Categories
Diversity Reading Challenge

Once you Read I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L Sanchez You’ll NEVER be the Same!

I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

I LOVE THIS BOOK!! I couldn’t love this book any harder if I tried! Sanchez brings out alot of sensitive issues in this YA book.

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

But this blurb doesn’t begin to describe the depth of the life of our young protagonist. Consider these issues:

  • Julia (pronounced Hoo lee ah) speaks English in the world and Spanish at home
  • Her parents are grieving the loss of Julia’s sister and can’t help with her her loss
  • Julia experiences sexual harassment frequently
  • Insight into immigration
  • Undiagnosed mental illness/suicide
  • School/studying pressues
  • Traditional Hispanic family pressures v Julia’s desires
  • Friendship
  • LGBTQ

There’s a lot to unpack in this book and I feel like Sanchez deftly incorporates these issues into the storyline without smacking you over the head with them and getting preachy. I appreciate that. After finishing I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter you will have a greater understanding of what it’s like to be a young Latinx woman. I wept at times; so so good! I promise you, your life will never be the same.

The issues in the book are so timely right now its hard not to see the connections. This could be any young woman’s life right now.

Also qualifies for the Diversity Reading Challenge.

Categories
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

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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.

 

 

Categories
Diversity Reading Challenge

Once you Read I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L Sanchez You’ll NEVER be the Same!

I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

I LOVE THIS BOOK!! I couldn’t love this book any harder if I tried! Sanchez brings out alot of sensitive issues in this YA book.

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

But this blurb doesn’t begin to describe the depth of the life of our young protagonist. Consider these issues:

  • Julia (pronounced Hoo lee ah) speaks English in the world and Spanish at home
  • Her parents are grieving the loss of Julia’s sister and can’t help with her her loss
  • Julia experiences sexual harassment frequently
  • Insight into immigration
  • Undiagnosed mental illness/suicide
  • School/studying pressues
  • Traditional Hispanic family pressures v Julia’s desires
  • Friendship
  • LGBTQ

There’s a lot to unpack in this book and I feel like Sanchez deftly incorporates these issues into the storyline without smacking you over the head with them and getting preachy. I appreciate that. After finishing I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter you will have a greater understanding of what it’s like to be a young Latinx woman. I wept at times; so so good! I promise you, your life will never be the same.

The issues in the book are so timely right now its hard not to see the connections. This could be any young woman’s life right now.

Also qualifies for the Diversity Reading Challenge.

 

Categories
Children Young Adult

Big Issues in YA from #KidLitCon in Hershey, PA

Big Issues in YA

Last week I had the thrill of  a lifetime to chair the committee and bring KidLitCon to Hershey PA! Hershey was a great venue and I’ll talk more about that later but right now I want to share with you a session I co-hosted with Donna Gaffney. Donna is a therapist and very knowledgeable about kids books and uses them in therapy with her clients. She’s also a very cool person.

We talked about issues that kids and teens face today and books that represent these issues in literature. Turning to books in a time of crisis is very common and helps the reader process their situation.  We listed the issues on poster paper and then encouraged the audience to list book titles under the appropriate issues.  This link should is a pdf of the results: BIG ISSUES in YA LITKidlitcon17

I think you’ll find the lists very interesting. Many thanks to Donna for quickly compiling the list. I hope this resource helps you.

More to come about KidLitCon in another post!

 

 

 

 

Categories
Adult Fiction Books

The Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph

illicithappiness

The Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph is written in the style of  Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, a Czech novel of existentialism and bohemia before the Soviet invasion.  Like Kundera’s work, Joseph’s piece is important.  Unlike Kundera’s novel, Joseph’s tale reads lightly, even though much of the drama within is sad.  Here’s a bit from the publishers:

A smart, wry work that includes mystery, philosophy, and an unlikely love story, this book addresses many encompassing characteristics of domestic life in southern India, from male-female dynamics to the value of reputation to the overwhelming pressures of the education system.

It has been three years since seventeen-year-old, gifted cartoonist Unni Chacko mysteriously fell from the balcony in his home to his death. His family—father Ousep, a failed novelist, banished journalist, who smokes two cigarettes at once “because three is too much”; mother Mariamma, who stretches the family’s money, raises their two boys, and, in her spare time, gleefully fantasizes about her husband dying; and twelve-year-old, love-struck brother Thoma, who wears his dead brother’s hand-me-downs—have coped by not coping. When the post office delivers a comic drawn by Unni that had been lost in the mail since his death, Ousep ventures on a quest to understand his son and rewrite his family’s story.

