July Staff Picks

By Books Are Magic

By Books Are Magic

Front Desk (Scholastic Gold)

Kelly Yang

$7.99 $7.35

–Abby

How Much of These Hills Is Gold

C. Pam Zhang

$26.00 $23.40

This is a book about the myths America tells itself, as told by two siblings searching the gold-rush era west for a place to bury their Ba, and for a place to call home. You should judge this book by its cover--it's as stunning and fierce inside as out. –Annina

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

Ocean Vuong

$26.00 $23.40

–Anthony

Lost Children Archive

Valeria Luiselli

$16.95 $15.59

The Lost Children Archive is a melancholy but vital song to those who have been silenced, resonating across the country as we travel along on an intimate family road trip from New York to the Southwest. Connecting native and indigenous histories with the current migration crisis at the border, Valeria Luiselli is masterful in her tenderness and her exploration of storytelling, documentation, and boundaries, both internal and external, sings with the heartache of someone who knows what we lose in refusing others their humanity. The Lost Children Archive offers a much needed return to the generous, the caring, and the humane in a country that has become all too accustomed to desensiting its violence and isolation. –Colleen

The Sun Is Also a Star

Nicola Yoon

$12.99 $11.95

Under the guise of your typical love story, The Sun is Also A Star, explores the very real fear of imminent deportation that immigrant families face daily. The day before Natasha's family is forced to return to Jamacia, she fights tooth and nail to stay in her home, not the place in which she was born, but the place in which she has formed her life and let her dreams fly. –Daisy

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground

Alicia Elliott

$17.98 $16.54

Sometimes I'm made aware of a title or author, and I can remember exactly where I was and who or what told me about it. Other times books materialize into my consciousness without inception. This book is one such book. Something or someone drew me to it. Alicia Elliot's debut is a collection of personal essays on various topics such as Alicia's experience with head lice, her mother's mental illness, and her experiences as a mother. All of this is filtered through the weight of North American colonialism, capitalism, and white supremacy. She is a brilliant and clear-eyed biracial Haudenosaunee writer. This book made me think deeply about the idea of Canada and the United States as separate countries. What difference is there when both have taken the exact same actions against its Indigenous communities? What is the border but a superficial divide that White people use to project their imagined relative goodness? –Danni

The Son

Philipp Meyer

$16.98 $15.62

This novel explores the violent underbelly of the American myth, the rivers of blood that have been spilled to create this country, the consequences of pretending that these tragedies are not ingrained in our national character. A beautifully written illustration of Faulkner's famous quote: "The past is never dead. It's not even past. –Eddie

Esperanza Rising

Pam Munoz Ryan and Pam Munoz Ryan

$7.99 $7.35

Esperanza Rising is an important American story about migrant farm workers who fight for humane working conditions during the Great Depression. When I was a teacher I chose to teach this book because it shows the intersection of the race- and class struggle during a greater economic downturn, which is still relevant today. My favorite character is Abuelita, who captures a quintessential American ethos of the 20th century: Rise again, with a new life ahead of you. –Jacque

Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir

Cherríe Moraga

$17.00 $15.64

Moraga's memoir centers her relationship with her mother in their Catholic Mexican home in California. Moraga's narration is evocative-- she pays careful attention to both comfort and pain, and captures introspection so well while navigating the role of queerness, illness, and decline in her relationship with her mother. I love this memoir, and also highly recommend THIS BRIDGE CALLED MY BACK, edited by both Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua, for more work by women of color. –Maritza

Invisible Man

Ralph Ellison

$16.00 $14.72

Few books have impacted me the way Invisible Man did when I first read it. To think that it was a first novel by an unknown author and was published, won the national book award, and is just as important and relevant now as it was then is remarkable. This should be required reading in every high school in America. –Nick

A History of My Brief Body

Billy-Ray Belcourt

$15.99 $14.71

What makes a great American novel? This year, my pick is Billy-Ray Belcourt’s absolute knockout, A History of My Brief Body. It’s not a novel and he’s not from the US, but let’s take a moment to remember that “American” refers to two entire continents, which arrived at their current configuration through so much violence. This book is devastating, rigorous, brutal, beautiful, and always moving towards care. Belcourt animates language, illuminating its edges and fractures before turning them inside out to create something alive and embodied–a language for the future. It will be my first recommendation to everyone for the rest of 2020 and, likely, 2021. –Nika

I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir

Malaka Gharib

$16.99 $15.63

Malaka Gharib is the child of a Catholic, Filipino mother and a Muslim, Egyptian father. In this graphic memoir, she puts all the nuances and complexities of her identity as a first-generation American kid on the page, rendering her experiences with charming red, white, and blue illustrations. Details of her upbringing in a multicultural, immigrant neighborhood are contrasted against her adulthood experiences reconciling with what it means to be the “other” in a world where normal/mainstream = white. At once incredibly specific and incredibly relatable, this coming-of-age offers a heartwarming look into just one of the countless ways we define and experience “American-ness.” –Serena