National Teacher’s Day: Reflecting on My Teachers

Many celebrated National Teacher Day yesterday by posting images of their favorite teacher on social networking sites. I didn’t because I don’t have a favorite teacher, never have. I can remember when I began taking education classes and the professors would ask us to talk about our favorite teachers, the one who inspired us to teach, because we would most like emulate this person. No one came to my mind.

I wish I could ask my parents if there were any teachers I talked about constantly (in a good way) as a child. Perhaps someone connected with me then, but I cannot think of any teacher who inspired me, reached out to me or connected with me in a special way. I can name all of my K-8 teachers and many of my high school and college educators. I know that Dr. Smith, my Black History professor, was my first black teacher. I remember that my mom loved Sister Mary Joyce, my first grade teacher. Miss Langenderfer was the only teacher who had both my brother and myself in the their class. Mrs Cramer thought I had scoliosis and my parents appreciated her lookout. (I didn’t have it.) My 4th grade teacher was new to the school that year and was teaching way below the high school students she was used to teaching. She was the only blatantly racist teacher I can remember having.

First, let me tell you that my grade school education was in a 1-8th grade Catholic school. I was the first Black to attend there 1st through 8th grade and there were all of three Blacks and two Latinas in this class of just over 100. I believe my brother was the only black in his class.

My fourth grade teacher had us read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. She also decided my speech wasn’t good enough so, she had me (and two other students) memorize and recite poems to the class. Her contract was not renewed.

Years after I finished school and even after I had my own children, I learned from my parents that during parent teacher conferences my teachers would tell them they couldn’t believe how smart I was, that I could do the work so well. Consequently, they never expected more of me and the never encouraged me with regards to any opportunities. I do remember writing a Mother’s Day poem in the second grade that was so good the teacher kept it and my mother never saw when. When I composed a creed in high school that my teacher liked, she did let me copy it before she kept it. The next year, I wrote a story for my US History teacher that she doubted I wrote.

Junior year, when I wanted to go to France with my classmates, it was highly discouraged for me to go because of my color. I don’t know if teachers thought discrimination would be any worse there (HA!) or what the problem was as this was not told to me until years later.

Don’t take from this that I am this brilliant person who overcame obstacles or that I need pity because of the situations I was in because that’s not my point. Do take from this a warning about the situations our children continue to be placed in. If I told you the names of the private schools and public university I attended, you would think I had a top notch education. Rather, I was marginalized from opportune learning experiences. I came up in a time when parents trusted teachers to know better and to their best. My parents chose good schools and expected good results. Teachers today may or may not be so blatant with their racism, but be present in your children’s schools. Get a feel for the expectations they set for your child. I was never pushed to excel in grade school or high school and I was smart enough to figure out how much I could do to create an acceptable product. As a result, my college grades were acceptable. I’ve grown into someone who loves to learn, is self motivating and pretty daggone creative with no pictures of any teachers to post and thank. I wonder what did motivate me to want to teach?

I bet many of you have teachers or librarians you could mention who did much to inspire you!

May Releases

Penryn & the End of Days (End of Days series) by Susan Ee; Skyscape
End of Days is the explosive conclusion to Susan Ee’s bestselling Penryn & the End of Days trilogy. After a daring escape from the angels, Penryn and Raffe are on the run. They’re both desperate to find a doctor who can reverse the twisted changes inflicted by the angels on Raffe and Penryn’s sister. As they set off in search of answers, a startling revelation about Raffe’s past unleashes dark forces that threaten them all.

When the angels release an apocalyptic nightmare onto humans, both sides are set on a path toward war. As unlikely alliances form and strategies shift, who will emerge victorious? Forced to pick sides in the fight for control of the earthly realm, Raffe and Penryn must choose: Their own kind, or each other? (ages 12 and up)

Emancipated by M. G. Reyes; HarperCollins
Six gorgeous teens, all legally emancipated from parental control, move into their dream house on L.A.’s infamous Venice Beach only to discover their perfect setup may be too good to be true. The roommates—a diva, a jock, a former child star, a hustler, a musician, and a hacker—all harbor dark secrets but manage to form a kind of dysfunctional family. Until one of them is caught in a lie and everyone’s freedom is put on the line. How far are they each willing to go to hide the past? And who will they betray to protect their future? Told from alternating points of view, Emancipated is the first book in a blistering guessing game of a series packed with intrigue, romance, and scandal. (ages 12 and up)

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton; HarperTeen
Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette’s desire to escape the shadow of her ballet star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever. When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best. (ages 12 and up)

Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes; Little, Brown
It’s Maddy’s turn to have a bayou summer. At first she misses life back home in the city, but soon she grows to love everything about her new surroundings — the glimmering fireflies, the glorious landscape, and something else, deep within the water, that only Maddy sees. Could it be a mermaid? As her grandmother shares wisdom about sayings and signs, Maddy realizes she may be only the sibling to carry on her family’s magical legacy. And when a disastrous oil leak threatens the bayou, she knows she may also be the only one who can help. Does she have what it takes to be a hero? (ages 8-12)

The Novice (The Summoner series) by Taran Matharu; Feiwel and Friends
In this trilogy launch, a blacksmith’s apprentice discovers he has the ability to summon demons. (ages 12-18)

The Tenderness of Thieves by Donna Freitas; Philomel Books
Jane is ready for a fantastic summer. In fact, she’s pretty sure the universe owes her one.
This past winter, Jane was held at knifepoint during an armed robbery and the specter of that night still haunts her. A summer romance with one of the town bad boys—sexy Handel Davies, who takes her breath away and makes her feel like a bolder version of herself—seems like the universe’s way of paying her back. But bad boys always have secrets, and Handel’s secret just might shatter Jane completely. (ages 12-18)

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh; Putnam
Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend. She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.(ages 12 and up)

The Hunted by Matt de la Peña; Delarte
When the Big One hit, Shy was at sea in style. The Paradise Cruise luxury liner he worked on was a hulking specimen of the best money could buy. And now it’s at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, along with almost all of its passengers. Shy wasn’t the only one to survive, though. Addie, the rich blond daughter of a mysterious businessman, was on the dinghy he pulled himself into. But as soon as they found the rest of the survivors, she disappeared.
The only thing that filled the strange void of losing her was finding Carmen, his hot coworker, and discovering a way to get back home. But Shy’s luck hasn’t turned. Not yet.
Back on the dinghy, Addie told him a secret. It’s a secret that people would kill for–have killed for–and she has the piece that could turn everything on its ear. The problem? Shy has no idea where Addie is. Back home in California seems logical, but there are more ways to die back home then Shy could ever have guessed. And thanks to what Shy now knows, he’s a moving target. (ages 14 and up)

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han; Simon and Schuster
In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of makes it so amazing.

book review: March Book One

marchbookone_softcoverTitle: March Book One
Authors: John Lewis, Andres Aydin and Nate Powell
Date: Top Shelf Productions, 2013
graphic novel; nonfiction

March Book One describes John Lewis’ early interest in equality and civil rights. The first hand account relates how Lewis found his voice and became connected to the formal Civil Rights Movement.

March is told in graphic novel form and is written by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. The three collaborated to combine text and images to tell a striking story. The story begins with Lewis not wanting to leave the warmth of his bed or his soft slippers. Surely, this parallels the struggles he had in giving up the comfort of his family to fight for the rights of strangers, leaving behind the warmth and security for the sake of a call to duty. Matching word to text allows the authors to underscore meanings in a vivid, emotional and wordless way. This young man who cared and preached to the absolute lowest of the low, his family’s chickens, could not help but be overwhelmed with concern for the his black brothers and sisters, those white society saw as their least.

While at the office, two young boys, Jacob and Esau happen to stop by with their mother to visit the congressman’s on what seems to be the day President Obama is being inaugurated. Lewis takes the opportunity to tell them his story and March unfolds. Jacob and Esau? Biblical names of twins who fought inside their mother’s womb. Their story is one of birthrights.

I don’t read graphic novels often and some of the standard visual references were lost on me. I’m not sure what open panels mean. I did catch that crucial moments were displayed in much larger panels, providing more room to convey meaning. I was provided ‘aha’ moments as I uncovered meanings in passages, thus making personal connections to John Lewis and his story. Not only because it’s written in graphic form, but because of how these past events are contextualized into the future, I think young readers will relate to John Lewis and his message of answering the call. The last scenes in the book move from a ringing landline to a ringing cell phone. Who is calling and why are answers for Book Two.

I enjoyed this book. The most memorable scene for me was on page 27 when Lewis states ”by the time I march_book_two_72dpi_copy1was five, I could read it [The Bible] myself, and one phrase struck me strongly, though I couldn’t comprehend its full meaning at the time” and the words are written on the character’s back. Some of the frames confused me when I couldn’t relate the text to the image. I would love to have had an author’s note on what inspired this book or telling whom Lewis consulted with to jolt and clarify his memories but as it stands, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to young readers.

Coretta Scott King Honor Book
ALA Notable Book
YALSA’s Top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens
YALSA’s Outstanding Books for the College Bound
2014 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award Special Honor

Saturday Trailer: Zeroboxer

516U4fN7kuLZeroboxer by Fonda Lee
Flux, 2015
360 pages
ages 12 and up
Carr “the Raptor” Luka is an athletic phenom, a rising star in the weightless combat sport of zeroboxing. Training and competing aboard the lunar orbiting city-station of Valtego (where It’s More Fun on the Dark Side TM), all he’s ever wanted is to win the championship title.
His talent and marketability don’t go unnoticed by the top brass of the Zero Gravity Fighting Association. They assign him a brandhelm; after all, anyone who wants to be anyone needs a dedicated personal marketing strategist. Beautiful and ambitious, Risha is one of the genetically engineered Martian colonists that Earth dwellers view with resentment and suspicion. It isn’t long before she’s made Carr into a popular celebrity, and stolen his heart along the way.
But success could be the worst thing that happens to them. As his fame grows, Carr must come to terms with the fact that he’s become an inspirational hero on Earth, a once-great planet now angry at falling into the shadow of its more prosperous colonies. When Carr learns of a far-reaching criminal scheme, he becomes the keeper of a devastating personal secret. Not only will his choices place into jeopardy everything he holds dear, they may spill the violence from the sports arena out into the solar system.
An action-loaded story of celebrity, competition and personal responsibility, ZEROBOXER is now available from Flux.

Fonda Lee is a 2015 debut author.

We’re the People: Summer Reading 2015

I’m currently working with Debbie Reese, Sujei Lugo, Lyn Miller-Lachman, Sarah  Park DahlenNathalie Mvondo and Eboni Elizabeth Thomas to create a summer reading list. We’d like to include picture books, chapter books, middle grade and young adult written by authors of color. The YA list could include adult books with teen appeal.

What have you read recently or what are some books that you might not ever forget? While we’d like to promote new titles, we also want to include affordable titles and those would more likely be older books that have gone to paperback. But, we really want to include good, solid fun reading to recommend to young readers for the summer. We’d like to have your recommendations now through 10 May.


Diversity in Libraries Wanted

I received the following in an email from the Association for Research Librarians (ARL). Please, feel free to copy or link to this post.

ARL is accepting applications for the Initiative to Recruit a Diverse Workforce (IRDW), a program designed to recruit master of library and information science (MLIS) students from traditionally underrepresented ethnic and racial minority groups into careers in research libraries and archives. The IRDW includes a stipend in support of MLIS education of up to $10,000 over two years, leadership and career development training, a site visit to the Michigan State University Libraries, financial support for skills development, and a formal mentorship program.

The IRDW is funded by ARL member libraries. This program reflects the commitment of ARL members to create a diverse research library workforce that will better meet the challenges of changing demographics in higher education and the emphasis of global perspectives in the academy.

Program Goal and Objectives

The ARL Initiative to Recruit a Diverse Workforce seeks to:
  • Attract MLIS students from underrepresented groups to careers in research libraries and archives
  • Strengthen participants’ leadership and job searching skills via a Leadership Symposium held during the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting
  • Develop a network of peers and mentors who will guide and nurture the career development of the participants
Candidates from all academic disciplines are encouraged to apply.

Applicant Criteria

Successful applicants will meet the following criteria:
  • Identify as an underrepresented racial or ethnic minority, based on the categories outlined by the US Census Bureau or Statistics Canada
  • Be a citizen or permanent resident of the US, Canada, or Puerto Rico
  • Be accepted into an ALA-accredited MLIS program
  • Have a strong interest in pursuing a career in a research library or archive

To Apply

All applicants are required to submit the following materials by 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time onWednesday, May 13, 2015:
  • Online application form
  • Résumé
  • A 400-word (maximum) essay describing what attracts you to a career in a research library
  • Two letters of reference
  • Official undergraduate and graduate school transcripts including your last academic semester completed
  • Copy of an official letter of acceptance from an ALA-accredited library/information science program
For more information about the program, visit the Initiative to Recruit a Diverse Workforce (IRDW) website.

Librarians-Part 2

Librarians who choose to make a difference address issues such as net neutrality, the Patriot Act, freedom of information and workplace discrimination. We identify information trends in their nascent stages. I get that we’re called a dying profession. Because we’re information workers and because the nature of information constantly changes, the job of working with information will constantly change. If you don’t understand the core of the profession, if you think we just catalog books and read all day, then you’ll think the profession is dying.

IMG_4315My issues are diversity and literacy.

When I started this blog, I developed the tagline “Promoting literacy in teens of color one book at a time” and I addressed financial, computer, information and reading literacy. These, and other literacies are so important for success, the ability to navigate the world on our own terms.

I’ve been working on an article for the past few weeks that touches upon both metaliteracy and critical literacy. Yesterday, working on a completely different project, I found myself again digging into critical literacy and it really began to feel like I found where I belonged. This is a literacy that branches from critical pedagogy and the works of Paulo Friere. I’ve talked about this recently, about reading text to understand the power dynamics that are present: why did the author make the choices she did in writing these piece and who does it empower? Critical literacy should kick in no matter what we’re watching or looking at. Information is indeed power and that power is conveyed through direct and indirect messages. How librarians teach web searching, evaluating articles, presenting information or any information related skill should consider critical literacy if we want our teens to maintain our democratic way of life. All teens need to be empowered by uncovering all the messages being conveyed to them and they need to realize the responsibility that comes with that empowerment.

As an example, I want to share experiences I’ve had in doctor’s offices. Typically, when we go to the doctor’s office, she asks a list of routine questions, runs a few tests related to our particular ache or pain and tells us how the ache or pain will be treated. Even in a doctor’s office we need to use our critical literacy skills! Let’s disrupt the concept that the doctor is the sole source of information on health! A few years ago, I had a doctor who actually printed out and shared current research with me. We then discussed possible treatments. She spoiled me for all other doctors! I, who at one time would never question authority, will now ask ‘why’ or ‘how’ or ‘what other treatments?’. Did you ever watch House or Grey’s Anatomy? Though their medical practices are farfetched, they do related that doctors don’t always have the correct answer. I’m beginning to like the look I get that says ‘how dare you question me’. Yes, me, this little, old, black woman will question you.

I think about doctors because earlier this week, I visited a new eye doctor who kept given me me a hard time because my eyesight is so bad. I had to remind him about the practice of putting drops of silver nitrate in baby’s eyes in the 1950s and his entire demeanor changed. He talked about how horrid this practice was and I’m certain he had to have realized why my eyesight is so bad. From that point on, he told me more about my eyes than anyone had ever told me before.

Information is power! I love being a librarian!