Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

I knew that my novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, was making its way onto high school reading lists when curious emails began popping up in my inbox. They tended to go something like this:

“Um, you know, your book, Motel on the Corner of Sweet and Sour—dude, it’s like m favorite novel of all time!! And I’m kinda wondering if you could, like, answer these twelve questions for me? (In my mind, I always hear this question coming from a nasally, voice-cracking, pre-pubescent 14-year-old boy wearing a Hot Topic hoodie with his ear buds in, listening to “Bring Me the Horizon”).

And just like that, I was suddenly someone’s homework. Right up there with Of Mice and Men, the Pythagorean Theorem, and building dioramas out of old shoe-boxes and craftpaper.

To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure how my novel would be received.

So then I asked myself why so many students embrace books like The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird—because they’re amazing novels? Sure. But moreover, these are books with young protagonists. They offer voices that are readily absorbed by the intrepid imaginations of young adults. (more…)

Outcasts United by Warren St. John

For the better part of a hundred years, Clarkston, Georgia—a community of 7,100 on one square mile of land east of downtown Atlanta—was a mostly white town where little of interest happened. In the early 1990’s, the town was designated as a resettlement center for refugees from around the world, and refugees poured in from Southeast Asia, the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East. In less than a decade, little Clarkston, Georgia transformed into one of the most diverse communities in the country.

Outcasts United is the story of this town, told through the lens of a soccer team of refugee boys called the Fugees, a team founded and coached by an American-educated, Jordanian born volunteer named Luma Mufleh. The team and its remarkable coach ultimately provide the rest of us with powerful lessons about how to create community in places where everyone is different. (more…)