Graphic Novels and Comic Books: Not just for kids

a selection of comic books and graphic novelsI am absolutely a book snob and years ago I might have told you that I didn’t consider comic books or graphic novels “real” books, but guess what: I was wrong (imagine that)! People who are visual learners often connect better with this artistic format; it’s been shown that graphic novels and comics increase reading comprehension and inspire creativity. It can also help boost reading confidence in reluctant readers. 

Now to get technical: what’s the difference between the two? Graphic novels contain a complete narrative, whereas a comic book is part of a larger, serialized story. 

And there is something for everyone of every age. Some of the most rich and complete stories I’ve read have come from graphic novels.  I asked the Books Forward team what comics or graphic novels they’ve enjoyed, and added my recommendations at the bottom. Happy reading!

Jennifer Vance, Publicist 

The Netflix series Kingdom is based off the comic The Kingdom of the Gods by In-Wa Youn, (illustrated by Kyung-Il Yang), and after quickly bingeing the seasons available for the show, I knew I had to check out the source material. While the book definitely differs from the show, it’s still amazing. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, and if you love horror and gore and action, you’ll love this. Oh, and spoiler alert: There’s a whole lotta zombies.

Angelle Barbarzon, Lead Publicist

American Elf by James Kochalka was my first introduction to autobiographical comics. For years, James Kochalka posted a daily comic on his website, typically one to four panels chronicling a snippet from his day like a diary entry. Some days, he shared completely mundane things like stargazing at night with his wife or his cat’s tendency to sleep on his pillow. But other days, he shared deeper glimpses into his life, like the day his first son was born. But that’s just life, right? A mix of ordinary and extraordinary. Sadly, after 14 years, the daily comics came to an end, but they were all compiled into books that you can buy and read over, and over, and over!

Blankets by Craig Thompson is one of those graphic novels that I recommend to people who think comics are limited to superheroes fighting crime or pun-filled newspaper strips. Everything about this book is beautiful — the writing, the illustrations, the stories, everything! Based on his own life, Craig Thompson intertwines stories of two young brothers growing up in snowy Wisconsin with a coming-of-age tale of love, loss and faith. There will always be a place for this book on my shelves!

Hannah Robertson, Publicist

The Gigantic Beard that was Evil has illustrations that are simple but striking, and its message is one I can get behind any day.

Everything about The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg is breathtaking. It made me think a lot about where we come from and where we’re going.

Jackie Karneth, Publicist 

As a fan of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s utopian/dystopian novel Herland and a lover of cheeky webcomics, Aminder Dhaliwal’s Woman World is the perfect mashup heaven made just for me. Have you ever imagined what the world would be like if men suddenly ceased to exist? (It’s okay, you can admit it). Well that’s the premise here, and you’ll get to dive right into the hilarious happenings of a diverse group of female characters as they each navigate life without men. 

Another webcomic-turned-book, Nimona by Noelle Stevenson is the story of a young shapeshifter who suddenly becomes the sidekick of supervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart. Nimona and Blackheart are on a mission to prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin isn’t really all that. And despite Blackheart’s tough exterior, he quickly warms up to Nimona as they begin wreaking havoc together. A funny, witty, and oh-so-smart story filled with magic, friendship, and lots of surprises, this is definitely a “I read this in one sitting” type of book.

Chelsea Apple, Content Creator

I really enjoy the online webcomic Lore Olympus. A version of the Hades and Persephone myth that mixes a modern retelling with a mythical reboot? Sign. Me. Up. The characters are well developed, the story is intriguing, and seriously look at this art

I also follow Let’s Play! When I first started this webcomic, I thought I knew where it was going: a nerdy (but clearly attractive) video game developer becomes next door neighbors with the hot video game reviewer who trashed her debut project. Perfect enemies-to-lovers territory, right? Turns out, I had no idea where this story was going, and I’m loving the fantastic character development, interesting relationships, and the surprising plot!  

Ellen Whitfield, Senior Publicist

My most recommended graphic novel is Check, Please! Ngozi Ukazu’s illustrations are a perfect fit for her story about an ice skater who got a hockey scholarship to a college in the midwest, and has to figure out how to navigate his new campus and coming out to his teammates. Oh and he’s a champion baker. You’ll fall in love immediately, and the good news is that volume 2 is even longer and cuter.

