Sunday, September 24, 2017

Diverse Books Club: October 2017 Selections

Happy Sunday, Readers!

Today's post is for those TST readers who are also members of the Diverse Books Club. We, the DBC Team, have had so much fun launching this book club with you all. Later this week, we'll wrap up September and feature some highlights from the month, but today we're looking ahead to October.

You can expect an announcement in the last week of each month with the next month's picks. This will (hopefully) give you time to request these titles from your local library, shop for them at your local bookstore, or place an order from your favorite online bookseller. We understand that many of you have asked to be notified of the picks earlier in the month. At this time, we need that extra time to preview and select the books, as we are previewing quite a few books in order to make these selections!

This month, we'll read books about immigrant and refugee experiences. We had a large number of titles to consider for this theme, and in selecting these stories we wanted to represent the experiences of people from all different areas of the world. In the current political climate, immigration is a topic that has people divided. Here in the DBC, we believe that no human is illegal, and we want to honor not only the experiences of immigrants and refugees, but also provide opportunities for understanding and empathy from those of us who haven't had experiences that relate to this topic.

In the month of October, you'll once again have THREE books to choose from.

Reminder: You do not need to read all three books!

Choose the book (or books) that most interest you and follow along with those discussions, but don't feel obligated to read every title on our list.

Diverse Books Club October 2017 Selections

Book #1: (Adult Fiction) Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

Thank you to Touchstone Books for partnering with the DBC this month and providing copies of this novel to our adult fiction moderators. Music of the Ghosts is powerful -- it haunted me as I read and lingered with me well after finishing. The story follows Teera, a young woman who, in childhood, fled from her home in Cambodia during the violent reign of the Khmer Rouge. In Music of the Ghosts, Teera returns to Cambodia for the first time since fleeing, and there confronts the history of her country and family. Ratner's prose is lyrical -- her writing had me so completely immersed in the story that I could feel the sensory aspects of Teera's surroundings. This story is heavy, and full of terror and loss, but it's also a story of healing and love. Ratner herself was a refugee from the Khmer Rouge, and we on the DBC Team strongly believe this book deserves to be in the hands of more readers. Our Twitter moderator, Gina, will be reading this selection alongside members this month.

Book #2: (YA / Mature Middle Grade) Refugee by Alan Gratz

Every person that I know who has picked up this title since it was published in July of this year has raved about it. This is the one that I'll be reading alongside members this month, but when I brought it up in a DBC Team meeting, one moderator who had already read it insisted that it be on our list. In her words, "This should be required reading for children and adults." Refugee is told in three narratives: Josef, a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany, who must flee from the threat of concentration camps; Isabel, a Cuban girl in 1994 who boards a raft bound for America with her terrified family, and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy in 2015 who flees to Europe with his family as the Syrian war threatens their safety. I can tell it's going to be an emotional read for me, as I interact with Syrian refugee children on a daily basis at work and my heart breaks at the idea of what they've experienced. 

Book #3: (Middle Grade) Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

I read this novel for a children's literature course back in graduate school and it blew me away, so as soon as we decided on this theme I knew it had to be on our list. Inside Out and Back Again is a novel in verse, so for adult readers it'll be a quick read. (It's also on the Newbery list, for those of you who are doing your own Newbery projects, you'll be able to check it off your list!) The story follows Hà, a ten year old girl who must flee when the Vietnam War threatens her home in Saigon. Her family settles in Alabama, and Hà finds herself missing her homeland and the vividness of her culture. I loved reading the perspective of a young child in this novel, and it certainly changed the way I interact with immigrant and refugee students at our school. This story is largely based on Thanhha Lai's own experiences, as she herself fled Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War and relocated to Alabama. Teachers, parents, and librarians: I hope this earns a spot on your shelves.


Now, let me explain why we have two middle grade picks for October, as Refugee does technically fall into the middle grade category. Kate Olson, of Kid Lit Exchange, recommends it for grades 5-8 and we agree with that recommendation. It's a heavy read and not appropriate for younger audiences. Inside Out and Back Again, however, is perfectly appropriate for middle grade readers of all ages. So if you've been using DBC picks with your children, we recommend Refugee for 5th grade and up, and Inside Out and Back Again for all other young readers. If you're not using these titles with the littles in your life, we'd definitely recommend reading both -- and because Inside Out and Back Again is so short, we think it will be relatively easy to manage both picks this month.

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Picture Book Selections

Picture book selections will be revealed on The Novel Endeavor tomorrow, September 25th so make sure to keep an eye out for that post too!

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Let us know what you think of the October selections below!


  1. I love this list and new focus for October! Inside Out and Back Again is such an excellent book. I only read it this past summer, but think I will re-read it for the DBC discussions. Novels in verse don't always get the recognition they deserve, but I just love them. I already have a copy of Refugee and am glad for a reason to bump it up my TBR and have others to read it with.

  2. These look so insightful! The adult selection is one I haven't heard of before, so I'm excited to read something new to me. I've read the YA and middle grade books and they are phenomenal! I can't wait to see the picturebook selections. :)

  3. This is an AMAZING list!!! Refugee is so haunting. That adult book is also intriguing. Cannot wait to participate

  4. What a FABULOUS list! I have read the MG pics but not the adult title ~ requesting from my library immediately! Thanks again for this group!

  5. Just added all of these to my library list. Thank you so much DBC for sharing titles I have never heard of and for encouraging us all to read outside of what may be our norm. I am thankful for this group!

  6. While I'm sad the gorgeous paperback cover for Music of the Ghosts is not available until April, I went ahead and ordered my hardcover copy. I have Refugee on hold at the library and I will probably buy Inside Out and Back Again to share with my middle-grade reader at home. I really appreciate that each story has a different perspective.

  7. I have read and completely loved 'Inside Out and Back Again.' The other two have potential! I'm not sure yet which one I will read.