It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s crazy how much I have been enjoying my time with books lately. I’ve really been expanding my horizons and I’m loving every minute of it. This week I took on a couple of graphic novels (never read one of those before) and I reminisced with an old favorite of mine.

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale

mausMaus is a graphic novel that was recommended to me by one of my classmates. I didn’t really know where to go with the the graphic novel genre, so I reached out for help on twitter (I love my book lovers community).

This is a story about the Holocaust and what a survivor goes through. It was written over thirty years ago and is still powerful today for its readers! His images were drawn with the Nazis as cats and the jews as mice. This part was really interesting to mean before because he wrote it with an imaginative spin. Living during the Holocaust clearly was not easy and this novel was able to enhance the details with pictures.

This graphic novel was really powerful. I never knew that it could hold so much potential. It’s a quick read and easy to follow and understand. Readers get caught up in the lives of the main characters.

Repunzel’s Revenge

repunzelShannon Hale’s graphic novel Repunzel’s Revenge was really entertaining! Growing up I loved watching and reading about princesses. This story has a little bit of a difference, however, because Repunzel is taking care of business for herself from the very beginning. She doesn’t need any man in her life to save her from the tower, but she does get to  kiss a prince. Instead of her hair dropping out of a tower for a prince charming to climb up and rescue her, she’s out using her hair as a rope and going on an adventure seeking her revenge.

Seriously you guys, why haven’t I read graphic novels before!? I think it’s maybe because i’ve put the connotation with them that they’re “too easy” for me and I need to “push myself”. BUT, I think reading is meant for enjoyment and I really got to enjoy this novel and all of its great pictures. I recommend that if you haven’t read any graphic novels to pick one up and read it! You may be surprised like I was. And these two that I have talked about this week are great starters!

The Hunger Games

the_hunger_gamesOkay, so my sophomore year of High School my sister sends me a book in the mail for my birthday. I open it to find Suzanne Collin’s novel The Hunger Games. I was seriously SO excited for this moment and I was excited to revisit the novel again this semester (especially after reading Divergent last week).

For those of you who haven’t read the novel OR seen the movie (the book is better) you are missing out! It’s the common dystopian theme where a society is all sorts of messed up. In Panem there are twelve districts each playing a specific role for society. There used to be thirteen districts, but the thirteenth district tried to make a change and fought back against the ruler. Ever since then the districts have been punished. As their punishment every year one boy and girl is chosen to fight in an arena until there is only one victor. However, after Katniss enters the arena things change.

I love this novel because it’s constantly pushing the reader forward. I also really enjoy the fact that there is action, comedy, friendship, sadness, and romance all tied together in one novel. Additionally, the fact that there is a female protagonist is so awesome! Katniss is a strong and courageous woman who seeks to change the world she lives in. I definitely recommend this novel!

Happy Reading!!

-A.

 

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Where’s the diversity in YA literature?

Last week I talked a little bit about how stories can be a bridge builder between different cultures. When it comes down to it though, there really aren’t that many books published that deal with diversity. The majority of novels being published are primarily ones that reflect the dominant culture. But why?

Problems Within the Publishing World

It’s not like there aren’t authors who aren’t writing about characters outside of the “norm”, they just aren’t always published, “white authors and illustrators already have 95% of the publishing pie.” These books are often overlooked and seen as though they are not in high demand. Except, they are in high demand.

There are so many minority, young children and adults that would LOVE to have their story told, and better yet be represented in something they are reading. It doesn’t always have to be about the struggles they face as a minority race, but sometimes it can just be them being the hero for once in something they read.

“Books transmit values. They explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books? Where are the future white personnel managers going to get their ideas of people of color? Where are the future white loan officers and future white politicians going to get their knowledge of people of color? Where are black children going to get a sense of who they are and what they can be?” – Walter Dean Myers

It’s so important for ALL children to be represented in what they are reading. To say their isn’t a demand for diverse reading materials is ignorant. Publishing companies need to wake up and realize that their job is to provide ALL readers with material that is going to be of great value to the kids. It’s not all about money and what is going to sell the quickest… sometimes it’s about being a nice human being by recognizing these issues and fixing them.

