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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Sherman Alexie, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Giveaway: Signed Copy of Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie & Yuyi Morales

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Enter to win one of two author-signed copies of Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Little Brown, 2016). Obtained from BookPeople. Cynsations sponsored. Eligibility: North America. From the promotional copy:

Thunder Boy Jr. is named after his dad, but he wants a name that's all his own. 

Just because people call his dad Big Thunder doesn't mean he wants to be Little Thunder. He wants a name that celebrates something cool he's done, like Touch the Clouds, Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth, or Full of Wonder.

But just when Thunder Boy Jr. thinks all hope is lost, he and his dad pick the perfect name...a name that is sure to light up the sky.

National Book Award-winner Sherman Alexie's lyrical text and Caldecott Honor-winner Yuyi Morales's striking and beautiful illustrations celebrate the special relationship between father and son.

See below the book trailer, followed by the giveaway entry form. See also Towards a Common Understanding of Native Peoples in the U.S. (or, Why Alexie's Thunder Boy Jr. Needs a Note to Readers) by Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children's Literature.



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2. Towards a Common Understanding of Native Peoples in the U.S. (or, Why Alexie's THUNDER BOY JR. Needs a Note to Readers)

Last evening (May 14th, 2016), I did a search on Twitter to see what people were saying about Sherman Alexie's appearances at Book Expo and BookCon. He had some terrific things to say, like this (quoting a tweet from the Publishers Weekly account):

Sherman Alexie won't sell movie rights to his books b/c he doesn't want his books whitewashed and non-Native actors #thebookcon.
In scrolling through the tweets, I also saw one from a person who read Thunder Boy Jr. to kids in storytime, and then had the kids pick new names. That was--and is--a primary concern for me. Last year, a cousin's little boy brought home a worksheet where he had to pick a Native American name. Here's a photo of the worksheet:



It is hard to read. Here's what it says:
What name would you choose if you were a Native American? Although Native Americans gave their children names just as your parents did for you, they were very different. They also may have many names throughout their life. The elders named the children and adults within the tribe. Some came as dreams or visions from the elder which was a sign for naming the person. Others go along with the personality or characteristic of that person. A Native American name may tell about what the person does well or wants to do, something that may have happened on the day of that person's birth, or something else that has specific meaning relating to that person. Sometimes Native Americans didn't like their names because they may have been degrading. For example: Would you like to be called Talks Too Much, Buffalo Woman, Lonely One, Lazy Elk, or No Particular Tribe? Since animals were a large part of their religious world, they were often used when naming a person. For example: Running Deer, Brave Hawk, Thunder Bird, Quiet caterpillar, Wild Cat, Sly Fox or Swimming Dolphin. Part of the nature were common too since Native Americans worshipped their land. For example: Strong Wind, Running Thunder, Lightning Bolt, Shining Sun or Happy Weather. Once the elder named the child or adult, they have a ceremonial feast and that elder and newly named person formed a bond. Now it is your turn! A Native name can say quite a lot about you! Give it a try!
Think of an animal or part of nature
Think of a characteristic about yourself
Put them together!
Write your name and a description of why you chose your name on the template. In the box, draw a picture of yourself as a Native American. Below there is a circle. Here you will create a symbol for your name. Since they didn't have an alphabet or written language they often used symbols to write their names. Make it simple! Too much detail would take too much time to write your name over and over again!
I uttered one "oh my gosh" after another as I read that worksheet (where did the author find those names, and why is "Buffalo Woman" seen as degrading?!), but let's stick with my concern: the monolithic or pan-Indian character of that worksheet. There are over 500 federally recognized nations in the United States. Amongst them is tremendous diversity of language, ceremony, and yes, naming.

None of the major review journals noted problems with the pan-Indian character of Alexie's picture book. Did others, I wondered? I went over to Goodreads to see. On April 14th, 2016, Jillian Heise, who (at the time) was teaching Native children, wrote:
I see my students on these pages, most especially my favorite, with the male grass dancer regalia, and wish there were more chances for them to see themselves, and others to see them, in the pages of picture books.
I appreciate the book, and feel it is important, but wonder if it may somewhat confuse those who haven't been taught about cultural naming traditions. Might they read this and see it as a silly thing instead of the deeper meaning usually given to it? Because of that, I wish there had been an end note to add some more perspective within the larger conversation.
Kudos to Jillian! She's got the context to understand why the lack of specificity in the book is a concern.

In emails with Roger Sutton a couple of days ago, we briefly touched on my review of Alexie's book. He said "how we respect insiders and outsiders at the same time" is "a big question." I think we all want to get to a place in children's literature, textbooks, movies, etc. where we're all represented, accurately, and where students and consumers don't need help understanding the cultural, religious, history, etc. of the story or information being conveyed. In many places, for example, I've applauded Daniel Jose Older's video asking writers not to use italics for non-English words. He's pushing the status quo in terrific ways. Given the shifting demographics in the United States, that place (where things aren't so darn white) is going to come, eventually. We're getting there.

In the meantime, for some peoples and some topics, readers are going to need some help, within the pages of the book. Thunder Boy Jr. is a perfect example of the need for that help. I bought three copies of the 100,000 that were printed. One of them is mine, one is for Jayden (my sister's grandson), and the third copy is for his class. It is a class of Pueblo Indian children who probably have gone through their naming ceremony. We (I'm Pueblo, too) have specific ways in which we receive our names. My parents named me Debbie when I was born. A few weeks, I received a Pueblo name. I'm not going to provide details about that because ceremonies are not something we disclose. There are reasons for that, including the fact that our religious ceremonies (naming is part of that) were outlawed by the US government. Another is that people who are searching for identity and meaning in their lives gravitate to Native peoples and "go Native" in superficial ways that are harmful to Native peoples. The children in that classroom, secure in who they are (like Jillian's students), will likely enjoy the story.

