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ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
First off, I’m a cis, extremely white passing reviewer. I have been able to see myself in literature and media my entire life, regardless of how much my Filipino culture means to me and how proud of it I am. So even though all of these stories are ownvoices, this review you are about to read is not. After publication, I will feature some actual ownvoices reviews here because this anthology was created to support and boost diverse and marginalized voices, therefore we should also be supporting and boosting diverse and marginalized reviewers. (If you’re a PoC who would like to have your review listed on mine, please DM me on any platform!)
“It became pretty freaking clear that, book after book, adventure after adventure, the heroes weren’t like me at all. I don’t mean short and moderately athletic with severe seasonal allergies, because I’m aware those traits might hinder one’s ability to save the city/world/galaxy. I mean black boys. More often than not, if I ran across a character who shared my race and gender in a book he was a gross stereotype, comic relief, token sidekick, or, depending on genre (I’m looking at you, science fiction, fantasy, and horror), there to die so the real hero could fight another day.”
Next, friends, this was amazing. Like, go get your preorders ready. This is so worth every single penny. And if you have some extra money, maybe you’d be interested to donating to We Need Diverse Books as well. And hopefully one day we will live in a world where every child can easily see themselves in all media. And the first step to that is showing the world how important books like Fresh Ink are, and how these stories are quite literally life-changing.
This book has so much! Black stories, Asian stories, Native stories, Persian stories, Latinx stories, Muslim stories, Bi stories, Trans stories! Contemporary stories, play acts, fantasy stories, historical stories, sweet stories, heavy stories, superhero stories! And every single one is ownvoices. What a damn blessing in 2018. I’m not sure I’ve ever been as proud reviewing a book as I am reviewing Fresh Ink.
My personal favorites were Meet Cute by Malinda Lo, Why I Learned to Cook by Sara Farizan, One Voice by Melissa de la Cruz , and Super Human by Nicola Yoon, but I promise there is so much to love on every single page of this anthology. I have no word combination to let you all know how powerful and amazing this collection is.
I’m going to break down each short story with my thoughts, opinions, and individual star rating!
➽ Eraser Tattoo by Jason Reynolds – ★★★★
This was so beautifully written, and it was able to evoke so many emotions from me despite this being so short. This is a story about a girl and boy who have grown up together, and who having fallen in love over the years, having to say goodbye because one of them is moving away. But while the girl and her family are moving, we also get to see a white family moving in and their disregard for the black family packing up and leaving the home they’ve known for most their lives. This was a perfect opener to this collection.
➽ Meet Cute by Malinda Lo – ★★★★★
This was perfection in every single way. Like, to genderbend and racebend cosplays, to living that constantly queer life of always questioning if the person you are currently flirting with is also queer, to all the nerdy references, to the call out of me never being able to hide my blushing, to the feeling of claustrophobia and anxiousness in hectic crowd settings. This felt like a love letter to myself in every way, and it was easily the story I most connected to. This also has such an important discussion about “geek culture” and how toxic it can be, and how gross dudes can be towards girls. And this story stars two girls whose paths happen to cross at a convention center, while a big storm causes the power to go out. And if you like The X-Files and Star Trek, you have to buy this anthology for this story alone! I can’t stop smiling just thinking about this one. I loved it. And give me all the w/w stories! Masterpiece.
➽ Don’t Pass Me By by Eric Gansworth – ★★★★
This was an amazing short story, that packed such a powerful punch. We follow a Native boy who lives on a reservation but is forced to go to a Junior High where he is in the vast minority. This story talks about how some people of color are more white passing, or people who are biracial, or how some choose to hide their heritage, and how some stand out now regardless of their wants or wishes. This also heavily talks about how white is the norm in most classrooms, and how hurtful that can be to teens who are proud of who they are and their beautiful not white skin color.
➽ Be Cool for Once by Aminah Mae Safi – ★★★★★
Friends, this was just written completely captivating for me. The conversations, the setting, the feeling of having a crush, this was just such an accurate depiction of my high school experience, and I loved it. I legit giggled tears over the Anne Boleyn conversation. Also, full disclosure here, my first kiss was at a similar concert experience as this, so this story was just completely perfect for me. All the feels. And this story’s main character is a Muslim-American teen whose parents immigrated to The United States, and the boy she is crushing over stated that his grandparents immigrated to The United States. After reading this, I instantly added Not the Girls You’re Looking for to my TBR, because this was such an addicting read! I truly fell in love with this author’s writing
➽ Tags by Walter Dean Myers – ★★★★★
This was beyond words powerful. This story is told by one act in a play that I wish the world could actually see. We get to see four boys recounting the reason they died, while hoping their tags will keep them remembered. Systemic oppression is highlighted in this story, and how we allow black men and women to die because of the broken cycles we’ve never abolished. It’s a different kind of slavery, and police brutality and internalized racism enforce it. This script evoked so much emotion from me, and seeing these young men’s stories cross is something I don’t even have words for. Seriously, this is a must read. Not just from this collection, but from all the works being published in 2018. Also, I’m reporting this with a very heavy heart, but the author of this story passed away a few years ago. But I am forever thankful that his beautiful work was still incorporated into this anthology.
