The Library of Lost Things is out in the world! It’s a gorgeously written YA coming-of-age debut by Las Musas’ Cuban-American author Laura Taylor Namey.
“One reader said that it’s a story ‘about love.’ I think that’s the best description,” Taylor Namey said.
The novel follows the life of high school senior and bibliophile Darcy Wells, who has spent most of her life hiding in other people’s stories. Books are her way of coping with her mother’s hoarding disorder. Darcy finds refuge in her best friend Marisol Robles’ family. Marisol’s big, loving Cuban-Mexican family take in Darcy as one of their own. While Darcy is struggling to survive her mother’s mental illness, Asher Fleet, a former teen pilot with a shattered future, walks into the bookstore where she works and straight into her heart.
“The idea of Darcy came because I’ve always been a little like she is. I’ve used books as a stress reliever,” said Taylor Namey from her home in San Diego. “When my own happy endings weren’t so happy, I would live vicariously through the characters in the books I was reading.”
“For the premise of the book, I thought about someone who wasn’t just escaping in books, but hiding in them. What would that look like?”
We have been blessed with beautiful Musa covers this month and this one is no exception. So happy to share the cover for Chantel Acevedo's MUSE SQUAD: THE CASSANDRA CURSE coming in 7.7.2020!
More about MUSE SQUAD...
Callie Martinez-Silva didn’t mean to turn her best friend into a pop star. But when a simple
pep talk leads to miraculous results, Callie learns she’s the newest muse of epic poetry, one of
the nine muses of Greek mythology, tasked with protecting humanity’s fate in secret.
Whisked away to muse headquarters, she joins three recruits her age, who call themselves the
Muse Squad. Together, the junior muses use their magic to inspire and empower—not an easy
feat when you’re eleven and still figuring out the goddess within.
When their first assignment turns out to be Callie’s exceptionally nerdy classmate Maya
Rivero, the squad comes to Miami to stay with Callie and her Cuban family. There, they discover
that Maya doesn’t just need inspiration, she needs saving from vicious Sirens out to unleash a
curse that will corrupt her destiny.
As chaos erupts, will the Muse Squad be able to master their newfound powers in time to
thwart the Cassandra Curse . . . or will it undo them all?
MUSE SQUAD is forthcoming from Balzer + Bray in 7.7.2020!
We are so excited to host the cover reveal for Anika Fajardo's WHAT IF A FISH! Check out the gorgeous cover below (designed by Paola Escobar) and read a little more about Anika's middle grade debut!
About WHAT IF A FISH...
Half-Colombian Eddie Aguado has never really felt Colombian. Especially after Papa died. And since Mama keeps her memories of Papa locked up where Eddie can’t get to them, he only has Papa’s third-place fishing tournament medal to remember him by. He’ll have to figure out how to be more Colombian on his own.
As if by magic, the perfect opportunity arises. Eddie – who’s never left Minnesota – is invited to spend the summer in Colombia with his older half-brother. But as his adventure unfolds, he feels more and more like a fish out of water. Figuring out how to be a true Colombiano might be more difficult than he thought.
Whimsical and unflinchingly honest, What if a Fish is a generational story of family and identity where hats turn into leeches, ghosts blow kisses from lemon trees, and the things you find at the end of your fishing line might not be a fish at all.
What if a Fish is coming Summer 2020!
At least once a year, I come to Buenos Aires to spend time with family—usually in October, to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday (this year she turns 90—there will be dancing until seven in the morning!). It is a magical city full of secret hideaways—I love that you can step through a door and be transported into the Buenos Aires of the past. I like to roam the streets and linger over long dinners with the women in my family (my grandmother calls us the matriarcado). We will usually cook together at home, making empanadas, ñoquis, or milanesas together, but some days, we will go out for a very special treat… Shall we go?
With her street smarts and dance floor heart, Afro-Latina Beatriz will have you rooting for her from page one!
When we meet Beatriz, she’s simultaneously looking at a “wishmaker flower” and dodging bullets. That’s pretty much her life. Hope and violence entwined.
