What do we tell the children?

by Faran Fagen

My daughter points to the gunman and asks, “Is that a bad man?”
We watch the terrible news unfold at the school shooting just minutes away, not realizing Blair has entered the living room.

I stare at her green eyes. It’s a yes or no question. But it’s not simple. Or concrete, like when we play Candyland and you pick the Lollipop card and take that spot on the board.

Instead of answering Blair, I’m silent. I think of the many school shootings that have rocked our nation since Columbine in 1999, most of which Blair, 5 years old, never heard of.

The strip at the bottom of the television reads 17 dead at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. Seventeen. One of the worst school shootings on record in a city known as the safest in Florida. The 18th school shooting of 2018, and it’s only Valentine’s Day.

I tell Blair that a sad, angry man hurt people and will go to jail, and that seems to satisfy her curiosity for the moment. Then I think of the 17 families that lost a daughter or son, and that hollow feeling returns to my stomach. The same punch to the gut every time I hear about another shooting.

So I do what I do when I get that sick feeling. I write. Get thoughts on paper. To try and make some sense.
I hammer it into my head. Yes, it happened at Douglas, the pride of Parkland, a community known for close-knit families. Where I have friends. It also happened a few years ago at a Connecticut elementary school full of innocent children.

If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere.

If you’re like me, with every news bulletin in the last year that there’d been another senseless shooting, your stomach clenches. First thought: please no fatalities. Second thought: How could anyone do this? Third thought: Is this ever going to end?

According to reports, since the 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, there has been an average of at least one school shooting per week.

So how do we stop it?

Fingers have pointed at violent video games and movies, mental illness, gangs, terrorism plots, cyberbullying, revenge, sparse gun control and social media gone wrong. To name a few.

Unlike the cards in Candyland, the answer isn’t easy. But I know this – every attacker in every shooting shares the fact they felt alone or alienated somehow. Shunned, ignored, humiliated, bullied, isolated.

The two killers in the Columbine shootings were constantly harassed and bullied, and one of them wrote in his journal about his hatred for the human race.

Another shooting occurred in 2007 that killed 32 people on Virginia Tech’s campus. Picked on by other students at a young age, the shooter was described by his college professors as a troubled loner.

The shooter of the Newtown massacre was described in various articles as friendless and isolated.

Some of these tragedies contained heroes like Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary, who hid students in a closet and died trying to shield them from bullets. It’s already being reported that Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach at Douglas, died shielding students from gunfire.

Every time a shooting happens, I look at pictures of the slain and that knot tightens in in my stomach.
In December of 2012, the media posted picture after picture of the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook. The children look so happy in those pictures. Their entire future ahead of them. I swallow hard thinking that those kids will never experience their graduation, or even their first kiss.

Those 20 kids’ moms and dads had to bury their own children – an act too terrible to imagine.
All because of attackers so utterly lost that they resort to the unthinkable.

It used to be okay to feel alone. In Oh the Places You’ll Go, Dr. Suess says alone is something you’ll be quite a lot. But in the end you’ll succeed, “98 ¾ percent guaranteed”.

Now, being alone is a crisis. Somehow, we’ve lost our ability to cope. And have hope for someone utterly abandoned from the American dream of love and family that’s supposed to be so easy to reach.

As I kiss my daughter good night, I look deep into her green eyes. She wraps her arms around my neck and squeezes tight. She’s tucked safely under the covers. The television is still on in the other room, recounting the day’s carnage.
Yes, Blair, there are bad men in the world. Lost, hopeless, desperate, and alone bad men. Some live nearby, and I can’t always protect you from them. And I’ll never be the same.

Themed Thursday: Our Books Picks for Black History Month

February is Black History Month, so what better time to share some of our favorite black history books? Do you have a favorite book that celebrates or commemorates black history? We’d love to hear from you.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness by Michelle L. Alexander is commentary on the reality of living in America while black. When we study black history in the month of February, it’s important to look at the social construct of how slavery is still affecting people today. Michelle Alexander takes a look at the hard numbers highlighting how many blacks today are still in subordinate status just like their ancestors. This is an eye-opening book for everyone.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge, by Erica Armstrong Dunbar. This nonfiction account was definitely an eye opener. As children, we’re taught to revere our first president, but this book shows George Washington in a new light. It also honors the life of Ona Judge, his runaway slave who—as the title suggests and through her own resourcefulness—was never caught, despite the president’s best efforts.

