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Tag: memoirs

Foodie Companions for With the Fire On High


2019 Printz Winner for The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo’s much anticipated sophomore novel With the Fire On High, is a book about embracing your passions, and charting your future. Emoni Santiago, an Afro-Boricua high school senior has had a gift for cooking since she was young. She and her toddler daughter live with her supportive grandmother, but Emoni needs to decide where she wants to go to school and what she wants to do after graduation. When her school offers a new class, “Culinary Arts: Spain Immersion,” Emoni has a chance to immerse herself in cooking in a way that she can start to see what is possible with her gift.

Foodie readers will swoon over Acevedo’s writing on food and cooking, and it will leave them hungering for more.  Here are a few delicious titles about food and cooking to pair With the Fire On High:

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Crossovers: It Happened to Me

Jon and David Kushner
David and Jon Kushner

Earlier this year, journalist David Kushner published his eloquent memoir, Alligator Candy. At the core of his story is a terrible crime. When Kushner was just four-years-old, he watched his older brother, Jon, ride away on his bicycle, never to return. Jon’s mutilated body was found later. At first, Kushner is a confused small boy missing his brother, fearing that he could have prevented the crime had he not requested candy from the store. Then, as a thirteen-year-old boy, he secretly begins reading accounts from the newspapers on microfilm at the library. There were details that he couldn’t have even imagined as a four-year-old boy.

After publishing several books and articles as an adult, Kushner was ready to write about Jon’s disappearance and murder. As part of his research, he received access to police records. He discovers details that are so horrific that he wonders how his family survived.  Kushner also realizes that while Jon’s disappearance and murder devastated his family, the entire community was deeply affected by the violence of the crime.

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8 Books from YouTube Stars

Just this week, I’ve had a co-worker tell me about his 4-year-old son’s fascination with “unboxing” videos on YouTube featuring new toys, had a parent ask for help finding books for her twelve-year-old daughter who is “obsessed with YouTube” and received two purchase requests for books by YouTube stars months ahead of their release (a rare occurrence).

YouTube has long been popular with teens, and vloggers have amassed millions of followers. Especially in the last year, the publishing world has taken notice. These are eight 2015 releases of memoirs and essays from YouTube stars that might be of interest to teen patrons.

8 books from YouTube stars YALSA The Hub

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Teens Coming to America

Asian girlThanksgiving offers the perfect opportunity to appreciate the experiences of young people who have immigrated to the United States. Like the Pilgrims, who came to America in search of freedoms they did not have at home, families from every part of the world have sought safety on American soil. Some of these families were welcomed, like the Pilgrims. Others have faced language barriers,  poverty,  and prejudice to make their homes in America.

All of the books below have appeared on select YALSA lists as noted. They are true accounts; memoirs, biographies, and third person accounts.  There are also many great YA novels that explore the difficulty teens face when first encountering American culture. For some great suggestions, check out YALSA’s 2013 Popular Paperback list, I’m New Here Myself.


The Other Side of the Sky by Farah Ahmedi

The Other Side of the Sky: A Memoir by Farah Ahmedi
(Popular Paperbacks, 2007)

Born in Afghanistan during the war against the Soviets, Farah Ahmedi had a child’s knowledge of danger. Rockets were a familiar sight in the night sky; bombs a familiar noise in the countryside. Nevertheless, she was excited to be going to school and loved her teacher. One day, however, Farah took a shortcut to school that cut across a field…and stepped on a mine, losing her leg. Assimilating to a new culture is always difficult, but when Farah finally gets to the United States she has more than her share of obstacles.

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“New Adult” Memoirs For Teens

With the recent chatter about “New Adult” literature finally subsiding and the category firmly established, at least in the publishing biz, I thought it would be a good time to start exploring. As it turns out, there are a great many memoirs these days being published by authors in their 20s. Will they cross over to a teen market? Only time will tell, but here are a few titles that certainly have plenty of appeal, especially for older teens.

Relish_coverRelish by Lucy Knisley has been receiving tons of praise, and it is by no means unwarranted as this graphic memoir is completely and utterly charming from start to finish. As the daughter of a chef and a serious gourmet, Knisley’s very essence seems to be wrapped up in food and her memories of childhood are completely intertwined with cooking and eating. Knisley tells her story with humor and warmth, and the brightly colored panels echo the joyous tone of the book. The art is simple but effective in conveying not only Knisley’s story but also the recipes she has included. With both graphic novels and cooking very popular with teens, this one will be an easy sell, especially for readers looking for a respite from the dark and dreary dystopian trend.

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War-Torn Lives: Nonfiction

Source-Mourning WorldThere is much that is inexpressible about the experience of war. Images can powerfully communicate moments in time — an anguished parent, an exhausted soldier, bullet-riddled walls — but they can’t recreate the constant threat of death. Words can convey fear, grief, and victory, but not the smell of burning flesh. Or how time moves differently during battle. Or how completely the light leaves the eyes of the dying, and that empty moment after. Many survivors do not talk about their experiences because there is no context for understanding in the peacetime world. But others feel compelled to tell their stories, to keep the world from forgetting the sacrifices made and lives lost.

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Like a Train Wreck: Tragic Memoirs

DEPRESSION_by_optiknerve_grAnnie Dillard, our memoirs would probably not attract much readership. Like literary voyeurs, readers are drawn to memoirs that are sensational in their catastrophe. David Pelzer’s A Child Called “It” (2002 Popular Paperbacks) has been fascinating youthful readers for almost two decades. Such memoirs allow readers to experience horrible things vicariously, and, more importantly, witness the healing aftermath.

Most memoirs are written from an adult perspective for understandable reasons. Often the focus, however, is on younger selves that lived through the trauma-scarred years. For this reason, nearly all of the books below are published for adult audiences. Many of them have been recognized with YALSA awards or inclusion on a YALSA list.


The Story of a Life: Rock Star Memoirs

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go on stage with blinding lights scorching your eyes and an audience of thousands erupting in screams? Do you play air guitar, imagining the show-stopping finger work that will induce fierce envy in competing bands? Or maybe you’re more interested in the backstage trip? The life of a rock star is notorious for the access to good drugs and loose women. Sounds like a wild ride for a twenty-year-old! But what is it really like to be manhandled by wealth and fame?

A couple of years back, Keith Richards of Rolling Stones fame published his memoirs. Simply titled Life, the book begins with Richards and several other musicians (including Ron Wood) travelling through Arkansas in the mid-sixties. The car was stuffed with drugs. Rural Arkansas at that time was exceedingly conservative. As Richards writes, “The Bible Belt was much tighter in those days.” The musicians were hardly inconspicuous. It was only a matter of time before cops were on their tail. Still, there was much hilarity as Richards and his mates holed up in a bathroom getting high and then tried to dispose of all the drugs tucked throughout their possessions. After the legal wrangling, Richards was photographed banging the gavel.