As I've noted, 100,000 copies of the book were published. I'm hoping that Little, Brown (the publisher) will include a Note in the next batch, providing a "do not use this book as an activity for which kids pick a Native American name," an explanation for why that is not a respectful activity, and a bit of information about Native naming. If you've got a copy, or if you get one of the 100,000 copies, I hope the information I share here is helpful.

I'll start with some tweets I sent out this morning:
Inevitable: Tweet from someone who read Alexie's Thunder Boy Jr. to kids and then did activity where kids picked their Indian names.
Fact: Imagine being a Native kid in that class, who already has a name, given to them in ceremony, being asked to make up a new one.
Question: Would it help adult readers NOT do that activity if there was a note inside the book about Native peoples and naming?
A truth: A white teacher asking a Native kid to choose a new name harkens back to boarding schools where teachers asked Native kids to point to a blackboard to choose a new name. 
That last tweet is a reference to Luther Standing Bear and what he wrote in his My Indian Boyhood. He was Lakota. In the foreward to the 2006 edition of My Indian Boyhood (first published in 1931), Delphine Red Shirt (she's Oglala Sioux) wrote that:
Lakota children are named at birth by their parents or by close relatives. Standing Bear's brothers' names, Sorrel Horse and Never Defeated, signified brave deeds that their father had been known for: he once had a sorrel horse shot out from under him, and he displayed heroic characteristics in battle, causing the people to remember him as never having been defeated. As Standing Bear later recalled, "In the names of his sons, the history of [my father] is kept fresh." Standing Bear's father was a leader who killed many to protect his people. Thus, like his brothers, Ota K'te (Plenty Kill) was also given a name that held significance.
Ota K'te kept his boyhood name until it changed to Mato Najin, or "Standing Bear," later in his life, according to Lakota custom. In the old tradition, he would have earned a new name through a heroic or brave deed, but by the time he reached an age when he could prove himself worthy, the Lakota people had been confined to the Pine Ridge Reservation. He took his father's name, Standing Bear, and at Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, he took the name Luther.
In his My People the Sioux (first published in 1928), Standing Bear writes that when he got to Carlisle, an interpreter came to the room where they were and said to them (p. 138):
'Do you see all these marks on the blackboard? Well, each word is a white man's name. They are going to give each of you one of these names by which you will hereafter be known.' None of the names were read or explained to us, so of course we did not know the sound or meaning of any of them.
The teacher had a long pointed stick in her hand, and the interpreter told the boy in the front seat to come up. The teacher handed the stick to him, and the interpreter then told him to pick out any name he wanted. The boy had gone up with his blanket on. When the long stick was handed to him, he turned to us as much as to say, 'Shall I--or will you help me--to take one of these names? Is it right for me to take a white man's name?' He did not know what to do for a time, not uttering a single word--but he acted a lot and was doing a lot of thinking.
Finally he pointed out one of the names written on the blackboard. Then the teacher took a piece of white tape and wrote the name on it. Then she cut off a length of the tape and sewed it on the back of the boy's shirt. Then that name was erased from the board. 
This went on for all the kids. In class when the teacher called the roll and the person whose name she called didn't stand, she'd look at the tape and make that child stand up and say 'Present.' That is how they learned what their new names sounded like, and that they should respond to the name when it was said.

All of that information is specific to Luther Standing Bear and Lakotas.

I understand that Alexie, in his classroom visits, is telling kids that the boy in the story is Spokane. Speaking as a teacher, I would love to see that in the book, and information about the ways that Spokane's name their children. At some point in the future, my hope is that the diversity within Native America will be common knowledge, and such notes won't be necessary. We aren't there, yet, and while I don't want Native writers to feel a responsibility to explain things to non-Native readers, I think it is, for now, necessary that their books include helpful notes.

Providing that information in a Note to Readers respects the writer's way of telling a story as they choose to tell it, and respects the outsiders need for more information with which to understand that story. It is one answer to Roger Sutton's question about how we can respect insiders and outsiders at the same time.

_______________
Previous posts on Thunder Boy Jr.

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3. More questions about Sherman Alexie's THUNDER BOY JR.

As I continue thinking about Sherman Alexie's Thunder Boy Jr., I wonder about the responsibility of the editorial team. Back when A Fine Dessert was published, some people pointed out that the editorial team has responsibilities, too, for the book. Some argued that, in the end, the author and illustrator have final responsibility because their names are on the book. Others countered that they don't have as much authority as one might think. 

This post is some of my thoughts on the role of the editor.

Alexie writes primarily for adults. His name, books, and then his films (Smoke Signals and The Business of Fancydancing) were well known in Native circles. When he wrote The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian he became widely known in children's and young adult literature. In one interview, he said that Diary sold over a million copies. He heard from a lot of readers about how much that book mattered to them, and so, he wanted to do something similar for younger readers. Hence: Thunder Boy Jr.

The first print run for Thunder Boy Jr. is 100,000 copies, which is rare for a picture book. The publisher is Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (they also published Diary). Their decision to print 100,000 copies tells us they expect the book to do well. Its status this morning as "#1 Best Seller" in the Children's Native American Books category at Amazon tells us they were right. 

As I noted yesterday, Alexie is making a lot of appearances. I assume the publisher is paying for all of that. 

Alexie's editor, Alvina Ling, is fully aware of the intense discussions in children's literature regarding the topic of diversity, racism, stereotyping, bias... all of that. She's steeped in the world of children's literature. I think--and I could be wrong--but I think Alvina knows that we're pushing very hard against monolithic images of Native peoples. 

