review: This thing called the future

Way back in November, I had the pleasure of meeting J. L. Powers. We talked for a while and she made sure to give me a signed copy of her (then) newly released book, This thing called the future. I wanted to read it; I really did! But, life got in the way as it often does and it took me months to pick it up. There may have been a moment when she wondered if I was ever going to review her book, but given the facts that

I doubt she ever gave me a second thought.

There’s something about that freedom to move on, to explore options that she and I both have that her characters in This thing called the future ddn’t. I don’t know if we often realize how immensely blessed we are.


ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults, 20122011 Social Justice in Children’s/YA Reading ListKirkus Best Teen Books 2011

title: This thing called the future

author: J. L. Powers

date: Cinco Puntos Press; 2011

main character: Khosi Zulu

“The tongue of an angry woman brings nothing but evil,” Gogo says.

Well beyond the midpoint of reading This thing called the future, I wondered where the hope was. After all, hope is a hallmark of YA lit and I supposed it would be in this well regarded book. When the title line appeared in the narrative, I realized it was there all the time. I realized that things, people situations can take our hope and outsiders can often judge actions, or inaction as nothing short of ignorance. Well, unless that outsider herself has some sort of gift.

Khosi presents as a young girl who is just afraid of everything. Her gogo (grandmother) fills her with so much superstition that she can’t help but be afraid of most things in the natural world. The men who used to protect all parts of society, now prey upon young girls making it impossible for them to even walk to the store. We meet Khosi and her family as they are going to yet another funeral, another death from the disease of the day. Khosi is stopped by a witch who threatens Khosi by saying that she will get her one day. No sooner does she leave this scene is the young girl plagued by an old man in the village who attacks her every time he sees her. And then, there is the neighbor lady who seems like a madwoman yelling and screaming outside Khosi’s home about something she says Khosi’s mother has done. These events feel almost benign and you wonder why they persist; why can’t someone just stop these little things from happening. It’s not a lack of knowledge, rather a lack of power from which oppressed people all over the world suffer when members of another group continue to dominate.

The oppression in South Africa goes way back, but Khosi’s family tells of it in most recent times when black South Africans fought themselves as well as their white oppressors in the townships. For economic reasons, families were divided and even though apartheid ended, families still found no way to afford to live in one home thus creating conditions ripe for the spread of AIDS.

I wondered where the hope was in the book because Khosi had expressed no dreams. OK, she was beginning to like this boy, Little Man, and dreamed of being with him, but she was so beat down by situations around her that there was no room for big dreams! Conflicts abounded as Khosi’s mother (the only person on the novel with a western name) resented traditional practices and things of the past while her mother and daughter did not. Through Khosi, the spirits of the ancestors fought with witches.

Powers’ telling of Khosi’s life fully incorporates traditional practices in ways that pretty much require readers to suspend belief and realize there may be more in our world than we realize. In doing so, she doesn’t force any particular belief system on us, doesn’t ask us to condemn forces that create oppression but she does make us aware not only in these powers around us, but in the powers of anger, love and community that are within each of us.

Setting, plot character? Powers was in that sweet spot. Bits of the Zulu language are infused in the text as well as myths and daily practices that transport us to South Africa. She didn’t paint the story of natives in huts, rather she let us know these people have cell phones, televisions and can party right along with the rest of us!

I liked Khosi, wanted her to toughen up and I loved her gogo, wanted to relieve all her aches and pains! Little Man may have been a bit too perfect, but Khosi needed that little bit of perfection, a touchstone, if you will.  I’d like to chat with you about how incredibly well she wrote Elizabeth, but I’d ruin the story so, just go get the book, read it and then get back with me.

This is a story of hope because Khosi does indeed have this thing called the future. We soft living Americans may think there is little hope without paved streets, department stores and fast food chains. But, Khosi had options and in my world, a girl just needs to have options. That’s what the future should be all about!

I think lost hope, history, oppression are things that students reading This thing called the future ought to consider. Pull them into this story with Sarafina and asked what happened, what changed in South African from the time of the Soweto Riots when Khosi’s parents were teens to 2011 when Khosi was a teen. What would they predict for Khosi’s teenage daughter?

