Moms in Movies

Celebrate this Mother’s Day with a movie from Davenport Public Library. In these movies, moms are the stars of the show, as they navigate their lives and relationships with their children. (Descriptions below provided by publishers.)

Days of the Bagnold Summer: Adapted from the graphic novel by Joff Winterhart, it is a tender, funny coming-of-age story about single parenting and heavy metal. Sue works in a library. Daniel eats chips and listens to Metallica. This was the summer Daniel was due to spend with his dad and his dad’s new wife in Florida. But when they cancel his trip at the last minute, Sue and Daniel suddenly face the prospect of six long weeks together. An epic war of wills ensues in the unassuming battleground of their suburban home as they each reckon with private tragedies and pursue their passions. Featuring original songs by Belle and Sebastian.

The Perfect Man: Every time Jean goes through a bad breakup, she moves her two daughters elsewhere. Determined to make a home in New York, their latest destination, eldest daughter Holly creates a fake online secret admirer for her mother, based on her friend’s uncle. But as the “romance” develops, Holly encounters obstacles as her mom falls for the lie. Meanwhile, Holly has found her own love interest this time around in her cute classmate Adam.

 

Snatched: Dumped by her boyfriend on the eve of their vacation, impetuous dreamer Emily Middleton persuades her cautious mother, Linda, to accompany her on an exotic getaway to South America. Polar opposites, Emily and Linda must soon work through their differences to escape from a wildly outrageous and dangerous jungle adventure.

 

Tully: When mother Marlo gives birth to her third baby, she wasn’t expecting to hire a nanny to help with the newborn. Her brother contracts the services of young Tully as a nanny on Marlo’s behalf, however. At first Marlo thinks of having a nanny as an unnecessary indulgence, but as the two women get to know each other better, they begin to form an unexpected bond, although their relationship is not always such smooth sailing.

 

Kidnap: A typical afternoon in the park turns into a nightmare for single mom Karla Dyson when her son suddenly disappears. Without a cell phone and knowing she has no time to wait for police help, Karla jumps in her own car and sets off in pursuit of the kidnappers. Karla will stop at nothing to recover her kidnapped son.

 

 

During the month of May, look for the “Movie Moms” display at the Eastern branch for more recommendations.

Parachute Kids by Betty C. Tang

Betty C. Tang’s latest middle grade graphic novel, Parachute Kids, is a mix of fiction and memoir, combining fiction, her family’s first experiences in America, as well as the stories she was told by fellow immigrants she has met. The Lin family’s story is not meant to represent the story of all parachute kids and their families, but is instead meant to introduce readers to the concept of parachute kids, to show their struggle, and to encourage people to share their own stories.

The Lin family is leaving Taiwan to visit the United States for vacation. They have big plans to travel California, hitting all the sites. Unbeknownst to the three Lin siblings, their parents are planning to leave them in the United States while they return to Taiwan. Their parents will return to Taiwan to work while the kids stay behind for better opportunities and schooling. When the parents announce their plans to the kids, big emotions come out: blame, anger, sadness, and more. Once the parents leave and the siblings are left on their own, they are forced to become resilient. They fight, struggle to maintain the household, and are unsure what to do. All they know is they need to stay under the radar since they are without parental guidance and are living as undocumented immigrants with expired visas.

I really enjoyed this book. The author uses different colors to show the change between languages throughout the book, which I appreciated. This book is written for a middle grade audience, but is accessible for adults as well. Tang explores the relationships between the siblings, allowing for growth and struggle to push through. Readers are also allowed a tiny glimpse into the parents’ lives, but this story predominantly takes place from the siblings’ points of view. Parachute Kids doesn’t end with all questions answered, instead leading towards realism with hope for the future. This isn’t the experience of every parachute kid, but there is something in this story to which everyone can relate.

The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris

Are you wanting to read something outside your comfort zone? Book clubs are an excellent way to expand your reading palette! Lucky for you, the Davenport Public Library has a wide number of different book clubs for you to join. My latest read, The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris, is the April selection for See YA, an adult book club that reads young adult titles.

The author includes a content warning on her website regarding the heavy topics covered in The Cost of Knowing. These topics include: racism, anxiety, depression, poverty, anti-Black violence, self-harm, parental & sibling death, and mentions of slavery and police brutality. If any of these are triggering to you, feel free to scroll to the bottom of this blog post to learn what the next book is that See YA will be discussing. If you’ve decided to give this book a try, below is a brief description to tell you more.

