Actually, today it’s more like SundayMorningCleaning. I’ve been cleaning up and re-arranging my blog. An online presence needs to be tended to from time to time: update tools, eliminated unused features and broken links, bring in new colors to add  highlights and adapting new memes and ideas from other bloggers. The trick is to do it subtly enough to not alienate readers!

This process began with the addition of new books thanks to the exercise on Fledgling to identify African American books that were published this past year. Sure titles have probably been missed but even if we missed as many as 20 books (which I know we haven’t but I want to remove all room for doubt) we’d still be looking at just over 60 books with a total of 3000 books published for MG and YA readers each year.  You know, we can talk about censorship every year during National Book Banning Week but when are we going to seriously address the banning of books by Native American, Latino, Asian American and African Americans that is enacted annually by the publishing industry? Carleen Brice eludes to this on her blog.


I was updating books released, creating a new page for next year’s books, adding reviews, re-arranging pages and as you can see one thing just led to another! I realize I have way too many links on the side of my blog, so I moved authors to a separate page. Of course in doing so, I had to add a few new authors and combined graphic novelists into that page. I still have a lot of links on the side of my blog! I think I’ll eventually move the resources to a separate page as well.

If you should happen to find a link that doesn’t work or a name that is misspelled, please let me know. I strive to provide accurate information and I want to get it right. I know my typing sucks but I really work to catch the errors. If  something is too annoying, just let me know, I’ll fix it.

I’m working toward being a community on this blog and allowing for more give and take. Last week, when I posted journals that I read, I should have asked readers to suggest as well. I know I don’t know all the good journals out there and I completely forgot about The Journal of Multicultural Education, Multicultural Review and ….???

I’m finally getting to fully realize the power of blogging as I implement blogs into several classes at my school. We began with conversations on what blogs are, etiquette and sharing. After discussing the need to communicate with fellow students in a more professional manner than we would in a text or email and learning to control our online image by choosing what to share and what not to share, students began posting. This week, they’ll post and react to classmates. I really think that blogging can help improve reading and writing because they’re really communicating with someone at an academic level in this process, and that someone is each other. I also think that seeing classmates as part of the learning process will do something positive to the culture of the classroom. I’m really hoping to see an improvement in test scores as students practice responding to text and expressing their opinions in these blogs. I don’t think I”m expecting too much.

I’m waiting for students to ask where or how to set up their own blogs! I’ve already shared Ari’s blog with them to get them to begin imagining what they can be doing! They’ll have fun blogging, but it’s a lot of work, too!

Do you blog? How does blogging challenge you to grow?

Here’s to the Madmen

Last week was one of the few weeks I rushed home for a white guy. I couldn’t wait to find out more about Karl Shoemaker, not because he was trying to be normal but because he’s such a sincere, funny and interesting guy. He lived up in Lightsburg, Ohio near my hometown of Toledo and graduated high school just before me. Karl is the main character in John Barne’s Printz winning Tales of the madman underground, an historical romance in 1973. Karl has been meeting weekly for years with the same group of students, all of whom are madmen suffering from psychotic behaviors developing from their parents inability or unwillingness to do what human adults typically do and care for their children. Needless to say, these madmen have few friends outside their group so they learn to trust only each other when they need a place to sleep, food to eat or someone to save them from the hands of classmates while strolling in the gay part of town in Toledo. Their personal issues stem from almost every kind of abuse you can imagine yet they seem to be working together to find ways to support each other as they attempt to learn how to navigate through life without causing or acquiring any more pain. I think that’s the most amazing thing about Karl, that he can still manage to not want to see others suffer unnecessarily.Karl didn’t care that his best friend finally announced that he’s gay. He couldn’t take advantage of girls who basically threw themselves at him, even though he figured that meant he wouldn’t lose his virginity until he was 30, and he could never manage to disrespect his mom or any adult regardless if the stole from him, lied to him or did nothing to protect him.  But, he couldn’t let adult males disrespect young girls nor would he sit idle when they offended Blacks or mentally challenged people. I’m sure in this predominately white town that there were many opportunities to hurl racial slurs, but one thing Karl’s liberal, alcoholic and self-destructive parents managed to instill in their son was to respect all life.And, that makes me wish that instead of putting a random Black person in the town and using the racism in Huck Finn to bring racial issues to the story, that Barnes would have given us a Black madman.

