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Diversity Reading Challenge Young Adult

The 12 Books of #Diversity for the Holidays Day 10

The 12 Books of #Diversity for the Holidays

It’s the tenth day of Diversity and today it’s about Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

I don’t want to give too much away but OMG I LOVE THIS BOOK AND THERE’S GONNA BE A SEQUEL!!!! Just read the book. Good for teens.

Just read it. You will fall in love too.

I love that the diversity in this book is Latino characters plus homosexuality. We need more of both. Together and separately.

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Banned Books Books

Banned Books Week Starts TODAY!

We all know the importance of knowledge and learning, right? I don’t want to waste anymore time talking about why banning books is dumb. Let’s celebrate the great books that have been challenged and you can decide for yourself what you think.

1. Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

perks of being a wallflower

I love this tiny book so hard. First because it is set in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA and second because the setting is the 80s which is also when I grew up, although the author is a couple years younger than I am. Our experiences are kind of similar: no cell phones, record players, pac man and hairspray to name a few.  This is a coming of age tale that is beautifully told about the man character who suffers from some dangerous mental health issues.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

I am a tad confused about why books about teens and intended for teens should be completely sterile. Kids want to read about situations that are similar to what they are experiencing; at least when they are reading realistic fiction, right? So why then, do people insist on challenging books that  “…deals with sexual situations and drug use.” ?

Again, this is a title you should read for yourself.

2. Looking for Alaska by John Green

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This is by far my fave John Green book.

Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

Oh how this title reminds me of some of the books we read in high school: the what’s it all about and how do i make a difference in this world type of books!

The book was challenged because of sexual content.  Again. Teens, experimenting with sex. It’s what they do, right?  This one, however, is rather mild considering what I’ve read in other books.  It’s a botched BJ and while that might not be appropriate material for young teens or even middle grade readers, I guarantee your older teen has read worse. Or heard worse on the bus. Check it out for yourself before you pass judgement. As always, parents have a right to decide what’s best for their own kiddos, just not for everyone.

3. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

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Ironically, Fallen Angels was

Challenged on the Danbury Middle School reading list in Toledo, Ohio (2013) because of inappropriate language. The book depicts the reality of the Vietnam War, with sometimes gruesome descriptions of combat and frequent foul language from soldiers.

But here’s the question that I’d like answered: what kind of language would you expect soldiers to use? I know the books are for young teens but depicting soldiers using language that is a little too clean, might be a little too unrealistic.  I don’t know about where you live, but around here, Fallen Angels is on many schools’ required reading lists.

Have you read it?

4. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

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Please don’t confuse Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison with The Invisible Man by HG Wells!

As he journeys from the Deep South to the streets and basements of Harlem, from a horrifying “battle royal” where black men are reduced to fighting animals, to a Communist rally where they are elevated to the status of trophies, Ralph Ellison’s nameless protagonist ushers readers into a parallel universe that throws our own into harsh and even hilarious relief. Suspenseful and sardonic, narrated in a voice that takes in the symphonic range of the American language, black and white, Invisible Man is one of the most audacious and dazzling novels of our century.

 

For the same reasons that Invisible Man is an important read to understand the struggles of the African American community, Invisible Man has also been challenged. To be sure, the book contains strong language but you cannot properly depict the struggles of that era by using tame language, I think.  Either way, it’ll make you think. This book is so so so well written.

 

5. The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq

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There is so much to learn about the Middle Eastern region and so little time to read.

Alia Muhammad Baker is a librarian in Basra, Iraq. For fourteen years, her library has been a meeting place for those who love books. Until now. Now war has come, and Alia fears that the library–along with the thirty thousand books within it–will be destroyed forever.

In a war-stricken country where civilians–especially women–have little power, this true story about a librarian’s struggle to save her community’s priceless collection of books reminds us all how, throughout the world, the love of literature and the respect for knowledge know no boundaries. Illustrated by Jeanette Winter in bright acrylic and ink.

Sounds great, right? Other people obviously don’t feel the same way and have challenged the book “because of violent illustrations and storyline” which  is rather irrational because what would kind of story do you expect to hear when reading about a war torn country? Perhaps the age group was not appropriate for the book.

 

 

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Books

The Book of Matt by Stephen Jimenez -The Matthew Shephard Story

bookofmatt

 

 

If you’re unfamiliar with Matthew Shepard, he was a young man murdered in the late 90s and his death was labeled the worst hate crime.  Jimenez wanted to investigate further:

What role did crystal meth and other previously underreported factors play in the brutal murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard? The Book of Matt is a page-turning cautionary tale that humanizes and de-mythologizes Matthew while following the evidence where it leads, without regard to the politics that have long attended this American tragedy.

