Search on SLJ.com ....
Subscribe to SLJ
Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

You Don’t Have to Use the Internet & Other Absurd Things Politicians Say in 2017

thingsineverlearnedinlibraryschool

Internet privacy is under attack with the current administration. This means that the things you say and do online can no longer be considered private in the same ways we thought of them a few weeks ago. Congress has ruled that Internet providers can sale your information in an effort to make more money. You, my friends, are for sale. But one law maker contends that it’s okay that you don’t have Internet privacy because YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO ONLINE!

But wait, is that true? Let’s count discuss just a few of the ways that people do in fact have no choice but to go online in the year 2017.

Do you want a job? Chances are you can only apply online. And in order to apply, you’ll need access to a computer, the Internet, and an email address.

Do you want paycheck stubs for a loan or to apply for college? Yep, you can probably only get those online as well.

If I want to know what grades my child is getting in school, I can only find out online. Our school district does not send out any paper report cards at all.

Need to go to the doctor? You’ll have to fill our those per-certification forms online.

Want to apply for the FAFSA to get financial aid for college? Online thank you.

Want to keep in contact with professional colleagues? Participate in professional development? Online classes? Webinars?

Keep in contact with military family stationed in far away places?

Want to participate in politics? Contact an elected representative?

What about contacting a business or corporation to get more information or file a complaint?

Are you a student who wants to graduate? Chances are you will have to submit homework and assignments online.

The truth is, if you want to communicate, learn, work, grow or anything in the year 2017, you do in fact have to get online. Very few people manage to effectively live off the grid because our world is designed to be very much on the grid. And now that we’re all there and need it to survive, the government wants to take away our reasonable rights to privacy. This is something that I think we should all be concerned about.

How to Protect Your Online Privacy Now That Congress Sold You Out

So what do we do? Continue to talk about the importance of online and data privacy. Contact your legislators. You can also look into building a VPN to help protect your privacy. But the important thing is this: We can not let the false narrative that being online is a choice stand.

And here is where I would like to add a note about the power and importance of libraries. Every day libraries around the world open their doors to those who don’t have steady, dependable access to the Internet for a variety of reasons. We provide the access they need to do all of the things we talked about above and more. And libraries have been stalwart defenders of patron privacy. Online privacy matters.

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA April 2017

It’s time for another roundup for new and forthcoming YA (and sometimes not YA) books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters.  The titles I’m including here have LGBTQIA+ main characters as well as secondary characters (in some cases parents), as well as anthologies that include LGBTQIA+ stories. Know of a title I missed in this list? Or know of a forthcoming title that should be on my radar for an upcoming list? Leave a comment or tweet me @CiteSomething. This list covers April 2017 titles. Head over to this link for the previous post (March 2017 titles) in this series. All annotations here are via the publishers/Goodreads. I also have a 2017 master list that I’m always working on. I’m happy to send you the list if you’re interested. Tweet at me or email me to request the list. I’m amanda DOT macgregor AT gmail DOT com.

 

April 2017

 

get it togetherGet It Together, Delilah! by Erin Gough (ISBN-13: 9781452151878 Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC Publication date: 04/04/2017)

Seventeen-year-old Delilah Green wouldn’t have chosen to do her last year of school this way, but she figures it’s working fine. While her dad goes on a trip to fix his broken heart after her mom left him for another man, Del manages the family cafe. Easy, she thinks. But what about homework? Or the nasty posse of mean girls making her life hell? Or her best friend who won’t stop guilt-tripping her? Or her other best friend who might go to jail for love if Del doesn’t do something? But really, who cares about any of that when all Del can think about is beautiful Rosa who dances every night across the street. . . . Until one day Rosa comes in the cafe door. And if Rosa starts thinking about Del, too, then how in the name of caramel milkshakes will Del get the rest of it together?

 

 

speak of meSpeak of Me As I Am by Sonia Belasco (ISBN-13: 9780399546761 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/04/2017)

A moving story of grief, honesty, and the healing power of art — the ties that bind us together, even when those we love are gone.

