Enhanced by rich backmatter, this is a strong addition to literature about slavery.

AFRICAN TOWN

A fictionalized account of the last slave ship to bring captives from Africa to the United States.

Despite the U.S. ban on the importation of enslaved labor, plantation owner Timothy Meaher bet that he could bring in a shipload of Africans. In 1860, a ship called the Clotilda, under the leadership of Capt. William Foster, sailed from Mobile, Alabama, to the kingdom of Dahomey. There, Foster purchased 110 people—including a 2-year-old girl—who had been captured by the king’s soldiers. Fourteen voices, including that of the ship, tell the tale of that journey across the Middle Passage and the years following their enslavement, first in the Alabama swamps, then on plantations, and finally in the free settlement of African Town (later renamed Africatown). The highly personal stories in verse reveal the different aspects of this illegal trade and the impact on both the Black enslaved people and the White crew members. Most well known is Kossola, who was long thought to be the last known survivor of the Atlantic slave trade. Latham and Waters use a different poetic form for each narrator, giving each a distinct personality. The Africans’ attempts to hold true to their home cultures and traditions—most were Yoruba—as they try to adapt to their new reality come across most powerfully.

Enhanced by rich backmatter, this is a strong addition to literature about slavery. (map, authors’ note, characters, Africatown today, timeline, glossary, poetry forms/styles, resources) (Verse novel. 12-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32288-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion.

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LONG WAY DOWN

After 15-year-old Will sees his older brother, Shawn, gunned down on the streets, he sets out to do the expected: the rules dictate no crying, no snitching, and revenge.

Though the African-American teen has never held one, Will leaves his apartment with his brother’s gun tucked in his waistband. As he travels down on the elevator, the door opens on certain floors, and Will is confronted with a different figure from his past, each a victim of gun violence, each important in his life. They also force Will to face the questions he has about his plan. As each “ghost” speaks, Will realizes how much of his own story has been unknown to him and how intricately woven they are. Told in free-verse poems, this is a raw, powerful, and emotional depiction of urban violence. The structure of the novel heightens the tension, as each stop of the elevator brings a new challenge until the narrative arrives at its taut, ambiguous ending. There is considerable symbolism, including the 15 bullets in the gun and the way the elevator rules parallel street rules. Reynolds masterfully weaves in textured glimpses of the supporting characters. Throughout, readers get a vivid picture of Will and the people in his life, all trying to cope with the circumstances of their environment while expressing the love, uncertainty, and hope that all humans share.

This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion. (Verse fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3825-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love.

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LAST NIGHT AT THE TELEGRAPH CLUB

Finally, the intersectional, lesbian, historical teen novel so many readers have been waiting for.

Lily Hu has spent all her life in San Francisco’s Chinatown, keeping mostly to her Chinese American community both in and out of school. As she makes her way through her teen years in the 1950s, she starts growing apart from her childhood friends as her passion for rockets and space exploration grows—along with her curiosity about a few blocks in the city that her parents have warned her to avoid. A budding relationship develops with her first White friend, Kathleen, and together they sneak out to the Telegraph Club lesbian bar, where they begin to explore their sexuality as well as their relationship to each other. Lo’s lovely, realistic, and queer-positive tale is a slow burn, following Lily’s own gradual realization of her sexuality while she learns how to code-switch between being ostensibly heterosexual Chinatown Lily and lesbian Telegraph Bar Lily. In this meticulously researched title, Lo skillfully layers rich details, such as how Lily has to deal with microaggressions from gay and straight women alike and how all of Chinatown has to be careful of the insidious threat of McCarthyism. Actual events, such as Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s 1943 visit to San Francisco, form a backdrop to this story of a journey toward finding one’s authentic self.

Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love. (author’s note) (Historical romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-55525-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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