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#ReadForChange: Reading into Hurricane Season with Joanne O’Sullivan’s Between Two Skies

ReadForChange copyTeen Librarian Toolbox is excited to be partnering with Marie Marquardt for her #ReadForChange project. Hop on over to this post to learn more about the initiative. Today, she and Joanne O’Sullivan join us for a conversation about Hurricane Katrina, climate change, taking action, and O’Sullivan’s 2017 book  Between Two Skies

 

 

Before Hurricane Katrina, I always felt like I could come back home. And home was a real place, and also it had this mythical weight for me. Because of the way that Hurricane Katrina ripped everything away, it cast that idea in doubt.

Jesmyn Ward, author

 

Leaving Home, Leaving the Lost Bayou

joanne-osullivan-Between-Two-SkiesAs we near the one-year anniversary of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, we still occasionally see news headlines about the slow pace of recovery, particularly in Puerto Rico. We are reminded that many communities still need our support, and many of us heed the call by donating to great programs like the Hispanic Federation’s UNIDOS or traveling to support recovering communities.

 

But, unless we are among those directly affected, we have a hard time grasping the profound upheaval that hurricanes cause in the lives of so many. We don’t think much about the slow process of building new lives, new communities – especially for those who no longer have a place to call home.  I adore Joanne O’Sullivan’s 2017 historical YA novel, Between Two Skies, because it brings us intimately into the story of one family that lost everything it knew as home, and then struggled to build a new life together.

 

As Hurricane Katrina’s waters rose to cover her family’s coastal Louisiana fishing village, Evangeline (a “white, mostly” girl, with deep roots in the Bayou) watched from a south-Georgia hotel room, where she expected to wait for a few days, until the storm passed. Needless to say, the storm did pass, but the waters didn’t recede. With her town of Bayou Perdu submerged underwater, Evangeline and her family soon found themselves living as “hurricane refugees” in landlocked Atlanta, trying to adjust to a new school and new home, where the calls of birds on the Bayou have been replaced with the whoosh of cars on the interstate.

 

Evangeline is a wonderful protagonist. She is impossible not to love from the first moment we meet her, days before Katrina hits. Evangeline is “about to make history” for wearing jeans, white rubber boots, and not “an ounce of hairspray or a drop of makeup” as she prepares to be crowned Bayou Perdu’s 2005 Shrimp Queen.

 

hurricane-katrina-ir-clouds-from-goes-on-29-aug-2005-869While developing a beautiful sense of place and a wonderful, memorable cast of characters, Between Two Skies also dives deep into the disorientation of exile. Through Evangeline, readers experience the anxiety of separation, the loss of close friendships, and the profound longing for those smells, tastes, rhythms and sounds of home. The story also explores so many subtle new things that come in the wake of loss: a new gender dynamic in the family, as her mother sets off to office work while her dad struggles to find meaningful employment; a new awareness of social class, as her older sister, a prom-queen-bound cheerleader in Bayou Perdu, comes to terms with her much lower status in their wealthy suburban Atlanta school; and, for Evangeline, a beautiful aching new love. She finds this love with Tru, A Vietnamese-American boy who also spends time in Atlanta as an exile from the storm.

 

For fans of poetry, there’s an added bonus: the story in some ways parallels that of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem entitled Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie. Evangeline’s story in Between Two Skies echoes the heartache, searching, and exile of the poem, while also building a gentle, often innocent, and ultimately hopeful story.

 

“I wrote Between Two Skies to bear witness”: A Conversation with Joanne O’Sullivan

joanne-osullivan-largeMARIE: Tell us about the moment when you knew that this story had to be written, and that you needed to be the one to write it.

 

JOANNE: I spent a lot of time after Hurricane Katrina reading narratives from people both in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast and their stories resonated deeply with me in part because of my own experiences in that part of the world. Although Hurricane Katrina took place in 2005, it was in 2010 after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the coast of Louisiana that made me turn my attention to the long-term impacts of both climate change and environmental justice in natural and man-made disasters.

 

The same people who had been displaced and lost their livelihoods during Katrina were once again hit with a devastating blow. A way of life based on deep reverence for nature and community is coming to an end and in a way, I wrote BETWEEN TWO SKIES to bear witness to it.

 

Coastal communities are the canary in the coalmine for the effects of climate change and rising sea level. People who already live on the margins are often pushed into poverty as a result of natural disasters. While recovering from the many losses that can come with a natural disaster is difficult for everyone, it’s much more difficult for those who don’t have the resources to bounce back.

 

In the days and weeks following a disaster, there’s a lot of attention. But it quickly fades. My story looks at what happens next. Sadly, there are a lot of parallels between what happened after Katrina and what’s currently happening in Puerto Rico and coastal Texas after last fall’s disasters.

 

MARIE: What are some of the things you’re doing to create the world that you want future generations to live in?

 

JOANNE: I volunteer for educational, environmental and other causes in my community. I support the work of organizations that are doing good work by helping them raise awareness and giving my time and money. I write and call my elected officials at all levels to urge them to put people before politics. And I vote, every time.

 

Our family is focused on lowering our consumption, not just of energy, but also of consumer goods. It may sound basic, but we don’t eat meat at home. The amount of energy that goes into producing meat (and the waste produced from it) is really staggering. If everyone cut back just a little, the impact on the environment would be significant.

 

MARIE: What’s your message for readers wanting to take action on climate change?

 

JOANNE: If you feel passionately about an issue, engage with it in real life, not just online: you’ll meet other people who are doing important work and you’ll demonstrate your commitment. It may sound simple, but showing up is one of the most valuable things you can do. It’s easier than ever to find opportunities to volunteer: places like Idealist and Meetup.com post notices of volunteer opportunities.

 

Take your showing up to the next level: protest, demonstrate, and go to your local city council meetings or state legislature. Organize at your own school. Don’t wait for leadership to present itself: take the lead yourself.

 

Ready to Learn More? Read On!

In our interview, Joann told me about Terrestrial, a great podcast for “staying informed on environmental issues.”  She also recommended two podcasts that we featured in our April issue, when we interviewed Jodi Lynn Anderson (I’ve already listened to a few episodes of these, and I’ll tell you they keep coming up for a reason! They’re that good.):

 

No Place Like HomeThis is a great, conversational podcast covering different angles of climate change and culture, and offering examples of people taking positive, achievable steps to create a better future.

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Warm RegardsThis one has some fascinating stuff untangling how climate change has become so political.

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And here’s one more excellent recommendation from Joanne: “The Vanishing Island, a short (9 minute) documentary by Emmanuel Vaughn-Lee is a really powerful look at how climate change threatens vulnerable communities. I would encourage anyone with an interest in climate change to watch it to understand the real on-the-ground affects being felt in Southern Louisiana.”

 

 

Ready to take action? “Take your showing up to the next level!”

Here are a few of Joanne’s recommendations for action:

Earth Guardians is a great organization for young people who want to engage on environmental issues and climate change. There are Earth Guardian ‘crews’ all over the US and the world (or you can start one in your area).

earthguardians

350.org is a global group working on climate justice. You can check the website for a group near you and also start your own group. 350 holds frequent ‘actions’ on climate issues

 

Youth Build gives low-income young people construction skills and involves them in building affordable housing and other community assets, such as community centers and schools.

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I encourage young people in the US to consider joining Americorps or Americorps VISTA for a year of service. There are so many projects available and it’s a great way to really have an impact in a community.

 

“Don’t Wait… Take the Lead Yourself.”

I’m especially grateful to Joanne for reminding me, in our interview, of the importance of engaging in real life. There is much great awareness-building happening in online communities, but getting on the ground and being face-to-face with the issues and those who are affected by them still remains, in my opinion, the best way to build strong and vibrant communities, and to make lasting and significant change in the world.

 

Thank you, Joanne, for this reminder!

 

IMG_5256This Hurricane Season, #ReadForChange with Between Two Skies!

Can’t wait to get your hands on BETWEEN TWO SKIES? It just might be your lucky day!  Here’s a link to the giveaway. We’ll be announcing the winner on Twitter @MarieFMarquardt and Instagram marie_marquardt August 1!