“It seems that if a publisher has one or two award-winning authors of color, they no longer feel obligated to actively seek out new talent, emerging voices that might extend the limited range of realities we find in children’s literature today.” – Elliott Zetta

Sometimes we have to recognize the problems for ourselves. Not all publishing companies are going to change whether we demand it or not. However, what we can do is continue to speaking out about the problem. We can also recognize the lesser publishing companies that often times publish diverse novels, and even look into independent publishers.

It’s time to put an end to the boundaries we have created that keep out banned books, challenged books, books that offer diversity. None of these boundaries are worth having. They all limit the opportunity and value that some kids may find in them. We don’t know what book with dramatically change a kid’s life, all we can do is offer them the books that we know have the potential to do so.

It’s important to place value in and read diverse books. There’s not many of them, no, but the ones that are published deserve to be read. We are people of diversity, why aren’t our books a mirror image of that?

My personal opinion: If we are going to continue to encourage young adults and readers of all ages to read, there should probably be something out there that they can be represented in.

Further Resources

Click on the links below for lists of diverse novels that you may be interested in:

http://bookriot.com/2014/05/22/30-diverse-ya-titles-get-radar/

https://www.buzzfeed.com/zakiyajamal/add-more-color-to-your-shelf?utm_term=.fqEXgB2o8#.ht3Q3JBdY

http://www.diversityinya.com/category/book-lists/

 

Happy reading this week!

 

-A.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Another great week of reading. What you’re about to read is a diverse span of young adult literature. I enjoyed each novel for different reasons!

The Only Road 

The first novel that I read was The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz. This is a novel that has been awarded the Pura Belpre award, which is only awarded to novels that portray the Latino cultural experience and do it well!

the-only-road-9781481457507_hrThis is the story of two teenagers – Jaime and his older cousin Angela. It takes place in Guatemala, where the Alphas terrorize young kids into joining their drug cartel. The two of them have a choice to make. They can either join the Alphas, run away, or they can be killed by the Alphas for refusing their offer. Naturally, they attempt to flee to where Jaime’s older brother lives legally in New Mexico. This journey isn’t easy. They face many different obstacles and have to depend on others to help them reach Jaime’s brother. This book is all about trust and survival.

When it comes down to it, I really enjoyed this book. It seemed as though there was a lot of truth shining through it and Diaz even notes that, “Jaime and Angela are very lucky on their trip; most people do not have it that easy.” However when I read this, I did not think that their trip was easy in anyway and to think that there are kids going through this journey is really sad. I was happy to see the two make it to New Mexico, but now they will struggle living in New Mexico as illegal immigrants.

This is a story that puts a face to those “illegal immigrants” and some of the obstacles they face. Sometimes it’s a matter of life and death that they travel to the United States. They didn’t want to be in America illegally, but what else were they to do with the Alphas threatening them? Definitely recommend!

We Will Not Be Silent

we-will-not-be-silentWe Will Not Be Silent by Russell Freedman. This, my fellow readers, is the definition of an emotional read. It is considered to be historical nonfiction, which makes the reading so surreal. I’ve never read anything like this really. The story is all about a group of university students known as White Rose, who strive to urge other German people through the form of letters to not conform to Nazi ways. These young adults truly risk their lives for what they believed in.

There is this raw emotion that comes from reading this book. What happened in Germany was real. What these students went through was real. This was a time period of awful events that were taking place. I think this would be a really great read for discussion topics during the Holocaust for young adults. It truly has an effect on the reader and allows us to think about what we truly believe in and to fight for that.

Divergent

Divergent_(book)_by_Veronica_Roth_US_Hardcover_2011.jpgVeronica Roth’s dystopian series begins with the novel Divergent. I’m a fan of dystopian novels and this one reminded me a lot of The Hunger Games because they both have female protagonists. I’ve heard a lot of hype about Divergent so I thought I would give it a try! I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed it, much like I enjoyed The Hunger Games series. It is a quick read that’s hard to put down. The thing I often find myself being compelled to read dystopian novels is because I literally have no sense of what their world is like. So it’s super fascinating for me to read about a world unknown.