Manu Joseph won the 2011 PEN/Open Book Award for his debut novel, Serious Men. A journalist for the International Herald Tribune, Joseph lives in New Delhi…

There’s a sort of tragic humor in the novel that I like.  It’s the kind of storytelling that reminds me of Haroun and the Sea of Stories and even Life of Pi.  There is a fantastical element to Indian storytelling that appeals to me.  I think it shows that fantasy doesn’t have to mean witches, dinosaurs, and flying saucers.  I look forward to discovering more Indian writers.

 

 

Categories
Diversity Reading Challenge

May is Mental Health Awareness Month: What Books are There for Teens?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

I thought that since May is Mental Health Awareness month I would share with you a few books for young adults that discuss mental illness, suicide or abuse.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Impulse Ellen Hopkins

Looking for Alaska John Green

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Unconventional Librarian

Parents be sure to read these titles along with your kids to encourage discussion. Most kids know someone who has had suicidal thoughts or is struggling with mental illness. These titles will also qualify for the Diversity Reading Challenge.

Categories
Books Young Adult

Ellen Hopkins, The You I’ve Never Known

The You I’ve Never Known

Though there is now a long list of YA authors writing about complex and painful topics that affect teens, Ellen Hopkins, who has penned more than a dozen teen novels, remains an institution. And as more writers and readers are drawn to the genre that she helped pioneer—issue-based teen fiction—she insists that those who are committed to writing about difficult subjects must do more than simply follow what’s in fashion.

“The market has, in that area, become pretty bloated, but you can’t just go into it because it’s a trendy thing,” she says. For her, the pull has always been personal, beginning with Crank, published in October 2004. Hopkins, who loosely based that narrative on her older daughter’s struggle with crystal meth, “didn’t think about the market at all when I wrote it,” she says. “And my editor never said ‘Dial it back’ or ‘Amp it up.’”

Crank changed the way Hopkins looked at writing. For one, she was celebrated for going deep into some dark, edgy subject matter, which wasn’t as common in YA as it is today (the book’s closest corollary was Go Ask Alice, published a generation earlier), but for Hopkins, the tough topics and confessional tone were second nature. “My teenage years were looking at the end of the Vietnam War, smoking weed, having sex before marriage—and I carry my own sense of morality through that,” she says. “I never censor myself, so I don’t censor my characters.”

Over the years, her novels have pushed boundaries, but, she says, “they were places that needed to be written about—incest, sexual abuse, abuse. Kids needed people to talk about it with them and for them. It became necessary.”

Hopkins’s newest book, The You I’ve Never Known (S&S/McElderry, Jan. 2017), is also deeply personal. It’s the story of a child kidnapped from daycare by her father and separated from her mother for years. (Hopkins says that she went through a similar experience with her own ex-husband and her then-three-year-old daughter.) This book is an example, she says, of the evolution of how adult-child dynamics are depicted in YA. “Early on, we were told to keep adults way out of the picture—that they were the antagonists.” But the father’s presence in The You I’ve Never Known is essential, she says. “What a complex relationship this is, when she comes to discover that everything he’s told her up to this point was a lie. It divides the way she feels about him and herself too.”

Hopkins says that she spends about two hours a day engaging with readers in some way, whether answering emails or reading deeply personal messages from fans. “When they write me, it’s never Mrs. Hopkins or Ms. Hopkins; it’s always Ellen,” she says. “They’re always comfortable—it’s as if I’m this confessor.”

A few times over the years, the notes seemed so dire that she notified the authorities. She remembered a tense email exchange that she had with a teen girl several years ago that began with “I’m here tonight and have a knife in my hand,” and prompted the author to send the police to the girl’s home the next morning.

Serving as a trusted adult and friend—and sometimes the only one—is a huge responsibility, Hopkins acknowledges, but it’s one that she does not want to pass off to someone else. “There are times when it feels like a lot, but it also makes me grateful for my life,” she says. “I haven’t been through everything personally—these kids have. I’m fortunate in so many ways.”

 

*************

Ellen Hopkins is one interesting author. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her once. She referred to me as the woman with the big hair. I slay.

Can’t wait to read this book.

Categories
Bibliographies, Information, General Lists

5 YA Titles for Teens Containing Tough Mental Issues

5 YA Titles for Teens Containing
Tough Mental Issues

We all know kids want to read books about people like them. That is also true when kids are suffering or looking for answers. Following are books released this year that cover topics like mental illness and other tough issues. I haven’t read these yet but they look promising.