Alexie may not know. When he talks about children's books, his go-to title is The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. That's a really old book. I've never seen Alexie speak or write about a children or young adult book about Native peoples written by a Native writer, so I wonder if he's aware of that particular body of literature? 

In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, we know which tribal nation his characters are from. Why is that information missing from Thunder Boy Jr.

Did he think it was too much information to include Thunder Boy's tribal affiliation in the story, somehow? 

Was he unable to figure out a way to do it without yanking readers out of the story? 

If he was writing with a Native reader in mind, did he think that specificity was unimportant?

If Alexie and his editor talked through all of that, I again end up at the place I was yesterday: an author's note would have been the place to address all of this.

It is possible that Alexie didn't know about author's notes in children's literature, but his author knows all about them and why they're important. Is the lack of one ultimately her error?

~~~~~

There is another framework to situate Alexie's book and choices within... There's a contentious conversation taking place amongst Native people, regarding enrollment or citizenship within a federally recognized tribe. Or--rather--the disenrollment of people who were formerly enrolled in those nations. Some weeks ago there was a hashtag campaign objecting to the disenrollments. You can read about it at Indian Country Today's article, 'Stop Disenrollment' Posts Get More than 100K Views.

Read, too, their story on Alexie's views on disenrollment: Sherman Alexie Gives Disenrollment the Bird. Is the lack of specificity his way of embracing kids whose families are being disenrolled?

No doubt, I'll be back with additional posts on Alexie's book. No book exists in a vacuum. It is in the world, being read by people who are also in the world.

~~~~~

See my first post on his book How to Read Sherman Alexie's Thunder Boy Jr.? uploaded on May 12, 2016. 

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4. How to Read Sherman Alexie's THUNDER BOY JR.?

Back in February, I pre-ordered a copy of Sherman Alexie's picture book, Thunder Boy Jr. It arrived on Tuesday (May 10, 2016). The illustrations are by Yuyi Morales.

Alexie is doing a significant promotional campaign for the book. He was on The Daily Show two nights ago. Forbes had a story about the book. So did Bustle, Entertainment Weekly... you can do a search and find many others.

That's cool. I am happy that a Native writer is getting that level of exposure. In some of these stories, Alexie speaks about invisibility, representation, and similar issues of concern to Native people. Bringing these topics to a broader audience is very important. Because he is much loved by the American public, Alexie is a person who can influence how someone thinks about an issue.

In a nutshell, Thunder Boy Jr. is about a little boy whose father, Thunder Boy, named him Thunder Boy Jr. at birth.  But, Thunder Boy Jr. wants his own name and identity. This is definitely a universal theme. Lot of kids and adults wish they had a different name.

Alexie's much-loved humor is front and center of this story. Because Thunder Boy's dad is a big man, his nickname is Big Thunder. The words "Big Thunder" are extra large and bold on the page, inviting readers to boom it out as they read it. That makes it all the more inviting as a read aloud. If his dad is Big Thunder, that means Thunder Boy's nickname is Little Thunder, and that is not ok with him:
That nickname makes me sound like a burp or a fart.
Some will love seeing the word fart; others will not. Here's that page. See Thunder Boy's little sister? I look at the illustration of the two kids and my heart goes right to my sister's grandchildren and memories of them playing and dancing together at my niece's wedding last week. I think they'll like this book very much.



Here's Jayden and Ellie on the dance floor. When her sandal slipped off, she sat down right there on the floor. He kneeled beside her and tried to get it back on, but those straps slide all over and he couldn't figure it out. It was endearing to see them together trying to puzzle through it. He'd look at her other shoe to see if he could see how to make it all right again. I stopped filming when he started looking around for help, and of course, I helped her so they could pick up where they'd left off.

Jayden and Ellie

In Thunder Boy Jr. we see a warm and loving Native family. I like that, a lot. I see that warmth in Jayden and Ellie's relationship with each other and their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.

Moving back to Alexie's book: Thunder Boy Jr. tells us this his name is not a normal name. His mother, whose name is Agnes, and his sister, whose name is Lilian, have normal names. He hates his name. He wants a name that sounds like him, that celebrates something cool that he has done. He climbed a tall mountain, so maybe his name could be Touch the Clouds. He loves playing in the dirt, so maybe his name could be Mud In His Ears, and so on.

That's where the story, for me, goes into a place that makes me wonder how to read it. Let me explain.

If I read it as a Native kid whose community, friends, and family engage in banter about naming and give each other nicknames, cool. It is delightful.

And if I imagine it being read by a reader who likes and respects Native peoples, I can see why they would like it, too. For that reader, though...  The move to possible names that celebrate "something cool that I've done"? I know the not-liking-your-name theme resonates, but do they also like it because it fits within mainstream "knowledge" of how Native people are named?

What Alexie has given us is a pan Indian story.

By not being tribally specific, his story obscures the diversity that Native writers, scholars, activists, parents, teachers, librarians, lawyers... have been bringing forth forever. We aren't monolithic. We're very different in our histories, religions, material cultures, and yes, the ways that we give names. Moving into that name play collapses significant distinctions across our nations.

I noted above that I got the book on May 10th. Do you know what was going on then?

We were in the midst of a horrible "TrumpIndianNames" hashtag. Last week, Donald Trump took a swipe at Elizabeth Warren's claims to Native identity (her claim is a problem, too, that I've written about elsewhere). The response to him was the TrumpIndianNames hashtag where Democrats, progressives, independents--a wide swath of people, in other words--had a grand time coming up with "Indian names" for Trump. All of that, however, was at our expense. People thought they were very clever. Native people, on the other hand, were quick to object to Native ways of naming being used in this way.

