7 years ago, my friend Monica Edinger and I made some points about young readers (and how we should not assume or presume) via a fun Horn Book Article called: CLAT Level III (Children’s Literature Application Test). It is archived on the Horn Book site and Monica wrote a reflection piece today confirming that much of what we thought still ring true today. I wonder if that’s other librarians’ and teachers’ experiences as well!
Listening to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man + Reading Fun Home by Alison Bechdel == doubly impressed!
I did not get to read this article until today even though it was published last year — but What White Children Need to Know About Race should be a Must Read for anyone involved in the lives of our children — teachers, school administrators, librarians, and parents. Especially parents. Because, when it is all said and done, “professional” educators (like me, a middle school librarian) only have your kids in our hands part of the day, part of the week, and part of the year, and part of their lives while you (parents) influence your children all the time.
Actually, this article is also informative even for those who are NOT directly involved with educating children — it probably should just be called, What White PEOPLE Need to Know About Race (and how to engage in meaningful and courageous conversations!)
Listening to the audio book version of The Windup Bird Chronicle — feeling slightly removed because it is a reading (not by a native Japanese speaker) of a translated work from Japan and I can tell that the names are not pronounced well. However, the reader is very skilled in changing his voices/tones for different characters and the actual content of the book is fantastic. Only wishing that I were able to read in its original language.
Over at Read Roger (Horn Book,) a small word/ideology battle over female representation in children’s and young adult books. Gender by The Numbers. Take a look!
I posted a couple of responses — here’s the most recent one, in response to two other commenters:
Maia said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if having female authors or protags guaranteed that what was being written reflected a feminist worldview?”
Yes, wouldn’t it? From earlier March to now, one of my thoughts was: how many women writers who write stories with female protagonists have pretty much “subjected” their main characters to fit the negatively stereotypical young women mold? Vapid, romance-crazed, hyper-appearance-conscious (toward themselves, their peers, or their love-interests), etc.? I’d rather take Avi’s Charlotte Doyle or M.T. Anderson’s Violet (from Feed) over Stephanie Meyer’s Bella (Twilight Saga) or Cecily von Ziegesar’s Blair or Serena (Gossip Girl) any day.
So, the bottom line: numbers definitely do not always tell the whole story. If any of us wishes to engage in truly fruitful discussions on these issues, we all have to first do our homework and read A LOT of the books under examination and THINK carefully about our initial, intuitive responses and then THINK again and again about whether these responses have solid basis in reality — and then LISTEN to each other and CONSIDER the many other sides of the same issue.
And, by the way, as a middle aged woman who has lived in the States for the last 25 years, I must agree with Maia that, to me, rage, pent-up or otherwise, is never a good starting point to initiate a conversation and is definitely not a valid excuse to ignore facts or to lash out at random strangers. I am almost offended by Mike Jung’s sentiment that these women are somewhat excused for their bad behaviors because of their rage — would you excuse men the same way? Can they lash out at women? If not, then perhaps you are still thinking that women are not sensible creatures who should have the ability to engage in logical and reasoned discourses even when they feel wronged? Are we so unreasonably emotional that we cannot be held accountable for our actions?
Not quite in the mood for Independent Study, sequel to Testing. Switched to Magicians of Caprona – the one Christomanci books that I never got around to read. Ah… Diana Wynn Jones — you were such a witty and talented fantasy writer for young people. I can see why Neil Gaiman reveres you and your work. I’m always in awe. So, two fantastic fantasies this weekend: Shadow Scale + Magicians of Caprona!
Haven’t had a chance to read all the abusive words thrown at Andrew Smith that caused him to shut down both his twitter and facebook accounts. I did have the chance to read the VICE interview and saw what he had said (as published by VICE) and simply couldn’t fathom how an honest, although tongue-in-cheek, and quite humble remark such as, “I consider myself completely ignorant to all things woman and female. I’m trying to be better though” would have been the cause of so much personal attack and pain. I read couple of responses that more or less match what I think: Andrew Smith is a brilliant author who deals with issues in his books mostly through male perspectives: raw, honest, frequently biased or myopic (because it IS raw and honest) — and is obviously aware of the criticism that he’s not fleshing out his female characters as much as his readers would have liked. I’m trying to make sense of all this… I have not read Alex Crow — but I did read 100 Sideway Miles and found Julia to be independent, mature, and an incredibly strong and positive influence over Finn — an entirely different female character from Shann in Grasshopper Jungle. I need to do a lot more digging to figure out why the outcry and also whether I find it justifiable to condemn a human being and his character simply by the characters they put in books and also by some sentences in an interview that, to me, seem to be interpreted to carry very different meanings than intended.
