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Pamela N. Harris Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

When You Look Like Us (2021)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Pamela N. Harris is an American author who made her debut with When You Look Like Us. The book was a 2022 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work nominee and a 2022 Edgar Award nominee. It was also the winner of the 2022 ILA Notable Book for a Global Society Award and an Odyssey Award winner for Excellence in Audiobook Production for Young Adults. She was also a finalist for SCBWI’s Golden Kite Award for Young Adult Fiction.

The author was born and raised around Newport News, Virginia. She attended Old Dominion University where she earned her BA in English and a Master’s in school counseling. She would also go to Fairleigh Dickinson University where she got her MFA in creative writing. Additionally, she attended William and Mary where she got her PhD in counselor education and supervision.

As an author, Harris has said that her thesis statement as an author is to talk about social justice in her books, but she also likes to have some thriller or mystery aspect to the stories as well. After writing When You Look Like Us, she has also said that she wants to write more stories about her hometown of Newport News, Virginia.

In addition to her work as an author, Pamela also works as a counselor educator in a graduate program where she trains others to become school and clinical mental health counselors. She now lives in Williamsburg, Virginia with her family. When she’s not writing, she enjoys watching Leonardo DiCaprio movies and acting like she enjoys exercise.

Harris had a bit of a roller coaster ride to becoming a published author. She had been with her agent for nearly a decade and had many rejections over the years. The readers and publishers always loved her writing and character development, but they never felt as it it was the right project at the time. The good thing about that failure though is that the editors would remember enjoying her writing and wanted to help find her the right project. There were times where she had to audition for stories that other people came up with, but never heard anything back.

Finally, there was a story idea that really came to her. She had sort of put writing to the back burner and focused on getting her PhD, but the opportunity came along and it felt perfect for her. She had been into the television show Veronica Mars and the movie Brick of late so a noir project like this really appealed to her. She kind of looked at the story like making a story like those other properties, but set in a neighborhood like the one she grew up in with public housing.

The publishers original idea for the story had it being set in Chicago and feature certain gangs, but after hearing more about her own background they realized that this story was her story to tell and that it should be set in her hometown of Newport News. The editors really trusted her with the story from there and never said no to any of her ideas.

When You Look Like Us is in the YA category and she wrote it to primarily aimed to teenagers, but wrote about some heavy issues in a way that could be enjoyed by adults as well. Her experience as a school counselor really helped with this and helped her to tell a story that would appeal to the teens she often dealt with. Harris would have students of color come to her and complain about reading books that didn’t reflect their experience, so that was definitely something that she had in mind while writing. She wanted students to see themselves reflected on the pages as that wasn’t something that she had in the books that she read as a child. However, she also thought about the other students as well and wanted to write a story that would appeal to them even if the person on the cover didn’t look like them.

Pamela was able to walk the final line between the book tackling tough issues without making it an issue book and also to write about heavy, important material while still being aimed at teenagers. She read Elizabeth Scott’s Living Dead Girls and that book changed who she was as a writer, and made her realize that she can tell the story that she wants to tell and that teenager readers are mature enough to handle it.

When You Look Like Us was the debut novel from Pamela N. Harris. The book follows a teen boy whose sister goes missing and he must take up the search himself. Black girls’ disappearances are often overlooked in this neighborhood so he knows that he must be the one to find her. The title of the book refers to how people think when you look like us meaning people of color with brown skin, brown eyes, black braids or fades, that many people believe that you are trouble simply from your looks. Because of this people often don’t blink when a Black girl goes missing from public housing and they just assume that whatever happened to the girl was brought about by herself.

Jay Murphy has just seen his sister Nicole go missing. He had thought that she had been with her boyfriend, a drug dealer, and his friends, but she has been gone for too long. Now, he needs to find her.

He also feels guilt because if he hadn’t hung up on the phone with her earlier that night then this might not have happened. He also feels guilt because he believes that if he had been a better brother that this wouldn’t have happened. Jay will need to put all that guilt behind him though and begin his search for his sister. The local police aren’t going to do anything to help so it’s up to him to bring her home.

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