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Written in the Stars is an emotionally compelling story, and man, did it make me angry! To think that there are still cultures that value the lives and dreams of girls so little that they would sell them into marriage when they are still basically children makes me so frustrated for the future of all of us. The protagonist Naila is a hard-working honor student with one goal in life – going to med school and becoming a doctor. When she lies to her parents and sneaks off to prom, she’s punished in the most demeaning way. She’s taken to Pakistan, lied to by her parents, and married off against her will. Good-bye, intelligent, science-minded young woman. You are going to be a cloistered housewife for the rest of your life, and all of those endless possibilities that were once open to you? Gone. All of those people your medical skills could have saved? Nope, your parents thought being barefoot and pregnant at seventeen was a more worthy pursuit for your keen mind. Sigh.
Naila’s always been an obedient child, but when she enters her senior year in high school, she and Saif, also of Pakistani descent, can no longer deny their feelings for each other. Saif’s sister, however, brought shame on their family by marrying an American, and Naila’s parents and their friends won’t have anything to do with the family anymore. They gossip mercilessly about them, and no longer invite them for parties or gatherings. Saif’s parents, they whisper to each other, did a terrible job raising them, and both Saif and his sister are disgraceful. Naila must keep her feelings for Saif a secret. She knows her parents would never understand or approve of her feelings for him, so their relationship is confined within the school walls. Naila is just waiting to graduate, so that she can get out of her parents house, move into the dorm on campus, and have a little bit of freedom with she studies to be a doctor.
Her world shatters when she’s caught with Saif at senior prom. Her parents promptly book the next plane to Pakistan, not even allowing her to attend her graduation. Once at her uncle’s home, she starts to think that things will be okay. Her parents are happy being back home with their families, and Naila is enjoying getting to know her cousins and her aunts and uncles. She’s annoyed with all of the gatherings her mother keeps dragging her to, expecting her to dress up and answer bewildering questions about herself. After a month, it all gets very tiring, and she just wants to get back to Florida so she can attend orientation.
Then she learns, to her horror, that her parents are searching for a husband for her. She’s basically trapped, and has no one to turn to. Her parents have taken her visa, her passport, and her spending money. She’s in a rural village, and has no way to get to the airport. Her parents are suddenly strangers to her, and she despairs at ever going back home to Florida.
Written in the Stars is hard to put down. Naila’s narrative is so engaging that you don’t want to leave her world, as hopeless as it is at times. She’s an intelligent young woman, though, and she doesn’t give up hope of getting the future she dreams of. Just when she thinks she’s out of options, a new door opens, if only she has the courage to step through it.
The details of life in rural Pakistan are colorful and vivid. The reader explores Naila’s fascinating new world with her, and her daily activities come to life. Most compelling, I think, is how powerless and how inconsequential she was to her family. Her parents really thought they were doing what was best for her, but I had a very hard time understanding them, especially her father, who had to give up his own dreams of becoming a doctor to run the family dry cleaning business. Family honor is of utmost importance, but being an American, the concept of doing everything your parents tell you, even into adulthood, is incomprehensible to me. Though Written in the Stars ends on an upbeat note, it’s sobering to think of all of the girls in situations where there is no happily ever after.
Review copy borrowed from my local library
This heart-wrenching novel explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny?
Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.
Stanley Wells’ latest book, Great Shakespeare Actors, offers a series of beautifully written, illuminating, and entertaining accounts of many of the most famous stage performers of Shakespeare from his time to ours. In a video interview, Wells revealed some of the ‘lesser’ remembered actors of the past he would have loved to have seen perform live on stage. The edited transcript below offers an insight into three of these great Shakespeare actors.
Title: Spirit Circle Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Publisher: Shonen Gahosha (JP), Viz Media (US) Story/Artist: Satoshi Mizukami Serialized in: Young King Comics (33 out of 33 chapters reviewed) Fuuta Okeya lives a normal life and has gotten to his second year of middle school without incident, although he can see some spirits including the one following his new classmate, ... Read more
Submissions are now being accepted for the twelfth annual issue, The Ochre Issue, of Fairy Tale Review. The Ochre Issue has no particular theme—simply send your best fairy-tale work along the spectrum of mainstream to experimental, fabulist to realist.
We accept fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry, in English or in translation to English, along with scholarly, hybrid, and illustrated works (comics, black-line drawings, etc.).
The reading period will remain open until the issue is full—we predict closing it sometime in late spring or early summer.
riverSedge is a journal of art and literature with an understanding of its place in the nation in south Texas on the border . Its name reflects our specific river edge with an openness to publish writers who use English, Tex-Mex, and Spanish and also the edges shared by all the best contemporary writing and art.
