What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Posts

(from the Industry category)

Recent Comments

JacketFlap Sponsors

Spread the word about books.
Put this Widget on your blog!
  • Powered by JacketFlap.com

Are you a book Publisher?
Learn about Widgets now!

Advertise on JacketFlap

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Industry Category Blogs

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts from the Industry category, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 131,161
1. New York Historical Society Hosts the Superheroes in Gotham Exhibit

Superheroes (GalleyCat)Have you ever noticed all the comic book heroes that call New York City home? To explore this topic, the New York Historical Society has been hosting the “Superheroes in Gotham” exhibit.

According to The Gothamist, this program focuses on six characters: Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Wonder Woman, Captain America, and Spider-Man. Some of the items on display include a bat mobile, posters, costumes, toys, and comic books.

The closing date has been scheduled for Feb. 21, 2016. Who’s your favorite superhero from fiction? (via The Guardian)

Add a Comment
2. Maya Angelou Documentary Featured On Kickstarter

Bob HerculesRita Coburn Whack, and their team of filmmakers hope to raise $150,000 on Kickstarter for a documentary profiling the late Maya Angelou. For this project, the collaborators have interviewed several people who knew Dr. Angelou including President Bill Clinton, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, and her son Guy Johnson. We’ve embedded a video about the new project above.

Here’s more from the Kickstarter page: “Dr. Angelou has become a global symbol of peace, humility, and freedom–– but parts of her story are not well known. The Maya Angelou Documentary will reflect on how the events of history, culture, and the arts shaped Dr. Angelou’s life and how she, in turn, helped shape our own worldview through her autobiographical literature and activism. We hope to shed light on the untold aspects of her life and to educate audiences about her story.”

Welcome to our Kickstarter Publishing Project of the Week, a feature exploring how authors and publishers are using the fundraising site to raise money for book projects. If you want to start your own project, check out How To Use Kickstarter to Fund Your Publishing Project.

Add a Comment
3. Is the 30 Million Word Gap a stat we should be using?


Most recently, I read about it in the ALSC campaign Babies Need Words Everyday.


It was such a clear campaign with great graphics that we immediately hung up in our library’s bathroom. And, it had research to back it up – the introductory flyer said “By the time children from low-income families reach the age of four, they will have heard thirty million fewer words than their more advantaged peers.” The initiative was created in response to the Obama Administration’s 2014 call to increase early literacy initiatives to bridge the word gap. It uses the research that coined the 30 Million Word Gap as a talking point, and integrates newer research done by LENA or Dr. Dana Suskind, both of which use the “30 Million Word Gap” research as a framework for theirs. My colleague Claire Moore and I were curious about this statistic, and did some digging to learn more.

The “The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3” by University of Kansas researchers Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley was a 2003 article in American Educator (Spring: 4-9), which was an excerpt from their 1995 book Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children. The research, although it has been used as a rallying cry in campaigns across the country (including Too Small to Fail, Thirty Million Words, and local initiatives), has been shown to have some disturbing issues.

The issues that other researchers and educators have found in this study include:


Here is a breakdown of their critiques.

Sample size

In their most cited body of research, the researchers visited 13 high-income families, 10 families of middle socioeconomic status, 13 of low socioeconomic status, and 6 families who were on public assistance in Kansas City one hour per month for two and a half years. They made 1,318 observations and counted vocabulary words spoken to children by parents. The families only included African-American and White families that spoke English; bilingual children do have slower rates of learning vocabulary, but have other skills that monolingual children do not have (Dufresny & Madsey, 2006). They then looked at the number of words heard by each child by SES and saw the gap that has been trumpeted over and over again. The average child on public assistance heard 616 words per hour, the working class child 1,251 words per hour, and the professional family’s child heard 2,153 words per hour of observation. This number was then greatly extrapolated to show that by age four, there was a 32 million word gap between the child receiving public assistance and the child in the professional class. This assumes that the year had 5200 hours and the big assumption: that the number of words heard in an hour during observation was typical.

Data coding

After the observations, the researchers coded the words the children were hearing from parents. They coded for “quality of interactions” and spent very little time explaining how these codes are backed up by research – in fact, their explanation cites extensive research, but the footnotes only contain a reference to look at their earlier research. Sarah Michaels, Professor of Education at Clark University, said, “Hart and Risley coded for upper middle class/academic or professional politeness and interactional patterns, found that the upper income families used more of them, and simply asserted that more of the quality features is better in producing learning-related outcomes. They identified upper and middle class features of talk, coded and counted them and found, guess what, they correlate with class” (p. 26, 2013). Other researchers say “…by taking the language practices of the middle- and upper-SES families in their sample as the standard, Hart and Risley transformed the linguistic differences they found among the welfare families in their study into linguistic deficiencies” (Dudley-Marling & Lucas, p. 365). The Hart and Risley study set up the working class families and families receiving public assistance to fail. Teresa McCarty, from the University of California Los Angeles, puts it well: “Cloaked in well-intentions— ‘giving children the competencies they need to succeed in school’ (Hart and Risley 1995:2)—gap discourse simultaneously constructs a logic of individual dysfunction, limitation, and failure while masking the systemic power inequities through which the logic is normalized” (Avinerini, et al, p. 71).


This deficiency thinking is similar to the reaction to a 1961 book by Oscar Lewis called The Children of Sanchez which coined the term “culture of poverty.” The book was an ethnographic study of small Mexican Communities that attributed 50 shared attitudes, such as violence and poor planning skills, to the larger culture of all poor people. Unfortunately, this deficit thinking is incredibly harmful to both those under the microscope and the educators (and librarians) who work with them. Paul Gorksy says “Deficit theorists use two strategies for propagating this worldview: (1) drawing on well-established stereotypes and (2) ignoring systemic conditions, such as inequitable access to high-quality schooling, that support the cycle of poverty” (2008). Again, by using a deficit framework, we obscure structural inequalities.

“Valence” or the emotional character of the words was also coded: affirmative, open-ended statements were seen as quality, whereas directive were seen as low quality. Again, no research was cited. There are many reasons why coding in this way without an explanation is wrong – mainly, that white, upper and middle class ways of speaking to their children were valued as quality. In a 2015 article, Gulnaz Saiyed says, “While middle-class activities do lead children to develop a sense of entitlement, individuality, and set them up to feel comfortable in schools, they deemphasize other childhood experiences. For example, many working-class parents do not overschedule their children with extracurricular activities. Instead, they provide opportunities for play, development of curiosity, creativity, and respect for different perspectives.” Another point brought up by Saiyed is how African American children are disciplined more harshly in school, and parents may be preparing them for that. Michaels (2013) agrees, saying “Again, I want to remind you that people from different cultures talk differently to infants, and no one approach or style has been shown to be cognitively superior to another in helping children acquire their native language or grow up to be smart” (p. 29).


In addition, mobile technology has changed parenting for all social statuses. In other research conducted by Dr. Dana Suskind, middle and upper class parents have other bad habits: “[Anne] Fernald, who sits on the scientific advisory board for Providence Talks, told me, “Some of the wealthiest families in our research had low word counts, possibly because they were on their gadgets all day. So you can see an intermingling at the extremes of rich and poor. Socioeconomic status is not destiny” (Talbot, 2015). The blanket assignation of the bad culture of poverty is harmful to all parents.


The research makes sweeping extrapolations for its findings. In their book Meaningful Differences, Hart and Risley assert that vocabulary is an important indicator for future success, but spend very little time explaining why: “Because the vocabulary that individuals can command reflects so well their intellectual resources, we still have oral examinations, and vocabulary plays a major role in tests of intelligence” (p. 6). There are no citations of other research that describes why vocabulary is indicates “intellectual resources” – instead, they talk about how it is easy to measure.


As a librarian, I understand the importance of vocabulary as one aspect of literacy. However, I don’t understand why this study allows vocabulary to be the main indicator for school success, or why specifically children as partners in the conversation (as opposed to overhearing conversations) was seen as so important. As Susan Blum says in “Invited Forum: Bridging the ‘Language Gap’” (Averini, et al, 2015), “Anthropological research shows, in fact, that addressing the youngest children as conversational partners is extremely unusual in the world” (p. 75). Are we sure that makes it better?

Michaels says, “The deeply destructive, pernicious thing about the Hart and Risley study is that it presents what seems like totally rigorous, careful, objective science (what under careful inspection is nothing more than pseudo-science)—that gives teachers, educators, policy makers the ‘proof’ they need to believe that these poor kids aren’t smart, aren’t good learners, don’t have adequate language to think well with” (p. 35).  As librarians, when we cite the 30 Million Word Gap, we run the risk of continuing to enforce the bias and classism that this study did, as do some of the initiatives that have cropped up around this study. “In effect, the word gap interventions propose that improving social and economic outcomes for poor and minority families can be as simple as training them to act more white and middle-class (and monitoring their compliance with a ‘word pedometer’)” (Saiyed, 2015). While Babies Need Words Everyday does not go as far as to install word pedometers on parents, and instead simply encourages them to speak with their babies, the issue is very different – but by using word gap and deficit thinking, we may be treading in dangerous territory.

What can we do?

As librarians, we can help support literacy skill-building for both parents and children with Babies Need Words Everyday’s colorful posters and in our storytimes and outreach efforts. As public libraries, we provide free support to parents of all classes who may be struggling to find time or resources to provide early literacy practices to their children. Families in poverty also get support from public libraries to help them combat the structural inequalities they face. We also have to make sure we are creative and reflexive about encouraging multiple literacies, such as (all of which are strengths of a diversity of groups):


As centers providing informal learning opportunities, libraries are the perfect spaces for encouraging multiple literacies. For instance, “Low-income children are more likely than their higher-income peers to be in factory-like classrooms that allow little interaction and physical movement. As a result, these children spend more time sitting, following directions and listening rather than discussing, debating, solving problems and sharing ideas” (McManus, 2015). ALSC members have many brilliant ideas for programming to combat this issue on this blog. What else can we do?

