Episode 53 | April 21, 2021

My Name Is Layla, with Reyna Marder Gentin

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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March 26, 2021
YouTube Interview

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March 15, 2021
Reyna Gentin, Guest Author

When you read the description of Reyna Marder Gentin’s recent middle school book, My Name is Layla, you’ll see that there are two reasons I’m pleased to have her as a guest author today. The book features a young girl who has dyslexia. It’s an appropriate subject for this blog, a place where we all come because we want to talk about reading and books. I’ve included the summary of My Name is Layla after Gentin’s guest blog. Today, she’s going to talk about a subject close to my heart, her experiences using public libraries. Thank you, Reyna.

Glimpses of Love at the Library

I’d like to say that books were what first drew me to the public library in the suburb where I grew up, but it wouldn’t be true. Really, it was geography. The library was exactly .7 miles from my parents’ house, and, more importantly, it was a straight shot–necessitating just a single left-hand turn at the bottom of my block. Although the main street was busier, there were sidewalks that ran all the way between my front door and the library entrance and traffic lights at every intersection. As a child of 9 or 10, my otherwise cautious parents deemed it safe for me to walk or ride my 3 speed hand-me-down blue Schwinn to this august destination. And while what started as an assertion of independence eventually morphed into a genuine appreciation for the world expansion that the books provided, the physical sanctuary of the library always remained a key part of the experience.

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February 14, 2021

New From Reyna Marder Gentin

Author Reyna Marder Gentin does a wonderful job depicting today’s teens challenges and concerns. Eighth grade can be tough no matter what. Growing up in an unconventional home with a single, working parent and and an undiagnosed learning difference adds to teenage angst. Layla is in a constant struggle to prove herself, yet the challenges keep coming and she almost loses sight of her potential. My Name is Layla is a wonderful story of perseverance; the love and support of family, friends and teachers can greatly impact the success of young people. I loved this middle grade novel and was rooting for Layla all the way!

Matters of the Heart Challenge Law and Order in Unreasonable Doubts by Reyna Marder Gentin….Author

Even a Yale educated, NYC public defender with a loving boyfriend and an apartment on the UWS who knows and respects the law can be thrown off course. Blinded by temptation, In Unreasonable Doubs, Liana becomes intrigued with her smart, handsome criminal client and fails to see all that she has. While friends, family and co-workers encourage her to be the best she can be with their advice and insight, Liana takes matters into her own hands and is forced to realize for herself what is right.

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SCBWI NY: Westchester | February 1, 2021

1. What sparked the idea for this book?

I had just finished my debut novel, a romantic legal thriller entitled Unreasonable Doubts, and the pub date was still a year off. I decided to take a workshop in Writing For Youth at the The Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. I had no story in mind, other than my desire to reach back to the emotions of a 13 or 14 year-old — that sense of wanting to fit in and needing to be heard. One of the women in my class had dyslexia and that was the spark for My Name Is Layla. I decided to write a protagonist who was struggling with reading, and who also had a host of family and friendship issues on her plate.

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Blog Post #1041 | January 22, 2021

“Layla’s struggles at school and home are authentically depicted, and readers who face their own challenges will relate.” — School Library Journal

School will never be the same.

On the first day of eighth grade, thirteen year-old Layla has a pretty good idea of what’s in store for her–another year of awkward social situations, mediocre grades, and teachers who praise her good behavior but find her academic performance disappointing. Layla feels certain she’s capable of more, but each time she tries to read or write, the words on the page dance and spin, changing partners and leaving her to sit on the sidelines.

This year will be different in ways Layla could never have predicted. Her new English teacher, Mr. McCarthy, senses her potential. When he pushes her to succeed, Layla almost rises to the challenge before making a desperate choice that nearly costs her everything she’s gained. Will she be able to get back on track? And who can she count on to help her?

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Podcast #98: Author Shares Why She Chose Dyslexia As Key Part Of Her Story

January 19, 2021 Published by Zeus

Reyna Marder Gentin was a criminal defense attorney who became a full-time writer. In her second book, My Name is Layla, the main character has dyslexia and it is one of the main parts of her story. Let us discover why Reyna chose dyslexia, what were the struggles her character faced, and what are the points we can learn from this story.

