Spring Releases

In January, Zetta Elliott published a list of new releases by Black authors based in the US for middle grade and young adult readers. I’m continue that process here, listing books that will be released in April, May and June. An additional feature is that I’m also providing adult releases that will have a young adult appeal. I’ve tried to be as thorough as possible in finding new releases, however I’d love to know I’ve missed a few. Feel free to leave additional titles in the comment section and I’ll add them to the list here.

Getting Played by Celeste Norfleet; Kimani Tru 22 March  If there’s one thing Kenisha Lewis has learned, it’s that the people you think you know best often surprise you the most. And not always in a good way. It seems the revelations just keep coming. First, her grandmother and her dad are having money troubles, which means she’ll probably have to stay in public school and get a part-time job. And then there’s her boyfriend, Terrence, who has more secrets than she could have imagined. Kenisha can’t believe Terrence is dumb enough to get mixed up in a string of robberies. Or that he’d cheat on her with his old girlfriend. Or could it be that she just doesn’t want to admit the truth? Where Kenisha goes, drama follows, but she’s getting stronger and smarter every day. And she doesn’t plan on getting played again…. (Amazon)


Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor; Penguin 14 April   Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born in New York City. She looks West African, but is so sensitive to the sun that she can’t play soccer during the day. She doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere. Then she learns why.  middle grades (from the author’s website)

Carmen by Walter Dean Myers; Egmont Books, April   Into the summer heat of New York’s

Spanish Harlem strides Carmen, a chica who is as hot as the sizzling city streets. When she first meets José, she falls for him hard. He’s not like the gansta types she knows—tipo duros who are tough, who think they are players. But José has a quick temper, and he likes to get his own way. And nobody gets in Carmen’s way. (Amazon)

The break up Diaries by NiNi Simone; Dafina, April The only thing more intense than teen love is a break-up with the uncertainty of a make-up. This exciting new series serves up two tales of love that will shake-up your assumptions of relationships. So buckle up, it’s time to get real, learn to deal, and move on with this first volume ofThe Break-Up Diaries.(GoodReads)

Bird in a box by Andrea Davis Pickney; Hatchette Group, April Otis, Willie, and Hibernia are three children with a lot in common: they’ve all lost a loved one, they each have secret dreams, and they won’t stop fighting for what they want. And they’re also a lot like their hero, famed boxer Joe Louis. Throughout this moving novel, their lives gradually converge to form friendship, family, and love. Their trials and triumphs echo those of Joe Louis, as he fights to become the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion.  middle grades  (Amazon)

This thing called the future by J. L. Powers; Cinco Punto Press; April Khosi lives with her beloved grandmother Gogo, her little sister Zi, and her weekend mother in a matchbox house on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. In that shantytown, it seems like somebody is dying all the time. Billboards everywhere warn of the disease of the day. Her Gogo goes to a traditional healer when there is trouble, but her mother, who works in another city and is wasting away before their eyes, refuses even to go to the doctor. She is afraid and Khosi doesn’t know what it is that makes the blood come up from her choking lungs. Witchcraft? A curse? AIDS? Can Khosi take her to the doctor? Gogo asks. No, says Mama, Khosi must stay in school. Only education will save Khosi and Zi from the poverty and ignorance of the old Zulu ways. (Amazon)

So, so hood (Drama High) by L. Divine; Dafina, 31  May   With her senior year just beginning, Jayd s drama is going nowhere anytime soon. Although she’s graduated to the next level with her powers, she’s also going head-to-head with her former best friend, Misty. Jayd’s also got to deal with the aftermath of the debutante ball, her boyfriend’s cheating, and her ex-boyfriend/best guy friend Rah’s continuing baby mama drama. Luckily, when her crew gets to be too much, Jayd can turn to her new crush Keenan, a UCLA first draft football pick, for a time out. Jayd’s got to keep a cool head now more than ever because there’s a new enemy waiting to pounce if she lets down her guard.

