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Sunday Reflections: What I Learned While Trying to Put Together a Women’s History Display

I was walking by my YA room when I saw a staff member searching the shelves for something, so I went down and asked what she was looking for. It turned out, she was looking for inspiration for a new display. So after some talking we decided that we would do a Women’s History Month display. And then the conversation got, interesting I would say.

I started grabbing a bunch of great titles off of the shelves and we started making stacks for the display. I pulled the Katherine Longshore titles and Maid of Secrets by Jenn McGowan, A Mad Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Lots of great titles about women in historical fiction. After we had some good stacks of books to fill all the display pieces we had, I could tell that something was still bothering this staff member and that she was hesitating.

“But we need some books written by men,” she said to me, “and with boys on the covers.”

I was . . . stunned. “Actually,” I replied, “I’m pretty sure we don’t for a Women’s History Month display. I think books written by women about women fits in perfectly with the theme.”

“But we need some male authors,” she said again.

“I’m pretty sure we don’t,” I replied again.

“But we want boys to read, don’t we? So we need some male authors and books with men on the covers.”

I didn’t hesitate and asked her, “Did you read Shakespeare in high school? Lord of the Flies? Dickens? Hemingway? There is no reason, none, that a boy should not or can’t be expected to read books written by a female author or featuring female characters. Nobody ever blinks at the idea that women will read books written by men or featuring male characters. Books are for readers. All of them.”

“But boys won’t read books with girls on the covers,” she replied.

And this, my friends, is a lie. I have met many teenage boys who read Sara Dessen, Laurie Halse Anderson and A. S. King, for example. I once went to a teen book festival where I talked to a teen boy who went to one author and one author only: Sarah Rees Brennan. He had read everything by her.

But the truth is, if we keep feeding into the lie that boys won’t read books with girls on the covers or written by female authors, they’ll keep believing it. Somebody teaches them this lie and that somebody is us. And this lie is dangerous because it tells boys that the lives and thoughts and art of women is somehow less than that of men and they don’t need to be bothered with it. And it tells girls who grow up seeing this lie lived out around them that they are somehow less than their male counterparts. And everyone grows up believing this and it’s a really hard internalized message that is difficult to rewrite. But we have to rewrite it, because it harms us all and it defeats the whole point of reading and art and storytelling; the part where we step into lives that our different than our own, where we develop compassion and empathy and understanding, where we dare to explore other points of view. If you believe the lie that boys can’t read books written by or featuring girls then you don’t understand the purpose and value of storytelling.

So after one final discussion, we agreed to do the display for Women’s History Month with the books we had pulled.

Ironically, the next day I noticed on the other side of the display space was a basketball display for March Madness. Not a single book on it was written by a woman or featured a woman on the cover. Apparently that inclusion doesn’t go both ways, which is just part of the problem.

13 Thoughts Author Carrie Mesrobian Had About The Walking Dead

If you follow author Carrie Mesrobian on Twitter, you know that she is a big fan of The Walking Dead. She is part of the reason that this week became Zombie Week, our shared love of zombies and The Walking Dead. So to round up Zombie Week, Carrie Mesrobian is sharing some thoughts she has about The Walking Dead.

  1. This show is based on a comic book series that isn’t exactly kid-friendly. But it also features prominently a young boy named Carl, who grows up in both worlds. I think Carl learning how to be an adult in the post-apocalypse world is a perfect vehicle next to his father, Rick, who is a sheriff in the old world. Carl must by necessity make new rules for his reality, while his father tries to grip to the old ones that were so deep in his identity.

 

  1. I don’t read the comics. Not yet. I want to have something to savor after the show ends. This is something I love about fandoms. Even if there isn’t source material for a movie or TV series you love, there’s fanfiction. You can always immerse yourself back into that world again in new ways. (Too bad Daryl Dixon’s not in the comics…)

 

  1. The Walking Dead is not a show about zombies, or the disease zombies symbolize. I think The Walking Dead is about survival, which is something all people relate to, even if our current survival may not be a hand-to-mouth one. What makes us human and what makes us inhuman?

 

  1. The Walking Dead has some sexism issues, which vacillate depending on the female character as well as the season’s focus and script writers. The character of Andrea was frustrating to many. The plot used Andrea as a device for its own purposes instead of using her character’s own motivations to drive plot. Character first, then plot, is what I would advise. It’s hard to pull off, of course.

 

  1. A lot of people decry how this show showcases “man pain” vis a vis the deaths of women or male characters of color. I think this is easily arguable. But I remain fascinated with man pain, as a viewer/reader. I don’t see a lot of visible man pain or male tears in my own reality. I think we all want to gawk at what that looks like. Instead we see a lot of male anger and the destruction that wreaks on our world. I’m tired of male anger. Give me the man pain over the male anger any day. The Walking Dead is probably not a great test-case for this dynamic, given its content.

Gratuitous Darl Dixon GIF for Carrie. GIF from PandaWhale.

  1. The Walking Dead has some racism issues. One is that the show likes to kill off characters of color constantly. It’s not that I don’t buy that characters of color wouldn’t die at the same pace as white characters. I get that. What people don’t seem to understand is that in the context of televised entertainment, enduring characters of color, ones we get to love and hate and connect with over the long-term, still remain few and far between. This context is important for television producers to understand; I’m not talking about verisimilitude. Another thing that we don’t often see on TV are long-term love relationships between characters of color, so when Bob died, I just felt like the show missed yet another chance to defy the norm. We’re getting a hefty plate of Sasha’s grief and that’s rich as well, but again: context. Context matters in any medium – I’d like to see TV writers and producers move past the “but we’re just depicting reality” explanation and remember the legacy of their medium every time they create a story arc or new episode.

