by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)
Oh my goodness, it is always so hard to pick these books each year! To be honest, I didn't feel like 2022 was a great reading year for me. With everything I had going on personally, it was hard to find both the time and the mental space to read. But looking back over the books I've read, I'm realizing there are SO many favorites among the ones I read this year, and they're all vying for a chance to be featured in some of my year-end wrap up lists! I updated this list and graphic at least three times as new contenders pushed their way in, and I'm still undecided but recognize that I'm out of time to get this post ready, so I'm going to stick with this list. Here goes!
Zoraida Córdova's The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm): This one is a very recent read for me. I listened to it thanks to the Libro.fm ALC program (so check it out, ALC participants! It was a fall pick!), and the audio was outstanding. This novel tells of the widespread progeny of Orquídea Divina, all of whom receive mysterious handwritten letters from Orquídea informing them that she is dying and summoning them back to their original home in Four Rivers (where Orquídea eventually built her life after leaving behind her childhood home in Ecuador) to receive their inheritance. Full of legends, secrets, ghosts, and mysteries, this story balances richly woven magical realism with twenty-first century skepticism, weaving a gorgeous, complicated tale. I loved it!
Jerry Craft's New Kid (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm): This middle-grade graphic novel has been highly recommended, but it wasn't until I stumbled upon it in the library recently that I finally started reading it, and as soon as I started, I couldn't put it down! I absolutely love the way that Craft shows protagonist Jordan navigating his life as a new student at a private school in the community. Jordan, one of the few students of color amid a predominantly white, mostly very wealthy student body, feels out of place on a number of levels. However, his placement at the private school makes friend dynamics in his home neighborhood challenging as well. And to make things harder, his parents are divided on the best pathway for him. Jordan feels like he doesn't quite fit in anywhere, and yet we see his kindness, his creativity, and his generosity of spirit shining through amid the challenges.
Jen Ferguson's The Summer of Bitter and Sweet (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm): This powerful story, which was our November Unabridged buddy read, centers on Louisa, a senior in high school who is trying to reconcile her past and figure out her next move. Lou loves her family but struggled when she was younger to reconcile her Métis heritage with the predominantly white, non-inclusive larger community in the Canadian prairie town where she lives. Though she worked through that tension and feels more at ease embracing her heritage, she feels the shadow of that earlier denial all the time. When Lou learns that her biological father, a man who brutally raped her mother, is out of jail and desperate to meet her, she feels her world crumbling. This book covers so many important subjects -- including cultural identity, racism, sexuality, property ownership, and the consequences of sexual assault just to name a few -- in nuanced, powerful, beautiful ways, and I'll definitely be reading more of Jen Ferguson's work!
Abdi Nazamian's Like a Love Story (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm): I realized that despite absolutely loving this powerful YA lit historical fiction story, I've shared relatively little about it. This one focuses on three teens, all of whom are in a bit of a love triangle, living in NYC amid the raging AIDS epidemic in 1989. Reza, a newly arrived immigrant from Iran, meets two best friends Judy and Art, and he quickly gets to know both of them. Reza learns that Judy's beloved uncle Stephen is dying of AIDS, but he understands little about how the disease spreads.
Reza secretly comes to understand that he is gay, but he struggles to figure out what that information truly means for him. Meanwhile, Judy and Art, whose perspectives we also see, both are struggling to find their way amid their own challenges. Despite the heavy subjects, this beautiful book is full of hope, humor, and lots of Madonna songs. I loved it.
Jesse Q. Sutanto's Dial A for Aunties (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm): I listened to this hilarious romp on audio, and I loved every minute. The premise of this one is a bit over the top - protagonist Meddy accidentally kills her blind date when he tries to assault her - and shenanigans ensue as she calls in her mom and three aunties to help her cover it up.
What I love most are the family dynamics within their Chinese-Indonesian immigrant family and the way that Meddy balances her love for her family with her own aspirations and dreams. (I thought book 2, Four Aunties and a Wedding, was fantastic as well!)
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