History Historical Badasses

How Mildred D. Taylor’s stories can teach us how to be hopeful throughout hardships

For stories of Black history and excellence, check out our Black History Month series. Celebrate with us by sharing your favorite articles on social media and uplifting the stories, lives, and work of Black people.

When I was in seventh grade, my English class was assigned to read a book titled Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. I can’t remember the exact moment I learned about racism in school, but reading this book was an eye-opener. To this day, I can still recall two vivid scenes from the book: Cassie Logan describing the worn-out textbooks meant for Black students and her Papa’s leg being crushed by a wagon during a racist ambush.

Mildred D. Taylor began writing about the Logan family in 1975 with her first novella, Song of the Trees. Her historical works are about the hardships faced by African-American families living in the Deep South. Taylor was not the first author to narrate such moving stories. Yet, to me, she stood out for the sense of hope and resilience she breathes into her characters.

Taylor was born in Jackson, Mississippi, but moved north with her family when she was just three months old. Despite not having a Southern upbringing, she insisted that the region held pleasant memories for her as her family’s home. They eventually settled in Toledo, Ohio as her father did not want her and her sister to grow up in the racially segregated society of the South that he lived in. When Taylor started school, she was the only black child in her class. Yearly trips to Mississippi and firsthand stories from family gatherings helped her become familiar with the South. Taylor would eventually use some of the stories for her novels.

Taylor attended the University of Toledo where she majored in English and minored in History. By age 19, she had written her first novel, Dark People, Dark World. Sadly, due to revision disagreements with a publisher, the novel was never published. After graduation, Taylor joined the Peace Corps and taught in Arizona and Ethiopia. She then attended the University of Colorado School of Journalism, where she worked with university officials and fellow students to curate a Black Studies program. It’s inspiring how Taylor maintained the respect from her roots and encouraged for others to do the same in education.

In addition to all those accomplishments, Taylor kept writing. In 1973, Taylor entered a contest funded by the Council on Interracial Books for Children. “I tried writing [a story] from a boy’s point of view because the story was based on my father’s life, but that didn’t work,” Taylor said in a 2006 interview with the American Library Association. “So I decided to retell it from the girl’s point of view. It won that honor and got my foot in the door.”

The story was eventually published as Song of the Trees, and won first prize in the contest’s African-American category. It was also listed as an outstanding book of the year in the New York Times.

In 1977, she also won the Newberry Medal for the sequel to Song of the Trees, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and several other literary recognitions.

“I wanted to show a different kind of black world from the one so often seen,” she said of her characters, the Logan family. “[Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry] will always be the most special book I have written.”

Black stories are often heavily centered around trauma. There’s a common assumption that Blacknes and suffering go hand in hand. While the Logans are a disadvantaged family, what we learn from them is their ability to make the most out of situations. Cassie and her brothers are a strong unit who have a solid relationship with their parents and appreciate who they are surrounded by. If anything, Taylor has shown us the importance of family dynamics in the face of constant trauma.

In an interview with The Brown Bookshelf, Taylor commented on the backlash of parents who felt her work was too painful for children to read. “As much as it hurts me to write words of pain, I know that they must be written, for they are truthful words about the time I write,” she said.

Sometimes, even if it can be uncomfortable, writing about pain is necessary. It can help others become more attentive to voices that are often silenced. What I find heartbreakingly relatable is that the Logan children instantly learned that they were living in a different world than their white peers. How Taylor writes about pain from Cassie’s perspective lets readers know that children are never too young to start understanding the world around them.

In the same interview, Taylor discussed receiving letters from students like myself who read her books as required reading. The students, however, said the books weren’t just about history. Rather, they are about the values they wished were more a part of their world today.

In Taylor’s words, “[It] is so uplifting to find there are still those who read my books and not only feel a greater understanding about our past, but feel the relevancy of that past to apply to the great turmoil of today’s world.”