If we are truly invested in literacy equity as librarians, being engaged in understanding our own attitudes and resources is important. I feel hesitant to use the 30 Million Word Gap as a statistic in my storytimes because of what it implicates, and I wonder what you all think. Even the newer research by the LENA foundation and Dr. Dana Suskind use Hart and Risley’s flawed framework. The newly updated ALSC competencies are full of guidance about recognizing and responding to structural inequalities, being self-reflexive, and culturally competent. I’ll end with one of them.


-Many thanks to Claire Moore – this piece is the result our meetings and conversations and her editing skills.

Lisa Nowlain is the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Fellow and Children’s Librarian at Darien Library in Darien, CT (you can be the next one! Apply by April 1 at www.darienlibrary.org/mcgrawfellowship) She is also an artist-type (see more at www.lisanowlain.com).

Sources cited

Avinerini, N., et al (2015). Invited Forum: Bridging the “Language Gap.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 25(1), pp. 66–86. Retrieved from  http://www.susanblum.com/uploads/4/7/2/1/4721639/jla_-_language_gap_forum_2015.pdf

Dudley-Marling, C. & Lucas, K. (May 2009) Pathologizing the Language and Culture of Poor Children. Language Arts, 86(5), pp. 362-370. http://academic.evergreen.edu/curricular/med/langpoor.pdf

Dufresne, T. & Masny, D. (November 2006). Multiple literacies: Linking the research on bilingualism and biliteracies to the practical. Paediatr Child Health, 11(9), pp 577–579. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2528653/#b12-pch11577

Gorski, P (April 2008).  The Myth of the Culture of Poverty. Poverty and Learning, 65(7), pp 32-36. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/apr08/vol65/num07/The-Myth-of-the-Culture-of-Poverty.aspx

Hart, B. & Risley, T.R. (1995). Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Paul H. Brookes: Baltimore.

Hart, B. & Risley, R. (Spring 2003). The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3. American Educator, 4(9).

McManus, M. (2015, October 12). Are some kids really smarter just because they know more words? The Conversation. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/are-some-kids-really-smarter-just-because-they-know-more-words-47819

Michaels, S. (Autumn 2013). Déjà Vu All Over Again: What’s Wrong With Hart & Risley and a “Linguistic Deficit” Framework in Early Childhood Education? LEARNing Landscapes, 7(1), pp 23-41. Retrieved from http://www.learninglandscapes.ca/images/documents/ll-no13/michaels.pdf

Saiyed, G. & Smirnov, N. (2015, January 9) OpEd: Does ’30-Million Word Gap’ Have Gap in Authenticity? Chicago Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.chicago-bureau.org/oped-30-million-word-gap-gap-authenticity/

Talbot, Margo (2015, January 12). The Talking Cure. The New Yorker. Retrieved from  http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/01/12/talking-cure
Other Resources

The post Is the 30 Million Word Gap a stat we should be using? appeared first on ALSC Blog.

0 Comments on Is the 30 Million Word Gap a stat we should be using? as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
4. Guest Post: Don’t Stop Believing

DSC01797.jpgAt this time of year, people search for inspiring holiday books to share with children. Finding one that celebrates the beauty of the season and showcases our world’s diversity is a treasure. We are proud to feature a stunning addition to this collection.

Award-winning author, scholar and activist Zetta Elliott’s new picture book, Let the Faithful Come, is a lyrical nativity story with imagery inspired by the plight of Syrian refugees. A celebration of faith and a call for social justice, Zetta’s book reminds us of our duty to show love to each other not just at the holidays but every day.

Please join us in welcoming Zetta back to The Brown Bookshelf. Here, she shares with us the splendor of Let The Faithful Come.

When a bright star shines

on a dark, silent night,

let the faithful come.

I recently spent five days as a guest of the Arkansas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts (ACTELA). For the first four days, I led writing workshops and gave book talks to students and educators in the northern part of the state. Then I was taken to Little Rock for the Afaithfulcoverkansas Curriculum Conference where I gave the luncheon keynote address to an audience of about a hundred English teachers. I concluded my presentation with a reading of my latest picture book, Let the Faithful Come. I read the 300-word nativity story with calm confidence, knowing I was “preaching to the choir” in the so-called Bible Belt.


I come from a family of preachers and teachers. Though he considered becoming a minister while attending Bible College, my father instead became a high school teacher. My mother taught kindergarten for over 30 years, and I was one of the many students who benefited from her expertise. I met a veteran educator recently and we talked for a long while about the importance of including diversity in teacher training. Before we parted she narrowed her eyes at me and asked, “What do your parents do?” I didn’t have to tell her they were teachers—it shows! I’ve worked with kids for over 25 years, and I’ve taught at the college level for close to a decade. I inherited a love of learning from my parents but my storytelling skills come from my grandparents.


From places high and low,

across deserts and over seas,

let the faithful follow that glorious star.

Let them come.


Both of my mother’s parents were preachers in the Pilgrim Holiness Church, though my File0001grandfather was later ordained in the United Church. My grandmother stopped preaching once she got married, but proudly shared with anyone who would listen that her great-grandfather was the nephew of Bishop Richard Allen, founder of the AME Church. Together my grandparents had nine children; four of the five sons became United Church ministers, two of the four daughters married ministers, and one went on to become a United Church minister herself. Unlike most of my twenty-five cousins, I didn’t grow up as a PK (preacher’s kid) but I belonged to a large, devout family and religion played a big role in our frequent gatherings and holiday celebrations.


Christmas was—and remains—my favorite time of year. And though stockings and Santa had their place in our home, it was always impressed upon me that we were really celebrating the Page6birth of a very special child. For years I helped my mother to decorate her classroom for Christmas and though she always had a tree, the most prominent display was a nativity scene that covered the entire blackboard. I don’t recall if any of her students’ parents complained, but I doubt my mother would have cared. She saw it as her duty to share the story of Jesus’ birth, and what an amazing story it was—a bright star guiding weary travelers across the desert, wise men on camels bearing precious gifts, and a poor couple welcoming their first child as an assortment of farm animals looked on.


And when they enter that lowly place,

let them bow their heads with humble hearts.

Let them gaze upon the child with adoration,

and know that God is alive in this world.


I don’t often talk about religion because it no longer plays such a big role in my life. My mother forced me to attend church every Sunday morning (“So long as you live under my roof…”), and I vowed I would never again go to church once I moved out of her house, which is pretty much how things worked out. Once in a while I accompanied my father to Brooklyn Tabernacle, but the megachurch experience wasn’t for me and mostly I just hoped he would take me to Junior’s for lunch once church let out. I still pray every morning and night, and at funerals can usually remember the hymns I sang as a child. But at 43, I find that many of my friends are atheists or prefer to think of themselves as “spiritual” rather than “religious” (according to the Pew Research Center, nearly a quarter of adults in the US identify as “nones” – a term for people who self-identify as atheists or agnostics, or who say their religion is “nothing in particular”). I do have some friends who identify as Christian but they tend to be radical social justice activists and are nothing like those conservatives who think their time and energy is best spent complaining about the design of a coffee cup.


For on this night a child is born,

and within this child—in every child—

God has planted a seed.


I don’t think I’ve ever called myself a Christian, so why did I choose to publish an explicitly religious picture book for the holidays? I’ve self-published over a dozen books for young readers but Let the Faithful Come is special to me, partly because I wrote it four days after 9/11. Some say faith is all that sustains us in times of crisis, and I suppose the seed my parents and grandparents planted within me was not so easily uprooted. On September 15, 2001 I was living on the campus of Ohio University where I had moved to accept a dissertation fellowship. Earlier that month I had flown to Nova Scotia to attend my friend’s wedding and then I returned to Athens, OH days later to watch my beloved city come undone. I don’t remember much about the days immediately following the attack, but I do recall needing to turn the TV off so that I could write something—anything—that would prevent loneliness and despair from overwhelming me. I wrote two other stories at that time, The Girl Who Swallowed the Sun and The Boy in the Bubble, and found that writing magical stories for children made me feel less hopeless and less helpless.


When London-based illustrator Charity Russell completed A Wave Came Through Our Window, TruckI knew she was perfect for Let the Faithful Come. We talked about drawing inspiration from the courageous refugees fleeing Syria in search of sanctuary in Europe, and soon my simple nativity narrative took on a sense of immediacy. After 14 years of holding out hope that I would find an editor who could see the story’s significance, I suddenly wanted this book out now. We tried to make sure the migrants in the illustrations were diverse, and the camels from the original Bible story were replaced by contemporary modes of conveyance—boats, trains, and pick-up trucks.


When this night has passed

and the brilliant star fades before the soft dawn,

let the faithful return to their homes

with hearts cleansed and uplifted.


I considered dedicating the book to Aylan Kurdi, the little Syrian boy whose lifeless body was photographed on a beach in Turkey, sparking outrage across the world. Aylan’s family had been denied asylum in my country of birth, and part of me wanted to implicate Canada in his death; in the 21 years since I left, Canada has become a country I no longer recognize. But then I remembered that my adopted country has also closed its doors to those in need—how many children have died trying to reach the US from Central America, and how many still languish in detention?


I don’t know the names of all the children we have lost, but I hope that the smiling faces of the travelers in this book remind readers that there is another way. And that, for me, is the true message of Christmas: we can be better tomorrow than we are today (look at Scrooge!). No weary traveler seeking sanctuary should be turned away, and we must remember that every migrant child has the potential to transform our society. I don’t remember many of the Bible verses I was made to memorize as a child, but this one still appeals to me: “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it” (Hebrews 13:2).


Let them rejoice!

Let their songs ring golden like bells in the sun,

so that all who still slumber will wake and rise.

Let the faithful come!           

Learn more about Zetta’s wonderful books for kids at http://www.zettaelliott.com.

Add a Comment
5. Oral history and childhood memories

During my second semester at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I took an oral history seminar with Dr. Jacquelyn Dowd Hall. It was an eye-opening experience, not only because of what I learned, but how I learned. We had to conduct two interviews, and after spending nearly two months of class time discussing the historiography and methodology of oral history, I thought I was ready to go. My first interview was with civil rights activist Wyatt Tee Walker, and although he agreed to be interviewed, he was not feeling well and had difficulty speaking. Thrown off, my first few questions were poorly constructed, and I sped through his early life hoping he would have more to say about his activist history later in life. Listen as I struggle:

I lost an opportunity during that interview. I could have discovered more about Wyatt Tee Walker based on his early life, but I zoomed ahead. Now, every time I give a workshop on oral history, I hammer home the same message: start with their childhood. What surprises me are the responses from students, who often look incredulous when I tell them. They may think stories about growing up have nothing to do with their project at hand, and they don’t want to waste time talking about childhood memories. They want to cut to the chase and focus on big events later in life. But by leading off your oral history with several questions about what it was like growing up, you will build the foundation for a better interview.

