Paula Yoo’s Book Drive for the Orlando Youth Alliance

Books change lives. If you’ve connected with me in this space, you know that and you are a changemaker. So is the amazing Paula Yoo who’s letting love be a verb. She’s put together a kidlit book drive for the Orlando Youth Alliance that allows us who believe in the power of books to DO SOMETHING that makes a difference.
Specifics for the book drive can be found here on Paula’s blog
I’m also suggesting GayYa for a list of queer YA books. (Look under the LGBTQIA and YA Material List tab at the top of the page.)
If you specifically want a list of YA books by Native American, here are a few
  1. Huntress by Malinda Lo; Little, Brown Books, 2011
  2. Boyfriends and Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez, 2011
  3. Chulito by Charles Rice Gonzales; Magnus Books, 2011
  4. Putting make-up on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright; Simon and Schuster, 2011
  5. Money Boyby Paul Yee; Groundwood Books, 2011
  6. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz; Simon and Schuster, 2012
  7. Adaptation by Malinda Lo; Little, Brown Books, 2012
  8. Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara Dole; Bella Books, 2012
  9. 37 Things I Love (In No Particular Order)by Kekla Magoon; Henry Holt, 2012
  10. Mariposa Gown by Rigoberto Gonazalez; Tincture Press, 2012
  11. Happiness Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta; Mariner Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), 2013
  12. Bereft by Craig Laurance Gidney; Tiny Satchell Press, 2013
  13. Fat Angie E. Charlton-Trujillo; Candlewick, 2013
  14. If you could be mine by Sara Farizan; Algonquin, 2013
  15. The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson; Arthur A. Levine 2013
  16. The Culling by Steven Dos Santos; Flux, 2013
  17. Drifting by Lisa R. Nelson; Tiny Satchel Press, 2013
  18. God Loves Hair by Vivek Shraya and Juliana Neufeld; Arsenal Pulp, 2014
  19. The Sowing by Steven Dos Santos; Flux, 2014
and here are a few more.
My forte is YA, sorry I have a listing of books for younger readers. Feel free to put titles or links in the comment section because the picture books, beginning readers and MG books are critical as well.
I’m ordering books from Teaching for Change and hoping to pick a few more up at ALA. In Orlando.
“End the hate. Bring the love.”
Paula Yoo, you continue to be awesome!

Will You Be At ALA Orlando?

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If you’re coming to ALA, I hope you have this panel on your schedule.

Campaigns to increase diversity in children’s publishing have gained support, but debates continue to emerge over the “how” of this diversity—especially when it comes to fraught topics like slavery, racism, gender identity and sexual orientation. How does responsible engagement with these and other contentious topics impact the work of writing, reading, selecting, and teaching diverse books for children and teens? This panel will highlight insights from authors and publishers while exploring practices for advancing the conversation about diversity.



I’ve been doing my best not to let my summer overwhelmed me. I hit a couple of stressful patches last semester and I don’t like the person I become when I’m stressed. This semester, I’m trying to be more organized, getting as much done ahead of time as possible and staying aware of dates and deadlines. The other night, I had a dream that I was back at the University of Cincinnati for graduate school. I was busy getting around campus, carrying lots of stuff and reading while I was walking. I walked up to a table to get my schedule and although I’d been accepted, I hadn’t completed my registration, hadn’t even registered for classes. I clearly need to slow down so that I don’t miss any opportunities.

Reading slows us down. It engages our mind, body and brain in ways few other activities do. One of my projects this summer is to develop a workshop to re energize teacher’s attitudes about reading. I’m prepared to hear many of them say they simply don’t have time. I honestly believe we have time for the things we truly want to do but, sometimes after a day in the classroom (particularly if you’re an introvert) you want a mindless evening of knitting, gardening, playing games, watching television or coloring.

