{comic} this one summer

If the summer narrative isn’t your glass of lemonade, it isn’t mine either, but I had to see what all the raving was about and I was very pleasantly surprised. Make it your book club read. Make it the first comic you’ve decided to read if you have been harboring a mistaken belief that comics can’t be accessible, female-friendly, and/or literary.

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki. First Second 2014. Hardcover, 319 pages.

This One Summer has the cinematic quality of classic Summer films like Stand By Me, but it has the added bonus of escaping the sentimental or the nostalgic.

Rose returns to Lake Awago as she does every summer with her family. Her sisterly friend Windy returns as well. But unlike the seemingly carefree summers of earlier years, Rose’s parents are fighting and soon she and Windy are as well. Circling the adolescent turning point is a crush, pregnancy, and classic horror films–which makes sense.

this-one-summer-art-excerpt

The publisher describes the book as an “ultimately hopeful story about a girl on the cusp of her teen age—a story of renewal and revelation.” “Ultimately” is a key term. The novel left me on the brink of despair for the increasingly irritating protagonist. Why did she seem so familiar? She is a naïve preteen whose imagination is limited by any number of things. She ignores realities that stare her in the face, or accompany her every day in the form of a best friend. She’s pretty much everyone.

The Tamaki’s infuse their summer drama with plenty of humor and charmingly odd relatives. Windy is a spirited girl you hope will be spared from the typic behaviors the more seriously matured Rose begins to express.

I appreciated the pop culture references and the game playing of M.A.S.H–that took me back to my youth. That Rose’s mother wears a Bikini Kill t-shirt was unexpectedly characterizing. Rose’s mother isn’t apparently going through something quite deep and distracting until the last portion of the novel. Initially, she just comes off as unpleasant, especially in juxtaposition to the fun father figure. Yet there she is appearing to be a fan of a late grrrrl! punk band. There is a feminist appeal in This One Summer, but more: a definite female appeal to the complexities of the body and the body politic.

this one summerBeing a girl is complicated business, and while boys have their own things going on (which the book alludes to), there is a female-centricity that should be unsurprising and anticipated in a book by two female creators.

A lot of secrets are simmering in This One Summer. And it is a lovely aspect to the novel that not all secrets are revealed before the Summer (and thus the novel) concludes. Even so, Rose has to come to grips with their consequences, even if the consequences indirectly affect her. The novel questions whether we have to know the details to afford someone the grace they need. It questions why we tend to favor one person in a scenario over the other; why do we jump the conclusions we do, side with/defend the people we do. Windy’s confrontations with Rose are beautiful.

The strangeness of This One Summer is the kind of cultural discussions one can arrive at without the book directly engaging the reader in it. The narrator, Rose, introduces us to summer traditions and observable changes and the like, but really we are reading an indie film about a summer vacation at the lake. You can run with the symbolic nature of summer or of a body of water and the female body if you want. But the profound effect of the novel is in the culmination of both the mundane and the emotionally charged moments.

thisonesummer_sm-26

 

The novel needn’t be too heavy to threaten an easy recommendation. This One Summer does not close with a lengthy voice-over by Rose, summarizing her journey in a deeply contemplative gesture, but a clever youthful quip, a ticking of a clock, and a series of images that close a chapter and leaves a pile of symbols on a summer cot once occupied by a young girl-on-the-cusp.

Between the artwork (love the hue of the ink, the dimensions, movements) and the content, This One Summer is one to buy for any adolescent-upwards female in your life.

{images belong to Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki}

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this read is a part of the “A More Diverse Universe” event.

{bookishness} BBW 2014: Alexie

BBW14_300x250In 2011, Sherman Alexie wrote a powerful article called “Why the Best Kids Books are Written in Blood.” (please read the whole article. I am only going to excerpt a small portion here.)

“When I think of the poverty-stricken, sexually and physically abused, self-loathing Native American teenager that I was, I can only wish, immodestly, that I’d been given the opportunity to read “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” Or Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak.” Or Chris Lynch’s “Inexusable.” Or any of the books that Ms. Gurdon believes to be irredeemable. I can’t speak for other writers, but I think I wrote my YA novel as a way of speaking to my younger, irredeemable self.”

[...]

“When some cultural critics fret about the “ever-more-appalling” YA books, they aren’t trying to protect African-American teens forced to walk through metal detectors on their way into school. Or Mexican-American teens enduring the culturally schizophrenic life of being American citizens and the children of illegal immigrants. Or Native American teens growing up on Third World reservations. Or poor white kids trying to survive the meth-hazed trailer parks. They aren’t trying to protect the poor from poverty. Or victims from rapists.

“No, they are simply trying to protect their privileged notions of what literature is and should be. They are trying to protect privileged children. Or the seemingly privileged.”

[...]

 “And there are millions of teens who read because they are sad and lonely and enraged. They read because they live in an often-terrible world. They read because they believe, despite the callow protestations of certain adults, that books-especially the dark and dangerous ones-will save them.

“As a child, I read because books–violent and not, blasphemous and not, terrifying and not–were the most loving and trustworthy things in my life. I read widely, and loved plenty of the classics so, yes, I recognized the domestic terrors faced by Louisa May Alcott’s March sisters. But I became the kid chased by werewolves, vampires, and evil clowns in Stephen King’s books. I read books about monsters and monstrous things, often written with monstrous language, because they taught me how to battle the real monsters in my life.

“And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons–in the form of words and ideas-that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.”

{diversity in lit} Friday #19

“Some of My Best Friends” by Nidhi

A few links to reviews, articles, sites, etc. of the Diversity in Literature concern from around a small portion the book blogosphere, accumulated over the past week or so.

——Reviews—–

—Chrisbookarama reviews a short story by Tananarive Due called “The Lake” (from The Monster’s Corner). “At its heart, The Lake is about monsters but are the monsters just humans in disguise? I was impressed at how Tananarive Due is able to manipulate the reader by using Abbie’s point of view.”

Opinions of a Wolf reviewed A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts by Ying Chang Compestine (Henry Holt 2009). “Overall, I immensely enjoyed each of these short stories, from the touch of horror to the settings to the amount I learned about Chinese culture and history to the wonderful recipes.  Highly recommended to anyone with even a moderate interest in China, Chinese culture, or Chinese food.  Even if horror isn’t usually your genre, give these ghosts a chance.  You’ll be glad you did.”

—Sarah (What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate) reads The True History of Paradise by Margaret Cezair-Thompson (Plume 2000).”Cezair-Thompson is intimately familiar with the struggle to find and preserve a sense of identity, and appreciation for the ever active roll history plays in our personal stories.”

—For the 8-12, & I’m hoping the 36, crowd, Kirkus review The Red Pencil by Andrea Pinkney, Illus. by Shane W. Evans (Little Brown 2014). “Telling her story in first-person verse, Pinkney uses deft strokes to create engaging characters through the poetry of their observations and the poignancy of their circumstances. This tale of displacement in a complex, war-torn country is both accessible and fluent, striking just the right tone for middle-grade readers. Evans’ elemental drawings illuminate the spirit and yearnings of Amira, the earnest protagonist.”

—Publisher’s Weekly has me looking forward to Haruki Murakami’s The Strange Library (Knopf 2014, transl. Ted Goossen). “This dryly funny, concise fable features all the hallmarks of Murakami’s deadpan magic, along with splashes of Lewis Carroll and the brothers Grimm.”

–Edi (Crazy QuiltEdi) tries out book one in a new speculative fiction series Shieldwolf Dawning by Selena Nemorin (Astraea Press 2014). It isn’t a rave review, but “Shieldwolf Dawning is unique in two ways. First, it gives us an adventurous female of color  with blue dreads who often saves herself in situations. Second, it’s steeped in philosophy.”

—–Articles—–

—Kat Chow for NPR interviews “Jacqueline Woodson On Being a ‘Brown Girl’ Who Dreams.” “The first time author Jacqueline Woodson says she really understood poetry — and loved it — was after reading Langston Hughes in elementary school. ‘Until then, I thought it was some code that older white people used to speak to each other. I didn’t know what was going on with the line breaks and the words,’ Woodson recalls. ‘Once the floodgates opened, they opened.'”

—Hopefully you’ve seen Lupita Nyong’o w/ Elmo on Sesame Street.

—Elliot Owen (for Bay Area Reporter) talks to Nia King about her podcast and new book Queer & Trans Artists of Color: Some Stories of Our Lives. “It was important for me to get a diverse group of artists both in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity,” King said. “And I have a broad definition of what art is and who’s an artist. It includes stand-up comedians, cartoonists, and people working in forms that are often devalued. If people don’t care about brown or queer people before they read this, I hope they do afterward. They’re really good stories.”

—Chandler Arnold (First Book) writes about “First Book: Putting Diverse Literature Into Hands, Hearts, and Classrooms” “We all want to see our kids become strong readers – a critical step to succeeding in school and in life. But this becomes much harder when kids aren’t able to see themselves in the books they read.”

—--Booklists, Sites, etc.—–

We are entering the 2nd Week of #Diversiverse. It is not too late to join in!

Author Barnaby Phillips chooses “The Top 10 Books about Nigeria” (Fiction and Non-) at The Guardian.

{bookishness} banned books week 2014

Often challenges are motivated by a desire to protect children from “inappropriate” sexual content or “offensive” language. The following were the top three reasons cited for challenging materials as reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom:

  1. the material was considered to be “sexually explicit”
  2. the material contained “offensive language”
  3. the materials was “unsuited to any age group”

Although this is a commendable motivation, Free Access to Libraries for Minors, an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (ALA’s basic policy concerning access to information) states that, “Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents—and only parents—have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children—and only their children—to library resources.” Censorship by librarians of constitutionally protected speech, whether for protection or for any other reason, violates the First Amendment.

If we are to continue to protect our First Amendment, we would do well to keep in mind these words of Noam Chomsky:

If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.

(“About Banned & Challenged Books,” ALA)

——————–

Have you decided which book you’ll be reading/celebrating/supporting for Banned Books Week this year?

Here are 2013’s

Out of 307 challenges as reported by the Office for Intellectual Freedom

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
    Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
    Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

I haven’t decided what I’ll read, but know that I will be reading something, and something in the form of a comic/graphic novel.

John Maher for Graphic Novel Reporter has compiled a list of 20 big-name graphic novels that have been suppressed in libraries across the country. Comic books are according to the Comic Book Legal Defense fund call “one of the most commonly attacked types of books.”

{book} the colorless

When Tsukuru first hears Haida’s recording of Franz Liszt’s ‘Le mal du pays,’ from the Years of Pilgrimage suite ‘Year 1: Switzerland,” it is described as “a quiet, sorrowful piece that began with a slow, memorable theme played out as single notes, then proceeded into a series of tranquil variations” (68). Tsukuru asks Haida about it. Haida says, ‘Le mal du pays’ is French and is “usually translated ‘homesickness,’ or ‘melancholy’, or as precise a translation as can be managed ‘a groundless sadness called forth in a person’s heart by a pastoral landscape’” (69). Tsukuru adds that the piece evokes “a calm sadness without being sentimental.” This section describes Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki. Murakami transcribes a quiet sorrowful piece replete with tranquil variations.*

a delightfully well-designed cover.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage: a novel

By Haruki Murakami

Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel

Knopf 2014.

In High School Tsukuru Tazaki used to be part of a group comprised of five. He was one of three boys and the only of the five whose name did not include a color. The latter wasn’t the only thing to make him different, but the balance had already been struck. Like the trait that decides 5 fingers make the most harmonious human hand, the five young people found a miraculous society within and between themselves. But perhaps what they had was not as true a harmony as first believed (322).

“I’ve always seen myself as an empty person, lacking color and identity. Maybe that was my role in the group. To be empty.” […] “An empty vessel. A colorless background. With no special defects, nothing outstanding. Maybe that sort of person was necessary to the group.” (179).

Moving away  for college shouldn’t have changed things as dramatically as it had, yet suddenly Tsukuru was shut out. It is a long sixteen years later that Tsukuru is tasked with finding out why.  Murakami writes a deeply compelling mystery—in Tsukuru Tazaki.

The mystery as to what Tsukuru could have done and how all might finally find resolution is the spine and is much like rails drawing the reader along, yet Murakami is building a station with Tsukuru Tazaki that is rife with such beautiful complexity the “colorless” becomes riveting. Murakami must take pleasure in his ability to move readers through the most ordinary sequences of life in pursuit of the most poetic; and he uses the most ordinary of characters to do it.

The novel is one of those places where the figurative can be rendered quite literally, and unreality resides in simultaneity with reality. It is the perfect space, other than the dreaming and memory, for Murakami to explore his preoccupations with the waking, conscious existence of liminal spaces. Can a desire become strong enough to knock on a door an impossible number of miles away? Are evil spirits merely psychic projections? Can a mild-mannered handsome boy harbor a violent, ugly aspect and not recall it? Can he harbor a intimate desire so deep, he could mistake the real for a fantasy (and vice versa)?

Tsukuru Tazaki learns that all number of paradoxes exist, some of which are comforting, others disturbing. We can die and be regenerated inside these vessels that refuse to pass away. A musical score can transport the most vivid recollections into the present, even the presence of persons long lost (258). And we wonder at whether differences between our existence and absences are substantial enough to matter.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki also understands that some explanations are never found, sorrows never redeemed, conflicts never resolved, and there are apologies made that shouldn’t satisfy forgiveness but will—because we cling to life, stupidly, dangerously, and with a profound love for it. A few readers who are going to hate this book.

Murakami can be infuriating in the way he allows characters and storylines to drift off into inexplicable disappearance. But none of it is wasted in its contribution to the whole. His novels are annoyingly coherent. The rewards just come in unexpected ways—which is a reward in and of itself.

Murakami’s genius is in that ending. He draws us out of another one of Tsukuru’s fugue-like states, this one listing among his lovely self-reflections, when he perches us once more on that brink between life and death. Murakami presents us with a character no one should have ever doubted, not even Tsukuru himself. It is quite brutal. It is perfect.

———-

*Here is one variation, when Tsukuru is contemplating his self-characterization of an empty vessel.

“Maybe I am just an empty, futile person, he thought. But it was precisely because there was nothing inside of me that these people could find, if even for a short time, a place where they belonged. Like a nocturnal bird seeks a safe place to rest during the day in a vacant attic. The birds like that empty, dim, silent place. If that were true, then maybe he should be happy he was hollow.” (258)

When Natalya was reading Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, she found ‘Le mal du pays’ and played it for us. You’ll want to do the same.

RIP IX's Lavinia by Abigail Larson———–

of note: a Reader’s Imbibing Peril (RIP) read, there is mystery, melancholy, and allusions to devilry.

{diversity in lit} and go…

Technically, it began yesterday, but I decided (with the new job) my Sunday’s off will indeed be a day off.

Have you stared reading book authored by a person of color? If not, find that read and let’s go!

The criteria are as follows:

Read and review one book

Written by a person of color

During these last two weeks of September

If you haven’t signed up: sign up here at Book Lust!

If you need a place to post your review, lemme know.

 

{diversity in lit} Friday #18

Read Every Day Poster featuring Kana and her little praying mantis friends. Art by Noni Gross, © 2011.

A few links to reviews, articles, sites, etc. of the Diversity in Literature concern from around a small portion the book blogosphere, accumulated over the past week or so.

—–Reviews—–

–Nancy Powell (via Shelf Awareness) reviews The Hunting Gun by Japanese novelist Yasushi Inoue (transl. Michael Emmerich, Pushkin Press 2014). “A timeless, elegiac and masterful novella about a tragic postwar love triangle by one of Japan’s most prolific writers.”

While-We-Run-204x300–K. Imani Tennyson (Rich in Color) recommends we run out and buy While We Run by Karen Healy (Little Brown & Co 2014) the sequel to When We Wake. “Healey’s pacing in this sequel is much better balanced with heavy hitting points mixed with quiet moments between characters that really showcase the relationships in this novel. The themes Healey presents as well, such as the concept of collateral damage, she handles with skill and a deftness that allows explores the grey areas of political revolutions. Many YA dystopian novels that focus on revolution often have an “Us vs. Them” mentality and the fight is usually a “good vs. evil” trope. While Abdi, Tegan, and their friends view the Australian government as evil, through their experiences they eventually learn what it means to have to make those tough decisions and that sometimes you have to lose to win. It’s a very grown up lesson to learn and Healey presents those ideas well.”

Stephanie Harrison (BookPage) and Jeffery Renard Allen (New York Times) read Laila Lalami’s The Moor’s Account (Pantheon 2014). Allen observes: “Some might argue that a good historical novel should peel back the past to ­reveal what at the deepest level we already know: that black or white, rich or poor, woman or man, Muslim or Christian, we all are capable of being monsters. But “The Moor’s Account” asks something else of fiction. Lalami sees the story as a form of moral and spiritual instruction that can lead to transcendence.”

20262502And Harrison: “The Backbone of Estebanico’s story is brutal one that even the most disinterested history student will be familiar with. And yet, with Estebanico as the narrator and Lalami at the helm, the events take on such a deeply personal tone that it is all too easy to believe that The Moor’s Account is actually a long-lost memoir written from a shamefully overlooked perspective. [...] It feels like one of history’s silent witnesses has finally been given back his voice. Whether you have a special interest in this period of history or not, Estebanico’s miraculous journey is not to be missed.

–Kelly Fineman (at Guys Lit Wire) reviews A Wreath for Emmett Till, by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Philippe Lardy. “Read this one for the subject-matter, which is important. Read it to remember, and to experience the power poetry has to move you and transform you and to make you consider the many angles–the sonnets are told from varying perspectives, including the tree on which young Emmett was hanged, his poor mother, and the hypothetical life he could have led. And if you are a poet, read it for the craft. The form itself is beautiful enough to make you weep.”

—–Articles—–

–Asian American Writer’s Workshop  board member and resident comics expert Anne Ishii kicks off her new series of conversations with Asian American comics artists in The Margins with the Asian Canadian scene. She begins with Toronto-based comics publisher Annie Koyama. AI: “What did you want to be when you were little?” AK: “I am just one of those kids who never knew. I wanted to do languages. I studied criminology. I wanted to do social work. I did some volunteer probation work with young boys.” AI: “Sounds exactly like comics.”

secret sky–Hilli Levin interviews Teen fiction author Atia Abawi (The Secret Sky, Philomel) for BookPage. Levin: “What do you hope American readers take away from this story?” Abawi: “I hope the reader will understand the humanity that lives amongst the horror in Afghanistan. The majority of the Afghan people want to live peaceful and happy lives; they don’t want war, they don’t want rivalries, they want change for the betterment of their families and society. But it is hard for them because of the everyday challenges they face in their lives—obstacles that we can’t even imagine having to deal with.”

–Leonard S. Marcus (Publisher’s Weeklytalks Children’s Books in China in a Q&A with Xiaoyan Huang who is an editorial specialist for children’s books at dangdang.com, China’s leading online shopping service provider, and the country’s top online children’s bookseller. It is brief and massively informative, e.g. “Among the 581 state-owned publishing houses, 33 houses are designated by the government to publish only children’s books. These are known in China as ‘professional children’s book publishing houses.'”

–Amanda Nelson at BookRiot asks “How much of staying true to yourself while growing up in America’s cultural melting pot involves staying true to your (or your parents’) culture? Does embracing “American culture” mean you’re betraying your roots? Does America even have its own culture? We want to tackle big questions here, so tell us: what are your favorite books about growing up in America’s cultural melting pot? ” Check out comments for recs and the sponsoring book while you are at it.

–It was of interest to hear from across the pond when Malorie Blackman declared “Racist Abuse will not Stop Me from Seeking More Diversity in Children’s Literature” in The Guardian. The UK’s “cultural pie gets bigger, not smaller, as more people are allowed to partake of it. When children and young adults see their lives and concerns reflected in the homegrown books they read, the films and television programmes they see, the computer games they play, they feel they and their lives are not invisible. Seeing yourself in the cultural world leads to a sense of better social inclusion and a feeling that you are part of something, that you have a stake in it and wish to add constructively to it.”

—–Booklists, Sites, etc.—–

–Some more book recommendations for “Diversity on the Shelf” via My Little Pocketbooks.

LOGO2Koyama Press. “is a Toronto-based small press. Our mandate is to promote and support a wide range of emerging and established artists. Projects include comics, graphic novels, art books, and zines. We are known for our alternative edge and diverse range of titles that include a myriad of genres from autobiography to photography, from horror to humour, and more.”

–I’m going to place a review here, it’s of Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith (Putnam 2009). I enjoy how Alison (An Uncalibrated Centrifuge) writes the reader response. I sometimes am not sure to file her reading of a book under review or article. You be interested in her perspective and insight (as I am), she reads eclectically and you may notice how often I share her reviews here to inspire more diverse reading.