Let’s say you’re interviewing someone for a larger project about an environmental history of Orange County, North Carolina. The long-time director of a local community organization has agreed to talk to you, and from your research, you know this person will have a lot to say about environmentalism in North Carolina over the past twenty years or so. You arrive to interview the person, you chat and get comfortable with one another, and you begin the interview. You may be tempted to launch right in: “Tell me about how you first came to work with ABC Environmental Group…” or “Tell me about how you first became interested in environmentalism.” Resist the temptation, and begin much, much earlier.

Start by asking your interviewee about their childhood. Introduce yourself, the interviewee, mention the date and any other relevant background information, and then ask your first question: “Tell me about your childhood.” Based on how they respond, they will give you the working materials to ask follow-up questions that will give the interview much more substance. Ask about where they grew up, their neighborhood, their family, their education, their religious background, and so on. Ask about individuals in their family: “Tell me about your father/mother/siblings/grandparents or anyone else influential as you were growing up.” (Hint: many people love talking about their grandparents if they knew them well.)

Hopefully by now you’ve forgotten how I opened my interview with Wyatt Tee Walker. Now, consider this example when I interviewed Evelyn Poole-Kober, a local Republican activist in Chapel Hill. How did that one, single question differ from the many incoherent questions I launched at Walker?

Here’s what happened next. Poole-Kober shared stories about her childhood and adolescence for about a third of the total interview, around 45 minutes. Should I consider these stories wasteful because they weren’t directly related to my project at hand? I don’t think so. She opened up, shared intimate details of her life, and led me through her early life to show where she ended up. These memories enhanced the total value of the interview, and they opened the door to more questions, more stories, and a richer interview about her whole life.

Concentrating on childhood questions also helps oral historians move toward curating oral histories rather than just collecting them. As Linda Shopes suggested in a previous blog post, quality and originality should be stressed over quantity when conducting an oral history project. By focusing the beginning of every interview on childhood, no matter the project, you will generate an unpredictable set of stories and information that researchers working on vastly different projects might one day find useful. Curated in a way that crosses projects, time periods, and disciplines, these stories enliven the field of oral history by rooting the past of each person in vivid ways.

Every oral history interview and project is different. You may not have the time, or you might be unable to dedicate an extended period of time to every person’s childhood and adolescence. But if you can, I suggest that you do. The rewards can be great.

Image Credit: “Childhood Pictures” by martinak15. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

The post Oral history and childhood memories appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on Oral history and childhood memories as of 11/27/2015 10:03:00 AM
Add a Comment
6. Sara Brickman Poetry Video Goes Viral

Sara Brickman has crafted a poem called “Talking Shit to Sadness.” The video embedded above features her performance at the 2015 National Poetry Slam.

For more poems by this writer, follow these links to listen to three more of her pieces: “Letter from the Water at Guantanamo Bay,” “Crazy Girls,” and “Mirror.” How do you react in times of sorrow?

Add a Comment
7. Interview with Donna Maguire, Author of The Silly Willy Winston Series

BookBuzzr - Interview with Donna Maguire

In an effort to understand Children’s Book Authors, their inspirations, their writing process, their needs, their problems,… we reached out to Donna Maguire, author of the Silly Willy Winston series who after close to 40 years in the advertising business Donna left it behind to care for her grand niece and nephew in Nevada some years ago.

Donna believes that the love for reading is more nurture than nature and reads to her grand children often. It was this reading that led her to pursue her life-long passion of writing children’s books. A collection of 4 books and fifth in the making, Donna joined me for my first ever video interview. I’m so exited it turned out so well. :)

In the interview Donna answers my questions about -

  • her journey to becoming an author
  • her inspirations, her muse, her learnings
  • the challenges she has faced and what she did about them
  • marketing activities she has done and her learnings
  • why she has her own online store for her books & her favourite tools for book marketing
  • her plans for the next book launch and the Silly Willy Winston Review Club

You can see all of Donna’s books and read more about her at www.sillywillywinston.com. Also connect with her on Twitter at @DmmSilly and on her Facebook Page.



Add a Comment
8. Thinking Back with Our Foremothers: For Jane Marcus

It is far too early to tear down the barricades. Dancing shoes will not do. We still need our heavy boots and mine detectors.
—Jane Marcus, "Storming the Toolshed"
1. Seeking Refuge in Feminist Revolutions in Modernism
Last week, I spent two days at the Modernist Studies Association conference in Boston. I hadn't really been sure that I was going to go. I hemmed and hawed. I'd missed the call for papers, so hadn't even had a chance to possibly get on a panel or into a seminar. Conferences bring out about 742 different social anxieties that make their home in my backbrain. I would only know one or maybe two people there. Should I really spend the money on conference fees for a conference I was highly ambivalent about? I hemmed. I hawed.

In the end, though, I went, mostly because my advisor would be part of a seminar session honoring the late Jane Marcus, who had been her advisor. (I think of Marcus now as my grandadvisor, for multiple reasons, as will become clear soon.) The session was titled "Thinking Back Through Our Mothers: Feminist Revolutions in Modernism", the title being an homage to Marcus's essay "Thinking Back Through Our Mothers" from the 1981 anthology New Feminist Essays on Virginia Woolf, itself an homage to the phrase in Woolf's A Room of One's Own. Various former students and colleagues of Marcus would circulate papers among themselves, then discuss them together at the seminar. Because of the mechanics of seminars, participants need to sign up fairly early, and I'd only registered for the conference itself a few days before it began, so there wasn't even any guarantee I'd been able to observe; outside participation is at the discretion of the seminar leader. Thankfully, the seminar leader allowed three of us to join as observers. (I'm trying not to use any names here, simply because of the nature of a seminar. I haven't asked anybody if I can talk about them, and seminars are not public, though the participants are listed in the conference program.)

Marcus was a socialist feminist who was very concerned with bringing people to the table, whether metaphorical or literal, and so of course nobody in the seminar would put up with the auditors being out on the margins, and they insisted that we sit at the table and introduce ourselves. Without knowing it, I sat next to a senior scholar in the field whose work has been central to my own. I'd never seen a picture of her, and to my eyes she looked young enough to be a grad student (the older I get, the younger everybody else gets!). When she introduced herself, I became little more than a fanboy for a moment, and it took all the self-control I could muster not to blurt out some ridiculousness like, "I just love you!" Thankfully, the seminar got started and then there was too much to think about for my inner fanboy to unleash himself. (I did tell her afterwards how useful her work had been to me, because that just seemed polite. Even senior scholars spent a lot of hours working in solitude and obscurity, wondering if their often esoteric efforts will ever be of any use to anybody. I wanted her to knows that hers had.) It soon became the single best event I've ever attended at an academic conference.

Jane Marcus

To explain why, and to get to the bigger questions I want to address here, I have to take a bit of a tangent to talk briefly about a couple of other events.

The day before the Marcus seminar, I'd attended a terrible panel. The papers that were about things I knew about seemed shallow to me, and the papers not about things I knew about seemed like pointless wankery. I seriously thought about just going home. "These are not my people," I thought. "I do not want to be in their academic world."

I also attended a "keynote roundtable" session where three scholars — Heather K. Love, Janet Lyon, and Tavia Nyong’o — discussed the theme of the conference: modernism and revolution. Sort of. It was an odd event, where Love and Nyong'o were in conversation with each other and Janet Lyon was a bit marginalized, simply because her concerns were somewhat different from Love and Nyong'o's and she hadn't been part of what is apparently a longstanding discussion between them. I mention this not as criticism, really, because though the side-lining of Lyon felt weird and sometimes awkward, the discussion was nonetheless interesting and vexing in a productive way. (I know Love and Nyong'o's work, and appreciate it a lot.) I especially appreciated their ideas about academia as, ideally, a refuge for some types of people who lack a space in other institutions and have been marginalized by ruling powers, even if there are no real solutions, given how deeply infused with ideas of finance and "usefulness" the contemporary university is, how exploitative are the practices of even small schools. (Nyong'o works at NYU, an institution that has become the mascot for neoliberalism. His recent blog essay "The Student Demand" is important reading, and was referenced a number of times during the roundtable.) As schools make more and more destructive decisions at the level of administration and without the faculty having much obvious ability to challenge them, the position of the tenure-tracked, salaried faculty member of conscience is difficult, for all sorts of reasons I won't go into here. As Nyong'o and Love pointed out, the moral position must often be that of a criminal in your own institution.

All of this was on my mind the next day as I listened to discussions of Jane Marcus. After the seminar, some of us went out to lunch together and the discussion continued. What I kept thinking about was the idea of refuge, and the way that certain traditions of teaching and writing have opened up spaces of refuge within spaces of hostility. Marcus stands as an exemplar here, both in her writing and her pedagogy. The question everyone kept coming back to was: How do we continue that work?

In her 1982 essay "Storming the Toolshed", Marcus reflected on the position of various feminist critics ("lupines" — she appropriated Quentin Bell's dismissive term for feminist Woolfians, reminding us that it is also a name for a flower):
Feminists often feel forced by economic realities to choose other methodologies and structures that will ensure sympathetic readings from university presses.We may be as middle class as Virginia Woolf, but few of us have the economic security her aunt Caroline Emelia Stephen's legacy gave her. The samizdat circulation among networks of feminist critics works only in a system where repression is equal. If all the members are unemployed or underemployed, unpublished or unrecognized, sisterhood flourishes, and sharing is a source of strength. When we all compete for one job or when one lupine grows bigger and bluer than her sisters with unnatural fertilizers from the establishment, the ranks thin out. Times are hard and getting harder.
Listening to her students and colleagues remember her, I was struck by how well Marcus had tended her own garden, how well she had tried to keep it from being fatally poisoned by the unnatural fertilizers of the institutions of which she was a part. She found opportunities for her students to research and publish in all sorts of places, she supported scholars she admired, and when she couldn't find opportunities for other people's work, she did was she could to create them. She was tenacious, dogged, sometimes even insufferable. This clearly did not always lead to the easiest of relationships, even with some of her best friends and favorite students. As with so many brilliant people, her virtues were intimately linked to her faults. Jane Marcus without her faults would not have been Jane Marcus. Faults and all ("I've never been so mad at somebody!"; "We didn't speak to each other for a year"), again and again people said: "Jane gave me my life."

