Review: Same Family, Different Colors

“The curious thing is that the word ‘colorism’ doesn’t even exist. Not officially. […] So how does one begin to unpack a societal ill that doesn’t have a name?” p. 8

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Same Family, Different Colors: Confronting Colorism in America’s Diverse Families by Lori L. Tharps.
Beacon Press, Boston, Massachusetts, 2016.
Nonfiction, 203 pages including sources and index.
Not leveled.

This is the study of something few non-academics want to talk about – colorism.  While everyone can get behind fighting racism, colorism is more insidous, deeply rooted in American racism and refreshed as immigrants arrive with their own cultural ideas of colorism.  Tharps combines information from experts with deeply personal stories from families that are biologically related, but have different physical appearances.

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A short introduction first tells how Tharps became interested in colorism – she’s African-American, her husband is from the south of Spain and identifies with dark-skinned people, but her three children each appear very different.  Tharps then gives some background information on colorism and an overview of the book.

Four chapters focus specifically on different groups.  Tharps explains that she chose to work only with biologically related families because she wanted this book to be focused on colorism specifically and adoption adds other dimensions.  However she also states adoptive families will find much to relate to here – I agree.

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Review: Seedfolks

“All his life in Vietnam my father had been a farmer. Here our apartment house had no yard. But in that vacant lot he would see me.” page 3

Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Judy Pedersen.
Scholastic, New York, 1999 (first published HarperCollins 1997).
Adult realistic fiction, 69 pages.
Lexile:  710L  .
AR Level:  4.3 (worth 2.0 points)  .
NOTE: Despite the reading level, I would not recommend this to middle grade readers.

Seedfolks is a collection of 13 short stories by different first-person narrators, all revolving around the first year of a community garden in Cleveland, Ohio.

Seedfolks cover resized

Normally with short story collections, I comment on each story and then give thoughts on the whole.  Because these stories are so short, I’m going to write two or three sentences about each one and then give my general thoughts at the end.

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Review: You’re Welcome, Universe

“I love watching Ma’s hands when she signs. Normally you just watch someone’s face while they’re signing, but I can’t keep my eyes off Ma’s hands.” p. 18

You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner.
Knopf, Penguin Random House, New York, 2017.
Realistic fiction YA, 297 pages.
Lexile:  HL610L ( What does HL mean in Lexile? )
AR Level:  4.2 (worth 9.0 points)  .

When a slur about Julia’s best friend is left defacing the gym for far too long, she takes matters into her own hands, only to be ratted out.  Now she’s navigating mainstream high school with an interpreter, trying to deal with friendship drama, her moms, and a growing tag war.

You're Welcome, Universe

So often in a book about a Deaf person or one that has ASL, it’s shockingly clear the author has no experience around a deaf or hard of hearing person.  For example, hearing authors often write Deaf characters as quiet.  While some Deaf people might not like to vocalize among hearing people, I’ve yet to meet a Deaf person who is quiet.

In contrast, it’s clear from Whitney Gardner’s writing that she has spent substantial time in the American Deaf community, and has an understanding of ASL.  Already on page 18, a character is stomping to get Julia’s attention, and the quote in the header comes from the same page.  Gardner’s characters are Deaf, but they aren’t quiet, and she reflects that in a way only possible after learning about Deaf culture.

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Review: Dalai Lama, My Son

“I have had a strange, almost unreal life, now that I try to recollect my history.” p. 15

Dalai Lama, My Son: A Mother’s Story by Diki Tsering, edited and introduced by Khedroob Thonup.
Viking Arkana, Penguin Group, New York, 2000.
Autobiography, 189 pages including glossary.
Not leveled.

The autobiography of the Dalai Lama’s mother.

Dalai Lama My Son
Dalai Lama, My Son: A Mother’s Story by Diki Tsering, edited and introduced by Khedroob Thonup.

I had no idea what to expect from this book.  I’ve read quite a few books by or about the Dalai Lama, so my first assumption was that this was a biography of him, written by his mother.  However, it actually is something much more interesting – the autobiography of his mother.

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Review: Tiger Boy

“Theirs was the only property for kilometers where a grove of tall sundari trees provided shade for the house and most of the yard.” p. 22

Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Jamie Hogan.
Charlesbridge, Watertown, MA, 2015.
Middle grade fiction, 140 pages including glossary.
Lexile:  770L  .
AR Level:  5.1 (worth 3.0 points)  .

Neel lives on an island in the Sunderbans, but might have a unique opportunity for a scholarship to a boarding school in Calcutta.  But he’d rather stay on his beloved island with his family.  A tiger cub escaped from the nature preserve, and an unscrupulous man wants to find it to sell.  Can Neel find the cub first?  If he does, will not studying ruin his chances at the scholarship?

Tiger Boy resized

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Review: Saints and Misfits

“I stand and cringe at the sucking sound as my swimsuit sticks to me, all four yards of the spandex-Lycra blend of it.” page 2

Saints and Misfits: a novel by S.K. Ali.
Salaam Read, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2017.
YA contemporary, 328 pages.
Not yet leveled.

Janna just wants to live her life – hang out with her friends, study, work her very part-time jobs, pray, and maybe dream a little about her secret haram crush.  But something has changed her world, something unthinkable, horrible, and so big she doesn’t know what to do.

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For some reason I thought this was a light and fluffy read.  However, I completely misunderstood, because by chapter two we’re reliving one of the worst moments of Janna’s life, when she is assaulted by a man who is supposedly holy, the man she calls the Monster.

Indeed, the title of each short chapter (Saints, Misfits, or Monsters) relates to how she sees the main people she’s interacting with in that chapter.  Some chapters contain more than one category, or a comment as she begins to realize that some of those she sees as Saints are really Misfits, etc.

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Discussion: Microaggressions in Fiction

A look at several books to try to articulate different ways of approaching microaggressions in literary texts.

Here’s a loaded question for you: When are microaggressions okay in literature?

This question came up today as I was reading a book review over at Sinead’s blog.

After I had written several paragraphs in the comment box, trying to clarify my thoughts on the subject, it made sense to just write my own post and ask for feedback on this question.

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