Keeping with the theme of diversity, I think as an avid reader it is important that I promote books that fit the description. So for this post, I am going to focus on my top ten books by Bronx writers or stories that center on The Bronx. I feel like it is important for me to promote my borough as much as possible.
- Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx
by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
Published February 10th 2004 by Scribner
In her extraordinary bestseller, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc immerses readers in the intricacies of the ghetto, revealing the true sagas lurking behind the headlines of gangsta glamour, gold-drenched drug dealers, and street-corner society. Focusing on two romances – Jessica’s dizzying infatuation with a hugely successful young heroin dealer, Boy George, and Coco’s first love with Jessica’s little brother, Cesar – Random Family is the story of young people trying to outrun their destinies. Jessica and Boy George ride the wild adventure between riches and ruin, while Coco and Cesar stick closer to the street, all four caught in a precarious dance between survival and death. Friends get murdered; the DEA and FBI investigate Boy George; Cesar becomes a fugitive; Jessica and Coco endure homelessness, betrayal, the heartbreaking separation of prison, and, throughout it all, the insidious damage of poverty.
Charting the tumultuous cycle of the generations – as girls become mothers, boys become criminals, and hope struggles against deprivation – LeBlanc slips behind the cold statistics and sensationalism and comes back with a riveting, haunting, and true story.
- Nilda by Nicholasa Mohr
Piñata Books/Arte Público Press ·Published: January 1st 1987
“Damn you bastards, coming here making trouble. Bunch of animals.” The two police offers responding to a call about an open fire hydrant lash out furiously at the Puerto Rican residents of New York City’s El Barrio neighborhood. It’s the summer of 1941, and all ten-year-old Nilda wants to do is enjoy the cool water with her friends. But the policemen’s curses end their fun, and their animosity is played out over and over again in Nilda’s life. She is repeatedly treated with contempt and even disgust by adults in positions of authority: teachers, nurses and social workers. At home, though, she is surrounded by a large and loving—if somewhat eccentric— family that supports and encourages her artistic abilities. She experiences the onset of World War II and watches anxiously as several brothers go off to war; her stepfather’s poor health means he can’t work, causing serious financial difficulties for the family; one brother slinks off to the underworld, leaving behind a pregnant girlfriend, adding two more mouths to feed to the family’s already dire situation. Named an “Outstanding Book of the Year” by The New York Times and one of the “Best Books of the Year” by the American Library Association in 1973 when it was first published, Nicholasa Mohr’s classic novel about life as an immigrant in New York City offers a poignant look at one young girl’s experiences. Issues of race, religion and machismo are realistically and movingly depicted in this groundbreaking coming-of-age novel that was one of the first by a Latina author to be hailed by the mainstream media.
- El Bronx Remembered by Nicholasa Mohr
Published June 19th 1993 by HarperTeen
In a city called New York …
In a neighborhood called El Bronx …
The Fernandex children own a very special pet: A white hen named after their favorite Hollywood movie star.
A new girl comes to school – a gypsy child who can read palms and foretell the future.A young boy must face the humiliation of wearing his uncle’s orange roach-killer shoes to his high school graduation. In the South Bronx – or El Bronx, as it’s known to the people who live there – anything can happen. A migrant “fresh off the boat” from Puerto Rico can be somebody on the mainland, pursue the American Dream … and maybe even make it come true.
Here are stories that capture the flavor and beat of El Bronx in its heyday, from 1946-1956.
A New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year
Finalist, 1976 National Book Award for Children’s Literature
A Notable Children’s Trade Book in Social Studies (NCSS/CBC)
4. Felita by Nicholasa Mohr, Dena Wallenstein Neusner (Editor), Ray Cruz (Illustrator)
Published July 19th 1999 by Puffin Books
Felita’s parents promise she will love their new neighborhood. Only Abuelita, her grandmother, understands how much Felita will miss her old block, and her best friend Gigi. But her new neighbors taunt and tease Felita and her family because they are from Puerto Rico. First published twenty years ago, Felita’s compelling story has resonance for kids today.”An honest, realistic view of an important aspect of contemporary American life.” –The Horn Book (less)
- Bronx Masquerade (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) by Nikki Grimes
Published Turtleback Books
When Wesley Boone writes a poem for his high school English class and reads it aloud, poetry-slam-style, he kicks off a revolution. Soon his classmates are clamoring to have weekly poetry sessions. One by one, eighteen students take on the risky challenge of self-revelation. Award-winning author Nikki Grimes captures the voices of eighteen teenagers through the poetry they share and the stories they tell, and exposes what lies beneath the skin, behind the eyes, beyond the masquerade.
- CrackHead by Lisa Lennox
Published Atria Books
Lisa Lennox transports readers to the heart of the crack era—the South Bronx, New York City, 1989. In the late 1980s and early 90s, the crack epidemic swept through inner city communities like the plague. Mothers abandoned their children and took to the street for a hit. Fathers sold everything they owned to get a taste. The crackhead was rampant. Some neighborhoods were never the same. Enter Laci Johnson, a beautiful, smart, privileged teenage girl from across town, who teams up with The South Bronx Bitches—an infamous girl group known for chasing men and money. When the SBB becomes envious of Laci they devise a plan to destroy her life. Finding love in the most unexpected of places, Laci turns to a local drug dealer to help save her and heal the wounds of her new addiction. Through Laci and a host of entertaining characters, Crackhead vividly captures the essence of an era and the devastating, sometimes fatal consequences of addiction.
- Show and Prove, by Sofia Quintero
Published July 14th 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
In the South Bronx in 1983, church camp counselors and best friends Nike and Smiles contend with diverging paths, girl trouble, and the threat of violence against a backdrop of the AIDS and crack epidemics of Reagan-era America. At the root of their troubles is Smiles’ recent transfer to a fancy private school, a move that promises a brighter future but divides him from both his best friend and himself, as he fears becoming an outsider in his own life.
Pair with: All that ’80s nostalgia you’re looking to neutralize
8. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Published January 18th 2016 by Riverdale Avenue Books
Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.
Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle?
With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself.
- The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera
Expected publication: February 21st 2017 by Simon & Schuster
Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.
THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:
Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts. With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…
Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.
- More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Published June 2nd 2015 by Soho Teen
In his twisty, gritty, profoundly moving debut—called “mandatory reading” by the New York Times—Adam Silvera brings to life a charged, dangerous near-future summer in the Bronx.
In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely. When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.
Why does happiness have to be so hard?