Interview with Elsie Chapman – Along the Indigo

Everyone, please welcome Elsie Chapman to Rich in Color! Elsie’s new book, ALONG THE INDIGO, is out today, and we’re thrilled to have her here to talk about it:

The town of Glory is famous for two things: businesses that front for seedy, if not illegal, enterprises and the suicides that happen along the Indigo River. Marsden is desperate to escape the “bed-and-breakfast” where her mother works as a prostitute—and where her own fate has been decided—and she wants to give her little sister a better life. But escape means money, which leads Mars to skimming the bodies that show up along the Indigo River. It’s there that she runs into Jude, who has secrets of his own and whose brother’s suicide may be linked to Mars’s own sordid family history. As they grow closer, the two unearth secrets that could allow them to move forward . . . or chain them to the Indigo forever.

You can pick up a copy of ALONG THE INDIGO at Barnes & Noble and IndieBound. Now on to the interview!

I read an excerpt for ALONG THE INDIGO and was immediately captivated by Marsden. Tell us more about her, her family, and the skimming she does by the river.

I’m so happy to hear that! With Marsden, I wanted to portray her as this very normal teenager who happens to be surrounded by very strange circumstances. So like a lot of teens, she’s starting to think about what she wants for the future even as she’s also still figuring out who she is right now. But there’s a lot of baggage in her life that’s complicating things, with the mystery of her dad’s death still lingering, her mom being a prostitute, and how her family actually owns this tragic part of town known for being a place where people go to commit suicide.

Marsden’s also mixed—half Chinese, half white—and having to grow up in this very small, very white town where her family already has a bit of a tarnished reputation, she feels like an outcast. But of course it’s not as simple as just leaving, because she has a little sister, Wynn, and more than anything Marsden wants to keep her sheltered her from all the ugliness around them. A lot of the book is really about Marsden wanting to escape so many parts of her life—her family, her past, the town.

I’m intrigued—and a little spooked—by the Covert and its bloody history. What inspired you to create the Covert and the nearby town of Glory?

For Glory, it’s interesting to me that what some people find inviting in small towns others find inherently creepy. There are elements there can go either way and I love playing with that fine line. What if you actually don’t want every single person to know your family’s history? What if you want to go out for coffee without everyone else knowing you’re going for coffee? How hive mind thinking works is really interesting to me, too.

As for the covert, the idea for that started with this image that popped into my mind one day. It was of this teenage girl in this tree, standing there and looking down at this guy. I just knew she was protecting it from him. That image came before I had any idea for a theme or overall plot. I know it sounds super cheesy for an author to say that’s how they got an idea—“it all started with a dream”—but in this case, it’s more true than not!

Jude meets Marsden when he goes to the Covert to search for more information about his brother’s suicide. What are their first impressions of each other?

Jude and Marsden are each outcasts in their own way, but it’s also how they eventually connect with one another, and I wanted that mix of shared discomfort and recognition to come across in their first meeting. It’s almost a confrontation of sorts, the way they become friends, because they battle all the way. They hadn’t been looking to meet, but then they have to work together; they end up needing each other, when they’d meant to stay closed off.

What did you enjoy most about writing Marsden and Jude’s relationship?

I liked making them soften toward one another even as things get tougher around them and they have more and more things to fight off. Because like a lot of writers, I like putting characters through turmoil and having them change, and I like making them even hate and struggle against some of that change. There’s a satisfaction in and necessity to writing characters that go from A to B.

Did you have a central theme in mind when you were writing ALONG THE INDIGO? What do you hope readers will take away from the book?

I knew I wanted to write about a girl who felt simultaneously trapped and lost, but in the beginning, it really did feel more like a spark of an idea than the central theme that it eventually became. Ultimately I’d love for teen readers to read ALONG THE INDIGO and take away whatever they can relate to, whatever they might find a connection to and find enjoyment in. The ideas I write about might not be the same ones they gravitate to—I might be writing about Marsden trying to work out a sense of belonging and identity, but they might be drawn to Jude growing up with an abusive father.

You are an editor with Ellen Oh for the anthology A THOUSAND BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS, which is out later this year. Can you tell us more about the anthology and your story in it?

I’m so happy about this anthology! It’s a collection of retellings of East and South Asian folktales and mythology retold by diasporic Asian authors. Coming up with this idea, Ellen and I knew right away we wanted something different, something that wasn’t in the marketplace yet in terms of YA anthologies, and also that we wanted to feature Asian authors. My retelling is “Bullet, Butterfly” which a futuristic take of the famous Chinese folktale “The Butterfly Lovers.” I wanted to explore its classic themes of fated love and family obligation in a war-torn setting, with gender-swapped characters.

What 2018 books by or about people of color or people from First/Native Nations are you looking forward to reading?

