Uprooted by Naomi Novik – Ooh, this was so creative; I went around telling people about it for days. What great and unusual world-building/magic-building.
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Marvelous, thoughtful new book from Adichie; I found this one went a lot deeper than her “We Should All Be Feminists.” To me, “We Should All Be Feminists” felt like a 101 book, something to hand to someone who hasn’t thought at all about feminism and equality, whereas “Dear Ijeawele” is for someone who says, yes, everyone should be equal, now how do we do better at that?
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina – Excellent YA author at the intersection of coming of age/navigating cultural identities/confronting violence/having a romance (but that’s not at all the main plot)/also friendships, family, and a lot more. I need to read Meg Medina’s also-highly-recommended “Burn Baby Burn” posthaste. (Audiobook narrator of “Yaqui Delgado”: also excellent.)
The Best Man by Richard Peck – Auuuuuugh, so charming. Archer has four great role models in his life: his dad, uncle, grandfather and a student teacher. Archer is a good-hearted kid but not always quick on the uptake. Such as: “Our teacher read us ‘And Tango Makes Three’…which is how we found out about chinstrap penguins.” But once he finally figures out that one of the important men in his life is gay, Archer decides to play a role in making sure his latest relationship goes right.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson – Moving verse memoir from an important children’s/YA author about her own young childhood, especially the role of stories in her life.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston – I’m going to go ahead and call this book important, for the way it tells the story of a girl recovering from a sexual assault, her determination to chart her own course, make her own decisions, and define herself as more than a victim.
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West – Laugh-out-loud funny, hard-hitting and sometimes heartbreaking; part memoir and part social critique about misogyny, fat-shaming and the ways that people so often treat each other (read: treat women) abominably on the internet.
The Pickup by Nadine Gordimer – A quiet but thoughtful novel about how two people can be having the same conversation yet not talking about the same thing at all; at least, that was one way I read it.
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo – One of the few YA novels about a trans protagonist that’s actually written by a trans author, so I would recommend it for that alone – but also charming, sweet, overall very hopeful but also realistic about the obstacles trans kids face. Features an adorable romance, a supportive family and a main character who struggles but also gets the help she needs, so despite some melodrama and not-sugar-coated references to the bad stuff, I’d feel good about handing this to my students. Again, I listened to the audiobook of this and the narrator was particularly excellent.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeannette Winterson – Fascinating memoir that I don’t even know how to describe… An indescribably harsh childhood, an escape through books, a coming out… But all of it is told in such beautiful writing, and reflected on so thoughtfully that sometimes I had to stop and take in a paragraph for a while before I could go on.
UnSlut: A Diary and a Memoir by Emily Lindin – In sixth grade, Lindin was branded a “slut” because of one afternoon when she let her boyfriend put his hand down her pants. For the rest of middle school, everything she did – and everything that others did to her – was viewed through the lens that since she was “slut,” she must have been asking for it. Years later, Lindin found her middle school diaries and published this combination diary/memoir, with all the diary entries preserved as they were, but also annotated in the margins with the benefit of adult hindsight. It’s fascinating and very, very illuminating.