Las Musas are thrilled to host the exclusive first look at the cover of THE TRUTH IS, the second book by our very own musa, the acclaimed writer of THE DISTURBED GIRL'S DICTIONARY, NONIEQA RAMOS. It hits shelves September 3, 2019 by Lerner/Carolrhoda Lab. Check out the synopsis below, and keep scrolling to read an excerpt from the novel!
Cover Design by: Lindsey Owens • GIF Design by: Jose Padron
Fifteen-year-old Verdad doesn't think she has time for love. She's still struggling to process the recent death of her best friend, Blanca; dealing with the high expectations of her hardworking Puerto Rican mother and the absence of her remarried father; and keeping everyone at a distance. But when she meets Danny, a new guy at school--who happens to be trans--all bets are off. Verdad suddenly has to deal with her mother's disapproval of her relationship with Danny as well as her own prejudices and questions about her identity, and Danny himself, who is comfortable in his skin but keeping plenty of other secrets.
Read the dynamite first chapter of THE TRUTH IS:
The Book of Love is blaring on my alarm radio app and I know
to turn that shit off before my moms hears it. Once upon a
time in a land ten years from divorce court, my parents danced
to it at their wedding. They had met during study hall when
they realized they were the only ones studying, and the rest is
history. Now it’s all math: who owes what to whom, an endless
game of long division. I’m still playing the song though,
because I don’t get it.
Because seriously, who wrote the Book of Love? Who gets
to decide whom, and why, and when? I’m fifteen and I’m supposed
to fall in love like any minute now. It’s biology. My moms
is a nurse, so she knows this better than anyone.
I don’t know what scares me more, falling in love with
someone or my mother finding out.
The way I see it, love is just like your period. One day you’re
bleeding out of nowhere and it hurts, and that mess goes on for
mostly the rest of your life.
My best friend, Blanca, didn’t see it that way though. Blanca
had been waiting to fall in love her whole life. If you can call
fourteen years of living “whole.”
She always thought we’d get married at the same time in
Central Park. Honeymoon together in San Juan.
My moms flicks the lights that are already on. “¡Despierta,
levántate y brilla! Thank God for a new day. Wakey-wakey,”
she sings, opening and shutting my bedroom door fast.
I hurl my chancla at the door. Mornings to me are like holy
water to the devil.
Standing up, I trip over the baseball bat that my mother
has always insisted I keep by my bed. What can a bat do against
A holographic Jesus screensaver watches over me from
across the room. I gasp. “Ma! What the hell?”
“You toss and turn so much,” my moms shouts from the
kitchen, where the rich aroma of coffee calls my name. “He’s
protecting you from bad dreams.”
I scowl. Hurl my sheet over the computer, making Jesus a
ghost. Fling open the door. “So let me get this straight. Like
the white dude in the dress with the giant thorny bleeding heart
glowing out of his skin is going to get rid of my bad dreams?”
I know Mami is signing the cross: “Forgive her smart-ass
mouth, Lord. She gets it from her father.”
Anything that’s right with me comes from my mother’s
side, anything wrong from my dad’s.
I lock myself in my bathroom and shed my favorite vintage
West Side Story T-shirt that I will wear until it disintegrates.
Ah—cough, gag—she’s been burning incense again. Patchouli.
To protect me from bad spirits. With all this protection, I’ll be
lucky if I don’t die of asphyxiation before I leave the house.
Modern Christian music blares on the kitchen radio. Dudes
are full of uber emotion singing about Jesus. I wish I could feel
all pumped up like that about religion. But like how long has it
been since Jesus has been here? Two thousand years. I remember
waiting for my dad on the porch for hours when he didn’t
show up for a visit. Two thousand years is a long time to wait on
a porch. Yeah, I’m bitter a little bit.
When the water is steaming hot, I step into the shower
stall full of lotions and creams Mami stocks in here so I will
smell like the botanical gardens. Because all girls are supposed
to want to smell like flowers. Be a flower. It’s true I got stems.
Like my moms, I got the mile-long legs. She had to wear flats
around my dad so she didn’t tower over him. But just like stems,
I’m hairy. I don’t like sharp, stabby, prickly legs. Blanca’s legs
always felt like a cheese grater if it got cold. Mami keeps threatening
to wax me, por que we girls can take natural too far,
I lather up with my loofah, covering up the scar above my
knee with bubbles. I rub and rub, imagining the scar—the hole
torn in my leg and my life—has disappeared.
I step out of the shower into the mist. I love looking in the
mirror and seeing me in the clouds, immaterial. They don’t got
homework in the clouds, do they?
I picture my moms and me sitting on clouds after we both
die. “Pero, like, if you take one more class, you could be an
Once my hair—which Blanca used to call The Entity, like
she was one to talk—is braided to my satisfaction, I head to the
kitchen, where my moms is waiting for me with cafe con leche.
She likes to have a convo with me before she’s off to work. She
always sits straight, rigid, like a beautiful statue that survived
the volcano but got left alone in the ruins.
“Good morning, Verdad.”