The first graphic novel I ever read (it was only last year!) was Kid Gloves, written and illustrated by Lucy Knisley. It covers her experience with fertility problems, conception, pregnancy and childbirth, and drops some serious knowledge along the way. 

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman took me right back to the uncertainties and hopes and worries and breathlessness of high school. Everyone deserves to be loved like Nick loves Charlie — the way they are together just makes me melt. 

I read Good Talk because of Lupita Reads, and was blown away by Mira Jacobs’s storytelling ability. Being a parent is hard enough, and the responsibilities that come with raising a Black or brown child in America are overwhelming. The author switches between stories from her early life to present day in this intimate memoir.

I have a tendency to look at first love through rose-colored glasses, but Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, reminded me that falling for someone as a teen can be as difficult as it is wonderful. It captures the highs and lows of that emotional time of life.

Some other graphic novels and comics on our TBR:

 

 

 

Top audiobooks to get you through your self-mandated isolation jogs

So you decided to take up jogging during quarantine so you could have some time outside the confines of your house? Great in theory. But now you’re outside in 100-degree heat, cursing the healthy part of you that insisted on getting Vitamin D instead of doing push-ups inside. 

Cue audiobooks. 

What better to distract you from the awkward way you hold your arms or that annoying bead of sweat dribbling between your eyebrows than an audiobook so amazing you forget you’re actually running (OK, probably not forget, but I can dream). 

Here’s a list of some of my favorite audiobooks that have gotten me through my own self-mandated isolation jogs during the pandemic:

“Such a Fun Age,” by Kiley Reid, narrated by Nicole Lewis

Fiction is difficult for me to listen to on audiobook. My mind wanders. I realize half a chapter in that I haven’t been paying close enough attention to the plot and I’ve missed something. But Reid’s book constantly held my attention from the first page (or if we’re talking audiobooks, the first second?). This is such a quick, compelling read that I was shocked when it was over. And maybe, just maybe, I’ve convinced myself to listen to more fiction on tape.

“Kitchen Confidential,” by Anthony Bourdain, narrated by the author

This is an audiobook I honestly find my self coming back to over and over again. I’ve always been a huge fan of Bourdain’s shows, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed getting a gritty inside look at the restaurant world through this book. Funny and honest and raw, this is definitely required reading for foodies everywhere.

“We’re Going to Need More Wine,” by Gabrielle Union, narrated by the author

Memoirs are great, and memoirs by celebs are just *chef’s kiss*. Union’s book has made me literally laugh out loud on the jogging trail, as well as completely stop me in my tracks. Her writing flows so easily and is so personable — it felt like I was listening to a friend tell me their life story. And did it inspire me to pour my own glass post-run? Perhaps…

“Calypso,” by David Sedaris, narrated by the author

This was my first Sedaris book, and something about listening to it at 1.5 speed while dodging ducks and small children on my run has me believing it’s the quintessential way to listen to him. Sedaris has a way of writing that is part standup, part extremely personal diary entries, and somehow it all works together. After finishing this one, I was clamoring to reserve his other audiobooks through my library.

“Becoming,” by Michelle Obama, narrated by the author

Obama’s book is loooong but also so worth it. Honestly, I could have listened to it even if it were 40 hours long. I would take an entire collegiate course on Michelle Obama if I could. Her storytelling is stunning and vulnerable and also incredibly powerful at the same time. I recommend this book to so many people, and I distinctly tell them to listen to the audiobook if they get a chance.

“Furiously Happy,” by Jenny Lawson, narrated by the author

Lawson is SO funny. I’m serious, like side-splitting, snorting laughing funny. With the way 2020 has gone, this is one of those books that’s great to tap into when I need reassurance that yeah, life may suck a bit — but laughing at yourself and the ridiculous situations you end up in makes it suck a bit less. Lawson’s sincerity and bluntness about mental illness is so refreshing. If you think you can’t sit back and laugh at your own depression or anxiety, think again.

To Promote or Not to Promote: The Pros and Cons of Facebook Advertising

Authors are always doing what they can to get their books in front of more people. But the real goal should be to get your book seen by the most people in your target audience. Number of eyes doesn’t mean anything if they are not likely to turn into sales.

That’s where targeted Facebook ads come into play. Advertising on social media is an extremely effective strategy for promoting your book or building up your social media accounts. As always with promotion strategies, there are pros and cons to Facebook advertising.