Here are links to the original interview and some responses:
The original interview:
An interpretation that states Andrew Smith, by saying (tongue-in-cheekly) that he’s ignorant of how women function, Andrew Smith is admitting that he considers women “LESS THAN HUMAN.” I can easily, by the same ignoring-all-logic-or-facts method used by Tessa Gratton here, claim that he is considering women “MORE THAN HUMAN” and thus harder to grasp and he’s trying to do a better job at learning how to WRITE THEM as characters. Sorry. Grrr…. :
A well-argued essay in response to the twitter witch hunt and Gratton’s attack
A long list of thoughts that present many ideas that I think about what Andrew Smith had said:
I am not happy with the WIWIK tag — I don’t think it expresses the correct sentiment. So bear with me as I change it to What I Wish We All Know. Either something that I know that I wish others do, too; or something that I have questions and wish to be informed: all of them should be something that is under each practitioner’s belt. So, perhaps, it should be WIWWAK: What I Wish We All Know! And it is still pronounceable.
Just started two books: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau, as highly recommended by some of my 7th graders; Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman, the HIGHLY anticipated (by me) sequel to Seraphina. Also reading a book translated from Taiwan: The Man with the Compound Eyes by Wu Ming-Yi (but really want to read the original text.)
Another almond post… but the blogger failed to mention that ALMOND EYES originated from traditional Chinese texts where women were frequently described as having “almond eyes“ meaning larger than usual eyes shaped like an almond — so, kind of what the generic “western eyes” might look like! Since it is rarer, it is more desirable (like the double eye-lids and really pale complexion.)
School Library Journal’s Best Books of 2014 are announced. Four categories: Picture Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Nonfiction. Use the list to buy books for your library, find gifts for your loved ones, or for your personal reading pleasure: http://www.slj.com/best-books-2014
Listening to a short story collection of Mark Twain and am so delighted. The Diaries of Adam and Eve is simply brilliant! Also almost done with The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin.
Finished The Young Elite by Marie Lu and Fight Club by Chuck Palaniuk. Starting The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin and The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Stories by Mark Twain.
Fiished Trouble by Non Pratt, In the Shadows by Kiersten White and Jim Di Bartolo, and She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick. Just started The Young Elites by Marie Lu. Also in the middle of listening to Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.
Recently finished books: Brown Girl Dreaming by Woodson; Revolution by Wiles; Americanah by Adichie; Egg & Spoon by Maguire; Illusive by Lloyd-Jones
Because of the books I’ve been reading, I have been learning about Nigerian history and contemporary politics, the 60s America, especially in Mississippi but also overseas in Vietnam and the important people during that time, including LBJ, and about more fantastic creatures in Russian folklore.
Found some old poems — and am moving them on to My Igloo Press blog — and will continue to write and post there, too!
Here’s the updated BFYA nomination list as of September 4, 2014: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/bfya-nominations
The newly added titles since the discussion in June to this list are: (more titles on the internal document — they will appear in the next update, I imagine.)
Brezenoff, Steve. Guys in Real Life. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. 2014. 400 p. ISBN: 978-0-06-226683-5. When Lesh literally runs into Leah on his bike after a drunken night at a metal show, neither would guess their gamer worlds would collide romantically.
Fredericks, Mariah. Season of the Witch. Random House/Schwartz and Wade. 2013. 256 p. ISBN: 978-0-449-81277-8. Tired of being bullied, Toni turns to a new friend and the possibility of revenge using hexes, spells, and other psychic abilities – witchcraft, in short.
Giles, Gail. Girls Like Us. Candlewick Press. 2014. 224 p. ISBN: 978-0-7636-6267-7. Special ed graduates Quincy and Biddy move in together and discover an unlikely friendship as they navigate the challenges and often cruel complexities of living in the real world.
Kuehn, Stephanie. Complicit. St. Martin’s Griffin. 2014. 256 p. ISBN: 978-1-250-04459-4. After two years, Jamie’s sister Cate has been released from juvenile detention threatening Jamie’s sanity and memories as he seeks out the truth about their shared past.
Miller, Lauren. Free to Fall. HarperTeen. 2014. 480 p. ISBN: 978-0-06-219980-5. When Rory is accepted to the prestigious Theden Academy, she discovers a biotech conspiracy that could change civilization as we know it. The question: Will she survive her discovery?
Pearson, Mary E. The Kiss of Deception. Holt. 2014. 496 p. ISBN: 978-0-8050-9923-2-51799. When 17-year-old Princess Lia flees an arranged marriage, the prince she has jilted sets off in pursuit of her. But so, too, does a trained assassin whose mission is to kill her. Who will find her first?
Sedgwick, Marcus. She Is Not Invisible. Roaring Brook Press. 2014. 224 p. ISBN: 978-1596438019. When Laureth’s writer father goes missing from their British home, she impulsively decides to go to New York to find him. There’s only one problem: she’s blind.
Finished Sinner and Glass Casket. Currently working on Complicit and Conversion. Both intriguing. Downloaded galleys and library ebooks: about 16 or so for the upcomin month long international travel reading needs. Hopefully will get a few of them done since two weeks of the travel will be mostly taken by scheduled course work.