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Anyone who saw the terror on the faces of the people fleeing the attacks in Paris last week will agree that terrorism is the right word to describe the barbaric suicide bombings and the shooting of civilians that awful Friday night. The term terrorism, though once rare, has become tragically common in the twenty-first century.
Hi folks, I'm continuing my series Uplift. Something I think we can all use right now. It is difficult to turn to a news site and see the troubles of our world. What can an artist do to alleviate any of it? How can an artist work in the midst of it? Is it possible to find uplift in this morass of suffering?
Here is a truth that has come to me. I write because I must. Words flood into me. My artistic endeavor is a gift to me first and to all after. It is something like I'm an artesian aquifer. Deep in us all is the ground water of human existence and it is seeking a place of release. We are animate matter: self-replicating, chemical factories, and electrical maps. We are fragile. I have a short span of days in light of the ancient universe, to share what the spark of life has revealed to me. Use you time wisely.
So much flows from human existence and not all is good. There is terror, murder, mayhem, profane, a list so long, but just the first few on the list places weight in my heart. Thankfully, there is good--mercy, hope, help, kindness. I am one voice among the many, but my voice counts. My choice how to use my voice counts. Like all artists, there is so much pushing up under me. I must allow this art a place, and hopefully, like a fine poet who was called to throw a stone at a giant, I will take down the enemies of my age.
Artists are outliers. I like to do the math. We have about 318 million people in our country. 2.5 million work in all the arts (I'm including the part-timers and unemployed). 7 in 1000 are artists. I'm a writer, and we are really rare birds: 4 in 10000 or so are writers. This is why you have friends all over the world, and you have a difficult time finding folks in the neighborhood who are working on their craft. Even if we are rare, we are mighty.
Art is mightier than any sword because it changes the minds of others without having to lift the sword. We keep hurling our bombs at each other in hopes that the other side will see our point of view. Really? As a mother, I can tell you hurling rocks will never change the heart. You may defeat your enemies, causing them to hang their heads with bitterness but you will not change them. Non-violent change is true road for everyone, not just the oppressed.
Not everyone producing art is trying to pull the good water out of the human groundwater. Art can be full of good or not. It can laced with terror or laced with kindness. Don't be a con-artist. Regardless though, it's better to put your ideas on a page and think about them, than to force them down the throat of your neighbors at the point of a gun, sword, etc. Don't worry about stopping the foul wells. They don't bring life and people will leave them. We need water to live.
So here it is artist: Use your words. Use your pictures. Use your song. Use you dance. Use every way you can communicate an idea, but if you use your fists, your shouts, your better ways to throw rocks and fire, you will fail. You will always fail. If you are a well-spring of art, know that you are the only one who is working in a way that will bring forth true change. We are the revolutionary who bring forth sudden, complete, and marked change! Yay!
Change the world for the better, folks. I will be back with more Uplift next week.
Here is a doodle for you: Open Door.
A quote for your pocket: I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity. Martin Luther King
Do you know your George Washingtons from your Thomas Jeffersons? Do you know your British tyrants from your American Patriots? Test your knowledge of the American Revolution with this quiz, based on Robert J. Allison’s The American Revolution: A Very Short Introduction.
I was born in Mobile, Alabama, while my dad was stationed at Brookley Field. He had gone off to the Korean War in 1951, just after he and my mother married, and now here I came, in 1953, on the heels of his return. We lived in Mobile for five years, until the Air Force transferred us to Hawaii. I have always claimed Alabama as the land of my birth, and I also claim Mississippi as home, as it was the land we returned to over and again as I grew up, and as my own children grew up, as my people were there. And so was my heart.
My mother was born in Mississippi and grew up in West Point, MS. My dad was born in Jasper County and grew up there. I grew up there, too, with the wacky grandmother who became Miss Eula in LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER, and the three maiden aunts who become Ruby's chickens, and all the cousins and aunts and uncles and a decaying town that is even more of a ghost today than it was when I was wandering its one main road and its cemetery and crossing the railroad tracks to visit Aunt Mitt and playing piano in the unlocked Methodist church.
Mississippi doesn't claim me, though. According to book committees who decide these things, I didn't live for five continuous years in Mississippi, so I am not in the club, even though I am a Mississippian by blood and by words.
This is a long story and one I hope to write about at some point, so I can figure out how I feel about choosing home. Home is in Atlanta today, of course, but home will always be where I've hung my hat: Hawaii, Maryland, D.C., South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia.... and Mississippi as well. "What you know first stays with you." I am a Southern Girl, through and through. I am a human being with stories to tell. What does that mean?
Here's what it meant this week, as I took part in the first-ever Mississippi Book Festival, visited that family I love so much (Uncle Jim is our patriarch now, about to turn 92), and that place that defined me as a child -- and as a writer. Photos below of what becomes Aurora County in my books LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER; EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS; and THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS.
And then there is my first book, FREEDOM SUMMER. I have never before posted pictures of the pool and roller skating rink that closed in 1964. The forest is claiming it now. I have taken photos there for many years, and have documented this abandoned place as it goes back to forest land. I wrote FREEDOM SUMMER -- and REVOLUTION -- to understand what happened. To keep this time and place alive, so we remember our history. So young people will know what it was like then. What it is like now.
Dispatch from Mississippi:
Picking up Kerry Madden along the way
downtown Jackson, Mississippi. My folks retired to Jackson after a long military career, and I kept coming to Mississippi with my own kids as they grew up... Mississippi has been a constant in my life, all my life.
With Ellen Ruffin at the Eudora Welty house on Friday night at the author reception
Kimberly Willis Holt, moi, Chris Barton, and Karen Rowell of USM.
Jamie Kornegay and Turnrow Books in Greenwood, Mississippi has been such a staunch supporter of my books. Jamie's new novel is SOIL. "It has saturated the South!" Jamie says.
Kelly Kornegay, who (among other things) reads and buys children's at Turnrow. She heard me whining about not being recognized literarily as a Mississippian and said, "Debbie, people who have lived here all their lives are trying to ESCAPE Mississippi!" which made me laugh and gave me perspective. She also said, "Your books are THE quintessential books on what it means to be from Mississippi, to be a Mississippian. You're IN." hahaha.
Fuzzy photo of a bunch of us including Lori Nichols, Ellen Ruffin, Greg Leitich Smith, Susan Eaddy, Kerry Madden
taking in all in. What a lovely evening.
We had to turn people away, in Room 113 of the State Capitol, for the Young People's Literature panel. It was that way on all panels, all day. The turnout was tremendous. HOORAY!
Pontificating. Which I am very good at.
This is what it's about at a Festival.
And this. Clara Martin is the children's book buyer at Lemuria Book in Jackson. Last year on the REVOLUTION tour, she had me sign her copy of LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER that she has had since she was a fourth grader. "My favorite book!"
Chris Barton signing Shark vs Train and John Roy Lynch in the Lemuria tent.
At dinner, Saturday night, with my loves.
My son Jason with his Great-uncle Jim. Both of them jesters.
Two more Jims: mine, and the cousin I have always called Bubba.
If you're a RUBY fan, you recognize this sign!
My grandmother's house, The Pink Palace, in RUBY, Snowberger's Funeral Home in LITTLE BIRD, House Jackson's home in ALL-STARS, and Young Joe's home in FREEDOM SUMMER. This was my world every summer, and the place I longed for when I wasn't there. Still do, I guess.
The back kitchen. Sloped ceiling, lightbulb on a string, Nanny eating buttered toast and milky coffee at the enamel table, closthepins in a bag hanging on the door, a pan of green beans waiting to be snapped. I did dishes in the deep sink with my Aunt Evelyn, who we all called Goodness. Once, when my mother sent me in to dry while Aunt Evelyn washed, Goodness waved me away with, "Go play. I let God dry the dishes."