The Pros

  1. Targeting a Specific Audience: Blanket advertising is not always the best strategy when trying to get more people to purchase your book. You want there to be a larger click through rate on your ad, which is more prone to happen if the audience seeing the ad is interested. By using the data on Facebook, you can target people based on their interests, gender, age, and location. You can always change these parameters as well, depending on how well an ad is performing.
  2. Number of Users: You can reach so many people on Facebook. There are currently 2.7 billion users on the platform, so even with targeting you are reaching a wider audience than you would on other platforms.
  3. Different Ad Options: There are multiple types of ads that you can run depending on your goal. The ads fall under three different categories: awareness, consideration, and conversion. You can choose what you’re wanting to accomplish (more traffic to a website, more page likes, more sales, more brand awareness, etc.) and Facebook will run an ad tailored to that goal.
  4. Comparison Opportunities: Facebook allows you to run multiple ads at a time, which allows you to monitor which ads are performing better than others. They allow you to set up an ad with an A/B Test which means the same ad runs with two different ad sets (different target demographics/psychographics) so you can see which audience is responding more. This allows an efficient way to monitor who you should be targeting and can save you money by only spending money on the ad that is giving you the most engagement.
  5. Easy to Change: Facebook ads are also easy to tweak if needed. You can go in and change the target audience at any time. You aren’t locked in to the ad set you originally create. Having the ability to change demographics as well as the image/copy at any time is helpful in making sure you are getting the best results possible.

The Cons

  1. Costs: While you can set up a Facebook ad with any size budget, the bigger the budget the better an ad will perform. This doesn’t mean that your $5/day ad won’t generate more engagement, but if you want substantial numbers, it could become expensive. Also, if your targeting is off, it can be a lot of cost for not enough return.
  2. Limitations to Facebook: While you are reaching a wide amount of people, it is only Facebook users that you are reaching and a lot of people who have accounts have started to move on to other, more progressive social platforms. This fact could lead to lower numbers of engagement on your ads. But again, a lower percentage of 2.7 billion, is still a pretty large number.
  3. Diminished Organic Views: Only a small percentage of your customers will stumble onto your post organically since the Facebook algorithm limits brands visibility, so to reach more people you may have to boost your posts.

Marketing your book can definitely be overwhelming, and understanding your options is key. It is important to take all of these things into consideration before creating an ad, however the pros usually outweigh the cons when it comes to advertising your book or your brand as an author on Facebook.

How to make the most of the 2020 SIBA/NAIBA Trade Show

Books Forward is so excited for the SIBA/NAIBA Trade Show starting Sept. 21 — check out our exhibitor booth here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/books-forward/! This year’s trade show is going to look a little different from previous years: for the first time ever, SIBA and NAIBA have partnered up to host a virtual, five-day event. We can’t wait to join our favorite indie booksellers, publishers, and authors online for this one-of-a-kind experience — and we also know that new opportunities can create questions for our authors. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the trade show to help authors navigate this year’s especially unique event with ease!

What does the SIBA/NAIBA Trade Show look like?
Held Sept. 21-25, the trade show will consist of a series of Zoom events taking place across four different channels. It’s a joint event hosted between SIBA (the Southern Independent Booksellers Association) and NAIBA (the New Atlantic Booksellers Association), united under the name New Voices New Rooms. Booksellers will be eyeing new and upcoming book releases!

What does this year’s schedule look like?
You can find the trade show schedule here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/schedule/. It’s divided into four tracks: Education (panels, roundtables, and more for booksellers), Author Events, Publisher Events, and Networking. It’s interactive and searchable; you can add all events, or just individual events, to your personal calendar; you can subscribe to it; and you can easily share it on social media. You’ll also find all of the participating publishers tagged — just click on the publisher’s name to see all of the events that publisher is participating in.

This schedule is pretty extensive! How will I know what’s happening each day?
Not only is the schedule broken up by day, but the New Voices New Rooms blog will also have a rundown of each day’s events, and is a great hub for finding out info about the show: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/nvnr-news/. Their newsletter will also recap daily sessions and events, as will the SIBA and NAIBA newsletters, respectively.

How many people can attend the online trade show?
There is no attendance cap; there are more than 500 booksellers and other industry attendees registered right now.

Can I still arrange to be featured in an author event?
The Author Events schedule is full, but there are still some advertising options available to reach attendees via the email newsletter or trade show website, which is sure to have high traffic during that week! Find more info here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/sponsors/.

