July book round-up

Here’s what I read this month:

How to Survive a Plague by David France

This was a really amazing work about the AIDS crisis which was improved by the author’s insider perspective as someone who lived as a gay journalist and documented the activist movement during the time of the crisis. This is the first hefty non-fiction text I’ve gotten through in quite a while due to the author’s easy and compelling writing style. I did have a bit of a hard time keeping track of the many key players and organizations, and there were a few times I had trouble focusing and understanding the science especially, but overall I really enjoyed reading this book and think it’s valuable for all who don’t know about the AIDS crisis, the activists whose actions saved so many lives, and the ways the government failed America’s gay community during that time.

Genuine Fraud (ARC) by E. Lockhart

I was sadly disappointed with this one, after being so impressed with Lockhart’s previous pseudo-mystery We Were Liars. This story, told in reverse chronological order so that it starts with a mysterious girl with a stolen identity on the run, just lacked the mystery that the aforementioned novel had, and it felt like many pieces were picked up along the way but not quite tied together well at the end.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

What a beautiful novel about a young girl during the 1930s who goes from living a privileged life as the daughter of a ranch-owner in Mexico to becoming a poor American immigrant, working on a dust bowl-era farm and experiencing prejudice and bias for the first time. The characterization of Esperanza as a spoiled rich girl felt slightly overly simplistic, especially in the beginning, but I really warmed to her and her story by the end as she started to become more empathetic to others. Overall, a wonderful, unique, and historically informative read.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (ARC) by Erika L. Sanchez

I had mixed feelings about this novel, which was billed to me at ALA as appealing for fans of Jane the Virgin. While this novel lacked the quirkiness I was hoping for, I was very impressed by the representation in this book, which tackles issues of illegal/undocumented immigration, poverty, life in inner cities and race/class divides, LGBT issues, mental health, and learning to appreciate one’s own culture. While there was something about the writing style that didn’t appeal to me directly, I would recommend this novel and was glad to have read it.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Wow. I actually started this book as an audiobook (full cast recording, unabridged) and made it halfway through before the book was automatically returned to the library. However, this month I got it back and was finally able to finish it! I think I missed something because of the gap and also because I have a harder time paying attention to finer details in audiobook format, which this book absolutely required. Still, I found the concept (people immigrating to America brought their culture and their Gods with them, but the old gods are dying out as people are believing in them less and less) and the many layers of symbolism and exploration of American culture fascinating. Everything didn’t really click for me until the end, so I could see myself returning to this novel one day (though probably the abridged version) to rediscover the things I missed the first time around.

A Midsummer’s Update

Can’t believe summer feels like it’s almost over. Thought I’d give an update on what I’ve been up to this summer.

Interning at the Library of Congress:

I’ve been *so* fortunate this summer to spend the past 8 weeks interning at THE Library. Of Congress!!! I’ve been working with the Educational Outreach team, which does some really amazing and wonderful work creating primary source analysis and engagement resources for teachers, as well as providing plenty of professional development opportunities for educators across the country. See what they do here.

It’s been wonderful working at the Library. As a junior fellow, I’ve had the opportunity to go on amazing tours of the different reading rooms and research centers and other divisions of the library. I’ve learned a ton in a short amount of time, not only about history but about the amazing work Library staff does that I was not even remotely conscious of. My tour of the preservation division today was particularly eye opening.

My particular work has been focused around creating a resource for children visiting the library, as well as providing assistance during our five, week-long, summer teacher conferences. Hopefully I will be able to post more on those things in the future. I am sad that I only have two weeks left working at this amazing place!

My first trip to ALA:

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Yes, this summer I had my first trip to the amazing city of Chicago as well as my first visit to the American Library Association Conference. It was incredibly overwhelming, but wonderful and I am so glad I went. Some highlights:

  • Dr. Carla Hayden’s fabulous conversation with the leaders of 3 major public library systems, which gave me some insights into the ways public librarians should be thinking about their market, their opportunities, and their challenges. Particularly of interest was their discussion around innovative partnerships and collaborations – I think these are vital for success in the public library and it was good to hear that the leaders are thinking about them in new and interesting ways to ensure effectiveness.
  • Ron Chernow’s speech after the ALA awards. I unfortunately did not get to stay for the whole speech, but I was wowed to hear him talk about using the Library of Congress’s resources (there’s clearly a theme to this post) to prove that Grant hand-wrote the draft of his own biography. It was a fascinating story and really demonstrated the value of our archival institutions, as well as the continued relevance of physical materials and physical presence in the library, despite arguments to the contrary.
  • YALSA’s new members orientation. It was a lot of information to take in, but has given me a lot of confidence to proceed with more involvement in ALA and YALSA.
  • Being able to meet new professionals from around the country as well as run into and reconnect with those I already know. As a soon-to-be-grad, networking is vital, but more than that, it’s wonderful to feel that sense of camaraderie and belonging to community of my people.
  • THE FREE BOOKS. I don’t think I need to say more about that.
  • Unexpectedly seeing one of my teen idols, Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, speak about a really cool new comics project that is giving voice to lesser heard audiences and stories – as he describes it, embracing the “weird.” I’m slowly getting into comics now, a lot thanks to the wonderful Gene Luen Yang’s work as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and I am very excited to get my hands on some of the comics in the Young Animal imprint.
  • The city of Chicago. What a magical city – I can’t wait to go back.