I’ve been trying to select books for this group to read. I picked up M Train by Patti Smith because of the popularity of this National Book Award winner. The book is set on the most exquisite paper I’ve experienced in a book in a very long time, reminding me I need to read adult more often. Not too far in, Smith is discussing a lecture she was delivering to the Continental Drift Club about explorer Alfred Wegener. Smith admitted to barely preparing the lecture, scribbling much of it on napkins. She’s recounting what she believes to be Wegener’s last expedition when mumbling breaks out disputing her ‘facts’. When she’s accused of creating poetry rather than science her retort is “What is mathematics and scientific theory but projection?” (p. 52)

It’s not that everyone in the book is white that gave be pause ( a long pause: I stopped reading) but it was the Whiteness, assuming the privilege of telling someone else’s story without assuming the responsibility to get it right. I did read Humans of New York Stories and will be adding that to the teacher’s reading list. It’s not something I would normally pick up but, it ended up being something I couldn’t put down.

This afternoon, I’ve been reading Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson. It’s my university’s campus read and the author will be on campus this year. I’m reading it to prepare a discussion guide that will build reading skills while guiding readinger through the book. This will be the second such project I’ve worked on with our Math and Writing Center and it’s one project that I really enjoy. I’m enjoying the book, too! Books rarely make me cry but this one has had me tearing up a couple of times. It’s a powerful read.

I wanted to add Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales by Virginia Hamilton to the #Lemonade for Girls: In Formation list, but I can’t add books to lists if I haven’t read them. So, I’m plugging away at this classic so that it can be ready for me to recommend it to another list.

Speaking of lists, we’re beginning work for the next We The People Summer Reading List. I haven’t started books reading for that one yet, it’s going to take a little while before I have time.

You may, or may not have listened to the recording of my talk a few months ago about responsible use of social media. During that talk, I mentioned that I am not and do not want to be the diversity librarian.

You know how most people who believe in magical thinking think that you simply need to speak things out loud to make them happen? Well, I’m learning not to speak out loud what I’m NOT going to do, what I don’t want because I’m getting closer to being that diversity library. I recently because a Faculty Affiliate on my campus as part of a faculty learning community to add multiculturalism to the curriculum. This effort has me piecing away at reading Small Teaching by James Lang (highly recommended to improve classroom teaching) and Personal, Passionate, Participatory Inquiry into Social Justice in Education edited by Ming Fang He and JoAnn Phillion. My friends, let me just say the key to deep reading is 20 minutes a day. Brain research tells us the brain really only concentrates for 20 minutes at time. Also, it’s much easier to set aside 20 minutes each day to read a book that to make myself think I need to spend hours doing it every evening.

I haven’t picked up Shapeshifters by Amiee Meredeth Cox or Critical Multicutural Analysis of Children’s Literature edited by Maria Jose Botelho and Masha Kabakow Rduman in quite a while, but I’ll get back to them sooner rather than later to continue my research on black girls and on critical literacy. Until then, I’m reading the articles.

I’m not left with much time to read for the blog and honestly, I’m not doing much on any of my social media sites. I think it’s best that for June and July, I take a vacation from blogging. I’ll still post the monthly releases and will post a reminder about ALA, but I don’t plan to do anything other than that.

Unplug! Go enjoy your summer! Me, I’m planning to keep stress to a minimal. I’m gone reading. See you in August!

It’s late and I’ve rushed writing this. I’ve tried to take my time to proofread, but I think there may be more errors than usual. I’m sorry for that!

Rights Report: April and May

I try to update Rights Reports monthly to give a peek into upcoming POC and Native American kidlit publications.


Oni Press has acquired world rights to the YA graphic novel IWant You by Madeleine Flores. The story follows a girl working in her brother’s cat cafe who has a secret magical ability that allows her to get whatever she wishes for whenever she says “I want.” Publication is slated for 2018.

Candlewick Press will publish 2016 Hans Christian Andersen Laureate Cao Wenxuan‘s novel Bronze and Sunflower, which tells the story of the friendship between Bronze, a mute village boy, and Sunflower, a girl sent from the city with her father to a rural re-educational “cadre school,” during the Cultural Revolution. Emma Lidbury at Walker Books bought world English rights for the Walker Books Group from Peter Buckman at the Ampersand Agency. The book was published in the U.K. in April 2015, and has been released in France, Germany, Italy, and Korea. Hilary Van Dusen will edit the U.S. edition, which will be published in early 2017.