There seemed to be a sense among the seminar participants that the sort of politically-committed, class-conscious feminism that Marcus so proudly stood for is on the wane in academia, and that while the field of modernist studies may be more open to marginalized writers than it was 30 or 40 years ago, the teaching of modernism in university classes remains very male, very Eliot-Pound-Joyce, with a bit of Woolf thrown in as appeasement to the hysterics. (I have no idea whether this is generally accurate, as I have not done any study of what's getting taught in classes that cover modernist stuffs, but it was the specific experience of a number of people at the conference.) Since the late '90s, there's been the historically-minded New Modernist Studies*, but the question keeps coming up: Does the New Modernist Studies do away with gender ... and if so, is the New Modernist Studies a throwback to the pre-feminist days? Anne Fernald looked at the state of things in the introduction to the 2013 issue of Modern Fiction Studies that she edited, an issue devoted to women writers:
The historical turn has revitalized modernist studies. Beginning in the late 1990s, its impact continues in new book series from Oxford and Columbia University Presses; in the Modernist Studies Association (MSA), whose annual conference has attracted hundreds of scholars; and in burgeoning digital archives such as the Modernist Journals Project. Nonetheless, one hallmark of the new modernist studies has been its lack of serious interest in women writers. Mfs has consistently published feminist work on and by women writers, including special issues on Spark, Bowen, Woolf, and Stein; still, this is the journal’s first issue on feminism as such in nineteen years. Modernism/modernity, the flagship journal of the new modernism and the MSA, has not, in nineteen years, devoted a special issue to a women writer or to feminist theory. Only eight essays in that journal have “feminist” or “feminism” as a key term, while an additional twenty-six have “women” as a key term. And, although The Oxford Handbook of Global Modernisms includes many women contributors, only one of the twenty-eight chapters mentions women in its title, and, of the six authors mentioned by name, only one—Jean Rhys—is a woman.
Similarly, Marcus's socialism and Marxism may not be especially welcome among the New Modernists, for as Max Brzezinski polemically suggests in "The New Modernist Studies: What's Left of Political Formalism?", the New in New Modernist Studies could easily slip into the neo in neo-liberal.

For scholars who have at least some sympathy with Marcus's political stance, there's a lot of deja vu, even weariness. How long, they wonder, must the same battles be fought?

For once, I'm not as pessimistic as other people. Routledge is launching a new journal of feminist modernism (with Anne Fernald as co-editor). Within the world of Virginia Woolf studies, much attention is being paid to Woolf's connections to anti-colonialism and to her ever-more-interesting writings in the last decade of her life. There is a strong transnational and postcolonial tendency among many scholars of modernism of exactly the sort that Marcus herself called for and exemplified, particularly in her later writings. Vigilance is necessary, but vigilance is always necessary. Networks of scholars and traditions of inquiry that Marcus participated in, contributed to, and in some cases founded remain strong.

As some of the people at the conference lamented the steps backward to regressive, patriarchal views, I thought of how lucky I've been in how I've learned to read and perceive this undefinable thing we call "modernism". The modernisms I perceive are ones where women are central. The Joyce-Pound-Eliot modernism is one I'm familiar with, but not one I think of first.

2. Foremothers

I discovered Woolf right around the time I discovered Joyce and Kafka. I was too young (12 or 13) to understand any of their work in any meaningful way, but something about them fascinated me. I flipped through their books, which I found at the local college library. I read Kafka's shortest stories. I memorized the first few lines of Finnegans Wake, though never managed to get more than a few pages into the book itself. I read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, enjoying the first chapter very much and not getting a lot from the later ones (I still don't, honestly. My tastes aren't Catholic enough). I skimmed the last section of Ulysses, looking to see how Joyce made Molly Bloom's stream of consciousness work. And then I read the first few pages of Mrs. Dalloway. That wasn't a library book, but a book I bought with my scant bits of allowance money, saved up for probably a month. It was a mass market paperback with a bright yellow cover. I read the first 50 or so pages of the book and found it enthralling and perplexing. It ended up being too much for me. But there was something there. The first paragraphs were among the most beautiful things I'd ever read.

Skip ahead five or six years and I'm a student at NYU, studying Dramatic Writing. A friend I respect exhorts me to take a course with Ilse Dusoir Lind, who has mostly retired but comes back now and then to teach a seminar, this term on Faulkner and Hemingway. She wrote some of the earliest critical articles on Faulkner and, she later tells me, helped found the Women's Studies program at NYU. My friend was right: her class is remarkable. I don't much like Hemingway except for some of his short stories, but she takes us through The Sun Also Rises, various stories, and The Garden of Eden with panache. (I particularly remember how ridiculous and yet captivating she thought The Garden of Eden was.) And then of course Faulkner, her great love. She taught us to read The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom!, for which I will always be grateful. Thus, my first experience of academic modernism was an experience of two of the most major of major modernist men seen through the eyes of a brilliant woman.

Skip ahead a year or so later and I've just finished my junior year of college. I've decided to transfer from NYU to UNH for various reasons. It's a tough summer for me, a summer of reckoning with myself and my world. I work at the Plymouth State College bookstore, a place I've worked on and off for a number of summers since middle school. That June, the College is hosting the International Virginia Woolf Society's annual conference, organized by a relatively new member of the PSC English Department, Jeanne Dubino. My colleagues at the bookstore are all working as volunteers at the conference. They introduce me to Jeanne and I join the ranks of the volunteers. The bookstore goes all-out with displays. We stock pretty much every book by and about Woolf in print in the US. I remember opening the boxes and helping to shelve the books. None of us were efficient at shelving because we couldn't stop looking at the books.

Hermione Lee's biography had just come out and we hung a giant poster of it up. I bought a copy (35% employee discount!) and began to devour it. One night, I was working the registration desk. Hermione Lee came in. She was giving the keynote address. She was late, having been delayed by weather or something. She was tired, but friendy. "Can I still get my registration materials?" she asked. "Certainly," I said. "And might I ask you to sign my book in return?" She laughed, said of course, and did so while I finished with her paperwork.

I found the conference enthralling. I never wanted to go home. (My parents had just divorced; being at the conference was much more fun than being at the house with my father.) The passion of the participants was contagious. Jeanne was astoundingly composed and friendly for someone in charge of a whole academic conference, and we continued to talk about Woolf now and then until she left Plymouth for other climes. I got to know Woolf because I got to know Jeanne.

Skip forward 6 months to the spring term of my senior year at UNH. By some bit of luck and magic, the English Department offered an upper-level seminar on Woolf this term and I was able to fit it into my schedule. I was the only male in the class, and relatively early on one of the other students said to me, in a tone of voice reserved for a rare and yet quite unappealing insect, "Why are you here?" (What did I reply? I don't remember. I probably said because I like Woolf. Or maybe: Why not?) The instructor was Jean Kennard. We read all of the novels except Night and Day, plus we read A Room of One's Own, Three Guineas, and numerous essays. It was one of the hardest courses I've ever taken, either undergrad or grad, and one of the best. It exhausted me to the bone, and yet I wouldn't have wanted it to do anything less. Few courses have ever stayed with me so well or let me draw on what I learned in them for so long. Prof. Kennard was exacting, interesting, and intimidatingly knowledgeable. I didn't dare read with anything less than close attention and care, even if that meant not sleeping much during the term, because I feared she would ask me a question in class and I would be unprepared and give a terrible answer, and there was no way I was going to allow myself to do that because I already identified as someone for whom Virginia Woolf's work was important. I figured either I'd do well in the class or I'd collapse and be put on medical leave. (I had other classes, of course, and I was acting in some plays, and there was a bit of work on the side to give me some income, so not many free hours for sleeping.)

In the days of the LitBlog Co-op in the early 2000s, I met Anne Fernald. I didn't know she was a Woolfian or involved in modernist studies; I knew her as a blogger. Eventually, we talked about Woolf. (When I moved to New Jersey in the summer of 2007, Anne gave me a tour of the area. I remember asking her how work on a critical edition of Mrs. Dalloway was coming, naively expecting that work must be almost done. We had to wait a few more years. It was worth the wait.)

I didn't really encounter modernism in a classroom again until recently, because it wasn't a part of my master's degree work, except peripherally in that to study Samuel Delany's influences, which I did for the master's thesis, meant to study a lot of modernism, though modernism through his eyes. But his eyes are those of a black, queer man influenced by many women and committed to feminism, so once again my view of modernism was not that of the patriarchal white order, even though plenty of white guys were important to it.

And then PhD classes and research, where once again women were central. (It was in one such class that I first read Jane Marcus's Hearts of Darkness: White Women Write Race.)

Thus, this quick overview of my own journey is a story of women and modernism. My own learning is very much the product of the sorts of efforts that Marcus and other feminist modernists made possible, the work they devoted their lives to. They are my foremothers, and the foremothers of so many other people as well. My experience may be unique in its weird bouncing across geographies and decades and media (I've never been very good at planning my life), but I hope it is not uncommon.

3. Reading Marcus

I've been reading lots of Jane Marcus for the last month or so. Previously, I'd only read Hearts of Darkness and a couple of the most famous earlier essays. Now, though, I've been combing through books and databases in search of her work. (At the MSA seminar, someone who had had to submit Marcus's CV for a grant application said it was 45 pages long. She published hundreds of essays and review-essays in addition to her books.)

I'm tempted to drop lots of quotes here — Marcus is eminently quotable. But perhaps a better use of this space would be to think about Marcus's own style of writing and thinking, the way she formed and organized her essays, which, much like Woolf's many essays, show a process of thought in development.

