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In August we wrote to you about the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Our publisher said then that the matter of representation was urgent; now, four months later, we see that urgency for what it is: a matter of life or death. Michael Brown’s name now sits alongside new names like Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Akai Gurley. How many more names will need to be added before things change?
Protests around the country remind us that we are not in a post-racial society, that inequality is still here. This can be a harrowing reminder, but it is also an important teachable moment for young people. How do we put current events in context and help young people engage in today’s big questions?
In difficult moments, books are often a good starting place for conversation. Books that touch on history can be read with fresh eyes in light of current events. For example, in Love to Langston, author Tony Medina describes when a seventh-grade Langston Hughes in 1914 peacefully protests his teacher’s segregation of black students to one row in the classroom. Even when he is expelled, Hughes fights for what he knows is right and his community joins beside him. The teacher is forced to integrate the classroom:
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—
I, too, am America.
How will today’s children be impacted and awakened as activists by images of and participation in the protesting in Ferguson, New York City, and around the nation? In what ways will this moment and experience affect our children’s lens by which they view the world and influence their life’s purpose or calling? What art will they create to express this moment and themselves?
A photo from one of the recent protests in New York City.
Emily Chiariello is a Teaching and Learning Specialist with Teaching Tolerance. She has 15 years’ experience as a classroom teacher, professional development and curriculum designer in public, charter and alternative school settings, as well as with non-profit organizations. She holds a master’s degree in philosophy and social policy and is certified in secondary social studies.
Here she discusses Teaching Tolerance’s new curriculum tool, “Project Appendix D,” that empowers educators to identify texts that both meet the demands of the Common Core Standards and reflect the world in which our students live. This blog post was originally posted at the Teaching Tolerance blog.
by Emily Chiariello
Does the Common Core limit what texts teachers can use? While many people think so, we don’t. Teaching Tolerance believes it is possible—and important—to choose texts that are both rigorous and relevant. Read on to learn about a new approach to text selection: Appendix D: A Tool for Selecting Diverse Texts. This exciting project goes beyond the resources offered in Appendices A and B and offers a new world of possibilities within literacy instruction.
Appendices A and B
Teachers are expected—per the CCSS’s Appendix A—to select more complex texts, teach more nonfiction and ask more text-dependent questions. But do they feel less empowered to choose readings about social justice or to locate texts that reflect the identities and histories of their students and communities? We’re concerned the answer is yes. We know that teachers want texts that mirror their students’ lives. And to achieve equitable outcomes, the Common Core must be implemented in culturally responsive ways that address social emotional learning as well as academic goals. Yet, this kind of implementation is not happening in most districts.
At first glance, one might think that the “Reader and Task” portion of the text selection model in Appendix A makes room for culturally responsive instructional decisions. Instead, there’s only a brief and bland mention of “reader variables”—motivation, knowledge and experiences—ultimately eclipsed by the other two measures: hard Lexile scores (quantitative) and subjective interpretations of meaning and purpose (qualitative).
And then there’s the stark imprint of privilege found in the gaps and silences of Appendix B, a list of “text exemplars” that meet the aforementioned approach to text complexity, quality and range. Too many publishers—and districts, too—have interpreted the text exemplars listed in Appendix B as a required reading list.
Woefully few examples of cultural relevance can be found in “Common Core-aligned” materials and trainings, including Appendix B. Jane M. Gangi, professor of education at Mount Saint Mary College, has analyzed Appendix B and found that, of the 171 texts recommended for children in K-5, only 18 are by authors of color, and few reflect the lives of children of color and children in poverty.
We believe that educators—teachers, librarians and literacy specialists—who work in classrooms every day are in the best positions to identify texts that engage diverse students.
That’s why we’re excited to share our new project: Appendix D: A Tool for Selecting Diverse Texts.Traditionally, tools that support text selection have focused on quantitative and qualitative measures only. But Appendix D promotes a multi-dimensional approach to text selection that prioritizes complexity as well as critical literacy and cultural responsiveness.
Appendix D empowers educators to rely on their knowledge of their students, rather than a prepopulated lists of titles, when selecting texts. The tool walks users through four distinct—but interconnected—text-selection considerations: complexity, diversity and representation, critical literacy, and reader and task. And it’s an editable PDF, allowing folks to document, save and share their text-selection process. (Be sure to download to unlock the editing capabilities.)
So, why a tool and not a list? There are commendable lists out there. Gangi and the Collaborative for Equity Literacy Learning (CELL) assembled an alternative list of multicultural titles, but they are not leveled for teachers to assess text complexity. Others, like publishers LEE & LOW, work to bring more diversity and representation into classroom libraries, and to the task of text selection. However, none of the lists we’ve investigated encompass texts that are both culturally relevant and meet the Common Core’s requirements for complexity. And, unless it is dynamic, any list of diverse books is only as diverse as the person—or people—who made it.
We hope the TT community will use Appendix D to help us grow a dynamic and diverse list of texts based on the four considerations and on the diverse needs of our students. We’ve started with the titles currently found in Perspectives for a Diverse America, our new anti-bias curriculum. In the months to come, as you use the Appendix D tool in your own practice, think of which complex, culturally relevant titles you think your fellow social justice educators would want to know about—and be on the lookout for an invitation to submit your texts to the ever-growing, ever-changing TT community list!
Paulo Freire wrote that, when we read words, we read the world. Don’t we owe it to our students to consider them when choosing those words?
The theme of the American Society of Criminology meeting this November is “Criminology at the Intersections of Oppression.” The burden of violence and victimization remains markedly unequal. The prevalence rates, risk factors, and consequences of violence are not equally distributed across society. Rather, there are many groups that carry an unequal burden, including groups disadvantaged due to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual identity, place of residence, and other factors. Even more problematically, there is an abundance of evidence that there are marked disparities in service access and service quality across sociocultural and socioeconomic groups. Unfortunately, even today this still extends to instances of outright bias and maltreatment, as evidenced by ongoing problems with disproportionate minority contact, harsher sentencing, and barriers to services.
However, there is promising news, because advances in both research and practice are readily attainable. Regarding research, there are a number of steps that can be taken to improve our existing state of knowledge. To give just a few examples, we need much more research on hate crimes and bias motivations for violence. Hate crimes remain one of the most understudied forms of violence. We also need many more efforts to adapt violence prevention and intervention programs for diverse groups. The field has still made surprisingly few efforts to assess whether prevention and intervention programs are equally efficacious for different socioeconomic and sociocultural groups. Even after more than 3 decades of program evaluation, only a handful of such efforts exist. Program developers should pay more systematic attention to ensuring that materials that use diverse images and settings. However, it is also important to note that cultural adaptation means more than just superficial changes in name use or images.
