cover image Alice Austen Lived Here

Alice Austen Lived Here

Alex Gino. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-3387-3389-1

When Staten Island (“a place known for ways to leave it”) holds a contest for a new statue of a local historical figure, white seventh grader Sam Marino and their best friend, tan-skinned TJ, both nonbinary, design a statue of lesbian photographer Alice Austen, a turn-of-the-century Staten Island resident. As Sam researches Austen, they find another personal connection: not only was Austen queer, she once lived in Sam’s apartment. It’s proof that queer people have always existed, and Sam wants everyone to know—especially their history teacher, who only seems to be interested in DSCWM (“Dead Straight Cisgender White Men”). With the help of their largely white neighbors, including femme 28-year-old Jess, with whom Sam discusses being “fat and fabulous,” and 82-year-old lesbian Ms. Hansen, they gain a deeper understanding of queer community. Gino (You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P!) provides a memorable protagonist in confident, stubborn Sam, whose enthusiasm for Austen’s legacy—and the importance of queer history—is infectious. Sam has a strong understanding of institutional racism, and conversations with their older queer friends often center around intersectional oppression. A late interpersonal conflict feels tacked-on, but the solid representation in this novel offers a testament to the power of intergenerational queer community. Ages 9–12. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary. (Apr.)