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: Underground to Canada is a historical novel for young readers by Barbara Smucker. It was first published in Canada in 1977 and published in the United States as Runaway to Freedom: A Story of the Underground Railway. Based partially on a true story, the novel is set in the United States and Canada in the years leading up to the American Civil War and describes the hard lives of slaves in the American South and the people who helped them escape to Canada through the Underground Railroad. The novel is studied in Canadian schools. In it, a young slave called Julilly and her mother, Mammy Sally, are sold apart when their owner, Massa Hensen, falls ill. Julilly is taken to a plantation in Mississippi. There she meets Liza, another slave girl. Pursued by their master, the two girls and their friends, Lester and Adam, begin their escape from slavery. They make their way through the United States to Canada on the Underground Railroad with the help of Alexander Milton Ross, a Canadian abolitionist, eventually arriving safely, apart from Adam who dies of blood poisoning caused by his slave chains.

Faran Fagen

Faran: I’d recommend Walter Dean Myers’ Handbook for Boys. It may not be a historic book, but it takes you on the journey of a confused young African-American male who learns a lot about growing up from the wise workers at a barber shop. Amazing lessons from the barbers and the sharp customers who spend their time at the shop rub off on 16-year-old Jimmy, who narrowly escapes jail.

Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan: Teammates, by Peter Golenbock. This is the moving story of how Jackie Robinson became the first black player on a Major League baseball team when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s. I love baseball and Jackie Robinson, and this story never ceases to fascinate me.

New Releases for February 13th, 2018!

Hello Tuesdays!

And what a Tuesday we have! There are some really cool new releases scheduled to come out today. Two MG and one YA. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at them!

First up in the MG department, we have Russell Ginns’, Samantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans from Delacorte Books for Young Readers.

For fans of Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and the Secret series, and classics like Holes and The Westing Game, the first book in a hilarious new series about a girl, her brother, and some super-big globe-trotting adventures.
Samantha Spinner’s Uncle Paul disappeared, and here’s what he left:
*  Samantha’s sister got a check for $2,400,000,000.
*  Samantha’s brother got the New York Yankees.
*  And Samantha got a rusty red umbrella with a tag hanging off its worn handle. The tag says “Watch out for the RAIN.”

Thanks a lot, Uncle Paul.
After all the strawberry waffles, stories, and puzzles they’ve shared, how could he just leave without saying goodbye? And what is the meaning of that mysterious message?

The answer is simple. Sam knows in her heart that Uncle Paul is in danger. And if he taught her anything, it’s that not everything is exactly what it seems. Which is why we should pay close attention to that rusty red umbrella.

The RAIN is coming, and Samantha Spinner is about to find herself mixed up in some super-important, super-dangerous, super-secret plans.

This book sounds like a lot of fun, and there’s a sequel coming, called Samantha Spinner and the Spectacular Specs!

 

 

The 11:11 Wish by Kim Tomsic from  Katherine Tegen Books

Megan Meyers has a foolproof plan to reinvent herself at her new school. Good-bye, dorky math nerd; hello, friend magnet! But her first day at Saguaro Prep starts off weird to the tenth power.

When she’s dared to “make something exciting happen,” Megan is thrown into the middle of an epic power struggle between the two seventh-grade Spirit Captains. So with nothing to lose, Megan wishes for “some magic” as her classroom’s cat clock chimes 11:11—and is granted an enchanted teen magazine promising miracle makeovers and sure-fire secrets for winning friends and crushes.

But magic can have dangerous side effects, and as her social life grows exponentially worse, Megan begins to wonder if wishing was ever a purrfect idea.

 

Can’t wait to read this one!

 

Finally, we have one YA novel on our list, The Traitor Prince, by C.J. Redwine, from Balzer + Bray

A dark epic fantasy inspired by The Prince and the Pauper and the fairy tale The False Prince, from bestselling author C.J. Redwine. A thrilling companion book in the Ravenspire series, The Traitor Princeis perfect for fans of A Court of Thorns and Roses series and The Wrath and the Dawn duology.

Javan Najafai, crown prince of Akram, has spent the last ten years at an elite boarding school, far away from his kingdom. But his eagerly awaited return home is cut short when a mysterious impostor takes his place—and no one believes Javan is the true prince.

