Tag Archives: CJ Omololu

New Releases – February 2015

The Many Faces of Josephine Baker: Dancer, Singer, Activist, Spy by Peggy Caravantes (Chicago Review Press)

“An honest, revealing portrait of the famed entertainer and activist who was born into extreme poverty and became an international iconic star of the Jazz Age. … This warts-and-all portrait reveals that Baker was a complex, enigmatic personality who could be as selfish as she was generous, as mean-spirited as she was compassionate, and as inconsiderate as she was thoughtful. A fascinating, compelling story of a remarkably resilient woman who overcame poverty and racial prejudice to become an international celebrity.” — Kirkus

The Oathbreaker’s Shadow by Amy McCulloch (Flux)

“In a fantasy world with the flavor of the Central Asian steppes, Raim is a 15-year-old nomad determined to join the elite forces of the Khanate. Since he was a child, he’s been best friends with the Khan’s heir, and if he passes his tests he’ll be young Khareh’s most trusted fighter. He need only make an Absolute Vow, an oath sworn on a knot. If the maker of a knotted promise is forsworn, the knot burns a hideous scar on the oathbreaker’s body, and a grotesque shadow appears, haunting the breaker of the promise and causing his countrymen to drive him into the wilderness.” — Kirkus

Soulprint by Megan Miranda (Bloomsbury)

“Miranda (Vengeance) introduces a heroine with a strong voice and a thirst for freedom, thrust among a vividly delineated supporting cast with competing agendas. In a future where reincarnation can be scientifically tracked, 17-year-old half-Hispanic Alina Chase has spent her life isolated, allegedly for her own protection. She carries within her the soul of a charismatic and destructive whistleblower turned blackmailer, June Calahan. … The beauty of Miranda’s latest novel is in watching Alina, unused to human relationships, fall in love, earn trust, and form fast friendships in a high-adrenaline atmosphere, as she and her companions fight to stay ahead of the authorities while following the trail left by June.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

The Third Twin by CJ Omololu (Delacorte)

“Twins Lexi and Ava have been playing a game since they were little girls: they have created an imaginary third twin, Alicia. … Now as teenagers, the sisters vicariously imagine the free-spirited Alicia indulging in the wilder side of life. … Then the game begins to have dangerous consequences. … This compelling story filled with serpentine twists and turns will leave readers guessing at every step, and breathless at the climactic conclusion. Hand to readers who crave suspenseful, plot-driven thrillers.” — School Library Journal

When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez (Bloomsbury)

“This realistic novel invites readers into the lives of two high schoolers, Elizabeth Davis and Emily Delgado, as they struggle with unrelated painful events, reacting in ways as different as their personalities. … Latino culture, and bicultural and gay family relationships are woven easily into the story; popular culture references and some romance will also resonate with adolescents. Overall, this text provides important insights into the various stressors that can lead to depression and suicide, as well as the type of support required to move toward potential healing.” — School Library Journal

Hold Me Down by Calvin Slater (Dafina)

Book Description: Xavier Hunter’s dreams of graduation and college are even more crazy-impossible this sophomore year. Flipping on his former BFF has put more than one target on his back. And thanks to vicious baby-daddy lies, his dream girl Samantha Fox has quit him for good. The only person who seems to understand what he’s going through is Nancy Simpson. She’s a gorgeous chance to make things right—but she’s more dangerous drama than Xavier has ever seen.

Samantha isn’t going to let heartbreak break her. Maybe Xavier wasn’t the down-deep-decent guy she thought. And maybe what they had wasn’t as true as she hoped. But there’s something about his new boo, Nancy, that’s screaming bad news. And exposing what’s real means she and Xavier must face some hard truths—and survive.

Feral Pride by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick)

“A battle pitting a group of werepeople and their vampire compatriot against demons in disguise concludes this trilogy that began with Feral Nights (2013). … As in previous volumes, the wickedly funny, quickly paced style is anchored by the novel’s underlying theme of the marginalization of people and its effects, both those obvious (”Our legal rights are slippery,“ explains Kayla) and more insidiously subtle. … A final episode that is witty, smart and moving—sure to satisfy those who’ve been following the series.” — Kirkus

This Side of Home by Renée Watson (Bloomsbury)

“The summer before Maya and Nikki’s senior year of high school brings new challenges as their previously all-black neighborhood becomes attractive to other ethnic groups. The twins, while still close, have been changing in recent years and now find they have very different views about the changes. … Maya’s straightforward narration offers an intriguing look at how families and young people cope with community and personal change. Maya and her friends are well-drawn, successful characters surrounded by a realistic adult supporting cast.” — Kirkus

“The Third Twin” Is a Twisty YA Thriller with a Latina Protagonist

By Malinda Lo

omololu-thirdtwinUsually here at Diversity in YA we ask authors to guest blog about their own books, but today I’m doing something different for a special reason. My friend C. J. Omololu, author of the new book The Third Twin, is currently fighting stage four cancer. I’m not going to sugarcoat this: It’s serious. That’s why many of her friends and fans have banded together to help Cynthia (that’s C. J.) with the launch of The Third Twin, and that’s why I’m blogging about the novel here.

The Third Twin is the kind of diverse book I am always looking for: one in which the main character is of color (in this case she’s Latina) and yet the story doesn’t revolve around a racial or ethnic identity crisis. What’s even cooler in this case is that The Third Twin is a thriller that is totally about identity, but it’s not about someone struggling with racism or coming to terms with their ethnic background. It turns the identity tale inside out — as a good thriller should do. Let me tell you more about it.

