Reviews of the Week with Ilhan Omar, Brandy Colbert, Jordan Ifueko, and More!

The Review of the Day has always been a brief, early way to spotlight exceptional upcoming titles 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.

As we continue to spotlight memoir and biography in the latest issue of Booklist be sure to check out the inspirational stories and calls to action presented in this week’s #ReviewsoftheDay. Booklist wishes you all well.

Monday, June 15

This Is What America Looks Like: My Journey from Refugee to Congresswoman, by Ilhan Omar

On January 3, 2019, Omar was sworn into the one-hundred-sixteenth Congress with a record-breaking 100 other women, 43 of whom were women of color. She stood there as one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress and the first Somali American legislator. Less than two decades before, she entered the U.S. as a refugee. Omar’s story is the embodiment of the American dream. She was just eight when her family was driven out of their home in Mogadishu because of civil war, then spent the next four years in a refugee camp. When she arrived in America, she knew no English and had lost years of schooling, yet her determined and unapologetic spirit did not falter.

Tuesday, June 16

The Voting Booth, by Brandy Colbert

Marva Sheridan believes political activism can make a difference. She’s been helping to register voters all year, and she’s been looking forward to the day when she can cast her first vote in an election. Now that the day is finally here, even her boyfriend’s sudden lack of interest in voting at all can’t totally dampen her spirits. For Duke Crenshaw, voting isn’t just a social obligation, it’s a familial one; he wants to get it over with, but he knows how important it was to his late activist brother. But when Marva sees Duke turned away at the polling place, her social-justice gears start working overtime. Over the course of a single day, the two hop between precincts trying to find a way to get Duke to vote. Along the way, they discuss race (both Marva and Duke are Black, while Marva faces barriers with her white boyfriend), privilege (Marva attends a private school, Duke public), and their different family dynamics. Though they start the day as strangers, a deeper connection slowly begins to bloom. 

Wednesday, June 17

Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America, by Stacey Abrams

When Abrams’ run for the governorship of Georgia in 2018 fell short, she touted the enormous success of her campaign in increasing voter turnout and captured national attention. In her powerful new book, following Minority Leader (2018), Abrams recounts her long involvement in voter issues, including her ongoing efforts to educate and activate voters. Along the way she provides a historical perspective on the efforts of the wealthy and powerful to disenfranchise the marginalized, from Native Americans to African Americans, Hispanics, and women, with the help of laws and Supreme Court decisions that have codified disadvantage and disenfranchisement. Voter suppression tactics have changed from the brutal use of police and rabid dogs to more sophisticated and insidious methods involving provisional ballots, restrictive voter IDs, and pernicious redistricting. Abrams sees a New American Majority comprised of racial minorities and a younger population with more progressive views.

Thursday, June 18

Raybearer, by Jordan Ifueko

Ifueko’s mesmerizing debut stuns as it weaves a tale of loyalty, fate, destiny, family, and revenge. Moreover, it places a dark skinned heroine front and center, who is beautiful and powerful, deadly and compassionate, and vulnerable and tough, giving YA literature more of the diverse representation teens need. Sixteen-year-old Tarisai was born to serve the wrath of The Lady (her mother), a purpose ensured by a magical wish and having a powerful ehru (djinn) for a father. When Tarisai comes of age, The Lady sends her to Aritsar to win a position on the Crown Prince’s Council of 11, earn the prince’s trust, and slay him. Bound by her mother’s wish, she must obey the command, though she desperately wants to choose her own path. To earn liberation, Tarisai embarks on a journey through the realms of Aritsar to unearth the details of its treacherous, sordid history.

Friday, June 19

When Stars Are Scattered, by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed and read by Faysal Ahmed and others

The audiobook edition of Omar Mohamed’s autobiography, originally a graphic novel account co-authored with Victoria Jamieson, offers listeners an experience of perfection in its storytelling, format shifting, and performance. The full cast includes many audiobook-narrating stars: Bahni Turpin, Robin Miles, JD Jackson, and Dion Graham. It also features fine performances by Somalian American actors—including Faysal Ahmed as Omar—that make this truly an #OwnVoices experience. A lush soundbed of environmental noises, as well as the realization of spatial dimension through characters speaking at slightly varied distances from their mics allows the audio to hold true to its sequential-art text. The story itself is one every American should hear, either to expose them to others’ lives or as an echo to elements of their own.

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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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