I’m taking great care in revealing these blurbs one by one because each author has made room in their busy schedules to read, examine, and comment on this story. Their work touches on the themes or aesthetics in my own work, and I want to take a moment to explore those.

Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap blew me away! I’m a deep lover of mythology and peeling away at quiet, subtle magic in the most fractured corners of our world. This is where the very bones of human suffering, and joy, and love exist. While Bone Gap is a nod to the Greek Persephone and Demeter story, American Street is a very slight nod to what I think is the greatest mythological love story ever (hint, hint: It’s Egyptian). I also delve into the Vodou pantheon, and my beloved Papa Legba plays a huge role. Tiny bit of spoilers here, but there’s so much more!

(Again, the background image is a small slice of the full cover. Yes, lots of color! And chaos.)

Thank you to Laura Ruby for this tip of the hat to my dear Papa Legba.

“Ibi Zoboi brings us a Detroit rarely seen: full of wandering spirits, suffused with magic and mystery.  At once the story of one determined girl and a family at the crossroads as well as a powerful page-turner, American Street will leave the scent of Papa Legba’s cigar in the air and its mark on your heart.”

-LAURA RUBY, Author of Bone Gap, National Book Award Finalist, and Michael L. Printz Award Winner

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American Street
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I really don’t know how blurbs from authors affect readers’ perception of any book. But as a debut author, they mean a whole lot to me. It means a hat tip and a nod of approval from fellow writers, comrades in storytelling, allies in the work of documenting the inner and outer lives of children. And I am immensely grateful for any and every word of praise.

This blurb is from a wonderful human being whose presence in the children’s lit word is a force unto itself. I’m honored to receive this acknowledgment from award-winning author Jason Reynolds.

“Brimming with culture, magic, warmth, and unabashed rawness, American Street is ultimately a blistering tale of humanity. This is Manchild in the Promised Land for a new generation, and a remarkable debut from Zoboi, who without question is an inevitable force in storytelling.”

-Jason Reynolds, award-winning author of THE BOY IN THE BLACK SUIT and co-author of ALL AMERICAN BOYS

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I’ll be slowly unveiling of the beautiful cover of AMERICAN STREET, due out everywhere on February 14, 2017–Valentine’s Day. Of course, it’s a love story, and then some!

Every inch of the cover tells a story, including the white space. That’s why I love it so much! I’ll be including blurbs from some truly amazing authors (such an honor!) along with tiny glimpses of cover. It’s indeed a maze, a puzzle, a roadmap of sorts. By Friday, I’ll reveal the full cover and all the broken pieces will come together, very much like my characters and the story.

So, without further ado, below is the first praise for AMERICAN STREET:

“Zoboi’s nascent storytelling gifts ensnare from page one. To this spellbinding voice of the new generation, I bow.”

-RITA WILLIAMS-GARCIA, New York Times bestselling author and three-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Award.

My favorite YA novel by Rita Williams-Garcia is EVERY TIME A RAINBOW DIES, and it features a Haitian-American girl, a love story, birds, and Brooklyn. Of course, my heart melted when I received this praise from Rita! Thank you so much, Rita!

Now, here’s a colorful and mesmerizing snippet of the cover:

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This story… If I didn’t post, tweet, or blog about it, I squeezed it into this book. ‪#‎sayhername‬ ‪#‎blackgirlmagic‬ (literally) ‪#‎HaitiLovesDetroit‬ ‪#‎HaitiLovesFlint‬ ‪#‎HaitiLovesNOLA‬

From Publisher’s Weekly:

Alessandra Balzer at HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray has preempted author Ibi Zoboi’s YA debut, American Street. Infused with magical realism and the author’s own experiences, this coming-of-age story follows a Haitian immigrant girl thrust into the world of Detroit’s west side; as Fabiola struggles to get her mother out of a U.S. detention center she’s forced to confront the true meaning of family and home, even as she falls in love. Publication is slated for winter 2017; Josh Bank and Hayley Wagreich at Alloy Entertainment negotiated the two-book deal for world English rights.

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I wrote a guest post for an amazing new blog started by some equally amazing librarians and children’s book experts in the field–Reading While White.

I really wanted to address a recent debate sparked by an award-winning YA author, but she’s not the focus of this piece, really. You can read the full essay here.

“I don’t like to read” is a something I hear very often in New York City public schools, which I’ve learned to translate as, “I don’t like to read what my teachers make me read.” Which, in fact, does not always mean, “I don’t like to read books that don’t reflect my experiences.”

I once asked a class of Brooklyn ninth graders, many of whom were avid readers, if they’d like to see a Twilight or Harry Potter set in the ‘hood. They all shouted no. I didn’t ask them why. I already knew the answer.

My children’s school has an annual book fair. I have a hand in selecting the titles sold there, and of course, I pick out a wide range of diverse books that reflect the school’s demographic (which isn’t very many). I handed a copy of Christopher Grant’s Teenie, with a beautiful black girl on the cover, to a beautiful black girl. She scrunched up her face and shook her head, as if I’d just handed her a plate of chocolate-covered Brussels sprouts. She’d already bought two John Green novels—neither of which had any black girls on the cover, or in them.

As I’m writing this, my almost 11-year-old comes over to announce that she’s just finished reading Edwidge Danticat’s new YA novel, Untwine. She tells me to read it soon so we can discuss. Yesterday, my almost 13-year-old returned Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ to me. “How was it?” I asked. “It was interesting,” she said. “It’s not as vanilla as the other book. It’s not vanilla at all.”

By vanilla, she means white. Not just white people, but a white feel, a white tone. A book can have only white characters and feel very much not-vanilla—there’s something universal about the voice, the characters, and the themes. She’s probably heard me say this about books. And maybe, in some indirect way, I’ve taught my daughters how to read like this. Because their mother is a children’s book writer, and has to read the canon as part of her job, my daughters are privy to most of the award-winning, bestselling, and even some of the obscure, and under-the-radar children’s books. This sets them apart from their peers, and maybe their ELA teachers, too. I tell them they’re privileged in this sense. They’re little black girls who love to read, and own books, and have parents and grandparents who read. This is their black privilege.

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