At the end of the first chapter of Hearts of Darkness, which collects some of her more recent work, Marcus writes:
The effort of these essays is toward an understanding of what marks the text in its context, to hear the humming noise whose rhythm alerts us to the time and place that produced it, as well as the edgy avant-garde tones of its projection into the modernist future. For modernism has had much more of a future than one could have imagined. In a new century the questions still before me concern the responsibility for writing those once vilified texts into classic status in a new social imaginary. If it was once the critic's role to argue the case for canonizing such works, perhaps it is now her role to question their status and explore their limits.
This statement concisely maps the direction of Marcus's thinking over the course of her career. Her efforts were first to recover texts that had fallen out of the sight of even the most serious of readers, then to advocate for those texts' merits, then to convince her students and colleagues to add those texts to curricula and, in many cases, to help bring them back into print. She argued, for instance, for a particular version of Virginia Woolf, one at odds with a common presentation of Woolf as fragile and apolitical and sensitive and tragic. Marcus was having none of that. Woolf was a remarkably strong woman, a nuanced political thinker whose ideas developed significantly over time and came to a kind of fruition in the 1930s, and a far more complex artist than she was said to be. Later, though, Marcus didn't need Woolf to be quite so much of a hero. She was still all the things she had been before, but she was also flawed, particularly when it came to race. The Woolf that Marcus looks at in "'A Very Fine Negress'" and "Britannia Rules The Waves" is in many ways an even more interesting Woolf than in Marcus's earlier writings, because she is still a Woolf of immense depth but also immense contradictions and blind spots and very human failures of perception and sympathy. Marcus's earlier Woolf is Wonder Woman (though one too often mistaken for a mousy, oversensitive, snobby, mentally ill Diana Prince), but her later Woolf is more like a brilliant, frustrating friend; someone striving to overcome all sorts of circumstances, someone capable of the most beautiful creations and insights, and yet also sometimes crushingly disappointing, sometimes even embarrassing. A human Woolf from whom we can learn so much about our own human failings. After all, if someone as remarkable as Woolf could be so flawed in some of her perceptions, what about us? In exploring the limits and questioning the status of the works we once needed to argue into the mainstream conversation, we also remind ourselves of our own limits, and perhaps we develop better tools with which to question our own status in whatever places, times, and circumstances we happen to inhabit.

This is not to say that Marcus's early work is irrelevant. Not at all. It is still quite thrilling to read, and rich with necessary insights. (If anything, it does make me sad that a number of her best, most cutting insights about academia and power relations remain fresh today. There's been progress, yes, but not nearly enough, and much that was bad in the past repeats and repeats into our future.) Here's an example, from a May 1987 review in the Women's Review of Books of E. Sylvia Pankhurst: Portrait of a Radical by Patricia Romero, a book Marcus thought misrepresented and misinterpreted its subject. Near the end, after detailing all the ways Romero fails Pankhurst, Marcus makes a sharp joke:
Sylvia Pankhurst has had her come-uppance so many times in this book that there's hardly anywhere for her to come down to. Romero says that she met her husband on the same day that she met Sylvia Pankhurst's statue in Ethiopia. One hopes that he fared better than Sylvia.
Ouch. But this joke serves as a conclusion to the litany of Romero's failures as Marcus saw them and turns then to a larger point:
Let it be clear that I am not calling for nurturant biographies of feminist heroines. I, too, as a student of suffrage, have several bones to pick with Sylvia Pankhurst. In writing The Suffragette Movement she not only distorted history to aggrandize the role of working-class suffragettes in winning the vote, but, more importantly, she wrote the script of the suffrage struggle as a family romance, a public Cinderella story with her mother and sister cast as the Wicked Stepmother and Stepsister. It was this script which provided George Dangerfield and almost every subsequent historian of suffrage with the materials for reading the movement as a comedy. Sylvia provided them with a false class analysis which persists. Patricia Romero now unwittingly wears the mantle woven by Sylvia Pankhurst as the historian so bent on the ruthless exposure of her subject that she gives the enemies of women another hysteric to batter — though the prim biographer would doubtless be horrified at the suggestion that the Sylvia Pankhurst whom she despises and exposes was engaged in a project similar to her own and is, in fact, her predecessor.
Such an amazingly rich paragraph! The review up to now has been Marcus showing the ways that she thinks Romero misrepresents Sylvia Pankhurst, and the effect is mostly to make us think Marcus venerates Pankhurst totally and is defending the honor of a hero against a detractor. But no. Her message is that feminist history deserves better: it deserves accuracy. Both Romero and Pankhurst failed this imperative by letting their ideologies and prejudices hide and mangle nuances. Both Romero and Pankhurst, wittingly or unwittingly, presented the deadly serious history of the suffrage movement as comedy. Both, wittingly or unwittingly, provided cover and even ammunition for misogynistic discourse. And that, ultimately, is the argument of Marcus's review. She sees her job as a reviewer not to be someone who gives thumbs up or thumbs down, but to be someone who can analyze what sort of conversation the book under review enters into and supports. The limitations she sees in the book are not just the limitations of one book, but limitations endemic to an entire way of presenting history.

She then brings the review back to Pankhurst and Romero's portrait of her, and now we as readers can appreciate a larger vantage to the evaluation, because we know it's not just about this book, but about historiography and feminism. Marcus mentions some other, better books (a hallmark of her reviews: she never leaves the reader wondering what else there is to read — in negative reviews such as this one, it's books that do a better job; in positive reviews, it's other books that contribute valuable knowledge to the conversation), then:
The problem with the historian's project of setting the record straight is that it flourishes best with a crooked record, the crookeder the better. Romero has found in Sylvia Pankhurst's life the perfect crooked record to suit her own iconoclastic urge.
We might think that Marcus here is holding herself apart from "the historian's project of setting the record straight", that she is setting herself up as somehow perfect in her own sensibilities. But in the next sentence she shows that is not the case:
Admitting one's own complicity as a feminist in all such iconoclastic activity, one is still disappointed in the results. I came to this book anticipating with a certain relish the pleasure of seeing Sylvia Pankhurst put in her place. But because the author writes with such contempt for her subject as well as for activism of all kinds, I came away with a deep respect for Sylvia Pankhurst and the work she did for social justice.
To be a feminist is to be iconoclastic. To be a feminist is to be faced with many crooked records. But this book can serve, Marcus seems to be saying, a warning of what can happen when the desire to be an iconoclast overcomes the desire to be accurate, and when one is tempted to add some crooks to the record before straightening it out. The danger is clearly implied: Beware that you do not depart too far from accuracy, lest you lead your reader to the opposite of the conclusions you want to impart.

Marcus would have been a wonderful blogger. Her writing style is discursive, filled with offhand references that would make for marvelous hyperlinks, and she doesn't waste a lot of time on transitions between ideas. At the MSA seminar, someone said that Marcus's process was to write lots of fragments and then edit them together when she needed a paper. Her writing is a kind of assemblage, both in the sense of Duchamp et al. and of Deleuze & Guattari.

(In the course where we read Hearts of Darkness, one of the other students pointed out that Marcus jumps all over the place and rarely seems to have a clear thesis — her ideas are accumulative, sometimes tangential, a series of insights working together toward an intellectual symphony. If we were to write like that, this student said, wouldn't we just get criticized for lack of focus, wouldn't our work be rejected by all the academic publishers we so desperately need to please if we are to have any hope of getting jobs or tenure? "She can write like that," our instructor said, "because she's Jane Marcus." Which in many ways is true. We read Jane Marcus to follow the lines of thought that Jane Marcus writes. It's hard to start out writing like that, but once you have a reputation, once your work is read because of your byline and not just because of your subject matter, you have more freedom of form. And yet I also think we should be working toward a world that allows and perhaps even encourages such writing, regardless of fame. Too many academic essays I read are distorted by the obsession with having a central claim; they sacrifice insight for repetitious metalanguage and constant drumbeating of The Major Point. It's no fun to read and it makes the writing feel like a tedious explication of the essay's own abstract. Marcus's writing has the verve, energy, and surprise of good essayistic writing. This was quite deliberate on her part — see her comments in "Still Practice, A/Wrested Alphabet: Toward a Feminist Aesthetic" on Woolf as an essayist versus so many contemporary theorists. I don't entirely agree with her argument, since I don't think "difficult" writing should only be the province of "creative writers" and not critics, but I'd also much prefer that writers who are not geniuses aspire to write more like Woolf in her essays than like Derrida. And the insistence that academic writers build Swamp Thing jargonmonsters to prove their bona fides is ridiculous.)

Her discursive, sometimes rambling style serves Marcus well because it allows her to connect ideas that might otherwise get left by the wayside. Marcus makes the essay form do what it is best at doing. Her 1997 essay "Working Lips, Breaking Hearts: Class Acts in American Feminism" masterfully demonstrates this. At its most basic level, the essay is a review (or, as Marcus says, "a reading") of Listening to Silences: New Essays in Feminist Criticism, which builds off of the work of Tillie Olsen, particularly her invaluable book Silences. But Marcus's essay is far more than just a look at this one anthology — it is also a tribute to Tillie Olsen, who herself influenced Marcus tremendously, a study of feminist-socialist theory and history, a manifesto about canons and canonicity, a personal memoir, and even, in one moving footnote, an obituary for Constance Coiner, a feminist scholar who died in the crash of TWA flight 800.

