Bringing together the two 12-year-old oddballs at Summer Science Camp, Ashley and Tiana is about the relationship between a middle class punk Jewish girl from Greenwich Village and a working class African-American hip hopper from the Bronx. (Is "hip hopper" correct? Should I have said "hip hop fan"? "Hip hop aficionado"?)
It's 1982 and neither has heard of, much less listened to the other's music, or even met another Black or Jewish person, respectively. This first novel in what is meant to be a series is fairly episodic, not one long plot, perhaps because it's mostly setting the scene for future issues. Topics addressed include racism, dead parents, sibling rivalry, and cultural differences.
I met the author, who is self-publishing the book, due out July 31, 2009, at the Radical Reference Grassroots Media Conference session on getting alternative materials into libraries. As happens with self-published books, and even mainstream publications, there are some typos and some grammar weirdness that a professional copy editor would have caught, but, ask yourself, "How much does that matter?" Certainly we want to model good writing for kids, but is it possible that it's also a good idea to present them with some materials that are more accessible to them, that they themselves might someday produce without having to wait for a corporate stamp of approval? I have a lot of respect for the arts of writing and editing, and also for the services provided by large publishing companies, but I also think there's room in our libraries for a range of works, from DIY to highly polished.
Although Jessica identifies the book as YA, I'm thinking that since it's about 12-year-olds, it's probably more of a children's book, since the target reader is therefore probably 10. I've enlisted my 8 ½-year-old friend Siu Loong to read the book and give me her feedback on it, which I will do (with Siu Loong's permission, of course) if she likes it. I'm not publishing negative reviews here, unless I feel particularly provoked.
Please contact Jessica if you're interested in her book. She is determined to get it into libraries, and might be willing to give out another review copy or two. There are book parties at the Brecht Forum in NYC on July 30 and the Third Street Alliance for Women and Children in Easton, PA on August 1.