Regarding practice, what is needed is more culturally appropriate approaches. In many cases, this means more flexible approaches and avoiding a “one size fits all” approach to services. Most providers, I believe, have good intentions and are trying to avoid biased interactions, but many of them lack the tools for more culturally appropriate services. One specific tool that can help is called the ‘VIGOR’, for Victim Inventory of Goals, Options, and Risks. It is a safety planning and risk management tool for victims of domestic violence. It is ideally suited for people from disadvantaged groups, because, unlike virtually all other existing safety plans, it has places for social and community issues, financial strain, institutional challenges, and other issues that affect people who experience multiple forms of disadvantage. The safety plan does not just focus on physical violence. The VIGOR has been tested with two highly diverse groups of low-income women, who rated it as better than all safety planning they had received.
The VIGOR also offers a model for how other interventions can be expanded and adapted to consider the intersections of oppression with victimization in an effort to be more responsive to all of the needs of those who have sustained violence. With greater attention to these issues, there is the potential to make a real impact and help reduce the burden of violence and victimization for all members of society.
Dr. Hamby attended an Author Meets Critics session at the ASC annual meeting yesterday morning. The session was chaired by Dr. Claire Renzetti, co-editor of the ‘Oxford Series of Interpersonal Violence’.
November is Native American Heritage Month! Native American Heritage Month evolved from the efforts of various individuals at the turn of the 20th century who tried to get a day of recognition for Native Americans. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a resolution that appointed November as Native American Heritage Month. You can learn more about Native American Heritage Month here.
For many years, Native people were silenced and their stories were set aside, hidden, or drowned out. That’s why it’s especially important to read stories about Native characters, told in Native voices. Celebrate Native American Heritage Month with these great books by Native writers:
Quiet Hero by S.D. Nelson – Ira Hayes grew up on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona. When he was in his late teens, World War II raged, and Ira Hayes joined the Marine corps. Eventually they were sent to the tiny Japanese island of Iwo Jima, where a chance event and an extraordinary photograph catapulted Ira to national awareness and transformed his life forever.
Crazy Horse’s Vision by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by S.D. Nelson – Crazy Horse, whose childhood nickname was “Curly,” defies traditional custom and risks his own life by running away, up to the hills, to seek a vision.
Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by S.D. Nelson – While Jim Thorpe struggled at school, he excelled at sports. He later went on to win several Olympic medals.
Home to Medicine Mountain by Chiori Santiago, illustrated by Judith Lowry – Two Native American brothers are sent to a strict, government-run boarding school. There, they are forced to speak English and to unlearn their Native American ways. Inspired by their dreams of home and the memories of their grandmother’s stories, the boys embark on an adventurous journey from the harsh residential school to their home in Susanville, California.
Sky Dancers by Connie Ann Kirk, illustrated by Christy Hale – John Cloud’s father is in New York City, far away from their Mohawk Reservation, building sky scrapers. One day, Mama takes John to New York City and he sees his Papa high on a beam, building the Empire State Building.
Kiki’s Journey by Kristy Orona-Ramirez, illustrated by Jonathan Warm Day – Kiki is a city girl that calls Los Angeles her home. Her family left the Taos Pueblo reservation when she was a baby, so it doesn’t feel like home. How will it feel to revisit the reservation?
Stories for Teens
Rattlesnake Mesa by EdNah New Rider Weber, photographs by Richela Renkun – When EdNah’s beloved grandmother dies, she is sent to live on a Navajo reservation with a father she barely knows. Once EdNah finds herself getting used to her new life, she is sent to a strict government-run Indian boarding school.
Wolf Mark by Joseph Bruchac – When Luke King’s father, a black ops infiltrator, goes missing, Luke realizes his life will never be the same again. Luke sets out to search for his father, all the while trying to avoid the attention of the school’s mysterious elite clique of Russian hipsters, who seem much too interested in his own personal secret
Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac – In a future where technology has failed, Lozen has been gifted with a unique set of abilities magic and survival skills that she uses to hunt monsters for the people who kidnapped her family. As the legendary Killer of Enemies was in the ancient days of the Apache people, Lozen is meant to be a more than a hunter. Lozen is meant to be a hero.
Rose Eagle by Joseph Bruchac – Several years before Killer of Enemies, the Lakota are forced to mine ore for the Ones, their overlords. Rose Eagle’s aunt has a vision of Rose as a healer. She sends Rose on a quest to find healing for their people.
What other books by Native American authors and illustrators do you recommend?
For my birthday my husband picked me up a copy of the bestselling book NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. To be frank, I hadn’t heard of it. Though its been called “The Freakonomics of child rearing” and lauded by reviewer after reviewer it’s from the world of adult books. I traipse there but rarely. Still, I’m great with child (ten days away from the due date, in fact) and this promised to be a fascinating read. Covering everything from the detrimental effects that come with telling a kid that they’re smart to aggression in the home I settled down and devoured it with pleasure. In doing so, one chapter in particular caught my eye. Chapter Three: “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race: Does teaching children about race and skin color make them better of or worse?”
Culling several studies together, the book makes the point that while, “Nonwhite parents are about three times more likely to discuss race than white parents; 75% of the latter never, or almost never, talk about race.” Studies that required that parents do so with their young children saw white parent after white parent balk at the idea. There’s this notion out there that children are little innocents and that pointing out race will somehow taint their race blind worldview. Turns out, nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone who has ever had a kid will know that they like to categorize themselves and their friends into groups. Race is the easiest way to do so, so from a very early age the children will be prone to “in-group favoritism”.
I thought this through. My kiddo attends a daycare here in Harlem. In her Preschool A class she is only one of two children who are not African-American or of mixed race. It’s a great place and certainly it assuages my white guilt, having my kid in such a diverse environment. But according to NurtureShock it isn’t enough to just plop your child in what you assume will be a color-blind environment. As the book says, “We might imagine we’re creating color-blind environments for children, but differences in skin color or hair or weight are like differences in gender – they’re plainly visible.”
And as I read this I realized that I myself have done the exact same balking at race references as mentioned in the book. I’ve an amazing personal of library of diverse children’s books accumulated through my job and the donations of friends and family members alike from over the years. My job in giving my child a sense of diversity and multiculturalism is therefore done, right? Not so much. Take the case of Busing Brewster by Rich Michelson. This is a book that years ago appeared on the New York Times Best Illustrated list (whose committee, full disclosure, I served on). It’s an older picture book, and one that I’d probably recommend for the 4-7-year-old crowd. Still, it’s a picture book so one day the small Bird picked it up and asked to be read it. She is, I should point out, two-years-old. And as I read it to her, I found myself softening the harsh elements. If you’re unfamiliar with it, in this book two boys are integrated into a new school in the 1960s. In doing so they face outright racism varying from yelling protestors to bricks thrown through their school bus windows. Was my two-year-old ready for this? I figured probably not, but watching myself edit the book for her level turned out to be a strange pastime. I wasn’t just editing out the hatred but was also failing to explain why the kids were moving to a new school at all. It was as if I was afraid that mentioning race to her would cause her to say embarrassing things at daycare the next day, something I wanted desperately to avoid. An understandable reaction, but the right one? I’m not sure about that at all.
