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THIS IS NO GAME: WHEN FACTS MATTER, SPORTS NON-FICTION IS A GOOD PLACE TO TURN, a guest post by Andrew Maraniss

Everything we hunger for in this country right now – racial and economic justice, environmental sustainability, a stable democracy, managing COVID – requires a fundamental commitment to seeking the truth and acknowledging basic facts.

As this year’s theme for Teen Librarian Toolbox states, #FactsMatter.

It’s such a timely theme. And such an indictment of so many of our neighbors that we even have to say it.

With so many powerful institutions profiting from lies, “alternative facts,” and conspiracy theories  – from Fox News to corners of the Internet to the Republican Party  — it falls on the rest of us to push against the rising tide of misinformation and hate in whatever ways we can.

I’ve chosen to do it by writing books for young readers that extol the enduring values of truth, equity, and justice through the lens of sports.

Maraniss with Perry Wallace

My first book, STRONG INSIDE, is the story of Perry Wallace, the Vanderbilt basketball player who desegregated the Southeastern Conference in the 1960s and later became an esteemed law professor. My second book, GAMES OF DECEPTION, is the story of the first U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team, which played at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. My third book, which just came out this week, SINGLED OUT, is a biography of Glenn Burke, the first openly gay Major League Baseball player and inventor of the high-five. I’m writing a book now on the first U.S. women’s Olympic basketball team, to be told in the context of the women’s rights movement of the 1970s.

Why sports? First, I’ve been hooked as long as I can remember. I taught myself to read as a five-year-old by examining the back of baseball cards. The first time I cried of happiness came when I was 12 years old and Cecil Cooper delivered a game-winning hit for the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1982 playoffs. One of the biggest thrills of my life came in 1998, when I was able to take batting practice at Yankee Stadium as a member of the media relations staff for the Tampa Bay Rays. I went to college on a sportswriting scholarship and my ‘day job’ today is in the Athletic Department at Vanderbilt University.

But more important than any of that, what I value most about writing about sports is that it’s a genre that is highly accessible to just about anyone. When a young person picks up a book with a baseball or basketball player on the cover, it’s likely that they’re not going to feel intimidated by the subject. But once they dig into the story, they’ll realize the stories are not about scores and statistics or tired sports clichés– but about the denial of justice to so many in America and around the world, whether by racism, fascism, antisemitism, homophobia, or sexism, and the critical difference between being a bystander and upstander in the face of such injustices.

Because sports-related nonfiction offers “windows and mirrors,” (the term originated by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop) a peak into the lives of other people or a reflection of the reader’s own place in the world, they provide valuable opportunities for empathy and understanding. And the audience for sports books is probably as broad or broader than any other genre –  no parameters on age, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, geography, academic achievement, race, or religion.

But within that universality, there is also a subversive element to the best sports books. For many people, the sports world has been seen as American as hot dogs and apple pie – where old-fashioned notions of patriarchy, patriotism, and white supremacy have traditionally gone unchallenged. So what better genre than sports to shine a light on the everyday elements of American life that have perpetuated injustice? These are the stories where the truth shines the brightest.

The lasting lesson of both STRONG INSIDE and GAMES OF DECEPTION, books that deal respectively with the civil rights movement here and the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, is the same: the profound danger of standing by and doing nothing when injustices are perpetrated against others. I think of that lesson often when I hear people criticize modern-day athletes for taking a stand for justice, whether it’s NFL players taking a knee or WNBA players supporting a Senate candidate. If the big truth to be learned from these monumental periods in world history is to speak up, then how can one fault athletes, citizens like anyone else, for using their platforms to call out injustice? When Fox commentator Laura Ingraham tells LeBron to “just shut up and dribble,” we see clearly that she’s not just missing the lesson of history, but actively suppressing the truth.

