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The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins
Publication Date: May 26, 2020
Growing up mixed-race in London has not been easy. Michael struggles to reconcile his two cultures (Greek Cypriot and Jamacian), deal with his uninvolved father and his over-involved mother, and navigate the world as a gay teen. When he starts his first year at University, Michael discovers The Drag Society and feels he is finally living as his authentic self. He uses his drag persona, The Black Flamingo, to explore different ways to express himself.
This lyrical novel in verse begins when Michael is young and weaves his experiences with racism, sexual identity, homophobia, and toxic masculinity into his story in brilliant ways. Atta’s writing constructs complex primary and secondary characters and keeps readers invested in everyone’s story. Michael’s wait for the chance to spread his wings at University and his struggles to reconcile his expectations of Uni with reality is authentic and sincere. From his first tentative meeting with the Drag Society, readers experience Michael grow and gain confidence in himself and his understanding of how a drag persona can be a creative extension of himself.
Give this Own Voices novel to readers who enjoyed the memoir All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M Johnson, Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo and Camp by Lev A.C. Rosen.
All the Days Past, All the Days to Come by Mildred D. Taylor
Viking Books for Young Readers / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Taylor’s sweeping saga about an African American family comes to a satisfying conclusion in this final installment. Cassie Logan (first introduced to readers in Song of the Trees and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry) is all grown up now. After leaving the South to join her brother’s family in Ohio, she makes her way to California, then up to New England, where she gets her law degree, and finally back to Mississippi to fight against Black disenfranchisement during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
This fictional portrayal of one young woman’s experiences during the Great Migration and the Civil Rights Movement is a timely exploration of systemic racism and discrimination, not just in the American South but throughout the country. Though the protagonist is an adult, teens will relate to her search for identity and purpose. Taylor’s austere text combines the personal struggles of Cassie and her family with the backdrop of historical events like the killing of Medgar Evers. Although readers familiar with the Logan series will appreciate learning more about some of their favorite characters, readers need not have read the previous books to enjoy this standalone title.
Teens interested in the Black Lives Matter movement will appreciate the historical context offered in this book. Give to fans of movies like Just Mercy and Hidden Figures, and readers of Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give, Renée Watson’s Pieces of Me, or John Lewis’s graphic novel series March.
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