My friend Howard now lives in Rhiney Boyd's house, across the road from my grandmother's. Rhiney had a son named Luther Rhinehart Boyd, which is where I took Mr. Norwood Boyd's name from in ALL-STARS.
Kerry listens to Merle's stories. Merle now owns my grandmother's house (The Pink Palace, in the background).
I adore Lois. She has just entered the Witness Protection Program. I think she got dressed just for us. "I used to wear all black and brown, but now I wear COLOR all the time." You go, Lois. Go on with your colorful self.
This is where I'm sitting this morning. Back to the pink chair and back to work. Knowing that it doesn't matter if Literary Mississippi claims me or not. I claim me, and those people who are, and who once were: moments, memory, meaning, as I always say when I teach.
I will never live long enough to write all the stories asking for my attention. They claim me. And for that I am grateful.
I spent the first three days of this week at Georgia State University. I gave a lecture in their Distinguished Speaker series and several guest lectures to classes in GSU's Department of Early Childhood and Elementary Education. All meals were with students and faculty. It was a full schedule, but I enjoyed and learned from all of it and am sharing one part of it here.
Just before I got on my plane for Atlanta on Monday morning (August 31, 2015), I learned (via Facebook) that the author, Deborah Wiles, wished she'd known I was going to be there, because she wanted to meet me. I didn't know her work at that point.
Deborah was able to get an invitation to dinner on Tuesday evening. There were five of us (three professors, Deborah, and myself). I've had meals with writers before, but don't recall one like that one. I was, in short, rather stunned by most of it.
Deborah's experience of it is different from mine. Early Wednesday, she provided a recap on her Facebook page:
Last night's dinner at Niramish in Little Five Points, ATL. I got excited when I saw that Debbie Reese was speaking to students in the School of Education at Georgia State and I... um... invited myself to dinner. No I didn't. But I did squee a liitle (a lot) about the fact that she was coming. I was invited to dinner and was ecstatic about the invite, so much so that I brought everyone a book and foisted it into their hands. They were so gracious. I loved talking about children's literature and who gets to tell the story about careful, close reading, and about thoughtful critical discourse (for starters). I have long admired Debbie's work and have been getting to know my teaching friends at the College of Education & Human Development, Georgia State University this year, whom I admire more with each encounter... Thank you the invitation and generosity! Rhina Williams, Cathy Amanti, Debbie Reese, and Thomas Crisp.
I replied to her on Friday afternoon (September 4):
Deborah, you read my blog and my work, so you know I'm pretty forthcoming. I'll be that way here, too. When you brought up the who-can-write topic at dinner, there was an edge in your words as you spoke, at length, about it and criticisms of REVOLUTION. Since then, I've spent hours thinking about that dinner. I don't think we had a discussion, but I am willing to have that discussion with you. You indicate that white writers feel they can't get their books published if their books are about someone outside the writers identity. With regard to non-Native writers writing books about Native people, I don't see what you're describing. What do you think... do you want to talk more about this? On my blog, perhaps?
And she responded:
Sure, we can talk more about that. I want to make sure I am clear about what I said (or tried to say). I don't think white writers can't get their books published if they write outside their culture, not at all... these books are published all the time. I've published them. We were bouncing around quite a bit at that dinner, topic to topic. Part of what I said was that I got push-back in certain circles for writing in Ray's (black) voice in REVOLUTION, but I know that voice is authentic to 1960s Mississippi because I lived there and heard it all my life and wrote it that way. Sometimes in our (collective) zeal to "get it right" we point at a problem that isn't there. I'm happy to talk more on your blog! Thanks for thinking about it with me.
So, here's my post about that dinner. Obviously I wasn't taking notes. Deborah's comment above ("what I said (or tried to say)") demonstrates that neither of us is sure of what was said. This is my recollection and reflections on the evening.
On arriving, Deborah immediately began by talking to me about my work, saying that writers read what I say. She specifically mentioned my work on Ann Rinaldi's My Heart is on the Ground and how that made an impact on writers.
I was, of course, glad to hear that, but then she turned the conversation to current discussions in children's literature, saying that this is a dangerous time for writers, because they are being told that they can't write outside their cultural group and that if they do write outside their culture, their books won't get published. Note that in her Facebook comment above, she said these books are getting published and uses her book as an example. I recall saying that I think these are exciting times, because we need diverse voices. It was that exchange--with her characterizing these times as dangerous and me describing them as exciting--that set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Deborah started talking about her book, Revolution. She said that she'd shown Jackie Woodson some of the work she was doing on that book, or that she'd talked with her about the African American character, Ray, in Revolution, or maybe it was that she'd talked with Jackie about white writers giving voice to black characters. Whatever it was, the outcome was that Deborah had a green light (my words, not hers) from Jackie. I don't doubt any of it, but I am uneasy with that sort of report. It implies an endorsement from someone who isn't there to confirm it. I'm very attentive to this because, knowingly or not, writers who do that are, in my view, appropriating that person in a way that I find inappropriate. If Deborah could point to a statement Jackie made about Revolution, that would be different.
Deborah went on to to tell us that she had lived in Mississippi and that the voice she gave to Rayis based on what she heard when she lived there. But, she said, "fervent" people didn't like what she did. Someone (me or one of the professors at the table) asked her who the "fervent" people are, and she said that she wasn't going to say if I was going to tell them.
I was taken aback by that and responded immediately with "well don't say then, because I will tell them." She went on to say that it is SLJ's Heavy Medal blog, and that Heavy Medal discussions are dangerous, that they have too much power in terms of influencing what people think.
Deborah seemed angry. She was talking at me, not with me. I don't recall saying anything at all in response to what she said about Heavy Medal and fervent people.
I share my recollection of the dinner--not to solicit sympathy from anyone or to embarrass Deborah--but to convey my frustration with the incredible resistance Deborah's words and emotion represent within the larger context of children's literature.
The who-can-write conversation is not new. In 1996, Kathryn Lasky wrote an article titled "To Stingo with Love: An Author's Perspective on Writing outside One's Culture." In it, she wrote that "self-styled militias of cultural diversity are beginning to deliver dictates and guidelines about the creation and publishing of literature for a multicultural population of readers" (p. 85 in Fox and Short's Stories Matter: The Complexity of Cultural Authenticity in Children's Literature, published in 2003 by the National Council of Teachers of English).
I count myself in that "self styled militia." One need only look at the numbers the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin puts out each year to see that we've made little progress:
CCBCs data shows some small gains here and there, but overall, things haven't changed much. One reason, I think, is the lack of diversity within the major publishing houses. I think there's a savior mentality in the big publishing houses and a tendency to view other as less-than. For some it is conscious; for others it is unconscious. All of it can--and should be--characterized as well-intentioned, but it is also unexamined and as such, reflects institutional racism. The history of this country is one that bestows privilege on some and not on others. That history privileges dominant voices over minority ones, from the people at the table in those publishing houses to the voices in the books they publish. That--I believe--is why there's been no progress. Part of what contributes to that lack of progress is that too many people feel sympathy for white writers rather than stepping away from the facts on who gets published.
At the end of the meal, Deborah brought out copies of her books to give to us. I got the picture book, Freedom Summer but it felt odd accepting the gift, given the tensions of the evening. I think she was not aware of that tension. She ended the evening by praising my blog but the delivery of that praise had a distinct edge. She banged the table with her fist as she voiced that praise.
I hope that my being at that dinner with Deborah that evening and in the photograph she posted on Facebook aren't construed by anyone as an endorsement of her work. Yesterday, I went to the library to get a copy of Revolution, because, Deborah said she is working on a book that will be set in Sacramento, and, she said, it will include the Native occupation of Alcatraz. I want to see what her writing is like so that I can be an informed reader when her third book comes out.