Doing my own thing by Nikki Carter; Dafina, June  Sunday Tolliver’s hard work and talent have finally paid off-she’s got a smash album and mad-money beyond her wildest dreams. But earning fame is a lot easier than dealing with it. Sunday’s diva cousin, Dreya, and bad-boy rapper, Truth, will do anything to get payback and wreck her reputation. Her gifted new collaborator Dilly has every reason not to make Sunday’s crucial follow-up album a hit. And a new reality show starring Sunday is making her love life way too hot to handle. Now she has to figure out who’s fake, who’s for real, who’s down, and who’s really got her back. And the only way she can take control of her success is to keep making it her way…

Teen Girls Need L.O.V.E. by S. Dodson; Mahogney Ink Publications, June 1 Teen Girls Need L.O.V.E. is suitable for the straight A student, the troubled teen, and the girl that is looking to be empowered. The goal is to transform our teens into successful women by giving them the tools needed to build their self confidence and self esteem. This book focuses on the hottest topics facing teens such as relationships, self esteem, bullying, the importance of education, and how to set goals. If guidance is what you need, Teen Girls Need L.O.V.E. is here to the rescue! (Amazon)

Adult Crossover Titles

Mama Ruby by Mary Monroe Dafina, May 2011 New York Times bestselling author Mary Monroe presents an unforgettable tale featuring Mama Ruby, the indomitable heroine of her acclaimed novel The Upper Room. Now readers will get a peek into Ruby’s early years, as she transforms from a spoiled small-town girl into one of the South’s most notorious and volatile women. (Amazon)

Midnight and the meaning of love by Sister Souljah; Artia, April 12 Sister Souljah, the New York Times bestselling author of The Coldest Winter Ever and Midnight, delivers her most compelling and enlightening story yet. With Midnight and The Meaning of Love, Souljah brings to her millions of fans an adventure about young, deep love, the ways in which people across the world express their love, and the lengths that they will go to have it. (Amazon)

Ice: A memoir of gangster life and redemption-from South Central to Hollywood by Ice T, Douglas Century; Random House, April He’s a hip-hop icon credited with single-handedly creating gangsta rap in the 1980s. Television viewers know him as Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola on the top-rated TV drama Law & Order: SVU. But where the hype and the headlines end, the real story of Ice-T—the one few of his millions of fans have ever heard—truly begins. (Barnes and Noble)

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones; Algonquin, May 11 A coming-of-age story of sorts, Jones’s melodramatic latest (after The Untelling) chronicles the not-quite-parallel lives of Dana Lynn Yarboro and Bunny Chaurisse Witherspoon in 1980s Atlanta. Both girls-born four months apart-are the daughters of James Witherspoon, a secret bigamist, but only Dana and her mother, Gwen, are aware of his double life. This, Dana surmises, confers “one peculiar advantage” to her and Gwen over James’s other family, with whom he lives full time, though such knowledge is small comfort in the face of all their disadvantages. Perpetually feeling second best, 15-year-old Dana takes up with an older boy whose treatment of her only confirms her worst expectations about men. Meanwhile, Chaurisse enjoys the easy, uncomplicated comforts of family, and though James has done his utmost to ensure his daughters’ paths never cross, the girls, of course, meet, and their friendship sets their worlds toward inevitable (and predictable) collision. Set on its forced trajectory, the novel piles revelation on revelation, growing increasingly histrionic and less believable. For all its concern with the mysteries of the human heart, the book has little to say about the vagaries of what motivates us to love and lie and betray. (Amazon)

Librarians Seek Diversity in the WorkPlace

Initiative to Recruit a Diverse Workforce Call for Applications
Deadline June 1, 2011

Washington DC—The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is accepting applications for the Initiative to Recruit a Diverse Workforce (IRDW), a program designed to recruit master of library and information science (MLIS) students from traditionally underrepresented ethnic and racial minority groups into careers in research libraries. The IRDW includes a stipend up to $10,000 over two years, leadership and career development training, financial support for skills development, and a formal mentorship program.

The IRDW is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and ARL member libraries. This program reflects the commitment of ARL members to create a diverse research library community that will better meet the challenges of changing demographics in higher education and the emphasis of global perspectives in the academy.

Program Goal and Objectives

  • Attracting MLIS students from underrepresented groups to careers in research libraries, especially students with educational backgrounds (preferably a baccalaureate degree) in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) disciplines†
  • Strengthening participants’ leadership and job searching skills via a Leadership Symposium held during the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting
  • Developing a network of mentors who will guide and nurture the career development of the participants

† Candidates from all academic disciplines are encouraged to apply. Those without academic training in STEM disciplines will be required to complete coursework that will better prepare the candidate to work in one of the designated areas.