 

  1. You don’t want to be a cute little kid on this show. You’re going to be a tool of sorrow and gore in short order.

 

  1. Dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories have great “unlikeable” characters. Is that part of the draw of these tales? We can finally hate people with generous gusto because the stakes are so raised? I don’t give one shit about likeability in general. We see a character like Merle Dixon, an odious person, so far from redemption, someone that makes us think, “ugh.” But this show isn’t presenting Merle Dixon as a babysitting candidate for our children. Merle Dixon is a symbol for cruelty and generational bigotry and horror and macho destruction. Michael Rooker is a very skilled actor who makes this character come alive. You might not want Merle to be your friend or neighbor, but he sure made me sit up straight whenever he came on screen. Unlikeable characters often translate to “electrifying personae” in my view.

 

  1. I don’t watch this show for gore. I don’t care about grossness and blood. It became a joke after season 2 when Daryl dug open the walker looking to see if ate Sophia and learned “this gross fucker had himself a woodchuck for lunch.” I don’t know what to say to people who can’t stand gore. It’s there. I turn away. I watch enough “behind-the-scenes” content that I know exactly how the zombie heads are made to rip away from the fake skulls anyway.

 

  1. The violence in The Walking Dead interests me more than the gore, which might sound counterintuitive. But as I mentioned in point #3, the idea of what makes us human is the constant ethic being pressed up against in this story. That we are animals isn’t something I have trouble with; I can see our needs as animals. What is harder to express is what makes someone inhuman. Being inhuman is not the same as being an animal, I think. There is some other rubric being put in play when we dehumanize ourselves and others. I don’t know what that is but it’s a question that’s constantly being examined in this show and one that I enjoy seeing depicted. So violence is a part of that recipe.

 

  1. The best part of this show is that each character is very well-rounded. That is what brings me back. Every character has a depth and a backstory and a set of motivators that marks him or her. While I want to make out with Daryl Dixon very consistently, he’s not my current favorite character. Last season, Michonne was my favorite. Right now, I’m most intrigued with Glenn. It’s hard to pick a favorite, honestly. They’re all so juicy and good.

 

  1. If this show gives me any kind of anxiety, it’s mainly that we need to stockpile seeds and keep making compost. A global food supply chain is not our friend when the world goes to hell, yall.

 

  1. The Walking Dead helped me to understand the point of fan-fiction. Now I write it and enjoy this very much. When the season ends on March 29th, I will certainly go back to writing more of it as well as reading it. In my view, the best fanfiction has sex in it, because this show is not generous about romance (except with the Governor, eww), so feel free to hit me up with your favorite fic links in the off-season.

Meet Our Guest Blogger:

Carrie Mesrobian has worked as a teacher in both public and private schools; my writing has appeared in the StarTribune, Brain, Child magazine, Calyx, and other web and print publications. She teaches teenagers about writing at The Loft Literary Centerin Minneapolis.

My first two books, Sex & Violence & Perfectly Good White Boy were published by Carolrhoda LAB.

My third book, Cut Both Ways, (HarperCollins), will be released September 2015.

 

About Cut Both Ways:

“Will Caynes never has been good with girls. At seventeen, he’s still waiting for his first kiss. He’s certainly not expecting it to happen in a drunken make-out session with his best friend, Angus. But it does and now Will’s conflicted—he knows he likes girls, but he didn’t exactly hate kissing a guy.

Then Will meets Brandy, a cute and easy-to-talk-to sophomore. He’s totally into her too—which proves, for sure, that he’s not gay. So why does he keep hooking up with Angus on the sly?

Will knows he can’t keep seeing both of them, but besides his new job in a diner, being with Brandy and Angus are the best parts of his whole messed-up life. His divorced parents just complicate everything. His father, after many half-baked business ventures and endless house renovations, has started drinking again. And his mom is no help—unless loading him up with a bunch of stuff he doesn’t need plus sticking him with his twin half-sisters counts as parenting. He’s been bouncing between both of them for years, and neither one feels like home.

Deciding who to love, who to choose, where to live. Whichever way Will goes, someone will get hurt. Himself, probably the most.”

Friday Finds – March 27, 2015

This Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: On Trying to Be Better

Zombie Love: Why Are Zombie Things So Popular? (A guest post by Geri Diorio)

Middle Grade Monday – Women in Fiction

Book Review: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

#FSYALIT Girls Like Me Don’t: Thoughts on Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally, a guest post by Katelyn Browne

The Walking Dead: The Comics VS. The TV Show (a guest post by Geri Diorio)

The Walking Dead Video Game, a guest review by Nita Tyndall

#FSYALit Book Review (and more): What If I’m an Atheist?

Take 5 for Zombie Week: Variant Zombie Tales

Around the Web

YA Bloggers Read Gotham Academy at Women Write About Comics

What is up with Indiana these days? Their Supreme Court decided that public schools aren’t required to provide bus service? And I’m sure we all heard about their ‘freedom to discriminate’ legislation. Here is YA author “John Green, likely the most high-profile Indiana resident in contemporary pop culture” with his take.

Robot Test Kitchen talks program failures.

Clean Reader critics speak out. Read Chuck Wendig’s take on the program here. Lilith Saintcrow details how to have your books taken out of the catalog (for authors.) And now, updates from Chuck Wendig at his Terrible Minds blog. Plus Karen shared some thoughts and rounded up some comments here.

Spring is the time for Dress Code Sexism.

The strong case for using diverse books in non-diverse schools.

Author Christa Desir reveals the cover for her upcoming book Other Broken Things at Hypable

Need a good cry? Read this. Need a good laugh? Watch this.