Before going to the library, I looked online to see if there was a trailer for it. In doing that, I found a video of Deborah reading aloud at the National Book Award Finalists Reading event. Watching it, I was, again, stunned. She read aloud from chapter two. Before her reading, she told the audience what happened in chapter one. The white character, Sunny, is swimming in a public pool, at night. She touches something soft and warm, which turns out to be a black boy. She screams, he runs away. Then she and Gillette (another white character) take off too, but by then, the deputy is there. She tells him what happened. The last lines of that chapter are these (page 52):
There was a colored boy in our pool. A colored boy. And I touched him, my skin on his skin. I touched a colored boy. And then he ran away, like he was on fire.
As readers of AICL know, I keep children foremost in my mind when I analyze a book. In this case, how will a black child read and respond to those lines? And, what will Deborah think of my focus--right now--on that part of her book? I haven't read the whole book. No doubt, people who read AICL will be influenced by my pointing out that part of the book. Will Deborah think I am, like the people at Heavy Medal, "dangerous"?
Deborah said, above, that "Sometimes in our (collective) zeal to "get it right" we point at a problem that isn't there." She means the people who criticized her for Ray's voice in Revolution. The dinner and Deborah's remarks are the latest in a string of events in which people in positions of power object to "fervent" people. Jane Resh Thomas did it in a lecture at Hamline and Kate Gale did it in an article at Huffington Post.
I'll wind down by saying (again), that I've spent hours thinking about that dinner. It seemed--seems--important that I write about it for AICL. This essay is the outcome of those hours of thinking. I was uncomfortable then, and I'm uncomfortable now. I wanted to say more, then, but chose to be gracious, instead. I'm disappointed in my reluctance then, and now. I don't know where it emanates from. Why did I choose not to make a white writer uncomfortable? Is Deborah uncomfortable now, as she reads this? Are you (reader) uncomfortable? If so, why? Was Deborah worried about my comfort, then, or now? Does it matter?!
I can get lost in those questions, but must remember this: I do the work I do, not for a writer, but for the youth who will read the work of any given writer. For the ways it will help--or harm--a reader's self esteem or knowledge base.
The imagined audience for Revolution isn't an African American boy or girl. It is primarily a white reader, and, while the othering of "the colored boy" in chapter two may get dealt with later in the book, all readers have to wait. Recall the words of Anonymous, submitted to AICL as a comment about Martina Boone's Compulsion. They have broad application:
I find the idea of a reader -- particularly a child -- having to wait to see herself humanized an inherently problematic one. Yes, it might accurately reflect the inner journey many white people take, but isn't the point that our dehumanizing views were always wrong? And therefore, why go back and re-live them? Such ruminations could definitely be appropriate in an all-white anti-racist group, in which the point is for white people to educate each other, but any child can pick up a book, and be hurt--or validated--by what's inside. Asking marginalized readers to "wait" to be validated is an example of white dominance as perpetuated by well-intentioned white folks.
It is long past time for the industry to move past concerns over what--if anything--dominant voices lose when publishers actually choose to publish and promote minority voices over dominant ones. It is long past time to move past that old debate of who-can-write. Moving past that debate means I want to see publishers actually doing what Lasky feared so that more books by minority writers are actually published.
In 1986, Walter Dean Myers wrote that he thought we (people of color) would "revolutionize" the publishing industry. We need a revolution, today, more than ever. Some, obviously, won't join this revolution. Some will see it as discriminatory against dominant voices but I choose to see it as responsive to children and the millions of mirrors that they need so that we reach a reality where the publishing houses and the books they publish look more like society. In this revolution, where will you be?
To close, I'll do two things. First is a heartfelt thank you to Dr. Thomas Crisp at Georgia State University, for years of conversation about the state of children's literature, and, for assistance in writing and thinking through this essay. He was at that dinner in Atlanta. Second is a question for Deborah. Why did you want to meet me? Usually, when people want to meet me, there's a quality to the meeting that was missing from our dinner in Atlanta. There's usually a meaningful discussion of something I've said, or, about the issues in children's literature. That didn't happen in Atlanta. In the end, I am left wondering why you wanted to meet me.
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A few weeks ago, I was at Georgia State's College of Education to talk with professors and students about Native peoples, how we're taught in the curriculum, choosing children's books, etc. A few days ago, a student wrote to me with a question about biased content and how a teacher could address it.
She had a specific example in which she imagined a fourth grade class being taught about specific Native Nations. She imagined a student asking the teacher why Native Americans were moved to reservations. She wondered how the teacher might respond in an unbiased manner.
Let's look, first, at the word "bias." It means prejudice in favor or against a thing, person, or group, compared with another, in a way that is unfair or partial to one of the groups.
A couple of weeks ago, I noted that I was reading Deborah Wiles's Revolution. There's a passage in it that is a good example of bias. On page 263, Sunny (the protagonist) is at a movie theater and is approaching Mr. Martini, the man who takes tickets:
Mr. Martini is standing under the buffalo carving, which is my favorite of all the carvings on the lobby wall that depict the history of Greenwood, although Daddy says there would not have been buffalo east of the Mississippi River, which is where the Delta is. There would have been Indians, though--the Choctaw and Chickasaw including Choctaw Chief Greenwood Leflore, who was here first and signed the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek way before the Civil War. That's when most of the Indians moved to Oklahoma. Miss Coffee, my fourth-grade teacher, would be proud of me for remembering.
I want to focus on two passages from that paragraph.
First is the idea that Indians were "here first." It may seem innocent enough, but scholars in Native Studies see language that says Native peoples were here "first" as a way to undermine our sovereignty. If we were simply here first, followed by __ and then by __, one can say that everyone--Native peoples, too--are immigrants to this continent.
Second is "the Indians moved to Oklahoma." Written as such, it sounds like they--on their own--decided to move. Of course, they had not chosen to move. They were forcibly removed. Although Miss Coffee told Sunny about the Dancing Rabbit Treaty, I wonder if her bias in favor of White landowners and against Choctaws is evident by Sunny's takeaway: that Indians "moved" to Oklahoma. If Wiles had, in the backstory for this part of the book, a character who is Choctaw, that character could have corrected Miss Coffee. That paragraph I quoted above could then end with Sunny saying "but Joey, who is Choctaw, told Miss Coffee that his people didn't move. They were REmoved."
A plus in that paragraph is this: Sunny says "most" of the Indians moved. In that "most" she is correct. The descendants of Choctaws who refused to be removed were federally recognized as the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians in 1945. And, Sunny's dad is wrong about buffaloes. They were, in fact, east of the Mississippi. Were they in the Delta? I don't know.
Let's return to the question posed by the Georgia State student. Let's say that the curriculum the teacher is using has the words "moved" in it and let's assume the teacher knows that the Choctaw's were forcibly removed. She could teach her students about bias right then and there, using moved/removed as an example of bias and she could provide students with information from the Choctaw Nation's website. It has a detailed account of removal. A teacher using Wiles's book could pause the reading on page 263 to correct what Sunny learned from Miss Coffee.
The point is that teachers can address bias in materials. This is, of course, teaching children to read critically--and reading critically is a vital skill.
Thanks, student at Georgia State, for your follow up questions! I hope this is helpful.
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REVOLUTION HAS COME which side do you choose? our world moans and groans under the weight of “progress” while our trees die from acid rain and our rivers, once teeming with wildlife, are suffocated by our excess The future of our world, our children, are abused, silenced and tossed aside like pieces of trash with…
Friends, I am Mississippi as I write this. I have an essay at the Nerdy Book Club blog today, about birthing Revolution in Mississippi. I wrote it on the eve of my trip. I am still in Mississippi, with family, until tomorrow, when I come home and write about my adventures in schools, in bookstores, and in my own heart.
In the meantime, you can read the Nerdy post and then catch up visually with
Late September and October 2014 saw Hong Kong experience its most significant political protests since it became a Special Administrative Region of China in 1997. This ongoing event shows the inherent creativity of language, how it succinctly incorporates history, and the importance of context in making meaning. Language is thus a “time capsule” of a place.