Submit here. General Submissions/Contest Guidelines
Deadline to Submit is 3/1/15
$5 submission fee in all genres (except book reviews)
3 prizes of $300 will be awarded in poetry, prose, and art. All entries are eligible for contest prizes. Dramatic scripts and graphic literature will be judged as prose. Multiple submissions are welcome in all genres. Each submission should be submitted as a separate entry. In other words, do not send two or more entries as one document. Previously unpublished work only. Self-published work (in print and/or on the web) is not eligible. Simultaneous submissions are welcome, but please notify us of acceptance elsewhere as soon as possible. Submissions in English, Spanish and anything in between are welcome. Current staff, faculty, and students affiliated with UT-Pan American, UT-Brownsville, or South Texas College are not eligible to submit original work to riverSedge.
January saw the critically acclaimed and award winning Broadchurch return to our TV screens for a second series. There was a publicity blackout in an attempt to prevent spoilers or leaks; TV critics were not sent the usual preview DVDs. The opening episode sees Joe Miller plead not guilty to the murder of Danny Latimer, a shock as the previous season’s finale ended with his admission of guilt. The change of plea means that the programme shifts from police procedural to courtroom drama – both staples of the TV schedules. Witnesses have to give evidence, new information is revealed through cross-examination, and old scores settled by witnesses and barristers.
Historians should be banned from watching movies or TV set in their area of expertise. We usually bore and irritate friends and family with pedantic interjections about minor factual errors and chronological mix-ups. With Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, and the sumptuous BBC series based on them, this pleasure is denied us. The series is as ferociously well researched as it is superbly acted and directed. Cranmer probably didn’t have a beard in 1533, but, honestly, that’s about the best I can do.
Title: Spring Awakening (Original German title: Frühlings Erwache)
Author: Frank Wedekind, translated by Francis J. Ziegler
Published: Feb 2012 by Methuen Drama. Written 1890-1. First performed 1906.
Length: 192 pages
Warnings: rape, suicide, child abuse, and abortion
Source: Project Gutenberg
Summary from Student edition: Wedekind's notorious play Spring Awakening influenced a whole trend of modern drama and remains relevant to today's society, exploring the oppression and rebellion of adolescents among draconian parents and morals. This seminal work looks at the conflict between repressive adulthood and teenage sexual longings in a provincial German town. Highly controversial and with themes of sexuality, social attitudes and adolescence, the play is a popular and provocative text for study, especially at undergraduate level.
Review: Late 1800s Germany. Schoolboys and girls discover sexuality. It really does not go well. Among other things, Wedla Bergmann does not understand how babies are made, Moritz Stiefl is tormented by erotic dreams, and Melchior Gabor, having read about sex, now believes in nothing. In a series of scenes, we follow the teens as they try to navigate growing up.
You may have heard of the rock musical that got adapted from this play. It’s the controversial one that deals with rape, suicide, child abuse, and abortion. When the play first came out in 1906, it was criticised for sexuality, puberty, and homosexuality as well, but to be honest, that’s the least of everyone’s problems. As someone who quite enjoyed the musical and enjoys reading/seeing source material, I knew I’d have to read it someday.
I felt that some characters were quite underdeveloped. Martha’s story is only mentioned in passing, most girls don’t get any characterisation beyond fancying Melchior, and I didn’t really care for what happened to the boys other than Melchior and Moritz. We do get good characterisation for the three main characters, and we did get to know what some people were thinking in detail (see next paragraph). It could have been better though.
Giant monologues. Ugh. I know monologues are a standard part of drama, and I don’t mind a couple. But they seem to drag on and on and on, Hanschen’s “have you prayed tonight, Desdemona” one in particular, and if I were seeing this live, I would probably want the actors to just be quiet.
The plot is mostly driven by subtle indications of what’s happening. There are not that many stage directions, and if I didn’t know the story from the musical, I’d have had to reread quite a few scenes to make sure I understood what was going on.
What I really like about this play is that while it was written to criticise the repression of the 1800s, despite 120 years passing, it’s still relevant today: the young people are unprepared for life due to the inadequacy of adults. There’s a scene after Moritz dies in which the teachers are going to start discussing what to do about his death, but then they spend ages arguing over what window should be opened, which is the clearest example of adults failing to care for young people, a theme also seen when Wedla’s mother does not tell her about conception until it’s too late. The young people are victims of the society that forces academic knowledge on them (if they’re boys), does not tell them about life (for almost everyone) and leaves them to discover it on their own, which leads to tragedy.
Overall: Strength 3 tea to a tragedy that showcases perfectly what happens when sex-ed fails.
This morning I have a giveaway for you to enter. I have an ARC of We Were Liars by E Lockhart up for grabs. This is a compelling read that draws you in and refuses to let go. I am still trying to decide whether or not I actually liked it, but I know that I could not put it down.
About the book:
A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island. A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy. A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive. A revolution. An accident. A secret. Lies upon lies. True love. The truth. We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. Read it. And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.