Beatriz is anchored by love for family, inspired by dancers on TV’s Fame, and stirred by music, but she’s also working out how to keep the cash flowing in the gang she joined at age twelve and how to follow in the footsteps of her big brother, who led the gang with distinction.
Her inner battle heats up when a clean-cut, book-smart kid flashes her a smile. ‘Hood-savy, she is; school-loving, she’s not. And yet these two young people have some things in common. Both have lived through adversity and violence. Both have a chance to make something of themselves. Both love to bust a move to the music of the day, which is the 1980’s.
In a world where her brother has been shot and her mother is slipping into a grief-inspired stupor, Beatriz finds the idea of romance both alluring and dangerous. How can she reveal her gang life to Mr. Straight-up Good Guy? How can she get involved with a guy who may have ties to the enemy? When they study together, Beatriz can be herself, but her ‘hood is part of herself, too. The fact is, she’s living in two worlds that must eventually collide.
With a dance mentor and contest that could put her in touch with her TV role model, Beatriz seems poised to break out of her old life, but her gang says, “Blood in, blood out.” Besides that, threats arrive in cryptic messages. Unfortunately, the past never stays past. It breaks into the present and threatens everything Beatriz is becoming. To become her best self, she’ll have to risk losing the only life she’s ever known.
With vivid scenes and page-turner tension, Tami Charles recreates the New Jersey of the 1980’s. She depicts the drug world without flinching, but also humanizes the people caught in its grip. The challenges of immigration, poverty, and gang violence are faced bravely by the characters here, and we find ourselves unable to judge anyone in a simplistic way. This is the strength of fiction, and Charles’s talent of portraying psychological depth leads the reader away from preconceived notions and toward an appreciation of the human struggle.
Though readers of Like Vanessa will recognize feisty Beatriz, this book stands alone. It stands, also, as a testament to the dignity and resilience so alive in this character. Treat yourself to this story of hard-won insights and embraced potential. The ending will make you want to dance!
By Rebecca Balcárcel
THE TRUTH IS by Nonieqa Ramos - A Novel About Learning & Unlearning - A conversation with book blogger Gabi Morataya
Today, it’s my pleasure to be in conversation with NoNieqa Ramos about her sophomore novel, The Truth Is. The author of The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary is back with an intense novel that explores identity, grief, prejudice, and so much more.
The Truth Is by NoNieqa Ramos stars Verdad, a fifteen-year-old girl with a lot on her plate. She lost her best friend in a very traumatic way and isn’t sure how to process it. She has a mother that loves her, but her love doesn’t come easy. Her father spends far more time with his step-daughter than he does with her. On top of it all, a new boy in school has caught her attention. A very cute trans boy.
An incident with a classmate and her relationship with Danny are catalysts for change in Verdad’s life. She begins to question everything she knows about herself and the world. She questions her sexuality, how she views gender, her Boricua identity, and all the beliefs that have been ingrained in her. The truth is, Verdad has a lot to figure out.
Thank you for speaking with me, NoNieqa. Without further ado, let’s get started!
There are many times in which Verdad puts her foot in her mouth, realizing she has a lot to learn about others. What do you want readers her age to take from these scenes?
We are living in a dystopia. Colonizers robbed indigenous people of this nation and now the forces of white supremacy cage them on the border. The school-to-prison pipeline is modern society’s underground plantation. Migrants are making our clothes, growing and packaging our food, but can’t afford clothes for their children or to put food on their own tables.
White supremacy is real, alive, healthy and has become socially acceptable. Racism, colorism, sexism, homophobia--the cockroaches that have been breeding under the wall--are now exposed to the light. I start out my novel with a shooting by a white supremacist to establish this as fact and reality from page 1. So why not just write a book about Verdad dealing with white supremacy? I do. Verdad’s grief over her loss of culture and language are a direct result of assimilation, colonization, and white supremacy. So are Verdad’s biases--and her mom’s.