China, which resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong after it stopped being a British colony in 1997, promised universal suffrage in its Basic Law as the ‘ultimate aim’ of its political development. However, Beijing insists that candidates for Hong Kong’s top job, the chief executive, must be vetted by an electoral committee made up largely of tycoons, pro-Beijing, and establishment figures. The main demand of the protesters is full democracy, without sifting candidates through a selection mechanism. Protesters want the right to nominate and directly elect the head of the Hong Kong government.
The protests are a combination of movements. For instance, the “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” movement is a civil disobedience movement that calls on thousands of protesters to block roads and paralyze Hong Kong’s financial district if the Beijing and Hong Kong governments do not agree to implement universal suffrage according to international standards.
The humble umbrella has become the predominant symbol of the 2014 protests – largely because of its use as protection against police pepper spray. I’m sure you will have seen the now-iconic photograph of a young student holding up umbrellas while clouds of tear gas swirl around him. Thus, the terms “umbrella movement” or “umbrella revolution” came into being.
Yellow or “democracy yellow” as the colour became known, became the symbolic colour of the 2014 protests. As the protests wore on, yellow ribbons have been tied to fences, trees, lapels and Facebook profile pictures as indicators of solidarity with the “umbrella movement”.
How yellow and the crossed yellow ribbon became the symbol of the campaign for democracy in Hong Kong is unclear. The yellow ribbon often signifies remembrance (“Tie a yellow ribbon round that ole oak tree”, a hit song from 1973 about a released prisoner hoping that his love would welcome him back). Perhaps it relates to the fact that in 1876, during the U.S. Centennial, women in the suffrage movement wore yellow ribbons and sang the song “The Yellow Ribbon”. Interestingly, one political party in Hong Kong’s uses the suffragette colours (green, white, and violet) as its political colours.
From previous colour revolutions, we know that colour is significant (Beijing saw it as a separatist push, and the interchangeable use of “umbrella movement” and “umbrella revolution” did not help). Historically, in imperial times only the emperor could wear yellow. Nobles and commoners did so on pain of death. Yellow has now become a colour for the masses.
A blue ribbon movement also arose, signifying support for the police and against the action of the occupiers; the “blue ribboners” were also known as the “anti-occupiers”. Currently, Hong Kong society seems divided between the pro-occupiers and the anti-occupiers. Subsequently, there has been massive “unfriending” of people on Facebook. Thus arose a new verb: “to go blue ribbony”; as in “my friend said the group chat [FB] has gone blue ribbony so she left.”
Numbers have always been important in Hong Kong’s recent history. In 1984, with the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the year 1997 became important as that was the date of day Hong Kong “reverted” to Chinese sovereignty. The first opportunity to ask for universal suffrage was 2007 (denied), and then 2012 (also denied).
“689” is the “the number that explains Hong Kong’s upheaval” (quipped The Wall Street Journal). Invoked constantly in the streets and on social media, “689” is the protesters’ nickname for Hong Kong’s leader. The chief executive is elected by a 1,200 member Election Committee made up mostly of elite, pro-Beijing individuals after first being nominated by that committee. C.Y. Leung, the current chief executive, was elected by 689 members of that committee. This small circle election is at the heart of protesters’ frustrations, so they use “689” as an insult that emphasizes Leung’s illegitimacy. When they chant “689, step down!” they indict Mr. Leung along with the Beijing-backed political structure that they see threatening their city’s autonomy and freedoms. There is an expression “689 冇柒用” (there is no 7 in 689), where “柒” means “7” and “7冇柒用” means “(he is) no fucking use.” Interestingly, “689” could be read as “June 1989”, the time of the Tiananmen protests in Beijing.
In addition to protest songs such as ‘Umbrella’ by Rihanna (naturally), ‘Do you hear the people sing’ from Les Miserables, and John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, just to name a few, a very mundane ditty served as a tool of antagonism. This was the song “Happy Birthday”. Employing the happy birthday tactic was used by protesters when others shouted abuse at them. Singing “happy birthday” (sàangyaht faailohk, in Cantonese) to opponents, which served to annoy and disorientate them no end.
Chinese characters are made up of components called ‘radicals’. After the now iconic photograph of a young student holding up umbrellas while being tear-gassed, an enterprising individual came up with the following character扌傘, a combination of two ‘radicals’: 手 for “hand” → becoming 扌 on the left and the character for “umbrella” (傘) literally, a hand raising an umbrella. The definition for this character is to “to protest and persevere with peace and rationality until the end”, explaining that “with the radical ‘hand’, the word symbolizes the action of opening an umbrella”. The character ultimately has the meaning of “withstanding, supporting and not giving up the faith”.
The protests in Hong Kong are an ongoing phenomenon. The outpouring of linguistic and semiotic creative has been breath-taking.
Feature image credit: Hong Kong Protests, by Leung Ching Yau Alex. CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 via Flickr.
One week in the life, and what a week. Monday I started out for North Carolina, with REVOLUTION, and Sunday night, last night, I sat in the tutti-fruitti chair at home in Atlanta, with Masterpiece Theater and my phone, watching and texting along with my Mississippi cousin, Carol, a long-standing tradition. Some of the life between those two moments is captured below in phone photos -- I miss my camera! But I did not miss my friends. They were right there, all along, right beside me, as you will see, accompanying me and championing me and coaxing me forward, in person and online, and certainly in my heart. I kept up my travel-marathon training on the road (for a trip I'm taking in Feb/March, which we'll get to). More to say on the other end of this string of photos, including a little about next week in NYC. Thanks for coming along with me!
Jandy Nelson: THREE booksellers hand-sold me your book on this tour. I got two photographs. Booksellers loved I'll Give You the Sun. I love you! And your wonderful new book. Busting my buttons over my former student's success!
This will be a quiet (hahahaha) week of getting ready for the National Book Award events in New York City next week. We leave in six days. I have a fabulous black dress. I bought some bling for my dress. I am returning it. I called the shop and said, "I forgot! I'm going to be wearing a medal!" Because I am. REVOLUTION is a National Book Award Finalist. I am so proud of my book. I love my book. I love my publisher, Scholastic, for publishing the book I wanted to write. I love the NBA judges for recognizing my book. I love the process. I love the books REVOLUTION is keeping company with this season. I love the lofty ideal of writing from the heart the story that is asking to be written. I love having the opportunity to share that story with as wide an audience as possible. Thank you, thank you, thank you... that's what I want to say, over and over again. It has been such a rush, such a trip, such an excitement, such a delight, such a surprise, and such an honor. I am forever grateful. See you all in New York next week.
From bound manuscripts to the National Book Award dinner, from home to far away, from family to friends to strangers to new friends, from schools to conferences, from high to low, from hard work to a few lazy days...
0 Comments on the characters of fall as of 1/25/2015 2:17:00 PM
Story connects us in ways we will never know. This just in: here is a letter passed on to me from a friend who gave REVOLUTION to her 72-year-old aunt in Texas. It now becomes a primary source document for future researchers. Just as important, it serves to show how a heart becomes awake and aware in the world. I was the storyteller for Mary, and now Mary is the storyteller for me. This is how it works. I am grateful. xo Debbie ============ January 23 Oh, Sally,
Thank you so much for making me aware of Revolution. It has unleashed a torrent of conflicting emotions and memories in me, none of which were completely forgotten, but largely dormant.
On one hand, it reads like a barn burner, and I do not want to put it down. I love the way she worked photographs, gospel and folk song lyrics, and headlines as page dividers creating a sense of the onslaught of information which occurred that summer. (It does remind me of your saying fiction can sometimes convey events better than dry history. But she does include a lot of what to me is not dry history.)
On the other hand, because of the flood of memories and the poignant strength of the emotions they evoke in me, I can only read it in segments, sometimes as much as a chapter, but usually less. Than I have to meditate on what is happening in me, in the story, and in our country now.
Since it was published by Scholastic Press, I guess it is geared to middle schoolers. My only sorrow is that many adults who would benefit from tumbling into its pages will not find out what they are missing....
For myself, I read the book on about five levels. Four come from memories: the first as a middle schooler, one in high school, one the summer after graduation from college (1963), and one in 1964 when I was at the Democratic Convention in Atlantic City. The fifth is that of an aging Democrat who worked the phones for Obama in 2008, delighted in our long-term success.
The student at Gilmer Junior High got in the car with your grandfather, heard the news about Brown vs Topeka on NBC news (and later CBS) and asked Grampy, "Does that mean I will be going to school with colored kids?"
In high school, I heard Larry Pittmon and others threaten to get baseball bats and beat up N----rs who tried to come to Gilmer High. An elderly Black had died, and the relatives who went to California and elsewhere had come to town in their finest to attend the funeral. This was at the same time that the Airborne and the National Guard were confronting each other at Central High School, Little Rock. In our ignorance of how groups like COFO would operate, rumor had it that the fancy dressed black people were members of the NAACP planning to integrate the school.
The summer of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, I had attended a workshop by the National Conference of Christians and Jews and then stayed in Dallas to learn typing at a business school. Having no TV of my own, I went to the apartment complex recreation building to watch the march. That night I joined one of the Black members of my class with her boy friend in the Hall Street Ghetto in Dallas for supper. We talked for hours about what that huge crowd meant for the future of Blacks in America.
The next summer, after my rookie year as a Dallas public school teacher, I had a job with the State Department in July and August, 1964. Mother and Daddy honored my experiences in college in a sit-in on the SMU campus and in that workshop the year before by letting me write the editorial response of The Gilmer Mirror to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the Public Accomodations Act).
Then I traveled to DC in late June, went to the White House as a guest of Lady Bird and Lyndon the night of my 23rd birthday, and went to work in the Personnel Department of the State Department.
The deputy director of the division I was in was a Black man. A fellow deacon of his church, the assistant superintendent of the DC schools, was shot down that summer as he drove back from his reserve duty at Ft. Bragg. He was a reserve Colonel in the US Army who was chased down after buying gas by hooligans in a pickup and shot. I can still see him that Monday morning when I came to work telling the Personnel Services Division chief, an older (55-60) white woman of the shooting.
Unlike the volunteers at Freedom Summer who sweltered in Mississippi, I got to go to the cool serenity of the Washington National Cathedral and hear a mixed choir of over 250 voices sing in thanksgiving of the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
I read the headlines in the Washington Post about their efforts as I went to Capitol Hill to see the War on Poverty legislation accepted in the US Senate after the House had approved their portion.
Then in August, I joined Nana in New York City, attended Hello Dolly with Carol Channing (my adventuresome summer like Sunny wonders about) and to the New York World's Fair. From there we took the train to Atlantic City.
Selling pennants and buttons to raise funds for the Democratic Party as a Young Person for LBJ, I met youths from Philadelphia, MS who were there with representatives of the Freedom Democratic Party of Mississippi. When they learned my mother was a delegate, they lobbied me to ask her to vote for their group to be seated.
I told Nana about them, but LBJ was trying to court Mississippi votes, and did not want to ruffle more feathers until after the election. She of course did what LBJ wanted.
It would be four years later when I had promised Nana I would take the first job I was offered that I went to work for the Dallas OIC. You know what an impact that had on me. I was tempted by the Peace Corps, but Nana would never have let me go to an undeveloped country. I always think the Lord had a hand in the fact that OIC gave me my first job offer after grad school.
Well, enough meditation for now. I still have half the book to read, and I am mentally compiling a list of people to make aware of it. I definitely will see to it our Intermediate and Junior High Schools as well as the Upshur County Library have copies.
If you with to share these reflections with your friend, the author, you are welcome to do so. I am so proud you made me aware of it. Thank you so very much.
In 2011, the Middle East saw more people peacefully protesting long entrenched dictatorships than at any time in its history. The dictators of Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen were deposed in a matter of weeks by nonviolent marches. Described as 'the Arab Spring', the revolution has been convulsing the whole region ever since.
The French Revolution was one of the most momentous events in world history yet, over 220 years since it took place, many myths abound. Some of the most important and troubling of these myths relate to how a revolution that began with idealistic and humanitarian goals resorted to ‘the Terror’.
I had learned from Kholoud that Aly would be in Cairo this week. So, as soon as I arrived on Monday night I called while walking through Tahrir Square. He picked up but the reception wasn’t good. He said he was also in the Square, that he was headed to drop off his bags, and would call later. I didn’t hear back from him.
Several calls and SMSs went unanswered. I figured that he was simply busy and that we would eventually meet this week for the next in our series of interviews that we’ve held since I first met him in early March this year.
Aly, tall and burly with a handsome face, has shared passionately in these interviews his commitment to the revolution. He, along with Kholoud and so many others in Alexandria were direct participants in the events of January 25th and beyond. (The coverage of Alexandria’s role in the revolution has been pitifully inadequate). When I first met him, Aly had just been injured in his hand and shoulder in a battle with security forces as they attempted to destroy incriminating documents.
Over the months, he, like all other activists, expressed increasing disappointment with the lack of substantive change. Aly’s narrative was unique among those I’ve talked intensively with, however, in his growing conviction that real change would require an escalation in violence on the part of the protesters. In July, he labored heavily with his own growing awareness that the regime’s corruption extended far beyond its recently deposed leader. But, rather, the violence, exploitation, and abuses of power are endemic throughout all sectors of society. He articulated that one grave implication of that for him might be that he would end up having to fight those he knows and is close to, perhaps even his family members.
Just a few weeks ago he wrote in an email, “The situation is getting more complicated and I am not optimistic at all with the coming elections. . . I am wondering . . . how could we break this system, what else is needed? I am believing that we need more violence against these structures and those leading it.”
Then, two days ago here in Cairo, in classic revolutionary form he posted on Facebook: “It is by all means the time of revolution, emancipation(s), and …love. SO For God Sake Revolt or die in Shame. It is the correction of the Egyptian Revolution Path; from War/revolution to politics and Again in the correct road from politics of the coward elites to the WAR/REVOLUTION of brave young generation who fights in the first lines, behind the enemy lines and in front and against the heavy machines of war and suppression. They shoot by their heavy equipment and we shoot by faith, believe and anger. Tomorrow we will not die, tomorrow we will be emancipation from who we had been, a new life is going to born from the heart and mud of the battle field of our revolution.
I had an immediate sense that Aly would be acting out this admonition himself, and even wrote to a colleague that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he would soon be a casualty of this newly reenergized revolution.
Last night at about 10pm I thought to try one more time to reach him. A voice picked up and identified himself as Aly’s friend. I could hear Aly in the background overruling his friend’s decision to turn me away and he took the phone. He was excited to talk, as was I to hear his voice. It wasn’t a surprise, but no less difficult, to hear from him that he lay in the hospital with bullet wounds to his head and body. He said that he “would love so much” a visit and, getting directions from Ayman, I hastened to
Frantz Fanon died of leukaemia on 6 December 1961 at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, USA where he had sought treatment for his cancer. At Fanon’s request, his body was returned to Algeria and buried with full military honours by the Algerian National Army of Liberation, shortly after the publication of his most influential work, The Wretched of the Earth. As a member of the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN), which had been engaged in a war against French colonial rule in Algeria since November 1954, Fanon had made his mark as a journalist for the FLN newspaper El-Moudjahid. Writing in an angry and confrontational style, Fanon justified FLN violence as mirror violence: a liberational act against the inherent violence of colonial rule. This in turn became the core of his argument in The Wretched of the Earth. Expanding outwards from Algeria to the rest of Africa and Asia, Fanon talked of violence in mystical terms – a necessary stage in the forward march of history that would purge Africans and Asians of any inferiority complex in regard to European colonial powers.