As a playwright, the overall goal when crafting a play, is to create a scenario that will carry the story to an engaging conclusion. Once the story is completed, it is the hope of the playwright that the story will have legs so to speak and find the right home, in order to share the playwright's vision with the public. It's always gratifying when one's aspirations are rewarded with the opportunity to realize this goal with actors reading the words of the play. On Thursday, August 7, "Retribution" had its first date with the public via Sundog Theatre's, "Summer Reading Series" and by all accounts having not been in attendance, it was well received.
In the way of background information, the one-act play was born in a writing forum as part of a playwriting challenge a number of years ago. The only stipulation was that the subject matter had to focus on revenge. Before embarking on all writing projects, I always start with two words, "what if..." Initially, "Retribution" began as a short 10-minute play called, "A Close Shave" focusing on a barber and a man receiving a shave. Over time and during the editing process, it took on a life of its own with an adaption of the story and taking a different angle. The play itself can best be described in the quotation, "revenge is a dish best served cold."
In as far as reaction to the play is concerned, Sundog Theatre'sEric Petillo, Curator of New Worksand Administrative Assistant, wrote of the actors reaction when reading the play that "they all raved about your play. They told me that it had taken them all by surprise when the script suddenly took a left turn. One of the audience members said that it was a cross between "Steel Magnolias" and a Quentin Tarantino revenge fantasy."
Ask me if I'm happy. My story being compared to a Quentin Tarantino revenge fantasy AND Steel Magnolias, which is a favorite film, is some compliment! The only complaint was that it was difficult to visualize the graphic imagery accompanying the dialogue with the reading of my stage directions, The overall conclusion was that the whole play would benefit more from a full-scale production. Agree whole-heartedly.
For the record and in case anyone reading this is interested, the play is ready for its debut and if Mr. Tarrantino is interested, my people can speak to your people...or something.
Call for Submissions - Mason's Road: A Literary & Arts Journal
We are pleased to announce the opening of our next submissions period! We are now accepting your best Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, Drama, and Craft Essays. The theme for Issue #10 is “Memory,” and we are looking for unique and arresting takes on this topic.
Our submissions period runs for three months: August 15 – November 15, 2014. There are two ways to submit to Mason’s Road. You can submit for free any time during our submissions period, and your work will be given thorough consideration for publication. Or, you can submit with a $10 fee, and your work will also be considered for our Mason’s Road Literary Prize, which includes publication and a $500 prize to the best entry we receive. Please visit our website for submission guidelines.
In our just-published issue, we feature work by prize-winning authors, including Jay Kidd, Nicola Waldron, and Stephanie Dickinson .We also have interviews on craft with poet Cynthia Atkins, screenwriter Tom Grey, and novelist Therese Anne Fowler. We are proud of the excellent array of work we selected from over 500 submissions, including the short story, “Formication,” by Patricia Canright Smith, winner of the Mason’s Road Literary Prize. Visit our website to check out all of the current issue’s works.
Sponsored by Fairfield University’s MFA in Creative Writing, Mason’s Road is an online literary journal with a focus on the lifetime learning of the writing craft. It is run by the program’s graduate students, and its goal is to be both educational and inspiring. Anyone in the literary community is welcome to submit, comment on the current selections, and engage in a dialogue about our craft.
Thank you in advance for helping us spread the word among your creative writing students, faculty, and contacts!
The Mason’s Road Editorial Team
MEMORY Marcel Proust once said, "Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were." Such is the mystery and miracle of memory. Virginia Woolf believed that emotions cannot be fully developed in the moment, rather, only by remembering them in the past. Perhaps that is why, while we exist in the present, we have a tendency to live in the past, feeding on memory and experience to inform our future. Literature, especially, has all to do with memory. It is no coincidence that the majority of prose is written in the past tense as if being recalled from somewhere, and we even have a whole genre of nonfiction dedicated to memoir--a word derived from the French and Latin words for memory. Poetry is very often reflective, and even futuristic drama has an organic way of telling a story of the past. Why are we so tied to memory, and perhaps more curiously, why do we feel compelled to share memories with others? Mark Twain said, "A clear conscience is the sure sign of a bad memory." The implication is that alongside our memories of happiness and joy, there must surely be memories of sadness and regret. What value does this add to the human experience? How can literature help us to answer these questions? The editors of Mason's Road look forward to reading the creative ways in which our contributors delve into the eerie abyss of Memory. As Aldous Huxley puts it, "Every man's memory is his private literature." We are excited for this opportunity to read so many chapters of so many different stories.
This morning I have a giveaway for Ellen Hopkins’ latest release RUMBLE. Check out the blurb and enter to win a copy!
Can an atheist be saved? The New York Times bestselling author of Crank and Tricks explores the highly charged landscapes of faith and forgiveness with brilliant sensitivity and emotional resonance.