Alex Rufus is trying. He has been through a lot in his sixteen years of life. Right now he’s juggling his job at the local ice cream shop, his relationship with his girlfriend Talia, and protecting his younger brother Isaiah. In his quest to be perfect in all aspects of his life, Alex finds himself struggling, falling short of almost everyone’s expectations of him.

One major hindrance is that Alex can see the future. Every single time he touches an object or person, he is thrust into a vision of that thing. He sees the future of his car, his hoodie, the ice cream scoop he uses at work, and his future with Talia. That one freaks him out the most. In his vision of Talia, they are on the verge of breaking up with her looking at him with the most hatred in her eyes that he has ever seen. Alex spends his time cursing these visions, wishing that they would stop distracting him so that he could live an anxious-free ordinary life.

Alex’s desire to get rid of these visions increases when touching a photograph calls forth a vision of his younger brother Isaiah’s fast approaching death. Everything changes. Alex is desperate to find a way to break himself from these visions and change the future. Wanting more time with Isaiah, time that he knows he won’t get, he reaches out, bringing up memories of the past while looking for more ways of connection. Growing up as young Black men in America, Alex and Isaiah have had to wrestle with their pasts and their futures, but with such a short amount of time left, Alex is willing to try anything to win this battle against time and death.

This title is also available as a CD audiobook.

See YA (2024)

Join the adult book club with a teen book twist. See why so many teen books are being turned into movies and are taking over the bestseller lists. Registration is not required. Books are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Eastern Branch. The club meets the first Wednesday of the month at the Eastern Branch at 6:30pm. You can find more information about See YA by visiting LibCal, our online event calendar.

If you’re interested in joining See YA, we will be meeting Wednesday, April 3rd at 6:30pm at the Davenport Public Library | Eastern Avenue Branch to discuss The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris.

April 3: The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris
May 1: Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
June 5: The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

At Least You Have Your Health by Madi Sinha

In “At Least You Have Your Health” by Madi Sinha, Dr. Maya Rao is a gynecologist who isn’t completely satisfied with her situation but is working hard to set a foundation to move her career and her family forward. She writes a grant to host community outreach classes about women’s health. It gets rejected. She enrolls her 9-year-old in the best Philadelphia-area private school. Her daughter isn’t fitting in.

The day the grant is rejected, Maya blows up at a patient, who also happens to be the wife of the hospital’s new CFO. Her job at the hospital clinic is over. As luck would have it, another parent at the private school, Amelia DeGilles, offers Maya a job, almost on the spot, with a concierge wellness clinic she runs.

Maya begins making house calls to the wealthiest and most private women in the community. The lines between patient and client become blurred as Maya balances professional ethics with the demands of the clinic’s clients. Some of them insist on healing crystals instead of proven medical treatment. Others reject prescriptions and ultrasounds, in favor of vitamin supplements and good vibes.

As the child of immigrants, Maya has grown up with the expectation of that she must never stop working until she is the best. She is at a point in her life where she is trying to reconcile those expectations with her own desires. She is troubled to find her own desires may align. She has worked hard, why not want a better house, private school for her kids, and a car without a broken side mirror? Maya is flawed but relatable, trying to balance family and work, expectations and reality.

Easy to label as the villain, Amelia DeGilles is written with nuance and compassion. Her personal history of misdiagnosis explains her desire to empower woman to make their own medical decisions at her wellness clinic. It is easy to see why Maya and Amelia are drawn together into a fast friendship and business partnership.

Even though he was supposed to be an easy-going academic, Maya’s husband, Dean, did not appeal to me at all. They never have a conversation about him taking on any parenting duties. He doesn’t do kid drop-offs or pickups and whines the one time he has to take an afternoon off his work to attend to the kids. Maya subscribes to a meal kit service; Dean complains that no one eats the healthier food. Maya wants to switch the kid’s violin instructor; Dean says it’s too expensive. Dean doesn’t do anything but criticize Maya’s desire of upward mobility. Perhaps he’s supposed to be the voice of reason, but he comes across as dismissive. It’s easy to think, “We’ll be fine, stop worrying,” when your spouse is taking care of all the logistics of running a home and family, besides her own — more lucrative — career.

