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Take 5: Some of the Best Feminist YA on Rape Culture in Quotes

Sometimes there are books that I finish and I immediately think, I want my teenage daughter to read this book right away. Today I am sharing 5 of those books that are specifically about sexual violence, rape culture, and the ways we talk about and view women’s bodies. Some of them talk about female friendship, which is also important to to me. Some of them breakdown stereotypes, such as two of the titles (Exit, Pursued by a Bear and Moxie) which look at cheerleader stereotypes. This list is by no means an exhaustive list, as I had to keep it trimmed down to just five titles. So I put some parameters on myself: It had to be contemporary, which means books like Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future could not be included. It had to specifically speak towards the topic of sexual violence and rape culture, which leaves off a lot of other powerful and important feminist novels. I wanted the titles to be newer, which means that Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is not on this particular list, but it is definitely on expanded lists and for good reasons.

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If you want to add a book to this list in the comments, please share a quote from the book, the title and the author. Why in quotes? Sometimes, I like to share some of my favorite quotes so that the power of the novel can speak to you itself.

feminist1All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Quote

“My dad used to say makeup was a shallow girl’s sport, but it’s not. It’s armor.”

Publisher’s Book Description

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

exit-pursuedExit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston

Quote

“If you think I’m going to apologize for being drugged and raped, you have another thing coming.”

Publisher’s Book Description

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

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

feminist2The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

Quote

“But boys will be boys, our favorite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll.”

Publisher’s Book Description

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.

moxieMoxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Quote

“This is what it means to be a feminist. Not a humanist or an equalist or whatever. But a feminist. It’s not a bad word. After today it might be my favorite word. Because really all it is is girls supporting each other and wanting to be treated like human beings in a world that’s always finding ways to tell them they’re not.”

Publisher’s Book Description

An unlikely teenager starts a feminist revolution at a small-town Texan high school in the new novel from Jennifer Matheiu, author of The Truth About Alice.

MOXIE GIRLS FIGHT BACK!

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with a school administration at her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment, and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Moxie is a book about high school life that will make you wanna riot!

nowheregirlsThe Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

Quote

“‘The thing is,’ Rosina says, ‘people don’t want to hear something that’ll make their lives more difficult, even if it’s the truth. People hate having to change the way they see things. So instead of admitting the world is ugly, they shit on the messenger for telling them about it.”

Publisher’s Book Description

Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story.

Who are the Nowhere Girls?

They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:

Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.

Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.

Other Feminist YA Lists You Should Definitely Check Out

50 Crucial Feminist YA Novels – The B&N Teen Blog

34 Young Adult Books Every Feminist Will Love – BuzzFeed

100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader | Bitch Media

Booklist: Sexual Assault, Rape, and Dating Violence in Young Adult

YA Books About Rape Culture, Fight Against Sexual Assualt | Teen.com

When Talking About Sexual Consent, YA Books Can Be A Parent’s Best Friend

You may also want to check out our complete index for the Sexual Violence in YA Literature Project:

SVYALit Project Index

 

 

A Day without Women

Today is the National Day without Women and TLT is a blog created by and run by women. As news came down the pike recently that the ACA replacement plan would not require insurers to cover maternity care at the same time that there are assaults on a women’s ability to get coverage for things like birth control while those in government refer to women as “hosts”, we have decided to go silent today here at TLT. Without women, this amazing blog dedicated to serving teens and raising awareness of YA lit would not exist. Without women, libraries around our country would not be able to open their doors today as librarianship is a female dominated profession. Women’s rights are human rights. Women matter.

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If you are interested, here are some of our previous posts on women’s rights issues that you may wish to read today.

I’m Just a Girl? Gender issues in YA Lit

Dear World, Here’s What We Want You to Know about Teenage Girls

“Nevertheless, She Persisted” A Take 5 List

STEM Girls: Books with girls rocking science and math

#NastyWomenRead: A Book List

You can also check out the FEMINISM tag here at TLT

We will be back tomorrow with new posts. Today we wear red and ponder what a world without women would be like.

“Nevertheless, She Persisted” A Take 5 List, plus 1

IMG_4145Last night, Senator Elizabeth Warren was warned, then given an explanation, but neverthelessshe persisted in reading the words of another woman who was warned, given an explanation, and persisted: Coretta Scott King. In honor and in recognition of these and other women who, despite warning and explanation, persist in their efforts, we offer you this list of persistent young women.

