170: Discover New Authors with Author Imprints
Updated: Oct 9
In this Unabridged Podcast episode, we discuss author imprints and the way that those can help readers discover new authors to love. We specifically discuss the Rick Riordan Presents imprint and share books we've read from it including Kwame Mbalia’s Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, Yoon Ha Lee’s Dragon Pearl, and Carlos Hernandez’s Sal and Gabi Break the Universe.
Our Rick Riordan Presents Imprint Recs
Mentioned in Episode
David and Nicola Yoon's Joy Revolution
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Ashley said, "I'm currently reading Angeline Boulley's Firekeeper's Daughter, and I am listening to this one thanks to Libro.fm and also reading it from NetGalley. This one came out in the middle of March, and I am so excited about this book. I haven't read a lot of it yet—I'm probably like a quarter of the way in—and I think the things I love about it, the main character Daunis Fontaine is a Native teen, and she has a lot of things went on her life. One of the things is that the Fontaine side of her family is the side that she got her last name from, but she also has the Firekeeper side of her family, which is the Ojibwe side of her family, and those two conflicting family parts make it hard for her. In those locations, she has trouble on the reservation because she doesn't quite fit in, but she also has trouble outside of it because she doesn't quite fit in there. So she's struggling to balance those parts of herself. The fact that she did not get the Firekeeper name is also a really interesting component of the book, that because of that she's not on the tribal record, and therefore she's not an actual member of the tribe. It's interesting in the book to see how that plays out for her, and it impacts her life.
"So all of that is just really originally discussed. In the beginning, Daunis's uncle has died, and her grandmother has had a stroke shortly after her uncle's death., so she is reeling from all of that she's trying to decide what that means for her future and what she's going to do about college. So she's making some different decisions based on those changes that have occurred in her life. She's trying hard to support her mom, who is struggling to navigate all of that as well. Along comes Jamie Johnson, who is hockey player. Hockey is really big in their community, and he is new to the area and has gotten everyone's attention. She is trying very hard not to have a crush on him, but it's also developing these feelings for him as she gets to know him a little bit better. So there's a lot going on early on in the book. I've just gotten to a really significant plot event that I do not want to give spoilers, that I can see that that's really going to impact what happens next for Daunis, but I think what I really love about it, in addition to just a great story is that it's that exploration that Boulley is doing of what it means to be a Native teen and what the ramifications are of that, like what is like just in daily life and go into powwows and being connected to the Native community and to the Ojibwe tribe, but also some of the harder things to navigate as far as both life on the reservation and life outside of it. I think all of that is just really richly done. So I'm absolutely loving it. I think Daunis is a great character. She is strong, but also unsure about some of the things that are going to happen for her in the future, and she's trying to figure all that out. I was excited to see this one come out ,and I'm really excited to be reading it. So again, that's Angeline Boulley's Firekeeper's Daughter."
Sara shared, "Well, I am still on my nonfiction kick. I have been reading tons of nonfiction lately and I am now reading Michael Moss’s Hooked: Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions. Michael Moss, he won the Pulitzer in 2010, he's an investigative journalist, and he had a very wildly popular book called Salt Sugar Fat that came out a few years ago, and he's done just a lot of work in researching our food, kind of the progression from eating whole foods into eating more processed foods. In this particular book, he's using addiction research to examine the way in which food companies exploit our addictive tendencies as human beings and with food. So far, it is super interesting. He's an excellent writer. I got this book from Random House, they send it to me, and I'm in this moment in my life where I'm just . . . I maybe I need to go back to school or something, but I just am like thirsty for information and for informing myself about all the things that matter to me. So this one, I've always been interested in nutrition and the source and where our food comes from. So this is perfect for me at the moment, and I'm really enjoying it. So I will report on it. Maybe I'll write a review once I finish it, but I really, I'm enjoying it so far."
Jen said, "I am listening to a memoir. It is Jesse Thistle’s From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way, and I'm reading this for a buddy read with @readwithtoni. Her reads are always so good. The conversations are excellent. I'm not very far yet, but I will say it is great. It is gripping, and it is horrifying. So there's a brief part at the beginning where we see Thistle as a teenager, and then it flashes back until he's three years old, and he has two older brothers. The oldest is five. So they're very close together, and their mother was—I forget if she was 15 or 16—when she met their father, who was apparently this very charismatic man. He convinced her to marry him, and they had these boys, and then he was a drug addict, and she eventually decided to leave him. She left him and was having a really difficult time making things on our own. So he comes along and says, 'Let me take the boys for a couple of months,' and she lets him. Then he basically neglects them completely. He'll leave them for days alone, this five, four, and three year old. He tells them where to hide if somebody comes to the house. So he sets this thing up, there's a vent that they're supposed to hide in, and he doesn't bring them food. It's just awful.
"So eventually they are taken because Social Services finds out that this is happening, and they're taken in. I'm on that part right now. So I don't know exactly what's going to happen. I know it's not good because of where the story started. So again, it's brilliantly written. There is a lot where Jesse is talking about his heritage: his mom is Cree. This takes place in Canada, and the Native heritage is a bit very big part of her life, but for his dad that is not a big part of his life, and there's a lot of conflict there that you see. You see his grandparents eventually, and there's some conflict there with his mom. So you see what being Métis has meant for him and the way that he's struggling with it. It actually reminds me of what Ashley was saying about Firekeeper's Daughter, the way navigating those dual communities can be so challenging, and at this point, they're so young, that they're only vaguely understanding what's happening, but they can tell that there's a conflict and that there are some hard feelings between their his paternal grandparents and his mom. So I'm hooked, but I'm a little apprehensive because in stories like that, you know, it's gonna be a long journey until we find our way out. But it's beautifully written, and he reads it, which I know we all always appreciate it. So that is Jesse Thistle’s From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way."
Main Discussion - Author Imprints
After an introductory discussion about author imprints and Rick Riordan Presents specifically, we each share a book from that imprint.
Sara shared Carlos Hernandez’s Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, and she began, "I did speak about this audiobook in a Bookish Check-in a while back. But this is about Sal, who is from a Cuban-American family, and he is an aspiring magician. He and his family have just moved to Florida, and he's getting acclimated to a new school. It's a kind of a charter school for performing arts, so it's perfect because they really support creativity and being who you want to be, which—like I said—he wants to be a magician, but he also has this ability to reach into the multiverse, so that becomes particularly helpful when he is doing his magic. He can summon things from other places within the multiverse. However, when he does that, it leaves a hole. So sometimes they close up quickly, and sometimes they close up slowly, and you can see that that could cause some issues. So that's Sal and what he's about, but he meets a girl named Gabi, who kind of runs the school. She's the president of Student Council, that type of thing. They become friends and get into some predicaments together. So there's that, and then there is some other commentary on family dynamics, and storylines that deal with that."
Ashley talked about Kwame Mbalia’s Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky. She said, "I've been really excited to read this one. It's been recommended from quite a few sources, and everyone just loved it. Similar to a lot of what Sara said about, there's a good balance between important things that are happening that are significant, but also there's a lot of humor, and there's a lot of richly drawn characters who are a lot of fun to discover. There's a reality that we're anchored in in the beginning, and then you get into the more fantastical world where all these mythical creatures are, and that works really well too, and I think makes it more accessible for younger readers who are still acclimating potentially to moving between realistic fiction and fiction that relies on mythology and is more of fantasy. So this one focused on trust, and Strong, in the very beginning, is going to spend time with his grandparents in Alabama, and his best friend has died in an accident. He was present when that happened, so he is grieving and is trying to find his way forward, and he has the journal of his best friend Eddie, and the journal glows green, and weird things happen. So he is mystified by what is going on with this journal. The adults in the world don't seem to have any idea that anything strange is happening, so he's further bewildered by what's happening. Well, then, shortly after he gets to his grandparents' house, he's warned about the forest near them and the bottle trees there and is told to stay away from the bottle tree. It's kind of that idea of like a thin place."
Jen shared Yoon Ha Lee’s Dragon Pearl. She said, "I had read Lee's series that begins with Ninefox Gambit, which is high science fiction. It is incredibly math-based science fiction, so I was a little taken aback to see that he had written this book for a middle-grade readers, but it is it is also sci fi. It is this mix of Korean mythology set in space, so it's this really interesting blend of mythology and science fiction. This one focuses on a thirteen-year-old girl named Min, and she is from a family of Fox spirits. Basically, they have this ability to do charms that can influence people to behave in certain ways, and they can also shape shift. But Min's mother does not want her children to use any of their powers because there's some prejudice against foxes. So this is a space that includes dragons, and tigers, and all of these beings who walk around in human form that can transform if they need to, or want to, and they are all higher in the hierarchy than the foxes. So Min's mother is just adamant that Min should not learn to use her magic at all. But of course she does because she's a rebellious thirteen year old. She finds ways to try to practice it when her mom's not around."
Be sure to listen to hear the rest of our discussion of each book and to find out, in our Give Me One, if we pick hamburgers or tacos (such a tough choice!).
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