Booking Katrina

Books give us the stories that help us relate to the past. 10 years ago, Hurricane Katrina was an event that we all watched on television as details unfolded before us. Even with continuous CNN coverage, we could not understand, could not accept the devastation we witnessed. Why didn’t they leave? Why didn’t the government do more? Why did so many people live in a low lying flood plane in hurricane country?

Arriving in August, Katrina was the  fifth hurricane of the season. It was the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes in America. We watched in agony as the storm grew in intensity and we especially watched on 29 August when it hit land in Louisiana. And, it hit hard.

Today, New Orleans continues to hold a place in our hearts. And, with these fine books for young adult readers, the events from 10 years ago can51Zr4+6X8OL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ hold a place on bookshelves and in our collective memories. While hurricanes are meteorological events, this one became a sociological one that symbolized racism, classicism, government inefficiency and man’s inhumanity to man. I think this country is still process all the went wrong leading up to and during the storm while also celebrating what went right in the aftermath. While most of these books are not issue driven, they do speak to the issues and they become necessary reading for teens.

First on the list is the just released Finding Someplace.

Denise Lewis Patrick. Finding Someplace. Henry Holt and Co; August, 2015. ages 8-12.
Reesie Boone just knows that thirteen is going to be her best year yet-this will be the year she makes her very first fashion design on her Ma Maw’s sewing machine. She’ll skip down the streets of New Orleans with her best friends, Ayanna and Orlando, and everyone will look at her in admiration.
But on Reesie’s birthday, everything changes. Hurricane Katrina hits her city. Stranded at home alone, Reesie takes refuge with her elderly neighbor, Miss Martine. The waters rise. They escape in a boat. And soon Reesie is reunited with her family. But her journey back home has only begun.
This is a story of a family putting itself back together, and a young girl learning to find herself.

51-Lfjv4uFL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Paul Volponi. Hurricane Song: A Novel of New Orleans. Speak; 2009. ages 12 and up.
When Miles?s mother remarries, Miles decides to move to New Orleans to be with his father. But he and his father are very different?Miles?s dad lives for jazz, while Miles?s first love is football. Then Hurricane Katrina hits, and the two must seek refuge in the Superdome. What would normally be a dream come true for a football fan, this safe haven turns into a nightmare when the power fails and gangs take over. And when his father decides to rebel, Miles must make a choice that will alter their relationship? and their lives?forever.

Jewell Parker Rhodes. Ninth Ward. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; April 2012. ages 10 and up.
Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house like516MsJwfguL._AC_SX60_CR,0,0,60,60_ her uptown family or lots of friends like the other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya’s visions show a powerful hurricane–Katrina–fast approaching, it’s up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Ya has given her to help them both survive the storm.

Jewell Parker Rhodes has written other novels set in Louisiana: Sugar (Little, Borwn Books, 2013) and Bayou Magic (Little, Brown Books; 2015).

Michael Eric Dyson. Come Hell or High Water: Hurrican Katrian and the Color of Disaster. Basic Civitas Books; 2006. adult crossover.
When Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, hundreds of thousands were left behind to suffer the ravages of destruction, disease, and even death. The majority of these people were black; nearly all were poor. The 5141E0hYRAL._AA160_Federal government’s slow response to local appeals for help is by now notorious. Yet despite the cries of outrage that have mounted since the levees broke, we have failed to confront the disaster’s true lesson: to be poor, or black, in today’s ownership society, is to be left behind. Displaying the intellectual rigor, political passion, and personal empathy that have won him acclaim and fans all across the color line, Michael Eric Dyson offers a searing assessment of the meaning of Hurricane Katrina. Combining interviews with survivors of the disaster with his deep knowledge of black migrations and government policy over decades, Dyson provides the historical context that has been sorely missing from public conversation. He explores the legacy of black suffering in America since slavery and ties its psychic scars to today’s crisis. And, finally, his critique of the way black people are framed in the national consciousness will shock and surprise even the most politically savvy reader. With this clarion call Dyson warns us that we can only find redemption as a society if we acknowledge that Katrina was more than an engineering or emergency response failure. From the TV newsroom to the Capitol Building to the backyard, we must change the way we relate to the black and the poor among us. What’s at stake is no less than the future of democracy.

