An Average Day

This morning I woke up and looked out the window. It was snowing like crazy! Mayor Miranda decided that it would be a snow day. All the kids who attend schools were excited that it was a snow day. Then all of a sudden, a giant monster ate Mayor Miranda!!! The monster stomped around causing fear and destruction.

Everyone stayed inside all day because of the monster. Some kids could see the monster stomping around the city. The monster burped and destroyed most of the houses. Then, Bob the Builder the Assassin killed the monster with a bomb. Even though he killed the monster, he also destroyed the city with the bomb.

Then, a mutant underwear ate the bomb. But there was another assassin and the two assassins tried to kill the mutant underwear. Bob the Builder called the Pink Fluffy Unicorn to help. But Dumbledore was so mad that he started shouting the elder curse but without saying all the “beeeeeeeeeps.”

A new assassin, the Poop Assassin, came and killed the Pink Fluffy Unicorn and it called for all the mutant fingernails to kill every other underwear and toxic poop. The wizard guy trapped the people into the Underworld and killed all the people and then killed himself.

But then, since the monster that ate Mayor Miranda didn’t chew her but only swallowed her, so when the monster died, Mayor Miranda survived.

That was a Nasty Dream!

(This is a 4th grade class exercise for Search Engine efficiency, strategy, and reliability.)

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The Odyssey Experience!

This past year, I had the extreme pleasure of serving on the Odyssey Award Committee for the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults.

The following are actual numbers of time spent by me on this Listening Odyssey – including unfinished listening and also re-listening, not including note-taking or review writing and posting on the private conversation online bulletin board.

Minutes Listened: 40000
Hours Listened: 667
Days (24 hours) Listened: 27.8
Weeks (24 hours/7 days) Listened: 4
Months (24 hours/7 days) Listened: 0.9
Work Days (8 hours) Listened: 83.4
Work Weeks (8 hours/5 days) Listened: 17
Work Months (8 hours/5 days) Listened: 4

So it is with great pleasure and relief that we unveiled our selection on January 23rd. For more detailed information, please check out the official website.  I love every single one of these titles TO PIECES!  Each does something magical to enhance the already wonderful original text.  All four deserve to be listened to and be read.  I also love how we have different age brackets represented — and an outstanding Graphic Novel adaptation in the midst!

Anna and the Swallow Man written by Gavriel Savit, narrated by Allan Corduner, from Listening Library, won the Gold medal.

The three honored titles are:

Ghost written by Jason Reynolds, narrated by Guy Lockard and produced by Simon and Schuster Audio.

Dream On, Amber written by Emma Shevah, narrated by Laura Kirman and produced by Recorded Books.

Nimona written by Noelle Stevenson, narrated by Rebecca Soler, Jonathan Davis, Marc Thompson, January LaVoy, Natalie Gold, Peter Bradbury, and David Pittu, and produced by HarperAudio.

 

 

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Jesus and the Passed Gas

This morning, I woke up and looked out the window. It was pouring rain.  My neighbor was practically swimming.  My eyes wandered around my backyard when they landed on something shiny.

I put my raincoat on and went outside to check it out.  It was this weird piece of rock.  I picked it up and something strange happened.  Jake Paul came by, surfing somehow in the air.  Then magically, Madeleine G. flew in the air and dabbed, whipped, and nae-nae’ed. She fell and got run over by a car.

She ran!  Something dropped out of her pocket: A POTION!  I ran to it and picked it up. It wasn’t marked poison, so I took a sip.  Two things happened: first, my eyesight got really good, and then I fell through a trapdoor!  I woke up and Jake Paul said to me, “I am Jesus in disguise.”  Then he disappeared and a cross took his place.  

I passed gas and a bomb fell from the sky to blow me up.  At the last second of my life, I thought, “How could this happen to me?”

THE END

(A story composed as part of an internet/information literacy unit by my 4th grade students.)

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Savage Meme Bird

This morning, I woke up and looked out my window.  I saw a bird that flew into my window.  There was a big crash and it slipped down the window pane slowly. The bird yelled at me, “You’re NOT MY DAD!”  I was shocked that the bird could speak!

Then the bird said to me, “Hey, I’m hungry; can you get me a block of cheese?”  I replied, “But you said I’m not your dad so why should I get you a block of cheese?”  The bird said, “You’re mean,” and started making an annoying wailing sound that broke the window!

The next thing I saw was that he called a giant gorilla named Harambe.