“There is no God, no benevolent ruler of the earth, no omnipotent grand poobah of countless universes. Because if there was…my little brother would still be fishing or playing basketball instead of fertilizing cemetery vegetation.” Matthew Turner doesn’t have faith in anything.
Not in family—his is a shambles after his younger brother was bullied into suicide. Not in so-called friends who turn their backs when things get tough. Not in some all-powerful creator who lets too much bad stuff happen. And certainly not in some “It Gets Better” psychobabble.
No matter what his girlfriend Hayden says about faith and forgiveness, there’s no way Matt’s letting go of blame. He’s decided to “live large and go out with a huge bang,” and whatever happens happens. But when a horrific event plunges Matt into a dark, silent place, he hears a rumble…a rumble that wakes him up, calling everything he’s ever disbelieved into question.
About Ellen Hopkins:
Ellen Hopkins is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Crank, Burned, Impulse, Glass, Identical, Tricks, Fallout, Perfect, Tilt, and Smoke, as well as the adult novels Triangles and Collateral. She has helped to shape the literary landscape with more than 4.5 million copies in print. Successfully combining her two passions—writing poetry and writing fiction—her compelling novels told in free verse expose and examine the struggles facing today’s youth. Ellen lives with her family in Carson City, Nevada, where she founded Ventana Sierra, a nonprofit youth housing and resource initiative designed to help highly motivated young people build solid career paths toward a more positive future. Rumble is her latest book. Visit her at www.EllenHopkins.com or go to www.VentanaSierra.org.
Weave Magazine is now open for submissions through May 31, 2015. We are a print publication dedicated to promoting cultural diversity, accepting the best works of literary fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, drama, and visual art that transfix, transport, and inspire. Currently, we are seeking more submissions for the genres listed below. More information about how to submit can be found on our submissions page.
Deadline: May 31, 2015
Poetry: 3-5 poems Flash Fiction: 1-3 stories, each 1000 words or less Fiction: 3,000 words or less Nonfiction: 3,000 words or less Drama: less than 4,000 words Reviews: 500-800 words Comics/Illustrations/Visual Essays/Stories/Poems: Black and white only
The Great Plains Emerging Writer Prize, sponsored the Great Plains Writers’ Conference at South Dakota State University, is given annually to a writer of the Great Plains region who has not yet published a book, but whose work and career shows exceptional promise. The winner will receive a $1000 honorarium and a featured reading at the conference in Brookings, SD in March, 2015, as well as land travel and lodging.
Submissions open October 1, 2014. Postmark deadline December 1, 2014. All genres open; include a maximum of 15 pages of poetry or hybrid-genre work, or a maximum of 20 pages of fiction, nonfiction, drama, or screenplay. Work submitted may be previously published, but must be stripped of all information identifying the author or the venue. Judging will be blind. Entry fee $15.
The Great Plains region is broadly defined as reaching from western Minnesota to eastern Montana and from the Canadian border to central Oklahoma. We consider writers to be “of” this region if they have resided here more than three years or have a demonstrable historical link to the region (e.g., you grew up here and moved away). Please state your relationship to the region in your cover letter.
What would I do if I did not tell my stories? I might be “asleep” in life. But even in sleep my stories dance in my mind. They wait. They hear my “voice.” That “voice” is a part of them. Where soul and chance meet, in their midst are cinematic images. They must be given an account in […]
As a bioethics teaching method, narrative genomics highlights the breadth of individuals affected by next-gen technologies — the conversations among professionals and families — bringing to life the spectrum of emotions and challenges that envelope genomics. Recent controversies over genomic sequencing in children and consentissues have brought fundamental ethical theses to the stage to be re-examined, further fueling our belief in drama as an interdisciplinary pedagogical approach to explore how society evaluates, processes, and shares genomic information that may implicate future generations. With a mutual interest in enhancing dialogue and understanding about the multi-faceted implications raised by generating and sharing vast amounts of genomic information, and with diverse backgrounds in bioethics, policy, psychology, genetics, law, health humanities, and neuroscience, we have been collaboratively weaving dramatic narratives to enhance the bioethics educational experience within varied professional contexts and a wide range of academic levels to foster interprofessionalism.
Dramatizations of fictionalized individual, familial, and professional relationships that surround the ethical landscape of genomics create the potential to stimulate bioethical reflection and new perceptions amongst “actors” and the audience, sparking the moral imagination through the lens of others. By casting light on all “the storytellers” and the complexity of implications inherent with this powerful technology, dramatic narratives create vivid scenarios through which to imagine the challenges faced on the genomic path ahead, critique the application of bioethical traditions in context, and re-imagine alternative paradigms.