Born in 1925 in Fort-de-France on the French-ruled Caribbean island of Martinique, Frantz Fanon opposed the right-wing anti-Semitic Vichy Regime which was established in the wake of the Third Republic’s defeat by Nazi Germany in 1940. Horrified by the widespread support for Vichy amongst the island’s colonial authorities, Fanon took flight in 1943 and made his way to French Algeria, which had passed into Free French hands after the USA and British landings in November 1942. There he joined the Free French forces, fighting in Italy and then Germany where he was wounded in the back during the Alsace campaign. Decorated for bravery, Fanon stayed on in France to study psychiatry and medicine at Lyon University.
Living in France confronted Fanon with the racial contradictions of French republican ideology. It made him realise that for all the talk of liberty, equality, fraternity espoused by the Fourth Republic, a French Caribbean man like himself would never be seen as a true citizen. The Republic might claim to be universal but in reality his presence was unnerving for a French society where whiteness was the norm and blackness was equated with evil. It was a painful experience that led him to write his first book, Black Skins, White Masks, in 1952. Published by Seuil, this was a pioneering study of racism as a psychological system where, Fanon argued, black people were forced to adopt white masks to survive in a white society.
In October 1953 Fanon began working as psychiatrist in a hospital in Blida just south of Algiers. At this point French Algeria was fraught with racial tension. Nine million Algerians co-existed uneasily with one million European settlers. France had invaded Algeria in 1830 and annexed the country not as a colony but an integral part of France. On 8 May 1945, just as Nazi Germany was defeated, mass nationalist demonstrations across Algeria had called for the establishment of an independent Algerian state. In the town of Sétif in the east of the country, these demonstrations produced violent clashes that led to the death of twenty-one Europeans and ignited an Algerian uprising. However, the French response was brutal and throughout May eastern Algerian was subjected to systematic repression. Yet, although French order was restored, fear and mistrust was everywhere. More than ever the settlers were determined to thwart any concessions to the Algerian majority and the result was a blocked society. Frustrated at their lack of political rights, a small number of Algerians formed the FLN in October 1954 which, through a series of coordinated attacks across Algeria on 1 November, sought to overthrow colonialism through violence.
As Algeria slid into war, Fanon saw the psychological impact of French rule at first hand. Struck by the number of Algerian patients s
Nearly a year has passed since the huge crowds in Cairo’s Tahrir Square rallied to overthrow former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Yet, the Egyptian public remains loathe to articulate a coherent vision for Egypt, and “that is the challenge going forward,” says Steven A. Cook, CFR’s top Egypt expert. He says that the next crucial step will be choosing a hundred-person group to write a new constitution, which could to lead to a crisis between the interim military-led government and the newly elected Islamist parliament. Meanwhile, the United States, which has been a close ally of Egypt for decades, finds itself having to deal with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, and as a result, Cook says, “there’s going to be a divergence between Egypt and the United States over time.”
Interviewee: Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, CFR.org
With the anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution [January 25] only a couple of weeks away, do Egyptians think they are better off now than they were when Mubarak was in charge? What about U.S. officials, are they happier or more worried?
For the most part, Egyptians are happy to see the end of the Mubarak era, which was not an era of prosperity. It was not an era in which they could participate. It was an era of corruption and authoritarian politics. There remain supporters of the old regime, although they are a relatively small minority. The big question is what does the so-called silent majority–that the Egyptian Armed Forces consistently looks to–want? It’s unclear without major nationwide polling, but you do get a sense that what these people want is change. They came out in large numbers to vote in the now-concluded parliamentary elections. They want change. They want prosperity. They do not want the authoritarianism of the previous regime, but beyond that, it’s entirely unclear what Egyptians want. And I think that that is the challenge going forward.
There is supposed to be a hundred-person constitutional assembly created to write a new Egyptian constitution, which is to be followed by a presidential election. Is that going to be easy?
The challenge in the constitution-writing period is divining a vision for Egypt that the vast majority of Egyptians agree upon. And I think that that’s been and remains a problem.
Is Washington content to watch this uncertainty unfold?
The challenge in the constitution-writing period is divining a vision for Egypt that the vast majority of Egyptians agree upon.
U.S. policymakers find themselves in an unknown environment. Egyptian politics have been quite scrambled. The party of the Muslim Brotherhood–the Freedom and Justice Party–is slated to win somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 percent of the seats in the new People’s Assembly, followed by the Salafist al-Nour Party, with some 25 percent. Neither of these groups has historically held worldviews that conform to American interests in the region. So there’s going to be a divergence between Egypt and the United States over time. And that’s due not only to Islamist politics. People associate Egypt’s strategic relationship with the United States with Hosni Mubarak, even though it began before him, and people don’t believe that it served Egypt very well. As a result, I think there are going to be changes, and I think that that is certainly cause for concern. American policy makers are aware of the changes in Egypt, and they’re struggling to find a poli
I've been knitting a lot lately, working on fleshing out my little etsy shop. I let it go for such a long time, and now that I've decided to get it going again, I'm overflowing with ideas!
I have Big Plans to do some drawings of knitting, and a genius licensing idea (I think - you know how those can be), all of which will take quite a bit of work, of course. But that's OK! I just have to figure out how to fit it in with the Children's Book art, and the Un-Still Lifes I've started with the "fine art" side of myself. The same old story we all have I guess - not enough hours in the day.
Some day, in the future, when we CAN make clones of ourselves, we'll be saying "Remember back in the old days, when we only had ONE of ourselves, and had to do everything in just 24 hours a day? How on earth did we do it?"
If that sounds far-fetched, just think back to not so long ago when we didn't have anything digital or cellular or even cordless, for that matter. Remember that first fax machine?! Lordy.
On the flip side - I started watching that new show "Revolution", where the world has gone 'dark' and there's no electricity or anything (except there IS - in secret), and everyone has to do everything the old-fashioned way. I like the way the little village looks - kind of old-timey but with left over modern stuff. I wish they'd focus more on the actual "this is how life really is now", the day-to-day, mundane, domestic side of things, rather than the hunting everything (and everyone) with a cross-bow side of life, but of course that's interesting too. I've always loved those shows on PBS where they go back in time to Pioneer days, or Edwardian or Victorian times, or WWII, and have people try to live that way for a few months, and slowly go mad (and love the part where they get to go back to real life, and head straight for the shower and some fast food and TV.)
Anyways. I'm pretty sure knitting will always be around, whether we have power or not, so I'm going to soldier on with my ideas.
And while we still DO have power and the internet and stuff, you might want to check out this cool website, if you haven't already: http://www.folioacademy.com
Will Terry and Wayne Andreasen have teamed up to create a website full of really cool art videos you can buy, to teach you how to do all kinds of art things. They've just updated it, so its cooler and even better than it was before! There's traditional drawing and painting, as well as a lot of digital art stuff, children's book tutorials and even 3D!
Picking out five books on the founding of the nation, and its leaders, is not an easy task. I could easily have listed twenty-five that were important to me. But here goes:
Merrill Jensen, The Founding of a Nation: A History of the American Revolution, 1763-1776 (New York, Oxford University Press, 1968)
This book remains the best single volume history of the American Revolution through the Declaration of Independence. This isn’t flag waving, but a warts and all treatment in which Jensen demonstrates that many of the now revered Founders feared and resisted the insurgency that led to American independence.
Merrill Jensen, The American Revolution Within America (New York, New York University Press, 1974)
Obviously I admire the work of Merrill Jensen. Lectures delivered to university audiences quite often are not especially readable, but this collection of three talks that he delivered at New York University is a wonderful read. Jensen pulls no punches. He shows what some Founders sought to gain from the Revolution and what others hoped to prevent, and he makes clear that those who wished (“conspired” might be a better word) to stop the political and social changes unleashed by the American Revolution were in the forefront of those who wrote and ratified the US Constitution.
Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York, Knopf, 1992)
While this book is far from a complete history of the American Revolution (and it never pretended to be), it chronicles how America was changed by the Revolution. I think the first eighty or so pages were among the best ever written in detailing how people thought and behaved prior to the American Revolution. I always asked the students in my introductory US History survey classes to read that section of the book.
James Thomas Flexner, George Washington and the New Nation, 1783-1793 (Boston, Little Brown, 1970) and George Washington: Anguish and Farewell, 1793-1799 (Boston, Little Brown, 1972)
Alright, I cheated. There are two books here, bringing my total number of books to six. Flexner was a popular writer who produced a wonderful four volume life of Washington in the 1960s and 1970s. These two volumes chronicle Washington following the War of Independence, and they offer a rich and highly readable account of Washington’s presidency and the nearly three years left to him following his years as chief executive.
Peter Onuf, ed., Jeffersonian Legacies (Charlottesville, University Press of Virginia, 1993)
This collection of fifteen original essays by assorted scholars scrutinizes the nooks and crannies of Thomas Jefferson’s life and thought. As in any such collection, some essays are better than others, but on the whole this is a good starting point for understanding Jefferson and what scholars have thought of him. Though these essays were published twenty years ago, most remain surprisingly fresh and modern.
John Ferling is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of West Georgia. He is a leading authority on late 18th and early 19th century American history. His new book, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry that Forged a Nation, will be published in October. He is the author of many books, including Independence, The Ascent of George Washington, Almost a Miracle, Setting the World Ablaze, and A Leap in the Dark. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Category: Young Adult Dystopia Keywords:Dystopia, End of series, Revolution Format:Hardcover, ebook, audiobook Source:Purchased
With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.
Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.
In this breathtaking conclusion to Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, everything Rhine knows to be true will be irrevocably shattered. Kimberly's Review:
This is a hard book for me to review because I loved Wither, the first book in The Chemical Garden trilogy, so much.
Without giving too much away, Rhine has escaped the mansion only to find herself at Reed's house, Vaughn's long estranged brother.
Searching for her twin brother, and trying to come to terms with her feelings for both Linden and Gabriel, Rhine embarks on a quest that will answer her questions once and for all. But not all the answers are what she wants them to be. And some of them she wishes she never knew.
I had a lot of problems with Rhine in this book. I loved her in the first two books- independent, strong willed and wanting nothing more than to survive and go home. And while this Rhine isn't that far from the old, she is slightly different. She's been through so much and she's very damaged by the events of the previous two books. But instead of making her more sympathetic, I felt more distant to her character. Her urgent need to find her brother, and then once she does eventually find him, she doesn't scream at him all of the evil she's encountered. (This will make sense once you read the book) I was so frustrated with her! She's also super confused about her feelings for Gabriel and Linden, which just became grating on me. I'll explain.
I am probably in the minority, but I have to say that I am probably on team Linden. Yes, he's pretty dense and should have been paying more attention to the evil that was his own father. But Linden's character grows exponentially during this final book and so by the end, I was hoping that she would end up with him. He was always my favorite of the two, between him and Gabriel and though the sister wife thing does creep me out, I still think Linden is the better choice. However, this of course proves problematic because he also has Cecily, his youngest wife still on his arm.
Cecily has also grown. In Fever, book two, the story took Rhine away from both of them and when she returns, they've both matured. While I can't say I like Cecily, I don't mind her and in fact, I may actually have respected her by the end.
What is strange is that Gabriel is mostly absent in book three. This is supposed to be her big love interest! It really hurt my feelings towards Gabriel because he was MIA for so long. I re-attached myself onto Linden. Sorry Gabriel, but even when you were the main character in Fever, I still wasn't a fan. I don't think you had a strong enough personality, and I never really understood what Rhine saw in you.
Now let's talk about Rowan. Rowan, the brother who Rhine is after. Rowan, who is barely a character at all in book three. I'm really sorry but I don't get it. There is nothing special about Rowan and as for their deep, twin relationship, I didn't feel it. He seemed like a secondary character that just appeared for plot sake. I wasn't emotionally invested in Rowan. She searched the country, confronted dangers and evil, for this guy?
I read books two and three right after the other and they move very fast. I love how the story flows so quickly you can get lost for hours in the world. Their world is scary, mean and unforgiving. There's a lot to like about The Chemical Garden trilogy. I love the freshness of the story and felt like the characters were always in real danger, just escaping by their skin. I love the big reveals during the end, including Rhine's revelation and Madame's secrets.
Overall, I enjoyed Sever and the entire series. While I didn't have a great sense of the characters or motivation behind them, the plot was fast and I wanted to know what happened next. I would recommend it for older YAs as well as adults looking for a dark dystopian.
The heart-stopping conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Shatter Me series, which Ransom Riggs, bestselling author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, called “a thrilling, high-stakes saga of self-discovery and forbidden love.”
With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn’t know if the rebels, her friends, or even Adam are alive. But that won’t keep her from trying to take down The Reestablishment once and for all. Now she must rely on Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45. The one person she never thought she could trust. The same person who saved her life. He promises to help Juliette master her powers and save their dying world . . . but that’s not all he wants with her.
The Shatter Me series is perfect for fans who crave action-packed young adult novels with tantalizing romance like Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Legend by Marie Lu. Tahereh Mafi has created a captivating and original story that combines the best of dystopian and paranormal, and was praised by Publishers Weekly as “a gripping read from an author who’s not afraid to take risks.” Now this final book brings the series to a shocking and satisfying end.
I have such a hard time reviewing this series. I am not a fan of the series in general, but I have to admit that there is something so totally addicting, I cannot help but need to know how it all ends.
There's a lot of action in this final book which keeps the reader engaged and the pages turning.
Honestly though, there's so much about this story I just don't get.
Like - Where is everyone?
There is only one regime in place that is ruling everything (bad guys) and one in place that oppose them (good guys). Once the rebels take that over, they can control everyone. Where are the rest of the people? (And don't tell me they all got blown up because that is a lie) Other rebellions outside of this area? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
How is this girl going to lead the country? Juliette suddenly decides she is the most capable of being the leader and she is going to rule. Okay, now even very young monarchs who come to power have years of training, education, learning language and politics. Juliette can barely complete full sentences and she's convinces an entire army that she should rule on pure strength alone. She doesn't make a case at all about her leadership abilities, her plans for the future, her thoughts on uniting the nation. No, she breaks things with her enormous physical strength and everyone else is staring at her going- Wow. We'll follow you.
WTF? She has declared herself supreme ruler when she can barely control her feelings and gives no indication that she understands anything about the politics, world views, different cultures and societies.
Why is anyone letting Juliette make the decisions? Is it just because has a boyfriend who is rich and has food and shelter? Is it because she has super human strength? Juliette still does not scream leadership material even by the end of the book.
<shakes head> huh?
Okay, let's give in for a second and forget all I said above and that Juliette is the most capable of people willing to put everyone and her followers first. Let's say she's going to unite everyone, lead them to green grass and bunnies and rainbows. Let's say it's in her and I just can't see it.
But then, what about this horrific love triangle???
Honestly, I think my main problem with the book are the characters. The three main characters, Juliette, Warner and Adam, are all thought to be a certain way. They are introduced to the reader as a certain person and the reader believes it. That is, until the rug is pulled out and I have to re-learn everything I thought about the characters. Sometimes this technique works. But when it's done to all three of the main characters, and none of them feel justified, I have to call foul. Juliette's switch is probably the slowest, most normal of them. It starts in book one (shriveled in a corner, oh but quickly she wants to fight) and then does it again in book three. But Adam and Warner's 180 degree change was so unnatural, I feel like it was just the author's way of appeasing the mass.