Overall, I thought “At Least You Have Your Health” was a face-paced, entertaining novel. There are nudges of the book that deal with classism, racism, and medical care access that give the story some weight. I loved the fluffier interactions between Maya and her entitled patients / clients. I found myself rooting for Maya, her career, and her kids. Even though she stumbled, she finds her way again.

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen

I’m a sucker for an intriguing cover and offbeat book description. When I saw the cover of The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy on the new shelves at the library, it was like it called to me. Add in one of the review quotes and I was done for: “A uniquely charming mixture of whimsy and the macabre that completely won me over. If you ever wished for an adult romance that felt like Howl’s Moving Castle, THIS IS THAT BOOK.” —Helen Hoang, author of The Kiss QuotientWhimsy AND macabre?! Done. Let’s talk about this utter delight of a book.

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is the first book in the Hart and Mercy series by Megan Bannen. Hart is a marshal who patrols alone in Tanria, on the lookout for bodies gone astray. It’s a lonely job that leaves him with ample time to think. Mercy has been keeping her family’s business, Birdsall & Son Undertakers, alive by herself for years, waiting for the day her younger brother comes home from school to help out.

From the very first time Mercy and Hart met, it was like mixing oil and water. When he drops off bodies, it always seems to be when Mercy is at the end of her rope. The two push each others’ annoyance buttons just right, leaving them both cranky and exasperated after every encounter. After his last drop-off, Hart is so frustrated that he writes an anonymous letter and sends it out in the universe addressed to “A Friend”. Not expecting a reply, he’s surprised when he actually gets a response. The two begin writing back and forth, finding comfort in being able to share their secrets to each other.

The secret? Hart is sharing his secrets with Mercy, the person he hates the most. The two grow closer the longer they write to each other. This tentative friendship can only last for so long. As chaos starts to erupt in Tanria and their small town, their relationship deepens. How will the two react when their identities are revealed?

The only reason why I give this book four stars instead of five is that I wanted more world building. The explanations of the world were there, but they took place in large chunks that were difficult to follow (this might also be due to the fact that I listened to an audiobook version and had to rewind multiple times to make sure I understood). Regardless, I still loved this book. The characters were adorable and cranky, the family dynamics were realistic, and the twists were devastating. It’s full of magic and demigods and culinary masterpieces and small-town drama. I remain hopeful that the next book in the series will be just as good.

Hart and Mercy series

  1. The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy (2022)
  2. The Undermining of Twyla and Frank (2024)

What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie

What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie may be a juvenile fiction book, but parts still left me scared, checking my back seat for ghosts, my basement for shadows, and jumping at noises. Did that stop me from reading? No way!

Ginny Anderson has her summer all figured out. She will be spending time with her best friend at a mystery writing workshop. The kink to her plan: her dad. He works as a restoration expert in Chicago, traveling and restoring old buildings. He has surprised the family with a month-long trip to Michigan where they will be staying at Woodmoor Manor, a twenty-six room mansion surrounded by a dense forest.

In case being separated from her best friend isn’t bad enough, the grounds and the mansion are supposedly haunted! It’s not just a falling apart mansion determined to ruin this vacation – it’s the rumors swirling around town. The locals are leery of Woodmoor Manor. They believe that the surrounding woods are home to mutated creatures with glowing eyes. Locals say that many campers set foot in the woods, disappearing, never to be seen again. Great place to vacation, right?

The forest around Woodmoor Manor can’t be the only reason that locals want to tear the mansion to the ground though. From the moment Ginny sets foot inside, weird things start happening. The mansion seems to have a life of its own. Creaky floors, unexplained shadows, ticking clocks, power surges, and much more increase in frequency the longer they stay. Wanting to head back to Chicago as quickly as possible, Ginny seeks to learn the history of Woodmoor Manor and the surrounding areas with the help of her brother and a new friend. What they discover is certainly not what they expected.

If you’re looking for a spooky mystery book with a strong female protagonist, this is for you. Currie has crafted a story that won’t leave readers scared, perfect for juvenile fiction! This book ends with all the creepy elements tied up neat and tidy. Readers will also explore strong themes of family, bravery, and friendship – essential topics for readers of all ages.

This title is also available as a CD audiobook.

