Recommended Reading: Come Together
Get ready to read! Here is a list of recommended books that address our Action Book Club theme: Come Together. These are books that encourage unity, equity, and understanding in a divided world.
Everyone can take part in the Action Book Club program. That’s why this list of suggested books—recommended by Little Free Library stewards, communities, and advisers—includes options for young readers, middle readers, and adults.
Do you know of another great book that fits this theme? Your club is welcome to read that instead; we’d love to hear your book ideas.
All of Us by Carin Berger (40 pp, Greenwillow Books, 2018). Fiction. Award-winning illustrator Carin Berger’s beautiful and timely picture book celebrates the power of community, family, and most of all, love. Her beautiful collage art and lyrical text offer a message of hope in the face of adversity. Ages 4-8.
Being a Good Citizen: A Kids’ Guide to Community Involvement by Rachelle Kreisman, illustrated by Tim Haggerty (32 pp, Red Chair Press, 2015). Nonfiction. This book presents ways young readers can get involved in their communities, from volunteering at an animal shelter to helping out senior citizens. Ages 6-9.
The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates and Juniper Bates (40 pp, Paula Wiseman Books, 2018). Fiction. By the door there is an umbrella. It is big. It is so big that when it starts to rain there is room for everyone underneath. It doesn’t matter if you are tall. Or plaid. Or hairy. It doesn’t matter how many legs you have. Don’t worry that there won’t be enough room under the umbrella. Because there will always be room. Lush illustrations and simple, lyrical text subtly address themes of inclusion and tolerance in this sweet story that accomplished illustrator Amy June Bates cowrote with her daughter, Juniper, while walking to school together in the rain. Ages 4-8.
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López (32 pp, Nancy Paulsen Books, available August 2018). Fiction. There will be times when you walk into a room / and no one there is quite like you. There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it. Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes—and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway. Ages 5-8.
Drawn Together by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat (40 pp, Disney-Hyperion, 2018). Fiction. When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens-with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words. With spare, direct text and luminous illustrations, this stirring picturebook about reaching across barriers will be cherished for years to come. Ages 4-7.
Hattie and Hudson by Chris van Dusen (40 pp, Candlewick, 2017). Fiction. Hattie McFadden is a born explorer. Every morning she grabs her life jacket and paddles out in her canoe to discover something new on the lake, singing a little song on her way. When her singing draws up from the depths a huge mysterious beast, everyone in town is terrified—except Hattie, who looks into the creature’s friendly, curious eyes and knows that this is no monster. So Hattie sneaks out at night to see the giant—whom she names Hudson—and the two become friends. But how can she make the frightened, hostile townspeople see that Hudson isn’t scary or dangerous at all? Chris Van Dusen brings his colorful, perspective-bending artwork to this satisfying new story about acceptance, friendship, and sticking up for those who are different. Ages 4-8.
Lend a Hand by John Frank, illustrated by London Ladd (32 pp, Lee & Low, 2014). Fiction. Making a difference in the world can be as simple as planting a tree, giving up your seat on a bus to a disabled person, or training a puppy to become a guide dog. These are just a few of the simple acts of kindness featured in this collection of fourteen original poems. Each poem emphasizes the compassion and the joy of giving. Representing diverse voices different ages and backgrounds the collection shows the bridging of boundaries between people who are often perceived as being different from one another. The first step in bridging those boundaries is to extend a hand. Ages 6-10.
Love by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Loren Long (40 pp, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2018). Fiction. In this heartfelt celebration of love, Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age. Ages 4-8.
Most People by Michael Leannah, illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris (32 pp, Tilbury House Publishers, 2017). Fiction. The world can be a scary place. Anxious adults want children to be aware of dangers, but shouldn’t kids be aware of kindness too? Most People leads us through the crowded streets of an urban day in the company of two pairs of siblings. We see what they see: the hulking dude with tattoos and chains assisting an elderly lady onto the bus; the goth teenager with piercings and purple mohawk returning a lost wallet to its owner; and the myriad interactions of daily existence, most of them well intended. Ages 5-7.
Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin (40 pp, Magination Press, 2018). Fiction. Something Happened in Our Town describes a traumatic event—a police shooting—from the perspective of a White family and an African American family. This story models productive conversations around racial-ethnic socialization and social-emotional learning, and provides an excellent platform for discussing social justice and race relations with children. Includes a “Note to Parents and Caregivers” with conversation guides, child-friendly vocabulary, and lists of related resources. Ages 4-8.
This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World by Matt Lamothe (52 pp, Chronicle Books, 2017). Fiction. Follow one day in the real lives of seven kids from around the world—Italy, Japan, Iran, India, Peru, Uganda, and Russia! In Japan, Kei plays Freeze Tag, while in Uganda, Daphine likes to jump rope. While the way they play may differ, the shared rhythm of their days—and this one world we all share—unites them. This genuine exchange provides a window into traditions that may be different from our own as well as mirrors reflecting our common experiences. Inspired by his own travels, Matt Lamonthe transports readers across the globe and back with this luminous and thoughtful picture book. Ages 4-8.
What Can a Citizen Do? by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Shawn Harris (40 pp, Chronicle Books, available September 2018). Fiction. This is a book for today’s youth about what it means to be a citizen. Across the course of several seemingly unrelated but ultimately connected actions by different children, we watch how kids turn a lonely island into a community—and watch a journey from what the world should be to what the world could be. Ages 5-6.
Middle + Young Adult Readers
Dear Martin by Nic Stone (224 pp, Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017). Fiction. Justyce McAllister is a good kid, an honor student, and always there to help a friend—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out. Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. Grade 9 and up.
The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley (320 pp, Scholastic, 2017). Fiction. Harlem is home to all kinds of kids. Jin sees life passing her by from the window of her family’s bodega. Alex wants to help the needy one shelter at a time but can’t tell anyone who she really is. Elvin’s living on Harlem’s cold, lonely streets, surviving on his own after his grandfather was mysteriously attacked. When these three strangers join forces to find out what happened to Elvin’s grandfather, their digging leads them to an enigmatic artist whose missing masterpieces are worth a fortune – one that might save the neighborhood from development by an ambitious politician who wants to turn it into Harlem World, a ludicrous historical theme park. But if they don’t find the paintings soon, nothing in their beloved neighborhood will ever be the same. Ages 8-12.
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson (192 pp, Nancy Paulsen Books, available August 2018). Fiction. It all starts when six kids have to meet for a weekly chat–by themselves, with no adults to listen in. There, in the room they soon dub the ARTT Room (short for “A Room to Talk”), they discover it’s safe to talk about what’s bothering them–everything from Esteban’s father’s deportation and Haley’s father’s incarceration to Amari’s fears of racial profiling and Ashton’s adjustment to his changing family fortunes. When the six are together, they can express the feelings and fears they have to hide from the rest of the world. And together, they can grow braver and more ready for the rest of their lives. Ages 10-13.
The Hero Two Doors Down by Sharon Robinson (208 pp, Scholastic, 2017). Nonfiction. Stephen Satlow is an eight-year-old boy living in Brooklyn, New York, which means he only cares about one thing—the Dodgers. Aside from an occasional run-in with his teacher, life is pretty simple for Steve. But then Steve hears a rumor that an African American family is moving to his all-Jewish neighborhood. It’s 1948 and some of his neighbors are against it. Steve knows this is wrong. His hero, Jackie Robinson, broke the color barrier in baseball the year before. Then it happens—Steve’s new neighbor is none other than Jackie Robinson! Steve is beyond excited about living two doors down from the Robinson family. How many kids ever get to become friends with their hero? Ages 8-12.
Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly (320 pp, Greenwillow Books, 2017). Fiction. In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his crazy-about-sports family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and she loves everything about nature. Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister, Gen, is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just stop being so different so he can concentrate on basketball. They aren’t friends, at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find missing Virgil. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms. Ages 8-12.
