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1. Inquiry-Based Centers in Grades 3-8

Inquiry-based centers introduce kids to mentor texts while helping them find their own mentor texts.

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2. An interview with Shadi Hamid

With turmoil in the Middle East, from Egypt’s changing government to the emergence of the Isalmic State, we recently sat down with Shadi Hamid, author of Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East, to discuss about his research before and during the Arab Spring, working with Islamists across the Middle East, and his thoughts on the future of the region.

In your recent New York Times essay “The Brotherhood Will Be Back,” you argue that there is still support for the mixing of religion and politics, despite the Muslim Brotherhood’s recent failure in power. So do you see a way for Egypt to achieve stability in the years ahead? Can they look toward their neighbors (Jordan, Tunisia?) for a positive example?

Cultural attitudes toward religion do not change overnight, particularly when they’ve been entrenched for decades. Even if a growing number of Egyptians are disillusioned with the way Islam is “used” for political gain, this does not necessarily translated into support for “secularism,” a word which is still anathema in Egyptian public discourse. One of my book’s arguments I is that democratization not only pushes Islamists toward greater conservatism but that it also skews the entire political spectrum rightwards.

In Chapter 3, for instance, I look at the Arab world’s “forgotten decade,” when there were several intriguing but ultimately short-lived democratic experiments. Here, the ostensibly secular Wafd party, sensing the shift in the country toward greater piety, opted to Islamize its political program, something which was all too obvious (perhaps even a bit too obvious) in its 1984 program. It devoted an entire section to the application of Islamic law, in which the Wafd stated that Islam was both “religion and state.” The program also called for combating moral “deviation” in society and purifying the media of anything contradicting the sharia and general morals. The Wafd party also supported the supposedly secular regime of Anwar Sadat’s ambitious effort in the late 1970s and early 1980s to reconcile Egyptian law with Islamic law. Led by speaker of parliament and close Sadat confidant Sufi Abu Talib, the initiative wasn’t just mere rhetoric; Abu Talib’s committees painstakingly produced hundreds of pages of detailed legislation, covering civil transactions, tort reform, criminal punishments, as well as the maritime code.

The point here is that the Islamization of society (itself pushed ahead by Islamists) doesn’t just affect Islamists. Even Egypt’s president, former general Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, cannot escape these deeply embedded social realities.

Egypt is de-democratizing right now, but the Sissi regime, unlike Mubarak’s, is a popular autocracy where the brutal suppression of one particular group — the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists — is cheered on by millions of Egyptians. Sissi, then, is not immune from mass sentiment. A populist in the classic vein, Sissi seems to understand this and, like the Brotherhood, instrumentalizes religion for partisan ends. In many ways, Sissi’s efforts surpass those of Islamists before him, asserting great control over al-Azhar, the premier seat of Sunni scholarship in the region, and using the clerical establishment to shore up his regime’s legitimacy. Sissi has said that it’s the president’s role to promote a “correct understanding” of Islam. His regime has also been politically ostentatious with religion in its crackdown against the Gay community, leading one observer to note that

Religion is a powerful tool in a deeply religious society and Sissi, whatever his personal inclinations, can’t escape that basic fact, particularly with a mobilized citizenry.

Looking at the region more broadly, there are really no successful models of reconciling democracy with Islamism, at least not yet, and this failure is likely to have long-term consequences on the region’s trajectory. Turkish Islamists had to effectively concede who they were and become something else — “conservative democrats” — in order to be fully incorporated in Turkish politics. In Tunisia, the Islamist Ennahda party, threatened with Egypt-style mass protests and with the secular opposition calling for the dissolution of parliament and government, opted to step down from power. The true test for Tunisia, then, is still to come: what happens if Ennahda wins the next scheduled elections, and the elections after that, and feels the need to be more responsive to its conservative base? Will this lead, again, to a breakdown in political order, with secular parties unwilling to live with greater “Islamization”?

You began your research on Islamist movements before the start of the Arab Spring. How did your project change after the unrest in 2011? What book did you think you would write when you began living in the region — and what did it become after the revolutions?

I began my research on Islamist movements in 2004-5, when I was living in Jordan as a Fulbright fellow. These were movements that displayed an ambivalence toward power, to the extent that they even lost elections on purpose (an odd phenomenon that was particularly evident in Jordan). Power, and its responsibilities, were dangerous. After the Islamic Salvation Front dominated the first round of the 1991 Algerian elections, and with the military preparing to intervene, the Algerian Islamist Abdelkader Hachani warned a crowd of supporters: “Victory is more dangerous than defeat.” In a sense, then, I was lucky to be able to expand the book’s scope to cover the tumultuous events of 2011-3, allowing me to explore evolving, and increasingly contradictory, attitudes toward power. Because if power was dangerous, it was also tempting, and so this became a recurring theme in the book: the potentially corrupting effects of political power, a problem which was particularly pronounced with groups that claimed a kind of religious purity that transcended politics. The book became about these two phases in the Islamist narrative, in opposition and under repression, on one hand, and during democratic openings, on the other. And then, of course, back again. I knew the military coup of 3 July 2013 and then the Rabaa massacre of 14 August — a dark, tragic blot on Egypt’s history — provided the appropriate bookend. The Brotherhood had returned to its original, purer state of opposition.

The Arab Spring also provided an opportunity to think more seriously and carefully about the effects of democratization. Would democratization have a moderating effect on mainstream Islamist movements, as the academic and conventional wisdom would suggest? Or was there a darker undercurrent, with democratization unleashing ideological polarization and pushing Islamists further to the right? I wanted to challenge a kind of cultural essentialism in reverse: that Islamists, like its ideological counterparts in Latin America or Western Europe, would be no match for “liberal democracy,” history’s apparent end state. Any kind of determinism, even the liberal variety, would prove problematic, especially for us as Americans with our tendency to believe that the process of history would overwhelm the whims of ideology. In a way, I wanted to believe it too, and for many years I did. As someone who has long been a proponent of supporting democracy in the Middle East, this puts me in a bit of a bind: In the Middle East, democracy is simply less attractive. Yes. And now, since the book has come out, I’ve been challenged along these very lines: “Maybe democracy isn’t so good after all… Maybe the dictators were right.” Well, in a sense, they were right. But this is only a problem if we conceive of democracy as some sort of panacea or short-term fix. Democracy is supposed to be difficult, and this is perhaps where the comparisons to the third-wave democracies of the 1980s and 1990s were misleading. The divides of Arab countries were “foundational,” meaning that they weren’t primarily “policy” problems; they were the more basic problems of the State, its meaning, its purpose, and, of course, the role of religion in public life, which inevitably brings us back to the identity of the State. What kind of conception of the Good should the Egyptian or Tunisian states be promoting? Should the state be neutral or should it be a state with a moral or religious mission? These are raw, existential divides that hearken back more to 1848 than 1989.

Tahrir Square on February11 by Jonathan Rashad. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Tahrir Square on 11 February 2011, by Jonathan Rashad CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

You conducted many interviews to research Temptations of Power. How did the interviews craft your argument — whether you were speaking with political leaders, activists, students, or citizens? Feel free to mention some examples.

Spending so much time with Islamist activists and leaders over the course of a decade, some of whom I got to know quite well, was absolutely critical. And this book — and pretty much every thing I know and think about Islamist movements — has been informed and shaped by those discussions. I guess I’m a bit old-fashioned that way; that to understand Islamists, you have to sit with them, talk to them, and get to know them as individuals with their own fears and aspirations. This is where I think it’s important for scholars of political Islam to cordon off their own beliefs and political commitments. Just because I’m an American and a small-l liberal (and those two, in my case, are intertwined), doesn’t mean that Egyptians or Jordanians should be subject to my ideological preferences. If you go into the study of Islamism trying to compare Islamists to some liberal ideal, then that’s distorting. Islamists, after all, are products of their own political context, and not ours. So that’s the first thing.

Second, as a political scientist, my tendency has always been to put the focus on political structures, and the first half of my book does quite a bit of that. In other words, context takes precedence: that Islamists — or, for that matter, Islam — are best understood as products of various political variables. This is true, but only up to a point and I worry that we as academics have gone too much in this direction, perhaps over-correcting for what, decades ago, was a seeming obsession with belief and doctrine.

When religion is less relevant in our own lives, it can be difficult to make that jump, to not just understand — but to relate — to its meaning and power for believers, and for those, in particular, who believe they have a cause beyond this life. But I think that outsiders have to make an extra effort to close that gap. And that, in some ways, is the most challenging, and ultimately rewarding, aspect of my work: to be exposed to something fundamentally different. I think, at this point, I feel like I have a good grasp on how mainstream Islamists see the world around them. What I still struggle with is the willingness to die. If I was at a sit-in and the army was coming in with live fire, I’d run for the hills. And that’s why my time interviewing Brotherhood members in Rabaa — before the worst massacre in modern Egyptian history — was so fascinating and forced me to at least try and transcend my own limitations as an analyst. Gehad al-Haddad — who had given up a successful business career in England to return to Egypt — told me was “very much at peace.” He was ready to die, and I knew that he, and so many others, weren’t just saying it. Because many of them — more than 600 — did, in fact, die.

