Archive for April, 2020

Review of Fry Bread, written by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Friday, April 17th, 2020

Fry Bread

A Native American Family Story

written by Kevin Noble Maillard
illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Roaring Brook Press, 2019. 44 pages.
Starred Review
Review written February 11, 2020, from a library book
2020 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award Winner
2020 American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor

Since this book won the Sibert Award, I’m going to list it on my Children’s Nonfiction page, but this book is really two things – a picture book with simple text and an informational book when you read the detailed eleven-page Author’s Note (with a recipe) at the back.

The picture book part is lovely. These spreads all begin with a caption “Fry Bread Is….” Fry bread is food, shape, sound, color, flavor, time, art, history place, nation, everything, us, and you. The pictures show a loving and joyful intergenerational group of American Indians making fry bread together. They’re a diverse group in appearance and skin tone, and have parents and elders guiding them and telling stories.

The pictures are joyful and evocative. I like the picture on the page “Fry Bread Is Sound” where you can almost hear the dough frying. The words are simple and could work in a story time.

Fry Bread Is Time

On weekdays and holidays
Supper or dinner
Powwows and festivals
Moments together
With family and friends

The Author’s Note brings it all together and explains the background and significance of the carefully-chosen details in the illustrations.

He begins the Author’s Note like this:

The story of fry bread is the story of American Indians: embracing community and culture in the face of opposition. It is commonly believed that the Navajo (Diné) were the first to make fry bread over 150 years ago. The basic ingredients may appear simple – flour, salt, water, and yeast – yet the history behind this community anchor is anything but.

Despite colonial efforts throughout American history to weaken tribal governments, fracture Indigenous communities, and forcibly take ancestral lands, Indian culture has proven resilient. In strange, unfamiliar lands, exiled Natives strived to retain those old traditions and they created new ones, especially for food. Survival meant adapting, and those ancestors, isolated from familiar meats, fruits, and vegetables, got by with what they had. Without the familiar indigenous crop of corn, historic farming practices and dietary traditions drastically changed.

Many tribes trace the origin of modern Indian cooking to this government-caused deprivation. From federal rations of powdered, canned, and other dry, government-issued foods, fry bread was born.

Then the note goes page by page, and along the way we learn that different tribes and different regions have different recipes and different traditions for fry bread.

Fry bread reflects the vast, deep diversity of Indian Country and there is no single way of making this special food. But it brings diverse Indigenous communities together through a shared culinary and cultural experience. That’s the beauty of fry bread.

There’s so much in this picture book. A story to enjoy combined with so much to learn about and celebrate.

kevinmaillard.com
juanamartinezneal.com
mackids.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/fry_bread.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of We Are Brothers, by Yves Nadon, illustrated by Jean Claverie

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

We Are Brothers

by Yves Nadon
illustrated by Jean Claverie

Creative Editions, Mankato, MN, 2018. 32 pages.
Starred Review
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #5 Other Picture Books

This picture book tells a simple story of two brothers who go to a swimming hole every summer. The big brother jumps off the big rock into the water. He tells the little brother it’s his turn this year.

The pictures are what make this wonderful. We see the rock from the little brother’s perspective, and it’s simply enormous, towering overhead.

Then, when it’s his turn, he climbs the rock like a cat. When he gets to the top –

Legs shaking, turning around, the water seems so far away. Too far. A breeze makes me shiver.

How does the illustrator manage to portray him standing there, shivering? There are no motion lines, but you see him hunched into himself, his legs looking thin and small and his eyes looking huge. He looks cold and small and afraid. The next spread pulls back and shows his big brother a tiny head and arms in the water below.

Then the jump.

And then, I am yelling, my arms circling, my legs running in the air. My hands stretch for the sky, while my feet call for water. My eyes find my brother’s.

I am bird.

Then the water, where he becomes fish.

And the book finishes with the brothers doing it all again – together.

What’s wonderful about this book is the way it immerses you in the amazing and memorable moments of a boy’s first chance to do the great big thing – just like his brother. Time stops and starts as you read, and you’re right there.

So lovely.

thecreativecompany.us

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/we_are_brothers.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Eleventh Trade, by Alyssa Hollingsworth

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

The Eleventh Trade

by Alyssa Hollingsworth

Roaring Brook Press, 2018. 298 pages.
Starred Review
Review written November 4, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#4 Contemporary Children’s Fiction

Sami has newly arrived in Boston with his Baba from Afghanistan by way of Iran, Turkey, and Greece. His father had been an interpreter for the American army, which made him a target of the Taliban.

Baba’s rebab, a stringed instrument like a lute, is one of the only things they still have from Afghanistan, and Baba plays it in the subway station. But after Sami’s first day of school, he’s playing the rebab while Baba takes a break – and a thief snatches it out of his hands and gets away on the subway.

Well, Sami finds a new friend who looks up the instrument and finds the shop where the thief took it. But the shop wants $700 for it. It’s the start of Ramadan and Sami wants to get it back for Baba to give him at Eid al-Fitr. But Sami has no money.

Then a bully notices Sami’s Manchester United key chain. He’ll trade an ipod for it. Of course, then it turns out the ipod is broken. However that new friend of Sami’s knows how to figure out how to fix an ipod.

Thus begins a series of trades. If Sami can trade each thing for something a little better, maybe he can get that rebab back for Baba by the end of Ramadan.

This is the second book I’ve read recently about “elevator trades.” But in the other book, it was more of a scam. This book has heart. Sami doesn’t have to scam anyone – he finds what people want. And I love the way he builds connections with people as he finds out what they care about and what they want.

Along the way, we find out about Sami’s story, watch him join a soccer group, and see him learn about the power of friendship as he adjusts to this new place.

You end this book wishing all good things for Sami and his Baba. You also have a feeling they’ll find them.

Added later: Looking back at this book a year and a half later, I still have such warm feelings for this book and its characters. Just a wonderful book.

alyssahollingsworth.com
mackids.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Red Hood, by Elana K. Arnold

Monday, April 13th, 2020

Red Hood

by Elana K. Arnold

Balzer + Bray, 2020. 353 pages.
Review written April 11, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

Red Hood is an amazing and impressive book. It’s not a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, though you can almost think of it as standing the story on its head. And we do have wolves in the woods, a girl, and her grandmother.

But this girl in the woods is not prey, oh my, no! Instead she hunts down wolves – instinctively and fiercely.

For it turns out that sometimes, when there’s a full moon, men and boys turn into wolves. They attack and devour unsuspecting young women, who need a defender. Bisou turns out to be a ferocious defender.

But the book doesn’t begin that way. It begins with Bisou in the back of a truck, trying out sex with her boyfriend, whom she loves very much. But before the night is over, she’s in the woods alone, being attacked by a wolf – which she kills. The next morning, a boy is found dead in the woods where Bisou thought she left the wolf.

Now I loved Elana K. Arnold’s earlier book, Damsel. After going a little way into this book, I decided that both books were similar. Both books are very explicit about sex, almost clinically descriptive. Both books portray men cruelly exploiting women – but then meeting with vicious retribution – and that violent retribution is frighteningly satisfying.

However, by the time I was finished, I was super impressed with what the author pulled off here. Because not every boy turns into a wolf. Bisou has a wonderful relationship with her boyfriend, a loving and kind young man. There’s a point where Bisou has something to do having to do with hunting on a day when they usually have sex – and James is disappointed, but he doesn’t give her a hard time at all. I was waiting for it to all be a big trap and for him to turn into a wolf – and he remained a loving and kind person.

In fact, there’s another boy at their high school who harasses and abuses one of Bisou’s friends – and they deal with it without magical powers, and he never turns into a wolf. (I’m trying not to give spoilers. I don’t think this will ruin it for you.) I kept expecting every jerk to end up being a horrible wolf or the apparently loving individual to be a wolf at heart – and that just doesn’t happen here, and that impressed me.

What’s more, though the heroine of Damsel was basically alone, Bisou makes friends with other girls in this book. So as well as becoming a testament for girls standing up for themselves and standing against sexual violence, it also tells a beautiful story of the power of sisterhood and girls supporting each other as they do that standing.

I ended up so impressed with this book. It ends up being richly nuanced, telling a story of a girl gaining new powers to defend the weak against sexual violence, but not being alone as she navigates those new powers. It shows sexual violence as a horrible threat against women – but not a threat hiding in every man’s heart, and something that both men and women are willing to help destroy.

elanakarnold.com
epicreads.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Resurrecting Easter, by John Dominic Crossan & Sarah Sexton Crossan

Sunday, April 12th, 2020

Resurrecting Easter

How the West Lost and the East Kept the Original Easter Vision

by John Dominic Crossan & Sarah Sexton Crossan

HarperOne, 2018. 213 pages.
Review written March 3, 2020, from a library book

I’d originally checked this book out and tried to read it in 2018, but eventually gave up. (I was busy with Newbery reading, anyway.) But after Richard Rohr referred to it in The Universal Christ, I checked it out again and this time made a concentrated effort to read the whole thing.

It’s a very academic work, so that’s why it’s hard to get through, but becomes fascinating the more you pay attention to what the authors are saying. It’s a book about early Christian art portraying the Resurrection of Christ – and how it developed in two different directions.

But instead of just talking about it, the authors show you exactly what they’re talking about. They have traveled the world to collect photos of the art, and they’re on display in color on the large pages of this beautiful book. The authors also tell about their travels to old churches with mosaics and to monasteries with old manuscripts. We come to understand the timeline as they carefully date each picture and show how the iconography progressed.

As they lay out the two categories of images of Christ’s Resurrection – Individual and Universal, they also show us the different types within each category, and show how the types developed.

Here’s how the authors explain the Universal Resurrection Tradition in their Prologue:

Instead of arising alone, Christ raises all of humanity with him. He reaches out toward Adam and Eve, the biblical parents and symbols for humanity itself, raises them up, and leads them out of Hades, the prison of death.

This is presented in contrast to the Individual Resurrection Tradition, where Christ is pictured rising alone in splendor and triumph. The authors give two reasons for spending more time on the Universal Resurrection Tradition:

One is that the individual version becomes, by the second millennium, the official Easter icon of Western Christianity. As such, it is the one we know best as Westerners, and we may even presume, mistaking part for whole, that it is the only one present throughout Christian history. In this book, therefore, the emphasis is on universal over individual iconography for Christ’s Resurrection as remedial education for Western Christians. During the last fifteen years, it has been precisely that for us.

Another – and much more important – reason for emphasizing the universal resurrection tradition is based on these two final questions as the fourth and fifth themes of Resurrecting Easter. We emphasize them here and now, and we ask you to keep them in mind throughout the book, but we will only answer them at the very end of the book.

First, is the individual or universal vision in closer continuity with the New Testament’s understanding of “Resurrection” and in better conformity with the Gospels’ conception of Easter? For example, when Paul speaks of Christ’s Resurrection, is he imagining it as individual or universal? Or again, when 1 Corinthians 15:20 and Matthew 27:52 refer, using the same Greek term, to the resurrection of “those who have fallen asleep,” who exactly are those sleepers?

Second, whether you understand Christ’s Resurrection as a historical event or a theological interpretation; whether you accept it as myth or parable, symbol or metaphor; and whether you accept it religiously or reject it absolutely, what does it claim and what does that mean? How can someone or something that happens once at a certain time and in a specific place influence or change the whole human race – not just forward to the end of time, but backward to its start?…

What does it mean, whether or not it is credible, to depict Christ’s Resurrection as humanity’s liberation from death – all humanity, past, present and future?

So that gives you a feel for what’s explored in this book. Besides being a beautifully photographed book, it’s a major work of scholarship, gathering images made of Christ’s Resurrection from as early as the 700s, and placing them in chronological order and historical context.

As a universalist myself, I wouldn’t have minded if the authors had drawn more conclusions. But I personally took comfort in this confirmation that my belief that Christ redeemed all of humanity and “as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive” — that this belief is bolstered by Christian art created centuries ago. Beautiful and inspiring.

ResurrectingEasterBook.com
harperone.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Shameless, by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Saturday, April 11th, 2020

Shameless

A Case for Not Feeling Bad About Feeling Good (About Sex)

by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Convergent Books, 2019. 200 pages.
Review written March 29, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

I wasn’t sure about this book. It’s a book about sexuality and spirituality and how the church’s teachings on sexuality have harmed people.

I saved sex for marriage and married my first boyfriend. I was proud of that. So pleased that we did it “right” and followed God’s best plan. I even thought that the fact we waited for marriage proved the guy had self-control and wouldn’t ever have an affair. Well, that didn’t work out; he had an affair, left me, and now I’m divorced. And there are some who read the Bible to say that means God doesn’t want me to ever have sex again. What do I do with that?

Here’s a bit from the Introduction:

In the ten years I’ve been pastor at HFASS, I’ve known young married couples who did what the church told them and “waited,” only to discover that they could not, on the day of their wedding, flip a switch in their brains and in their bodies and suddenly go from relating to sex as sinful and dirty and dangerous to relating to sex as joyful and natural and God-given. I’ve known single women who didn’t have sex until they were forty and now have absolutely no idea how to manage the emotional aspect of a sexual relationship. I’ve heard middle-aged women admit that they still can’t make themselves wear a V-neck because as teenagers they were told female modesty was the best protection from unwanted male sexual advances. I’ve seen gay men who never reported the sexual abuse they experienced in the church because the church told them being gay was a sin. I’ve heard stories from women who experienced marital rape after getting married at twenty years old (because if you have to wait until marriage to have sex, then you hurry that shit up) but got the message from their church that because there is a verse in the Bible that says women should be subject to their husbands, it was not actually rape.

It doesn’t feel very difficult to draw a direct line between the messages many of us received from the church and the harm we’ve experienced in our bodies and spirits as a result. So my argument in this book is this: we should not be more loyal to an idea, a doctrine, or an interpretation of a Bible verse than we are to people. If the teachings of the church are harming the bodies and spirits of people, we should rethink those teachings.

So I wasn’t sure what I’d think about this book – but what I found was a message of grace. And insights I’d never thought about before.

She talks about purity systems – rules and regulations to keep us pure. She says it’s natural for us to make them, because we want to be holy.

But no matter how much we strive for purity in our minds, bodies, spirits, or ideologies, purity is not the same as holiness. It’s just easier to define what is pure than what is holy, so we pretend they are interchangeable….

The desire to live a holy life that is pleasing to God is understandable, but this desire is also fraught with pitfalls.

Our purity systems, even those established with the best of intentions, do not make us holy. They only create insiders and outsiders. They are mechanisms for delivering our drug of choice: self-righteousness, as juice from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil runs down our chins. And these purity systems affect far more than our relationship to sex and booze: they show up in political ideology, in the way people shame each other on social media, in the way we obsess about “eating clean.” Purity most often leads to pride or to despair, not to holiness. Because holiness is about union with, and purity is about separation from.

She explores lots of ideas here, and they surprised me by how lovely these ideas were. She’s not just questioning rules and systems and teachings, she’s also talking about what does healthy sexuality look like? One fascinating insight is that sexuality and spirituality have much in common.

She doesn’t give us a list of new rules in this book. She explores and she asks questions and she gets us thinking about the bodies God gave us, what pleases Him and what pleases us.

The point is, it all calls for attention. Does something enhance my life and relationships, or does it take it over? Is my behavior compulsive? When I or my partner experience this pleasure, is it bringing me or my partner more deeply into the moment, into the sacred, into our bodies, or is it separating one or both of us from these things?

Here’s another insight:

Jesus, we know, was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton, a friend of prostitutes and tax collectors. His first miracle was to keep the wine flowing at a party he was attending. So the guy was not afraid of pleasure. But he also fasted for forty days in the desert and would often go to a mountain to pray alone. He seemed to live an integrated life of feasting and fasting.

I like so much in this book, and it’s hard to describe and hard to explain. I like the connection she makes that good sexual connection comes when we can put aside our shame. When we can see each other as we truly are and reveal ourselves with all our scars.

Too often, the diagram that religion draws up for explaining sex takes the snake’s-eye view – it names only the physics of fear, threat, and control, but none of the magic. Likewise, media and advertising thrust the commodification of sex our way, and sex becomes either something to trade in or just another aspect of life in which we are judged and found lacking. But neither of these approaches is enough. Neither points to the whole truth. Because there is also magic.

This magic is what God placed in us at creation. It is the spark of divine creativity, the desire to be known, body and soul, and to connect deeply to God and to another person. This magic is the juiciest part of us, and the most hurtable. This magic was breathed into us when God emptied God’s lungs to give us life, saying, “Take what I have and who I am.” This magic is what snakes seek to darken with shame. This magic was what was sanctified for all time and all people when Jesus took on human form and gave of himself, saying, “Take and eat, this is my body given for you.”

This book isn’t about rules and regulations. It’s about finding shamelessness, magic, and a closer connection with God and others. It took me by surprise.

nadiabolzweber.com
convergentbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/shameless.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Poe Won’t Go, by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Zachariah OHora

Friday, April 10th, 2020

Poe Won’t Go

by Kelly DiPucchio
illustrated by Zachariah OHora

Disney Hyperion, 2018. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written October 20, 2018, from a library book
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out #5 in Picture Books – Silly Fun

Sometimes children’s picture books preach more effective sermons than anything else.

In this case, we’ve got a whole town wanting an elephant to move. It takes a little girl to finally think of asking the elephant what he wants.

Here’s how the book begins:

One morning, the good people of Prickly Valley awoke to find an elephant sitting smack-dab in the middle of the only road in town.

How he got there was a mystery. His name was Poe.

It didn’t take long for a traffic jam to form around the uninvited elephant. Horns honked. People yelled from their cars. A policeman wrote him a ticket.

But Poe wouldn’t go.

The townspeople’s efforts to get Poe to leave get more and more entertaining. I especially like it when the mayor gets involved.

“We do not tolerate parked pachyderms in Prickly Valley!” she proclaimed.

The mayor formed committees and councils.
They hatched plans. Drew diagrams.
And drank coffee from Styrofoam cups.

The little girl who finally suggests asking Poe what he wants is delightful. I love that she’s wearing a headscarf and has dark skin. The mayor laughs and says they don’t speak elephant.

“Well, anyone can speak elephant if they just listen hard enough,” said Marigold, who was fluent in both kitten and hedgehog.

And when she finds out what Poe wants, his problem is solved, and he goes on about his business.

My co-worker pointed out that this book demonstrates an important principle of negotiation. Find out what the other party wants.

As with all picture books, you really do need to check this book out and see the charming illustrations for yourself. My summary doesn’t begin to do this wonderful book justice.

kellydipucchio.com
zohora.com
DisneyBooks.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Dancing Hands, by Margarita Engle and Rafael López

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

Dancing Hands

How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln

by Margarita Engle
illustrated by Rafael López

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019. 36 pages.
Starred Review
2020 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Winner
Review written February 10, 2020, from a library book

Dancing Hands tells the story of Teresa Carreño, who was born in Venezuela in 1853. She learned to play the piano when she was very young.

I love that this book won the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award, because the artist does a wonderful job of using the art to convey the joyful music Teresa played with bright, colorful, and playful images. The author does a good job of using poetic language that was a perfect vehicle for the art. Here’s what’s written on two spreads about Teresa learning to play the piano:

At first, making music seemed magical,
but Teresa soon learned that playing a piano
could be hard work. Sometimes she had to struggle
to make the stubborn music behave
as she practiced gentle songs
that sounded like colorful birds
singing in the dark and light branches
of a shade-dappled mango tree . . .
and powerful songs that roared
like prowling jaguars, beside towering waterfalls
in a mysterious green jungle.

If Teresa felt sad, music cheered her,
and when she was happy, the piano helped her
share bursts of joy. By the time she was six,
she could write her own songs, and at seven
she performed in the peaceful chapel
of a magnificent cathedral, playing hymns
that shimmered like hummingbirds.

When she was eight years old, her family was forced to flee Venezuela because of war, and they came as refugees to New York City. Teresa began to perform in her new country and became famous as the Piano Girl.

But the United States was at war, too. Teresa traveled many places to perform, but this book features the invitation she received to play for President Abraham Lincoln at the White House when she was ten years old.

The president’s son had recently died, so the book focuses on how her joyful playing – and dancing hands – brought comfort to the grieving family.

A note at the back adds details to put it all in context, but this exceptionally beautiful book tells the true story of a young girl who used music to bring joy to others.

rafaellopez.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/dancing_hands.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Me and White Supremacy, by Layla F. Saad

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

Me and White Supremacy

Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor

by Layla F. Saad

Sourcebooks, 2020. 242 pages.
Review written March 29, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

Wow. Me and White Supremacy is a book full of gut punches. This isn’t a book to read; it’s a book to work through, along with a journal. And I’m afraid that when you’ve finished the book, your work isn’t done.

There are twenty-eight days of work here, so you’re going to have to renew it if you use a library book. Might as well purchase your own copy, since you’ll want to go back and think about these things again. My first time through brought me new awareness and new understanding of issues I’d never grappled with before. And it also made me aware that is only the beginning. I haven’t graduated; I’ve only begun.

Here are some paragraphs from the note to the reader at the beginning of the book, to help you understand what this book is trying to accomplish.

Dear Reader,

How did you feel the first time you saw the title of this book? Were you surprised? Confused? Intrigued? Uncomfortable? Maybe all of the above? I want to begin by reassuring you that all those feelings and more are completely normal. This is a simple and straightforward book, but it is not an easy one. Welcome to the work.

I’m Layla, and for (at least!) the next twenty-eight days, I’m going to be guiding you on a journey to help you explore and unpack your relationship with white supremacy. This book is a one-of-a-kind personal antiracism tool structured to help people with white privilege understand and take ownership of their participation in the oppressive system of white supremacy. It is designed to help them take responsibility for dismantling the way that this system manifests, both within themselves and within their communities.

The primary force that drives my work is a passionate desire to become a good ancestor. My purpose is to help create change, facilitate healing, and seed new possibilities for those who will come after I am gone. This book is a contribution to that purpose. It is a resource that I hope will help you do the internal and external work needed to become a good ancestor too. To leave this world in a better place than you found it. The system of white supremacy was not created by anyone who is alive today. But it is maintained and upheld by everyone who holds white privilege – whether or not you want it or agree with it. It is my desire that this book will help you to question, challenge, and dismantle this system that has hurt and killed so many Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).

I’ll be honest – I was somewhat skeptical even after reading the introduction. I still didn’t realize all I didn’t realize.

Here are more of the author’s words. (This isn’t everything – please read the book for yourself, but this gives you an idea of what you’ll find here.)

Many white people hear the words white supremacy and think That doesn’t apply to me, that they don’t hold that belief but rather that they believe that all of us are equal and that they don’t modify their treatment of people based on the color of their skin. What this book, which is a deep-diving self-reflection tool, will help you to realize, however, is that that isn’t true. White supremacy is an ideology, a paradigm, an institutional system, and a worldview that you have been born into by virtue of your white privilege. I am not talking about the physical color of your skin being inherently bad or something to feel shame about. I am talking about the historic and modern legislating, societal conditioning, and systemic institutionalizing of the construction of whiteness as inherently superior to people of other races. Yes, outwardly racist systems of oppression like chattel slavery, apartheid, and racial discrimination in employment have been made illegal. But the subtle and overt discrimination, marginalization, abuse, and killing of BIPOC in white-dominated communities continues even today because white supremacy continues to be the dominant paradigm under which white societies operate.

So we must call a thing a thing.

We must look directly at the ways in which this racist ideology of white supremacy, this idea that white equals better, superior, more worthy, more credible, more deserving, and more valuable actively harms anyone who does not own white privilege.

If you are willing to dare to look white supremacy right in the eye and see yourself reflected back, you are going to become better equipped to dismantle it within yourself and within your communities.

This book explains concepts such white privilege, white fragility, tone policing, white silence, white superiority, white exceptionalism, color blindness, anti-Blackness, racist stereotypes, cultural appropriation, white apathy, white centering, tokenism, white saviorism, optical allyship, and many more ideas. You’re asked to look at your own life and heart to see when these things have shown up. And you’re asked about your values and commitment to make changes.

The author approaches all this with compassion. I love this paragraph at the end of the first week’s work, and I think it shows the consistent attitude she takes toward this work:

On this reflection day, I want to remind you that we are not looking for the happy ending, the teachable moment, or the pretty bow at the end of all learning. We are also not looking for dramatic admissions of guilt or becoming so frozen with shame that you cannot move forward. The aim of this work is not self-loathing. The aim of this work is truth – seeing it, owning it, and figuring out what to do with it. This is lifelong work. Avoid the shortcuts, and be wary of the easy answers. Avoid the breaking down into white fragility. Question yourself when you think you have finally figured it out – there are always deeper layers, and you will continue to reflect even more as you continue on with this work.

This book is a challenge – and it’s a challenge I didn’t conquer. But it did begin to open my eyes.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with light skin.

laylafsaad.com
sourcebooks.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth, by Sheila O’Connor

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth

by Sheila O’Connor

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018. 356 pages.
Starred Review
Review written August 24, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#4 Historical Children’s Fiction

Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth is a story told through letters. The setting is 1968 in a small town named Lake Liberty. Reenie Kelly is staying at her grandmother’s house with her big brothers Billy and Dare. She has just gotten a paper route and she’s determined to show that an eleven-year-old girl can do just as good a job as any boy. She wasn’t able to meet Mr. Marsworth, since he didn’t come to the door, but she puts a friendly note in his milk box.

Mr. Marsworth answers with a friendly note in the milk box back to her. He doesn’t want to meet her, but says, “Any child of Betsy Kelly’s will be a perfect papergirl, I’m sure.” He sends a P.S. with his sympathy about her mother’s recent death from cancer.

I know it’s been some time since your mother passed away, but she was among the best this world has known. Such a strong young heart. How terrible that she left this earth too soon.

So begins a wonderful correspondence. Reenie is nothing if not loquacious, and she doesn’t have friends yet in Lake Liberty, so she pours out her thoughts to Mr. Marsworth.

She does already have another pen pal – a soldier named Skip fighting in Vietnam. But she doesn’t like to send him any bad news. And some bad news like trouble with bullies does start to come up.

But Reenie’s biggest worry is that her oldest brother Billy has turned 18 and that he’ll get drafted. She is trying to save money on her paper route so that he can afford to go to the University of Missouri. If he doesn’t go to college, surely he’ll get drafted. She doesn’t realize that their family is bankrupt because of paying for her mother’s cancer treatments.

Mr. Marsworth agrees with her that she should try to keep Billy from being drafted. It turns out that he was a conscientious objector during World War I and spent time in prison. The town still dislikes him for that. Reenie gets Billy to go to Minneapolis to talk to the folks at the Draft Information Office about how to become a conscientious objector. But when Billy writes a letter to the Tribune, the whole town turns against them and their troubles with bullies get much worse.

So that’s the basic outline of how things begin. But leaves out the charm, the life and spunk of Reenie’s letters, and the gentle wisdom coming from Mr. Marsworth. You fall in love with both of them. I was moved to tears before the book ended, and in a good way.

sheilaoconnor.com
penguin.com/middle-grade

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/until_tomorrow_mr_marsworth.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?