Because narrative genomics is a pedagogical approach intended to facilitate discourse, as well as provide reflection on the interrelatedness of the cross-disciplinary issues posed, we ground our genomic plays in current scholarship and ensure that it is accurate scientifically as well as provide extensive references and pose focused bioethics questions which can complement and enhance the classroom experience.
In a similar vein, bioethical controversies can also be brought to life with this approach where bioethics reaching incorporates dramatizations and excerpts from existing theatrical narratives, whether to highlight bioethics issues thematically, or to illuminate the historical path to the genomics revolution and other medical innovations from an ethical perspective.
Varying iterations of these dramatic narratives have been experienced (read, enacted, witnessed) by bioethicists, policy makers, geneticists, genetic counselors, other healthcare professionals, basic scientists, bioethicists, lawyers, patient advocates, and students to enhance insight and facilitate interdisciplinary and interprofessional dialogue.
Dramatizations embedded in genomic narratives illuminate the human dimensions and complexity of interactions among family members, medical professionals, and others in the scientific community. By facilitating discourse and raising more questions than answers on difficult issues, narrative genomics links the promise and concerns of next-gen technologies with a creative bioethics pedagogical approach for learning from one another.
Heading image: Andrzej Joachimiak and colleagues at Argonne’s Midwest Center for Structural Genomics deposited the consortium’s 1,000th protein structure into the Protein Data Bank. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
This morning, Jenny Colgan shares Issy’s must haves for the kitchen. Be sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a digital copy of Christmas at the Cupcake Café!
Issy’s Top 5 must haves:
*A good mixer. Kenwood, the British brand is the best: they also come in gorgeous colours!
*a cooling rack. You need to get air under your cakes to finish baking them properly when they’re out the oven!
*a measuring jug. Sometimes you don’t even need to get the scales out if you can approximate from the jug and it’s an easy cake!
* a skewer to poke in and see if your cake is done
* springform cake tins. These are the ones with the bottoms that come out. If you’re clumsy like me, they’re a godsend!
Christmas at the Cupcake Café
Cupcake Café # 2
By: Jenny Colgan
Releasing October 14th, 2014
Issy Randall, proud owner of The Cupcake Cafe, is in love and couldn’t be happier. Her new business is thriving and she is surrounded by close friends, even if her cupcake colleagues Pearl and Caroline don’t seem quite as upbeat about the upcoming season of snow and merriment. But when her boyfriend Austin is scouted for a possible move to New York, Issy is forced to face up to the prospect of a long-distance romance. And when the Christmas rush at the cafe – with its increased demand for her delectable creations – begins to take its toll, Issy has to decide what she holds most dear.
This December, Issy will have to rely on all her reserves of courage, good nature and cinnamon, to make sure everyone has a merry Christmas, one way or another. . .
Indulge yourself and your sweet-toothed friends with Jenny Colgan’s new novel, simply bursting with Christmas cupcake recipes and seasonal sugar-fuelled fun.
Jenny Colgan is the author of numerous bestselling novels, including Christmas at the Cupcake Café and The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, which are also published by Sphere. Meet Me at the Cupcake Café won the 2012 Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance and was a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller, as was Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop of Dreams, which won the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2013. Jenny is married with three children and lives in London and France.
Robin Talley hijacked the virtual dashboard this morning to chat about her research for Lies We Tell Ourselves.
Top 5 most surprising facts I learned while conducting research for Lies We Tell Ourselves:
I had to do a lot of research to write Lies We Tell Ourselves.
Since the story follows the relationship between a black girl and a white girl during the Virginia school integration crisis in 1959, I read memoirs, oral histories, and news articles about the desegregation process, trying to learn everything I could about what life was like for the students on the front lines of the battle.
But I also needed to know more run-of-the-mill facts about life for high school students in the late 1950s. So I spent a lot of time pouring over vintage yearbooks and reading up on day-to-day life at the time.
Here are a few eyebrow-raising tidbits about life in the 1950s:
1. You didn’t wash your hair every day.
Today’s routine of showering and shampooing daily would’ve sounded crazy in 1959. How often teenage girls actually washed their hair varied, but this vintage hair-care video suggests washing “with a mild soap” every two weeks:
By the way, in 1959, you basically had one hairstyle option if you were a teenage girl. Long hair and straight hair were both unthinkable. Your hair didn’t fall past your chin, and it was curly, and that was that. If your hair wasn’t naturally curly, you got a perm or you set it up in rollers every night. Presumably using the time you saved by only washing it every two weeks.
2. School dress codes were no joke.
No one ever wore jeans to school. Boys would wear khakis with belts and solid-colored Oxford shirts with socks to match. Girls, meanwhile, would never think of wearing pants to school at all. Everyone wore loafers, saddle shoes, or flats, since high heels were forbidden, except for dances. Skirts were long ? well below the knee ? and tights hadn’t been invented yet, so to stay warm in the winter, you either wore knee socks or you just shivered. This yearbook photo shows girls wearing thick coats over bare legs ? and somehow smiling in spite of it.
3. Relationships were no joke, either.
The rules for dating and romance were formal for high school students in the fifties. Boys asked girls on dates ? never the other way around, except for Sadie Hawkins dances ? and, after a sufficient number of outings to movies or football games, a boy might ask a girl to go steady. To do this, he’d give her something of his to wear ? an identity bracelet, a class ring, a football pin, a letter sweater ? and whatever it was, she’d wear that thing every day of her life until they broke up. Going-steady couples walked down the school hallways together with the boys carrying the girls’ books. My mother told me about a trend she remembered where girls would wear blouses that had loops of fabric at the back of the collar. She remembered one going-steady couple at her school who walked down the hall together with the boy’s finger looped through the fabric at the back of her blouse collar. It sounds like nothing short of a leash.
4. Double standards for girls were the norm.
As I mentioned up in #3, the decision of who dated whom and who went steady with whom was almost entirely up to boys ? they were the only ones who could suggest a date or a relationship. After that, though, it was up to girls to keep the boys in check. It was considered normal for boys to want to hook up, but girls were supposed to stop them, or else. Even if you were going steady, girls were still supposed to rein their boyfriends in when they got “carried away.” A girl who kissed on a first date was “easy.” So was a girl who wore a skirt that was deemed too tight. My aunt told me about one classmate she remembered who was known for routinely too far with boys ? meaning she and the boys she dated would engage in extended kissing sessions. The other girls at their school referred to this girl in whispered voices as a “make out.”
5. Air raid drills were part of life.
The 1950s were near the height of the Cold War. During classes, it was routine for a practice air-raid siren to go off. Students were expected to duck down under their desks or go out into the hallway and kneel against the wall with their arms over their heads. These tactics wouldn’t have helped in the slightest if there had been an actual nuclear attack, of course ? nuclear weapons do far too much damage for it to make a difference what position you’re in ? but they did a great job of freaking out the students who went through the drills, and of reminding them of the Communist threat that loomed over everyone’s heads.
About the book:
In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.
Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.
Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”
Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.
Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.
December 1. The year is winding down. While to some December means end-of-the-year holidays and cold weather, to me it means the arrival of "Best of the Year" booklists. I pore over them the way I used to study the old Sears Christmas catalogs, agreeing with some selections, shaking my head over others and marking those still to be read. The Teaching Authors don't think the reviewers at Publisher's Weekly and School Library Journal should have all the fun. In the next couple of weeks we will be discussing our own favorites reads of 2014, whether they were published this year or not.
In fact, my favorite read of the year, the graphic novel Drama by Raina Telgemeier, was published in 2012. Telgemeier also published this year, Sisters, which is every bit as good as Drama. However, Drama first caught my eye because it is about a subject close to my heart...a middle school drama club. Having been a middle school (and high school) drama club director for many years, I wanted to see how close the book came to my own experience.
Telegemeier not only nailed the excitement of producing drama on stage, but all the little "dramas" that go on every day in middle school. Callie, the main character, can't sing or act well enough to perform on stage in the school musical, but she loves theater so much she is thrilled to design and build the sets. The characters are not the school "cool" kids but the "stage rats," kids besotted by the world of theater. One detail that the author captured perfectly is the ability of these junior actors to accept each other unconditionally. Nothing really mattered except whether or not a person could perform their assigned task, onstage or off.
Telgemeier is also the author of Smile, a graphic novel of living though orthodontia. Smile is geared for an elementary audience getting their first braces. Drama is most definitely for an older reader, sixth grade and up. My review for Drama? Standing ovation, all the way!
If you’ve ever perused the online web comic community Tapastic.com, you’re sure to have seen the slice of life webcomic “The Danemen” featuring the DaneMan himself. The silent (word-less) comic transcends language through the use of visual queues that brings drama and comedy to the viewer. It’s like watching a classic Chaplin act and waiting for the finale, which never disappoints and is almost always unexpected.
In the video below, David shows us his work process and how it defines his unique style. Make sure to take notes, and don’t forget to support his Patreon campaign so he can make comics until the end of days!
With two brothers fighting in the Great War, her family needing extra money, and her boyfriend’s drinking driving a wedge between them, Livy Campbell accepts a job teaching German-American children in a nearby small town. But even there, the effects of the war can be felt as anti-German hysteria divides the town’s population. Friedrick Wagner feels shame for not fighting alongside his friends. Instead, he took a deferment to run his dying father’s farm, work as the school handyman, and provide for his younger siblings. With so much hatred surrounding him, he fears God may have forgotten him. His friendship with Livy gives him hope, but the obstacles dividing them must first be overcome
About Stacy Henrie:
Stacy Henrie has always had an avid appetite for history, fiction and chocolate. She earned her B.A. in public relations from Brigham Young University and worked in communications before turning her attentions to raising a family and writing inspirational historical romances. Wife of an entrepreneur husband and a stay-at-home mom to three, Stacy loves the chance to live out history through her fictional characters, while enjoying the modern conveniences of life in the 21st century. In addition to author, she is a reader, a road trip enthusiast and a novice interior decorator.
