What to read when: you want some woke YA
Why Bil Wright delivers
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Before we get into this week’s book recommendation, I’d like to open up the Publishing Q&A section to everyone— not just to paid subscribers. If you have a question about publishing, writing, not writing, or basically anything having to do with getting your words into the world, please leave your question in the comment section of this post. I’ll get in touch if I intend to use it!
Now to this week’s reco:
The book: “Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy” by Bil Wright
The why: I got this book at our town library sale having no idea what it was about, and set about reading it to my daughter over the summer. As someone who tries to write about contemporary issues in my own fiction, and struggles between feeling like I’m either being too obvious or opaque, I’m impressed with how naturally and elegantly Wright weaves serious issues into a peppy, encouraging read for young people (and the adults who love them).
Carlos Duarte is a highschooler in an underprivileged area of New York who is out to his friends and family, but relentlessly bullied for it by his older sister’s shithead of a boyfriend. Aside from the close friendships that Carlos’ values and his burning crush on a “rocker” classmate, Carlos’ inner kryptonite is makeup artistry, a talent that sets him apart from his classmates and eventually wins him his first ever after-school job at the “Feature-Face” counter at the local mall. (I worked for M.A.C. as a namer for a long time, so I personally read this whole book as Carlos working for M.A.C., which pleased me to no end.)
Carlos makes a lot of mistakes in this book—real mistakes, not just emotional ones— and the people around him make bad decisions, too. After reading too many books to my daughter where, I don’t know, a bunny rabbit doesn’t share the carrots with its five hundred siblings, it was refreshing to read a novel to my daughter where mistakes comes with unpleasant, real-world consequences.
My daughter is almost nine and I wouldn’t have had her read this title “unaccompanied.” It explores tough topics like domestic abuse, poverty, bullying, and homophobia, but in a way that makes these issues approachable so that we could talk about them, without her feeling overwhelmed or scared. Whether your young reader can handle this book alone is entirely up to you. Me and G give it 10/10, no notes…okay, one note. The title. The title is just awful. But we’ll let that go.
I’ve just picked up Wright’s previous book, “When the Black Girl Sings” for my daughter’s birthday, and we’re tackling Anne of Green Gables now. But the writing is so small! And I am growing old!
Our little Connecticut town has lost an incredible woman and journalist. Anne Garrels was a celebrated NPR Correspondent whose fearless and emotional reporting on subjects like poverty and suicide in the battle-torn places she was reporting got her into hot water time and time again. As a civilian, she was graceful but sharp witted, with terrifically cutting comments that made her the luminary you wanted to stick by at a party. She was beloved and admired in our hamlet and she will be much missed. Anne has a beautiful obit in the New York Times today.
Do you live in the Bedford, NY area? September 28th at 7pm I’ll be joining the wonderful folks at Bedford Riding Lanes Association and Endeavor Therapeutic Horsemanship to talk about the benefits of nonverbal communication and the healing power of horses. Information here!
I’ve got oodles of other September events coming up, many of which are free. You can see the full list here.
As soon as I cut my hair, I’m ramping up my game on BookTok: As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m a big consumer of TikTok content: it’s where I go for laughs. As a creator there, I’ve mostly been making uber cheesy horse videos with my daughter that maybe two people see, which my daughter considers “going viral”—Bless. While I plan to keep going with the cheese, I’ll be experimenting with book content this fall, including reading “The Year of the Horses” to…actual horses. If you are on TikTok, give me a follow! I’m @cbmaum there.
One of my favorite editors is freelancing! Jennifer Baker, senior editor at Amistad Books/Harper Collins and host of “Minorities in Publishing”, has a few slots open this fall for select copyediting, proofreading, developmental editing, and ghostwriting projects. Find out all about her at https://www.jennifernbaker.com
Got a burning question about publishing or writing? Leave it in the comments and I’ll try to answer it in an upcoming Q&A!
Thanks for being here! What are you up to this weekend? I might take my kiddo to “Bat Appreciation Day” this weekend in a Copper Mine. Save the animals! It’s too late for us.
As a Canadian girl, Anne of Green Gables will always hold a huge place in my booklover heart. Pretty sure my love of Anne when I was a little girl is why I have implicit trust and affection for every single human with blissfully red hair.
Bil Wright is great! I went to a workshop he presented at Grub Street's Muse & the Marketplace Conference a few years ago and got a lot out of that, as well as his books. So happy to see you spotlight his work.