Do I have to register?
Anyone who is participating in the trade show (including exhibitors) or who wants to attend must register; you can do so here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/registration/. Registering gets you onto the list of people allowed into the Zoom rooms/events.

If my publisher/editor/representative got me scheduled to participate in a trade show author event, do I still have to register?
Anyone who is attending or participating in the trade show must be registered for the event; this is how you get on to the list of Zoom room attendees. However, it’s possible that SIBA/NAIBA registered you on behalf of your publisher/editor/representative; it’s best to check with your participating organization to make sure.

I am, or my publisher/representative is, participating in the trade show. How will ARCs/galleys/review copies of my book be available?
If an author is featured at an event, New Voices New Rooms will send a Google form to all session participants at the end of the event to incentivize people to sign up for copies; publishers will then receive a list with all the book requests. Exhibitors can also feature galley request forms on their pages in the Virtual Exhibitor Hall!

What is the Virtual Exhibitor Hall?
While we may miss the crowded and bustling exhibitor halls of previous years, New Voices New Rooms has created a really excellent Virtual Hall for Exhibitors, which you can peruse here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/virtual-exhibit-hall/. When you hover your cursor over each logo, the digital placard flips over to reveal a sentence or two about that exhibitor. Click on the logo to “enter” the exhibitor’s virtual booth, where you can learn more about their offerings and services, and even enter an online raffle! There’s also a searchable directory of exhibitors in the dropdown menu between the sponsor logos and exhibitor logos.

How do I know which booksellers are in attendance?
New Voices New Rooms has created a pretty awesome searchable list of all registered booksellers who will be in attendance — check it out here! https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/booksellers/

Will I be tagged on social media?
New Voices New Rooms is creating graphics and videos that can be shared on social media by publishers and exhibitors; each piece of content will include a list of participating authors’ social media handles so they can be easily tagged online. This is perfect for promoting and sharing specific authors and events!

Books & Binge: Nonfiction Addiction

The “real life” TV and nonfiction books we can’t get enough of

Like many of you, our to-watch lists have gotten pretty long this year. Whether you’re addicted to Netflix docuseries or you can’t get enough of A-lister dramas on Hulu and HBO, there’s no way to deny it: we are in a golden age of quality TV. But how do we stay on top of our to-read lists while indulging our streaming habits?

Welcome to Books & Binge, a blog series where we talk about what we’re watching and reading. After all, who doesn’t love a great reading and TV recommendation? This week we’re talking about our favorite nonfiction, so whether you’re a true crime junkie, a food documentary enthusiast, or a self-improvement seeker, we’ve got a book and a show recommendation for you — read on!

Jennifer Vance, Publicist
I’m one of those true crime junkies, so I was very happy when the book club I’m a part of took my suggestion to read I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. As a former journalist, I admired the way McNamara spent years investigating the Golden State Killer as an amateur detective, her dogged determination to find justice for his victims. The writing is simply beautiful, unlike typical true crime books, and is a must-read for anyone who considers themselves a fan of the genre.

Or, you can turn on the new HBO series of the same name! The six-episode docuseries is a short, but addicting, ride into one of the United States’ most infamous serial killers — and the woman who refused to forget about him or his victims.

Jackie Karneth, Publicist
Director Halina Dryschka’s documentary Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint wants you to forget everything you thought you knew about art history. Welcome to the dazzling world of forgotten artist Hilma af Klint, who began creating abstract art in 1906, before there was any terminology for the style – and before Wassily Kandinsky, who is universally credited as the first abstract painter, began creating his truly abstract works. “Beyond the Visible” reveals how patriarchal and capitalist influences have shaped art history, while at the same time honoring the life of a gifted painter and showcasing the greatest works of art you’ve never seen before.

For a great nonfiction read, I’d recommend Being Here is Everything: The Life of Paula Modersohn-Becker, by Marie Darrieussecq, translated by Penny Hueston. Darrieussecq’s small-but-mighty book imitates the life of its subject, the short-lived, yet prolific German expressionist painter, Paula Modersohn-Becker. A significant figure in modernism, Modersohn-Becker, when mentioned at all by scholars, is often drawn up as the friend of poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Yet, despite working alongside such names you already know — Picasso, Matisse — Modersohn-Becker remained, until now, an anonymous pioneer of early expressionism. Part feminist manifesto, part well-researched biography, Being Here is Everything is a luminous examination of the lone female artist.

