Diverse Lit 2015: Books 2-5

God & Mambo by Meriel Martinez
Nariad Publishing
Bilingual Poetry
Packed with culture and tradition, Merial Martinez's verse invites you to revel in the musical rhythms, heightened language, and delicious tastes found in our Puerto Rican heritage. The poems about her children show a playfulness and self-reflective pieces reveal painful heartache and the ever-present doubt that haunts many creative souls.
2015 Diverse Book #2

Seven Guitars by August Wilson
Samuel French, Inc.
Stageplay Script
The late August Wilson's "century cycle" is a series of ten plays that explore the African-American experience throughout the 20th century. Representing the 1940s, Seven Guitars starts with the funeral of a musician and then uses flashback to show what led to his death. This is the sixth play that I've read in the cycle. Powerful, lyrical storytelling.
2015 Diverse Book #3: Seven Guitars

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Yearling Books Middle Grade Historical Fiction
A poignant story of the Holocaust as seen through the eyes of a ten year-old girl who ends up playing an important role in her best friend's escape from the Nazis. An excellent middle grade read.
2015 Diverse Book #4

Dia of the Dead by Brit Brinson
Big Moon Press
Young Adult Fantasy
I came across this title in a post on Latin@s in Kid Lit. This zombie novel sets the apocalypse inside the studios of a network that produces hit teen television programs. A Dominican-American actress who plays a zombie-slayer on television finds herself having to kill the undead in real life. A quick, fun read for teen fans of the zombie genre.
2015 Diverse Book #5

Autobiography of the Lower East Side by Rashidah Ismaili

 
 

Autobiography of the Lower East Side by Rashidah Ismaili
Northampton House Press

In Autobiography of the Lower East Side, Rashidah Ismaili takes readers on a journey back to a time when the neighborhood in question was a hub of artists, advocates and scholars pushing societal boundaries. Rashidah expertly intertwines several plot-lines, told in a series of related short stories, and introduces several distinct voices from this cultured community.

One of the people we meet is Nusa, a young mother originally from West Africa, who holds several jobs and is pursuing a post-doc in oral literature. She’s torn when her passion for a man leads her to question certain customs of her Muslim faith. Then there’s James, a pacifist who grew up on a farm in the mid-west. He struggles to keep his underground anti-war acts a secret from his friends who congregate at the local bar. We also hear Charlie, an African-American writer, lament the fact that only white women understand his creative pursuits. This is later contrasted in a story from the perspective of Cecelia, also an African-American writer, who recognizes the glaring double standard when guys like Charlie are angered by black women dating white men.

Mixed into these intimate character portraits is a moving depiction of a real-life murder of a jazz musician. The imagery, which is superb throughout the entire book, is especially powerful in this gripping scene.

Full disclosure: Rashidah is one of the core poetry faculty members at the Wilkes University Creative Writing Program, where I went to grad school. I didn’t have much direct formal instruction with Rashidah since my concentration was children’s fiction, but she often found time to chat with me about world folklore, theatre, poetry, and New York City. I had a feeling that Autobiography of the Lower East Side would be a treat I’d savor like those fascinating conversations we had years ago. I was right.

2015 Diverse Book #1