In Divergent, their world consists of a five different factions. At the age of sixteen, Beatrice and her brother both have to take a test to see which faction they belong to. The five factions are each dedicated to a virtue: the honest, selfless, brave, peaceful, and intelligent. Beatrice qualifies under three of the categories after her test scores come back. She is what they call divergent. However, because of this she could be considered as a threat so she is to keep it a secret. Beatrice ends up going to the Brave faction where she excels drawing attention to herself. And so the story begins to unravel…

 

Happy reading, friends!

-A.

Story Serves as a Pontifex

Culture in Story Telling

Pontifex is Latin for “bridge builder”. It is primarily known for being used to address Roman Catholic high priests, or the Bishop of Rome because they were (and still are) considered to be the bridge builder in all things, but especially in the people’s relationship with Jesus Christ. They are the teachers and the listeners.

Story, then in the same sense, can serve as a pontifex. In a recent article I read, it discusses the way in which story telling becomes a bridge builder between different cultures:

“Hearing another’s story has the potential to deflate our self importance, making room for other perspectives.”

This article continues to expand upon how important it is to have diversity in the classroom, and how important it is for everyone to read stories from different cultures. When readers see themselves being represented in a story, they realize that their experiences matter. Every one should have the opportunity to be represented.

When we read about different cultures, the author is building that bridge so we can walk across and see what its like on the other side momentarily. When we listen to the author’s words, we gain knew perspectives to take out into the world. I’ve said it multiple times, but truly, one of the most beautiful things about literature is how it is able to represent all cultures and the fact that we get to read and enjoy those cultures.

multi-ethnic

Photo CC-By Theo Q.

The Canon, Censor, & Common Core

So then, how do we bring different cultural works into schools? I read in another article about the struggles of tackling the Canon, censorship, and Common Core Standards in Young Adult literature. It’s difficult to maneuver between these four “C’s”. Everyone thinks they know best, but when it comes down to it, teachers need to incorporate multi-ethnic reading material.

“Traditional censorship will most likely always exist, and standards like Common Core, will create lists that must, by nature of being lists, include and exclude a variety of texts. We as ELA teachers can find ways to ensure that what we bring into our classroom represent the contexts, voices, and the purposes of not only the future college students and workers in our care,  but the students sitting before us in the here and now.”

This is a call to action. To ensure that what young adults are reading is going to offer a valuable learning experience. Multi-ethnic reading offers that very thing. It’s not all about what one person judges as being the “right thing to read” by the Canon law. It’s about what the students are really going to benefit from.

Like I said, it’s important for ALL readers to feel like they are represented in texts. It’s even more important that readers learn about different cultures through different cultural texts. By creating more diversity in the classroom reading materials, students become better equipped citizens for communicating with different cultures because they have a better understanding.

-A.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Totally awesome week of reading, friends!

Little Peach

little-peachEver have that feeling of being alone, or like nothing you do will work? All out of options? Well, that’s how Michelle feels when she leaves her drug-addicted mom and winds up becoming a child prostitute. Not by her own measures of course, she is lured in by Devon, who names her “Little Peach”. She struggles to survive being a child prostitute.

This specific book reminded me of the book I previously read this month, “Sold” by Patricia McCormick. Little Peach is fast-paced and hard to put down! It’s a little hard to read at times for the fact that what she’s going through is difficult to read in its own way. I couldn’t personally connect with Michelle as a character, however, I did feel a lot of emotion while reading this. And i’m all about recommending books that drive out emotional responses! So definitely pick this one up and read it. Also, people who say human trafficking isn’t a thing should read this book because it takes place in New York City.

An Abundance of Katherines

katherinesI am a fan of John Green, and I have been a fan ever since I was in high school. Needless to say, I was really excited to sit back and enjoy reading out of a book I was comfortable with. My love for John Green started out like many others, with his best-selling novel The Fault in Our Stars. I became intrigued by this book because of its title. I mean really, an abundance of Katherines? This book was also awarded the Printz Award, so I figured it’d be pretty great. And I wasn’t wrong.

 

This book is all about heartbreak and equations. Colin, the main character, is only into dating girls by the name of Katherine. He’s dated NINETEEN of them, and not ONE of them has worked out. His last attempt at a relationship, leaves him feeling lost, lonely, and a little confused. This encourages him to venture out on a road trip (the only rational thing to do right?) Colin is also a child prodigy. This leaves him feeling like he will be able to find an equation that explains his life experiences with dating. His math equation is known as Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability if you ever run across it in your next math class!

I loved this book for its adventure. I felt like so many teens could connect to his heartbreak and what he does with that heartbreak. It also was really funny at times, which was a relief to me after reading Little Peach beforehand. Definitely recommend this book!

Ghost

ghostThis book is all about characters performing their best. Being perfect. Striving for success. Four kids are chosen for an elite middle school track team and Ghost is one of them. They all have to put their differences aside to perform at their best, but sometimes that’s difficult for Ghost to do. He’s not like the others because of his past. See, he doesn’t run for fun. He runs because sometimes it’s the only thing that saves him, so he has no choice but to be fast.

I loved Ghost! It’s written by the award-winning, African American author, Jason Reynolds. This is what he says about why he wrote Ghost: “I wrote Ghost for all the young people who feel like they’re suffocating, who feel like they’re gasping for breath, exhausted from running for their lives, and sometimes FROM their lives. It’s for both the traumatized and the triumphant.” That, my friends, is the definition of amazing. Because this book does just that for readers!

So there we have it. My amazing week of reading. Three for three. All hits. And all recommendations for you to read!

Happy Monday! And happy reading!

-A.

Reading Outside of those Comfort Zones

Reading outside of those comfort zones you have built yourself is really hard to do sometimes. But let’s talk about what you’re missing in the great big world by limiting yourself!

banned-1726366_1280

Challenged & Banned Books

So here’s the deal, we live in a society that seems to be almost too sensitive. No matter what someone is writing, someone else will be offended by it. We all live in a world that we share, but we also all have our own beliefs and values. However, this doesn’t mean that the world revolves around that one person who thinks the world might end with a single cuss word written into a young adult novel (trust me they’ve heard it before).

One of my favorite authors of all time that you’ve already probably read about on my blog is Judy Blume. She happens to be one of the most banned children and young adult authors in the United States. Judy Blume talks about the real life situations without sugar coating it. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies for young adults and even children, so why not write about that raw realism through fiction novels? There’s no point in hiding what real life is. She says:

“I always tell people, ‘You think you’re safe? Think again, because when you’re writing, anything can be seen as dangerous.’”

There’s a long list out there of challenged books, or in other words books that parents, teachers, etc… think should be banned for numerous reasons. However, all of these books are important and should be valued. They stress to young readers the real life “stuff” and struggles.

“The truth is, no one ever really knows which books might end up changing a person’s life, helping him or her find comfort, or gaining a better understanding of a subject.”

I recently wrote a review about this very thing in our college campus newspaper, THE EAGLE. I never really fully understood what all the fuss was about regarding banned books until I came to college and my options became opened to EVERYTHING. After reading a few of these so-called “banned books” I felt discouraged by my fellow citizens. It makes no sense to me why people want to limit these books to readers (especially young adults) because of language, sexual discussions, diversity, hardships, etc…

I guess all we can do is discuss the matter and voice our opinions. No one is wrong here, it’s just that no one has the right to take books away from readers. That’s my own personal opinion.

censored-1726364_1280

Self-Censorship

I recently read an article titled “A Dirty Little Secret: Self-Censorship” by Debra Lau Whelan. She discusses the heat that librarians and schools get for allowing children to read “challenged” or “banned” books. This leads to censoring what we can and cannot read. Not only that, but why should anyone else be able to dictate this? If a novel is written and published for a specific age group I don’t see why people feel the need to censor it off.

So over the years we’ve picked up on this habit of not opening up to those books that were censored off to us by our parents, librarians, teachers, ministers, etc… This habit needs to stop though because there’s a great world of diversity out there and it’s all written down, too, for us to enjoy and read!

I think a lot of times now, we struggle to travel outside of our comfort zones for fear of what might be there. I’ll be honest, I’d rather sit, drink coffee, and read a novel about religion, or adventure. What I fail to do a lot of times is dig into the stuff that I don’t really know anything about like LGBTQ or fantasy novels. It never fails that I always enjoy those novels that I go out of my comfort zone to read. Why? Because I feel like i’ve been able to learn something.

