I’m thrilled that my third YA novel, Leisha’s Song, comes out on June 15 from Fire and Ice, the YA imprint of Melange Books. To tell you a little about the book, here is a brief description:
Leisha knows something’s wrong. Her beloved vocal coach at boarding school would never have resigned and disappeared like this in the midst of preparing her prize students for a major vocal competition. Leisha’s determined to find her, make sure she’s okay.
Cody, a sensitive cellist, insists on helping her. Sparks fly, clues multiply, and romance blossoms, despite the disapproval of their families.
Leisha’s desire to be with Cody and pursue music rather than medicine puts her on a direct collision course with her African American grandfather, the only parent she’s ever had. But an even more immediate threat looms—because as Leisha draws closer to the truth about her teacher’s disappearance, she puts her own life in grave danger.
Recently, I made the decision to invest in a publicist to get the word out about Leisha’s Song. Books Forward sent me a lengthy author questionnaire which really made me reflect about the book. Who was it who said, “I have to write about something to know what I think”? That has nearly always been the case for me, none more so than when I was asked to respond to this question: Why is this book/story so important to you personally? Below are the five main reasons that this book matters to me:
- I want my grandchildren and children everywhere to enjoy books featuring folks who look like them. As one of my teen beta readers said, “We’re so sick of being the sidekick!” In this story, Leisha, a young woman of color, is the central character.
- In addition, both in my own life and the experience of so many students I’ve counseled who are passionate about the arts, it is painful and difficult to stand up to parents who disapprove of them pursuing artistic careers. And it is often hard for parents to offer unconditional encouragement because of their fears that their children will never make a living in the arts and/or their feelings that the arts are “a frill.”
- In my own professional life as a dancer and later as an educator, I’ve experienced how important mentoring is to young people and what a positive impact it can have.
- Working in the arts, I’ve found that close relationships develop between folks who differ in social class, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Leisha and Cody come from vastly different backgrounds, but their passion for music connects them in a fundamental way.
- I am a hopeless romantic, so Cody and Leisha’s story speaks to that part of me that wants to believe that love really does conquer all.
So, there you have it—why Leisha’s Song has been such a passion project for me. I hope you’ll want to read Leisha’s Song when it comes out. And meantime, I’d love to know about the passion projects in your life—what they are, and why they matter to you.