Inspired by the UW Tacoma Strategic Plan, the goals of the Real Lit[erature] are to create a greater awareness and discussion of the experiences that are being had by our students, staff, and community members. By interacting with fiction narratives that reflect different experiences, it provides opportunities to dialogue with peers about shared and disparate experiences. Additional benefits include creating community by reducing isolation and enhancing campus education through peer-based discussion groups.
Real Lit was started Fall 2018 by the UW Tacoma Library and the UW Tacoma Center for Equity and Inclusion, and has been active most quarters, including summer, since then. The COVID-19 pandemic moved the club to zoom, and, for accessibility and public safety, we have continued to run the club in the virtual environment. It has transformed to a more robust peer-to-peer facilitation model since Summer 2022.
The Shadow Sister, by Lily Meade
“The Shadow Sister” is a young adult thriller starring Casey, a biracial Black teen, whose older sister, Sutton, disappears for several days before she is returned home by the police, physically intact but traumatized. Casey and Sutton’s relationship has long been viciously acrimonious, so Casey struggles to understand the partially amnesic, docile sister who returns to her family — is Sutton irrevocably damaged? Faking it? Supernaturally altered?
This exciting and groundbreaking fiction collection showcases a number of new and emerging 2SQ (Two-Spirit and queer) Indigenous writers from across Turtle Island. These visionary authors show how queer Indigenous communities can bloom and thrive through utopian narratives that detail the vivacity and strength of 2SQness throughout its plight in the maw of settler colonialism's histories.
Here, readers will discover bioengineered AI rats, transplanted trees in space, the rise of a 2SQ resistance camp, a primer on how to survive Indigiqueerly, virtual reality applications, mother ships at sea, and the very bending of space-time continuums queered through NDN time. Love after the End demonstrates the imaginatively queer Two-Spirit futurisms we have all been dreaming of since 1492.
Contributors include Nathan Adler, Darcie Little Badger, Gabriel Castilloux Calderon, Adam Garnet Jones, Mari Kurisato, Kai Minosh Pyle, David Alexander Robertson, jaye simpson, and Nazbah Tom.
This powerful and lyrical debut novel is to Syria what The Kite Runner was to Afghanistan; the story of two girls living eight hundred years apart—a modern-day Syrian refugee seeking safety and an adventurous mapmaker’s apprentice—“perfectly aligns with the cultural moment” (The Providence Journal) and “shows how interconnected two supposedly opposing worlds can be” (The New York Times Book Review).
This “beguiling” (Seattle Times) and stunning novel begins in the summer of 2011. Nour has just lost her father to cancer, and her mother moves Nour and her sisters from New York City back to Syria to be closer to their family. In order to keep her father’s spirit alive as she adjusts to her new home, Nour tells herself their favorite story—the tale of Rawiya, a twelfth-century girl who disguised herself as a boy in order to apprentice herself to a famous mapmaker.
But the Syria Nour’s parents knew is changing, and it isn’t long before the war reaches their quiet Homs neighborhood. When a shell destroys Nour’s house and almost takes her life, she and her family are forced to choose: stay and risk more violence or flee across seven countries of the Middle East and North Africa in search of safety—along the very route Rawiya and her mapmaker took eight hundred years before in their quest to chart the world. As Nour’s family decides to take the risk, their journey becomes more and more dangerous, until they face a choice that could mean the family will be separated forever.
Following alternating timelines and a pair of unforgettable heroines coming of age in perilous times, The Map of Salt and Stars is the “magical and heart-wrenching” (Christian Science Monitor) story of one girl telling herself the legend of another and learning that, if you listen to your own voice, some things can never be lost.
How are stories transmitted in this book? Nour speaks to the earth, the fig, through tears. How are stories transmitted by your families?
Abu Sayeed and Nour both have lost parents/a parent. “Then you know. You know what it’s like.” Why is this important? How – if at all – is this connected to the collections of rocks? How is this all a commentary on Nour’s own sense of brokenness?
When a home is destroyed, or when a person leaves home (Nour/Rawiya), what does home mean? What does home mean to you?
Nour spends a lot of time thinking about her space and place in the world (physically), and the shape and map of her inner world. Rawiya speaks of parents abandoning their children, or children abandoning their parents. How is one’s place in the world defined by location, citizenship, family we have or family that we choose?
Jeremy Harkiss, cheer captain and student body president, won’t let coming out as a transgender boy ruin his senior year. Instead of bowing to the bigots and an outdated school administration, Jeremy decides to make some noise—and how better than by challenging his all-star ex-boyfriend Lukas for the title of Homecoming King?