For those who haven’t succumbed to the notion that the truth is irrelevant, it’s easy to spot the liars. But we must also to turn a skeptical eye toward those who call for unity or civility. Of course, both concepts sound reasonable and are desirable long-term outcomes. But as Perry Wallace once told me, “reconciliation without the truth is just acting.” Any efforts toward unity and civility must include truth-telling and acknowledgement of facts as necessary preconditions. Unity and civility without justice are just other names for oppression.

The best nonfiction books – even sports books! — name the problem, praise the real-life heroes, call out the real-life villains, and pose direct questions where facts determine the right answers.

Now more than ever, #FactsMatter.

Meet the author

New York Times bestselling author Andrew Maraniss writes sports-related nonfiction for adult, Middle Grade and Young Adult readers. His books have received the Lillian Smith Book Award, RFK Book Awards Special Recognition Prize, and Sydney Taylor Honor Award. Andrew lives in Nashville and manages the Sports & Society Initiative at Vanderbilt University. Read more about his books at www.andrewmaraniss.com and follow him on Twitter @trublu24, Instagram @amaraniss, and on Facebook at /andrewmaranissauthor.

About Singled Out: The True Story of Glenn Burke

From New York Times bestselling author Andrew Maraniss comes the remarkable true story of Glenn Burke, a “hidden figure” in the history of sports: the inventor of the high five and the first openly gay MLB player. Perfect for fans of Steve Sheinkin and Daniel James Brown. 

On October 2nd, 1977, Glenn Burke, outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, made history without even swinging a bat. When his teammate Dusty Baker hit a historic home run, Glenn enthusiastically congratulated him with the first ever high five. 

But Glenn also made history in another way—he was the first openly gay MLB player. While he did not come out publicly until after his playing days were over, Glenn’s sexuality was known to his teammates, family, and friends. His MLB career would be cut short after only three years, but his legacy and impact on the athletic and LGBTQIA+ community would resonate for years to come. 

New York Times bestselling author Andrew Maraniss tells the story of Glenn Burke: from his childhood growing up in Oakland, his journey to the MLB and the World Series, the joy in discovering who he really was, to more difficult times: facing injury, addiction, and the AIDS epidemic.

Packed with black-and-white photographs and thoroughly researched, never-before-seen details about Glenn’s life, Singled Out is the fascinating story of a trailblazer in sports—and the history and culture that shaped the world around him.

ISBN-13: 9780593116722
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 03/02/2021
Age Range: 12 – 17 Years

Bringing a New Wartime Diary to Light, a guest post by Ann Bausum

Welcome to the Ensnared Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of Ensnared by Ann Bausum on January 12th, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive articles from Ann, plus 5 chances to win a hardcover copy!

Mention the topic of World War II diarists, and Anne Frank will probably be top of mind. When I was a schoolgirl I became so inspired by her account that I started my own diary (a decidedly short-lived endeavor). Frank’s record has become so synonymous with childhood diaries that, decades later, I caught my breath when I learned about another German-born girl who had kept a wartime diary.

One of Frank’s last entries was about the subject that introduced the writings of Christa von Hofacker. Both girls were gripped by news of the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944. “I’m finally getting optimistic,” Frank wrote the next day. If German military officers were trying to kill Hitler, she surmised, then surely Hitler’s demise was imminent. 

Christa von Hofacker, at age 12, had a more immediate concern. She began her diary after her father was arrested for his involvement in the July 20 plot to topple the Nazi regime. Cäsar von Hofacker, who had played a leading role in Paris during the coup, was among hundreds imprisoned afterwards in consequence. Later on, he and more than 150 others were murdered by the regime.

When Christa began to write, she had no idea of the fate that would befall her father. But her worries didn’t stop there. In early August Gestapo agents had appeared unexpectedly at her family home and arrested her mother, older brother, and older sister. Then, weeks later, the agents returned. 

The last photo ever taken of Cäsar von Hofacker with his children (from left), Liselotte, Christa, Eberhard, Alfred, and Anna-Luise, April 1944

“I’ve come on orders from Berlin to fetch the three children,” the man declared. Christa recorded these words in her diary. In the pages that follow she documented how she and her two younger siblings were taken without explanation on an extended rail journey. Their travels landed them at a remote hideaway in central Germany where they were held with other children under indefinite detention. Her text is riveting, visceral, and astounding. It stands as the definitive eyewitness account of the experiences she and 45 other young children shared as part of Hitler’s revenge for the actions of their fathers.

© Ann Bausum, all rights reserved


I gained access to Christa’s diary thanks to the German Resistance Memorial Center in Berlin. An offshoot of this museum maintains outreach to families tied to Hitler’s post-coup revenge. Staff there helped me approach several of these eyewitnesses as part of my research. My book was immeasurably improved by interactions with Christa and these other now-octogenarians. (Hint: Check out the next post in this blog tour to learn more.) 

In a series of interviews, conversations, and emails, Christa and I picked up where her diary left off. She filled in gaps, ruminated about what she had witnessed, and added further context to the words she had recorded more than 75 years earlier. Christa’s diary has gained a measure of recognition in Germany during recent decades, but few knew of it beyond. I am honored to be able to share excerpts from her account and to be able to introduce American readers to this history through Ensnared in the Wolf’s Lair

Would you help spread the word? #AnnBausumEnsnared

GIVEAWAY

  • One (1) winner will receive a hardcover copy of Ensnared
  • Check out the other four stops for more chances to win
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Meet the author

ANN BAUSUM is an award-winning children’s book author who brings history alive by connecting readers to personal stories from the past that echo in the present day. Ensnared is her 11th book for National Geographic Kids and her fourth look at international history. While researching the book, she traveled twice to Europe to get to know the people and places that became intertwined in 1944 after the failed effort to kill Hitler at the Wolf’s Lair. Previously Bausum has explored international history with such works as Stubby the War Dog; Denied, Detained, Deported; and Unraveling Freedom. Many of her books highlight themes of social justice, including her National Geographic title The March Against Fear. In 2017, her body of work was honored by the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC. Individual titles have won numerous starred reviews and been recognized with a Sibert Honor Award, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, the Carter G. Woodson Award, and the SCBWI Golden Kite Award, among other distinctions.

Blog Tour Schedule:

February 8th – Teen Librarian Toolbox

February 9th – Christy’s Cozy Corners

February 10th – Bookhounds

February 11th – From the Mixed-Up Files

February 12th – Ms. Yingling Reads

Buy: Amazon | Indiebound | Bookshop

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Follow Ann Bausum: Website | Twitter | Facebook

About Ensnared in the Wolf’s Lair

“I’ve come on orders from Berlin to fetch the three children.” –Gestapo agent, August 24, 1944

With those chilling words Christa von Hofacker and her younger siblings found themselves ensnared in a web of family punishment designed to please one man—Adolf Hitler. The furious dictator sought merciless revenge against not only Christa’s father and the other Germans who had just tried to overthrow his government. He wanted to torment their relatives, too, regardless of age or stature. All of them. Including every last child.

During the summer of 1944, a secretive network of German officers and civilians conspired to assassinate Adolf Hitler. But their plot to attack the dictator at his Wolf’s Lair compound failed, and an enraged Hitler demanded revenge. The result was a systematic rampage of punishment that ensnared not only those who had tried to topple the regime but their far-flung family members too. Within weeks, Gestapo agents had taken as many as 200 relatives from their homes, separating adults and children.

Using rare photographs and personal interviews with survivors, award-winning author Ann Bausum presents the spine-chilling little-known story of the failed Operation Valkyrie plot, the revenge it triggered, and the families caught in the fray.

Don’t Believe Everything You See: A Discussion of Deepfake by Sarah Littman with Lisa Krok

Having seen some deepfake videos, I was curious to read Deepfake by Sarah Darer Littman. This book is a fictionalized account of how this synthetic media can have drastic consequences.

