Rgz SALON member Lyn Miller-Lachmann is the Editor-in-Chief of MultiCultural Review; the author of the award-winning multicultural bibliography Our Family, Our Friends, Our World; the editor of Once Upon a Cuento, a collection of short stories by Latino authors; and most recently, the author of Gringolandia, a young adult novel about a refugee family living with the aftermath of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. (Read the fascinating Cover Story for Gringolandia.)
We're honored to have her here as part of the rgz SALON, a feature where four of the top kidlit experts clue us in to the best YA novels they've read recently. Today, Lyn reviews My Life with the Lincolns by Gayle Brandeis (Henry Holt, 2010).
"Author of three novels for adult readers, Brandeis makes her debut for young readers with a delightful story that left me putting her adult novels on my TBR list. My Life with the Lincolns is a funny, smart, and endearing story about a 12-year-old trying to make sense with the changes in her family, the world around her, and, ultimately, herself.
"Mina Edelman is the middle child of a raucous Jewish family living in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grover in 1966. Her father, Albert Baruch Edelman, runs a furniture store that has been in the family for generations. His initials are ABE, and Mina, a history buff, is obsessed with the thought that her family is the reincarnation of the Lincoln family, her father is about to be assassinated, and she and her younger sister Tabby will soon die of disease. Her Abe Lincoln obsession leads her to publish a newsletter, The Lincoln Log, which is a favorite of Honest Abe’s Furniture’s customers.
"Things start to get out of hand when Mina’s father offers to furnish Dr. Martin Luther King’s house when the civil rights leader moves to Chicago to challenge housing discrimination. Abe, who is as goofily obsessive as his daughter, faints from heat exhaustion at one of Dr. King’s speeches, and when he awakens, he has a new mission in life—to lead the charge for Dr. King’s cause. Mina, who has accompanied him to the fateful rally, keeps her father’s secret as he and she poses as half of an interracial family and attend marches with the other half of the 'family where they are attacked by racist counter-demonstrators. But when Abe brings the civil rights cause to their quiet, all-white suburb, all secrets are exposed with unpredictable results.
"Brandeis’s portrait of the time period and of a Jewish family split by the civil rights movement is authentic. While many Jewish leaders and ordinary Jews supported the movement and connected the African-American quest for justice to their own, others feared the changes that would ensue. What makes My Life with the Lincolns special is that there are no heroes or villains, and some of the characters that seem most resistant to change are the ones who surprise the reader. And then, there’s the humor, conveyed through Mina’s idiosyncratic voice, the situations in which she finds herself, and the other characters, who are both recognizable and truly original." -Lyn Miller-Lachmann
We sometimes love a book with no heroes or villains, just true, nuanced people trying their best. This sounds fantastic. Thank you, Lyn!