Restricting ourselves to the same old stuff dulls our perceptions of the world. Look at it this way:

“Experience to a [reader] is like paint to a painter. The more rich the palette the more rich the story portrayed on paper or canvass. Reading different styles is a great way to add to the palette.” – Sophia Tesch

SO, it’s time to make our palette’s bright. Not dull. Reach outside of your comfort zone. Get some good recommendations from friends!

Continue reading friends! Add a different color to your palette this week and then tell your friends about the experience!

-A.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

This week I revisited one of my favorite authors, Judy Blume, in her novel Forever. And I got to know a new author, Alex Gino, in the novel George. Both novels I read have had a lot of discussion about their addressed topic issues.

Forever

judy-blume

Forever, is a teen romance novel that makes readers question true love. Is there a difference between first love and true love? This is the question that Judy Blume confronts head on in her novel.

Michael and Katherine share an intimate relationship with one another. This book has explicit sexual content in it, so i’m not exactly sure I would let younger adults read it, but definitely once they get into high school. Blume confronts the harsh reality that comes with having a sexual partner. Michael and Katherine promise each other forever, but what they fail to realize is the fact that they are so young. When they get separated for a summer their love begins to fade.

I enjoyed the novel for how straight-forward it is about the topic of sex. Often I feel like our society fails to educate young adults because it is a difficult thing to discuss. Leave it to Judy Blume to educate us all (it’s why I love her). I also found the characters to be interesting because they are all very different in their own way. And moreover, they all struggle internally with their own problem. I definitely recommend this book for older teens, especially girls headed off to college.

George

george-smallGeorge is a young boy, who questions his identity. He refers to himself as “herself”. George takes up a hobby participating in theatre, where she wants to play girl roles. Theatre is the escape of real life, to be who she truly is.

I’m sure this book has also spiked a controversial discussion, at which some parents, teachers, and librarians ban the book. However, what people fail to recognize is that Alex Gino discusses the difficult topic of transgender identity, and the LGBTQ community. It’s important to have diversity in our reading and this novel does just that!

I really enjoyed reading about George. The struggles that she goes through are tough, but probably speak to a lot of young adults trying to find their own identity in themselves and in the world. I think everyone should give this book a try. It’s a learning experience! And you’ll really appreciate who George is!

An Author’s Influence

How do you choose what you want to read? What draws you in? The Cover? The summary? Often times, I would find myself falling in love with an author and his or her writing styles that I would continue to keep reading their published works. Have you ever thought about the influence author’s have on their readers? Or better yet, for young adult readers? The ALAN Review offers an article that I recently read that has an insight to just how much authors influence readers.

In elementary school, maybe you were taught a specific way to pick out a book. Maybe they treated library time like a “class” as the article suggests. And maybe you were taught to look at the cover, or read the front page to decide if it would be good enough for you to read. I’ll be honest, I am guilty of doing all of these. Not because I think it’s the right way to do things, but rather because I was taught that that’s how you pick out a good book.

But what about the author? Authors devout their time, skills, knowledge and experiences to create something worth reading. Often times, as readers, we don’t understand where their ideas have come from. Every author has a story. Every author has had experiences that create the stories we love to read. At some point, authors encounter some type of spark for them to write it out for us to read.

Have you ever heard an author speak about his or her writing? I will admit, my first time encountering an author was in college. Her name was Karen Shoemaker. She spoke about the writing process she chooses to use, experiences she’s had, feelings about her novels, and even answered questions for us! This experience was one of the best I could have had with an author. I bought her novel and loved it because I felt like I knew her and knew why she wrote it.

This article suggests that if we encounter the author, we are more likely to have a better reading experience. This makes a lot of sense because our level of connection with the novel rises. It’s that connection that keeps us driving forward through the pages.

But that’s not the only thing this article suggests. Being a “book nerd” I get the opportunity to talk with other “book nerds”. Sharing great book experiences makes me so happy! I love recommending books as well as giving recommendations. That’s exactly what this article suggests. People crave book recommendations. The great thing about an author discussing their books in public places, especially schools, is the fact that they are recommending it for all to read. In this particular moment, they hold a lot of influence on the reader.

Authors are so important. They have a lot to say with a great imagination. It’s important for us, then, to read what they have to say. Readers need to know the author just as much as they know the book.

Happy reading!

-A.