HarperCollins/Walden Pond Press has acquired Anna Meriano‘s middle grade debut, Love Sugar Magic on behalf of CAKE Literary. The novel follows a girl who discovers that she comes from a long and distinguished line of brujas – witches of Mexican ancestry. But when she bungles a spell, she must race to fix it before her mother and sisters find out she’s been practicing magic in secret. Publication is set for late 2017.

Flatiron Books has preempted Somaiya Daud‘s debut Mirage, a YA fantasy/SF trilogy inspired by the author’s Moroccan background, in which a poor girl from an isolated moon must become the body double to the cruel imperial princess, and learns that life in the royal palace is far more dangerous and complicated than she imagined. Publication of the first book is planned for fall 2017.

First Second Books has acquired world rights to a YA graphic novel written by Mariko Tamaki (l.) and illustrated by Rosemary Valero O’Connell, called Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me. In the book, teenaged Freddy is going through what might possibly be the most epically complicated breakup in lesbian history – or at least it feels that way to Freddy and her long-suffering friends. It’s planned for 2018.

Dial has pre-empted Veera Hiranandani’s The Night Diary, a middle grade novel about shy 12-year-old Nisha, who is forced to flee her home with her Hindu family during the 1947 partition of India. She finds a way to heal her broken world by writing raw and honest letters to her deceased Muslim mother. Publication is slated for spring 2018.

Scholastic Press has bought world rights to Madelyn Rosenberg (l.) and Wendy Wan-Long Shang‘s middle-grade novel This Is Just a Test. David Da-Wei Horowitz should be preparing for his bar mitzvah, but instead, he’s busy trying to figure out how to survive the Cold War, which is hard when he can’t even make peace between friends and his dueling Chinese and Jewish grandmothers. Publication is planned for 2017.


Martha Mihalick at Greenwillow has preempted debut author-illustrator Daria Peoples‘s picture book THIS. IS. IT., and an untitled companion book. In the book, a young ballerina, uncertain of her talent, follows the poetically compelling voice of her shadow to discover the courage she needs to audition. Publication is set for 2018.

Macmillan/Imprint has acquired Monique Fields‘s  Honeysmoke, a picture book about a girl searching for a word to describe herself and her place in a multiracial family. Geneva Benton will illustrate. Publication is scheduled for fall 2018.

Dutton has acquired Dream Country by Shannon Gibney, a family saga following the lives of several generations of young black men and women facing death and exile from Liberia to America. Publication is set for 2018.

Abrams won a six-publisher auction for world English rights to Christian Yee‘s debut YA novel,The Girl Who Was Iron and Gold, launching a series about 15-year-old Genie Zhao, who wonders if she’s qualified enough to gain admission to an Ivy League school, then becomes powerful enough to break through the gates of Heaven with her fists. Publication is slated for fall 2017, with the sequel to follow in fall 2018.

Thomas Dunne Books will publish S. Jae-Jones‘s YA novel Wintersong in winter 2017, and a companion novel in 2018.

Little Simon has bought the first two titles in the new Daisy Dreamer chapter book series, illustrated by Genevieve Santos. Daisy is a smart, spunky seven-year-old whose vibrant imagination sends her on whimsical adventures full of very real “imaginary” friends, sparkle fairies, unicorns, and rainbows. Publication for both titles is set for spring 2017.

HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray has preempted Justina Ireland‘s Dread Nation and an untitled sequel, a YA duology set in a post-Reconstruction America beset by an undead plague that rose from the Civil War battlefields. Publication is set for 2018.

Knopf has acquired AmericanizedSara Saedi‘s autobiographical account for teens of growing up in America as an illegal immigrant from Iran. Publication is set for fall 2017.