Going back to the book, the more I read the more I realized that if we want parents to have serious discussions about race with their four and five and six-year-olds then we need to have books that help to do this. So as I read I kept a particular eye out for moments when the authors would mention using literature with kids to drill home various points. Though they never come out and say that children’s books can be useful in this regard, there are several incidents recounted that name check various books. One such title is Twas the Night B’Fore Christmas: An African-American Version by Melodye Benson Rosales. Originally published in 1996 the title was criticized for its use of colloquial language. As the Horn Book Guide said at the time, “Painful dialect (‘The stockin’s was laid / by the chimney wit’ care, / For the chil’ren hoped Santy Claus / soon would be there’) and garish illustrations make this ‘African-American version’ seem more like an unintentional parody of Clement Moore’s 1822 poem. So why isn’t anybody laughing?” In NurtureShock the book was used to combat children’s stereotypes of whether or not Santa was black or white. For the same thing, one would probably turn these days to the Rachel Isadora version instead. Disappointingly the only other time literature is mentioned is when a study is recounted where kids read historical biographies of Jackie Robinson. Still, one gathers that these were not from books but rather textbooks or printed bios made specifically for the study.
What we can take away from this are the ages at which kids need to learn about race. At one moment a study was conducted between first graders and third graders. At the end we read, “The researchers found this worked wonders on the first-grade children. Having been in the cross-race study groups led to significantly more cross-race play. But it made no difference on the third-grade children. It’s possible that by third grade, when parents usually recognize it’s safe to start talking a little about race, the developmental window has already closed.”
With that in mind, I decided I needed to find a booklist that would best help parents frame a discussion of race or other cultural factors with their younger children. Which was about the time I realized that finding such a list was incredibly difficult. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist. I’m sure there must be some out there. I just couldn’t figure out where they were hiding. Even lists like SLJ’s recent Culturally Diverse Books list and subsequent Expanded Cultural Diversity booklist place the bulk of importance on books for older children. Books for younger kids almost never mention race specifically in any context.
So I decided to do what librarians do when they can’t find the resources they need. I made a book list that people could use to discuss difficult subjects with younger kids. And to my amazement, it was incredibly hard to create. Not too long ago I had written a post about Casual Diversity in children’s literature. Well, apparently Casual Diversity is a very easy concept to put in a book for kids. In fact, as I’ve gone through list after list of diverse works of children’s literature, what I keep finding is that the tendency is towards just making a character one race or another without discussing what that means (a criticism of “casual diversity” that cropped up at the time of the post itself).
In constructing this list I also tried like the devil to include books that could be used to discuss their individual issues without lapsing into painful didacticism. No mean feat. For the most part, books about race or religion or alternative lifestyles will either make the situation seem completely normal (which is good, and which we also need) or they’ll slap some sappy “message” all over the puppy making it essentially useless as a piece of literature.
The final result is below. If I were to say the ages this was for I’d go with 4-8 or so. I figured it didn’t make sense to necessarily limit it to race, since discussions of race and alternative lifestyles would also apply. NurtureShock includes the fascinating fact that a lot of white parents feel perfectly comfortable drilling home the fact that boys and girls are equal, while ignoring the issues of race entirely. So I’ve eschewed gender equality books (which are fairly prevalent anyway) and limited this to other “differences” a kiddo might pick up on. If you have titles you’d add to this, do let me know what they are.
A Picture Book Reading List for Discussing Race, Religion, and Alternative Lifestyles with the Young
She Sang Promise: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader by Jan Godown Annino, illustrated by Lisa Desimini – Finding picture books about Native Americans is hard to begin with. Now try finding some that actually discuss the prejudices and lives they’ve lead. I looked through Debbie Reese’s recent list of Resources and Kid Lit About American Indians but was unable to find much of anything for young ages that could discuss the prejudice faced by Native American children (or their trials historically) for the picture book set. Insofar as I can tell, you have to turn to real world history to get anywhere near that subject. With that in mind, I decided to go with Annino’s amazing bio of the too little known Betty Mae Jumper, the first female Seminole Tribal Leader. In the course of this story kids learn about the prejudices not just facing the Seminoles historically but also within their own tribe and towards women nationally. There are just loads of jumping off discussion points to be plumbed here.
The Soccer Fence: A Story of Friendship, Hope, and Apartheid in South Africa by Phil Bildner, ill. Jesse Joshua Watson – Picture books that deal with historical racism tend to be preferred by teachers, and there are reasons for that. In NurtureShock the study where kids were given different texts on Jackie Robinson ends with this rather fascinating selection: “She notes the bios were explicit, but about historical discrimination. ‘If we’d had them read stories of contemporary discrimination from today’s newspapers, it’s quite possible it would have made the whites defensive, and only made the blacks angry at the whites’.” Hm. Well, certainly finding contemporary picture books about racism towards African-Americans is remarkably difficult. Sometimes authors find that even setting the books in America can be hard. Sure you have books like A Taste of Colored Water from time to time (which I have included on this list), but anything recent is eschewed. So for authors that want to include more recent kids, South Africa has proven ripe for books like Bildner’s here. Initially this book reminded me of the well meaning but ultimately flawed Desmond and the Very Mean Word: A Story of Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu. Tutu’s book, however, simplified the issue of race to a watered down non-point. As NurtureShock says, lots of parents use vague terms like “Everybody’s equal” or “God made all of us” or “Under the skin, we’re all the same” to talk about race. That’s what Tutu’s book did, even when telling the story of white and black characters. Bildner’s book isn’t perfect and it verges on the idealistic in terms of different races coming together, but after a couple rereads I came to the decision that ultimately it’s a mighty useful tool.
A Taste of Colored Water by Matt Faulkner – I remember when this book first came out. It got starred reviews from places like Kirkus but I wasn’t particularly interested in it. The premise, as you might be able to tell from the cover, involved two kids who heard the term “colored water” and misinterpreted it literally. Faulkner (who currently has the graphic novel Gaijin: American Prisoner of War about a mixed-race kid in an internment camp out on shelves) isn’t the kind of author afraid of shying away from a difficult subject. In many ways this remains his best known work.
Be Good to Eddie Lee by Virginia M. Fleming – I dare you to find me a book more recent than this 1997 title that discusses Down Syndrome in such a straightforward context. Books that discuss kids and disabilities are few and far between. It got great reviews when it first came out (and Floyd Cooper did the art!). It also has the guts to have a character who says things like, “God didn’t make mistakes, and Eddie Lee was a mistake if there ever was one.” Recently publishers have been doing better when it comes to books about autism, but it’s almost as if they think we can only handle one disability at a time. Publish books on more than one issue? Insanity! Only Albert Whitman Books really tries to do quality issues but even they haven’t touched on Down Syndrome. It’s almost as if it was a big issue in the 80s and 90s and then disappeared from the public conversation. Now it’s all peanut allergies and ADD.