Take 5 for Zombie Week: Variant Zombie Tales

I like a good zombie book. I also love a good zombie book which presents a variation on the traditional zombie tale. Sure I like them dark and scary and brooding. I like a good old fashioned zombie plague as much as the next living undead person. But I also love to read a new twist or a new take. Or to add a little humor. I mean, Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland may be two of the best zombie movies out there – so it’s great to find some books that add in a little – or a lot – of humor around the edges. And of course a good zombie novel can also ask us to explore important questions, drawing some distinct parallels between othered groups in our world and how the dominant or normalized group tend to view and treat marginalized groups. See, it’s not always just about eating brains and surviving, it can also be about asking us what it means to be human, what it means to be a monster, and what it means to be different in a way that makes you outcast from the rest. Today I am rounding up a few of my favorites for Zombie Week. Some of them are funny, some of them are more serious, but they all provide some slight variations on the traditional zombie tales.

The Infects by Sean Beaudoin

The Infects is funny, sarcastic, and biting. It also has a very fun take on the zombie tale when you learn where the zombie outbreak is coming from, which I can’t tell you because SPOILERS. You’ll just have to read it for yourself to find out what makes this one so fascinating and fun. (PS, want another twisted zombie tale with a similar theme but for the MG crowd? Check out ZOMBIE BASEBALL BEATDOWN by Paul Bacigalupi.)

Publisher’s Book Description: “A feast for the brain, this gory and genuinely hilarious take on zombie culture simultaneously skewers, pays tribute to, and elevates the horror genre.

Seventeen-year-old Nero is stuck in the wilderness with a bunch of other juvenile delinquents on an “Inward Trek.” As if that weren’t bad enough, his counselors have turned into flesh-eating maniacs overnight and are now chowing down on his fellow miscreants. As in any classic monster flick worth its salted popcorn, plentiful carnage sends survivors rabbiting into the woods while the mindless horde of “infects” shambles, moans, and drools behind. Of course, these kids have seen zombie movies. They generate “Zombie Rules” almost as quickly as cheeky remarks, but attitude alone can’t keep the biters back.

Serving up a cast of irreverent, slightly twisted characters, an unexpected villain, and an ending you won’t see coming, here is a savvy tale that that’s a delight to read—whether you’re a rabid zombie fan or freshly bitten—and an incisive commentary on the evil that lurks within each of us.”

Reboot by Amy Tintera

Zombies are rounded up by the government and forced to serve in a kind of army where they go out and capture other zombies. These zombies are sentient, can talk, and have feelings. Underneath all the fun is some layers that ask us to examine the way we feel about othered groups and what limits we think our government should have. REBEL is book 2 in the series. (PS, want another awesome book that looks at teens being used by the government? Check out BLACKOUT by Robison Wells.)

Publisher’s Book Description: “Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.

The perfect soldier is done taking orders.”

Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore

This book is dark, gothic and truly fascinating. Magic is used to bring some people back to life where they are forced to work as slave labor. In the margins of this zombie tale are some real meaty discussions about socioeconomic class, how we view the poor, and what our faith might require of us. (PS, want another dark but awesome book? Check out SERVANTS OF THE STORM by Delilah S. Dawson. It’s about demons not zombies, but man is it good.)

Publisher’s Book Description:Cabaret meets Cassandra Clare-a haunting magical thriller set in a riveting 1930s-esque world.

Sixteen-year-old Thea Holder’s mother is cursed with a spell that’s driving her mad, and whenever they touch, Thea is chilled by the magic, too. With no one else to contribute, Thea must make a living for both of them in a sinister city, where danger lurks and greed rules.
Thea spends her nights waitressing at the decadent Telephone Club attending to the glitzy clientele. But when her best friend, Nan, vanishes, Thea is compelled to find her. She meets Freddy, a young, magnetic patron at the club, and he agrees to help her uncover the city’s secrets-even while he hides secrets of his own.

Together, they find a whole new side of the city. Unrest is brewing behind closed doors as whispers of a gruesome magic spread. And if they’re not careful, the heartless masterminds behind the growing disappearances will be after them, too.

Perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare, this is a chilling thriller with a touch of magic where the dead don’t always seem to stay that way.”

Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart

What happens when a psychic is used by the government to track down a zombie? And what happens when you accidentally turn the girl you have been crushing on into a zombie? Is there any chance she’ll fall in love with you now? There is a sequel! Don’t forget to read UNDEAD WITH BENEFITS. (PS, want more zombies falling in love? Don’t forget about WARM BODIES by Isaac Marion.)

Publisher’s Book Description: “Two teenage zombies search for brains, love, and answers in this surprisingly romantic and laugh-out-loud funny debut novel with guts.

Jake Stephens was always an average, fly-under-the-radar guy. The kind of guy who would never catch the attention of an insanely popular girl like Amanda Blake-or a psychic teenage government agent like Cass. But one day during lunch, Jake’s whole life changed. He and Amanda suddenly locked eyes across the cafeteria, and at the exact same instant, they turned into zombies and devoured half their senior class.

Now Jake definitely has Amanda’s attention-as well as Cass’s, since she’s been sent on a top-secret mission to hunt them down. As Jake and Amanda deal with the existential guilt of eating their best friends, Cass struggles with a growing psychic dilemma of her own-one that will lead the three of them on an epic journey across the country and make them question what it means to truly be alive. Or undead.

Eat, Brains, Love is a heartwarming and bloody blend of romance, deadpan humor, and suspense that fans of Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies will devour. With its irresistibly dry and authentic teen voice, as well as a zombie apocalypse worthy of AMC’s The Walking Dead, this irreverent paperback original will leave readers dying for the sequel that’s coming in Summer 2014″

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Sam learns he is a necromancer with the power to raise the dead when the head of the girl he has been crushing on shows up in a box on his doorstep and starts talking to him. Things just get weirder – and funnier – from there. Possibly the funniest book ever. (PS, if you are looking for funny books also check out A BAD DAY FOR VOODOO by Jeff Strand and The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan.)

Publisher’s Book Description: “Sam leads a pretty normal life. He may not have the most exciting job in the world, but he’s doing all right—until a fast food prank brings him to the attention of Douglas, a creepy guy with an intense violent streak.

