The Fish Eyes Trilogy by Anita Majumdar

Anita Majumdar set her interlocking trilogy of plays in the town of Port Moody, BC. Her three female high school aged protagonists grapple with issues of race, appropriation, and sexual politics through Indian dance. Through Maria Ngyuen’s illustrations the play’s characters come vividly to life in the mind of the reader, while the play staging directions tantalizingly indicate a robust physicality that would be present in the performance.  (Submitted by Meghan W.)

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One Green Apple by Eve Bunting

On her second day in her new school in a new country, Farah takes a field trip to an apple orchard. She doesn’t speak English and isn’t sure she likes her new home. None of the other girls wear a dupatta on their heads and she isn’t used to boys and girls being in the same class. But as the day continues, she notices some things that look, sound, and smell the same in any country. When each child picks an apple to add to the apple press for cider, Farah chooses a little green apple that’s different, like her. As she helps the other children turn the crank and sees the apples blending together, she starts to realize that she can blend in here, too, while still being herself.  The story is told through Farah’s internal dialogue as she observes life on the farm and her classmates. I felt it was very realistic. For example, Farah wants to tell the teacher that she isn’t stupid, she just doesn’t understand the language, but of course she can’t. I liked that the children were friendly and welcoming, but it does mention that a few of them look at her coldly. The lovely watercolour illustrations in this picture book are filled with sunshine and express Farah’s emotions vividly, especially when she laughs with her classmates.  This is a lovely story about coming to a new place and starting to feel a sense of belonging. (Submitted by Gayle).

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Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This book was written as a letter from a father to his 15-year-old son about what it means to have a black body and be a black boy/man in America. It was awesome with great writing. I connected to this in a couple of big ways: I am the same age bracket as the author and his language around “the Dream” really hit home for me….I loved it! (Submitted by JF).

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Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

This fun graphic novel received a laundry list of well-deserved awards in 2015 and is recommended for fans of Raina Telgemeier’s Smile.  When twelve-year-old Astrid  is dragged to yet another one of her single mom’s “cultural experiences,” it turns out to be roller derby, to see strong, empowered women. Astrid falls in love with the game and is sure her best friend Nicole will sign up for summer skate camp with her. But the girls are about to enter junior high and everything is changing. Nicole is interested in boys, makeup and ballet and she’s going to dance camp. Suddenly without her best friend, Astrid focuses on improving her (rather abysmal) derby skills so that she can play in a real bout. But does being so hardcore mean she’ll lose her new derby friend, Zoey? I’m intrigued by roller derby, so I really liked that the author plays for the Portland Rose City Rollers and used her experience to bring the game to life with costumes, terminology and cool names (Jamieson’s alter-ego is Winnie the Pow – how awesome is that?) (Submitted by Gayle).

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Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Ms Okorafor is an African American author, the daughter of two Nigerian immigrants. I can’t remember how this book came on my radar but I’m glad it did. It’s catalogued as Science Fiction but the first half really doesn’t seem to fit that category–later on ‘magical’ things are at work but it dovetails so well into the story it doesn’t ‘read’ as Sci Fi.

It was a hard read in that it dealt with topics of racism, genocide, genital mutilation, the use of rape as a weapon of war, the societal views of children that are a result of these rapes – and the fact that these children are a result  of two races mixing . Climate change is a small part of the story (there are more deserts in this future earth) and the problems technology has brought society is also discussed.

The book presents us with a heroine, Onyesonwu (which means Who Fears Death), who has struggles to overcome as a child of a rape victim. A ‘Quest’ must be completed–a chance to right wrongs and vengeance taken.

Onyesonwu is a strong, emotional, conflicted character but you root for her every step of the way. (Submitted by RZ).

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“There Are Things I Want You to Know” about Stieg Larsson and Me by Eva Gabrielsson

In this very personal account, Eva Gabrielsson tells us about her relationship with Stieg Larsson, the Swedish author who became an overnight sensation when his Millennium trilogy was published posthumously—The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo being the first in the series. He was only 50 years old when he died of a heart attack, and had spent 32 of his years with Eva Gabrielsson.

Larsson devoted his life as a journalist to fight the abuse of women. With his fictional work he delivered his quest to the hands of millions of readers, and, later on, to moviegoers everywhere. There is a very sad irony to this real-life story: Since Gabrielsson and Larsson never married and he died intestate (without a will), under Swedish law she received nothing. Larsson’s estranged family (his father and brother) received not only his financial inheritance, but also the rights of the late author’s trilogy. A fourth book—one that Gabrielsson doesn’t consider faithful to the purpose and style of Larsson’s work—has already been published.

In Gabrielsson’s book we get to know of the couple’s life together and of her struggle to gain control of Larsson’s legacy. (Submitted by Eva).

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The Illegal by Lawrence Hill

The biting commentary on racial politics in The Illegal speaks to our present woes, but the engaging characters of Keita Ali, elite marathoner and refugee; Viola Hill, wheelchair bound reporter; Ivernia Beech, subversive library volunteer; and John Falconer, boy genius make the ride worthwhile. This book was the Canada Reads 2016 winner.(Submitted by Meghan W.)

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