By writing about Olsen, a generation her elder, Marcus is able to take a long view of American feminism, its past and future. She's writing just as the feminists of the 1970s are becoming elders themselves and a new generation of feminists is moving the cause into new directions, often without sufficient attention to history. Discussing one of the essays in Listening to Silences, she writes:
More troublesome (or perhaps merely more difficult for me to see because of my own positionality) is Carla Kaplan's claim that my generation of American feminist critics used a reading model "based on identification of reader and heroine, and it tended to ignore class and race differences among women" (10). She assumes that the generation influenced by Olsen always produced such limited readings of exemplary texts — Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper", Susan Glaspell's "A Jury of Her Peers", and Isak Dinesen's "The Blank Page" — without acknowledging that there was a strong and vocal objection to reading these texts historically as merely embodying the interests of certain feminist critics themselves. I know I was not alone in choosing never to teach them. (I have often said that these texts were chosen because they reflected the experience of feminists in the academy.) In addition, it seems important to make clear that the differences among women made by race, class, and sexual orientation were marked by many critics at the time (always by Gayatri Spivak and Lillian Robinson, e.g., and often by other nonmainstream feminist critics). There is a real danger in essentializing the work of a whole generation of feminists.
What Marcus repeatedly did for the history of British modernism, especially in the 1930s, she here does for the history of the movement she herself was part of: She calls for us not to reduce the history to a single tendency, not to make the participants into clones and drones. She acknowledges that some feminists in the 1970s and 1980s read from a place of self-identification, oblivious to race and class, but exhorts us to remember that not everyone did, and that in fact there was discussion among feminists not only about race and class, but about how to read as a feminist. She doesn't want to see her own generation and movement reduced to stereotypes in the way the British writers of the 1930s especially were. Throughout Hearts of Darkness, she writes about Nancy Cunard, first to overcome the many slanders of Cunard over the decades, but also to offer a useful contrast with Woolf in terms of racial perceptions and desires. She wants attention to Claude McKay and Mulk Raj Anand because only reading white and mostly male writers distorts history, which distorts our perception of ourselves: "It is my opinion that the study of the period would be greatly enriched by wresting it from the hands of those who leave out the women and the people of color who were active in the struggle for social change in Britain. It is important for students to know that leftists in the thirties were not all leviathans on the questions of race, gender, and class. Not all their hearts were dark. ...the critics before us deliberately left us in the dark about the presence of black and South Asian intellectuals on the cultural scene" (181). (Peter Kalliney's recent Commonwealth of Letters does some of the work of tracing these networks, and Anna Snaith has done exemplary work in and around all of this.)

"Working Lips, Breaking Hearts" brings all of these interests together, and does so not only for British and U.S. writers and activists of the 1930s, but also for Marcus's own generation of feminists. This is our history, she seems to say, and we must take care of it, or else what was done to the people of the 1930s by historians and literary critics will be done to us.

In "Suptionpremises", a blistering 2002 review-essay about critics' interpretations of whites' uses of black culture in the 1920s and 1930s, Marcus wrote:
Why should cross-racial identification with the oppressed be perceived as evil? Certainly, while it was both romantic and revolutionary and very much of the period, such love for the Other is not in itself a social evil. The embrace of the Other and the Other’s values and the Other’s arts, language, and music, has often been progressive. Interracial sex and interracial politics were and are important to any radical cultural agenda. Cunard and [Carl] Van Vechten were not sleeping with the enemy. One might even say that the bed, the barricade, the studio, and the boîte, or Paris nightclub, were the sites where the barriers to progressive human behavior were broken down.

But the mistaking of those whites who loved blacks, however motivated by desire, politics, or by sheer pleasure at hearing the music and seeing the extraordinary art of another people, as merely a set of cultural thieves does not contribute to our understanding of the cultural forces at work here.
The cultural forces at work were ones Marcus begins to see as queer:
The fear that motivates [critics] North, Douglas, and Gubar is the taint of the sexually perverse. What is the fear that motivates Archer-Straw and Bernard? Is it fear of the damage done to the stability of the black family and the wholeness of black art by the attention of queer white men and white women who broke the sexual race barrier? If we try to look at this from outside the separatist anxieties that are awakened on both sides of the color line by these early personal and political crossings, the modernist figures represent a rare coming together of radical politics, African and African American art and culture, and white internationalist avant-garde and Surrealist intellectuals. These encounters deserve attention as a queer moment in cultural history and I think that is the only way to get beyond the impasse of discomfort about the modernist race pioneers in our current critical thinking. If it is because of a certain liberated queer sexuality that certain figures could cross the color line, could try to speak black slang, however silly it sounded, then sex will have to take its place as a major component in the translation of ideas.
As she so often did, Marcus pays attention here to what she thinks are the forces and desires that construct certain interpretations. "Why this?" she asks again and again, "and why now?" What sort of work do these kinds of interpretations do, whom do they help and whom do they hurt, what do they make visible and what do they leave invisible? What social or personal need do they seem to serve? And then the implied question: Whom do my own interpretations help or hurt? What do I make visible or invisible by offering such an interpretation?

One of Marcus's masterpieces was not a book she wrote herself, but an annotated edition of Woolf's Three Guineas that she edited for Harcourt, published in 2006. Three Guineas had not been served well by most critics and editors over the years, and Marcus's edition was the first American edition to include the photographs Woolf originally included, but which, for reasons no-one I know of has been able to figure out, were dropped from all printings of the book after Woolf's death. Marcus provided a 35-page introduction, excerpts from Woolf's scrapbooks, annotations that sometimes become mini-essays of their own, and an annotated bibliography. It's a model of a scholarly edition aimed at common readers (as opposed to a scholarly edition aimed at scholars, which is a different [and also necessary] beast, e.g. the Shakespeare Head editions and the Cambridge editions of Woolf). (She had already laid out her principles for such Woolf editions in a jaunty, often funny, utterly overstuffed, and quite generous review of [primarily] Oxford and Penguin editions in 1994, and it seems to me that we can feel her chomping at the bit to do one of her own.) Three Guineas is in many ways the key text for Marcus, a book overlooked and scorned, even hated, but which she finds immense meaning in. Her annotated edition allows her to show exactly what meanings within the text so deeply affected her. It's a great gift, this edition, because it not only gives us a very good edition of an important book, but it lets us read along with Jane Marcus.

It's unfortunate that Marcus never got to realize her dream of a complete and unbowdlerized edition of Cunard's Negro anthology. Copyright law probably makes re-issuing the book an impossible task for at least another generation, given how many writers and artists it includes, although perhaps a publisher in a country with less absurd copyright regulations than the US could do it. (Aside: This is yet another example of how long copyright extensions destroy cultural knowledge.) Even the highly edited version from 1970 is now out of print, though given how Marcus blamed that edition for many misinterpretations of Cunard and her work, I doubt she'd be mourning its loss. I wish somebody could create a digital edition, at least. Even an illegal digital edition. Indeed, that would perhaps be most in the spirit of the original text and of Marcus — somebody should get hold of a copy of the first edition, scan it, and upload it to Pirate Bay. We need to be criminals in our institutions, after all...

4. Refuge and the Criminal

Let us go then, you and I, back to where we began: refuge and revolutions.
"the numbers show that the teaching staff at America's universities are much whiter and much more male than the general population, with Hispanics and African Americans especially underrepresented. At some schools, like Harvard, Stanford, the University of Michigan, and Princeton, there are more foreign teachers than Hispanic and black teachers combined. The Ivy League's gender stats are particularly damning; men make up 68 percent and 70 percent of the teaching staff at Harvard and Princeton, respectively." Mother Jones, 23 November 2015
(Somewhere, Jane Marcus says that we may have to work and live in institutions, but that doesn't mean we have to like them.)
"Experts think that the more than $1.3 trillion in outstanding education debt in the U.S. is more than that of the rest of the world combined." Bloomberg, 13 October 2015
My own assemblage here breaks down, because I have no conclusions, only impressions and questions.

Photo: Nabil K. Mark, AP

Right now we are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, a refugee crisis. In my own state of New Hampshire, the Democratic governor, Maggie Hassan, said there should be a halt to accepting all refugees from Syria. It is an ignorant and immoral statement. Maggie Hassan is a typical centrist Democrat, always rushing to put disempowered people in the middle of the road to get run over by the monster trucks of the ruling class.
"Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, including the recent mass killing in Charleston, S.C., compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists, according to a count by New America, a Washington research center." NYT, 24 June 2015
Yesterday (as I write this), a man walked into a Planned Parenthood clinic with a gun. He killed three people before police were able to take him into custody. It was an act of terrorism, but will seldom be labelled that. Maggie Hassan will not call for middle-aged white men with beards to be barred from entry.
"The Republicans also organized a gun-buyer’s club, meeting in a conference room during work hours to design custom-made, monogrammed, silver-plated 'Tiffany-style' Glock 9 mm semi-automatic pistols." Slate, 24 November 2015
As I write this, U.S. police officers have killed 1,033 people this year, including 204 unarmed people. The shooter at the Planned Parenthood clinic is very lucky to be alive. This proves it is actually possible for U.S. police not to kill people they intend to take into custody, even when they're armed. If the shooter had been a black man, though, I expect he would be dead right now.
"'We are locked and loaded,' he says, holding up a black 1911-style pistol. As he flashes the gun, he explains amid racial slurs that the men are headed to the Black Lives Matter protest outside Minneapolis’ Fourth Precinct police headquarters. Their mission, he says, is 'a little reverse cultural enriching.'" Minneapolis Star Tribune, 25 November 2015
Laquan McDonald had a small folding knife and was running away. 16 bullets took him down.

(Have you seen M.I.A.'s new video, "Borders"? You should.)

(What can we use, too, from Wendy Brown's recent discussion of rifts over gender and womanhood? What is getting lost, and what is newly seen?)
"The year-to-date temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.55°F (0.86°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest for January–October in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set in 2014 by 0.22°F (0.12°C). Eight of the first ten months in 2015 have been record warm for their respective months." —National Centers for Environmental Information
(I could go on and on and on. I won't, for all our sakes.)

After listening to Heather Love and Tavia Nyong'o at MSA, I came back to the idea I've been tossing around, inspired by Steve Shaviro's great book No Speed Limit, of the value of aesthetics to at least stand outside neoliberalism. Love and Nyong'o seemed dismissive of aesthetics, and I wanted to mention Commonwealth of Letters to them, and propose that perhaps if an art-for-art's-sake aesthetic is not, obviously, an instigator of utopian revolution, it may be a refuge. Kalliney shows that such an attention to aesthetics was just that for some colonial subjects in the 1930s who came to London to be writers and intellectuals. I am wary of an anti-aesthetic politics, a politics that seeks revolution but not the good life, a politics that does the work of neoliberalism by insisting on usefulness.

The university certainly has been an imperfect refuge, often just the opposite of refuge. Aesthetic attention will not open up a panacea or a utopia, nor will the refuge it provides be significantly more just and effective than the refuge of academia. But it is not nothing, and it is not anti-political. I think Marcus's writings demonstrate that. She recuperates The Years and Three Guineas not only by arguing for their political power, but for their aesthetic achievements. They survive, and we who cherish them are able to cherish them, not only because of what they say, but how they say it. Form matters. Form is matter.