Philomel has acquired Jenny Torres Sanchez‘s fourth YA novel, Crows Cry Emilia, an un-coming-of-age story that charts the devolution of 16-year-old Emilia DeJesus when she learns that the police arrested the wrong man for attacking her seven years prior, that the real perpetrator is still out there, and that beauty can be found in all lost things. Publication is scheduled for spring 2018.

Little, Brown has bought debut author-artist and graduating senior at the Rhode Island School of Design Oge Mora‘s Thank You, Omu!, about an elderly woman who gives selflessly until there is nothing left to share, and is then surprised by the reciprocal love and generosity of her community, plus an untitled picture book. Publication is planned for fall 2017.

Viking has preempted Down and Across, Arvin Ahmadi‘s YA debut about a boy whose track record of quitting doesn’t live up to his immigrant parents’ high expectations. What begins as an impromptu trip to a famous professor for advice about success turns into a summer of freedom, one that brings him answers in unexpected places. Publication is set for spring 2018.

June Releases

41d0eGNgoJL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Unplugged by Donna Freitas; HarperTeen. Ages 13 and up.
Humanity is split into a dying physical world for the poor and an extravagant virtual world for the wealthy. Years ago, Skylar Cruz crossed over to the App World for a chance at a better life, and her family stayed behind in the Real World. Now Skye is a virtual teenager, surrounded by glamorous apps and expensive downloads—yet she’s never felt like she fits in, and all she wants is to see her mother and sister again.

Skye is desperate and ready to risk everything to unplug from the App World. But she soon learns that the only person she can trust—in either world, including friends andfamily—is herself.

FC9781595148568Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana; Penguin/Razorbill. ages 12 and up. Debut Author
For Tara Krishnan, navigating Brierly, the academically rigorous prep school she attends on scholarship, feels overwhelming and impossible. Her junior year begins in the wake of a startling discovery: A message from an alternate Earth, light years away, is intercepted by NASA. This means that on another planet, there is another version of Tara, a Tara who could be living better, burning brighter, because of tiny differences in her choices.
The world lights up with the knowledge of Terra Nova, the mirror planet, and Tara’s life on Earth begins to change. At first, small shifts happen, like attention from Nick Osterman, the most popular guy at Brierly, and her mother playing hooky from work to watch the news all day. But eventually those small shifts swell, the discovery of Terra Nova like a black hole, bending all the light around it.
As a new era of scientific history dawns and Tara’s life at Brierly continues its orbit, only one thing is clear: Nothing on Earth–or for Tara–will ever be the same again.

FC9780451475763Never Ever by Sara Saedi; Viking. ages 12 and up.
Wylie Dalton didn’t believe in fairy tales or love at first sight.
Then she met a real-life Peter Pan.
When Wylie encounters Phinn confident, mature, and devastatingly handsome at a party the night before her brother goes to juvie, she can t believe how fast she falls for him. And that’s before he shows her how to fly.
Soon Wylie and her brothers find themselves whisked away to a mysterious tropical island off the coast of New York City where nobody ages beyond seventeen and life is a constant party. Wylie’s in heaven: now her brother won t go to jail and she can escape her over-scheduled life with all its woes and responsibilities permanently.
But the deeper Wylie falls for Phinn, the more she begins to discover has been kept from her and her brothers. Somebody on the island has been lying to her, but the truth can’t stay hidden forever.

FC9781481456531The Geeks Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash; Simon and Schuster. ages 14 and up.
Graham met his best friend, Roxana, when he moved into her neighborhood eight years ago, and she asked him which Hogwarts house he d be sorted into. Graham has been in love with her ever since.
But now they re sixteen, still neighbors, still best friends. And Graham and Roxy share more than ever moving on from their Harry Potter obsession to a serious love of comic books.
When Graham learns that the creator of their favorite comic, “The Chronicles of Althena,” is making a rare appearance at this year’s New York Comic Con, he knows he must score tickets. And the event inspires Graham to come up with the perfect plan to tell Roxy how he really feels about her. He’s got three days to woo his best friend at the coolest, kookiest con full of superheroes and supervillains. But no one at a comic book convention is who they appear to be…even Roxy. And Graham is starting to realize fictional love stories are way less complicated than real-life ones.