As fate would have it, I found my own.

Days before I was to end Tales of a madman a book called Pull by B. A. Binns appeared in my mailbox. I’m not sure why, but I sat here, dropped the envelope to the floor and read the book and in doing so, I met David Albacore, another madman. David is also 17, but he’s moved to Chicago and is attempting to hide who he is so he can run from his past. He blames himself for what happened to his mom and he’s trying to protect his sisters and give them a normal life. David is trying to be normal (see the theme here?) on his own but in doing so, he comes off just a little too perfect. While Binn’s story gives us the violence we’ve come to expect in novels about young Black men, she also brings a sense of civility as David struggles to be the man his mom wants him to be. The code for him, and for Karl, is never to narc to adults. They, like most kids think adults should know what’s going on, but no one ever tells the adults what is going on. David thinks men should handle situations on their his own and Binn reinforces this by never giving female characters the resources to solve a problem on their own.

Though dealing with tremendous personal issues, Karl and David’s leadership skills, maturity and humanity manage to emerge. They both manage to learn to trust adults while at the same time make major decisions about their own future. Each of them have incredible men in their lives and if only they’d realized it sooner!

Race is not an issue in David’s story, In fact, there are a few adults who help him who’s race is ever made clear.

Perhaps in choosing to create such tragic characters Barnes and Binn were able to show us how good and decent we can each choose to be, how normal we all are despite the crap that is dumped on us. I’m going to miss that white guy, Karl!

books reviewed:
Tales of a madman underground: an historical romance 1973

author: John Barnes
publisher: Viking, 2009
main character: Karl Shoemaker
(copy from my school library)

author: B. A. Binns
publisher: Westside Books, October 2010
main character: Davide Albacor
(publisher provided ARC)

And, I have news to share!! (sorry about the placement… WordPress sucks sometimes)


I think the most interesting thing I have to share with you today is the upcoming Read-A-Thon. I’ll be participating again this year and donating a prize or three. I see this as an excellent opportunity to share POC with the whiter wider world, so I hope some of you will be joining in on the reading and donating along with me. It will be nice to whittle down this ridiculous TBR pile, too!

With all the wonderful books I’ve been collecting to read, I seem to still spend hours online reading, searching, ordering

iPod watch. Click for info

more books and reading! I wonder what it is about human nature that compels us to buy more when we already have plenty. Would this be the classic definition of greed?

Several blogs mention the fantastic articles in the current edition of Hunger Mountain, a journal I planned to buy when the last edition came out. To me, HungerMountain is the kind of journal that requires me to read in print and to buy to support. Other print journals I’m currently devoted to include VOYA, the ALAN Review and the Economist. I read articles from Bitch Magazine and School Library Journal (it’s too expensive!!!!) online. I miss Wired, have outgrown Essence and never cared for the commercialism or celebrity worshiping in O. I’m wondering how much better informed I would be reading NYTimes in print for 2 hours rather than Twitter and blog feeds. Maybe I would have caught this article by a 17 year old Pakistani about the recent flooding. It sounds so much like what we experienced with Katrina.  I’m going to get an educator’s subscription and find out. Let me know if I start to sound like I know what I’m talking about!

In the meantime have you
registered for TEDWoman?
applied for free broadband for teachers?
used any of Scholastics Hispanic Heritage resources?
read this interesting story about teens in Chicago libraries?
supported a literacy project today?

It’s raining. Finally! Here’s hoping you get what you need this week.


Too, too often I mention the lack of books for children of color in a particular genre. Well, I’ve realized another.

I was setting biographies on display today and as I picked up more and more books on males of color, I realized how few I have, how few there are on women of color. This is important because students often use biographies for reports in English, History or even Science classes. When they see no women who look like them in books they get the message that thecontribution of women just don’t matter.

I have a fantastic biography of Zora Neale Hurston with reproductions of maps and letters places in little pockets in the book, several books on Madame C J Walker and Wilma Rudolph who both lived in Indianapolis. There are a few others like the Williams sisters, Mahalia Jackson, Maya Angelou, Frida , Condoleeza Rice, Jessie de la Cruz, Jennifer Lopez, Selena, Sarah Winnemucca and a few others.