Successful applicants will meet the following criteria:

  • Member of an underrepresented racial or ethnic group (Note: Racial and ethnic identification is based on the categories outlined by the US Census and include: American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, Hispanic or Latino.)
  • Acceptance into an ALA-accredited MLIS program
  • Interest in pursuing a career in a research library

All applicants are required to submit the following materials by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, June 1, 2011:

  • Applicant summary sheet
  • Résumé
  • A 400-word (maximum) essay describing what attracts you to a career in a research library
  • Two letters of reference
  • Official undergraduate and graduate school transcripts including your last academic semester completed
  • Copy of an official letter of acceptance from an ALA-accredited library/information school

The application form is online at http://www.arl.org/diversity/init/IRDWapp.shtml. For more information about the program, see the IRDW Web site http://www.arl.org/diversity/init/.


Book Review: How Lamar’s bad prank won a Bubba-sized trophy

book review: How Lamar’s bad prank won a Bubba-sized trophy excerpt

author: Crystal Allen

date:  Balzar and Bray; February 2011

main character: Lamar Washington

Reading Lamar’s bad prank made me want to play the theme song for a local amusement park that claims “there’s more than corn in Indiana”. The story, set in Coffin, Indiana has a definite faux midwest feel to it with Lamar greeting neighbors on their porch as he walks to the neighborhood bowling alley, everyone knowing each other by name and the whole town turning up for the high school championship game. There really is no Coffin, IN but you have to appreciate the nod to Levi Coffin, a famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. And just to set the geography straight, if you’re travel I-65 from anywhere in IN to Chicago, you’ll go UP I-65, never DOWN.

Lamar is easy to understand but difficult to like. He’s a smart alack kid who is easily influenced by others, a typical kid trying to find his way. I think dad is still stuck in grief mode over the passing of his wife and a bit too worried about his job status  to really attend to his two boys who are literally fighting for his affection. Still, I don’t know how he missed such a large abusive situation that existed between his two sons.  The story often lacks details to support important situations.

Lamar wants to win his father’s attention through bowling while his brother does it through basketball. Lamar makes some bad decisions, listens to the wrong people and he lands in a world of trouble. What Lamar ends up doing isn’t so much a bad prank as much as it is retaliation. Unfortunately, we don’t we see much of Lamar’s goodness until he’s contrite. One of the bad decisions that Lamar makes is to friend Billy Jenks, a young man that everyone knows is bad news. I can get that Lamar thought he saw something others missed, tha perhaps Billy wasn’t so bad and besides, Billy was a smooth character who worked Lamar. What I don’t get is why Lamar couldn’t just let Billy’s friendship  go after he showed his true colors and why he wasn’t encouraged to do so.

Allen gives us a light story with well-developed characters and corny language from the Heartland.

review copy provided by the publisher

additional reviews:

Book Smuggler

School Library Journal

and a starred review from Publishers Weekly

Marching Women’s History: Moses of her People

title: Biography: Harriet Tubman

author: Kem Knapp Sawyer

date: DK Publishing; 2010

“There was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; If I could not have one, I would have the other.” ~Harriet Tubman

I love DK books and will buy just about anything they publish. Buying the Biography of Harriet Tubman proved to be no mistake! Most books about Tubman dwell on her time with the underground railroad but this slim volume actually traces Tubman’s life from its ancestral roots with the Ashanti people of West Africa through her death at age 91. Historic and geographic evidence provides readers with an understanding of what Tubman endured, and why. Photographs are provided where possible but so are drawings, documents and maps.

from the jacket:

Harriet Tubman was born into a world most of us can barely imagine. As a slave on a plantation, she could be whipped, beaten, or separated from her family at any time, based only on the whims of her owners. In 1849, she decided she’d had enough–risking her life, she escaped to the free state of Pennsylvania. But in the end, gaining her own liberty was not enough for her. Over the course of the next decade, she embarked on a series of missions to guide other slaves to freedom, earning her the nickname “Moses” and a reputation as one of the foremost antislavery activists in American history.

Although she struggled with financial difficulties after the war, she continued to work for the rights of Blacks and women, adopted a child and opened the Harriet Tubman home to care for the aged. When she could no longer care for herself, she moved into the Tubman Home where she spent the remainder of her days.

“Regardless of how impossible a task might seem…she tackled it with determination to win.”

