"Remember the ladies" during Women's History Month

While these five protagonists aren’t real figures to celebrate during March’s Women’s History Month, their powerful stories are rooted in history, often emphasizing past mistreatment and serving as a reminder of how far we’ve come…and how far we have yet to go. See also our five questions interview with Joy McCullough about Enter the Body as well as the Women--Biographies tag in the Guide/Reviews Database to learn more about many real-life heroines.

For Lamb
by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Middle School, High School    Holiday    304 pp.
1/23    9780823450152    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780823455034    $11.99

Lamb, shy protagonist and one of several narrators, tells of growing up in 1940s Jackson, Mississippi, with her brother, Simeon, and Marion, their tough-as-nails mother, a talented and outspoken seamstress and closeted lesbian. Lamb keeps quiet, works hard, and performs well in school. Headstrong Simeon, a brilliant student, aims to leave the South on a college scholarship and eventually earn a doctorate like his high school principal. Marny, a bookish, redheaded white girl, attempts to befriend Lamb, who finds the girl hard to refuse and meets with her secretly. Their relationship ultimately compromises the family’s safety after Marny’s older brother sexually assaults Lamb. When Lamb tells Simeon what happened, his retaliation sets off a series of brutal, life-changing events for the whole family. Cline-Ransome deftly creates unforgettable characters, each with a distinct voice, and exposes readers to the oppressive racism of the Jim Crow South. Tangentially connected to the Finding Langston trilogy (Finding Langston, rev. 9/18; Leaving Lymon, rev. 3/20; Being Clem, rev. 7/21), this standalone novel is a devastating page-turner that tells an all-too-realistic story. MICHELLE H. MARTIN

Funeral Songs for Dying Girls
by Cherie Dimaline
High School    Tundra    280 pp.
4/23    9780735265639    $17.99
e-book ed.  9780735265646    $10.99

First-person narrator Winifred, a Canadian teen of Métis and European descent, lives in present-day Toronto with her father, who is a crematory operator, on the grounds of the cemetery, between “the grubby and the austere” — a ravine where drug users hang out, and the gentrified neighborhood of Cabbagetown. Winifred is ostracized at school because of her morbid surroundings, and as she sees it, she has “lived a fairy-tale childhood. Like, a Grimm’s fairy tale.” Her own mother’s ashes are half buried in the cemetery and half kept in the house, and her father lives a “half-life,” yearning for his lost love. Ghosts haunt Winifred, both figuratively and literally, but Dimaline’s (The Marrow Thieves) intense, bittersweet, and often funny novel is more than a ghost story. Extended portions about the life and death of Phil, a sympathetically rendered ghost character who becomes one of Winifred’s first loves, allude to the real-life neglected epidemic of MMIWG2S (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People). Through this novel, Dimaline (Métis Nation of Ontario) honors those lost; as Winifred’s Métis auntie says, “So lucky, you, to live in this place with so many people. Imagine a world without your dead? I’d be so lonely walking around by yourself like that.” LARA K. AASE

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow
by Zoulfa Katouh
High School    Little, Brown    432 pp.
9/22    9780316351379    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780316351614    $9.99

When a revolution is ignited in Syria in 2011 to oust Assad’s regime (“no Syrian family has evaded the dictatorship’s cruelty”), the government responds by detaining, torturing, and bombing civilians and using chemical attacks. A year into the siege of the city of Homs, eighteen-year-old Salama, who has completed one year of pharmacy school, is a volunteer at a hospital where she tends to wounded patients and even performs surgeries due to a shortage of doctors. Her mother has been killed in a bombing, and her father and brother are detained and presumed dead; Salama now cares for her pregnant sister-in-law, Layla. A specter named Khawf (fear in Arabic) visits and shows Salama devastating images of her future if she and Layla don’t leave Syria, but she is conflicted out of a sense of duty to her patients. Amid the desperate situation, a chaste, halal romance develops between Salama and Kenan, a YouTube war documentarian, culminating in marriage. Salama is at a more mature phase of life than many YA protagonists, as the war forces her to a level of personal and professional growth beyond her years. The novel is full of striking details about living under siege, with a focus on the heroic deeds of medical professionals, but it also probes bigger-picture issues around PTSD, survivor’s guilt, national loyalty, and how morality stretches for the sake of survival. An unflinching representation of the early days of the Syrian revolution that incorporates sophisticated and unexpected narrative techniques and surprising revelations. JULIE HAKIM AZZAM

The Hunger Between Us
by Marina Scott
High School    Farrar    304 pp.
11/22    9780374390068    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780374390075    $10.99

In the summer of 1942, Leningrad is about to enter its second year under siege with all supply routes in and out of the city blocked by Nazi forces. Liza has learned from her mother to do whatever it takes to survive — even, now that Mama has died, hiding her death from authorities so as to keep using her precious ration cards. When Liza’s best friend, Aka, suggests trading “entertainment” for food from the secret police, Liza knows it’s a mistake. Then Aka disappears, and Liza will do anything to find her. Relatively short, fast-paced chapters drive the novel as Liza scrambles to survive and hunts for her friend. In a city rife with desperation, questions of morality exist alongside matters of survival as she confronts the ugly truths of the war and must decide what she is willing to give up, both for information about Aka and for food. With a body already ravaged by starvation, Liza becomes an unreliable narrator as she tries to cut through the fog of hunger and fatigue. Much of this suspenseful story is mired in the daily brutality of the siege as Liza tries to find her own moral compass and cling to hope where she can. An author’s note gives historical background and connects Scott’s interest in the subject to her childhood in the former USSR. EMMA CARBONE

by Elizabeth Wein
Middle School, High School    Little, Brown    400 pp.
3/23   9780316591249    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780316591256    $10.99

Wein’s compulsively readable murder mystery/thriller/romance takes place in Europe in 1937. An airplane race for young aviators has been arranged as an effort to promote peace under the shadow of Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco. Seventeen-year-old Stella North is the only female participant; a child refugee from Communist Russia, now a British resident, she’s eager to prove herself as the “Flying English Rose.” On the first day of the race, she witnesses a plane force a fellow contestant to crash fatally into the English Channel; who will be next? As solidarity among the international contestants builds, it becomes clear that one of them is the murderer’s real target. Wein’s (Code Name Verity, rev. 5/12; The Enigma Game, rev. 5/20) familiarity with small planes and her love of aviation give this suspenseful adventure both speed and loft; at the same time, it’s packed with the historical politics and culture of Europe’s pre–World War II era, some of which resonates in our current world, as an appended author’s note addresses. Wein cleverly interweaves gripping storytelling and romance with the sobering, practical damage of combat, of growing up stateless in a disrupted world and knowing that today’s peace is fleeting. Back matter includes a bibliography. DEIRDRE F. BAKER

From the February 2023 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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