Cyn's Realistic YA Lit

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Hearts Unbroken (Candlewick, Oct. 2018)(ages 14-up).

When Louise Wolfe’s first real boyfriend mocks and disrespects Native people in front of her, she breaks things off immediately.

It’s her senior year, anyway, and she’d rather spend her time on her family and friends and working on the school newspaper.

The editors pair her up with Joey Kairouz, the ambitious new photojournalist, and in no time the paper’s staff find themselves with a major story to cover: the school music director’s inclusive approach to casting The Wizard of Oz has been provoking backlash in their mostly white, middle-class Kansas town.

From the newly formed “Parents Against Revisionist Theater” to anonymous threats, long-held prejudices are being laid bare and hostilities are spreading against teachers, parents, and students—especially the cast members at the center of the controversy, including Lou’s little brother, who’s playing the Tin Man.

As tensions heighten at school, so does a romance between Lou and Joey—but as she’s learned, “dating while Native” can be difficult. In trying to protect her own heart, will Lou break Joey’s?
★ "Absorbing....Blending teen romance with complex questions of identity, equality, and censorship, this is an excellent choice..." 
— School Library Journal, starred review
"Highly recommended! There's so much love and warmth and reality all through Hearts Unbroken.  And so much hope! And some absolutely terrific ground-breaking moves!" 
— Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature (read the whole review)
"This insightful, complex take on a difficult topic.... Even considering its seriousness, the novel is fun to read, with charming characters and a nicely balanced teen romance. Thought-provoking and engaging, Hearts Unbroken will leave its young adult audience with a great deal to consider." 
— The Foreword

"In a time when #ownvoices stories are rising in popularity among YA readers, this brings an insightful story to the conversation...this is truly a thought-provoking and educational novel." 
— Booklist

Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins and Listening Library, 2001)(ages 10-up). Note: available for unabridged audio download.

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The next day was my fourteenth birthday, and I'd never kissed a boy -- domestic style or French. Right then, I decided to get myself a teen life.

Cassidy Rain Berghoff didn't know that the very night she decided to get a life would be the night that Galen would lose his.

It's been six months since her best friend died, and up until now Rain has succeeded in shutting herself off from the world. But when controversy arises around her aunt Georgia's Indian Camp in their mostly white midwestern community, Rain decides to face the outside world again -- at least through the lens of her canera.

Hired by her town newspaper to photograph the campers, Rain soon finds that she has to decide how involved She wants to become in Indian Camp. Does she want to keep a professional distance from the intertribal community she belongs to? And just how willing is she to connect with the campers after her great loss?

In a voice that resonates with insight and humor, Cynthia Leitich Smith tells of heartbreak, recovery, and reclaiming one's place in the world.

Rain Is Not My Indian Name was an Oklahoma Book Award finalist and earned Cynthia the title of 2001 Writer of the Year from Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers.

The novel was featured at the National Book Festival. The audio production was aired as the November 2005 Book of the Month by Red Tales, Aboriginal Voices Radio, The Earth 106.5 (based in Canada).
“Tender, funny, and full of sharp wordplay, Smith’s first novel deals with a whole host of interconnecting issues, but the center is Rain herself. What’s amazing here is Rain’s insights into her own pain, and how cleanly she uses language to contain it.” 
— Kirkus Reviews 
“There is a surprising amount of humor in this tender novel. It is one of the best portrayals around of kids whose heritage is mixed but still very important in their lives. It’s Rain’s story and she cannot be reduced to simple labels. A wonderful novel of a present-day teen and her ‘patch-work tribe.'” 
— School Library Journal  
 “Smith deftly tackles such dominant society icons and artifacts as football mascots, fake dreamcatchers, Elvis, Anime, Pez, cigar-store Indians and Barbie, and places them in a contemporary Indian cultural context alongside fried bologna sandwiches, two-steps, and star quilts. There is Indian Humor that not everyone is going to “get” …no vision quests and no mixed-blood identity crises…we see Cassidy Rain, called ‘Rainy Day’ by her mom, as a smart teenager with an acerbic wit.” 
— Multicultural Review

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