Layla’s Head Scarf by Miriam Cohen, illustrated by Ronald Himler – We get close to didactic here without ever quite tipping over. Finding good books about contemporary Muslim kids isn’t impossible, but it certainly isn’t easy to do. And books that actually talk about what people wear in school? Rarities. This one was very young and did a good job (though, alas, it referred to the head scarf as simply a head scarf and not by the proper term “hijab”).
10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert, illustrated by Rex Ray – As it turns out, finding a book about gay parents that actually discusses the issue does not exist. Or maybe it does and I just missed it entirely. Instead, what I was able to find were a couple books about boys that wear girls’ clothing. Long before that atrocious My Princess Boy hit the shelves, Ewert wrote a book where a boy honest-to-goodness identified as a girl. This is, to the best of my knowledge, the only book I’ve encountered to go the distance in that respect AND it had a story above and beyond its message.
Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case – And this is the most recent boys-in-dresses book (though the art of Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress is quite lovely as well, so check out the Seven Impossible Things posting on Gender-Nonconforming Picture Books if you get a chance). What I really like about this book, though, is how instructional it is to parents. When Jacob specifies his preferences for dresses his mother and father definitely have to pause and think about how to handle the information but their responses are really quite grand. Jacob doesn’t identify as a girl, but his desire to wear dresses makes him stand out. No doubt.
Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall – As I mentioned before, Muslim kids in picture books are few and far between. And for the most part this book is just an example of Casual Diversity rather than any overt lessons. But skillful parents and teachers could certainly place the book’s story in context. Talking about immigrants to America and how there are different rules and mores in one country vs. another. Plus it’s one of my very favorite books of all time and any excuse to post it is good enough for me.
Goin’ Someplace Special by Patricia McKissack, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney – To be honest, there are a fair number of historical picture books like this one that discuss historical racism. I figured I’d put a couple on this list, but one the best may well be McKissack’s here. Here we have a kid who actually faces racism firsthand. There’s a reason schools assign this one every single summer for summer reading. As the Kirkus review put it, “Every plot element contributes to the theme, leaving McKissack’s autobiographical work open to charges of didacticism. But no one can argue with its main themes: segregation is bad, learning and libraries are good.”
Busing Brewster by Rich Michelson, illustrated by R.G. Roth – Part of what I like so much about this book is that it’s not just a case of discussing racial differences. The book’s concentration on busing and integration is an essential part of American history that simply cannot be ignored. Add in the fact that the white bully in the book is seen getting essentially indoctrinated into his particular brand of racism by his father, and you’ve a darn good book on a difficult subject. As I mentioned before, reading it to my two-year-old proved difficult, but at the very least I should have given it some historical context. Next time.
First Day in Grapes by L. King Perez, illustrated by Robert Casilla – I ran into the same problem with Latino characters that I found with Native Americans. Unless we’re talking about specific historical people who faced challenges, books with Latinos often eschew controversial aspects. This was one of the very few I could find that talks about contemporary migrant kids. There are a couple others (Armando and the Blue Tarp School by Edith Hope Fine and Judith Pinkerton Josephson comes to mind) but I think I liked this one best. The didacticism is low-key and the storyline doesn’t exist solely to support the message. That Pura Belpre Honor on the cover ain’t there for nothing.
The Favorite Daughter by Allen Say – I’m listing these books alphabetically by author but if I were to list them in terms of importance then I might have considered making this one of the first on the list. I did think about adding My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvits and/or The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi to this list but Say’s book is just so much gutsier in so many ways. Yuriko gets teased in school about her name and hair (she’s blond with Asian features) and faces other examples of prejudice. Her response is to change her name to “Michelle”, a move that gives her father reason to guide her back to her roots, so to speak. It’s a book done almost entirely in dialogue (rare in and of itself) and so smart. You could also add Cleversticks by Bernard Ashley or Yoko by Rosemary Wells to this list of titles too, by the way.
The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss – Well, why not? Seuss was the lesson man back before it was cool. And when I mentioned this post to my husband he pointed out that when we were in school, The Sneetches was the gold standard for talking about prejudice and race. Sure it’s a great big green starred metaphor, but if we feel like it no longer has a place in our schools then we’re just not paying attention.
I Will Come Back for You by Marisabina Russo – Well, if we’re talking about race then are we also talking about the Holocaust? It’s a legitimate question. Marjorie Ingall recently wrote a very smart piece for Tablet Magazine about whether or not young children need to learn about the Holocaust where she name checked this book. Her post ties in beautifully with the NurtureShock chapter, in that she points out that if you do not provide the lesson for your kids they’re just going to pick it up somewhere else in a form you probably don’t approve of. This book puts you in the kids’ shoes (and NOT in a concentration camp). Just good for opening discussions.
Definitely there are books that could fit on this list. So list ‘em!
If we conclude that the conditions in North Lawndale and black America are not inexplicable but are instead precisely what you’d expect of a community that for centuries has lived in America’s crosshairs, then what are we to make of the world’s oldest democracy?
One cannot escape the question by hand-waving at the past, disavowing the acts of one’s ancestors, nor by citing a recent date of ancestral immigration. The last slaveholder has been dead for a very long time. The last soldier to endure Valley Forge has been dead much longer. To proudly claim the veteran and disown the slaveholder is patriotism à la carte. A nation outlives its generations. We were not there when Washington crossed the Delaware, but Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s rendering has meaning to us. We were not there when Woodrow Wilson took us into World War I, but we are still paying out the pensions. If Thomas Jefferson’s genius matters, then so does his taking of Sally Hemings’s body. If George Washington crossing the Delaware matters, so must his ruthless pursuit of the runagate Oney Judge.
School Library Journal came out with their Diversity Issue a few months ago and it’s been on my “to read” pile since then. Their lead article Children’s Books: Still an All-White World? tells a depressing tale of under-representation of black children in US children’s books (they are the only ethnic group mentioned, I am presuming this goes doubly so for groups with smaller representation in the US) and ends with a call to action for librarians to make sure they are creating a market for these titles to encourage more books by and about all kinds of people.
I grew up in a Free to Be You and Me sort of world where my mother actively selected books for me to read with a wide range of ethnicities represented. I had dolls representing many backgrounds. My mother wrote textbooks where there were strict rules about being inclusive and representative and, living in a small town, I assumed this was the way the rest of the world worked. Not so. Reading this article drove home the point that while I may have been a young person during a rare time of expansion of titles and characters of color, that expansion slowed and the situation is still stagnant even as the US is becoming more diverse than ever. Another article in the Diversity Issue highlights research which indicates that “the inclusion of these cross-group images encourages cross-group play“. Sounds like a good thing. We should be doing more.
The audacity I see in the ending of Snowpiercer comes not just from its framing of revolution as something that must smash the logic of the system, but also from the way it shows that system to be not just hierarchical in terms of class, but of also being fundamentally racialized.
First, there is the inescapable fact that most of the people who have been saved from the apocalypse are white and English speaking. Even the people at the back of the train, though more diverse than the people in the front, are predominantly white and English speakers. All of the positions of highest power in the train are positions held by white English speakers, and the ultimate positions of power are held by white men and passed on to white men (Wilford to Curtis).