 

 

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Self Indulgent Saturday

Moments ago, I started an email to my daughter and the more I wrote, the more I decided I wanted to share it with all my ‘daughters’. Heck, and sons, sisters, brothers: whoever might chance upon it on … my … blog! Call it self-indulgent, but like so many say, ‘well, it is my blog!’

Hey Chikky!

I recently had a revelation that I started to share with you, but didn’t give you the entire thing. today’s ur lucky day because today, I’m going to finish that thought because I loves u!!!

ok…

you know how people always say ‘practice, practice, practice’? well, I don’t know if you know that I took piano lessons for 8 years when I was young (you may not know because I cannot play!) but I pretty much understood that you had to practice to improve your skill at something, that the more you did it, the better you got at it. Well, that’s only partially true.

I was listening to this guy on NPR not too long ago. he was a pitcher in the major leagues and something happened; he lost his mojo. He said he would work with different coaches who would have him think through the mechanics of throwing the ball, and this was really the worst thing they could have done to him. The more he focused, the less able he was to find that sweet, thoughtless momentum he previously excelled at when he just threw the ball.

I pictured Michael Jordan shooting free throws and Michael Phelps stroking away in a pool.

I began to think about writers and they always give the same advice: write every day. Just keep writing. Now, if you have the wrong mindset (like I did) you’re not only tired of this seemingly trite advice, but you’re expecting that the more you write, the better you get at the mechanics. But from the baseball player, I realized that the more you write, the easier it is to find that’ sweet spot’.

Then, I pictured Amy Tan and Toni Morrison, pen in hand surrounded by mounds of paper, some fresh and unused while even more was balled and crumpled. And I realized, there’s a ‘sweet spot’ in anything we want to do well, whether it be in sports, arts, engineering, teaching, computing or styling hair.

You know when you’re putting a film together and you’ve lost all sense of time? Left alone, things seem to come together magically but, if someone interrupts you, you have to collect yourself and realize where you are? You’ve perfected the mechanics as you know them and you’re completely lost in that productively, creative moment; in that sweet spot.

That’s why I told you to go out every day with your camera. Perfect your skills and find your sweet spot, your mojo; the surreal feeling of doing the right thing in the right way that only you can do.

you did it when you wrote this:

I want a reader. Knowing I am understood by someone and completely transparent without ever having to say a word is what I want. I want to be chosen. Instead of a night out with friends or watching television I want someone to sit with me by the fire and relax with a glass of wine. Better yet, I want to be the last thing someone takes in at night. Things might be formal at first while they get introduced to my story so perhaps they might start the evening sitting up against their headboard. As the night goes on and they get more comfortable with me. I want to be under the covers while my pages are turned in the heat and desire of wanting to know what comes next. 

I want a reader who loves me so much they take me in their purse, briefcase, bag, maybe just in hand, to work and boring meetings and even on vacations. I want to ride the subway with them and go the doctor’s office. I want the feeling that they care about me so much they do not want to fold my pages to keep their place in my story so they go out and find a special bookmark. I want to be such an inspiration and delight to their life that they cannot wait to share my existence with friends and family. My reader will protect me from rain and spilt milk, they will keep me from fire, children and dogs, I’ll have nothing to worry about. Whenever they read something funny I want to feel the tickle from their small chuckle on my pages. In sad chapters I want to feel my reader hold onto my ends a little firmer than usual while they reassure me they’re with me through the pain. When I get airy or start to run on I want Reader to love me so much they will still have the desire to read every single word. Every story must end but I want to be a never-ending story to my reader. I want my pages to turn forever in their hands.

 

YALSA Midwinter Paper Presentation

The YALSA Midwinter Paper Presentation is an annual event sponsored by past presidents of YALSA.  Its purpose is to provide a venue for educators, librarians, students, and others interested in young adult librarianship to gather and explore a topic of current interest that impacts the field. The YALSA Midwinter Paper Committee will select one paper to be  delivered at the 2013 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Seattle, WA, January 25-29, 2013.  The presenter will receive up to $1,500 to defray travel and registration costs.  The paper will be published in YALSA’s peer-reviewed Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults after the conference. For more information about the journal, visit http://yalsa.ala.org/jrlya.