Turns out Douglas is a necromancer who raises the dead for cash and sees potential in Sam. Then Sam discovers he’s a necromancer too, but with strangely latent powers. And his worst nightmare wants to join forces . . . or else.

With only a week to figure things out, Sam needs all the help he can get. Luckily he lives in Seattle, which has nearly as many paranormal types as it does coffee places. But even with newfound friends, will Sam be able to save his skin?

 

More zombie books on Goodreads

More Zombie Talk at TLT

Zombie Prom
Stephanie Wilkes talks about her annual Zombie Prom.  All the cool undead kids are doing it.

TPiB: It’s a Dead Man’s Party
Cool programming ideas you can do in your library whether you are a zombie or just running from them.

TPiB: Bring Out Your Dead, zombie party take 2

Zombies VS. Humans Lock-In, with a Doctor Who twist

Top 10 Survival Tips I Learned from Reading YA
Look, my chances are not good in a post-apocalyptic world.  I like to lie in bed, read a book and drink pop with either my air conditioning or heater on.  I don’t like to cook.  I do not take my indoor plumbing for granted.   Should the apocalypse happen, however, I have learned these 10 tips for survival which I am now going to share with you.  See, even zombie books are educational.

What’s the Deal with Zombies Anyway?

Zombie Book Reviews at TLT:

Reading the Zombie Apolcaypse

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
The Infects by Sean Beaudoin
Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry
Contaminated by Em Garner
Sick by Tom Leveen
Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi
Monsters by Ilsa J. Bick
Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart

#FSYALit Book Review (and more): What If I’m an Atheist?

 

What If I’m an Atheist?: A Teen’s Guide to Exploring Life Without Religion by David Seidman

REVIEW COPY COURTESY OF EDELWEISS

ISBN-13: 9781582704074

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: 3/10/2015

 

REVIEW: 

When I saw this title pop up on Edelweiss, asking for it was a no-brainer. As an atheist currently writing a novel that centers around an atheist main character, as a person who spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about atheism (and religion) when I was a teenager, I wanted to check it out.

 

This book is packed with a lot of information. It tackles “this sometimes-secret world” of atheists. The author often uses the term “unbelievers” and briefly looks at agnostics, freethinkers, rationalists, humanists, objectivists, materialists, and naturalists in addition to atheists. Much of the book is coming from the angle of “how to survive being an atheist in a world that hates or fears atheists.” Siedman considers many intriguing questions, like if atheism is a religion (do atheists have a messiah, prophets, a bible, and so on). He asks if we need God to live a moral life (and notes that 1/3 of Americans associate atheists “with illegality, such as drug use and prostitution”). He examines why one might become an atheist, how to handle talking about atheism, and why a person might leave atheism behind. Seidman talks about people being threatened by atheists. He focuses a lot on the negative comments or ideas atheists can expect to encounter. Seidman notes that 15-20% of all adult Americans have no religion (so 36 million plus people), but self-declared atheists only make up less than 3% of the American population.

 

Seidman sprinkles quotes liberally throughout his book, with most of the quotes coming from websites and blogs. Many of the people he quotes from are teenagers sharing their experiences as atheists. To an extent, the quotes are useful in sharing the views of actual teens and representing many different experiences, but they also severely bog down the book, making it feel less like an examination and analysis of atheism and more (at times and more so in certain sections) like just a collection of quotes.

 

Lists are included, like 7 celebrity unbelievers, the 10 most atheistic states and countries, 5 historical figures described as atheists, the 10 atheist commandments, and more. He looks at atheist-friendly religions and the parts of religions that unbelievers might take on (being spiritual, ocassionally attending church, celebrating religious holidays, and so on). He asks if you can be a Christian atheist, an atheist Jew, a Unitarian, a Buddhist… even Pastafarianism gets a shout-out. He also discusses some atheist churches that exist.

 

Part two of the book looks at life as an atheist and acknowledges how hard it might be as a teen to transition from a belief he or she was raised in to an atheist. He examines the reasons a teen might consider and choose atheism. There is also a brief discussion of those who never had a belief, who were raised without religion. Only 17% of those who identify as godless have nontheistic parents. The book also covers what reactions one might get when they share that they are an atheist—confusion, hostility, attempts at understanding, a desire to “save” you, and more. A section about knowing your rights regarding religion in schools looks at prayer, evolution/creationism teachings, clubs, and religion in classes. Positive experiences and reactions are included in this book, but for the most part it looks at the many negative things that may occur if you decide to become an atheist and share that decision with others.

 

Part three addresses comments atheists often get (they’re too young to decide, they’re just rebelling, they’re immoral, and so on) and what possible responses are. Additionally, a section looks at what if a person is an atheist and wants to become religious. Seidman offers tips for how to tell your parents and others you are an atheist and how to handle possible hostility. He also talks briefly about what dating can be like if you’re an atheist dating someone who is not. There are also a few very interesting examples of atheists and (in some cases) their families fighting religion in schools.

 

A lengthy appendix offers information on websites, organizations, and resources for more information. There are listings for how to meet other unbelievers online as well as scholarships available for atheists and agnostics. Copious endnotes citing sources make up most of the back matter, and a glossary is also included.

 

GETTING PERSONAL: 

Here’s the thing: my husband and I are atheists. We are raising our child as an atheist in the sense that he knows what we believe/do not believe and why. We tell him all the time that he does not have to believe what we believe now or ever. He can make his own choices. We are happy to teach him about any religion he’s interested in. If he wants to ever go to church, we can do that. We are raising him to be compassionate, open-minded, respectful, and moral. We are ethical vegetarians, support civic causes, identify as feminists, give to charities we believe in, and volunteer our time.