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Book Reviews Book Club Books Pop Culture

In the aftermath of BLM Yaa Gyasi’s “Homegoing” shows us the history we are yet to overcome

A lot of 2020 seems like a bad dream, doesn’t it? It seems like the stuff of literary fiction, that has somehow materialized into real life and we’re being made to live through it since last December. However, some of us need to turn to fiction as a coping mechanism. Or in this case, fiction inspired by reality, such as Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing. 

Literary genius has been emerging from Africa for a few years now with writers such as Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; and now Yaa Gyasi, a Ghanaian American writer. Born in Ghana, she truly knows how to weave stories that transport the reader to the exact time and place of her choosing. Her novel Homegoing tells the tale of West Africa’s key role in perpetuating the slave trade over three centuries. It illustrates how the people, especially women, of that time navigated one of history’s greatest injustices.

The novel starts off in late 18th century in an Asante village, part of the Gold Coast which eventually became Ghana. A young girl, Effia is sold by her father to a British slave trader named James – as a bride, not as a slave – and taken to live with him in Cape Coast Castle. The irony is that right under her bridal chambers, are dungeons filled to the brim with slaves, from villages just like Effia’s, waiting to be sent off to the Americas and the Caribbean via the Middle Passage. Among them is Esi Asare, Effia’s 15-year-old half-sister. The story then takes us on a journey as these two women, unknown to each other, embark on their own paths, filled with treachery, heart-wrenching tribulations and secrets.

The book is almost impossible to put down, but most importantly it’s impossible to forget.

The element that makes it unique is the fact that Yaa Gyasi intertwines reality with spirituality, everyday life with the occult. She beautifully introduces common beliefs and fables told by the people in Effia’s village, and how they impact the lives of people as they accept the reality of losing their loved ones to slavery.

I especially took to this book, because I find African mysticism so unique and still an element we know so little about.

The sheer empathetic tone of this novel draws you into a point where you’re feeling the ache of the sisters and wishing that things, weren’t as they were, then or now. The subjugation told from the point of view of two women enduring entirely separate experiences is exceptionally interesting. It also highlights the fact that we, as humans, use stories to not only escape reality but also to understand it.

To me, what makes African writers so unique is that not only are the backdrops not mainstream, but their word crafting is so visceral. You’re drawn into each moment to a point where you’re feeling what the characters are feeling.

Some quotes from the book that particularly stood out were: “Tell a lie long enough and it will turn to truth” and “History is storytelling”. These two lines beautifully give the gist of what the novel is about: how 2 women and their trials shape the future of many, and how we must learn from our past. These quotes are also an on-point illustration of the events of today as we swing back and forth on major issues like racism, classism or sexism. These have existed for centuries and are still as unresolved and painful as ever.

The title of the book, Homegoing, originates from African-American traditions of a person’s death signifying a return ‘home’. This encapsulates the novel quite beautifully because it speaks of the millions of lives that have departed but left behind scars we are yet to heal from.

I believe this novel attracted so much attention because of its transcendence and relevance even today. As we navigate the pandemic crisis and the movements that are finally finding a voice, such as Black Lives Matter and women’s rights, it’s interesting to turn to history as told by a unique voice. Yes, it may be intertwined in a fictional story, but the baseline truth remains very vital and imminent. The fact that many antislavery laws have been passed doesn’t mean that subjugation has stopped being a reality.

To be able to hear unique voices and to peek into the minds of those who lived through hell, makes one realize that there are so many stories we are yet to hear, understand and correct. Homegoing is just one glimpse into the lessons we should have learnt but somehow still haven’t.

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Book Club Books Pop Culture

Evie Dunmore is the historical fiction feminist writer you need in your life

I am absolutely obsessed with historical fiction. As a relatively new reader of this genre, I’m constantly looking for new authors that can give me a new Mr. Darcy type character to obsess over before I fall asleep. What makes historical romances the most satisfying is that they are characterized by happy endings, similar to the all-too-comfortable Bridget Jones-esque vibes that we watch after a long week.