The Lifters by Dave Eggers (352 pp, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2018). Fiction. When Gran and his family move to Carousel, he has no idea that the town is built atop a secret. Little does he suspect, as he walks his sister to school or casually eats a banana, that mysterious forces lurk mere inches beneath his feet, tearing up the earth like mini-hurricanes and causing the town to slowly but surely sink. When Gran’s friend, the difficult-to-impress Catalina Catalan, presses a silver handle into a hillside and opens a doorway to underground, he knows that she is extraordinary and brave, and that he will have no choice but to follow wherever she leads. With luck on their side, and some discarded hockey sticks for good measure, Gran and Catalina might just find a way to lift their town—and the known world—out of danger. Ages 8-12.
Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed (288 pp, Soho Teen, 2018). Fiction. American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school. There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs. Grade 9 and up.
Margo and Mateo Save the World by Darcy Miller (HarperCollins). Fiction. When Margot Blumenthal removes a bright blue slug alien attached to Mateo Flores’s back, the school play co-stars know it’s definitely not going to be a regular day at West Cove Middle School. They reluctantly team up and soon discover that the mayor and countless other adults, including Mateo’s dad, are infected—which means that West Cove, and possibly all of Earth, is in danger. What will they (and their new scientist friend) do? Ditch class and protect humankind, of course—because one unexcused absence doesn’t matter when the world is at stake! Ages 8-12.
Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu (336 pp, Roaring Brook Press, 2017). Fiction. Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with an administration at her high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment, and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules. Viv’s mom was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution. Grade 8 and up.
Refugee by Alan Gratz (352 pp, Scholastic, 2017). Fiction. Josef is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world…. Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety in America…. Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe…. All three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers—from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, shocking connections will tie their stories together in the end. Ages 9-12.
Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan (256 pp, Scholastic, 2016). Fiction. Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they’re both stuck in the same place: SCHOOL. Joe’s lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own. Ravi’s family just moved to America from India, and he’s finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in. Joe and Ravi don’t think they have anything in common—but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week. Ages 9-12.
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate (224 pp, Feiwel & Friends, 2017). Fiction. Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood “wishtree”―people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with a crow named Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this wishtree watches over the neighborhood. You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experience as a wishtree is more important than ever. Ages 8-12.
Adult + Advanced Readers
America for Beginners by Leah Franqui (320 pp, William Morrow, 2018). Fiction. Pival Sengupta has done something she never expected: she has booked a trip with the First Class India USA Destination Vacation Tour Company. She is traveling thousands of miles from Kolkota to New York on a cross-country journey to California, where she hopes to uncover the truth about her beloved son, Rahi. A year ago Rahi devastated his very traditional parents when he told them he was gay. Then, Pival’s husband, Ram, told her that their son had died suddenly—heartbreaking news she still refuses to accept. Now, with Ram gone, she is going to America to find Rahi, alive and whole or dead and gone, and come to terms with her own life. Arriving in New York, the tour proves to be more complicated than anticipated. Pival’s guide is the company’s new hire, the guileless and wonderfully resourceful Satya, who has been in America for one year—and has never actually left the five boroughs. For modesty’s sake Pival and Satya will be accompanied by Rebecca Elliot, an aspiring young actress. Eager for a paying gig, she’s along for the ride, because how hard can a two-week “working” vacation traveling across America be? Slowly making her way from coast to coast with her unlikely companions, Pival finds that her understanding of her son—and her hopes of a reunion with him—are challenged by her growing knowledge of his adoptive country. As the bonds between this odd trio deepens, Pival, Satya, and Rebecca learn to see America—and themselves—in different and profound new ways.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (320 pp, Algonquin Books, 2018). Fiction. Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together. This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control.
Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown (208 pp, Random House, 2017). Nonfiction. In Braving the Wilderness, social scientist Brené Brown redefines what it means to truly belong in an age of increased polarization. With her trademark mix of research, storytelling, and honesty, Brown will again change the cultural conversation while mapping a clear path to true belonging. Brown argues that we’re experiencing a spiritual crisis of disconnection, and introduces four practices of true belonging that challenge everything we believe about ourselves and each other. She writes, “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism. But true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity. It’s a personal commitment that we carry in our hearts.” Brown offers us the clarity and courage we need to find our way back to ourselves and to each other.