The next morning, I woke up my mom and I walked into the window and told my mom that I want a block of cheese. But she made me pancakes instead.  I walked down to the kitchen but the bird was following me asking for a block of cheese for a second time!  The gorilla Harambe was following the bird even though Harambe was 150 times larger than the bird.  The bird stole the cheese and said, “Cash me ousside, how ‘bout dat?”

I was confused from what the bird said.  My mom was confused THE WHOLE TIME!  Both of us almost fainted.

Suddenly I realized that the bird was totally an illuminati and I gave him some fresh-avocado.

(Made up story in a ROUND during Library Class by my 4th grade students.)

 

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A Commitment to Social Justices and Compassion

“When the going gets tough, the tough gets going!” This is the time when all of us working with children, children’s books, and education must toughen up and keep on going!

It is heartening to see that hundreds of signatures by children’s book creators have been collected at The Brown Book Shelf for A Declaration in Support of Children, and that a live version of this document that allows for more signatures and support can be found on their Facebook page.

Today, I publicly echo my support for all the sentiments expressed in this document, adding here my continuing commitment as an educator, a school librarian, and a children’s literature advocate that:

I will read widely works created by a diverse group of writers and illustrators that both reflect authentic lived experiences of today’s children and offer genuine opportunities to understand and empathize with experiences unfamiliar to their own.

I will constantly highlight and promote these titles directly to my students and their families and also on social media in an effort to strengthen the innate capability of hope, courage, and compassion to bring about true social justices via the power of literature.

I will create curricula and take advantage of teachable moments both in the classroom, during casual interactions, and on social media to combat the ever-growing threat of Untruth-Telling in the digital and mass media sphere.

I will model my commitment to social justices and compassion by addressing injustices intentionally, openly, and truthfully in the classroom, during casual interactions, and on social media.

Fellow librarians, educators, and children’s literature champions, join me in our work together for a better and brighter future!

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Doctor Strange, Whitewashing, and Missed Opportunities

Whitewashing has been understood to mean film/tv producers casting white actors to portray minority characters — especially Asian American roles.

Doctor Strange, a highly entertaining and well reviewed new movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, stirred up heated discussion earlier this year over its casting of Tilda Swinton, a white actress to play The Ancient One, an “Asian” character from the comic books series.  Given the exaggerated, stereotypical, and exoticized portrayal of the original The Ancient One, it is important that the character undergoes modification and updating to reflect more contemporary and progressed mindset.

However, Marvel definitely did not hit the mark this time.

doctorstrangeposterThe Marvel Studio, a superpower in the entertainment business these days, could have easily corrected the issues from the original comics (like they did with Wong’s character) to create a respectable, mysterious, powerful, and also flawed character.  The Stuio would have then become a strong leader in providing Asian American actors better opportunities. Instead, they went with a casting choice that, after viewing the movie, I found completely unnecessary.  The Ancient One stands mostly still to deliver lines in slightly archaic language and manners.  I do believe that most working actors would have been able to give a solid performance given the script.  Having one line stating, “Oh, she’s Celtic” and yet still set most of the movie in Asia (Kathmandu and Hong Kong) with much of the “training” in some composite Asian Martial Arts style is completely inadequate in their attempts to combat the original stereotypical rendition (as a statement defending the casting choice from the movie’s creative team) of The Ancient One.

I believe that most of the people (I imagined a mix of White and no-White folks) working on this movie did not mean to actively marginalize Asian American actors with any sort of ill intent. However, in their decision (casual or deliberate) to not cast an Asian American actor or actress in this role, they perpetuate the systemic oppressive practice of taking away opportunities from working Asian/Asian American actors and thus effectively further the marginalization of such group.

What a shame! What a missed opportunity!

Here are some other articles circulating online that just came out after the movie’s release:

‘Doctor Strange’ is a really fun, whitewashed ride! by Gene Park, from The Washington Post.

Doctor Strange ‘whitewashing’ row resurfaces with new criticism of Swinton casting by Alan Evans, from The Guardian.

‘Doctor Strange’ Director Owns Up to Whitewashing Controversy by Jen Yamato, from The Daily Beast. 

 

 

 

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16th Day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

This post, meant to be published on May 16th, never got posted on the 16th Day of APA Heritage Month.  I have since read (listened to) the book and edited slightly my responses to Shliesman’s review.  Since this is a book eligible for Odyssey Award and I am currently serving on the committee, I am not going to discuss the quality of the writing, nor the technical merits/flaws, etc. of the recording.

This post is about a bigger issue, with the review as a springboard.

tyranny of petticoatsMegan Schliesman, in her Reviewing While White: A Tyranny of Petticoats, points out that there are fifteen stories in this short story collection and eight of the stories feature characters of color and one of them is about a Chinese American.

The more than a dozen contributors include four women of color: three of them are of Asian Pacific heritage. Marie Lu wrote a story about an Inuit girl in Alaska. Caroline Tung Richmond and Y.S. Lee both wrote stories about white protagonists and the one story about a Chinese American girl is written by a white author.

This is not surprising since Asian American children’s and YA authors have not been known to write only about Asian American experiences. Marie Lu’s Legend and the Young Elites trilogies all feature predominantly non-Asian characters. And both Y.S. Lee and Caroline Tung Richmond write about European girls.

Schliesman also pointed out that the one story featuring a Chinese American character portrays a girl who can see ghosts and commune with spirits.  (And several other stories featuring POC characters also include ghosts or spirits.)  She wrote,

Surely there are plenty of “badass girls” who can be imagined throughout and across U.S. history and authentically grounded in a variety of cultures without resorting to the fantastic. What am I to make of these stories? Are they grounded in any authentic cultural beliefs, or simply spun from their authors’ imaginations?

I’d like to think that this is a true question and that perhaps either the authors or cultural experts might be able to offer a satisfactory answer.  However, this could also be an accusation: perhaps Schliesman already decided that the authors have not grounded their stories in authentic cultural beliefs and by “resorting to the fantastic,” they have either exoticized the cultures or rendered them “backwards.”

The only thing I can offer here is based on my own singular experience as a Chinese girl growing up in Taiwan.  And from there, perhaps readers of A Tyranny of Petticoats can make up their own minds about whether this Chinese American story’s allusion to ghosts/spirits seems authentic.

Re-reading part of Maxine Hong Kingston’s wonderful memoir The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, I was reminded how my own girlhood in Taiwan was tightly woven with the beliefs in the spiritual world: my mother had lucid dreams and could tell us about immediate future events with quite a bit of accuracy; my father’s soul was raised to Heaven by 49 days of continuous Buddhist monks’ chanting in our house; fortune-tellers are consulted by most people to find the best day to open a business, to have a wedding, and the best match for one’s daughter or son; the many offerings at various temples from parents to secure their children’s high marks on the college entrance exam… these are things we routinely did (and most likely still do.)  As recently as just a couple of years ago, after a really frightening nightmare when we stayed in a hotel in central Taiwan, I asked my older sister, who sometimes serves as an exorcist to “clean houses (eject ghosts)” for her friends and clients, to perform a ritual involving clean water and a bowl of beans.  I slept soundly after that ritual. I definitely have a strong sense of pre-destined fate and still clench my fists in a particular pattern to ward off evil elements when passing a cemetery or encountering a funeral procession.  (Actually, an upcoming book written by a debut Taiwanese American author will explore Taiwan “ghost culture” deeply, and authentically.)

Will I take offense if someone out of my culture takes these elements and insert them clumsily and stridently into a tale without truly understanding where all these beliefs and sensibilities came from? Probably.  I imagine that it is not easy for an “outsider” to grasp or present accurately my strong fear of ghosts or my sense of comfort when smelling incense – both have roots in my own self and also my connection to the tradition passed down through many thousands of years.  This probably explains my inability to finish a well received book such as The Walled City by Ryan Graudin — I simply couldn’t get past her descriptions of the Chinese Constellations and how they are used in her tale and found her supposedly in-depth research, from afar without actually living through or experiencing the culture, lacking. This is also perhaps why I have yet to be able to read past the first segment of The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks — when the location in this Graphic Novel is so glaringly a superficial copy of a Chinese traditional city.

That said, is including ghosts/spirits in a story about a Chinese American girl automatically the mark of “exoticism” or “keeping the culture in the backwater days”?  I’d say no — not automatically at all.  It all depends on how the tale is told and the world is built and whether there is a true understanding of from where such elements came.  Just because I, a 50 something Chinese/Taiwanese woman feels a certain way about a text featuring “my culture” does not mean that mine is THE way or THE ONLY way that such text would be or should be viewed by other Chinese/Taiwanese or Chinese/Taiwanese American readers.

I hope that we can all accept that, since People are complex and Cultures and Histories are complex, Books about People and Cultures the Discussions about such Books are also unavoidably complex. We do have to keep digging and thinking and sometimes even changing our minds.

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