Jacqueline Woodson. Beneath a Meth Moon. Speak; 2013. ages 12 and up.
Hurricane Katrina took her mother and granmother. And even though Laurel Daneau has moves on to a new life–one that 51ket+Hcm5L._AC_SX60_CR,0,0,60,60_includes a new best friend, a spot on the cheerleading squad, and dating the co-captain of the football team–she can’t get past the pain of that loss. Then her new boyfriend introduces her to meth, and Laurel is instantly seduced by its spell, the way it erases, even if only temporarily, her memories. Soon Laurel is completely hooked, a shell of her former self, desperate to be whole again, but lacking the strength to break free. But with the help of a new friend–and the loyalty of an old one–she is able to rewrite her own story and move on with her own life.

Sherri L. Smith. Orleans. Speak; 2014. ages 12 and up.
51TcFYR1qSL._AA160_After a string of devastating hurricanes and a severe outbreak of Delta Fever, the Gulf Coast has been quarantined. Years later, residents of the Outer States are under the assumption that life in the Delta is all but extinct…but in reality, a new primitive society has been born.

Fen de la Guerre is living with the O-Positive blood tribe in the Delta when they are ambushed. Left with her tribe leader’s newborn, Fen is determined to get the baby to a better life over the wall before her blood becomes tainted. Fen meets Daniel, a scientist from the Outer States who has snuck into the Delta illegally. Brought together by chance, kept together by danger, Fen and Daniel navigate the wasteland of Orleans. In the end, they are each other’s last hope for survival.

51qRInXRN3L._SY386_BO1,204,203,200_Renne Watson. A Place Where Hurricanes Happen. Random House; 2010. ages 5 and up.
Children of New Orleans tell about their experiences of Hurricane Katrina through poignant and straightforward free verse in this fictional account of the storm. As natural and man-made disasters become commonplace, we increasingly need books like this one to help children contextualize and discuss difficult and often tragic events.

Brenda Woods. Saint Louis Armstrong Beach. Nancy Paulsen Books; 2011. ages 10 and up.
A boy, a dog, and New Orleans’ most famous hurricane51UhecSwLaL._AA160_

Saint is a boy with confidence as big as his name is long. A budding musician, he earns money playing clarinet for the New Orleans tourists, and his best friend is a stray dog named Shadow. At first Saint is sure that Hurricane Katrina will be just like the last one–no big deal. But then the city is ordered to evacuate and Saint refuses to leave without Shadow. Saint and Shadow flee to his neighbor’s attic–and soon enough it’s up to Saint to save them all.

Dave Eggers. Zeitoun. McSweeney’s; 2009. adult crossover [one of my personal favorites]
The true story of one family, caught between America’s two biggest policy disasters: the war on terror and the response to Hurricane Katrina.510WBUPoz7L._AC_SX60_CR,0,0,60,60_

Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun run a house-painting business in New Orleans. In August of 2005, as Hurricane Katrina approaches, Kathy evacuates with their four young children, leaving Zeitoun to watch over the business. In the days following the storm he travels the city by canoe, feeding abandoned animals and helping elderly neighbors. Then, on September 6th, police officers armed with M-16s arrest Zeitoun in his home. Told with eloquence and compassion, Zeitoun is a riveting account of one family’s unthinkable struggle with forces beyond wind and water.

Josh Neufeld. A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge. Pantheon, 2009.
Here we meet Denise, a counselor and social worker, and a sixth-generation New Orleanian;
61W7+rrh-RL._AC_SX60_CR,0,0,60,60_“The Doctor,” a proud fixture of the French Quarter; Abbas and Darnell, two friends who face the storm from Abbas’ s family-run market; Kwame, a pastor’s son just entering his senior year of high school; and the young couple Leo and Michelle, who both grew up in the city. Each is forced to confront the same wrenching decision–whether to stay or to flee.As beautiful as it is poignant, A.D. presents a city in chaos and shines a bright, profoundly human light on the tragedies and triumphs that took place within it.
Recommended by Lila Quintero Weaver

Fatima Shaik and Nicole P. Greene. What Went Missing and What Got Found. Xavier Review Press, 2015.
A love letter to the entertaining, unpredictable, and flawed characters who populated New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina, What Went Missing and What Got Found is a lyrical short story collection with undertones of the blues.
Set in a deep-rooted community, the book describes the inner lives of outsiders with humor and tenderness. There are religious zealots, day-dreaming musicians, failed romantics, and more a mute woman who believes that the photos of starving children in the newspaper are speaking to her, a man who mourns the loss of his true love while being accused of her murder, and an old couple who spends their last night together as flood waters rise around their bed.