So who is Evie Dunmore anyways? A relatively new firestorm feminist has recently taken to the field of historical romances and released two books: Bringing Down the Duke and A Rogue of One’s Own. She is obsessed with all things British, romantic, and victorian. She aims to empower women and of all ages and highlight female voices.

Originally from Germany, she attended Oxford, which inspired her work. Aside from being a writer, she is a consultant. She is completely obsessed with Scotland and anything that takes her back to simpler and more romantic times. For both books, she spent lots of time in England studying and researching the Victorian era and the role of women during it. Aside from the fact that I have probably about a hundred different Pinterest boards about Regency-era England, I found this book looking through Goodreads during a week when quarantine was hitting me a little harder than usual. After making my best friend read it to vet it for me, I set off on maybe the most romantic and classic journey of my life.

Bringing Down the Duke. Fucking. Fabulous. Enough said. 

This book is about a young bluestocking named Annabelle who has always wanted more than a husband out of life. When she gets the opportunity to study with the first group of women at Oxford and work for the National Suffragette Group for a scholarship at the same time, she is over the moon. Annabelle pines after the most influential men, but instead of love, she asks for their backing of the suffragette movement in the House of the Lords. After meeting the duke, things get a little sticky. 

Not only will Annabelle and her badass girl gang get you feeling excited to be a woman, the Duke of Montgomery, Sebastian, might just make you fall in love with his striking Scandinavian bone structure and musky-man smell. With the perfect mix of expression of women’s pleasure and feminist badassery, this book will make you feel proud to be who you are, and inspire you to fight.

Dunmore’s second book and the sequel to Bringing Down the Duke is A Rogue of One’s Own. If you thought her first book was good, just you wait. This story features a different member of Anabelle’s friend group, who also happens to be the founder of the suffragist movement in their area. She left her life as a Lady with a wealthy and noble family to search for something more.

Lucie has no desire to be owned, and therefore she fights for the women who cannot. However, similar to Annabelle’s story, matters of the heart are never that simple. When her movement finally gains access to a famous publishing house, the man she has been flirtatiously fighting with since her childhood stands in her way. She’s used to fighting her way through male barriers with her strong will, but when a head of curly hair and a salacious smile are involved, things can get a little complicated.

Just trust me. Okay. If you don’t know me and don’t trust me, listen to my words very carefully: Evie Dunmore brings modernity to the victorian tongue and historical romances that I never thought could exist.

If you’ve ever struggled to read Victorian literature due to that old-timey voice, this is the perfect entrance book. If you’ve ever been in a position where you have struggled to maintain independence within a relationship, this book will speak to you.

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Lucie and Annabelle stand strong against the most sought after men in all of England, and it’s almost too satisfying to watch these men just melt after they repeatedly get rejected by the most badass women to ever grace the Oxford campus.

Just do yourself a favor and read these books. You can get Bringing Down the Duke on our Bookshop supporting local bookstores for $13.80 or on Amazon for $14.99, and A Rogue of One’s Own on our Bookshop for $14.72 or on Amazon for $12.89.

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Shopping Under $25 Last Minute Gift Ideas Books Books Pop Culture

10 most anticipated book releases for November 2020

Now I know this year has been a drag. From the pandemic, tragedies, massacres and frankly just everything. Sometimes we all need an escape every once in a while. But, we need to remember how privileged we are to even escape. Not everybody has this luxury of escaping into a book like some of us do. Those protesting in Nigeria and Thailand certainly do not. 

Now that this has been acknowledged, I want to share the most anticipated reads for November 2020.

1. Rebel Rose by Emma Theriault

[Image description: Image of Rebel Rose] Via Goodreads
Calling all Disney fans! I am pretty sure we are all aware of the story of Beauty and the Beast, right? In this novel, we go back in time to France in the 18th century, where they are on the brink of revolution. Finally, Belle has broken the curse and now her Beast has reverted back to humanity and he is now her prince. But remember, they are on the brink of revolution and if you know about the French Revolution, it was off with the heads of the aristocracy. Belle must consider if being a Queen is truly worth it or simply just a title.