After barely escaping the impostor’s assassins, Javan is thrown into Maqbara, the kingdom’s most dangerous prison. The only way to gain an audience with the king—and reveal Javan’s identity—is to fight in Maqbara’s yearly tournament. But winning is much harder than facing competitions at school, and soon Javan finds himself beset not just by the terrifying creatures in the arena but also by a band of prisoners allied against him, and even by the warden herself.

The only person who can help him is Sajda, who has been enslaved by Maqbara’s warden since she was a child, and whose guarded demeanor and powerful right hook keep the prisoners in check. Working with Sajda might be the only way Javan can escape alive—but she has dangerous secrets.

Together, Javan and Sajda have to outwit the vicious warden, outfight deadly creatures, and outlast the murderous prisoners intent on killing Javan. If they fail, they’ll be trapped in Maqbara for good—and the secret Sajda’s been hiding will bury them both.

 

All three of these books look fantastic!

Go check them all out, and Happy Reading!

 

Jonathan Rosen is an original member of the Tuesdays. He made sure of this, by telling them that they would have to stop holding meetings at his house unless they included him also. Jonathan is a transplanted New Yorker, who now lives with his family in sunny, South Florida. He spends his “free” time chauffeuring his kids.  Jonathan is proud to be of Mexican-American descent, although neither country is really willing to accept responsibility. Jonathan is represented by Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency and his debut novel, Night of the Living Cuddle-Bunnies, is out now from SkyPony. You can also find him on FromtheMixedUpFiles.Com,  TwitterFacebook and HouseofRosen.com

How to Get the Most from a Writing Conference

If you are interested in getting your book published, writing conferences are the place you need to get yourself to. A conference is where industry professionals gather.  You’ll find agents, editors, published and aspiring authors in the mix. To get the most from writing conferences it is important get organized in advance.

Most conferences have a tentative schedule available for you to see when you register. I review the schedule months in advance to see if I can submit to a contest or send in pages for review by a panel of authors or in a written critique. Some submissions might be addressed at a workshop anonymously, but at other times you must face public critique. Read the directions carefully and don’t submit if you’re uncomfortable standing in front of a room full of people who are pointing out flaws in your story.

Offer in advance to volunteer at the conference. It not only gives you an opportunity to meet new people, but it shows potential agents and editors that you care enough about the industry to give your time.

Writing conferences are business events, so dress professionally. Hotel conferences halls are notorious for being freezing cold so plan to dress warmmmmm. If you don’t have a business card, have some printed. If you’re not yet published, you can put freelance writer as your title. You can give your card to other authors and if you pitch your manuscript, you can leave a card with the agent.

Before you leave for the conference, print out the schedule. Circle the workshops and panels you would like to attend. Make a mental note of people you would like to meet and books you would like to purchase.

Once you arrive, search out people who write in your genre and make new friends. Absorb all the fascinating new information being offered and be inspired to take your writing to the next level.

Sleuthfest is March 1-4 at the Embassy Suites in Boca Raton. It’s known to be the top conference in the southeast for writers of mystery and thriller. If you go, I’ll be wearing a pink boa around my neck to show that I’m a volunteer who is selling raffle tickets. Stop me and introduce yourself, I love to meet new people.

What’s the Dumbest Way You’ve Been Injured?

The Tuesdays want to know!

Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan: The dumbest way that I’ve been injured is one time when playing softball, I ran after a ball in foul territory. I never took my eye off of it. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep my eyes on the fence. I ran straight into it and immediately felt the wetness on my face. I got thirteen stitches that night and still have the scars on my face. My friends took a picture of my bloody face, and I still look at it from time to time, to remind me of my stupidity.

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: This is literally a no-brainer. Over winter break when my son was coming home from college, I went to make him vegan food. Note to self: unplug the immersion blender before using it. Let’s just say the food was no longer vegan and I was pretty chewed up. At least the tip of my finger was. Worst part? Knowing I’d done it to myself.

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: On Christmas Day a year ago I got a new slalom water ski as a gift. I was being wimpy and didn’t want to get in the water in advance because I thought it was too cold. I donned my gear on the swim platform of the boat and prepared to jump sideways into the water. I didn’t want to get my hair wet either, so as I jumped in I brought my arms down as fast as I could to slap the water and prevent my head from going under. Well, I didn’t jump out far enough, so the full force slap hit the swim platform, breaking my wrist. I was going to get wet anyway; if I’d only sucked it up and got in, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: When I was three, all the neighborhood kids were taking turns in the wagon riding down the hill in our backyard. It was finally my turn. Our neighbor, who was five, was supposed to be steering. As the wagon approached the clothes pole smack dab in the middle of the hill, he bailed, and I hit the pole. Of course I ran inside crying. Turns out my collar bone busted, so I guess I wasn’t being a crybaby that time.