So, that is the context from which I read Thunder Boy Jr. If I stand within a Native community, the book is delightful. If I stand outside of it, in a well-meaning but ignorant mainstream US society, the book takes on a different cast.

Is that fair to Alexie or to his book? I'm thinking about that question and don't have an answer. I know for sure that if a white writer had done a book that played with Native names, I'd be very critical. Indeed, I was very critical when Jon Scieszka did it in Me Oh Maya and I was very critical when Russell Hoban did it in Soonchild.

Is it ok for Alexie to do it because he is Native? Does the book represent inside-humor that marks it as ok? I don't know.

In an interview with Brian Lehrer, Alexie said that Thunder Boy doesn't like the name because it was assigned to him, and wasn't a name he had given himself. He wants a name that measures something he has done. Alexie said:
This calls back to ancient tribal traditions of many peoples, Native Americans included, where the transition to adulthood involves getting a new name that measures something that you've done, or is predictive, something that your elders hope you become.
None of that information is inside the book. What he said on Lehrer's show is lacking in specificity. In the interview he said "many peoples, Native Americans included" but given the existing ignorance of Native peoples, I think that the book would be much improved by an author's note that provides parents, teachers, and librarians with information about naming.

Last thing I want to note is the page where Thunder Boy says that he loves powwow dancing and that he is a grass dancer. I love the illustration, from above, of him dancing.



But the drums in the top right? From what I know about powwow drums, that's not quite accurate. Usually, there's a single drum with several drummers, and the drum is on a stand. It doesn't sit on the ground or floor.

In sum? A mixed review. That's where I am right now. I really do think that my concerns with the pan Indian character of Thunder Boy Jr. could be addressed with an author's note. Perhaps there will be one in the next printing.

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5. Eric Jennings, Sherman Alexie, and Damaging Perceptions about Alcohol Use Amongst Native Peoples

Yesterday on Twitter, Annie Pho tweeted this image:




The words in the image she tweeted are a 2016 article by Eric Jennings, titled "The librarian stereotype: How librarians are damaging their image and profession." People on twitter were, appropriately, angry that Jennings used that excerpt in the way that he did. Here's the excerpt Jennings used (shown in the image):
When I was at the 2009 Association of College and Research Libraries conference, I saw Sherman Alexie speak, and one of the things that stuck with me is that there's always some truth to a stereotype. He was talking specifically about how the stereotype for many Native Americans is that they are alcoholics. And, in fact, most of his family members are alcoholics. He even went on record as saying that the whole race is filled with alcoholics and that pretending that alcoholism is a stereotype among Native Americans is a form of denial (Alexie, 2009).
I took a look at the source for that quote. It is a video. I watched it. Alexie did, in fact, say what Jennings says he did. 

Was it wise for Jennings to use that excerpt in his article about stereotypes of librarians? I think not. Here's why.

Most people know a librarian. Most people probably know a lot of librarians, and know that the stereotypes of librarians don't apply. 

Most people, however, do not know a Native person. So, there's no way for them--in the course of their everyday life--to know that most of us are not, in fact, alcoholics.


Let's think about that a minute.

Alexie said it is a stereotype that Native people are alcoholics. 

The truth? Alcoholism is a widespread disease. 

Alcoholism is a social disease. It does not exist in higher incidences amongst Native communities. Alexie tells us about his specific family. What he says is not true for my own family. We're not exceptional, either. I'm not saying "Not us" out of a holier-than-thou space.

A research study released earlier this year says it isn't true for most Native people in the US either. Holding that view, however, has costs to Native people. The news report about the article included this:
"Of course, debunking a stereotype doesn’t mean that alcohol problems don’t exist," Cunningham said. "All major U.S. racial and ethnic groups face problems due to alcohol abuse, and alcohol use within those groups can vary with geographic location, age and gender.
"But falsely stereotyping a group regarding alcohol can have its own unique consequences. For example, some employers might be reluctant to hire individuals from a group that has been stereotyped regarding alcohol. Patients from such a group, possibly wanting to avoid embarrassment, may be reluctant to discuss alcohol-related problems with their doctors."
And here's another paragraph:
"Negative stereotyping of groups of people who have less access to health care creates even more health disparities," Muramoto said. "Based on a false negative stereotype, some health care providers may inaccurately attribute a presenting health problem to alcohol use and fail to appropriately diagnose and treat the problem."
Several years ago, a dear elder in my tribal nation dealt with that very thing. He wasn't well. He had tests done. Doctors assumed he was alcoholic, and that alcohol abuse was the cause of what they saw in tests. He told them he didn't drink, but, they wouldn't probe further. Now, he's finally been diagnosed with a fatal disease. Just writing those words brings tears to my eyes. 

Words. As I said on Twitter, words matter. They shape what people think and what people do. Words shaped those doctors who didn't believe this elder. 

In a recent article in Booklist, Cynthia Leitich Smith wrote this:
I’ve had allied non-Indian librarians tell me, one way or another, that they’re committed to telling stories about “real Indians” and go on to clarify that they mean alcoholics living in reservation communities. As if, say, my tribal town and urban characters were somehow less “real.” 
I cringed reading her words because what she's encountering is a belief in that stereotype. They think it is real. I'm seeing it in books I've read in the last year. Writers seem to have an idea that, if they're writing a story about Native people or our communities, they better make sure to have an alcoholic in it. 