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

2. Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

[Image description: Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao] Via Goodreads
In this novel, we follow Chloe being nervous to introduce her boyfriend to her parents. But, plot twist – she doesn’t even know who her boyfriend is! To appease her parents, Chloe hires her boyfriend, Drew, from ‘Rents’, a company that trains boyfriends to impress traditional Asian parents. This is such an interesting concept and makes me think, are we commodifying humanity, for the fact Chloe is ‘renting’ a boyfriend. But, Chloe rents Drew to convince them he is worthy of their approval so they don’t marry her off to Hongbo, a total womanizer within their community. But, what if Chloe and Drew’s relationship is not as fake as they anticipated?

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

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3. The Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

[Image description: The Violent Delights by Chloe Gong] Via Goodreads
Imagining a Chinese retelling of Romeo and Juliet, coupled with gang rivalry – Chloe Gong’s The Violent Delights is based in 20th century Shanghai where gang rivalry is prevalent, leaving the people of Shanghai distressed and helpless. How chaotic. 

We then have Juliette Cai who is 18 and believes she is above the law and is leading the Scarlet Gang. And their rivals? White Flowers. And of course, these gangs have been fighting for generations. But, what’s most interesting is that the heir to White Flowers is her first love and betrayal. Do with that what you will. If you love Shakespearean retelling and gang rivalry – this is for you.

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

4. Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho

[Image description: Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man] Via Goodreads
In light of everything that has happened in the world with Black Lives Matter, this book is a must. It’s time to have these conversations that people have been talking about.

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

5. A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha

[Image description: A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha] Via Goodreads
A Portuguese historical fantasy A Curse of Roses follows the story of Princess Yzabel who is cursed from eating. Here me out. With one touch of bread, it turns into roses. She attempts to bite cheese, the cheese now turns into lilies. This magic leaves her starving because any food she attempts to eat just turns into a bouquet. With a famine plaguing Portugal, she needs to decide what is the best solution for her to save her people?

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

6. Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer

[Image description: Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer] Via Goodreads
Meet Prudence Daniel – an overachiever with a disgusting attitude. Far too quick to cast judgement on her rude and lazy residents in her coastal town. But, something strange happens, one day she wakes up with the ability to cast instant karma on anybody. What a power to have. And of course, she abuses that power and wreaks havoc on anyone who irritates her. Except for this one person where he powers constantly backfire – Quint Erickson, who happens to be her enemy.

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

7. A Promised Land by Barack Obama

[Image description: A Promised Land by Barack Obama] Via Goodreads
Need I say more? With elections taking place around the world, let’s hear from the former US President, Barack Obama, who reflects on his time in the Oval Office.

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

8. Perfectly Impossible by Elizabeth Topp

[Image description: Perfectly Impossible by Elizabeth Topp]
For fans of the Devil Wears Prada, this is for you. The book is about an assistant to a stinking rich wife and a philanthropist, Bambi von Bizmarck. Aside from being an assistant, Anna is also an artist. But, she is met with a dilemma. Painting and all things art is her passion, her true calling. But it’s not paying the bills, at all. Whereas her position as an assistant enables her to be more successful. Follow Anna to delve into the life of the 1%. Must be nice.

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

9. Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett

[Image description: Chasing Lucky by Jean Bennett] Via Goodreads
Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother  – they are practically glued to the hip, moving from one city to the other. If you like the cliches – bad boy trope, friends to lovers, I can 100% confirm this is for you. Until one time, her and her mother move back to their historic New England town to run her family bookstore but this time it’s different. It’s only a matter of time until her grandmother returns and they move again. Until Lucky Karras re-enters her life.

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

10. Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March

[Image description: Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March] Via Goodreads
Yet again, another historical fiction. But, something makes it different – it’s a historical crime fiction set in colonial India. Think Indian Sherlock Holmes. Both of the women who died belonged to the same family, now this is where it gets interesting.  The deaths are suspicious, but no one is talking. We meet Adi Framji, who is the husband of one of the women and ends up hiring Jim Agnihotrii, a captain in the army to help privately investigate the case. (Trigger warning: suicide.)

