The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Diversity & Multicultural

Brown Is Beautiful by Supriya Kelkar

I love the beauty of Brown is Beautiful. A young Indian American girl walks through nature with her grandparents, celebrating all the beauty of things that are brown – leaves and bears and canyons. The book transitions to houses and families and babies, all brown and beautiful. This is a story of joy and celebration!

Brown Is Beautiful by Supriya Kelkar, (List Price: $18.99, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 9780374389529, October 2022)

Reviewed by Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

The Problem with the Other Side by Kwame Ivery

Uly and Sallie don’t let their differing races (or anything, for that matter) get in the way of their relationship. That is, until the school election rolls around and they find themselves working against each other to benefit their siblings’ opposing campaigns, one of which is built of a bigotry capable of tearing Uly and Sallie–and the entire school–apart. Ivery has managed to craft the perfect mix of funny humor and serious social justice in this engaging read. His entertaining writing style brings Uly and Sallie to life in their dual perspectives. If you’re looking for a lighthearted contemporary read which doesn’t fail to highlight the racial and social injustices that continue to plague our nation, look no further than The Problem With the Other Side.

The Problem with the Other Side by Kwame Ivery, (List Price: $10.99, Soho Teen, 9781641293549, August 2022)

Reviewed by Ethan, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

TJ Powar Has Something to Prove by Jesmeen Kaur Deo

Powerhouse debater and soccer star TJ is considered one of the most beautiful girls at her school. But when a meme starts circulating comparing her flawless beauty to her Sikh cousin’s natural hairiness, TJ decides to ditch her hair-removal routines to show herself and the world that it’s possible to be both hairy and beautiful. The world, though, seems determined to prove her wrong — except her debate rival Charlie, who doesn’t seem to care at all. A fun, flirty story that couches a cutting criticism of societal beauty standards, handled in a way that will win over readers regardless of personal opinions.

TJ Powar Has Something to Prove by Jesmeen Kaur Deo, (List Price: $17.99, Viking Books for Young Readers, 9780593403396, June 2022)

Reviewed by Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen

Filled with a neat balance of relatable humor and serious topics, You Truly Assumed is a memorable coming-of-age novel that touches on the struggles of three black, Muslim young women and their fight to create a safe space and a voice to be heard for people just like them. You Truly Assumed is the perfect novel for teens or young adults who feel they don’t have a voice in the face of prejudice and fear, as it features funny, relatable characters and the raw effects of real events.

You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen, (List Price: $18.99, Inkyard Press, 9781335418654,  February 2022)

Reviewed by Makayla Summers, Main Street Reads in Summerville, South Carolina

Abdul’s Story by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

This is a beautifully diverse book about Abdul finding his voice despite his learning challenges. Throughout the story Abdul doesn’t think he is a writer, but he knows he has stories to tell. Once he has a mentor he learns that everyone makes mistakes and the best stories come from what look like messes. In the end Abdul finds his voice and confidence in what once felt like an impossible task.

Abdul’s Story by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, (List Price: $17.99, Salaam Reads, Simon ∓ Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534462984,  March 2022)

Reviewed by Josie Greenwald, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

An Arrow to the Moon by Emily X.R. Pan

I picked up this book because 1. it has a full moon on the cover. I’m a complete sucker for a moon and as I have yet to be steered wrong by this, it will continue to be an indicator of a great story to me. And 2. I am adoring this retelling trend YA is on right now. Romeo and Juliet meets Chinese mythology had me swiftly plucking this from the arc box. Other favorite motifs include: unearthly fireflies, a mysterious and magical book, & unexplainable “natural” happenings. The romance between Luna and Hunter is so sweet and swoon-worthy and doesn’t veer outside the plot (which is a pet peeve of mine).The story takes place in the early 90s which I forget until someone mentions a windbreaker, lol. I learned SO MUCH about Chinese versus Taiwanese culture–I never knew there was/is an identity issue and found it fascinating as Pan expertly weaves it into the Romeo & Juliet narrative. And speaking of R&J, the closer I got to the ending, the more anxious I was about how close to the play Pan would go. No spoilers here, but the ending is chef’s kiss.

An Arrow to the Moon by Emily X.R. Pan, (List Price: $18.99, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 9780316464055,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

If the World Were 100 People by Jackie McCann

Really large numbers are difficult for us (including adults!) to understand, so I loved the way this book broke down statistics about the world as if it only had 100 people. The global village concept is really neat. Not only is this easier to visualize the differences and inequalities in our world, but it also makes the world seem a little less large, and a little bit more like a village.

If the World Were 100 People by Jackie McCann, (List Price: 17.99, Crown Books for Young Readers, 9780593310700, July 2021)

Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite by Zoraida Cordova, Natalie C. Parker

These stories are well-written, fresh, and compelling – they explore what it means to consider and consent to becoming a vampire; how human bodies, with all their imperfections and different abilities, are and aren’t changed by vampire magic; and how individual identity might be enhanced or overridden by the new identity of Vampire. I think the introduction says it best:

“Of the vampires in our collective imagination, which is admittedly Western-focused, nearly all resided in stories about power. Despite rampant queer subtext and outstanding nonwhite examples like Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories, the vampires were predominantly men, white, cisgender, straight, and able-bodied, and we were ready for stories that reimagined that default.”

This collection doesn’t seek to negate the appeal and influence of classic vampire stories – I think, instead, it reworks some of those ideas with sharper, more politically and socially aware eyes. And the book as a whole feels like the beloved creation of people who just love vampires – love the idea of them, love the lore, love the good and bad of them, the romantic and the frightening. To me, the sheer joy of everyone involved just shines through each page.

Vampires Never Get Old : Tales with Fresh Bite by Zoraida Cordova, Natalie C. Parker (List Price: $17.99, Imprint/Macmillan, 9781949199734, 9/22/2020)

Reviewed by Rachel Derise, Friendly City Books in Columbus, Mississippi

Lobizona by Romina Garber

Inspired by Argentinian myth, this coming-of-age tale is packed with magic, friendship, and adventure as Manu tries to find her place in a world where she has always felt unwanted only to stumble into a new one altogether. Intriguing from the very start, Garber writes a story comprised of lovable characters, relevant social commentary, and just enough mystery to always keep you guessing.

Lobizona by Romina Garber (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250239129, 8/4/2020)

Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

All of Us by Kathryn Erskine, Alexandra Boiger (Illus)

This book would make a great bedtime story! I loved the pictures and the simple message of appreciating everyone’s unique contribution to the world.

All of Us by Kathryn Erskine, Alexandra Boiger (Illus) (List Price: $17.99, Philomel Books, 9780593204696, 5/18/2021)

Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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