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Summer Wrap-Up!
Dear Reader,

Summer is coming to a close! These balmy months inspire our characters in courageous acts of personal revolution. In Color Me In, Nevaeh Levitz connects with her Jewish heritage and claims her racial identity. In 19th century Georgia, a maid moonlights as an advice-columnist, bucking societal intolerance and working to keep her identity a secret. Frankly In Love concerns the tribulations of a second-generation Korean-American and the struggle of reconciling his world with that of his family's past. These novels address personal, social, and political challenges throughout history and show us that reflection can reveal the wisdom of the ages. How do these novels reflect our current moment?

Let us know and be sure to check out these upcoming titles!

Alex & All DIESELfolk
New Books We Love This Month
Color Me In
by Natasha Diaz
Image result for color me in natasha diaz
Nevaeh Levitz is uncertain about her identity. Half Jewish and half black, she’s always stood out at her old-money, overwhelmingly-white preparatory school in the suburbs of New York City. However, when her parents file for divorce and she moves to her maternal aunt’s house in Harlem, she’s instantly made aware of just how privileged she is just by passing as white. 

In an attempt to acquaint his daughter with her Jewish heritage, Nevaeh’s dad suddenly decides that she must have a belated Bat Mitzvah in the place of a ritzy sweet sixteen. Between learning Hebrew, putting up with her father’s nasty new girlfriend and desperately trying to fit in with both her cousins and her classmates, Nevaeh is certain that her life is going to go to hell… that is, until she discovers her mother’s high-school diary. As she gets to know her parents and family members more intimately, Nevaeh gains new insights into how prejudice and love affect those closest to her. Soon she must decide: will she lay low and fit in, or will she stand up proudly for herself and her origins? 

From the very first page, Nevaeh’s story is compelling. Full of warm, realistic characters, Nevaeh’s world is fleshed-out; from frazzled rabbis to cruel popular girls, the streets of New York City, both suburban and urban, come to life effortlessly alongside the novel’s engaging plot. Nevaeh herself is no exception; a wonderfully realistic teenager, her strong emotions and observational skills form a compassionate protagonist who you’re certain to root for. However, the novel’s narrative is the true star of the tale. Its exploration of racial identity, empathy, community and privilege are so beautifully intimate that it’s clear Diaz drew the story from a place close to her heart. Authentic and diverse, Color Me In is a perfect representation of today’s teens and the challenges they face.

--Paisley Kandler
The Downstairs Girl
by Stacey Lee

Image result for the downstairs girl

Jo Kuan’s life is full of secrets. Orphaned by unknown parents and secretly raised in another family’s basement, she’s been forced to dwell in the shadows all her life. Jo cannot freely express herself outside of her home either; as one of few Chinese-American girls in the largely intolerant turn-of-the-century Atlanta, opportunities are few and far between.

However, Jo has a secret of her own. To the untrained eye, she conforms to society’s expectations, working as a maid for a callous young lady… but secretly, she writes a ladies’ advice column under the alias “Miss Sweetie”, becoming a sensation overnight with her bold challenges to society’s views of race and gender equality. 

As the column increases in popularity, Jo is put in danger as several powerful readers clamor to figure out Miss Sweetie’s identity. And, when Jo finds a strange letter hidden in her basement, she becomes dependent on Atlanta’s most dangerous criminal for more information. Between the pressures placed by both parties, how long will it be before Miss Sweetie’s mask is ripped away forever?

I absolutely adored Stacey Lee’s Outrun the Moon, and so I was eagerly anticipating the release of The Downstairs Girl. True to form, Lee’s newest novel is outstanding. The world of 19th-century Georgia is so intimately detailed Lee seems to have gone back to observe the period. Not only are the physical aspects of the world (such as fashion and medicine) accurate, but the attitudes of different social groups and the traditional biases they hold are intricately depicted. However, the true gem of The Downstairs Girl is Jo herself. She’s a fantastic protagonist and narrator; equally empathetic as she is sharp and observant, you can’t help but root for her as her secret journalism career flourishes, and desperately hope that she finds every answer that she’s looking for.

Heartfelt, inspiring and fantastically feminist, The Downstairs Girl is a wonderfully thoughtful read.

--Paisley Kandler

Frankly In Love
by David Yoon
Frank Li feels trapped within two worlds. On one hand, there’s the world of a typical American high-schooler. Between his AP classes, trips to the mall, and his best friend, Will (known as Q), Frank is pretty satisfied at his Orange County high school. On the other, there’s the world of his parents. The world where his parents barely speak English and he barely speaks Korean; the world where anything less than an Ivy League college is failure. It’s the world in which his “mom-n-dad” have disowned his older sister, Hanna, just because her husband is black.

Frank knows his parents will only let him date Korean-Americans. But after he kisses Brit, a beautiful, intelligent, white girl, he is sure his mother and father will ban the relationship. Needing a solution, he turns to Joy Song, a family friend who’s in the same situation with her parents. The two devise a plan: in front of their families, they pretend they’re in love. But, when they go out at night, it’s with the people they’re really dating. For a little while, Frank and Joy successfully keep up the ruse… but, after a few weeks, they start to find themselves falling for each other. Soon, Frank comes to question his feelings about Brit, his identity as a Korean-American, and how love truly works. 

I have been anticipating Frankly in Love for months--and it exceeded my already-astronomical expectations. Frank’s narrative is incredibly heartfelt; he is profoundly observant in his perception of the world, and this helps him, and us, understand his surroundings. Additionally, his friendships with Q, Brit, Joy, and every other character are each three-dimensional and wonderfully described. 

However, the best piece of the story is Frank’s relationship with his parents. He loves them but struggles to see their point of view. Although he knows a lot about their lives in the United States, he would give anything to see who they were at his age. Though he sees them every day, there’s an emotional and linguistic barrier between them. Frank does everything in his power to remove this gap– and in doing so, better understands his family. While Frankly in Love is a romance novel, the heart of the story is learning to love not only the person we choose to be, but to take time to love the people who raised us. Genuine and bright, David Yoon’s debut novel is not to be missed.

--Paisley Kandler
Copyright © 2016 DIESEL, A Bookstore, All rights reserved.

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