We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

“Because the world doesn’t care how much pain you are in, or what terrible thing has happened to you. It continues. Morning comes, whether you want it to or not.”
― Jenny Torres Sanchez, We Are Not From Here

I haven’t read a quote that epitomizes a book quite as well as the above quote does for Jenny Torres Sanchez’s newest young adult fiction title, We Are Not From Here. Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña don’t have much, but they have each other. The small town where they have grown up isn’t the best town, but they know what they are up against. When danger comes at the three, alone they are lost, but together they realize that the only option they have left is to run. The threats come right to their doors leaving them with no other option: they have to leave their families and their country. In a desperate bid to survive, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña cross from Guatemala through Mexico along the route of La Bestia, surfing atop this deadly freight train that will deliver them to the United States if they are lucky enough to stay alive. All they have are each other, the bags on their backs, and the need to have a better life. Outrunning the darkness chasing them will be the hardest thing these three do in their lives.

This book is a painfully relevant and devastating read. It shook me to the core, yet had me unable to put the book down. Jenny Torres Sanchez discusses the lives of migrants at the United States southern border with vivid realism, not shying away from the devastating and deadly realities that many immigrant families face. She is brutally honest while telling this incredibly timely story.

This title is also available as a CD Audiobook and in Spanish.

Want to talk about We Are Not From Here with others? Join See YA! See YA is our adult book club with a teen book twist. See why so many teen books are being turned into movies and are taking over the best seller lists. Registration is not required. Books are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Eastern Avenue library. We meet the first Wednesday of the month at Eastern at 6:30pm.  Our next four months of books are listed below:

March 6 – We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

April 3 – The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris

May 1 – Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

June 5 – The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

Multigenerational Family Dramas

November and December mean that the holidays have arrived! Families start gathering to celebrate, but these gatherings mean emotions can run high. Some instances can be fun while others can test your patience. If you need an escape from your family or enjoy multigenerational family stories, try out the following list of multigenerational novels.

Below I have gathered a list of multigenerational family dramas published in 2023 that are owned by the Davenport Public Library. This is by no means an extensive list, but instead ten I wanted to highlight that we haven’t talked about on the blog before. It was hard to narrow this list down to ten, so stay tuned for more multigenerational family recommendations in the future! All descriptions have been provided by the publishers or authors.

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Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo

From National Book Award-winning author Elizabeth Acevedo comes the story of one Dominican American family told through the voices of its women

Flor has a gift: she can predict, to the day, when someone will die. So when she decides she wants a living wake—a party to bring her family and community together to celebrate the long life she’s led—her sisters are surprised. Has Flor foreseen her own death, or someone else’s? Does she have other motives? She refuses to tell her sisters, Matilde, Pastora, and Camila.

But Flor isn’t the only person with secrets: her sisters are hiding things, too. And the next generation, cousins Ona and Yadi, face tumult of their own.

Spanning the three days prior to the wake, Family Lore traces the lives of each of the Marte women, weaving together past and present, Santo Domingo and New York City. Told with Elizabeth Acevedo’s inimitable and incandescent voice, this is an indelible portrait of sisters and cousins, aunts and nieces—one family’s journey through their history, helping them better navigate all that is to come. – HarperCollins

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Our Best Intentions by Vibhuti Jain

Babur “Bobby” Singh, Indian immigrant, single parent, and owner of a fledging rideshare business, remains ever hopeful about ascending the ladder of American success. He lives in an affluent suburb of New York with his introverted teenage daughter Angie.

During summer break, Angie is walking home after swimming at the high school pool when she finds Henry McCleary, a white classmate from a wealthy family, stabbed and bleeding on the football field. The police immediately focus their investigation on Chiara Thompkins, a runaway Black girl who disappears after the stabbing and—it’s later discovered—wasn’t properly enrolled in the public high school.

The incident sends shock waves through the community and reveals jarring truths about the lengths to which families will go to protect themselves.

A gripping story about privilege, race, family, and belonging, Our Best Intentions shows how drastically everything can change in a single moment and the rippling effects of the choices we make and the lies we tell. – HarperCollins

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Happiness Falls by Angie Kim

“We didn’t call the police right away.” Those are the electric first words of this extraordinary novel about a biracial Korean American family in Virginia whose lives are upended when their beloved father and husband goes missing.

Mia, the irreverent, hyperanalytical twenty-year-old daughter, has an explanation for everything—which is why she isn’t initially concerned when her father and younger brother Eugene don’t return from a walk in a nearby park. They must have lost their phone. Or stopped for an errand somewhere. But by the time Mia’s brother runs through the front door bloody and alone, it becomes clear that the father in this tight-knit family is missing and the only witness is Eugene, who has the rare genetic condition Angelman syndrome and cannot speak.