Melanie and Damon are both living in the shadow of loss. For Melanie, it’s the loss of her larger-than-life artist mother, taken by cancer well before her time. For Damon, it’s the loss of his best friend, Carlos, who took his own life.

As they struggle to fill the empty spaces their loved ones left behind, fate conspires to bring them together. Damon takes pictures with Carlos’s camera to try to understand his choices, and Melanie begins painting as a way of feeling closer to her mother. But when the two join their school’s production of Othello, the play they both hoped would be a distraction becomes a test of who they truly are, both together and on their own. And more than anything else, they discover that it just might be possible to live their lives without completely letting go of their sadness.

 

 

ashes toAshes to Asheville by Sarah Dooley (ISBN-13: 9780399165047 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/04/2017)

Two sisters take off on a wild road trip in this poignant tale for fans of Counting by 7s and Fish in a Tree

After Mama Lacy’s death, Fella was forced to move in with her grandmother, Mrs. Madison. The move brought Fella all sorts of comforts she wasn’t used to at home, but it also meant saying goodbye to her sister Zoey (a.k.a. Zany) and her other mother, Mama Shannon. Though Mama Shannon fought hard to keep Fella, it was no use. The marriage act is still a few years away and the courts thought Fella would be better off with a blood relation. Already heartbroken, Fella soon finds herself alone in Mrs. Madison’s house, grieving both the death of her mother and the loss of her entire family.

Then one night, Zany shows up at Mrs. Madison’s house determined to fulfill Mama Lacy’s dying wish: to have her ashes spread over the lawn of the last place they were all happy as a family. Of course, this means stealing Mama Lacy’s ashes and driving hundreds of miles in the middle of night to Asheville, North Carolina. Their adventure takes one disastrous turn after another, but their impulsive journey helps them rediscover the bonds that truly make them sisters.

A heartrending story of family torn apart and put back together again, Ashes to Asheville is an important, timely tale.

 

 

image notCastle on the River Vistula (Chelsea Trilogy #3) by Michelle Tea (ISBN-13: 9781944211288 Publisher: McSweeney’s Publishing Publication date: 04/04/2017)

When Sophie Swankowski surfaces from the freezing waters, she finds herself in an ancient castle in Poland—and in the center of an ages-old battle. Even with her magic powers, the strength and wisdom she learns from her companions in Warsaw, and the help of her gruff mermaid guardian, Syrena, how can one thirteen-year-old from scrappy Chelsea Massachusetts, really save the world?

Luckily, Sophie won’t be alone. As she connects to other girls around the globe who have been training, just like her, for this very fight, she begins to think she just may become the hero she’s meant to be. But when she has to face the pure source of evil alone, using all the strength she has to keep it from destroying everything, how easy it would be to simply give up and join the other side…

 

 

apartmentApartment 1986 by Lisa Papademetriou (ISBN-13: 9780062371089 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 04/11/2017)

Bestselling middle grade author Lisa Papademetriou is back with a playful, poignant story that will resonate with anyone who’s ever had to learn that love means accepting people—even yourself—for who they really are.

Callie never meant to let it go this far. Sure, she may have accidentally-on-purpose skipped a day at her fancy New York City prep school, but she never thought she’d skip the day after that! And the one after that . . . and . . . uh . . . the one after that.

But when everything in your real life is going wrong (fighting parents! bullied little brother! girls at school who just. don’t. get. it!) skipping school starts to look like a valid mental-health strategy. And when Callie runs into Cassius, a mysterious and prickly “unschooled” kid doing research at museums all across the city, it seems only natural for her to join him. Because museums are educational, which means they’re as good as going to class. Right?

Besides, school can wait. What can’t wait is the mystery of why her grandmother seems to wish she could travel back in time to 1986, or what she wants so much to relive there. As Cassius helps Callie see the world in a whole new light, she realizes that the people she loves are far from perfect—and that some family secrets shouldn’t be secret at all.

 

 

lumberjanesLumberjanes, Volume 6: Sink or Swim by Shannon Watters, Noelle Stevenson (Created by), Grace Ellis (Created by), Kat Leyh, Brooke Allen (Created by) (ISBN-13: 9781608869541 Publisher: BOOM! Box Publication date: 04/11/2017 Series: Lumberjanes Series, #6)

A crazy storm is coming and the Lumberjanes have to help their counselor Seafarin’ Karen get her boat back from some renegade selkies.