In The Third Twin, identical twin sisters Lexi and Ava are totally different from one another: Lexi is an academic star and hopes to go to Stanford, while Ava’s all about having a good time with the right kind of guy. And then there’s Alicia — the sisters’ childhood imaginary friend who has turned into something much more dangerous … and fun. Lexi and Ava have been taking turns pretending to be carefree and self-confident Alicia, dating cute guys and never getting hurt, but one night while Lexi is on a date as Alicia, something goes really wrong. The next day, the boy “Alicia” went out with is discovered dead — murdered — and “Alicia” is the prime suspect.

Lexi and Ava start to notice some pretty odd things. “Alicia,” for example, seems to be doing things without either of their knowledge, and someone seems to be following and spying on them. It soon becomes clear that Lexi is going to have to figure out who killed Alicia’s last date, or else she’s going to end up taking the fall for her imaginary triplet sister.

Early on in the book you learn something that might make you wonder if Lexi and Ava really are Latina, but don’t worry — they are. I wouldn’t be blogging about this book on Diversity in YA if they weren’t. One thing I enjoyed about the way ethnicity is represented in The Third Twin is that it’s simply present, the way it is in reality. It’s not a big issue; it simply exists in everyday details that underscore the characters’ reality. This is the kind of “casual diversity” that is so important, because even though we need books that talk about race and racism, we also need books where characters of color can simply have the same kind of plot-driven adventures that white characters have all the time.

And The Third Twin was such a fun read: the kind you want to tear through in one sitting because the surprises just keep coming. It’s a story about the love between sisters despite their differences; it’s a story about finding romantic love in an unexpected place. It’s also chock full of page-turning reveals.

Several years ago I had brunch with Cynthia and several of our local young adult author friends, and at this brunch, Cynthia told us about the premise behind The Third Twin. (It takes a looong time for books to become reality!) I thought the twists she had come up with back then were fantastic, and I was so excited to read the finished product. Those twists? Still fantastic.

You can purchase a copy of The Third Twin here, or if you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, come to the book launch on Tuesday, Feb. 24, at Montclair Presbyterian Church (5701 Thornhill Dr, Oakland, California 94611). Books will be on sale from A Great Good Place for Books.

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Find out more about C. J. Omololu’s books at her website or follow her on twitter @cjomololu.

It’s Not Always About Race

By C.J. Omololu

My YA novel Transcendence came out last June, and one of the first industry reviews I read liked the fact that there was a biracial character on the cover, but commented that “there was no textual follow-up.” Many other reviewers felt the same way — that because there was a person of color on the cover, that fact should be addressed somewhere in the text. Comments generally came in two versions — “why is there a brown boy on the cover when the book isn’t about race?” or “I didn’t pick it up because I thought it was a ‘race’ book.”

It seems that for many readers, it’s confusing to have a brown character on the cover of a book just because.

I didn’t set out to write a diverse YA book. I wanted to write a fun, romantic book about a group of people who remember their past lives — the fact that the love interest was biracial was just part of the story, and honestly, I didn’t think about it very much. The characters in the book are a reflection of the community where I live in Northern California and people who know me will testify that I’d rather borrow from real life than make things up.

I was thrilled when my publisher Bloomsbury/Walker decided to put Griffon on the cover of Transcendence — not because he’s brown, but because he’s cute, and the cover reflected the story perfectly. There is no discussion of race in the book, no questioning by Cole’s parents when they’re introduced to Griffon, no commentary on their interracial relationship. Griffon’s dad is white and we meet him in the very first chapter, and his mom is African American and plays a large part in the story. All of this is just because these were the characters who fit the story I was telling.

It was only in the eleventh hour as we dove into copyedits that the question came up at all — my editor and I realized that we’d never addressed the “race issue” in the story and unanimously decided to leave it that way. I live in an interesting community — our high school is 40% Hispanic, 25% Asian, 17% White, 15% Black and 2% Multi-Racial. My boys have friends and have liked girls who are part of each of these communities and it’s never been an issue.

My family is a crazy study in genetics. My background is a mix of Swedish and Scottish while my husband is Nigerian. Our oldest has brown skin, brown eyes and curly brown hair (at 15, he looks remarkably like Griffon on the cover of the book — a fact that he doesn’t love), while our youngest son is very fair with green eyes and blonde curly hair.

The Omololu family, with C.J. on the left, her two sons, and her husband on the right.

If you ask either of them who they are, they’ll answer: baseball player, track runner, trampoline master, guitar player, honor student, etc. I’m not sure that “biracial” would even come up in the top ten. I think that like most families, we’re just going about the business of our daily lives — we don’t sit around the dining room table talking about race, and that’s the idea I wanted to carry into my story.

I think that there is a big need in today’s society for books that are about race or coming out. I also think that there is a big need for books that have gay or racially diverse characters just because these are the people who are present in our daily lives.

I have to say, I’ve been thrilled with the reaction from both Barnes and Noble and indie booksellers — all of them have placed Transcendence face-out in the regular YA section, which to me is a big win. Only by normalizing diverse characters into our stories can we honestly reflect the lives of all of our readers.

Visit C.J. Omololu at her website, and get a copy of Transcendence at IndieBound, B&N, or Amazon.