 

 

 

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

Book cover: against the backdrop of a cloudy sky with planes overhead, a young woman in pilot garb faces forward with her eyes looking skyward

Ida Mae Jones dreams of flight. Her daddy was a pilot and being black didn’t stop him from fulfilling his dreams. But her daddy’s gone now, and being a woman, and being black, are two strikes against her.

When America enters the war with Germany and Japan, the Army creates the WASP, the Women Airforce Service Pilots – and Ida suddenly sees a way to fly as well as do something significant to help her brother stationed in the Pacific. But even the WASP won’t accept her as a black woman, forcing Ida Mae to make a difficult choice of “passing,” of pretending to be white to be accepted into the program. Hiding one’s racial heritage, denying one’s family, denying one’s self is a heavy burden. And while Ida Mae chases her dream, she must also decide who it is she really wants to be. (Publisher description)

Dime by E.R. Frank

Book cover: black bricks in the shape of a D over a red background reveal the profile of a young girl looking resolutely aheadLost in Newark, New Jersey’s foster care system, Dime is persuaded into sexual slavery by a sweet talking older man. The family-like dynamic of their home is appealing for a time, and the services she is forced to perform seem the understandable price to pay for such safety and security. But her eyes are opened to the grave reality of her situation when Lollipop, a new, younger girl is brought in and the incomprehensibly awful truth of her situation is revealed. Dime takes solace and strength in the written word and stops at nothing to seek safety and justice for Lollipop, even as she understands that there might not be a way out for herself.

 

 

Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande

Book cover: spiral bound notebook paper shows the book title in loopy scriptSpeaking up is hard. It’s even harder when speaking up for what you know is right loses you friends, family, and your church. Mena starts school as a pariah after standing up to the minister of her church in defense of a gay peer. She knows she did the right thing, but everyone around her is telling her it’s wrong.

Ten Days a Madwoman by Deborah Noyes

Book cover: a photograph of Nellie Bly wearing a high necked lace collar and looking forward, stylized in a deep teal

Young Nellie Bly had ambitious goals, especially for a woman at the end of the nineteenth century, when the few female journalists were relegated to writing columns about cleaning or fashion. But fresh off a train from Pittsburgh, Nellie knew she was destined for more and pulled a major journalistic stunt that skyrocketed her to fame: feigning insanity, being committed to the notorious asylum on Blackwell’s Island, and writing a shocking exposé of the clinic’s horrific treatment of its patients.

Nellie Bly became a household name as the world followed her enthralling career in “stunt” journalism that raised awareness of political corruption, poverty, and abuses of human rights. (Publisher’s description)

I Am Malala
Book cover: Malala Yousafzai wears a magenta hijab and looks at the camera with an expression that is peaceful and resolute

Do we even need to explain this one?

 

And because we just can’t get enough women who persist…

Rad Women Worldwide

Book cover: Black and white illustrations in front of bold swaths of red, teal, and orange, depict a soccer player with a ponytail, Malala Yousafzai, and Frida Kahlo

From the authors of the New York Times bestselling book Rad American Women A-Z, comes a bold new collection of 40 biographical profiles, each accompanied by a striking illustrated portrait, showcasing extraordinary women from around the world.

In Rad Women Worldwide, writer Kate Schatz and artist Miriam Klein Stahl tell fresh, engaging, and inspiring tales of perseverance and radical success by pairing well researched and riveting biographies with powerful and expressive cut-paper portraits. Featuring an array of diverse figures from Hatshepsut (the great female king who ruled Egypt peacefully for two decades) and Malala Yousafzi (the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize) to Poly Styrene (legendary teenage punk and lead singer of X-Ray Spex) and Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft (polar explorers and the first women to cross Antarctica), this progressive and visually arresting book is a compelling addition to women’s history.

Sunday Reflections: What’s a Powder Puff?

Like most of us, I wear a few different hats. In addition to being a teen services librarian, I’m also a Daisy Girl Scout leader, and I love it. I love the enthusiasm of first graders, their pure hearts and bright eyes. I love getting to be the one to introduce them to service projects and nature hikes, to seeing new friendships blossom and old friendships deepen. As a Girl Scout alumni, and a third generation leader, it’s one of the more fulfilling roles I’ve ever held.  As with my librarianship, I am passionate about my opportunity as a leader to advocate for the girls in my troop, and hopefully by extension, for all girls. Unfortunately, I’m struggling with how to advocate for them right now in the face of some institutionalized sexism that’s coming from an unexpected and troubling place.