First, what exactly is a deepfake? The term itself comes from a combination of “deep learning” and “fake”. Deepfakes are AI (artificial intelligence) generated media where someone’s likeness can be swapped with another, or manipulated with the intent or likelihood of being deceptive about the recorded person’s words or actions. A creator of this would first need to train a neural network to understand what the person looks like in different lighting and angles. This can be constructed by using many hours of real video footage to make a realistic deepfake video. This process was invented by Ian Goodfellow, a Ph. D. student in 2014. Popular Mechanics reports that he now works at Apple.

In the novel, seniors Dara and Will are not only competing for valedictorian, but they have also been dating on the sly. When a video posts to the school’s gossip site, Rumor Has It, Will is stunned to see Dara accusing him of paying someone to take the SAT for him. Feeling betrayed and falsely maligned, he breaks up with Dara and is facing an investigation that could rescind his college acceptance. Here’s the catch: Dara knows she did not say those things or share that video. Leave it to this valedictorian candidate to scrutinize the video and surrounding evidence to discover what is really going on. This disturbing tale grips readers, who will be turning pages to find out how, why, and who is responsible for this.

According to a recent report from University College London,“Deepfakes are the most dangerous form of crime through artificial intelligence…This is because while deepfake detectors require training through hundreds of videos and must be victorious in every instance, malicious individuals only have to be successful once”. This leads to the question of the legality of these videos. Clearly, spreading misinformation via this manipulated media is very concerning. Anything pornographic is subject to defamation or copyright suits, but deepfakes with deceitful or controversial statements that were never said currently remain legal.

Tips to spot a deep fake from MIT’s Detect Fakes project:

 (retrieved from https://www.media.mit.edu/projects/detect-fakes/overview/)

“The Detect Fakes experiment offers the opportunity to learn more about DeepFakes and see how well you can discern real from fake. When it comes to AI-manipulated media, there’s no single tell-tale sign of how to spot a fake. Nonetheless, there are several DeepFake artifacts that you can be on the look-out for. 

  1. Pay attention to the face. High-end DeepFake manipulations are almost always facial transformations. 
  2. Pay attention to the cheeks and forehead. Does the skin appear too smooth or too wrinkly? Is the agedness of the skin similar to the agedness of the hair and eyes? DeepFakes are often incongruent on some dimensions.
  3. Pay attention to the eyes and eyebrows. Do shadows appear in places that you would expect? DeepFakes often fail to fully represent the natural physics of a scene. 
  4. Pay attention to the glasses. Is there any glare? Is there too much glare? Does the angle of the glare change when the person moves? Once again, DeepFakes often fail to fully represent the natural physics of lighting.
  5. Pay attention to the facial hair or lack thereof. Does this facial hair look real? DeepFakes might add or remove a mustache, sideburns, or beard. But, DeepFakes often fail to make facial hair transformations fully natural.
  6. Pay attention to facial moles.  Does the mole look real? 
  7. Pay attention to blinking. Does the person blink enough or too much? 
  8. Pay attention to the size and color of the lips. Does the size and color match the rest of the person’s face?

These eight questions are intended to help guide people looking through DeepFakes. High-quality DeepFakes are not easy to discern, but with practice, people can build intuition for identifying what is fake and what is real. You can practice trying to detect DeepFakes at Detect Fakes.”

Creating deepfakes is surprisingly easy with the right app/software, and can be created for fun or learning purposes, rather than used fraudulently. Here are some examples:

Princess Leia Deepfake

Bill Hader Pacino Schwarzenegger Deepfake

Queen Elizabeth Deepfake

Home Alone “Home Stallone” Deepfake

If you would like to try making a fun video of your own, check out these apps and websites:

Best Deepfake Apps and Websites

There is a teaching guide for this book available here: https://sarahdarerlittman.com/teacherreading_guides/deepfake_guide_-copy.pdf

Meet Librarian Lisa Krok

Lisa Krok, MLIS, MEd, is the adult and teen services manager at Morley Library and a former teacher in the Cleveland, Ohio area. She is the author of Novels in Verse for Teens: A Guidebook with Activities for Teachers and Librarians. Lisa’s passion is reaching marginalized teens and reluctant readers through young adult literature. She recently concluded a term on the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee (BFYA 2021), and also served two years on the Quick Picks for Reluctant Reader’s team. Lisa can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.