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine - The Moulite sisters sit down with Tami Charles to talk about their much anticipated debut
It’s one thing to be a part of Las Musas, it reaches next level, however, when you finally get to meet a fellow Musa. In my case, I was lucky enough to meet the wonderfully talented sister duo, Maika & Maritza Moulite at BEA/Book Con this past June. Brilliant, funny, gorgeous, I just knew that their debut YA, Dear Haiti, Love Alaine, was going to be something special!
About the book:
When a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended, shipped off to Haiti and writing the report of a lifetime…
What would a seventeen-year-old Haitian American from Miami with way too little life experience, have to say about anything?
Actually, a lot.
Thanks to “the incident”, Alaine spends the next two months in Haiti doing a “spring volunteer immersion project.” It’s definitely no vacation. Alaine toils away under the ever-watchful eyes of Tati Estelle and her mother, who is in hiding from her own, much more public incident.
All things considered, there are some pretty nice perks for Alaine…like flirting with Tati’s distractingly cute intern, getting actual face time with her mom and experiencing Haiti for the first time. She even explores her family’s history—which happens to be loaded with betrayals, superstitions and possibly even a family curse.
You know, typical drama. But it’s nothing Alaine can’t handle.
And now, on to the questions!
What inspired you to write this book?
Growing up, our parents were typical strict Haitian parents. All we knew were the three L’s: lekol, legiz, lakay (school, church, home). But they took it one step further and didn’t let us watch television during the weekdays either. The only way that we knew to entertain ourselves was by going to the library every weekend and checking out a ton of books. We read so many amazing stories but none of them had characters who looked like us or had some of our shared experiences. So one day we thought: what if we wrote a book ourselves? And that’s how Dear Haiti, Love Alaine came to be!
Summer’s coming to a close and what better way to keep it going than with a good book? Introducing our next Musa on the blog, Emma Otheguy, with her middle grade debut, SILVER MEADOWS SUMMER.
About the book:
When Papi loses his job, eleven-year-old Carolina's summer seems ruined. Now, she and her family have to move from Puerto Rico to her Tía Cuca and Uncle Porter's house in upstate New York. Carolina attends Silver Meadows camp, where her bossy cousin Gabriela is queen of the social scene.
But it isn’t all that bad—Carolina meets a friend, Jennifer, who loves art just as much as she does. Carolina gets a welcome surprise when she stumbles upon an abandoned cottage in the woods near camp. And for Carolina, it’s the perfect getaway to make art. With Jennifer by her side, Carolina begins to reclaim the parts of the life she loved in Puerto Rico, forgetting about how her relationship with Mami has changed and how distant Papi has grown.
But when the future of Silver Meadows and the cottage is thrown into jeopardy, Carolina and--to everyone's surprise--Gabriela come up with a plan to save them. Will it work?
Poetry plays a part in Silver Meadows Summer. Who are some poets you believe children should be acquainted with?
There are three poems at the heart of Silver Meadows Summer, each one exploring the theme of finding one’s path: “Que descansada vida” by Fray Luis de León, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, and “Caminante, no hay camino” by Antonio Machado. These poems offer diverging guidance about how to understand life’s journey, and each perspective is important to consider. My family, like many families of immigrants I think, leaned into the philosophy of Antonio Machado, which says “Caminante no hay camino, se hace camino al andar”--Traveler there is no path, you make your path by walking.
How can educators help displaced students like Carolina feel welcome in school?
Serious challenges come with moving to a new place, particularly to a new cultural context. But I have been inspired during school visits to realize how many kids identify with the experience of being new and therefore empathize with Carolina. And once I tell talk about the Latino experience in the United States and some of the obstacles Carolina faces, that empathy and identification grows. Children tend toward sympathy and solidarity if we support that perspective.
How can art be healing for students like Carolina?
I don’t think of books, beautiful words, music, or visual and performing arts as optional. These are deeply held human needs. When Carolina finds a friend who understands her drive to create, Carolina is transformed. Making art with a friend helps her feel less alone and more confident. Art allows Carolina hold on to who she was before so that she can build up her new life without fear of forgetting where she came from. It allows Carolina to explore who she is on the inside.
What advice do you have for educators teaching poetry?