I heard about the event before I saw the flyer, and I knew immediately that “my girls” – the eight first graders in the Daisy troop I lead – would be all about it. For the first time ever, our local Girl Scout council is hosting a pinewood car race. These girls have been cooped up in the park district rec room all winter and have been itching for a chance to do something. Something cool. Something active. Something that real Girl Scouts do: have an adventure.

For five dollars, you buy a car kit, which consists of a block of wood, two axles, four wheels, and a good luck wish, which you use to craft the fastest little car you can. What’s not to love?! It’s creative, it’s active, it’s hands-on, it hits a bunch of STEAM marks, and at the end there’s a race with winners and there are even those ever-important patches to sew on the back of the girls’ vests. So cool. We can’t … oh wait.

wut?

Seriously. What in the name of Shirley Muldowney is THAT?

Yes, folks. The good old Girls Scouts of the USA is sponsoring a Powder Puff Derby. I can’t tell you how my heart sank to read that. I was floored. I guess I’ve been living in a little bubble because I figured that we were essentially beyond this kind of sexist naming tradition in the women run, girl powered, STEM focused world of Girl Scouting in 2015. The Pinewood Derby is a registered trademark of the Boy Scouts of America, so I understand that the Girl Scouts wouldn’t call their race the same thing – but of all of the phrases to use, why, oh why, is powder puff the one they chose? Since we’re not racing cosmetic products, it’s clearly because this is an activity that the boys usually do, but now the girls can give it a try too. But this secondary naming does nothing to assure girls that they have a place in the race. Powder Puff events were those where it was cute and fun for the girls to swap roles with the boys: the cheerleaders played football, the women raced their planes across the country, and now, the girls build, bling, and race their own wooden cars too.

As I held up the flyer and talked up this event – which I’m really excited about – and my scouts eyes’ opened wide with enthusiasm, one girl raised her hand. “But what’s a powder puff?”

Just to be perfectly clear, my problem is not with the event. It’s not with encouraging girls in this pursuit. It’s not in borrowing from the Boy Scouts wildly popular event. It’s in the name. A name that, as far as I can tell, was coined in this context by humorist Will Rogers as a nickname for the first Women’s National Air Derby.

And as many accounts attest, despite the name, Will Rogers was a great supporter of women in this pursuit, just as the Girl Scouts are today. But still, the name.

Before I could go on about car designs or scheduling or working days, I had to first explain to my girls what a powder puff actually is. These girls are too young for makeup, and as far as they know, a car race is a car race. Girl Scouts have always told them they could do and be anything at all. So I started by telling about the makeup applicator, and then went on to explain the tradition of calling activities that girls do sometimes but boys do all the time… a powder puff activity. And frankly, I didn’t have it in me to go into the part that bothers me the most, that our beloved Girl Scouts think that this is ok.

Powder Puff football is still played on some campuses, and many fondly remember the fun and athleticism of the event. And that high level of competition – whether it’s by the girls in the senior class, or trailblazing aviators, or eight year olds with a block of wood and some sandpaper – is exactly why the name is outdated, diminishing, and just plain wrong. The girls and women involved in these events take it just as seriously as anyone. The aviators competed on a level parallel to the men. The seniors play so ferociously that injuries are sadly not at all uncommon. And if you could have seen the spark in the room at that Daisy Scout meeting, you’d be dead sure that these first graders are in it to win it.

I’ve voiced my concerns directly to my local Scout council, and understand that they’re thinking about changing the name for next year. But that doesn’t seem like enough anymore. The time has come. The name has to change. It took my Daisies about forty seconds to come up with at least ten new possibilities. Words matter. Names matter. Our girls are proud to call themselves Daisies, Girl Scouts, brave, creative, strong, smart, caring, dedicated, and fast. Girl Scouts is the last organization that should be planting the seeds of self doubt that come along with sexist naming traditions.

Sunday Reflections: What Malala means to me as a woman and a librarian, a reflection on women’s issues in the news

Image Source: Amnesty International

It was kind of an interesting week to be a woman.