~Harriet’s grandniece Alice Bricker

book review: Tasting the sky

title: Tasting the sky: A Palestinian childhood

author: Ibtisam Barakat

date: 2007; Ferrar, Straus and Giroux

non-fiction; biography

I didn’t plan to read two war stories back to back, but they made for quite a sobering weekend. Tasting the sky is Barakat’s recollection of the wars of her childhood, of her family being displaced to Jordan, soldiers overtaking their home and her parents struggles to keep their family together. Her childhood memories are free of the bitterness that most adults would have of a homeland that is invaded and occupied. Rather, we see the reliance of communities who learn how to make to, how to depend upon one another and how to keep going.

Despite the fact that Israeli soldiers practice maneuvers daily outside her home, Barakat and her brothers still want to play. They’re mischievous, inquisitive and silly just like children everywhere. Barakat clings to letters and to school, perhaps through her parents she learned at an early age how important education would be in giving her a new life. She ended up with a degree in English literature from Birzeit University in the West Bank. She learned how to weave words into stories we want to hear.

I know that my father does not really want to put down my schooling, especially because of the way he treats the word chair, the only word in English he knows. He says it with pride, moves it around in his speech as though to gain a better view of thinks. He sits on it like it’s a throne. Yet, it is a lonely chair. My love for language and words seems to come between us. It takes away his authority over me. The books, not he are my references.

Even is saying that, Barakat worshiped and admired her father as a child, much like Joseph admired his in Warriors. While the two books are both about about the lives of innocent bystanders being invaded by war, there are few comparisons between the two stories. The experiences of the characters are totally different, one fiction one non-fiction. The most important similarity in the two stories is the resolve of the main characters to never forget the experience of war.




book review: Warriors in the crossfire

book review: Warriors in the crossfire

author: Nancy Bo Flood

date: Front Street Press; 2010

main character: Joseph

Joseph is a young man living on the island of Saipan during World War II. The names and religious practices tell us this Pacific Island has been visited by Christian missionaries ant it is now under Japanese control. Saipan has a strategic location in the Pacific and is about to become a battleground between the Japanese and the Americans. The people who live on the island are treated like pawns and are told little about the coming war and are left defenseless. Joseph knows he cannot passively let his family get caught up in this manipulation. He and his father know that by relying on traditional practices, they have a chance to survive and they will know who to trust. One of the most difficult decisions Joseph has in knowing who to trust is deciding how much to rely upon his cousin, Kento. Although their mothers are sisters, Kento’s father is Japanese and Kento is raised as if he were Japanese.

Warriors in the crossfire brings the reader into the midst of a little know battle from the perspective of those considered to be bystanders. We see not only the consequences of a military battle, but a subtle cultural battle as well. We see the Christians and Japanese changing the Rafalawash culture especially the changing role of women but we also see how traditional practices are important for survival.  Flood details the brutality of war while holding back descriptions of what occurred under the Japanese. Historical notes provide authenticity to the story.

Nancy Bo Flood lived and worked in Malawi, Hawaii, Japan, Saipan and most recently on the Navajo Nation Reservation in Arizona. She works as a counselor, teacher and author. In addition to this story, Flood has also written collections of folklore from Micronesia, the Pacific Islands and the Polynesian islands which would be important multicultural additions to libraries.


ALA YALSA: 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults

Booklist Editor’s Choice 2010 for popular appeal and literary excellence

VOYA Magazine: Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers, Feb 2011 issue

school library copy

Estela and Raul Mora Award

REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking, announces the competition for the 2011 Mora Award. The Award is presented annually to the most exemplary program celebrating El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), also known as Día.

Libraries and schools that plan and implement Día programs in 2011 are eligible to submit an application by August 15, 2011.

The Estela and Raúl Mora Award was established by author and poet Pat Mora and her siblings in honor of their parents and to promote El día de los niños/El día de los libros. The Mora Award consists of a $1,000 stipend and a plaque to be displayed by the winning library or school.

REFORMA is Día’s founding partner and its members serve as judges for the Award. Pat Mora and REFORMA believe Día is a daily commitment to link all children to books, languages and cultures. Annual, culminating celebrations are held across the country on or near April 30. Día is now housed at theAssociation for Library Service to Children (ALSC),a division of the American Library Association (ALA).