Why I Wrote Strongman. Facts Matter. So Does History, a guest post by Kenneth C. Davis

What makes a country fall to a dictator? How does an entire nation follow an authoritarian leader –a Strongman—down a dangerous and deadly path? How does democracy die?

These are difficult questions in ordinary times. But in recent years, as the United States has confronted serious threats to its democratic institutions, these questions have become more pressing. It is no longer an interesting academic exercise to worry about democracy. It is a grave concern that involves the very existence of our most precious rights and freedoms.

Since I was a small boy, I have always loved questions, history, and books. No surprise then that I made a career out of writing books that ask questions about history. In the past, for instance, I asked the question: “How did the men who conceived and fought for the Declaration of Independence go back to lives utterly dependent upon enslaved labor?” That question became the basis for my book In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives (2016).

Kenneth C. Davis in the studio, recording a part of the audio edition of More Deadly Than War (2018 Photo courtesy of PenguinRandomHouse Audio)

Later I asked: “How did a deadly war early in the twentieth century contribute to the worst pandemic in modern history?” The answer was explored in my book More Deadly Than War: The Hidden History of the Spanish Flu and the First World War (2018).

But raising questions about dictators and the fate of democracy that form the core of my latest work, Strongman, may be the most difficult and important questions I have ever posed.

The book Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy profiles Benito Mussolini of Italy, Germany’s Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, China’s Chairman Mao Zedong, and Saddam Hussein of Iraq. My intent was to demonstrate exactly how these men were able to seize power. The book lays out the tactics and techniques they used to secure complete control over a nation – with murderous results.

For many people, these are merely names in history books. Certainly, they are notorious names. Yet who these men were and what they did is a vague memory. Today, some people make pilgrimages to the tombs of Mao, Mussolini, and Stalin – misguidedly believing them to be heroic leaders and honoring the memory of despots who caused such misery and death in their own countries and around the world. In writing Strongman, I wanted to raise awareness of what these ruthless men did. And I wanted to explore their lives and times to understand how they were able to bring millions of followers down such destructive paths.

Throughout my career, I have always contended that history is more than dates, battles, and speeches. It is the story of real people doing real things in real places. When we learn history as a human story it becomes less abstract and dry and far more meaningful. Not only does it help us to understand how the past shaped the present. But I also believe that the lessons of the past can guide us to make good choices in our own times.

Kenneth C. Davis in his New York City office during a recent webinar with school teachers.

Having written about history for some thirty years, I certainly was aware of the role these Strongmen played in shaping the modern world. But as I began to research their lives, I was surprised by how ordinary they were in many respects as young men. As a boy, Adolf Hitler loved stories of the American West and then dreamed of becoming a painter. Joseph Stalin was in a seminary school and worked for a time keeping weather statistics. Mao Zedong defied his father who had arranged a marriage for him at age fourteen and he later applied for work in a soap factory before becoming a librarian’s assistant. They were in many respects typical, rebellious teenagers who gave no clue of their vicious destinies.

My research took me down many dark roads filled with cruelty, torture, secret police, deliberate starvation, concentrations camps, and mass murder. The degradation and death that each of these men was responsible for became clearer in the horrific toll of destruction they left in their wakes. It is not an easy story to tell. But we cannot look away.

My research also revealed the way these men — and their legions of followers– were able to seize power using a playbook of tactics that many autocrats and tyrants rely on– propaganda, purges of enemies, elimination of the free press and other safeguards to basic rights, and ultimately stamping out dissent. In the process, they destroy any glimmer of hope for democracy.

