Reviews of the Week with Joy Harjo, NoNieqa Ramos, Jacqueline Alcántara, and More!

The Booklist Review of the Day, posted to the top of the Booklist Online home page each day of the week, spotlights exceptional upcoming titles that are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

The Reviews of the Week, posted each Monday, offers a comprehensive look at the previous week’s awardees—while also piquing interest for the week ahead. Catch up on the week of April 26 below, then dive into the week at hand with today’s Review of the Day, Dream Girl, by Laura Lippman. For the full week-in-review treatment, subscribe to our newsletter, Booklist Reader Update.

Monday, April 26

Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry, edited by Joy Harjo

This richly individualized anthology takes its title from an interactive online map of current Native poets, a project undertaken by Harjo during her tenure as U.S. Poet Laureate. Sponsored by the Library of Congress, the map enables visitors to explore historical contexts in multimedia offerings, including recordings of recitations and commentary by the contributors, who each chose a poem “based on the theme of place and displacement, and with four touchpoints in mind: visibility, persistence, resistance, and acknowledgment.” Poets also decided where to place themselves on the map, and this literary agency as well as the large portraits and brief bios that introduce each writer humanize the collection. Several established Native writers are included, such as Sherwin Bitsui, Jennifer Elise Foerster, and Craig Santos Perez, but the anthology dedicates ample space to emerging authors.

Tuesday, April 27

Your Mama, by NoNieqa Ramos and illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara

This snappy tribute celebrates the fierce awesomeness of sweet, strong, funny, woke, brainiac mamas. Using rhythmic stanzas that swing, a brown-skinned little girl begins each double-page spread with a “your mama”observation (“Your mama dress so fine, she could have her own clothing line,” “Your mama so forgiving, she lets you keep on living”). The bright, vibrant illustrations, with text in a playful retro-tattoo style, pop off the pages, showing the girl and her mother in all sorts of circumstances: going to the library, to vote, on a picnic, and a road trip, and even just the two of them in their apartment. There are multiple references to Spanish food (“She’s the cinnamon to your tembleque, the tres leches to your cake“)including some comida deliciosa at an extended family gathering. 

Wednesday, April 28

America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion since the 1960s, by Elizabeth Hinton

In the 1960s and 1970s, American cities experienced extreme violence. Often called riots, these events are more accurately understood as rebellions. In America on Fire, political historian Hinton explores the origins and outcomes of Black rebellions of the twentieth century. While many uprisings were tied to acts of police brutality, many occurred after ongoing surveillance and harassment in under-resourced Black communities. In cities across the country, Black residents experienced years of ongoing violence at the hands of police and white vigilante groups. After uprisings, community leaders repeatedly requested access to resources and freedom from over-policing. Cities and state governments often reacted by dismissing concerns entirely, offering unfulfilled promises, and further militarizing the police. Despite investigations that highlighted root causes in white racism and disinvestment in Black communities, little changed in the 1980s and 1990s.

Thursday, April 29

Instructions for Dancing, by Nicola Yoon

After catching her dad cheating, Evie stopped believing in Happily Ever Afters, but when a trip to donate her romance-novel collection leads to an eerie encounter with a witchy old woman, Evie finds that she’s been bestowed with a supernatural power: whenever she witnesses a couple kissing, she receives a vision of their entire relationship, from hopeful beginning to inevitable end. Her search for an explanation leads her to La Brea Dance studio, where she meets gorgeous, spontaneous aspiring rocker Xavier (or X), and the two are paired in an amateur dance contest. As Evie and X practice, they develop their undeniable chemistry, but Evie’s visions—and her father’s impending remarriage—continue to shake her faith in love. 

Friday, April 30

The Promise, by Damon Galgut

Award-winning South African author Galgut’s (Arctic Summer, 2014) compelling new novel blends characters and history and intricate themes to reveal the devastating impacts of white privilege and institutional racism. Focused on a white, Afrikaans South African family and launched in the 1980s during the waning years of the apartheid regime, it begins with a chapter titled “Ma.” Amor, at the transformational age of 13, remembers overhearing her recently deceased mother on her deathbed, asking that her husband (Amor’s father) promise to give a cottage on their farm to Salome, the family’s Black helper. He agrees, but does not act. The unfulfilled promise drives the next three chapters, also named for family members—“Pa,” “Astrid,” and “Anton”—that take place over several ensuing decades. Through internal and external struggles, Amor dwells on the promise.'

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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