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”

Mother Love, Daughter Duty

 

under the udala tress“There is no way to tell the story of what happened with Amina without first telling the story of Mama’s sending me off…if the sending away had not occurred, then I might never have met Amina. If I had not met Amina, who knows, there might be no story at all to tell.”

So begins the coming of age story of Ijeoma, a young girl at the end of the civil war in Nigeria. Although the war has ended, a new war is beginning, a quiet war but equally devastating, a war of generations and beliefs, the growing up and away and back again between daughter and mother and daughter becoming mother.

Ijeoma is placed as household help with another child of war, Amina.  Amina is Hausa. Ijeoma is Igbo. The are both girls. And they fall desperately in love. Their relationship will send shockwaves out into both girl’s futures.

In lush prose, Chinelo Okparanta takes an unflinching look at the lack of freedom of LGBTQIA people in Nigeria, set on the small but powerful stage of two unbreakable relationships, Ijeoma and her mother and Ijeoma and her identity. A story of politics. A story of love. A story of womanhood. A story of family.

Winner of the Lambda Literary Award, Okparanta, takes us to the heart of a family and the heart of a nation. Okparanta has also published work in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House and many other publications.

Interview with Chinelo Okparanta, “Champion of Love”

Book Club Discussion Guide from Okparanta’s website.

Click to buy Indie.

 

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”

All-American Girl

muslimgirlAmani Al-Khatahtbeh was nine years old and living in New Jersey when her whole life changed. On September 11, 2001 terrorists attacked New York City. After that day, Amani’s life was filled with terror as well, wondering when the next attack on her religion would be, where she could walk without fear, and what might come next. Amani’s book is both a powerful autobiography of a woman who is changing the world, and a political and sociological text.

Amani is an all-American girl which should go without saying, and her book explores that idea as well as being a woman of color in America aside from religion. Proud of her heritage, instead of hiding when fear came calling, she created a vibrant online community to support other Muslim girls who might be scared or need support. Initially an online diary, it became the incredible professional website it is today.  http://muslimgirl.com/ Amani’s website is a American dream story even when surrounded by nightmare. She took the risk to start something small that became something huge and important.

Amani has been invited to speak at prestigious events and on television as the voice of Muslim-American girls and women. Her message is strong and passionate. This book should be required reading in understanding the power of casual and aggressive racism and the strength of those who resist and fight against it.

 

The Drug of Amnesia

the-angel-of-history“AIDS was a river with no bed that ran soundlessly and inexorably through my life, flooded everything, drowned all I knew, soaked my soul, but then a soaking, a drenching, was not dying, and I swam, floated when I could, and I though I had triumphed, only to discover years later that the river’s persistence, its restlessness, trickled into tiny rivulets that reach every remote corner of my being…” p. 182 Continue reading “The Drug of Amnesia”

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”