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Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 8+ hrs.
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Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah is narrated by the author and is a look back at his childhood in South Africa while it was under apartheid and after.  He is the child of a black mother and a white father, and under apartheid he was classified as colored alongside the Indians, Chinese, and others that were neither black nor white.  Being born colored was a crime because white and black people were not supposed to procreate.  But beyond only the complex and illogical thinking that is apartheid and racism, in general, Noah’s life was anything but plush.  His mother loved him and he loved his mother, but tough love was the order of the day given the fact that his parents had broken the law to have him in the first place. I knew little about this nation other than Nelson Mandela was there in jail for a long time and that whites somehow controlled an entire country of black people (I really couldn’t wrap my head around it as a child or even now).

Noah’s religious mother believed that Jesus could cure any ill and help her through any challenge, but he did not.  Many stories involve them arguing about the role of Jesus and God like lawyers.  At one point, they were arguing in a series of letters.  Despite the tough love and the arguments about religion, Noah seems to have reconciled those actions with her good intentions.  Many of these stories help to establish a line he has drawn between the tough love she showed him and the beatings he received from his step-father later in life.  Readers looking for information on South Africa and apartheid will find some of that here, but this is a memoir about how that regime and its consequences not only shaped the lives of others, but also that of Noah (as well as how he was treated by others).  His adaptability to certain situations and cultures is a credit to his own ability to puzzle out how best to survive in this barbed world.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah is funny, heart-warming, sad, and infuriating.  Like many young men, he chooses the wrong path to make money and get ahead, but he also learns a great deal from his own mistakes. One tragedy clearly shaped the narrative of this letter; it is like a love letter to his mother and how they grew together as a family despite the external challenges they faced.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Trevor Noah is a South African comedian, television and radio host and actor. He currently hosts The Daily Show, a late-night television talk show on Comedy Central.

Imagine That! How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Source: Random House
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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Imagine That! How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, is a whimsical biography of Dr. Seuss and his creation of The Cat in the Hat, which happens to be one of my favorite books from childhood.  The book, which came unbound that promptly became disordered when my daughter pulled it out of the envelope and took a bit for me to get in the right order, has very colorful illustrations of Seuss and his creations.

Young readers will learn that Dr. Seuss had already written a number of books before the Cat, and that the Cat was what came of a list of words his friend challenged him to use when creating a first-grade reader book.  It’s fun how the mind of Seuss is said to have worked to come up with the Cat and his adventures.

My daughter was happy to see the pictures and read some of the words in this one with me.  She would prefer a real bound book, she says.  Something we’ll have to look into.  Until then, we’ll enjoy revisiting the author in Imagine That! How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.

RATING: Quatrain

2017 New Authors Reading Challenge

From the Author:

I was born in Washington DC and grew up a few miles away in Falls Church, Virginia. My father was a photographer. When I was little, he took hundreds of photographs of me.

​My mother was a school librarian. She and my father read to me every day, and I learned the words in books by heart long before I could read them myself. Later, they encouraged me to learn longer poems from Alice in Wonderland, Alice Through the Looking Glass, and Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

I began writing and illustrating my own books when I was seven. Sometimes I wrote my school reports in rhyme. I also wrote plays and performed them with my friends. Our favorites were tales of Robin Hood, and the Greek myths.

Stitching with Jane Foster by Jane Foster

Source: QuartoKnows
Hardcover, 52 pgs.
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Stitching with Jane Foster by Jane Foster is similar to the Suzy Ultman book of stitching with its templates and fun designs.  Many of these are animals, which my daughter loves. You need the same materials for this: embroidery thread, embroidery needles, and a needle threader.  This one also has step-by-step instructions for cross-stitching.  We haven’t gotten to that step yet, but I’m sure we will.  There are other stitches as well, including seed stitching and back stitching.

This one includes bookmarks, which I’m hoping she’ll make me one.  Some of these designs also can be colored by the artist before they do the stitching.  This has so many possibilities for little artists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stitching with Jane Foster by Jane Foster is another great project book for kids as young as age 6.  She has a great time picking out her templates and matching the colors.  She creates her own designs with simple stitches.  Since her and nana started, she can’t seem to stop making them.  Right now, she’s working on a frameable one and it is only 9 a.m.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Jane Foster is an illustrator and screen printer living and working in south Devon. Her work, which is strongly influenced by Scandinavian and British design from the 1950s and 60s, has been featured in many publications including Vogue, Homes & Antiques, and Mollie Makes. She is a designer for Clothkits and has done commissions for Ikea. Jane’s products are stocked throughout the world.

She’s recently been working with the company Make International who are using her designs on ceramics, glasses and kitchen textiles. These are sold globally.  Jane is the author of Creative Craft With Kids (9781909397439) and Fun with Fabric (9781908449900), published by Pavilion. Jane’s recent two books (May 2015) are for pre-school children – 123 and ABC, published by Templar.  Follow her on Twitter. Visit her Website and check out her Instagram.

Fun with Stitchables by Suzy Ultman

Source: QuartoKnows
Hardcover, 36 pgs.
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Fun with Stitchables! by Suzy Ultman is a simple way to get kids interested in creating things through sewing. My daughter and I had to grab some essentials for this book, such as embroidery needles and embroidery thread.  It took me a while to grab these materials, but once we got them, she was off to the races.  She even learned how to use a needle threader when her nana was here visiting.  She already learned how to make knots at summer camp with the Girl Scouts, so she had that part down.

It was good to see her enthusiastic about these designs and learning to use different colors in the designs.  The book includes step-by-step instructions on how to thread the needle, how to tie the knot, and some stitching basics, as well as knotting the end.  The book includes frameable prints, ornaments, embellishments for greeting cards, and so much more.

Fun with Stitchables! by Suzy Ultman is a fun activity for kids to learn about sewing and coordinating colors and creating patterns.  My daughter and her nana had a fun time creating together, and I’m sitting here next to her while she does another one.  She must love it if she keeps going back for more.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Suzy Ultman was born in Pennsylvania, but colorful and vibrant Amsterdam also plays a large part in her work. She has lived on three different continents and embraced the culture and communities of each, allowing them to influence her visual aesthetic. Suzy’s style of illustration is influenced by her childhood, love of nature, and travel experiences. She enjoys being in beautiful habitats among nature’s playful palette of forms, textures, and colors. Suzy explores the worlds within our world, the little details that make us smile, and the connections that make us all part of the global community.

2017 New Authors Reading Challenge

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 592 pgs.
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Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi traces the origins of racism in the United States, noting that it began long before the civil war.  In this volume, Kendi explores anti-racist ideas, uplift suasion (the idea that white people could be persuaded away from their racist ideas if they saw that Black people had improved their behaviors), and racism through the lens of five historical figures — Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Angela Davis.  Through these interwoven histories, the myths of ignorance and hate causing racism and discrimination are dispelled to reveal that racial discrimination begot racist ideas and bred ignorance and hate, which to me should have been well understood by now.  The fact that a comprehensive book of this nature is still needed and probably not as widely read as it should be shows how little we have traveled away from our past.

“But no racial group has ever had a monopoly on any type of human trait or gene — not now, not ever.  Under our different-looking hair and skin, doctors cannot tell the difference between our bodies, our brains, or the blood that runs in our veins.  All cultures, in all their behavioral differences, are on the same level.  Black Americans’ history of oppression has made Black opportunities — not Black people — inferior.”  (pg. 11)

Beginning with Aristotle and the barbarians of old, racism has a deep-seated hold on humanity, and these chains must be broken.  The term “race” first appeared in a poem in 1481 called “The Hunt” by Jacques de Brézé, and it was used to refer to hunting dogs, but over the next 100 years it was used to “animalize” Africans.  Reading this makes it clear to me that the penchant humanity has for categorizing everything into neat little boxes has only divided us for very little reason.  The term “negars” was used in 1627, placing African slaves below servants in a hierarchy following the death of George Yeardley and the court decision regarding his estate.  Africans were little more than cattle under this decision.  It is these moments in history where a lack of understanding and a failure to properly research another culture and people have led European and American societies to denigrate the African people and their culture.

Repeatedly, throughout history, the victims of this failure are abused — sometimes at the hands of their fellow Africans and blacks.  Even W.E.B. Du Bois failed to grasp anti-racist ideals after he was afforded a college education that many of his brethren would never achieve.  But here’s the rub, his education was at the hands of those who already had failed to properly research and understand a culture unlike their own and who had quickly labeled it inferior because of their own failure to understand or wish to understand.

Kendi also delves into the inferiority of the Black woman, who as a group has been placed lower than the Black male because white men could not help but want to sleep with them and their mannerisms were not like the demur, white woman.  Many of the stereotypes heaped on Black women today stem from these times, and they were never more plain than they were in the early suffragist movement.  Even when it was clear that Africans knew more about how to combat smallpox, many white physicians failed to heed their advice because they are an inferior race.  Logic and research again failed to permeate this scientific world.

In more modern history, Kendi examines the role of the NAACP, providing a wider perspective of their role in racism.  Although Kendi makes valid points about the group relative to his over-arching arguments, we also must remember that in our wider failings some good can be achieved — small as it may be — though after more than 200 years of oppression one can see why there is a growing impatience and anger about the continued racism against a people that are not inferior.  There also is a section on Harper Lee’s book in which Kendi decries the classic as more racist propaganda in which Blacks must wait for white saviors like Atticus Finch.  This perspective made me view the book a bit differently because I had always viewed it as a book in which a young girl first realizes that discrimination exists against Black people and that her father was fighting against that discrimination.

One point I thought was really well made was on cultural appropriation, such as when cornrows were worn by Bo Derek and when Eminem rose to rap fame.  “What was the most amazing about the whole uproar … was the hypocrisy of Black people.  Some of those Black people who had permed their hair — an appropriation of European culture — were now ridiculing Bo Derek and other White women for braiding their hair and appropriating African culture.”  (pg. 421)  He also points out the economic policies of Reagan as harmful to not only Blacks, with the “median income of Black families declin[ing] by 5.2 percent.”

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi is a comprehensive look at American racism through the Obama administration’s first years.  It is not only Whites he takes to task for their racism, as he point out how Blacks also held racist ideas about their own culture and brethren.  In the epilogue, he offers some ideas about how racism can be eliminated, such as the elimination of the mechanisms that generate racial disparities and the use of local protests to focus on immediate areas of discrimination and ensure greater equality.  This is a book that should be read in classrooms and by everyone.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Ibram X. Kendi is a New York Times best-selling author and historian located at the University of Florida. He won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for his book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.

2017 New Authors Reading Challenge

Hand Lettering A to Z: A World of Creative Ideas for Drawing and Designing Alphabets by Abbey Sy

Source: QuartoKnows
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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Hand Lettering A to Z: A World of Creative Ideas for Drawing and Designing Alphabets by Abbey Sy offers new letter artists a great deal of advice from what tools they can use to different types of fonts they can experiment with. I’ve never really considered creating new letters an art form, but as a teen, I used to do different kinds of bubble letters in notes to friends (yes, I’m dating myself). It was fun to make these notes visually interesting. I considered it a way to doodle when bored in class. In today’s high-tech world, it’s clear that lettering will be considered more of an art, rather than a way of writing.

Book Trailer:

Tools range from different types of paper and different types of pens and markers, but did you also know that you should have a good light source, a compass to ensure your lettering is on target, and clips. Carrying a sketchbook around can also be helpful when you have time to work on your lettering techniques, which reminds me of the small notebook I carry around for writing poems. Users will learn the technical terms for certain aspects of letters, such as those swashes or flourishes that are applied to certain fonts. There are techniques for slanting the letters and applying watercolors, among other things.

Hand Lettering A to Z: A World of Creative Ideas for Drawing and Designing Alphabets by Abbey Sy can help you improve your lettering or just be a great way to relax and enjoy creating something new and colorful. Kids will love this as they learn their letters, allowing them to explore their alphabet in a new way and letting their creativity bloom.

RATING: Quatrain

Peek inside the book:

About the Author:

Passionate about both art and travel, Abbey is best known for her hand-lettering work and travel illustrations. She is also Founder and Creative Director of ABC Magazine, a magazine for artists, crafters, and makers. She has written best-selling books on hand lettering and journaling, and continues to explore ways to make art and share stories through her own eyes.

Weird But True Know-It-All: U.S. Presidents by Brianna DuMont

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Paperback, 192 pgs.
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Weird But True Know-It-All: U.S. Presidents by Brianna DuMont from National Geographic Kids is probably best suited to ages 8-12 and contains numerous weird facts about our nation’s presidents.  In addition to facts about the presidents, there are some fun facts about the White House, including information about what renovations were made by several presidents — one of the first being an indoor bathroom.  The White House also has a chocolate shop, a florist shop, and a dentist within its walls, and the fact that the White House was built on a swamp is actually a myth.  There’s a list of powers for each branch of government, but lest you think this book is boring, you just have to keep reading on.

Thomas Jefferson, for example, organized a contest to design the White House, and historians secretly think he entered and lost the competition.  James Monroe, our 5th president, once defended himself in an argument with his treasury secretary with a pair of fire tongs — talk about a heated argument.  Another interesting tidbit is that Andrew Jackson, our 7th president, fought more than 100 duels in his lifetime.  That’s a lot of disagreements.  And you can thank William Howard Taft, the 27th president, for that tradition of the president throwing out the first pitch in baseball.  One of my favorites, John F. Kennedy, apparently penned his own spy thriller and talked about how to deal with Cuba with Ian Fleming — yes, that Fleming.

Weird But True Know-It-All: U.S. Presidents by Brianna DuMont is really enjoyable for younger readers and adults.  I think it would be a great book to take on a trip and quiz each other about presidential facts.  Pick up a copy and start having fun on your next road trip.

RATING: Cinquain

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Stick It to ‘Em: Playful Stickers to Color & Create: 275+ Stickers with Sass for Family, Friends, and Frenemies by Bailey Fleming

Source: Quarto Books
Paperback, 104 pgs.
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Stick It to ‘Em: Playful Stickers to Color & Create: 275+ Stickers with Sass for Family, Friends, and Frenemies by Bailey Fleming is a unique collection of stickers and tools for doodling and creating your own stickers.  My daughter hasn’t created her own yet, but she’s had a great time coloring the pre-made stickers and sharing them with her parents — putting them on our phone cases and laptops.  I’m just happy they are not all over the house.  What’s great about this collection is that it is for young and old alike, as some of these stickers are for adults to deal with their own stresses through coloring and creating their own snarky comments and pictures.  Some recommended tools for creating colorful stickers include felt-tip pens, colored pencils, water color paints, and brush pens, among others.

There are techniques for adults and kids to use to create visually enticing lettering for logos and sayings on their stickers, as well as ways to enhance those statements with accompanying doodles.  There are even pages that break down images into simple steps to make them easier for kids to replicate in the blank sticker spaces.

Stick It to ‘Em: Playful Stickers to Color & Create: 275+ Stickers with Sass for Family, Friends, and Frenemies by Bailey Fleming is an excellent creative outlet for young and old.  Let your imagination soar with these stickers.

RATING: Quatrain

2017 New Authors Reading Challenge

Benjamin Franklin’s Wise Words by K.M. Kostyal

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 128 pgs.
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Benjamin Franklin’s Wise Words: How to Work Smart, Play Well, and Make Real Friends by K.M. Kostyal offers kids a selection of 50 pieces of advice and anecdotes about one our nation’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin. Some of these wide phrases were adapted from other sources that inspired Franklin. They range from how to act in public to how to make real friends. These phrases are translated for more modern audiences, and they are accompanied by colorful and funny illustrations. The back even includes information on some of his inventions.

These phrases aim to promote self-improvement, mindfulness, and diligent work. In the introduction, readers will learn that Ben Franklin only went to school until age 10, but he invented a number of devices, ran his own newspaper, and became one of the founding fathers of America. One of the best pieces of advice is that you should always do what is right even when it is hard to do the right thing. He also advised that we cram every day with good things, good discussions, good work, and good times with friends. Something I’m always telling my daughter is to do what she says she’s going to do so that people know she can be counted on.

My daughter listened while I read some of these out loud, but much of her attention and questions were about the illustrations. Lest you think she missed the point, even though these illustrations are fun and colorful, they do illustrate the points in Franklin’s advice. I really love the reminder that you should pay attention to who and what is before you, rather than looking at your phone or checking messages, or playing video games. Attentiveness is important.

Benjamin Franklin’s Wise Words: How to Work Smart, Play Well, and Make Real Friends by K.M. Kostyal is a fun book to offer Franklin’s advice to kids.

RATING: Cinquain

Dunkirk: The History Behind the Major Motion Picture by Joshua Levine

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 368 pgs.
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Dunkirk: The History Behind the Major Motion Picture by Joshua Levine, published by HarperCollins, begins with an interview between the author and film maker and director Christopher Nolan about the making of the Dunkirk film.  This serves as a preface to the overall story, which examines the societal and political atmosphere in the late 1930s. He also tackles the myth of Dunkirk and the so-called “Dunkirk Spirit” — what it meant to individual soldiers and how it mirrored or did not mirror the actual events of the biggest defeat and evacuation in WWII history.

“As they arrived back in Britain, most soldiers saw themselves as the wretched remnants of a trampled army.  Many felt ashamed.  But they were confounded by the unexpected public mood.  ‘We were put on a train and wherever we stopped,’ says a lieutenant of the Durham Light Infantry, ‘people came up with coffee and cigarettes.  We had evidence from this tremendous euphoria that we were heroes and had won some sort of victory.  Even though it was obvious that we had been thoroughly beaten.'” (pg. 27)

Levine draws parallels between the rise of youth culture in Britain, Germany, and the United States, but unlike the United States where the culture was freer, British youth culture was slightly more constrained.  In Germany, the Nazis used the rise of the youth to create a generation with a nationalist fervor through brainwashing.

Levine chronicles battles in the early days where the French military is woefully unprepared for the cunning of the German army.  He highlights the use of small groups of German soldiers who made it possible for the Panzer tanks to cross into French regions to the surprise of many.  Meanwhile, Britain remained in political turmoil until Churchill was named as Chamberlain’s replacement as Prime Minister, and even then, many began to fear that Britain would lose the war.

Dunkirk: The History Behind the Major Motion Picture by Joshua Levine is more than a recounting of a great defeat or an effort of survival, it is a look at the war from the perspective of the soldiers, politicians, and common people engaged in it.  The anecdotes and stories from these soldiers and others bring to life the war, particularly the lack of communication and the naivete of those who joined up seeking adventure.  Reality can certainly be a painful experience.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Joshua Levine has written six bestselling histories including titles in the hugely popular ‘Forgotten Voices’ series. ‘Beauty and Atrocity’, his account of the Irish Troubles, was nominated for the Writers’ Guild Book of the Year award. ‘On a Wing and a Prayer’, his history of the pilots of the First World War, has been turned into a major British television documentary. He has written and presented a number of programmes for BBC Radio 4. In a previous life, he was a criminal barrister. He lives in London.

Find out more about Joshua at his website, and connect with him on Twitter.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Tell the Truth. Make It Matter.: A Memoir Writing Workbook by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 210 pgs.
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Tell the Truth. Make It Matter.: A Memoir Writing Workbook by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit, is the perfect workbook for budding memoirists because it provides not only writing exercises but enough room to write inspirations down.  Users can even staple additional pages in the book if they need more room.

What I love about the workbook, other than that it is written by Beth Kephart, is that the illustrations could jog the brain into writing and the exercises vary from writing about a first memory to writing a poem about an event.  Born from her Juncture workshops, Kephart uses those experiences to offer writers exercises that will leave them inspired to tackle that memoir or other writing project they’ve been thinking about.  For example, in the writing about your first lie exercise, there are tips about finding the bigger story in the lie, as well as suggestions to think about the details to make them alluring and to think about who you were before the lie was told and who you were after it was told.

The workbook is broken down in to finding your voice, finding the true you, hunting for memory, navigating your world, using photographs to job memory or inspire, and many other topics.  I love how the exercises help you tease out details for your writing, and by the end of the workbook, you should be prepared to tackle that memoir or other work you’re looking to finish.  Always remember that the truth matters and that your memoir is not just about you!  Very sage advice.

If you’re looking for a workbook full of exercises to get you thinking outside the box, Tell the Truth. Make It Matter.: A Memoir Writing Workbook by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit, is the one, especially if you’re writing a memoir.  Using your imagination, you could also adapt the exercises to suit your fiction writing needs or just get writing in general, if you’re a little rusty.  Kephart has done it again.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Beth Kephart is the author of twenty-two books, publishing memoir, young adult literature, a corporate fairytale, an autobiography of a river, and an essay/photography collection.

Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir (Gotham), based in part on Kephart’s teaching at Penn (where she won the 2015 Beltran Teaching Award), won the 2013 Books for a Better Life Award (Motivational Category), was featured as a top writing book by O Magazine, and was named a Best Writing Book by Poets and Writers. Small Damages (Philomel) was named a 2013 Carolyn W. Field Honor Book and a best book of the year by many publications. Going Over (Chronicle) was the 2014 Parents’ Choice, Gold Medal Winner/Historical Fiction and a Booklist Editor’s Choice. One Thing Stolen (Chronicle) was a 2015 Parents’ Choice Gold Medal winner. Kephart’s 2014 Shebooks e-memoir is Nest. Flight. Sky.: On Love and Loss One Wing at a Time. Her 2013 middle grade historical novel, Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent (Temple University Press), was named a top book of the year by Kirkus.

Kephart is a National Book Award nominee and a winner of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Leeway grant, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and the Speakeasy Poetry Prize. She writes a monthly column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, is a frequent contributor to the Chicago Tribune, has given keynote addresses on the state of literature and teaching, and served as a judge for the National Book Awards, the National Endowment for the Arts, and PEN. 

Kephart was one of 50 Philadelphia writers chosen for the year-long Philadelphia’s Literary Legacy, exhibited at the Philadelphia International Airport. Excerpts from her Love: A Philadelphia Affair were the subject of a six-month Airport exhibit. She is a Radnor High Hall of Fame.

Kephart’s most recent book—This Is the Story of You—was published by Chronicle and is a Junior Library Guild and Scholastic Book Club selection, on the 2017 TAYSHAS list, a VOYA Perfect Ten, and a Top Ten New Jersey Book.

Kephart will release two middle grade books with Caitlyn Dlouhy of Atheneum/Simon & Schuster. She is the co-founder of Juncture Workshops, offering memoir workshops and resources to writers across the country.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Source: Public Library
Audio, 3 CDs
Hardcover, 152 pgs.
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Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which was our May book club selection, is a no-holds-barred look at the construct of race in America.  Through letters to his 15-year-old son, Coates attempts to demonstrate how his views on race changed over time, from the hard streets of Baltimore where posturing and violence against other blacks was expected to the intellectual and spiritual questioning he experienced at Howard University.

I first listened to the audio as read by Coates, but it became clear to me that I was missing some of what he was saying.  My second read in print was much more in-depth, allowing me the additional time to reflect on what I had read as I went along and re-read certain passages.

This is not a book providing solutions to a son or the world, but it is a call to action.  It’s a plea for everyone to be more mindful of our actions and the societal norms that allow certain people to do even the most mundane things without fear, such as listening to their music loud.  What’s most prominent here is the failure of our education system to help those who need it most and to raise up those heroes in all communities, regardless of the violence they met or didn’t meet head on.  While we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., there is often little talk about the violence endured by those in the civil rights movement and the perpetrators of that violence who were allowed to get away with it.

“America believes itself exceptional, the greatest and noblest nation ever to exist, a lone champion standing between the white city of democracy and the terrorists, despots, barbarians, and other enemies of civilization.”

Like Coates discusses, the American myth of exceptionalism does not allow for mistakes, though many were made in the birth of this nation, from the reliance and continued use of slaves to the ravaging of entire Native American populations in the name of progress.  Becoming successful through struggle, however, should not be taken so far as to mean we purposefully make it harder for certain groups to achieve success of any kind and that we have the right to bulldoze others in order to achieve a goal.

While Coates is very negative toward the world (and has a right to be), this book should probably be read in spurts so readers have time to sit with what each letter is and how it plays out on the whole.  Reading it in one sitting without time for reflection can become a heavy endeavor, as any great work that requires empathy can do.  Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates explores one man’s individual struggle growing up black in America against the backdrop of an America that continues to bury its dark past and make excuses for the perpetual prioritization of perceived “safety” above justice in which all are held to the same standards.

**My one qualm with the style is that it seems very academic, which may limit its audience and that would be sad because more ‘Dreamers’ need to wake up.**

RATING: Quatrain

What the book club thought:

Most of the book club found the biographical parts of the book the most interesting.  Some suggested that his arguments vacillated from one side to the other over the course of the book, and often got muddled with internal arguments that he seemed to have with himself.  There was a debate about the point of the book and whether it was supposed to be solutions provided by the end.  There didn’t seem to be any solutions presented.  There were debates about whether he focused too much of the text on anger toward the police and whites, while others thought some of the examples may not have been the best ones to prove his points about racism.  Many agreed that the book was eye-opening if not well organized.

About the Author:

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a senior editor for The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues for TheAtlantic.com and the magazine. He is the author of the 2008 memoir The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood. His book Between the World and Me, released in 2015, won the National Book Award for Nonfiction. Coates received the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” in 2015.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017