review: Into White

575634564_140title: Into White
author: Randi Pink
date: Feiwal and Friends; 2016
main character: Toya Williams

I could go with the premise here. I can believe that young people are often willing to exchange their racial identity for one that seems more appealing. Isn’t that what Rachel Dolezal tried as an adult? So often when teens are trying to figure themselves out, they think they don’t want to be who they are: that fat boy or that Black girl or that Native American braniac. Yet, they are who they are.

Toya Williams doesn’t want to be Black. She attends a predominantly white high school in an affluent suburb of Montgomery, Alabama and has accepted every negative stereotype about being Black. She never speaks up for herself and is an object of ridicule. She’s convinced that life is better for white girls, so she asks Jesus to make her White. And, he does. While the ending is predictable, not everything in the story is.

Pulling off the transformation from black Toya to the transformed white Katerina was as clunky. Toya’s not missing at home because her family sees her as they always have. But at school, Toya’s gone and there’s a new student. How would you explain that? Not easily. As Katerina, Toya experiences life as a stereotypical spoiled, rich white girl.

The stereotypes that fill Toya’s head are never repudiated and this is a weakness in the story. These stereotypes, unfortunately are written into the narrative, giving a poor representation of the African American experience, communicating that it’s woeful to be a black teen. Toya’s family is much less affluent than the families of her white peers. While her classmates can afford to give new cars as presents, Toya’s family cannot afford to furnish their home. Toya’s mother and aunt are vocal, “strong” black women. Toya’s father derails her mother’s dreams and embarrasses the family with his broke down cars. While his heart is in the right place, he does a poor job of providing for his family. White characters are seen as narrow-minded, privileged teens whose parents can buy them out of any situation. Without giving away too much, it’s the guys who save Toya, who get her to draw some conclusions. It’s too often the guys who save the girls!

I really wanted to like this book. I expected something that would truly explore racial identity as today’s teens experience it. This book unfortunately relied upon the same trite stereotypes that permeate our culture with regards to African Americans. The problem isn’t that the stereotypes are in the book, it’s that they’re never called to question. Casually relating that black girls are heavier that white girls would give readers reason to believe it must be so, when it truth young black girls are as aware of and likely to practice healthy lifestyles as are whites in the same income group. Relying upon such predictable characters doesn’t allow the story’s theme to shine through.

And Jesus. When you call on Jesus to be a significant part of the story, you really need to go a bit deeper into matters of faith, belief and justice and a few church scenes do not do that.

Into White is Randi Pink’s first young adult novel.

October Releases

Rebellion of Thieves by Kekla Magoon; Bloomsbury. ages 8-12.
Robyn Loxley can’t rest now that she’s the #1 Most Wanted Fugitive, Robyn Hoodlum. The harsh Nott City governor, Ignomus Crown, may have increased the reward for her capture, but this won’t stop Robyn from masterminding her biggest mission yet: infiltrating the governor’s mansion to rescue her parents.

The perfect opportunity arises when the Iron Teen contest comes to Sherwood. If Robyn scores high enough, she’ll be invited to a dinner at the mansion. But performing well in the contest could put her directly in Crown’s sights. Can she and her crew of misfit friends pull off such a grand scheme, or are they walking into bigger trouble than they can handle?

Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes; Boyds Mills/WordSong. ages 8-12.
Garvey’s father has always wanted Garvey to be athletic, but Garvey is interested in astronomy, science fiction, reading—anything but sports. Feeling like a failure, he comforts himself with food. Garvey is kind, funny, smart, a loyal friend, and he is also overweight, teased by bullies, and lonely. When his only friend encourages him to join the school chorus, Garvey’s life changes. The chorus finds a new soloist in Garvey, and through chorus, Garvey finds a way to accept himself, and a way to finally reach his distant father—by speaking the language of music instead of the language of sports. This emotionally resonant novel in verse by award-winning author Nikki Grimes celebrates choosing to be true to yourself.

Mice of the Round Table: A Tail of Camelot by Julie Leung, illus. by Lindsey Carr; Harper Collins. ages 8-12.
Young mouse Calib Christopher dreams of becoming a Knight of the Round Table. For generations, his family has led the mice who live just out of sight of the humans, defending Camelot from enemies both big and small. But when Calib and his friend Cecily discover that a new threat is gathering—one that could catch even the Two-Leggers unaware—it is up to them to unmask the real enemy, unite their forces, and save the castle they all call home.

The School the Aztec Eagles Built by Dorinda Makanaonalani Nicholson; Lee & Low Books. ages 8-11.
In May 1942, German U-boats torpedoed two unarmed Mexican oil tankers off the Gulf Coast, forcing Mexico to enter World War II. With the help of United States President Roosevelt, Mexican President Camacho arranged to send one Air Force squadron to fight in the war. Thirty-eight of Mexico s top pilots, and about two hundred sixty additional military crew were carefully selected to form the 201st Air Force Squadron, also known as the Aztec Eagles. The squadron was the first unit in history to leave Mexico on a fighting mission. To mark this historic event, President Camacho asked the men if they had any last minute requests before they went to war. Sergeant Angel Bocanegra, a former teacher and now squadron ground crewmember, stepped forward and made a request. He asked that a school be built in his small village of Tepoztlan. The School the Aztec Eagles Built tells the exciting story of how a Mexican Air Force squadron and an unknown schoolteacher made their mark in history.”

The Treasure of Barracuda by Llanos Martinez Campos; ages 9-12. Little Pickle Stories. Sparks is an 11-year-old cabin boy on the Southern Cross, a pirate ship led by Captain Barracuda. When he and the crew discover a book left by the infamous pirate Phineas Johnson Krane, they must learn to read in order to decipher its contents and go in search of Krane’s hidden treasure. A satisfying tale packed with pirates, outlaws, danger and, in the words of its narrator, “no second chances.”

When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. ages 9-12.
Pinmei’s gentle, loving grandmother always has the most exciting tales for her granddaughter and the other villagers. However, the peace is shattered one night when soldiers of the Emperor arrive and kidnap the storyteller. Everyone knows that the Emperor wants something called the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. Determined to have her grandmother returned, Pinmei embarks on a journey to find the Luminous Stone alongside her friend Yishan, a mysterious boy who seems to have his own secrets to hide. Together, the two must face obstacles usually found only in legends to find the Luminous Stone and save Pinmei’s grandmother–before it’s too late.

The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia; Macmillan. ages 12-18
Seventeen year-old Frankie Devereux would do anything to forget the past. Haunted by the memory of her boyfriend’s death, she lives her life by one dangerous rule: nothing matters. At least, that’s what Frankie tells herself after a reckless mistake forces her to leave her privileged life in the Heights to move in with her dad―an undercover cop. She transfers to public school in the Downs, where fistfights in the halls don’t faze anyone and illegal street racing is more popular than football.

Marco Leone is the fastest street racer in the Downs. Tough, sexy, and hypnotic, he makes it impossible for Frankie to ignore him…and how he makes her feel. But the risks Marco takes for his family could have devastating consequences for them both. When Frankie discovers his secret, she has to make a choice. Will she let the pain of the past determine her future? Or will she risk what little she has left to follow her heart.

 And The Midnight Star by Marie Lu; G. P. Putnam’s Son. ages 12-18. Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but with each conquest her cruelty only grows. The darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy all she’s gained.

When a new danger appears, Adelina’s forced to revisit old wounds, putting not only herself at risk, but every Elite. In order to preserve her empire, Adelina and her Roses must join the Daggers on a perilous quest—though this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger.

The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz; Simon and Schuster. ages 8-12.
Twelve-year-old Jaime makes the treacherous and life-changing journey from his home in Guatemala to live with his older brother in the United States in this gripping and realistic middle grade novel. Jaime is sitting on his bed drawing when he hears a scream. Instantly, he knows: Miguel, his cousin and best friend, is dead. Everyone in Jaime’s small town in Guatemala knows someone who has been killed by the Alphas, a powerful gang that’s known for violence and drug trafficking. Anyone who refuses to work for them is hurt or killed—like Miguel. With Miguel gone, Jaime fears that he is next. There’s only one choice: accompanied by his cousin Ángela, Jaime must flee his home to live with his older brother in New Mexico.

Inspired by true events, The Only Road is an individual story of a boy who feels that leaving his home and risking everything is his only chance for a better life. It is a story of fear and bravery, love and loss, strangers becoming family, and one boy’s treacherous and life-changing journey.

Riding Chance by Christine Kendall, Scholastic.
Troy is a kid with a passion. And dreams. And wanting to do the right thing. But after taking a wrong turn, he’s forced to endure something that’s worse than any juvenile detention he can imagine-he’s “sentenced” to the local city stables where he’s made to take care of horses. The greatest punishment has been trying to make sense of things since his mom died but, through his work with the horses, he discovers a sport totally unknown to him-polo. Troy has to figure out which friends have his back, which kids to cut loose, and whether he and Alisha have a true connection. Laced with humor and beating with heartache, this novel will grip readers, pull them in quickly, and take them on an unforgettable ride. Set in present day Christine Kendall’s stunning debut lets us come face-to-face with the challenges of a loving family that turn hardships into triumphs.