Where does this willingness to die come from? I found myself pondering this same question just a few weeks ago when I was in London. One Brotherhood activist, now unable to return to Egypt, relayed the story of a protester standing at the front line, when the military moved in to “disperse” the sit-in. A bullet grazed his shoulder. Behind him, a man fell to the ground. He had been shot to death. He looked over and began to cry. He could have died a martyr. He knew the man behind him had gone to heaven, in God’s great glory. This is what he longed for. As I heard this story, it couldn’t have been any more clear: this wasn’t politics in any normal sense. Purity, absolution. This was the language of religion, the language of certainties. Where politics, in a sense, is about accepting, or at least coming to terms, with impossibility of purity.

Are you working on any new publications at the moment?

I’m hoping to build on the main arguments in my book and look more closely at how the inherent tensions between religion and mundane politics are expressed in various contexts. This, I think, is at least part of what makes Islamists so important to our understanding of the Middle East. Because their story is, in some ways, the story of a region that is breaking apart because of the inability to answer the fundamental questions of identity, religion, God, citizenship, and State-ness. One project will look at how various Islamist movements have responded to a defining moment in the Islamist narrative — the military coup of July 3, 2013, which has quickly replaced the Algerian coup of 1992 as the thing that always inevitably comes up when you talk to an Islamist. In some ways, I suspect it will prove even more defining in the long-run. Algeria, as devastating as it was, was still somehow remote (and, ironically enough, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Algerian offshoot allowed itself to be co-opted by the military government throughout most of Algeria’s “black decade”).

This time around, there are any number of lessons to be learned. One response among Islamists is that the Brotherhood should have been more confrontational, moving more aggressively against the “deep state” instead of seeking temporary accommodation. While others fault the Brotherhood for not being inclusive enough, and alienating the very allies who had helped bring it to power. But, of course, these two “lessons” are not mutually exclusive, with many believing that the Brotherhood — although it’s not entirely clear how exactly this would work in practice — should have been both more aggressive and more inclusive.

You recently went on a US tour to promote and discuss Temptations of Power­ — any recent discussion items, comments or questions which supported your conclusions or refined your thinking that you would like to share?

During the tour, I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the more philosophical aspects of the book, including the “nature” of Islam, liberalism, and democracy. These are contested terms; Islam, for instance, can mean very different things to different people. A number of people would ask about Narendra Modi, India’s democratically-elected prime minister and somewhat notorious Hindu nationalist. Here’s someone who, in addition to being illiberal, was complicit in genocidal acts against the Muslim minority in Gujarat. But an overwhelming number of Indians voted for him in a free, democratic process. There’s something inspiring about accepting electoral outcomes that might very well be personally threatening to you. Another allied country, Israel, is a democracy with strong (and seemingly stronger) illiberal tendencies. Popular majorities

In some sense, the tensions between liberalism and democracy are universal and trying to find the right balance is an ongoing struggle (although it’s more pronounced and more difficult to address in the Middle Eastern context). So it makes little sense to expect a given Arab country to become anything resembling a liberal democracy in two or three years, when, even in our own history as Americans, our liberalism as well as our democracy were very much in doubt at any number of key points. (I just read this excellent Peter Beinart piece on our descent into populary-backed illiberalism during World War I. Cincinnati actually banned pretzels).

At the same time, looking at other cases has helped me better grasp what, exactly, makes the Middle East different. For example, as illiberal as Modi and the BJP might be, the ideological distance between them and the Congress Party isn’t as much as we might think. In part, this is because the Hindu tradition, to use Michael Cook’s framing, is simply less relevant to modern politics. As Cook writes, “Christians have no law to restore while Hindus do have one but show little interest in restoring it.” Islamists, on the other hand, do have a law and it’s a law that’s taken seriously by large majorities in much of the region. The distinctive nature of “law” — and its continued relevance — in today’s Middle East does add a layer of complexity to the problem of pluralism. This gets us into some uncomfortable territory but I think to ignore it would be a mistake. Islam is distinctive in how it relates to modern politics, at least relative to other major religions. This isn’t bad or good. It just is, and I think this is worth grappling with. As the region plunges into ever greater violence, with questions of religion at the fore, we will need to be more honest about this, even if it’s uncomfortable. This, sometimes, can be as simple as taking religion, and “Islam” in particular, more seriously in an age of secularism. I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes, which I cite in the book, from the great historian of the Muslim Brotherhood, Richard Mitchell. The Islamic movement, he said, “would not be a serious movement worthy of our attention were it not, above all, an idea and a personal commitment honestly felt.”

Heading image: Protesters fests toward Pearl roundabout. By Bahrain in pictures, CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The post An interview with Shadi Hamid appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Daniel Kehlmann Q & A

       At Guernica Philip Zimmerman has a Q & A with Daniel Kehlmann: Forging the Artist.
       Kehlmann's novel F recently came out in English (to surprisingly little notice so far), but in this interview he also reveals -- shockingly, to me -- that he messed with the ending of Me and Kaminski in the English translation:

I wrote an ending with a lot less pathos for the English version. I didn't really rewrite it, but I cut it down to a few paragraphs, much more minimalistic, sort of a Raymond Carver thing.
       Apparently, you see:
German can take a lot more pathos than English can.
       Aw, come on, Danny, give the Amis a proper dose of pathos and see what happens ..... Read the rest of this post

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4. The city from above, in today's Philadelphia Inquirer

I had planned to title this post "Two Weddings, One Singer, and a Tower," but things got rearranged this morning when it became clear that all the photos I took during my yesterday-long city jaunt are stuck on a malfunctioning photo stick. Imagine, then, that you are glancing at images of newly married happiness, Old City art, a Reading Market singer, and Philadelphia's now-famous pop-up beach. If I can rescue the photos from oblivion. I will share such things in time.

In the meantime, I moved from writing about sidewalks and nearly subterranean Philadelphia last month in the Inquirer to writing about Philadelphia from on high (City Hall) this time around. That story can be found here.

Today, following morning worship with my dad and a happy-making baby shower with dear friends, I'll be back in the city, on the banks of the Schuylkill, for the FLOW Festival with Fairmount Water Works, where a variety of artists are gathering in celebration of the river. Drip Drums, Sonic States, Splash Organ, and Fishway River Net Flood Stories will all be on display, and the day will end with a Grand Finale Light Show that will include, in multimedia fashion, words from Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia's Schuylkill River. Look for my neon green walking shoes, end of spectacular day.

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5. Larger than line, signed and doodled

from the big sketchbooks of Mattias Adolfsson a 24 page over-sized booklet (6 double sided posters i.e 12 images) with removable elastic band binding and removable title and colophon sticker:

all copies ordered in September are signed and doodled!

(38$ with worldwide shipping)
http://mattiasa.blogspot.se/p/larger-than-line.html

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6. Untranslated ! (?)

       In the Independent on Sunday Christopher Folwer [sic ?] continues their admirable long-running series on overlooked literature with installment nr. 242 -- considering (some of) what still remains Untranslated (into English).
       I am, of course, always thrilled when folks point to the enormous amount of great and interesting literature that has not yet been translated into English; recall PEN's wonderful PEN recommends-page (which they seem to have ditched recently, sigh ...) or Scott Esposito's Translate this Book ! selection at the Quarterly Conversation (and note that some titles from both these lists now are available in English, which is wonderful). However, I'd be more impressed if, for example, Folwer didn't spend a paragraph explaining:

A friend from the Netherlands once told me: "If you want to understand who we are as a nation, you must read Character, written in 1938 by Ferdinand Bordewijk." The Dutch classic concerns a bailiff who tyrannically rules over the slums of Rotterdam, and the ambitious son who becomes a lawyer in order to destroy him. A keystone of 20th-century literature in its own country, it's impossible to find in an English translation. A film version won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1998, but the book is still unavailable.
       I understand that folks may currently be boycotting Amazon.com and hence don't do a simple book search there, but come on, you don't need a fact-checker to know (or at least figure out) that Peter Owen published E.M.Prince's translation of this in 1966, and that Ivan R. Dee reprinted it in 1999; my copy ($7.50 at Strand, purchased August, 2007), pulled from my bookshelf and beside my laptop on my desk as I write this, belies the fact that: "it's impossible to find in an English translation"; see the Ivan R. Dee publicity page, or get your own copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       And, yes, the Bordewijk may be a Dutch keystone -- but it's a widely-circulated-in-English one, and given how much else really isn't available in English (just from the Dutch: a pile of Gerard Reve, for one; J.J. Voskuil's epic Het Bureau for another; pretty much anything by local favorite A.F.Th. van der Heijden for a lot more ...), well ... not the greatest example.
       Well, at least Folwer has some other nice catches, right ? I mean:
By contrast, Angel Ganivet's masterpiece about the Latin temperament, Idearium Español, remains untranslated.
       Yes ! Where is the translation of that Ángel Ganivet masterpiece ?!??
       Oh ... wait. Right there: Eyre & Spottiswoode published J.R. Carey's translation in 1946, as Spain: an interpretation. With an introduction by R.M.Nadal.
       So, yeah, worst researched (and fact-checked) 'literary' article of the week -- as the only two supposedly untranslated titles he explicitly mentions turn out to have been translated. I hope they get their money back, because that is some beyond-belief shoddy work. (And people complain about 'book-bloggers' .....) And a real disservice and wasted opportunity, because there's so much that really hasn't been made available in English yet.