Writers who do that are damaging us, and they're damaging non-Native readers, too. They are taking a social illness and making it a NATIVE social illness. My guess is that they have read Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. That story has alcoholism in it. Because he's got it in his book, I think writers are thinking that they should make sure to include it in their stories, too.

Writers: Don't do that.

Editors: Don't let your writers do that.

Book reviewers and bloggers: Your reviews/posts influence purchasing decisions. Pay attention. See what I see, which is the overrepresentation of alcoholism as a part of Native life. 

Everyone: Read the study. See for yourself. 

See the news article: Study Debunks Notions about Native Americans, Alcohol
Read the study: Alcohol use among Native Americans compared to whites: Examining the veracity of the 'Native American elevated alcohol consumption' belief



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6. 2014 Banned Books: INFOGRAPHIC

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7. One Novel with a Perfect Ending

UnknownI finally got around to reading Sherman Alexie’s bestseller, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. There’s just times in your life when you’ve got to rectify old wrongs, and this was one of them. I had to read that book.

I’d heard that it was a great book from many sources, including some trusted friends. (A curious phrase, by the way, “trusted friends.” As opposed to all those other friends we have, with crappy taste, the friends we can’t possibly trust.)

So I took Alexie’s book out of the library and read it. Now I am a member of the club and say without hesitation: Stop wasting your life and read it already! Today I’m not looking to review a book that’s already been reviewed hundreds of times. My focus is on the book’s final two paragraphs. To me, those six sentences felt exactly right, forming a poignant, understated conclusion.

I don’t think that reproducing it here involves any spoilers, or anything that could diminish your enjoyment of the book, so here goes:

Rowdy and I played one-on-one for hours. We played until dark. We played until the streetlights lit up the court. We played until the bats swooped down at our heads. We played until the moon was huge and golden and perfect in the dark sky.

We didn’t keep score.

I love the repetition of “we played,” repeated four times, the rhythmic, accumulative power of that device, the simplicity of the word choice, the interplay between light and dark, and that great, four-word conclusion. We didn’t keep score. Perfection.

Back four years ago, I wrote a decent post titled “Best Last Lines from Books,” and I think you might enjoy it. So click away, folks. It’s absolutely free.

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8. Comics Take Center Stage For This Year’s Banned Books Week Celebration

banned-comicsThe American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression will celebrate Banned Books Week from September 21st to September 27th.

The organization plans to shine a spotlight on graphic novels and comics. Judith Platt, chair of the Banned Books Week National Committee, had this statement in a press release: “This year we spotlight graphic novels because, despite their serious literary merit and popularity as a genre, they are often subject to censorship.”

The American Library Association recently revealed the top ten list of most frequently challenged books for this year. Jeff Smith’s comic series, Bone, occupies the #10 spot. Earlier this year, Smith designed the cover for Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Banned Books Week Handbook. Follow this link to access a free digital copy. Check out the entire list after the jump.

(more…)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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9. READERGIRLZ ROAR FOR BANNED BOOKS WEEK

Adult/Teen Librarian Danielle Dreger-Babbitt from Mill Creek Library WA is here to Roar with readergirlz for Banned Books Week
Welcome Danielle.


Tell us about Banned Books Week
Banned Book Week was started 32 years ago to celebrate the freedom to read after more and more books were being challenged in libraries and schools. According to the American Librarian Association, over 11,000 books have been challenged since 1982. Over 200 of them happened in 2013! You can learn more about Banned Book Week on the ALA website.


What do you do to spread the word about Banned Books Week and Intellectual Freedom Issues?
I do a banned book display each year.  My favorite displays are the ones I did in 2011 when library patrons wrote about their favorite banned books and the 2012 display that took up a whole shelving unit. I love being able to showcase these banned and challenged books.

 
Along with each year’s display, I include Banned Book lists and pamphlets as well as bookmarks and buttons for library customers to take home. We’ve had essay contests where readers write about their favorite challenged or banned books and win copies of banned books. When I visit the middle schools to talk about books in the fall I often bring along books that have been challenged from other parts of the country and have the students guess why they might be banned or challenged.


Readers Roar: (Let’s hear what teens have to say about banned books)
“If people read the books before they banned them, they might have a better understanding of why the book is important. If you ban a book, it only makes me want to read it more.”- Jessica, Grade 11

 
Any Banned Books you would like to highlight?
Some of my favorite banned and challenged books include Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Shine and TTYL by Lauren Myracle, and 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  And my absolute favorite banned/ challenged book is Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Most teens are amazed to hear that it has been taken out of some schools and libraries!
What can readergirlz do to celebrate Banned Books Week?
Check out the activities on the BannedBooksSite . Readergirlz can celebrate their freedom to read by reading one or two banned or challenged books during Banned Book Week. Bonus points for reading these all year long, not just in September and for sharing these titles with their friends and family.
 
More ideas from readergirlz diva Janet Lee Carey: Grab your favorite Banned Book and RIP = Read in Public. Do a selfie while reading your favorite banned book and post it on your favorite social networks. Use twitter hashtag #BannedBooksWeek and @readergirlz when you post on twitter.
Use the site Support Banned Books Week  to add a temporary banner below your profile photo. Divas Janet Lee Carey and Justina Chen's photos:  

 

ONE LAST BIG ROAR from guest poster, Danielle
The best way to support libraries is to use them! Check out books and DVDs and CDs, use the databases to find information, and attend as many library programs and events as your schedule allows. By doing these, you are showing us that you think libraries are important. There are many ways to give back to your library. Consider becoming a volunteer or join the library board or Friend’s Group.  Teens can join the library’s Teen Advisory Board and help make decisions about future library programs and purchases. You can also donate books to the library for the Friends of Library Book Sale. The money from these sales supports library programs and special events!
About Danielle Dreger-Babbitt
I’ve been a teen librarian for over 10 years and have worked in libraries in Massachusetts and Washington. I’ve been an Adult/ Teen Librarian at the Mill Creek Library for over 5 ½ years. I’ve been active in ALA’s YALSA  (Young Adult Library Services Association) for the last decade and have served on committees including Outreach to Teens With Special Needs, The Schneider Family Book Award, and most recently The Alex Awards, for which I was the 2014 committee chair.