Teach poetry from different cultures and languages, and look for poetry all around you—in conversations overheard on the bus, in song lyrics, in bits of sportscasts. Poetry is everywhere if we pay attention. Different cultural traditions offer different perspectives on the pressing questions poets consider, like Frost and Machado—offer your students both.
What picture books could be paired with Silver Meadows Summer?
Either of the two picture books about Pura Belpré (The Storyteller’s Candle by Lucía González and Planting Stories by Anika Denise) would offer more context to the stories of the Cucaracha Martina that Carolina discusses in the book. Parrots over Puerto Rico by Susan Roth and Cindy Trumore explores the history and natural beauty of Puerto Rico that Carolina misses in the novel.
It's an honor to introduce to Las Musas blog readers the gifted Natasha Díaz, freelance writer, producer, and screenwriter. Natasha has been a quarterfinalist in the Austin Film Festival and a finalist for both the NALIP Diverse Women in Media Fellowship and the Sundance Episodic Story Lab. Her personal essays have been published in the Establishment and the Huffington Post. On August 22nd, Delacorte Press releases her debut young adult novel COLOR ME IN!
COLOR ME IN is a brave, poetic, engrossing coming-of-age and coming-to-wokeness story of 16-year-old Nevaeh Levitz who grew up in an affluent suburb in NYC disconnected to her biracial roots and unaware of her privilege. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom's family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time.
You Tweeted once that COLOR ME IN is your love letter to NYC. Can you discuss how your love of NY infuses the book?
Aside from being multiracial, Jewish, and a woman, being born and raised in New York City is the next most defining thing about me. I’m sure many people feel this way about the place(s) they grew up, but being a New Yorker is something I take serious pride in. Being raised here gave me a lot of independence at an early age, as well as a no-nonsense, tough exterior. I learned real quick how to watch out for myself and move through the world with confidence, or at least, enough feigned confidence that people believed me enough not to mess with me too much. A lot of the transitions Nevaeh goes through in the book are about coming into herself and finding her voice, so I tried to put her in the middle of very New York moments and experiences to help aid in that growth.
COLOR ME IN is not a memoir but the emotional depth of the novel feels very personal - how much did you draw from your own history and where did you draw the line?
The book is mostly fiction, but I did pull a handful of my own experiences that I included in Nevaeh’s story and I was also inspired by people in my own life as I crafted some of the characters. In the beginning, it was hard to allow myself to stray from what I had gone through because I was worried it would mean the book was not authentic, but in truth, I needed to separate what I had lived through and what makes a good and engaging story. I did my best to explain in my authors note what was real life and what was fiction to give a reader a sense of my own experience.
About The Other Half of Happy...
Twelve-year-old Quijana likes to say that she used to be Pangaea. Unsplit. Not half white or half Latina. But that was before her Guatemalan cousins moved to town. Before her dad seemed ashamed that she isn’t more in touch with her Latinx heritage. Before her parents planned a family trip to Guatemala where she’ll feel like a failure from first tortilla to last. Now her continents are splitting apart. With the help of two new friends and kid-powered ingenuity, Quijana makes a plan to ditch the trip. After all, she’s never been great at Spanish, and she never asked to be named after Don Quixote, Spain’s most famous loser. Will she find happiness by staying half?
In the beginning of Rebecca Balcárcel’s moving and heartfelt middle grade novel The Other Half of Happy, narrator Quijana Carrillo declares, “That’s what it’s like being twelve. Everything rolling toward you.”
And what’s rolling toward Quijana? A new school. A blossoming crush. A little brother whose behavior no one can explain. Expectations from her parents that Quijana feels she’ll never be able to meet.
Complicating these issues is Quijana’s bicultural identity. The daughter of an Anglo mother and Guatemalan father, she doesn’t speak Spanish and is embarrassed of her father’s accent. She doesn’t appreciate the intricately embroidered huipil her abuela sent her. She exists in the gray space deeply understood by children straddling two cultures. Children who want to fit in with their peers, want to please their parents, and want to understand themselves.
Children like me.
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