Late on the night of October 6, 1998, twenty-one-year-old Matthew Shepard left a bar in Laramie, Wyoming with two alleged “strangers,” Aaron McKin­ney and Russell Henderson. Eighteen hours later, Matthew was found tied to a log fence on the outskirts of town, unconscious and barely alive. He had been pistol-whipped so severely that the mountain biker who discovered his battered frame mistook him for a Halloween scarecrow. Overnight, a politically expedient myth took the place of important facts. By the time Matthew died a few days later, his name was synonymous with anti-gay hate.

Stephen Jimenez went to Laramie to research the story of Matthew Shepard’s murder in 2000, after the two men convicted of killing him had gone to prison, and after the national media had moved on. His aim was to write a screenplay on what he, and the rest of the nation, believed to be an open-and-shut case of bigoted violence. As a gay man, he felt an added moral imperative to tell Matthew’s story. But what Jimenez eventually found in Wyoming was a tangled web of secrets. His exhaustive investigation also plunged him deep into the deadly underworld of drug trafficking. Over the course of a thirteen-year investigation, Jimenez traveled to twenty states and Washington DC, and interviewed more than a hundred named sources.

There are many shocking bits to this story:

  • Young Matt Shepard’s brutal death
  • Laramie Wyoming’s horrific drug problem
  • gay and straight sex trade for drugs industry
  • potential cover-ups by police

With so many items to tackle, this story was bound to be difficult to read.  And it was.  I felt sleazy and dirty at times but couldn’t put the book down.  I’m not sure that I liked the story, but it certainly was interesting to unravel the pieces behind the murder.  I still have unanswered questions but what I DO know, thanks to Jimenez, is that young Matthew Shepard’s murder did not appear to be a targeted hate crime.  To be sure, Shepard was gay, but that was probably not why he was killed.

Only Aaron McKinney knows the truth.

This story is not for the faint hearted or for kids!

 

 

Categories
Diversity Reading Challenge Young Adult

The 12 Books of #Diversity for the Holidays DAY 10 – Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

The 12 Books of #Diversity for the Holidays DAY 10

It’s the tenth day of Diversity and today it’s about Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

I don’t want to give too much away but OMG I LOVE THIS BOOK AND THERE’S GONNA BE A SEQUEL!!!! Just read the book. Good for teens.

Just read it. You will fall in love too.

I love that the diversity in this book is Latino characters plus homosexuality. We need more of both. Together and separately.

Categories
Books Diversity Reading Challenge

Banned Book Week: Have you read this banned book?

Banned Book Week:

Have you read this banned book?

 

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

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In the zoo there are all kinds of animal families. But Tango’s family is not like any of the others. This illustrated children’s book fictionalizes the true story of two male penguins who became partners and raised a penguin chick in the Central Park Zoo.

I love this book so hard. SO HARD y’all. It’s an absolutely adorbs depiction of family life. And kids love penguins so, what’s the problem, right?  The problem is that the two penguins are males and some folks think that a picture book for the littles shouldn’t include depictions of homosexuality.

As with all things, I think you should give it a read before you judge. And also? I don’t think kids care so much about two mommies or two daddies as long as they are loved. If you’ve read it, it counts toward the Diversity Reading Challenge.

Categories
Banned Books

Banned Book Week: Why are Books Challenged?

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What do you think about this list? Should books containing these themes be banned? Have you ever read any banned books as a child or let your child read banned books? Why or why not?

Categories
Diversity Reading Challenge

Stop what you’re doing and read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, NOW

Aristotle and Dante Discover
the Secrets of the Universe

AristotleandDante

Aristotle and Dante has been on my TBR for a short time and I’m so DING DANG happy that I finally got to read it. My advice to you? Stop and read it NOW. Go straight to your local independent bookstore and snag a copy of this gem now. You won’t be sorry.

You know I love opening lines, right?

ONE SUMMER NIGHT I FELL ASLEEP, HOPING THE WORLD would be different when I woke. In the morning, when I opened my eyes, the world was the same. I threw off the sheets and lay there as the heat poured in through my open window.

You can just feel the eye crust in your eyes, right?  There’s so much more of this and it just keeps getting better. Ari and Dante are young Mexican American teens in El Paso Texas in the mid 80s. If you’ve ever been to El Paso you’ll understand how empty you can feel as a young gay teen boy in the 80s in El Paso. It’s practically a social death sentence. Fortunately Ari and Dante meet and form a friendship that will make you yearn for a close friend. You’ll cry ugly tears like a big baby and you’ll cheer oh so loudly at their triumphs.

Being a gay teen is tough enough. Add in Texas and the 80s and you’ve got a setting that that will stay with you forever. Also? Lin Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton)  reads the Audible.com book. SWOOOOOOOON!!!!  Here’s a good addition to your Diversity Reading Challenge list.