Knot On Your Life!

Camp is about more than just crafts and acquiring badges when you’re a Lumberjane. When April, Jo, Mal, Molly, and Ripley all decide to learn more about the mysterious Seafarin’ Karen, things take a turn for the strange. Shapeshifters, strange portals, and friendship to the max make for one summer camp that never gets boring!

This New York Times bestseller and multiple Eisner Award-winning series is a story of friendship, hardcore lady-types and kicking a lot of butt. Don’t miss out on these brand-new adventures written by Shannon Watters and Kat Leyh (Super Cakes) and illustrated by Carey Pietsch (Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift).

 

 

the upside of unrequitedThe Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (ISBN-13: 9780062348708 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 04/11/2017)

From the award-winning author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda comes a funny, authentic novel about sisterhood, love, and identity.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.
There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

(See my review here.)

 

 

edge of the abyssThe Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie (ISBN-13: 9781635830002 Publisher: North Star Editions Publication date: 04/18/2017)

Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to ruthless pirate-queen Santa Elena and set free Bao, the sea monster Reckoner she’d been forced to train. The days as a pirate trainee are long and grueling, but it’s not the physical pain that Cas dreads most. It’s being forced to work with Swift, the pirate girl who broke her heart. But Cas has even bigger problems when she discovers Boa is not the only a monster swimming free. Other Reckoners illegally sold to pirates have escaped their captors and are taking the NeoPacific by storm, attacking ships at random and ruining the ocean ecosystem. As a Reckoner trainer, Cas might be the only one who can stop them. But how can she take up arms against the creatures she used to care for and protect? Will Cas embrace the murky morals that life as a pirate brings or perish in the dark waters of the NeoPacific? The exciting sequel to The Abyss Surrounds Us.

 

 

identifyIdentify by Lesley Choyce (ISBN-13: 9781459814066 Publisher: Orca Book  Publishers Publication date: 04/18/2017)

Ethan is an anxiety-ridden loner who relies on medication to get through his day. During one of his fairly frequent panic attacks, a girl from school named Gabriella comes to his rescue. Gabe, as she prefers to be known, is facing her own inner turmoil. She has always been a tomboy, but the more pressure she faces to act and dress “like a girl,” the more she wonders just who she really is.
When he learns that Gabe is being constantly harassed at school, Ethan discovers he is able to overcome his own fears in order to stand up for his new friend. Then Gabe finds a disturbing note in her locker, and the threats begin to escalate. Ethan confronts the person responsible, but things take an unexpected turn, and he suddenly finds himself being questioned by police, accused of assault. With a dose of courage and a surprising ally, the two friends come up with a plan to set things right and end up discovering who they really are along the way.

 

 

megMeg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski (ISBN-13: 9781250098603 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication date: 04/18/2017)

Can friendship, Star Trek, drama club, and a whole lot of coffee get two nerdy best friends through the beginning of their senior year of high school?

Meg and Linus are best friends bound by a shared love of school, a coffee obsession, and being queer. It’s not always easy to be the nerdy lesbian or gay kid in a suburban town. But they have each other. And a few Star Trek boxed sets. They’re pretty happy.

But then Sophia, Meg’s longtime girlfriend, breaks up with Meg. Linus starts tutoring the totally dreamy new kid, Danny—and Meg thinks setting them up is the perfect project to distract herself from her own heartbreak. But Linus isn’t so sure Danny even likes guys, and maybe Sophia isn’t quite as out of the picture as Meg thought she was. . . .

 

 

looking for groupLooking for Group by Rory Harrison (ISBN-13: 9780062453075 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 04/25/2017)

Rory Harrison’s beautiful novel about identity, home, and fresh starts recounts one boy’s quest to discover a world where he can thrive, one adventure at a time.

Dylan doesn’t have a lot of experience with comfort. His room in the falling-down Village Estates can generously be categorized as squalid, and he sure isn’t getting any love from his mother, who seemed to—no, definitely did—enjoy the perks that went along with being the parent of a “cancer kid.”

His only escape has been in the form of his favorite video game—World of Warcraft—and the one true friend who makes him feel understood, even if it is just online: Arden. And now that Dylan is suddenly in remission, he wants to take Arden on a real mission, one he never thought he’d live to set out on: a journey to a mysterious ship in the middle of the Salton Sea.

But Arden is fighting her own battles, ones that Dylan can’t always help her win. As they navigate their way west, they grapple with Arden’s father (who refuses to recognize his daughter’s true gender), Dylan’s addiction, and the messy, complicated romance fighting so hard to blossom through the cracks of their battle-hardened hearts.

Middle School Monday: Book Review and Giveaway, The Speed of Life by Carol Weston

MSM1This is, perhaps, the most perfect eighth grade girl book I have ever read. In fact, it was excruciating to read (in the best possible way) as I felt I was right back in Middle School myself. It reminded me of nothing more than the Judy Blume books I read at that age, but current for today’s readers.

static1.squarespace.comFrom the publisher:

Sofia lost her mother eight months ago, and her friends were 100% there for her. Now it’s a new year and they’re ready for Sofia to move on.

Problem is, Sofia can’t bounce back, can’t recharge like a cellphone. She decides to write Dear Kate, an advice columnist for Fifteen Magazine, and is surprised to receive a fast reply. Soon the two are exchanging emails, and Sofia opens up and spills all, including a few worries that are totally embarrassing. Turns out even advice columnists don’t have all the answers, and one day Sofia learns a secret that flips her world upside down.

SPEED OF LIFE is the heartbreaking, heartwarming story of a girl who thinks her life is over when really it’s just beginning. It’s a novel about love, family, grief, and growing up.

There are multiple moments in this novel that ring true to life. My favorite of these is when Sofia and her best friend each tell their parents they are at the other’s house in order to go to a party together. Although Sofia makes a number of typical mistakes for a girl her age, she is a strong character who will enlighten many young women in the art of being true to yourself.

You can read the author’s guest post from last week here. If you’d like to be entered in the drawing to win a copy of The Speed of Life, please leave a comment on this post (preferably with your Twitter handle.)

Friday Finds: March 31, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: A Sea of Black Belts and the Myth of the Lazy Teen

TPiB: Escape Room The Game, a review

Middle School Monday: Jumpstart Creative Writing with Storybird Poetry

Book Review: Just a Girl by Carrie Mesrobian

SJYALit: Social Justice Reading in Schools, a guest post by Alex B.

SJYALit: More Social Justice Reading in Schools, a guest post by Alex B.

Around the Web

A High School’s Lesson For Helping English Language Learners Get To College

30 Young Adult Books for Activists-in-Training

In case you haven’t heard…

Without school librarians, we’re on a dystopian path

Student Loan Forgiveness Program Approval Letters May Be Invalid, Education Dept. Says

The CCBC’s Diversity Statistics: A Conversation with Kathleen T. Horning

There’s Someone Inside Your House: How the creepy cover was designed

 

Middle School Monday: I Wish Donald Trump Knew That… by J.

MSM1Creative writing…am I right? So many benefits for our students. Writing for expression. Empowerment. Literacy gains. Ownership. Imagination. Empathy.

I don’t do enough of it with our students. I’m working to change that. One of my goals is to make creative writing a cornerstone of my library practice.

A group of students recently participated in the creative writing exercise–“I wish everyone knew that…” This exercise is not new, of course—it’s not a revolutionary concept, but that doesn’t mean it’s not powerful. I love this activity. I added another writing prompt in case any student wanted to extend the idea:

I wish __________ (a specific person or group of people) knew that…

I thought that some students might choose that option and write about family, teachers, girls, etc. How small and limiting my thinking was! As always, our students are big thinkers who care about national and global issues.

I’m reprinting the work of one of our writers—J—with his permission and my thanks. No commentary from me is necessary, other than to say, our students deserve the world—and our time and respect as they work to one day change it.

I wish Donald Trump knew that not all Mexicans and foreigners come to the United States of America to sell drugs or rape or commit other crimes. Immigrants like me come to America or came to America to live a better life. To escape from their horrible jobs and get ones to provide for themselves and family. WE come to get better jobs. WE COME FOR OPPORTUNITIES!    J

I’m Julie Stivers at @BespokeLib—and my students are amazing. I look forward to seeing them every Monday!

Middle School Monday: G. Neri Writer-in-Residence

MSM1A Week in Quotes.

How does one tell the story of a week where our students got to meet and learn from an award-winning author?

You share some quotes. Of course!

I love how you made Reina a brave, strong girl. ~Jalen, 6th Grader

To prepare for the lucky reality that was G. Neri serving as a Writer-in-Residence at our school for a week, we underwent extensive prep. Every student in the school read G. Neri’s short story in verse Under Berlin—part of the Open Mic collection, edited by Mitali Perkins (2013) and then created digital book covers. Students connected to this story of turning prejudice on its head and when they signed a welcome poster, they included thoughts on the story and main character, Reina.

Yummy was the best book I have ever read. ~Multiple. Various.

I have never seen students as interested in a book as they were in G. Neri’s graphic novel Yummy (2010). All 7th and 8th grade students read the book and participated in a creative, critical thinking activity as a culminating project in the weeks and months leading up to our author visit. On the welcome poster, many students expressed this sentiment. How amazing is it that students then got to MEET the author of their new favorite book?

My books are the ammunition and I’m shooting them out with the hope that they hit you. ~G. Neri

The week started with two large group sessions where G. Neri gave presentations on his books, his unique entry into a writing career, and the writing process. In thinking of books as Weapons of Mass Information, G. Neri carried this analogy to his own many books and his hope that they would hit students with information. Knowledge. Make them think.

Everyone is a natural storyteller. ~G. Neri

This was touched on in his school-wide presentations, but when G. Neri starting working with his three writing groups for the week, he expanded on this idea, reminding students that they tell stories every day. Their verbal experiences with friends, family, classmates, and teachers have already taught them the rhythms and the hooks of story. Writing is just putting that to paper.

whole class

Give yourself permission to suck. Just try it. Get it down. ~G. Neri

As the writing groups—20 students in all—began working, G. Neri stressed the importance of not over-thinking that first effort. Powerful words for writing, but also life. Our work doesn’t have to be perfect immediately—we just need to start. Try it. Get it down.

A good stopping point comes at a dramatic beat. ~G. Neri

As G. Neri worked with those 20 students over the course of five days—in three separate groups—he framed their writing activities around technical advice on the mechanics of creative writing from character to setting to pace.

williamandjamarcus

You can use your voice to help people understand how you feel and change perceptions. ~G. Neri

In one activity, students were tasked with thinking of a situation where they or someone they knew was discriminated against. In addition to being a springboard for reflection and powerful writing, it served as inspiration for our students to use their bold and unique voices to…well…change the world.

jose

Why would I pick another book? Yummy is so amazing. ~Shania, 8th grader

Each of our students chose which of G. Neri’s books they would like to keep and then had him sign either the book or a book plate while he was here. Yummy was the most popular choice, but many students chose Chess Rumble (2007), Ghetto Cowboy (2011), or Tru and Nelle (2016).

Characters who struggle are more interesting. ~G. Neri

Neri meant this as writing advice, but it felt like a life affirmation for our students. At our alternative school, all of our students have some sort of struggle in their pasts, at the very least, academic difficulties at their base schools. Many, though, have faced other challenges in terms of family, behavior, or peer groups. People who struggle ARE more interesting. Yes, of course, in the pages of books, but also simply as our teens navigate their life stories.

When I was reading the book, that is just what I imagined! ~William, 7th Grader

The students who belonged to the 7th and 8th grade writing groups read Ghetto Cowboy in advance of the visit. While he was here, G. Neri showed the students some exclusive footage of real-life urban Philadelphia cowboys shot by the filmmakers who are turning Ghetto Cowboy into a movie. Exciting news! And, exciting for students to see what they had seen in their own heads turned into footage on a screen.

He had a mushroom haircut. ~Amin, 8th Grade Booster

Hearing the students share their own writing is what our Writer-in-Residence weeks are all about. Their voices are funny, brave, insightful. Magical. Often, too personal to include here. With this five-word on-target description of a character, Amin demonstrated how to visually depict someone and was rewarded with laughter from all of his fellow writers.

Yummy had me about to shed a tear. ~Kiyah, 7th Grader

On the morning of G. Neri’s last day, a group of students that were not part of the writing groups were invited to the library to have breakfast with the author for an informal session. The students asked questions and shared their sentiments about the book. Whenever the conversation moved away from Yummy, Kiyah would bring it back, finally exclaiming just how wrapped up she was in Yummy’s story.

We got G. Neri. ~Christopher and DJ, 8th Graders

During a break on that last day, G. Neri played kickball with a class of 8th grade PE students. How meaningful for our students to be able to adamantly claim a favorite author as a member of their kickball team!

I am in the writing group. ~Jerry, 8th Grader

The welcome sign the students created is filled with quotable phrases about specific books and characters. This, though, from Jerry is my favorite quote. When, I first saw it, I chuckled. Then, I almost cried. With this bold statement, Jerry is cloaking himself in the identity of writer. A powerful gesture for him to make and an empowering identity to wear.

I’m Julie Stivers at @BespokeLib ~ thank you to both G. Neri for working with our students and to our school administration for supporting our Mount Vernon writers!

 

The Intersection of #Ownvoices, Genre Fiction, and Empathy: Guest post by Shaila Patel

sjyalitIn a recent ruling by a Virginia court, five teens (described as two whites and three minorities) were sentenced to read one book a month for an entire year as punishment for defacing a historic black schoolhouse with racist and anti-Semitic graffiti. The books assigned were mostly works of literary fiction with diverse characters and/or racial themes like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Night by Elie Wiesel, and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

Judging by the conversations I’d seen on the internet, most people thought it was a great idea. I think it’s genius. But could it be taken a step further?

The purpose of the sentence was to impart a lesson in compassion and empathy—the idea that you can put yourself in another person’s shoes and see things from the other person’s perspective. Reading about diverse characters gives these teens the opportunity to realize that even though circumstances and appearances may be different, we’re all the same at heart.

This is the magical part of storytelling, and what drew me to writing in the first place—the ability to cast readers into a thousand different roles in a thousand different places.

I’m often asked if choosing to make my young adult debut as an #ownvoices novel was intentional, as if they’re really asking whether I’d purposely set out to teach teens a lesson on diversity, empathy, and racial equality. My answer, in case you’re curious, is no. I wrote my Indian-American character Laxshmi Kapadia because it’s what I know. Who better than me, an Indian-American, to show a sliver of what it’s like to grow up straddling both cultures. It’s what the #ownvoices designation is all about—authenticity.

If a teen can relate to an elf going on a quest, they can surely relate to an Asian heroine going on one.

soulmatedMy novel, Soulmated, is a young adult paranormal romance about empaths and psychics—it’s the farthest thing from being preachy—but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. After all, for most teens, genre fiction would rank quite a bit higher than their school’s required reading list. Part of me intuitively knew that setting my novel in a paranormal world might even attract someone who ordinarily wouldn’t have picked up a contemporary novel about an Indian-American girl because—let’s face it—some non-Indian-American readers might have looked at that book and thought they couldn’t relate.

That’s a learned response, because clearly, teen readers are connecting with hobbits, monsters, and vampires.

labyrinthlostIf a teen can relate to an elf going on a quest, they can surely relate to an Asian heroine going on one. (The Reader by Traci Chee or Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon.) And how is a werewolf trying to save her pack any different than a Latinx bruja trying to save her family from a spell gone wrong? (Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova.) Even in my own novel, Laxshmi’s empath abilities are emerging, somewhat like superheroes who are just learning to use their powers. The only difference is that I’ve peppered references to my Indian-American culture, portraying her as any other girl struggling against pressures from home and expectations she balks at.

So why might teens find characters from marginalized groups, like mine or any others, difficult to relate to? Maybe it brings up uncomfortable issues they don’t want to face or don’t think affects them, like racism, bullying, and bigotry. Maybe their family has unknowingly taught them that our differences are more important than our similarities. Maybe they’ve learned that “other” is equivalent to “less than” and therefore not worth the effort. It all comes back to empathy and using compassion and understanding to connect with a fellow human being despite our outward differences.

According to the Melbourne Child Psychology Journal, the ability to empathize is a skill that is still developing during the teenage years and is on the rise beginning at about 13-15 years of age. It makes it even more important to provide stories from different perspectives to these teens. It’s like exercising the emerging skill. From my own experience with my 16-year-old son, reading, paired with the appropriate analysis and discussion, is definitely worth the effort. The only drawback, however, is that he quickly loses interest when he sees it as a lesson.

No one argues that a diet high in vegetables is healthy, but as every parent knows, sometimes smothering the broccoli with cheddar cheese is the best way to get it to go down. While comparing this to reading is a bit oversimplified, it does illustrate the idea that some “lessons” are more effective if we make them more palatable.

Laura M. Jiménez, PhD, in an interview with the blog Reading While White, describes her experience teaching diverse children’s literature to a group of mostly white women who were studying to become teachers. She said that they had a difficult time connecting with stories outside their lived experiences, but she also observed that the more stereotypical and trope-ful the book, the easier they were able to connect with it.

If adults find diverse fiction easier to relate to when staged in commercial wrappings, it only reinforces an idea that we’ve already accepted: Sometimes it’s just easier to get a teen to enjoy reading if it’s genre fiction. And if it’s filled with characters written by #ownvoices authors? Even better.

 Stories designated as #ownvoices provide an authentic view of what the “other” side looks like, and placing that fictional setting in a spaceship, a dystopian world, or one with psychics and empaths, might just be your handiest tool in creating a more empathetic reader.

If you’re looking for ways to support more #ownvoices genre fiction, here are some suggestions:

  • Have your readers write and post a book review of an #ownvoices work in their favorite subgenre and have them show similarities to a more established work with comparable tropes or themes.
  • Start a book club for #ownvoices genre fiction, and don’t forget to tell the authors and publishers that you’ve chosen their books.
  • Contact #ownvoices authors and ask them to speak via video conference call to a class or a book club. Most authors would love the opportunity.

A far wider selection of diverse books and resources now exists compared to even five years ago, but finding a curated list of #ownvoices genre fiction has been difficult. One of the most helpful sites for diverse young adult fiction (including both literary and commercial) is Diversity in YA. Another site that’s a great resource for multiple age groups is We Need Diverse Books. You can also search Tumblr and Goodreads lists for #ownvoices works. Although the lists are unlikely to be curated, it’s a great place to start and familiarize yourself with what’s out there and meet bloggers who are passionate about promoting #ownvoices speculative fiction.

BIO:

author: Shaila PatelShaila Patel is a pharmacist by training, a pediatric-office manager by day, and a writer by night. SOULMATED, her debut young adult paranormal romance won the 2015 Chanticleer Book Reviews Paranormal Awards in YA. A huge fan of epilogues, she also enjoys traveling, craft beer, tea, and reading in cozy window seats. She writes from her home in the Carolinas.

 

Contact Links:

Website (http://www.shailapatelauthor.com)

Facebook (http://bit.ly/2btIJLK)

Twitter (http://bit.ly/2aVbeiR)

Instagram (http://bit.ly/2btID6X)

Pinterest (http://bit.ly/2biBDeH)

Goodreads (http://bit.ly/2btJp3S)

Friday Finds: March 10, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Middle School Monday: Preparing for Visiting Authors

Book Review: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

A Day without Women

Video Games Weekly: Abzu

Book Review: Secrets and Sequences: Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes, a guest post by Callum (age 10)

Around the Web

Supreme Court won’t say if trans teen can pick bathroom

White supremacists are recruiting like crazy on college campuses

Agile Makerspaces

UNDER THE GAYDAR: YAS WITH UNDERREPRESENTED IDENTITIES IN SECONDARY CHARACTERS

 

Middle School Monday: Preparing for Visiting Authors

MSM1This week, G. Neri is visiting our school for a week-long Writer-in-Residence. I know. I know. We’re crazy lucky.

Preparing for his visit has been the focus of my teaching for over two months. Every student in our school has read Under Berlin [G. Neri’s short story from the wonderful collection Open Mic, edited by Mitali Perkins] and created a digital book cover. All 7th and 8th grade students read Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty. Afterwards, we examined what it would mean to alter one element of Yummy’s story. How would that have changed his narrative? Students were empowered to do creative, critical thinking for this project. They each chose one action or reality to change in Yummy’s childhood and then rewrote Yummy’s story by producing animated videos of his new narrative via Biteable. [They were amazing. I might have cried while we were having our mini-movie premieres. Okay. I did cry.]

With two 7th and 8th grade writing groups, we’ve been reading Ghetto Cowboy during an elective-like period. The students in these groups will be working for one or two classes each day with G. Neri on different aspects of creative writing.

I can’t stress enough how important logistics and preparation are in terms of welcoming authors into our schools. I recently wrote about this topic and I want to touch on that today.

The January/February 2017 Knowledge Quest, the journal of the American Association of School Librarians, focused on Equality vs. Equity. The issue was subtitled Diversity Matters: Moving Beyond Equality toward Equity in Youth Services and edited by Kafi Kumasi and Sandra Hughes-Hassell.

I was lucky enough to write about my #MdlPwriters that worked with visiting author Matt de la Peña last year and I’ve been revisiting my reflections on logistics and preparations these past few months. I think this plan works because it’s grounded in an equity-based framework.

The ideas paraphrased below were originally written about in: #MdlPwriters: 14 Powerful Voices by J. Stivers (2017). Knowledge Quest, 45 (3), 29-37.

As librarians hosting a Writer-in-Residence, it’s imperative that we:

  • make sure visiting authors reflect our students and the wonderful reality that is our diverse world;
  • prepare students so they are familiar with the author’s work;
  • flood the curriculum with the author’s reflective literature;
  • use culturally relevant practices in classes and groups to examine the author’s writing;
  • assemble writing groups—and any other opportunities for face time with the author—within an equity framework, i.e. do not base face-time with the author on book purchases!; and,
  • ensure that the entire experience is student-centered.

When we prepare using this framework, we are then able to essentially get out of the way and let our students and the author powerfully connect via literature and creative writing.

I’m Julie Stivers at @BespokeLib—have a great week!

DVD Review: Political Animals + Giveaway

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book (or, in this case, DVD), finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of School Library Journal.

 

political animalsPolitical Animals

87 min and 53 sec., Dist. by the Video Project. 2016. $89.

Gr 9 Up–The personal is political in this examination of the hard-fought progress for LGBT rights. This engrossing documentary focuses on the work of the first four openly gay state legislators in California, all lesbians. Pioneering politicians Sheila Kuehl, Carole Migden, Jackie Goldberg, and Christine Kehoe (all elected between 1994 and 2000) advocated for laws protecting LGBT people and expanding civil rights. The film looks at the bills these groundbreaking legislators authored, such as one adding sexual orientation to the list of protected identities in schools. Included are extensive archival footage from legislative meetings from the 1990s and early 2000s, interviews with the women, information on their history of activism, and a reunion of the four. Fierce advocates for equal protection, the women also discuss the importance of straight allies and how it felt to listen to their colleagues fight against fundamental rights these four were being denied. The profile ends with the victory of marriage equality in 2015. The state assembly sessions scenes highlight the women’s impassioned speeches and the heated debates often marked by hostility from other legislators. Listening to testimonies and watching bills (particularly the one protecting LGBT students) fail repeatedly reveal just how hard the fight has been. This is a compelling and enlightening exploration of trailblazing women and their lawmaking. VERDICT: Highly recommended for public library collections where documentaries are popular and for high school history curricula on LGBTQ rights, pioneering women, and political movements.

 

Head on over to the Rafflecopter to enter to win this DVD. If you’re a librarian or a teacher, this would be a good addition to your collection! Ends Thursday, March 2. US ONLY.