       (I was going to note that, while Folwer accurately notes that: "The mass of Holocaust literature, novels in Yiddish, Norwegian, German, Baltic, and Eastern European languages remains untranslated", that this is perhaps not the greatest untranslated issue/oversight to be concerned about -- valuable though it no doubt is, there seems to be a reasonable amount of Holocaust literature available in English -- and maybe a peek beyond the merely European (everything Folwer talks about is European ...) is warranted. But, as the above examples show, this article is is no way to be taken seriously, so why bother arguing points like that ..... They should just pull it and kill it and put us out of our misery. And maybe try commissioning authors who have a vague idea of what they're writing about.)

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7. Peace treaties that changed the world

From their remotest origins, treaties have fulfilled numerous different functions. Their contents are as diverse as the substance of human contacts across borders themselves. From pre-classical Antiquity to the present, they have not only been used to govern relations between governments, but also to regulate the position of foreigners or to organise relations between citizens of different polities.

The backbones of the ‘classical law of nations’ or the jus publicum Europaeum of the late 17th and 18th centuries were the networks of bilateral treaties between the princes and republics of Europe, as well as the common principles, values, and customary rules of law that could be induced from the shared practices that were employed in diplomacy in general and in treaty-making in particular. Some treaties, particularly the sets of peace treaties that were made at multiparty peace conferences — such as those of Westphalia (1648, from 1 CTS 1), Nijmegen [Nimeguen] (1678/79, from 14 CTS 365), Rijswijk [Ryswick] (1697, from 21 CTS 347), Utrecht (1713, from 27 CTS 475), Aachen [Aix-la-Chapelle] (1748, 38 CTS 297) or Paris/Hubertusburg (1763, 42 CTS 279 and from 42 CTS 347) — gained special significance and were considered foundational to the general political and legal order of Europe.

This interactive map shows a selection of significant peace treaties that were signed from 1648 to 1919. All of the treaties mapped here include citations to their respective entries in the Consolidated Treaty Series, edited and annotated by Clive Parry (1917-1982). (Please note that this map is not intended to be an exhaustive representation of the most important peace treaties from this period.)

Headline image credit: Dove. CC0 via Pixabay.

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8. The Power of the Sea

We would stand on the beach at Montauk, a boy and his father, looking out past the easternmost point on Long Island, and I'd strain to hear my father’s words as the ocean waves broke in front of us, crashing and thundering to reveal their power. “Never turn your back on the ocean,” my father would warn me. “The riptides are treacherous.” Some of the waves were five and six feet tall, and my

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9. Comment on One Shot by Augie

Man, did I ever laugh picturing this event! These two stupids make me laugh! Thanks k.spicer.

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10. Heather Sappenfield's THE VIEW FROM WHO I WAS

A colleague, Trish, wrote to ask me if I'd seen Heather Sappenfield's The View From Who I Was. She said it is set at a place called American Indian Preparatory School, modeled on the Native American Preparatory School. Trish didn't know it, but that school means a lot to Native people.

I had not heard of the book, so looked it up and saw that an ARC (advance reading copy) was available at Net Galley (anyone can sign up to read ARC's via Net Galley). The View From Who I Was is due out in January. The description of the book is unsettling. Here's the first paragraph:

Sometimes the end is just the beginning At Crystal High's Winter Formal, Oona Antunes splits in two. Her disembodied spirit watches as her body leaves the dance and tries to freeze to death. Three days later, she wakes in the hospital missing fingers and toes, burdened with the realization of what she's done to her mother and father.

But it was the second paragraph that got my attention:

When her school counselor invites Oona to join him at a Native American school, she becomes immersed in a foreign world where witches, talking rocks, and minor deities are reality. Oona discovers that if she is to heal, her father must also heal. But are his problems more than they can handle?

NAPS was, and is, a special place to us. Located near Santa Fe (remember--I'm from Nambe Pueblo, which is near Santa Fe), it was designed to provide gifted Native high school students with a culturally supportive education from which they would go on to college. I know people who worked there, and I know students who went there, too. I started reading, making notes as I went.

Far too often, Native people--or some semblance of Native people--are used by people who care only for their romantic notions of who we are. Mascots, of course, are one example.

In the Acknowledgements, Sappenfield says she went to NAPS twice. Those visits weren't enough to give her a meaningful or grounded respect of who we are... In The View From Who I Was, there are a lot of romantic notions that ultimately serve as the turning point in the protagonist's life.

I hate that NAPS and kids there were used 
by Sappenfield for this book. 
It feels like a violation. The school and 
kids are only a magical device that 
serves the white protagonist. 

Soon after learning about the book, I learned that the description at Net Galley is an old one that no longer describes the book. Frankly, I was relieved. But when I read the book, the description at Net Galley (also at Amazon and GoodReads) struck me as accurate. There is stuff about witches, and there's a talking rock...

As indicated, I read an ARC (advanced reading copy), which--in theory--means that there is still time for the author to revise. However, I think the errors indicate a fundamental lack of understanding, knowledge, and respect that would prevent the book from being revised in such a way that it would be ok.

After reading the ARC, I talked with a former NAPS teacher and student. The student, in particular, was troubled by how the school and teachers are misrepresented. It was special to her. Since her time there, she said, there's been nothing written about it. She hates that this book, with these errors, might be the first thing about the school that people read.

Here's my notes on the parts of the books that are about Native people/culture, with my thoughts in italics. I've included comments from the student (C) and the teacher (A).

You'll see places where I use "Oona/Corpse" and "Hovering Oona" when I'm talking about the protagonist. It is a bit confusing overall. The protagonist's name is Oona. As the book opens, Oona's spirit splits in two. The part that stays in her body is called "Corpse" by the part that left her body and hovers nearby. The story is told to us by the part of her spirit that hovers. Hovering Oona has control over whether or not Oona/Corpse is going to express or act on emotions. Oona/Corpse isn't aware of the Hovering Oona.

p. 14
Murial (Oona's mom) likes to decorate their swanky home in Colorado using Native artifacts. There's a peace pipe, kachinas, moccasins. 

Wondering about the back story for these items. I wonder where Oona's mom got them? She could have gotten them online, but those would be fakes. I wonder if Oona's mom knows about the American Indian Arts and Crafts Act? (Note to readers: Do go read that act. It is important and protects consumers from fraud, and, it also protects Native artists for whom their art is their livelihood.) 

p. 16
Prior to the suicide attempt, Oona is with Mr. Handler (her school counselor) at a school leadership conference. They're at a session put on by Native students from the American Indian Preparatory School. The school counselor has spent time at the school prior to this. In the session, a Native guy with a crew cut introduces Dr. Benson, who is the school's "flute master." He plays the flute to open their session. 

It is plausible that there would be someone on flute opening a session, but not probable that the school would have a "flute master." Pop-culture tells us that when you have Indians, you gotta have flute music. They kind of go together in white peoples minds. Though many Native nations use flutes, they're over-used by outsiders who want to signal "Indian" to an audience. Invariably, it gives people goosebumps (as it does to Oona). Flutes used that way are even the butt of jokes amongst us. Having it open this conference presentation made me shake my head. It appears later, too, in a gathering at the school. I asked C (student) about it. She said they'd have morning openings each day where announcements were made. Someone would pray in their Native way, but no music. 

The row of Native students sits with bowed heads. 

Not clear if they were sitting that way when the flutist was playing (as though it is a prayer), or, if they are sitting that way as the Navajo girl is introduced and speaking. Bowed heads suggests a prayerful moment, but overall it doesn't sound right to me.  

p. 17
The Native guy with the crewcut introduces a Navajo student, Angel Davis, who is "of the Fort Defiance Navajo" and then Angel takes the stage and starts talking. 

