Linda Sullivan challenges reality with this week’s novels

Susan EspirituOur Town Readers

Our Book Whisperer, Linda Sullivan, challenges us to expand our understanding of truth through fiction as it mirrors reality: Dreamland Burning, Dear Martin and Dear Justyce.

Linda’s first recommendation this week is Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham, an American author who says she writes because it’s the only job she’s been able to stick to since she’s worked in a morgue, a maximum-security prison and as a yoga instructor. She says she loves writing about people who live inside her head. Dreamland Burning is her second novel.

“I understand now that history only moves forward in a straight line when we learn from it. Otherwise, it loops past the same mistakes over and over again.

Dreamland Burning is a dual-narrated young adult novel about race relations set in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Rowan is a mixed-race teen girl in present day, and Will is a mixed-race teen boy in 1921. A dead body connects the two.”

Linda’s second recommendation is a dual read: Dear Martin and Dear Justyce by Nic Stone. Nic Stone was born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, where she attended Spelman College. She mentored teens at home and in Israel after college before she returned home to begin her writing career. Dear Martin was her debut novel, followed by multiple successful reads leading to the sequel, Dear Justyce.

Linda primes us for these novels: “What would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. do? If the world doesn’t change, who will you be? These are the two questions Justyce is asking himself during his very turbulent senior year of high school. This is a young adult novel, but it isn’t a lighthearted story. This is the fictional story of too many young black men’s reality in our world. Maybe you’re overwhelmed by the news of the day but have a desire to learn more. Books are a great way to gain knowledge and empathy.

“Read Dear Martin first, and then read Dear Justyce. ‘How the hell’s a person supposed to give something they ain’t never had?’ This sentence brought me to tears. The school to prison pipeline is real, friends, and while this is a work of fiction, it is reality for too many. If I were making a must-read list for young adults, these two books would be on it. In fact, let’s replace some of those classics with contemporary novels that speak to problems we are facing today.”

Remember: Knox County Online Library to search for Linda’s recommendations each week.

Don’t forget Reader Trip 2024 with Book Whisperer on the Danube: see story Reader Trip 2024 Story.

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