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The world of this book is so warm and inviting I want to curl up in it with a blankie and never come out. Science fiction isn’t necessarily my first-thought genre for “books with a lot of heart,” but that’s exactly what The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is. It’s about a diverse, somewhat misfit group of travelers aboard a ship whose job is to drill wormholes in space. The crew of the Wayfarer may be a ragtag bunch, but (deep down at least) they’re all good people who care about and respect each other. It’s the kind of ship where you can be your own brand of weird and accepted unconditionally.

I loved every single one of the characters, but my favorite was Kizzy, who reminded me of Abby from NCIS (who I also love—who doesn’t?). She’s a mechanic and knows how to fix just about everything on the ship, and her outlook on life is simultaneously cheerful and wacky. I tend more towards the Debbie Downer end of the spectrum, but I would love to cultivate some of that happy-go-lucky Kizzy mentality. She’s also really brave when it comes to protecting her crewmates, which is another thing I wish I were better at. (Because in a confrontation, you know I’ll be running away with my coat over my head for protection and leaving you for dead faster than you can say, “Back me up, girl!”)

Another element I’m not usually expecting when it comes to sci-fi is romance, but there are several relationships aboard the ship, all of them unique and stereotype-defying. Inter-species romance can be really hot! Who knew?

I need to find more books like this, where the conflict comes from outside and the main characters work together against it. There’s something so comforting about that, when everybody’s on the same side. I read plenty of books where people who are supposed to be united (spouses, parents and children, coworkers, etc.) end up hurting each other. It’s really refreshing to read about people (and other sentient beings!) who aren’t consumed with tearing each other down.

Hey hey, reader friends! Welcome to the first-ever discussion of the Give a Sh*t Book Club!

I decided to start this online book club because the political landscape in the U.S. has been, well, horrifying recently, and I wanted to educate and inform myself with my reading. And I had heard enough similar sentiments from my friends and family that I thought I should invite other readers to join me.

Our first book is American Street by Ibi Zoboi. It’s a young adult novel about Fabiola Toussaint, a teenage girl who leaves Haiti for America with her mother. When her mother is detained by immigration officials, Fabiola, as an American citizen, is allowed to continue on to Detroit to meet her aunt and cousins. In Detroit, Fabiola has the support of her family, but the cultural divide between her and her Americanized family is challenging. She also misses her mother and isn’t sure how to help her get out of detention and into the country they hope to call home.

I will admit when I chose this book, I expected it to be a feel-good story about a hardworking immigrant family overcoming adversity and assimilating into American life. I was surprised and then humbled when I read the second half of the book and learned that Zoboi had a much bigger message to send. There are no heroes or villains in this book, just flawed, sometimes desperate people trying to survive in a country that isn’t kind to the poor.

I’m really excited to hear what you all have to say about this book! Comments are open below. Please feel welcome to chime in with your thoughts!

A few questions to get us started:

-How relatable did you find Fabiola as a character? I thought the times when she struggled to relate to her cousins, even though they were family, were especially poignant.

-Did Fabiola’s experience as a newly arrived immigrant open your eyes to anything about the immigrant experience in general?

-Why do you think Fabiola trusted Detective Stevens? That was something that never made sense to me. Was she just desperate for help getting her mother into the country?

-How much responsibility do you think Fabiola bears for Kasim’s death? She didn’t seem to feel any guilt for her part in what happened, but I felt like things wouldn’t have gone down the way they did without Fabiola’s involvement in the situation.

I want to close with a quote from the end of the book that I thought was particularly powerful: “I remember Kasim means ‘divided amongst many.’ They say, He should not have been killed. Other people say, But he was selling drugs. Some say, But he was running. He should not have been running. More people say that he deserved to be alive.

So what did you think of American Street? Join in the discussion in the comments below!

AuthorTaryn Pierson
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