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Spring semester book round-up!

Whew… this semester flew by and I really neglected this blog. But, I have been reading a lot this semester! So I thought I’d do a round-up of the best books I’ve read these past three months.

I’ve also been keeping track of the books I’ve been reading as part of my PopSugar Reading Challenge here and on my Goodreads Reading Challenge here!

April:

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds

I actually listened to this one as an audiobook, which was excellent because two different voice actors read the two different main characters’ chapters. It is the story of a young African-American teen who gets beat up by a police officer and becomes a news story and the white teen boy from his high school who sees the fight and must come to terms with his privilege and worldview. This topic is so pressing right now and this title is an excellent introduction for teens into the concept of privilege and race in America because it is very explicit and informative about these concepts, to the point that it was a bit overly didactic for me since I am already aware of these issues. Overall though, I really enjoyed this novel.

In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero

I’ve been watching Jane the Virgin lately and I’m a fan of Orange is the New Black so when I saw Guerrero’s face on the cover and found out that it was a book about another currently relevant and vital to discuss topic – undocumented immigration and deportation – I had to read it. I very much appreciated Diane’s story and the honest way she covered life with undocumented parents, her parents’ deportation and the severe depression that followed for her. The writing was not great, but I was willing to look past that because of how much I enjoyed the story.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl is another one I listened to as an audiobook, and while I didn’t enjoy the main narrator’s voice all that much, I loved that a British author was hired to read the Simon Snow portions – Simon Snow being what appeared to be an intentional Harry Potter rip-off/ode except with vampires. It took me a while to get into and appreciate the main character, Cath, but I came to really enjoy this book, and I am planning on reading this book’s pseudo-sequel: Carry On, a novel devoted entirely to the Simon Snow story.

March:

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Ok I listened to this one as an audiobook too and it was READ BY LIN MANUEL MIRANDA and it was the best thing ever. His narration was authentic and even just talking about it puts his voice back in my head. I loved this story of Aristotle and Dante, two unlikely friends in New Mexico who have a lot about themselves to uncover. It is beautifully written and both Ari and Dante are fully formed, wonderfully inquisitive and introspective teens. Maybe one of my favorite books I’ve read this year.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

This one scared the crap out of me. It is the story of a dystopian future in which San Francisco is hit by a terrorist attack and the United States, and specifically the state of California, which at the beginning of the novel is already pushing the boundaries of spying on and tracking its citizens especially through the school system, turns into a police state, with one teen its main target. Especially under our current administration this book really spooked me and gave me a lot to think about. It also helped me remember that even people I’ve seen as “good guys” have used similar logic of safety over privacy and how quickly that thinking can spin out of control. A must read for the 21st century American.

Burn, Baby Burn by Meg Medina

This novel reminded me how much I love historical fiction and that I don’t read nearly enough of it. The main character in this novel is a Latina girl living in Queens in the 1970s during the time of the Son of Sam murders. The turmoil in New York at this time matches the turmoil in her house and in her mind as her family situation becomes tense and she tries to envision her life beyond high school. I thought the incorporation of the Son of Sam murders as a historical element as well as Medina’s own recollections from growing up in Queens during that time added an authentic and unnerving quality to this novel that made it incredibly enjoyable.

February:

Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings

I was very surprised that I enjoyed this one, because I totally judged it by its cover and its cover screamed to me “200 pages on a topic you’re not really interested in (water sports) with an overly moralistic 90’s arc.” However, I enjoyed this one for two reasons: first, it presented a serious moral conflict and I really empathized with the main character, and two, it was set right by my house in Annapolis and I loved getting to understand a place that is so close to me yet so different from where I live. The main character’s area is much more rural and people in the neighborhood generally seemed poorer than the wealthy yacht-owners I usually see by the docks in Annapolis. It also mentioned the train station my S.O. grew up next to in Frostburg, Maryland, so overall it just gave me this feeling of comfort and familiarity and discussed settings that are not typical in YA literature.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

This novel follows a Chinese-American family in the wake of the discovery that their daughter is found drowned at the bottom of their local lake. Part mystery, part character study, Ng follows the family through their present grief as they try to make sense of their daughters death, while skipping back to different moments in the family’s history to understand how the family unraveled and reveal the secrets each family member keeps from the others. Eventually, the family realizes they knew much less about their ostensibly perfect daughter and sister than they thought. Ng writes beautifully and carefully, weaving together issues of race, sexism, family roles and societal pressures to explore how one family can hide so much just beneath the surface.

 

It’s Monday, what are you reading?

I have a lot of material I want to get read over the next two weeks so I have my fingers crossed for a snow day tomorrow so I can get that done! I’ve been reading a lot in particular for my YA literature class.

What I finished last week: Forever by Judy Blume
– A very exciting premise (promoting healthy teen young adult sexuality) with really unexciting execution.

This week I hope to finish Little Brother by Cory Doctorow and Winter by Marissa Meyer. I also hope to read Heaven by Angela Johnson and, for homework I have to read two graphic novels, which I will pick up tonight. One of the ones I would like to read is American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.

Between this potential snow day tomorrow and my spring break next week (during which I’ll be spending at least 8 hours on a bus!) I should be able to get plenty of reading done!

TBR for the semester – YA lit

This semester I am taking a young adult fiction class and will be reading tons of YA. I haven’t planned out all the titles I will read yet but I wanted to give you a sampling of the titles I already know I will be exploring throughout the semester.

  1. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  2. March by Joh Lewis
  3. Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown
  4. Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings (instructor assigned)
  5. What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell (instructor assigned)
  6. Heaven by Angela Johnson (instructor assigned)
  7. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (instructor assigned)

In addition to this list also need to choose two books from two different genres, one title that focuses on multiculturalism, a graphic novel, and pending my final project topic, a few books all centered around one theme. Please let me know if you have any suggestions! I am looking forward to completing this list and in general leaving this class with a better understanding of the scope of YA lit and how to evaluate and recommend books for different students.

 

PopSugar Reading Challenge 2017

I am committing to the PopSugar Reading Challenge 2017. I will be updating this list throughout the year as I complete items on it.

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The Challenge (24/40)

  1. Recommended by a Librarian: Monster by Walter Dean Myers
  2. Been on Your TBR List Way Too Long: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  3. Book of Letters: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
  4. Audiobook: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  5. Book by a Person of Color: March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
  6. One of the Four Seasons in the Title: The Second Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares
  7. Book That is a Story Within a Story: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  8. Book With Multiple Authors:
  9. Espionage Thriller:
  10. Cat on the Cover: 
  11. By an Author Who Uses a Pseudonym:
  12. Bestseller From a Genre You Don’t Normally Read: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
  13. By or About a Person Who Has a Disability: How to Survive a Plague by David France (many of the people in the book suffered physical and mental disabilities as a result of having HIV/AIDS, I hope that counts).
  14. Book Involving Travel: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  15. Book With A Subtitle: Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels by Scott McCloud
  16. Published in 2017: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
  17. Book Involving a Mythical Creature: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  18. Book You’ve Read Before That Never Fails to Make You Smile: Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
  19. Book About Food: Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  20. Book With Career Advice:
  21. Book From a Nonhuman Perspective:
  22. Steampunk Novel:
  23. Book With a Red Spine: Intimations: Stories by Alexandra Kleeman
  24. Book Set in the Wilderness:
  25. Book You Loved as a Child: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
  26. By an Author From a Country You’ve Never Visited: 
  27. Title That’s a Character’s Name: Winter by Marissa Meyer
  28. Novel Set During Wartime:
  29. Book With an Unreliable Narrator:  Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart
  30. Book With Pictures: Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  31. Book with Main Character Who is a Different Ethnicity From You: Burn, Baby, Burn by Meg Medina
  32. Book About an Interesting Woman:
  33. Book Set in Two Different Time Periods: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne (& J.K. Rowling)
  34. Month or Day of the Week in the Title:
  35. Set in a Hotel: What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
  36. Written By Someone You Admire: Forever by Judy Blume
  37. Book Becoming a Movie in 2017:
  38. Book Set Around a Holiday Other Than Christmas:
  39. 1st Book in a Series You Haven’t Read Before: Heaven by Angela Johnson (Heaven #1) 
  40. A Book You Bought on a Trip:

Advanced (7/12)

  1. Book Recommended by an Author You Love:
  2. Bestseller From 2016: Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
  3. Family Member Term in the Title: I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erica L. Sanchez
  4. Takes Place Over a Character’s Life Span:
  5. About an Immigrant or Refugee: In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero
  6. From a Genre/Subgenre You’ve Never Heard of:
  7. Book With an Eccentric Character: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  8. Book That’s More Than 800 Pages: Winter by Marissa Meyer
  9. Book You Got From a Used Book Sale: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  10. Book That’s Mentioned in Another Book:
  11. Book About a Difficult Topic: Th1rt3en Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  12. Book Based on Mythology: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Setting Goals for the New Year

January 1st has come and gone, but I’ve chosen to take this time that I have off from school to reflect on what I accomplished this past year and decide what I would like to focus on in the upcoming year. Here are some goals I am going to set, both professionally and personally, for this year.

Professional goals:

  1. Attend the American Library Association Conference.
  2. Find a fulfilling summer internship.
  3. Further develop my leadership and management skills through workshops, reading, and classes.
  4. Maintain this blog more regularly.
  5. Hone my skills at program planning and execution via my current internship at a major library.

Personal goals:

  1. Improve my knowledge of current affairs (I’ve gotten a bit lazy since I left journalism school).
  2. Travel more – visit at least one state I’ve never been to before and hopefully one new country.
  3. Recommit to reading in my spare time during the school year.
  4. Go on more dates with my partner (not just dinner at Taco Bell).
  5. Reconnect with friends with whom I have lost touch or only irregularly talk.

Best and worst reads of 2016

I am *so* sorry for disappearing. Here I was thinking that the end of the semester would bring me more time to blog, and instead I have barely had time to think!

I thought I would take a moment and recount some of my favorite and least favorite books I read this year. Without further ado and in no particular order…

The Best:

  1. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  2. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
  4. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  5. The Summer Trilogy by Jenny Han
  6. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library  by Chris Grabenstein
  7. All the Bright Places  by Jennifer Niven
  8. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  9. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  10. Buffering by Hannah Hart

The Worst:

  1. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  2. The Girl on the Train by Patricia Hawkins
  3. Me Before You (and After You) by JoJo Moyes
  4. The Innocent Killer by Michael Griesbach
  5. This is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

November book round-up

I didn’t get to do too much reading this month, but I got through…

Buffering by Hannah Hart

Buffering was my favorite book I read this month and is a well-crafted, beautifully honest memoir by Youtuber Hannah Hart. Hart shares tales of growing up with a mother who suffers from severe mental illness and a father who is a Jehovah’s Witness and becoming a proud gay woman. I was amazed by her honesty in what must have been an incredibly painful book to write, and very grateful that she decided to share her story and what she learned along the way.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I… really was not impressed by this book and that was very disappointing for me. After having checked this title and its sequels out to what feels like every teenager in our neighborhood, I was expecting great things. However, I found the writing and characters to be flat, and certain parts of the plot really dragged. I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t really as impressed as I thought.

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

Read this book if you loved Safran Foer’s other books, love character development, or are interested in a story which incorporates Jewish customs and culture. Don’t read it if you’re put off by extremely graphic language or somewhat meandering messaging. I enjoyed this foray into the lives of a dysfunctional family who felt familiar because of their nuanced dynamic and their location near me in the D.C. area, but I definitely don’t think this is a book for everyone.

Music to help you cope over the holidays

I’ve found that certain songs have really stuck with me recently as I have dealt with the aftermath of the election. I’m sure many of us are going to homes where the situation might be tense, and music has always been a coping mechanism for me, so I thought I would share a few songs in hopes that they might help someone else!

*I will note that while I think most of these songs have somewhat of a hopeful message in them, they also are intended to help relieve anger or frustration as well. Several of them are also explicit. For peppier songs, I would recommend one of Spotify’s excellent “mood” playlists!*

“We Will Fall Together” – Streetlight Manifesto

“So how will we fight? When all we have is logic and love on our side?

“Welcome to the Black Parade” – My Chemical Romance

“We’ll carry on, we’ll carry on, and though you’re broken and defeated, your memory will carry on.”

“Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)” – K’naan (from the Hamilton Mixtape)

I know this is cliche but I would probably just recommend the whole Hamilton soundtrack and mixtape 😉

(Open in Spotify)

“Let’s Not Sh*t Ourselves (To Love and To Be Loved)” – Bright Eyes

“How grateful I was then to be part of the mystery,
to love and to be loved. Let’s just hope that is enough.”

“Alright” – Kendrick Lamar

“Do you hear me, do you feel me, we gon’ be all right.”