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

We truly can’t wait for these books. What are you waiting for? Get reading!

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TV Shows Pop Culture

Could this Turkish drama be the new Game of Thrones?

If you watch Game of Thrones and love it, I would like to introduce you to the Turkish version, Diriliş:Ertuğrul (pronounced Ar-tu-ro in Turkish). The titular character, Ertuğrulis the name of the man who would eventually become the founder of the Ottoman Empire. A five-season series (with season five set to be released October of this year), this show is popular not only in Turkey but internationally. TRT World (Turkish Radio and Television Corporation) is the public network that features this show, but do not despair if you aren’t residing in Turkey: you can watch the first two seasons in English on Netflix!

Why is this Turkish series, set in 13th century Anatolia (modern day Turkey) an international hit, East and West? For one thing, the costumes are amazing (you can buy the famous Ertuğrul warrior hat online and of course, in Turkey). And, women are portrayed as powerful leaders and courageous warriors fighting for their tribe. For example, Hayme Hatun, the matriarch and leader of the Kayi Tribe after her husband dies, kills invading Mongols in her tent while protecting her baby grandson at the same time. Interestingly, the women do not wear the hijab, but colorful headgear that changes with the season. The scenery is also beautiful, with many breathtaking geographic locations portrayed, from mountainous steppes to grasslands and forests teeming with a rich, green color.

The show promotes the values of chivalry, courage, bravery, and other moral qualities. Sufism, the form of Islam that emphasizes one’s interior world and inculcates a God-conscious, mindful life, is portrayed with the anachronistic Andalusian Ibn Arabi. Ibn Arabi is the wise man, the shaykh, or scholar who shows up (in perfect timing) to give Ertuğrul and his tribe, the Kayis, guiding wisdom while the Crusaders and the Mongols try to exterminate them.

Ertuğrul is unique because it provides an interesting point of view that we never get to see in (mainstream) media.

In Hollywood, or in European historical dramas, the Crusaders are never depicted as the bad guys, because Christianity is the predominant faith in their audience. Instead, Ertuğrul centers around the pre-Ottoman Empire made up of Anatolian tribes, the Oghuz Turks. 

When I visited Turkey in summer 2017, peoples’ ringtones on their cellphones were set to the Ertuğrul theme song. Indeed, TRT interviewed viewers of Ertuğruland the reasons for enjoying this series were: the rightful Muslim representation, “You have people who look like us, think like us, and even breathe like us”; it is clean and fun entertainment; one 74-year old English woman said that although she is not Muslim, she appreciated learning about Sufism and its teachings depicted in the series. 

Personally, Ertuğrul is an escape from everyday life, especially our modern world with its emphasis on individualism over the family. As someone who has studied World History, I appreciate that historical fiction brings the past to life and teaches us 21st century peeps a thing or two, even if we disagree with their worldview, customs, and cultures. This show depicts the medieval Muslim world with its nuance, diversity and certainly pays homage to the glory days of the Ottoman Empire.

The series does romanticize many historical facts, but it is refreshing to see Muslims – who are pretty much portrayed in Hollywood as terrorists and/or existential threats – as the heroes. Not all of them are always necessarily innocent, but they are all depicted as complex characters, the way they deserve, the way all human beings are.

There is love, betrayal, adultery for the sake of power, jealousy, family feuding, but redemption, forgiveness, mercy and the seeking of justice, especially for the oppressed portrayed in the series.
There is an underlying Turkish nationalism component, in addition to the unifying calls for Islam internationally since the Ottoman Empire was the last standing Islamic caliphate in modern history. 

I now understand why former First Lady Michelle Obama wanted to get early access to Downton Abbey – when you love (read: are obsessed with) a show, like me, you will do anything to watch it. I even paid a friend to translate seasons two and three for me, just so I could watch it!

