Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley; Soho Press
Frank X. Walker is an African American poet from Danville, KY. In 2013, he became the Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. (Wikipedia) Hes’ the first African American and the youngest person to hold this post.In 2014, He won an NAACP Image Award for his poetry.
He’s founder of Affrilachian Poets and is a Professor of English at the University of Kentucky.
In the parking lot behind the funeral home, my eyes settle on
the bulky white noose my father has lost a wrestling match to.
Though he is not convinced Windsor knot know-how can plant
tobacco or drive a nail true, he concedes his flawed results,
abides my desire to fix it. Calling up knowledge passed to me
from a book, I execute the maneuvers with fluid precision
and imagine I am creasing and folding a Japanese paper swan.
He stares at my knuckles, smiling, perhaps seeing his own hands
Listen online to Walker reading from his work on a radio program produced by UK’s NPR affiliate, WUKY 88.1 FM, at
author: Greg Neri
date: Carolrhoda Labs; August 2014
main character: Erica “Fish” Asher
Note: There are minor spoilers in this review. I could not avoid them. ARC courtesy of NetGalley.
Greg Neri is unpredictable if nothing else. His writings have ranged from Surf Mules to Yummy to Ghetto Cowboy to Hello, I’m Johnny Cash. And now, Knockout Games.
If you’re an adult, if you’re over, let’s be generous and say 30, you need to get your hands on an advanced copy and begin reading this book from the back. Start with the conversation between Greg and Carrie Dietz, the school librarian who gave Neri the idea for Knockout Games.
It didn’t take me long to realize I didn’t like Erica Asher, aka Fish, the books main character. She’s weak, indecisive and has little to say. She’s a white girl with long red hair and is a new student in an urban school in St. Louis filled with Black and Latino students. Destiny is the only person in the school who bothers to become friends with Erica and she’s the one who gives her the moniker “Fish”.
“I been watching you ever since you came to Truman. All you do is sit there and look at people, filming them and what not. It’s like that camera’s your tank and you just watching everyone pass you by. And with that hair, you the same color as Nemo, Fish. Yeah, that’s what you are.”
Erika and her mother move to St. Louis from Kansas after her parents break up. Erica’s mom finds a job working nights in a lab and can’t afford much of an apartment for them to live in.
Fish’s friendship with Destiny and her access to a camera gives Fish access to Kalvin, ‘King K’, and the knockout games.
Fish makes decision that I thought were just plain stupid. But, I’m not a teenage girl growing up in a new city with just my mom in the 21st century. My teen years are far behind me and I just ought to know better.
I’ve never really experienced this before while reading YA: realizing that a books just wasn’t written for me. Fish was true to her teenage self, figuring out the kind of person she wanted to be, what she valued and how to maintain relationships. Neri reveals her talents to us, but Fish has no idea what she’s capable of doing. This book was not written for those of us oldheads!
As an adult, I wanted clarity on Destiny and her relationship with Fish, but relationships are complicated, especially for teens. Remember those weeks you didn’t speak to your best friend and suddenly you were spending hours on the phone? There was no more of an explanation for the not talking as there was for the sudden forgiven and there certainly weren’t pages of dialog between the two of you about your ‘feelings’.
Fish’s ignorance, which I should politely call ‘naiveté” is magnified in her relationship with Kalvin. The smooth talking, game playing, King K. First person narrative gives us no room to figure him out, it just gave us Kalvin in Fish’s eyes. We meet him and are pulled in by his soft voice with a slight rasp and piercing green eyes just she is. We feel her falling for him.
His hand engulfed mine. It was all rough on the outside, he’d seen battles. But his inside palm was soft. He pulled me up and his height caught me by surprise. He seem about two feet taller than me.
Kalvin teaches the Tokers about classic movies, boxing and how to be a leader. Yet, he’s as elusive to them as he is to us, the readers. Just as he seems to be spilling his emotions, he yanks all of ours with a line that has us doubting anything he’s said. Yea, he probably saw Fish as soon as she hit town.
In the conversation at the end of the book Dietz tells Neri “I feel like a lot of YA authors write great books for adults but not necessarily for teens, but the books that you write are definitely for teens. You write in a way that’s real, the way they really talk. They recognize those worlds.”
They recognize the knockout game, an activity that I heard about a few months ago on the national news. This game has actually been played in Dietz’s school for years and it involves students picking random strangers, walking up to them and hitting them hard enough to knock them out.
Young people don’t often consider the consequences of their actions, but that’s what they get in Knockout Games. What kind of people do we become when we join gangs and participate in such violence? Don’t get me wrong, Neri’s no preacher. He gives this to teens in ways they don’t even know what’s been put on their mind. And, teachers wise enough to teach with these books will find a multitude of ways to reach their students.
Knockout Games is a tough read for us old heads as it shows the many ways we’re letting our young people down. It’s a tough read for teens as it reflects one of the ways they’ve chosen to fight for their survival. The tough reads show us who we are and leave room for us to figure out who we’re going to become.
I can’t help but wonder what Neri will write about next.
This weekend ALA President Barbara Stripling sent out an email announcing a joint statement that the BCALA and the ALA cooaboratively developed and was then endorsed by the other ethnic affiliates, AILA, APALA, CALA and REFORMA. Stripling will be appointing a Special Presidential Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to develop strategic atction ideas.
In response to BCALA’s concern regarding holding the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, the ALA Executive Board thoroughly explored the options for moving the conference. ALA started by clarifying the facts underlying conference site selection, the implications of trying to move the Orlando conference, and the prevalence of Stand Your Ground laws across the United States. The contracts for Orlando were negotiated originally in 2000; the Stand Your Ground law in Florida became effective on October 1, 2005. Cancelling the hotel and convention center contracts would result in a minimum fine of $814,000. Conferences as large as ALA must be scheduled for specific sites and contracts signed at least 7–10 years in advance. At this late date, it would be highly unlikely that ALA would be able to find another site with availability during our window of late June/early July 2016.
Most troubling is the growing prevalence of Stand Your Ground laws. Twenty-two states have laws that allow for that self-defense provision to be asserted (as of August 2013). An additional 21 states have enacted laws that allow for self-defense within one’s home (called Castle Doctrines). However, each state has implemented and applied the Stand Your Ground laws differently, and it is the interpretation and application of the Stand Your Ground Law in the Zimmerman and Dunn cases, as well as the Marissa Alexander case, that has heightened the urgency for discussion and action.
With that information in hand, our ALA’s Executive Committee and BCALA’s Executive Board decided that the best way to respond to the Florida situation is by turning it into an opportunity to educate, build awareness, and advocate for equitable treatment, inclusion, and respect for diversity.
Congratulations to Nahoko Uehashi (Japan) on winning the 2014 Hans Christian Anderson Author award.
According to the IBBY jury chaired by María Jesús Gil of Spain, “Uehashi tells stories that are replete with imagination, culture and the beauty of a sophisticated process and form. Her literary subjects are based on ancient Japanese mythology and science-fiction fantasy that are deeply rooted in human reality.”
Congratulations to Roger Mello (Brazil) for winning the 2014 Hans Christian Anderson Illustrator award.
An illustrator, writer and playwright, Roger Mello has illustrated more than one hundred titles, having also provided the text for twenty of them. He works as an illustrator for five different publishing houses and he is also the author of several theatre plays.
The awards were announced at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy. This event first began in 1963 and has become a premier event for children’s publishers around the world. A few trends seemed to develop at the Book Fair this year. There was a growing number of Chinese picture books that originating in China, indicating that imported books to the country will no longer dominate the market. The L.A. Times reports that this year’s Fair had strong interests in middle grade fiction in general and in contemporary realism for YAs.
Marvel Comics announced a female Muslim superhero in November and School Library Journal (SLJ) posted a very informative interview with the creator of the character. While Ms. Marvel is the first American Muslim female character to have her own series, she’s not the first Muslim super hero.
- Sim Baz, Lebanese American who took over for the Green Lantern “In his debut issue, Baz, who is Lebanese, is watching the events of 9/11 unfold on his TV as a 10-year-old, and dealing with the aftermath that Muslims faced in America. And his first major obstacle isn’t a conventional super-villain, but “a federal agent who deems him a terrorist.” (Marvel)
- Dust, a young Afghan woman whose mutant ability to manipulate sand and dust has been part of the popular X-Men books. (Marvel)
- Nightrunner, a young Muslim hero of Algerian descent, is part of the global network of crime fighters set up by Batman alter ego Bruce Wayne. (DC Comics)
- The 99 created by Naif Al-Mutawa, developed a 6 issue crossover with DC Comics in 2010.
- Dust, aka Sooraya Qadir, is an Afghanistan-born Sunni Muslim who, when kidnapped by slave traders, uses her mutant power to turn herself into a sand-like substance to flay them alive. (Marvel)
I’m not much into Comics, never read much beyond Richie Rich and Archie. In fact, I wouldn’t have realized Stan Lee’s pattern of same first letter for first and last name if it wasn’t for Raj on Big Bang Theory (video). I was pleasantly surprised to find out how diverse comics are.
I think if I could have super human abilities, I’d be able to speak, read and understand all languages. Or maybe never gain excessive weight no matter what I eat. What about you?
I have a busy week coming up with visitors to the library from Thailand, high schoolers coming to learn about scholarly research and the beginning of the garden season. Wishing you all the super abilities you need to shine this week!