Marissa Decuir, President
I just finished the period drama Pose, and it’s really sitting with me in a powerful way. An utterly fantastic visual display of New York’s underground ballroom culture — the clothes, the trophies, the VOGUING! — with a compelling cast which has inspired me like no other. It’s a true shame none of the women have been nominated for an Emmy.

I’m also diving into director and executive producer Janet Mock’s memoir Redefining Realness. “Femininity in general is seen as frivolous. People often say feminine people are doing “the most,” meaning that to don a dress, heels, lipstick and big hair is artifice, fake, and a distraction. But I knew even as a teenager that my femininity was more than just adornments, they were extensions of me, enabling me to express myself and my identity. My body, my clothes and my makeup are on purpose, just as I am on purpose.”

Ellen Whitfield, Senior Publicist
Years ago, I read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and absolutely fell in love. The star writes about his experiences in restaurant kitchens and the debauchery that takes place behind the scenes. I don’t remember why I initially picked it up, but it sparked a love of food memoirs and documentaries.

One of the most recent food documentaries I’ve enjoyed is Somebody Feed Phil on Netflix. Phil Rosenthal, whose producing credits include Everybody Loves Raymond, travels around the world and explores different cuisines. I love it because he’s not some famous chef or expert critic — he’s just a guy who really loves food and has a lot of enthusiasm for it!

Angelle Barbarzon, Lead Publicist
The last documentary series I binged was Wild Wild Country on Netflix, and it’s, well … wild! This six-part series follows the beginnings of a cult created by an Indian guru that later expanded to the U.S., building their own city in Oregon and causing an uproar among all the people who originally lived in the area. Wild Wild Country dives deep into the community’s beliefs, the abuse of power within its leadership and the complicated dynamics that led to the group’s evolution and the people who held the reigns behind the scenes. This series is so intriguing!

My recommended read would be Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, from Someone Who’s Been There by Tara Schuster. This book came into my life at exactly the right moment, a time when I felt like I needed to refocus and make some positive changes. Reading Tara Schuster’s book was like having a conversation with a good friend. It’s brimming with thoughtful advice for self care that you can easily put into practice. If you feel like your life is a bit (or 100%) messy, pick up this book!

Brittany Kennell, Digital Marketing Strategist
The last nonfiction book I really enjoyed was A House In The Sky by Amanda Lindhout. While traveling at a young age — Amanda set out to explore, photograph and journal countries most of us will never travel in our lifetimes, not even in a group. Yet she set out to take on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria *alone* (just to name a few) making friends along the way. On her fourth day in Somalia, Amanda and her friend Nigel are abducted and held for ransom by Islamist insurgents. I could not put this book down until I knew Amanda and her friend Nigel were home safe and free of being held captive. This book is survival, strength and bravery — Amanda’s story gave me a whole new perspective on life.

I’m a big fan of sports docuseries. I’m just finishing up The Last Dance, which is fantastic! I also loved watching Last Chance U and I think mainly because I love hearing different backgrounds and stories that fuel passion. I love rooting for the underdogs, and watching dreams come true.

What “true life” show do you want us to binge, and what nonfiction books do you recommend? Tell us Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and we’ll spotlight your suggestions in our next post!

Books Forward Welcomes SIBA / NAIBA Attendees to New Orleans

Bienvenue to all SIBA / NAIBA indie booksellers and other lovers of literature! At Books Forward, we are passionate about elevating important messages and stories from diverse voices, as well as championing independent bookstores. And we are so excited to extend our Southern hospitality to the attendees of 2020’s joint SIBA / NAIBA tradeshow! Welcome, y’all!

If you want to discover some incredible new authors, enjoy some fun NOLA swag, or receive a free consultation about boosting your social media presence, check out what we have in store for you this year. Connect with us during the conference by participating in a few of our offerings below: 

Visit our virtual booth in the exhibitor’s hall: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/books-forward/ 

Check out our booth and come meet the amazing Southern authors and books we’re representing this year! You may request galleys for any of our titles.

Ask us for a free social media consultation 

Are you a bookseller looking to boost your social media presence? Our digital marketing team will review your social media accounts and offer constructive feedback and advice for increasing your online engagement, hosting virtual events and bringing more patrons to your online store! Email us at info@booksforward.com to schedule your consult.

You may also be interested in scheduling some of our authors and leading experts for free (live or pre-recorded) virtual learning opportunities.