I’m going to be looking out for Sangu Mandanna’s A SPARK OF WHITE FIRE, which is described as a “multicultural YA space opera inspired by the Mahabharata.” It’s out in September and I’m excited! There’s TRAIL OF LIGHTNING by Rebecca Roanhorse which was pitched as an “indigenous Mad Max: Fury Road” and I absolutely cannot wait to pick it up in June! And I’m looking forward to EVERYDAY PEOPLE: THE COLOR OF LIFE, which is an all PoC anthology of contemporary short fiction edited by Jennifer Baker. The author list is amazing, and it’s out in August!

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about ALONG THE INDIGO?

Just that I hope it finds its readers, and that there will be a lot of them! And that if even one teen can take something from it, or is uplifted or feels seen by it in some way, then I’ve done my job as an author.

Thank you so much for having me on Rich in Color!

Born and raised in western Canada and a graduate of UBC with a degree in English Literature, Elsie Chapman currently lives in Tokyo with her family. She writes books for kids and teens. Upcoming: ALONG THE INDIGO (March 20th, 2018), A THOUSAND BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS (June 26TH, 2018), ALL THE WAYS HOME (Spring 2019), HUNGRY HEARTS (Summer 2019), and more TBA!

You can reach Elsie on her website, Instagram, or Twitter.

Four books for the third Tuesday in March

We’ve got a great mix of books for you this week! Are any of them in your TBR pile? (BTW, keep your eye open for an interview with Elsie Chapman tomorrow!)

The Heart Forger (The Bone Witch #2) by Rin Chupeco
Sourcebooks Fire

In The Bone Witch, Tea mastered resurrection―now she’s after revenge…

No one knows death like Tea. A bone witch who can resurrect the dead, she has the power to take life…and return it. And she is done with her self-imposed exile. Her heart is set on vengeance, and she now possesses all she needs to command the mighty daeva. With the help of these terrifying beasts, she can finally enact revenge against the royals who wronged her―and took the life of her one true love.

But there are those who plot against her, those who would use Tea’s dark power for their own nefarious ends. Because you can’t kill someone who can never die…

War is brewing among the kingdoms, and when dark magic is at play, no one is safe.

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

When Marvin Johnson’s twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.

The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it’s up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.


Along the Indigo by Elsie Chapman
Amulet Books

The town of Glory is famous for two things: businesses that front for seedy, if not illegal, enterprises and the suicides that happen along the Indigo River. Marsden is desperate to escape the “bed-and-breakfast” where her mother works as a prostitute—and where her own fate has been decided—and she wants to give her little sister a better life. But escape means money, which leads Mars to skimming the bodies that show up along the Indigo River. It’s there that she runs into Jude, who has secrets of his own and whose brother’s suicide may be linked to Mars’s own sordid family history. As they grow closer, the two unearth secrets that could allow them to move forward . . . or chain them to the Indigo forever.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
Little, Brown Brooks for Young Readers

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

Review: The Poet X

Title: The Poet X
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Genres: Contemporary, Poetry
Pages: 368
Publisher: HarperTeen
Review Copy: ARC received via publisher
Availability: Available for purchase now

Summary: A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

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, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she 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.

Review: Note: The Poet X includes physical and religious abuse, sexual harassment, and references to homophobia.

One of the best things about a novel in verse is how immediate the character’s voice can feel. Xiomara is an outstanding character who is trying to figure out how to express herself and coming to terms with the fact that what her church teaches (and her mother staunchly believes) does not reflect the world as she sees it or the way she wants to live. She is sharp, witty, and always bracing for a fight, and some of my favorite poems are the contrasts between what she wants to say and what she actually feels she can say (e.g., her homework assignments).

The Poet X is a great coming of age story. Xiomara pretty much does it all—falling in love, questioning religion, clashing with family, finding an outlet for her passion, calling out rape culture and sexism—and good times and the bad help her discover who she truly is and what she believes. Xiomara discovering and falling in love with slam poetry while we’re reading her poetry is a beautiful experience. It made me want to pull up some of my favorite Sarah Kay videos (yes, I had a slam poetry phase in my 20s) and just put them on repeat.

Even without knowing author Elizabeth Acevedo’s impressive and extensive body of slam poetry work, her love for the form was clear throughout the book. And so was Xiomara’s. I loved every time Xiomara made it to the poetry club or interacted with the other members, especially Ms. Galiano. Women mentoring other women is one of my favorite things, and having this teacher repeatedly reach out to Xiomara and encourage her talents was honestly inspiring.

But Xiomara’s story isn’t just a steady upward climb of honing her poetic talents; it touches on several more difficult topics. She is keenly aware of how much rape culture permeates her life and how much her mother buys into it and into the church’s sexism. There are some awful, painful scenes where Xiomara is punished (or insulted) for her budding sexuality and religious doubt. While there is a mostly hopeful conclusion to some of this, it left me concerned that Xiomara had only really bought herself some breathing space with her mother. (But that’s my pessimistic self.)