Faran Fagen

Faran: Easily the dumbest way I was injured happened when I was seven. I was at a friend’s house and we were bike riding down a steep  hill. The sunset was brilliant that day and as I stared at it, I plowed right into the back of a parked car. Luckily all I got were scrapes, bruises, and torn shorts. I was lucky.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: The first time I cracked my chin open and had to get stitches, it wasn’t that dumb. I was in first grade. I did a flip from the top rung of the money bars and ended up chin first on the gravel. Hospital, stitches… You’d think I would have learned a lesson. Then in second grade, I did the same exact thing–same monkey bars, same feat of acrobatics (a failed flip), same hospital. I still have the scars.

 

Interview with the Debut Author of American Panda, Gloria Chao

Hello Tuesdays!

Today, I’m pleased to be joined by Electric Eighteen Debut Author, Gloria Chao, whose book, American Panda, came out yesterday, February 6, 2018 from Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Jr: Hi, Gloria and thanks for joining us today!

GC: Thank you so much for having me! I’m so excited to be here!

JR: Before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about American Panda and the impetus behind writing it?

GC: American Panda is a young adult contemporary novel about a seventeen-year-old MIT freshman whose traditional Taiwanese parents want her to become a doctor and marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer. Unfortunately, she’s squeamish with germs, falls asleep in biology classes, and is falling for her Japanese classmate.

This is the book I wish I had in high school, and I wrote it hoping that it would help at least one reader feel less alone about not belonging or wanting something different for their life than their loved ones. I also wanted to write an Asian version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding because my parents do a lot of funny things that should be documented somewhere.

JR: I read that you used to be a competitive dancer. I find that really cool. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

GC: I started dancing when I was two and continued until dental school. I loved a variety of styles—hip hop, contemporary jazz, Chinese dance—and started a non-profit Chinese dance group in high school that is still around today. It’s funny how something can be such a huge part of your life for a long time, only to fade away and feel like another lifetime. I keep hoping to find my way back to it, but so far, it’s only resurfaced in my writing.

In American Panda, my main character hides her love of dance from her unapproving parents, and it’s the one place she can express herself. She mixes styles and music, a reflection of her struggle with her identity, which is something I used to do as well.

JR: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing journey getting to this point?

GC: I wrote for three years before landing my agent and book deal. I signed with my agent through the slush pile. It was a long, tedious process, but I’m grateful that anyone (regardless of connections or formal training) can pursue their passion and eventually break into the industry.

JR: What’s your writing process like?

GC: So far, it’s different per book, but there are a few constants. I always have a cup of tea nearby, I write in my office with two screens (one for the manuscript and one for research), with music playing in the background. I do a combination of plotting and pantsing, with my brief outline printed out in front of me. I also have notebooks all around the apartment for when an idea strikes, and the one next to my bed is almost filled. I have a hard time falling asleep and usually end up thinking about my book for hours. For some reason, this is when I have my best ideas.

JR: What was your favorite childhood book and who’s your favorite author?

GC: When I was younger, I read and re-read The Babysitters Club so much that they became covered in food and wrinkled (which I would never let happen now).

It’s so difficult to pick one favorite author. If I had to, I’ll go with Nicola Yoon, though there are so many I love: Angie Thomas, Kerri Maniscalco, David Arnold, Marie Lu, Jodi Picoult . . . I could go on for a while.

JR: What’s your favorite movie?

GC: If I had to pick just one, I’d have to say While You Were Sleeping because my husband and I watch it every winter, and it helped to make Chicago feel like home after we moved here four years ago.

JR: Something people would be surprised to learn about you?

GC: I used to be a black belt in kung-fu. I stopped in dental school and haven’t picked it back up, but it’s made its way into my second book, Misaligned, forthcoming fall 2019!

JR: Do you do a lot of research when you write?

GC: I worked hard to make American Panda based on all real places and incidents. Most of it was written from past experiences, but there were still things I had to verify. The hardest parts to research were related to Chinese culture. Often, the details I was looking for were hard to find online (at least in English), and many customs and sayings differ between regions. I ended up spending a lot of time on the phone with my mother, who helped me immensely with verifying facts and telling me about her past. I’m so grateful for how much this book has made me learn about my own family and how close I’ve become with my mother.

JR: Here at the Tuesdays, a big part of our success and the purpose of this site, has been being involved in a critique group. Are you involved in one and if so, how has it helped you?

GC: I’m not involved in a critique group, but I have writer friends with whom I swap chapters and manuscripts. My main critique partner is my husband, who will discuss a plot point, chapter, or even sentence or word with me in depth because he’s stuck with me 😉

JR: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received and is there any advice you can give to writers looking to break in?

GC: The best advice I’ve gotten is “Eyes on your own paper” and related to that, the best advice I can give is to write the story that only you can write. While getting feedback is important, no one knows your story like you do, so listen to your gut. It took me some time before I stopped writing for others and just wrote what I felt was honest and true. That was a pivotal moment in my ongoing writing journey.

 

JR: What are you working on next?

GC: My second book, Misaligned, will be coming out with Simon Pulse in fall 2019. The book follows a teen outcast who is swept up in a forbidden romance and down a rabbit hole of dark family secrets when another Asian family moves to her small, predominantly-white Midwestern town.

JR: Is there anything that else you want to share with our readers or perhaps tell them how they can follow you on social media?

GC: You can find me on Twitter and Instagram under the handle @gloriacchao (don’t forget the extra c!). You can also find me on my website at gloriachao.wordpress.com (and I have lots of writing resources there if you’re looking for tips!).

 

JR: Before we go, I always like to ask, who’s your favorite member of The Tuesdays? And really, I don’t care who you choose. I mean, I hope you pick me, but if you avoid the question, I’ll think it’s probably Faran, and I don’t know if I can deal with that. So, who is it?

 

GC: I plead the fifth 😉

 

JR: Sigh . . . okay. Anyway, thanks again to Gloria Chao, and race to your local bookstores now to buy American Panda!

 

 

Bio:

Gloria Chao is an MIT grad turned dentist turned writer. She currently lives in Chicago with her ever-supportive husband, for whom she became a nine-hole golfer (sometimes seven). She is always up for cooperative board games, Dance Dance Revolution, or soup dumplings. She was also once a black belt in kung-fu and a competitive dancer, but that side of her was drilled and suctioned out. American Panda is her debut novel, and Misaligned is forthcoming fall 2019.

Visit her tea-and-book-filled world at gloriachao.wordpress.com. Twitter: @gloriacchao. Instagram: @gloriacchao

 

American Panda Preorder Links:

 

IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes & NobleAmazon

 

American Panda Short Blurb:

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

 

Jonathan Rosen is a freelance writer who lives in sunny, South Florida with his family of five and rescue dog, Parker. Jonathan was born in New York and is of Mexican descent, though neither place has been really willing to accept responsibility. Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies is his debut novel.

Tuesday(book release day): Best Day of the Week

Book release days are always special. In the biz, we call them book birthdays. As authors we talk about them, post about them, worry about them for a year or more from the moment the ink dries on that much coveted book contract. No matter how many books you are lucky enough to publish over the years, the day each book comes out is its own special moment of oh hell yeah!

But debuts might be a tiny bit more special.

This week we have a few releases from debut authors that have caught our eye:

The first is a American Panda, a YA book from an MIT grad turned dentist turned author:

Gloria Chao

American Panda is an incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

If you’re in the mood for MG why not check out Payback on Popular Lane by:

Margaret Mincks

 

Margaret, second oldest of eight children, graduate of University of Virginia, and editor of a Spider, a children’t magazine, makes her MG debut with this book which is billed as: ABC’s Shark Tank meets The Terrible Two when a pair of sixth grade entrepreneurs compete to become top mogul on their block.

 

 

 

Our final new release for this Tuesday is The Unicorn Quest by Kamilla Benko:

Claire Martinson still worries about her older sister Sophie, who battled a mysterious illness last year. But things are back to normal as they move into Windermere Manor . . . until the sisters climb a strange ladder in a fireplace and enter the magical land of Arden.

There, they find a world in turmoil. The four guilds of magic no longer trust each other, the beloved unicorns have disappeared, and terrible wraiths roam freely. Scared, the girls return home. But when Sophie vanishes in the night, it will take all of Claire’s courage to climb back up the ladder, find her sister, and uncover the unicorns’ greatest secret.