FC9780826356642Amazing Paper Airplanes: THe Craft and Science of Flight by Kyong Hwa Lee; University of New Mexico Press. ages 9-13.
Kyong Hwa Lee holds a doctorate in electrical engineering and has worked for more than twenty-five years in the aerospace industry. Lee has designed over one hundred unique paper airplanes over the last thirty years. His coauthored Paper Airplane Fold-a-Day calendar has been popular worldwide since its first publication in 2006. Every day hundreds of paper airplane enthusiasts visit his website at

The Way to Game the Walk of Shame by Jenn P. Nguyen, Phuong Anh Nguyen; Swoon Reads. ages 12 and up. Debut authors
FC9781250084071Taylor Simmons is screwed. Things were hard enough when her single-minded dedication to her studies earned her the reputation of being an Ice Queen, but after getting drunk at a party and waking up next to bad boy surfer Evan McKinley, the entire school seems intent on tearing Taylor down with mockery and gossip. Desperate to salvage her reputation, Taylor persuades Evan to pretend they’re in a serious romantic relationship. After all, it’s better to be the girl who tames the wild surfer than just another notch on his surfboard. Readers will be ready to sign their own love contract after reading The Way to Game the Walk of Shame, a fun and addicting contemporary YA romance by Jenn P. Nguyen.

OH! My Book Con Post!

If you haven’t seen the reading list #Lemonade for Girls: In Formation over on Zetta Elliott’s blog, you might want to. She, Sarah Dahlen Park and myself collaborated to create this empowering resource.

Our selections reflect some of the themes in Beyoncé’s visual album: self-love, African roots, spirituality, Louisiana, the history and culture(s) of the South, Black women’s activism, police brutality, and “Daddy Lessons.”

Saturday, I joined a group of teachers and librarians to travel to BookCon in Chicago. High school librarian Kathy Hicks-Brooks usually arranges planes or busses to take a group of her teachers to BEA but this year, the event was pre-empted by ISTEP testing. Instead, she took a group to BookCon. I met a few authors in real life that I’ve connected with on social media and attended a few panel presentations. While this is a good event for the general public, for someone who is use to NCTE and ALA, the exhibit itself was lacking.

The panels were quite good, particularly the first panel I sat in on, “We Need Diverse Books Love and Loss in Children’s Literature”. The well-attended panel was moderated by the ever so charming Dhonielle Clayton who steered authors Jenny Han, Gene Luen Yang, Francisco X. Stork, Anna-Marie McLemore, Sherman Alexie and Leigh Bardugo to an intense discussion on both love and loss. I’m going to try to recap with a few quotes and outtakes.

Leigh spoke about writing Crooked Kingdom to provide visibility to disabled people. Regardless of her own disability, she sees herself as bad ass and created a bad ass character to made that part of her visible. She felt writers could scaffold their work to prepare students for a particular idea so that it would become possible to push readers and their visions as far as possible.

Anna-Marie reflecting on her first love at age 17. “Loving made it necessary to lay down identities sooner.” She holds that certains aspects of our communities, such as ethnic or gender identity, come into what we write. Growing up as a child, her Latina grandmother told her “If you’re a good girl, you can get a blue-eyed boy”, reinforcing the thought that if you can date someone from the dominant culture then you’ve made it. You’ve been accepted. “The world has told marginalized characters that they don’t deserve happy endings.”

Francisco: “A hopeful ending isn’t necessarily a happy ending. We want to leave endings with the feeling that there is meaning out there.”

Jenny Han added to these thoughts by explaining how good it felt to see women of color in Scandal that everyone desires. She then vicariously felt she, too could be wanted.

Gene commented that while Eleanor and Park was criticized for objectifying Park, he took great pleasure in seeing an Asian male being objectified. It was a very funny moment. Gene has quite a sense of humor.