The romantic relationship between Xiomara and Aman is very well done, and Aman is one of the many interesting supporting characters in the book. One of the best traits a romantic lead can have, in my opinion, is consistently demonstrating a desire to listen. When Xiomara felt like she had to be silent, Aman was there, encouraging her with her poetry. (Another excellent trait is knowing when to apologize and how to make up for doing wrong.) I was also very fond of Twin (Xiomara’s twin brother, Xavier) and Caridad, as well as Ms. Galiano.

Overall, The Poet X is an important, moving novel in verse about growing up and finding your voice in a world that can be very hostile to your existence. Acevedo’s writing made me pause, more than once, to wonder at the beauty and cleverness of particular phrases or imagery. I’m definitely going to spend the weekend watching some of her videos (link below).

Recommendation: Buy it now, especially if you love poetry. The Poet X is a great coming of age story about discovering your voice in a world that is hostile to your existence. Acevedo’s debut novel features a memorable heroine and gorgeous poetry, and your life would be richer for reading it.


Elizabeth Acevedo – Books, Poems & Videos

Elizabeth Acevedo and Sarah Kay on Their New Books, Latinx Representation, and Why Poetry Is Political

Q & A with Elizabeth Acevedo

On This Last Day of February

February is Black History Month, and March is Women’s History Month, so I thought it would be fun to highlight some of our favorite black women authors writing YA books about black girls.

The BellesThe Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Freeform Books || K. Imani’s review

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Swoon Reads || Audrey’s review

Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
Little, Brown & Company || K. Imani’s review

When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.


Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
Katherine Tegen Books || Audrey’s review

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

In this gritty and haunting debut, Tiffany D. Jackson explores the grey areas in our understanding of justice, family, and truth, and acknowledges the light and darkness alive in all of us.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Balzer + Bray || Group discussion

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, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. 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 destroy her community. It could also endanger her life.

American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Balzer+Bray || K. Imani’s review

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

Next month we’ll be running spotlights for some of our other favorite authors. We hope you’ll look forward to it!

Cover Reveal, Interview, Giveaway + More for HOME AND AWAY by Candice Montgomery

We are so excited to host the cover reveal of HOME AND AWAY by debut author Candice Montgomery. To top it off, we’ve also got an excerpt of the book, an interview with Candice, and a chance for three U.S. residents to win a galley of the book. Are you ready for it?

Friday Night Lights meets Dear Martin in this thought-provoking coming-of-age story about family, identity, and forgiveness.

Tasia Quirk is young, Black, and fabulous. She’s 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. But when she catches her mamma trying to stuff a mysterious box in the closet, her identity is suddenly called into question. The box is filled with mementos from Tasia’s life, including a birth certificate with a blank paternity line and a photo of her mom in the arms of some white dude… who looks kinda like her. Turns out, the man she always thought was her father isn’t. Her brother is really her half-brother. And she’s actually bi-racial. Tasia’s determined to unravel the lies that have overtaken her life. Which means priority #1 is tracking down her bio dad. Along the way, Tasia discovers that forgiveness is more than an eleven-letter word, and there’s a fee for answers. The artsy bisexual boy living with her new grandparents wants to help her find them—if she can stop fighting who she is, beyond the color of her skin. Continue reading

One horror and one fantasy for you

We’ve got one sci-fi/horror book and one fantasy book for you this week–are either of them on your TBR pile?

Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda
Feiwel & Friends

Tuck Durante is a shipraider, combing space for Earth artifacts from a war that ended 500 years ago. When his parents’ ship crashes in the dead zone and the crew goes missing, Tuck hires a ragtag rescue team.

Meanwhile, curator Lana Gray is fighting to keep the US PANAM John Muir—and the remnants of its crew—alive. Their space capsule housing Yosemite National Park was hijacked. The hijacking turned ninety-five percent of her crew into nightmarish creatures called mourners who flay, dismember, or decapitate with nothing more than sharp-pitched shrieks.

Now, despite their differences, Lana, Tuck, and their crews must work together to save the John Muir. In space, nobody can hear you scream…but on the John Muir, the screams are the last thing you’ll hear.

Blood of a Thousand Stars (Empress of a Thousand Skies, #2) by Rhoda Belleza

Empress – With a revolution brewing, Rhee is faced with a choice: make a deal with her enemy, Nero, or denounce him and risk losing her crown.

Fugitive – Framed assassin Alyosha has one goal in mind: kill Nero. But to get his revenge, Aly may have to travel back to the very place he thought he’d left forever—home.

Princess – Kara knows that a single piece of technology located on the uninhabitable planet Wraeta may be the key to remembering—and erasing—the princess she once was.

Madman – Villainous media star Nero is out for blood, and he’ll go to any means necessary to control the galaxy.

Vicious politics and high-stakes action culminate in an epic showdown that will determine the fate of the universe.