Learn New Orleans lingo 

Think you know how to say “Tchefuncte,” “Vieux Carre,” “Ouachita” and “Burgundy?” Think again! Let our New Orleans team teach you how to pronounce the trickier words you’ll see while virtually visiting the Big Easy, and we’ll have you speaking like a local in no time. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Pick up some fun swag 

We have a present for you! Check your conference box to snag your grab bag of NOLA flavor, including a snazzy sticker and (of course) a fun Mardi Gras bead courtesy of Books Forward! 

Meet our authors face-to-face

Our authors want to say a big “thank you!” to indies and share some cool news with you via video! Check out Big Freedia’s (New Orleans’ one and only Queen Diva and Bounce music icon) shout-out to indie booksellers, bestselling author Rea Frey talking about the importance of indie bookstores, bestselling author Jenny Milchman (known for what Shelf Awareness called the “World’s Longest Bookstore Tour”) reading from her newest thriller, and Washington Post journalist and Jeff Goldblum biographer Travis Andrews sharing some fascinating facts about “Jurassic Jeff”.

Join us on social media 

Be the first to enter our giveaways (often for indie bookstore gift cards, but also for other literary themed gifts!), get tagged in our shout-outs, chat with us online, and see our posts, streams, and stories during the tradeshow and beyond! Follow us on social media by clicking the links below: 

A sincere THANK YOU for all you do for the literary community. We’re sending a big virtual hug your way!

BFFs September 2020 Newsletter

Read the latest newsletter featuring our award winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming events and book releases!

Download the September 2020 newsletter here!

Bookstagrammers to follow for Latinx Heritage Month

Latinx Heritage Month runs Sept. 15-Oct. 15, and there are so many wonderful bookstagrammers who represent the different facets of Latinx identity. We put together a list of people to follow, and asked them to recommend a book that means something to them.

