Episode 53: "My Name is Layla" with Reyna Marder Gentin

On the Library Laura Podcast, today’s guest is Author Reyna Marder Gentin, and we’ll be talking about her book, “My Name is Layla” which is a story about a middle schooler who discovers she has dyslexia. Reyna also writes women’s fiction legal thrillers; her first book is Unreasonable Doubts and her upcoming book is called Both Are True. Reyna enjoys reading books that have emotional pull and resonance, so we enjoyed swapping some middle grade and adult book recommendations.

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Find the books from today's episode on Bookshop.org

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"The best way to get involved (in the writing community) is to be able to say to somebody, 'I read your book. I liked your book. I reviewed your book on Goodreads and Amazon.' You know, that's the way to get into a writer's heart. So I've been doing a fair amount of that." ~ Reyna Marder Gentin 

Books We Mentioned  

Wonder by R.J. Palacio - A book about a boy with a facial difference and his first year at a mainstream school as a 5th grader. 

Fish in A Tree  by Lynda Mullaly Hunt -  A book that "My Name is Layla" gets compared to for its representation of Dyslexia in a main character. Reyna's book is for a bit older an audience than Fish in A Tree, more of a middle school than elementary school story. 

Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy (starts with All The Pretty Horses) - Beautiful and moving Western novels that Reyna particularly enjoyed 

Reyna is currently reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green 

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart - One of my recent favorites! I remembered how this one made me feel long after I forgot plot points or names in this book. 

Laura Recommended

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley - (2021 Newbery Honor and Odyssey Award nominee) This book about foster kids had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. It is masterfully written. I think Reyna will like it because of the overlap of middle grade characters with her career as a lawyer dealing with family court to felony cases. 

Real by Carol Cujec and Peyton Goddard - I got to talk to the authors on episode 46 of the podcast, and think that Reyna will really enjoy this middle school story with a big message of empathy and representation for challenges...seen and unseen. 

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger - This story of four orphan kids travelling downriver in a canoe from Minnesota is big-hearted and beautifully told. I remember how it made me feel...So I'm hoping it will be a winner for Reyna. 

Reyna Recommended

When describing what kind of books she enjoyed, Reyna explained, "What stays with me most of the time from what I've read is just the feeling. Whether it makes me really happy or really sad, I remember the intensity of the emotion more than anything."

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett - "A richly moving story that explores the indelible bond between two siblings, the house of their childhood, and a past that will not let them go." (bookshop.org book description)  Reyna read this recently and found herself emotionally pulled by the story, her number one indicator of a good book! She said, "If you've ever had the experience of having to sell the home in the place you grew up, and the people are gone, your parents are gone, but this property is still there and it still kind of has this hold on you because of what went on there. And you can imagine and remember about your family life." 

Writers and Lovers by Lily King - Reyna read this recently and enjoyed the style of the writing especially, in addition to the story. She appreciated the descriptive scenes in the restaurant where our protagonist is a waitress. It hits all the plot points that they tell you about when you learn to write a novel, but it doesn't waste its words. The directness of the first person narration got into Reyna's head and she thinks I would enjoy it! (Kathleen Jacobs also recommended this book to me...must be a sign I need to read it!) 

Thanks for joining us on this episode with Reyna Marder Gentin! Find and follow her online and pick up a copy of “My Name is Layla” on Bookshop.org or wherever books are sold.

With lots of literary love from my library to yours! 



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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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