July 2022 Newsletter
curated by Shelly Tochluk
Author of Witnessing Whiteness and Living in the Tension
Member of AWARE-LA

Hello All –  I hope you are doing well as we enter the summer season. Reflecting on the month just passed, if you did not have a chance to honor Juneteenth and consider how making reparations is perhaps the best way for white folks to mark the holiday, this article helps make that case.
I am also thrilled to announce that the new edition of Witnessing Whiteness can now be pre-ordered via Amazon and should be available next month. This is a VERY different version than what has come before, so it is worth reading even if you are familiar with an earlier edition. (There is an entirely new chapter inspired by the uprisings in the wake of George Floyd's murder and radical reconstruction of many chapters. It turns out my thinking has clarified markedly in the last decade!)


Consider marking your calendars for this event. This workshop will help you Improve your anti-racist conversations! Janet Helms’ white racial identity model is combined with effective calling in. Avoid counterproductive conversations that leave people susceptible to far-right messaging. Workshop questions:

Looking forward, will this summer offer you time to read for pleasure? This month’s newsletter offers something I have never done before. I’ve worked my way through a bunch of lists of great fiction written by folks of color, and I’m highlighting a variety of options that stood out. (Full disclosure: I have not read any of them yet! However, I've downloaded five of them as audiobooks for my summer road trip.) What follows are just a few of the many wonderful possibilities. Enjoy! I’m sure I’ll return to the more distressing news soon enough. For this month, let’s take a respite and revel in the art created by our wider community.
Books by Black and Bi-racial Authors

Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead

When Elwood Curtis, a black boy growing up in 1960s Tallahassee, is unfairly sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, he finds himself trapped in a grotesque chamber of horrors. Elwood's only salvation is his friendship with fellow "delinquent" Turner, which deepens despite Turner's conviction that Elwood is hopelessly naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble. As life at the Academy becomes ever more perilous, the tension between Elwood's ideals and Turner's skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades.

Winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

They Come in All Colors, by Malcolm Hansen

Alternating between the Deep South and New York City during the 1960s and early '70s, They Come in All Colors follows a biracial teenage boy who finds his new life in the big city disrupted by childhood memories of the summer when racial tensions in his hometown reached a tipping point. With the main character’s head-shaking antics fueling this coming-of-age narrative, the story triumphs as a tender and honest exploration of race, identity, family, and homeland.

Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains' toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store's security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right. But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix's desire to help. With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