In my spare time I write for children and teens. I love to read YA and MG fiction and cooking memoirs/ cookbooks. I own two cats and two badly behaved (but adorable) dogs. I also love to travel and recently visited Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina.

Let’s Link:
Sno-Isle Teen Blog 

Thanks again for the terrific Banned Books post for readergirlz, Danielle!

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10. Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer Sign On as Indies First Spokespeople

Neil Gaiman & Amanda PalmerThe American Booksellers Association has recruited Newbery Medal-winning author Neil Gaiman and his rockstar wife Amanda Palmer (both pictured, via) to serve as spokespeople for this year’s Indies First campaign.

Gaiman and Palmer penned an open letter calling for fellow writers to participate. Those who answer the call will be serving as volunteer sellers at their favorite independent bookstores on Saturday, November 29th (aka “Small Business Saturday“).

National Book Award winner Sherman Alexie conceived of the idea and helped to launch this initiative last year. More than 1,100 authors participated in the 2013 event including Kelly Barson, Cheryl Strayed, and Jon Scieszka.

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11. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

absolutely true diary The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time IndianIn The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie tells Junior’s story with a lot of humor, but pulls no punches in depicting the brutal truths of alcoholism, poverty, and bigotry both on and off the reservation. Does humor have a place in a realistic novel about tragic circumstances? If you’ve had classroom experience with this book, how have your students responded to Junior’s story?

We are also reading Alexie’s Wall Street Journal article, “Why the Best Kid’s Books are Written In Blood.” Go ahead an comment on that article here, too.

share save 171 16 The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

The post The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian appeared first on The Horn Book.

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12. ReedPOP & We Need Diverse Books Team Up For BookCon

BookCon EventReedPOP and We Need Diverse Books have established a partnership. The collaborators plan to organize two panels that will take place during BookCon 2015.

The first panel, scheduled for May 30th, will focus on the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre with participation from Kameron Hurley, Ken Liu, Nnedi Okorafor, Daniel Jose Older, and Joe Monti. The second panel, scheduled for May 31st, will feature appearances from Jacqueline Woodson, Sherman Alexie, Libba Bray, David Levithan, and Meg Medina.

Here’s more from the press release: “We Need Diverse Books was part of last year’s inaugural BookCon playing host to a standing room only panel full of thought-provoking conversation and enthusiastic readers. The overwhelming response from fans and the rapid ascent of We Need Diverse Books, which grew from a social media awareness campaign into a global movement, set the stage for the partnership to expand at this year’s show.”

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13. We Need Diverse Books to Host Short Story Contest

We Need Diverse BooksWe Need Diverse Books will host a short story contest for unpublished diverse writers. Entries (5,000 words or less) will be accepted starting on April 27th; the deadline has been set for May 8th.

The winning piece will be included in the organization’s anthology (working title Stories For All Of Us). This book is dedicated to the memory of the late Walter Dean Myers and his quote, “Once I began to read, I began to exist.”

Phoebe Yeh, the publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers at Random House, has acquired this project. Some of the authors who plan to contribute pieces include Sherman Alexie, Grace Lin, and Jacqueline Woodson. Click here to learn more details about this contest.

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14. ALA Unveils List of Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2014

Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianThe American Library Association (ALA) has released its annual list of the most frequently challenged library books of the year. Sherman Alexie’s National Book Award-winning young adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, claimed the top spot.

Throughout the year 2014, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom received 311 reports of challenged books. Click here to check out an infographic that explores “Banned Books Through History.”

Here’s an excerpt from the ALA report: “The lack of diverse books for young readers continues to fuel concern…A current analysis of book challenges recorded by ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) from 2001 – 2013, shows that attempts to remove books by authors of color and books with themes about issues concerning communities of color are disproportionately challenged and banned. A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that a book or other material be restricted or removed because of its content or appropriateness.”

10 Most Frequently Challenged Library Books of 2014

1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

2. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

3. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell with illustrations by Henry Cole

4. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

5. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris

6. Saga written by Brian Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples

7. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

9. A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

10. Drama by Raina Telgemeier

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15. Sherman Alexie to Write His Debut Picture Book

Books Sherman AlexieNational Book Award-winning author Sherman Alexie plans to write this debut picture book, Thunder Boy Jr. Artist Yuyi Morales created the illustrations for this project.

Publisher Megan Tingley negotiated this deal with literary agents Nancy Stauffer and Charlotte Sheedy. Editor in chief Alvina Ling and associate editor Bethany Strout worked on editing the manuscript together. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers will release this book on May 03, 2016.

Here’s more from the press release: “Thunder Boy Jr. tells the story of a little boy who is named after his dad. But Thunder Boy Jr. doesn’t want to share a name; he wants a name that is all his own, and he goes through many possibilities—Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth? Touch the Clouds? Old Toys Are Awesome? Just when all hope is lost, his dad helps him find the perfect name, one that celebrates the love between father and son.”

