Laila Lalami’s The Other Americans Selected as “A Novel Idea” 2021 Community Read

Library Foundation reveals the book along with a new youth title: Kelly Yang’s Front Desk

A Novel Idea RevealedDeschutes Public Library is pleased to announce The Other Americans as the 2021 “A Novel Idea… Read Together” selection. The book, written by novelist and essayist Laila Lalami, was revealed on December 5 during a virtual event. Accompanying the selection is a book for youth, Front Desk by Kelly Yang. This marks only the second time in the program’s history that a selection was also made for young readers.

“This year’s ‘A Novel Idea’ double-feature follows the story of immigrant families and their pursuit of the American Dream,” said Deschutes Public Library Programs Supervisor Liz Goodrich. “For 2021, we are enthusiastic to share stories of modern American families and a setting that is a little closer to home. A common thread between both books shares searching for inclusion while absorbing the brunt of ethnic injustice and white privilege in America.”

The Other Americans book coverThe Other Americans tells the story of Driss Guerraoui leaving behind Casablanca’s political unrest in 1981 and settling in California to form a better life for his family. When Driss’s untimely death shakes the family, his daughter Nora pursues the investigation, and the story unfolds as told from nine unique perspectives. Each point of view, from the undocumented witness to the recently relocated detective, shows what it means for the family, community and country to form a sense of identity while uncovering the mystery of Driss’s death.

“To build upon ‘A Novel Idea’s’ year-after-year growth we are excited to welcome a second voice to reach young readers,” said Goodrich. “Both Lalami and Yang are first-generation immigrants and they share that with the protagonists in their books, overcoming stereotypes, and racism. We aim to provide a platform for Deschutes County residents to have conversations, discover cultures and share ideas that can bring about meaningful change.”

Programming for “A Novel Idea” begins on Saturday, April 3, 2021. What follows are four weeks of virtual programs that explore and expound upon the themes and ideas found in The Other Americans and Front Desk. The programming culminates with a live-streamed presentation by authors Yang and Lalami on Saturday, May 1 and Sunday, May 2 at 4:00 p.m., respectively. All programs, including the authors’ presentations, are free of charge thanks to the support of the Deschutes Public Library Foundation.

About the Book: The Other Americans
Late one spring night, Driss Guerraoui, a Moroccan immigrant in California, is walking across a darkened intersection when he is killed by a speeding car. The repercussions of his death bring together a diverse cast of characters to tell their stories and the invisible connections that tie them together—even while they remain deeply divided by race, religion or class.

About the Author: Laila Lalami
Laila Lalami was born in Rabat and educated in Morocco, Great Britain and the United States. She is the author of four novels, including The Moor’s Account, which won the American Book Award, the Arab-American Book Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Her most recent novel, The Other Americans, was a national bestseller and a finalist for the Kirkus Prize and the National Book Award in Fiction. She has received fellowships from the British Council, the Fulbright Program and the Guggenheim Foundation and is currently a full professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside. Her new book, a work of nonfiction called Conditional Citizens, was published in September 2020.

About the Book: Front Desk
Front Desk is a debut, middle-grade novel about 10-year-old Mia Tang, who manages the front desk of a motel while her parents clean the rooms. As recent immigrants from China and desperate for work and money, they take a job managing a rundown motel in Southern California. The owner, Mr. Yao, is a crude cheapskate who exploits them; while her mother (who was an engineer in China) does the cleaning, Mia works the front desk and tries to cope with demanding customers and other recent immigrants.

About the Author: Kelly Yang
Kelly Yang was born in China and immigrated to America with her parents when she was six years old. Her family settled in Southern California, where she and her parents worked in three different motels. She eventually left the motels and went to college at the age of 13 and law school at the age of 17. After law school, she gave up law to pursue her passion of writing and teaching children writing. She is the founder of The Kelly Yang Project, a leading writing and debating program for kids in Asia.

We Want to Hear From You

What was your favorite Novel Idea Book?

Virtual Book Club Resources

Or join a Librarian-led Library Book Club to read A Novel Idea (ANI) 2021

Important Update to A Novel Idea 2021:

Due to COVID-19 safety measures, we will not be providing ANI book club bags this year. Copies of the book are available through the library or your local bookstore .

If you have any questions, please contact Paige Ferro at

Page Last Modified Wednesday, March 8, 2023