Bessie Stringfield: Tales of the Talented Tenth by Joel Christian Gill; Fucrum Publishing. ages 12 and up.
Imagine a five-foot-two-inch-tall woman riding a Harley eight times across the continental United States. Now imagine she is black and is journeying across the country in the pre-Civil Rights era of the 1930s and ’40s. That is the amazing true story of Bessie Stringfield, the woman known today as The Motorcycle Queen of Miami and the first black woman to be inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame and the Harley Davidson Hall of Fame. Stringfield was a pioneer in motorcycling during her lifetime; she rode as a civilian courier for the US military and founded the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club in Miami, all while confronting and overcoming Jim Crow in every ride.

Phoenix by SF Said, illus. by Dave McKean; Candlewick.  Ages 10–up.
Lucky lives a relatively normal life on a remote moon of the planet Aries One, safe from the turmoil and devastation of the interstellar war between Humans and Aliens. Lucky has seen images of the horned, cloven-hooved Aliens before, but he’s never seen one up close. Then one night, he dreams that the stars are singing to him—and wakes to evidence suggesting that he is not so normal after all. When Lucky’s mother sacrifices herself to help him escape an elite Human military force called the Shadow Guards, he must rely on the Alien crew of a ramshackle starship, where he finds that humanity’s deadly enemies seem surprisingly Human up close. In fact, they may be more Human than Lucky himself, who has a dangerous power that could change the course of the war and the fate of the galaxy—if he can learn how to use it. Star Wars fans seeking another saga to love need look no further than this epic middle-grade adventure

Twas National Coming Out Day

11 October is National Coming Out Day. I’m not spending as much time on Twitter these days, so I didn’t get to read the precious coming out Tweets, but I did see a Tweet from someone on how difficult coming out can be, how difficult life can be when you have to worry about your family and friends accepting you, when you have to live with to possibility of imgres-1.jpgbeing denied for who you are and in fear of verbal or physical attack. And, I also read a post from someone expressing the joy of having the freedom just to be who they are.

Did you not pause at ‘people’ and wonder what people I’m talking about? Don’t you assume straight, white people when there is no description? Most of us do.

Most of us expect straight/heterosexual to be the norm. We expect those in the queer community to have to define themselves. I haven’t run this thought by anyone, so someone is going to have to tell me if I’m taking liberties here and diverting the intention of Coming Out Day too much. I just don’t think the onus of identification should be on those in the LGBT+ community.

Listen to this: I am a cis gendered, she/her pronoun, heterosexual female.

It can be kind of hard to say that out loud if you’ve never taken the time to consider your sexual orientation or your gender identity. It can be too easy to take this for granted, to not realize the privilege that comes with being heterosexual.

It’s also freeing and prideful to say that out loud, to own who I am. Honestly, it is!

And, everyone should be able to have that same pride-filled.feeling In a way, I’m a day late, but in many ways this may be right on time. It’s your turn to come out. Say it out loud.



My Opinion: How to Build A Museum

+-+077073584_70.jpgHow To Build A Museum by Tonya Bolden
Smithsonian Series; Viking (Penguin)

Kirkus: “An inspiring tale as well as a tantalizing invitation to visit one of our country’s newest “must see” attractions. (source notes)”

When the museum itself is history, the story needs to be document and the best way to do that is with author Tonya Bolden.

When I received this book in the mail, I knew I had to write about it and I also knew that I was too close to the author to review it. This is a somewhat biased opinion piece about Tonya’s most recent book.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been looking at postings about the National Museum of African American History and Culture which will have it’s grand opening next week. The images in the book show a magnificent building that was built on some of the most important space in this country for collecting history. Tonya’s book documents the legacy that got the museum funded and approved through Congress, that developed an architectural plan and that collected and curated items for the museum to house.

In telling the story of the museum, she identifies the roles so many people played in building this museum and in doing so, the important role we all play in creating history. Imagines throughout the book excite readers about what they will find in the museum’s collection while the text describes the symbolic details embedded in the building and the process of getting things done. Young readers will be able to take ownership of their part in history and not just see ‘history’ as belonging to someone else.