Generally speaking, a Navajo person takes care (in presentations) to introduce themselves according to fairly standard protocols. See the first few minutes of this video for an example. At conferences, those first few minutes would be followed by a translation (into English) of what was just said. Angel doesn't use the protocol before moving into her very-Indian presentation. 

Angel's presentation is about five feathers she has with her on stage. She talks about how she got each one:
Angel's speech was slow, yet soft, lilting: "I hold in my hand five feathers." She held up her hand and out the sides of her fist were the ends of long feathers. "Gifts from my grandfather. From his headdress. An eagle feather for each good thing I've done." Angel read about each of those good things: graduating middle school, helping her brother when he had mono, attending the American Indian Preparatory School, far from home, completing a summer writing program, even farther away. She ended with reading at this conference. She didn't candy-coat things, she just described how each challenge she didn't want to do at first, and after, her grandfather would call her out behind their house, place his hand on her shoulder, tug a feather from his headdress, and give it to her.
There's a lot wrong with that passage. First, headdresses are not part of traditional Navajo attire. They are worn primarily by Plains tribes. As written, it sounds like Angel's grandfather wears it all the time, or, that he put it on to do this feather-giving-ceremony where he takes a feather out of his headdress. It doesn't work at all. When a Native person is given a feather to mark an accomplishment, it isn't taken from an existing headdress. And, when feathers are given, it (or how it is done) generally isn't something they talk about to outsiders in the way Angel does. It is possible, but not plausible. 

p. 18/19
Oona listens to the next speaker who talks about his "costume" with its "fringe, beads, and feathers" and how he goes to powwows, where he dances for his grandma and his ancestors. Oona thinks "Was he kidding? The guy wore a white Oxford shirt with short sleeves and a tie." 

It isn't likely that he would have said "costume" or "fringe, beads, and feathers." He would more likely have said "regalia." He does the powwow circuit, it sounds like. He dances for his grandma and ancestors. Dancing for his grandma and ancestors sounds right to me. Does Oona think he can't be legit because he's wearing a shirt and tie? Or, is she being snarky about who he dances for? Either way, there's also a feeling that these kids are richer than Oona, with all her material wealth, is.    

p. 93
Mr. Handler invites Oona/Corpse to go with him to the Native American school, where she can help juniors fill out college applications. (Later, we'll learn that her help is specific to navigating websites.) 

That sounded ok to me, but when I was talking with C about the book, she asked me what Oona was going to do at the school. I told her, and she laughed, saying they were tech savvy and didn't need help like that. 

p. 99
Murial says that she wanted to be anthropologist because she loves Indians. 

That love-of-Indians is pretty widespread and as such, is the subject of much writing amongst Native people. Three resources to read/listen to are Kate Shanley's article, "The Indians Americans Love to Love and Read" , Vine Deloria Jr.'s Custer Died For Your Sins--especially the chapter on anthropologists, and Floyd Red Crow Westerman's Here Come the Anthros, based on Deloria's chapter. 

p. 103/104
More flute music. It appears several times throughout the story. 

See comments about page 16.

p. 108
Oona/Corpse is with Mr. Handler. They're approaching the grounds at the Native school. Before they get there, she sees faded house trailers (one with plywood covering window) and rusted out cars.
Two Indian kids scampered around out front, one in just a diaper, the white of it against this world, against his skin, seemed unreal.
How does protag know those are Indian kids? The school is not on a reservation. The community by it is not Native either. That the two kids "scampered" also stands out. Animals scamper. Little kids, too, the dictionary says, but given the overwhelming associations of Indians-as-animal-like, seeing it here gives me pause.

p. 111
At the school, Oona/Corpse is greeted by Louise, who is "a stout, toffee-tinted woman in a purple broom skirt and a white blouse." She has ebony hair that she wears in a bun that is clasped with a beaded barrette. 

I didn't note what words Sappenfield used to describe skin tones of Oona's mother or Mr. Benson, or Ashley (her friend at school).  Later on, Angel is going to ask Oona if she is part Native (Angel says "an urban Indian") because Oona's skin tone is olive. Of late, there have been several discussions online about words used for skin tones, when and how they're used, and who is using them.

p. 112
Back in the car, Mr. Handler and Oona/Corpse drive to the part of campus where their rooms are. As they drive, she sees "a white woman in a blouse and jeans and an Indian man with a long braid...". 

How does she know the woman is white? Oona's assumption is that all Indians have darker skin and hair, so this woman must be white. That is an incorrect assumption. Later, Angel and Oona have a conversation about skin tones. 

p. 113
Mr. Handler tells Oona/Corpse he's there to help counsel the kids at the school:
They're the kids who want to go on to college. These are not your average Native American kids." 
He backs off from that statement, saying
"Scratch that. They're just kids. Trying to figure things out. Like you."
I'm glad he backed off but what did he back off from? Did he mean that an average Native kid doesn't want to go to college? I really don't know what to make of that exchange.  

They park the car and get out. A "flock" of Indian students approach. 

I can't recall what words author used to describe groups of kids at Oona's school in Colorado. Was flock used there, too? Problem with flock is similar to scamper.

p. 114
A boy greets Mr. Handler by calling him "Lone Ranger." And then:
"He no sabe," another one said, and they all laughed. 'No know,' I realized; Tonto had been disrespecting that white-masked man, and I'd never had a clue.
That doesn't make sense to me. The line Tonto uses is "kemo sabe" -- not 'he' or 'no'. Sappenfield wants us to think that Tonto was saying "he no sabe" and as such, was dissing the Lone Ranger. Does Sappenfield now know what Tonto said? Am I missing something myself?! 

That part aside, the banter between the kids and Mr. Handler is easy going and reflects relationships I've seen between Native kids and white teachers and staff who have established a warm relationship.

p. 119
Oona/Corpse and Mr. Handler go to dinner and sit with the staff and teachers. Oona/Corpse is introduced to Dr. Yazzie, the headmaster. He is the guy Oona/Corpse saw earlier--the one with the braid:
Now Corpse saw the symmetry of his forehead, cheeks, and chin, a honey-tinted movie-star face, smooth but for creases at his eyes.
Ok. A super handsome dude. Yazzie, by the way, is a Navajo name. 

As they eat, Dr. Yazzie tells Mr. Handler:
"You know the statistics, Perry. Half of them can't handle the college world and drop out."
Mr. Handler asks about students. Davina has done ok. Louise posits that Davina's aunt has been a good role model for her. That aunt is a sergeant on the Navajo police force. When Mr. Handler asks about Cindy, Louise replies:
"Her father died." Louise's mouth, which arced down naturally, stretched down in a real frown. "Her mother had to get a job, so Cindy went home to help out with the kids."
"Poor girl," Mr. Handler said. "She was so smart."
Louise nodded. "Yes, a waste. Her father's death was a waste too. Put his truck in the ditch. Drunk. Tried to walk home on a frigid night. They found him sitting, frozen, at the entrance to their driveway. Apparently neighbors were driving past, waving."
A laugh burst from Ms. Cole. "Sorry. I hadn't heard that last part."
I found that conversation troubling. It is plausible that Louise would think "waste" but it isn't plausible. The teachers and staff at NAPS were especially supportive of Native culture and values. That a Native kid would step up to help her family would not be characterized as a waste. That neighbors drove past and waved at the body of Cindy's dad... Is that plausible?! It strikes me as incredibly offensive to imagine, let alone share, or laugh at. Louise and Ms. Cole strike me as horrible people. When I told C (student) and teacher (A) about this, they both felt that this was a misrepresentation of the teachers and staff. It strikes me as a 'fit' with government boarding schools were the framework for them was "kill the Indian and save the man" but definitely does not fit with NAPS. A quick note about Louise's mouth, which "arced down naturally" -- Angel's does, too. Weird. 

Mr. Handler then asks about Roberta:
Louise laughed. "She skipped that summer internship you arranged at the hospital. Didn't even call to let them know."
Louise goes on to say that Roberta is 18 years old now, and
"She took a job as a stripper instead. Still goes back and works weekends. Calls herself Destiny."
Mr. Handler scans the cafeteria and sees Roberta. Oona/Corpse sees her "shapely back". The next line is Hovering Oona's voice:
I had an image of Roberta in a string bikini, slithering along a pole over an audience of salivating men, some hungrily waving dollar bills.
That is another very troubling part of the book. Why did Sappenfield create this particular characterization for Roberta?! 