Sherman Alexie’s first date was to see Purple Rain “in an era when you didn’t know things”. Neither he nor his date knew anything about the movie they were planning to see. In a larger context, he felt that “the pressure for us to be representative was adopted in a way that isn’t natural for us. Why can’t I just write a story and just let it be about Purple Rain?” His date was a white girl and the date was about more than just the two of them, what we do outside our communities affects us and our communities.

“As Native Americans when we write about sadness our own view represents everyone [who is Native.] Even other Natives view it that way. When my books are criticized, non-Natives will read my books for the pain. I’ve learned we’re all in the range of fucked-up-ness as individuals and in our tribes. I’m not interested in whether or not my people want me to write a happy ending.”

Francisco Stork: “It’s an amazing thing when you’re 16 to have someone say ‘yes’ to you.” (on getting that first date)

“There are moments in relationships, in love, in rejection that you see yourself through the eyes of another person”, like when your crush tells you they cannot go out with you because you’re Latino.

Francisco builds friendships as the basis true love in his writings.

Gene: His 7th grade friend told him that if he kept reading comics books, he’d never get a girlfriend.

Sherman: “It’s dangerous to be an individual with in a tribe. If you reach across boundaries, it becomes dangerous for everyone.”

Question to the panel: Do we hide the dirty laundry?

Gene: “You have to go where you’re uncomfortable.”

Francisco finds it difficult to write about snobby Latinxs who think they’ve made it, but it’s important for him to write that so that readers don’t think all Mexicans are poor.

Sherman: “Our literature gets condescended upon by our own people. They don’t expect us to write for greatness. I want to write War and Peace.” Thunder Boy Jr. (his latest picture book) was inspired at his father’s funeral when he realized there was a tombstone with his own name on it because he and his father had the same name. “If there’s only one book on Native Americans, then that book is asked to do many things. We need more books with characters of color so they can do everything.”

Jenny agreed, saying she cannot write everyone’s story. “I can only do what I’m good at.”

Leigh urged attendees to look for a book with a format or cover that’s “not like you. Buy it. Read it.”

There was a question from the audience asking the panel members what they’re doing to promote diversity. I felt a slight pause, perhaps coming from some of us wondering how this person has missed all the work that has been and is being done.

Francisco replied by reminding us we all have to find what works for us. He mentors young writers.

Sherman asked everyone to realize how much progress has been made and remember to respect the diversity within our own communities.

I liked that in this small community of authors, the sense of diversity came from the honest and complex perspectives they provided both in how they live their lives and how they write for young people. No doubt these perspectives have been tempered from the cultures in which they live, but these diversities created a rich dialog. Imagine how good their books are.

Jenny Han: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: P.S. I Still Love You

Gene Luen Yang (National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature): Secret Coders; American Born Chinese; Boxers and Saints

Francisco X. Stork: Memory of Light; Marcelo in the Real World

Anna-Marie McLemore The Weight of Feathers

Sherman Alexie : Thunder Boy Jr.; Diary of a Part-time Indian

Leigh Bardugo: Six of Crows; Crooked Kingdom

I had photos to add to this post, but something is going on with WordPress and I can neither reduce the size of the photos or re-position them. I’ll just post a couple here for now. The first is the above mentioned panel and the second pic is friends and colleagues who are teachers and librarians in Indianapolis that went to BookCon.




review: My Name is Not Friday


title: My Name is Not Friday
author: Jon Walter
date: Scholastic, 2016
main character: Samuel “Friday”
YA Historical Fiction

My Name is not Friday is British author Jon Walter’s sophomore novel. The beginning is slow moving and a bit disorienting. It feels odd in that we’re in one of the most racially charged eras in American history yet we never learn anyone’s racial identity until the protaganist is referred to as a ‘nigger’ at a slave auction thirty nine pages into the story. I have not seen the British version of this book, it is possible some things were changed as the book was translated into American English.

We soon find that young Samuel has been removed from the orphanage where he grew up and is being enslaved, leaving behind his younger brother, Joshua; his only remaining family member. Samuel feels responsible for his mischievous sibling (his brother’s keeper?) and wants to get back to protect him. Instead, he’s held in bondage on the Allen farm.