See a little something you’d like to read? Have other new releases that you love? Comment below so we can all be in the know! 

 

Book Review: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

I love books that open my eyes, books that tell stories that are outside my experience, especially ones where the characters come to life on the page. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo is one of those books.

I knew when I purchased it that it was written by a transgender woman about a transgender teenage girl. That’s why I chose it. I wanted to better understand. And I’m happy to say that If I Was Your Girl did so much more than that.

Bouncing between Amanda Hardy’s pre-transition life and her post-transition life (where her body caught up to her reality), the story conjured in me an enormous sympathy. At one point, after taking her first hormone treatment, Amanda lets herself “dream of how good life could be every now and then.”

Every now and then?! How heartbreaking that a good life “every now and then” was the most she could hope for. I have no doubt that a lot of people—not just teens—can relate to that, even if they can’t relate to Amanda’s specific experiences.

So, yeah, I felt for Amanda, but I also sympathized with her parents. Their reactions and attitudes felt very real to me, and I understood the fear that influenced all their decisions. As Amanda’s father said to her, “Everything that made you happy, from the way you wanted to walk to the toys you wanted to the way you wanted to dress… it put you in danger.”

If I Was Your Girl is about a girl who doesn’t want to disappear anymore, who takes charge of her life and learns to love herself. That’s the kind of character journey that tugs at my heart and makes the story still resonate long after I’ve finished the book.

Themed Thursday: Our #OwnVoices Picks

The OwnVoices hashtag began last September when author Corinne Duyvis created it “to recommend kidlit about diverse characters written by authors from that same diverse group.” Since then, the label has evolved and now refers to any book written about diverse or marginalized characters by an author from that same diverse or marginalized group. And because all of us at Tuesday Writers are avid readers, we wanted to recommend some of our favorite #OwnVoices books. As always, we’d love to hear your picks as well.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: I love books that open my eyes, books that tell stories that are outside my experience, especially ones where the characters live and breathe on the page and live on long after I close the book. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo is one of those books. Written by a transgender woman about a transgender experience, If I Was Your Girl tells the story of Amanda Hardy as she tries to find herself and bounces between her pre-transition life and her post-transition life (where her body caught up to her reality). I really felt for this girl. And I highly recommend this book for anyone who’s looking—not only for a good story—but also for a story that resonates long after you finish it.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: Randi Pink’s novel Into White is a story borne out of her own life, growing up black in an all-white neighborhood. In the novel, main character LaToya prays to Jesus to be “anything but black.” One morning her prayer is granted. Her family can’t see the transformation, but she goes to school and tells the principal she’s an exchange student. Her long blonde hair and white skin seem to be the ingredients of popularity that’s evaded her. What Toya has to figure out is whether or not it’s worth it. You can see Randi’s Ted Talk here: Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone | Randi Pink | TEDxBirmingham. And you can find Randi’s website at The Basics.

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: There are thankfully a sea of #ownvoices books to choose from. The #ownvoices book I’d like to boost is Sarah Nicolas’s Keeping her Secret. Sarah is this awesome library event planner and all around bomb person. Plus her book is unputdownable. Note the tag line: “All is fair in summer camp prank wars…” You want to read that, don’t you? Go ahead. Order it. I’ll wait.

Faran Fagen

Faran: I’m a huge fan of Matt De La Pena’s books, and a big reason is his penchant for marginalized characters. Sticky in Ball Don’t Lie struggles in a foster home, and ace pitcher Danny Lopez is haunted by a broken home and his racial identity in Mexican Whiteboy. In I Will Save You, De La Pena takes on mental illness in a way that will blow you away. His portrayal of these characters is both eye-opening and riveting, and through their journey we are faced with the hard road they face to reach a sense of peace and balance among turmoil. You can follow De La Pena on Twitter: @mattdelapena

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: My favorite #OwnVoices author is Simone Kelly who wrote Like a Fly on the Wall. In the book, Moraccan-born Jacques Berradi has a unique gift as an intuitive counselor. Kylie Collins goes to see him for insight, and a blackout strikes Miami, forcing them to work together. Can Jacques’s intuition reveal the scandalous history of Kylie’s mother and father? Will Kylie’s newfound detective skills uncover evidence about the death of Jacques’s father? And will the chemistry that charges their friendship bubble over into something much, much hotter…?  By the way, Simone is a vivacious personal coach and can be reached at: @ownyourpower.