Review: An XL Life

“I had loved myself at 500 pounds. I loved myself now, even with my loose skin.” page 203

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An XL Life: Staying Big at Half the Size by Big Boy (Kurt Alexander).
Cash Money Content, 2011.
Autobiography/memoir, 237 pages.
Not leveled.

The autobiography of Los Angeles radio personality Big Boy, once known for his size as much as the music he played.

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This book opened with Alexander talking about the father he never knew and how he didn’t feel that contributed to his weight at all.  It’s a marked contrast to the last biography of a black man I read, Un-Ashamed.

On the other hand, Alexander was greatly impacted by constantly moving around as a child.  His stories about homelessness and frequent moves reminded me more of Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness, although he wasn’t moving from relative to relative.  His mother must have been truly remarkable, because his six siblings stayed with the family through various moves and hardships, even after they were adults.

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Web: Lia and the Hmong

At first I was going to try to fit these links into my review… but they just made it far too long, so here are some further links for tomorrow’s review.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting my review of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.  I hadn’t planned to add this book to my collection, however, as A. M. Blair stated in her review, it can be reread at different stages of life.  Already my reactions to it as a parent are now drastically different then when I read it before.

After rereading this book, I looked for other books about the Hmong-American experience.  Two Wisconsin books are Mai Ya’s Long Journey and Hmong in the Modern World.  There’s an early chapter book called Pa Lia’s First Day.  Pang Xiong has a series of children’s early readers.  Several memoirs also exist.

The Atlantic also has an interesting article about Hmong in Wausau (an area of central Wisconsin).  The court case described is definitely worth reading about.  The article also mentions this song as a source of inspiration:

This last one is a bit of a spoiler, so you may want to stop now if you haven’t read the book yet…

Lia lived for an extraordinary 26 years in a persistent vegetative state due to the loving attention of her family.  This article reviews the book and includes information on her 2012 death.

Review: Un-Ashamed

“I started spending time in the library, researching books on religion and philosophy.” page 56

Un-Ashamed by Lecrae Moore, with Jonathan Merritt.
B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 2016.
Autobiography, 204 pages including notes (211 pages including blank note space).

The autobiography of a “Christian rapper” who successfully transitioned to general rap spaces and overcame many personal challenges.

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Un-Ashamed by Lecrae.

This one is from the library.  I knew it was somewhat religious, but didn’t realize just how Christian it was.  There definitely were points that could apply to everyone, but it also was very heavy on religion.  For example, his conversion experience takes up most of a chapter, while other aspects of his life are given much less detail.  Lecrae sees his life through the filter of Christianity and views everything with God’s purpose in mind.

I’ve reviewed other books that deal with religion: with a religious main character, attempting to educate others about a misunderstood religion, a character discovering their religious identity, and even tackling a non-fiction topic from a religious perspective.  After some debate, I elected to review this book, since I did finish it, and it fits the main objective of my blog (to review books by/about marginalized groups).

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Wisconsinite Review: Amina’s Voice

Amina’s Voice is a great new Muslim #ownvoices MG novel. Here’s my take on the Wisconsin references in the book.

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan.
Salaam Reads imprint, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2017.
Middle grade realistic fiction, 197 pages.
Lexile:  800L .
AR Level:  Not yet leveled.

Amina is shy and a little afraid of some of the big changes coming with middle school, like a chance to enter a singing contest or her uncle coming to stay.  Her best friend is Soojin, a Korean immigrant who’s finally becoming an American citizen and wants to change her name.  They find that their different cultures have some cultural norms in common, and they bonded over having unusual names.  But if Soojin changes her name, is she also going to change her best friend?

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There are going to be lots of reviews of this book, so I thought for my review, I’d take a different perspective. Kirin at Notes from an Islamic School Librarian reviewed Amina’s Voice and had only one issue with it, which confirmed my idea that this #ownvoice novel is a great representation of Muslim culture.

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Review: When the Beat Was Born

“Kool Herc’s music made everybody happy. Even street gangs wanted to dance, not fight.” p. 19

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip-Hop by Laban Carrick Hill, Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III.
Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2013.
Elementary to middle grade picture book biography, 30 pages.
Winner of the 2014 John Steptoe Award for New Talent
Lexile:  AD910L  (What does AD mean in Lexile?)
AR Level:  4.2 (worth 0.5 points)

Have you ever heard of DJ Kool Herc?  He was a Jamaican immigrant who was instrumental in the development of hip-hop.  Step into his world and learn how hip-hop came to be with this picture book biography.

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While I’m sure an avid fan of hip-hop would get more out of this book, I was pleasantly surprised by how accessible it was to myself as a not-so-musical person.  Context is given to everything that makes it understandable, and the pictures and words work in beautiful harmony.

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Review: Singing for Dr. King

Learn more about two third-graders who participated in the Selma marches with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Singing for Dr. King by Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu.
Produced for Scholastic by Color-Bridge Books, Brooklyn, NY, 2004.
Picture book non-fiction, 32 pages (including back matter).
Lexile: 660L  (for some reason, the illustrator is listed as the author)
AR Level: 3.8 (worth 0.5 points)
NOTE: Part of the Just For You series, level 3.  This book is non-fiction.

This book is about Sheyann Webb and her friend Rachel West, two third graders who marched in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  These nine year olds also sang for Dr. King and attended civil rights meetings, defying and later inspiring their parents and teachers by doing so.

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Singing for Dr. King by Angela Shelf Medearis

This book instantly stood out from the pile of books because anything about Dr. King is hugely popular in my house.  Then when I opened the book and read the first page, I knew it was non-fiction partly by the way in which the characters were introduced.  Here is the opening:

“In 1965, Sheyann Webb was in the third grade in Selma, Alabama.  She was smaller than most third graders, including her best friend, Rachel West.  //  Rachel was nine.  She lived with her family in the apartment next door to Sheyann’s.” p. 5

Fiction books for young children simply don’t open that way, giving the full names, ages, and year on the opening page.  It happened that I had just been reading A Child Shall Lead Them, so I quickly recognized the names and scenarios from that book.  However, a reader who was not already familiar with these events could easily have mistaken this book for fiction that was written oddly.

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