Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Recently Read: Beyond Magenta

Author: Susan Kuklin
Genre: Nonfiction- Memoir Style
Page Count: 192
Publication Date: 2015
Rating: 3.5/5

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Beyond Magenta shares the stories of six transgender teens in their own words. 

I really loved the idea of this book; young people need opportunities to tell their stories. Everyone interviewed in this novel was so honest and embraced themselves and others unconditionally. One story in particular was quite harrowing and stayed with me after finishing the novel. These teens have been through so much at such a young age. Overall, this collection had a positive and honest tone. The author made a conscious effort to include a range of different experiences and people, and I really appreciated that. I'm very glad this book exists for those who may need it, for any reason. 

Now as you may or may not know, I am fascinated by gender topics, particularly in literature and the media, so I found this book to be very interesting. Here is a book full of young people defying the gender normative set by society and rejecting the connection between sex and gender. Yet, gender stereotypes were very much present in the thinking of these teens. Gender and sexuality are both scales that cannot accurately be labeled by human beings, yet we insist on trying to do so. Many accounts from trans women that I have read or heard, value traditional "female" traits and ideas such as makeup, shopping, clothes, attention from men, etc. The idea of these items solidifying your womanhood would clash with the ideas of a lot of ciswomen. It's interesting to see these gender stereotypes existing in these circumstances. Other teens in this novel spoke about gender stereotypes as well. A trans man spoke of enjoying his new male privileges, such as taking up as much space as he wants on public transport, and getting other men to leave his girlfriend alone. It's interesting that when these young people transitioned, they embodied the gender stereotypes of the gender they identified with despite not being born into that gender. That just goes to show how deeply rooted gender stereotypes are in our society; young people are aware of the "correct" behavior of both genders and believe that in order to be that gender, they must adhere to that unwritten code of gender stereotypes. 

One quote I found particularly interesting and that illustrates these ideas is the following said by one of the trans women;
"When the going gets tough, what do tough girls do? We go shopping!" 

These ideas on gender also helped me to realize how young these kids really are. They are learning about themselves and the world everyday and forging their own path in the world of gender. I would never criticize these teens for their thoughts on gender or their wish to fulfill gender stereotypes, I am merely adding these thoughts to my 'gender bank' so to speak because gender truly fascinates me and is something I love to explore in my academic writing.

I think this book is important and I'm glad it exists. We need to continue to offer young people to tell their stories and spread their individuality and enthusiasm. I'm looking to pick up a lot of nonfiction this year, and I'm glad I started the year off with this read. Often times, teenagers are overlooked by society and written off, but as someone who spends a lot of time with teenagers, I know this is unfair as they are capable of so much.

Let me know if you have any nonfiction recommendations for me!  

Monday, January 16, 2017

Nonfiction on My Hold List- Hello Again

Hey guys,

It's been a while. School got crazy last semester and then I moved and walked in graduation. 2016 was pretty blah for a lot of us (including myself) so I'm just concentrating on moving forward. I find myself with a little bit of time on my hands now, and I debated about whether or not I should bring the blog back but I decided that I needed the creative outlet and my place to write.

So today, I'm here to share a list of nonfiction novels I have placed a hold on at the library this month. I have been loving nonfiction lately, and I have a feeling I will read quite a bit of it in 2017.

I don't know how regular my posting will be this year, but for now, I'm here.

Born a Crime Trevor Noah
I have a lot of respect for Trevor Noah and the way he presents himself. He is so articulate and smart, and when I heard he was writing a memoir, I jumped on the hold list. I'll be waiting for this one for a while though, as the list is pretty long. 

Men Explain Things to Me Rebecca Solnit
I've heard good things about this essay collection. I've put off picking it up because I feared it might serve as a catalyst to the frustration I am already feeling because of the current political and social climate, but I decided to give it a try. I haven't read very many essay collections, so I am excited to dive into the genre. Leave me some recommendations! 

Born on a Blue Day Daniel Tammet 
This memoir sounds so interesting and unique to anything I have read before. Tammet has autism and is extremely brilliant (think Einstein or Rain Man) and in this novel he lets the rest of the world into his mind. 

What nonfiction novels are topping your 2017 TBR? Hope your 2017 has been and continues to be fulfilling. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Recently Read: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Author: Maya Angelou
Genre: Classic/Memoir
Publication Date: 1969
Page Count: 264
Rating: 5/5

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Maya Angelou is a much loved author, poet, and inspirational speaker. I Know Why the Caged Birds Sings is the first in a series of autobiographical novels written by Angelou. This novel covers her childhood in Stamps Alabama and her teenage years in California. 

I LOVED this book. Loved it. I laughed, I cried, I smiled, and I was awed by the beauty of Angelou's words and the honesty with which she described her experiences as a young  black girl and woman. I listened to this on audiobook read by Maya Angelou herself and I highly recommend that experience. Angelou is an amazing speaker and her voice is so strong; I loved hearing her read her own life story. Her voice is so warm and comforting and she brings an undeniable power to her own story. 

As you may know, I am currently attending college to become a high school English teacher and I am itching to find a way to use this in my classroom. This book does such a beautiful job of exploring such difficult and necessary themes and topics such as rape, racism, feminism, coming of age, and family relationships. Angelou writes with such grace and humor it feels as if she is telling her story to you personally. Her life was not easy, yet she has maintained such grace, humor, and strength.  

This book is full of so many strong women. I loved hearing about all of the women in Angelou's life and her relationship with them, and I really hope to find out more about the women and their relationships in future novels. I also loved how Angelou weaved her literary life into this novel. It's clear that the books she read as a young girl were important to who she grew up to be, which I'm sure many book lovers can relate to. Many scenes in this book were so powerful, I know they will stick with me for a long time. 

I loved the way she described the relationship between her and her brother Bailey. I have a brother myself and also find strong brother-sister connections in literature make me a little emotional. The way that Angelou describes her love for and confidence in her brother was so sweet and beautifully written. I know this is a book that I will reread many times within my life. I am on the wait list for the next book in Angelou's memoir series and can't wait to learn more about her and read more of her beautiful writing.  

In light of the crazy and disheartening events that are going on in our world right now (I'm currently watching the debate) I can't help but wonder how much of a kinder place the world would be if we all spent some time hearing the stories of those that differ from us. I highly recommend reading Maya Angelou's story. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Two Middle-Grade Mini Reviews: Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times and The Tell-Tale-Start

Author: Emma Trevayne
Genre: Middle Grade- Steam Punk
Publication Date: 20
Page Count: 306
Rating: 3/5

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Jack is bored with London. He is bored with his parents who don't pay attention to him and longs for an adventure, until he stumbles upon one in the form of a mysterious man who does parlor tricks to entertain his mother and her friends. The adventure comes after Jack steps through a doorway and finds himself in an unusual place named Londininum, where everyone is at least a little bit made of metal and The Lady rules all. 

This was a really fun middle grade read. It was the perfect mix of whimsical and dark, and the steam-punk elements worked perfectly to build the atmosphere. My favorite part about this book was the art! I loved the cover art and the illustrations inside and thoroughly wish there would have been more.

The world was enticing and is a setting I would have loved to read more about. Jack was nothing out of the ordinary, but the side characters from Londininum were very interesting and well developed. The atmosphere was thick and encompassing, but the plot was just alright for me.

I really enjoyed this book and found it a fun middle grade adventure. I am interested in checking out Emma Trevayne's other works. 

Author: Gordon McAlpine
Genre: Middle Grade
Publication Date: 2013
Page Count: 208
Rating: 3/5 

Edgar and Allan Poe are the great-great-great-great grandnephews of the famous writer Edgar Allan Poe and they just so happen to be connected through some freaky physics. The twin brothers can hear each others' thoughts and that means they have the potential to be super useful for a not-so-good science professor...

This story was super cute. I loved the elements of classics literature that made an appearance and the humor is great. This was a super fast read, and I have since moved on to book two. Like the above book, this one has some really great art, but of a different style. I loved the sketch- type art in this one and thought it went perfectly with the story, I think this is one that can be enjoyed by both kids and older readers as it's a lot of fun. 

I have been gravitating towards middle-grade lately as I have been pressed for reading time. Both of these books were quick reads but I really enjoyed them and found them to be a lot of fun.   