So, friends, open up your Netflix, drink some Turkish tea and buy some Turkish delight while checking out this international Turkish sensation. It deserves all the attention that Game of Thrones gets.

Gift Guides Books Pop Culture

25 amazing new YA books that need to be on your reading list this year

Can you believe that half of the year is over and behind us? I am emotionally still in 2017. One good thing about reaching the second half of 2018 is that we’re finally closer to the release of these amazing upcoming books. From fantasy to contemporary, sci-fi to historical fiction, these books need to be on your radar and bookshelves.

1. What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli
[Image Description: Cover of What If It’s Us] Via Goodreads
Released: October 9, 2018

Why it shines: What If It’s Us is the author collab dream. What happens when an author known for feel-good romcoms meets another who’s notorious for breaking readers’ hearts, and they decide to write a book together? The result is a bittersweet and realistic story about two boys who have an epic meet-cute and beautiful summer romance with its ups and downs.

Get it from Amazon for $17.09+.

2. A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna
[Image Description: Cover of A Spark of White Fire] Via Goodreads
Released: September 4, 2018

Why it shines: Magnificent is the word to describe this book. A glorious space opera in the veins of the Indian epic Mahabharata, the story tracks the journey of Esmae, the ultimate antiheroine in the wrong side of the war. It’s a story of war, ambition, power, betrayal and will drown you in all the feels. Also, if you’re Desi and you love Karna, you’ll love this book.

Get it from Amazon for $17.99.

3. Mirage by Somaiya Daud
[Image Description: Cover of Mirage] Via Goodreads
Released: August 28, 2018

Why it shines: A Moroccan-inspired fantasy that is lush, whimsical, gorgeous, and as spectacular as that cover, Mirage is a gripping story centered on political intrigue and, well, mirages. Standing in as a body double for a cruel princess, Amani’s story is spellbinding, her forbidden romance sizzling, and her world absolutely stunning.

Get it from Amazon for $18.99+.

4. Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
[Image Description: Cover of Darius the Great is Not Okay] Via Goodreads
Released: August 28, 2018

Why it shines: Darius’ story will resonate with anyone who has ever felt like that they don’t fit in or are a disappointment. His trip to Iran ends up as a journey of self-discovery. The novel touches upon his depression and sexuality in a subtle yet present way and is a true coming-of-age story.

Get it from Amazon for $17.99.

5. For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig
[Image Description: Cover of For a Muse of Fire] Via Goodreads
Released: September 25, 2018

Why it shines: Set in 1874, this South East Asian fantasy is a fine aesthetic mixture of theatre, music, shadow puppets, magic and will make you feel like part of the audience in an auditorium back in history. The main character’s Chinese heritage and her bipolar disorder are both shared by the author, and the authenticity meshes well with the evocative story.

Get it from Amazon for $17.99+.

6. Black Wings Beating by Alex London
[Image Description: Cover of Black Wings Beating] Via Goodreads
Released: September 25, 2018

Why it shines: Alex London returns to YA after the 2014 sequel to Proxy with a fantasy about killer eagles. Following the story of twins in a world centered on falconry, this fantasy offers everything: thrill, action, secrets, romance, sibling dynamics, conflicted emotions, and a lot of awesomeness.

Get it from Amazon for $17.99+.

7. The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta
[Image Description: Cover of The Brilliant Death] Via Goodreads
Released: October 30, 2018

Why it shines: 19th century Italy. Mafia. Family. Forbidden magic. Assassins. Court dynamics. A sexy gender non-conforming tutor and explosive romance. What else do you need to get sold on a book? This queer fantasy sounds mysterious, magical,  and too intriguing to miss out on.

Get it from Amazon for $18.99+.

8. Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
[Image Description: Cover of Girls of Paper and Fire] Via Goodreads
Released: November 6, 2018

Why it shines: To quote the author: “Girls of Paper and Fire is a YA oriental-inspired fantasy with a lesbian romance at its core. There are also demons and concubines and a hidden palace and assassins and battles in the sky, and, did I mention, lesbian lovers?” Do you need any more convincing?