 

While I identify as an atheist, it’s not something that comes up a whole lot. We don’t spend much time talking about not being religious. I don’t like being defined by what I don’t believe. I have been an atheist for so long now, and am surrounded by so many other atheists or people who could care less if I’m an atheist that I’ve had the luxury of generally forgetting that this attitude of fear/anger/hate exists. But if you’re a teen and just coming out as an atheist, it can be very scary, or at the very least can seem uncertain or delicate. Though why should it? Declaring yourself an atheist should be no more interesting, noteworthy, or delicate than proclaiming you are a person of faith.

 

I would have snatched this book up in a hot second when I was a teenager, for a variety of really complicated and personal reasons. Being able to hear the voices and experiences of other teens would have felt invaluable to me and made me feel less alone. The looks at possible conversations an atheist might have with people who are believers and how to handle some of the big topics that get brought up would have been sections I would have memorized. I did have most of those conversations, at some point. I have had to defend my views endlessly over the years, especially as an outspoken teenager. Now, if religion somehow comes up in conversations with someone I don’t know well, I generally say we’re not religious and leave it at that. But I recognized and related to the impassioned teenage voices in What If I’m an Atheist?. Seidman’s book is an easy-to-use and in-depth resources for atheists or those seeking to understand atheism better and should be included in all collections.

 

 

ATHEISM IN YA: 

I searched for blog posts or articles that look at atheism in YA and didn’t come up with a whole lot. The ones I did come up with mention the small handful of titles that address atheism or unbelievers in some way. Know of other books or posts? Share them with us!

The New York Times Sunday Book Review “Ali Berman’s ‘Misdirected,’ and More” by Mark Oppenheimer. 

YALSA’s The Hub, “The Big Five (+1) in YA: Atheism and Agnosticism” by Whitney Etchison. 

Gabrielle Prendergast’s “Books for Atheist Teens.” 

DiversifYA interview with Nicole Wolverton. 

 

 Additional #FSYALit Posts:

 

 

If you would like to recommend additional titles on this topic, please leave us a comment, tweet us (Amanda MacGregor @CiteSomething or Karen Jensen @TLT16), or email us at the addresses provided on the About TLT page.  We always look forward to hearing what books others value and recommend.

The Walking Dead Video Game, a guest review by Nita Tyndall

Today for Zombie Week Nita Tyndall is reviewing The Walking Dead video game. Thanks Nita!

 

When The Walking Dead show first premiered, it was a show my dad and I got into, curled up on the couch on Sunday evenings because my mom thought it was too gory and didn’t want to watch people get eaten by zombies. Which was fine. I wanted to watch people get eaten by zombies.

But then I wanted more.

(Not that I wanted to get eaten by zombies. Or eat people. Gross.) But I wanted more than sitting on the couch, watching.

Enter The Walking Dead series by Telltale Games.

Telltale is a company that specializes in story-based, episodic games. The Walking Dead, while set in the same universe as the comics, features new characters and storylines (with a few cameos from comic book characters). You play as Lee Everett, a convict “offered a chance of redemption in a world overtaken by walkers.” The game is story-based and episodic, with five episodes in a season. You play as Lee for all of Season One, following as he tries to protect a young girl named Clementine who’s alone at the start of the zombie apocalypse. You follow his POV, and the choices you make as Lee tailor the game—in some instances, going as far as to decide if a certain character lives or dies. (There is a season two, but you know, massive spoilers so I’ll let you find that one on your own).

More to the point, it’s diverse and an amazing story. The Walking Dead isn’t like other zombie games, there are no zombies to mow down, no gory death scenes. Instead it accomplishes something I think the show tries to do and occasionally fails at—it makes you care about the people in the apocalypse.

 

I grew attached to Lee. I wanted to make the right choices for Lee and for Clementine and the good of the group, but if this game taught me anything it’s that making tough decisions is all well and good when zombies aren’t attacking and there’s no time pressure. And yeah, I rolled my eyes at some characters and I hated others, but more than that, I wanted them to survive. I wanted Lee and Clementine to survive.

More on The Walking Dead: A Telltale Game Series at IGN http://www.ign.com/games/the-walking-dead-the-game/ps3-100887

Because the zombie apocalypse isn’t really about the zombies and the guts and the gore when you get down to it. It’s about people. About survival, and humanity, and what you do when the world ends, and The Walking Dead game is an amazing illustration of that. If you’re looking for an actiony, first-person-shooter, then look elsewhere. If, however, you’re looking for a heavy dose of feelings and great storytelling and difficult choices, then look no further.

The Walking Dead: Seasons One and Two are available for XBox, PlayStation, Mac, and PC.

Meet Our Guest Blogger

Rep’d by @esc_key. Contributor for @TheGayY.

Nita Tyndall is a tiny Southern queer with a penchant for sweet tea, cardigans, and words. She’s been writing since she was five, and her first piece was Scooby-Doo fanfiction in bright pink, all caps font—though now she prefers to write about sad teenagers. She’s currently in college attempting to get an English degree, and briefly was a college columnist for the lesbian webmagazine, Autostraddle. You can find her on tumblr at nitatyndall where she occasionally writes about YA and queer things, on Twitter at @NitaTyndall, or at her website nitatyndall.com. 

#FSYALIT Girls Like Me Don’t: Thoughts on Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally, a guest post by Katelyn Browne

I moved a lot growing up. “A different school every other grade” kind of a lot. It’s usually the first thing I tell people when I’m trying to explain why I am the way I am, or why I can’t just tell you where I’m from.

That’s one thing that makes me very different from Kate Kelly, the narrator of Miranda Kenneally’s Things I Can’t Forget. Kate has lived in Tennessee her whole life, in a close-knit Christian community. (Because this is the third book in a loosely connected series, Kenneally is able to make the community feel smotheringly small—everywhere we turn, there’s a character or a plot point from a past or future Hundred Oaks book.) She doesn’t know anyone who’s not Christian. Kate herself is deeply, devoutly, intensely Christian.

And that’s where we’re the same, Kate and I. (Kate and Kate—we share a name, too.) Because right after I’ve explained that I’m not from anywhere, my next go-to explanation is “Oh, and I was intensely religious as a teen.”

“Learning is never a bad thing. And neither is changing your mind about things…It’s always good to reevaluate. To think and consider all sides.”
Miranda Kenneally, Things I Can’t Forget

Intense is the only right word for it. During middle school and high school, I was always at church: Sunday school, Sunday services, church band practice, Bible study, youth group, leadership training. I went to all the extra holy days, fasted for 40 Hour Famine, served a silent shift in the dark for an Easter prayer vigil. I ran my own peer Bible study for a year and made all my friends come and listen to canned presentations about abortion and smoking and homosexuality. I went on retreats, swimming trips, and mall scavenger hunts.  And I went to church camp.

My church camp didn’t look like the one where Kate spends her summers. Cumberland Creek is a true summer camp, where children come and stay in cabins and our teen heroes serve as their counselors. My youth group did the conference-style camps, where we would spend a week on a college campus somewhere, getting saved and playing Ultimate Frisbee. In alternate years, we went on mission trips instead. But the wild mishmash of emotional, hormonal teen summers and the distinctive structures of camp that dominate this book feel so familiar to me.

When I offered to write a post for #FSYALit, I mentioned off-hand that this was the only YA book I’ve ever read that really felt like the religion I’d lived. At the time, I thought it was mostly because of the camp aspect, because of those summer evenings feeling close-but-not-close-enough to Jesus while sitting close-but-not-too-close to your friends. (I was always intellectually engaged with religion, but camp was where I prayed the sobbing, convulsing, born-again prayers that mark evangelical youth.)

“Free will comes with sacrifice. And sometimes with heartache.”
Miranda Kenneally, Things I Can’t Forget

Upon reread, I realized that this book had stuck to my bones because of the pervasive sense of shame. There’s a special breed of shame, mixed with guilt, rolled up with judgment and righteousness that haunted me as a teenager—and that haunts me still—that I’d never seen anyone talk about in quite the right way.

Those feelings are stamped all over this book. In Kate’s world, religious truth and cultural standards are very closely intertwined. The first sentence of the book is “Girls like me do not buy pregnancy tests,” and it quickly becomes clear that Kate knows a lot of things that girls like her—like us—don’t do. She’s dismayed when she learns of Christian peers who belong to fraternities and sororities; who are gay; who go to parties; who have sex. Later on, she encapsulates what the teen experience looked like for those of us who were fully in the thrall of self-righteousness mixed with total fear: “I missed out on a lot because I was scared other kids would be drinking or doing drugs or having sex, and I didn’t want to be around that. And because no boys ever invited me.”

Before the book begins, Kate has helped her best friend, Emily, get an abortion. Now, in hindsight, she’s sure that she’s sinned in an almost unforgivable way, and a significant amount of the text is devoted to constantly wondering about her standing with God.

Kate’s shame deepens as she develops romantic—and sexual—feelings for her co-counselor and old friend Matt. She has the usual modesty culture guilt about feeling any kind of want and desire. (Julie Stivers read a draft of this post for me and wondered where the moral line was, in dating relationships, when I was a teen. I went to a church that was okay with dating other like-minded Protestants as long as you were just kissing—but even then, it felt like you could cross a line as soon as you started to like it too much.) Kate’s uncertainty about enjoying her make-out sessions with Matt is summed up in a such a succinct, pointed, perfect way: “I felt so good inside it felt wrong.”

The shadow of Emily’s abortion complicates these shameful feelings. Kate certainly judges Emily for getting an abortion, and she hates herself for helping her. But even more than that, Kate judges Emily because she had sex with her boyfriend, Jacob, in flagrant defiance of everything they knew to be morally correct. Kate takes assurance from the knowledge that she wasn’t at all complicit in that sin, and that she would never fall the way Emily has. Her belief in her own moral superiority (and her disdain and pity for Emily) nearly destroys their friendship in a way that demonstrates the utter failure of “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

“I have a billion what-ifs and no way forward.”
Miranda Kenneally, Things I Can’t Forget

As an adult, as a secular person, as a reader, I want to sit Kate down and say, look. You did the best thing; you loved your friend; you helped her when she was afraid. Your God should love that. You don’t need to be forgiven, and you need to stop punishing Emily.

But I know that it’s not that easy. And if you work with evangelical teens, or other teens whose worlds are defined by rules, by right and wrong and very few shades of grey, I hope you know that, too. Like Kate, I said and thought and did immensely hurtful things to my friends and acquaintances in the name of the truth. Sometimes, I got a chance to make amends; other times, I didn’t.

Kate ends the book with an intact, but changed, relationship with God and with her own ideas about faith. A concerned friend says, “I feel like you’re getting to know yourself better, and that’s a good thing.”

Because I spent so much of my adolescence squashing parts of myself that were sinful or worldly or otherwise not of God, that’s something I’m still working on. I’ve gotten to know myself better every time I’ve read Things I Can’t Forget, and I hope some evangelical teens will find themselves in it, too.

I know that this book would have made me deeply uncomfortable as a teen—I learned about God (and chaste romance between married people) from church-library books from Christian publishers. When I met characters who had had abortions, or who were gay, or who gave in to their carnal desires, they were always in secular books and they were never evangelical.

Kenneally’s book is a bit of each; it very much exists in the tradition of secular YA fiction, and it comes from a secular publisher. It’s also a book that takes teenage faith very seriously and recognizes that Kate’s faith in God, even when shaky, is central to her life.