Lukas Rivers, football star and head of the Homecoming Committee, is just trying to find order in his life after his older brother’s funeral and the loss of his long-term girlfriend—who turned out to be a boy. But when Jeremy threatens to break his heart and steal his crown, Lukas kickstarts a plot to sabotage Jeremy’s campaign.
When both boys take their rivalry too far, the dance is on the verge of being canceled. To save Homecoming, they’ll have to face the hurt they’re both hiding—and the lingering butterflies they can’t deny.
Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Nevermind she's also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes.
But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she's also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.
Effie spends a lot of time thinking about where it is she feels comfortable – the ren faire, while swimming; by extension, we hear about and can imagine where it is she doesn’t feel herself – at the cemetery, while being hounded by the media. What are your thoughts around her spaces of comfort and safety? What defines these spaces? How does this look similarly – or differently – for Tavia?
What is the importance of sign language to Tavie and to Effie? What role does signing play?
Discuss the relationship between a Siren’s persuasive voice and Black Lives Matter protests.
How does this book address Black beauty and joy? What is the relationship between Black beauty and Effie and Tavie’s mythical embodiments?
Ophelia Rojas knows what she likes: her best friends, Cuban food, rose-gardening, and boys - way too many boys. Her friends and parents make fun of her endless stream of crushes, but Ophelia is a romantic at heart. She couldn't change, even if she wanted to.
So when she finds herself thinking more about cute, quiet Talia Sanchez than the loss of a perfect prom with her ex-boyfriend, seeds of doubt take root in Ophelia's firm image of herself. Add to that the impending end of high school and the fracturing of her once-solid friend group, and things are spiraling a little out of control. But the course of love--and sexuality--never did run smooth. As her secrets begin to unravel, Ophelia must make a choice between clinging to the fantasy version of herself she's always imagined or upending everyone's expectations to rediscover who she really is, after all.
What is the importance/significance of food to Ophelia and her family/friends?
Ophelia’s mom makes comments that assume that Ophelia will marry a man one day and says that she’s always been boy crazy, but Ophelia takes a moment to reflect. What does this tell us about her shifting identity? How could these comments make it harder for Ophelia to accept her queerness and evolving identity?
Ophelia attends her mother’s English department party, and encounters blatant homophobia and racism from one of her mom’s students. What role does this encounter play in Ophelia understanding more about her identity? How does it illustrate/circumscribe her relationship with her mom vs. her relationship with her dad?
Talia is facing discrimination from her family for both her race and her sexuality, how would this impact a young person growing up?
Ordinary Girls is a fierce, beautiful, and unflinching memoir from a wildly talented debut author. While growing up in housing projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach, Jaquira Díaz found herself caught between extremes: as her family split apart and her mother battled schizophrenia, she was surrounded by the love of her friends; as she longed for a family and home, she found instead a life upended by violence. From her own struggles with depression and sexual assault to Puerto Rico’s history of colonialism, every page of Ordinary Girls vibrates with music and lyricism. Díaz triumphantly maps a way out of despair toward love and hope to become her version of the girl she always wanted to be.
With a story reminiscent of Tara Westover’s Educated, Roxane Gay’s Hunger, and Terese Marie Mailhot’s Heart Berries, Jaquira Díaz delivers a memoir that reads as electrically as a novel.
Reflective question: how does one discuss something so raw that is someone’s truth, someone’s life narrative? We used framing questions to help us through: Why is this important? Why is this important to your communities? How do we bear witness to this life?
We see expressions of gendered privilege, and aa range of gender(ed) expressions seep through the fabric of the chapters: what do you observe? How does Jaqui navigate this world for herself?
Often, the parts of our lives that are exceptionally traumatic tend to impress themselves most on our memories. On page 15, Jaquira Díaz says she is both “determined to remember” and “prohibido olvidar (forbidden to forget).” Do you find yourself more capable of remembering the exceedingly bad times in your life? What about the exceedingly good? Why is Jaquira forbidden to forget? (From this website)
What does home mean to Jaquira?
Who or what are Jaquira’s monsters? What is the impact of violence on Jaquira and her life?
What is the arc of Jaquira’s relationship with her mother?
Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.
People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it's hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn't help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter.
But there's one person who's always in Charlie's corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing--he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? UGHHH. Everything is now officially a MESS.
A sensitive, funny, and painful coming-of-age story with a wry voice and tons of chisme, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega tackles our relationships to our parents, our bodies, our cultures, and ourselves.
