Reviews of the Week with Alexandra Diaz, Daniel M. Lavery, Emma Dabiri, and More!

Every weekday, we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

Exhilarating and eye-opening life stories, along with thrilling chance encounters, are all in this week’s #ReviewsOfTheWeek. Booklist wishes you all well.

Monday, April 20

Santiago’s Road Home, by Alexandra Diaz

This incisive portrayal of an unaccompanied minor’s trials will inspire both empathy and righteous anger in young readers. Santiago has been shuffled from relative to relative ever since his mom died when he was five. After his abusive aunt kicks him out, the 12-year-old decides to cross the border, from Mexico into the U.S., in hopes of finding a new life. He meets and bonds with a kind, single mom and her adorable little girl, with whom he joins on the harrowing journey, but when they get separated at the border, he wonders if he will ever be reunited with his newfound family. This is a heartrending tale of survival against the odds—including murderous coyotes, inhumane living conditions at detention centers, and traitorous guards.

Tuesday, April 21

Something That May Shock and Discredit You, written and read by Daniel Mallory Ortberg

Just because you have a testosterone prescription and a new sense of exhilaration doesn’t mean you have to go around setting down your life story,” Ortberg writes (and thankfully narrates), disguised as “Paul and Second Timothy: The Transmasculine Epistles.” His response to his own nay-saying, “Nuts to them,” was exactly the right answer as, by this point (Chapter 20 of 22), his audience has giggled and guffawed, raised eyebrows and rolled eyeballs, sniffled and even ugly-cried through his hybrid memoir.

Wednesday, April 22

Twisted: The Tangled History of Black Hair Culture, by Emma Dabiri

“It’s only hair,” is the response many Black women contend with when voicing their frustration at society’s judgement of their tresses. In this debut, BBC presenter and Guardian contributor Dabiri, explores the strands of racism which are tangled up in considerations of Black hair. Like many Black women, Dabiri can vividly remember the first time she chemically straightened her hair. She can recall the smell, the burning sensation on her scalp, and the mixed range of emotions she experienced watching her thick, tightly coiled hair transformed into lank, straight locks. As a mixed-race child growing up in Ireland in the 1980s, she hated her hair and explored ways to make it better comply with European standards of beauty.

Thursday, April 23

A Song below Water, by Bethany C. Morrow

It’s not often that Black girls get to be magical, but Morrow’s fascinating, sweeping story gives readers two: Tavia and Effie. Tavia is disillusioned and cynical toward the world that wants to keep both facets of her identity oppressed; she grapples with hatred and prejudice because she is Black and because she is a siren. Living in Portland, Oregon, where Black folks of the magical and nonmagical sort are sparse, exacerbates this struggle. Tavia’s best friend Effie appears to be normal, but she’s experiencing weird puberty symptoms and is the single survivor of an accident that turned her schoolmates to stone when she was little. When Effie’s past refuses to stay buried and Tavia’s siren magic slips free during an altercation with the police, the friends’ lives are turned upside down.

Friday, April 24

The Choice, by Gillian McAllister

At the start of this smart, ferociously paced novel, Joanna Oliva stands at a crossroads. She’s been frustrated with her job as a mobile library clerk in London and spends a night out drinking lamenting with her friend Laura. But then a man in the pub starts to bother them, and Joanna decides to leave. The friends separate, and Joanna rushes home, aware she’s being followed by a dark presence. When she turns to confront her attacker, she pushes him, and he goes flying down a flight of stairs. Now Joanna is the perpetrator, and she has a choice: should she turn herself in or run? The narrative splits in two, with chapters labeled “Conceal” or “Reveal,” as McAllister explores the paths that spiral out from Joanna’s fateful decision.



About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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