I still cannot figure out why Samuel (look up Samuel in the Old Testament), who is renamed Friday (nod to Robinson Crusoe) doesn’t make everyone know that he is free. He enters into bondage fearlessly. Why?

It seems that Samuel falls easily into the role of one who is enslaved, keeping his eyes downcast, not engaging with the whites around him. His life in the orphanage seemed good, not great but good. Perhaps life there as a free boy was not much better than being enslaved. Was there just no good place for a black boy to be in the American south in 1880? Perhaps he was subjugated all his life. Several scenes indicate that Friday does not know how to carry out routine duties of an enslaved person and has no idea how to be a slave. Rather than wonder why he doesn’t know, it’s assumed he’s lazy. However, many see Friday as someone quite special, almost chosen. This is part of the strong moral and Christian undertone in the book.

Friday’s actual owner is Gerald Allen, a young white boy not much older than Friday. Mrs. Allen, Gerald’s mother, manages the estate while her husband is off to fight for the Confederacy and  she seems unsure most of the time. Having been influence by a father who is compassionate toward those he has enslaved, Gerald wants to be Friday’s friend although his mother wants him to grow up and treat Friday as someone who is enslaved.

I’ve read several reviews of My Name is Not Friday that refer to the story as being brutal. Please rid yourself of the notion of smiling slaves. Please. My friends, this is a story of enslavement, a story where one group of humans forces domination over another based upon their skin color. Walter understands this and does not shy away from the inhumanity of this institution. He communicates the humanity of the enslaved as well as of the enslaver and the most honest way he can do this is by creating opportunities to show the inconsistencies of this system, the exact inhumanity of enslavement.

Remember, Gerald actually owns all the enslaved people on this property. At one point, he’s bullied into whipping an enslaved person, Hubbard. He doesn’t want to whip this man whom he’s known all his life and Friday calls him on it.

“Why’d you do It, Gerald? Why didn’t you stop it?”

Gerald stamps down, lifts another spade of earth up out of the grave, and throws it farther than he needs to. “Hubbard deserved what he got. He was caught fair and square and we didn’t have no choice but to whip him. My daddy would have done the same thing. I’m sure he would. Maybe he wouldn’t have done it himself, but he would have made sure someone did it.”

“You could have refused!”

“They’d have done it anyway!” He stops his digging and stares at me, exasperated. “There are folks who think that darkies ain’t good enough to be free. Now, I ain’t one of ‘em, but that’s who you got to convince-and you can’t do that when they’ve brought in a runaway and everyone’s howling for blood.”

The entitlement! Gerald throws the earth farther than he needs to; a wasteful action, a waste of the soil. Digging in the dirt.

Gerald rationalizes that because of his actions, Hubbard deserves to be whipped and it’s Hubbard’s own fault and besides you can’t convince some people otherwise, at least not when they’re angry. And, his daddy? He wouldn’t have whipped Hubbard, he wouldn’t soil his own hands like that. No. He’d get someone else to do it. These enslaved people are Gerald’s property but everything tells him he has no choice to make. It’s 1864ish and the war is almost over but the south has become a slave society. Not even whites have the freedom to act outside the guidelines. Yea, that’s brutal.

Walter does have a few problems with the story. With so much richness brought to the character of Friday/Samuel, he’s still poorly developed. At many points, Samuel seems to be a moral compass, a child with a mission. Yet, he never seems to develop in any cognitive, emotional or spiritual perspective. With all that Friday faces over a protracted period of time, he seems to remain the same child from start to finish. And, too often racial identity is omitted.

Then, there’s the ending. The third segment of the book is written in a completely different tone and even at a different pace than the previous portion and this makes the conclusion difficult to accept.

Walter admits that he didn’t set out to write a story about enslavement, but this is where the character’s voice let him. I like that he didn’t hold his character an arm’s length away as too many whites do when writing enslaved blacks. Rather, he embraces him and writes him with care. I like that his portrayal of enslavement is complex and multilayered and that Walter did his research. This isn’t a perfect book, but it is a good one.