 

 

 

 

Meet Marie Marquardt

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Marie Marquardt is the author of three YA novels: The Radius of UsDream Things True, and Flight Season. A Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Marie also has published several articles and co-authored two non-fiction books about Latin American immigration to the U.S. South. She is chair of El Refugio, a non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families. She lives with her spouse, four kids, a dog and a bearded dragon in the book-lover’s mecca of Decatur, Georgia.

 

When Books Are The Things That Save You, a guest post by Cindy Baldwin

When I was thirteen, my parents drove me to the University of North Carolina pediatric hospital and checked me in. I had a PICC line—a peripherally inserted central catheter—put in my left arm and a host of super-strength antibiotics pumped through it. We didn’t know when I’d be coming home. And, hardest of all for a young teenager who hated sleepovers and was preternaturally anxious, my parents—busy with one-year-old baby triplets at home—could only visit me during the day.

 

The long lonely evenings, the endless nights filled with beeping machines and blood pressure cuffs, were mine to navigate on my own.

 

It wasn’t the first time I was hospitalized. I’d been in and out of the hospital for my first two years of life, nearly dying as an infant until I was finally diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF), a life-shortening genetic disease that affects the lungs, pancreas, and other organs. Those stays, though, existed only in the haziest parts of my memory. More recently, I’d been inpatient two years before, when I was eleven—but that stay had ended up being a fluke, less than forty-eight hours long.

 

This, now, was going to be my first real experience with what CF patients call “a clean-out”: a two- to four-week course of intravenous antibiotics to help calm the pneumonia-like lung infections that are CF’s most persistent and intractable symptom. My doctors assured me that after a few days in the hospital I could complete the IVs at home, but they didn’t know how long that would take.

 

I had never in my life felt as alone as I did that first night in the hospital—like my parents, my friends, my whole life, was in another universe; like none of the people I knew or loved could possibly understand what I was experiencing. The hospital bed creaked and groaned every time I shifted. After I’d turned the lights out to try to sleep, I discovered that no matter what I did the room was twilight-bright. No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to quiet my racing heart, the anxious blood that pounded through my veins.

 

I don’t remember, anymore, exactly how long that stay lasted—less than a week. What I do remember, clear as sunlight almost twenty years later, is the person who made my stay bearable: a young medical student named Neeta. Every evening, after she finished her rounds, she’d come sit by my bed and talk books. Like me, she was an avid reader; like me, she loved Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain chronicles and Madeleine L’Engle. She asked me about the books I was reading during that stay (Joan Aiken’s odd and fantastical Wolves of Willhoughby Chase series). She told me about some of her own favorites—even wrote me a list of recommendations on a notepad.

 

In that whole big, lonely, terrifying hospital, she was the person who made me feel human, like I’d been seen for something more than my disease, something more than the catheter in my arm and the knowledge that these hospital admissions would loom large in my future.

 

where the watermelonsIn my debut novel, Where the Watermelons Grow, my protagonist, Della, also feels isolated and afraid, certain that none of her friends in small-town Maryville, North Carolina, can understand what she’s dealing with as her mother’s schizophrenia worsens. Into Della’s loneliness comes newly-transplanted Miss Lorena, who’s moved to Maryville after being widowed. The first time Della meets Miss Lorena, it’s because Miss Lorena’s son is setting up a Little Free Library-esque book box to serve the town of Maryville, which doesn’t have libraries or bookstores of its own. Miss Lorena gives Della a book of Emily Dickinson’s poems, which ultimately becomes one of the things that helps Della find the strength to accept her life, her family, and her mama for just what they are, recognizing that they can still have value even if they look “different.”

 

As a children’s writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about children like Della, children like I was—kids who feel as though their experiences are so different, so overwhelming, that it creates a membrane of isolation between them and their peers. Kids who, so often, find solace and understanding both in books and in strong, compassionate mentors. These are the children for whom books, authors, librarians, and teachers can have an especially profound impact, showing them that they are not alone in their fear, their hardship, their loneliness.

 

In the past twenty years, like most cystic fibrosis patients, hospitalizations have become a frequent part of my routine; for part of college, it was normal for me to spend about eight weeks a year inpatient. These days, as a busy thirty-something and a mom to a young daughter, the idea of a week in the hospital even sounds like a relief some days. But through almost two decades, the experience of bonding with Neeta over reading during that difficult first hospital stay has stayed with me, a testament to the power of books and friendship to change the heart of a scared thirteen-year-old who could think of few things more terrifying than a night all alone in the hospital.

 

Meet Cindy Baldwin

Cindy BaldwinCindy Baldwin is a fiction writer, essayist, poet, and author of Where the Watermelons Grow (HarperCollins Children’s), her debut middle grade novel. She grew up in North Carolina and still misses the sweet watermelons and warm accents on a daily basis. As a middle schooler, she kept a book under her bathroom sink to read over and over while fixing her hair or brushing her teeth, and she dreams of writing the kind of books readers can’t bear to be without. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and daughter, surrounded by tall trees and wild blackberries. Learn more about Cindy at www.cindybaldwinbooks.com.

 

About Where the Watermelons Grow (out today, July 3, 2018)

Fans of The Thing About Jellyfish and A Snicker of Magic will be swept away by Cindy Baldwin’s debut middle grade about a girl coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness.

When twelve-year-old Della Kelly finds her mother furiously digging black seeds from a watermelon in the middle of the night and talking to people who aren’t there, Della worries that it’s happening again—that the sickness that put her mama in the hospital four years ago is back. That her mama is going to be hospitalized for months like she was last time.

With her daddy struggling to save the farm and her mama in denial about what’s happening, it’s up to Della to heal her mama for good. And she knows just how she’ll do it: with a jar of the Bee Lady’s magic honey, which has mended the wounds and woes of Maryville, North Carolina, for generations.

But when the Bee Lady says that the solution might have less to do with fixing Mama’s brain and more to do with healing her own heart, Della must learn that love means accepting her mama just as she is.

On World Refugee Day 2018, #ReadForChange with Alan Gratz’ Refugee

ReadForChange copyTeen Librarian Toolbox is excited to be partnering with Marie Marquardt for her #ReadForChange project. Hop on over to this post to learn more about the initiative. Today, she and Alan Gratz join us for a conversation about immigrants, refugees, taking action, and his middle grade novel, Refugee.

 

 

“No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

Warsan Shire, “Home”

 

Three Children, Three Boats, Three Courageous Journeys to Find a New Home

 

refugeeToday, June 20, 2018, is World Refugee Day. I can think of no more timely, more meaningful, or more compelling book to recommend on this day than Alan Gratz’ Middle-Grade novel, Refugee.

 

The first time I met Alan, he gave me his card. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the tagline under his name: “Putting fictional kids in danger since 2006.” Alan certainly lives up to this promise in Refugee. The novel deftly weaves together the harrowing stories of three young teens who set off with their families in search of safety: Josef, fleeing Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel, escaping a crumbling Cuba in 1994, and Mahmoud, leaving war-torn Aleppo in 2015. Readers travel with brave young teenagers across oceans and seas, through ship wrecks, shark attacks, robberies and extortion. We also experience, with the story’s protagonists, moments of extraordinary beauty, as people reach out to help one-another through times of unthinkable distress.

 

As someone who works with immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers in the United States, I think perhaps the most compelling aspect of this story’s construction is how well it de-centers the contemporary narrative, depicting a global flow of real human beings who seek safety across space and through time. Joseph’s family journeys from Germany to Cuba, Isabel’s from Cuba to the United States, and Mahmoud’s from Syria to Germany. Their stories remind us that people from all regions of the world, of all ethnicities, religions, and social classes, find themselves in the impossible situation of having no alternative but to leave behind everything they know and seek safety among strangers.

 

In other words: these refugees could be you or me.

 

World-Refugee-Day-1 (1)Refugee is carefully-researched, historically accurate, and nothing short of brilliant, for many more reasons than I can explain here (you’ll just have to read it for yourselves!). Alan Gratz manages to weave together these three families’ stories in ways that unflinchingly portray the evil effects of de-humanizing entire communities, while also reminding us of the enormous capacity we humans have to endure suffering, to act out of love, and to do what is right and good. Be forewarned: If you are human (and I’m assuming you are), you will shed tears. Some will be tears of joy.