Futureface: A Family Mystery, an Epic Quest, and the Secret to Belonging by Alex Wagner (352 pp, One World, 2018). Nonfiction. Alex Wagner has always been fascinated by stories of exile and migration. Her father’s ancestors immigrated to the United States from Ireland and Luxembourg. Her mother fled Rangoon in the 1960s, escaping Burma’s military dictatorship. In her professional life, Wagner reported from the Arizona-Mexico border, where agents, drones, cameras, and military hardware guarded the line between two nations. She listened to debates about whether the United States should be a melting pot or a salad bowl. She knew that moving from one land to another—and the accompanying recombination of individual and tribal identities—was the story of America. And she was happy that her own mixed-race ancestry and education had taught her that identity is a thing we make rather than a thing we are. When a cousin’s offhand comment introduced the possibility of an exciting new twist in her already complex family history, Wagner was awakened to her own hunger to be something, to belong, to have a tribe of her own. Intoxicated by the possibility, she became determined to investigate her genealogy. So she set off on a quest to find the truth about her family history. The journey takes Wagner from Burma to Luxembourg, from ruined colonial capitals to high-tech genetic labs. As she gets closer to solving the mystery of her own ancestry, she begins to grapple with a deeper question: Does it matter? Is our enduring obsession with blood and land, race and identity, worth all the trouble it’s caused us?
The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea (336 pp, Little, Brown and Company, 2018). Fiction. In his final days, beloved and ailing patriarch Miguel Angel de La Cruz, affectionately called Big Angel, has summoned his entire clan for one last legendary birthday party. But as the party approaches, his mother, nearly one hundred, dies, transforming the weekend into a farewell doubleheader. Among the guests is Big Angel’s half brother, known as Little Angel, who must reckon with the truth that although he shares a father with his siblings, he has not, as a half gringo, shared a life. Across two bittersweet days in their San Diego neighborhood, the revelers mingle among the palm trees and cacti, celebrating the lives of Big Angel and his mother, and recounting the many inspiring tales that have passed into family lore, the acts both ordinary and heroic that brought these citizens to a fraught and sublime country and allowed them to flourish in the land they have come to call home.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (348 pp, Penguin Press, 2017). Fiction. In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned—from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren—an enigmatic artist and single mother—who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town—and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
One Goal: A Coach, a Team, and the Game That Brought a Divided Town Together by Amy Bass (328 pp, Hachette Books, 2018). Nonfiction. When thousands of Somali refugees resettled in Lewiston, Maine, a struggling, overwhelmingly white town, longtime residents grew uneasy. Then the mayor wrote a letter asking Somalis to stop coming, which became a national story. While scandal threatened to subsume the town, its high school’s soccer coach integrated Somali kids onto his team, and their passion began to heal old wounds. Taking readers behind the tumult of this controversial team—and onto the pitch where the teammates vied to become state champions and achieved a vital sense of understanding—One Goal is a timely story about overcoming the prejudices that divide us.
The Opposite of Hate by Sally Kohn (272 pp, Algonquin Books, 2018). Nonfiction. What is the opposite of hate? As a progressive commentator on Fox News and now CNN, Sally Kohn has made a career out of bridging intractable political differences and learning how to talk respectfully with people whose views she disagrees with passionately. Her viral TED Talk on the need to practice emotional—rather than political—correctness sparked a new way of considering how often we amplify our differences and diminish our connections. But these days even famously “nice” Kohn finds herself wanting to breathe fire at her enemies. It was time, she decided, to look into the epidemic of hate all around us and learn how we can stop it. In The Opposite of Hate, Kohn talks to leading scientists and researchers and investigates the evolutionary and cultural roots of hate and how incivility can be a gateway to much worse. She travels to Rwanda, the Middle East, and across the United States, introducing us to former terrorists and white supremacists, and even some of her own Twitter trolls, drawing surprising lessons from dramatic and inspiring stories of those who left hate behind.