Listen to the episode now

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Blog Post | January 19, 2021

In the fall of 2017, I was feeling both exhilarated and burnt out. I’d recently quit my job in a public defender’s office where I’d spent most of my legal career representing indigent people appealing their convictions of the worst crimes imaginable: murder, rape, burglary, robbery, drug dealing. Striking out in a new direction, my first novel, Unreasonable Doubts, a romantic legal thriller, was set to be published after two intense years of writing, rewriting, studying, workshopping, editing, querying, and dreaming. On the one hand, writing the novel had sapped me. On the other, the story was squarely in my wheelhouse, exemplifying that old adage: write what you know

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Blog Post | January 19, 2021

Good day, book people! I’m finding it hard to believe that we are more than halfway through the month of January of 2021. Time during this pandemic seems to either fly or go slower than molasses up a hill backwards in the winter time (one of my dad’s favorite sayings). If you’re anything like my mother, you might be struggling with ways to keep busy during this quarantine. Her normal go-tos of reading, working crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles seemed to have failed her after a few months. She’s not big on watching television, other than the news, so even that’s a none issue. Others, like today’s guest, Reyna Marder Gentin, author of Unreasonable Doubts and the recently released My Name is Layla will be sharing with us another approach to the pandemic, school. I hope you’ll enjoy what she has to say about going back to class, add My Name is Layla to your TBR list (or to the TBR list of one of your younger bookish divas or divos). Thank you, Ms. Gentin for joining us today and sharing your pandemic experiences. The blog is now yours.

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Blog Post | January 19, 2021

Everyone has certain memories of growing up–of parents and siblings, places and events–that come to encapsulate an emotion, define a personality trait, or represent a specific lesson learned. As the years pass, these iconic moments take on a legendary status in how we view our formative years. Hopefully most of the memories are positive ones, and those that aren’t, we’ve come to understand, accept, or let go. Writing a novel for young readers has made me think a lot about memories and the way the snapshots of our childhood experiences affect how we understand life as adults. 

My middle grade novel, My Name Is Layla, is the story of a thirteen-year-old girl with undiagnosed dyslexia. The book centers around Layla’s struggles in school and how she nearly destroys her hard won chance at academic success when she makes a foolish choice born of feelings of shame and desperation.

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Blog Post | January 19, 2021

I’ve been in a bit of a time warp lately. Awaiting the publication of my first middle grade novel, My Name Is Layla, early readers are asking the inevitable question: is this coming-of-age story drawn from my own experience? The answer isn’t simple. While the specific characters and plot are imagined, the question has caused my mind to drift back to my young teenage years, days of braces and a Dorothy Hamill haircut growing out oh so slowly, social awkwardness, and navigating new emotions. For me, my fourteenth year was punctuated by the sudden illness of a family member that was transforming in the moment and had deep repercussions for years to come. While mine was a very happy childhood, that time of my life is not an entirely comfortable place to revisit, even from the distance of decades passed.

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Reyna Gentin Finds a New Voice in My Name is Layla

Yvette Finkelstein January 07, 2021

Reyna Marder Gentin, author of the Star Award finalist in outstanding debut fiction, Unreasonable Doubts, has found a new voice, writing a poignant novel for middle grade readers about the struggles of dyslexia, which will be released on January 19. The community is invited to a virtual book launch of My Name is Layla, sponsored by Bronx River Books, on January 19 at 7:30 p.m.

Gentin, who lives in Scarsdale and is a member of YIS, expertly creates a story with a mature voice to address issues young people face regarding relationships, loyalty, communication and learning differences. Because of this and the story’s more nuanced presentation of family issues, My Name is Layla is perfect for middle grade readers, their parents and others dealing with learning disabilities. Young readers, parents and educators alike will find their heartstrings being pulled as they watch Layla learn to thrive with her dyslexia.

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Great Neck native Reyna Marder Gentin recently published her debut novel, Unreasonable Doubts, a legal thriller and love story that follows protagonist Liana Cohen on a journey of faith, love and justice. For Marder Gentin, who practiced as a lawyer for more than two decades, becoming a writer meant diverging from the beaten path and following her passion.

The author got her start at Great Neck North High School, which she graduated from in 1984.

“It was a competitive school, but I always felt that my biggest goal was to do well on my own terms and not in comparison to anyone else,” said Marder Gentin, reflecting on her time at GNN. “Perhaps even more than the classes or teachers, I made lifelong friends in high school. We still get together regularly, and those friends have been some of my biggest cheerleaders as I began this adventure of becoming a writer. Most importantly, I met my husband, Pierre Gentin, at Great Neck North. We’ve been married for 27 years and have two wonderful children.”

During her Great Neck days, Marder Gentin also spent time at the library’s Levels program and in her synagogue, Temple Israel.

“I was influenced by all these institutions,” she said of her schools, library and synagogue, “and of course by my family, to take all my endeavors seriously, but also to find the meaning and the fun in life. I think these aspects of a happy childhood in a safe, beautiful town are reflected in my writing.”

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