YA Friday: Finding Identity in Family History
Silicon Valley Reads 2019
Silicon Valley Reads is an annual community program presented by San José Public Library, Santa Clara County Library District, and the Santa Clara County Office of Education that selects books focused on a contemporary theme and offers free events throughout Santa Clara County to engage the public in reading, thinking and discussing the topic. The goals are to encourage the love of reading and learning and to have a welcoming forum where our diverse community can come together to share different perspectives.
In 2019, Silicon Valley Reads focuses on “Finding Identity in Family History.” Everyone has a family history – some they know and some they have yet to discover. The surging popularity of genealogy research is encouraging more people than ever to find out more about their ancestors and how their actions and decisions affect who we are today. This year the title Picture Us In The Light was chosen as the companion novel for teens because of it's emphasis on family, art, love, duty, and the universal human need for connection.
The other books in this list may not feature family at the forefront, but they all do feature some significant element of family—be it parental and sibling relationships (or lack there of), blended and alternative families, multigenerational and multicultural families, and families with secrets. They run the gamut in experiences and exploration of what family is or is not and how it defines the character.
Danny Cheng and his friends attend one of Cupertino's privileged public high schools and future success is almost certain. Danny's artistic talent has been recognized by his dream school, RISD, and no one is more proud of his full scholarship than his first-generation Chinese American parents. When Danny accidentally discovers a box of his father's papers containing copies of names, photos, and public records of a powerful Silicon Valley family, he wonders if his parents are involved in something illegal with ties to their former life in China. On the cusp of adulthood yet under consistent parental watch, Danny is determined to unravel the mystery of his family's painful past while navigating increasingly complicated personal relationships and school life.
Only child Grace was adopted at birth; when she finds herself placing her own daughter up for adoption, she begins searching for the bio family she's never known. She quickly discovers that she is a middle child, sandwiched between loudmouth younger sister Maya and older brother Joaquin, who has spent nearly his entire life in the foster care system. As Grace struggles to move forward from the loss of her daughter, she begins to bond with her siblings who have hardships of their own. Maya's adoptive family is not as picture-perfect as they seem, and Joaquin is on the cusp of something wonderful but is afraid it could all end in disaster. The siblings find themselves turning to one another and learning that family comes in many forms.
Hollis Darby-Barnes is furious about a lot of things, including the death of one of her moms. It doesn't help that she's getting nasty texts from the girlfriend of the guy with whom Hollis is hooking up. The last thing she needs is an email from her half brother, Milo, asking for her assistance in tracking down the sperm donor who fathered them both. Milo has life-threatening allergies, and his doctors think his donor's medical history might give him important clues. He's also curious about what it would be like to have a father. After forming a reluctant partnership, the teens find more half siblings as well as information that leads them to their donor.
First comes the story of 17-year-old Marilyn, whose mother is so committed to her daughter’s future stardom that she moves them into a tiny Los Angeles apartment with Marilyn’s unwelcoming, alcoholic uncle. But Marilyn’s vision of her future involves going to college, taking photos, and making a life with her smart and handsome new neighbor, James. Next comes the present-day story of Marilyn’s biracial daughter, Angie, also 17, who wonders about the father she never met. Did he really die in a car crash? Does she have relatives who look like her? Will knowing her past help her find her way forward? Past and present collide when Angie runs away from Albuquerque to L.A. to find the man she thinks may be her uncle.
Tasia Quirk is young, Black, a senior, she's got great friends, and a supportive and wealthy family. She even plays football as the only girl on her private high school's team. When she catches her mamma trying to stuff a mysterious box in the closet, her identity is suddenly called into question. Now Tasia's determined to unravel the lies that have overtaken her life. An artsy bisexual boy from the Valley could help her find them-- but only if she stops fighting who she is, beyond the color of her skin.
For as long as Jack 'June' O'Donnell has been alive, her parents have had only one rule: stay away from the Angert family. But when June collides--quite literally--with Saul Angert, sparks fly, and everything June has always know is thrown into chaos. Who exactly is this gruff, sarcastic, but seemingly harmless boy who has returned to their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, after three mysterious years away? And why has June--an O'Donnell to her core--never questioned her late father's deep hatred of the Angert family? After all, the O'Donnells and the Angerts may have mythic legacies, for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them. As Saul and June's connection grows deeper, they find that the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers seem to be conspiring to reveal the truth about the harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations.