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Laurie Halse Anderson, Shares Personal Experience on MeToo With New Book “Shout” Due February 26, 2019

June 15, 2018

“Laurie Halse Anderson shocked readers with a book about rape. She’s at it again.”

Author Laurie Halse Anderson as a teen. In her upcoming book, she writes frankly about being raped at age 13. (Courtesy of Laurie Halse Anderson)

Long before there was #MeToo, there was “Speak.” Published in 1999, Laurie Halse Anderson’s semi-autobiographical novel about rape was a bestseller and later a movie starring Kristen Stewart. It remains revered and controversial, appearing on high school curriculums across the country and on the American Library Association’s most-banned-books list.

Now Anderson is stepping up to the microphone again, this time with a little more anger and a little more candor. Her new book, to be published in March by Viking Children’s Books, is called “Shout,” and in it she writes not only about her own experience as a rape victim but also about the pain and heartache readers have shared with her in the two decades since “Speak” appeared.


“Speak,” by Laurie Halse Anderson (Square Fish)

In the intervening years, Anderson has addressed untold numbers of young people — in schools and libraries across the country — about sexual assault. She has shared her own experience of being raped at 13, one year younger than the protagonist in “Speak,” and how, like her, she kept silent about it. (Anderson waited 25 years before telling a therapist what happened to her.)

Going public has turned Anderson into something of a confessor. “I have not spoken at an event where one or two people haven’t come up to me in tears afterward,” she said in a phone interview from her home in Philadelphia.

The notes come to her through email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — even on crumpled pieces of paper handed to her after events. The message is almost always the same: Me too. I was assaulted by a boy, my friend, my dad, mommy’s boyfriend.

Anderson typically directs young people to groups such as RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) and encourages them to talk to safe adults. But given the outpour — amplified in part by the #MeToo movement — she felt a need to do more.

“I see my responsibility as helping people move away from ‘me too’ to ‘us too,’ ” she says — to create a sense of community to combat the isolation that Anderson felt as a young woman and a rape victim. “I hope that some readers will find it and feel less alone,” she said. “America’s teenagers are hungry for honesty and they are hungry for hope — and that’s what I’m trying to give them.”

Anderson began working on “Shout” in October of last year and says that it came more quickly than any of her other books, which include “Chains,” a National Book Award finalist; “Wintergirls ”; “The Impossible Knife of Memory”; and others, including a graphic novel version of “Speak,”published this year. All told, Anderson’s books have sold more than 8 million copies. Viking has announced a 200,000 first printing of “Shout.”


Author Laurie Halse Anderson. (Joyce Tenneson)

“When I started ‘Shout,’ it was just my rage: Why can’t we talk about these things?” she says. “Watching these brave people speak up as part of #MeToo just let me take the lid off, and that felt good. It was a second liberation for me.”

“Shout” is written in free verse. In the first half, Anderson shares her own experience and how it led to the writing of “Speak.” The second half is what she calls a manifesto about “listening to and reflecting on a culture where sexual violence is rampant.” The language is sometimes graphic and often empowering:

We should teach our girls that snapping is OK, instead of waiting for someone else to break them.

As such, Anderson’s book fits in the growing movement among kid-lit writers to speak out more directly about social issues. Books such as “The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas, and “Long Way Down,” by Jason Reynolds, have led to frank conversations about violence and teens. The #MeToo movement has sparked authors to talk about sexual misconduct in their own ranks. The shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., spurred writers such as Raina Telgemeier toward greater activism.

Anderson expects that “Shout” — aimed at high school students and up — will be challenged just as “Speak” still is by some readers who object to its unvarnished discussion of sexuality and violence. But Anderson, now 56 and a grandmother, is undaunted.

“All of those teenagers were kind to talk to me,” she says. “They educated me.” She sees “Shout” as a kind of thank-you note to them and a “shot of advice about how liberating it is when you write about what you’ve been through.”

Girls Like Me

June 9, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 7.54.54 PMI simply must say that I can’t remember ever reading a book that covered such a difficult subject as gender identity, suicide, teen pregnancy, child cruelty, and mental and emotional abuse…without closing the book and never picking it up again.  Such sensitive subject matter is difficult to understand if you’re on the outside looking in, and even more difficult to share if you are the one trying to navigate through the barriers thrown your way.  Unless you’ve known this world and/or lived it, you cannot speak its truth about it.

 

Nina Packebush, in this instance, is a speaker of truth for these youth, who are among our most vulnerable young adults.  Her gift as a nurturer transcends the narrative she wrote to serve most definitely as one of the guidepost texts needed by this population, so that they may know of their possibilities for success in moving forward.  As I read of sixteen-year-old Banjo’s mishandling by the psych doctors in the hospital, my rage was soothed by the masterful way in which Packebush could hold the reader’s attention and gently move readers through the contextualizations of the misrepresentation and mishandling of a sixteen-year-old who has experienced severe emotional trauma from her partner’s horrific suicide. A teenager who also shares the parentage of her unborn child with that same life partner, who is now tragically no more.

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Click the above album covers for “Girls Like Me” playlist on Spotify

Nina’s skill makes it possible for the reader to reach the critical point in her text where Banjo attends the appointment with her new gynecologist,  Dr. Alice  Dr. Alice a medical professional who identifies as lesbian, knows how to deal not only with gender identity issues but teen pregnancy because of her own personal experience as a teen mother.  From this point on, in the story, a safety net seems to emerge that was due to:  the emotional damage occurring within Banjo, due to her loss; the decisions that were to be made about Gracie, her unborn child; her relationship with her family; and her clouded view of what success in life and what healthy relationships looked like.

All of these cutting-edge social issues were approached with such seamlessness that readers are not only able to experience each anticipated milestone significant to Banjo’s developing resiliency, they are also able to see a mirrored reflection of their own complexities. As an observer, they find access to the windows that serve as a stage for determining what is right, correct, and healthy for their existence.”

 

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Teen Pregnancy for teens, in general, is on the decline.  Awareness of pregnancy among queer teen populations, however, needs a more broaden platform for advocacy.

 

As the reader-observer, one can find themselves worried about poor Banjo’s rewiring and the efficacy she needs to build the self-esteem to move forward while not giving up on the unborn Gracie.  With concern to this aspect, I literally found myself as chief-cheerleader-in-charge to bolster support for Banjo’s single-parent family, headed by her mom to click in and not let Banjo allow Gracie to be adopted, to do something to let Banjo know she is loved and accepted for her sexual identity and not marginalize her, to kick into self-healing to save their family unit.

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“Girls Like Me” was a finalist at the 2018 Lambda Awards

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Author Nina Packebush (righthand side). in attendance at  2018 Lammy Awards

With this, of course, being a choice issue,  I can’t help being a soppy romantic at my core, which will find me always rooting for a “happy ever after, if there’s even a crack of daylight left at the end of the tunnel.  With so much emotional undertow, I was surprised at how Nina’s God-gift yet again pulled me through the text. I was even able to make it through the flashbacks of Gray’s suicide, which is literally the part that might be the most difficult. Gray was Banjo’s gender clear partner and the other parent to little Gracie. Without blowing the storyline by sharing their death scene, I do applaud the author in not brushing over this part of Banjo’s story, and incorporating it in flashback with Banjo and Lou, who revisited it for closure at the end of the storyline. My personal breaking point which is reflected of how seamless this story was woven, was when poor little Rags, Gray’s dog, saw the old apartment where Gray lived for the first time since their death.  I found a knot beginning to form in my throat, and realized at that point, how involved I had become in the story’s context.  So with tears softly rolling down my cheeks, for the first time in a long time, I read.  I read and let the tears fall as a release, for the tears had wanted to come at so many moments within this story, but had never surfaced.  They literary built up in a repository, unbeknownst to me, the reader, until the eternally happy Rags became center stage.

This was the epitome of a boundless unjudgemental love.  The same love that we all need and thirst for.  The same love that Banjo was healing from in the loss of Gray and the oncoming birth of Gracie.  The same love that was mending the tears in Banjo’s own family.  The same love that was becoming an emergent promise for Banjo and Lou.”

 

I can also add that most readers will be more than satisfied with the quality of how the author chose to end the story. It was not rushed and didn’t feel choppy. It simply flowed into a conclusion with logical order. The quality of writing is unquestionable. I have always been aware of gender choice, but feel honored to have had the chance to be introduced to the dilemma of teen pregnancy issues facing queer teens, as well as being made aware of the rising identity of gender clear youth in our society today.   I could not recommend a better manner in introducing these issues than through such a wonderful title from Bedazzled Ink publishers.  Thank you, Nina. Keep writing the stories we need to hear. The youth you write of are our children who are in our care.  Their stories should not be cast aside. Nearly a decade ago, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminded us to never look at situations through one set of lens, for there is more than one story to be told.

“Girls Like Me” is one of the many voices that need space to be heard. It is inclusive of such diverse issues as race, gender binary identity, socioeconomic class, adolescent mental health treatment, family dynamics, teen pregnancy, teen suicide and self-medicating through cutting, and abandonment, to name a few.”

Several have referred to this title as groundbreaking in that it combines teen pregnancy issues with gender binary.  No other known YA novel has approached this complex dynamic. If there is another title out there, it is in a deep state of hiding.

Critical theorists refer to text such as this as “Enabling” because of the capacity it has to guide the troubled adolescents who are suffering from disconnect and disengagement, back from their dark holes and valleys.  Adults who serve as advocates for our underrepresented children should be made aware of text such as this and the healing power it possesses.

As a librarian and educator who has worked with youth in and outside of school environs for over 4 decades, and one who remembers my own adolescent years, I know that without supportive guideposts to provide answers, our young adults will continue to seek out guidance and answers to their dilemma elsewheres.  When they make these turns, a chasm in communications occur and many find themselves in deeper types of unforeseen problems from others that prey on their young innocence and vulnerabilities.”

For librarians and classroom teachers who are concerned with defending issues relating to controversial issues in this title, be assured that the author of this title has been very mindful of how the text presents itself  Its powerful message is absent of unacceptable explicit language and contains no illicit graphic scenes, making it an excellent choice for collection holdings in public, school, and classroom libraries for ages 13 and up.


Visit author Nina Packebush’s blog on Teen pregnancy”

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE!

 

A New Mentoring Text That Strengthens the Narrative of Injustices for our Youth

June 6, 2018

Ghost BoysIn my opinion, this book will have a lasting impact on our contemporary canon due to the readability and historical update of the narrative on the subject matter of Emmett Till’s murder conviction, which was changed due to new information first by his cousin, Simeon Wright, through the publishing of Simeon’s Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till , as documented in a news coverage. The second impact on Emmett’s death was the surfacing of Carolyn Bryant, who after 60 years breaks her silence by standing up against the intense fear she felt due to threats that forced her to lie under oath.

With all of this, author Jewell Parker Rhodes was led to document the change in the story for children, using the voice of Emmett, himself as one of the characters in what became Ghost Boys . The strength, wisdom, and leadership that Emmett’s character emotes is reflective of the change the emergent information caused in the narrative and in the lessons Emmett learned in his place as leader of other youth who ended up in his afterlife world, due to similar conditions that resulted in their deaths.

Image result for roll of thunder hear my cryI truly believe this is one of the new historical fictions we will turn to in curriculum as mentoring text, just as we have done so with Julius Lester’s Day of Tears , Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever of 1793 and Chains.

In a conversation on Facebook, I responded to a request for suggestions on what to do when your administrator says no to the reading of Ghost Boys at the end of the school year. Having grown up in the South knowing adults who feared for their children’s lives due to the conditions of segregation they lived under and having grown up in a small town that refused to be silent against such heinous acts that forced other places to be silent, I knew silence was not the answer. Voice and trust were needed to stop all wrongs AND seeing today, how the silence is still in tack, my heart broke. My heart broke over knowing the anguish that school librarian felt over being rejected, rejected with no explanation.

We’ve all been there, and I couldn’t help but feel for this librarian and admire the brevity of title-choice, which is what caused my heart to respond in such a manner.

Image result for emmett tills correction correctionsIt ached as I wrote my response to the post over the loss of the experience the youth in this librarian’s lit group will not get to be guided through navigating the complicated issues that author Jewell Parker Rhodes spent time to research and present in a manner that youth could understand. It ached over the lost opportunity they will miss in experiencing this important book in a group and with adults who would have made themselves open to provide facilitation support for better understandings, for Ghost Boys is a hard hard emotional book!

There are so many layers: Emmett Tills’ corrected story:  the harsh unbridled details of murder due to hatred; bystanders in both cases in the book (protagonist and the Emmett flashback); current-day police aggression on young males of color; utilization of body-cams video; testimonial statements from authority sworn to protect; silence from unscrupulous cover-ups; AND if you think the racism discussion is the hard part, the discussion of ancestral belief which is an undercurrent of spirituality in the book will challenge views of religion and origin stories. 

 

I think, before even reading this book, a lot of up-front prep is needed. The students, as well as everyone else, is aware of police aggression but the other subtleties IMHO cannot be overlooked. Due to the fragilities of so many folks with buy-in to the library, I would approach it from a healing perspective, for the book’s protagonist truly wanted the officer’s daughter to heal the rife his death caused. The father showed remorse but never said so. That is the part I would use as a promotional. I would even critique the reviews and explain to my administrator how there is something way more powerful than what the media frenzy shows daily from the murder of young black males…for the silence of the Emmett Till witness is the example of the same silence we are experiencing today with our social and political needs. Silence is a sign of fear and fear does not solve the problems. It takes on hostages and smothers your actions. So, the impact of this book is in the historic silence that our youth today should be armed against doing. The silence in both stories is reflective of society’s silence, which is why so many things keep repeating without correction…the silence and the fear of the loudness…In Ghost Boys, the noise, the silence, the fear, the anger, the history of it in the past, and the action of it in today’s world is all layed on the table for deconstruction…a blueprint for fixing the leaky pipe.

Artist of Color Show Us the Mirror They See Themselves in This World

June 1, 2018

 

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The artists in this slideshow are Julio Valdez, Edmonia “Wildfire” Lewis,  Ebony Iman Dallas, Nick Galanin,  Aaron Paquatte, Amy Sherald, Kehinde Wiley, and Tim Nyugen.  They represent Southeast Asian, First Nation, Latino, and black American visual artists who reflect a consciousness message needed for our YOC in today’s society.

The artist of color in this slideshow are combined with historical and contemporary names. It is important to include visual own-voice artists from the major groups of color that our YOC exists in.  We sometimes forget Southeast Asians and First Nations.  It is more critical now than ever that our youth not only see themselves in the literature we provide them, but become aware of other groups of color and see how the artists who are members of the groups of color see themselves in the spectrum.  I included in this post an example of the artists I am personally drawn to from the manner in which they interpret the reflections of themselves and their own which is in sepia textures.  It is important to provide our youth with artists who live and breathe in the world today.  When we only feed them historical examples, our narrative is saying “it used to be” instead of “it is.”

Award-winning Author Yuyi Morales’ Pulls Us Through the Sliding Doors so that we Might Know the Pain of the Racial Hatred our Country’s Politics are Causing for Mexican Youth in Closing Remarks at SLJ 2018 Day of Dialogue

June 1, 2018

You simply MUST listen to what Mexican American Yuyi Morales has to say about the damage the political climate is causing her, a Mexican immigrant who crossed the border with her infant son two decades ago, as she realizes today her son would be removed from her arms and she might not have ever seen him again…had it been today.

Yuyi MoralesNow her friend’s children are scared to go to school, frightened out of their minds that someone will come and take them away from their parents, frighten from the bullying, frighten that they might come home to an empty home because someone is coming to take their parents away

Had she not come to this country, we would have never been blessed with the stories she bestowed upon us, in the books she’s written.

 

Los Gatos Black on HalloweenNiño Wrestles the World (Golden Kite Honors)Rudas: Ni?o's Horrendous Hermanitas by Yuyi Morales (2016-10-18)Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar ChavezLittle Night/Nochecita by [Morales, Yuyi]Just In Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet BookFloating on Mama's SongLadder to the MoonViva Frida (Morales, Yuyi)Sand Sister

 

[Review] White Flight-A Representation of our American Diaspora of Diversity.

May 25, 2018

What makes this title so fantabulous is that it’s not only a book-in-verse but one that both males and females will find engagement. How often do you get to read an urban bookWhite Flight: A Novel in Verse where the protagonist is a white 16-year-old youth whose just as hip and down as his black friend? But hey, I hate to say it, but just like the horror movie, the black boy dies early. This, however, is not going to be one of those rag reviews on the author for delivering us a stereotypical trope, for the author truly delivered a narrative of his lived world. Just like the story’s setting Chris Paslay grew up in a neighborhood similar to the one featured in the book. When Chris was a teen his neighborhood was filled with white and black working class and professional families, as well as few single-parent -households whose parents worked extra hard to assure they didn’t return to a world of the hood. Mind you, in major cities, the hood is not monolithically black and Latino.  It can be ethnic, however, such as Albanian, Italian, Dominican, etc.

 

Alex, our protagonist and best friend to Darryl,  was a teen that knew how to walk in the streets of a major city in America because that was the mod of transportation for getting from one place to the other.  It was also one of the environments for social interaction with his fellow peers. We catch the rhythm of the city in the metrics when reading this book’s verse, where the two friends are closer than close.  Hip to the same songs, the same clothing, and taking the same routes in the streets, these two were inseparable. Alex and Darryl. When you saw one, you saw the other close behind. Two friends that had known each other over half their young lives…since elementary. But there was one difference, one instance when Alex forgot…forgot there was a difference between him and Darryl. Forgot that he was white and Darryl was black. That was the night they that Darryl shared the information on his witnessing of a murder by the local thug that seemed to be moving his drug business deeper and deeper into their neighborhood day by day. More cars driving by with music blasting out the windows daily. More drug transactions in the parks and tennis courts at night.

It was one of those transactions that Darryl chanced upon when he witnessed a murder one night and was warned not to snitch. When he shared this news with Alex, Alex tried to be straight and upright. Thinking only of honesty and truthfulness, he urged his friend to do the right thing and tell the police. Darryl, simply looking at Alex as his friend, followed his advice.

What happened next was heart-shattering for street justice took hold and the drug dealer that committed the murder Darryl witnessed, rolled up on Darryl and shot his brains out at point blank range on the sidewalk, and for the rest of the book Alex is left with the guilt of his friend’s death wondering whether or not he told his friend the right thing. Wondering whether or not he was a wimp for staying silent for knowing who the person was that killed the person he felt as close to as one would a brother.

The snitch factor is a major reason for the continuation and escalation of crime in major cities. Retribution is bold and the police don’t seem to have control over the threats. In the Philadelphia area, it’s such an issue that the Philly newspapers run regular series and investigative articles. The Philly Inquirer ran a news series on the issue. in 2013 for one such incident where an Instagram account was shuttered down that threatened snitches. It had 7900 followers and lasted for six months.  Stories such as the ones below were found in the news for four months running:

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1. Website With Pay for Snitch Information (2007)

2. Instagram Account Threatens Snitches (2013)   

3. Philly Jock STAR Says Philly Rappers are Known for Snitching (2018)  

 

White flight is also a reality. Historically, it occurred when an all-white neighborhood experiences an influx of people of color, namely new black or Latino residents. When this happens, the whites flee the neighborhood and move to other areas, thus making the new neighborhoods more elite.

This book allows us to see an inside perspective on reasons for flight, except the flight was not from just white residents, it was experienced by black residents too.  Readers are also provided a layer to view the broad and diverse topography of what we view today as urban youth, for they are not just black and Latino youth. They are of First Nations. They are Southeast Asians. They are white, black, AND Latino. They are a representation of our American Diaspora of diversity.

Here’s Chris reading an excerpt from his title:                                                   

White Flight is only available on Amazon.

 

DAY 1: Author Chris Paslay Reads from His Book-in-Verse Urban Title: WHITE FLIGHT

May 8, 2018

514kFzfbxEL-1.jpgOur Blog Tour!  Is Rolling!

WHITE FLIGHT is a YA urban title that features 16 year-olds Daryl and Alex, two teens from diverse backgrounds, that have  been friends for almost half their life, until one fateful day shattered it forever, due to the retribution of a street thug who saw justice in a much different way then either of the two young friends were raised to ever know.  Now only one of the pair still

remains, filled with remorse and guilt from the unknowingly fatal advice he gave that ended his friend’s life, wondering if can he step up to the plate and be as brave as his friend was.  For both were eye-witnesses to a targeted execution.

Please welcome the talented and much-acclaimed author, Christopher Paslay, as he reads verses from this newly engaging title that can cause readers to experience a powerful impact from the experience it brings when youth read its text.

 

 

 

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ON WEDNESDAY follow us over to  In The Margins Book Awards Site to and let us share with you the author interview, and see what Chris has to say about the experiences he’s had with writing  WHITE FLIGHT while holding down a full-time job as a Philadelphia high school English teacher.

 

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