Published by the Smithsonian, How to Build a Museum has beautiful, high quality photos. Each page is laced with the design used to decorate the exterior of the museum. The editors did a wonderful job of organizing the photos to highlight the text and engage readers in the story.

How to Build A Museum is probably something any parent would want their child to read if they’re planning a trip to the museum or if they’re lovers of history. But, it could also be an important book for a young child who is searching for their own identity. Tonya quotes the museum’s Director, Lonnie Bunche, on the back of the book.

Whether your family’s been in this country two hundred years or twenty minutes… I want you to come to this museum and say, “I get it. This is not a black story. This is my story. This is the American story.”

As I read the book, and looked at all the realia, I started thinking about the artifacts, photos and letters I have from my family’s history. I don’t have much, but hope to maintain what I can to pass down to my children. I think this book reminded me of my history and it’s place in America’s history. I’m really excited to share this book with you!




Help Request

I’m sure you know that Latinx Heritage Month begins tomorrow and I’m sure you’re busy ordering books, building displays and planning programs to celebrate the month. I’m going to begin the month here by updating my list of MG/YA Latinx authors, and I need your help! I’m sure there are glaring omissions of new and established authors so, could you please point them out so that I can update the list on my blog? Remember, middle grade and young adult authors; I’m not looking for children’s authors or illustrators. Gracias!

updated 15 September 2016 5:30pm

Alex Sanchez
Adam Silvera
Alisa Valdés
Alma Flor Ada
Angela Cervantes
Anna-Marie McLemore
Ava Jae
Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Bettina Restrepo
Caridad Ferrer
Charles Rice González
Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Christina García
Cindy L. Rodriguez
Claudia Guadalupe Martínez
Claudia Meléndez
Courtney Alameda
Danette Vigilante
Daniel Jose Older
David Bowles
David Hernandez
Diane Gonzales Bertrand
Diana López
Donna Freitas
e. E. Charlton-Trujillo
Erika L. Sánchez
Estela Bernal
Eva Darrows
Francisco Jiménez
Francisco X. Stork
Gaby Triana
Gabby Rivera
Gary Soto
Gloria Velásquez
Jennifer Torres
Jennifer Ziegler
Joe Jiménez
Guadelupe Garcia McCall
Hillary Manahan
Isabel Quintero
Jennifer Cervantes
Jennifer Mathieu
Jenny Torres Sanchez
Jorge Aguirre
Juan Felipe Herrera
Julia Alvarez
Judith Ortiz Cofer
Kelly Loy Gilbert
Kelly Parra
Kim Baker
Latifa Sanchez
Lila Quintero Weaver
Lydia Gil
Lynn Joseph
Malin Alegria
Margarita Engle
Maria E. Andreu
Marjorie Agosín
Matt de la Peña
Meg Medina
Melissa Gray
Nancy Osa
Nicholasa Mohr
Nicola Yoon
Olive Senior
Pam Muñoz Ryan
Patrick Flores-Scott
Rafael Rosado
Raúl the Third
Ray Villareal
René Saldana Jr
Rigoberto González
Samantha Mabry
Sindy Felin
Socorro Acioli
Sofia Quintero
Sonia Manzano
Stephanie Kuehn
Steven dos Santos
Tony Medina
Torrey Maldonado
Xavier Garza
Veronica Chambers
Viola Canales
Will Alexander
Yasmin Shiraz
Yxta Maya Murray
Zoraida Córdova


Oh, let’s just get the ugly news out of the way first.

It was comments by Lionel Shriver (The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047; Harper) that led Yassmin Abdel Magied to walk out of Shriver’s speech at the Brisbane Writers Conference. Shriver, like Rosoff and so many writers feel that the latest calls for diversity is a directive on what they can or should write. Megied, much more eloquently than I expresses the fallacies of Shriver’s whitely entitled perspective. I can just see that 8 year old telling his 3 year old sibling “you can’t tell me what to do.” Or that underhanded, technology superior being in a sci fi thriller telling the little earthling the same: “You can’t tell me what to do.”

But, we do tell you that when it’s about us, we want it right. We stand up to the giant, the bully, the entitled one and make our statements. Don’t rely upon the stereotypes you’ve know all your life. The problem is, when they’re the stereotypes you’ve known all your life, and you continue to work around people from the same socio-economic group as you, they’re your neighbors and in your yoga class and in your writing groups then you have no way of know what real LGBT or real African American or real disabled people are like.

And then, you want to endow upon yourself the uber privilege of being and artist and the world is supposed to be your canvas.