Which is not to say, of course, that we should descend into a shallow formalism any more than we should wrap ourselves in the righteousness of an easy economism. Remember history. Remember nuance. Remember not to distort realities for the sake of an easy point. Don't provide cover for the exploiters and oppressors.

5. Art and Anger

Photographs of suffragettes lying bloody, hair dishevelled, hats askew, roused public anger toward the women, not their assailants. They were unladylike; they provoked the authorities. Demonstrations by students and blacks arouse similar responses. Thejustice of a cause is enhanced by the nonviolence of its adherents. But the response of the powerful when pressed for action has been such that only anger and violence have won change in the law or government policy. Similar contradictions and a double standard have characterized attitudes toward anger itself. While for the people, anger has been denounced as one of the seven deadly sins, divines and churchmen have always defended it as a necessary attribute of the leader. "Anger is one of the sinews of the soul" wrote Thomas Fuller, "he that wants it hath a maimed mind." "Anger has its proper use" declared Cardinal Manning, "Anger is the executive power of justice." Anger signifies strength in the strong, weakness in the weak. An angry mother is out of control; an angry father is exercising his authority. Our culture's ambivalence about anger reflects its defense of the status quo; the terrible swift sword is for fathers and kings, not daughters and subjects. The story of Judith and the story of Antigone have not been part of the education of daughters, as both Elizabeth Robins and Virginia Woolf point out, unless men have revised and rewritten them. It is hardly possible to read the poetry of Sappho, they both assure us, separate from centuries of scholarly calumny.
—Jane Marcus, "Art and Anger"

Why not create a new form of society founded on poverty and equality? Why not bring together people of all ages and both sexes and all shades of fame and obscurity so that they can talk, without mounting platforms or reading papers or wearing expensive clothes or eating expensive food? Would not such a society be worth, even as a form of education, all the papers on art and literature that have ever been read since the world began? Why not abolish prigs and prophets? Why not invent human intercourse? Why not try?
—Virginia Woolf, "Why?"

*In "Planetarity: Musing Modernist Studies", Susan Stanford Friedman sums up some of the changes that made the New Modernist Studies seem new: "Modernism, for many, became a reflection of and engagement with a wide spectrum of historical changes, including intensified and alienating urbanization; the cataclysms of world war and technological progress run amok; the rise and fall of European empires; changing gender, class, and race relations; and technological inventions that radically changed the nature of everyday life, work, mobility, and communication. Once modernity became the defining cause of aesthetic engagements with it, the door opened to thinking about the specific conditions of modernity for different genders, races, sexualities, nations, and so forth. Modernity became modernities, a pluralization that spawned a plurality of modernisms and the circulations among them.

0 Comments on Thinking Back with Our Foremothers: For Jane Marcus as of 11/28/2015 4:03:00 PM
Add a Comment
9. Humble Bundle Offers an X-Files Comics Package

X Files Logo (GalleyCat)IDW Publishing has established a new partnership with Humble Bundle. The two collaborators have crafted an X-Files themed comics package.

Customers can choose between the publisher or a non-profit as the recipient of their money. They have two options: the Traveling Stories organization and Choose Your Own Charity (a selection of 30,000 charities). It will be available until Dec. 02, 2015 at 11 a.m. Pacific Time.

Here’s more from the press release: “Customers can name their price for: The X-Files Classics Vol. 1, The X-Files: Season 10, Vol. 1 (#1 – 5), The X-Files: Season 10, Vol. 2 (#6 – 10), The X-Files Classics: Season One, Vol. 1, and The X-Files: Year Zero (#1 – 5). Those who pay more than the average price will also receive: The X-Files Classics Vol. 2, The X-Files Classics Vol. 3, The X-Files: Season 10, Vol. 3 (#11 – 15), The X-Files: Season 10, Vol. 4 (#16 – 20), The X-Files Classics: Season One, Vol. 2, The X-Files Annual 2014, The X-Files Archives, Vol. 1: Whirlwind & Ruins, The X-Files Annual 2015, and The X-Files Classics Vol. 4. Customers who pay $15 or more will receive all of the above plus: The X-Files: Season 11 #1, The X-Files: Season 11 #2, The X-Files: Season 11 #3, The X-Files: Season 10, Vol. 5 (#21 – 25), The X-Files Classics: Ground Zero, and The X-Files: Trust No One.”

Add a Comment
10. Chris Van Allsburg and Eric Carle Debut on the Indie Bestseller List

Dream Snow Cover (GalleyCat)We’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending Nov. 22, 2015–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #3 in Hardcover Fiction) The Guilty by David Baldacci: “Will Robie escaped his small Gulf Coast hometown of Cantrell, Mississippi after high school, severing all personal ties, and never looked back. Not once. Not until the unimaginable occurs. His father, Dan Robie, has been arrested and charged with murder.” (Nov. 2015)

(Debuted at #6 in Children’s Illustrated) The Polar Express (The 30th Anniversary Edition) by Chris Van Allsburg: “A young boy, lying awake one Christmas Eve, is welcomed aboard a magical trip to the North Pole…” (Sept. 2015)

(Debuted at #8 in Children’s Illustrated) Dream Snow by Eric Carle: “It’s December 24th, and the old farmer settles down for a winter’s nap, wondering how Christmas can come when there is no snow! It is in his dream that he imagines a snowstorm coming and covering him and his animals—named One, Two, Three, Four and Five—in a snowy blanket.” (Sept. 2000)

Add a Comment
11. Women onstage and offstage in Elizabethan England

Though a Queen ruled England, gender equality certainly wasn't found in Elizabethan society. Everything from dress to employment followed strict gender roles, and yet there was a certain amount of room for play. There are several cases of (in)famous women who dressed as men and crossed the bounds of "acceptable behavior."

The post Women onstage and offstage in Elizabethan England appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on Women onstage and offstage in Elizabethan England as of 11/28/2015 6:49:00 AM
Add a Comment
12. Mitochondria donation: an uncertain future?

Earlier this year, UK Parliament voted to change the law to support new and controversial in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) procedures known as ‘mitochondrial donation’. The result is that the UK is at the cutting-edge of mitochondrial science and the only country in the world to legalise germ-line technologies. The regulations came into force on 29th October this year, and clinics are now able to apply for a licence.

The post Mitochondria donation: an uncertain future? appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on Mitochondria donation: an uncertain future? as of 11/27/2015 7:45:00 AM
Add a Comment
13. The life of culture

Does culture really have a life of its own? Are cultural trends, fashions, ideas, and norms like organisms, evolving and weaving our minds and bodies into an ecological web? You hear a pop song a few times and suddenly find yourself humming the tune. You unthinkingly adopt the vocabulary and turns of phrase of your circle of friends.

The post The life of culture appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on The life of culture as of 11/28/2015 4:29:00 AM
Add a Comment
14. What I learned about al Qaeda from analyzing the Bin Laden tapes

In the months following the Taliban's evacuation of Kandahar, Afghanistan, in December 2001, cable news networks set up operations in the city in order to report on the war. In the dusty back rooms of a local recording studio, a CNN stringer came across an extraordinary archive: roughly 1,500 audiotapes taken from Osama bin Laden's residence, where he had lived from 1997-2001, during al Qaeda's most coherent organizational momentum.

The post What I learned about al Qaeda from analyzing the Bin Laden tapes appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on What I learned about al Qaeda from analyzing the Bin Laden tapes as of 11/27/2015 7:45:00 AM
Add a Comment
15. J.K. Rowling Fuels a Twitter Debate on Severus Snape

rowlingHave you ever wondered about how Harry Potter came to choose the middle name of his second son? Fans sent their questions via Twitter to J.K. Rowling in the hopes of learning why Harry chose to honor his former Potions Master by naming one of children Albus Severus Potter.

To the Twittersphere’s delight, Rowling decided to answer these burning questions with a lengthy explanation. Below, we’ve chronicled all of the exchanges in a Storify post embedded below—what do you think? (via Mashable)

Add a Comment
16. What a load of BS: Q&A with Mark Peters

Terms for bullshit in the English language have grown so vast it has now become a lexicon itself. We talked to Mark Peters, author of Bullshit: A Lexicon, about where the next set of new terms will come from, why most of the words are farm related, and bullshit in politics.

The post What a load of BS: Q&A with Mark Peters appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on What a load of BS: Q&A with Mark Peters as of 11/27/2015 7:45:00 AM
Add a Comment
17. Analysing what Shakespeare has to say about gender

Humans are very good at reading from start to finish and collecting lots of information to understand the aggregated story a text tells, but they are very bad at keeping track of the details of language in use across many texts.

The post Analysing what Shakespeare has to say about gender appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on Analysing what Shakespeare has to say about gender as of 11/28/2015 9:07:00 AM
Add a Comment
18. Review: Dolphin SOS, by Roy Miki & Slavia Miki and Julie Flett

Dolphin SOS, written by Roy Miki and Slavia Miki, illustrated by Julie Flett, afterword by Richard Cannings (Tradewind Books, 2014)


Dolphin SOS
written by Roy Miki and Slavia Miki, illustrated by Julie Flett, afterword by Richard Cannings
(Tradewind … Continue reading ...

Add a Comment
19. Review of the Day: The Red Hat by David Teague

51xONVs2CGLThe Red Hat
By David Teague
Illustrated by Antoinette Portis
Disney Hyperion (an imprint of Disney Book Group)
ISBN: 9781423134114
Ages 4-7
On shelves December 8th

There is a story out there, and I don’t know if it is true, that the great children’s librarian Anne Carroll Moore had such a low opinion of children’s books that involved “gimmicks” (read: interactive elements of any sort) that upon encountering them she’d dismiss each and every one with a single word: Truck. If it was seen as below contempt, it was “truck”. Pat the Bunny, for example, was not to her taste, but it did usher in a new era of children’s literature. Books that, to this day, utilize different tricks to engage the interest of child readers. In the best of cases the art and the text of a picture book are supposed to be of the highest possible caliber. To paraphrase Walter de la Mare, only the rarest kind of best is good enough for our kids, yes? That said, not all picture books have to attempt to be works of great, grand literature and artistic merit. There are funny books and silly ones that do just as well. Take it a step even farther, and I’d say that the interactive elements that so horrified Ms. Moore back in the day have great potential to aid in storytelling. Though she would be (rightly) disgusted by books like Rainbow Fish that entice children through methods cheap and deeply unappealing, I fancy The Red Hat would have given her pause. After considering the book seriously, a person can’t dismiss it merely because it tends towards the shiny. Lovingly written and elegantly drawn, Teague and Portis flirt with transparent spot gloss, but it’s their storytelling and artistic choices that will keep their young readers riveted.