Hovering Oona looks at the kids in the cafeteria and thinks
these weren't the people we'd imagined inhabiting that flute music. The ones who'd made us feel poor. Maybe the bullshit had been those conference readings.
Ok... so Roberta is meant to humanize Native people?! 

p. 122 
Closing out this scene in the story, Mr. Handler says that he's read statistics (about Native people), but that "the reality is a lot harder to swallow." 

So--the reality is one girl who has done well, one who has gone home, and one who is a stripper? 

Dr. Yazzie, studying Oona/Corpse, puts his hand in his pocket.

It seemed an odd detail at that moment. Later, we learn that he keeps a rock in that pocket. It talks to him. 

After dinner, Oona/Corpse and Mr. Handler head to their rooms. As he says goodnight to Oona, she sees him swallow and his Adam's apple goes up and down. Oona/Corpse wants to say she's sorry about those kids, but she doesn't, because Hovering Oona stops her. 

p. 124-129
Early morning, Oona/Corpse goes out on a trail where she'll get cell phone reception. She calls her boyfriend. After the call, Angel comes along the same trail. She tells Oona that she's "greeting the sun." As she goes on her way, she calls back "I dreamed of you three nights ago." 

p. 130
Angel asks Oona if she's "an urban Indian" who is "from the city" and that "maybe doesn't know traditions, Indian ways." Surprised, Oona asks Angel how she could be Indian (appearance-wise). Angel tells her there's "a lot of mixed-blood or northern Indians here that don't look Indian." 

That is an interesting passage. I'm glad to see appearance being addressed. 

p. 131 
Angel tells Oona/Corpse about photographers that want photos of kids who look Indian. She also talks about how people like to visit Indians to "feel like they've done a good deed or something."

Another interesting passage, and accurate. It is ironic, too. It demonstrates that Sappenfield is able to have her characters speak to outsider use of Native people for their own benefit, but, with the way she uses Native culture in her book, doesn't understand that she's doing precisely that with this book.

p. 132
As they talk, Angel looks at Hovering Oona on Corpse's shoulder. 

As the book progresses, we learn that Angel and Dr. Yazzie can see Hovering Oona. And, in a passage that returns to imagery of Roberta as a pole dancer, Roberta walks through Hovering Oona's spirit and has a reaction that tells us that she, too, has ability to sense Hovering Oona. That makes them mystical or magical. It might seem cool a lot of people, but it plays on stereotypes! Not ok. 

p. 137
Oona/Corpse goes up the trail behind the school and comes upon Angel, kneeling in a clearing. Oona gets behind a branch and watches Angel, who is chanting. She turns north, west, south, and east. She rises and calls out to Oona that she doesn't have to hide, and asks her if she's spying on her. Oona says that, in addition to wanting to know more about the dream, she wanted to see what greeting the sun was. Oona asks Angel why she does it, and Angel says it is "showing him I'm ready for the day. And worthy."

That is unsettling. I understand that curiosity, but honestly, it is creepy and voyeuristic. I'm curious about the back story for it. What is Sappenfield's source? Is that something a Navajo girl or person actually does? Is it accurate? Is her source the Navajo girl she named in the Acknowledgements at the back of the book? Did she see that girl praying? Did she ask that girl if she could join her? 

If yes, there's a huge power dynamic in that request, and it is entirely inappropriate. In universities, there are research protocols that do not allow vulnerable populations (youth) to give permissions like that because they don't have the experience/knowledge/wherewithal to say no. Increasingly, tribes are asking writers to go through similar tribally-based protocols when they are there for research purposes for stories. I'm pretty sure NAPS administrators would not have given the author permission to do this. 

p. 139
Angel and Oona talk for a while. Oona tells Angel that she had tried to kill herself. Angel nods, saying
"I thought you looked like you'd been dead."
This is another manifestation of the stereotypical mystical Indian who sees and knows things...  

p. 142
At breakfast Oona/Corpse asks Angel what she saw that made her think that Oona had been dead. Angel shrugs her shoulders and looks at Hovering Oona. Oona/Corpse says 
"If I'd said I was an urban Indian, would you tell me?"
Angel's face hardens and she gets ready to leave. Oona presses her, asking if she can join her to greet the sun. Angel sighs and asks "Do I have a choice?" Oona/Corpse seems to be developing an awareness of Hovering Oona.

With Oona's question, it seems to me that Sappenfield knows that there are things that are guarded. The way she handles all the spirituality in the story tells me that she doesn't care about anything that Angel or Native people might be guarded about. 

After Angel leaves, Oona overhears two white teachers talking. One says that teaching there has 
"been a wild ride, and I've never been able to forget, even for a minute, that I'm an outsider."
She goes on to talk about her first week at the school, when a girl went to her room (teachers live on campus): 
"...whimpering about witches in her room. It was the middle of the night, for God's sake, and I tried to calm her. I mean, witches? I eventually got her to sleep, she spent the night in my room, and in the morning she seemed fine. At lunch Yazzie took me aside. Apparently I'd handled it all wrong. Made a fool of myself. When a student has witches in her dorm room, you inform Yazzie immediately, and they call a medicine man to come purify it."
 Ah! There's the part about witches that the blurb on Net Galley refers to! 

The two teachers commiserate about feeling like outsiders.  

Similar to the question about Angel's prayer, I'm curious about the source for this part about witches and medicine men.

p. 145/146
The next morning, Oona/Corpse joins Angel in her greeting of the sun. Though she moves in the same ways that Angel does, she isn't listening to Angel. Her thoughts are about her parents, her suicide, and her dad, in particular. She whispers to Hovering Oona and seems to be gaining insights into her family dynamics and her own well-being.

Again: what is the author's source for the way that Angel is shown in her movements? Turning to N/S/W doesn't jibe with what I know of the greeting that Navajos do at dawn. Some nations do have a directional greeting. In this part of the story, readers assume the voyeuristic gaze that Corpse had earlier. As a Native woman, this part makes me uncomfortable. I don't think author imagined a Native reader, or Native views on exploitation of Native spirituality.

p. 150
Dr. Yazzie talks with Oona/Corpse, telling her that it looks like she's had a hard time. She says "Don't tell me you can see I've died."  He says that it isn't hard to see, and then nods towards her shoulder where Hovering Oona is perched. He tells her:
"I have a rock in my pocket. It speaks to me." 
And,
"It tells me you're a good person. That you're going to be ok." 
Clearly, Dr. Yazzie is a mystical Indian, too. This is the talking rock of the Net Galley blurb.

p. 154
Corpse goes to "Circle" which is a gathering that happens once a week. Mr. Handler sits beside her. She tells him about Dr. Yazzie's rock. They're seated in chairs arranged in a circle. Dr. Yazzie comes in and sits on the floor in the center of the circle. Dr. Benson (the flute master) rises from his chair and plays. All heads are bowed. Corpse gets goosebumps and then comes fully aware of Hovering Oona's view, and how Hovering Oona "constantly reasoned, doubted, judged" Oona. Oona/Corpse whispers to Hovering Oona that she has to stop. Oona/Corpse reaches to her chest, to the "slice" through which Hovering Oona had left at the start of the story. Hovering Oona darts down and enters but doesn't like it in there and takes off again. When the lights come back up, everyone is staring at Oona. 

Oona is definitely healing, and it is due in large part to these mystical Indians and their flute music. My guess it that people will dismiss my concerns. Overall, I can hear them say, this is a book about healing from suicide. How that happens, to them, doesn't matter. It reminds me of so many books. Cole in Touching Spirit Bear is healed thru similar Indian ways. In that story, he comes to terms with his bullying behavior. It is top of many lists about bullying. The stereotyping of Native people doesn't matter to people who are intent on using the book with bullies.  People are staring at Oona, we'll learn later, because they saw Hovering Oona.

p. 164
Another mealtime. Oona/Corpse is sitting with the kids, where they are talking about William's time at a summer camp at Harvard. People said to him "I didn't know Indians wore normal clothes." Oona says "Seriously? You believe they knew that little about Indians? That's impossible."

It is odd that Oona is incredulous. Recall she was wondering about the kid at the conference who was in a shirt and tie? That aside, her remark is interesting given what she says next about mascots.

The conversation moves to a discussion of the Washington DC pro football team mascot, the Cleveland Indians logo, and, the Chiefs. William says "Headdresses? Just feathers are religious for us." They laugh, and Corpse laughs with them but thinks to herself that it isn't funny at all, and wonders why she never noticed these things before. 

Not having noticed problems with mascots before sounds a lot like the person at Harvard who wondered about Indians wearing normal clothes. It is hard to know just what to make of the things that Oona thinks and says.   

p. 178
Oona/Corpse tells Angel there's no water there, but Oona tells her there is, under their feet. She goes on:
"In Navajo tradition, we have Tonenili. He's responsible for rain, sleet, and snow. He also causes thunder and lightning. Often at ceremonies he's there in a costume of spruce branches, playing the part of a clown. He sprinkles water around. Especially during night chants. Maybe he's been speaking to  you, trying to heal you."