The Short Story Review wrote about Shaik s previous adult book, The Mayor of New Orleans: Just Talking Jazz, The trio of novellas is set in and around New Orleans where the mixed-race Creoles speak their own dialect…Shaik writes with empathy and compassion about the lower rungs of New Orleans society. There are no villains here, nor is there the damp-palm voyeurism we have seen in other New Orleans-set stories. National Public Radio called her book a terrific, charging solo. Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, and the San Francisco Chronicle also praised the collection.41tren68Y2L._AC_SX60_CR,0,0,60,60_
Recommended by Lyn Miller-Lachmann (below)

What other books can you recommend for YAs on New Orleans or Hurricane Katrina?

Community Marketing

A few weeks ago, I was in Indianapolis and had a random conversation with a stranger that led to talking about his young son and his summer reading habits. Dad wanted Jr. to read, Jr. didn’t want to read. My message to him was what I’d give any parent.

  • It’s summer. Let him read what he’ll enjoy.
  • He’ll read more if he can find books that relate to him.

Dad was happy to hear this and he wanted to get books into his son’s hands that he would indeed read but, he wasn’t sure how to find books that a African American preteen male would enjoy. He asked if I knew any black librarians in Kokomo, a place he could send his son to get the books he wants. I suggested he go to libraries that serve the black community, relying on my librarian brothers and sisters there to be able to him young readers find books to which they can relate. I’m relying on librarians to be advocates rather than gatekeepers. But, shouldn’t any children’s librarian be able to help this parent?

I realized in all our talk about the need for diverse books, in all the actions we take and all the planning we do that we’re still talking about this with each other. The message, that we need more diverse books, and why we need them is directed at those who work inside kidlit and doesn’t include the voice of parents or children.

It seems that the book world has always been a rather insular place that rarely looks to readers to find out where their interests lie with regards to how they find out about books or what they’d really like to read.

For one thing, publishers (until very recently) didn’t “touch” consumers. Their interaction was with intermediaries who did. The focus for publishers was on the trade, not the reader, and the trade was “known” without research. To the extent that research was necessary, it was accomplished by phone calls to key players in the trade. The national chain buyer’s opinion of the market was the market research that mattered. If the publisher “knew different”, it wouldn’t do them any good if the gatekeeper wouldn’t allow the publisher’s books on his shelves.

This same article goes on to discuss how marketing information is so easily available thanks largely to online networking, but that publishes don’t know how to mine it.

As they continue to struggle to redefine their own business practices, the call for more diversity in what they publish is probably similar to the noise of mosquitos buzzing in their ears. Would it make a difference if we banded with those outside publishing to persist louder than a mosquito?

If children and parents knew to ask for more books in libraries and bookstores how high up would their voices be heard? No, I don’t believe they know that asking will make a difference. Think of how this marketing is done, how the decision making has been top down and consumers don’t always feel empowered with regard to books.

I was truly glad to see Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund write

 Let’s demand and support beautiful high-quality books that will allow all children to experience bookjoy as they see themselves and all they have in common with others in a multiracial, multicultural, democratic society. And let’s make sure we teach history that is true. Only the truth can set us free.

Zetta Elliott recently following up on a story about Jet Blue’s Soar With Reading Program. They, like BarberShop Books, and other corporate sponsored reading programs mean well, but unless they understand the urgency of providing young readers with books they can relate, they will simply increase the demand for the status quo. Good intentions, you know?

We have to keep demanding the books for our children, the diverse books that represent who they are and who they are becoming but in looking for allies, perhaps it’s time to look outside the world of publishing. Talk to teachers and friends. Try a chatting on FB or Twitter with a group you don’t typical discuss books.