 Maybe, only, possibly if we could just get more books published in #ownvoices. I have to admit it does sound like we need Book Police in saying need more editors from marginalized groups to make sure authors are getting it right when they write about marginalized people but, yes we do need that. We need it early in the process because this nonsense of calling out books after they’re published needs to stop. We’re talking about people’s careers and livelihoods here. And, we’re talking about books that portray characters and events that send numerous subliminal messages to young readers about what society thinks of them. Marginalized people want the privilege of being visible, being whole and being human. We want to be able to drop the ‘marginalized’ moniker.

Today I’m walking the walk; starting a book club on my campus, Believers in Black Girl Magic. We’re selecting our first book this evening and I’ll be sure to report back what they select. The books on the list for them to select from are Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson; Everfair by Nisi Shawl; Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie; Sister Citizen by Melissa Harris-Perry; Hidden Figures by Margo Lee Shetterly and Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. I’m excited to get these young minds reading books with invigorating messages for young black and brown women. I hope to eventually read Juliet Takes a Breath with them. What a powerful book!!

The news is getting better!

I’ve been filling my FB pages with news of Colin Kaepernick. I love that story of the power of one! The press wanted to convince us that this young man was going to turn every NFL game in which he played into a near riot as he bordered on committing an almost unpatriotic activity when in reality, he was building a huge following and fan base. His jersey sales skyrocketed from #22 to #1 among other NFL jerseys. Not only have players on his and other NFL teams join him, but so have women’s soccer players and high school football teams. And, they did it not to echo Kaepernick, but to protest the senseless murder of young African Americans by the people paid to protect them, the police. #BlackLivesMatter.

We’re entering book award season. The short list for the Man Booker Award is out as is the long list for the National Book Award for young people’s literature. Can we stop the clock so that I can read them ALL??

Kwame Alexander Booked

Kate DiCamillo Raymie Nightingale

John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell (illustrator) March: Book Three

Grace Lin When the Sea Turned to Silver

Anna-Marie McLemore When the Moon Was Ours

Meg Medina Burn Baby Burn

Sara Pennypacker & Jon Klassen (illustrator) Pax

Jason Reynolds Ghost

Caren Stelson Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story

Nicola Yoon The Sun Is Also a Star

WOW!!!! Congratulations to these authors and publishers.

I haven’t even seen GHOST or THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR. Not yet…

Let’s get psyched for Latinx Heritage month that runs from 15 September – 15 October. Let’s do that by looking at the fabulous list of winners of the 2015 International Latinx Book Awards. I love that this award celebrates the vast contributions of Latinx writers throughout children’s literature by presenting awards in 23 categories. I would like to specifically recognize the Young Adult winners. You can find a complete list here.

Best Young Adult Latino Focused Book
Francisco Newton The Trails of Tizoc: An Aztec Boy in a World of Trouble
Maria Nieto The Water of Life Remains in the Head

Best Young Adult Fiction Book – English
Meg Medina Burn Baby Burn
Estela Bernal Can You See Me Now?
Daniel José Older Shadowshaper
Anna-Marie McLemore The Weight of Feathers

Best Young Adult Fiction Book – Spanish or Bilingual
Editorial Bambu Laberinto, Víctor Panicello
Gael Solano No sin Besarte
Armando Rendón Noldo Saves the Day

Best Young Adult Nonfiction Book
Sonia Manzano Becoming Maria
Margarita Engle Enchanted Air, Two Cultures, Two Wings, A Memoir

Best Educational Young Adult Book
Roxanne Ocampo Nailed It! Quetzal Mama’s Toolkit for Extraordinary College Essays

CONGRATULATIONS!! And, thanks ever so much for adding to my overly abundant reading list.

It’s really nice to see books honored that are written in own voices. It’s wonderful when Latinxs recognize the literary contributions from within their own community and it’s exhilarating when a prestigious award such is the National Book Award recognizes the outstanding talent that exists in marginalized authors. I’m so giddy for Meg Medina right now! What a year for her! And, for Nicola Yoon who’s first book is currently in production to become a major movie release. And, Jason and Kwame and… really, for any marginalized author who was able to publish this year. We have to be as excited for these established and duly honored writers as for these 2016 debut artists. All of these artists are worried about their next contract, hustling to sell the last one and crunched to find time to write. Let’s make it easy for them: follow them on social media (that’s super important in publishing today), post about their books when you read them and… keep reading them! Keep honoring #ownvoices by reading #ownvoices.