Showing posts from May, 2011

time's memory and other books

Time's Memory by Julius Lester Lester is a fantastic author, and this book, with a blending of fantasy elements (based on African spiritual beliefs) and a setting in the late days of slavery in the south, was truly stunning.  The book opens from the perspective of a slave ship master who doesn't have the heart for cruelty that his competitors do.  A brutal storm is gathering outside the ship when the voice of his deceased wife tells him to promise to rescue one of the slave women when the voyage is done.  As soon as he agrees, the winds die down.  And Lester moves from there immediately to a next chapter written from the woman Amira's perspective.  She is pregnant, carrying a spirit-child who was miraculously conceived from the breath of her dying father and the group's spirit leader.  The spirit-child, Ekundayo (Joy out of Sorrow), goes through several transformations, but finally comes to be in the body of a young boy named Nat or Nathaniel, a slave on a plantation

imagined animalia

Dust City by Robert Paul Weston Henry lives in a world gone wrong.  Where fairy dust once created daily miracles, now pharmaceutical companies pedal knock-off versions of "dust" for every ill.  Henry should know, since one of their trucks killed his mother.  And his own world has gone wrong in other ways too.  He's stuck in St. Remus Home for Wayward Youth while his father is in prison for having killed Red Riding Hood and her grandmother.  Though aspects of the premise sound humorous, this novel is anything but a fractured fairy tale.  Henry hasn't heard from his dad since he was locked up, and although he has grown to be a pretty big wolf, like his dad, his friends all know that he's really a softie.  Of course, he does occasionally have to defend himself from the more violent inmates.  But when he walks in on the recently hanged body of his shrink, things change, and Henry breaks out of the "home" (really a juvenile detention facility) and into the

race, whiteness, and anti-racism

Once intensive discussions of race, racism, and the social structures that perpetuate racism break out in your school, it can be a bit meaningless to concentrate on anything else.  I want to live and teach in a society, place, and community where people are striving for equality through explicitly anti-racist conversations, readings, and teaching.  And I'm beginning to think that white folks who intend to be anti-racist have a kind of endless "coming out" to do, because it is not at all visibly obvious which white people want to strive to overcome racism (internally and socially) and which are unconscious of their privilege.  On the one hand, coming out as gay or lesbian puts you in a state of vulnerability that "coming out" as anti-racist probably does not.  On the other hand, in a group of white people who are struggling with some of these ideas, revealing one's own anti-racist intentions and proposed actions may result in quick, defensive critiques from o

fantasy books lately

Quick check-in on a few novels before I get to the meaty stuff I've been reading about race, whiteness, and racism: Michael Buckley The Sisters Grimm This is the first of a series of detective-style romps through the world of the Grimm family.  Sabrina and Daphne are the newest members, and their family is responsible for all of the classic Grimm's Fairy Tale characters.  This is clever and funny, and there are twists and turns as characters such as Puck and Jack the Giant Killer are neither the enemies nor the friends they first appear to be.  Sabrina is slowly won over to her younger sister Daphne's optimistic perspective that Mrs. Grimm really is their grandmother.  And the hunt for their missing parents will continue in the next books... Jean Ferris Once Upon a Marigold This won a big Horn Book thing as well as a bunch of ALA and NYPL accolades, so kudos for that.   (Warning:  Snark Alert.  You have been warned.) And yet I found it to be sweet, twee, and trite