“But he read my astrolabe as fast as my father, which both impressed and scared me.” page 14
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.
Tom Doherty Associates, Tor, New York, 2015.
Adult sci-fi novella, 96 pages.
NOTE: This is the first book in the Binti trilogy.
Binti is one of the Himba people, noted for their mathematical ability, never leaving their homeland, and for the clay mixture that they use for their skin and hair. She is also the first Himba ever accepted into the home of galactic intellectualism, Oozma University, and she’s decided to attend.
This relatively short book covers only the journey, although she speaks about her home life and decision to apply, so we get a small taste of what her world was before this momentous journey.
If you have even the mildest interest in diverse speculative fiction, I’m sure you’ve already heard of Nnedi Okorafor. The Binti trilogy is especially well-known as it’s won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards. The paperback copy I picked up was the 17th printing of a book less than 4 years old. So between the critical acclaim and popular interest, you can probably guess this is a well liked book.
“He looked at the note. Writing it had taken an eternity, and by all rights the words should have transformed into poetry somehow.” p. 284
The Real Boy by Anne Ursu, illustrated by Erin McGuire.
Walden Pond Press Imprint, HarperCollins, New York, 2013.
MG fantasy, 341 pages.
Lexile: 730L .
AR Level: 4.9 (worth 10.0 points) .
Oscar is content to mix up packages, serve the most powerful magician in the Barrow, avoid the cruel apprentice, and ignore the existence of the city of Asteri and the wealthy patrons who come to seek the magic his master makes. His world is orderly and known, his thoughts consumed with plants and trees and cats. Until disaster strikes and upends his life.
“Each ball she threw into the pile further pounded into my head that my mother’s demands, her criticisms – they were because she wanted better for me. I tried not to think about the fact that she was so unhappy.” p. 96-97
American Panda by Gloria Chao.
Simon Pulse, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2018.
YA Contemporary, 310 pages.
Not yet leveled.
Mei Lu might be only 17, but she’s also a college freshman at MIT, as per her parents’ ambitious plans. And she’s the only hope for them to fulfill their legacy, since they cut off her older brother years ago. There’s just one problem: Mei loves to dance (no longer allowed since she doesn’t need it for college applications anymore) and is absolutely terrified of blood, guts, and germs.
This was a targetpick. I wasn’t intending to be trendy and pick it up on the release date, but apparently did so by accident. The publisher lists it as suitable for 12+, but it really occupies a middle ground between young adult and new adult fiction. Mei is still a teen just learning about the world, but the book is also about her gaining her independence and in many ways she’s very mature and responsible. Some books in a middle space like this are challenging for either group to read, but I think this one will appeal to both.
“Maybe the people in line behind us thought Dr. Street and I were mother and daughter having a serious conversation, because they left some space around us.” page 13
Gloria Rising by Ann Cameron, illustrated by Lis Toft.
Stepping Stones, Random House Children’s Books, 2002.
Realistic fiction, 98 pages.
Lexile: 640L .
AR Level: 3.9 (worth 1.0 points) .
NOTE: Technically part of the Julian/Huey/Gloria series, but works as a stand-alone.
Before the start of fourth grade, Gloria has an unexpected encounter with a celebrity astronaut who looks like her and answers all her questions about space! But at school, her teacher doesn’t believe she met Dr. Street, and worse, thinks she’s a troublemaker.
I got this book at the dollar store back when I first started reading diverse. That was part of the reason that I grabbed it, as was the cover. A young black girl in space with an onion? So many questions. I regret to inform you that this book is not science fiction (as the cover would indicate). However, it’s still worth reading!
“Yet here she was, three months later, with a full-fledged tumor. Either her doctors had missed it during her last exams – which seemed impossible – or it had grown at a terrifying rate.” page 17
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
Broadway Books, Crown Publishing Group, Penguin Random House, New York, 2010.
My edition 2011, some portions published as early as 2000.
Nonfiction, 381 pages including notes, index, and reading group guide.
Lexile: 1140L .
AR Level: 8.0 (worth 18.0 points) .
Henrietta Lacks had an usual type of cancer. Cells from this cancer were able to become the first immortal cell line and have been invaluable to many scientific discoveries and advancements in the past century. But Henrietta was also a working-class black woman whose family was not informed of the existence of this cell line, and who died misdiagnosed. This book manages to tell three stories: the story of Henrietta and the Lacks family, the story of her famous and scientifically important cells, and the story of the reporter’s own experiences interacting with the family.
The movie tie-in cover tricked me. I needed to grab a Target pick quickly, so I grabbed this book without realizing it was one I had flagged as do not purchase/obtain from friend or library. As you can tell, reading this book was something I was conflicted about, and after finishing it, I remain deeply conflicted and uncertain if I can recommend it (though I know a great deal more about the HeLa controversies than I did before reading this).
“Rishi had heard once you were attracted to someone, your brain could actually rewire itself and make you think all kinds of sucky things about them were perfect.” page 197
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon.
Simon Pulse, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2017.
YA romance, 378 pages.
Not yet leveled.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
Dimple is shocked when her parents are willing to pay for her to attend a special summer program for web developers – she could have sworn her mother didn’t understand that programming, not marriage, is her life passion. Rishi doesn’t mind attending the same camp – it’s not much of a detour for the chance to meet his future wife early – and he knows his family has found his perfect lifelong partner.
This book (and the other I preordered) arrived! Family obligations held me until 9 p.m., but then I was able to read and read. Because of the time constraints of the #AsianLitBingo challenge, this review is after only one reading, and I’m backdating it to post on the 30th, when I read this. If other things jump out at me, I’ll edit this post.
Edited to Add: Actually, Sinead’s review covers what I missed – some ableism, a hypocritical statement, the humor and inclusion of Hindi, etc.
“Mrs. Sikelo took me behind a curtain to a smaller room, where three floor-to-ceiling shelves were filled with books. It smelled sweet and musty, like nothing I’d ever encountered.” page 161
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.
William Morrow, HarperCollins, New York, 2009. My P.S. edition 2010.
New York Times Bestseller.
Lexile: 960L .
AR Level: 6.4 (worth 15.0 points) .
NOTE: There are three books with this title. This review is of the adult edition. There is also a picture book and a young reader’s edition chapter book.
William Kamkwamba had access to a small library and a scrapyard full of parts, and a dream – to ensure that his family would never starve again. Against all odds and despite ridicule, he built a windmill and brought electricity to his family’s rural Malawian home.
This book surprised me. I knew the basic premise – boy builds windmill with scrap parts to bring change to his village. But I didn’t realize that this was actually the story of Kamkwamba’s life, which starts long before windmills were even a gleam in his eye.