This, I think is the "minor deity" of the Net Galley blurb.  I'm doubtful that Angel would have told Corpse that much detail about Tonenili, but as before, what is the source for this? That the word "costume" is used makes me think that the source might be an anthropology text written by an outsider. 

p. 183
At breakfast, Oona/Corpse is with Angel. Oona sees Dr. Yazzie with his hand in his pocket and starts wondering to herself about the rock. Angel says "What?" Oona says "nothing."

Does Angel's "what" to Corpse suggest that Angel can hear her thoughts? Maybe Oona was not wondering to herself. Maybe she was actually speaking her thoughts aloud. 

p. 185
Angel and Oona/Corpse go for a hike. Oona asks Angel about the girl who had a witch in her room and learns that the room she is in was that girl's room. Oona asks Angel:
"A medicine man cleansed my room?"
Angel nodded.
"Does that stuff linger? Like could his power cleanse me?"
Angel seemed to sort out her thoughts in the road ahead of them. "When you first came here, you scared me," She looked over her shoulder, right at me [Hovering Oona]. "I worried you might have the ghost sickness and you might take me with you."
"Me? Is a ghost like a witch? Is that what that girl saw? Is that why everyone was staring at me?
"It's complicated. It's not good to talk about these things. They have power."
"Do you think a medicine man could cure me? My hands and feet have been tingling since Circle."
Angel tells her that she doesn't think Oona needs a medicine man anymore because she's healing herself. 

I don't know where to start in analyzing that conversation. Angel shares information but also says it isn't good to talk about these things. She's right--Native peoples guard some things very carefully, but she chose to share some of it with Oona. Lucky for Oona! As before, I wonder about Sappenfield's source for this material. 

p. 185 
On their hike, Angel holds out an eagle feather to Oona and says:
"This is for all the things you've survived."
No! Angel can't legally give Oona an eagle feather. It is illegal for people who are not Native to have eagle feathers. Info here: http://www.fws.gov/eaglerepository/  This law is info 101 to Native people, and especially those who would be at NAPS.


-----

At that point, I stopped taking notes. I did read it, all the way to the end. Though the book goes on for another hundred-plus pages, the story location shifts when Mr. Handler and Oona leave the school. They were there for one week. Angel and William return at the very end, at Oona's graduation. 

There's more analysis to do--the depictions of Gabe (Oona's boyfriend) and the family maid (she's Mexican), and the use of Spanish in various places. Some of it doesn't sound quite right to me. I'll close this post with something I said earlier:

I hate that NAPS and kids there were used 
by Sappenfield for this book. 
It feels like a violation. The school and 
kids are only a magical device that 
serves the white protagonist. 


It isn't "just fiction" that Sappenfield, or any writer is doing, when they write a story. Some fictions affirm existing stereotypes. Some create new problems for Native people to deal with. It doesn't have to be that way. Writers---you can do better. Editors---so can you! 

Last: If something I've said is unclear (or if there are typos!), do let me know. I welcome your question, corrections, and comments.  

Editor's Note: The original post for this review had an error in the title. This is a reposting of the review with the correct title (the word 'where' was replaced with 'who'). 

0 Comments on Heather Sappenfield's THE VIEW FROM WHO I WAS as of 9/21/2014 8:03:00 AM
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11. Comment on One Shot by Augie

Just got back from a wedding and on my way across the country for another one. Funny how folks get exhausted “putting on” the appropriate face at these events. I missed this small community where I know folks by their writing, not by their event appropriate face. I have been reading all week, just no time to respond. Thanks Kerry!

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12. Marvel Comics Back To Volume 1 Chronology

Well, the news is out.  DC comics are getting darker and darker and their movies and TV series are also going that way. However, Marvel Disney Comics has a solution.

Disney is known as a "family friendly" company -as was Marvel Comics. Archie Comics appears to have tried to take over that mantle.  Disney ain't having that.

Disney executives are quite pleased with the money quite literally spilling in from the movie franchise and all the goodies that spin out of that.  However, as the statistics show, 'Marvel' Comics are losing money. It's one reboot after another.  One number one followed by another number one.  "Gimmick" covers to try to cash in that just are not working.

Now, Germanys top weekly magazine dealing with movies and pop culture,  Großer Witz, has incurred Disney wrath by publishing an interview in its October that should not have seen print until next April.

We all know this "Eight months Later" thing is going on.  The Avengers will shoot ahead to April 2015 while all other titles continue normally.  But why? What sense does it  make?  Why are the Avengers titles months ahead of others?

Eristein Lügner of Großer Witz was one of several top journalists who were given advance interviews for what Disney calls in the interview "the enormously ground-breaking event in comics history" which is a big statement, right?

It is pointed out in the interview, which was quickly taken offline after legal threats from Disney (but the magazine is still out there),  that "April Fools Day" starts off April.  There is a bit about past Marvel April Fool gags and then it gets to the crunch.  Gag

The Avengers have been on a time-quest (anyone remember when Tony Stark went rogue in the final issues of volume 1 of The Avengers?) and this actually ties in with the Avengers Forever series and Immortus. Realising what has been going on in the Marvel Universe and the many multiple threats posed that they cannot possibly defeat, the Avengers join forces with Immortus and later Kang (who is...well you know all that stuff) and "set things right".

Disney/Marvel explain that they thought it was about time to "tidy house -get continuity set and go back to the family company Marvel was -without losing the creative edge".  So, remember all those retro "hommage" covers that have been appearing in the last year and constant talk of "Marvels proud heritage"?  It was all PART of the build up.  Hold on to  your seats.....

.....In April, 2015, the Marvel Universe as it exists now will cease.  The entire line is being rebooted back to the old 1960s/1970s volume 1 universe!


                         WHAAAAAT??!!!!!!

 Lügner notes that the movies are seen as a seperate "Marvel-film-Universum" - "Marvel movie universe" with all its spin-offs, etc., but that the comics universe will "harken back to the great House of Ideas of that (Silver Age) period"

  What is odd, to say the least, is that titles such as The Avengers, Fantastic Four, etc., will continue their numbering from where the volume 1 series' stopped.  This is also confirmed by a Japanese journalist named Tekiya who is working on a book on Marvel Comics in Japan "Marvel Okijodan"

Interesting to see how many US bloggers and comic news sites report on this -or will they, as in the past, tow the Disney line so as not to anger their "sources"?







お笑い草

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13. No Name (1862)

No Name. Wilkie Collins. 1862/1998. Oxford University Press. 748 pages.

No Name is my third Wilkie Collins novel to read this year. I've also read A Rogue's Life and The Law and the Lady. I don't know if I'll have time to squeeze in another before the year is over or not. But it's looking like No Name will definitely be my favorite. This novel reminded me of why I enjoy reading Wilkie Collins! And sometimes I do need reminding. I have been disappointed before. But when he's good, he tends to be really, really good. No Name is definitely Collins at his best! I enjoyed No Name best when I stopped trying to categorize it.

Magdalen Vanstone is the heroine of No Name. After her parents die within weeks of each other, she learns some startling news that changes everything for herself and her sister. Her father was not legally married to her mother; that is he was not legally married to her until a few months ago. His honorable intentions, unfortunately, have ruined their lives. For his marriage discredits his previous will. If he had NOT gotten married, then the girls would have been in his will and they would have inherited everything. Now his everything goes to an estranged older brother that is mean and cruel. (Collins would like you to boo, hiss now)

Norah, the good sister, the good older sister, accepts this news with grace and courage. She will follow Miss Garth's advice closely. She will become a governess. She will be far from wealthy, but, she'll hold onto as much dignity as she can cling to under the circumstances.

Magdalen, the younger sister, refuses to accept it at all. And she's just as clever and crafty as she is stubborn. Magdalen teams up with a relation of a relation, a con man named Captain Wragge. Both are clever and willing to be a bit immoral in pursuit of what they want most, of what they feel they deserve. Captain Wragge may sound like a villain, but, there's just something about him that I can't help liking. He certainly makes NO NAME an interesting read!!!

Magdalen has a plan, a scheme, for recovering the money that is rightfully hers. She will stop at nothing to get it. What is her plan? Well, it involves her (mean) uncle, Michael Vanstone, and his heir, Noel.

The scheme does not go unnoticed, however. Mrs. Lecount is a servant in the Vanstone household, and she is very controlling and extremely observant. She is always on the lookout for people who might be tempted to take advantage of the family since they are old and/or weak and/or very stupid!

It is a plot-driven novel with plenty of twists and turns. I enjoyed every single one. The book may be over 700 pages, but it's a quick 700 pages!!! It's a surprisingly quick read. Once you become hooked on the story, on learning what happens next, once you start to CARE about the characters, you just have to read on and on!!!

Will Magdalen's scheme succeed?
Will she get her hands on the money?
Will she share the money with Captain Wragge?
Will he find a way of getting his share? Is he really on her side no matter what? Or will he turn traitor?
Will either sister get married? Will either sister live happily ever after?

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on No Name (1862) as of 9/21/2014 9:10:00 AM
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14. Video Sunday: No. Seriously, Lisa. Hire me.

Howdy, folks.  I have news for you.  Did you have any idea that a children’s literature online show called KidLit TV was in the works?  Nor did I until I stopped by Roxie Munroe’s studio the other day.  She informed me that man-about-town Rocco Staino had been by with an honest-to-goodness film crew to talk to her about this new series. Calling itself, “The video resource for the greater kidlit community” it’s launching this fall.  Here’s the first video so far:

Okay. I admit it. I’m a sucker for cute kids.  Thank goodness they don’t do many lemonade stands in my neighborhood or I’d be without a dime in my pocket.  So when I saw this video about the Dr. Seuss Wants You! Indiegogo campaign, I was hooked.  These gals are trying to raise funds so that their school library can have its very own librarian.  Resist their cuteness if you can!

Thanks to AL Direct for the link.

You know what I love?  Shakespeare.  You know what I love even more than Shakespeare?  Graphic novels.  You know what I love even more than Shakespeare and graphic novels?  Book trailers.  Now all three of the things I love have combined in this trailer for The Stratford Zoo Presents MacBeth.  I have read and loved the book (Lady MacBeth as a spotted animal = brilliance).  Originally premiering on Watch. Connect. Read., do be so good as to enjoy it.

Many of you have probably seen this but the IKEA BookBook ad is rather charming.

Which, in turn, is not too dissimilar from this faux Amazon Prime Air Launch ad.

Thanks to Michael Stusser for the link.

Ooo.  Lisa Von Drasek!  Now that she’s moved to Minnesota (I am not even kidding when I say how envious I am) I don’t get to see her around and about anymore.  Fortunately somebody out there (U of M, presumably) did this kickin’ recording of her conversation with Kate DiCamillo.  For those of you more familiar with Kate, come for the DiCamillo, stay for the Von Drasek.

By the way, this is the first I’ve ever heard of IFLA.  Anyone else out there feel as out of it as me?

Good old Ed Spicer. Not only does he come out for every book signing I do in Michigan but he records my blabberings and puts them online.  This recent posting went up in conjunction with Wild Things but was filmed several years ago.  If you’re interested in me with the talkety talk, enjoy.

Thanks, Ed!

As for today’s Off-Topic Video, I am thoroughly indebted to Dan Santat.  It’s the final ceremony of Star Wars done without the soundtrack.  As my friend Dan McCoy said of it, “Over and above the comedy, this actually let me see Star Wars with new eyes, for the first time in decades, which is amazing.”

Many thanks to Dan Santat for the vid.

share save 171 16 Video Sunday: No. Seriously, Lisa. Hire me.

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15. Weekend Links: National Hispanic Heritage Month books and links

It’s time for Weekend Links! This is my chance to share some of the amazing links, articles and resources that I have discovered throughout the course of the week…AND…there are some really, really good ones this week.

weekend links

September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month

and is a celebration of the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America!

Huge Linky, Giveaway and Round-up at PragmaticMom Hispanic American Books for Kids: Link Round Up. Here is a gold mine of ideas/ways to celebrate this holiday!

Hispanic America books for kids

Planet Smarty Pants has a great post about reading and learning about Mexico

Read and Learn about Mexixo

 

Gorgeous and in-depth post from Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes

LOVE this post from Crafty Moms Share: Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop–Learning about Juan Quezada a Mexican Potter

Becky at Kid World Citizen has a great post about 5 Famous Latinos: Role Models for Hispanic Heritage Month

 

Hispanic Role Models
If you are not hungry now, you will be after readings this post from Spanglish House! Hispanic Meals to celebrate our Heritage.

empanada-recipe

What great links and reads did YOU find this week?

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Treasure Island Pirate Adventure

The post Weekend Links: National Hispanic Heritage Month books and links appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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16. Comment on One Shot by Reaper

I thought it was strong. The voice in the memory was not as powerful at first but it got there. You made me wonder, then dislike the MC but still think he didn’t deserve what he got. Then at the end I had nothing but sorrow for him even though I was smiling for his simple pleasures. In a quick short work you took me on a roller coaster and I loved it.

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17. Banned Books Week

Sunday, September 21st kicks off Banned Books Week. Celebrate the right to read - fREADom!!!

Check out this great video by Books Inc. - Click the image to see it on Youtube:

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18. A Bed for Kitty

bedforkitty.jpg

A Bed for Kitty by Yasmine Surovec

ISBN 10: 1596438630
ISBN 13: 978-1596438637

Publication date: 23 September 2014 by Roaring Brook Press

Category: Children's Picture Book

Keywords: Cats

Format: Hardcover, ebook

Source: Finished paperback copy from publisher

I dare you not to squee while reading A Bed for Kitty! I adore Yasmine Surovec's Cat vs. Human blog. She doesn't update as often as she used to, but that may be because she is busy making picture books now, and I can't fault her for that! 

Surovec draws upon her extensive cat-mom experience to come up with this adorable picture book. The story is very simple. You can find Kitty sleeping everywhere--in boxes, on books, on random pieces of furniture and clothing--everywhere except her actual bed. Eventually Chloe figures out a solution to get Kitty to sleep in the bed like she's supposed to.

I especially relate to this since it took months before our cat would sleep in the comfy bed we bought for her. This story is true to life! I love this book's design, particularly the endpapers which I think would make brilliant desktop wallpaper. The colors are cheerfully bright, and the humor gently understated. 

For more cat humor, check out Yasmine's blog at www.catversushuman.com.

I received this book for free from Macmillan for review purposes.

alethea_signs_nl2014.png

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19. Comment on One Shot by Reaper

Interesting and well written take Noodlebug. In your second to last paragraph you have Jessa watching the blood ooze from her own head rather than her neighbors. Normally I read right past those but that one made me pause and reread. Otherwise, very nicely done.

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20. 5 Strategies to Help Parents Navigate Lexile

30-31This week we are tackling what parents can do once they hear those magical words, “Your child has a Lexile score of…” For strategies for teachers and booksellers on navigating leveling systems and building a community, check out here and here.

For parents who want to help your children find a book at their levels:

1. Ask teachers what leveling system they are using to assess your child’s reading growth.

  • What does this system measure?
  • What does a book at this level look like? Below-level book? Above-level book?
  • What are examples of books and series that are on this level?
  • Where can I find out more information about this leveling system and books measured using it?

How to Set Up An Author Skype Visit2. Research books and this leveling system for yourself online. Publishers and the leveling systems themselves often have books leveled. Additionally, there are many booklists already out there. Remember, your child isn’t the only one to ever have achieved a Lexile level 620. Someone has made a list before you.

3. Do not assume that a library or bookstore will know what these levels are or mean. Ask your child’s teacher for a conversion chart to other leveling systems or download your own (see above). Download one from Reading Rockets, Booksource, Scholastic Guided Reading Program, Lexile, or Lee & Low. Also ask for booklists for Lexile levels the child should explore and take them with you to the library or bookstore.

Howard Thurman's Great Hope4. If you have a child who is reading significantly above his or her typical grade level and are concerned that higher levels equal too mature content or themes, look for expository nonfiction. Nonfiction often has higher technical and academic vocabulary bumping up the Lexile or Accelerated Reader levels (as they measure linguistic complexity), but the themes and concepts won’t be mature. Is your child reading a grade or two above peers and absolutely loved the science unit on forces and motion? Find sciences books that align with your child’s science or social studies units. Your child will be able to explore more in-depth about forces than will be covered in class. Check out the annual Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal winner and honors list and iNK (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids) Think Tank for award-winning nonfiction titles.

Pop Pop and Grandpa5. Most importantly, continue to expose your child to a wide range of genres, levels, and text sources. Just because your child achieved a Lexile level 920 doesn’t mean the child should only read books at a Lexile level 920. Your child’s teacher may assign homework with reading passages at specific reading levels, but it’s important for students to engage with texts that aren’t leveled as most books in bookstores and libraries won’t be. We interact with texts of all kinds throughout our day, including nutrition labels, newspaper articles, advertisements, recipes, and road signs. The real world does not provide children with texts at their level all the time and we need to work with them to develop reading strategies to cope when they come across more challenging texts. Moreover, we want our readers to develop their love of reading, along with skills and critical thinking. This may include our children seeking out and re-reading favorites or comfort books that happen to be lower leveled (who hasn’t indulged on a silly summer beach read every now and then?) or trying harder books that happen to be on their favorite subject (who can resist those stunning books filled with multisyllable Greek- and Latin-derived names of awe-inspiring dinosaurs?).