As Curtis moves closer and closer to the front, the white supremacy becomes obvious. There's the classroom, where the vast majority of students are very white (and often blonde), with a few Asians in there (the pre-apocalypse notion of Asians as educational high achievers is thus replicated in the train), and one black girl (at least that I saw). The overall effect is of lily-whiteness, with a few special people added.
The people at the dance party are almost entirely white.
The people who apparently stepped out of The Great Gatsby are white.
The women getting their hair styled are white.
It's worth noting, too, how so much of what we see in the front cars evokes the old white world, a world of the 1920s-1950s — an America before the successes of the civil rights movement, of women's liberation struggles, of gay liberation, etc. (The car where everyone is taking drugs evokes even earlier ideas. It's like an opium den, a powerful force in the orientalist imagination of the yellow peril in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and a setting with plenty of cinematic history.)
Early in the film, Curtis tells Edgar that once they get to the front of the train, things will be different. "But how different, really?" the film asks at the end. "Know your place!" Mason (Tilda Swinton) tells the rabble. Curtis learns what his place is from Wilford: the place of the white patriarch.
That system cannot be reformed. It will do no good to have somebody else in charge of the engine. The logic of the system must not be reformed, it must be defied and destroyed.
And thus the ending, which stops the train's circular journey and potentially annihilates the last remnants of humanity.
The system is so corrupt, so incapable of reform, that what is known to be left of humans is worth destroying rather than continuing along the same tracks.
If there is to be a future for humanity, it looks like this, the new Adam and Eve:
They might be destroyed by the cold, white world. They might be a meal for the white polar bear. But maybe, somehow, they will survive and discover or create a new world, a world where humans are on a different journey, subject to a different system, not oppressed by the cold, unbearable whiteness.
Let America be America again. Let it be the dream it used to be. Let it be the pioneer on the plain Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed— Let it be that great strong land of love Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath, But opportunity is real, and life is free, Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me, Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the young man, full of strength and hope, Tangled in that ancient endless chain Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land! Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need! Of work the men! Of take the pay! Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the Negro, servant to you all. I am the people, humble, hungry, mean— Hungry yet today despite the dream. Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers! I am the man who never got ahead, The poorest worker bartered through the years.
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came To build a “homeland of the free.”
Who said the free? Not me? Surely not me? The millions on relief today? The millions shot down when we strike? The millions who have nothing for our pay? For all the dreams we’ve dreamed And all the songs we’ve sung And all the hopes we’ve held And all the flags we’ve hung, The millions who have nothing for our pay— Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath— America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies, We, the people, must redeem The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain— All, all the stretch of these great green states— And make America again!
The following is a note from our Publisher, Jason Low, published in this month’s e-newsletter:
It’s been a hard few weeks for those of us following the news out of Ferguson, Missouri. While the exact details of Michael Brown’s death remain unknown, we can already see how this latest incident fits into a larger narrative in this country in which people of color are routinely discriminated against and subject to violence based on the color of their skin. Healing and change cannot begin until we as a country acknowledge the role racism plays not just in events like Michael Brown’s death, but in the everyday lived experiences of the 37% of America that is not white.
From a distance, it can seem like our book-filled corner of the world doesn’t have much to do with Michael Brown’s death, but we know better. The need for more diverse books and better representation is urgent. Poor representation doesn’t just damage self-esteem and confidence of children of color, it also perpetuates a skewed version of society as a whole. How can true equality ever exist if we are literallynot even on the same page? Promoting diverse books is about creating a safer space for all children.
There are no easy ways to teach children about what’s happening in Ferguson, but here are couple links we’ve come across that help illuminate the issues and, perhaps, let us find teachable moments:
This year’s Emmys had an unfortunate lack of diversity. But, never fear! Fall 2014’s TV season is about to start and there are some amazing diverse offerings on the horizon.
Grey’s Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes’s medical drama returns for its eleventh season.
Elementary, starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as a modern day Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson, returns.
Sleepy Hollow normalizes POC characters as leads in a fantasy-world setting, in which their POC-ness isn’t an “issue” but definitely a part of who they are as characters. It tackles historical issues like slavery head-on (for example, Ichabod’s reaction to Abbie being a cop), and it centers Abbie’s experience as the hero of this tale.
Ultimately, it’s epic and funny and fascinating—it tells a good story.
Scandal, Shonda Rhimes’s political thriller, returns with Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope.
Fresh off the Boat is the first sitcom starring Asian Americans since Margaret Cho’s All American Girl in 1994. There are 18.9 million Asian Americans in the US. It’s time to see some positive representation!
Black-ish, starring Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson, follows a middle-class African American family in a mostly-white neighborhood.
Selfie looks fun and funny, a fresh take on My Fair Lady, with a nicely diverse cast across the board.
Cristela, “in her sixth year at law school, is finally on the brink of landing her first big (unpaid) internship at a prestigious law firm. However, she’s a lot more ambitious than her traditional Mexican-American family thinks is appropriate.”
How to Get Away with Murder stars two-time Oscar nominee, Viola Davis, as “the brilliant, charismatic and seductive Professor Annalise Keating, who gets entangled with four law students from her class “How to Get Away with Murder.””
Jane the Virgin is a retelling of Venezuelan soap-opera Juana la Virgen staring Gina Rodriguez.
Survivor’s Remorse, produced by LeBron James, follows Cam Calloway, a young basketball prodigy who is thrust into the limelight after getting a multi-million dollar contract with a professional team in Atlanta.
Galavant is about a dashing hero, determined to reclaim his reputation and his “happily ever after” from the evil King Richard. Karen David stars as Isabella. It’s unclear from the previews what role Isabella will ultimately play overall, but Karen David is the top-billed woman in the cast, so we have hopes her character will be important!
Gotham, WB’s new origin story on Batman and several villains, will have Jada Pinkett Smith in the role of Fish Mooney. Zabryna Guevara will star in the role of Sarah Essen.
Have we missed any? Let us know in the comments what diverse shows you’re looking forward to this fall!
Hadrian’s Wall has been in the news again recently for all the wrong reasons. Occasional wits have pondered on its significance in the Scottish Referendum, neglecting the fact that it has never marked the Anglo-Scottish border, and was certainly not constructed to keep the Scots out. Others have mistakenly insinuated that it is closed for business, following the widely reported demise of the Hadrian’s Wall Trust. And then of course there is the Game of Thrones angle, best-selling writer George R R Martin has spoken of the Wall as an inspiration for the great wall of ice that features in his books.
Media coverage of both Hadrian’s Wall Trust’s demise and Game of Thrones’ rise has sometimes played upon and propagated the notion that the Hadrian’s Wall was manned by shivering Italian legionaries guarding the fringes civilisation – irrespective of the fact that the empire actually trusted the security of the frontier to its non-citizen soldiers, the auxilia rather than to its legionaries. The tendency to overemphasise the Italian aspect reflects confusion about what the Roman Empire and its British frontier was about. But Martin, who made no claims to be speaking as a historian when he spoke of how he took the idea of legionaries from Italy, North Africa, and Greece guarding the Wall as a source of inspiration, did at least get one thing right about the Romano-British frontier.