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16. Authors and Booksellers Seek Amazon Antitrust Inquiry

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17. About Christine Taylor-Butler's Facebook Post

On Monday, September 7, 2015, Christine Taylor Butler started a conversation on Facebook by talking about heated conversations that took place over some things that Maggie Stiefvater said about writing the other (if you didn't follow it, see her response on her Tumblr page). Christine wrote (quoting what she said in its entirety):

I am watching the Maggie Stiefvater controversy and finding myself thinking that we don't progress as an industry because the internet has developed a new phenomena. The "attack by blog" cowardice from narcissistic sociopaths who use it as a form of passive aggressive expression for their anger management issues.
We don't have dialogue - we have attacks. We don't invite debate. We demand rote adherence to a single point of view.
We anoint movements as surrogates for real action and change but ignore the others that were on the front lines of the battle.
We attack the white speakers, but not the conference organizers who perpetuated the problem.
Why attack Maggie, when we didn't attack the authors who were appointed to an all-white male BookCon panel.
This. Must. Stop.
Children's literature is about creating engaging works for children. Not wars between angry content creators who, unable to pinpoint the true villains, tear down each other.
This. Must. Stop.
For those who can't conceive of sharing the landscape so diversity has a broader meaning. For those who say whites can't write "other" instead of addressing the real problem which is that those of us who are "other" should be able to write across boundaries, too, I say get out of the kidlit business and write for adults. Because you don't understand where the real problem lies.

As people responded to her, I read some comments that indicated some people may be unaware that, in children's literature, the discussion of "who can write" is not a new one. I posted a comment with a link to my post about dinner with Deborah Wiles. That post includes a quote from Kathryn Lasky, a writer who called critics "self-styled militias of cultural diversity." That quote is from 1996.  A few minutes later I got a notification saying Ellen Hopkins had commented on Christine's post, so I went back to see how the conversation was developing. My comment was gone. Christine had deleted it. That was surprising to me. Right after Ellen's comments, I saw one from Christine:



In that comment, she didn't name the blogger. Because she'd just deleted my comments, I assumed she was talking about me. I had asked her for an ARC. I did review her book, The Lost Tribes. At that point I more or less shrugged it off.

Later, however, there was a longer post (below) sent to her 800+ friends that I felt I couldn't shrug off. In it, she replaced "Dine (Navajo)" with "another culture" and "Indian Outreach Center" with "Outreach Center". Even without the references to Native culture, people who she sent it to thought she was talking about me. They wrote to me to ask about it. They sent me the text itself. I also received screen shots of it. Here's the text (my apologies for the not-great quality of the screen caps):





In the longer comment, this line is the one that prompted me to write this post:
"She didn't bother to explain in her blog that over several months she and I had discussed the research I had done."
The reason? Lot of writers and editors write to me, seeking my help with content specific to Native people. My worry? She was scaring people away from seeking my help. If they assume--like I and others did--that she was talking about me, she was effectively casting doubt on my integrity.

Was addressing it, however, buying in to social media drama? Yesterday morning (Tuesday, September 9), I said (on Facebook) that I was thinking about writing this post. Yesterday afternoon, Christine said (in a comment to me) that she was not talking about me. Other things she said in that comment contradicted that assertion. She deleted that comment, too. I don't have a copy of it.

Contradictions aside, I can take her at her word. This post was intended to be my effort to make sense of what Christine was saying. In an early draft of this post, I wrote about our interactions via Facebook and email, quoting extensively from those interactions. I'm setting that draft aside.

As Christine's initial post (top of this page) indicates, this is a heated moment in children's literature as we (once again) engage the debate of who-can-write. It is heated in adult literature, too. As I write, people are discussing Sherman Alexie's post about why he decided, in his role as editor of The Best American Poetry 2015, to include a poem by Michael Derrick Hudson, a white man who submitted that poem with the name "Yi-Fen Chou" rather than his own name. I think Alexie was wrong to include it. Writers use pen names for many reasons. Names matter. There are studies that show that people with ethnic names are, for example, denied job interviews, loans, and opportunities to publish. In some of those studies, the very same content is submitted using names like Smith, and those applications get further in the process.  Hudson did the opposite thing. He exploited a marginalized population for personal gain. There are excellent responses to Alexie's decision. See, for example, the letter by Craig Santos Perez.

I'm on the record, for those who don't know, for preferring Native writers because when a teacher or librarian shares a Native-authored book with a child, that teacher or librarian can use present tense verbs to tell that child about that author and that author's tribal nation, that nation's website, and so on. Those present tense verbs push back on the idea that we're a primitive people, and ideas that we no longer exist. My review recommending On the Move by Flynn, who is not Native is evidence that I think a non-Native person can write a story about Native people.

As for what Christine said about bloggers attacking authors? Some writers view negative criticisms as attacks, or, as dangerous. I understand they feel that way to writers, but the work I do here on AICL and elsewhere privileges the children who will read what writers write.

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18. 30 Books Challenged in Oregon

It's one thing to read about censorship in a news article; it's another to become aware of the threat at a nearby library or school. For Banned Books Week this year, we reviewed hundreds of documented appeals to remove materials from a local public library, school library, or course curriculum. Below are 30 books that [...]

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19. On the Shelf with Librarian Jessica Lee

Jessica Lee is a teacher librarian at Willard Middle School in Berkeley, California. She has also been an English teacher, a public librarian, and a waitress, but her favorite terrible-teen job was selling snacks at Six Flags Magic Mountain. She is the mom of two boys who are also students at her school, fully integrating the work-life experience.

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20. Sherman Alexie Novel Distrbution During World Book Night

truediaryStudents in Idaho celebrated World Book Night last week by handing out free copies of Sherman Alexie‘s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

The National Book Award winning title was recently banned by the Idaho school district. Members of the district that disapproved of the book called the police on the teens distributing the free copies last week.