After another fifteen minutes had crawled by, Livy forced herself to accept the likelihood that Robert—for whatever painful reason—had chosen to spend her birthday with a bottle cradled in his arms instead of her. Hot tears of anger sprang up behind her eyes and no amount of blinking could keep several of them from leaking onto her face.
“Are you all right?”
Livy whipped her chin up and found herself peering into eyes more brilliantly blue than she’d suspected from her seat across the room. Their clear depths exuded friendly concern in a way that made her feel immediately safe, though she didn’t know anything about this young man. Up close, his Sunday shirt and pressed trousers, though worn, accentuated his strong-looking physique.
She blinked, trying to remember what he’d asked her. Something about her being all right? “Yes. Thank you. I’m just fine.”
She swept away the salty drops from her cheeks. Of course her first real cry in ten years would be witnessed by a stranger, and yet, his self-assured, compassionate manner made her suspect he didn’t find her silly.
“You look like you could use a dance.” He crouched down in front of her and held out his hand. “How about it?”
Livy darted a quick look at the entrance again. “I’m . . . um . . .waiting for my boyfriend.”
“Ah.” He let his hand drop to his side. “Seems to be a bit late.”
She blushed. Who else had noticed her sitting here for over an hour? “I’m sorry,” she offered lamely.
“No, it’s all right.” He got to his feet and started to walk away.
Who was she kidding? Robert wasn’t coming. If he happened to, he’d likely be drunk and she didn’t want to be around him .
“Wait.” Livy jumped up. She could at least have one dance on her birthday. Why should she spend the whole evening hurt and angry over Robert’s absence?
The young man slowly turned back around.
She attempted a genuine smile. “I’d love a dance.”
His face lit up as he smiled in return and held out his hand a second time. Setting her hat on her chair, Livy placed her hand inside his larger one and allowed him to escort her onto the dance floor. The band began to play a fox trot—one of Livy’s favorite dances. She and Joel had become fairly adept at the steps before he’d left for the war.
It felt strange, at first, to be in another man’s arms, but the feeling soon left her. The way he held her hand in a confident but gentle grip, his hand warm on her back, helped Livy relax. He led her around the floor, their feet walking or spinning in time with the music. He was as skillful at the fox trot as her brother, and Livy relished the chance to do more than just sway to the music.
“Are you from around here?” he asked her after a minute or two of dancing.
“About an hour away. And you?”
He shook his head. “I live outside of Hilden. In the county north of here.”
Livy vaguely recalled hearing the town name. “You drove all the way down here, just to go dancing?”
“We don’t have a public dance hall in Hilden. So we have to come here, or head farther north or drive all the way to Sioux City. Do you come to this one often?”
“I used to, before I went to college in Cedar Falls.”
With slight pressure to her back, he expertly led her through a spin before he picked up their conversation again. “What did you study in college?”
“Are you a teacher now?”
Livy frowned, doing her best to tamp down the seeds of resentment the question unearthed. She loved her family and wanted to lift the burden her brothers’ absence had created, but she missed college and the chance to pursue her own dreams.
“I was only able to attend for a year before I was needed here.” Her words drew a look of sympathy from him.
“I know what that’s like,” he murmured. Before she could ask what he meant, he poised another question. “Would you still like to be a teacher?”
“Very much. I’m hoping someday I’ll have the chance.”
The understanding in his blue eyes changed to enthusiasm. “That might be sooner than you think. The teacher at one of the township schools outside of Hilden was recently . . . .” He shot a glance at the floor, his jaw tightening. Livy wondered at the change in his mood. Then he guided her through another spin and his expression relaxed. “Suffice it to say, she’s gone now and I don’t think they’ve found a replacement. It’s a little far away, but you might want to inquire about it.”
A possible teaching job? A flurry of anticipation set Livy’s pulse moving faster at the possibility. She tried to squelch it with the reminder she wasn’t likely to be hired with only one year of schooling completed and no teaching certificate, but she couldn’t destroy the hope completely. How wonderful it would be to be on her own again, and not learning how to teach this time, but actually being the teacher.
Livy met his open gaze and found her thoughts moving from his idea to the man himself. She didn’t even know his name, and yet, she felt comfortable enough in his presence to share some of her regret at having her dream of teaching cut short. She hadn’t even voiced those feelings to Robert yet.
“Thank you,” she said, hoping he sensed how much she meant it. “I may look into it.”