This week, Malala Yousafzai earned the Noble Peace Prize for her efforts to fight for female and youth education in Pakistan and around the world. It’s an amazing thing. I saw this wondrous feat championed on Twitter and I celebrated. Malala is the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and she did it for a cause I can truly believe in: the rights of children, particularly girls, everywhere to receive an education. “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.” (U.N. Youth Assembly, 2012)

But at the same time, something else was happening on Twitter – #Gamergate. #Gamergate is another stunning example of the abuse that can befall women who choose to express themselves openly on social media. From what I read at Huffington Post, it sounds like at least 3 women in the gaming community were forced to flee their homes this year amidst rape and death threats against themselves and their families. Speaking out openly against systematic sexism and misogyny can make the Internet a very hostile place for women. See also: The Atlantic article The Unsafety Net: How Social Media Turned Against Women.

And in other news, Buzzfeed did an extensive story in multiple parts that revealed that in several cases where a father had abused or even killed a child, the mother often got a longer prison sentence for failing to protect the child. In one case, a man who raped his son received 15 years in prison while the mother, herself abused by this man, received 20 years for failing to report or protect her son. So the man who actually abused the child will spend less time in jail than the abused woman who failed to report it. Whatever you may think about a mother who fails to protect a child in an abusive home, keeping in mind that the woman herself is often abused, it is ridiculous to see that these women are receiving longer prison sentences than the person who is actually committing the abuse. And I feel the same if the genders are reversed.

In Egypt, freelance journalist Kimberly Adams was repeatedly asked by the local police to drop her pursuit of charges against a man who she claims was sexually harassing her on an airline flight. Why, they asked, couldn’t she just accept an apology and his promise that he would never do it again, another stunning example of how hard it can be for women to even attempt to seek out justice when they are sexually harassed by the men around them.

Also earlier this week, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stated that women shouldn’t ask for a pay raise but should rely on “good karma” to help bring them to a place of pay equality. Of course if good karma worked, women would already be receiving equal pay for equal work and this wouldn’t even be an issue. And it’s important to remember that very recently every single Republican senator voted against a bill that would demand gender equality in the work force. The very leaders we elect to ensure a government “by the people, for the people” failed approximately one half of the people they serve with this vote.

The irony is that all of this happened in a world that seems to be debating: do we even need feminism anymore? Because of feminists, I can vote. I can get an education. I can go to work everyday. I can open this laptop and put my thoughts out into the world and work to help make the world a better, safer, and more just world for everyone. I am thankful to the feminists who came before me and paved a way for me so that in this moment in time I could proclaim that yes we still need feminists and yes I am one. Because as Malala reminds us all: “I think that the best way to solve problems and to fight is through dialogue, is through peaceful way, but for me the best way to fight against terrorism and extremism is just simple thing: educate the next generation. “ (BBC, 2012) That’s what we’re doing every day in your library, trying to educate the next generation. In fact, we open our doors every day to try and educate every generation. And Malala is my hero.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go remind my daughters not to take their education for granted, because it comes at a great cost for so many.

Book Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Yesterday, as part of the #SVYALit Project, we talked with Sharon Biggs Waller about A Mad, Wicked Folly. Yesterday’s chat was one of the few #SVYALit Project chats where I hadn’t already read the books before putting the project outline together. So I read AMWF this week. Here are my thoughts.

Victoria Darling wants nothing more than to be an artist. The problem is, she lives in London in the early 1900s and the only role that society has planned for her is wife and mother. And she doesn’t even get to choose who she will marry, that is dictated by things like station, class, and her parents.

When we first meet Vicky, she is sneaking away to take art classes. One fateful day, she agrees to pose nude for her class. When news gets back to her family, she is sent home in disgrace. Back at home, her family is trying to redeem their name and arrange for Vicky to marry a man, claiming she is lucky anyone will have her now. If Vicky doesn’t want to see her family fall from grace, she must play the role of dutiful daughter and wife successfully, but that also means that she must deny who she truly is and what she wants for herself.

At the same time, the Suffragette movement is starting to build and Vicky finds herself drawn to their cause. Why shouldn’t women get to vote, to go to college, to choose who they want to marry for themselves? She is also drawn to a man, a man who is not her fiancee’, but does turn out to be her artistic muse.


What we see in A Mad Wicked Folly is just what was at stake when women fought for their rights. For it’s not just Vicky who may lose, but she could cost her family everything: status, business contracts that allow them to support themselves. For Vicky, it means trying not only to get into an art school that will only let in a very small number of women, but trying to find a way to pay for it since she knows that her father who doesn’t believe in women’s education would never support it. In a way, some of the issues of this day very much mirror our current day: he who holds the purse strings has the greatest amount of power and influence.

As Waller mentioned in yesterday’s discussion, although Folly is specifically about the Suffragette movement, it is also a story about anyone who has ever come of age and had to make brave choices to sacrifice security and comfort to be faithful to their passion, to who they truly are inside. Throughout the story we see Vicky’s passion to art, he burning desire to study and grow and be considered among the great of her time, and you want for her to succeed. Anyone who has ever wrestled with acceptance can relate to Vicky’s struggle.

It was fascinating for me to be reading this right as the Women Against Feminism memes broke out on the Internet. Folly is a reminder of where Feminism came from, what it is, and why it mattered. And why it matters still today because although women have made tremendous strides, we know from stats like the percentage of women in Congress (around 20%) and from looking at women in the workforce (where they still make less on average then men doing the same job, where few boards have even a single female on them, and where women in the boardroom are still often assumed to be secretaries) that we still have a long ways to go in discussing equality. For a great take on Women Against Feminism, do be sure and check out what The Bloggess has to say. Sharks are mentioned. It is brilliant.

As a mother, I realized the importance of discussing these issues with my daughters when The Tween brought home a school assignment on pink paper asking her to choose a famous female Texan to study and report on. The boys were given a blue paper with a list of famous male Texans. And because our history books still favor men, there was a notable disparity in the types of people each group had to choose from. I am excited to be able to give this book to her to read and discuss to help her better understand just what those women fighting before her were fighting for, what they were fighting against, and how we must practice due diligence to make sure that those before us haven’t fought in vain – we can not let those rights slip away, and we must continue to fight for all rights to help create a just world that focuses on human rights. All human rights, because all people matter.

So, obviously, I highly recommend this book. I thought that it really took me not only into the time and helped me understand what was happening, but it did so through the eyes of a character who had a fiery passion and wrestled with her conscience to make difficult decisions that were not without cost, not only for her but for the people that she loved.

Published in January from Viking Juvenile.

Take 5: Amelia Bloomer Project and Feminist Books

If you’re looking for feminist books, you definitely want to check out The Amelia Bloomer Project.  Sponsored by the Feminist Task Force of the American Library Association, this committee of librarians creates a recommended bibliography every year of new books that have significant feminist content for youth ages birth through 18.  Being a booklist like the Rainbow Project, their process is open, and they post titles on their blog as they are nominated.  They also take field submissions as well. 


Scrolling through the titles that they currently have listed for the 2014 list (to be announced at the Midwinter Meeting in January 2014 at Philadelphia) I have to say my favorites so far are these:



Atwell, Mary Stewart. Wild Girls: A Novel. 2012. 288 p. Scribner, $25.00 (978-1451683271). Gr. 10 and up. 

Kate Riordan fears two things as she grows up in the small Appalachian town of Swan River: that she’ll be a frustrated townie forever or that she’ll turn into one of the mysterious and terrifying wild girls, killers who start fires and menace the community.


Molley, Aimee. However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph. 2013. 272p. HarperOne, $25.99 (978-0062132765). Gr. 10-up. 

In However Long the Night, Aimee Molloy tells the unlikely and inspiring story of Molly Melching, an American woman whose experience as an exchange student in Senegal led her to found Tostan and dedicate almost four decades of her life to the girls and women of Africa.


King, A.S. Ask the Passengers.  2012. 393p.  Little Brown, $17.99 (978-0-316-19468-6). Gr. 10-up.

Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother’s pushiness and her father’s lack of interest tell her they’re the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn’t know the passengers inside, but they’re the only people who won’t judge her when she asks them her most personal questions . . . like what it means that she’s falling in love with a girl. 
We all know that Karen loves this book and says everyone should read it, right?


Brill, Amy. The Movement of Stars. 2013. 400p. Riverhead Books, $27.95 (978-1594487446). Gr. 10-up. 

A love story set in 1845 Nantucket, between a female astronomer and the unusual man who understands her dreams.


Abdi, Hawa. Keeping Hope Alive. Grand Central Publishing, 2013. 272p. $26.99 978-1-455-0376-6 

The moving memoir of one brave woman who, along with her daughters, has kept 90,000 of her fellow citizens safe, healthy, and educated for over 20 years in Somalia. 

What are your favorite books for young women?  Share with us in the comments.

Annotations from book descriptions on Goodreads.com

Book Review: Prophecy by Ellen Oh

Fire shot up from the ground like geysers, and all around them fiendish figures danced about in wild abandon. Kira screamed again, over and over, but her screams excited the demons further, sending them into a rampage as they clawed her clothes and raked sharp talons against her flesh. Ahead, a figure grew to immense proportions in the midst of the dancing creatures. She knew immediately what it was: the Demon Lord.

Grayish-black skin gleamed as it filled her vision entirely, until all she saw before her was a face. Black eyes with red pupils stared at her while the great slash of a mouth turned into a large, gaping hole that pulled itself into a bizarre semblance of a smile. This creature looked nothing like she’d imagined. It was far worse.

Kira looked into the black eyes and found horror and death staring back at her. She tore her gaze away and saw the cavern had changed into a battlefield. Kwas and Jaewon fought Yamato soldiers of incredible speed and strength. One soldier looked directly at her, his skin melting away to reveal the demon underneath. Grinning, the demon stabbed Jaewon through his abdomen, while other creatures dragged Kwan from view.

The battlefield went up in a blaze of fire and then burned out to reveal Taejo alone, surrounded and outnumbered, but fighting bravely. A horde of half-breed soldiers rushed him all at once, engulfing Taejo until he disappeared.
“Taejo!” Kira screamed. “Taejo!”

She turned to the Demon Lord. “What do you want?”

The monster laughed. Smoke billowed from its mouth. 


“The end of you all!” it replied, the voice bellowing as the enormous mouth grew larger and closer, until it surrounded her in darkness.


The only female fighter in the King’s army, Kira was born with a curse- yellow eyes that can see the demons that are trying to overrun the country and destroy the Kingdom. Demonslayer and outcast, Kira goes on the run with the young prince when the Kingdom is betrayed and the King is murdered. With only the guidance of a cryptic prophecy, Kira and the prince may be the saviors of the world, but first they must battle demon soldiers, an evil shaman, and the Demon Lord in order to survive.

Ellen Oh writes a wonderful beginning of a trilogy blending Korean folklore with a full fantasy adventure. Kira, daughter of the weaponsmaster, was born with the ability to see demons- called a kumiho by her clansmen, she is outcast yet is sworn to protect her young prince from the demons that seem to be invading with alarming frequency. When the Kingdom is betrayed and the King killed, Kira takes Taejo and hides within the countryside and runs to an uncle’s Kingdom for protection. Meanwhile, the monks believe that Taejo, or possibly Kira, is the Dragon Warrior, the one destined to defeat the Demon Lord and unite the Kingdoms in peace. Yet how can a teenage girl and a young boy unite the fractured kingdoms with all the evil against them?  Highly intertwined with Korean tradition, Kira is extremely believable and has her own doubts about her own abilities that make her very reachable to teens. The challenges she faces, and the story that Oh weaves, leave readers tearing through to the end, and desperately waiting for the next book to see what will happen next. A good paring with Alison Goodman’s Eon and Eona series, or Cashore’s Graceling.  4 out of 5 stars. As of March 22, 2013, Goodreads has Prophecy listed at 3.51 stars.  

NOTE: There is a LOT of sword fighting in this book, and mass suicide. It is not extremely graphic, but it is there, and I have some impressionable teens who, while they would love the world Oh builds, would not be comfortable with the fighting or the images of the suicides.


I loved this book. The world is so beautiful, the writing is so lush, and I didn’t want it to end. I think teens will really relate to Kira and her outcast status, and her abilities to see demons where no one else can see just adds to her “awesomeness” factor. I can see Kira taking her place with Eona or Katniss- she’s that dedicated to her family and her mission, as much as they are, and her story is just as heartbreaking as theirs are.

The prejudice against Kira is more than her yellow eyes, it is her roughness as well. She’s a woman fulfilling a man’s role, and that is completely unacceptable in the realm; it’s driven home early on when the Queen (Kira’s aunt) arranges for her marriage even though she is the sworn protector to the young prince. The duality of her roles, and the challenge of fulfilling both her duties and her desires, will be interesting in the coming books.

The post in which I rant about book covers, again

Time and time again, we read about the white washing of book covers.  And all those pretty book covers with model like beauties with long, flowing hair wearing long, flowing dresses – usually seen gracing the covers of paranormal romance. (See: Body Image and YA Book Covers)  But today THEY HAVE GONE TO FAR.

Book cover from Amazon.com, you can go buy the book there if you want.

“Red hair is my life long sorrow.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables 

But I recommend getting this version instead, the cover is a better representation of the book
This version is still updated and sleek looking, but a more accurate representation of both the book and the character of Anne, and the time period represented in the books.

Gone is the fiery trademark red hair, often used as an explanation for her equally fiery personality.  Suddenly, she is sexy, model blonde, full of confidence and oozing raw sexuality – and apparently not in the right historical time period.  In fact, this cover immediately brought to mind a blonde version of Footloose, which is the 80s for the record.  It’s like the cover artist didn’t even read the book and had no intention of helping to connect reader to book, but wanted to sell books based on what it perceived would sell.

Why?  More importantly: what kind of a message does this send to readers?

Actually, if you look at all the covers, the message is very clear, what with all the make-up and pretty, pretty girls.  Why, I wonder, is this the message we want to keep sending to women everywhere?  You are more than just an outside shell.  In fact, it is what’s on the inside that matters.  Which, by the way, is one of the glorious messages found within every wonderful page of Anne of Green Gables, the story of a fiery RED HEADED orphan who comes into her own as she finds love with a family and confidence in herself.  That confidence comes not because she is beautiful on the outside, but because she comes to understand that she is beautiful on the inside and has so much positive to bring to this world.

“It’s not what the world holds for you. It’s what you bring to it.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables 

Here are the real issues with the covers, in a nutshell:
They misrepresent what it inside the pages of the book and break trust with the reader
They reinforce cultural feminim stereotypes
They sexualize and objectify girls on covers of books, which, for example, in the case of Anne of Green Gables is really all about the exact opposite of its actual message
They do a disservice to readers of all ages and genders by doing all of the above

These covers are an outrage.  That is all.  Go to the Jezebel link to view them all.  I don’t actually mind The Breakfast at Tiffany’s one to be honest.  Please tell me what you think in the comments.  P.S.: This weekend I shall snuggle up with the Tween and watch the entire Anne of Green Gables series with Megan Follows because it is awesome.

Girls Against Girls {Book Review, Discussion & Giveaway}

My heart speeds up.  I see a single bead of sweat start to fall down my cheek.  Soon that bead of sweat will be a tear, but not quite yet.  She is coming.  I stand at the bus stop waiting to go to school and she is coming.  I am in the 5th grade, alternately known as hell – thanks entirely to her.  Today we are in for a special treat.  Her mother is a nurse and she has stolen a needle from her. As she plunges it into the skin of my arm over and over and over again, I know I can’t do this anymore.  So the next morning I force my little brother to walk to school with me, even though I have been told that I can not.  It is not safe where we live. We walk under the freeway overpass where in the future weeks a drunken man will grab me by the ankle.  We walk and we walk and we walk, morning after morning, because whatever dangers are out there, even the rapist they keep talking about on the radio, they don’t compare to the dangers that wait for me every morning at the bus stop.   Nothing is more dangerous than her festering hatred, and I don’t even know how I earned it.  Thank God that because of my parent’s divorce, I get to go to a different school next year.  I hope I can make it that long.

5th grade sucked for me. Truly and to its core.  There would be some other bad years, but nothing that compared to that one.  I remember when I was pregnant with my first child and The Mr. and I went to find out the sex of our baby, I wanted desperately for it to be a boy because I knew first hand how hard this world is for girls, and sadly it is often other girls making it that way. We have two little girls.  Last night the tween cried because the girl assigned to sit by her on the bus every day refuses to do so because she thinks the tween is “weird”.  Ahhhh, the glory of Girls Against Girls.  Sometimes I wonder, is there anything worse than being a teenage girl?

Girls Against Girls by Bonnie Burton is a nonfiction title from Zest Books that really challenges girls to think about why they do the things they do to one another and ways to end the cycle of girl against girl violence, which is primarily emotional and psychological but can get physical.  We all know what they say about “cat fights”.

“Hey, how long till the music drowns you out?
Don’t put words up in my mouth,
I didn’t steal your boyfriend”
Lyrics by Ashlee Simpson, Boyfriend
So why are girls so mean to one another?  Conventional wisdom has always said we are in competition.  I do feel like the world likes to put us in competition with one another.  Are we fighting for scarce resources, in this case men?  Jobs? Self respect?  Are we just born this way?  The truth is there is some truth to all of it.  We are taught to be competitive, we pass it down from generation to generation.  When you snipe at the neighbor or judge the woman on television, the children around you hear that and it becomes a model to them.  You can tell your children not to bully and judge but when they see you doing it – well, you know what they say: Actions speak louder than words.
“She’s my best friend. God I hate her.” – from the movie Heathers
Girls Against Girls is divided into 6 sections . . .
Section1: Why we hurt each other
Section 2: Methods of our meannness (Gossiping, the silent treatment, boyfriend stealing)
Section 3: Bearing the brunt of it (ways to deal)
Section 4: Calling in reinforcements (asking for help)
Section 5: Stopping the cycle (awesome section on dealing with emotions and taking responisibility for your actions)
Section 6: Teaming up instead of tearing each other down
Cyberbullying is discussed as well, a very relevant topic.  And there is a definite emphasis on dealing with the issues in positive ways and trying to stop the cycle.  The truth is, mean girls are not going to pick up this book (though they definitely should). No, it is the girls being bullied and tormented by their peers that will read this book, and it is a great resource for them.  It will help them understand that they are not really the issue.  But I would love to see every adult that works with or loves a teen read this books too.  Pair it with Queen Bees and Wannabees and look closely at what girl culture is like.  Then, put together some Girl Power programming and help girls have positive social interactions.
Some things you can do:
Have a girl power book discussion group.  Include titles like Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver and 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher.
Have a “Mean Girls Movie Festival” where you show movies like Mean Girls and Heathers.
Share resources with your teens like Girls Incorporated (www.girlsinc.org), The Ophelia Project (www.opheliaproject.org), Girls for a Change (www.girlsforachange.org) and some of the youth empowerment organizations listed here.
Provide positive opportunities for social interaction with craft events and other programming opportunities.  I have two rules at my teen programs: The BIC Rule (keep your butt in a chair, one butt to chair) and the Safe Haven Rule (all my teens know that my programs are safe places and no smack talk will be tolerated at all).  I don’t care if that is your sister who got you grounded by telling your mom about your boyfriend last night, you will not talk badly to her or about her at my programs.  You will be asked to leave after one warning.  This is non-negotiable.
“Being yourself is the best revenge.” Lynn Peril, author of Think Pink
To teenage girls everywhere: Be yourself and be kind to others
This is a good and, unfortunately, necessary addition to all teen collections.  There are no supplemental reading lists included, which is probably a good thing because they would always need to be updated.  But you can run with this theme and put together current reading and movie lists. There are also no shortage of songs you can put together for a Girl Power/Mean Girls playlist.  In fact, I would love for you to help me BUILD A RESOURCE GUIDE IN THE COMMENTS.  Leave your recommendations of teen book titles, movies and songs in the comments.

Final thoughts: As my tween saw me reading this book she asked me, “We’re all the same, why would we be mean to each other?” Why indeed? (Man I love that girl!)

Girls Against Girls: Why we are mean to each other and how we can change by Bonnie Burton is highly recommended for all school and public libraries, and to everyone who loves and works with teen girls.  It is well organized, thoughtfull, relevant and has some cool graphic elements and inspiring quotes.  You know I love me some inspiring quotes.  Published by Zest Books. ISBN: 978-0-9790173-6-0.

Bonnie Burton is part of the Vaginal Fantasy Book Club which I discussed earlier.  Fun stuff.

Other relevant posts:
Youth Empowerment Resources

Girl Power/Mean Girls Booklist
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
PBS has an empowering booklist for Middle School Girls
Macmillan’s list of Girl Power books

Leave a comment and be entered for your chance to win Girl in a Fix, Girl in a Funk, Girls Against Girls and Regine’s Book from Zest Books.  Open to US Residents.  Please don’t forget to leave an e-mail or @ for Twitter so I can contact you. Contest runs through Friday, November 23rd.