August: New Releases

I only found two books by authors of color that were release last month and only four this month several more this month. Please do share any MG or YA titles you know that I’ve missed. I’d be quite happy to add them to the list.

Original post has been updated.

Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid; Harlequin Teen
Best friends Dave and Julia were determined to never be cliché high school kids—the ones who sit at the same lunch table every day, dissecting the drama from homeroom and plotting their campaigns for prom king and queen. They even wrote their own Never List of everything they vowed they’d never, ever do in high school.
Some of the rules have been easy to follow, like #5, never die your hair a color of the rainbow, or #7, never hook up with a teacher. But Dave has a secret: he’s broken rule #8, never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. It’s either that or break rule #10, never date your best friend. Dave has loved Julia for as long as he can remember.
Julia is beautiful, wild and impetuous. So when she suggests they do every Never on the list, Dave is happy to play along. He even dyes his hair an unfortunate shade of green. It starts as a joke, but then a funny thing happens: Dave and Julia discover that by skipping the clichés, they’ve actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even on love. (ages 12-18)

Ashes to Ashes by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian; Simon and Schuster
Think Mary, Kat, and Lillia have nothing left to lose? Think again. The fiery conclusion to the Burn for Burn trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian.

They only meant to right the wrongs. It was about getting even. Burn for burn.But the fire they lit kept raging…Reeve ended up hurt, then Rennie ended up dead.Everything will turn to ash if they don’t stop what they started. But now that Mary knows the truth about what happened to her, will she want to?Secrets drew Lillia, Kat, and Mary together. The truth might tear them apart. (ages 12-18)

Daughter of Dusk (A Midnight Thief Novel) by Livia Blackburne; Disney Hyperion
After learning the truth about her bloodlines, Kyra can’t help but feel like a monster.

Though she’s formed a tentative alliance with the Palace, Kyra must keep her identity a secret or risk being hunted like the rest of her Demon Rider kin. Tristam and the imprisoned assassin James are among the few who know about her heritage, but when Tristam reveals a heartbreaking secret of his own, Kyra’s not sure she can trust him. And with James’s fate in the hands of the palace, Kyra fears that he will give her away to save himself. As tensions rise within Forge’s Council, and vicious Demon Rider attacks continue in surrounding villages, Kyra knows she must do something to save her city. But she walks a dangerous line between opposing armies: will she be able to use her link to the Demon Riders for good, or will her Makvani blood prove to be deadly? In this spellbinding sequel to Midnight Thief, Kyra and Tristam face their biggest battle yet as they grapple with changing allegiances, shocking deceit, and vengeful opponents. (ages 12-18)

Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick; Henry Holt and Co.
Reesie Boone just knows that thirteen is going to be her best year yet-this will be the year she makes her very first fashion design on her Ma Maw’s sewing machine. She’ll skip down the streets of New Orleans with her best friends, Ayanna and Orlando, and everyone will look at her in admiration.

But on Reesie’s birthday, everything changes. Hurricane Katrina hits her city. Stranded at home alone, Reesie takes refuge with her elderly neighbor, Miss Martine. The waters rise. They escape in a boat. And soon Reesie is reunited with her family. But her journey back home has only begun. This is a story of a family putting itself back together, and a young girl learning to find herself.

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle; Atheneum
In this poetic memoir, Margarita Engle, the first Latina woman to receive a Newbery Honor, tells of growing up as a child of two cultures during the Cold War. Margarita is a girl from two worlds. Her heart lies in Cuba, her mother’s tropical island country, a place so lush with vibrant life that it seems like a fairy tale kingdom. But most of the time she lives in Los Angeles, lonely in the noisy city and dreaming of the summers when she can take a plane through the enchanted air to her beloved island. Words and images are her constant companions, friendly and comforting when the children at school are not. Then a revolution breaks out in Cuba. Margarita fears for her far-away family. When the hostility between Cuba and the United States erupts at the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Margarita’s worlds collide in the worst way possible. How can the two countries she loves hate each other so much? And will she ever get to visit her beautiful island again?

