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Cammie Jo Lawton, a passionate YA reader, and graduate student and research assistant at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, presents her first weekend pick suggesting books written by women with strong female characters.
This weekend I have selected multiple titles to explore. First, for all my non-fiction lovers, I encourage you to dive into Becoming by former First Lady Michelle Obama. In this newly adapted for young readers version, she encourages all of us to consider our stories and the power each of us has to embody resilience, growth, and learning. She writes, "The bumps and bruises, the joys and triumphs, and bursts of laughter--they all combine to make you who you are." Michelle's story demonstrates how women can empower themselves to become exactly who they are and lead with courage and joy.
My second pick for the weekend is an anthology of 21 essays by YA authors, Our Stories, Our Voices edited by Amy Reed, author of The Nowhere Girls. This anthology explains varied ways women experience growing up as female in the United States and the intersections of gender and religion, ethnicity, and race. The collection includes writing from Martha Brockenbrough, Jaye Robin Brown, Sona Charaipotra, Brandy Colbert, Somaiya Daud, Christine Day, Alexandra Duncan, Ilene Wong (I.W.) Gregorio, Maurene Goo. Ellen Hopkins, Stephanie Kuehnert, Nina LaCour, Anna-Marie LcLemore, Sandhya Menon, Hannah Moskowitz, Julie Murphy, Aisha Saeed, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Amber Smith, and Tracy Walker. Thought provoking and poignant, these essays will encourage and inspire!
My third pick blends reality and virtual reality in Brittany Morris's debut novel, Slay. By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the "downfall of the Black man." But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for "anti-white discrimination." Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process? This book had me gripped from start to finish while simultaneously challenging me through Kiera's perspective to think deeply about boundary breaking and self-advocacy.
Lastly, if you want to get lost in a fantasy world look no further than Tahereh Mafi's This Woven Kingdom. To all the world, Alizeh is a disposable servant, not the long-lost heir to an ancient Jinn kingdom forced to hide in plain sight. The crown prince, Kamran, has heard the prophecies foretelling the death of his king. But he could never have imagined that the servant girl with the strange eyes, the girl he can’t put out of his mind, would one day soon uproot his kingdom—and the world. Built within Persian mythology, Mafi's writing pairs beautiful world-building with romance, intrigue, and a queen destined to fight for liberation and hope. Also, this is the first in a trilogy, so there are more books to come in the future!