from me. I still have at least one more to go (and will continue to read them even when this month is finished), but wanted to provide an update on two I've especially enjoyed.
I've snuck Cleopatra's Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter into several of my recent posts, so it shouldn't be a surprise how much I enjoyed it. As I said previously: "It's a fabulous read, and even though getting a grasp on all the political intrigues can feel a bit overwhelming at times, I've become absolutely enraptured by the rich historical and setting details, and the opportunity to have a front row seat while history is played out in front of me. Plus I love Shecter's imagining of Selene's position, trapped between her Egyptian and Roman heritage, gods, languages, and customs."
It was unexpectedly epic for a children's book, covering almost a decade of harrowing historical events, but this was a plus in my mind, as I was desperate to know what would happen. Even better, I finished the novel and listened to an interview with Shecter, where she revealed that most of the facts in the novel are historically accurate. WOW! How come I never knew that Cleopatra had a daughter? How come hardly anyone seems to have known this wonderful story? I'm so glad Shecter found out, and decided to bring it to light.
While I've been busy with my Reading Experiences series, I've neglected to mention another book I enjoyed: Ashley Hope Perez's What Can't Wait. I felt immersed in Perez's world, seeing everything through Marisa's eyes. And Marisa's life was so different from my own, coming from a family where money, marriage, and family commitments matter much more than academics. As Marisa struggles to pass the AP Calculus exam and get into an engineering program in Austin, her teacher struggles to understand what's holding her back, as Marisa seemingly fulfills the stereotype of a lazy Mexican immigrant. I loved the idea that sometimes even the "heroic teacher" character doesn't understand, and while Marisa has a super-sweet boyfriend, Marisa has to find courage within herself to lead the life she wants. It felt a very true story, and one I haven't encountered much in children's literature. Though fittingly, I just saw this article about a community project in Chicago to provide housing away from families, alongside other students, for Latino college students to complete their degrees.
That's what I love about reading, and especially reading diverse books. When I read that article, I thought of Marisa, and felt I had a greater understanding of some of the issues those students are going through.
I have one other book on my list for the month: Hidden by Miriam Halahmy:
"HIDDEN is a brave debut novel tackling the complex issues of immigration and human-rights laws, through the eyes of teenage Alix. A literary coming-of-age novel dealing with courage, prejudice, judgement, and the difficulty of sorting right from wrong. Challenging, charming, compelling."
I haven't read many (any?) British novel this past month, and Miriam is a fellow SCBWI member, so I'm really looking forward to it. Plus, LOVE the cover!
Have you read anything good lately? Any favorite diverse book suggestions?