March 27, 2015

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Amy Cheney

About Amy Cheney

Amy Cheney is a librarian and advocate, serving the underserved for over 25 years including preschoolers, middle schoolers, adults in county and federal facilities, students in juvenile halls, non-traditional library users and people of color. She began YALSA-Lockdown, a list serve for librarians serving youth in custody, which led to the formation of Library Services for Youth in Custody (LYSC). She founded In the Margins book award and committee, which brings national attention to self published books by, for and about people of color living in the margins. Her theme song is "Short Skirt, Long Jacket" by Cake. Learn more at Write2Read.

In the Margins Announces First Social Justice/Advocacy Book Award


Bryan Stevenson has won the In the Margins Social Justice/Advocacy Book Award for his 2014 title Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, which traces his career of serving the imprisoned and his fight to change injustices in the system.

Top 2015 Titles for Youth in Custody—or in Your Libraries

Left for Dead

After careful consideration and heated debate, the In the Margins committee has selected its best fiction and nonfiction, top 10, and overall selection list of 34 titles. On February 18, it will announce the newest recognition—the Advocacy Award—for authors.

Books to Increase Awareness of the Cycles of Poverty, Race, and Incarceration


By listening to the voices of those who have experienced racism, time in prison, and life on the streets, readers of these titles can begin to learn how to break the cycle, and be inspired by those have.

‘Rude Cakes’ and ‘Polar Bear’s Underwear’ Rule at the Chronicle Spring 2015 Preview


Librarians and booksellers flocked to the Spring 2015 Preview at the Chronicle headquarters in San Francisco in early October.

Relevancy Trumps All for Reluctant Readers | YA Underground


Juvenile services librarian Amy Cheney posits that the winning recipe for books that entice reluctant readers includes a great cover, lots of action (real action!), relevancy, and an easy to read page layout.

Self-Publishing, Ghostwriting for Gangsters, and Cover Reaction | YA Underground

Transforming Pain to Power

Amy Cheney, YA Underground columnist, dreams of ghostwriters for gangsters, hopes for more diverse reads for her kids in the margins, and bemoans a recent cover redesign that “could be the death knell for reluctant readers.”

Chronicle | 2014 Preview


SLJ was in San Francisco for Chronicle’s Fall 2014 Preview where illustrated children’s books with vibrant visuals were the showstopping hits.

A Collection Built Around Its Community—Incarcerated Teens | YA Underground

Black Sheep

To add diversity to your collection, or build one that considers your community’s demographics, consider these titles that you may have missed, including Coe Booth’s middle-grade debut and a memoir by an undocumented immigrant.

“In the Margins” 2014 Nominees Announced

Caged Warrior

In the Margins (ITM), under the umbrella of Library Services for Youth in Custody, has announced the nominated titles for their 2014 book list. A couple may be familiar, but there are definitely some that will be new to you.

Reality That Is Stranger Than Fiction | YA Underground

Left for Dead

After a successful first year, In the Margins Committee founder Amy Cheney highlights some of the recent must-have titles for libraries in urban areas that might not be on the radar of the library community at large.

Best Books for Teens Living in the ‘Margins’ | YA Underground


This past year marked the inauguration of the In the Margins Book Award and Selection Committee (ITM), which aims to find the best books for teens living in poverty, on the streets, in custody—or a cycle of all three. We wanted to bring books by, for, and about people living in the margins to the forefront so we would have more books for our reluctant yet also voraciously readers.

The Debut: SLJ Chats with CJ Lyons About ‘Broken’ and Why Fear is Useless


CJ Lyons is an award-winning, critically acclaimed bestselling author of 21 adult novels. Now she has published her first YA novel. And she found the time to launch the “Buy a Book, Make a Difference” campaign that’s funded 54 scholarships to help fight crime and raised an additional $75,000 for charities.

Uncovering Radical Reads for Tough-to-Reach Teens | YA Underground

The Lure

YALSA-Lockdown listserv founder Amy Cheney highlights self-published and mainstream book and movie titles. Many of her finds resonate with her incarcerated kids; sometimes it takes a little digging below the surface to uncover these.

Chronicle Spring Kids 2014 | Preview Peek

Chronicle preview_IMG_1855

Chronicle Children’s Books recently welcomed librarians and booksellers to its spring preview in San Francisco, where it celebrated its 25th anniversary and the roaring success—star reviews or bestseller status—of many of its 2013 titles. But the focus remained on spring 2014, and the exciting slate of new titles that the publisher has in store. Here are some of the highlights.

Style or Substance? One Teen Makes the Point | YA Underground

From Crack to College

Amy Cheney is constantly on the look-out for books that will engage her incarcerated teens, but estimates that only about one in five that she encounters will pass muster. That’s why she is so excited about a new self-published title, From Crack to College & Vice Versa.

Reader Expectations for ‘The Art of War,’ Snitches, and 50 Cent | YA Underground

Changin the Game Plan

How much do our expectations influence our reading? Sometimes it’s the cover that throws you off, or maybe the author’s back story. And then again, what we think is great may not ring the bell for the teens we serve. Amy Cheney presents several titles that have met her teen readers’ expectations, including classics, self-help narratives, and YA novels for reluctant and urban readers.

Books for Teens You Might Have Missed | YA Underground


Amy Cheney rounds up her “underground” picks, perfect for reluctant readers and teens looking for something a little different. From the latest in the Bluford series to a nonfiction title dealing with addiction, this compilation explores a few of the edgier titles being published this season.

YA Underground: Books for Teens You Might Have Missed

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

Although I didn’t come up with this column’s name—YA Underground—I’m appreciating it more and more. The kids I serve are living underground both metaphorically and literally. My library is in a 350-bed lockdown facility Amy Cheney juvenile cellthat serves adolescents ages 11 to 19, and it’s in one of three rooms with windows. I have the only room with windows that are at eye level. The sunlight streams in and looking out, you can see trees, grass, clouds, sky, and sunsets beyond the barbwire. When Jonas (not his real name), an avid manga fan, was in the library on his every-other-week visit, I heard him describe the library as “a lonely bright spot.” He was talking about books—but aren’t books windows?

Top Book Choices for Youth in Detention (2012)

Here are my top 2011 picks for incarcerated teens. I’ve tried to list books that resonate with my teens, but aren’t well-known in the general library community. That said, there are a few titles on my list (from authors Coe Booth, Simone Elkeles, and Alexander Gordon Smith) that are so wildly popular with teen readers that I just couldn’t resist including them. Also, be sure to check out Dream Jordan’s new book, Bad Boy, due out in February. It’ll likely […]