The Person You Mean to Be by Dolly Chugh (320 pp, HarperBusiness, available September 2018). Nonfiction. An inspiring guide from Dolly Chugh, an award-winning social psychologist at the New York University Stern School of Business, on how to confront difficult issues including sexism, racism, inequality, and injustice so that you can make the world (and yourself) better. Many of us believe in equality, diversity, and inclusion. But how do we stand up for those values in our turbulent world? The Person You Mean to Be is the smart, “semi-bold” person’s guide to fighting for what you believe in. Chugh reveals the surprising causes of inequality, grounded in the “psychology of good people”. Using her research findings in unconscious bias as well as work across psychology, sociology, economics, political science, and other disciplines, she offers practical tools to respectfully and effectively talk politics with family, to be a better colleague to people who don’t look like you, and to avoid being a well-intentioned barrier to equality. Being the person we mean to be starts with a look at ourselves. Whether you are a long-time activist or new to the fight, you can start from where you are. Through the compelling stories Chugh shares and the surprising science she reports, she guides each of us closer to being the person we mean to be.
So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo (256 pp, Seal Press, 2018). Nonfiction. In So You Want to Talk About Race, Editor at Large of The Establishment Ijeoma Oluo offers a contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing head-on such issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the “N” word. Perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between people of color and white Americans struggling with race complexities, Oluo answers the questions readers don’t dare ask, and explains the concepts that continue to elude everyday Americans. Oluo is an exceptional writer with a rare ability to be straightforward, funny, and effective in her coverage of sensitive, hyper-charged issues in America.
The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton (272 pp, St. Martin’s Press, 2018). Nonfiction. In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder in Alabama. Stunned, confused, and only twenty-nine years old, Hinton knew that it was a case of mistaken identity and believed that the truth would prove his innocence and ultimately set him free. But with no money and a different system of justice for a poor black man in the South, Hinton was sentenced to death by electrocution. He spent his first three years on Death Row at Holman State Prison in agonizing silence―full of despair and anger toward all those who had sent an innocent man to his death. But as Hinton realized and accepted his fate, he resolved not only to survive, but find a way to live on Death Row. For the next twenty-seven years he was a beacon―transforming not only his own spirit, but those of his fellow inmates, fifty-four of whom were executed mere feet from his cell. With the help of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson, Hinton won his release in 2015. Hinton’s memoir tells his dramatic thirty-year journey and shows how you can take away a man’s freedom, but you can’t take away his imagination, humor, or joy.
There, There by Tommy Orange (Knopf, 2018). Fiction. Tommy Orange’s “groundbreaking, extraordinary” (The New York Times) There There is the story of twelve unforgettable characters, Urban Indians living in Oakland, California, who converge and collide on one fateful day. As we learn the reasons that each person is attending the Big Oakland Powwow—some generous, some fearful, some joyful, some violent—momentum builds toward a shocking yet inevitable conclusion that changes everything. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life back together after his uncle’s death and has come to work at the powwow to honor his uncle’s memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and will to perform in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and loss. There There is a wondrous and shattering portrait of an America few of us have ever seen.
Us Against You by Fredrik Backman (448 pp, Atria Books, 2018). Fiction. A small community tucked deep in the forest, Beartown is home to tough, hardworking people who don’t expect life to be easy or fair. No matter how difficult times get, they’ve always been able to take pride in their local ice hockey team. So it’s a cruel blow when they hear that their town’s ice hockey club might soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in the neighboring town of Hed, take in that fact. But the arrival of a newcomer gives Beartown hockey a chance at a comeback. Soon a team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; always dutiful and eager-to-please Bobo; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a huge challenge, especially as the town’s enmity with Hed grows more and more acute as the big game approaches. By the time the last goal is scored, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after everything, the game they love can ever return to something as simple and innocent as a field of ice, two nets, and two teams. Us against you. Here is a declaration of love for all the big and small, bright and dark stories that give form and color to our communities. With immense compassion and insight, Fredrik Backman reveals how loyalty, friendship, and kindness can carry a town through its most challenging days.