How do the paradigms of anti-Fatness and its intersections with classism, sexism, ableism, anti-Blackness, and more manifest in this book?
Amelia’s and Sid’s breakup is around the pressure to have sex. How do Charlie and Charlie’s mom support Amelia? What stands out in their conversation vis a vis self worth and confidence? How does this notion of self worth look different when sex is involved vs. body size and fatness?
How are relationships formed, contested, discussed vis a vis food? (We see so much joyous eating, cooking as an act of love, abstaining from eating, criticizing eating, etc., – explore!)
Who are the adults that help Charlie? How is this similar or different from her relationship with her mother?
Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains' toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store's security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right.
But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix's desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix's past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.
With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone family, and the complicated reality of being a grown up. It is a searing debut for our times.
How did you reaction to the grocery store confrontation scene?
What assumptions did you make about what was happening as it happened?
What assumptions did you make about why Alix called Emira to begin with?
The question of parental vs. parental-figure relationships is pivotal in this story. How does Briar’s relationship with Emira differ from that with her mother? How do Emira and Alix each relate to Briar in turn?
The novel is very much about Emira’s pivotal age and her experience as a 25-year-old learning how to be a grown-up. Talk about some of Emira’s challenges, as well as her freedoms. How does her experience compare or differ to your own?
Many parts of the book address both Alix’ and Kelley’s appropriation and fetishization of Black people in their lives through different lenses and angles; Kelley speaks to Emira about Alix’s relationship with Black staff; Alix speaks to her friend about Kelley’s dating history. Discuss.
At the end of the story, we see Emira reflecting on her own happiness, unique from the paths her friends have pursued: what do you think of her growth?
Emira ends with pondering what kind of adult Briar will end up being? How do you think Briar will grow up?
When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they're thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents' rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.
But Ben's attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan's friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.
At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.
Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte's war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story.
Hoping to uncover more about Jun and the events that led to his death, Jay is forced to reckon with the many sides of his cousin before he can face the whole horrible truth -- and the part he played in it.
By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is a college student, and one of the only black kids at Jefferson Academy. By night, she joins hundreds of thousands of black gamers who duel worldwide in the secret online role-playing card game, SLAY.
No one knows Kiera is the game developer - not even her boyfriend, Malcolm. But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, the media labels it an exclusionist, racist hub for thugs.
With threats coming from both inside and outside the game, Kiera must fight to save the safe space she's created. But can she protect SLAY without losing herself?
Careful--you are holding fresh ink. And not hot-off-the-press, still-drying-in-your-hands ink. Instead, you are holding twelve stories with endings that are still being written--whose next chapters are up to you.
Because these stories are meant to be read. And shared.
Thirteen of the most accomplished YA authors deliver a label-defying anthology that includes ten short stories, a graphic novel, and a one-act play. This collection will inspire you to break conventions, bend the rules, and color outside the lines. All you need is fresh ink.
Katsuyamas never quit—but seventeen-year-old CJ doesn’t even know where to start. She’s never lived up to her mom’s type A ambition, and she’s perfectly happy just helping her aunt, Hannah, at their family’s flower shop.
She doesn’t buy into Hannah’s romantic ideas about flowers and their hidden meanings, but when it comes to arranging the perfect bouquet, CJ discovers a knack she never knew she had. A skill she might even be proud of.
Then her mom decides to sell the shop—to the family who swindled CJ’s grandparents when thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during WWII. Soon a rift threatens to splinter CJ’s family, friends, and their entire Northern California community; and for the first time, CJ has found something she wants to fight for.
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.
With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
Tommy Orange's wondrous and shattering novel follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize. Among them is Jacquie Red Feather, newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind. Dene Oxendene, pulling his life together after his uncle's death and working at the powwow to honor his memory. Fourteen-year-old Orvil, coming to perform traditional dance for the very first time. Together, this chorus of voices tells of the plight of the urban Native American--grappling with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and spirituality, with communion and sacrifice and heroism. Hailed as an instant classic, There There is at once poignant and unflinching, utterly contemporary and truly unforgettable.
Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He's about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it's pretty overwhelming—especially when he's also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom's family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.
Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what's going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understands that sometimes, best friends don't have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he's spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream, and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.
Sohrab calls him Darioush—the original Persian version of his name—and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he's Darioush to Sohrab. When it's time to go home to America, he'll have to find a way to be Darioush on his own.
One moment that changes both of their lives forever.
If it weren't for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl's struggle for justice.