These new novels can be challenging and even downright harrowing, but their authors imbue them with warmth and humor.
When Hằng arrives in Texas, she has lost everything except a filament of hope. Six years before, she helped her younger brother, Linh, get out of Vietnam as the war came to a close. But when Hằng finally follows Linh to America, she discovers that he’s grown into a young man with little to no memory of his life before. Butterfly Yellow follows their halting attempts to reconnect.
National Book Award-winning author Thanhhà Lại (Inside Out & Back Again) spares her protagonist very little. Hằng has lost nearly all of her family, she is wracked with guilt about her brother, and her journey to the U.S. on a dangerously overcrowded boat is so traumatic that she practically folds into herself with PTSD. Her unlikely friendship with a Texas cowboy named LeeRoy allows her to find some relief. Lại writes Hằng’s dialogue phonetically, and it may take readers a while to acclimate before they can easily understand her. It’s a small choice that gives this tender story that much more of an impact.
Dove “Birdie” Randolph is beginning to yearn for some independence when Carlene, an aunt she barely remembers, shows up at her Chicago home. Birdie spends her time studying ever since her parents made her quit the soccer team, but she’s emboldened to claim a little more freedom by Booker, the guy she likes but can’t bring home yet. Meanwhile, Aunt Carlene is not only enabling but even encouraging Birdie's rebellious impulses. The Revolution of Birdie Randolph is either going to shake things up or burn it all down.
Brandy Colbert, author of the Stonewall Book Award-winning Little & Lion, has created a world that readers will want to hang out in, from the snug apartment above the family’s beauty salon to the rooftop with its view of the city. When Birdie and her sister go to Chicago Pride, the mix of excitement and claustrophobia is palpable. There’s a big twist in the story—a bombshell of a family secret—that throws Birdie’s life into disarray, and the struggle to define herself separately from the strong women in her life has the potential to pull her apart. Thankfully, her web of friends and family form a net that won’t tear so easily.