The YALSA Midwinter Paper Presentation Committee is now seeking proposals for papers presenting points of view based on current research and relating to topics covered in YALSA’s Research Agenda.  The agenda includes four priority
areas:

Priority Area 1: Impact of Libraries on Young Adults
Priority Area 2: Young Adult Reading and Resources
Priority Area 3: Information Seeking Behaviors and Needs of Young Adults
Priority Area 4: Informal and Formal Learning Environments and Young Adults

The full research agenda can be found at:
http://www.ala.org/yalsa/guidelines/research/researchagenda.

The application form is located at:
http://www.ala.org/yalsa/awardsandgrants/mwpaper.  Important details include:

* Paper proposals are due no later than June 1, 2012.
* Only previously unpublished papers will be accepted.
* Proposals must be emailed as an MS Word document attachment. The attachment must be saved with the file name of <lastname_pastpresidentlecture.doc>.  For example, smith_pastpresidentlecture.doc.
* All submissions must be emailed to yalsa@ala.org, with the subject line “Past President Lecture.”
* The winner will be selected and all applicants will be notified by August 31, 2012.
* All paper presenters must register for the Midwinter Meeting by December 1, 2012.
* For questions, email Dr. Denise E. Agosto, Midwinter Paper Presentation Committee chair, at dea22@drexel.edu.

Any individual from within or without of the library community is welcome to submit an application. Membership in ALA/YALSA is not required.

book review: Huntress by Malinda Lo

"I LOVED all the characters in this book but most especially I loved the two girls Kaede and Taisin and each of their arcs – how they started separately, then combined and then…well. I will leave for you to find out." ~ The Book Smuggler

title: Huntress

author: Malinda Lo

date: Little, Brown and Company; 2011

main characters: Kaede; Taisin

Something is not right in the kingdom and Taisin’s dreams only seem to verify it. The King decides to send an envoy which include his son, Taisin, and specially selected guards to answer the Fairy Queen’s summons to make things right. They’ve had a truce with the Fairy Queen, but stories from the areas they must travel through indicate possible danger. And then, there is the fact that Kaede is the subject of Taisin’s dreams. Neither girl has completed her studies at the academy; neither really knows her own strength or understands what challenges that may lie ahead, including challenges of the heart.

Kaede and Taisin are both indeed on a hero’s journey. Lo carries us on this journey with them, allowing readers to learn of the girl’s physical and spiritual powers as they themselves do. While they are learning to trust their own strengths, the girls also begin to trust and love each other. Only together can they conquer their foe and only two people who truly love one another could come together in such a way to fight pure evil.

It is obvious that Lo is quite comfortable with romance, legends and sheroes. This is her zone! I usually fold over corners as I read so that I can share noteworthy pages as I read but, this time, I was too caught up in the story.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to finally read a book by Ms. Lo. I suppose the only negative comment I can make here is that I should have read it sooner. This book is a prequel to Ash, which I have not yet read.

book review: The whole story of half a girl

title: The whole story of half a girl

author: Veera Hiranandani

date:Delacorte Press; 2012

main character: Sonia Nadhamuni

reading level: 4.2

Being ‘half a girl’ doesn’t matter much until Sonia has to change schools. She was accepted by everyone in her small private school, but she has to find new friends in her new school and this requires her to fit in somewhere. Will she hang with the Blacks or Whites? Cheerleaders or nerds? Why can’t these people all hang together?! She has to explain her name and that she’s not half American Indian, but half Indian from India.

Sonia makes friends with Alisha, a black girl who is bussed to the school. She also makes friends with Kate, a very popular white girl who develops a very controlling friendship with Kate. It’s really hard to determine Kate’s motives and whether she’s being a true friend to Sonia or not, just as it would be in real life. I wanted Sonia to be a stronger character and to better assert herself but the truth of the matter is, kids have to learn how to maneuver the world around them just as Sonia was doing in the story.