Women past and present have lives that can inspire young readers today. Who do you think they are? Which women do you think deserve to have a MG or YA biography?

A Computer Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

One thing I’ve learned is that it’s very easy to criticize the decisions of policy makes. What’s not so easy is to have a larger vision that takes in the needs of a wide range of people. Just as an example, it was easy for me to criticize decisions to not support Google products by a school system because they felt unable to control student made content in that environment. Sounds crazy in this day and age, doesn’t it? The lack of control allows students to bully, antagonize and communicate other violence on the web.

I would so much rather see an environment that uses social media in the classroom along with conversations that teach students how to conduct civil discourse, validate sources, control one’s online identity and use the tools to gather and share information.

Could using 2.0 technology help fast track 9th graders reading at a 3rd grade reading level? Does the heavy hand of control really teach and protect? Would learning how to communicate in real life improve online communication?

HS Students place in top 5 in national competition

I know what I think, but . . .  I don’t have a larger vision.

Watching these videos found over at LibrariesandTransliteration give me some hope for our kiddos of color. I can’t post the Vimeo videos here daggone it, but do go watch them!  The short clips are from a public forum on digital literacy and children of color held by the United Negro College Fund with sponsorship from the MacArthur Foundation. I particularly liked this video from the event.

This “participation gap” refers to how youth of color engage with digital media. The concern is that they may be using technologies and tools that are less likely to encourage the development of sophisticated skill sets and literacies. Watkins was the keynote speaker at a public forum, “To Be Young Digital and Black,” held at Morehouse College in February and sponsored by the United Negro College Fund with support from the MacArthur Foundation.

He discussed how mobile technology has been one of the unexpected drivers in closing the access gap, but there are questions about the limited opportunities it provides for dynamic engagement and exploration. Watch the video for interviews with forum participants and students, as well as excerpts from Watkins’ talk. For more on this topic, read Spotlight’s interview with Watkins at​btr/​entry/​to_be_young_digital_and_black/​.

The forum was the first in a series, “Digital Media and Learning in Multicultural Contexts,” designed to provide arenas for discussion of how youth, especially youth of color, use new digital media and social networking tools.


MailMondayMeme originated with Ari@ Reading in Color

Click for a sample chapter

I ran across Ernest Hill a few years ago during one of my random Internet searches for POC books. I added Cry Me A River to my school media center collection and when a teacher told me that one of her students related to the book so well that he wanted to just keep it, I decided to add more of Hill’s books. I’m reminded of him again because his most recent book, Family Ties is about to be released. This book, again, I found in a random Internet search.

As we constantly bemoan the dearth of male writers of color, why do we hear so little about Ernest Hill? Here’s a little background information on Mr. Hill and I hope that after reading, you’ll decide to purchase his book to add to your school or personal collection.

from his official webpage:

Ernest Hill was born in Oak Grove, Louisiana, the fourth of ten children. Raised by very progressive parents, Hill was taught the value of honesty, hard work, and education. He was also taught to dream of a life beyond the narrow confines of the small town into which he had been born.

As a young boy, Ernest grew up amid strict segregation. Outhouses, unpaved streets, and tin roof shanties, were still a way of life in the small rural Louisiana town. As a result, his formal education began at Combs McIntyre, a small, understaffed, segregated black school. By the beginning of his fourth year of school, profound political and social changes swept through the south. The struggle for desegregation was won and the equal opportunities that everyone thought would accompany the victory were now a reality.

Click for synopsis and reviewsIn 1970, Hill and many of his peers from Combs McIntyre entered the previously all white Oak Grove Elementary and High School system. In spite of the constant bomb threats, fights, and racial altercations, Hill quickly won over his classmates and teachers with his exceptional athletic abilities, which not only made his transition a smooth one but eventually earned him a football scholarship to Northeast Louisiana University.  Hill remained at NLU until injuries ended his football career. In 1981, at the suggestion of his older brother (a recent Yale grad who played for the Oakland Raiders), Hill transferred to the University of California, Berkeley.

During his first year at Berkeley, Hill enrolled in an Afro-American History class taught by a dynamic scholar, Earl Lewis. That class sparked a passion for studying and understanding African-American history and culture.  That passion led Hill to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Social Science with an emphasis on history. After earning his undergraduate degree from Berkeley, Hill enrolled at Cornell University to pursue a master’s degree in Africana Studies.