The First Time She Drowned. by Kerry Kletter

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Cassie O’Malley has been trying to keep her head above water—literally and metaphorically—since birth. It’s been two and a half years since Cassie’s mother dumped her in a mental institution against her will, and now, at eighteen, Cassie is finally able to reclaim her life and enter the world on her own terms.

But freedom is a poor match against a lifetime of psychological damage. As Cassie plumbs the depths of her new surroundings, the startling truths she uncovers about her own family narrative make it impossible to cut the tethers of a tumultuous past. And when the unhealthy mother-daughter relationship that defined Cassie’s childhood and adolescence threatens to pull her under once again, Cassie must decide: whose version of history is real? And more important, whose life must she save?

This title intrigued me because of the obvious mental illness theme. I wonder how many teens have been in a treatment facility and can relate?

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by EK Johnston

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Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.

In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and a pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.

While it isn’t obvious, this is a story about surviving rape. A story that still needs to be told unfortunately.

Still Life with Tornado by AS King

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Actually Sarah is several human beings. At once. And only one of them is sixteen. Her parents insist she’s a gifted artist with a bright future, but now she can’t draw a thing, not even her own hand. Meanwhile, there’s a ten-year-old Sarah with a filthy mouth, a bad sunburn, and a clear memory of the family vacation in Mexico that ruined everything. She’s a ray of sunshine compared to twenty-three-year-old Sarah, who has snazzy highlights and a bad attitude. And then there’s forty-year-old Sarah (makes good queso dip, doesn’t wear a bra, really wants sixteen-year-old Sarah to tell the truth about her art teacher). They’re all wandering Philadelphia—along with a homeless artist allegedly named Earl—and they’re all worried about Sarah’s future.

If you’re familiar with AS King you know her stories start out as one thing and end up as something else. And always there’s a mental health issue at stake.

Highly Illogical Behavior. by John Corey Whaley

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Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But is ambition alone enough to get her in?

Enter Lisa.

Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same.

This kid is agoraphobic. I wonder how many kids today are? This is not a subject to take lightly to laugh at. I hope it does the issue justice.

If I Was Your Girl. by Meredith Russo

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Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

Gender reassignment is gaining understanding and I think it’s great that books are available to help teens process it.

Have you read any of these books?

Categories
Blogging from A to Z Challenge

Bad Girls Book Club: Liars and Losers Like Us #atozchallenge

Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge

Today’s letter is

L

The Book

Liars and Losers Like Us

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I’m going out on a limb with this title because #1 of the tiara and #2 because there might be something surprising within the book. It’s on my TBR list.  This seems like a typical teen romp: high school, prom, girl fights, parties, boys, tears, etc. But a girl commits suicide because of bullying and her friend Bree, who was left behind must decide how to best avenge the death of her friend.
While I don’t condone revenge, I think choosing to stand alone against the popular crowd at school shows us that Bree is a Bad Girl: doing what’s right no matter the cost.

Bad Girls in tiaras?

Rock

Hard

Liars losers like us

Letter M is up next, yo!

Categories
2015 Diversity Reading Challenge Books

Caitlin Jenner, Al Pacino, and A Boy Like Me by Jennie Wood

The phrase “gender dysphoria’ is becoming more well known these days and that’s a good thing. Plainly said, gender dsyphoria is the feeling that you don’t belong in the body you’re in. That’s how transgendered people feel. I wish more transgendered people could take the attitude of Al Pacino:

A Boy Like Me by Jennie Wood

“Everything Aint for Everybody”

I devoured A Boy Like Me by Jennie Brown in one night. I couldn’t put it down! Our protagonist was born a girl but didn’t feel or act like a girl. To make the situation even worse, her mother didn’t accept her and she liked girls. Many people in Katherine’s (called Peyton) life tried to label her. In fact, she thought she was a freak.  As you see our character struggle through the book, your heart hurts for her.  You know her life is going to be hard and you want to help but what can you do?

I’m scared for Peyton and I can imagine there are plenty of real Peyton’s who share her struggle.  If people minded their own business then there wouldn’t be kids who consider suicide or self harm because of the pain ignorant people inflict on them.  I wonder how Caitlin Jenner, Chaz Bono, or Laverne Cox would feel if society was more accepting of them at an earlier age?  Maybe they wouldn’t have struggled for as long as they did.

A Boy Like Me is good insight into the life of a transgendered person. It’s not an easy ride for anyone involved.

Wait a minute, I take that back.

It can be easy.

Just love your loved one.

They’re gonna need it.

Remember:

Everything ain’t for Everybody.

This book contains a brief sex scene but I think is otherwise appropriate for older teens. The insight into the life of a transgendered teen is invaluable.  Also qualifies for the Diversity Challenge!