Sonya’s parents wanted her to change schools both because of their concern for her education and because her dad lost his job. As with many MG books, Sonia’s characters are not fully developed, so I found it difficult to even care when her father suddenly has a rather severe episode. This is probably the only fault I found in the book that gives an otherwise believable portrayal of a young girl who just wants to fit in.

Saturday Trailers

What better day for book trailers than a Saturday?

He’s not a vampire. He’s not a werewolf. He’s something else…the Temptation.
A modern day “Ghost” from New York Times bestselling author Alisa Valdes, The Temptation is the first book in a unique supernatural trilogy about love with a truly mysterious stranger.
After crashing her car on an empty highway, Shane is miraculously saved by Travis, who walks out of nowhere. She is instantly attracted to him, and for the first time she believes in soul mates. But Travis is dead and bound by strict rules — even a kiss could destroy both their souls. And while Travis is almost impossible to refuse, Shane soon realizes that temptation is their kindest enemy.
The first book in the Kindred trilogy is fast-paced, high stakes, and utterly irresistible.
In stores April 24!

Cured and Gathered

Win a copy on YA Book Queen. Register now through 21 Apr

First, I’m so excited to tell you that Julie Kagawa’s Immortal Rules trilogy (yes! the entire trilogy!) has been purchased by Palomar Pictures. Her response to the news?

Julie Kagawa ‏ @Jkagawa Guys, if you could see me…my feet are about 6 inches off the ground. Thank you all. #Giddy#theimmortalrulesmovie 🙂

Congratulations!

The State Farm Youth Advisory Board, a philanthropic program of State Farm, is accepting applications for youth service-learning projects designed to create sustainable local change in communities across the United States and Canada. Projects must be designed to address the root cause of the following issues: access to higher education/closing the achievement gap, financial literacy, community safety and natural disaster preparedness, social health and wellness, and environmental responsibility.

Applicant organizations must be a K-12 public or charter school, or institution of higher education. Nonprofit organizations also are eligible if they are able to demonstrate how they plan to impact student achievement within the public K-12 curriculum. Grants will range from $25,000 to $100,000. Deadline: 4 May

The White House recently responded to the School Librarian petition. Using the “We the People” portion of the White House website, the response concluded by saying

The Obama Administration remains committed to supporting school libraries and the critical role they play in providing resources and support for all students in their learning, to ensure that all students — regardless of their circumstances — are able to graduate from school ready for success in college and career. Check out this response on We the People

It seems that while some areas are continuing to eliminate school librarians, the state of Texas is struggling to find more people qualified for these positions. In reading about the shortage, it’s interesting to learn how they’re  transitioning from book based librarians to being librarians who working with accessing, organizing and working with information, not just books.

Do you know REFORMA? REFORMA is  The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking and they are busy these days!!REFORMA is

YALSA is currently accepting applications for its Teens Top Ten. Let your teens have a voice in selecting top books for teens for the next two years! The Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! Nominators are members of teen book groups in sixteen school and public libraries around the country. Find out more and apply!

The Hub has a nice re-cap of this year’s Virginia Hamilton Conference. I usually attend the conference, but for health and professional reasons, couldn’t this year. I’m sometimes disappointed at the lack of diversity at this conference which meets for that very purpose but have always enjoyed the intimate atmosphere and opportunity to network that is provided.

Today, Paula Yoo’s blog says this is her last post. Well for now that is!  From today until 7 May, she’s posting daily blogs at the official NaPiBoWriWee site, the site she began for an event called “National Picture Book Writing Week.”  Need to get your write on? This may be your perfect opportunity!

Are you participating in World Book Night and if so, where will you be distributing your books? I’ve seen so many interesting places people have chose to distribute books! I have to thank my friend, Maria, for picking up my books from Kids Ink Bookstore. I’ll be be giving copies of The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks at the Julian Center, a shelter for women here in Indy.

In all this news about libraries, books, and the many ways we access information in this rapidly changing world, sometimes we need to slow down and be reminded of the critical need for continued free and open access for all citizens. Knowledge is power!