With a name like Billy Hightower, it’s little wonder that the boy in question lives “atop the world’s tallest building”. It’s a beautiful view, but a lonely one, so when a construction crew one day builds a tower across the way, the appearance of a girl in a red hat intrigues Billy. Desperate to connect with her, he attempts various methods of communication, only to be stumped by the wind at every turn. Shouting fails. Paper airplanes plummet. A kite dances just out of reach. Then Billy tries the boldest method of reaching the girl possible, only to find that he himself is snatched from her grasp. Fortunately a soft landing and a good old-fashioned elevator trump the wind at last. Curlicues of spot gloss evoke the whirly-twirly wind and all its tricksy ways.

Great Moments of Spot Gloss in Picture Book History: Um . . . hm. That’s a stumper. I’m not saying it’s never happened. I’m just saying that when I myself try to conjure up a book, any book, that’s ever used it to proper effect, I pull up a blank. Now what do I mean exactly when I say this book is using this kind of “gloss”? Well, it’s a subtle layer of shininess. Not glittery, or anything so tawdry as that. From cover to interior spreads, these spirals of gloss evoke the invisible wind. They’re lovely but clearly mischievous, tossing messages and teasing the ties of a hat. Look at the book a couple times and you notice that the only part of the book that does not contain this shiny wind is the final two-page image of our heroes. They’re outdoors but the wind has been defeated in the face of Billy’s persistence. If you feel a peace looking at the two kids eyeing one another, it may have less to do with what you see than what you don’t.

Naturally Antoinette Portis is to be credited here, though I don’t know if the idea of using the spot gloss necessarily originated with her. It is possible that the book’s editor tossed Portis the manuscript with the clear understanding that gloss would be the name of the game. That said, I felt like the illustrator was given a great deal of room to grow with this book. I remember back in the day when her books Not a Box and Not a Stick were the height of 32-page minimalism. She has such a strong sense of design, but even when she was doing books like Wait and the rather gloriously titled Princess Super Kitty her color scheme was standard. In The Red Hat all you have to look at are great swath of blue, the black and white of the characters, an occasional jab of gray, and the moments when red makes an appearance. There is always a little jolt of red (around Billy’s neck, on a street light, from a carpet, etc). It’s the red coupled with that blue that really makes the book pop. By all rights a red, white, and blue cover should strike you on some level as patriotic. Not the case here.

Not that the book is without flaw. For the most part I enjoyed the pacing of the story. I loved the fairytale element of Billy tossed high into the sky by a jealous wind. I loved the color scheme, the gloss, and the characters. What I did not love was a moment near the end of the book where pertinent text is completely obscured by its placement on the art. Billy has flown and landed from the sky. He’s on the ground below, the wind buffeting him like made. He enters the girl’s building and takes the elevator up. The story says, “At the elevator, he punched UP, and he knocked at the first door on the top floor.” We see him extending his hand to the girl, her hat clutched in the other. Then you turn the page and it just says, “The Beginning.” Wait, what? I had to go back and really check before I realized that there was a whole slew of text and dialogue hidden at the bottom of that previous spread. Against a speckled gray and white floor the black text is expertly camouflaged. I know that some designers cringe at the thought of suddenly interjecting a white text box around a selection of writing, but in this particular case I’m afraid it was almost a necessity. Either than or toning down the speckles to the lightest of light grays.

Aside from that, it’s sublime. A sweet story of friendship (possibly leading to more someday) from the top of the world. Do we really believe that Billy lives on the top of the highest building in the world? Billy apparently does, and that’s good enough for us. But even the tallest building can find its match. And even the loneliest of kids can, through sheer pig-headed persistence, make their voices heard. A windy, shiny book without a hint of bluster.

On shelves December 8th.

Source: F&G sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:


0 Comments on Review of the Day: The Red Hat by David Teague as of 11/28/2015 3:15:00 AM
Add a Comment
20. Joshua David Bellin on Unreliable Narrators, Recycling Characters, and Mashup Pitches

We're thrilled to welcome author Joshua David Bellin to the blog today as our monthly Ask a Pub Pro! Joshua is here to answer your questions on what exactly is an unreliable narrator and how to craft one, how to creatively recycle character types, and the pros and cons of using Book X meets Book Y in pitches. He's also giving away a signed copy of his recent release, SURVIVAL COLONY 9, with the winner also to receive a copy of the sequel, SCAVENGER OF SOULS, when it comes out next year. Be sure to check it out below!

If you have a question you'd like to have answered by an upcoming publishing professional, send it to AYAPLit AT gmail.com and put Ask a Pub Pro Question in the subject line.

Ask a Pub Pro: on Unreliable Narrators, Recycling Characters, and Mashup Pitches by Joshua David Bellin

Hi readers! I’m thrilled to be here on Adventures in YA Publishing to answer some of your questions. Enjoy, and at the end of the post, check out the cool giveaway I’m offering!

1. I keep seeing agents and editors ask for unreliable narrators. I know a bit about what this is but am not real clear. Can you explain what an unreliable narrator is and why they are so popular?

Unreliable narrators come in all forms, but the basic idea is that they’re narrators the reader can’t fully trust. This might be because the narrator lacks important information: for example, the narrator might be suffering from memory loss. Or the narrator might be a young child whose perceptions of the world are immature. The narrator might have a mental illness that leads her/him to misrepresent reality. And so on.

Read more »

0 Comments on Joshua David Bellin on Unreliable Narrators, Recycling Characters, and Mashup Pitches as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
21. The Little Prince Soars in a New Movie Trailer

A new trailer has been unveiled for The Little Prince animation film. The story for this project comes from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s beloved children’s book.

The video embedded above features the voice acting talents of Mackenzie Foy as the young girl, Jeff Bridges as the pilot, and Riley Osborne as the prince. Follow this link to watch the international trailer (in French).

This movie adaptation came out in France back in July 2015. The United States release date has been scheduled for Mar. 18, 2016. (via MovieWeb.com)

Add a Comment
22. Comics Gift Guide

‘Tis the season for winter holidays!

Does the tween in your life or your library love comics? Here are a few that need to be on your radar and will make your kids go absolutely nuts.

Source: Goodreads

Peppi Torres is just trying to survive her first days middle school. Suddenly she finds herself being both the teased and the teaser, and in the middle of a club war! Can she figure out how to make middle school bearable for both herself and those around her?

Source: Goodreads

Do your kids love PrinceLess? Well, let’s not forget about Angoisse, the oft-forgotten middle Ashe sister. What’s she been up to lately? Wellllll, it seems that the swamp surrounding her tower is inhabited by monsters and goblins and vampires! Not to worry, though, because her sister Adrienne and friend Bedelia don’t think twice about helping Angoisse rescue herself! The PrinceLess books are all fantastic and volume 4 is no exception.

Source: Goodreads

Well, Squirrel Girl is 100% delightful for readers of all ages, and it’s just been announced that Shannon and Dean Hale are going to write a YA novel about Doreen Green, so this is a GREAT time to get caught up on this girl who has the powers of a squirrel, awesome tale included. Bonus? Volume 2 comes out before Christmas, too! Perfect for the superhero fan in your life that also loves humor.

Source: Goodreads

Source: Goodreads

Do you have a Steven Universe fan in your family or your library? Then get this fully-illustrated handbook to the Crystal Gems into their hands, stat! Fully authorized and written by Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar, this book is full of new facts and fun illustrations. I promise your SU fans will eat it up.

Happy gift buying and book ordering!

Our cross-poster from YALSA today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a library consultant at the Mississippi Library Commission.

The post Comics Gift Guide appeared first on ALSC Blog.

0 Comments on Comics Gift Guide as of 11/29/2015 1:37:00 AM
Add a Comment
23. Cover Revealed for New Emily Foster Book

Drowning Eyes Cover (GalleyCat)

The cover has been unveiled for Emily Foster’s forthcoming book, The Drowning Eyes. We’ve embedded the full image for the jacket design above—what do you think?

According to Tor.com, Christine Foltzer served as the designer and Cynthia Sheppard created the artwork for this project. Tor/Forge, a division at Macmillan Publishers, has scheduled the release date for Jan. 12, 2016.

Add a Comment
24. Kate McGovern, author of RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES, on learning how to structure a book

We're thrilled to have Kate McGovern with us to share more about her debut novel RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES.

Kate, what was your inspiration for writing RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES?

I came across a news article in 2007 about a young woman who was wrestling with the same decision as Rose--should she get tested for Huntington's or not. Her family didn't want her to take the test. Ultimately she did get tested, and learned that she had the mutation. I was really moved by the way she articulated how that knowledge affected her life choices, her aspirations for her future. It stuck with me, and almost six years later I started writing RULES.

How long did you work on RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES?

I started writing the draft in 2012, but I only wrote the very first page, and then I put it down for a year. When I picked it back up, I wrote the first draft in about 6 months. I revised for a few months after that, and then signed with my agent. We sold the book about 14 months after I started writing it in earnest. But like I said, I'd been percolating on the subject matter for almost six years before I even wrote down a word.

Read more »

0 Comments on Kate McGovern, author of RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES, on learning how to structure a book as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment

This book is a gem and a gift, and in order to avoid spoilers I'll say up front: Parker is blind. The dots on the cover are Braille. And now you know ...except, it's not a big secret. Really, Parker would be the first to say, "So? And get over... Read the rest of this post

0 Comments on TURNING PAGES: NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST, by ERIC LINDSTROM as of 11/27/2015 8:23:00 AM
Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts