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Book Review: Quarantine, A Love Story by Katie Cicatelli-Kuc

quarantinePublisher’s Book Description: Oliver wants a girlfriend, and there’s a girl back home who might be interested in him. The problem is, he has to spend his spring break on a volunteer trip in the Dominican Republic. Flora, on the other hand, isn’t really looking for a boyfriend. She just wants to end a miserable spring break visiting her dad and her new stepmom in the D.R.

The solution to both their problems? Get back home to New York ASAP. Sadly, they won’t be getting there anytime soon.

Their hopes are dashed when Flora’s impulsiveness lands them in quarantine — just the two of them. Now, the two teens must come together in order to survive life in a bubble for 30 days. In that time, love will bloom. But is it the real thing, or just a placebo effect?

In her debut novel, Katie Cicatelli-Kuc delivers an introspective and witty story about finding love in the most unexpected place.

Karen’s Thoughts:

Please note, there are some very real spoilers in this review as I explain to you why I can not in good faith recommend this book as a person who campaigns against sexual violence and for the importance of consent in relationships.

As someone who spends a lot of time advocating for consent education, I can not in good faith recommend this book, even though I believe it will have a lot of teen appeal. This love story begins when two strangers meet on an airplane and are placed in a quarantine hold for a short period of time. The girl, not wanting to return home, fakes being sick so that she will have to stay in quarantine for an additional 30 days. Not wanting to stay in quarantine alone, however, she grabs and kisses the teen boy against his will and knowing full well that he wants to go home and that he has a budding relationship on the horizon, forcing him to stay in quarantine with her for that 30 days. He has, effectively, been denied his free will and freedom by the selfish impulses of this girl and over the course of time, they fall in love. It’s kind of a reverse Beauty and the Beast story, a story that I stopped liking a long time ago because I do not believe that true love can be found in relationships where one person is basically holding another person prisoner.

To be honest, none of the females presented in this book are presented in an overly positive or redeeming light. Flora is presented as an authority who guides Oliver, often sharing with him truth bombs about life and relationships, but she herself is lost and floundering. She does exhibit growth over the course of the novel as they are both given a lot of time for introspection, but I could never get past what she did to Oliver. Oliver’s other love interest, Kelsey, is a selfish, fame obsessed young woman who uses Oliver’s new found notoriety to try and propel herself to social media stardom, spurred on in part by Flora who thinks she is trying to help Oliver nab the girl of his dreams.

Oliver starts out as a more naive and floundering young man, but he also grows. Towards the end as he starts to stand up for himself and express himself more fully, readers seem him becoming a more competent and fully fleshed character.

The most realistic part about this novel is the social media component. Flora and Oliver start the hashtag #Quaranteens and milk (and try to manipulate) their quarantine status for social media likes and for the most part it works; but as always life, truth and social media are more complicated than anyone can predict and it gets messy. This in particular is the part that I find teens will be most drawn to. It truly captures the social media zeitgeist.

I would have felt much differently about this book if at the end of the 30 days the teens would have grown, realized that what Flora did to Oliver was completely unconscionable and gone their separate ways. Alas, this is a love story and that is not what happens. Because this is a relationship that is built upon the very clear violation of one person’s ability to consent about what happens to their life – keep in mind, he is now forced to spend 30 days in a quarantine away from his life, friends and family – I can not get behind it or recommend it. Once the impetus for how these two teens were forced to spend time together became clear, I wanted to tap out of this book. I read it until completion to see if or how the issue was dealt with, and although they do at times talk about consent, I personally could never get past the very clear violation of consent that brought the two teens together.

Out of curiosity to see what other reviewers were saying about this book, I did some research. Booklist says this about this novel: “And since Flora, for some reason, laid one on Oliver after they met on the plane (a dramatic first kiss for them both), he’s stuck right there in quarantine with her. ” They go on to recommend it as a “a sweet, simple romance with a fun concept.” (Booklist, 1/01/2019, Maggie Reagan. 336p. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2019). Kirkus mentions the kiss but doesn’t even acknowledge any concern for an obvious lack of consent and the dramatic impact it has on Oliver’s life. I think it is unfortunate as book reviewers that we continue to fail to acknowledge problematic consent issues and recommend books that have them without any caveats.

I think the novel has a lot of teen appeal elements, but I personally don’t recommend it.

This book is slated to be published in March, 2019.

Hip Hop is Happening in YA Lit, a guest post by Lisa Krok

The Grammys have often failed to recognize hip-hop artists in the most notable award categories. Based upon the lack of representation of Black performers in the Motown tribute, the Grammys clearly still have work to do. However, the steps toward progress are in motion, with huge wins for Childish Gambino and Cardi B. Childish Gambino’s “This is America” won Grammys for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Rap/Sung Performance, and Best Music Video. The Song of the Year honors writers of songs, while the Record of the Year honors the recording artist. “This is America” was the first rap song to win these two distinguished accolades. Additionally, Cardi B was the first female solo artist to win the Grammy for Best Rap Album for “Invasion of Privacy”, alongside several other award nominations. This year Childish Gambino and Cardi B made history, and Young Adult Lit is here for it!

Three strong and exceptionally talented Black YA authors have hit the trifecta with books that are new releases or coming soon and reflect hip-hop culture. As rapper and social theorist KRS-One stated, “Rap is something you do, hip-hop is something you live”.

hiphop1Many teens will already be familiar with author Angie Thomas from (NYT Bestseller for 100+ weeks) The Hate U Give (Balzer + Bray, 2017) book and movie. The Hate U Give has received multiple awards and honors, including YALSA’s William C. Morris Award, a Coretta Scott King honor, a Printz honor, and the National Book Award long list, just to name a few. Thomas, a former teen rapper herself, recently released On the Come Up featuring Bri, a female teen rapper trying to make it big. Living up to a dead father who was a rap legend is tough. Combine that with racist actions from school security, a recovering addict mom desperately trying to make ends meet, and competition in the ring, finding your voice is difficult and is sometimes misconstrued by those who want to knock you down. Thomas passionately and realistically portrays the harsh realities of being Black and poor, while pushing forward and going for your dream. On the Come Up released February 5, 2019 from Balzer + Bray.

See Epic Reads track-by-track breakdown of Spotify’s On the Come Up playlist, along with a rap name generator. Playlist features tracks from Biggie, Common, Cardi B, Tupac, Nicki Minaj, Queen Latifah, Nas, Kendrick Lamar, Missy Elliott, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, Lauryn Hill, and many more legends. Selections for the playlist were chosen by Angie Thomas.

https://www.epicreads.com/blog/on-the-come-up-playlist/

hiphop2Lamar Giles is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books, and was an Edgar award finalist  for both Fake ID (Harper Collins, 2014) and Endangered (Harper Collins, 2015). Additionally, Overturned (Scholastic, 2017) was a 2018 Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers and a Kirkus Best Book of 2017. Giles also edited the WNDB anthology Fresh Ink (Random House, 2018) and contributed to anthologies Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America (Balzer + Bray, 2019) and Three Sides of a Heart (Harper Collins, 2017). He is best known for his crime fiction, and in his newest release, Spin (Scholastic Press, 2019), takes on a murder mystery involving DJ Paris Secord, aka DJParSec. This fast-paced mystery starts off with DJParSec’s two estranged friends, Kya and Fuse, under suspicion for her murder. When some of the ParSecNation fandom spins off into an ill-intended Dark Nation side, Fuse and Kya band together to uncover the true killer. Tough female protagonists + hip-hop + murder mystery = a winner for Lamar Giles. Spin was released January 29, 2019 from Scholastic Press. Giles also has a middle grade fantasy forthcoming, The Last Lastay-of-Summer from Versify/HMH on April 2, 2019.

Spin has a Spotify playlist, too!

Check out these tracks inspired by DJParSec, featuring Cardi B, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Missy Elliott,

Lil’ Kim, Drake, J. Cole, Beyonce, Jay Z, and more.

https://t.co/Di5WOPGGv1

hiphop3Tiffany D. Jackson is a master of twist endings, as evidenced by the shocking revelations in Allegedly (Katherine Tegen Books, 2017) and Monday’s Not Coming (Katherine Tegen Books, 2018). Jackson’s awards and honors include 2018 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers for Allegedly, and most recently the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent for Monday’s Not Coming. Additionally, Monday’s Not Coming received a Walter Dean Myers honor and was named a SLJ Best Book of 2018. She adds her own contribution to this hip-hop book fest with Let Me Hear a Rhyme (Katherine Tegen Books, 2019). Jackson collaborated with Malik “Malik-16” Sharif, who provided the lyrics within the novel. Set in the 1990’s in Brooklyn, friends Steph, Quadir, and Jarrell are mourning the loss of Biggie Smalls, who they felt represented their neighborhood via his music. When Steph is shot and killed, his two friends conspire with his sister, Jasmine, to commemorate him. When they unearth shoeboxes full of recordings of Steph’s songs, they promote him as “The Architect”, while the producer has no idea that he is promoting a dead client. This amusing situation adds levity to the mystery, as the team of three begin to uncover what really happened to Steph. Let Me Hear a Rhyme is forthcoming from Katherine Tegen Books on May 21, 2019. 

“I think about the lyrics in so many hip-hop songs and understand why Steph made me listen to them. Life has never been easy for black folks, and survival means doing things you wouldn’t do normally. Can I really judge someone trying to live?”

 – Jasmine, Let Me Hear a Rhyme

Great songs tend to have a “hook”, and so do great books. The three aforementioned novels each have a KILLER first line:

  • “I might have to kill somebody tonight.” – On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
  • “I did not kill Paris Secord.” – Spin by Lamar Giles
  • “You’ve probably seen this scene before: Ladies in black church dresses, old men in gray suits, and hood kids in white tees with some blurry picture printed on the front and the spray-painted letters RIP.” – Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson

The hot, striking covers, cool beats, and captivating hooks make all three of these selections great for many types of readers, including the most reluctant of readers. Books like these, and rap music itself, lend themselves to many creative opportunities for teens to break down lyrics and even write some of their own.

So, if rap = poetry + rhythm, then poetry as lyrics can work in many different ways.

“A poet’s mission is to make words do more work than they normally do, to make them work on more than one level.     – Jay Z

Teens may also be interested in trying their hand at Poetry Slams, a la The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. Tips about poetry slams can be found here:

https://www.powerpoetry.org/actions/how-write-slam-poetry

Angie Thomas stated at an event in 2018 that hip-hop has given a voice to urban America. See Angie’s comments here:

Lastly, give the amazing Bahni Turpin’s audiobooks a listen. Turpin narrated Allegedly, The Hate U Give, On the Come Up, and DJParSec’s portion of Spin, among many others. Her voice is a perfect fit for the characters in these stories. Please see the links below for more information about Bahni Turpin, We Need Diverse Books, and these three fantastic authors.

https://www.audible.com/search?searchNarrator=Bahni+Turpin

https://diversebooks.org/

https://www.facebook.com/ACThomasAuthor/

https://www.lamargiles.com/

http://writeinbk.com/

 

lisakrok– Lisa Krok is a longtime fan of hip-hop, especially Queens Latifah and Nicki, along with the legendary Biggie. Her rap generator name is “Bad Swerve”. Lisa is a die-hard YA reader and a Ravenclaw, with a passion for reaching reluctant readers. She served on the 2019 and 2018 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers teams. Lisa can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.

Fight the Power: Music as a Social Force, a guest post by Lisa Krok

There is no doubt that teen activism is on the rise in today’s political climate. Options including peaceful protests via marches, boycotts, petitions, blogs, books, artwork, and more are popping up across the country. Looking back to the Civil Rights Movement, music was a catalyst in voicing messages of resistance and hope. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (RRHF) in Cleveland, Ohio hosts programs to inform teachers, librarians, and students about how music was used in the past as a change agent, and how we can apply that to present day.

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On a bitterly cold and blustery January day, RRHF Education Instructor Deanna Nebel shared ways music can be used as a social force with an auditorium full of students. She began with a very recent release by The Killers, “Land of the Free”. A sampling of the song was played, and then the audience was asked to break down the message in the lyrics.

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Pictured: Deanna Nebel

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The message of mass incarceration of people of color is clear: the “Land of the Free” has “more people locked up than the rest of the world”. While this was one of the more recent uses of music as a social force, many other examples were covered in class. Below are some related artists that encompass a variety of marginalized voices that teens can research on their own.

  • Joan Baez (Latinx heritage) promoted social change and became friends with Martin Luther King, Jr. Some of the most memorable songs she sang are “We Shall Overcome” at the 1963 March on Washington, and “Birmingham Sunday”, which was used in the opening of Spike Lee’s documentary 4 Little Girls (1997). The latter references the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing by the KKK, which resulted in the tragic deaths of four children. Baez was inducted to the RRHF in 2017.

See Joan Baez’ 2010 White House performance of “We Shall Overcome”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14DQJS2vw2I

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  • Bob Dylan (Jewish heritage) was born Robert Allen Zimmerman, and took the name Bob Dylan when he began performing. Contrary to popular belief, his name was not chosen based upon the poet, Dylan Thomas, but from a character on the television show Dylan is still performing to this day, and some of his most well-known songs include “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “The Times They are a Changin’”, “Like a Rolling Stone”, and “Hurricane”, which told the story of what some felt was the wrongful conviction of boxer Rubin Carter. This story was later made into the movie The Hurricane, featuring Denzel Washington. Dylan was inducted into the RRHF in 1989.

Click here for Bob Dylan writing prompt for teens:

https://www.rockhall.com/fight-the-power

  • Buffy Saint-Marie (Piapot Plains Cree First Nation) witnessed wounded soldiers returning from the Vietnam War. This inspired “Universal Soldier” in 1964, which was a protest song. Saint-Marie was an active philanthropist and started the non-profit fund Nihewan Foundation for American Indian Education in 1996. The word “Nihewan” comes from the Cree language meaning “talk Cree”, implying “be your culture”.

See “How to write a protest song” by Buffy Saint-Marie, (2017)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mDvukMvttU

  • Aretha Franklin (African-American) was the Queen of Soul and the first woman inducted into the RRHF in 1987. Her powerful voice continued the fight after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although segregation was no longer legal, some still did not regard African-Americans as equals.  Aretha addressed this in a song that was not asking for respect, but DEMANDING it…and just in case you missed it, she spelled it out for you:

Respect Live, (1968)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0L4Bonnw484

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Aretha Franklin

An admirable quality of using music as a social force is its versatility. Different time periods and genres all lend themselves to advocacy for change. Song lyrics are basically poetry, so teen activists need to select the ones that express the message they are looking to convey. Any style of music:  rock, country, hip-hop, folk, and more can be used.

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Deanna Nebel shows examples of different albums with societal messages.

Education Programs Manager, Mandy Smith, shared more information about RRHF program offerings. “Fight the Power” is part of a larger umbrella of programs entitled “Rockin’ the Schools”.  The RRHF also partners with the Roots of American Music (ROAM) and the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage (MMJH) for a “Stop the Hate Youth Sing Out” collaboration. ROAM is a non-profit organization whose mission is to facilitate learning in diverse communities by providing customized arts programs, workshops, residencies, and performances through the use of traditional American music. Students begin by taking the “Stop the Hate” tour at the MMJH. Considering biases they have experienced in their own lives, they reflect upon what they have learned and how to use their voices to stand up to hate. Students are then partnered with a ROAM musician back in their classrooms and work on writing their own original protest songs. The songs are later performed at the RRHF in front of a panel of judges and other students learning about protest via music. The winners are then invited to perform their original songs during the “Stop the Hate Youth Sing Out” award ceremony on the RRHF main stage, in front of about 500 audience members and can win anti-bias education grants. Additionally, the MMJH encourages participation in their “Stop the Hate” essay writing contest to win scholarships.

Smith also suggested the RRHF Library and Archives as a great resource for teens. Those local to the Cleveland area can contact library@rockhall.org  or (216) 515-1956 to schedule visits. If not in the area , items are searchable at  http://library.rockhall.com/home and use https://rockhall.on.worldcat.org/discovery to find materials near you. Best of all, teachers and librarians can sign up for a FREE account to access Rock Hall Education resources at https://edu.rockhall.com/about.

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More resources:

https://www.rockhall.com/fight-the-power  (Teacher resources from RRHF)

https://www.rockhall.com/learn/education/rockin-schools

http://rootsofamericanmusic.org/

http://www.maltzmuseum.org/blog/stop-the-hate-at-rock-hall/

Special thanks to Gretchen Unico, Education Coordinator, for assistance in setting up the RRHF visit.

 ROCK ON!

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-Lisa Krok is a library manager, member of 2019 and 2018 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers team, and a Ravenclaw. She loves Queen and all things Freddie Mercury. Lisa can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Hosting a Fortnite Party, by Cindy Shutts

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Like most teen librarians, my teens are obsessed with Fortnite. This popular video game downloads for free and is playable in different seasons, where they will play through different storylines and new player skins become available. One of the most popular parts of Fortnite is the dancing that different skins do. I have tweens and teens dancing around all day. I thought this could be a successful program for teens and tweens. I have done different fandom parties in the past for Divergent, Hunger Games, and British royals so I knew I could do this successfully.

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Trivia: The first part was I made a Jeopardy style PowerPoint using a format another librarian had already made.  My categories were modes, dances, character/skin, game development and seasons. In this part, I made a couple mistakes. I used information I got from an article that was incorrect for the season questions. My tweens gently corrected me. I listened to them because I know they are usually right if they correct me. If you want to use trivia, double-check your answers!

Jeopardy Power Point Template

Dance off: The dance off was super fun. I played the music from the Fortnite dances and the teen who got all the dances right won a small gift card from GameStop.

Craft/snack:  We had blue Gatorade as the drink, because in the game they drink a slurp juice. I also had a food craft where they cover up Rice Crispy treats with a red fruit roll up and put a cross with white frosting to be medic bandages.

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DIY Fortnite Crafts & Party Ideas – Red Ted Art’s Blog

 

The Game: Here is where things got rough. We have a PlayStation 4 and I have downloaded Fortnite on it.  I had planned to play a mini tournament. I turned on the PlayStation 4 and it needed an update and it would not let me update. Even my tech savvy teens could not figure out what was wrong. I looked at the teens and said move the tables and shut the door. You get to play live action Fortnite. I told them no running so they would not get hurt. They got it right away. They used their creativity to make what could have been a failure into a success.

Result: I am so proud of my teens they made this event work even though I had some difficulties. We had such happy kids. We even had kids ask if we can do this again. I will be happy to do it again, but plan to make sure that PlayStation 4 is really working. Or even just prepare to play a live action version with one of the teens ahead of time. The teens made this program special!

Feminist AF: The Amelia Bloomer Project, by Ally Watkins

Did you know that there’s an ALA committee that curates an excellent list of feminist books for children and teens?

The Amelia Bloomer Project blog on WordPress: https://ameliabloomer.wordpress.com/

The Amelia Bloomer Project blog on WordPress: https://ameliabloomer.wordpress.com/

If not, I’m delighted to introduce you to the Amelia Bloomer Project, a committee of the Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT). The Amelia Bloomer Project committee members search all year for books aimed at ages birth-18 that are well-written, well-illustrated, and have significant feminist content. During the ALA Midwinter Conference, members deliberate to produce a list of quality titles that meet this criteria.  This year’s list has 68 titles on it, and Top Ten titles were selected. Check out this year’s list here!

I’ve been lucky enough to be a member of this committee and it’s been an incredible experience. It’s changed the way I look at my reading and the way I approach my own feminism. Being able to share this with the members of my committee has been powerful and rewarding. I’m delighted to continue my term as a Bloomer, and if you’re interested–great! Applications for the 2020 committee are currently open. Apply here before midnight Pacific on Friday, February 15.

Sunday Reflections: Are Teens Reading Less?

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I have come across several conversations recently on Twitter that suggest that YA fiction is selling less, which often translates to teens are reading less. It’s important to note that these figures are referring specifically to the UK sales figures of YA, so the data may be radically different for the US. And as always, the conversation is more complicated than it seems. Are YA sales figures down? I don’t know, and I don’t know that that data tells us what we think it does. But if you find yourself asking are teens reading less? The short answer is no. The longer answer is slightly more complicated then that.

As someone who has been doing this for 26 years now, the hand wringing over teens are reading less is not new. There is a strong sense of been there, done that in these conversations and the correct answer is often this: it’s not that teens are reading less, it’s that teens aren’t reading what adults wants them to be reading in the ways they want them to be reading it, and that is an entirely different argument. The teen reading landscape has changed several times in the last 26 years, it’s changing now, and it will change again and again. What causes that change, what it means, and how we respond it it are an entirely different conversation.

If we’re being completely honest, it is true that teens are reading very differently and I understand that these changes are causing some fear among authors, publishers, teachers, and adults in general. Because the shift in teen reading habits impacts those groups in several ways: in sales and income, in how we can (or can’t) measure teen reading, and in how we can (or can’t) influence, monitor and control teen reading. Everyone having these conversations have different motivations, and that matters too.

You see, it’s not that teens are reading less I find, but more that teens are reading differently, and digital media is a huge influencer of this change. Today’s teens typically have devices (newest Pew Center data suggests that around 95% of teens have a mobile device of some sort) and these devices give them access to a whole new world of reading opportunities, which teens are availing themselves of. Wattpad, online fan fiction, and free downloads via either libraries or places like Amazon make it easier for teens to get the reading content they want, with immediate gratification and more anonymity than ever. Today’s teens don’t have to ask an adult to buy them the books that they want, or ask a librarian to help them find the titles on the shelves. In fact, online reading helps teens cultivate teen friendly spaces with little (known) adult monitoring and interaction. There are pros and cons to this development, depending on how much you want to monitor teen reading.

In addition, in the early 2000s the YA publishing market exploded while research suggested that more adults were buying YA than teens, which pushed the YA market more towards adults than YA when developing new authors and titles. Over time, the YA market aged up, adults became proud readers of YA, and the pop culture references on the pages of YA became more and more dated and less teen friendly. Many teens felt like YA was no longer their space, and so they abandoned it for new teen spaces. And with the explosion of technology and online creative writing forums, this task was easier to do than it was in the past. So teens carved out for themselves new teen spaces and once again, the reading landscape is changing.

This is coupled with the fact that we don’t really have any real way to measure teen reading. We do testing, which really only measures how well a teen can perform on a test about reading. Sales figures tell us who is buying a book, but not who is reading it, or how many people read one book. The same is true for circulation statistics. These are all imperfect measurements that tell us more about who buys or checks out an item and less about whether they read, like or recommend an item. Let me be very clear about this: we have no real good way of making quantifiable statements regarding teens reading for pleasure. Many of us who work with teens can tell you a wide range of anecdotal stories that have value, but there aren’t any real facts and figures that we can talk about because our measurement tools are deeply, inherently flawed.

When considering sales figures it’s also important to remember that as the economy shrinks, people have less disposable income and are less likely to buy books, which is not the same as being less likely to read books. In fact, overall public library use seems to be up, though many of my colleagues seem to suggest that while the circulation of physical items is down slightly, the circulation of digital content is up significantly. I myself am one of the last to adopt digital reading, but even I find myself reading more with a device in hand then a physical book in hand. It’s been a long time since I have checked out a physical book or a movie from my library, and I go there 5 days a week. Again, imperfect data.

We also have to look at a ton of other factors: competition for teens time and attention, our marketing and merchandising, the growing mental health issues we see in today’s teens and the amount of work causing it, etc. So. Much. Homework. And whether we like it or not, between Brexit and the growing white nationalism happening here in the US, which our teens *are* aware of and effected by, our teens are growing increasingly anxious, dismayed, and overwhelmed. Some teens are rejecting things like realistic fiction (too similar to their current real world experiences), while others are reading them with a fervor and choosing to be political;y active online and in the real world. Some teens are too busy marching to end school violence to read the latest literary tome that adults feel they should read. With growing incidence of racial and sexual violence, the under-funding of public education, and the fact that 1 in 5 kids and teens go to bed hungry, many people – teens included – don’t have the emotional energy or time necessary to read a book for fun, they’re too busy trying to just survive. The adults in the room are creating an environment that are putting up more and more obstacles for teens when it comes to having time for pleasure reading. So for those adults wringing their hands about teen reading I say this: change the environment, it will help a lot.

But even this is not a death toll for libraries, because though some libraries are reporting that the circulation of physical items is down, it’s not zero. And our libraries seem to be fuller and busier than ever. A majority of public libraries are thriving.

I think it’s good to have conversations about sales figures and circulation statistics and to try and figure out what those fluctuations mean and how they can help us better serve our patrons. But do I think teens are reading less? No, and in 26 years the answer has always been no when the question is asked. It just often means that we need to examine our practices and adjust to a new generation of readers and a changing market. In other words it’s not them, it’s us.

Editor’s Note: I did not link to the actual online conversation that started this discussion because it was problematic in many very real ways.  For example, the original article indicated that publishers should avoid publishing “issue” novels while having a primary graphic of author Angie Thomas. Angie Thomas is a women of color and the author of The Hate U Give, which has been on the New York Times Bestsellers list for now over 100 weeks. Using Angie Thomas’ picture contradicted their main argument and is probably a racist dog whistle. Though I did not want to link to the article that ignited this conversation, I did want to address the concerns about teen reading.

Some Additional Resources to Consider:

DIY Neon Signs

Sometimes, in order to find new activities to do with teens, I buy kits and try and find ways to adapt them to do in the library with teens. For Christmas, I bought each of the girls this DIY Neon Sign kit because it was cool, but also because I thought it would make a cool Teen MakerSpace activity. All the supplies can be bought individually to do as an activity, but the El wire needed is kind of pricey. So I would recommend doing this as a group activity to make signs to decorate a teen space as opposed to having each teen make an individual neon sign to take home, depending on your budget.

The inspiration kit

The inspiration kit

Supplies:

Cost for an individual sign: Approximately $5.00

Step 1: Creating Your Template

Using your paper and marker, write out the word or saying you want your sign to say. For a library teen space, I recommend something like “Books” or “Read”. For a Teen MakerSpace, you could go with something like “Make” or “Idea Lab”.

You want to write crisp and legibly and – most importantly – in cursive because you need all of the letters to connect.

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This will be your template.

Step 2: Making Your Wire Word

You now want to use the template to bend your wire into the word you are trying to make. I found this worked better with two people and two sets of hands. The pliers will also help. When you are done bending your wire into your word, you can also use the pliers to close the gaps on some of the letters, like the end of the letter P and the curve in the letter C below.

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Step 3: Making the El Wire Word

You will then take the El wire and bend it to form into the wire word you made in step 2. At this point, you will have the metal wire which is guiding you in making the word out of the El wire.

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Step 4: Attaching the Two Words

We attached our El wire to the wire word using zip ties. After you attach the El wire and the guide wire, you can snip the zip tie ends and you really don’t see them. Other sites recommend joining the two with a hot glue gun.

Finished DIY Neon Sign

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The finished product is really pretty cool. If I had to do it again, I might use a painted piece of wood or canvas as a background for my sign. I will say bending the wire to make some of the letters was hard and I have not been satisfied with the letter “a” in the middle of the word space. Once you have the El wire, depending on how you attach the two wires together, you can actually take your project apart and make new words.

Here are some additional tutorials to help you . . .

Rookie DIY Neon Sign Instructions

 

More Than an Identity, by teen contributor Elliot

Today TLT teen contributor Elliot is talking with us about identity. Since we work for and with teens, it’s important to listen to them, which is why we have invited Elliot to be a contributor here. We hope you will enjoy their posts.

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Self discovery is one of the most important and most difficult challenges that a teenager can face. You live your whole entire life thinking that you know who you are until the chemicals in your mind start to change and hormones and coursing through your body altering everything you thought you knew about yourself. Never have I struggled more with my identity than when I was searching for my sexuality and gender identity.


In seventh grade I met a wonderful person who I will refer to as “S.” S was avidly searching for their identity and was experimenting with all sorts of sexualities and gender identities that I had never heard of before. When they introduced me to all of these terms “genderfluid,” “pansexual,” “asexual,” and so many more, my brain was so overwhelmed, but I was so excited that I finally had terms that I could relate my experiences with. I was so proud to find my place in the LGBTQ+ community. . . until people started only seeing me as part of the community.


Being part of the LGBTQ+ community is really special- you meet people who have gone through similar struggles as you and you have a place where you know that your identity is real and valid. However, a person who is part of the LGBTQ+ community is often seen as nothing more than just a member of the LGBTQ+ community. While I believe that this community is extremely important and a large part of the lives of those in the community, I also believe that the world needs to realize that LGBTQ+ people are more than their identity,


Growing up, as I was discovering who I was I was, people often associated my name with “that gay person.” Although that was a fairly true label for me, hearing that I was just “that gay person” to a lot of people dulled my self image and self worth. My friends got to be known for their amazing basketball skills, their beautiful artwork, and their stunning performances in the school play. They weren’t known as “that straight person” and I didn’t understand why I was being limited to being labeled solely on my sexuality.


The fact that my entire identity was based around my connection to the LGBTQ+ community made me dread the fact that I wasn’t cisgender or straight. I severely wanted to sever myself from the community just to get a chance of proving to the world that I was capable of doing amazing things that I could be known for instead. It got to a point where I started telling people that I was straight and I was “just going through a phase.” I truly did just about anything to get people to see that I am more than just my identity.


The point I want to make with all of this is that although it’s great to be proud of who you are, you shouldn’t make your whole life about your identity and you shouldn’t let anyone else make your whole life about your identity. Finding out your identity is amazing, but becoming your identity can be exhausting, depressing, and unfulfilling. The world needs to realize that not all people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community are the same. We are just as three dimensional as a cishet person and we shouldn’t be looked at for just our sexuality and/or gender identity. We should be looked at as people- people who just so happen to not be cishet.

Sunday Reflections: Raising Daughters & the Fight for Full Bodily Autonomy

Trigger Warning: Pregnancy Loss and Abortion are Discussed in this Post

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I knew the day that I began teaching my 3-year-old daughter how to dial 911 that I would have an abortion.

I had just gotten out of the emergency room, again. After spending another night receiving fluids, again.

My blood pressure was abysmally low, my resting heart rate too fast.

I would later learn that I was in a state of what they call metabolic acidosis. I was, quite literally, dying.

So I barricaded the stairs. I made sure to never turn on the stove or oven. I double and triple checked that I had locked all the doors. And I laid on the couch and prayed that if I was going to die – and I was – that it happened when my husband was home so that my daughter would be safe.

Coming home from the hospital that day, I asked my husband, “what if I have to terminate this pregnancy?” He sighed the biggest sigh of relief, “I didn’t know how to bring it up,” he mentioned.

Here we were, teenaged sweethearts who had been baptized together in the church. Had attended a Christian college together. Served in youth ministry together. We were in our early 30s, already parents to a very much loved child, and we were discussing terminating a pregnancy.

The next day was another day, and another day to the emergency room. I was subjected to a 45 minute ultrasound because as the tech said, they couldn’t find “something”. They didn’t come out and say it, but it was the heartbeat. They couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat.

So the next day we went and saw a different ob/gyn. This one we knew would terminate the pregnancy if we needed them to. And again, there was no heartbeat. My pregnancy should have measured 9 ½ weeks and there should have been a heartbeat, but it measured at 6 ½ weeks and he said a heartbeat would be iffy at that time. We explained to him that no, 3 weeks – and 2 hospital stays earlier – we had in fact measured 6 ½ weeks and heart a slow and unhealthy but definitely present heartbeat.

It was then that we were presented with 2 options: We could wait 24 hours and come back the next day to terminate what appeared to be a failing pregnancy–if I survived the next 24 hours and didn’t need to go back to the ER, that is. Or we could wait another week or two, have a follow up ultrasound and if there was still no heartbeat, it would be declared a miscarriage. The truth was, as he pointed out, that I would not survive another week or two. I need an abortion and I needed it quickly.

Twenty-four hours later we returned to terminate the pregnancy. We walked among 3 protestors who held signs telling us we were going to hell and that we should ask to hear our baby’s heartbeat. What those protestors didn’t know is that we had heard our baby’s heartbeat, and then we didn’t. We grieved our loss, but we also knew that factually we were now trying to save the only life we could really save at this point – mine.

In the days following my abortion that wasn’t technically an abortion though my medical records will always show that it was, I had one of my most spiritual moments ever. This is the moment that I hang on to whenever I begin to doubt or question my faith. I laid on my bedroom floor and cried. Then I had what I can only call a vision of the Lord, He came to me and in it, I saw Jesus kneeling beside me with his hands cupped under my face. He held them there gently and caught my failing tears as I wept, and I felt the presence of the Lord in a way that never have before or since.

Because abortion is legal in the United States, I am alive and am now the mother to two daughters. My second daughter is here only because I was kept alive through IVs and aggressive treatment by a high risk doctor. My husband got up in the middle of the night to change out fluids, inserting a needle full of medicine into each bag to help keep me alive. And even in the course of that pregnancy, the frequency and ferocity of my vomiting was so fierce that the placenta began to separate from my uterine wall and this child almost did not make it as well.

The pregnancy disease that I have is known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Recent research indicates that it is genetic. So I look at my two daughters and know, if they get pregnant there is a chance that these same things will happen to them. Pregnancy may be a death sentence for them.

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I am alive today, my second daughter is alive today, my first daughter has a mother today, because I was able to make the personal medical decisions I needed to make quickly. I continue to be alive today because I can take steps necessary to never get pregnant again. I have the health insurance I need to cover the care I need to keep myself from having any more children because I would not survive another pregnancy. There are many other HG sufferers like me out there. There are many other pregnancy complications besides HG. And soon, there may be many people who are uninsured and unable to access the health care they need or make the medical decisions they need to make.

Even if they remain celibate until marriage and jump through every hoop that those with conservative religious beliefs believe that they must, my daughters will still need affordable access to medical care and contraception to help plan and yes, prevent, pregnancy in order to keep themselves alive. And should the extreme scenario happen to them, they may need to be able to make the quick and timely decision to terminate a medically complicated pregnancy in order to survive. I want all those medical options to be available to them because I love them.

This is the story of how I became a pro-choice Christian. Yes, it took a personal experience to make me understand how dangerous and complicated and how very not black and white pregnancy can be. I was naïve and judgmental and full of the self-satisfied assurance that the self-righteous often have that they are always right and they know all the answers. I knew all the answers, too. Until I didn’t.

Further research has led me to understand that outlawing abortion doesn’t stop abortion, it just makes abortion more deadly. However, quality sex education, access to affordable contraception, access to health care and roads out of poverty significantly reduce the reasons that people seek out abortion. They also help provide a better quality of life for those babies that are being brought into this world. If we want to really tackle the issue of abortion, these are the areas that we need to invest in.

This is my family. They are a blessing. I try hard every day to guard these girls, my heart, from the toxic messaging of our culture.

Every day I look at my daughters and pray. I pray that they will continue to have the right to make the choices they need to make about their bodies and for their health. It is not guaranteed that they will have Hyperemesis Gravidarum, but it is a very real possibility because they are my daughters. I want them to be able to make the decisions they need to with their doctors make the right choices for their health.


I wrote this essay shortly after the election in 2016. My husband and I fought long and hard through three very difficult pregnancies to bring our two much loved children into this world. It nearly bankrupted us because it was hard for us to get good answers and good medical care. It nearly killed me, twice. And we made decisions that we never contemplated having to make when we began our life together as a married couple trying to start a family.

13 years ago today, in the year 2006, I had an abortion. It saved my life.

My first two pregnancies I had one doctor who apparently knew I suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum; It is written in my medical records, though he never discussed it with either my husband or I. In my second pregnancy, the last one in which we would use him as our doctor, I was, according to the various ER records we gathered, quite literally dying. At one point I was hospitalized for a short stay and my resting heart rate was 160 and my blood pressure was 60 something over 37. After being admitted from the ER and placed into the maternity ward for a few nights, at no time did any of the doctors on that floor perform an ultrasound. If they had, we would have learned a full two weeks earlier than our termination that the baby had already passed away. Instead, I suffered another two weeks, inching every moment even closer to death.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is extreme nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. It is not morning sickness. In each of my pregnancies I vomited 24 hours a day for the entire pregnancy. Some days I vomited more than 100 times. I often slept on the bathroom floor because there was no point in trying to go to bed. I had to go to the ER frequently because I suffered from dehydration and the various things that happen when your body has no food or fluids. In my second pregnancy, I lost 40 pounds in about a week and my body began to break down in a process that my medical records calls metabolic acidosis.

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In my third and final pregnancy, I was under the care of a new high risk doctor. The moment I tested positive, I was put on home healthcare. I was kept hydrated and alive with home IV therapy. The Mr. set his alarm clock throughout the night and woke up around the clock to put new IV fluid bags in my IV line. I took a cocktail of three drugs that they give cancer patients taking chemotherapy to try and stave off the vomiting. The frequency and fierceness of my vomiting was so severe that the placenta began at one point to separate from my uterine wall. I was put on bed rest and told to stop throwing up.

For more information about Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) please visit www.helpher.org

On February 3, 2006, I walked into the office of an ob/gyn who performed abortions and terminated my second pregnancy. Although we had every reason to believe that our baby was already dead inside me, the laws of the land required us to seek out an abortion because I could not wait the necessary time frame to confirm this fact; I would not survive.

I am grateful that I got to make that choice for myself and that I have been here to see my teenage daughter grow into the amazing young woman that she is today. I am grateful as well that I got to give birth to my second daughter and see her becoming the amazing young woman that she is today. I am only here, my second child is only here, because I was legally able to make the medical decisions I needed to make for myself. Pregnancy still kills women in multiple ways. In fact, the United States has a very high maternal mortality rate for an industrialized nation.

There are known and proven ways to decrease abortion rates. These ways include providing everyone access to comprehensive sex education, providing access to affordable birth control, providing affordable access to prenatal and general health care, raising women and children out of poverty, supporting education, providing access to affordable daycare, creating a culture that provides living wages and work/life balance. We can decrease abortion rates while still allowing women full body autonomy and the right to make their own medical decisions.

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Hyperemesis Gravidarum research indicates that HG is genetic. I have two daughters. Their ability to make the health care decisions that are right for them is imperative to me. Their lives may literally depend on it.

Shout! Laurie Halse Anderson Continues to be the Voice We Need Shouting in the World About Sexual Violence in the Life of Teens

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Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson was first published in the year 1999, twenty years ago this year. At this time, I had been a YA librarian (paraprofessional) for about 7 years (roughly). It was one of the first teen books I had read that realistically and honestly talked right to the heart of teens about an issue that so many of them had been forced to deal with in their lives: sexual violence. By the time they turn 18, 1 in 10 children will be the victims of sexual violence. For more information on sexual violence or for help, please contact RAINN.

“I have survived. I am here. Confused, screwed up, but here. So, how can I find my way? Is there a chain saw of the soul, an ax I can take to my memories or fears?”
― Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

In the year 2000, Speak was named a Printz Honor Award winning title, the inaugural year of the Printz Award. We talk often in the library community about the need to continually weed our YA collections to keep room for new releases, but Speak is hands down one of those classic titles that it is hard to imagine ever weeding. Not because it’s a classic, and I guess at this point it truly is, but because it is in fact unfortunately all too painfully relevant today, and I fear that it will always be so. Speak is the rare gem of a novel that speaks eloquently and powerfully in ways that relate across decades to a wide variety of readers. And in the era of #MeToo, it is more relevant than ever.

“I wonder how long it would take for anyone to notice if I just stopped talking.”
― Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

An Educators Guide to Building Resilience Through YA Literature

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On March 12 of 2019, Laurie Halse Anderson will release her newest book Shout, a moving biography that seeks once again to highlight the very real truths of sexual violence in the life of teens – and in her own life. I was honored to receive an early copy of this book for review, which I read out loud to both my teenage daughter and my husband. This book, written in verse, is a rich, raw and relevant look behind the scenes of the life and work of Anderson, who has dedicated her to life to not only writing high quality YA for teen readers, but to speaking out to educate and advocate for discussions about sexual violence in the life of teens. Anderson challenges us time and again to keep having the uncomfortable discussions that we need to be having with ourselves, our teens and our culture to help put an end to sexual violence.

A Reflection on Teaching Speak in the Classroom

Why did I choose to read this book out loud to my family? The topic of sexual violence is very important to me. I, myself, am a survivor and I wanted us all to read it together and talk about it. I began early in life talking with my two daughters about sexual violence and consent in my attempt to help them stand up for themselves, to create their own healthy boundaries, and to make sure they knew what sexual violence looks like and that they could and should come to their parents for help at any time. I am grateful to have this book as another tool in my arsenal to talk with teens – and my teens in particular – about this important topic. I believe the greatest gift that we can give to the safety and well being of our children is to engage in conversations with them about sexual health, safety and consent. And I believe that we need to begin from the moment that they are born having these conversations in age appropriate ways.

Laurie Halse Anderson Recommends Five Books to Talk About Rape Culture

I had to pause in my reading several times as I read this aloud because I cried – a lot. I cried because Anderson uses the language of poetry perfectly to capture and talk about what it’s like to be a woman in this world, what it’s like to have abusive situations in your life, and what it’s like to navigate and live with the aftermath of sexual violence. The poetry is exquisite, even when it’s hard to read. She said beautifully so many things that I have never had the words to say for myself.

School Library Journal: After #MeToo

Shout is broken up into several parts. The first part speaks specifically of Laurie Halse Anderson’s life as it is truly a biography told in poetic verse. I have never read a biography in verse form before, and I don’t read many biographies at all to be honest, but I was blown away by how powerful of a tool poetry is for a biography. Poetry, it turns out, is the perfect narrative tool for conveying not only moments and insight, but the emotional layers and hidden parts of those moments. What a truly profound approach to biography, and highly effective. I could tattoo snippets of these poems onto my skin as I would want to share them with the world to help us all understand the harm we are doing to one another when we violate each other in these ways.

In other parts, Anderson speaks more specifically about the various stories that the teens she has encountered have shared with her about their own sexual abuse and what the novel Speak means to them. All of it is honest, brave, raw and moving. As someone who has talked to a lot of teens, I recognized all too well these types of stories and, again, felt that the language of poetry was the perfect tool to help readers understand the depth and breadth of pain and emotion that a teen can carry with them for a lifetime after surviving sexual violence. These poems lay souls bare and remind readers that our kids are genuinely hurting. We owe it to them to keep having these uncomfortable conversations and to truly try and change the culture that keeps leaving our youngest and most vulnerable broken and somehow responsible for trying to put themselves back together again. Anderson doesn’t just try and speak to teens or for teens, but she continues to try and amplify their voices and challenges us all to really listen to teens.

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I can not recommend this book highly enough. It is not a comfortable read, and it shouldn’t be because it is dealing with uncomfortable truths about our world; but it is a necessary read, and it is a truly moving one. I am so glad that over the years Anderson not only has found her voice, but that she has chosen to Shout. We need voices like hers shouting, I just hope that we will learn how to listen.

Publisher’s Book Description

A searing poetic memoir and call to action from the bestselling and award-winning author of Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson!

Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now, inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she’s never written about before. Searing and soul-searching, this important memoir is a denouncement of our society’s failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #metoo and #timesup, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts. Shout speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice– and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore.

This book will be published on March 12, 2019

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In 2014, TLT did a year long series on sexual violence in the life of teens. You can find all of those posts that include statistics, resources, and book discussions here.