 

One of the themes that Refugee explores invisibility and visibility. Mahmoud, in particular, reflects often on his journey: “Mahmoud’s first instinct was to disappear below decks, to be invisible. Being invisible in Syria had kept him alive. But now Mahmoud began to wonder if being invisible in Europe might be the death of him and his family. If no one saw them, no one could help them. And maybe the world needed to see what was happening here.”

 

In honor of Mahmoud, Isabel, Josef and all the real people on whom their story is based, let us all open our eyes and see! And then let us take courageous action to build refuge together, in these tempestuous times.

 

“Changing the Hearts and Minds of my Readers”: A Conversation with Alan Gratz

 

Photo by Wes Stitt

Photo by Wes Stitt

MARIE: Tell us about the moment when you knew that this story had to be written, and that you needed to be the one to write it.

 

ALAN: The story of Refugee began with the MS St. Louis, a real ship that set sail from Nazi Germany in early 1939 with nine hundred and thirty-seven passengers on board, almost all of them Jewish refugees bound for Cuba.

I was still looking for a way into the story of the MS St. Louis for young readers when my wife and daughter and I took a family vacation to the Florida Keys in early 2015. One morning we got up to walk along the small patch of beach in front of our resort, and we ran right into a homemade boat someone had used to come to America. There was room on the wooden benches for thirteen people, and abandoned clothing and plastic water bottles still littered the floor. The back end had an old rusty engine that had been yanked out of a car or a tractor and was attached to a propeller shaft. There were plastic paint buckets to bail it out along the way, and the whole bottom of the boat and all the seams were covered with Great Stuff—that foam insulation that comes from a spray can. That and the painted plywood walls were all that kept the seawater out.

One day the boat wasn’t there, and the next day it was. Whoever had been aboard had arrived in the night while we were sleeping, just a few hundred yards away from our room. The day before, while my daughter had been swimming in the pool and my wife and I had been reading books in hammocks in the shade, whoever had been on board this boat had been steering north, avoiding oil tankers and sharks and the American Coast Guard in a desperate, dangerous attempt to find refuge in America.

That boat was a wake-up call for me. I knew that immigrants and refugees were trying to reach America every day, by land, air, and sea, through channels official and unofficial, but because I didn’t live at the front lines of that struggle I didn’t see it every day. And out of sight was definitely out of mind. I wanted to do something about that. That’s when I knew this was a book I had to write. I wanted to write a book about the MS St. Louis, but I wanted to write a book about Cuban refugees too.

And then, every day, doing their part to make sure none of us forgot, newspapers and news channels and the Internet were showing us devastating image after devastating image of the refugee crisis caused by the Syrian Civil War. The Syrian Civil War began in 2011, and is still going on. More than two million Syrians have been killed or injured, and seven plus years of war have left around eleven million Syrians—half their entire population—homeless. I wanted to write a book about the MS St. Louis, and I wanted to write a book about Cuban refugees, and now I wanted to write a book about the Syrian refugee crisis too.

And then I realized, I could write a book about all three. I would tell the story of Josef, a Jewish boy trying to escape Nazi Germany for Cuba with his family on board the MS St. Louis in 1939, of Isabel, a Cuban girl trying to escape communist Cuba with her family for America on board a raft in 1994, and of Mahmoud, a Syrian boy trying to escape the Syrian Civil War for Germany with his family in the present day.

My sincere hope for young readers who pick up Refugee is that it, like that homemade raft I stumbled across in Florida, makes the invisible visible again.

 

 

MARIE: What are some of the things you’re doing to create the world that you want to live in?

 

ALAN: My family and I sat down recently to talk about all the causes we wanted to support, and how much we could afford to give, and now we make regular contributions to a variety of social, environmental, and political groups. Beyond that, I figured that what I do best is write, so I would use my talents to help bring awareness to the issues and causes I support. And that’s been paying off. Kids across the country (and around the world!) are reading Refugee and advocating and working for change. Kids are working with their local refugee aid groups in their communities, they are raising money for UNICEF, they are calling their congresspeople and championing refugees. The book hasn’t even been out for a year yet, and the response from young readers has been amazing. I hope, in some small way, that I’m helping make the world one I want to live in by changing the hearts and minds of my readers!

 

 

MARIE: For readers who are moved to take action themselves, what’s your advice?

 

ALAN: Start local. Almost every community has a local refugee aid or resettlement organization, and they can use things larger world-wide organizations like UNICEF can’t–they need things kids can help collect, like socks, coats, blankets, and canned food. If they want to look more globally, organizations like UNICEF and Save the Children work on behalf of young refugees around the world, providing necessities and education. But the simplest thing kids can do is to become a friend to refugees. If there are any refugees at their schools, or in their churches or neighborhoods, just saying hello and getting to know them and being a friend is a tremendous thing to someone who has been displaced against their will and is starting all over again.

 

MARIE: Thanks so much, Alan. This theme of working in our local communities is one that I’ve heard from so many of our featured authors, from Jodi Lynn Anderson, talking about combating climate change, to Lilliam Rivera on gentrification. I love this idea of getting to know our neighbors and working with them to build a better world – from the ground up!

 

 

“Out of sight… out of mind. I wanted to do something about that.”

 

Ready to learn more? First, be sure to read Alan’s very informative Author’s Note, at the end of Refugee. Then, dive into one of these four non-fiction books – all excellent, and all appropriate for young readers:

 

519PzgQWh-L._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees by Mary Beth Leatherdale is an illustrated book presenting five true stories of young people who survived the harrowing experience of setting off in boats in search of asylum.

 

How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana and Abigail Pesta is the memoir of a girl from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who survived a massacre, immigrated to the United States, and struggled to overcome her trauma through art and activism.

 

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ismael Beah offers a first-hand account of a young man’s recruitment as a child soldier, release, and eventual rehabilitation at a UNICEF center.

 

Outcasts United: An American Town, A Refugee Team, and One Woman’s Quest to Make a Difference

By Warren St. John is an excellent and engaging story of a refugee youth soccer team in a small southern town turned upside down by the process of refugee resettlement. (Note that there is a young adult version of the book).

 

And now, two documentaries:

 

Human Flow was shot over the course of one year in 23 countries. It shares stories of the more than 65 million people who have been forced from their homes since World War II

 

Fire at Sea explores life in Lampedusa, Italy, an island has become a landing spot for boats filled with refugees fleeing Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

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“The simplest thing: Become a friend to refugees.”

Ready to take action? Let’s follow Alan’s advice and start local!

 

There are many agencies that work officially to resettle refugees nationwide. Contacting one of the agencies working in your community is a good place to start. To find out who’s working in your area, check out this UNHCR website and then click on the link toward the bottom:

 

While these local resettlement agencies always can use supplies and material support, the best way to get involved is to build relationships and friendships.  Many local communities have innovative non-profits and community groups that foster this work.  Make sure to ask your local refugee resettlement agencies about these sorts of groups and opportunities in your area. Here are some examples in my community of metro-Atlanta:

 

Friends of Refugees

 

Global Village Project

 

Clarkston Community Center

 

Of course, if we start to open our eyes, as Alan Gratz is urging us to do, we will realize that refugees are our neighbors and our classmates. Refugees worship with us, shop in the same stores as us, and play sports on the same fields. The best thing we can do is make new friends. It’s that easy!

 

“A desperate, dangerous attempt to find refuge in America” A Call to Action NOW.

 

One final note, because this weighs so heavy on my heart…

 

Even though this book is entitled Refugee, all of the stories Alan tells are, technically, those of asylum seekers. (If you’d like to better understand the difference, listen to this recent NPR interview with a U.S. Asylum Officer). Asylum seekers with similar stories to those we read about in Refugee are in the news headlines these days for reasons that are simply unthinkable. Last month, the United States Department of Homeland Security instituted a new practice that routinely separates child asylum seekers from their parents and holds them in child detention centers. One, recently opened in El Paso, is quite literally a tent city.

 

Families_3_twitterWhile I don’t generally climb up on a soapbox in these newsletters, I’m gonna do it now. I believe there is a moral imperative for every single one of us to resist this action by the U.S. government.  It simply contradicts basic human decency, and it’s heartbreaking.

 

If you want to learn more about this and take action, follow #KeepFamiliesTogether and #FamiliesBelongTogether. You also can check out the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights to stay informed about proposed legislation and actions in your community, and go to Families Belong Together (a movement sponsored by the National Domestic Workers Alliance) to sign a petition and find other actions.

 

Thank you.

 

#ReadForChange with Refugee!

 

If you can’t wait to get your hands on REFUGEE, here’s your chance!  Follow this link to the giveaway, which runs until the end of June. We’ll be announcing the winner on Twitter @MarieFMarquardt and Instagram marie_marquardt July 1!)

 

Meet Marie Marquardt

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Marie Marquardt is the author of three YA novels: The Radius of UsDream Things True, and Flight Season. A Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Marie also has published several articles and co-authored two non-fiction books about Latin American immigration to the U.S. South. She is chair of El Refugio, a non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families. She lives with her spouse, four kids, a dog and a bearded dragon in the book-lover’s mecca of Decatur, Georgia.

#ReadForChange: Get Really Real with Lilliam Rivera’s The Education of Margot Sanchez, a guest post by Marie Marquardt

ReadForChange copyTeen Librarian Toolbox is excited to be partnering with Marie Marquardt for her #ReadForChange project. Hop on over to this post to learn more about the initiative. Today, she and Lilliam Rivera join us for a conversation about gentrification, taking action, writing a novel that is just one voice of the many unheard voices in the publishing industry, and her excellent book The Education of Margot Sanchez. 

 

 

Take care not to listen to anyone who tells you what you can and can’t be in life.

– Meg Medina

 

Taking up space in the South Bronx

 

educationofThe Education of Margot Sanchez is a perfect summer read. It’s at times fun and funny, at other times heartrending and poignant. Much like Meg Medina’s fabulous Burn Baby Burn, this novel drops the reader deep inside summer at a very specific time on a very unique collection of New York City blocks. It’s crafted so well that we can feel the humidity in the air and the heat rising from the asphalt.

 

Most of Margot Sanchez’ summer “education” happens in and around the Sanchez & Sons supermarket – once a “welcoming oasis in a sea of concrete buildings” in the South Bronx, the supermarket, owned by Margot’s dad, has seen better days. As Margot explains: “the blue paint is peeling, the posters are the same from five years ago, and there’s some funky odor that I can’t place.”

 

While the supermarket stayed the same, Margot went through some big transformations. The most important: she got into the prestigious Somerset Prep, and she finally made friends with Serena and Camille, the coolest girls in school. Reading how Margot had to change to fit in with the cool girls will, for almost anyone who has been through middle school and early high school, evoke poignant reminders of painful times. Because Margot’s experience is so relatable, and because her decision to go to Somerset was shaped more by her parents’ aspirations than her own, we feel sympathy for Margot, even though she has done some incredibly stupid stuff.

 

Case in point: Margot used her parents’ credit card to charge six-hundred-dollars-worth of clothes, since hanging out with Serena and Camille transformed her style from thrift store bo-ho chic to designer Taylor-Swift-inspired. (Like I said: cringe-worthy). Margot’s adventures in shopping landed her at Sanchez & Sons for the summer, instead of in the Hamptons with all of her Somerset friends.

 

At first utterly disdainful of her work and most of the people she encounters there, Margot eventually discovers and embraces her unique identity (even while wearing a hairnet and serving up sliced meats to the neighborhood church ladies!). Her transformation is aided by Moises, an anti-gentrification activist with a bad reputation, and Elizabeth, her former best friend who chose art school over Somerset.

 

While drawing us into this unique South Bronx neighborhood and the fabulous characters that inhabit it, The Education of Margot Sanchez also pulls readers into some complicated questions about family, ethnicity, social class, identity, and the impact of gentrification on particular communities. The story also playfully sifts through an enormous heap of gendered expectations. (Note, for example, that “Sanchez & Sons is owned by a man with only one son, who goes by the nickname ‘Junior’. The other child is Margot, whom everyone calls ‘Princesa’.)

 

Margot is a list-maker. Her final list of the summer is the “Get Really Real List.” This is the perfect way to end a novel that’s so real, so honest, and so deeply embedded in a particular place. I enthusiastically recommend The Education of Margot Sanchez to anyone who’s looking for a summer read that’s both super funny and incredibly thought-provoking.

 

“The Audacity to Believe that I Deserved Some Shelf Space”: A Chat with Lilliam Rivera

downloadMARIE: Tell us about the moment when you knew that this story had to be written, and that you needed to be the one to write it.

LILLIAM: The moment I knew The Education of Margot Sanchez had to be written was back in 2013. I kept thinking of the many young adult novels I read as a teenager. The Judy Blumes. The S.E. Hintons. I devoured those books and so many more at my local library. Because of the abundance of those books, I had the audacity to believe that I deserved some shelf space. That perhaps a Latina coming-of-age story set in the South Bronx, New York can be just one voice of the many unheard voices in the publishing industry that takes up some space.

MARIE: What are some of the things you’re doing to create the world that you want to live in?

LILLIAM: This is an interesting question. I grew up in a household where we were taught to navigate spaces that were not meant for people with my last name. My family is very active politically and that has fed down to my own writing. I believe I can create works of art that speaks on my own struggles —colonization, racism, and class. Even when I am writing in a contemporary setting or near future, these are the things that I write towards. How does this work with creating the life I want to live? I try to bring this to the many students I speak to across the states and to my own kids. I love speaking to young people and letting them know that their voices are so desperately needed. To be heard and to be seen, it’s really what most people want.

MARIE: For readers who want to take action, themselves, what ideas can you share?

LILLIAM: The amazing part about being young right now is the many different social media accounts out there. Communicating with someone with the exact same interests as you is so much easier. Young people can control the narrative, away from propaganda. They don’t have to settle to hearing what is happening in the world through only a few outlets. It’s an amazing period to be active, to take action. You can find like-minded people online and that can spur you into having uncomfortable conversations and to be part of social movements.

 

Let’s Get Reading!: Gentrification, from A to Z

 

Margot RFCLucky for us, Lilliam recently posted a great article on Teen Librarian Toolbox about one of the most significant themes in this novel: gentrification. She’s got several great recommendations there for people who want to learn more and read more. So, head on over to that article for all the details. You can find it here.

 

 

 

Meanwhile, inspired by Margot, I will give you the short list:

 

Lilliam’s Really Real Gentrification List

“Gentrification and the Criminlazation of Neighborhoods” – The Atlantic

“Health Effects of Gentrification” – Centers for Disease Control

How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the fight for the Neighborhood by Peter Moskowitz

The Color of Law: A forgotten History of How Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

 Lilliam's Gentrification List

Let’s Get Loud!
“It’s an amazing period to be active, to take action!”

Ready to take action?  Here are a few recommendations that Lilliam Rivera says are “doing the work”.

Black Youth Project
(BYP100)
A national organization of 18-35 year-old Black organizers and activists, dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people. Using a Black queer feminist lens, BYP100 “envisions a world where all black people have economic, social, political, and educational freedom.”

Immigrant Youth Coalition
An organization led by undocumented youth that works to empower immigrant youth in California to stand up to injustice and criminalization of immigrants.

 

 

United We Dream
This fabulous immigrant youth-led organization is making a second appearance on our list, and for good reason: “At United We Dream, we transform fear into finding your voice. We empower people to develop their leadership, their organizing skills, and to develop our own campaigns to fight for justice and dignity for immigrants and all people.”

Million Hoodies Movement for Justice
A human rights organization with chapters around the country that is “building next generation human rights leaders to end anti-Black racism and systemic violence”

 

 

 

¡ Pa’lante!
This summer, let’s get really real and #ReadForChange

If you’re hoping to start your summer with a free signed copy of The Education of Margot Sanchez, here’s a link to the giveaway. We’ll be announcing the winner on Twitter @MarieFMarquardt and Instagram marie_marquardt June 1!

 

Meet Marie Marquardt

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Marie Marquardt is the author of three YA novels: The Radius of UsDream Things True, and Flight Season (available 2/20/18). A Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Marie also has published several articles and co-authored two non-fiction books about Latin American immigration to the U.S. South. She is chair of El Refugio, a non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families. She lives with her spouse, four kids, a dog and a bearded dragon in the book-lover’s mecca of Decatur, Georgia.

 

Living on the Brink of Homelessness by Brenda Rufener, author of Where I Live

Where I Live (Final Cover)Growing up, my parents struggled financially, and for years we lived on the brink of homelessness. My parents couldn’t afford childcare, so on Saturdays my mother dropped my six-year-old brother and me off at the steps of our rural public library where the doors opened at 9:00 am, and we were greeted as patrons. At the time, I had no clue of my family’s struggles, and I felt like the luckiest kid on earth spending weekends in a quiet space filled with books.

 

The librarians never side-eyed my worn-out tennis shoes or my brother’s Kool-Aid stained face. They didn’t bat an eye at a parentless ten-year-old stretched out on a patchwork rug reading to her younger sibling. As long as we respected the rules, we were welcome until closing time. The library became our place of refuge.

 

A few years later, I’d become keenly aware of my parents’ financial struggles. Money became a heated topic. How we needed it but never had it. And when my father lost his job due to layoffs, the already shaky foundation of my home crumbled.

 

We shuffled back and forth between homes and couches belonging to relatives. Our days spent living with family members turned to weeks, and weeks to months. I remember friends wanting to come over and hang out, but no rested on the tip of my tongue, embarrassed of the fact that I had no bedroom of my own. “Let’s meet at the library,” I’d say.

 

My situation, although not as severe as many homeless teens, partly inspired my novel, Where I Live. When writing, I drew on personal experiences, emotions, and insecurities I had growing up while facing homelessness.

 

The statistics of homelessness are overwhelming and impersonal. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, on a single night in January, 549,928 people experienced homelessness in the United States. Over one-fifth of people experiencing homelessness were children, and nine percent were between the ages of 18 and 24. Unfortunately, this number continues to rise.

 

Public awareness has improved dramatically since I was a kid, but there is still work to be done. Today, housing insecurity, like my parents experienced during my childhood and teen years, is at an all time high. We’re seeing a large number of college students living in their vehicles because they can’t afford rent. This is especially true among community college students. We’re also seeing families forced out of their homes due to abrupt rent hikes. And an alarming number of LGBTQ+ teens being forced from their homes after coming out to their parents.

 

To compound problems, many homeless shelters are not equipped to take in teens, especially those who identify as girls. Homeless teens report that they don’t feel safe or comfortable in homeless shelters that cater to adults.

 

In college, I volunteered with a literacy program helping homeless young women. Struck by their tenacity and unwillingness to give up hope, I was drawn to their strength. How I wished teen-me had known these women. They were homeless, but never hopeless, and they helped show me how homelessness takes on many faces.

 

Homelessness is not always the weathered and grizzled man panhandling on the street corner. Yes–he exists and should be helped, but other faces exist, too. They are the student sitting next you in class. The friend living in her car with dreams similar to your own. They are ambitious young people who are much more than their crisis.

 

Today, I continue my volunteer efforts to raise money and collect supplies for teen homeless shelters. Spoiler: Shelters need tampons, deodorant, and women’s hygiene products, and they are some of the least donated items. This small act of service is a reminder to myself, and now to my own children, that homelessness has many faces and is not a one size fits all journey.

 

My novel, Where I Live, is a tribute to the resilient homeless youth I’ve encountered over the years, and to a library community that filled me with hope and possibility.

 

Credit: Carolyn Scott Photography

Credit: Carolyn Scott Photography

Meet Brenda Rufener

Brenda Rufener is a technical writer turned novelist who spent her childhood stomping through the woods of Oregon. A double major in English and biology, Brenda graduated from Whitman College, and now lives in North Carolina with her family. She is an advocate for homeless youth.

https://www.brendarufener.com/

And buy link:

https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062571090/where-i-live

#ReadForChange: Girls Fight Back in Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie, a guest post by Marie Marquardt

ReadForChange copyTeen Librarian Toolbox is excited to be partnering with Marie Marquardt for her #ReadForChange project. Hop on over to this post to learn more about the initiative. Today, she and Jennifer Mathieu join us for a conversation about feminism, taking action, and Mathieu’s powerful novel, Moxie

 

We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. … We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie—We Should all be Feminists

 

“For All the Teenage Women Fighting the Good Fight”

moxieIt’s wonderfully fitting that Jennifer Mathieu dedicates her fourth YA novel, Moxie: “For all the teenage women fighting the good fight.” Why? because this book reads as a (punk rock) love song to the brave teenage women who walk with dignity through the halls of high schools everywhere, refusing to be defeated by casual misogyny, and fighting back in their own creative, unorthodox, and sometimes super-fun ways.

 

In Moxie, we follow Vivi Carter – a “good” girl who avoids attention – through a feminist awakening.  When the story starts, Vivi is simply trying to make it through the school year in a Texas football town, where boys (especially those who happen to know how to throw, catch, and block pigskin balls) get away with all manner of inexcusable behavior, from wearing offensive t-shirts to hallway “bump-n-grabs”, while girls endure subtle shaming through gender-biased dress-code enforcement, as well as direct sexual harassment and (in one instance toward the end of the novel) assault.

 

When the story starts, Vivi and her friends are surviving as so many girls do — by shrinking themselves, making themselves smaller, putting their heads down and getting by. Fortunately for Vivi, and for all the readers of this story, she happens to have a mom who went through a gloriously rebellious stage, which Vivi’s mom refers to as her “misspent youth”. Though it’s hard for Vivi to imagine her hard-working single mom ever having been a punk-rock feminist, a bit of rummaging through her mom’s old things allows Vivi to uncover the Riot Grrrls and their fierce zines. Inspired by their music and their protest, Vivi begins a quiet, anonymous campaign inside her own school. Her brave actions slowly spark a full-on social movement, bringing girls into solidarity across differences of class and ethnicity, and creating lasting change in the school.

 

And: Seth! He’s a newcomer to the school who wants, from the very beginning, to act in solidarity with the girls and to support their movement, but who bumbles a bit along the way. The love story that develops between Seth and Vivi is so lovely and his character is a beautiful (and important) model for how to become a feminist man. Step one: believe women when they tell you they’ve been harmed. Step two: listen and learn. Step three: follow them when they walk out and then link arms with them in protest.

 

“Calling Themselves Feminists for the First Time”: A Conversation with Jennifer Mathieu

_PDG6191MARIE: Tell us about the moment when you knew that this story had to be written, and that you needed to be the one to write it.

 

JENNIFER: I knew this story had to be written the minute the idea popped into my head! I wanted to write a book about Riot Grrrl – the feminist movement that made such an impact on my life.  But I wanted to find a way to make it contemporary and meaningful for young readers.  I also wanted to find a way to address the importance of intersectionality.  I started texting with my friend Kate and ran some ideas back and forth with her, and suddenly, I couldn’t stop planning, outlining, and writing Moxie. Honestly, this book was so much fun to write – probably the most fun I’ve ever had writing a novel – and hearing from young readers who have told me they are calling themselves feminists for the first time just because they read this book really makes me so happy.  The experience of writing Moxie was so special, and if it has helped make positive change in the world, then I am so humbled by that.

 

MARIE: What are some of the things you’re doing to create the world that you want your kids and students to live in?

 

JENNIFER: Personally, I have become very engaged in the campaigns of some local progressive candidates.  I became a voter deputy registrar in my county so I can register people to vote, including students at the high school where I teach!  And speaking of my high school, I sponsor the Feminist Club which is very important to me.  I also teach Sunday School at my church where I teach little ones about how God’s love is for everyone no matter their color, ethnicity, abilities, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

 

MARIE: What’s your message for readers who want to take action, themselves?

 

JENNIFER: My advice to readers who want to take action is to focus on one or two issues that really matter to them and do what you can in those areas.  It can be very overwhelming to try and “do it all” and I’ve been guilty of this myself.  After the 2016 election I was trying to go to so many meetups and doing so much, I got pretty stressed.  I decided that I was going to direct my focus on helping elect candidates I care about, and that’s what I’ve been doing.  For someone else it might mean getting super involved in raising awareness for climate change or feeding the hungry or clinic defense.  They just need to figure out where their hearts are and go for it!  I would also say staying informed by consuming reputable news and trying to limit consumption of click bait on the Internet is important, too.

 

Let’s Get Reading! “Focus on one or two issues that really matter … and do what you can.”

#RFC Moxie INSTA & FBOkay, Moxie girls (and those who love us!).  Time to follow Jennifer’s advice: Here’s a short list of non-fiction books that would be great companions to Moxie – they can help us get informed and stay informed, while also avoiding that click bait.

 

Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters by Jessica Valenti – The first chapter of this book is: “You’re a hardcore feminist. I swear.” The rest of the book will show you why that’s something to celebrate. And, as an added bonus, you’ll learn a bunch of new stuff along the way about pop culture, health, reproductive rights, violence, education, relationships, and more.

 

We Should all Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie –  *Okay, hopping up on my soapbox here.* We should all read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She is an eloquent and unapologetic feminist who speaks and writes with incredible clarity about how and why gender matters.

 

Girl Up by Laura Bates – The tagline for this one is “kick ass, claim your woman card, and crush everyday sexism”. Need I say  more?

tumblr_oliiioltZ81vkq4glo1_540

Looking for some Moxie anthems? Here’s Jennifer’s very own super rad Riot Grrrl playlist!

“Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill

“Freewheel” by Team Dresch

“Dream Number Nine” by Big Joanie

“Stuck Here Again” by L7

“Mujer Moderna” by Fea

“Gimme Brains” by Bratmobile

“Oh Bondage Up Yours” by X-RaySpex

 

And, a documentary, for when you’re taking a break from that stack of fabulous books:

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry

 

Let’s Get Loud! “Figure out where your hearts are and go for it!”

Ready to take action?  Here are a few recommendations straight from Jennifer Mathieu – “resources that support an intersectional feminist viewpoint and welcome all ladies, including girls of color, girls with disabilities, queer girls, and transgender girls.”

 

feministing.com – an online community run by and for young feminists. Offers “sharp uncompromising analysis” with the goal of inspiring people to make real-world feminist change.

 

therepresentationproject.org – Inspiring individuals and communities to create a world free from gender stereotypes and social injustices

 

moxiegirlsfightback.com – Jennifer Mathieu’s own tumbler with so much good stuff, including a step-by-step guide to starting a Feminist Club at your own school.

 

 

(Let’s Pause for Gratitude) “If It Has Helped Make Positive Change in the World…”

Oh, Jennifer! It SO has. This book could not have come into our lives at a better time.  As women step forward and speak out, and as good men stand in support of them, we all are so grateful to have Vivi, Seth, Lucy, Kiera and all those Moxie girls & allies to show us how empowering it is to join this fight!

 

Let us go forth, walk out, fight back, and #ReadForChange!

And if you’re hoping to go forth and read a free signed copy of Moxie AND some moxie swag, here’s a link to the giveaway. US only! We’ll be announcing the winner on Twitter @MarieFMarquardt and Instagram marie_marquardt March 1!

 

Meet Marie Marquardt

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Marie Marquardt is the author of three YA novels: The Radius of UsDream Things True, and Flight Season (available 2/20/18). A Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Marie also has published several articles and co-authored two non-fiction books about Latin American immigration to the U.S. South. She is chair of El Refugio, a non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families. She lives with her spouse, four kids, a dog and a bearded dragon in the book-lover’s mecca of Decatur, Georgia.

#ReadForChange: Confronting Racial Injustice with Justyce in Nic Stone’s Dear Martin, a guest post by Marie Marquardt

ReadForChange copyTeen Librarian Toolbox is excited to be partnering with Marie Marquardt for her #ReadForChange project. Hop on over to this post to learn more about the initiative. Today, she and Nic Stone join us for a conversation about racial injustice and Stone’s phenomenal debut novel, Dear Martin

 

It’s so amazing to be living in this time of great change. It’s hard. It’s complicated. It’s not always pretty—I’m thinking about … protests going on because of Eric Garner and Ferguson and Treyvon Martin—the lists go on—but people are angry and done! —and with anger and done-ness comes change. So it may not always look the way we want it to look or sound the way we want it to sound but it’s change nevertheless. We have to be like water, ready to move with it. 

—Jacqueline Woodson (SLJ interview, January 2015)

 

“Ready to Move with It”

dear martinUnflinching. This is the word that comes to mind when I reflect on the experience of reading Dear Martin. Nic Stone weaves together a story that draws us in deep and refuses to let us turn away from the heartache, the confusion, the sorrow, and the violence – physical and emotional – of growing up black and male in the United States.

 

In Dear Martin, we follow Justyce McAllister – a kind, thoughtful, young black man – through his senior year as a scholarship student at an elite Atlanta prep school. We begin in the parking lot of a FarmFresh grocery store where Justyce, trying to come to the rescue of his wasted ex-girlfriend, is physically and verbally assaulted by a police officer. We see, through his experience, the dawning realization that, no matter how smart he is (incredibly smart), no matter how he dresses, no matter how he tries to stay out of trouble and be “more acceptable”, in his own words: “the world is full of people who will always see me as inferior.” His mom sums it up when she asks him, rhetorically, “It’s hard being a black man, ain’t it?”

 

But in the pages of Nic Stone’s novel, Justyce rolls like water…. Struggling to make sense of all that he experiences and wanting so much to do the right thing, Justyce writes a series of letters to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here’s how he ends his first letter: “You faced worse shi—I mean stuff than sitting in handcuffs for a few hours, but you stuck to your guns… well, your lack thereof, actually. I wanna try to live like you. Do what you would do. See where it gets me.”

 

Justyce’s year of trying to live like “Martin” takes him, and us (the readers who root so hard for him) to places that are morally complicated and heartbreaking – places that challenge many of us to re-think what we thought we knew about the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and the racially-charged times we live in now.

 

Through the eyes of Justyce, Nic Stone helps readers see the many nuances of racial injustice, and what it must feel like to arrive at that moment of being, in the words of Jacqueline Woodson “angry and done”!  And, as Woodson reminds us, once our eyes are opened, “We have to be like water, ready to move with it.”

 

“Step One is Always Opening Your Eyes and Ears”: A Conversation with Nic Stone

StoneSmileMARIE: Tell us about the moment when you knew that this story had to be written, and that you needed to be the one to write it.

 

NIC: Dear Martin was a response to three things: the myriad shooting deaths of unarmed African American teenagers since 2012, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in response to these deaths, and the invocation of Dr. King in opposition to this movement—which didn’t sit right with me knowing what I knew about Dr. King and his M.O. So I decided to explore current events through the lens of his teachings to see what would happen. I have two little boys, so it’s really my ode to them and my way of figuring out how to approach the stuff I’ll eventually have to teach them about being black and male in America.

 

MARIE: What are some of the things you’re doing to create the world that you want your sons to live in?

 

NIC: In a word: writing. Books are hugely instrumental in shifting perspectives and opening minds, and it’s a huge honor and privilege to get to create them—and by default, influence minds—for a living.

 

MARIE: What’s your message for readers who want to take action, themselves?

 

NIC: Step one is always opening your eyes and ears. Getting a thumb on the pulse of what’s actually going on. Read. A lot. Write to process. Talk to people. Then, when it comes to the fight against systemic injustice, the next step is to find the people who are already doing the work. There are a lot of… legs to this issue—there’s police accountability, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, you name it—so figuring out where to focus one’s attention is important. Then use your gifts. Write if you write. Talk if you talk. Got a finance background? Use it.

 

“Read. A lot.” (And Listen!)

DearMartin GiveawayOkay, folks.  Time to follow Nic’s advice: Here’s a short list of non-fiction books that would be great companions to Dear Martin – they can help us “get a thumb on the pulse of what’s actually going on” and also inspire us to take action.

 

Black Lives Matter by Sue Bradford Edwards and Dutchess Harris – Written specifically for middle and high schoolers, the book explores the historical events and movements framing the tragic deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray, and the contemporary resistance movements that have emerged in their wake.

 

Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case by Chris Crowe – A deep look into the 1955 murder of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till, the trial and acquittal of his white murderers, and the horrific event’s role in shaping the Civil Rights Movement.

 

March by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell – A three-volume graphic memoir of the extraordinary Congressman John Lewis (who I’m incredibly proud to say is my own representative in Georgia’s 5th District!). An inspiring reminder of teenagers’ crucial leadership in the Civil Rights Movement.

 

Some more challenging reads that are absolutely worth the effort:

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehesi Coates

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race edited by Jesmyn Ward

We had Sneakers, They had Guns: The Kids who fought for Civil Rights in Mississippi  by Tracy Sugarman

 

And, a podcast, for when you’re taking a break from that stack of fabulous books:

Pod Save the People hosted by DeRay Mckesson, an activist involved in shaping the Black Lives Matter movement. It features weekly conversations on culture, politics, and social justice that offer practical ideas for how each of us can make a difference.

 

The Next Step: “Find the People who are Already Doing the Work”

Ready to take action?  Here are a few recommendations straight from Nic Stone – movements and organizations already doing the important work of fighting for racial justice.

 

RJOY: Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth – works to interrupt cycles of violence and incarceration of kids of color – using a restorative model of justice to repair harm and heal communities.

 

Color of Change: designs campaigns to “end practices that unfairly hold Black people back” and “champions solutions that move us all forward.  Until Justice is real.”

 

Black Lives Matter: A movement for “healing justice” and “rigorous love”: “We affirm our humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”

 

Then use your gifts…

Nic Stone Book Launch (1)

In October, I had the pleasure of being at Nic’s book launch event for Dear Martin, where she put her own remarkable gifts to work. Nic chose a format that wasn’t typical, but it was the perfect way to send Justyce’s story into the world. We gathered at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, where, instead of talking about the book or reading from it, Nic asked a panel of three young black men questions about their own experience, their perceptions of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy, and what they want to see change in our society.

 

When asked what we can do to help create change, one of the panelists offered this simple advice: “Read a book. It gives you a different perspective on people.”

 

Let us go forth and #ReadForChange!

Hoping to go forth and read a free signed copy of Dear Martin? Head on over to the Rafflecopter link to enter the giveaway. US only! We’ll be announcing the winner on Twitter @MarieFMarquardt and Instagram marie_marquardt February 1!

 

Meet Marie Marquardt

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Marie Marquardt is the author of three YA novels: The Radius of UsDream Things True, and Flight Season (available 2/20/18). A Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Marie also has published several articles and co-authored two non-fiction books about Latin American immigration to the U.S. South. She is chair of El Refugio, a non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families. She lives with her spouse, four kids, a dog and a bearded dragon in the book-lover’s mecca of Decatur, Georgia.

Anger, inspiration, and the stories we tell, a guest post by Marieke Nijkamp

before iBefore I Let Go tells the story of two girls in the arctic heart of Alaska. Two girls who were best friends, who were discovering who they could be, who were each other’s center of gravity. It tells of  grief and ice, of mystery and mental illness.

And it was, at least in part, born out of anger.

Anger is good writing fuel for me. Anger and questions. It’s where most of my story ideas start. Of course, for an idea to grow into a book, it needs far more than just a spark. It needs characters to carry it, a plot to move it forward, and beautiful Alaskan settings. Oh, how I love playing with winter.

But it started with a spark of anger.

The source of that anger? Inspiration porn. A specific instance… or ten or twenty.

If you don’t know what inspiration porn is, the late, great Stella Young defined it as such in her absolute spectacular Ted talk I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much: the act of objectifying disabled people for the benefit of nondisabled people.

It’s posters of disabled athletes with the slogan “The only disability is a bad attitude.” It’s describing disabled people as courageous simply for living. It’s quite literally describing us as inspirational.

I don’t know anyone with a disability—especially those of us who use assistive devices or are visibly disabled—who hasn’t at some point in their life had strangers come up to them to tell them how brave they are. I don’t know anyone with a disability who hasn’t at some point in their life had strangers come up to them to say, “I can’t imagine living like that, but you’re really inspiring to me.” Or, “I wasn’t feeling well today, but then I thought of you and how much worse you have it, and I pushed through.”

It happens countless times.

At the core of it is this strange idea that living with disability is either so remarkable or so terrible that the sheer act of existing is to be applauded. (And that we only exist for the benefit of nondisabled people.)

Now, on the surface, inspiration porn may seem relatively benign. Sure, it’s objectifying, but inspiration is a good thing, isn’t it?

Let’s set aside that objectifying and othering means not valuing us, means denying us accessibility, means hindering our quest toward equality.

Sometimes, it goes beyond even that. When there’s a very specific variation to the theme: when a disabled person’s death exists to inspire nondisabled people in life.

This particular version is often used specifically in the context of (romanticizing) mental illness and suicidal ideation, though there are also ample examples of it being used in broader disability representation.

And honestly, I’ve seen one too many portrayals of dead disabled characters whose death is turned into a teachable moment instead of a tragedy. Or, a flawed reminder to “make the most” out of life. And it always keeps the focus on nondisabled people.

That’s what sparked Before I Let Go. I wanted to write a book that examined and would be conversation with inspiration porn. Sure, it’s a murder mystery too. And a story of friendship and responsibility and how even the best intentions can be harmful. But Kyra’s death at the start of the book is unequivocally a tragedy.

She deserved so much more. And that’s where we start.

 

Meet Marieke Nijkamp

Credit: Karin Nijkamp

Credit: Karin Nijkamp

Marieke Nijkamp was born and raised in the Netherlands. A lifelong student of stories, language, and ideas, she spends as much time in fictional worlds as she does the real world. She loves to travel, roll dice, and daydream.

Marieke’s debut young adult novel, This Is Where It Ends, follows four teens during the fifty-four minutes of a school shooting. Her sophomore novel, Before I Let Goa haunting young adult murder mystery set during a cruel Alaskan winter, is out now.

For more information about Marieke, visit Twitter, TumblrInstagram, and her website.

My Top Ten Internet Things (IRL), a guest post by Danika Stone

internet famousToday, author Danika Stone joins us to talk about her favorite places to spend time online. Her newest book, INTERNET FAMOUS, also releases today. 

 

When you’ve written two books that take place almost entirely online, it becomes obvious you spend a lot of time there. Yes, I admit it’s true. Years ago, almost all the fights I had with my parents came down to “hiding away” in my room rather than “hanging out” like the rest of my friends. Nowadays, I have the successful excuse of “networking” to explain the countless hours I spend online. And while there’s truth to that, there’s far more truth to the Internet being a really FUN place to be.

 

Here are my top ten online time-wasters:

  1. PicMonkey: This free online site lets you alter images with Photoshop-like ease, at no cost. If you ever wished you could polish your photographs, but didn’t know how, this site lets you. While some features are “Royale” only (read: pay to use), most are free. I’ve spent DAYS playing with this site.

 

  1. The Way Back Machine: Ever lost a website and wish you could go back in time to find it? Now you CAN. (This is actually part of the plot of Internet Famous.)

 

  1. Tumblr: I’ve used Tumblr for nearly four years, and it never ceases to amaze me how many things I’ve discovered while there. With a searchable database of tags, it doesn’t matter what your current fixation, you’ll find a hit on this image-heavy site. And once you start curating your searches, and following specific blogs, you’ll find even MORE to enjoy. Even my All the Feels characters have blogs:
    1. Liv: http://livoutloud.tumblr.com/
    2. Xander: http://steampunkxander.tumblr.com/
    3. Brian: http://starveilbrian1981.tumblr.com/
    4. Joe: http://joeswoesstarveil.tumblr.com/
    5. Kelly: http://spartangrrl.tumblr.com/
    6. Awkward Family Photos: If you haven’t wondered ‘what’s the worst family photo ever taken?’ then you haven’t lived. Go here. Bring tissues. You’ll laugh so hard you’ll cry.

 

  1. On the opposite end of the scale is Post Secret, which allows you to read through the secrets of people across the world. Some are funny, some are heartbreaking, and the site is addictive.

 

  1. You ever have a day when you just couldn’t get out of bed because you felt so awful? Then Baby Animal Cam is for you. I don’t care WHAT is happening, there are moments of joy to be found on these links from around the world!

 

  1. Mental Floss: There are times when you want to read something, but don’t have time for a book. Your parents are showing up for dinner in fifteen minutes, or you’ve got an interview and don’t want to be late. Mental Floss is the perfect alternative. With plenty of random information, you can jump into a post without any intention and find something intriguing that you never knew. Unexpected benefit: You will sound smarter at parties when making small talk.

 

  1. Love to make things? Depthy is a new 3D Anaglyph creator. You ‘paint’ in the closer parts and the online program does the rest. You can save as a 3D picture, or export it as a video or gif. Believe me, you’ll spend HOURS on this site.

 

  1. The Oatmeal is (almost) my favorite place to spend time online. The next site barely shades it out, but it’s also on this list because it has a post that’s my all-time favorite posts on the Internet ever. Whenever I’m having a terrible day. You know, the day your editor calls and tells you “I like the story, but let’s redo everything after page 50” kind of day… I reread this post about Gene Roddenberry. It’s perfect.

 

And that brings me to my MOST favorite place to waste time online…

 

  1. Hyperbole and a Half: I’m not sure why this isn’t required reading for everyone in university. (Seriously though, the explanation of depression could help everyone.) It is funny and poignant and one of the best things around. If you aren’t following the posts, start today.

 

So how about you? What are YOUR favorite places to hide online? Comments are open and I’d love to hear your answers. 😀

 

Want to enter to win a copy of Danika Stone’s new book, INTERNET FAMOUS? Of course you do! Head on over to the Rafflecopter to enter to win one of three copies. Giveaway is open to the US, UK, and Canada! Contest ends June 10, 2017. 

 

DanikaStonePortrait2Meet Danika Stone

Danika Stone is an author, artist, and educator who discovered a passion for writing fiction while in the throes of her Masters thesis. A self-declared bibliophile, Danika now writes novels for both adults (Edge of Wild, The Intaglio Series and Ctrl Z) and teens (Internet Famous, All the Feels and Icarus). When not writing, Danika can be found hiking in the Rockies, planning grand adventures, and spending far too much time online. She lives with her husband, three sons, and a houseful of imaginary characters in a windy corner of Alberta, Canada.

Ms. Stone is represented by Morty Mint of Mint Literary Agency

Guest Post: Five Things I’ve Learned from Being an Advice Columnist by Carol Weston

I’ve been “Dear Carol” at Girls’ Life since the magazine’s first issue in April of 1994. For 23 years, I’ve been hearing from tween and teen girls. What have I learned?

 9781492654490-3001. School Can Be A Refuge

When I was 28 and Girltalk: All the Stuff Your Sister Never Told You was first published, I had no idea I’d be answering letters for decades. I’d written the book in a big sister voice, and I set up a P.O. box in Evanston, Illinois, just in case any girls wanted to get in touch. Letters poured in—and I learned how complicated the world is.

So many experts say, “Talk to your parents.” And that sounds… sound. But I quickly came to realize that parents don’t always know best. Some parents drink, some hit, some call their kids fat or stupid or lazy, and some say, “I wish you were never born.” I was stunned the first time I got a letter from a girl who was pregnant by her stepfather. As “Dear Carol,” I now realize that many kids are mistreated at home, and that girls with nightmarish lives need all the compassion and support the rest of us can offer. Do you have a hunch that a particular student could use a smile and a kind word? You’re probably right.

For countless tweens and teens, school is a safe space where they can find themselves and learn to shine. When a girl writes me about a troubling situation, I ask if there’s a nearby adult she can confide in, a librarian, teacher, nurse, counselor, or clergyperson. I tell her that this person will listen and won’t judge. Needless to say, such trustworthy adults (who may be overworked and underpaid) are heroes. They turn kids’ lives around, though they may never receive a formal thank-you.

2. Kids Need Adults (Though They’d Rather Not Admit It)

At the mall, we see mortified tweens rolling their eyes and saying “Daaaad!” or “Mahhhm!” Yet when no one’s looking, these girls tell me they feel hurt because their parents pay more attention to siblings or because they won’t get off their devices. For young people who feel invisible at home, it’s extra important to feel seen, heard, or valued elsewhere.

Even when tweens are happy campers, they may not live in a home full of books, so a librarian’s recommendations really do matter. If English is not the student’s first language, he may know about Harry and Hermione but not about Charlotte’s web and Charlie’s chocolate. Librarians have the privilege of sharing the joy of reading with the next generation and turning kids into readers. When a librarian says, “I think you’d like this,” and hands over a carefully chosen book, it can be such a gift. Speed of Life can help a grieving student know that time doesn’t heal but it helps. Ava and Pip can help a shy student come out of her shell.

I was already out of grad school when my high school librarian invited me to join her weekly writers’ group. I did, and her group helped me define myself as a writer. In my Ava and Pip series, it’s the librarian, Mr. Ramirez, who encourages Ava to enter a writing contest. Ava doesn’t win, but by the end of the book, she decides that when she grows up, she wants to be an author of children’s books.

3. Plus Ça Change, Plus C’est La Même Chose

Politics and technology change, but the bulk of my mail will always be about friendship, love, family. Teens—like grownups—want to get along with the people they care about and see every day. Girls feel sad when their best friend from first grade makes a new bestie or posts about a party to which she wasn’t invited. They feel overlooked when their divorced dad talks with excitement about a girlfriend. They worry when they find out someone they like is smoking or cutting.

Readers used to send me stamped letters; now it’s mostly email. But the contents haven’t changed so very much. That said, childhood does seem shorter than ever. I routinely hear from 11-year-olds who earnestly ask, “At what age are you supposed to have sex?” And more teens confess, “I want to be famous,” hoping I know some secret shortcut.

I’m glad our books and lives are more diverse and multicultural than ever, and that, for instance, we say “blended families” instead of “broken homes.” But we’re not where we need to be. I used to start my author visits with the question: “What’s the difference between fiction and nonfiction?” Today, because of fake news and disinformation, the answer isn’t always crystal clear, and critical thinking skills are essential.

4. We Can All Use Advice

Too many kids believe that if they have a feeling, they should take action. She likes Max? She should tell him! She’s mad at Kiara? She should confront her! She’s attracted to Taylor? They should take their relationship to “the next level”! I’ve told thousands of girls: don’t take action; take your time. No need to make fast decisions or speak your mind at every turn—especially if it might devastate the other person.

Most students are not going to bare their souls to someone they have to face in the halls. But if a student does share, and it feels appropriate, guidance can go a long way. For some, you might be just an ear. For others, you might be the one who reminds them to calm down—or aim high. It’s often the librarians who are aware of game-changing opportunities, contests, internships, travel experiences, even boarding schools. I went to a public school until twelfth grade, then spent senior year in France with School Year Abroad, SYA.org. I’m glad I learned about and applied to this wonderful program.

5. Novelists Get to Cause Trouble

Years ago, I naïvely imagined that there would come a day when I’d get to the bottom of my mailbag. I’d offer all of my best voice-of-reason advice and, ta-da, fewer teens would get pregnant or develop eating disorders. Today I understand how hard it is to make a difference—and how crucial it is to keep trying.

With nonfiction, I strive to provide answers. With fiction, it’s the opposite: I get to ask questions and pile on problems. But I can fix things too. And I can give hope.

My new novel, Speed of Life, begins eight months after the sudden death of Sofia’s Spanish mother. Sofia’s friends were there for her, but now it’s the middle of eighth grade, and they want her to bounce back. She cannot. Yet twelve months (and twelve chapters) later, Sofia is in a much happier place.

I was crying at the keyboard when I wrote the scene where Sofia speaks to her mother. But I had fun writing about Dear Kate acting rash. Yes, one character really is an advice columnist—and no, she does not have all the answers.

Carol Weston1_photo by Linda Richichi USECarol Weston lives in Manhattan and is the author of 16 books including Speed of Life, Ava and Pip, The Diary of Melanie Martin, Girltalk, For Teens Only. Her website is carolweston.com.