Depending on your community, it could make for a difficult handsell. But I think it’s such an important book for evangelical teens who also like romance stories, as well as for teens who live in places where evangelical morality seems distant and cartoonish. As in many Christian romances, Kate’s relationship with a boy is compared and contrasted with her relationship with God—but here, both relationships and the questions they evoke are treated as valid. Near the end of the book, Kate is still trying to decide what to do about Matt. She wonders, “Is it healthy to have a love like that anyway? A love where you throw aside all caution and dive right in?”

It’s an important question, particularly if you’re coming into adulthood and trying on relationships. And I don’t think it’s a question that only pertains to boyfriends.

Meet Our Guest Blogger

Katelyn Browne (or @brownekr, to the Twitter world) works as a school librarian in Washington, DC. These days, she hangs out with Quakers, but she still knows all the words to an awful lot of Christian rock songs.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different…

This summer she’s a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He’s the first guy she ever kissed, and he’s gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt – with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn’t that easy.

Published by Sourcefire Books in 2013

For more discussions of Faith and Spirituality in YA Lit, check out our Hub

The Walking Dead: The Comics VS. The TV Show (a guest post by Geri Diorio)

Today for Zombie Week librarian Geri Diorio is joining us once again to talk about The Walking Dead graphic novel series and how it compares to the TV show.

WARNING! SPOILERS for the comic up to issue 138 and the show as of March 15, 2015

The Walking Dead may be one of the most popular television shows on the air, but it began as a black and white comic book. In fact, it remains both of these things. In 2003, Image Comics began publishing monthly issues of The Walking Dead, written by Robert Kirkman and drawn by Tony Moore and then later drawn by Charlie Adlard. The comic, which won the 2010 Eisner Award for the Best Continuing Series, focuses on a former sheriff named Rick Grimes, his family and compatriots, as they fight to survive in the zombie apocalypse.

The comic is about as far from the brightly-colored, splashy-paneled mental image one may have of comic books. There are no superheroes in tights, flying in to save the day. There are instead stark black and white images with some muted gray shading. This fits the overall vibe of the comic (and the tv show to an extent). While reading the comic, you continually think, “Things can’t get worse for these people.” And every time you think that, things get worse. Since this is a story set in the zombie apocalypse, there is not a lot to be cheery about. The black and white art does not mitigate the violence. One character’s death by a barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat was still horribly gory, despite being rendered in stark black and white. Of course the impact of that image may also have a lot to do with the emotional attachment readers had to the character.

The comic begins with Rick Grimes waking up in a hospital, having missed the beginning of the end of the world. He was injured on the job, and was in a coma. He awakens with no knowledge of what has happened in the world, making him a perfect analog for the reader. In the time that he has been unconscious, zombies have overrun Atlanta (and possibly the world). The reader discovers what has happened through Rick’s eyes and is as shocked as he is. In subsequent issues (Image has published more than 135 now), we learn more about what has happened in the world, and we see how individuals and groups are coping (or not coping as the case may be). Rick and his group move from a prison to a farm to a safe zone (a suburban development that has been secured by building enormous walls around it). They encounter people who need help, people who can offer help, and many people who offer violence and threats of death. There are two out-and-out wars that have happened over the course of the comic so far, and several major characters have been killed. While the zombies are a persistent threat, it has become clear that living humans are far more dangerous to Rick’s group than the dead.

The television series, (written by a variety of people, with Kirkman, Adlard, Moore, and former Executive Producer Frank Darabont having the lion’s share of writer’s credits), has used the comic as it’s template, but has varied and expanded from it to better suit the medium and, perhaps, to draw in more viewers.

Television is not print, and while comics are perhaps the most visually important print medium, they are still very static compared to the moving image. The tv show is literally bloodier. Special Effects Makeup Designer Greg Nicotero’s work often feature spurts of blood hitting the camera lens. It is interesting to note that the zombie blood has gone from bright red when the tv series began, to varying shades of brown now that the zombies are a year old and have decayed that much more. The only red blood seen on screen these days comes from living humans who are attacked. While the comic’s graphic black and white pictures are certainly arresting, it is the image of a wriggling, writhing, slimy well-zombie getting pulled in half on Hershel’s farm that has been burned into my retinas forever. From the very beginning, the show has gone past the blueprint of the comic to make the horror more gripping for viewers. In Days Gone By, the first episode of the show, Rick’s horse is pulled out from under him by a swarm of walkers and he manages to hide in a tank to escape the horde. This scene perfectly evoked a panel from the comic; but with the television camera’s ability to pull back, far above the herd of walkers, and show viewers the wriggling, struggling mass looking like deadly maggots converging on a piece of meat, the tv series showed viewers it was going to try and take The Walking Dead to a whole other level of visual horror. At times, nothing is as powerful as good special effects.

Of course there are many similarities between the properties. Rick Grimes is almost always center stage in both. While both the comic and the tv show have featured other characters, some of whom have become hugely popular in their own right (Hello, Jesus! Hello, Daryl!) it always comes back to Rick and his immediate family. The tv show has kept a lot of the comic’s overarching plot points: Hershel’s farm, the prison, meeting Michonne, Woodbury and the Governor, thinking Eugene can cure things, heading towards D.C., meeting cannibals, and going to Alexandria. But the show has branched out from its source material as well: taking the group to the CDC (a nice touch in my opinion, to explain the zombie apocalypse to viewers using a “scientific” basis), introducing characters like Daryl and Merle, turning Carol into a stone-cold pragmatic killer, and letting baby Judith live, while killing Andrea.

