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Promoting Reading and Reading Diversely in High School Libraries

Fri, 01/20/2017 - 07:00

As high school librarians who value diverse voices, we have always been sure to have and feature books by people of color and other under-represented groups. Like many in our field, we create monthly, thematic displays and reading lists, one example being those that highlight books by and about African-Americans during Black History Month.   Similarly, when we create our list of selected readings for our yearly summer reading program, we have been very thoughtful about being sure that there is something for everyone in terms of demographic representation and genres.

While all these actions are steps in the right direction, this school year we decided to be even more intentional about encouraging our students and staff to read more diversely. By introducing the Raptor Reading Bingo challenge, we have taken our focus on social justice and multicultural literacies to the next level. We created a bingo board that gives students and staff choice in their readings, but is designed to get them to read books by authors of color and featuring other under-represented groups like LGBTQ.

As part of introducing this initiative to students and staff, we have asked all faculty to prominently display their in-progress bingo boards in classrooms, and staff without traditional classrooms, like deans, counselors, and administration, received poster-sized versions that the entire department can contribute to. It has been especially rewarding to hear about teachers asking students for book recommendations that would qualify for a particular square, and the resulting conversations that invite discussion of race and equity within the context of pleasure reading.

As the year progresses, we will continue to promote the Raptor Reading Bingo Challenge within our school by inviting students and staff to share what books they’ve been reading on our giant bingo board (pictured), and we also plan to promote it to the parents and feeder area schools in our community.

We believe there are intrinsic rewards to reading initiatives like this, and we also know that some prizes and extra credit options never hurt. Beginning next semester, we will enter the names of students who complete a bingo into a monthly drawing. The confirming of these books is usually done in a brief conversation with teachers or librarians, and we’re hoping that as the program develops, we can have students film quick and informal “60 Second Booktalks” that can then be posted on social media with the hashtag #rrchallenge. In a school our size, approximately 2700 students, it can be difficult to get full buy-in, but when we approached our English department about offering extra credit to students for completing a bingo, they all agreed.

In addition to the value of modeling a school culture that supports and encourages potentially life-long habit of reading for pleasure, this initiative also intentionally demonstrates a value for books by people of color and other societal minorities. By emphasizing the value of these books, we invite students who are of these minority groups to experience these books as a “mirror” of their own experience, while these same books serve as a “window” into another’s experience for many others.

Raptor Reading Challenge BINGO

Example of suggested reading list: Book with a character or by an author with a disability

Kristin McKeown and Hollie Hawkins are teacher librarians at Eaglecrest High School inCentennial, CO and are the recipients of the 2014 National School Library Program of the Year award from AASL. In addition to a passion for teaching educators about mindfulness through teachingbalance.com, Kristin is also trying to figure out how many fantasy books she can get to qualify for the bingo squares. Hollie is a dedicated champion of all things YA and promotes it to teens and adults alike.

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An Interview With 2017 Morris Award Finalist, Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 05:00

Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock is a finalist for the 2017 William C. Morris award. Her book, The Smell Of Other People’s Houses, is told in four points of view of teens living in Alaska in the 1970s. Their individual stories weave together in a satisfying ending that will give readers a sense of another time and culture.

Your background is writing news for radio.  How is your writing process different than when you wrote for news? The biggest difference is not having a daily deadline. Working on something for years rather than days is a totally different thing and I think it takes practice transitioning from one to the other. I still write though, as if each chapter is its own story and use a lot of the skills I used when writing a four minute radio piece. I miss interviewing people and using their own voices, which now feels like cheating after having to create characters out of thin air. (Although I did mine some of my past interviewees for personality traits for my characters.)

It feels like the four point of view characters each represent a different feel or culture of Alaska.  What do you want the reader to learn from this? Yes, I think you’re right about that. Alaska is a huge place and each region has its own feel, including differences in climate and culture, so it’s difficult for any one book about Alaska to portray the entire state. I chose to focus on the places that I lived throughout my life and depict those places through the kinds of people I knew and had close experiences with. I’ve heard so many different takeaways from readers about what they got (or didn’t get) from this way of telling the story. I just wanted to show how hard it is to generalize the Alaska way of life. Alaska is many things to many people and all of it is true.

How did the idea of smell and association become such a prominent theme to the book?  Was this always the idea or did it evolve? It totally evolved. I wasn’t even going in that direction until a friend and I wrote together and she came up with the idea for the title. After that, it just kept popping up.

 

Where did you get the idea for Crazy Dancing Guy? Oh, thank you for asking! I love him and he is based on someone that actually did dance on the street corner every single morning. One day while I was working as a reporter we decided to interview him and ask why he did that. He said, “I just think it makes people feel good when they’re driving to work. It makes people happy.” He did that for so many years that when he died, there was a huge tribute to him. I never forgot him, so was happy to give him a street corner in my story as well.

Where did the story about the red slip come from?  I’m not even sure where that came from. I guess that bit was total fiction. The original story collection was all going to center around a red rubber band and show how one insignificant thing can often connect people. The rubber band became a red ribbon and I guess I just needed a point of origin for the ribbon. So many things did not just miraculously appear, but are a result of many many re-writes, which I think is how writing is supposed to work.

What do you want readers to take away from the experience of this book? If someone isn’t familiar with Alaska I hope they might realize that no matter where we live, we all desperately want to feel that we are safe and loved and that we have something in life to look forward to. For Alaskans, I hope it will resonate and feel authentic.

Who are the authors that influence you? Young Adult authors that I particularly like are Margo Lanagan and A.S. King. I love short stories by Alice Munro and Maile Meloy. But I love the classics and am a huge fan of Tolstoy and Virginia Woolf as well.

What is your next project? Something that is NOT set in Alaska, with a little magical realism thrown in.

What are some of your favorite reads of the past year? I loved Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, When the World Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore, Riverkeep by Martin Stewart and The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas, just to name a few. There are SO MANY!

Kris Hickey is currently reading 18 And Life On Skid Row by Sebastian Bach.

 

 

 

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Using History to Understand Current Social Issues

Wed, 01/18/2017 - 07:00

Many current social issues have long histories, and many teens are expressing interest in understanding the historical context of contemporary politics. To become better informed, teens might want to revisit these issues as they played out in history to gain a deeper understanding of modern day events and attitudes. As teens learn more and judge for themselves how the past compares to attitudes today, it could also inspire a deeper understanding of human rights and our responsibilities as humans in today’s modern society.

While this author is not an expert on these topics, she hopes it will encourage teens and teen advocates to understand the past and how this could foster discussion on our current societal issues.

Nazi Party Rally Grounds (1934) – Wikimedia Commons

Rise of Nationalism vs. Rise of the Nazis

A number of countries have seen an emerging rise in nationalism, including the U.S for 2016. A quick search will sport numerous news articles on the topic. In some cases of both past and recent years, this nationalism has resulted in revolutions and independence for countries, for example, Great Britain’s “Brexit” decision to remove itself from the European Union. However, in the 1920’s through 1930’s, nationalism paired with discrimination and xenophobia resulted in the National Socialist German Worker’s Party and the rise of the Nazis. For more understanding about German nationalism during the Nazi era and those searching for social justice during that time, here are a few online and print resources to give a brief view into available information and viewpoints during that period.

Online Resources:

YA Nonfiction:

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman

Two siblings formerly part of the Hitler Youth form a secret resistance group called the White Rose and distribute anti-Nazi materials.

Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust by Doreen Rappaport (YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults – 2015)

A variety of profiles of Jewish people who defied the current climate to save others and are remembered in this detailed look, including some teens.

Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington (YALSA Nonfiction Award nomination 2014)

This overview documents changes in society with the rise of the Nazi Party, paying specific attention to treatment of homosexuals.

YA/Middle Grade Fiction:

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Best Books for Young Adults 2009, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults 2014)

A teen joins Hitler Youth but questions his teachings with those of his youth and comes to rebel by distributing underground information of news reports.

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

A close look at the rise of Adolf Hitler in the eyes of his niece who befriends a young reporter who transforms her views.

Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz

An Irish/British spy masquerades as a Hitler youth in this high stakes thriller.

Adult Nonfiction for further research:

Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazis Rise to Power by Andrew Nagorski

American journalists living in Germany gained a first-hand account of the Nazis rise to power.

The Third Reich in History and Memory by Richard J. Evans

An overview of the rise to power, height of dominance, and postwar era in history and memories.

Japanese Internment vs. Anti-Islam

A number of reports have been in the news lately both for the US and other countries against Muslims, especially Muslim refugees. Some reports have related a comparison of the Anti-Islam sentiment and the future possibility of a Muslim registry to the attitude against Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II. At that time, West Coast Japanese Americans were considered potential enemies of the military and were sent through an executive order by then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt into internment camps. Later this period was defined as a human rights violation and some reparations were made towards Japanese American survivors. A few resources following Japanese Americans during this period in history are found below.

Online Resources: 

YA Nonfiction:

Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II written by Martin W. Sandler (YALSA Nonfiction Award finalist 2014)

Sandler introduces evacuees and their families and documents their experiences, including those Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. military.

Fighting for Honor: Japanese Americans and World War II by Michael L. Cooper

A more extensive look at Japanese Americans in the military fighting during World War II.

Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference by Joanne Oppenheim

 A San Diego children’s librarian writes to her child-age and teenage patrons who were taken into Japanese American internment camps.

YA Fiction:

Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata

A Japanese American girl is sent to an internment camp on the Mojave Indian Reservation and finds that she and a Native American boy share some things in common.

Farewell to Manzanar: A True Story of Japanese American Experience During and After the World War II Internment by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston

A brief story about a teen girl sent to Manzanar internment camp and its effect on her family.

Adult Nonfiction for further research:

Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II by Richard Reeves

A journalist traces a detailed and comprehensive history of Japanese American internment camps and the events by political leaders that led to the decision.

Silver Like Dust: One Family’s Story of America’s Japanese Internment by Kimi Cunningham Grant

Author learns and recounts her grandmother’s experience in a Japanese internment camp and comes to accept her heritage.

Latin American Politics

The recent death of Fidel Castro, leader/dictator of Cuba, has spurred talk of the era of Latin American dictators, whose practices and policies are still ongoing since Cuba still has a one-party dictatorship under Raul Castro with no opposition permitted. Additionally, recent news articles have compared certain political leaders to Latin American dictators in possessing a similar style in address and authority. Though there is less material published overall on these specific topics, especially in young adult literature, here are a few sources to explore.

Online Resources:

  • Encyclopaedia Britannica – Challenges to the Political Order and Latin American Since the Mid-Twentieth Century covers an overview of developments in Latin America from revolutions and military regimes to political changes and populism
  • The Mapping History Project by the University of Oregon and Universitat Munster records the changes in the Caribbean, Central and South America from the end of the 19th century and the predominant oligarchies and flows into the late 20th century with notes about military regimes, juntas, and one-party states.

YA Nonfiction:

Leaving Glorytown: One Boy’s Struggle under Castro by Eduardo F. Calcines (YALSA Nonfiction Award nominee 2010)

A memoir about life in Cuba at the beginning of the Communist revolution and immigrating to the United States as a teen.

Che Guevara: You Win or You Die by Stuart A. Kallen

A revolutionary who became friends with Castro and together they overthrew the dictator in Cuba but Guevara was assassinated.

Augusto Pinochet’s Chile by Diana Childress

Covers military leader Pinochet’s rise to power in a military coup and his control through a junta and naming himself president of Chile and becoming a dictator despite trying to save his country from Communism.

Note: Readers might find this particularly interesting as the president Pinochet overthrew was Salvador Allende, the uncle of author Isabel Allende, found below.

Latin American Fiction

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

Three sisters are murdered and the fourth is left to tell their stories of life under the horrors of dictator’s rule in the Dominican Republic

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

A history of Latin America and Chile as seen through the tragic lives of the Truebas family.

The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The investigation into the murder of a South American dictator reveals his evolution from leader to dictator.

Adult Nonfiction for further research:

Red Heat: Conspiracy, Murder, and the Cold War in the Caribbean by Alex von Tunzelmann

A history of three dictators of the Caribbean during the Cold War.

Looking for History: Dispatches from Latin America by Alma Guillermoprieto

A series of essays in which the author describes Latin American politics and society of Colombia, Cuba and Mexico as well as references to Argentina and Peru.

Gringo: Coming-of-Age in Latin America by Chesa Boudin

A man travels through Latin America recounting his experiences in history and local political views.

Additional note:

Readers might be interested to know educational database JSTOR publishes some so-termed ‘scholarly news’ articles that relate history to current events; however, articles are written by a variety of authors with many points of view.

We welcome any informational contributions to these resource lists by commenting below!

—Kara Hunter, currently reading The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

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2017 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview with Jeff Zentner

Wed, 01/18/2017 - 07:00

Jeff Zentner is a finalist for the 2017 William C. Morris Award YA Debut Award, which will be presented at the ALA Midwinter Youth Media Awards on Monday, January 23, 2017.

The Serpent King is about three teenaged outcasts in the small town of Forrestville, Tennessee, who are seniors  in high school trying to overcome their family’s histories and expectations to make their own choices for how they want to live their lives.

Congratulations on being a Morris Award finalist. What was your reaction when you got the news?

Great surprise! I actually found out on twitter from a librarian who’s totally unconnected with my publishing network (editor, agent, etc.) from whom I normally learn information like this. And my first reaction was “oh man, I hope this guy isn’t pulling my chain.

The difficult relationships between fathers and sons and the sins of the fathers being visited on the sons is a major part of the book. Did you have a difficult relationship with your father? How autobiographical is your book?

I had and have a great relationship with my dad, so those parts of the story aren’t autobiographical. I did grow up in a strict religious faith that often left me feeling alienated and isolated from my peers at school, like Dill. But, like Dill, I managed to make a few very great friends who were my lifeline.

I was heartbroken over the fate of one of the characters and actually burst into tears while reading your book on a train. You didn’t pull any punches here and it’s an honest and sometimes unflinching look at these three characters’ lives. Were you worried that readers would be angry about what happens to one of the characters?

I honestly didn’t think beforehand that I was capable of writing a character that people would feel deeply enough to be angry with me about. I discovered that I was from my first reader, my buddy Jarrod. I gave him my manuscript to read and sort of forgot that he was reading it until one day I got a text from him that simply said: “You [expletive] [expletive].” I was like “??????” and he texted back “[Character name].” It makes me very happy that readers are forging a connection with these characters, even if I have to endure occasional wrath.

Religion, especially Pentecostalism isn’t a religion that I’m very familiar with – especially the unusual practice of snake handling. It’s certainly not something that’s explored in YA fiction very often. What made you include this? Do you have personal experience with unusual worship practices?

I wanted to explore the effects of struggling inside with a strange faith that outsiders don’t understand—a faith that isolates you socially to begin with and even more when decide you have to find your own. I also wanted to include a religious tradition specific to the American South, which is the place I write about. Finally, I loved how the practices of snake handling and drinking poisonous things functioned on a metaphorical and symbolic level in my main character’s story arc. I do have personal experience with unusual worship practices, so I was on comfortable ground.

The expectations of parents and how children are burdened by trying to live up to those expectations or obey their parents is a huge part of this book. His mother, especially, is putting Dill, in an impossible position. How were you able to write such an uncompromising and unflinching portrayal of her?

I’m very familiar with the thinking of religious fundamentalists who may have little to hope for or little to rejoice in in this earthly life, so they orient their life and thinking toward the next life and the hope that lies there. And when that’s your only hope, you develop a certain rigidity of thought and behavior designed to keep you on the path to that hope. I believe, sadly, that there are many parents who love God more than they love their own children, so I wrote Dill’s mother as someone who put her son second in her life after God. From there, it was simple to intuit her choices.

Dill, Lydia and Travis feel like they’re outcasts. Did you feel like you were too as a teen?

Absolutely. I felt very isolated and alone. I was a weird, angsty kid.

There’s a beautiful sense of place in this book. Like most teens, Lydia just wants to escape her small town for the big city but her father says some really thoughtful things about why their small southern town isn’t so bad. Did you grow up on a similar type of community?

I did. The town I grew up in was substantially larger than Forrestville, but definitely not a big city. I grew thinking that driving an hour to the nearest city with a mall was the height of cosmopolitanism. That’s a hard place for a kid, but as I get older, I find myself viewing that place with a certain nostalgia and wistfulness, so I understand both Lydia and her father.

Music is also a huge part of the plot. I know you’re a musician too. How did that influence your decision to write a YA book? Did you listen to music to inspire you to write? If so what? If you had to associate a song with each of the main characters, what would they be?

It was my music career that led me to volunteer at Tennessee Teen Rock Camp and Southern Girls Rock Camp, which is where I really fell in love with young people and wanted to create art for them. The problem being, of course, that I was about 15 years too old to make the kind of music marketed to young adults. Plus, I had no idea how to make it. So I knew that I needed to switch horses. Publishing is much more forgiving age wise, as in you don’t have to have made it big before you’re 30, like in music. I’d always loved reading; I’d worked at bookstores; so I thought maybe I’d try my hand at writing books for young adults. And here we are.

I knew I would love this book right from the beginning when you mention that there’s a copy of The Secret History by Donna Tartt in Lydia’s car, What authors and/or books have influenced you? (Besides the obvious references to George R. R. Martin, that is!).

I love southern lit: Jesmyn Ward, Cormac McCarthy, and Charles Frazier are my favorites. I love deeply lyrical writing like Leslie Marmon Silko, Michael Ondaatje, Donna Tartt, Joan Didion, Anthony Doerr, Emily St. John Mandel, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Patti Smith. I loved funny writers like David Sedaris and David Rakoff.  I have always deeply loved Stephen King, and The Body and It were big influences on how I wrote the friendship in The Serpent King. I had not read tons of YA before I wrote it, but I had read and loved John Green, David Levithan, Sherman Alexie, John Corey Whaley, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Rainbow Rowell, and Jenny Downham.

What’s one surprising thing that you want readers to know about you?

I’m related to Wilford Brimley by marriage.

Jeff, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions and for writing such a beautiful book.

-Interviewed by Sharon Rawlins, currently reading the galley of Empress of a Thousands Skies by Rhoda Belleza

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2017 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview with Sonia Patel

Tue, 01/17/2017 - 07:00

Sonia Patel is a finalist for the 2017 William C. Morris YA Debut Award for her novel Rani Patel in Full Effect. The award winner will be announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media (YMA) Awards on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017.

Rani Patel in Full Effect grabs the mic to tell a story of hip hop, healing, and the path to self-understanding. Set in the 1990s, Rani, a 16-year-old Gujarati Indian teenager, is growing up on the remote Hawaiian island of Moloka’i and is isolated from her peers. She also has a very complicated relationship with her parents to say the least. Her mother doesn’t seem to see her, and when her father gets a new girlfriend, things come out for Rani about her relationship with him that she hasn’t been to admit to herself. Her father’s betrayal has her feeling like widow, in a bold stroke, and like widows in India are often made to do, she shaves off her hair. Rani finds solace and power in writing slam poetry taking on the patriarchy in the island’s underground hip-hop scene as MC Sutra. She soon attracts the attention of the swoony Mark, who is much older than Rani. Even though there is plenty to warn her against him, she falls head over heels. This could easily be the undoing of Rani, but through pain and art, Rani is able to connect with parts of herself lost and unknown.

Sonia Patel is a Gujarati American and the daughter of immigrant parents. She lives in Hawaii where she works as a psychiatrist working mainly with teens and their families. You can follow her on her website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

Congratulations on your first novel and being selected as a Finalist for the William C. Morris Award for debut authors!

Thank you so much for reaching out! I am honored and grateful for being a Morris Award finalist and for the opportunity to be interviewed for the YALSA Hub!

You are a psychiatrist with a busy career as a therapist working predominately with teen girls and families, what drew you to writing books for teens?

When I provide psychotherapy to a teen in my child & adolescent psychiatry practice, the teen is often not the only patient. It is not uncommon for the teen’s family to have dynamics that are dysfunctional. And it is this unbalanced family system that is many times my real “patient.” In cases like this I provide family psychotherapy. This can be a hard sell if the family does not accept that the system is flawed and needs work. I try to help them understand that treating the teen alone will not entirely address the problems. Knowing this from my medical training as well as from my own dysfunctional family experiences growing up, I am always thinking about ways to facilitate positive family system change. During many family therapy sessions I want to tell the families about my own experiences in hopes of giving a real life example of why my recommendations might be helpful. But there are reasons psychiatrists generally steer clear of self-revelation in direct patient care. So of course I mostly bite my tongue.

Meanwhile I had a binder full of rap I’d written over the years. My own therapy for my personal struggles. One day flipping through the binder, it hit me. I could write a teen novel highlighting family dysfunction and how it can affect a teen. I could base it on a combination of my real life family experiences and those of some of patients and my imagination. That was how Rani Patel In Full Effect was born.

Once I started writing I knew I was onto something unique, especially given my perspective as a psychiatrist. A perspective that isn’t represented in the YA world as far as I’ve seen. I think of it as diversity in diversity. In Rani I can best describe it as this: Rani is a POC. She’s growing up disconnected from two diverse cultures, Gujarati Indian and Native Hawaiian. She doesn’t have the luxury to cope only with normal teen developmental issues. She’s been her father’s object her entire life. She has to gain insight into the impact of the abuse on how she thinks, feels, and acts before she can even begin to make positive changes in her life and get back to normal teen developmental issues.

There seems to be some similarities with you and Rani, you are both first generation Gujarati American that spent their youth in Connecticut and Hawaii. What was the transition like for you to move to Hawaii as child? What drew you back to Hawaii after leaving to attend college at Stanford?

The transition to Hawaii was difficult. First, it was a decision my father unilaterally made without input from my mother or I. Second, I had to watch my mother cope with being torn away from the Gujarati immigrant family and friends with whom she was so close. Third, the island my father picked wasn’t Oahu. That island might have been a bit easier for my mother since there were other Indians there. But my father picked Moloka’i. It’s a beautiful island with a strong Native Hawaiian activist movement. But it was difficult for my mother to fit in there since she was completely cut off from her Indian roots. For me, it wasn’t as bad because I did whatever my dad wanted anyway. For a number of reasons similar to Rani, I didn’t have my own identity separate from him. Looking back, it’s clear that the move destroyed our already dysfunctional family.

I grew to love Hawaii. Especially the cultural diversity, weather, and chill vibe. For my own reasons, I always knew I’d return to live and work in Hawaii.  That wasn’t a questions for me even when I was at Stanford. I’d made my own connections to the islands, apart from my father’s influence. And this time when I moved to Hawaii it would be on my terms. I chose to live on Oahu. For a number of years I also flew over to Moloka’i to provide child & adolescent psychiatry services at the public schools. Today, I count my blessings that I get to wake up everyday in such a lovely place.

One of the most rewarding transformations of the book is Rani’s relationship with her mother. As a reader we see Rani’s mother through Rani’s eyes, and we are allowed to see the shifts as Rani starts to see her differently. Are there similarities to your relationship with to your mother?

Absolutely. In fact, I modeled Rani’s relationship with her mother on my own relationship with my mother. My mother is my rock. She always has been. And I have an amazing relationship with her now. But it took years to get there. With time I’ve come to understand why it took so long. It wasn’t that I was a bad daughter, which I used to think. Or that she was a cold mother. She was reacting to her circumstances. Though she’d immigrated to America with my father after their arranged marriage, she never fully acculturated. She loved India and her connections to India (Gujarati family & friends in America). She was raised with a confusing blend of progressive “don’t get married-be a doctor instead” and “get married-do what your husband says.” My mother really was told that “husband is god.” So unlike some of her Gujarati female friends and family, she couldn’t stand up to her husband. Like Rani, I watched her do my father’s bidding while suffering inside and growing increasingly emotionally distant from me. Like Rani, my distant relationship with my mother and my observations with how she handled her life unconsciously affected my own life—I couldn’t be assertive with my thoughts and feelings, I hated myself, and I had a difficult time in female friendships. The one major difference between Rani’s relationship with her mother and mine is that it took years for my mother and I to heal our relationship. And it started with insight. Insight usually takes a long time, rarely does it occur over the course of a school year. I talk about this in my author’s note. But in the novel I wanted to show the progression within a shorter timespan that teens could perhaps relate more to. I wanted to show teens what a healed relationship can look like. I wanted to show teens that it’s worth it to work towards healing relationships that will ultimately be a source of strength, nurturance and love.

Much of Rani’s experience and coming of age has a timelessness about it. What drew you setting her story in the early 1990’s?

That was the time of my own coming of age. It seemed perfect because it was the golden age of hip hop (late 80s-early 90s). It was a time of tremendous innovation, diversity, and quality in the hip hop culture. It was kind of like hip hop formed its true identity, just like Rani formed hers. Also, it was a time before cell phones and social media dominated teen life. Without the distraction of all that I was hoping to show that Rani was alone in her head most of the time. And this reinforced her one sided perspective on and expectations of relationships. She wasn’t getting much input from outside sources so it was difficult for her to see that it was a problem that she only had guy friends and no female friendships. I intentionally tried to present the other characters in the book with not as much change or depth as perhaps people want to see in novels. This is realistic in terms of how an incest survivor might view relationships—only from the point of view of how the relationship can serve them. So all the characters are from Rani’s one sided, narrow perspective. Until she gains insight into how her trauma affected her, she can only relate to people in her life in terms of how they “serve” her needs. That’s how she learned to have relationships being her father’s “object.”

Rani finds an outlet through hip hop and poetry. What is your relationship to both, and why did you choose that medium for Rani? (Also, you have great videos posted of you doing some of the poems from the book, is there one we can share on the blog?)

Rani Patel In Full Effect was a product of my love of hip hop and rap. The way hip hop and rap gave Rani a positive way to cope with her family’s dysfunction is also what it did for me. By writing rap Rani could fake her self-worth until it became real.  Something I did as well. Hip hop was Rani’s culture when she couldn’t find solace in her own Gujarati culture. Same for me. Once I found hip hop and rap as a child there was no going back. Nothing else could give me that same healthy comfort. The lyrics and beat of rap let me express my thoughts and feelings in a way I couldn’t in real life. Later I also found the same healing quality in poetry.

(Thanks for the props on the videos! Please feel free to share one on the blog.)

I appreciated the authenticity of Rani’s struggle to work through the issues surrounding her abuse. Often times in young adult literature the path presented to healing is more linear.  Reading this book I felt that readers got a more realistic perspective of how hard it is to work through the issues, how it is anything but linear, and how humans are more complex and can be a lot of things at once. Have you read a lot of other YA that look at issues of incest and abuse, and are their some authors you think do it well?

I am glad you took that away from the book. It was my intention to show how difficult, repetitive, and frustrating healing from sexual trauma can be. I’ve read other YA novels that look at issues of rape. I really like Christa Desir’s Fault Line. I think she does an amazing job of discussing the complexities of the aftermath of sexual assault. In terms of books with incest themes, I like Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas, Identical by Ellen Hopkins, and Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma. Each of these books offers interesting, unique ways to tell such stories.

Layered into this book are some environmental and social issues around water rights and Native sovereignty on Moloka’i during the early 1990s. This brings in the setting of the island and the community into focus and also is a place where Rani intersects with her father. How have things progressed in regards to these issues since that time?

The EPA designation of Moloka’i as a sole source aquifer was huge for the island. In the end, Moloka’i Ranch did not get the access to the water they wanted for their west end condo and golf course. Also in the 2000s the Ranch wanted more water to build a luxury development on some sacred land on the dry west end, La’au Point. Moloka’i people resisted and the Ranch lost their bid on the development project.  Moloka’i continues to resist unnecessary development to this day. The high percentage of Native Hawaiians on the island continue to work towards preserving their culture and traditions. Current issues on Moloka’i include water access for Hawaiian Homestead lands, farming, and unemployment. There is conflict in terms of GMO vs. non-GMO farming. Many islanders prefer non-GMO farming because it is more in line with ancient Hawaiian ways. But there are also many islanders who fear job loss if GMO farming is restricted.

Can you talk a little about your upcoming project The Calamitous Love of Jaya and Rasa?

I am very excited about this YA novel (the title will be shorter)! I present the lives of two teens from opposite sides of the track—a transgender Gujarati boy from a wealthy family and a mixed ethnicity girl from a poor, broken family. The characters and their stories are based on a blend of real patients I’ve worked with over the years. I try to present various themes, including depression, sex trafficking, LGBTQ issues, alcoholism, and bulimia in a way that patients I’ve treated experienced. I also try to present some of the social issues on Oahu as I’ve experienced and as described to me by patients. Things like wealth, elitism, privilege, private vs. public school differences. Then there’s the sweet love story. That’s where I hope readers will see Jaya and Rasa’s true colors. Away from the challenges that life throws them. I’m working on edits now and it’s so much fun. I love Jaya and Rasa and I hope teens will too!

— Danielle Jone currently reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The post 2017 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview with Sonia Patel appeared first on The Hub.

Reading Across Borders: Translated YA Titles for the New Year

Wed, 01/11/2017 - 10:35

In search of fresh new titles to expand the diversity of your YA collection in the new year? Challenge your teens (and yourself!) to read widely across borders this year.

Reading international literature exposes readers to fresh perspectives; it challenges us, and like any good literature, it entertains. While international adult hits such as Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels and Fredrik Backman’s books have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years, translated YA titles remain under the radar of most readers and librarians. In future posts, the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative will recommend tips and resources for discovering recently published international YA books. For now, here is a taste of what’s hitting shelves this month.

In this post we highlight a few of the exciting international titles being published in January. This selection includes books from Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Germany, running the gamut from fantasy to adventure and historical fiction to satisfy readers of all stripes. By including these books in our collections, we can help expose teen readers to a diversity of perspectives outside of our own borders, and give them a taste of what teens across the world are reading.

Maresi: the Red Abbey chronicles by Maria Turtschaninoff; translated by Annie Prime (Finland)

This trilogy opener from Finland tells the story of Maresi, a 13-year-old novice in the Red Abbey on the island of Menos, a safe haven for women. Her idyllic existence is shaken when a new girl, Jai, arrives with a  dark past not far behind her. When the island is invaded by men bent on violence and revenge, Maresi must take all the knowledge she has learned during her time at the Abbey and act.

Booklist (starred review): “It’s rare to find a YA fantasy with such polished writing, and almost impossible to find a YA title so committed to a sympathetic portrayal of a matriarchy…Utterly satisfying and completely different from standard YA fantasy, this Finnish import seems primed to win over American readers.”

The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius; translated by Peter Graves (Sweden)

When her best friend, the sailor Henry Koskela, is falsely accused of murder, a gorilla named Sally Jones visits the run-down docks of Lisbon, embarks on a dizzying journey across the seven seas, and calls on the Maharaja of Bhapur’s magnificent court–all in an attempt to clear Henry’s name. This mystery adventure story from Sweden has garnered multiple starred reviews.

Booklist (starred review): “This story was originally published in Sweden to great critical acclaim, and numerous black-and-white drawings throughout add to its unusual appeal. For American readers, this will have a distinctly old-fashioned feel. While the sheer length and thoughtful pace of Sally Jones’ journey might discourage some, those who persevere will have a richly imagined and thoroughly unique adventure in store.”

Almost Autumn by Marianne Kaurin; translated by Rosie Hedger (Norway)

It’s October 1942, in Oslo, Norway. Fifteen-year-old Ilse Stern has had a crush on boy-next-door Hermann for as long as she can remember, but what Ilse doesn’t know is that Hermann is secretly working in the Resistance, helping Norwegian Jews flee the country to escape the Nazis. As life under German occupation becomes even more difficult, particularly for Jewish families like the Sterns, the choices made become more important by the hour. In this internationally acclaimed debut, Marianne Kaurin recreates the atmosphere of secrecy and uncertainty in World War II Norway in a moving story of sorrow, chance, and first love.

Kirkus:  “The spare, lovely prose, translated from Norwegian and shifting narrative perspective from character to character, is wrenching for readers with context to extrapolate all that’s unsaid… a subtle, hard-hitting book for readers who have the background to understand its oblique approach.”

The Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser; translated by Romy Fursland (Germany)

A teen girl discovers she is a book jumper –  she can leap directly into books, meet the characters, and experience the world of the book – in this fantasy import from Germany. Amy Lennox doesn’t know what to expect when she and her mother pick up and leave Germany for Scotland, heading to her mother’s childhood home of Lennox House on the island of Stormsay. Amy’s grandmother, Lady Mairead, insists that Amy must read while she resides at Lennox House―but not in the usual way. It turns out that Amy is a book jumper, able to leap into a story and interact with the world inside. As thrilling as Amy’s new power is, it also brings danger: someone is stealing from the books she visits, and that person may be after her life. Teaming up with fellow book jumper Will, Amy vows to get to the bottom of the thefts―at whatever cost.

Publishers Weekly: “The lore of the two families and German author Gläser’s descriptions of Stormsay and the library are meticulous and moody, creating a gothic atmosphere that serves this star-crossed love story well. Meetings with book characters, like Kipling’s Shere Khan and Dickens’s Oliver Twist, offer entertaining moments that balance the grimmer elements of the story as it builds to a bittersweet ending.”

— Jenny Zbrizher, currently reading The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

Jenny is a Reference and YA librarian at the Morris County Library in New Jersey. She is a member of the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative (GLLI), a group whose aim is to promote international youth literature in libraries. Follow her on Twitter @JennywithaZ, or GLLI on Twitter @GlobalLitinLibs

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Booklist: Books with Bakers, Chefs, and Other Food Enthusiasts

Mon, 01/09/2017 - 10:06

Everyone has to do it eventually but surprisingly few YA fiction books have any reference to it. I’m talking about cooking and baking, of course. When I started thinking about read-a-likes for Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I knew I wanted to feature some books with bakers like Lara Jean. That wound up being harder to find than I expected which also made me think that others might be interested in a more exhaustive list of books for teens with bakers, chefs, and foodies. For other books with teen chefs, be sure to check out the 2011 Popular Paperbacks “What’s Cooking?” List!

  • Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake: Hadley and Sam are both hurting. They’re feeling abandoned and maybe even betrayed by their parents’ choices. Neither of them expects to find comfort or connection with the other–especially Sam who knows exactly how ludicrous their mutual attraction really is–but then they find exactly that. And maybe more

  • A La Carte by Tanita S. Davis: Lainey dreams of becoming a chef and having her own cooking show one day. With the lack of African American female chefs–not to mention vegetarian ones–she figures her odds of hitting it big are excellent. When her best friend (and crush) moves away, Lainey finds comfort in the kitchen as she works through new recipes and makes peace with the past.

 

  • Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults): Sydney is used to living in her older brother Peyton’s shadow. When Peyton is sent to jail for drunk driving, Sydney tracks down the victim of the accident and finds herself drawn into the warm and chaotic world of the Chathams and the pizza parlor they run.

 

  • Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg: Both Macallan and Levi are pretty sure they’re better as friends than anything else. Except they can’t help wondering if the complications that come with being more than friends might just be worth it.

 

  • Taste Test by Kelly Fiore: As accidents mount in the kitchen arena of Taste Test, a new televised cooking competition, Nora has to try to find the culprit while proving she has what it takes to win.

 

  • Stir It Up! by Ramin Ganeshram: Anjali dreams of hosting a cooking show where she can showcase dishes inspired by her Hindu and Trinidadian heritage. When she has the chance to compete in a cooking show will she be able to defy her family and attend the audition?

 

  • The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler (2011 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults): Penny’s life is far from sweet when her mother moves them from the big city to Hog’s Hollow so that she can open a cupcake bakery.

 

  • The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil, illustrated by Mike Lawrence: Alba loves living behind the bakery, drawing comics, and watching bad TV with her friends. Unfortunately Alba’s comfortable life is thrown into chaos by the return of a boy she used to know, complications with her best friend, and the flock of doomsday enthusiasts coming to Eden Valley for the end of the world.

 

  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley: Baker Rae “Sunshine” Seddon’s life takes a dramatic turn when she is abducted by a gang of vampires. And survives.

 

  • Heartless by Marissa Meyer: Catherine is more interested in baking than the attentions of Wonderland’s unmarried King–especially when she has big plans to open her own shop and is secretly courting Jest. Cath wants to choose her own path but in a land filled with madness and magic, she may not get the chance.

 

  • Cake Pop Crush by Suzanne Nelson: Alice Ramirez loves baking and helping at her father’s bakery, Say It With Flour. When a rival coffee shop opens across the street, Ali tries to give her family an edge with trendy cake pops.

 

  • The Keeper of the Mist by Rachel Neumeier: Keri has her hands running her bakery when she is unexpectedly chosen as the next Lady of Nimmera. Only time will tell if one inexperienced and unexpected heir will be enough to repair Nimmera’s quickly fading boundary magic and help the small country thrive even in the face of imminent invasion.

 

  • Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler: Hudson gave up her ice skates for baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner after a betrayal completely altered her plans for her future. When she has a chance to start coaching the boys hockey team, Hudson will also haveto decide if she wants to start skating again on her own terms.

 

  • The Prank List by Anna Staniszewski: Rachel Lee will do anything to save her mother’s cleaning business if it means not moving to Connecticut and losing her new best friend, almost-boyfriend, and her pastry classes.

 

 

  • Pizza, Love & Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams: Sophie Nicolaides grew up in her family’s Italian-Greek restaurant. But is that enough to prepare her to compete on the Teen Test Kitchen reality show?

 

  • Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood: Between moving, having no money, changing schools, and his father suddenly revealing that he’s gay Dan has more than enough issues without an impossible crush on the girl next door. Dan narrows all of his problems to six impossible things. With a penchant for making lists and following through, Dan is optimistic about fixing at least some of them–maybe even his mom’s wedding cake business that seems to result in more cancelled weddings than actual cakes.

— Emma Carbone, currently reading The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti

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Diverse Debuts of 2017

Wed, 01/04/2017 - 07:00

At The Hub, we’re committed to spotlighting not only books that feature characters from diverse backgrounds, but also books written by diverse authors. Did you miss some diverse debuts of 2016? Check them out.

In the back of Audrey’s closet sits a letter written by her birth mother.  Audrey has yet to read the letter but when she learns she is pregnant, Audrey suddenly understands what it’s like to be a pregnant teen who must make life altering decisions.

Rhee is an empress who will do almost anything to claim the throne and Aly is a rising star of his planet that has been accused of killing Rhee. What happens when their two planets collide?

Based on Asian Folklore and mythology, this reimagination of the evil queen from Snow White is about a woman who longs to be empress and the jealous god she unleashes to fulfill her desires.

A poor lonely girl who is summoned to be the body double of a cruel princess quickly discovers that luxury is not all it seems to be.

After her and her mother’s conviction of killing a baby, Mary spends nine years in juvenile detention.  Upon her release, she meets Ted and discovers she’s about to become a mother.  In order to save her child from foster care, Mary must rely on her untrustworthy mother for help.

Liesl is a gifted musician whose inspiration comes from the mythical Goblin King. But when her sister is abducted by the Goblin King, Liesl must marry him to release her sister.

In a futuristic Korea, an ex-gang member is recruited by the military to work on a secret weapons project that he soon finds out to be a girl.

Liam is Irish royalty seeking a wife to solidify his family’s standing. Laxshmi is an Indian-American high school student faced with the ultimatum of going to medical school or face an arranged marriage.  When Liam and Laxshmi become neighbors, will Liam and Laxshmi find love?

Margot is angry at her parents for forcing her to work off her punishment of stealing their credit card for a more fashionable wardrobe.  With the inevitable beach party hosted by her peers at her prep school on the horizon, Margot will stop at nothing to be at that party.

Winnie finds herself in a real life Bollywood drama when her boyfriend cheats but wants her back.  Instead of working with her boyfriend to run the film festival she has to compete with the cheater to win the spot.  And after she finds the perfect guy to win that spot, she might be falling for him.

Ivy League bound Justyce is rattled after an arrest and dropped charges.  In order to cope with the arrest, the gossip and stares from his classmates, and the crush he has on his White debate partner, Justyce writes to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to find answers.

Sana has many secrets and one of them is the crush she has on her best friend, Jaime-a girl.

Starr lives two lives. One life is spent in her low income neighborhood and the other is spent in her predominately White high school.  When Starr is the only witness to the murder of her unarmed best friend by a police officer, what she says could get her killed.

Upon moving to America, Fabiola’s mother is detained by immigration leaving her to fend for herself among her cousins in a strange Detroit town.  After finally finding her footing in the tough town, Fabiola finds herself at a crossroads.

— Dawn Abron, currently reading Wintersong by S. Jae. Jones

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Women in Comics: Looking Ahead to 2017

Tue, 01/03/2017 - 07:00

Though it may be tough to believe that a new year has begun, 2017 is here and it brings with it some great comics by women! Below are some exciting comics that will be released in the coming months. Take a look and find something fun for this brand new year.

Superheroes
2017 is going to be a great year for superhero comics written by women. Marvel has a number of options coming up that are both by women and about women, with three debuting next August. Over the span of just a couple of weeks, we’ll see The Unstoppable Wasp, Vol. 1: Unstoppable! by Jeremy Whitley with art by Elsa Charretier, The Mighty Captain Marvel by Margaret Stohl with art by Ramon Rosanas, and Sif: Journey Into Mystery by Kelly Sue Deconnick and Kathryn Immonen with art by Ryan Stegman, Valerio Schiti, and Pepe Larraz. Versions of all of these character tie into the Marvel Cinematic Universe or will in the future, so they are great options for those who love the movies and want to start reading the comics too. There will even be options for those who aren’t fans of comics, with The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World novel by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale coming out at the beginning of February.

Not to be left out, DC also has some new offerings by women as well. Starting in January, Margueritte Bennett will pair up with James Tynion IV for a two issue “Batwoman Begins” story in Detective Comics, which will serve as a launching pad for the new Batwoman series by Bennett with art by Steve Epting. That series will debut in the early Spring. Batgirl Vol. 1: Beyond Burnside by Hope Larson with art by Rafael Albuquerque will be released at the end of March and will give readers a chance to follow Batgirl on her worldwide trip of self-discovery. Later in the Spring we’ll see the publication of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Vol. 1: Who is Oracle? by Shawna Benson and Julie Benson with art by Claire Row. Fans of Harley Quinn also have something to look forward to as Harley Quinn, Vol.1: Die Laughing by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti with art by Chad Hardin and John Timms will be released at the end of March.

For a darker, more violent take on superheroes, check out Leaving Megalopolis: Surviving Megalopolis by Gail Simone with art by J. Calafiore. This follow up to Leaving Megalopolis sees the characters from that story returning to the city now controlled by superheroes turned evil.

Fantasy & Scifi
Fantasy can take many forms, but fans will have plenty to choose from this year. If you like some monsters in your fantasy, check out Brave Chef Brianna by Sam Sykes with art by Selina Espiritu, which is the story of a young chef who must move to Monster City to open her dream restaurant. If you’ve ever read Gigi D.G.’s webcomic Cucumber Quest, you’ll be thrilled to know that a physical copy of the comic is coming in 2017! If you haven’t had a chance to check out this story of a young bunny on his way to magic school, you’re sure to love the adorable story and artwork to match. Watch for it in the Fall of 2017. Readers looking for a more traditional fantasy comic with all the castles and warriors that implies will want to read Another Castle: Grimoire by Andrew Wheeler with art by Paulina Ganucheau, or Ladycastle by Delilah S. Dawson with art by Ashley A. Woods, which has the added bonus of being a female-centric take on the classic high fantasy tropes. Shattered Warrior by Sharon Shinn and Molly Ostertag offers a more post-apocalyptic take on fantasy with its focus on a world full of tyrants and the three women who must decide what they will do to try to improve their situation. Finally, Snotgirl is the latest from Bryan Lee O’Malley with art by Leslie Hung and, though it defies genre categorization in many ways, you won’t want to miss this one. It tells the story of a fashion blogger/allergy sufferer leading a double life in Southern California and it makes for a very engaging read.

Those who prefer scifi over fantasy will want to read the new Star Wars: Han Solo comic by Marjorie Liu with art by Mark Brooks. This one’s a great book about Han’s time as an undercover spy that’s perfect for any Star Wars fan. Afar by Leila del Duca and Kit Seaton offers a very different take on science fiction with its focus on a young teen named Boetema in desert world. When she learns to project her consciousness to other planets the real adventure begins.

Fiction
If you prefer more realistic fiction, be sure to check out Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson. This book is sure to remind you of the trials of middle school, through the story of a shy girl and her chance encounter with an athlete. All of the musicians out there will want to watch for the new Josie and the Pussycats collection from Marguerite Bennett and Cameron DeOrdio with art by Audrey Mok for a chance to see a modern take on this famous girl band. Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani is another great option, albeit one that will reportedly have some fantastical elements. This story of growing up different follows Indian-American Priyanka as she struggles with teasing at her Southern California high school and learns more about her heritage. Historical fiction fans also have something to look forward to with Jen Wang’s The Prince and the Dressmaker, a story of a young prince and the dressmaker who creates gowns for him as their relationship blossoms, which will be released this year.

Nonfiction
For those who prefer nonfiction comics, there is plenty to look forward to this year. Science buffs and animal lovers alike will want to check out Bats: Learning to Fly by Falynn Christine Koch. In this entry in the Science Comics series, readers learn about bats by following a small injured bat on a journey through a bat rehabilitation center. If bats aren’t quite gross enough, Koch will also be releasing Plagues: The Microscopic Battlefield as another part of the Science Comics series at the end of the Summer of 2017.

If biography is more your speed, Science Comics will also be publishing Flying Machines: How the Wright Brothers Soared by Alison Wilgus with art by Molly Brooks. This comic offers an overview of flying technology at the time of the Wright brothers as well as chronicling their activities. If you prefer music over science, be sure to check out California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas by Pénélope Bagieu, which will give you an insight into Cass Elliot’s career before she formed The Mamas & The Papas and the tumultuous life of that group. Though not a comic book, Margaret and the Moon by Dean Robbins is a picture book that will appeal to many comics fans since it includes art by Lucy Knisley. In addition to great artwork, it tells the story of Margaret Hamilton, a NASA mathematician who helped to write the code for the Apollo program.

Memoir fans also have plenty to add to their to-be-read list. Tillie Walden’s memoir of a life as a competitive figure skater comes out in the Fall from First Second. Entitled Spinning, this one will also appeal to sports fans. Animal lovers will want to add the memoir Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home by Nicole J. Georges to their list for a heartwarming story of a woman and her less-than-obedient dog.

With these and many other comics by women on the horizon, 2017 should be an exciting year for comics fans. Which ones are you most excited to read in 2017? Did I leave any off of this list that can’t be missed? Let me know in the comments!

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Monthly Monday Poll: January 2017

Mon, 01/02/2017 - 07:00

Happy New Year, Hub readers! Here’s to a 2017 filled with good books and positive impacts for teens in our libraries and communities!

Last month we asked which genre you’ve been reading the most of lately (not which genre you most prefer, but which dominated the last 5 titles you read). The results mirror the YA market pretty closely, I thought, with nearly 2/3 of the pie represented by the first two categories:

Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Paranormal, Steampunk, and other Speculative -type fiction – 44%
Contemporary Fiction – 29%
Nonfiction – 14%
Graphic Novels (yes, they could be considered more of a format than a genre…) – 9%
Mystery/Thriller – 7%
Tie: Historical Fiction – 5%
Tie: My current books absolutely defy genre categorization – 5%
Memoir – 4%

This month, as we all roll out our New Year energy to tackle new or perennial resolutions, intentions, or simply to muscle through the dark days of winter, we want to hear about your reading priorities for 2017. Pick the reading goal that most closely matches your own, or write in your intentions in the comments.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

Happy reading, and Happy 2017 to all: may your work this year be safe, fulfilling, and effective, and your reading be both edifying and engaging!

— Carly Pansulla, currently reading Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

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13th Documentary Reading List for Teens

Wed, 12/28/2016 - 07:00

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s 2016 documentary 13th named after Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution explores race and the criminal justice system. The Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery with the exception unless it was a punishment for a crime. This documentary explores how slavery is continuing under the guise of mass incarceration.

Mass incarceration is a social justice issue and racial issue. 13th documentary, which is currently available on Netflix, is a film that is accessible and engaging to teens, and a must for everyone to see. Ava DuVernay has tweeted that public screenings “are allowed by Netflix in a first-of-its-kind general waiver ever made by the company. Show + share.” It is highly discussable. Here are a list of teen-friendly books that explore themes and content further for teen collections:

   

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

This explores that even though there has been a lot done to dismantle Jim Crow Laws, “the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control.” It looks at most people who use or sell illegal drugs are white, but in many states 90 percent of those arrested and sent to prison for drug offenses are black or Latino. This in turns means that those incarcerated or on probation or parole are often denied employment, housing, education and public benefits. Written by a civil-rights lawyer, this is an engaging read that teens will appreciate in its readability and arguments.

Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time by James William Kilgore

Much like The New Jim Crow this explores how mass incarceration of African Americans and Latinos is creating a system where civil liberties are being violated through the criminal justice system. This also explores issues of mental illness and gender identification in the criminal justice system, and talks about the debilitating financial pressure that those arrested and their families face from court fees and fines. Teens will appreciate this engaging narrative and introduction to mass incarceration that offers an overview with enough facts and figures.

Slavery by Another Name: The Re-enslavement of Black People in America From the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon

Blackmon explores the history of African-American incarceration from the end of the Civil War through World War II. He looks at how mostly African-American charged with petty crimes where then put into forced labor camps operated by “state and county governments, large corporations, small time entrepreneurs and provincial farmers.” This fleshes out parts of U.S. history that get skipped when it comes to civil liberties studies that usually end with the enactment of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865 and picks back up in the 1950s with the Civil Rights Movement. The 13th documentary explores how this history laid the groundwork for the systemic mass incarceration we see today.

           

Invisible Man Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education by Mychal Denzel Smith

Smith, who is in his 20s, explores what it means to be young and Black in the U.S. today. Starting with a recount of the killing of Trayvon Martin and then other young Black men this got Smith asking, “How do you learn to be a black man in America?” To answer this, Smith looks at issues of systemic racism, white supremacy and class-based elitism, while also looking at issues misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, self-hatred, violence, and untreated mental illness that can be harder to dissect for young Black men in today’s society. Smith is a master at the essay and teens will find this a highly engaging and thought-provoking read.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (2015 Alex Awards Nominee) *

Stevenson’s memoir recounts his calling to serve the largely neglected clientele in our justice system. His experience as a law-intern and lawyer brings to life the inconsistencies of the death penalty and race, and how if the victim is white, the perpetrator is 11 times more likely to receive the death penalty than if the victim is black. He discusses several cases he has handled, the most notorious of which  is Walter McMillian, a  black man from southern Alabama who was falsely accused of a murder. Then through a series of  bogus legal situations, police harassment, racism, and  phony testimony, McMillian found himself on Alabama’s death row. Teens will appreciate the fast-paced memoir that reads like a true crime while it it explores the injustices in the criminal justice system.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2016 Alex Award)

Written as a letter to his son, this series of essays looks at how race and racial issues have shaped American history, and at how this has often been at the cost of many Black lives. Coates looks at what it means to be Black in America and more specifically what it means to be a Black male. Coates breaks down issues of systemic racism in an immediate way that teens will appreciate and want to discuss.

          

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore (2011 Alex Award Nomination)

Moore’s memoir tells the story of his life growing up in Baltimore and the Bronx, his time as an army officer in Afghanistan, and as a Rhodes Scholar and White House Fellow. He parallels his life’s journey with another man, also named Wes Moore, who grew up near him at roughly the same time who is serving a life-sentence for  for the murder of a police officer. It looks at how we as a nation alternately can both support and fail youth.

Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism, and Racial Violence by Chad Williams, Kidada E. Williams, and Keisha N. Blain

With the focal point of the 2015 killings at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina where a white supremacist openly shot and killed 9 members of the congregation during a Wednesday night Bible study this book, through a series of essays and articles, looks at the roots of American systemic racism, white privilege, the uses and abuses of the Confederate flag and its ideals.

They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and A New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery

Lowery in a journalistic style explores behind the scenes of the building of the Black Lives Matter movement. Lowery brings up elements of his childhood growing up in Cleveland and his work as a reporter covering racial issues. He also profiles prominent activists, such as Johnetta Elzie, DeRey Mckesson, Bree Newsome, and  Brittany Packnett.

-Danielle Jones, currently reading Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

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Do You Know All You Should About “News” Feeds, Click Bait, and Credible Sources?

Sat, 12/24/2016 - 07:00

We’ve all seen it.  The article on social media that declares “OMG! You will never believe what [politician, celebrity, reality star] did?”  And the truth is we won’t believe it, because most likely it never happened.  Such over-the-top statements are teasers to make even the most responsible internet user stop reading to click on the story.  Click bait is only one method used to lure the reader.

Digital Literacy has become its own news worthy topic in the world of social media and online anonymity.  Whereas print journalism allowed the reader to have some assurance of professionalism with the review of editors, online information allows anyone to voice an opinion.   Every internet user needs to have the skills to evaluate and interpret online sources.  It is reported by the Pew Research and Media Center (2016) that 66% of adults polled reported to reading news from Facebook  so this skill to navigate online news sources is clearly needed throughout adulthood as well.

The need to educate internet users goes beyond students.  Google and Facebook declared this past November and December, respectively, that they will work with fact checkers to find fake news on their sites and change how they report news.  They will also change how they place ads among news stories, admitting that how they portray the news is important since click bait tactics earned more money for these fake news sites.

While this is a proactive step, individuals still must know how to evaluate web sources, navigate online tools, and whether or not their own searches and social media profile are limiting their news exposure.   For example, The Wall Street Journal’s article showing the Blue Feed vs Red Feed  results indicate that users of Facebook are limiting their news sources, but perhaps more troubling is that it shows that fake news is a growing problem.  Based on “likes” and “shares”, Facebook users inflict a self-censorship to the stories that show up on their feeds as well as the likelihood of being subjected to fake news if they have “liked” or “shared” a fake news story in the past.   

For anyone interested in teaching teens how to successfully evaluate the news there are already numerous tools available.  School Journalism provides News and Media Literary lesson plans for how to approach this topic.  Lesson plans are both for Middle School and for older students. Sources have been consolidated from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation Why News Matters initiative, the Journalism Education Association, The News Literacy Project, The Center for News Literacy at Stonybrook University, and Columbia Links.

But we can all help educate on digital literacy without memorizing a lesson plan.  I mention it whenever a student is working on finding sources for a research project or researching current events.

Media Literacy Tips (from me) That You Can Do In 5 Minutes:  

  • Look closely at the URL. Websites can be created or bought by anyone.  News websites will most likely be very short and clear on their URL.  For instance, abcnews.com is the real ABC website, whereas abcnews.com.co is not. That final “co” after the “.com” is a tell.  Similarly, look closely if there is a random number in the middle of a URL or any sign you are not directed to the main URL, but a local news site or random page.
  • Find the author. Read the About Us section or search for the organization that has posted the story.  Take the name of the group and complete a new search on the group – are they a for-profit business, nonprofit, government funded, of supported by more legitimate groups?  Do they name the staff, Board of Trustees, or Owner?
  • What is the purpose of the article? This expands from the author to truly look into what the story’s message is really saying.  If it seems extreme, it probably is.  Consider looking for a similar story from other sources, especially from the global community.  How are other news sources or organizations, not owned by businesses that have an opinion on the topic, covering the story?  Groups such as the Human Rights Campaign, the BBC, and NPR will cover an issue and its global significance.
  • Is the story supported? Does the news story refer to experts in the field (check their credentials), link to legitimate organizations, or connect you to similar stories from other sources?  If there are quotes in the article, who are they from?  Are they experts in the field, a witness to the story, or a statement listed in the “comments” section?
    • Snopes Websites like Snopes are now frequently visited to check the latest news story on credibility.  In fact, this month they joined Facebook to be a 3rd party fact checker (with no financial incentives).
  • Who created the website? Websites are cheap, even “.org” sites.  Savvy internet users must know where they are getting the information.  If I am unsure, I trace the website with the previous listed options or with easywhois.com where you can enter a URL and find out the creator of the website.   Many websites that appear to be political can be traced to groups which sell domains, that is a warning that the original creator may not be what it appears.  If it is credible, an author and legitimate creator/organization would be listed, such as National Public Radio, Inc. for npr.org.
  • Image verification & Statistics. Snopes will sometimes work for images as well.  Besides that, inquisitive minds should reverse check the image on Google to see its original posting or if it is often used for various people or groups.  Libraries might also subscribe to Image databases.  While this is more import for school projects than evaluating the media, it teaches students that verifying images should be a constant thought in online searching. Likewise, graphs can be deceiving or distorted and teenagers need to know how to critically evaluate statistics and images illustrating statistics.  Just because something appears to have similarities, it does not imply they are linked together.   Correlation is different than causation.

    Thanks to Imgur.com for the image

Digital Literacy goes beyond evaluating news sources and social media, yet with the ease of sharing stories online the importance is ageless.  If the majority of readers rely on only one or two sources of information, they are both limiting themselves on the understanding of a topic and also, more importantly, they are validating their already set belief.  The danger is that readers do not realize they are inflicting self-censorship.  To truly understand a topic various sources need to be read and understood.  In the 21st century our skills of understanding and critiquing what we read must be taught, updated, and used whether beginning a Google search, clicking on that popular article on Facebook, or retweeting.  Social Media and online news outlets offer many ways to be informed.  Just remember, before you “share” it with that one touch or click, double checking its validity can often be done within a few minutes.

– Sarah Carnahan, currently reading Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

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Memoirs and Biographies of Those Who Broke Equal Rights Boundaries

Tue, 12/20/2016 - 07:00

When I think of social justice and equal rights, the first person who comes to mind is Martin Luther King.  But, we all know that he wasn’t fighting alone. His I Have a Dream Speech is one of the most familiar speeches ever heard, but, Congressman John Lewis can deliver a powerful and memorable one as well, as you will discover if you read March: Book Two. I’ve selected a few recently published memoirs or biographies by or about significant African-Americans, some more familiar to me than others. What they all have in common is a drive to excel and a belief in what they were striving for – something that will resonate with today’s readers of all ages.

 

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (Young Readers Edition) by Misty Copeland (The 2014 edition has been nominated for YALSA’s 2017 Popular Paperback for Young Adults in the biography category)

This is a recently published young readers’ adaptation of Copeland’s 2014 memoir about her becoming the first African-American principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre history. Despite not having started dancing until age 13, Misty’s talent allowed her to transcend her rough home life. Her family didn’t have much money, and she had a series of stepfathers growing up. As her talent brought her notice, she became embroiled in a custody battle between her mother and her ballet teacher, leading her to go to court to petition for emancipation. She is also frank about the prejudice she experienced as a black dancer, including the belief by some who said that black dancers had no place in classical ballet. “This is for the little brown girls,” Copeland says, but her inspiring story will be embraced by readers of all races.

Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly

The author’s father worked at NASA as did so many others in her community that she just assumed that “that’s just what black folks did.” She profiles four black women (Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden) who during World War II, were hired as “computers” – or female mathematicians by Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, in VA under NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) – later to expand to become NASA. At a time when educated black women good in math were only expected to become math teachers, these women helped the U.S.’s successes in space aeronautics. Women hired at Langley were as good or better at computing than the men but few were classified as mathematicians because that would mean they’d be on equal footing as the men. Instead, they were classified as “sub professional” and paid less than the men. The Fair Employment Practices Committee under President Roosevelt had opened up job opportunities for African Americans, desegregating the work force during the war.

Dorothy Vaughan joined the NACA in 1943 and was the first to be promoted into a management position. Mary Jackson was the first black women to become an engineer at NACA. Katherine Johnson’s math skills helped put the first American in orbit around the Earth.  Christine Darden became an expert on supersonic flight and her groundbreaking research on predicting sonic booms continues to be used today. These women opened the door for other women to become mathematicians as a career. This book, and the adult version, are the basis of the upcoming film Hidden Figures starring Octavia Spencer (as Dorothy Vaughan), Taraji P. Henson (as Katherine Johnson), Janelle Monáe (as Mary Johnson) but doesn’t include a portrayal of Christine Darden because the film focuses on the years before she started at NASA.

Strong Inside (Young Readers’ Edition): The True Story of How Perry Wallace Broke College Basketball’s Color Line by Andrew Maraniss

This adaption from the 2014 adult version entitled Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South is the inspiring true story of Perry Wallace, the first black basketball player to play for the Southeastern Conference (SEC) at Vanderbilt University in Nashville from 1966-1970 during the height of the civil rights struggle. While playing against other basketball teams in the south during the turbulent 1960s, Wallace remained unflappable in the face of prejudice in places like Mississippi and Alabama. In Wallace’s freshman year, some other basketball teams even cancelled their games against Vanderbilt. What better way to limit opportunities for black players in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) than to deny their very existence. There were rule changes meant to maintain white dominance such as the fact that Wallace’s signature slam dunk was outlawed from college play by a committee of coaches and administrators. This forced him to become a better player by working on his other skills. Readers will be angry at the many aggressive fouls, and elbows to his face Wallace received by other players that he endured that went unchallenged by officials. Wallace valiantly restrained himself from retaliating because he wanted to make a lasting change. Readers will also be puzzled and outraged at the lack of support by Wallace’s coach and teammates, although Wallace believed they meant well, but didn’t understand what he was going through – and the culture of the time didn’t prepare the students and administration for what it would be like to integrate. As Wallace strove to meld into an all-white 1960s college team, readers in today’s racially uneasy times will be able to relate to what Wallace went through and the isolation and loneliness he experienced. He succeeded in paving the way for future black players on college teams.

March: Book One, Two and Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell

March: Book One (YALSA’s 2014 Top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens; YALSA’s 2016 Top 10 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults; YALSA’s 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound)

March: Book Two (YALSA’s 2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

March: Book Three (Finalist for YALSA’s 2017 Best Nonfiction award; Nominated for 2017 YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels; 2016 National Book Award winner for Young People’s Literature)

Framed around his attendance at President Obama’s presidential inauguration in 2009, Lewis recalls his childhood that led to his participation first-hand in some of the most important events of the civil rights movement in graphic novel format. In March: Book One Lewis talks about how he was drawn to Martin Luther King’s vision of the way of protesting using nonviolence. He had read the comic book published by the Fellowship of Reconciliation called Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story that explained the basics of passive resistance and non-violent action as tools for desegregation (The young people in Egypt protesting in 2011’s Egyptian Revolution used King’s comic as a guide too). He tells of his experiences with the sit-in movement to desegregate the lunch counters in places like Grant’s and Woolworth’s.

 

 

As Lewis attends Obama’s inauguration, in March: Book Two he reminisces that he’s the last alive of the Big Six – civil rights leaders that included M. L. King, who were involved on the March on Washington in 1963 to fight for jobs and freedom for African-Americans and includes King’s I Have a Dream Speech, and Lewis’s edited speech he gave at the same time, as well as the entirety of the unedited one. This second book also covers the period when he and other non-violent Freedom Riders were beaten by angry racist mobs and then often arrested themselves. Powell’s illustrations effectively portray the violence and death that the Lewis and the protestors faced in a way that text can’t.

 

 

March: Book Three covers when he became chairman of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) where he and other civil rights leaders had their greatest success in marching 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to fight for voting rights for all African-Americans, as well as equal protection under the law, and an end to police brutality (this point will really resonate with today’s young readers). This last book in Lewis’s memoir covers the Birmingham church bombing, the brutal confrontations between protestors and the police on Bloody Sunday, to President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act in 1965. One of the most touching images in the last book is the card Obama gives Lewis at Obama’s inauguration that says “Because of you, John–Barack Obama.” These books are essential reading for anyone who wants to know what it was really like to be a part of the fight during the civil rights movement.

~Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Crystal Storm (Book Five in the Falling Kingdoms series) by Morgan Rhodes

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Resources for Social Justice and Disability

Tue, 12/20/2016 - 07:00

Previously I posted on Social Justice and Disability – Evaluating Materials and Media with Characters with Disabilities. I am back to share some other essential resources and sites to follow. After a divisive presidential campaign, where the elected official hasn’t been forthcoming on stances in regards to disability issues this has raised concerns in the disabled community. Ambiguity has led to a sense of uncertainty. When it comes to social justice we need to be as informed as possible and empathetic as possible.

In the last post I posted a video from Annie Elainey. Again, because she discusses so many great things. Here she discusses Disability Identity and Language:

As she discusses, individuals have their own preferences on how they want to be identified whether it is person-first (person with a disability) versus identity-first (disabled). She links to this article on the Autistic Self Advocacy Network that at the bottom has articles on both sides and some in between.

There are some other great Youtubers out there discussing their disabilities and issues around disability. That in itself requires its own post for The Hub. For now, check out these posts from Disability Now and Disability Thinking on Youtubers to follow.

The following is not a complete list of all the great websites out there talking about issues of social justice and disability. These are the few I have discovered that are excellent and to be paid attention: (in alphabetical order)

  • The American Association of People with Disabilities: Their focus is to work “to improve the lives of people with disabilities by acting as a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities.” Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
  • Autistic Self Advocacy Network: Their mission “seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism. ASAN believes that the goal of autism advocacy should be a world in which Autistic people enjoy the same access, rights, and opportunities as all other citizens.” Follow them on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest.
  • The Body is Not an Apology: Their mission statement states that they believe, “Through information dissemination, personal and social transformation projects and community building, The Body is Not An Apology fosters global, radical, unapologetic self love which translates to radical human love and action in service toward a more just, equitable and compassionate world.” Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • Disability in Kidlit: They are, “dedicated to discussing the portrayal of disability in middle grade and young adult literature. We publish articles, reviews, interviews, and discussions examining this topic from various angles—and always from the disabled perspective.” Follow them on Twitter, Tumblr, and Goodreads.
  • Disability Intersections: This is “a magazine with periodic installments on disability issues, viewed through an intersectional lens.”
  • Disability is Natural: Their mission is “to encourage new ways of thinking about developmental disabilities, in the belief that our attitudes drive our actions, and changes in our attitudes and actions can help create a society where all children and adults with developmental disabilities have opportunities to live the lives of their dreams, included in all areas of life.”
  • Disability Now: They seek to provide a “platform for debate and discussion of disability issues – a platform where disabled people voices are heard.” Follow them on Twitter.
  • Disability Thinking: This is a blog by Andrew D. Pulrang. He does a weekly round-up of articles, has a round-up of disability blogs and websites, and also does podcast about disability representation on television. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.
  • The Disability Visibility Project: This online community is “dedicated to recording, amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture.”  They have community partnership with StoryCorps. Follow them on Twitter.
  • National Center on Disability and Journalism: The NCDJ is a resource that aims “to provide support and guidance for journalists as they cover people with disabilities.” You can read their piece on disability terminology. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
  • The Mighty: Their goal is to build a community and create a platform “to tell their stories, connect with others and raise support for the causes they believe in.” Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

What resources did I miss? Please add them in the comments.

–Danielle Jones, currently reading Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching by Mychal Denzel Smith

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Social Justice and Disability – Evaluating Materials and Media with Characters with Disabilities

Sun, 12/18/2016 - 07:00

When we talk about social justice, one of the most often overlooked populations are people with disabilities. The 2014 Disability Status Report for the United States from Cornell University reported that, “In 2014, the overall percentage (prevalence rate) of people with a disability of all ages in the US was 12.6 percent.” The National Health Institute of Mental Health reported in 2015, “Fully 20 percent—1 in 5—of children ages 13-18 currently have and/or previously had a seriously debilitating mental disorder.” These percentages are not reflected in publishing trends.

Representation of any marginalized groups accurately and sympathetically can remove some of the prejudice surrounding them, so including books and media with these characters in our collections is essential. Everyone deserves to see their experiences reflected, as well as studies have shown that reading literary fiction improves empathy. People with disabilities experience some of the highest rates of discrimination and microaggressions. Intersect being disabled with also being a person of color, First/Native Nations, LGBTQ, and/or female and the transgressions can increase. Activist and Vlogger Annie Elainey discusses here in a video Why is Disability Representation So White? #DisabilityTooWhite the many issues that people are experiencing because of lack of representation. (Also, be sure to check out her sources.)

Accurate representation can be a tricky thing, especially if it is not a story or experience that is being written by a person with a similar disability. In January, Lee & Low Books reported results of a 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey about the social makeup of the publishing and book reviewing in North America. In the industry overall, 92% identified as nondisabled, so we can assess that a good portion of the writing, editing, and reviewing books with disabled characters are being done by nondisabled folks. Alaina Leary wrote a great piece for The Establishment titled Why The Publishing Industry Can’t Get Disability Right that is also a must read.

Readers, writers, and advocates of young adult literature should be paying attention to the site Disability in Kidlit.

The team of authors at Disability in Kidlit state that they are “dedicated to discussing the portrayal of disability in middle grade and young adult literature. We publish articles, reviews, interviews, and discussions examining this topic from various angles—and always from the disabled perspective.” They are a go-to for reviews and to learn about some of the more problematic representations in books. They have their “Honor Roll” of titles that they “enthusiastically recommend.” You can also follow them on Tumblr, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Tropes are one thing that popup up regularly in stories that have disabled characters. Tropes are literary devices that are “a shortcut for describing situations the storyteller can reasonably assume the audience will recognize.” (An example often seen in young adult fiction is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.) But as Kayla Whaley from Disability in Kidlit wrote, “tropes are some of the only representations of disability people see, which is very dangerous. After all, the media we consume greatly impacts how we view the world, so seeing these tropes only reinforces ableism and ignorance.”

When evaluating books with disabled characters watch out for these:

  • Characters used as “inspiration porn”: The website The Mighty describes inspiration porn as “a term used to describe society’s tendency to reduce people with disabilities to objects of inspiration.” This can be objectifying, and is often done so that the nondisabled have an emotional reaction, but still seeing disabled people as “other” and “less than.”
  • Along with inspiration porn is Disability-as-educational-tool. As s.e. Smith writes this is when “a disabled character is being used to educate other characters, give them some kind of motivation, or teach a Very Special Lesson to other characters and/or readers, that character is being abused.” Along with inspiration porn, it “reinforces the idea that this is the role of disabled people in society, to teach and educate the people around them, rather than to live as just another person navigating a sometimes complex and always diverse environment.” This can often come in the form of a disabled relative whose sole purpose of the story is for the main character to have a growth experience, or to serve as a foil to others characterization in how they treat them.
  • The Disabled Saint: as Kayla Whaley wrote for the Children’s Book Council: this is “the good little cripple, perfect in personality in spite of being wholly imperfect physically.” This creates a character that is often “innocent and pure and forever denied their humanity.”
  • Disabled Villian or Evil Cripple: TV Tropes writes that the disability  is often used symbolically “since a ‘crippled’ body can be used to represent a ‘crippled’ soul — and indeed, a disabled villain is usually put in contrast to a morally upright and physically ‘perfect’ hero.”
  • The Trope of Curing Disability: Marieke Nijkamp writes this is often “the characters are cured because they’re better than they were at the start of the book: kinder, gentler, braver. And finally, finally, they’re normal and whole.” Crystal Dennis on her blog Crystal Chats talks about how a major problem of this trope is that it says that “Disabilities are a problem that need to be fixed.”
  • The Damaged Disable Person: Kody Keplinger writes where “the disabled character is a brooding, broken character, scarred both physically and mentally.” This leads to a stereotype that disabled people can’t be happy or have complexity of emotions.

For vetted titles and problematic books reviewed, seek out the opinions at Disability in Kidlit. Also, the Schneider Family Book Award is another source for a select few titles as they award they “honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.”

–Danielle Jones, currently reading Rani Patel In Full Effect by Sonia Patel

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Equal Rights Through Fantasy and Science Fiction

Fri, 12/16/2016 - 07:00

Current events sparked a conversation about the disenfranchised in America.  Racism and sexism can be tough subjects to start with teens and a great way to begin is with fantasy and science fiction.  These genres often approach these topics using witches or another class of people as metaphors for real life disenfranchised groups.  If you are thinking about discussing our current political and social climate with your book club or classroom, consider the titles below.

Disenfranchised-Androids

Zen likes trains especially the rails in his alternate universe in space.  When a mysterious man named The Raven pays Zen to steal a box from the train of the emperorer, Zen isn’t sure if The Raven is evil or if it’s the government that’s evil.

Disenfranchised-Non Magical

Elli is the Saadelah, next in line to be queen, and has accepted her duty to serve and protect the Kupari people with ice and fire magic.  When her time to reign has suddenly begun, something goes tragically wrong and Elli is forced to hide in the Outlands with the thieves and murderers.  Her time in the Outlands is full of family, love, and a new purpose.

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemJK Rowling

Disenfranchised-Witches and Wizards

On a brief stop in New York City, Newt Scamander accidentally releases some of his magical beasts onto the city.  While trying to recapture his beasts, Newt; a nomaj; and two American witches find themselves on the hunt for an Obscurus who’s destroying the New York.

Disenfranchised-Women

Forced to lay low Faith and her family are exiled to an island where her father mysteriously dies.  While looking for answers for her father’s death, Faith discovers a tree that may hold the answers she seeks.

Disenfranchised-Edians (Shapeshifters)

In an attempt to steal the throne from King Edward, Lady Jane is betrothed to a stranger who has a secret.

Disenfranchised-People with red blood

Mare Barrow is a Red-a lowly, uneducated, slave with disgusting red blood.  The Silvers are like gods because they have powers and their veins run with silver blood.  Mare doesn’t want to be drafted but she has no choice until a stranger changes her life.  She soon finds herself betrothed to a Silver prince and forced to maintain the oppression of the Reds.

Disenfranchised-Women and Grisha (witches)

Kaz, a member of the Dregs gang, has scored a big heist but he needs help.  He enlists five others to help him break into the unbreakable Ice Court to steal some precious cargo.

Disenfranchised-Half good witch, half bad witches

Nathan is the illegitamate son of the most evil witch in the land and is caged and beaten.  Finally freed from his prison, Nathan sets on a journey to find his father.

Disenfranchised-The Reds

Darrow is a red and a member of the lowest class.  He and the other Reds believe their hard work hard is for a better planet for their kids but when Darrow finds out he’s basically a slave for the richest class, he infiltrates their Institute to find answers.

Disenfranchised-Malfettos (Teens with special powers)

After the blood fever swept through the country, it left some children with deformities.  These children are called malfettos. Kids with special powers are called Young Elites.  Citizens are afraid of these malfettos and the special children, including the King, and he wants all of them dead.  The Young Elites have made it their mission to find other Elites and fight for the justice of the malfettos.

Disenfranchised-Monsters

Breezy woke up from a shallow grave but that’s impossible because she was murdered.  Not sure what she is, Breezy travels the country looking for murderers until she encounters a church who can answer all her questions.

Disenfranchised-Muggles, Magic Kind, and Elves

Harry Potter is famous for surviving an attack from Voldemort and when the attack unexpectedly kills Voldemort, he stops at nothing to regain his body and seek revenge on Potter.

Dawn Abron is currently reading-Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

 

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Self-Care Resources for Teens

Wed, 12/14/2016 - 07:00

As part of our month of posts around the topic of social justice, today we’re rounding up some tips and resources to help teens practice good self-care. I am using the term “self-care” to mean general actions that an individual can take to maintain or improve their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. Engaging with issues of social justice can bring up many difficult emotions, trigger or exacerbate mental health concerns, and otherwise prompt symptoms of distress. Stories and coverage of injustice, violence, and violations of civil and human rights are inherently troubling to encounter. Learning to acknowledge and manage this distress can help teens – and adults! – to not feel entirely overwhelmed when confronting issues of social justice. Learning to recognize our individual limits and needs, and developing ways to meet them, are critical tools against feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, or consumed by anger, despair, or helplessness. I am not a health care professional, and self-care strategies and choices are highly personal; your ideas and feedback are encouraged and appreciated in the comments!

One critical level of self-care is taking care of our immediate physical needs: eating nutritious foods, staying hydrated, and, in an era of constant access to the media and the ability to binge on screen-time, taking time away from devices to shower, get dressed, and make sure we’re spending time off the internet.

Taking a few deep breaths, perhaps in sync with this viral and effective GIF, is also a first-line self-care action. These could all be considered self-care strategies to implement right-this-minute in the face of feeling overwhelmed. It’s just a little easier to face the enormity of social justice issues when you’re freshly shampooed and you’ve got going-out-in-public clothes on. Some resources to encourage good habits for these immediate needs: basic health guides (especially those directly addressing the teen years), cookbooks, etc.

The next level of self-care involves building in or learning activities and practices to help us feel centered, calm, and positive. These could include:

Exercise – Do you have great exercise DVDs or manuals in your collection? Perhaps you could highlight some magazines (print or digital) that include ready-made workouts. If you routinely have back-issues to purge, perhaps this could even be a program or project for teens to find and tear out workouts they like from to-be-recycled titles. You could even curate a page of YouTube video workouts.

Getting Outside – Does your collection have local walking or hiking guides? What about local parks, gardens, or other public spaces that might have maps, brochures, or other materials you could draw attention to? What about local plant and wildlife guides to foster an awareness and appreciation for what teens can encounter when they head outside in your area?

Yoga – Yoga is already popular with many teens, and can act as a form of both mindfulness and exercise, depending on the intensity. Does your collection include introductory DVDs and manuals? Does your local community center offer free or low-cost classes for teens that you could highlight?

Meditation – Learning to meditate (or even simply practicing intentional breathing exercises) can have a substantial impact on stress levels, and increase feelings of centeredness and resilience in the face of conflict or obstacles. Books on meditation CAN certainly be useful, but for many, learning to meditate and sticking with it really means having someone talk them through sitting in silence, especially for the first few sessions. Headspace is just one of many meditation apps, and like the other top-rated meditation apps right now, it offers limited free content and then encourages a subscription. But the free content (a 10-day intro with recordings to meditate along to) is a really user-friendly introduction. Do you have favorite meditation-starter resources?

Setting limits – The internet is an amazing and unwieldy place, and teens – and adults! – can benefit from setting clear limits around time spent connected online. RescueTime is a desktop and mobile program that will track how much time is spent on specific sites and apps, and includes the ability to send users an alert when their pre-determined allotted time is up. It’s just one example of how to get a handle on device connectivity. Whether the source of stress is homework piling up or a nonstop flood of negative headlines, setting limits around online activity can help teens reclaim time to disconnect and recenter themselves.

This is just a starter round-up, and we’d love to hear your favorite resources to encourage and support self-care for teens in the comments.

— Carly Pansulla, currently reading Swing Time by Zadie Smith

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Narrative Nonfiction with Social Justice Themes Part II

Mon, 12/12/2016 - 07:00

Previously, I shared a list of nonfiction that tackles issues related to social justice. But there’s not shortage of narrative nonfiction with social justice themes, so today I’m back with even more resources for teens These titles include biographies and historical nonfiction, and cover issues ranging from the denial of basic human rights in foreign countries or rape on college campuses. These books aim to share this information,  but also include  storiesthat can inspire action.  

Every Falling Star:The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee (2016)

When is father loses his government job and abandons him, Lee struggles to survive with a gang of boys. This moving memoir showcases the hardships of life in North Korea In addition to fighting for basics like food and shelter, Lee and his family also live in fear of what would happen if they tried to escape the country. This book can serve as a jumping off point for discussions on basic human rights. 

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin (2015)

Steve Sheinkin writes narrative nonfiction for every reader and his award finalist is no different. This book chronicles the lives of  segregated sailors working the docks in Port Chicago when they were charged with mutiny for refusing to return to work after an explosion. Sheinkin addresses the prejudice in the military, where men and women served their country but were also fighting for basic rights.

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer (2015)

Using Missoula, Montana as a case study in reported (and underreported) rape on its college campus, Krakauer shows how college campuses are mishandling rape investigations and failing to provide justice for rape victims.  

Breaking Free: True Stories of Girls Who Escaped Modern Slavery by Abby Sher (2014)

A collection of stories from exploited girls around the globe puts modern slavery into perspective. Even in the twenty-first century, prostitution, servitude, and human trafficking all continue to thrive even with the continued effort of groups and organizations dedicated to their eradication. While the justice system tries to keep up with the law and prosecuting offenders when so much of it happens in the dark and behind closed doors.  

Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling by Sabrina Jones and Marc Mauer (2013)

The United States has the highest incarceration rate on the planet at over two million individuals. Jones and Mauer explain how sentencing policy, race, and the criminal justice system in the US have lead to this sobering statistic and discuss how policy changes that favor rehabilitation over punishment can create a more just society.

These are just a sampling of nonfiction that can prompt discussion of social justice. Do you have books you recommend to teens that touch on these issues? Share in the comments! 

— Alicia Abdul, currently reading Strong Inside: The True Story of How Perry Wallace Broke College Basketball’s Color Line (Young Readers Edition) by Andrew Maraniss

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9 Books to Read If You Miss Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Wed, 12/07/2016 - 07:00

Though the show aired one to two years before most of today’s high school seniors were born, Buffy the Vampire Slayer still has a cult following amongst fans of all ages. I have even heard a child in the children’s section of the local library singing songs from the musical as they browsed books. If you’re like me, a crazy fangirl of the show, you miss it immensely. It had humor, heart, and the characters became like family. It has such a huge following that it, thankfully, has continued in graphic novel form. Fans continue to write fanfiction, attend cons to meet the actors, and in general, keep the Slayer alive. Another way to do this is by reading novels that could easily be set in the same world, or that Buffy (and Giles!) would definitely approve of.

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The description of this novel even says it’s great for fans of BtVS. When I saw that I KNEW I had read it. I was not disappointed. The main character, Kali, is a normal human girl…most days. On every other day she becomes a finely honed weapon, a demon hunter. On these days she battles hell hounds, demons, and other monsters. On her human days, she simply tries to get through high school life. But when she discovers a student will die in 24 hours, she has to figure out how to save them…as a regular human. This was very reminiscent of BtVS in many ways: the setting, the action, and the dilemmas the main character faces. It also reminded me heavily of the season three episode, Helpless, where Buffy battles a crazed vampire, sapped of her strength. This is perfect for any fan of the show!

In the Forests of the Night by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

This was one of the first YA vampire novels that I read growing up and it absolutely possesses that same gothic quality that many of the BtVS (and Angel) episodes contain. This tells the story of Risika, a 300-year-old vampire. It starts off in modern day where she appears to be living a quiet life, until someone from her past starts following her. The story is told in the present and in flashbacks, much like the episodes of BtVS telling the stories of Angel, Spike, Darla, and Dru. If you like a good vampire story, this is definitely one for you! The best part? It continues on in a series, which brings in witches and other creatures, much like BtVS!

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

This novel is great for fans of BtVS because it has a strong female character, but she also struggles with the path that was chosen for her, without her consent. Kestrel is a general’s daughter and is expected to do one of two things: join the military or get married. Neither of these choices are what she wants and they are things she struggles with throughout the story, very much like Buffy in the season two episodes What’s My Line? Part 1 & Part 2. At the beginning of the novel Kestrel makes a hasty decision on her own, and the rest of the book (and trilogy) shows how her actions echo into her future. Also, if you like a brooding love interest such as Angel or Spike, this book has got you covered with Arin!

Sabriel by Garth Nix

I feel like this book does not get enough recognition for how amazing it is. Perfect for BtVS fans as it contains fantasy, humor, and goes to some fairly dark places. Sabriel, like Buffy, is pushed into a destiny out of her control. She is a necromancer, an Abhorsen, like her father. When he goes missing she must venture into the Old Kingdom, a world of magic, to find him. This novel is full of unexpected characters and twists, much like the show. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and could not put it down. This is another one that continues on into a series, which is still being written, so you get to spend a lot of time with the characters.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Though this novel is about vampires, they are not quite like the ones we meet in BtVS. The vampires in this novel are elite, but they are not powerful and strong. In turn they have dhampir to protect them. Dhampir are humans that have vampire blood running through their veins. Rose is a dhampir to her best vampire friend, Lissa. When Strigoi, vampires that never die, start to hunt Lissa, Rose must train to protect her friend. This is appealing for fans to BtVS because it has a strong heroine that must hone her strength and skills to fight off unknown foes. It also has a lot of interesting folklore and vampire history, much like Giles’s books. And if you love this, you have a whole series AND spin-off series to enjoy!

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

This is technically an adult series, but has high appeal to YA readers. Yelena is set to be executed, but is saved when offered a job as the food taster for the Commander of their land, Ixia. She is kept in line by the chief of security, who daily feeds her a poison and antidote. If she fails to return for the cure, she will die. While she works for the Commander, she discovers many secrets about her world. Yelena and Buffy are similar in that they have to be resourceful to get out of certain situations where brute strength is not the only answer. This series also has a great brooding love interest for the main character, much like Spike or Angel. It also continues in a spin-off series!

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

A nominee for 2017’s Abraham Lincoln Award this novel (and rest of the series) is perfect for BtVS fans. Not only does the novel contain mysticism and mystery, it also has some butt-kicking female main characters. Each novel is told from the point of view of a different teenage girl that was marked by death himself and trained to be an assassin. These books have everything a BtVS lover is looking for: action, adventure, romance, and humor. I could easily see Buffy finding her way into this world, or somehow being connected to it!

MARY: The Summoning by Hillary Monahan

This first novel in a series harkens back to the first and second seasons of BtVS. Many of those episodes had evil baddies that showed up in one episode and were defeated by the end, but that did not make them any less scary. In this book, four friends attempt to summon Bloody Mary, but are unaware that her dark backstory has caused her to be full of rage. After summoning her they must be cautious at every turn while they attempt to lock her away. This is definitely a case that the Scooby Gang would have taken on while in high school as well!

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston

This story (a 2017 Caudill nominee) is as if Willow were to tell the story of Buffy. Siobhan is your typical high school student, when suddenly a young, up-and-coming dragon slayer starts attending her school. They quickly become friends, which in turn ends up with her becoming a part of his dragon slaying entourage, as his bard. Siobhan is more than his bard though, she helps him solve problems and accompanies him on many dangerous missions. This is fantastic for BtVS fans that enjoy the relationships between the characters. It is also great for readers who would like to get more of a point of view from someone that isn’t the main hero. Owen is also similar to Buffy in that he has to accept this legacy that was put upon him, but in turn makes it his own, and chooses not to go it alone.

These novels are some of my favorite for getting through my post-BtVS blues. Have you read any of these? Do you have any novels you would recommend to BtVS fans?

— Tegan Anclade, currently reading Glitter by Aprilynne Pike

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Narrative Nonfiction with Social Justice Themes

Tue, 12/06/2016 - 15:39

Just like the term literacy, social justice has many arms. And just like literacy, we can focus on pieces or the whole of the concept. In this post, we’re focused on narrative nonfiction and how people individually or collectively have pushed for equal rights. The books can be seen as a call to action or providing context for fights still happening abroad and at home.

People Who Said No: Courage Against Oppression by Laura Scandiffio (2012)

A collection of stories about revolutionaries from across the globe, Scandiffio explains why and how individuals or groups stood up for the oppressed and made changes. For The White Rose is was against Hitler, for Helen Suzman is was against apartheid, but there are more highlighted in these chapters. Their courage shows teens that revolutions have happened and continue to happen with the inclusion of the contemporary uprising in Egypt as its last entry.

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick (2014)

Read in conjunction with the adult biography Yousafzai wrote in 2013 and the picture book For the Right To Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story by Rebecca Langston-George and Janna Bock (2015) these three texts at varying degrees of interest and reading level, do not focus on the shooting that maimed her but on her family’s encouragement to be educated and to speak out against the Taliban and its oppression of women.

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik (2015)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become a cultural icon with Halloween costumes and memes, but it is her career in politics and as a Supreme Court justice that proves how integral her voice, whether in agreement or dissension, has affected American policies and women’s rights. The book is a mix of biography, history, and politics that provide a look behind the curtain.

This Land is Our Land: A History of American Immigration by Linda Barrett Osborne (2016)

With an in-depth history of immigration in the United States, the point is to show that American attitudes toward immigrants has always been complicated. These feelings ebb and flow based on a multitude of factors that Osborne clearly articulates alongside images and quotations from immigrants from the 1800s through present day. The inclusion of a summary, timeline, bibliography, and index are helpful for research, but it is an important read to understand the context of  today’s discussion about immigration.

March of the Suffragettes: Rosalie Gardiner Jones and the March for Voting Rights by Zachary Michael Jack (2016)

Social change starts with a step and for Rosalie Gardiner Jones who gathered a group of people to walk with her to Albany from New York City to win rights for women in the voting booth. There were many voices that contributed. Some we know well and others like Jones need accessible texts like this one that highlight the outspoken bravery it took to fight for certain rights.

-Alicia Abdul, currently reading Breakthrough! How Three People Saved “Blue Babies” and Changed Medicine Forever

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