There were indeed Africans on the Wall during the Roman period. In fact, at times there were probably more North Africans than Italians and Greeks. While all these groups were outnumbered by north-west Europeans, who tend to get discussed more often, the North African community was substantial, and its stories warrant telling.
Perhaps the most remarkable tale to survive is an episode in the Historia Augusta (Life of Severus 22) concerning the inspection of the Wall by the emperor Septimius Severus. The emperor, who was himself born in Libya, was confronted by a black soldier, part of the Wall garrison and a noted practical joker. According to the account the notoriously superstitious emperor saw in the soldier’s black skin and his brandishing of a wreath of Cyprus branches, an omen of death. And his mood was not further improved when the soldier shouted the macabre double entendre iam deus esto victor (now victor/conqueror, become a god). For of course properly speaking a Roman emperor should first die before being divinized. The late Nigerian classicist, Lloyd Thompson, made a powerful point about this intriguing passage in his seminal work Romans and Blacks, ‘the whole anecdote attributes to this man a disposition to make fun of the superstitious beliefs about black strangers’. In fact we might go further, and note just how much cultural knowledge and confidence this frontier soldier needed to play the joke – he needed to be aware of Roman funerary practices, superstitions, and the indeed the practice of emperor worship itself.
Why is this illuminating episode not better known? Perhaps it is because there is something deeply uncomfortable about what could be termed Britain’s first ‘racist joke’, or perhaps the problem lies with the source itself, the notoriously unreliable Historia Augusta. And yet as a properly forensic reading of this part of the text by Professor Tony Birley has shown, the detail included around the encounter is utterly credible, and we can identify places alluded to in it at the western end of the Wall. So it is quite reasonable to believe that this encounter took place.
Not only this, but according to the restoration of the text preferred by Birley and myself, there is a reference to a third African in this passage. The restoration post Maurum apud vallum missum in Britannia indicates that this episode took place after Severus has granted discharge to a soldier of the Mauri (the term from which ‘Moors’ derives). And has Birley has noted, we know that there was a unit of Moors stationed at Burgh-by-Sands on the Solway at this time.
Sadly, Burgh is one of the least explored forts on Hadrian’s Wall, but some sense of what may one day await an extensive campaign of excavation there comes from Transylvania in Romania, where investigations at the home of another Moorish regiment of the Roman army have revealed a temple dedicated to the gods of their homelands. Perhaps too, evidence of different North African legacies would emerge. The late Vivian Swann, a leading expert in the pottery of the Wall has presented an attractive case that the appearance of new forms of ceramics indicates the introduction of North African cuisine in northern Britain in the second and third centuries AD.
What is clear is that the Mauri of Burgh-by-Sands were not the only North Africans on the Wall. We have an African legionary’s tombstone from Birdoswald, and from the East Coast the glorious funerary stela set up to commemorate Victor, a freedman (former slave) by his former master, a trooper in a Spanish cavalry regiment. Victor’s monument now stands on display in Arbeia Museum at South Shields next to the fine, and rather better known, memorial to the Catuvellunian Regina, freedwoman and wife of Barates from Palmyra in Syria. Together these individuals, and the many other ethnic groups commemorated on the Wall, remind us of just how cosmopolitan the people of Roman frontier society were, and of how a society that stretched from the Solway and the Tyne to the Euphrates was held together.
Who would have thought a 5k race could nearly lead to an arrest? I guess if you’ve been reading my blog long enough, you’ve figured out I can blunder my way into anything.
So it was Sunday when I ran a 5k for a benefit. The issue was not the run, I breezed through that with a typical mediocre time. The problem was that my daughter was one of the benefactors of the event and we needed to stay a long time after. A run on humid day for one who sweats profusely can lead to smells that disgust even my dog. I needed a change of clothing before I could reenter society.
Unlike most of my life, I planned ahead and brought a few towels along with a change of clothes. The race was held in an upscale shopping center that didn’t seem to accommodate porta-potties or any other proper facilities for a sweaty runner to disrobe. I couldn’t traipse through a fine dining establishment, dripping along the way and my planning stopped just short of a reconnaissance walk to find a bathroom.
Here’s where things went awry – the only thing I could think of was the back seat of the mini-van. No problem, I had towels that could allow me to be properly covered the entire time. When I got in the backseat, I looked around and noted I was in full view of the patio of three crowded restaurants. Again, no problem, the windows are tinted.
My problem? The key fob. Some people butt-dial and make innocuous phone calls. Not me. No, that’s not nearly stupid enough. No, I butt-press both sliding doors to the van open while I’m well into the disrobed portion of the clothes change. Fortunately, my posterior wasn’t into multi-tasking and didn’t hit the panic button.
There I sat, wide-eyed under a towel wondering why my display coincided with the dismissal of church leaving a sea of blue-haired ladies waiting for tables at the nearby restaurants. Members of the local fire department, who were standing by in case of a race emergency, took note of me also and began speaking into their radios. The police couldn’t be far behind.
I fumbled for the elusive key fob, cursed myself for laying it on the seat, and closed the doors. In a matter of seconds, I threw on my new set of clothes and wound my way through the gaggle of old women with my head held high. During the rest of the afternoon, I kept a paranoid eye out for the long arm of the law that was sure to be clamped on my shoulder at any minute. But it never came. The firemen must have been phoning friends to laugh about my situation and not alerting the police.
In today’s day and age, these things aren’t ever over. Someone could have been fast on the draw with video and my hiney might be splattered on Youtube. Until then, let me give you some advice – if you are doing something dicey in your car, know where your key fob is at all times. Those things are evil!
One hundred years ago today, far from the erupting battlefields of Europe, a small German force in the city of Tsingtau (Qingdao), Germany’s most important possession in China, was preparing for an impending siege. The small fishing village of Qingdao and the surrounding area had been reluctantly leased to the German Empire by the Chinese government for 99 years in 1898, and German colonists soon set about transforming this minor outpost into a vibrant city boasting many of the comforts of home, including the forerunner of the now-famous Tsingtao Brewery. By 1914, Qingdao had over 50,000 residents and was the primary trading port in the region. Given its further role as the base for the Far East Fleet of the Imperial German Navy, however, Qingdao was unable to avoid becoming caught up in the faraway European war.
The forces that besieged Qingdao in the autumn of 1914 were composed of troops from Britain and Japan, the latter entering the war against Germany in accord with the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. The Alliance had been agreed in 1902 amid growing anxiety in Britain regarding its interests in East Asia, and rapidly modernizing Japan was seen as a useful ally in the region. For Japanese leaders, the signing of such an agreement with the most powerful empire of the day was seen as a major diplomatic accomplishment and an acknowledgement of Japan’s arrival as one of the world’s great powers. More immediately, the Alliance effectively guaranteed the neutrality of third parties in Japan’s looming war with Russia, and Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 sent shockwaves across the globe as the first defeat of a great European empire by a non-Western country in a conventional modern war.