“I hope you will.” He smiled in a way that made her stomach twist with unexpected pleasure.
She searched her mind for a more neutral topic, one that wouldn’t mean spilling more of her secrets to this stranger. “Do you live with family, up there in Hilden?”
He nodded. “I’ve got my father, stepmother and two half-siblings. What about you?”
“I’ve got a few more than two siblings.” Livy laughed. “I’m the third of seven. Five boys and two girls.”
She studied the firm shoulder beneath her hand. He appeared quite fit and healthy, so why wasn’t he a soldier? “Can I ask you something?”
“How come you’re not wearing a uniform?”
Livy wished the question back at once when a shadow passed over his face, erasing the easy camaraderie between them. Before he could answer, the song ended. He released her hand at once, though he didn’t join her or the other couples in clapping.
She gnawed at her cheek, embarrassed at her apparent mistake. He’d been so kind to notice her distress earlier and suggest the teacher position in his town, and she’d repaid him by bringing up something he clearly did not wish to discuss.
“I’m sorry. It’s none of my business,” she said, rushing her words in an effort to keep him from disappearing into the crowd. “I didn’t mean to pry.”
He watched her, his expression guarded. What could she say to erase the awkwardness her inquiry had caused? They’d been having such a lovely time talking and dancing.
“I appreciate the dance. You see it’s my birthday and I adore the fox trot. So you’ve saved my evening, Mister . . .” She waited for him to fill the pause with his name.
The corners of his mouth worked up into a smile. “How about you call me ‘the birthday rescuer?’”
Livy chuckled. She wasn’t sure why he refused to give his name, but she wouldn’t press it—not after her blunder about the uniform. His kindness had completely changed her botched evening. “Thank you for the dance, birthday rescuer. And for telling me about the teacher position.”
“You’re welcome. Do I get to know the name of the birthday girl?”
Two can play at his game, Livy thought with a smirk. “How about ‘the girl I danced with once?’”
Masque & Spectacle is a new online literary journal taking submissions for its first issue slated for September 1. We publish all forms of creative writing, including drama, literary journalism, and essays, as well as visual art, photography (especially performance photography), video, and sound art.
Please send all submissions and inquiries to: masqueandspectacleATgmailDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )
Wow! This is a hard book to review, because it’s so important for the reader to go in blind, or it won’t work. The slow unfolding of Cady’s forgotten memory, like a languid summer day, is suspenseful and engrossing. I started reading They Were Liars without even reading the blurb, and I’m glad I didn’t. Knowing too much going in spoils the mystery of Cady’s lost summer, so I hadn’t even read any reviews for the book. I hate spoilers!
I’ll give you a general overview of the story, with no spoilers, and try to tell you how I felt about it without ruining the read for you. Deep breath – here we go!
Cady spends her summers on Beechwood, the family island. Her grandparents, and each of their three daughters, have a house there, and Cady’s summer days are spent swimming, hanging out with her cousins, and enjoying the closeness of her extended family. Everything seems so idyllic to her, until she turns fifteen. Then her life slowly starts to unravel; her father leaves her and her mother, moving to Colorado with another woman. Because her family doesn’t believe in actually expressing your feelings, her mother works out her hurt and grief by erasing every trace of Cady’s father from their life. Their old furniture is given away, the house in Vermont is redecorated, and only then can they begin their summer vacation.
While Cady is hurt and confused, and hadn’t found the process of rearranging the house therapeutic, her mother continues on as though nothing has happens, and she expects Cady to do the same. Stiff upper lip, steady square jaw, no emotional outbursts allowed. It’s during this pivotal summer that Cady realizes how imperfect her family is. Petty jealousies tear away at her aunts. Her grandfather takes pleasure in fueling the discord between his children. And Gat, her cousin Johnny’s friend, a boy she’s known forever, has suddenly stolen her heart, despite her family’s disapproval, because Gat doesn’t fit into their wealthy, white world view.
Cady is an unreliable narrator, and I was never sure when she was telling the truth, or what she thought was the truth. When she forgets most of summer fifteen after suffering a traumatic brain injury, she frantically attempts to discover what happened. Why was she swimming by herself? Why won’t her mom or the rest of her family tell her what happened that warm summer night?
While I loved Cady’s voice, I’m not so sure that I liked this over-indulged, spoiled young woman. Even though I was at odds about how I felt about her and her equally privileged cousins, I could not put the book down. Now that it’s a day after I finished We Were Liars, I can’t even tell you if I liked the book. All I know is that it held me mesmerized, and all I wanted was to find out the truth behind Cady and her whacked family. If you are looking for a quick, hard to put down read, We Were Liars has your name written all over it.
Review copy provided by publisher
A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island. A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy. A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive. A revolution. An accident. A secret. Lies upon lies. True love. The truth. We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. Read it. And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.