227: Angie Thomas's CONCRETE ROSE - April 2022 Book Club
We are long-time Angie Thomas fans here at Unabridged (check out our episodes focused on The Hate U Give here and its adaptation here), so Ashley, Jen, and Sara were thrilled when we heard she was publishing a prequel focused on Maverick. Concrete Rose is (spoiler alert!) a five-star read for us, so we have a wide-ranging discussion of the book. We also share our pairings, including works by Elizabeth Acevedo, Jason Reynolds, and Laekan Zea Kemp.
Book Club Pick
Mentioned in Episode
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Ashley was reading . . .
Thich Nhat Hanh’s Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
"In the rush of modern life, we tend to lose touch with the peace that is available in each moment. World-renowned Zen master, spiritual leader, and author Thich Nhat Hanh shows us how to make positive use of the very situations that usually pressure and antagonize us. For him a ringing telephone can be a signal to call us back to our true selves. Dirty dishes, red lights, and traffic jams are spiritual friends on the path to 'mindfulness' -- the process of keeping our consciousness alive to our present experience and reality. The most profound satisfactions, the deepest feelings of joy and completeness lie as close at hand as our next aware breath and the smile we can form right now.
"Lucidly and beautifully written, 'Peace Is Every Step' contains commentaries and meditations, personal anecdotes and stories from Nhat Hanh's experiences as a peace activist, teacher, and community leader. It begins where the reader already is -- in the kitchen, office, driving a car, walking a part -- and shows how deep meditative presence is available now. Nhat Hanh provides exercises to increase our awareness of our own body and mind through conscious breathing, which can bring immediate joy and peace. Nhat Hanh also shows how to be aware of relationships with others and of the world around us, its beauty and also its pollution and injustices. the deceptively simple practices of 'Peace Is Every Step' encourage the reader to work for peace in the world as he or she continues to work on sustaining inner peace by turning the 'mindless' into the mindFUL."
Jen was reading . . .
Octavia Butler’s Kindred (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
"The visionary author's masterpiece pulls us--along with her Black female hero--through time to face the horrors of slavery and explore the impacts of racism, sexism, and white supremacy then and now.
"Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana's life will end, long before it has a chance to begin."
Sara was reading . . .
Kwame Onwuachi’s Notes from a Young Black Chef with Joshua David Stein (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
"By the time he was twenty-seven years old, Kwame Onwuachi had opened--and closed--one of the most talked about restaurants in America. He had sold drugs in New York and been shipped off to rural Nigeria to 'learn respect.' He had launched his own catering company with twenty thousand dollars made from selling candy on the subway and starred on Top Chef.
"Through it all, Onwuachi's love of food and cooking remained a constant, even when, as a young chef, he was forced to grapple with just how unwelcoming the food world can be for people of color. In this inspirational memoir about the intersection of race, fame, and food, he shares the remarkable story of his culinary coming-of-age; a powerful, heartfelt, and shockingly honest account of chasing your dreams--even when they don't turn out as you expected."
Book Club Pick
Angie Thomas's Concrete Rose (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
"If there's one thing seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows, it's that a real man takes care of his family. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords. With this money he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad's in prison.
"Life's not perfect, but with a fly girlfriend and a cousin who always has his back, Mav's got everything under control.
"Until, that is, Maverick finds out he's a father.
"Suddenly he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. But it's not so easy to sling dope, finish school, and raise a child. So when he's offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. In a world where he's expected to amount to nothing, maybe Mav can prove he's different.
"When King Lord blood runs through your veins, though, you can't just walk away. Loyalty, revenge, and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. He'll have to figure out for himself what it really means to be a man."
Ashley recommended . . .
Jason Reynolds’s Long Way Down (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
"A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
"Or, you can call it a gun. That's what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That's where Will's now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother's gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he's after. Or does he?
"As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that's when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn's gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn't know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck's in the elevator?
"Just as Will's trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck's cigarette. Will doesn't know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.
"And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END...if Will gets off that elevator.
"Told in short, fierce staccato narrative verse, Long Way Down is a fast and furious, dazzlingly brilliant look at teenage gun violence, as could only be told by Jason Reynolds."
Jen recommended . . .
Elizabeth Acevedo’s With the Fire on High (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
"Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago's life has been about making the tough decisions--doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela.
"The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.
"Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it's not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free."
Sara recommended . . .
Laekan Zea Kemp’s Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
"Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father's restaurant, Nacho's Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans--leaving Pen to choose between not disappointing her traditional Mexican American parents or following her own path. When she confesses a secret she's been keeping, her world is sent into a tailspin. But then she meets a cute new hire at Nacho's who sees through her hard exterior and asks the questions she's been too afraid to ask herself.
"Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a little boy. For him, a job at Nacho's is an opportunity for just that--a chance at a normal life, to settle in at his abuelo's, and to find the father who left him behind. But when both the restaurant and Xander's immigrant status are threatened, he will do whatever it takes to protect his newfound family and himself.
"Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong in order to save the place they all call home.
"This stunning and poignant novel from debut author Laekan Zea Kemp explores identity, found families and the power of food, all nestled within a courageous and intensely loyal Chicanx community."
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