Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away (or so it seems now) . . . Bonny and Carole and I announced our next Read With Us selection. (It was really just a month ago! Can you believe that???)
At the time we were making our next selection, another book - American Dirt - was much in the news, and getting significant push-back from critics. When I picked up that book from my library, I decided to dig a little deeper into the controversy before reading. Despite the fact that the book is highly readable (it's been described as "trauma porn with social justice overtones"), the controversy was all about cultural appropriation and the overall lack of Latinx voices in mainstream literature. (Really, this was quite similar to what many of us experienced last year as the fiber industry awakened to the voices and experiences of people of color in our knitting community. Only with authors and the publishing industry.)
I struggled with whether to read - or not read - the book I was holding in my hands. And then, I happened upon this article - and this one. They are rather long articles, but each explains the issues with American Dirt very well. (If you're interested in the controversy, or if you are interested in learning more about cultural appropriation in general, they are very worth reading.)
In the end, I decided to give the book a pass -- and to look for a different book about the Mexican immigrant experience - this time written by a Latinx author.
After scouring lists like this one, we chose I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter for our spring Read With Us selection.
The book was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award for Young People's Literature -- a first for author Erika L. Sánchez. The judges panel described the book this way:
Part mystery, part love story, part inner quest. In I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, the vibrant teen protagonist struggles to prove who she is not, and in that journey, discovers who she is: stronger, braver, more worthy of loving and living than she ever imagined. Bold new voice Erika L. Sánchez carries us through an amazing exploration of family, grief, and culture, reminding us that we are all flawed, and it is those flaws that make us priceless.
And, yes. This book is young adult fiction -- normally not my genre. But the reviews are good, I'm interested in the author, and I want to learn more about the topics covered in the book. As I read, I'm going to need to remember that I am not the target-audience for this particular book -- and try to think back to what 13-year-old Kym might have thought about the book. It's not my usual contemporary literature kind of selection, but I'm keeping my mind open, and I'm pretty sure I'll learn a few things.
(And besides, I think young adult fiction might be perfectly suited to my mood and attention span right about now.)
We'll be reading the book this month (April). I know your local libraries are closed, but you can still find the book on Amazon ($7.39 for a book-book and $10.99 for the Kindle version), and it's also available to borrow on Overdrive. Next month, we're changing up the discussion format a little bit: On May 12 you'll find a book discussion question on each of our blogs (a never-before-attempted-3-blog-extravaganza!) -- and on May 19 we're going to host a real-time, Zoom book discussion get-together. (Details to follow.)
I hope you'll grab a copy of the book . . . and Read With Us!