One of the ways that society oppresses people is by silencing their stories. This creates a narrative that promotes a particular lifestyle, group, or perspective while denying the existence of those who do not fit that norm. Therefore it is a revolutionary act when a marginalized person is able to speak their story, and it is essential that those who live with privilege listen and actively make space for those stories.
This is why I am so excited about the recently released book, All Out. Edited by Saundra Mitchell, All Out is a collection of short stories about queer teens throughout history, written by queer YA authors of various backgrounds and ethnicities. Some of these tales are re-imagined fairy tales, and some of them feature famous historical figures. The main character of all of the short stories is a queer teen, and, since these tales are told from so many different perspectives of culture, gender, ability, and sexuality, All Out is a testament to the expanse of teen expression that exists in the world.
The timid 12-year old Nisha must leave her home with her Hindu family when India splits into two countries in 1947. She senses unrest in the world around her and takes to writing notes to her deceased mother in her diary. Nisha's extreme shyness makes it hard for her to convey all of her thoughts, so she does it the old-fashioned way- by writing.
Zelie is a 17-year old girl who mourns the loss of magic on her native island. The magi are murdered by a powerful, ruthless king who abolishes the dark arts of magic and its connective powers on Orisha. Among the murdered is Zelie's own mother, leaving a determined Zelie to find a way to reverse the evil that King Saran has wrought. But can she find a way to do this without being caught up in the traps that Saran and his minions have set all over the island?
Naomi Alderman's The Power reimagines our world where the power dynamics between men and women are flipped. In her novel, women develop a biological weapon, an evolutionary trait that is suddenly reawakened by young girls. This electric power can debilitate and hurt others, making them physically threatening to all those around them. Throughout the world, women begin experimenting, training, and using their new ability to fight their oppressors. They create armies, establish new countries, and rapidly overturn our male-dominated society. Men soon feel threatened by this new strength as they lose the control and security they’ve long been accustomed to. While attempts to suppress and ‘cure’ women arise, the world is fundamentally changed and not for the better.
16-year old Scott isn't sure what he wants to do with his life. He's restless, can't commit to anything beyond a few days, and is wildly failing at his parents' expectations for where he should be at this point in his life. Then his parents have to fly back to their country to be with a sick relative, and they leave Scott alone. He's inspired by the words of a well-known professor, so he hops on a plane to Washington, D.C. (with very little money and no plan) to schedule a meeting with her and hopes that she can point him on the right path to success.
In 1986, 12-year-old Eddie and his group of misfit friends do the things normal teen boys do- blow off school, check out girls, and get in daily adventures. Until the day comes when the boys all find chalk men drawn in their driveways and various parts of town. Shortly thereafter, Eddie finds the dismembered body of a girl in the woods, and none of the boys are ever the same.
This psychological thriller does have all the markings of an Alfred Hitchcock film. Anna Fox is a wine-chugging recluse who lives alone, spends her days spying on her neighbors, and her nights watching classic noir cinema. A new family moves in next door; they seem like normal everyday folk- until the day Anna sees something that makes the line between fantasy and reality blur more than her vision after a case of merlot. I'm not kidding when I say every chapter throws you a new curveball, and I'm not kidding when I tell you that reading it on break at work resulted in most of my staff wanting to read it because my reactions were so memorable.
In Call Me By Your Name, André Aciman crafts both an intimate coming of age tale and heartbreaking coming out story. The novel chronicles the short but passionate relationship between 17-year-old Elio and 24-year-old Oliver. Elio is the incredibly intelligent son of an academic who annually welcomes a research assistant during their summers on the Italian coast. While many have visited, Elio is transfixed by the newest arrival, Oliver. Despite the uncertainty that punctuates their relationship, they develop desire, love, and friendship over the course of six short weeks. As both Elio and Oliver navigate their unique bond, they each struggle with societal pressures and internal shame. As all summer’s end, their relationship is cut short before it is even begun. Their lives diverge, meeting throughout the years to share different realities but similar questions of what could have been.
Autonomous is a dense and exciting new book by Annalee Newitz. Overflowing with futuristic tech and AI quandaries, Autonomous lies staunchly in the Sci-Fi genre. The book alternates between two main stories, which ultimately converge. The first follows Jack Chen, a pirate who steals drugs from Big Pharma and reverse-engineers them to be distributed to the poor and sick. Unfortunately, her most recent drug haul, a productivity drug called Zacuity, turns out to be dangerously addictive and results in multiple deaths. Jack, stricken by guilt, seeks to right this wrong by creating a cure and publicizing the drug manufacturer’s calamitous product.
The drug company, rich in resources and greed, collaborates with the international property police to send two agents after Jack. Paladin, a bot indentured to the military, is one of these agents, as well as the other main point of view in Autonomous. Paladin is programmed to be loyal to and protective of his fellow human agent, Eliasz. But as their search continues, Paladin questions how much of his feelings for Eliasz are programming and how much is real—and mostly whether this distinction matters at all. While Jack’s story takes us through economic disparity and the everlasting exhausting battle of activism, Paladin’s explores sexuality and gender identity. And, of course, both tales discuss autonomy.