Sabrina & Corina, by by Kalo Fajardo-Antsine
Think of each of the stories in Sabrina & Corina as a door allowing you to walk in to the life of a different indigenous Latina living in Colorado. Sparkling with specificity and moments of melancholy and strength, these stories (and their characters) are unforgettable. Fajardo-Anstine's debut collection won the American Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Infinite Country, by Patricia Engel
Can a family stay a family when its members are torn apart by time, distance, and immigration laws? Colombian-American author Patricia Engel's slim yet sweeping saga asks that question by following one family. Talia, for instance, is left behind in Colombia when her parents move to the United States, and has never met her siblings, but Infinite Country doesn't stop at her perspective. We also see the lives of Talia's brother and sister in the U.S.; flashbacks to her parents as teenagers falling in love and daring to leave Colombia; and her grandmother in Bogotá, growing lonelier.
What’s Mine and Yours, by Naima Coster
What's Mine and Yours offers a perspective on the idea of "changing neighborhoods"—and what happens when populations converge. The novel takes place at a school in North Carolina that begins accepting students from the predominantly Black side of town. Through multiple perspectives, at the heart of this story are two mothers who clash while advocating for their children...but just might be more alike than they think.
There There, by Tommy Orange
This wondrous and shattering novel follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize. Among them is Jacquie Red Feather, newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind. Dene Oxendene, pulling his life together after his uncle's death and working at the powwow to honor his memory. Fourteen-year-old Orvil, coming to perform traditional dance for the very first time. Together, this chorus of voices tells of the plight of the urban Native American--grappling with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and spirituality, with communion and sacrifice and heroism.
Firekeeper’s Daughter, by Angeline Boulley
As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in—both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. When her family is struck by tragedy, Daunis puts her dreams on hold to care for her fragile mother. The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother’s hockey team. After Daunis witnesses a shocking murder that thrusts her into a criminal investigation, she agrees to go undercover. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home. How far will she go to protect her community if it means tearing apart the only world she’s ever known?
Johnny Appleseed, by Joshua Whitehead
"You're gonna need a rock and a whole lotta medicine" is a mantra that Jonny Appleseed, a young Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer, repeats to himself in this vivid and utterly compelling novel. Off the reserve and trying to find ways to live and love in the big city, Jonny becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living. Self-ordained as an NDN glitter princess, Jonny has one week before he must return to the "rez," and his former life, to attend the funeral of his stepfather. The next seven days are like a fevered dream: stories of love, trauma, sex, kinship, ambition, and the heartbreaking recollection of his beloved kokum (grandmother). Jonny's world is a series of breakages, appendages, and linkages--and as he goes through the motions of preparing to return home, he learns how to put together the pieces of his life. Jonny Appleseed is a unique, shattering vision of Indigenous life, full of grit, glitter, and dreams.
The Fervor, by Alma Katsu
A psychological and supernatural twist on the horrors of the Japanese American internment camps in World War II. 1944: As World War II rages on, the threat has come to the home front. In a remote corner of Idaho, Meiko Briggs and her daughter, Aiko, are desperate to return home... Mother and daughter attempt to hold on to elements of their old life in the camp when a mysterious disease begins to spread among those interned. ...When a disconcerting team of doctors arrive, nearly more threatening than the illness itself, Meiko and her daughter team up with a newspaper reporter and widowed missionary to investigate, and it becomes clear to them that something more sinister is afoot...Inspired by the Japanese yokai and the jorogumo spider demon, The Fervor explores a supernatural threat beyond what anyone saw coming.
Sparks Like Stars, Nadia Hashimi
Sitara Zamani lived a privileged life as the daughter of a prominent family in 1970s Kabul. However, when she was 10 years old, Sitara’s entire family was assassinated in a coup, leaving her the only survivor. Taken in by an American diplomat, Sitara is raised in the U.S., changes her name to Aryana Shepherd, and eventually becomes a renowned surgeon in New York. But one day, an unexpected patient sparks a desire to find the truth about that fateful night 30 years ago and sends Aryana back to Afghanistan and to the memories of a life she lost.
Arsenic and Adobo, by Mia P. Manansala
Arsenic and Adobo is the first book in a culinary cozy mystery series about Lila Macapagal, who finds herself mixed up in a murder case when her ex dies at her aunt’s Filipino restaurant. With the help of her best friend, a network of aunties, and her trusty Dachshund, can Lila get to the bottom of the case without putting herself in harm’s way?
Books by Middle-Eastern Authors
Salt Houses, by Hala Alyan
On the eve of her daughter Alia’s wedding, Salma reads the girl’s future in a cup of coffee dregs. She sees an unsettled life for Alia and her children; she also sees travel, and luck. While she chooses to keep her predictions to herself that day, they will all soon come to pass when the family is uprooted in the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967. Salma is forced to leave her home in Nablus; Alia’s brother gets pulled into a politically militarized world he can’t escape; and Alia and her gentle-spirited husband move to Kuwait City, where they reluctantly build a life with their three children. ... Lyrical and heartbreaking, Salt Houses is a remarkable debut novel that challenges and humanizes an age-old conflict we might think we understand—one that asks us to confront that most devastating of all truths: you can’t go home again. 
Mother of Strangers, by Suad Amiry
Set in Jaffa in 1947-51, this fable-like novel is a heartbreaking tale of young love during the beginning of the destruction of Palestine and displacement of its people. At times darkly humorous and ironic but also profoundly moving, this novel based on a true story, follows the lives of a gifted 15-year-old mechanic, Subhi, and 13-year-old Shams, a peasant girl he hopes to marry one day....This novel is a cinematic, though devastating, account of one of the most dramatic and least known chapters of Palestinian history. It is a portrait of a city and a people irrevocably changed.
The Last Days of Café Leila, by Donia Bijan
Set against the backdrop of Iran's rich, turbulent history, this exquisite debut novel is a powerful story of food, family, and a bittersweet homecoming. When we first meet Noor, she is living in San Francisco, missing her beloved father, Zod, in Iran. Now, dragging her stubborn teenage daughter, Lily, with her, she returns to Tehran and to Café Leila, the restaurant her family has been running for three generations. Iran may have changed, but Café Leila, still run by Zod, has stayed blessedly the same. As Noor revisits her Persian childhood, she must rethink who she is: a mother, a daughter, a woman estranged from her marriage and from her life in California. And together, she and Lily get swept up in the beauty and brutality of Tehran.
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Shelly Tochluk · 10 Chester Place · Los Angeles, CA 90007 · USA

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