Check out The Jacket by Andrew Clements– this isn’t so much of a book review as it is a book acknowledgement. It’s 2014 and you still don’t get to read about racism too much in contemporary children’s fiction (that takes place in the modern era). Sure, there’s plenty of historical children’s fiction that talks about racism as a thing of the past, and there’s certainly a bit of fiction about kids of Color that sometimes hints at racial injustice.
But this is a book by a (super famous & popular) white author about a white kid who does something to a black kid and then starts thinking critically about race and racism for his first time ever. While as an adult, the sequence of the protagonist’s thoughts is maybe a little too idealistic, it’s still admirable and lovely and totally groundbreaking in its deconstruction of race and racism in mainstream suburban white America. It’s 89 pages of 14-point font with occasional illustrations. You’ll read it in a single train ride and wonder why more mainstream children’s lit hasn’t gone there. Find a copy here.
I’m really glad that I found Dana Johnson! I forget how I found out about her as an author– Maybe Library Journal reviews, maybe Amazon recommendations, maybe an old photocopied book list. I wrote a bit about her short story collection, Break Any Woman Down, about a week ago. My write-up was really disjointed because I got all distracted in between reading and writing– but I was interested enough to read more by her.
Break Any Woman Down has two stories about a character named Avery– one as a child, and one when she’s older. Elsewhere, California is a more fleshed out meditation on Avery’s life, flip-flopping between the present and the past to illustrate that your personal history never entirely leaves you. Avery did most of her growing up as an African American female in the suburbs of LA, often in a sea of white kids. As a grownup she’s an artist and a stay-at-home girlfriend to a wealthy Italian immigrant who’s white. The publisher and cataloging descriptions of the book that I’ve found aren’t really the greatest– they tend to be kind of essentialist, I think in hopes to “package” the book nicely for specific “sets” of readers. Basically a lot of stuff that is often rather poignant happens. These happenings involve gender, class, art, and most prominently the state of race and racism in America. These details aren’t really spelled out– it’s more like they’re positioned in a ways that the reader will hopefully notice.
The book is well-written, engaging, and doesn’t take too long to read. The structure of flipping between the past and the present is not problematic, and I found that I was disappointed when it was over.
Find a copy here.
Don’t be turned off by the weird 1990’s graphic on the front cover. This book will blow your brains straight out of your head, and in a variety of directions (figuratively, of course). I finished this book the other day and I don’t think I’ll be done processing the intricacies of it for a while, still. However, I’m not waiting to post this because I want people to acquire this book and read it soon.
The book begins with a kind of racist white girl who one day turns black after ignorantly saying some racist stuff to her boss. The plot just goes all kinds of places from there; relationships materialize and fall apart, magical things literally or maybe figuratively happen, family histories are explored, there’s a wedding, a death, some transmogrification… All in 212 pages. I don’t know how to describe this writing… but I know that I like it.
If you’re in the USA you can one of the few copies left starting at One Cent on Amazon, or do what I did and borrow a copy from Inter Library Loan. Canadians, Mayr is one of you– so you can get it even easier. No excuses!
I wrote about one of the Rad Dad zines a bit back. If you recall, I totally liked it, despite the fact that I don’t plan to spawn any offspring.
I randomly can across this anthology at the library, and of course snatched it up.
It’s pretty great in lots of the same ways that the zine was. Dads of various genres write about experience with and the politics of, well, raising other people.
The stuff that lots of them are saying is simple, but also profound:
1. trust young people
2. you can’t control everything
3. make sure you’re happy
Good advice for everyone, I’d say.
Usually even the best anthologies have a couple of duds. I really don’t think this one did!
This graphic novel is kind of gorgeously put together. It’s a good-sized heavy hardback with red page edges and the art inside (ink and watercolor i think) uses lots of reds and blacks. I really like the art. The whole tome is classy and significant-feeling.
So it’s about Nao who is somewhere in her 20’s and some stuff that happens in her life over the period of maybe a couple months. She’s got some sometimes- debilitating OCD (she has violent repetitive thoughts), a surprising love interest, a part time job, spiritual work, and art. It’s a substantial multi- layered story that even has a parallel not related (but actually kind of related) story woven in.I found Nao’s outfits, insecurities, and decorating to be relatable.
It’s only a few months old (came out in October 2012), and if it’s not already popular in the graphic novel realm, I imagine that it will be soon. It’ll be one of those books that Amazon recommends to you over and over again for years. The only thing that marred the awesomeness of the book for me was that it wasn’t autobiographical. It made me kind of uncomfortable that the male artist/author was writing about a female and her mental illness in such a personal way. It rubbed me as maybe a little exploitative; it felt like that element was there just for the sake of a good story.
But on the upside, it’s a totally good story. You should read it.
Find copy HERE
I picked up this anthology (published in 1998) a couple of years ago from a Friends of the Library book sale.
I finally got around to reading it (for me, 2013 is the year of FINALLY reading all those casually acquired books on my shelf!), and am not unhappy that I did. This is a solid feminist anthology of women’s writing about their own experiences with body image. It has an admirable number of pieces that actually deal with race (they don’t feel like “token” additions, as race-related pieces in feminist anthologies so often have a tendency to). Adios Barbie covers a lot of topics, including hair, fat, noses, dis/ability, gender roles, sexuality, and height, etc.
Adios Barbie is 15 years old, and it retains lots of its relevance. All the shit people have to deal with re: body image in our culture has not changed (sigh). Since its publication, many more similar anthologies have come out– but this one has the added benefit of getting to read articles that people wrote before they got more famous! It includes pieces by Carolyn Mackler before she became a very popular YA author, Amy Richards pre-Manifesta, Nomy Lamm pre-Transfused, and more.
Find A Copy HERE