Today’s Top 5 Wednesday is one that will help you learn a little bit about where I am from – Queens, NY. Queens is one of New York City’s five boroughs, and I was born and raised in Queens. I’ve lived in the southwestern part of Queens for over 20 years after spending my first few years of life in northern Queens. There aren’t any authors who live in my specific town in Queens, so I have picked authors who either live in Queens or set their books in Queens, and I am even going to talk about my favorite independent bookstore that is not too far from where I live. I hope you enjoy!
1. A Frenzy of Sparks by Kristin Fields. Kristin Fields grew up in Queens and her novel A Frenzy of Sparks is set in Queens in the 1960s. This book is set to come out in November 2020 and I am looking forward to reading it.
2. Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff. Patricia Reilly Giff was born in Brooklyn, NY but attended high school in Queens and her Newbery Award Honor children’s book Lily’s Crossing is set in Queens not far from where I live. As a child I enjoyed reading about places that I recognized from my everyday life.
3. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. While this book was set in Brooklyn and Betty Smith was from Brooklyn, she actually wrote this novel in Woodhaven, Queens. There is a historical marker outside the house that states she wrote the novel there. So while it isn’t set in Queens or written by a Queens native, it was written in Queens.
4. How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Ibram X. Kendi is from the Jamaica section of Queens. He has numerous books about racism in America. His book How to be an Antiracist was a #1 bestseller on the New York Times list in 2020 and his book Stamped From the Beginning: A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2016. Both of these books are ones that I am planning to read in the coming months.
5. Kew & Willow Books in Kew Gardens, NY. When the last Barnes & Noble location in Queens closed in the mid-2010s, southern Queens residents were left without a bookstore to go to (the closest one is the Astoria Bookshop in Northern Queens, which is quite a trek if you don’t have a car). Run by three women who worked at that now closed Barnes & Noble, Kew & Willow Books was conceived to fill that void and funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign. This bookstore is so charming. It’s a small space but it is filled with books and wonderful display. I am always able to find a book whenever I go and if not the staff always gives me great recommendations, and in the pre-COVID days there were many fun in person events including book signings, poetry readings, and book club discussions. If you are looking for an independent bookstore to support I highly recommend Kew & Willow Books. Here is an article that gives more information about the bookstore!