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Banned Books That Have Changed My Life

Today is Banned Books Day! I look forward to Banned Books Week every year, and I love posting about it. Yesterday I made a post that spotlighted some of the banned books on my TBR list, but today I thought I would spotlight some banned books that have impacted my life.

Here's the list of frequently challenged books for young adults that I got these books from.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margret Atwood
This book is brilliant and is feared because of it's plausibility. Reading fiction is a great entry way to real-world issues like feminism. Whether you're interested in feminism, a huge supporter, or skeptical, you need to read this. I promise you it will impact you.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck 
This was one of the first classics that impacted me. I read it as a freshman in high school and it reaffirmed my decision to spend my life studying literature. This small book touches on so many facets of being human and will break your heart. It doesn't sugar coat what it means to love and be human. 
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton 
This is a must read for teens. Hinton captures the struggles teenagers face to accept those around them and themselves. I really loved and respected this book as a young reader. 
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 
This is one of my all-time favorite books. I have read it more times than any other book since my childhood. Every time I read this book I find it even more brilliant.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 
Oh the irony of those trying to ban this book. This book illustrates the dangers of book banning just perfectly. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in a world where knowledge and books are forbidden. 
Deenie by Judy Blume 
Another book (and author) I loved as a young reader. Young girls need Judy Blume. 
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson 
Laurie Halse Anderson has been connecting with young readers for many years. This novel touches on the ever important and relevant topic of rape and consent. It was one of the first YA novels to touch on such an important topic and got a lot of slack for it. Let's make the choice to continue to educate young women about the right they have to make the decision regarding who has access to their body through fiction. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Happy Banned Books Week!

Happy Banned Books Week! I do at least one post each year highlighting this event and the wonderful site that is the American Library Association. This year, I am working with my college's English Society and working a table to celebrate Banned Books Week in real life, and on the blog, I thought I would highlight some of the frequently challenged books that are on my TBR and talk about banned books that have changed my life.

As always, here is the link to the American Library Association website.

My 2014 Post
My 2015 Post

As I am getting closer to being a certified teacher, the idea of banning and challenging books becomes more real to me. It is very possible that parents or possibly even administrators will attempt to control or change what books I use in my classroom curriculum or the books I have available for students on my classroom bookshelves. I love these graphics that break down some of the statistics of book banning and challenging. If you know of a case of a book that has been removed from your school or library shelves, please visit www.ala.org and file a complaint. They will help you get that book back on the shelves.

Banned Books on my TBR 

Tomorrow is Banned Books Day, so look out for another post about banned books that have impacted my life.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Book Outlet Haul!

I made a HUGE Book Outlet Haul the other day because they had so many books that were on my wishlist! Of course school has started so my time for reading and blogging is short, but I'm really looking forward to reading all of these as soon as I can. This haul consists of adult fiction and middle grade fiction. I have been loving middle grade lately as it is so quick to read when I don't have a lot of time to dedicate to reading.
Adult Fiction 
Almost Famous Women, Megan Mayhew Bergman
short story collection about women that were close to famous men/women but 
were not famous themselves

Radiance, Catherynne M. Valente
"decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood"

How to be Both, Ali Smith
A novel told in two parts, one taking place in Italy during the Renaissance, 
the second in the 1960s.  

 At the Water's Edge, Sara Gruen
A historical fiction hunt for the Loch Ness Monster. 

A Love Like Blood, Marcus Sedgwick
A vampire story that takes place in the 1940s.
Sedgwick is one of my all-time favorite authors and is an auto-buy for me.

Middle Grade Fiction
The Tell-Tale Start, Gordon McAlpine
I'm reading this cute middle grade about the great-great-great-great nephews of
Edgar Allan Poe aptly named, Edgar and Allan Poe.

Once Upon a Midnight Eerie, Gordon McAlpine
Book two in this series. There are three out currently.  

The Case of the Missing Moonstone, Jordan Stratford
A young Mary Wollstonecraft solves mysteries with literary 
connections in this series.  

Kat, Incorrigible, Stephanie Bergis 
This is a Jane Austen-esque middle grade series, but with magic! 

Have you read any of these? Thoughts? What was the last book you bought?