Game On by Calvin Slater; Kensington
Xavier Hunter hoped his senior year would be bad news-free. His old enemy is finally in lockdown and Xavier is out from under one mad-crazy relationship disaster. And he’s cool with his dream girl, Samantha Fox, dating other guys because fair is fair–he hasn’t been a saint. But he’s not hearing anything good about her new man, Sean. And showing Samantha the truth could be the one game Xavier can’t win. . . With graduation and college coming up fast, Samantha has been thinking hard about her future. Maybe she and Xavier have too much baggage to get back together. And Sean is a chance to see things fresh and figure out what she really wants. So she doesn’t need Xavier telling jealous lies–especially when the drama he’s lighting up could crash and burn their futures for good. . . (ages 12 and up)

Show and Prove by Sofia Quintero; Knopf
The summer of 1983 was the summer hip-hop proved its staying power. The South Bronx is steeped in Reaganomics, war in the Middle East, and the twin epidemics of crack and AIDS, but Raymond “Smiles” King and Guillermo “Nike” Vega have more immediate concerns. Smiles was supposed to be the assistant crew chief at his summer camp, but the director chose Cookie Camacho instead, kicking off a summer-long rivalry. Meanwhile, the aspiring b-boy Nike has set his wandering eye on Sara, the sweet yet sassy new camp counselor, as well as top prize at a breakdancing competition downtown. The two friends have been drifting apart ever since Smiles got a scholarship to a fancy private school, and this summer the air is heavy with postponed decisions that will finally be made.
Raw and poignant, this is a story of music, urban plight, and racial tension that’s as relevant today as it was in 1983. (ages 12 and up)

Shadows of Sherwood (Robyn Hoodlum series) by Kekla Magoon. Bloomsbury USA.
The night her parents disappear, twelve-year-old Robyn Loxley must learn to fend for herself. Her home, Nott City, has been taken over by a harsh governor, Ignomus Crown. After fleeing for her life, Robyn has no choice but to join a band of strangers-misfit kids, each with their own special talent for mischief. Setting out to right the wrongs of Crown’s merciless government, they take their outlaw status in stride. But Robyn can’t rest until she finds her parents. As she pieces together clues from the night they disappeared, Robyn learns that her destiny is tied to the future of Nott City in ways she never expected.
Kicking off a new series with an unforgettable heroine, readers will be treated to feats of courage and daring deeds as Robyn and her band find their way in this cruel, new world. (ages 8-12)

Billy Buckhorn Supranormal (Pathfinders) by Gary Robinson; 7th Generation
Billy Buckhorn’s uncanny intuition became apparent at an early age. In the course of this exciting series, Billy’s supernatural abilities grow and develop, and his reputation as a gifted “holy man” in the Old Way spreads throughout the Cherokee Nation. In book three, Supranormal, Billy and his grandfather face a deadly, ancient beast that’s poised to take control of the world. While Wesley and Billy summon aid from the spirit realms, Billy’s father, a college professor, puts together an archaeological team to help out—and to document the unprecedented things they’ve seen and experienced. But even with everyone pulling together, can they stop Uktena? (ages 12-16)

Fire Fight (Pathfinders) by Jacqueline Guest; 7th Generation
After her ikusin (grandmother) dies, Kai Hunter, a part Navajo, part Stoney Nakoda sixteen-year-old, runs away to Banff, Alberta, to avoid being placed in a foster home. Kai lies her way into a new identity, a job and a safe place to live. She makes new friends and volunteers with a rapid-attack crew for the forestry service. She even meets a great guy named Rory, who’s into motorcycles, just like her—and who seems to be into her too.
But Kai is scared of being found out, and she isn’t sure that she can trust all of her new friends…or that she likes the person she’s pretending to be. Meanwhile, she’s got to pay rent, figure out whether Rory is boyfriend material and assist the rap-attack crew as it faces a string of suspicious forest fires. In the thrilling conclusion to this romantic adventure, Kai’s choices become matters of life and death. (ages 12-16)

Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez; Scholastic
In this exciting and action-packed adventure by an award-winning author, a young girl discovers her secret ancient bloodline. The fate of her family, and the world, may rest in her hands… Cassie Arroyo, an American studying in Rome, has her world ripped apart when someone tries to kill her father, an art history professor at an Italian university. Is she their next target? (ages 8-12)