What follows is both a ticking-clock investigation into the whereabouts of a father and an emotionally rich portrait of a family whose most personal secrets just may be at the heart of his disappearance. Full of shocking twists and fascinating questions of love, language, and human connection, Happiness Falls is a mystery, a family drama, and a novel of profound philosophical inquiry. With all the powerful storytelling she brought to her award-winning debut, Miracle Creek, Angie Kim turns the missing-person story into something wholly original, creating an indelible tale of a family who must go to remarkable lengths to truly understand one another. – Penguin Random House

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The Bee Sting by Paul Murray

The Barnes family is in trouble. Dickie’s once-lucrative car business is going under—but Dickie is spending his days in the woods, building an apocalypse-proof bunker with a renegade handyman. His wife, Imelda, is selling off her jewelry on eBay and half-heartedly dodging the attention of fast-talking cattle farmer Big Mike, while their teenage daughter, Cass, formerly top of her class, seems determined to binge drink her way through her final exams. As for twelve-year-old PJ, he’s on the brink of running away.

If you wanted to change this story, how far back would you have to go? To the infamous bee sting that ruined Imelda’s wedding day? To the car crash one year before Cass was born? All the way back to Dickie at ten years old, standing in the summer garden with his father, learning how to be a real man?

The Bee Sting, Paul Murray’s exuberantly entertaining new novel, is a tour de force: a portrait of postcrash Ireland, a tragicomic family saga, and a dazzling story about the struggle to be good at the end of the world. – MacMillan Publishers

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Beyond That, The Sea by Laura Spence-Ash

As German bombs fall over London in 1940, working-class parents Millie and Reginald Thompson make an impossible choice: they decide to send their eleven-year-old daughter, Beatrix, to America. There, she’ll live with another family for the duration of the war, where they hope she’ll stay safe.

Scared and angry, feeling lonely and displaced, Bea arrives in Boston to meet the Gregorys. Mr. and Mrs. G, and their sons William and Gerald, fold Bea seamlessly into their world. She becomes part of this lively family, learning their ways and their stories, adjusting to their affluent lifestyle. Bea grows close to both boys, one older and one younger, and fills in the gap between them. Before long, before she even realizes it, life with the Gregorys feels more natural to her than the quiet, spare life with her own parents back in England.

As Bea comes into herself and relaxes into her new life—summers on the coast in Maine, new friends clamoring to hear about life across the sea—the girl she had been begins to fade away, until, abruptly, she is called home to London when the war ends.

Desperate as she is not to leave this life behind, Bea dutifully retraces her trip across the Atlantic back to her new, old world. As she returns to post-war London, the memory of her American family stays with her, never fully letting her go, and always pulling on her heart as she tries to move on and pursue love and a life of her own.

As we follow Bea over time, navigating between her two worlds, Beyond That, the Sea emerges as a beautifully written, absorbing novel, full of grace and heartache, forgiveness and understanding, loss and love. – MacMillan Publishers

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The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters

A four-year-old Mi’kmaq girl goes missing from the blueberry fields of Maine, sparking a mystery that will haunt the survivors, unravel a family, and remain unsolved for nearly fifty years

July 1962. A Mi’kmaq family from Nova Scotia arrives in Maine to pick blueberries for the summer. Weeks later, four-year-old Ruthie, the family’s youngest child, vanishes. She is last seen by her six-year-old brother, Joe, sitting on a favorite rock at the edge of a berry field. Joe will remain distraught by his sister’s disappearance for years to come.

In Maine, a young girl named Norma grows up as the only child of an affluent family. Her father is emotionally distant, her mother frustratingly overprotective. Norma is often troubled by recurring dreams and visions that seem more like memories than imagination. As she grows older, Norma slowly comes to realize there is something her parents aren’t telling her. Unwilling to abandon her intuition, she will spend decades trying to uncover this family secret.

For readers of The Vanishing Half and Woman of Light, this showstopping debut by a vibrant new voice in fiction is a riveting novel about the search for truth, the shadow of trauma, and the persistence of love across time. – Penguin Random House

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The Leftover Woman by Jean Kwok

Jasmine Yang arrives in New York City from her rural Chinese village without money or family support, fleeing a controlling husband, on a desperate search for the daughter who was taken from her at birth—another female casualty of China’s controversial One Child Policy. But with her husband on her trail, the clock is ticking, and she’s forced to make increasingly risky decisions if she ever hopes to be reunited with her daughter.

