The Best of 2017: Author Interviews and Favorite Reads

I stayed afloat during 2017 for one reason only, human connection between myself and authors I admire and falling into books that gave me hope, let me cry, and let me hide between calls (all the calls) to my congressmen, fighting for my rights and the rights of others. Trying to hold extended family close to my heart when differences were tearing us apart, and generally trying not to slip into apathy and resignation was a full-time job. Here are just a few of the interviews and books that kept me afloat (click on author interviews in the blog menu for even more). May they encourage, shelter, challenge, and set you an a strong course for the coming year.

Happy Reading!!

Interviews:

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Ausma Zehanat Khan, author of the Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty mystery series and the new fantasy, The Bloodprint, talks generational trauma, revenge, and healing across time and continents.

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Rafi Mittlefehldt, author of the gorgeous YA coming of age novel, It Looks Like This, talks family connections, religious rifts, and the danger and survival of belonging.

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Dorit Rabinyan, international bestselling author of All the Rivers, talks integrating visual art into a narrative and finding other’s humanity admist chaos.

Some Favorite Reads:

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Mothers, Tell Your Daughersby Bonnie Jo Campbell (Short stories about families, rural life, and the truths we hide from ourselves)

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Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta (a young girl explores her identity as a lesbian in Nigeria while trying to maintain the powerful connection with her mother and society)

The Art of Waiting by Belle Boggs (essays on infertility, family, sociology, and the inter workings of the human heart)

Forbidden Love

alltheriverscoverLiat and Himli meet in a New York City coffee shop. Liat is an Israeli on a Fulbright scholarship. Himli, a Palestinian, is an artist, wild in hair and spirit, and the two are instantly attracted.

As they grow closer, and as Liat’s visa comes closer to expiration, so does their relationship, for meeting back in Palestine or Israel seems as impossible as the fate that brought them together. When the unthinkable occurs, Liat is left to tell the story. Continue reading “Forbidden Love”

It Looks Like This

itlookslikethisIt looks like desire. It looks like fear. It looks like life beginning. It looks like the end. It looks like love. It looks like heartbreak.

Mike has just moved to a new town. A new school. Freshman year. Mike meets someone. Mike falls in love. With a boy. Mike’s conservative parents can’t know. Mike’s world is about to turn upside down. In a tragedy worthy of Romeo and Juliet, young love and family strife are center stage.  A classic love story for our time. Whether you want the rush of young love, or the tears of that often come with it, this book is for you. Continue reading “It Looks Like This”

The Past Never Sleeps

Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty are partners in the Community Policing Section of the Canadian Police, theunquietdeada special division that handles cases that might affect minority communities. They are surprised when they are called to a beautiful lake-side home where a man appears to have simply fallen to his death.

As the case builds, Esa and Rachel realize there is nothing simple about this crime, or about the way we deal with the past. With flashbacks to Bosnia during genocide, this book is a deep look at revenge, forgiveness, community, and family.

Ausma Zehanat Khan has created complex characters and a gritty, multi-layered mystery that spans the globe and time. A wonderful debut, this the first in a series of three mysteries with Esa and Rachel. The third novel in this series will be available February 14, 2017.

Ausma graciously agreed to answer some questions for me here at Book Club Advisor.

You’ve mentioned this in other interviews, but do you mind briefly telling my readers about the inspiration for this book?

The Unquiet Dead arose out of research I had done for my dissertation on military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. I’d studied the Bosnian genocide for many years, and I felt the tragedy of it was slipping away without any of its lessons being learned. I wanted to tell a story that reflected the criminality of the genocide, and the unimaginable loss. There’s a line in The Unquiet Dead: “how quickly the violent ideals of ultra-nationalism led to hate, how quickly hate to blood.” I think that’s a lesson for us now. Continue reading “The Past Never Sleeps”

Fierce Friendship

myatibbsMya Tibbs is a nine-year-old full of sprit, which is good because it’s almost Spirit Week, and she and her popular best friend Naomi are ready to win the week full of competition.

But what happens when Mya and Naomi don’t get to be partners? Instead Mya is stuck with Mean Connie Tate, the biggest bully at her school. Will she sneak information to Naomi and her partner to help them win? Or will she learn there might be more to Connie Tate than meets the eye?

A touching, rollicking look at friendship in elementary school. Sometimes the person we think is being mean isn’t. And sometimes when we don’t intend to, we become the mean one. And what do you do then? Fast-paced with a satisfying ending, including someone getting lassoed in the hall, The Magnificent Mya Tibbs will leave you smiling and thinking. Mya’s creator, Crystal Allen, talks with me about Mya, friendship, and her own experiences in elementary school.

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Christine at Book Club Advisor: Thanks for talking with us today, Crystal! Mya Tibbs loves having Naomi as a new best friend. What did you know about Naomi when you began to write her?

Crystal Allen: I knew that Naomi was a beautiful, but bratty, nine-year-old girl.  The more she developed in my mind, the more I began to see her as a child who was the product of beauty pageants that emphasized outward beauty. Continue reading “Fierce Friendship”

Alone in a Hurricane

It’s how many of us feel right now. There is no relief, there are no clear answers, and we cannot see clearly through the lashing rain and flying debris of anger, hopelessness, and despair. In reviewing books that deal with the raw issues that brought our country to this point, and how parents and teachers can address them through literature, Beth Kephart, National Book Award Finalist, has honored us with a video interview about her new young adult novel, This is the Story of You.

thisisthestoryofyou(Click cover to buy indie)

Mira lives on Haven, a small town on a barrier island, with her mother and chronically ill brother. Winds begin to blow as a storm forms over the water, but the town assumes the storm will fall apart, or at least not be a major event. In an intense, short period of time the storm becomes deadly, and the town is torn apart. Mira will face the storm, and the revelations that come with life after devastating destruction alone, until she decides to let someone in, someone who will help her understand the winds of change that have been blowing through her own life. Continue reading “Alone in a Hurricane”

Tragedy, Connection, and Hope

the-memory-of-thingsBook Club Advisor welcomes author, Gae Polisner, for a video interview on the power of literature, how The Memory of Things was created, and the impact of a national tragedy on a generation. (Scroll down for vlog clips with the author.)

It is the morning of September 11, 2001. Kyle is sixteen years old and his world is crumbling in front of him. From his high school in downtown Manhattan, Kyle watches the first Twin Tower fall and runs back home to Brooklyn as chaos descends. On the way, he finds a beautiful girl covered in ash and wearing costume wings, a girl who appears ready to jump from the bridge. He convinces her to come home with him to safety. Kyle feels lost and frightened, responsible for his uncle who needs medical care with the nurse unable to come due to the city being at a standstill. Kyle’s father is a first-responder at the scene and Kyle’s worry for him is palpable. When the story begins, Kyle only knows that his mother and sister are on a plane back from California. He cannot remember which flight or what time and fears for their lives. Kyle and the girl are both lost in grief and fear. Continue reading “Tragedy, Connection, and Hope”