I pull out my chair—across from Mami’s and next to the
place that’s been set for Abuelo for the past three years—and
collapse in it. “Couldn’t God put morning later in the day?” I
prop my head on my right hand and stir my coffee with my left.
“Did you get any sleep, mija?”
“Couple of hours. Did you get any sleep?”
“Verdad! This isn’t healthy for a young girl. You’re not
going to grow properly. You’re going to get acne.”
This from the woman who hasn’t slept since 2000, who
works at three different hospitals and builds Habitat for
Humanity houses in her so-called spare time. “Mom, this isn’t
healthy for a grown-ass woman. You’re going to start shrinking.
You’re going to get wrinkles.”
My moms stirs her coffee into a whirlpool that would suck
in the Titanic. “Verdad! Listen.” She grabs my hand and holds
me prisoner with her eyes. “A lot has happened. That we can’t
control. But what we can control is ourselves.”
That’s bullshit. I break free from her gaze and look away.
There are certain things you want to be true. My moms
wants it to be true that if you work your ass off, you’re gonna
have this great life. You’ll have the house, the car, the vacations. I
mean, I know I have it good. Mami is a nurse, but everyone in the
family calls her doc and hits her up for advice when they so much
as have a sniffle. She bought us a house and made sure I had my
own room and bathroom. We’re the ones the family descends on
for barbecues because we’re the only ones with a yard. We got a
car that runs most of the time. We got a YMCA membership. But
like what’s the point of a house if you’re never in it? A bed if you
never freakin sleep in it? My moms works 24/7 to keep us in the
house we’re in. The only place the damn car takes her is to work.
Mami sighs. She squeezes my hand and releases me. “You
know you need to play a sport . . .” I lift my eyebrows. This is
like telling an ostrich he should dance the tango.
“No no no!” she clarifies, images of me attempting volleyball
flashing across her eyes. “I mean you should . . . run. With
those long legs. You know, your dad used to run—”
“Used to?” He left us for another life. Got himself a new
house, a new wife, a stepdaughter. But most of the time it feels
like he’s still fleeing the scene of his earlier crimes. My dad’s
present does not have room for his past. I haven’t seen him
“Verdad! I’m just saying. You run after school. Do your
homework. That’ll get you tired. Get you to sleep.”
What my mother fails to comprehend is that I’m tired all
the time. Of everything. Tired isn’t the problem.
I nod. So she’ll stop talking and also because I’m falling
“Okay!” She slams her hands on the table.
My eyes pop open. I droop from one side to the other like
a rag doll.
“So I got to get to work. Give me the highlights from
She got no time for details. I don’t have any details anyway.
I don’t have no problems. I have no friends. Anymore. I don’t
want any. I have nothing to do except school and nowhere to
be except home. That’s fine with me. The real problem is my
moms will lecture me for the above lack of problems.
I shrug. “Violin practice was fine.” I have a school recital
tomorrow—my first without Blanca. “And yes, I aced my history
“Music to my ears!” My moms slaps the table again, making
the coffee cups dance.
“But I almost wish I hadn’t.”
“Well, this girl Nelly who’s in my class calls it the history
of propaganda. Yesterday she went off about how all we ever
learn about is Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Rattled off
a bunch of names of African Americans I never heard of.”
My moms walks her coffee cup to the sink and rinses it.
“What does this have to do with your grade?”
“Nothing? It’s just. I mean think about it. What about
us? All we ever learn about is Cesar Chavez. And no offense,
but . . .”
“We ain’t Mexican.”
“Word. There’s over a million Puerto Ricans in New York
alone, but they ain’t one single one who did anything worth
writing about in any textbook?”
“What about that Sonia Sotomayor?”
“That’s one, Ma. White people get a thousand. We get one?”
She turns, leans against the counter, and folds her arms.
“Well, after you get your college education you could rewrite
all the textbooks if you like. And if you took another class, you
could get to college faster. Today could be the day you change
everything. Make a decision to move in the right direction.”
“Right.” Rewrite history. If only.
I stand up and push my chair in, careful not to scrape
against the wood. My moms is super proud of taking out the
nasty linoleum and installing the wood herself.
“All I’m saying,” my moms says, grabbing my hand, “is
have a good day. Okay?”
“Okay.” I wash our mugs and set them in the dishwasher,
our industrial-sized drying rack. I tie up the bread and reach up
onto the fridge. Hurling the bread into the microwave on top,
I expertly catch the bag of chips that falls out and toss it into
my backpack. Time to catch the bus. On my way out the door,
my moms sticks a piece of buttered toast in my mouth. And
I head to school wishing I could go back in time, to this day
a year ago, before what happened—happened. Back to when
everything made sense. I made sense.
Raised in the Boogie Down Bronx, NoNieqa Ramos is an educator, literary activist, and writer of “intense” literature. She wrote the THE DISTURBED GIRL’S DICTIONARY, a 2018 New York Public Library Best Book for Teens, a 2019 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection, and a 2019 In the Margins Award Top Ten pick. THE TRUTH IS will be released September 3rd, 2019 and more to be announced! She believes Halloween is a lifestyle not a holiday, books are wings, and like Whitney said, the children are our future. www.NonieqaRamos.com
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