WORD Reads is our staff-voted book-of-the-month program. Each month of the year, we'll choose a different book that we love and share it with you, our customers.
Our May pick is With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo, reviewed here by our bookseller Kim. Stunning in every sense, With the Fire on High is a spectacular follow-up to Acevedo's 2018 debut The Poet X. It taps into something so organic and heartfelt that you can only sit back and marvel at her prowess. There’s a richness to Acevedo's prose that can only come from a skilled wordsmith. With the Fire on High isn’t written in verse like its predecessor, but it still reads like poetry, with short chapters that pack a punch and words that paint the most vivid of pictures.
With this book, Acevedo cements her place as a star of the YA genre. Emoni’s voice is incredibly strong, so much so that she feels like an actual person recounting her life to readers rather than a character on a page. Her pain and her triumphs become tangible things. Acevedo’s ability to bring her audience into the experiences of her characters is seemingly effortless. And beyond Emoni, readers will get insight on minor characters who could just as easily stand alone because of Acevedo’s deft skill at creating a well-rounded, thoughtfully crafted cast, all with genuine character arcs.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of books that showcase strong familial bonds and With the Fire on High does not disappoint in that respect. Whether it’s with a chosen family or a biological one, it was incredible to see the different interactions Emoni has with her inner circle. She faces challenges that most of her peers couldn’t begin to imagine, but she finds a way, with the support of those around her, to keep moving forward.
With the Fire on High is a brilliant homage to Latinx culture and exploration of self. Much like in The Poet X, Acevedo gives her audience an extremely close look at the varying shades of the Latinx community. I cannot even begin to stress the importance of having a book like this on shelves around the world. Often people talk about books as mirrors and windows, and this book is a perfect example of that. Readers from a similar background will be able to see themselves reflected authentically, and those from different walks of life will be able to gain a new perspective.
Elizabeth Acevedo will be coming to WORD Jersey City on May 9 to discuss With the Fire on High. To purchase tickets, please click here. You can also purchase signed copies of the book by clicking here and specifying "signed copy" in the comments.
From the New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award longlist title The Poet X comes a dazzling novel in prose about a girl with talent, pride, and a drive to feed the soul that keeps her fire burning bright.
In this memoir, Jacob tells poignant stories of her American experience with illustrations superimposed on photographs. Through effervescent dialogue with natural rhythms, she interlaces recollections from her childhood as the "other kind of Indian" in New Mexico with the wrenching pain of raising a curious, thoughtful, biracial child in the Trump era. And from the mouths of these babes, both her-as-a-child and her child, Jacob draws difficult questions about whether America is living up to its promise to immigrants and people of color. Spoiler alert: we're not even close. Our bookseller Jeff read this standing up on the subway and under the streetlights as he walked home, then stood outside to finish it in the wind. It's that good.
March is Women's History Month, but Feminism for the 99% is all about the future: the future of feminism, the future of capitalism, and the future of a society of that continues to prize white, wealthy, male heterosexuality above all else. In this slim volume, Arruzza, Bhattacharya, and Fraser posit that feminism and capitalism are inextricably linked, and put forth the argument that no form of equality will be possible until capitalism, an inherently racist and sexist system, has been fully dismantled. Many of the concepts presented in the book will be familiar to students of feminist theory, but the authors lay it all out in an eminently readable way that makes complex ideas easy to grasp. It's a book that will make you want to start a revolution.
Many of us know that single motherhood is difficult, but few of us who haven't experienced it stop to think about what it really means on a day-to-day basis. In Maid, Stephanie Land writes with heartbreaking detail about her struggle to provide for her daughter while pursuing her own dreams and maintaining her sense of self. Land doesn't attempt to act as the only voice of the working poor, but the intricacies she shares about her life shed a powerful light on how difficult life is for millions of oft-ignored Americans. She spends hours filling out reams of paperwork just to prove that she's poor enough to receive an insultingly small subsidy for food. She pulls over on the side of the highway to retrieve her daughter's favorite doll (purchased on clearance), only to end up weighing the choice between homelessness and a visit to the emergency room after another driver totals her car. Even in her darkest moments, though, Land finds flashes of joy and writes about them with an ease that leaps off the page. Maid can be a tough, sad read at times, but it's a necessary one.