Categories
Books Young Adult

Moon at Nine by Deborah Ellis for LGBT Pride Month

image005At a time when issues of homosexuality and human rights are making headlines around the world, Pajama Press is proud to stand behind internationally acclaimed author and humanitarian Deborah Ellis and her groundbreaking new novel Moon at Nine. Based on a true account, Moon at Nine is the gripping story of two young teenaged girls who are arrested for being gay in Iran—a country in which homosexuality is considered so abhorrent that it is punishable by death.

Fifteen-year-old Farrin has many secrets. As the daughter of an aristocratic mother and wealthy father, Farrin must keep a low profile at her school for gifted girls in Tehran. It is 1988; in the ten years since the Shah was overthrown, the deeply conservative and religious government controls every facet of life in Iran. If the Revolutionary Guard finds out about her mother’s Bring Back the Shah activities, her family could be thrown in jail, or worse.

The day she meets Sadira, Farrin’s life changes forever. Sadira is funny, wise, and outgoing; the two girls become inseparable. But as their friendship deepens into romance, the relationship takes a dangerous turn. Refusing to deny their love for one another, the girls are arrested. Separated from Sadira, Farrin can only pray as she awaits execution. Will her family find a way to save them both?

Deborah Ellis is the internationally acclaimed author of nearly thirty books for children and young people, most of which explore themes of social justice and courage. A peace activist, feminist, and humanitarian, Deborah has won many national and international awards for her books, including the Governor General’s Award, the Ruth Schwartz Award, the Vicky Metcalf Award, the American Library Association’s Notable List and the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award. In 2010, she received the Ontario Library Association President’s Award for Exceptional Achievement. Deborah lives in Ontario, Canada.

Since June is LGBT Pride month, I thought it would be great to highlight some popular and/or little know books that contain LGBT characters. Last year I discovered: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan. Here’s the link to my blog post.  It’s a tale of two young girls who hide their lesbian secret.

Two great books that you MUST read!

Categories
Books

The Book of Matt by Stephen Jimenez

bookofmatt

 

 

I struggled with whether to share this book with you.  To be sure, I read lots of books but don’t review them here for various reasons.  This book, however, caught me.  Stephen Jimenez, came to Towne Book Center & Cafe last night and I was reading his book in preparation for his visit.  If you’re unfamiliar with Matthew Shepard, he was a young man murdered in the late 90s and his death was labeled the worst hate crime.  Jimenez wanted to investigate further:

What role did crystal meth and other previously underreported factors play in the brutal murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard? The Book of Matt is a page-turning cautionary tale that humanizes and de-mythologizes Matthew while following the evidence where it leads, without regard to the politics that have long attended this American tragedy.

Late on the night of October 6, 1998, twenty-one-year-old Matthew Shepard left a bar in Laramie, Wyoming with two alleged “strangers,” Aaron McKin­ney and Russell Henderson. Eighteen hours later, Matthew was found tied to a log fence on the outskirts of town, unconscious and barely alive. He had been pistol-whipped so severely that the mountain biker who discovered his battered frame mistook him for a Halloween scarecrow. Overnight, a politically expedient myth took the place of important facts. By the time Matthew died a few days later, his name was synonymous with anti-gay hate.

Stephen Jimenez went to Laramie to research the story of Matthew Shepard’s murder in 2000, after the two men convicted of killing him had gone to prison, and after the national media had moved on. His aim was to write a screenplay on what he, and the rest of the nation, believed to be an open-and-shut case of bigoted violence. As a gay man, he felt an added moral imperative to tell Matthew’s story. But what Jimenez eventually found in Wyoming was a tangled web of secrets. His exhaustive investigation also plunged him deep into the deadly underworld of drug trafficking. Over the course of a thirteen-year investigation, Jimenez traveled to twenty states and Washington DC, and interviewed more than a hundred named sources.

There are many shocking bits to this story:

  • Young Matt Shepard’s brutal death
  • Laramie Wyoming’s horrific drug problem
  • gay and straight sex trade for drugs industry
  • potential cover ups by police

With so many items to tackle, this story was bound to be difficult to read.  And it was.  I felt sleazy and dirty at times but couldn’t put the book down.  I’m not sure that I liked the story, but it certainly was interesting to unravel the pieces behind the murder.  I still have unanswered questions but what I DO know, thanks to Jimenez, is that young Matthew Shepard’s murder did not appear to be a targeted hate crime.  To be sure, Shepard was gay, but that was probably not why he was killed.

Only Aaron McKinney knows the truth.

This story is not for the faint hearted or for kids!

 

 

Categories
Young Adult

Thoughts on The Mortal Instruments Series

I’m a Mortal Instruments fan!

To be sure, I’m a fan of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments, but have you ever stopped to think about some of the issues inside the series?  I’ve been pondering these thoughts for a while and made a video to share with you.

What are your thoughts? Share them with me!