At Cornell, Hill met and befriended Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who later became his advisor. It was Hill’s relationship with Gates that nudged him towards writing. He completed his first novel, Satisfied with Nothin, while working on his doctoral degree at the University of California, Los Angeles, as a Dorothy Danforth Compton Fellow. This books was semi-autobiographical, set in rural Louisiana.

Click for sample chapter

In subsequent years, Hill went on to become the critically acclaimed author of four additional novels, A Life For A Life, Cry Me A River, It’s All About the Moon When the Sun Ain’t Shining and A Person of Interest. He also conducts workshops to inspire new writers.

The best source for reviews of Mr. Hill’s work that I’ve found is GoodReads.


Just about every blog I read will eventually take the time for a public session on introspection and now, I guess it’s my turn.

My banner photo came from a quilt shop in Salvador de Bahia that shares my name

This comes after just a few more slights that make me wonder why I keep doing this. I began this blog on 4 June 2006, have had over 50,000 hits and am not sure how many followers I have, but I’m pretty sure it’s fewer than 80. My most popular posts are the ones listing summer Internships for students and the one about Drama High. So few people click links in my posts that there is little reason to take the time to create them. I love Feedjit and the capability it gives me to see that I’ve been read by someone in Markle IN, San Luis Potosi, Beverton OR and Islamabad.

I know I’m not a major player in the book blog world, I don’t try to be. I blog because I like promoting books for teens of color and the authors that write the books. I got so tired of hearing people say they couldn’t find books with Black teens or Latino teens that I decided to do something about it. I eventually learned that blogging is about being part of a community so I began visiting other blogs, leaving comments and making connections which sometimes led readers back here, sometimes didn’t. I looked for YA bloggers all over the place, finding some I liked more than others and adding them to my GoogleReader. In addition to the blogs over there in my list I follow blogs like Chicken Spaghetti, GreenBeenTeenQueen (where I won my first book!), Books and Wine, Stephen’s Lighthouse and Librarian by Day to name a few. I don’t do a lot of behind the scene emailing nor had I been participating in blogger activities. Yet, I find that these are crucial for connecting with other bloggers and becoming part of a larger community.

Recently, I’ve become more involved on my listservs. When librarians ask for middle school romance books for boys, I chime in with POC titles and if I hadn’t given her POC titles, she wouldn’t have gotten them because she didn’t ask for them. This got me wondering how often people of color marginalize ourselves by only connecting with people of color? I think we have the responsibility to make our presence known as much as educators, publishers and librarians (leaders) have the responsibility to acquire information that allows them to represent all they serve. I hate that I missed the sign up for Book Blogger Appreciation week! I didn’t see it when it was announced back in August, but managed to see mention of it now that it’s about to begin. I do know that I’m done with challenges, they’re too much for me! Read-Ins? I’m there!! Not only do I get a chance to read, but I’m connecting and promoting POC titles.

Of course listservs haven’t brought me any new followers or gotten any of my followers to take the time to leave a comment or two but then I don’t blog to promote ME. Nonetheless, dear reader it would be good to know you’re there sometimes. There are times I can’t even GIVE away books because no one will respond. I’ve decided not to do author interviews anymore because the lack of comments the author gets is just embarrassing. I think if you’re going to read a blog with any regularity that every once in a while, you should find something to say that translates to ‘I’m here and I’m liking what you do’. Heck, it could even say ‘have you considered trying… or how could you!’.

My current read is set near my hometown, Toledo

What do I want to fix/repair/change? I wish I were better at proofreading. I used to like just giving information, but I’d like to work on posting in a way that invites readers to share with me, too. That, however will be like pulling teeth! I know I have the focus I want, the question for me at this point is whether I want to grow and if so, how I want to do that. I’ve enjoyed this way more than I thought I would way back in 2004. I do believe I’ve gotten a few more people buying books for teens of color and found ways to support those who also promote literacy for teens of color yet, I think I”m missing too many opportunities. It’s difficult to realize effectiveness in this forum when met with continual silence. Regardless, I’m going to look for ways to be more effective at what I do.
Now I’m going to get dressed and go to ChinaFest.

What are you going to do this week?