Image from BABY FLOFor further reading:

7 Strategies to Help Booksellers and Librarians Navigate Lexile

8 Strategies to Help Educators Explain Lexile and Invest Stakeholders

What have we missed? Please share in the comments your tricks, tips, and ideas for helping families and children navigate the bookshelves.

 

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Specialist, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 


Filed under: Common Core State Standards, Educator Resources, ELL/ESL and Bilingual Books Tagged: CCSS, children's books, close reading, Educators, ELA common core standards, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension

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21. Twelve Dancing Unicorns, by Alissa Heyman | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Twelve Dancing Unicorns, written by Alissa Heyman and illustrated by Justin Gerard. Giveaway begins September 21, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends October 20, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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22. Bee and baby bee – Drawing A Day

Bee and his boy. My attempts at doing hair and fuzz. It didn’t work out too much. It just looks like dirty lines. Oh well.. got to do some more research. Drawn on Corel Painter X3 with custom brush with Wacom Intuos. Day 25 of 30 day Trial.

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23. The problem with moral knowledge

Traveling through Scotland, one is struck by the number of memorials devoted to those who lost their lives in World War I. Nearly every town seems to have at least one memorial listing the names of local boys and men killed in the Great War (St. Andrews, where I am spending the year, has more than one).

Scotland endured a disproportionate number of casualties in comparison with most other Allied nations as Scotland’s military history and the Scots’ reputation as particularly effective fighters contributed to both a proportionally greater number of Scottish recruits as well as a tendency for Allied commanders to give Scottish units the most dangerous combat assignments.

Many who served in World War I undoubtedly suffered from what some contemporary psychologists and psychiatrists have labeled ‘moral injury’, a psychological affliction that occurs when one acts in a way that runs contrary to one’s most deeply-held moral convictions. Journalist David Wood characterizes moral injury as ‘the pain that results from damage to a person’s moral foundation’ and declares that it is ‘the signature wound of [the current] generation of veterans.’

By definition, one cannot suffer from moral injury unless one has deeply-held moral convictions. At the same time that some psychologists have been studying moral injury and how best to treat those afflicted by it, other psychologists have been uncovering the cognitive mechanisms that are responsible for our moral convictions. Among the central findings of that research are that our emotions often influence our moral judgments in significant ways and that such judgments are often produced by quick, automatic, behind-the-scenes cognition to which we lack conscious access.

Thus, it is a familiar phenomenon of human moral life that we find ourselves simply feeling strongly that something is right or wrong without having consciously reasoned our way to a moral conclusion. The hidden nature of much of our moral cognition probably helps to explain the doubt on the part of some philosophers that there really is such a thing as moral knowledge at all.

Edinburgh_Castle,_Scottish_National_War_Memorial_rear
Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh Castle. Photo by Nilfanion, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

In 1977, philosopher John Mackie famously pointed out that defenders of the reality of objective moral values were at a loss when it comes to explaining how human beings might acquire knowledge of such values. He declared that believers in objective values would be forced in the end to appeal to ‘a special sort of intuition’— an appeal that he bluntly characterized as ‘lame’. It turns out that ‘intuition’ is indeed a good label for the way many of our moral judgments are formed. In this way, it might appear that contemporary psychology vindicates Mackie’s skepticism and casts doubt on the existence of human moral knowledge.

Not so fast. In addition to discovering that non-conscious cognition has an important role to play in generating our moral beliefs, psychologists have discovered that such cognition also has an important role to play in generating a great many of our beliefs outside of the moral realm.

According to psychologist Daniel Kahneman, quick, automatic, non-conscious processing (which he has labeled ‘System 1′ processing) is both ubiquitous and an important source of knowledge of all kinds:

‘We marvel at the story of the firefighter who has a sudden urge to escape a burning house just before it collapses, because the firefighter knows the danger intuitively, ‘without knowing how he knows.’ However, we also do not know how we immediately know that a person we see as we enter a room is our friend Peter. … [T]he mystery of knowing without knowing … is the norm of mental life.’

This should provide some consolation for friends of moral knowledge. If the processes that produce our moral convictions are of roughly the same sort that enable us to recognize a friend’s face, detect anger in the first word of a telephone call (another of Kahneman’s examples), or distinguish grammatical and ungrammatical sentences, then maybe we shouldn’t be so suspicious of our moral convictions after all.

The good news is that hope for the reality of moral knowledge remains.

The good news is that hope for the reality of moral knowledge remains. – See more at: http://blog.oup.com/?p=75592&preview=true#sthash.aozalMuy.dpuf

In all of these cases, we are often at a loss to explain how we know, yet it is clear enough that we know. Perhaps the same is true of moral knowledge.

Still, there is more work to be done here, by both psychologists and philosophers. Ironically, some propose a worry that runs in the opposite direction of Mackie’s: that uncovering the details of how the human moral sense works might provide support for skepticism about at least some of our moral convictions.

Psychologist and philosopher Joshua Greene puts the worry this way:

‘I view science as offering a ‘behind the scenes’ look at human morality. Just as a well-researched biography can, depending on what it reveals, boost or deflate one’s esteem for its subject, the scientific investigation of human morality can help us to understand human moral nature, and in so doing change our opinion of it. … Understanding where our moral instincts come from and how they work can … lead us to doubt that our moral convictions stem from perceptions of moral truth rather than projections of moral attitudes.’

The challenge advanced by Greene and others should motivate philosophers who believe in moral knowledge to pay attention to findings in empirical moral psychology. The good news is that hope for the reality of moral knowledge remains.

And if there is moral knowledge, there can be increased moral wisdom and progress, which in turn makes room for hope that someday we can solve the problem of war-related moral injury not by finding an effective way of treating it but rather by finding a way of avoiding the tragedy of war altogether. Reflection on ‘the war to end war’ may yet enable it to live up to its name.

The post The problem with moral knowledge appeared first on OUPblog.

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24. Question of the Week: Do You Listen to Music While You Read?

Hey everyone! Clara Kensie here. A few times a month at Adventures in YA Publishing, I post a question for you and the Adventures in YA team to answer. The questions cover all topics important to writers and book lovers: craft, career, reading, books, and more. Join the discussion!

Question of the Week:

Do you listen to music while you read?

photo credit: Xanetia via photopin cc

Katharyn Sinelli: Hmmm. I don’t think the theme song to Team Umizoomi counts as a playlist per se. I usually read whenever I have a moment. If I’m really into a book, that can be when I’m waiting for my food at the deli. Most often these days I’m reading late at night in bed so it’s pretty quiet.

Lisa Green: Oooh. I don’t purposely listen to anything while I read because I will be totally sucked into the story and tune out everything else. On the flip side, though, nothing bothers me when it comes to my surroundings when I read. It’s all about the book, baby! Kind of odd when I think about how much I like playlists when it comes to writing.

Alyssa Hamilton: I don't listen to music or anything at all but I can easily do it. I find that because I'm reading in every spare second I have, I've learned to be able to still be aware of my surroundings and follow along with things even if I'm absorbed in my book.

Martina Boone: I can’t listen to anything with lyrics when I read any more than I can when I write. The words conflict. But I do love listening to instrumentals, as long as the music is soft. The problem is that I can’t predict where someone else’s book is going to go the way I can with my own book, so if the mood of the music is too different from the emotional tone of the book, I end up getting irritated and it effects my enjoyment of what I’m reading. As a result, I usually don’t listen to music when I’m reading either. Sad, right?

Clara Kensie: I love the coziness of reading on a rainy day, so sometimes I’ll fake that mood by reading to a thunderstorm playlist on Spotify. Also, pumping music directly into my ears helps me block out distractions, especially when I’m trying to read in a hectic or loud environment, such as my kids’ sports practices and play rehearsals. I’ve bookmarked a few reading playlists on Spotify that I like to listen to, and I've even made my own reading playlist for Spotify. It has 24 songs and it’s 97 minutes long. Here’s the link if you’re interested: https://play.spotify.com/user/clarakensie/playlist/7coLUz190zzTR8lKrSpsoE


WHAT ABOUT YOU? Does reading to music distract you, or do you like to listen to music while you read? Or maybe you listen to thunderstorm or white noise apps? If you’ve made your own reading playlist, tell us the songs you have on it!


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25. Comment on One Shot by Augie

margi33, thanks for your comments. I couldn’t let the given prompt go away without some Tony and Mo mobster humor! Thanks!

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