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Category: Essays & Analysis

Understanding Microaggressions Through a Graphic Novel

Each year, the school where I work provides in-house professional development for its faculty and staff, and last year the focus was on microaggressions and implicit bias. I was lucky to be a part of the team who helped lead the PD sessions, which focused mostly on teaching the adults in our community how to recognize and deal with microaggressions at school.  

One of the most valuable resources I used during this process was the graphic novel As the Crow Flies by Mellanie Gilman (2018 Stonewall Book Award Honor, 2019 Amelia Bloomer Book List Selection). In an instance of true serendipity, we added the book to our library collection just as I was starting to work with the professional development team. When I read it, I realized how perfectly it illustrated microaggressions and their negative impacts (literally and figuratively). 

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Month in Review: November 2018

What happened in YA last month? Here is a quick round up of featured posts on The Hub and other links to keep you up to date when collecting for your teens.

month in review | yalsa's the hub

 

At the Hub

Features:

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Words, Words, Words: The Bard and Me

Growing up with a high school English teacher for a mother meant that nothing was off-limits in our house when it came to reading. In addition to the usual bedtime stories of childhood, my mom often spun a kid-friendly version of whatever story she was teaching her students for me. As I was always a high-level reader, it was not long before I was cutting my teeth on the classics at my parents’ encouragement, and I vividly remember the day in April during third grade when Mom woke me with the announcement that “Today is William Shakespeare’s birthday, and he died on his birthday, too!” This fact tweaked something in my young mind—did everyone die on their birthday, or was Shakespeare unlucky? I never could figure it out.

Stratford Festival Theater

The summer after fifth grade, we started taking family trips to Stratford, Ontario every year. I grew to love Stratford as a place of picnics, pretty scenery, and great theater; but more than that, I loved the challenge it posed. The first trip, we saw a musical, but the summer after sixth grade, it was The Taming of the Shrew, and a few weeks before we went, Mom pulled down her battered Shakespeare anthology from a shelf and presented it to me. I remember the feeling of awe and intimidation that washed through me when I held it—this was my mom’s book, it even had her name in the cover from her college days, and it felt precious, almost holy. Shakespeare was harder than any of the classics I had read before, but I had my mom to help me with the hard parts. Seeing the play after reading it was a magical experience. I knew what was going to happen, but the effect of seeing the words on the page brought to life in the dark hush of Stratford’s Festival Theatre was something else entirely. This was the beginning of a lifelong love affair between the Bard and me. Every summer we saw a play. Every year I would take out Mom’s Shakespeare anthology and read it before I saw it. By the time high school rolled around, I had several plays and most of the sonnets tucked away in my mind.

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Readers’ Advisory, Bibliotherapy, and Grief in YA Literature

The benefits of reading go beyond entertainment and into therapeutic tools when focusing on loss and grief in young adult literature. This year, the practice of bibliotherapy celebrates 100 years* in assisting mental health professionals and readers cope with many issues through informed choices about reading material. It is especially relevant to young adult readers in understanding loss and the grief process.

readers' advisory, bibliotherapy, and grief

Teenagers today are said to have higher levels of anxiety and depression and informed readers’ advisory creates an opportunity to help teens by using the comfort and familiarity of reading. However, it is not to be misunderstood or considered as true therapy unless a therapist is involved.   Through readers’ advisory, especially in a school setting, adults can both assist in book recommendations and also listen to teenagers (and possibly notice when teens need to speak to a school counselor).  Just as librarians do not parent or restrict readers, we also do not assume any professional opinion about therapy or mental illness. See this article on the difference between bibliotherapy and readers’ advisory.  The actual practice of bibliotherapy includes a skilled therapist, but adults who are familiar with stories of loss can assist with recommendations.  After all, we already know the interest of our readers (and reading levels) and can offer novels that address grief and coping.

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Know Your Value: Why Peggy Carter Is My Favorite Superhero

One of the things I have been most looking forward to about 2016 is the return of Marvel’s Agent Carter for its second season. When I immersed myself in comics in preparation for 2015’s summer reading program, I immediately fell in love with the Marvel universe in general, and with Agent Peggy Carter, portrayed by Hayley Atwell, in particular. I enjoyed her character in the two Captain America movies, as well as her cameos in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, and Agents of SHIELD, but as the titular character in Agent Carter, she truly shines. Far from being just a romantic interest for Captain America, Agent Carter is a superhero in her own right, and quickly became one of my favorite fictional role models.

agent carter

The first season of Agent Carter finds Peggy living and working in New York in 1946. Although World War II has wrought great changes in America, Peggy Carter is still a woman working in a male-dominated profession in a man’s world.  Well-respected by her colleagues during the war, she has trouble finding that respect in the post-war world.  However, as much as she longs to be accepted by her coworkers, Peggy would rather earn their respect than have it handed to her.  In fact, when one colleague demands that another apologize for disrespecting Peggy, she asks him not to defend her.  Later, during an argument with her partner-in-crime, Edwin Jarvis, Jarvis taunts her by asking whether she honestly expects her coworkers to change their minds about her.  Peggy never misses a beat before responding, “I expect I will make them.”  And while others might see a need to forsake femininity in Peggy’s workplace, Agent Carter uses her womanly wiles to her advantage as often as they work against her, for example, in seducing a man to gain access to a formula for a dangerous chemical, with the help of her sedative-laced lipstick. 

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In Defense of YA Horror

YAhorror

 I grew up as a really sheltered kid – well, as far as books and movies went. I didn’t even see The Terminator until I was in college.

So when I was exposed to horror movies for the first time as an older teen (to classics like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead), I was overcome. Mostly just because I was so unused to it, but still – I could not wrap my head around the idea that people willingly exposed themselves to such terrible concepts.

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YA Literary Trope: The A-Hole Friend(s)

Welcome back to another exploration of common themes found in young adult literature.  We have already discussed some fun literary tropes including The Old Clunker I Drive, The I Already Know You Introduction, The I Have to Take Care of my Parents, and The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (and Boy.)  Today we will examine a not-so-nice trope: the A-hole friend(s).  Let’s talk about those jerks who steer our protagonists astray.  Those bullies who taunt, tease, and torture others.  This trope can be hard to read– a good writer (such as those I mention below) make these a-holes so true to life we palpably hate them.

YA Literary Tropes A Hole Friends

  • Before I Fall (2011 Best Fiction For Young Adults, 2011 Teens Top Ten) by Lauren Oliver: Elody, Ally, and (most of all) Lindsay.  Actually Sam, the narrator of this extraordinary book, is also kind of an a-hole.  The foursome are your typical High School popular mean girls.  They are beautiful. They laugh loudly. They target an innocent girl and bully her for years. They drink and drive fast (and pay for it.)  Sam seems to consider herself a bystander in a lot of this a-hole behavior, but as the book goes on she learns more and more how her behavior affects others.
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Is This Just Fantasy? : How To Get Away With Fantasy

Next week is Teen Read Week and around the nation, libraries will be creating programs, book displays, and lists of reading recommendations surrounding the 2015 theme: “Getting Away @ Your Library.”  When I realized that I was scheduled to post this month’s edition of ‘Is This Just Fantasy?’ just before Teen Read Week’s kick off, I found myself wishing to reflect on the many connections between this year’s theme and fantasy fiction.

fantasy TRW post draft 1

Let’s start with the basic terminology.  The word ‘fantasy’ can be defined as the ability, activity, or product of imagining things, especially ideas or concepts that are impossible, improbable, or otherwise removed from our reality.  When applied to fiction, the term usually references a genre of literature that takes places within alternative worlds or includes events and characters which operate outside of the rules that govern our universe–usually through the existence of some kind of magic.  At its most basic level, the fantasy genre is all about getting away by leaving behind certain rules or limitations of our present reality.  

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YA Literary Tropes: The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (and Boy)

In our ongoing examination of literary tropes that are pervasive in young adult fiction we have covered “The Old Clunker I Drive“, “The I Already Know You Introduction“, and “I Have to Take Care of my Parents.”

YA Literary Tropes The Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Today let us delve into one of the most pervasive tropes of our time, one that appears in literature, films, television, and maybe even our fantasies: the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (and Boy) (MPDG/B).  Just in case your are not familiar with this moniker, it was identified by Nathan Rabin in 2005 when describing Kirsten Dunsts’ character in his movie review of “Elizabethtown”:

“The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” 

The “MPDG/B” trope has developed and grown in this past decade and definitely includes both girls and boys.  Let’s get right to this quirky trope, which just always awakens something in me…

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YA Literary Tropes: The “I Already Know You” Introduction

Welcome back!  It’s another hump day and we are exploring some more of our favorite literary tropes in YA fiction.  “Trope” is defined as an overused theme, and we embrace and enjoy them again and again.  Last week we investigated old clunkers: cars with “character” driven by some of our favorite characters.  This week let us delve into the “I already know you introduction.”  Typically, it goes something like this:

“Hi, I’m so-and-so.”

“I know who you are, we’ve been going to the same school since [fill in the blank] grade.”

And a friendship is sealed.YA literary tropes | The Hub

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