For much of the thirty years since my book Don’t Know Much About® History was first published in 1990, I remained fairly optimistic about the future of democracy – both in the United States and around the world. At the time the book appeared, the Soviet Union was crumbling, the Berlin Wall was dismantled, and South Africa’s apartheid system would be vanquished. As budding democracies took root around the globe, the world appeared to enter an exciting moment in history. U.S. President George H.W. Bush even pronounced a “New World Order.” Prospects for greater freedom and more human rights seemed brighter as dictatorships fell away, replaced in many nations by “People Power.”

Finalists for the 2017 YALSA Awards ALA Midwinter, Atlanta, GA.
Left to right: Linda Barrett Osborne, the late Karen Blumenthal, Kenneth C. Davis, the late John Lewis, Gareth Hinds, Pamela S. Turner.
(Photo courtesy of Macmillan School and Library Marketing)
 

Despite the acts of terror and financial crises that followed in the early years of a new century, that optimism appeared secure when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008. Like many Americans, I was surprised and gratified that the United States had made the great leap of choosing a Black man for the nation’s highest office. Whether one agreed with Obama’s political policies or not, many conceded that Barack Obama’s victory seemed to signal a new stage in American democracy.

But something changed. The steady progress toward widening freedom, especially in the former Soviet Union and its Eastern European Communist-bloc, halted somewhat abruptly. The movement towards global democracy slowed and then went into reverse. Authoritarian leaders, such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, stepped into the breach.

That movement has only accelerated over the past two decades. Populist, nationalist leaders have secured power in several former Communist countries that had emerged as free market democracies and joined the European Union.  Authoritarian leaders also took power in nations in Asia and South America.

These growing global threats to human rights, basic freedoms, and democratic principles were the reason I considered it a crucial moment to focus on how an authoritarian dictator –- a Strongman – could take control of a country and quickly dismantle democracy. How does such a leader take power? How do they win millions of willing believers? What are the tactics and techniques they use to destroy the freedoms and rights that come with democracy? And could it happen here?

Meet the author

Author Photo Credit Nina Subin

Kenneth C. Davis is the New York Times–bestselling author of Don’t Know Much About® History, which gave rise to the “Don’t Know Much About®” series of books and audios.  He is also the author of the critically acclaimed In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four President, and Five Black Lives, a Finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction Award and a Notable Book of the American Library Association in 2017. His book More Deadly Than War: The Hidden History of The Spanish Flu and the First World War wasnamed a Notable Trade Book for Young People by the Children’s Book Council and National Council for the Social Studies.

His latest book, Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy, was published on October 6, 2020. It was named a “Best Children’s Book of 2020” by the Washington Post and among the “Best Young Adults Books of 2020” by Kirkus Reviews,

Davis has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Smithsonian magazine, among other publications. A frequent media guest, he has appeared on CBS This Morning, Today, CNN, and NPR. He was recently featured in the CNN documentary “Pandemic: How a Virus Changed the World in 1918.”

Davis enjoys both in-person and virtual visits with readers, teachers, students, librarians, and members of the general public. He lives in New York City.

Twitter: @kennethcdavis

Website: dontknowmuch.com 

Davis recommends buying books at Left Bank Books in Belfast, Maine.

© Copyright 2021 Kenneth C. Davis All rights reserved

About Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy by Kenneth C. Davis

From the bestselling author of the Don’t Know Much About® books comes a dramatic account of the origins of democracy, the history of authoritarianism, and the reigns of five of history’s deadliest dictators. 

Washington Post Best Book of the Year!

What makes a country fall to a dictator? How do authoritarian leaders—strongmen—capable of killing millions acquire their power? How are they able to defeat the ideal of democracy? And what can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

By profiling five of the most notoriously ruthless dictators in history—Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Saddam Hussein—Kenneth C. Davis seeks to answer these questions, examining the forces in these strongmen’s personal lives and historical periods that shaped the leaders they’d become. 

Meticulously researched and complete with photographs, Strongman provides insight into the lives of five leaders who callously transformed the world and serves as an invaluable resource in an era when democracy itself seems in peril.

ISBN-13: 9781250205643
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date: 10/06/2020
Age Range: 12 – 18 Years