Shelf Awareness has more: “KBOI-2 reported that ‘the police asked Kissel about passing out the book. They said they found nothing wrong with what was going on in the park.’ Case closed. Kissel said they had 350 books to give away at the park, along with 350 donated by publisher Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Another book giveaway is planned for next week.”

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21. Jen Doll Responds to the Read YA Controversy with Thoughts About Nuance—

and this is one of the many things I love about Jen.

Jen's whole piece, on Hairpin, is here.

Her final words are a sweet, right challenge:
So read, read Y.A., read adult literature, read blog posts, read magazines, read your box of Cheerios in the morning. Read all you can and want to read, acknowledging the easy and unchallenging and the difficult and complicated, and form your own opinions, trying to add a little room for nuance and understanding and openness in all that you do. That’s the best you can do as a reader, a writer, and a human.
And how honored am I to have Going Over included among works by Markus Zusak, Nina LaCour, Andrew Smith, Cammie McGovern, Laurie Halse Anderson, Sherman Alexie, Aaron Hartzler, E. Lockhart, and Matthew Quick on Jen's "10 Contemporary Y.A. Books That Made Me Think (and That I Loved)."

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22. Stephen Colbert Challenges Fans to Make ‘California’ a ‘New York Times’ Bestseller

Due to the ongoing dispute between Amazon and Hachette, consumers cannot pre-order Edan Lepucki's debut novel, California, on Amazon. When comedian Stephen Colbert first launched his war against Amazon, he asked his followers to buy a copy from Powell's Books online shop. We've embedded a clip from The Colbert Report TV show where Colbert announced that 6,400 purchases have been made and Lepucki's book currently occupies the #1 spot on the Powell's bestseller list. Now, he has issued a new challenge for his fans; purchase California from your local bookstore and help it become a New York Times bestseller. In addition to Colbert, several members of the literary community have publicly shared their opinions about Amazon vs. Hachette feud including The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian author Sherman Alexie, The Fault in Our Stars author John Green and The Ocean at the End of the Lane author Neil Gaiman. Where do you stand on this matter? (via Latin Post)

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23. First Book’s Summer Book List: High School

Summer_ReadingIn the last week of our series of great summer reads, we’re bringing you our favorite titles for high schoolers to dive into as the days become ever warmer.

Be sure to check out our summer book lists from past weeks for great reads for kids of all ages!

Sign up to receive more great book lists, tip sheets and summer reading facts from First Book!

If you work with kids in need, you can find these titles on the First Book Marketplace by clicking on the pictures next to the publisher descriptions of each book.

mares war“Mare’s War” by Tanita S. Davis

Meet Mare, a grandmother with flair and a fascinating past.

Octavia and Tali are dreading the road trip their parents are forcing them to take with their grandmother over the summer. After all, Mare isn’t your typical grandmother. She drives a red sports car, wears stiletto shoes, flippy wigs, and push-up bras, and insists that she’s too young to be called Grandma. But somewhere on the road, Octavia and Tali discover there’s more to Mare than what you see. She was once a willful teenager who escaped her less-than-perfect life in the deep South and lied about her age to join the African American battalion of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.

Told in alternating chapters, half of which follow Mare through her experiences as a WAC member and half of which follow Mare and her granddaughters on the road in the present day, this novel introduces a larger-than-life character who will stay with readers long after they finish reading.

sammy_julianna“Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood” by By: Benjamin Alire Saenz
It is 1969, America is at war, “Hollywood” is a dirt-poor Chicano barrio in small-town America, and Sammy and Juliana face a world of racism, war in Vietnam, and barrio violence. Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood is a Young Adult Library Services Association Top 10 Best Book for Young Adults and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Young Adults.

 

absolutely_true_diary_part_time_indian“Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he thought he was destined to live.

maze_runner“Maze Runner” by James Dashner

The first book in the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series–The Maze Runner is a modern classic, perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade–a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every thirty days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up–the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

tall_story“Tall Story” by Candy Gourlay

Andi is short. And she has lots of wishes. She wishes she could play on the school basketball team, she wishes for her own bedroom, but most of all she wishes that her long-lost half-brother, Bernardo, could come and live in London where he belongs.

Then Andi’s biggest wish comes true and she’s minutes away from becoming someone’s little sister. As she waits anxiously for Bernardo to arrive from the Philippines, she hopes he’ll turn out to be tall and just as crazy as she is about basketball. When he finally arrives, he’s tall all right. Eight feet tall, in fact–plagued by condition called Gigantism and troubled by secrets that he believes led to his phenomenal growth.

In a novel packed with quirkiness and humor, Gourlay explores a touching sibling relationship and the clash of two very different cultures.

 

The post First Book’s Summer Book List: High School appeared first on First Book Blog.

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24. Five Family Favorites with Author Maria T. Lennon

Maria T. Lennon is a graduate of the London School of Economics, a novelist, a screenwriter, and the author of Confessions of a So-called Middle Child, the first book featuring the irrepressible Charlie C. Cooper.

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25. Sherman Alexie & Jess Walter to Host a Weekly Podcast

Two writers, Sherman Alexie and Jess Walter, plan to launch a podcast called “A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment.”

The premiere podcast was unleashed on August 25th and it contains two episodes. Followers can expect a new one to be released every other Wednesday. Every now and then, the writers will share readings from their work-in-progress manuscripts.

Here’s more from The L.A. Times: “The show comes from Infinite Guest, a new podcast network from American Public Media…Basketball and other sports will be discussed on the show — slightly unusual for a literary podcast. They’ll be interviewing literary figures and also people with lives that aren’t connected to books.”

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