  1. Vero (@readingvero) recommends: Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo. “It shows the Dominican Republic and its culture in a beautiful way. It’s a beautiful story about love and sisterhood that readers of all ages can enjoy.”
  2. Candace (@ace.of.pages) recommends Everyone Knows You Go Home by Natalia Sylvester. “Told in dual timelines, it covers everything from immigration, family, marriage, and there’s even a bit of mystery and magical realism. Even though I read it two years ago, it’s a book I pick up and read passages from to this day.”
  3. Angie (@angiesreading) recommends: This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone “because I haven’t been able to shut up about it since I read it back when the pandemic first started. Following the lives of two badass agents on opposing sides of a time war, this story is told in the form of letters. It’s witty, romantic, and full of suspense (and time travel!) — I couldn’t help but inhale it in one sitting!”
  4. Melissa Veras (@melissaverasreads) recommends: The Murmur of the Bees by Sofía Segovia. “This is a beautiful and heartbreaking story about a child that is found abandoned covered in bees, and the family that takes him in. Set in Mexico during the Mexican Revolution and the influenza of 1918.”
  5. Andrea (@pagecactus) recommends: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika and Maritza Moulite. “Told in an epistolary format, this book explores the sometimes complicated relationships between not only mothers and their daughters but homelands and their people in the diaspora.” 
  6. Marian (@marianp.readsavidly) recommends: “Tomas Rivera’s classic Chicanx novella Y No Se Trago La Tierra/And the Earth Did Not Devour Him. The book is composed of short, semi-autobiographical chapters that recount the challenges faced by the young male protagonist in the 1940s who works as a migrant laborer.  Rivera was the product of migrant labor and he became a university professor and chancellor of UC Riverside, the first Chicanx to do so.The book is meaningful to me because my dad also worked in his youth as part of a migrant labor family and likewise became an educator and the first in his family to graduate from college. Rivera’s words are meaningful as they reflect the young boy’s determination: “All he told her was that the earth did not devour anyone, nor did the sun…‘Not yet, you can’t swallow me up yet.’” 
  7. Jessica (@armyofwords) recommends The Affairs of the Falcóns by Melissa Rivero. “A completely engrossing novel about an undocumented Peruvian immigrant in New York trying to survive circumstances and the people around her. It often felt like several swift punches to the gut to witness her journey, and yet I could not look away.”
  8. Ana (@readingwithana) recommends Sabrina & Corina: Stories by Kali Fajardo-Anstine. “This collection of short stories highlights the lives of various Latinx women of indigenous descent growing up in Colorado. Each story tackles issues such as motherhood, sisterhood, and generational trauma that many readers will be able to see themselves in the characters. Not to mention, Kali’s writing is breathtaking!”
  9. Lauren (@bylaurencapellan) recommends Let It Rain Coffee by Angie Cruz. “A lesser known book by Angie Cruz on bookstagram but definitely worth checking out. Let It Rain Coffee covers so much about Dominican culture, history, and identity politics while in the homeland and in the United States.”
  10. Lupita (@lupita.reads) recommends Fiebre Tropical by Juliana Delgado Lopera. “Unapologetically written in Spanglish, this novel is an ode to all of us bilingual children often forced to choose one language to dominate over the other. It’s an immigrant queer coming of age story of Francisca finding herself within the tangles of her fractured uber-religious family.  One of my favorite books of this year.” 
  11. Kas (@kasandbooks) recommends With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. “I usually read thrillers but the book I really love right now is With The Fire On High. Personally it was extremely relatable and it touched up on important topics. I truly enjoyed how Acevedo captured the Puerto Rican and Philadelphian culture. I highly recommend this book.”
  12. Jessica (@bohobookish) recommends Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Díaz. “Díaz’s poignant memoir reflects on her early life in Puerto Rico to her Miami Beach upbringing, all while dealing with an abusive mother, neglectful father, drugs, violence, and depression. Díaz struggled in life and she unfolds each moment on the pages and shows resiliency that inspires readers.”
  13. Emma (@bookish.em) recommends Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. “I was captivated by the cover and the book held my attention the entire way through. It was a new genre for me but I was so charmed by how beautifully (and authentically) culture and tradition were woven into the fantasy.”
  14. Marissa (@allegedlymari) recommends Paola Santiago and The River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia. “I don’t read a lot of middle grade stories, but this book has me wanting to read all of them now. Reading about La llorona, el chupacabras, and other mythical monsters I myself grew up hearing about felt like a warm cup of champurrado.”
  15. Mariana (@latinasleyendo) recommends The Book of Emma Reyes by Emma Reyes. “It is a Latin American classic and a lyrical portrait of an artist who conquers illiteracy, abandonment, and poverty and comes into her own as an artist and author. It is a powerful and underrated story and a must read for anyone looking for Latin American works in translation.”
  16. Neycha (@thesweetheartreader) also recommends Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. “It’s dark, suspenseful, and atmospheric and introduced me to one of my new favorite literary heroines!”
  17. Alejandra (@libros.con.coffee) recommends Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldúa. “This is my forever recommendation, especially to young Latinas! Using narrative, mythology, history, and poetry, Anzaldúa explores inhabiting intersecting identities and dualities—being Chicana, colonizer and colonized, indigenous and conqueror, being queer, speaking Spanglish, growing up on the border. It’s a groundbreaking classic that’s equally relevant today as it was nearly 35 years ago when it was written!”
  18. Debbie (@debbiesbooknook) recommends The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. “Every time I read or hear it, it evokes many emotions and memories of my childhood and (very) Dominican upbringing. Acevedo is a master of words and I am in awe of how her writing profoundly touches my soul. I’m grateful her books will be around for generations to come!”
  19. Nina (@literary.latina) recommends Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera. “The author tackles all kinds of important issues through Juliet’s experiences as a queer Puerto Rican woman coming to an understanding of herself and feminism. Each time I read Juliet, she is less of a character in a book and more of a real friend that I feel like I know deeply.”
  20. Andrea (@nastymuchachitareads) recommends Knitting the Fog by Claudia D. Hernández. “It is a bilingual memoir of poetry and prose by a Guatemalan writer recounting her childhood in her beloved homeland before migrating to the United States with her mother and sisters. I loved reading about her upbringing in Mayuelas and Tactic, where the setting is so central to the narrative; the generations of dynamic women who raised her; and her resettlement in Los Angeles.”
  21. Karen (@idleutopia_reads) recommends Peel My Love like an Onion by Ana Castillo. “It gave me my reflection. I remember reading this book and feeling so grateful that it existed. It felt like finding a little crook that fit perfectly and ensconced your thoughts, fears and doubts in a comforting way that made you feel safe.”

And of course I have some extra recommendations of books I’ve read and loved recently from Latinx authors if you’re still looking for more books! (Who isn’t?) 

  1. Running by Natalia Sylvester: Mari has no interest in politics, but her father’s running for president. She finds her voice and is forced to reckon with her father’s policies.
  2. American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera: Nesto is giving his Afro-Caribbean food truck business one final shot when he meets Jude, a quiet librarian, and sparks fly.
  3. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz: This is a YA book with as much emotional richness as any adult story. It’s about the early blossoming of a relationship between two loners.
  4. The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio: A stunningly intimate look at the lived of undocumented immigrants. The author is one of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard and incorporates pieces of her story into the narrative.
  5. Movies (and Other Things) by Shea Serrano, illustrated by Arturo Torres: One of my favorite people to follow on Twitter, Shea Serrano continues his “(and Other Things)” series by exploring the most random aspects of some great movies.

“Help Me Help You!” Tips for your family and friends who want to help your writing career

So many authors are reluctant to ask their family, friends and assorted contacts for help when they are promoting their book, but I always tell them to think of it from the opposite perspective. Wouldn’t you want to support a friend or loved one who had a new book coming out?

The thing is, most people don’t know exactly how to show that support, and they just need a little nudge in the right direction. So we put together a handy guide you can pass along when someone asks, “How can I help?”

Dear friends and family, here’s how you can help the authors in your life:

  1. Preorder a copy of their book — and not just for yourselves, but for others. Everybody’s getting a copy for Christmas! This is the most tangible way to help. For those who don’t have the financial means to order several books, there are a lot of other things that can help.
  2. Talk about the book on social media. Include links to the author’s website so people can order copies for themselves. Follow the author on their social media pages, and share their posts as appropriate to help drum up excitement.
  3. Rate and review the book on all platforms possible. Amazon doesn’t allow reviews before a book’s publication date, but Goodreads and other sites do. These ratings can be a deciding factor for whether someone buys the book or not. Seeing even just a handful of positive reviews can be a big incentive to check it out, so leaving a 5-star rating and review is an easy way to have a critical impact.
  4. Add the book to Goodreads lists to boost its SEO (Search Engine Optimization) power. When someone searches for books about specific topics — for example, “books about teenage witches” — Goodreads lists are often among the first results to pop up. By adding the book to several topical/thematic Goodreads lists and asking others to vote on it, you are making it more visible to its targeted readers.
  5. Suggest it as a book club pick to any groups you’re involved with who may enjoy it. The author may even be able to do a virtual Q&A with book clubs if that’s something you’d be interested in.
  6. Request that your local library carry the book. Check to see if the book is available at your library. If it’s not, check online to see if they have a form on their website where you can request that they carry the book. Many libraries have request forms specifically for this purpose (and if yours does not have an online form, a conversation with the librarian is a good place to start!). If the library chooses to carry the book, they will purchase a copy (another sale for the author!), and the book will be able to reach a new audience of readers who may not hear about it otherwise.
  7. Talk to your local booksellers and see if they know about the book. If not, give them an elevator pitch! Their recommendations are invaluable, so even putting the book on their radar can be helpful.
  8. And of course, spread the word! Word of mouth is still so important. Talk about the book to your friends, your coworkers, in your personal and professional circles, anywhere you can. Being an advocate for the author in your life is truly a gift — and you may help your other friends and connections discover a great new read!

Historical fiction blends past with narrative to create magic

My love for historical fiction really began when I was being homeschooled by my mom. From those early days pouring over history textbooks learning about ancient civilizations, I craved hearing other people’s stories. I was so curious about what their lives looked like — what did they think, experience, feel? But I wasn’t getting that from my history textbooks. I was getting what science could tell us about their lives or what interpreted records were available in, well, sometimes rather boring jargon.

And that’s really where fiction saves the day for me. Historical fiction picks up where facts leave off. Authors can fill in the gaps where history and my own imagination may be lacking. They pore over hours of research and discovery to bring us experiences, perspectives, and stories we may otherwise never have the chance to hear. They bring to life things that may have stayed buried for centuries. To me, that’s pure magic. And I’d like to share some magic with you today.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
If you’re looking for your next WWII read but want something a little outside of the ordinary, pick this book up. Bring tissues.

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang
This graphic duology is really something else. Fantastic illustrations with a time in history that isn’t touched on much make for a powerful read.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
A truly fascinating read spanning generations. If you’re like me, keep a notepad handy for this one, but it’s totally worth it.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Very unique time in history and the first book I’d read set in Iceland! If you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path of mainstream historical fiction, this one’s for you.

She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore
I don’t mind some genre-bending, especially when it’s done so well. Magic, history, and a riveting story make this one hard to put down.