Meanwhile, publishing executive Rebecca Whitney seems to have it all: a prestigious family name and the wealth that comes with it, a high-powered career, a beautiful home, a handsome husband, and an adopted Chinese daughter she adores. She’s even hired a nanny to help her balance the demands of being a working wife and mother. But when an industry scandal threatens to jeopardize not only Rebecca’s job but her marriage, this perfect world begins to crumble and her role in her own family is called into question.

The Leftover Woman finds these two unforgettable women on a shocking collision course. Twisting and suspenseful and surprisingly poignant, it’s a profound exploration of identity and belonging, motherhood and family. It is a story of two women in a divided city—separated by severe economic and cultural differences yet bound by a deep emotional connection to a child. – HarperCollins

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Central Places by Delia Cai

A young woman’s past and present collide when she brings her white fiancé home to meet her Chinese immigrant parents in this vibrant debut from an exciting new voice in fiction.

Audrey Zhou left Hickory Grove, the tiny central Illinois town where she grew up, as soon as high school ended, and she never looked back. She moved to New York City and became the person she always wanted to be, complete with a high-paying, high-pressure job and a seemingly faultless fiancé. But if she and Manhattan-bred Ben are to build a life together, in the dream home his parents will surely pay for, Audrey can no longer hide him, or the person she’s become, from those she left behind.

But returning to Hickory Grove is . . . complicated. Audrey’s relationship with her parents has been soured by years of her mother’s astronomical expectations and slights. The friends she’s shirked for bigger dreams have stayed behind and started families. And then there’s Kyle, the easygoing stoner and her unrequited crush from high school that she finds herself drawn to again. Ben might be a perfect fit for New Audrey, but Kyle was always the only one who truly understood her growing up, and being around him again after all these years has Old Audrey bubbling up to the surface.

Over the course of one disastrous week, Audrey’s proximity to her family and to Kyle forces her to confront the past and reexamine her fraught connection to her roots before she undoes everything she’s worked toward and everything she’s imagined for herself. But is that life really the one she wants? – Penguin Random House

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The Chinese Groove by Kathryn Ma

Anne Tyler meets Jade Chang in this buoyant, good-hearted, and sharply written novel about a blithely optimistic immigrant with big dreams, dire prospects, and a fractured extended family in need of his help—even if they don’t know it yet

Eighteen-year-old Shelley, born into a much-despised branch of the Zheng family in Yunnan Province and living in the shadow of his widowed father’s grief, dreams of bigger things. Buoyed by an exuberant heart and his cousin Deng’s tall tales about the United States, Shelley heads to San Francisco to claim his destiny, confident that any hurdles will be easily overcome by the awesome powers of the “Chinese groove,” a belief in the unspoken bonds between countrymen that transcend time and borders.

Upon arrival, Shelley is dismayed to find that his “rich uncle” is in fact his unemployed second cousin once removed and that the grand guest room he’d envisioned is but a scratchy sofa. The indefinite stay he’d planned for? That has a firm two-week expiration date. Even worse, the loving family he hoped would embrace him is in shambles, shattered by a senseless tragedy that has cleaved the family in two. They want nothing to do with this youthful bounder who’s barged into their lives. Ever the optimist, Shelley concocts a plan to resuscitate his American dream by insinuating himself into the family. And, who knows, maybe he’ll even manage to bring them back together in the process. – Counterpoint Press

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Late Bloomers by Deepa Varadarajan

“I have a soft spot for underdogs. And late bloomers. You’ve told me a lot of things about yourself, so let me tell you something about me.”

After thirty-six years of a dutiful but unhappy arranged marriage, recently divorced Suresh and Lata Raman find themselves starting new paths in life. Suresh is trying to navigate the world of online dating on a website that caters to Indians and is striking out at every turn—until he meets a mysterious, devastatingly attractive younger woman who seems to be smitten with him. Lata is enjoying her newfound independence, but she’s caught off guard when a professor in his early sixties starts to flirt with her.