But TV show viewers who choose to go read the comic may find the most startling contrast is Rick’s lack of a right hand. In the comics, the Governor cuts it off, and Mr. Grimes has been making the best of it, living one-handed throughout the zombie apocalypse. This is something writer Robert Kirkman now regrets:

“When I’m writing a comic book, I don’t think about what I’m doing. I go, ‘Oh, it’d be pretty cool if they cut his hand off right now. That’d be pretty shocking, right?’. Then I do it, and five issues later, I write ‘Rick opens a can of beans’ and then I look at the script and think ‘He can’t do that now’. I didn’t even think that through.”1

This is just a broad comparison between the tv show and comic. If you would like to dive deeper into comparing and contrasting, may I suggest Screen Rush’s excellent take on this very topic? They look at each episode of the program and place screen shots next to comic panels so you can see how closely (or not) the show is hewing to its source material. They even compare tv scripts to the speech balloons in the comics. It always surprises me when dialog is lifted straight from the comic.

If you are a horror fan, there is certainly much to enjoy about The Walking Dead in both of its forms. And if you enjoy one version more than another, there is certainly much joy to be found in arguing about which is better!
1 DigitalSpy.com article :  http://www.digitalspy.com/tv/s135/the-walking-dead/news/a331768/walking-dead-exec-we-shouldnt-cut-off-ricks-hand.html#~p78GwhCgjbieqG

Meet Our Guest Blogger:

Geri Diorio is the Teen Services Librarian at the Ridgefield Library in Ridgefield, Connecticut. She loves zombies, science fiction, fantasy, the Ninth Doctor, and Game of Thrones. You can contact her on Twitter – @geridiorio

More Zombie Talk at TLT

Zombie Prom
Stephanie Wilkes talks about her annual Zombie Prom.  All the cool undead kids are doing it.

TPiB: It’s a Dead Man’s Party
Cool programming ideas you can do in your library whether you are a zombie or just running from them.

TPiB: Bring Out Your Dead, zombie party take 2

Zombies VS. Humans Lock-In, with a Doctor Who twist

Top 10 Survival Tips I Learned from Reading YA
Look, my chances are not good in a post-apocalyptic world.  I like to lie in bed, read a book and drink pop with either my air conditioning or heater on.  I don’t like to cook.  I do not take my indoor plumbing for granted.   Should the apocalypse happen, however, I have learned these 10 tips for survival which I am now going to share with you.  See, even zombie books are educational.

What’s the Deal with Zombies Anyway?

Zombie Book Reviews at TLT:

Reading the Zombie Apolcaypse

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
The Infects by Sean Beaudoin
Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry
Contaminated by Em Garner
Sick by Tom Leveen
Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi
Monsters by Ilsa J. Bick
Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart

Book Review: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

Imagine if The Breakfast Club was set not during Saturday detention but instead was set during the weeks leading up to the apocalypse.

 

In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions, We All Looked Up is a story about Andy (the stoner punk who’s in the charmingly named band Perineum), Eliza (the artist with a reputation for being easy), Anita (the perfect good girl headed to Princeton), and Peter (the athlete having an existential crisis), who are brought together by an asteroid. The world is thrown into chaos when scientists decide that the asteroid is 66.6% likely to collide with Earth. Everyone has 7 or 8 weeks to just wait for this to (potentially) happen.

 

What do you do when it seems certain the world will end? Well, you start to reassess your priorities, apparently. You wonder if you’ve wasted your life. You shake things up. Andy decides that these four (plus a few other friends and not-really-friends) are part of a “karass”—that is, a group of people somehow linked together (which Andy takes from Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle). Together, they explore interests and relationships now that it seems like there’s nothing to lose.

 

Things take a dark turn as more time passes and Seattle (where the story is set) becomes rife with riots, looting, and general lawlessness. Food and other supplies become rationed, police are everywhere, and no one knows who to trust. Protests are planned, rallies are planned, and even a Party at the End of the World is planned. But plans are hard to carry out when chaos is swirling everywhere. Eliza lands in prison, along with many other young adults, and the other three work together to set Eliza and the other prisoners free. From here on out, everything is madness. Hook-ups, break-ups, fights with drug dealers, gunshots, and more all happen in the last days before the karass find out the fate of the world. Things get scary, violent, and gruesome. Even if the asteroid misses Earth, the lives of these teens will never be the same. 

 

Wallach succeeds in making this apocalyptic story stand apart from others on this subject. The tension is really ratcheted up in the last quarter of the novel, which is fitting, of course, as that asteroid is nearly here—I’d imagine things would become completely bonkers by then. The writing, characters, and dialogue are all exceptional. Wallach can really turn a phrase: “Today was just another shit day in a life that sometimes felt like a factory specializing in the construction of shit days.” Dark, funny, and philosophical, this will have wide appeal. Looking forward to more books from Wallach in the future.

 

ISBN-13: 9781481418775

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

Publication date: 3/24/2015

Review copy courtesy of Edelweiss 

Middle Grade Monday – Women in Fiction

Those of you hanging around the Internet this weekend, especially on Twitter, were probably inundated with the hashtag #womeninfiction. It seemed that all of the librarians, authors, and publishing people I follow came out of the woodwork to tweet and retweet about their favorite female fictional characters. Many of those were characters remembered with strong fondness from the reader’s formative years, years where they were reading what we would now classify as Middle Grade fiction.

There is a certain magic to the books we read as middle grades students. Magic in the books themselves, which are often delightfully well written and unapologetically tackle complex issues of the self, family, society, and our place in it. Also, magic in the reader. This is the time when many readers take on ownership of their own reading, form preferences, explore and have adventures through the characters on the page. It was visible in these tweets.

I feel, like Laurie Halse Anderson, that I owe a debt of gratitude to the authors I read and reread (and reread) through my most formative reading years. I was a great consumer of Louisa May Alcott’s fiction. I stopped counting the number of times I reread Little Women in graduate school, when I hit 50. In fact, I read all of her novels multiple times. And those of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Madeleine L’Engle, and Louise Fitzhugh, and so many others. The characters on those pages, especially the young women, spoke to me not only about who I was, but who I could be. I learned to believe in myself, even when others didn’t. I learned that I wasn’t alone.

Here are some of my favorites: