Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

A roundup of books on activism, social justice, and histories of protest

Hello from Minnesota. My friends, I don’t know what to say. But I DO know some things to do. We have been donating to many local and national groups (Hennepin County Library, Pimento Relief Fund, Unicorn Riot, Communities United Against Police Brutality, Reclaim the Block, Migizi, and Black Visions Collective). I have been gathering resources for friends and colleagues. I have been continuing to educate myself and do the work of continuing to listen, learn, unlearn, and grow. I have been continuing to have conversations with my white teen son about racism, activism, and being anti-racist. As it’s so often said: it’s a privilege to have to learn about racism and not to have to experience it.

White friends, particularly those of us raising white boys: Talk about racism. Talk about systemic oppression. Talk about police violence. Talk about institutionalized racism. Talk about white privilege. Talk about toxic masculinity. Talk about white supremacy. Talk about intervening. Talk about speaking up. Hold people accountable, including yourself. Call them out. Call them in. Educate yourself. Interrogate your own prejudices. Actively work to be anti-racist. Stand in solidarity. Be outraged. Don’t be silent. Don’t be complicit. Reflect. Create change. Really dig into what is happening—not just the moments, but the movements. Interrogate the idea that “the system is broken” and look at what it means to instead acknowledge that the system is functioning exactly as it was built to function, and what does that mean and how do we change that. Care about people and movements and justice not just in moments of tragedy but all the time. Don’t wonder when we will go back to “normal” and don’t be complicit in allowing what many of us have come to accept as normal to remain how things are. Figure out how to dismantle racism and help dismantle other systems that depend on oppression and white supremacy. As Jason Reynolds said just the other day during the #KidLit4BlackLives rally, “Crawl toward judgement; sprint toward understanding.”

Black lives matter. George Floyd matters. Structural and institutional and cultural change matters.

Below are a handful of books I’ve reviewed in the recent past that address activism, protest, and social justice. It’s important that young readers see the strong and powerful history our country has of assembly, free speech, and activism. The books represent many issues—LGBTQAIP+ history, environmental justice, gun control, voting rights—and show how young people have always been not just involved in but at the forefront of social movements and cultural and political change.

I also link to my presentation on Social Justice and Activism in YA Lit from last year at Teen Lit Con. Please be sure to scroll to the very end for two wonderful books that feature Minnesota teens. Search this blog for many other resources on these topics including reading lists and book reviews. You can find an extensive list of posts at TLT that address social justice from our 2017 year-long project on Social Justice in YA Literature (#SJYALIT). If you missed last week’s posts at TLT, check out Because Black Lives Matter, a Collection of Resources, Because Black Lives Matter, Read Black Authors, and Because Black Lives Matter, a Collection of Anti-Racist Reading Lists, as well as yesterday’s post Because Black Lives Matter: A Collection of Intersectional Resources.

There are so many wonderful resources out there for people of all ages, but especially for children and teens. Do the work. Research, read up, ask your white friends what resources they are finding and using to hold these conversations. Don’t ask your BIPOC friends to educate you. It’s 2020. Get googling. Check Twitter. Hit up your local library and put things on hold. Learn, unlearn, listen, grow.

As those of us in Minnesota are still fond of saying, in the words of Paul Wellstone, “We all do better when we all do better.”

(Descriptions of books with post-it note reviews are from the publisher.)

Gr 6–9—A thorough if somewhat disjointed examination of the events before, during, and in the aftermath of the Stonewall Riots gives young readers an overview of the LGBTQ+ activism of the 1950s and 1960s. Pitman traces meeting places, social clubs, and the rise of organizations and activist groups as well as the many police raids of gay establishments, focusing on the June 28, 1969, raid on the mob-owned Stonewall Inn. Due to a lack of documented accounts, use of pseudonyms, and conflicting reports, controversies remain over the actuality of events at Stonewall. Post-Stonewall, readers learn about the increase in radical groups and visibility that challenged negative attitudes and discrimination. Pitman occasionally expands the narrative focus to examine what was happening in various places around the country and to consider other issues and movements of the time, including weaknesses and missteps in the movement for LGBTQ+ rights. The unique approach of using various objects (matchbooks, leaflets, buttons, arrest records, photographs, and more, with many reproductions too small or low resolution to read) to guide, inform, and reconstruct the story of the riots prevents a smooth narrative flow and makes the text feel repetitive as it moves back and forth in time. Back matter includes a time line, notes, bibliography, and an index. 

VERDICT An important look at a major moment in American history. Readers will come to understand why the iconic Stonewall Inn is now on the National Register of Historic Places, a National Historic Landmark, and a National Monument.

ISBN-13: 9781419737206
Publisher: ABRAMS
Publication date: 05/14/2019

Into the Streets: A Young Person’s Visual History of Protest in the United States by Marke Bieschke (August 4, 2020)

This lively book guides readers through the art and history of significant protests, sit-ins, and collective acts of resistance throughout US history. Photos, artwork, signs, and other visual elements highlight the history of social action, from American Indian resistance to colonists through Black Lives Matter and Women’s Marches.

Into the Streets introduces the personalities and issues that drove these protests, as well as their varied aims and accomplishments, from spontaneous hashtag uprisings to highly planned strategies of civil disobedience. Perfect for young adult audiences, this book highlights how teens are frequently the ones protesting and creating the art of the resistance.

(POST-IT SAYS: Visually engaging with just enough info to educate without overwhelming. Represents a wide array of protests, both peaceful and violent, showing the long history of people exercising this right. Eye-opening. Ages 13-18)

We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes the World by Todd Hasak-Lowy

A stirring look at nonviolent activism, from American suffragists to Civil Rights to the Climate Change Movement

We Are Power brings to light the incredible individuals who have used nonviolent activism to change the world. The book explores questions such as what is nonviolent resistance and how does it work? In an age when armies are stronger than ever before, when guns seem to be everywhere, how can people confront their adversaries without resorting to violence themselves? Through key international movements as well as people such as Gandhi, Alice Paul, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, and Václav Havel, this book discusses the components of nonviolent resistance. It answers the question “Why nonviolence?” by showing how nonviolent movements have succeeded again and again in a variety of ways, in all sorts of places, and always in the face of overwhelming odds. The book includes endnotes, a bibliography, and an index.

(POST-IT SAYS: My only complaint is that the format is unappealingly dense-appearing and lacking in pictures/color. Content is thorough and inspiring with an eye to the future and youth activism. A useful look at power, conflict, and social changes. Ages 10-14)

This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell, Aurelia Durand (Illustrator)

Who are you? What is racism? Where does it come from? Why does it exist? What can you do to disrupt it? Learn about social identities, the history of racism and resistance against it, and how you can use your anti-racist lens and voice to move the world toward equity and liberation.

“In a racist society, it’s not enough to be non-racist—we must be ANTI-RACIST.” —Angela Davis

Gain a deeper understanding of your anti-racist self as you progress through 20 chapters that spark introspection, reveal the origins of racism that we are still experiencing, and give you the courage and power to undo it. Each chapter builds on the previous one as you learn more about yourself and racial oppression. Exercise prompts get you thinking and help you grow with the knowledge.

Author Tiffany Jewell, an anti-bias, anti-racist educator and activist, builds solidarity beginning with the language she chooses—using gender neutral words to honor everyone who reads the book. Illustrator Aurélia Durand brings the stories and characters to life with kaleidoscopic vibrancy.

After examining the concepts of social identity, race, ethnicity, and racism, learn about some of the ways people of different races have been oppressed, from indigenous Americans and Australians being sent to boarding school to be “civilized” to a generation of Caribbean immigrants once welcomed to the UK being threatened with deportation by strict immigration laws.

Find hope in stories of strength, love, joy, and revolution that are part of our history, too, with such figures as the former slave Toussaint Louverture, who led a rebellion against white planters that eventually led to Haiti’s independence, and Yuri Kochiyama, who, after spending time in an internment camp for Japanese Americans during WWII, dedicated her life to supporting political prisoners and advocating reparations for those wrongfully interned.

This book is written for EVERYONE who lives in this racialized society—including the young person who doesn’t know how to speak up to the racist adults in their life, the kid who has lost themself at times trying to fit into the dominant culture, the children who have been harmed (physically and emotionally) because no one stood up for them or they couldn’t stand up for themselves, and also for their families, teachers, and administrators.

With this book, be empowered to actively defy racism to create a community (large and small) that truly honors everyone.

(POST-IT SAYS: Phenomenal resource. I truly wish everyone would read this. Drives home the point that diversity and inclusion are not enough—you have to be actively anti-racist. Empowering and educational. Ages 12-18)

You Call This Democracy?: How to Fix Our Government and Deliver Power to the People by Elizabeth Rusch (3/31/2020)

All of the challenges facing our democracy today… problems with the electoral college, gerrymandering, voter suppression, lack of representation, voter disinterest, citizens who cannot vote, lobbying, money…lead to two questions: why doesn’t every vote really count? And what are we going to do about it?

Author Elizabeth Rusch examines some of the more problematic aspects of our government but, more importantly, offers ways for young people to fix them.

(POST-IT SAYS: Packed full of information, contemporary examples, and appealing visuals. Educates as well as inspires participation and action. For many, this comprehensive book will be an eye-opening look at the abuses and failures of government. Ages 13-18)

IntersectionAllies: We Make Room for All by Chelsea Johnson, LaToya Council, Carolyn Choi, Ashley Seil Smith

The brainchild of three women-of-color sociologists, IntersectionAllies is a smooth, gleeful entry into intersectional feminism. The nine interconnected characters proudly describe themselves and their backgrounds, involving topics that range from a physical disability to language brokering, offering an opportunity to take pride in a personal story and connect to collective struggle for justice.

The group bond grounds the message of allyship and equality. When things get hard, the kids support each other for who they are: Parker defends Kate, a genderfluid character who eschews skirts for a superhero cape; Heejung welcomes Yuri, a refugee escaping war, into their community; and Alejandra’s family cares for Parker after school while her mother works. Advocating respect and inclusion, IntersectionAllies is a necessary tool for learning to embrace, rather than shy away from, difference.

Featuring gorgeous illustrations on every page by Ashley Seil Smith, as well as powerful introductions by activist and law professor Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term “intersectionality,” and Dr. Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, author of Intersectionality: An Intellectual History.

(POST-IT SAYS: A lovely little book advocating acceptance, inclusion, and community. Extensive back matter defines concepts further and provides a lengthy discussion guide. Ages 5-9)

Enough Is Enough: How Students Can Join the Fight for Gun Safety by Michelle Roehm McCann, Shannon Watts (Foreword by) (ISBN-13: 9781582707013 Publisher: Simon Pulse/Beyond Words Publication date: 10/08/2019)

From award-winning author Michelle Roehm McCann comes a young activist’s handbook to joining the fight against gun violence—both in your community and on a national level—to make schools safer for everyone.

Young people are suffering the most from the epidemic of gun violence—as early as kindergarten students are crouching behind locked doors during active shooter drills. Teens are galvanizing to speak up and fight for their right to be safe. They don’t just want to get involved, they want to change the world. Enough Is Enough is a call to action for teens ready to lend their voices to the gun violence prevention movement. This handbook deftly explains America’s gun violence issues—myths and facts, causes and perpetrators, solutions and change-makers—and provides a road map for effective activism.

Told in three parts, Enough Is Enough also explores how America got to this point and the obstacles we must overcome, including historical information about the Second Amendment, the history of guns in America, and an overview of the NRA. Informative chapters include interviews with teens who have survived gun violence and student activists who are launching their own movements across the country. Additionally, the book includes a Q&A with gun owners who support increased gun safety laws.

(POST-IT SAYS: A powerful and exhaustive resource that would be especially useful for a research project or debate. Looks at the problems, solutions, history, and actions that can be taken. Lots of illustrations, graphics, and personal stories will help sustain readers’ interest.)

One Person, No Vote (YA edition): How Not All Voters Are Treated Equally by Carol Anderson, Tonya Bolden (ISBN-13: 9781547601073 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 09/17/2019)

From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of White Rage, a young readers’ edition of a startling—and timely—history of voter suppression in America.

In her New York Times bestseller White Rage, Carol Anderson laid bare an insidious history of policies that have systematically impeded black progress in America, from 1865 to our combustible present. With One Person, No Vote, she chronicles a related history: the rollbacks to African American participation in the vote since the 2013 Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Known as the Shelby ruling, this decision effectively allowed districts with a demonstrated history of racial discrimination to change voting requirements without approval from the Department of Justice.

Focusing on the aftermath of Shelby, Anderson follows the astonishing story of government-dictated racial discrimination unfolding before our very eyes as more and more states adopt voter suppression laws. In gripping, enlightening detail she explains how voter suppression works, from photo ID requirements to gerrymandering to poll closures. And with vivid characters, she explores the resistance: the organizing, activism, and court battles to restore the basic right to vote to all Americans as the nation gears up for the 2020 presidential election season.

(POST-IT SAYS: I’ve been on a nonfiction kick. Anderson’s book will educate and enrage. The history will be illuminating, but it’s the stats and stories of modern times that may really surprise readers and spur them to action.)

Poisoned Water: How the Citizens of Flint, Michigan, Fought for Their Lives and Warned the Nation by Candy J. Cooper, Marc Aronson

Based on original reporting by a Pulitzer Prize finalist and an industry veteran, the first book for young adults about the Flint water crisis

In 2014, Flint, Michigan, was a cash-strapped city that had been built up, then abandoned by General Motors. As part of a plan to save money, government officials decided that Flint would temporarily switch its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Within months, many residents broke out in rashes. Then it got worse: children stopped growing. Some people were hospitalized with mysterious illnesses; others died. Citizens of Flint protested that the water was dangerous. Despite what seemed so apparent from the murky, foul-smelling liquid pouring from the city’s faucets, officials refused to listen. They treated the people of Flint as the problem, not the water, which was actually poisoning thousands.

Through interviews with residents and intensive research into legal records and news accounts, journalist Candy J. Cooper, assisted by writer-editor Marc Aronson, reveals the true story of Flint. Poisoned Water shows not just how the crisis unfolded in 2014, but also the history of racism and segregation that led up to it, the beliefs and attitudes that fueled it, and how the people of Flint fought-and are still fighting-for clean water and healthy lives.

(POST-IT SAYS: Really thorough look at the crisis. Examines the history of Flint to put the tragedy in context. Full of quotes and pictures, and many voices of young people, readers will leave this book understanding more about environmental racism and justice. Be ready to be infuriated. Ages 13-18)

I’ve said it before, but: Almost always, I read books in order of publication date. It’s really the only way I can keep track of everything I want to review and juggle the rest of life. These little books have sat on my shelf for months and I’ve been so looking forward to getting to them. They did not disappoint.

You know who these would be great for? All the great kids you know who are graduating right now. I love giving books as gifts (she preached to the choir) and these are perfect to hand to young readers. And old readers! These books read like really impassioned TED talks, interspersing personal histories and details with factual information and calls to action.

In Beyond the Gender Binary, Vaid-Menon explores the many ways the false idea of a binary hurts everyone and how harmful the disconnect between what people see (and comment on) and who you are can be. They discuss how an emphasis on a binary involves power, control, shame, repression, harassment, discrimination, and more. They look at the laws against people who don’t conform to the gender binary, the access denied, the targeted legislation, and point out how so much of this is all about gender non-conforming people but rarely actually engages with them.

Vaid-Menon shares their own story from growing up, full of shame, fear, and bullying. They also detail common arguments against gender non-conforming people and refutes them. They emphasize the importance for the narrative around nonbinary people to be one of reclamation, acceptance, peace, and celebration in this powerful look at the toxic notion of a binary and the harmony and creativity of embracing a spectrum of gender identities.

In The New Queer Conscience, Eli focuses on providing a hopeful, uplifting message of support and solidarity as he calls for a unified queer community. Drawing parallels to the support and collective sympathy, outrage, and action he finds within his Jewish community, he urges queer people anywhere to feel responsible for queer people everywhere. He writes about being young and feeling confused and uncomfortable and desperately needing the validation, assurance, and support of a community. He addresses the common feeling of being alone that so many queer kids may feel, a feeling that could be alleviated by a stronger and more active community. Eli explores the changes necessary for this kind of community and transformation, including policies of kindness and understanding, acknowledging uneven playing fields and issues of privilege, and the need for there to be solidarity with all oppressed people. A great reminder that there’s a huge, welcoming community that values you and that together it can be stronger and more effective.

In Imaginary Borders, Martinez examines the climate change movement. His message is that we build the world together, especially when we understand that we are part of a larger system, that we need to claim space in the movements, and explores the need for a cultural shift. He details the ways climate change reaches across real and imagined borders and looks as the cascading effects of climate change, environmental racism, and social justice. Martinez focuses on the fact that there are many paths to activism, and that to inspire connection and action, we need to bring our imagination and creativity to the movement as well as diverse tactics.

In This Is What I Know About Art, Drew looks at art, activism, protest, and inclusion through the lens of her own path to a life in the art world. Emphasizing curiosity, engagement, and learning, she pushes for a collective voice and a shared community. Detailing her exploration of art in college and in internships and jobs, she encourages us to ask who is not in the room and how can we get them there.

Illuminating and inspiring, all four books encourage more thoughtful conversations around these topics. Really well done.

Review copies (ARC) courtesy of the publisher.

Last year at Teen Lit Con, I presented on Social Justice and Activism. You can see a post about this presentation here—reading lists are included and downloadable.

And finally….

I wanted to give some extra attention to two books I’ve loved in the past few years, both of which focus on teens in the Minneapolis area.

Dream Country by Shannon Gibney

Dream Country

Publisher’s description

The heartbreaking story of five generations of young people from a single African-and-American family pursuing an elusive dream of freedom.

Dream Country begins in suburban Minneapolis at the moment when seventeen-year-old Kollie Flomo begins to crack under the strain of his life as a Liberian refugee. He’s exhausted by being at once too black and not black enough for his African American peers and worn down by the expectations of his own Liberian family and community. When his frustration finally spills into violence and his parents send him back to Monrovia to reform school, the story shifts. Like Kollie, readers travel back to Liberia, but also back in time, to the early twentieth century and the point of view of Togar Somah, an eighteen-year-old indigenous Liberian on the run from government militias that would force him to work the plantations of the Congo people, descendants of the African American slaves who colonized Liberia almost a century earlier. When Togar’s section draws to a shocking close, the novel jumps again, back to America in 1827, to the children of Yasmine Wright, who leave a Virginia plantation with their mother for Liberia, where they’re promised freedom and a chance at self-determination by the American Colonization Society. The Wrights begin their section by fleeing the whip and by its close, they are then the ones who wield it. With each new section, the novel uncovers fresh hope and resonating heartbreak, all based on historical fact.

In Dream Country, Shannon Gibney spins a riveting tale of the nightmarish spiral of death and exile connecting America and Africa, and of how one determined young dreamer tries to break free and gain control of her destiny.

Amanda’s thoughts

Confession: I have been staring at the blank screen now for 18 minutes. I’ve been writing book reviews for 16 years, since I was in graduate school at Simmons. How many reviews have I written in those years—many hundreds, maybe more than a thousand? And yet here I sit, trying to put together even just one useful, coherent sentence that might begin to sum up how powerful, unique, and phenomenal this book is. I’m frowning as I type, because those words don’t even begin to do this novel justice.

The first thing you should know is that this novel will challenge readers, and I mean that in the best possible way. We move around in time and in place, and though there are parts of a family tree shown, I had to draw my own to start to make the connections clearer. You know who is up for challenging reads? Teenagers. They’ll be fine.

We’re first introduced to Kollie, a 16-year-old Liberian boy living in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota (just outside of Minneapolis) in 2008. His family fled Liberia during the Second Civil War and lived for three years in a refugee camp in Ghana. Many of his friends and classmates are Liberian, and there’s a lot of tension between the African immigrant kids and the black American kids. Kollie and his friends are regularly called slurs, called “jungle animals.” Things are not easy for Kollie, but he’s getting by. His parents have high hopes for him, that he can help be a positive influence in the community. His mother warns him that America may be the land of opportunity, “but if you want to destroy yourself, they will give you that opportunity too.” She says the world will do its best to convince black boys that they should destroy themselves, but she’s proud he’s working to better himself. Of course, this speech is before Kollie is involved in a violent incident at school, suspended, and working for William, a neighborhood “degenerate.” Devastated and ashamed, his parents send him away.

From here, we weave back and forth in time and location, meeting some of Kollie’s ancestors and following their struggles, losses, and achievements as they try to make their way through a world that doesn’t seem to want them to succeed or even to exist. Readers meet Togar, in 1926, in Grand Bassa County, Liberia, fleeing from Congo soldiers. We follow the story of Yasmine, who we meet in 1827 on a plantation near Norfolk, Virginia. The American Colonization Society’s new idea is to send “the coloreds” back to Africa’s Gold Coast to share their knowledge, experience, and salvation with the people there. Though this opportunity seems rife with potential, another woman there warns Yasmine that their new town is a hell and to stay away from hope. Yasmine and her family quickly realize that their new life is one filled with tension and fighting, and that the white men who came up with this idea weren’t looking to better anyone, but rather to ship people away to eliminate them. We also spend time with Evelyn and Ujay, in 1980, in Monrovia, Liberia, where we see Ujay’s work as an activist with the Progressive Alliance of Liberia and the hope for indigenous, not Congo, rule. We flash forward to 1994 with Ujay, now in a refugee camp near Ghana. And finally, we hear from Angel, Kollie’s sister, in 2018, ten years after Kollie was sent away from their family.

The stories are loosely tied together (in the sense that we’re following the line of one family and returning to the same place over and over), but read like short stories, complete on their own. It feels especially profound, then, when we reach Angel’s portion of the narrative and understand that it is she who has been telling all of these stories as a way to help make sense of her lineage, history, and ancestors. Through her revelations about her writing, readers see the choices she made in telling these stories, her search for explaining people and their actions, her desire for wholeness, for neat intertwining, for being able to know what these experiences were like. The title, Dream Country, takes on new significance through Angel’s eyes, and with Angel’s own story. This powerful and well-written story examines deep human emotions, the desire and fight for freedom, power, and immigrant experiences. Perhaps shamefully, I managed to make it to 40 without knowing much of anything at all about Liberia, but this book has changed that. Gibney’s complex look at one family, told through a wide scope, is moving and unlike anything I have ever read before in YA. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year. Don’t miss it. 

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780735231672
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 09/11/2018

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus

Publisher’s description

Told in two distinct and irresistible voices, Junauda Petrus’s bold and lyrical debut is the story of two black girls from very different backgrounds finding love and happiness in a world that seems determined to deny them both.

Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.

Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels—about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner. 

Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.

Junauda Petrus’s debut brilliantly captures the distinctly lush and lyrical voices of Mabel and Audre as they conjure a love that is stronger than hatred, prison, and death and as vast as the blackness between the stars.

Amanda’s thoughts

That summary up there is thorough. I just read it again, when I pasted it in, to see if it’s too thorough—after all, it really hits every major plot point. But while it gives you the broad strokes of the plot, it doesn’t do much to capture how powerful the story is, how beautiful the writing is, or how achingly lovely and profound the connection is between Agnes and Mabel. To be entirely honest, the book started a little slow for me, but once Agnes and Mabel are put in the same space, the story really took off and I became completely immersed in their world, their families, their big thoughts and feelings, and their love.

There is so much to love about this story. Yes, Agnes is sent away when her mother catches her with her girlfriend. She’s shamed and told she’s “nasty” by her mother. But she finds love, support, and acceptance from everyone else in her life. Mabel finds kissing her boyfriend kind of boring, but even just being near her friend Jada makes her all tingly. She’s working out what all this means, but it’s not angst-filled or painful or met with any hate. In Minneapolis, they are surrounded by supportive family and friends, many of whom are queer. And for Agnes, she has Queenie, her grandma, back home in Trinidad, who has always been her closest and most loving person. Queenie fully accepts Agnes for who she is—she always has—and fills with her love, always reminding her of her self-worth and that she’s perfect as she is.

While the story alternates between Mabel and Agnes, we also get some unexpected perspectives. There are chapters about Queenie’s younger life as well as chapters from a memoir Mabel is reading. Written by Afua Mahmoud while incarcerated, The Stars and the Blackness Between Them (his memoir) provides surprising points of connection for Mabel, who feels less alone as she reads his thoughts on life while dealing with her new diagnosis of a terminal illness. All of these voices and experiences speak of hope, connection, loneliness, love, isolation, and freedom. After they become pen pals, Afua tells Mabel that, despite his circumstances, his life is still his own, and so is hers.

Through the lenses of freedom and love, the characters ruminate on the past, the present, and an eternal future found through cosmic connections. They learn to be uncontained, to love without fear or boundaries, to give themselves the space to figure out who they are. The voices from this stunning debut will stay with readers long after the unpredictable ending. Full of love, healing, strength, and spirituality, this is a story that hasn’t been told before—not like this. Be ready to lose a day once you start reading; Mabel and Agnes will draw you into their worlds and not release their grip on you even after the last page. A lovely story that is sad and hopeful all at once.

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780525555483
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 09/17/2019

Book Review: Pocket Change Collective books

Publisher’s descriptions

Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon, Ashley Lukashevsky (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593094655 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 06/02/2020)

Pocket Change Collective was born out of a need for space. Space to think. Space to connect. Space to be yourself. And this is your invitation to join us.

In Beyond the Gender Binary, poet, artist, and LGBTQIA+ rights advocate Alok Vaid-Menon deconstructs, demystifies, and reimagines the gender binary.

Pocket Change Collective is a series of small books with big ideas from today’s leading activists and artists. In this installment, Beyond the Gender Binary, Alok Vaid-Menon challenges the world to see gender not in black and white, but in full color. Taking from their own experiences as a gender-nonconforming artist, they show us that gender is a malleable and creative form of expression. The only limit is your imagination.

This Is What I Know About Art by Kimberly Drew, Ashley Lukashevsky (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593095188 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 06/02/2020)

In this powerful and hopeful account, arts writer, curator, and activist Kimberly Drew reminds us that the art world has space not just for the elite, but for everyon
e.

Pocket Change Collective is a series of small books with big ideas from today’s leading activists and artists. In this installment, arts writer and co-editor of Black Futures Kimberly Drew shows us that art and protest are inextricably linked. Drawing on her personal experience through art toward activism, Drew challenges us to create space for the change that we want to see in the world. Because there really is so much more space than we think.

The New Queer Conscience by Adam Eli, Ashley Lukashevsky (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593093689 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 06/02/2020)

In The New Queer Conscience, LGBTQIA+ activist Adam Eli argues the urgent need for queer responsibility — that queers anywhere are responsible for queers everywhere

Pocket Change Collective is a series of small books with big ideas from today’s leading activists and artists. In this installment, The New Queer Conscience, Voices4 Founder and LGBTQIA+ activist Adam Eli offers a candid and compassionate introduction to queer responsibility. Eli calls on his Jewish faith to underline how kindness and support within the queer community can lead to a stronger global consciousness. More importantly, he reassures us that we’re not alone. In fact, we never were. Because if you mess with one queer, you mess with us all.

Imaginary Borders by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Ashley Lukashevsky (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593094136 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 06/02/2020)


In this personal, moving essay, environmental activist and hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez uses his art and his activism to show that climate change is a human issue that can’t be ignored.

Pocket Change Collective is a series of small books with big ideas from today’s leading activists and artists. In this installment, Earth Guardians Youth Director and hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez shows us how his music feeds his environmental activism and vice versa. Martinez visualizes a future that allows us to direct our anger, fear, and passion toward creating change. Because, at the end of the day, we all have a part to play.

Amanda’s thoughts

I’ve said it before, but: Almost always, I read books in order of publication date. It’s really the only way I can keep track of everything I want to review and juggle the rest of life. These little books have sat on my shelf for months and I’ve been so looking forward to getting to them. They did not disappoint.

You know who these would be great for? All the great kids you know who are graduating right now. I love giving books as gifts (she preached to the choir) and these are perfect to hand to young readers. And old readers! These books read like really impassioned TED talks, interspersing personal histories and details with factual information and calls to action.

In Beyond the Gender Binary, Vaid-Menon explores the many ways the false idea of a binary hurts everyone and how harmful the disconnect between what people see (and comment on) and who you are can be. They discuss how an emphasis on a binary involves power, control, shame, repression, harassment, discrimination, and more. They look at the laws against people who don’t conform to the gender binary, the access denied, the targeted legislation, and point out how so much of this is all about gender non-conforming people but rarely actually engages with them.

Vaid-Menon shares their own story from growing up, full of shame, fear, and bullying. They also detail common arguments against gender non-conforming people and refutes them. They emphasize the importance for the narrative around nonbinary people to be one of reclamation, acceptance, peace, and celebration in this powerful look at the toxic notion of a binary and the harmony and creativity of embracing a spectrum of gender identities.

In The New Queer Conscience, Eli focuses on providing a hopeful, uplifting message of support and solidarity as he calls for a unified queer community. Drawing parallels to the support and collective sympathy, outrage, and action he finds within his Jewish community, he urges queer people anywhere to feel responsible for queer people everywhere. He writes about being young and feeling confused and uncomfortable and desperately needing the validation, assurance, and support of a community. He addresses the common feeling of being alone that so many queer kids may feel, a feeling that could be alleviated by a stronger and more active community. Eli explores the changes necessary for this kind of community and transformation, including policies of kindness and understanding, acknowledging uneven playing fields and issues of privilege, and the need for there to be solidarity with all oppressed people. A great reminder that there’s a huge, welcoming community that values you and that together it can be stronger and more effective.

In Imaginary Borders, Martinez examines the climate change movement. His message is that we build the world together, especially when we understand that we are part of a larger system, that we need to claim space in the movements, and explores the need for a cultural shift. He details the ways climate change reaches across real and imagined borders and looks as the cascading effects of climate change, environmental racism, and social justice. Martinez focuses on the fact that there are many paths to activism, and that to inspire connection and action, we need to bring our imagination and creativity to the movement as well as diverse tactics.

In This Is What I Know About Art, Drew looks at art, activism, protest, and inclusion through the lens of her own path to a life in the art world. Emphasizing curiosity, engagement, and learning, she pushes for a collective voice and a shared community. Detailing her exploration of art in college and in internships and jobs, she encourages us to ask who is not in the room and how can we get them there.

Illuminating and inspiring, all four books encourage more thoughtful conversations around these topics. Really well done.

Review copies (ARC) courtesy of the publisher.

Book Review: Pride: The Celebration and the Struggle by Robin Stevenson

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, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, a STARRED review, which originally appeared in an issue of School Library Journal.

Gr 6-9–Stevenson’s joyful celebration of self, community, existence, and activism examines Pride parades, how they came to be, and what they celebrate. This updated edition contains an added focus on necessary and continuing activism as well as the role of young people in the movement. The text chronicles a brief history of LGBTQ+ advocacy, major issues, differing political goals, and inequality within the movement. Chapters explore the rise of Queer Nation (an activist group founded in NYC), marriage equality, PFLAG, community and subgroups, coming out, and definitions of various acronyms and identities. As the title promises, the main focus is Pride parades, the politics of Pride, intersectional activism and considerations, symbols commonly seen at Pride, and alternative Pride marches and demonstrations. While primarily focused on North America, there is a chapter on Pride as a symbol of freedom and hope around the world as well as the social climates, ongoing struggles, and laws of many countries. The eye-catching layout features large, vibrant pictures from celebrations, parades, and marches all over the world. Pull-out quotes, smaller pictures on the sides, and text boxes with “Queer Facts” adorn the pages and help break up longer sections.

VERDICT An indispensable and celebratory primer on the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ rights. An excellent resource that is as thorough as it is visually appealing.

ISBN-13: 9781459821248
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Publication date: 03/24/2020
Edition description: 2nd Revised and Expanded ed.

Book Review: Revenge of the Red Club by Kim Harrington

Publisher’s description

A tween reporter discovers an important and beloved club at school is being shut down—and uses the power of the pen to try and activate some much-needed social change in this period-positive and empowering middle grade novel about the importance of standing up for what you believe in.

Riley Dunne loves being a member of the Red Club. It’s more than a group of girls supporting each other through Aunt Flo’s ups and downs; it’s a Hawking Middle School tradition. The club’s secret locker has an emergency stash of supplies, and the girls are always willing to lend an ear, a shoulder, or an old pair of sweatpants.

But when the school administration shuts the Red Club down because of complaints, the girls are stunned. Who would do that to them? The girls’ shock quickly turns into anger, and then they decide to get even.

But wallpapering the gym with maxi pads and making tampon crafts in art class won’t bring their club back. Only Riley can do that. Using the skills she has cultivated as her school paper’s top investigative reporter (okay, only investigative reporter), she digs for the truth about who shut the club down and why. All the while dealing with friendship drama, a new and ridiculous dress code, and a support group that is now more focused on fighting with each other than fighting back.

Can she save the Red Club before this rebellion turns into a full-scale war?

Amanda’s thoughts

My friends. MY FRIENDS. This book came out in October. I read it over the winter break after picking it up at my public library. I didn’t even take notes as I read. I figured I’d write a Post-It Note Review about it and be good. BUT. This book is SO good and SO important that I needed to give it its own space. I know we all have towering TBR stacks and endless scrolls of lists, but you really do need to find a few hours to sneak this book in. If you work in a middle school/middle school library/serve young teens, you especially need to familiarize yourself with this book. I was going to say, when I was growing up, all we had was Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret for books that talked at all about periods, but guess what? Periods are STILL so often completely ignored in books for young readers and teens. So here you go. A whole book about breaking the stigma that comes with having/acknowledging periods.

The Red Club is amazing. They support each other, provide each other with supplies and information, and work hard to normalize periods. There’s a lot more that goes on in this story—the dress code rears its ugly head, the principal demands prior review of newspaper articles (hey, I wrote my entire senior year project/paper about that very issue way back when I was a teen!), and The Red Club gets shut down. Riley and friends organize, protest, and speak up about all of these injustices and ways of shaming girls. I love the club and want it to exist in all schools. ALL schools need a locker that students can access for supplies and extra clothes. ALL schools should have this book.

ISBN-13: 9781534435728
Publisher: Aladdin
Publication date: 10/22/2019

Book Review: Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan

Publisher’s description

watch us riseNewbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Renée Watson teams up with poet Ellen Hagan in this YA feminist anthem about raising your voice.

Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends on a mission–they’re sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post their work online–poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial microaggressions she experiences–and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by trolls. When things escalate in real life, the principal shuts the club down. Not willing to be silenced, Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices–and those of other young women–to be heard.
These two dynamic, creative young women stand up and speak out in a novel that features their compelling art and poetry along with powerful personal journeys that will inspire readers and budding poets, feminists, and activists.

 

 

Amanda’s thoughts

This book is so good. Order it, read it, book talk it, display it, love it.

 

Jasmine, Chelsea, and their friends attend a high school all about social justice and equity (or, allegedly it is). All students are required to be in a social justice club. But, like everywhere, their school is not perfect, with racism, sexism, and more alive and well. Jasmine and Chelsea leave their clubs to form a women’s rights club, focusing their intersectional feminism and activism on and around their lives at school. Together with their best friends Nadine and Isaac, they create art and foster conversations about many important issues. Jasmine, who is black, is a writer and an actress. Isaac, who is Puerto Rican, is a visual artist. Japanese and Lebanese Nadine is a singer and  DJ. And Irish and Italian Chelsea is a talented poet. Together, they inspire each other and help each other learn, grown, discover, and act. This book covers a lot of ground, tackling so many subjects in honest, creative, and effective ways.

 

I’m going to leave this review short and simple, because the real joy will come from reading about these smart, passionate, and motivated young people for yourself. This book is immensely readable—I burned through it in a couple of hours. Great dialogue, great writing, great poetry, great characters, great everything. It’s not often that I find a book wholly satisfying. And, even more rare, this book made me feel nostalgic for my teen years, remembering back to when I was a zine-writing young feminist and Gender and Sexuality Studies student. Empowering and inspiring, this book demands a wide readership. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781547600083
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 02/12/2019

Book Review: Pulp by Robin Talley

Publisher’s description

pulpIn 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. It’s not easy being gay in Washington, DC, in the age of McCarthyism, but when she discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in Janet. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself—and Marie—to a danger all too real.

Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet can’t stop thinking about her senior project and its subject—classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby’s own life are lost to the fictional hopes, desires and tragedies of the characters she’s reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym “Marian Love,” and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity.

In this novel told in dual narratives, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley weaves together the lives of two young women connected across generations through the power of words. A stunning story of bravery, love, how far we’ve come and how much farther we have to go.

 

 

Amanda’s thoughts

I really enjoyed this. For a while, I felt conflicted—I wanted more of Janet’s 1955 story, in a more linear way. I wanted more of Abby’s 2017 story, same deal. I wanted more of Janet’s novel, and, sorry Abby, maybe less of Abby’s. But, eventually it all really started to come together and in the end, was super satisfying.

 

In 2017, high school seniors Abby,who’s a lesbian, and Linh, who is bi, are “just friends,” having broken up prior to the past summer, but Abby isn’t happy with that arrangement. It’s complicated, because they’re still best friends and hang out all the time. Linh is driven and doing all the right things to prepare for college applications. Abby is floundering a little—she’s lost her girlfriend, her parents are never around (and seem like they can’t even be in the same room together), and she can’t get started on her senior project. She finally settles on researching 1950s lesbian pulp fiction, deciding she will write about the novels, the circumstances surrounding that time period and the novels, and try her hand at writing a pulp novel, with a twist. Her research leads her to reading a book by Marian Love, which then leads her to kind of an obsession about finding out more about the elusive Love while she also works to figure out her own love life, changing relationships, and her future.

 

Back in 1955, we meet Janet Jones, an 18-year-old who has recently come to the realization that she likes other girls—a revelation that becomes clear to her after she steals a lesbian pulp novel and is amazed to find that not only do other girls feel like she does, but there’s a word for her, a lesbian. Her feelings for her close friend, Marie, are reciprocated, but unlike Abby’s reality, in 2017, of acceptance and support and (for her) the freedom to be out and feel safe, Janet and Marie face a different reality. In 1955, they are in the midst of McCarthyism and the Lavender Scare. There are plenty of reasons to deny their feelings and hide who they are, but despite their fear, the girls pursue a relationship. Janet writes to the author of her favorite pulp book and then begins writing her own book, envisioning a future where she and Marie move to New York, free to be out and accepted by other people like them. But it’s not that simple—and in fact, Janet’s story becomes far more complicated than most readers will see coming.

 

I always enjoy Talley’s books, but I particularly liked this one for the historical perspective it provides. I don’t think anyone would say that being out is necessarily safe or easy, even in 2018, but 1955 was certainly a more unaccepting time. Younger readers may not know much about the lesbian novels of the 50s, McCarthyism, the Lavender Scare, etc. Janet and Abby’s alternate narration provides a clear contrast between the eras while also linking together their experiences. Abby’s quest to learn more about Marian Love is really engaging, especially once she begins to make some (unexpected) progress on her search. Though for a while it seems like so much is not going as Abby or Janet had hoped their lives would go, this is ultimately a hopeful novel about identity, progress, community, acceptance, and the power of reading just the right book at just the right time. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9781335012906
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 11/13/2018

1100 words, a guest post by Claire Rudolf Murphy

bobby on truck bed April 4thOn the evening of April 4, 1968 Senator Robert Kennedy stood on the back of a truck, in a black neighborhood in Indianapolis, Indiana. But instead of telling people why they should vote for him for president, he had to announce that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been killed in Memphis, Tennessee.

 

Riots had already begun to erupt in cities across the country, but the crowd in Indianapolis stood silent in grief. Bobby told them that he didn’t blame them for feeling angry. Instead he said that they had a choice about “what kind of a nation we want to be . . . and what direction we want to move in.”

 

martin and bobby newBobby’s profound speech that night and one that prompted me to research and write my 18th book – Martin and Bobby: A Journey Towards Justice. Today is its publication birthday. Even though I was seventeen in 1968 and had a front-row seat to one of the most divisive and important decades in America’s history, I didn’t learn about Bobby’s April 4th speech until years later.

 

This book is the most personal of all my nonfiction titles because I knew about many of the events and people featured in the book. My parents were Kennedy Democrats and we often discussed politics around the dinner table in Spokane, Washington. We supported JFK for president and grieved with the nation when he was killed.

 

When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, a nun at my high school, Holy Names Academy, posted this message on the classroom bulletin board: Christ the King, King the Christ. Some of the students said it was sacrilegious to compare King to Jesus. But I thought it was brave and was grateful that Sister Margaret helped me think about Dr. King in such a radical way. Martin Luther King cared about the poor and disenfranchised, just like Jesus did in the gospel stories I’d grown up with.

 

My family closely followed the 1968 presidential election too. My brother John supported Eugene McCarthy because he spoke out first against the Vietnam War. I remember that my parents were shocked when Johnson withdrew from the race. Right after midnight on June 5, 1968, my mother shook me awake. “Get up, Claire. History is being made.” Together we watched the chaos at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles; the sobbing supporters had just learned that their candidate Bobby Kennedy had been gunned down in the hotel kitchen with Ethel by his side.

 

That fall my friends and I listened over and over to the poignant song “Abraham, Martin and John,” with its last stanza featuring Bobby. It gave me solace and still does today.

 

During the following decades I majored in history in college, got married, had two children, taught writing and drama, and then began writing books for kids and teens, most often about different aspects of American history. In 2012 my husband, mother and I watched the documentary A Ripple of Hope about Robert Kennedy. We sat mesmerized during his speech on the night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. None us had ever heard it before. Awed by the beauty of his words that touched the crowd so deeply, I had to learn more. I had to understand how Kennedy had such courage on a night when he took could have been killed. Why he was able to give such a powerful, healing speech on one of the worst days in America’s history.

 

Thousands of books, articles, blog posts, and documentaries feature King and Bobby Kennedy. Even though I’d grown up with King and Kennedy, there was so much to learn and people to interview. In 2016 I attended the 48th commemoration of Dr. King’s death and Bobby’s speech at the Landmark for Peace memorial in Indianapolis. I am grateful to the many people who shared their vivid memories from that April night in 1968. Many of them appear in the book, especially those who were teenagers that night.

 

During the 1960s civil rights protests, young people led the way and refused to give up. Teen protestors offer me hope now, fifty years later, as they lead us in Black Lives Matter, the Me Too movement, and school safety.

 

“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on,” President John F. Kennedy said in a 1963 speech before his assassination. Martin’s and Bobby’s ideas—to end poverty, stop an unjust war, show compassion to all Americans— are still important today. And their words continue to offer inspiration and insight on how our country can heal and face the historic challenges of economic and racial inequality with compassion and activism.

 

john lewis and Claire 2014Like King and Kennedy, young leaders now demand that we take action, not stand on the sidelines. Because of that, during my book presentations this fall, a panel of middle school, high school and college leaders will discuss leadership today and what lessons from 1968 resonate with them.

 

Civil rights activist John Lewis had just joined Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign the night Dr. King was killed. He stood in the crowd as Bobby spoke. His mentor’s Dr. King meant everything to him. In November 2014 I had the honor of speaking with him in his Washington, DC office. We spent an hour together talking about that profound time and what both men still meant to him.

 

Congressman Lewis has often said, “Whenever I have very tough decisions to make, I always think, ‘What would Dr. King do? . . . What would Bobby Kennedy do?’”

 

He is heartened that students and people of all ages are protesting more than at any time since the 1960s.

 

I am grateful that my work on this project offered me the opportunity to deeply study that important time and what it meant to the nation. It allowed me to reflect on what it can teach us today about the need for compassion in our political dialogue and personal interactions.

 

Meet Claire Rudolf Murphy

Photo credit: Paul Gildea

Photo credit:
Paul Gildea

www.clairerudolfmurphy.com

Claire is the author of award-winning fiction and nonfiction books for children and young adults, including Marching With Aunt Susan: Susan B. Anthony and the Fight for Women’s Rights, My Country Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights, illustrated by Bryan Collier. Martin and Bobby: A Journey to Justice is her 18th book. She began her writing career in Alaska, where she lived for twenty-four years. Today she lives and writes in her hometown of Spokane, Washington. Since 2008 she has taught in Hamline University‘s low residency Writing for Children and Young Adults (MFAC) graduate program. Recent events have renewed her deep-seated passion for political activism. She enjoys music and outdoor activities with her husband, two grown children and their spouses, and grandson in Seattle.

 

 

About Martin and Bobby: A Journey to Justice

martin and bobby newMartin and Bobby follows the lives, words, and final days of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. Initially wary of one another, their relationship evolved from challenging and testing each other to finally “arriving in the same place” as allies fighting poverty and racism. The stories of King and Kennedy reveal how life experiences affect a leader’s ability to show empathy for all people and how great political figures don’t work in a vacuum but are influenced by events and people around them.

 

Martin’s courage showed Bobby how to act on one’s moral principles, and Bobby’s growing awareness of the country’s racial and economic divide gave Martin hope that the nation’s leaders could truly support justice. Fifty years later, their lives and words still stir people young and old and offer inspiration and insight on how our country can face the historic challenges of economic and racial inequality.

 

(ISBN-13: 9781641600101 Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated Publication date: 10/02/2018)

#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.

download (2)

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

download-1 (1)

 

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.

yb_blue

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.

 

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.

download (1)

 

“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: Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Midnight at the Electric and climate change, 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 Jodi Lynn Anderson join us for a conversation about climate change and Anderson’s new novel, Midnight at the Electric. 

 

 

We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road – the one less traveled by – offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.

Rachael Carson, Silent Spring, 1962

 

A Smooth Superhighway that Ends in Disaster?

midnightJodi Lynn Anderson’s Midnight at the Electric begins with Adri, one of the story’s three teenage protagonists, climbing into her self-driving car and speeding north on a superhighway away, from Miami and toward Kansas. The year is 2065 and Miami has been submerged in seawater. Leaving her devastated city behind, Adri sets out for a brief stint in Kansas, where she will train to be a “colonist” before heading off to Mars.

In the hands of a less innovative author, this might be the setup for a futuristic science fiction novel that takes the reader to an imagined place far away from this planet. In the hands of Jodi Lynn Anderson, Adri’s escape from Miami sets up something entirely different. We might call it a love story to the planet earth, and to the relationships that we build on its particular landscapes.

 

Adri arrives in Kansas to live with a distant relative, the fabulous, flaky 107-year-old Lily, and Lily’s ancient Galapagos tortoise. When Adri sanctimoniously announces that Galapagos tortoises are endangered, and thus it’s illegal to have them as pets, Lily replies with her mischievous humor, “We should have her arrested.” Lily inherited the tortoise – she came along with the property. As Adri learns more about the history of this ancient creature, she begins to uncover the two stories that weave together with Adri’s to form Midnight at the Electric.

 

The first story is Catherine’s. Her diary entries bring readers into the devastation of living in Oklahoma’s dust bowl in the mid 1930s. Catherine’s sister is being slowly suffocated by dust in her lungs, and the farm they live on can no longer sustain the family. When a traveling show called the Electric comes through Catherine’s town, she’s lured into the promises made by its creator: “It is a time of upheaval and uncertainty. The world is changing beneath our feet. Death is around every corner. Fear and despair lurk in every house…. But it is possible to outrun it, to outstrip it, to outsmart it.”

 

Like Catherine, the story’s third protagonist, Lenore, lives in a world transfixed by the power of human technologies. Lenore, a young woman living in England at the end of World War I, grieves the death of her brother, a fallen British soldier, as everyone around her seems bent on hailing technologies of war and “progress” and celebrating the bravery of the dead and wounded men. In her wonderfully irreverent tone, Lenore writes to her friend Beth of her village: “If you toss a pebble in Forest Row, you’re going to hit a one-armed boy.” Through her letters to Beth, Lenore tells a beautiful and morally complicated story of her friendship with James, a man whose face is so disfigured that most instinctively turn away.

 

This week, I heard a disturbing report about mounting evidence that the U.S. federal government is systematically removing, in scientific studies, any reference to human causes of climate change (you can listen here).  This, of course, followed weeks of reporting about Facebook, and the unintended (I hope!) consequences that this technology has had on our political systems and our networks of relationship. I think our natural instinct, when faced with these stories, is either denial or guilt. Both are counterproductive and crippling. Midnight at the Electric, by framing these issues both in real history and in imagined future, offers us a way to enter more productively into discussion of humans’ influence on climate change, and of how technology inevitably changes the ways we relate to each other.

 

Lenore and Catherine give readers a chance to live in times that, like ours, were so enamored with technologies of “progress” that it was almost impossible to imagine the negative effects they would have on our planet and on our relationships (until it was too late).  Adri discovers, through the course of this story, that she doesn’t want to leave the earth and the loving relationship she has formed on it. But will she have to?

 

I guess that depends on us.

 

“Leveraging what you’re good at and what you love to do”: A Conversation with Jodi Lynn Anderson

 

jodiMARIE: 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.

 

JODI: My son had recently been born and I was feeling a bit delirious and dreamy. I wanted to write about climate change but what was really digging into my imagination was the Dust Bowl. I kept picturing this girl standing in a decimated yard in Kansas, but I didn’t know what to say about her, and it was only when I started to nestle the two ideas together that the book flamed to life in this magical way. The more I wrote, the more I recognized the parallels between the Dust Bowl and our current climate crisis– the same upheaval, the same denial and anger, the same fear. And I saw these women navigating it — I just fell in love with writing that story.

 

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

 

JODI: I try to write about our capacity for doing harm without meaning to, that’s a big thing for me as a writer. I try to be a good listener and to call myself out and put my ego aside as much as I can —  I feel like  defensiveness and not wanting to admit what we’re doing wrong is at the root of so much terrible stuff. I try to trust that just because I don’t see an obvious result, it doesn’t mean my efforts – volunteering or donating or marching or calling whatever — aren’t feeding a current that points the right way.

 

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

 

JODI: I think focusing locally can be rewarding in that often you get to see results. Local groups need so many divergent things that I think you can offer the best of who you already are. So maybe that means you pick a few things that are draining, like phone calls or whatever, but you find a group where you can spend the rest of your energy leveraging what you’re good at and what you love to do. I guess I’d say also, the big thing I always struggle with is not to turn away because what you’re doing feels so tiny. I think we can’t lose faith because what we do doesn’t make some obvious splash.

 

“Feeding a current that points in the right way”

 

Ready to learn more? Jodi recommends that a great starting place is Grist a nonprofit environmental news outlet with this fabulous tagline: “A planet that doesn’t burn, a future that doesn’t suck.”

 

Here’s a link to two podcasts that Jodi loves:

no placeNo Place Like Home: This 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.

 

 

 

 

warm regardsWarm Regards: This one has some fascinating stuff untangling how climate change has become so political.

 

 

 

 

Jody also recommends From the Ashes, a documentary about the coal industry that she describes as “beautifully empathetic and smart.”

 

 “We can’t lose faith because what we do doesn’t make some obvious splash”

 

Ready to take action? Here’s Jodi’s description of a few movements and organizations that really excite her:

 

350.org uses all sorts tools and pressure points to shift our fossil fuel economy to renewable energy.”

 

earthjusticeEarthjustice focuses on our legal rights to sensible legislation on climate, working legal channels to combat political inaction.”

 

 

 

The Poor People’s Campaign is something intriguing and inspiring I learned about a few months ago – it addresses the intersection of poverty, racism, and environmental devastation through the idea of a moral movement.”

 

“I get excited to hear about faith-based climate action groups. Young Evangelicals for Climate ActionNC Interfaith Power & Light, and Wisconsin Green Muslims are a few examples. Also, state action initiatives seem really powerful to me. In North Carolina we have NC Warn, among others.”

 

“The book flamed to life in this magical way”

I’m so grateful to Jodi for writing this beautiful and stirring story. Reading it also felt magical, and it sparked my memories, emotions, and passions for change in ways I hadn’t expected.

In our interview, Jodi also brought up the importance of working for change by using our own gifts and doing the things that we love.  Other authors I’ve interviewed for the feature have talked about this too. I think it’s so important to celebrate that working for change doesn’t mean doing something grueling or miserable – it means embracing our gifts and finding ways to do the things we love as a way to become change agents. This takes creativity and vision, and that’s all a part of the fun.

Thank you, Jodi, for this reminder!

 

Midnight at the Electric is sure to ignite your passion to #ReadForChange!

Can’t wait to get your hands on MIDNIGHT AT THE ELECTRIC? It just might be your lucky day!  Here’s a link to the giveaway.  U.S. only! We’ll be announcing the winner on Twitter @MarieFMarquardt and Instagram marie_marquardt May 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.