Introduction and Editors’ Note
Open-themed issues are exactly that–open to a wide range of titles and dependent on what reviewers have been reading and thinking about. As editors the challenge is to take a disparate collection of titles and find common threads across the narratives. In this issue that was easy. These titles feature characters caught in systems they try to understand and navigate but that limit opportunities.
One group of titles highlights the limiting nature of government-sanctioned systems. In Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card, Sara Saedi introduces readers to life as an undocumented Iranian immigrant, negotiating her secret with her teen desires to fit in with American culture. In The Bell Rang, the young narrator is also caught up in a system she cannot control, that of slavery in the U.S. She lets readers in on the struggles of living by the bell and describes the tension that occurs on the plantation and within her family when her brother escapes North. In Habibi, Liyana experiences the limitations of being an Arab-American living in her father’s native Palestine and falling in love with David, a young Jewish teen. In I Am Thunder, the daughter of Pakistani immigrants to London experiences the tension of embracing her Muslim faith yet holding firm against religious radicalization. In the near-dystopian novel The Internment, American teen Layla and her family are removed from their homes to internment camps. The Muslim teen rallies others through social media to resist the silencing of their freedom to speak.
Another group of titles features the limiting nature of the culture a person lives in. In Long Way Down, author Jason Reynolds tells the story of Will and the gang-related system of revenge that he feels obliged to honor when his brother is shot and killed. In Josefina Learns a Lesson, set in the 1820’s in New Mexico, the protagonist feels tension between her desire to follow new parameters for girls and become literate, and her desire to honor the lifestyle of her deceased mother. In Juana & Lucas, it is the character’s own attitude towards learning English that limits her joy in learning.
The final group of titles features negotiating life in the borderlands and living life in two seemingly incongruous cultures, yet the protagonist demonstrates thriving “in the in between.” In They Call Me Guëro: A Border Kid’s Poems the protagonist gains his voice as he writes poems about living on the border of Mexico and Texas. In Yo Soy Muslim: A Father’s Letter to His Daughter author Mark Gonzalez describes the joys and challenges of being a Latino Muslim.
We invite you to read about strong characters who make mistakes, learn, and try again as they negotiate borders and systems that try to limit the way they live their lives.
We have invited the committee members of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award to write the reviews for our Winter 2019-2020 issue. Our Spring 2020 issue is open-themed. We welcome reviews of recent children’s and young adult books that highlight intercultural and global perspectives. Submission deadline: February 15, 2020.
Susan Corapi and Prisca Martens, Co-Editors