➽ Why I Learned to Cook by Sara Farizan – ★★★★★
This story has a Persian bi main character, and I’ve never felt so blessed. This w/w romance was also the damn cutest. Yasi also has anxiety and is feeling a little anxious to come out to her Grandmother, who immigrated to the United States from Iran seventeen-years-ago. And every Friday night, Yasi has dinner with her, and on this particular Friday, she asks her to teach her how to cook. She then spends the next two months learning everything her grandmother knows, while also not being sure how to come out. You all, this story had the best one liners in the collection. The beautiful writing and important messages were the perfect combination. ”You don’t apologize for who you are.” And the ending was the cutest thing I’ve ever read. All the happy years. This was such a bright shining light in this collection. I loved this with my entire heart.
➽ A Stranger at the Bochinche by Daniel José Older – ★★★
This one had a little more difficult of a learning curve I think, just because it felt like such a fantastic, SFF world. But I still really enjoyed this one, with a Latinx main character, and I also think there was a very important discussion on how white people have stolen/taken a lot of things from people of color and try to make it their own, while also stealing credit. I also really liked how this was so very different than everything else in this anthology.
➽ A Boy’s Duty by Sharon G. Flake – ★★★
I really enjoyed this historical story that starred a black homeless boy, who’s trying to not give up on his dreams or his love for astronomy. And even though this story has its sweet moments, it was a very heavy one, too. From just reading a book about a homeless kid, to seeing everyday racism, to learning about a side character who is grieving the worst loss in this world. This was able to evoke a lot of emotions from me. And honestly? This is the type of story you read and immediately want to go out in the world and do better.
➽ One Voice by Melissa de la Cruz – ★★★★★
I loved this short story so very much. This story centers around a string of hate crimes that are happening on Stanford’s campus, and we get to see how it’s impacting a Filipina girl whose family was undocumented. This story talks heavily on the privilege that white and white passing people take for granted when they are doing something as simple as walking back to their dorms. How white people can use police and “authority figures” as a convenience, where people of color not only can’t, but they feel more afraid of what will happen if they speak out. And this story perfectly talks about how hard it is to reclaim your space once it has been violated and deemed unsafe. And this also even discusses how we sexualize Asian woman and how so many men fetishize them. Like I said above, I am so very white passing, but this is a book about a Filipina girl studying microbiology, what I got my degree in at UofM. Like, I knew from the first page I was going to completely love this novella the most in this collection. But as I read, I realized how I wish I could give this short story to every student and make it required reading. This was a masterpiece, and now I feel like such a fool for never reading Melissa de la Cruz before. Beautiful, important, and completely moving.
➽ Paladin/Samurai by Gene Luen Yang – ★★
I loved how a graphic work was incorporated into this anthology, but I just didn’t completely love this one. But I did appreciate it starting out with a D&D campaign. I also think this one didn’t pack a punch like all the rest in the collection, but it’s about a Japanese boy wanting to play as a Samurai in his D&D campaign, but his DM will only allow them to be one of five classes (which is absurd!), so he is trying to get to be a Paladin. But… that’s just the DM being bad, because Paladins and Samurais are nothing alike. Just because they both use melee weapons? I’m sorry, I really wanted to love this!
➽ Catch, Pull, Drive by Schuyler Bailar – ★★★★★
Schuyler Bailar is the first openly transgender NCAA Division I swimmer. He was first recruited in 2013 to Harvard’s Women Swimming and Diving team, but after his transition he was recruited to the men’s team. And his success is such an inspiration that I honestly was crying reading his Wiki. And just knowing this makes this story even more beautiful and powerful. This story is about a trans boy who has finally come out to his school via Facebook and is now having his first day on his school’s swim team as a boy. And with that comes a brand new locker room, and new reactions from his peers. TW/CW for bullying, hate speech, transphobic slurs, use of dead name (all of these are challenged, and none are in a positive light, but it can be hard to read). This was easily one of my favorites stories in the collection, even though an ethnicity and/or culture is never brought up, but the author is a PoC.
➽ Super Human by Nicola Yoon – ★★★★★
This was probably the most perfect concluding story to any anthology every. Nicola Yoon just teleports me with her writing every time, and I need a full-length story to this immediately. Oh my gosh! But this is a powerful story about how no black person is safe from police brutality in America, not even superheroes. And one black girl unfolds the story, and has her eyes opened. This story is so relevant, so important, and is honestly a short masterpiece. I loved this so much, and it is such a shining star in this collection. I can’t wait for the rest of the world to fall in love with it.
Out of a possible 60 stars (5 stars possible for each of the 12 stories) this collection accumulated 51 stars (85%). But these numbers mean nothing, because Fresh Ink means more to me than any amount of math. This collection is so damn important, and I truly believe is life changing. This a five star read, and I implore you all to preorder and request at your libraries! Everyone deserves to see themselves and their experiences represented in book., and Fresh Ink is the anthology that the world needs.
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The quote above was taken from an ARC and is subject to change upon publication.