In Britain, Japan’s victory was celebrated as a confirmation of the strength of its Asian ally, and represented the peak of a fascination with Japan in Britain that marked the first decade of the twentieth century. This culminated in the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition in London, which saw over eight million visitors pass through during its six-month tenure. In contrast, before the 1890s, Japan had been portrayed in Britain primarily as a relatively backward yet culturally interesting nation, with artists and intellectuals displaying considerable interest in Japanese art and literature. Japan’s importance as a military force was first recognized during the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, and especially from the time of the Russo-Japanese War, Japan’s military prowess was popularly attributed to a supposedly ancient warrior spirit that was embodied in ‘bushido’, or the ‘way of the samurai’.
The ‘bushido’ ideal was popularized around the world especially through the prominent Japanese educator Nitobe Inazo’s (1862-1933) book Bushido: The Soul of Japan, which was originally published in English in 1900 and achieved global bestseller status around the time of the Russo-Japanese War (a Japanese translation first appeared in 1908). The British public took a positive view towards the ‘national spirit’ of its ally, and many saw Japan as a model for curing perceived social ills. Fabian Socialists such as Beatrice Webb (1858-1943) and Oliver Lodge (1851-1940) lauded the supposed collectivism of ‘bushido’, while Alfred Stead (1877-1933) and other promoters of the Efficiency Movement celebrated Japan’s rapid modernization. For his part, H.G. Wells 1905 novel A Modern Utopia included a ‘voluntary nobility’ called ‘samurai,’ who guided society from atop a governing structure that he compared to Plato’s ideal republic. At the same time, British writers lamented the supposed decline of European chivalry from an earlier ideal, contrasting it with the Japanese who had seemingly managed to turn their ‘knightly code’ into a national ethic followed by citizens of all social classes.
The ‘bushido boom’ in Britain was not mere Orientalization of a distant society, however, but was strongly influenced by contemporary Japanese discourse on the subject. The term ‘bushido’ only came into widespread use around 1900, and even a decade earlier most Japanese would have been bemused by the notion of a national ethic based on the former samurai class. Rather than being an ancient tradition, the modern ‘way of the samurai’ developed from a search for identity among Japanese intellectuals at the end of the nineteenth century. This process saw an increasing shift away from both Chinese and European thought towards supposedly native ideals, and the former samurai class provided a useful foundation. The construction of an ethic based on the ‘feudal’ samurai was given apparent legitimacy by the popularity of idealized chivalry and knighthood in nineteenth-century Europe, with the notion that English ‘gentlemanship’ was rooted in that nation’s ‘feudal knighthood’ proving especially influential. This early ‘bushido’ discourse profited from the nationalistic fervor following Japan’s victory over China in 1895, and the concept increasingly came to be portrayed as a unique and ancient martial ethic. At the same time, those theories that had drawn inspiration from European models came to be ignored, with one prominent Japanese promoter of ‘bushido’ deriding European chivalry as ‘mere woman-worship’.
In the first years of the twentieth century, the Anglo-Japanese Alliance contributed greatly to the positive reception in Britain of theories positing a Japanese ‘martial race’, and the fate of ‘bushido’ in the UK demonstrated the effect of geopolitics on theories of ‘national characteristics’. By 1914, British attitudes had begun to change amid increasing concern regarding Japan’s growing assertiveness. Even the Anglo-Japanese operation that finally captured Qingdao in November was marked by British distrust of Japanese aims in China, a sentiment that was strengthened by Japan’s excessive demands on China the following year. Following the war, Japan’s reluctance to return the captured territory to China caused British opposition to Japan’s China policy to increase, leading to the end of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance in 1923. The two countries subsequently drifted even further apart, and by the 1930s, ‘bushido’ was popularly described in Britain as an ethic of treachery and cruelty, only regaining its positive status after 1945 through samurai films and other popular culture as Japan and Britain again became firm allies in the Cold War.
Headline image credit: Former German Governor’s Residence in Qingdao, by Brücke-Osteuropa. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Category: Young Adult Realistic Fiction Format: Hardcover (Also available on Kindle) Keywords: Hip hop, GLBT, suburbia
I can't do a better blurb than the one that's already on the jacket, so here it is, from goodreads.com:
A gay suburban hip-hopper freaks out her Christian high school - and falls in love - in this righteously funny and totally tender YA debut, for real.
Listen up: You’re about to get rocked by the fiercest, baddest all-girl hip-hop crew in the Twin Cities - or at least in the wealthy, white, Bible-thumping suburb of Holyhill, Minnesota. Our heroine, Esme Rockett (aka MC Ferocious) is a Jewish lesbian lyricist. In her crew, Esme’s got her BFFs Marcy (aka DJ SheStorm, the butchest straight girl in town) and Tess (aka The ConTessa, the pretty, popular powerhouse of a vocalist). But Esme’s feelings for her co-MC, Rowie (MC Rohini), a beautiful, brilliant, beguiling desi chick, are bound to get complicated. And before they know it, the queer hip-hop revolution Esme and her girls have exploded in Holyhill is on the line. Exciting new talent Laura Goode lays down a snappy, provocative, and heartfelt novel about discovering the rhythm of your own truth.
I cried about 6 times in 360 pages, and I laughed about 30 times or more. Esme's voice is so vivid that I felt every twinge of hurt and every sweet burst of joy she experienced. I loved that she's a booklover, and a biker, and a writer. I loved the way she thinks! Though I have to admit, at times some of the lyrics sounded weak to me (this, from a brain mostly hardwired more for showtunes than hip-hop--I'm no expert, is what I'm saying) they got progressively stronger throughout the book. And anything I might have found lacking in the lyrics, the prose made up for in spades.
This novel struck me as vastly educational: I loved how Goode worked in not just poetry and music theory (and the history of hip hop, of course) but also religion, law, ethics, gender/race issues--even chemistry. The author clearly loves language, as do the mischievous sisters. They speak and sing in praise of intelligence, creativity, courage, freedom, and love. Think Sister Act 2, set in the suburbs buteasy on the cheese and with a little more Lauryn Hill.
Just as the abolition movement spawned a struggle for women's suffrage, and the civil rights movement was the impetus for both second wave feminism and LGBT rights, the historical role of black women in the context of the suffrage movement is a key to understanding the founding of black women's clubs, sororities and political organizations. That history also explains the roots of the racial contradictions of second and third wave feminism and the development of black feminism.
She goes on to discuss the rift between Frederick Douglass and some of the most prominent white women's suffrage activists after black men were enfranchised, as well as some of the later conflicts and complexities -- a history that had some eerie resonances during the 2008 election (for a good account of which, see Rebecca Traister's Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women [a book far better than its hyperbolic subtitle might suggest]).
We are united in our hatred of war and our abhorrence of violence. But a hatred of war is not enough, and when employed to conjure away history, it is a cynical vanity which posits that one is, somehow, in possession of a prophetic insight and supernatural morality which evaded our forefathers. It is all fine to speak of how history "should have been." It takes something more to ask why it wasn't, and then to confront what it actually was.
Chocolate Me by Taye Diggs and illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Review by Chris Singer
About the author:
Taye Diggs is an actor whose credits include motion pictures (How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Chicago), stage (Rent, Wicked), and television (Private Practice). He lives in Los Angeles and New York City with his wife, the actress Idina Menzel, and their son.
About the illustrator:
Shane W. Evans is the illustrator of numerous award-winning books for children, including Black Jack: The Ballad of Jack Johnson, and Osceola: Memories of a Sharecropper’s Daughter, winner of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award. He lives with his wife and daughter in Kansas City, Missouri.
About the book:
The boy is teased for looking different than the other kids. His skin is darker, his hair curlier. He tells his mother he wishes he could be more like everyone else. And she helps him to see how beautiful he really, truly is.
For years before they both achieved acclaim in their respective professions, good friends Taye Diggs and Shane W. Evans wanted to collaborate on Chocolate Me!, a book based on experiences of feeling different and trying to fit in as kids. Now, both men are fathers and see more than ever the need for a picture book that encourages all people, especially kids, to love themselves.
My take on the book:
I love the title and cover art of this enduring children’s book. To me, “Chocolate Me” and the boy’s open arms grabs your attention immediately and invites you to dive right in. The illustrations are fantastic and the story involves an important message both kids and parents can relate to.
I give a lot of credit to Taye Diggs for writing this book. As I learned when I had the opportunity to participate in an interview with Taye, this was obviously based on some deeply personal experiences. While I got caught up a few times in some awkward wording in the story, I still enjoyed the creative and compassionate manner in which the story was shared.
All in all, a nice book for parents, teachers and librarians looking for a story with a worthwhile message to share with children and their families.
His killer is known, but the police refused to arrest him.
The police said they had no probable cause to arrest the killer, who claimed self-defense.
The killer was a Neighborhood Watch volunteer. He saw a black boy walking in the rain. He called 911. The dispatcher told him not to follow the boy. But he did. He approached him. They wrestled. Witnesses called 911.
Trayvon Martin was armed with a bag of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea.
A black boy was shot dead in Florida. His killer walks free.
I had no intention of ever writing anything ever again whatsoever about Prometheus, or even mentioning the movie ever again in my life, but I just read two great pieces about it, so can't resist sending attention to them. (One links to the other, in fact.)
What I wonder about is this: if David really can be read as an anti-colonial and anti-corporate saboteur, why does this progressive message, this transgressive messenger, still have to wear the most Aryan body imaginable? I’m aware that casting an actor of color as the android character would have made the slippages that David animates, between subordinate-saboteur, product-producer, and particularly colonial-colonized, perhaps more difficult to represent. (Though not necessarily; you can have Idris Elba imitating Peter O’Toole, why not? I would have watched the hell out of that, actually, can you imagine how fucked up and interesting that would be, the commentaries you could make on the reversal of racial drag, etc.) What I’m trying to say is that it is still impossible for mainstream Hollywood film to imagine a person of color in a role as potentially complex and subversive as David’s. A character of color who could be plotting to destroy the imperial-corporate complex he was created within, and is forced to work for? That would be too radical. Which is to say, that would be too real.
Idris Elba once said himself, “Imagine a film such as Inception with an entire cast of black people – do you think it would be successful? Would people watch it? But no one questions the fact that everyone’s white. That’s what we have to change.”
I do think that having acrimonious feelings towards the film is the actual point—the film seems to be a stand-in for a certain segment of humanity and its imperialist, ruinous ambitions, though like most films coming out of Hollywood this seems to coexist with its appreciation of capital, technology, and involuntary/reproductive labour. That in itself doesn’t make it inherently unlikeable, not at all. But as Susan Sontag wrote in “The Imagination of Disaster,” “Science fiction films invite a dispassionate, aesthetic view of destruction and violence—a technological view,” and perhaps it’s the nihilist technological determinism of Prometheus that is inherently unsettling. Perhaps it’s this utter lack of meaning in the movie that is its meaning, and consequently the source of my loathing. Maybe a part of me just wants machines and people to get along? I’m not sure.
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The Fourth of July is a big event in a former hometown of mine, Seward Alaska. Every year, the little town of approx 3000 expands to approx. 30,000 to celebrate this holiday. The main reason for this is the annual running of one of America’s oldest footraces, The Mount Marathon Race®.
Runners from all over the world participate in the running up and down of the 3022 foot mountain. As a former racer, I can tell you that it is one of the most exhilarating things I have experienced in my life.
Good luck to my sister, brother-in-law, twin nieces, and friends as the race this year! Be safe and have a happy 4th!
*Note* for those that would like to view the race via livestream check out Ktuu.com’s site for full coverage of the race which starts at 930 am Alaska time, July 4th. To learn more about the Mount Marathon race, visit the Seward.com website.
My friend, and author, Kate Tenbeth has an exciting new release! Here is the official story from her publisher:
Hello everyone! GMTA Publishing has a new YA novel set to come out on October 1st by Kate Tenbeth! Here's your first look at the amazing cover by UK artist Elizabeth Eisen!
About the book: There are always high stakes to play for in the world of gambling, but it’s a world 15 year-old Holly Maddon knows nothing about until her step-mother tries to kill her. The race is on as she tries to discover what her step-mother is up to and whether her father was murdered. She comes up against gangsters, multi-million pound land deals, treachery and deceit, she’s kidnapped, shot at and loses just about everything she loves – it’s a rollercoaster of a ride and Holly's intent on turning the tables.
About the author: I live in Essex with my son, who is studying at University, and my two cats, Puzzle and Bud. I’ve always loved writing and in January 2011 I got together with some friends and set up a writers’ group at our local library. One of our first guest speakers was a young lady called Penelope Fletcher who talked to us about self-publishing – I was so inspired I went back home, found some stories I’d written for my son when he was young and started the process of learning how to self-publish. I published 3 books in the Burly & Grum series and then in July 2012 was lucky enough to be signed up by GMTA. I’ve enjoyed every single second of my journey so far, learnt an incredible amount and I’m looking forward to the future!
About the artist: Elizabeth Eisen is a 23 year old freelance illustrator from North London. She graduated from the University of Westminster with a BA Hons in Illustration in 2011 and has since worked on commissions ranging from album artwork to editorial. Further examples of her work can be found at www.elizabetheisenillustration.co.uk
by Michele Norris. Pantheon, 2010. (nook ebook) I am posting about a book for grown ups today.
Known as one of the hosts of NPR's All Things Considered, Michele Norris is a journalist who has also written for the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Washington Post. She set out to write about her family after learning, almost by accident, that her father had been shot in the leg by police