Get it from Amazon for $18.99+.

9. A Blade So Black by L. L. McKinney
[Image Description: Cover of A Blade So Black] Via Goodreads
Released: September 25, 2018

Why it shines: I have followed the author on Twitter long enough to witness this being written. So it’s surreal that it’s almost here. A darker retelling of Alice in Wonderland, where Alice is black and badass and the wonderland is filled with dangers and mysteries, is ready to wow you this fall. Also, can we flail over that cover a bit?

Get it from Amazon for $18.99+.

10. Sadie by Courtney Summers
[Image Description: Cover of Sadie] Via Goodreads
Released: September 4, 2018

Why it shines: Courtney Summers is too good at what she does, and this book is proof for that. Part mystery and part emotional masterpiece, Sadie is a narrative about a girl on the hunt to find her sister’s killer, while a podcast tries to delve into her story. The book will keep you hooked, break your heart, and leave a mark forever.

Get it from Amazon for $17.99+.

11. A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
[Image Description: Cover of A Very Large Expanse of Sea] Via Goodreads
Released: October 16, 2018

Why it shines: Tahereh Mafi is no stranger to a YA fan. But this is the author’s first contemporary novel, and she doesn’t hold anything back. Set in 2002, it’s both nostalgic and politically relevant, chronicling the story of a Muslim hijabi in America during the aftermath of 9/11. This is not going to be an easy book to read, but I can’t wait.

Get it from Amazon for $15.19+.

12. Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson
[Image Description: Cover of Dance of Thieves] Via Goodreads
Released: August 7, 2018

Why it shines: If you are a fan of Mary E. Pearson’s Kiss of Deception and the Remnant Chronicles, here’s some good news: there’s more coming your way! Set in the same world, Dance of Thieves is a cat and mouse game between a former street thief and an outlaw leader. I have so many expectations riding on this ship, give me all the angst. I’m ready.

Get it from Amazon for $15.19+.

13. Pride by Ibi Zoboi
[Image Description: Cover of Pride] Via Goodreads
Released: September 18, 2018

Why it shines: After her explosive debut, American Street, Ibi Zoboi returns with a modern and diverse retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and makes it oh-so-relevant and timely. The highlights of the book are rooted in Zuri’s pride in her roots and the importance of family. Let’s not forget the banter, though. This is enemies-to-lovers done right.

Get it from Amazon for $17.99+.

14. Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean
[Image Description: Cover of Empress of All Seasons] Via Goodreads
Released: November 6, 2018

Why it shines: Can I take a moment to squeal about all these amazing Asian fantasies??? Set in ancient Japan, Empress of All Seasons follows the competition to find the next empress. Through it, we meet Mari, who has a terrifying secret: she can transform into a monster. With a fascinating world, intriguing twists, and a potential love triangle, this book is sure to be a stunner.

Get it from Amazon for $17.99+.

15. Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer
[Image Description: Cover of Not Even Bones] Via Goodreads
Released: September 4, 2018

Why it shines: This is not your feel-good, bed-of-roses type of book. It’s bloody, gory, and mindblowing. If you are a Dexter, Hannibal, Silence of the Lambs or Criminal Minds kind of person, then this is right up your alley. Nita’s story is dark, intense, unapologetic, and full of gray morals and choices. Put simply? This book is fucked up but in the best way.

Get it from Amazon for $17.99+.

16. Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
[Image Description: Cover of Blanca & Roja ] Via Goodreads
Released: October 9, 2018

Why it shines: If you tell me that Anna Marie Mclemore invented magical realism, I’d gladly accept that claim. She has made the genre her own with her magical and lush stories, and this combination of Snow White & Rose Red and Swan Lake is surely going to be breathtaking, swoon-worthy, and queer AF.

Get it from Amazon for $4.99+.

17. Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa
[Image Description: Cover of Shadow of the Fox ] Via Goodreads
Released: October 2, 2018

Why it shines: Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series was one of those ultra-popular fantasy worlds when I first got into YA. It’s so exciting to all her fans that she’s back, especially with dragons. Inspired by Japanese folklore, this thrilling fantasy will bring generous servings of dragons, yokai, magic, samurais, mages, and all kinds of mythical goodness to your bookshelf.

Get it from Amazon for $19.99+.

18. Odd One Out by Nic Stone
[Image Description: Cover of Odd One Out] Via Goodreads
Released: October 9, 2018

Why it shines: I would usually run far away from a contemporary love triangle, but this is Nic Stone, my absolute queen. So I’m heading into this blindly without a single regret. Odd One Out drops any of those overused cliches in love triangles, instead choosing to explore real emotions and conflicts. Throughout the novel, interweaving nuances of race, sexuality, and fluidity seamlessly shine through. I’m ready.

Get it from Amazon for $17.99+.

19. This is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender
[Image Description: Cover of This is Kind of an Epic Love Story] Via Goodreads
Released: October 30, 2018

Why it shines: Gay-childhood-best-friends-turned-into-lovers needs to become 2018’s new literary trope. This beautiful romance revolves around a classic match between a pessimist who has sworn off happy endings and his estranged childhood best friend who’s now back in his life. It’s cute, inclusive as hell, and the QPOC rom-com the world needs.

Get it from Amazon for $17.99+.

20. Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan
[Image Description: Cover of Ignite the Stars] Via Goodreads
Released: September 4, 2018

Why it shines: A space opera that sounds like a thrilling ride – and gives a lot of Rogue One vibes from the synopsis – with strong female friendships, a badass heroine. and a swoon-worthy forbidden romance? Sign me up.

Get it from Amazon for $17.99+.

21. Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman
[Image Description: Cover of Dry ] Via Goodreads
Released: October 2, 2018

Why it shines: Neal Shusterman and his son, Jarrod, (remember Challenger Deep?) get very real about climate change in this harrowing dystopian tale of survival, humanity, and the environment. Set in the aftermath of a drought with disastrous consequences, the book is timely and bound to make you think.

Get it from Amazon for $12.91+.

22. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White
[Image Description: Cover of The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein] Via Goodreads
Released: September 25, 2018

Why it shines: Anyone who has read And I Darken knows that Kiersten White is a master of dark and sinister retellings. She returns with that magic in The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein. It’s a gothic and mysterious retelling of Frankenstein that will give a completely different point of view to the classic story by Mary Shelley.

Get it from Amazon for $18.99+.

23. Seafire by Natalie C. Parker
[Image Description: Cover of Seafire] Via Goodreads
Released: August 28, 2018

Why it shines: An epic female fantasy and celebration of sisterhood and found family that the world needs. Seafire follows the story of the fierce female captain, Caledonia, and a crew of equally badass women. And if there’s anything more amazing than an all-female cast taking down a corrupt warlord, I don’t what is.

Get it from Amazon for $14.74+.

24. Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie
[Image Description: Cover of Hullmetal Girls] Via Goodreads
Released: July 17, 2018

Why it shines: Emily Skrutskie calls this, “my little standalone sci-fi Battlestar/Pacific Rim/Sense8/Snowpiercer frolic, affectionately known as Cyborg Space Jam.” Are you flailing your arms? I certainly am. It has spaceships, angry badass girls, gray morals, an aroace MC, space adventures and machines with sass. Give it to me already.

Get it from Amazon for $17.99+.

25. To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin
[Image Description: Cover of To Be Honest] Via Goodreads
Released: August 21, 2018

Why it shines: First of all, how awesome is that cover? To Be Honest is a very realistic, hilarious and heartbreaking novel about insecurities, self-love, and, most of all, a very complicated relationship between a daughter and a mother. It’s a contemporary book full of heart and warmth.

Get it from Amazon for $16.99+.