Meanwhile, Suresh and Lata’s daughter, Priya, thinks her father’s online pursuits are distasteful even as she embarks upon a clandestine affair of her own. And their son, Nikesh, pretends at a seemingly perfect marriage with his law-firm colleague and their young son, but hides the truth of what his relationship really entails. Over the course of three weeks in August, the whole family will uncover one another’s secrets, confront the limits of love and loyalty, and explore life’s second chances.

Charming, funny, and moving, Late Bloomers introduces a delightful new voice in fiction with the story of four individuals trying to understand how to be happy in their own lives—and as a family. – Penguin Random House

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Are there other multigenerational family dramas that you enjoy or want to read? Let us know in the comments!

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

‘I am learning how to be
sad
and happy
at the same time.’ – Jasmine Warga, Other Words for Home

Lately novels in verse have been popping up on the top of my to-read list. Novels in verse are stories that are written using poetry instead of the typical format of a novel (sentences, paragraphs, and chapters). These books don’t have to rhyme, although some do! If you’re looking for a quick read, give a novel in verse a try. My latest read was a novel in verse that hit me right in the feels: the Newberry Award Honor winner, Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga.

Jude and her family live in a beautiful seaside town in Syria. Her parents run a store, while her older brother attends school. When the war in Syria creeps closer to their home, her parents decide that it would be best for Jude and her mother to move to Cincinnati, Ohio to live with relatives. Jude is devastated. She doesn’t want to leave her older brother and father behind, but her parents have already decided they must leave.

When Jude and her mother land in Cincinnati, everything moves too fast and the world is too loud. Her family try to help the two assimilate, but Jude is at a loss. She used to watch old American movies with her brother and best friend, but those movies are nothing like the real America where she now lives. A big confusion for her: Americans need to label everything. Jude and her mother are suddenly ‘Middle Eastern’, something she has never been called before. Jude is incredibly observant, noticing the new opportunities available to her, the new ways people react to her, and the new friends she finds. Jude’s new life is full of so many surprises, both good and bad, but she is able to live up to her brother’s words to ‘be brave’.

This middle grade free verse novel was beautifully written. It is authentically written, descriptive, and thought provoking. Warga talks about many issues that immigrants face when they flee their unsafe homelands and then the issues that pop up once they land in a new place. There are themes of resilience, belonging, family, and identity. This is a story of one family’s transformation before and after the war began in Syria. Their lives will never be the same, but they have no choice.

This title is also available as CD audiobook, Playaway audiobook, and as a Libby eBook and Libby eAudiobook.

Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac

“No one should feel guilty about the past. Unless they’re not doing anything about the present. That’s what my grandparents say. Think about what we are doing now and how it will affect the world seven generations from today, and not just in the next election.” ― Joseph Bruchac, Rez Dogs

Joseph Bruchac has been one of my favorite authors ever since I read Code Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War Two when I was a teenager. When I learned that his novel in verse, Rez Dogs, was an Iowa Children’s Choice Award nominee for 2023-2024, I knew I needed to check that one out.

Rez Dogs is a middle grade novel in verse that tells the story of a twelve year old girl who learns about her Penacook heritage from her grandparents when they are sheltering in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

Malian’s weekend trip to visit her grandparents on a Wabanaki reservation is extended when the new virus that’s all over the news shuts down any travel. Malian’s parents are back in Boston, so they decide that she will stay with her grandparents until they can travel again. Malian is worried, but she knows what she needs to do: she will protect her grandparents just like they protect her. She spends these weeks listening and learning from her grandparents’ stories. Malian misses her parents, but knows she can video chat with them whenever they manage to get signal.

When she needs company, one of the dogs living on the rez shows up in her grandparents’ yard. They have stories to tell about him, given their instant knowledge that he will protect the family as well. Malian names him Malsum. The two become inseparable with Malsum guarding the house, yet being incredibly gentle and loving with the family. The foursome spend this sheltering time learning from each other and making sure their knowledge and history are passed down to people who can make a difference.

This book was more insightful than I thought it would be. There are so many stories shared throughout that I wish I would have written down all of them, so I could look them up later (I did start doing that about halfway through). Malian and her grandparents are keepers of history, just like the author. He highlights how Indigenous communities cared for each other in the past and today in this insightful novel set against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This title is also available as a Playaway audiobook, Libby eBook, and Libby eAudiobook.

“We need to be kind to each other and to all living things, make the circle strong for those who come after us. Instead of just standing up alone like those first stone people, we need to bend our knees and touch the earth.” ― Joseph Bruchac, Rez Dogs