If you're not familiar with the series, Warner aka Big Bad, was a really awful character. He was cruel to our Juliette and yet, by book two, everyone was in love with him. Adam, the sweet boy she knew before she was imprisoned, was left by the wayside. Now to have to justify Juliette being with Warner, she has to:
1. Make Warner honorable and awesome and loving and kind and
2. Make Adam awful and cruel and mean and ugly.
I'm sorry but this just makes me want to scream. Sure, maybe this was all planned. But it's such an abrupt changes of these characters make me think of one word:
Cyborgs have replaced the real Adam and the real Warner and they're not getting them right.
But alas, no. These changes were the real thing. (Why?!?!)
Also, there was a whole lotta drama. D.R.A.M.A Like over the top drama. I mean, I'm all about teen angst and all but sigh. It was a lot and slowed down the momentum of the book.
Kenji is my favorite character by far and he steals every scene he is in. Funny, warm and human, I love how he reminds everyone that they are alive. I also loved James, Adam's little brother. He brings some much needed innocent and comic relief, especially his fun scenes with stoic Warner.
I have to admit that though I can't say I liked the series because I had such major problems with it, Ms. Mafi does something right. She creates a story with great dialogue. She keeps the pace going and even I had to read the whole series to find out what happens. I guess that counts for something.
And so it begins again, a new book to shepherd into the world. Here are some catch-up shots from ALA Midwinter in January, in Philadelphia, PA. Here are some of the inside pages of REVOLUTION that my editor David L. and I were working with up to the last second, trying to get just-right, sitting at rehearsal the morning of the Scholastic brunch. We'd done this at NCTE, too, the previous November,
This quote, from Russian Menshevik Lydia Dan, is one of the epigraphs to my work in progress (one of them), a novel about Russian and Ukrainian revolutionaries.
Lydia Dan, a nice girl from a nice upper middle class family of Russian Jewish intellectuals, ended up touring Moscow factories agitating for workers rights among people she had barely a common language with, staying the night with prostitutes to avoid being picked up by the secret police, marrying not just one but two revolutionaries, losing her child, choosing the wrong side (Trotsky’s Mensheviks over Lenin’s Bolsheviks), and living long enough to see a revolution she dedicated her life to, turn distinctly sour and bitter.
“As people we were much more out of books than out of real life,” Dan says, in an extended interview with Leopold Haimson published in The Making of Three Russian Revolutionaries. She means that in her young days, she and her fellow idealists who sat up or walked the streets all night discussing the revolution to come, had seen nothing of ‘real life’. They got their world view from reading Marx and Chernyshevsky and Gorky; the first time Dan actually met a real-life prostitute all she could think about were scenes she had read in Maupassant. They were so busy theorizing about the revolution, and inhabiting its weird, underground, anti-social existence of ideas, that they did not know how to hold down a job, pay a bill, mend a coat, look after a baby…
For me, writing about such people a century later, the quote has a second meaning. Dan and her fellow revolutionaries seem to me like characters out of books: utterly recognisable in their loves and hates and idiocies and heroics, but larger than life, more vivid and interesting, coming from a complete and absorbing world that exists safely between the pages. In other words, fictional.
These last few months in Ukraine, I’ve met the contemporary reincarnation of Dan and her fellow revolutionaries. They are here in all their guises: the ones who make bombs and pick up guns, the ones who write heartfelt tracts or disseminate poisonously attractive lies, the ones who look after the poor and the dispossessed, the ones who spy and betray, the ones who are ready to die for ‘the people’ and the ones who kill, rob and torture people in the name of making a profit.
Again and again, I keep coming across characters who are straight from 1917.
It’s all amazing, amazing material for my novel, of course. But I realise that maybe I am more like Dan than I thought. My ideas for that novel came more out of reading than from experience: I thought those revolutionaries were safely between the pages.
It is terrifying to realise that the people who are tearing a country I love to pieces, or trying desperately to hold it together, are in fact, much more out of real life than out of books.
From the rocky coast of Maine to the shores of northern Florida to the cornfields of Indiana, there are hundreds of sites and landmarks in the eastern United States that are connected to the American Revolution. Some of these sites, such as Bunker Hill and Valley Forge, are better known, and others are more obscure, but all are integral to learning about where and how American independence was fought for, and eventually secured. Beginning with the Boston Common, first occupied by British troops in 1768, and closing with Fraunces Tavern in New York, where George Washington bid farewell to his officers on 4 December 1783, this map plots the locations of these sites and uses The American Revolution: A Historical Guidebook to explain why they were important.
When we use a computer, its performance seems to degrade progressively. This is not a mere impression. An old version of Firefox, the free Web browser, was infamous for its “memory leaks”: it would consume increasing amounts of memory to the detriment of other programs. Bugs in the software actually do slow down the system. We all know what the solution is: reboot. We restart the computer, the memory is reset, and the performance is restored, until the bugs slow it down again.
Philosophy is a bit like a computer with a memory leak. It starts well, dealing with significant and serious issues that matter to anyone. Yet, in time, its very success slows it down. Philosophy begins to care more about philosophers’ questions than philosophical ones, consuming increasing amount of intellectual attention. Scholasticism is the ultimate freezing of the system, the equivalent of Windows’ “blue screen of death”; so many resources are devoted to internal issues that no external input can be processed anymore, and the system stops. The world may be undergoing a revolution, but the philosophical discourse remains detached and utterly oblivious. Time to reboot the system.
Philosophical “rebooting” moments are rare. They are usually prompted by major transformations in the surrounding reality. Since the nineties, I have been arguing that we are witnessing one of those moments. It now seems obvious, even to the most conservative person, that we are experiencing a turning point in our history. The information revolution is profoundly changing every aspect of our lives, quickly and relentlessly. The list is known but worth recalling: education and entertainment, communication and commerce, love and hate, politics and conflicts, culture and health, … feel free to add your preferred topics; they are all transformed by technologies that have the recording and processing of information as their core functions. Meanwhile, philosophy is degrading into self-referential discussions on irrelevancies.
The result of a philosophical rebooting today can only be beneficial. Digital technologies are not just tools merely modifying how we deal with the world, like the wheel or the engine. They are above all formatting systems, which increasingly affect how we understand the world, how we relate to it, how we see ourselves, and how we interact with each other.
The ‘Fourth Revolution’ betrays what I believe to be one of the topics that deserves our full intellectual attention today. The idea is quite simple. Three scientific revolutions have had great impact on how we see ourselves. In changing our understanding of the external world they also modified our self-understanding. After the Copernican revolution, the heliocentric cosmology displaced the Earth and hence humanity from the centre of the universe. The Darwinian revolution showed that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors through natural selection, thus displacing humanity from the centre of the biological kingdom. And following Freud, we acknowledge nowadays that the mind is also unconscious. So we are not immobile, at the centre of the universe, we are not unnaturally separate and diverse from the rest of the animal kingdom, and we are very far from being minds entirely transparent to ourselves. One may easily question the value of this classic picture. After all, Freud was the first to interpret these three revolutions as part of a single process of reassessment of human nature and his perspective was blatantly self-serving. But replace Freud with cognitive science or neuroscience, and we can still find the framework useful to explain our strong impression that something very significant and profound has recently happened to our self-understanding.
Since the fifties, computer science and digital technologies have been changing our conception of who we are. In many respects, we are discovering that we are not standalone entities, but rather interconnected informational agents, sharing with other biological agents and engineered artefacts a global environment ultimately made of information, the infosphere. If we need a champion for the fourth revolution this should definitely be Alan Turing.
The fourth revolution offers a historical opportunity to rethink our exceptionalism in at least two ways. Our intelligent behaviour is confronted by the smart behaviour of engineered artefacts, which can be adaptively more successful in the infosphere. Our free behaviour is confronted by the predictability and manipulability of our choices, and by the development of artificial autonomy. Digital technologies sometimes seem to know more about our wishes than we do. We need philosophy to make sense of the radical changes brought about by the information revolution. And we need it to be at its best, for the difficulties we are facing are challenging. Clearly, we need to reboot philosophy now.
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Image credit: Alan Turing Statue at Bletchley Park. By Ian Petticrew. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.