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Summer Reading with My 3 Nieces: The Hate U Give, Into the Wild, and Everything, Everything (and Read Harder Task 10)

11 Aug

In my last post I wrote about recommending books to my eldest niece for her summer reading assignment. This gave me the idea to assign myself the same books she and her two sisters are reading this summer so we can discuss them. This is the first post of that series.

Aimee wrote last week in her post about 1000 Books Before Kindergarten about how she enjoys reading with her son, and the importance of parents and caregivers reading to children before they start school. My nieces are all past kindergarten now, but I think it’s important to keep talking to kids about books even after they’ve learned to read independently. My friend Jenny has a whole blog about this idea called Books, Babies, and Bows, where she writes about reading with her daughters that is worth exploring.

My niece read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (my recommendation!) for fiction, and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer for nonfiction.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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This debut novel by Angie Thomas, whose title references rapper Tupac Shakur and is inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, is hands-down one of the best books I have read this year. Sarah reports that she enjoyed this book, too. After finishing it I took to my social media channels to tell everyone to read it. And I am telling you, dear reader of this blog, to read it too. 

Starr Carter is a typical teenager who loves a fresh pair of Jordans, LeBron James, and Harry Potter, and believes she is somehow related to Jay-Z (aka Sean Carter, aka Mr. Beyonce Knowles) because they share a last name. She finds herself in an extraordinary situation after witnessing her friend Khalil’s murder by a police officer she refers to as One Fifteen. This book follows that aftermath in her gritty community and at her suburban private school interacting with her rather un-woke classmates, including one she considered a close friend.

I was more interested in the adults in The Hate U Give. Starr’s parents, Momma and Daddy (proper names Lisa and Maverick), are well-written and multifaceted. They too struggle with staying loyal to their community and their desire to give Starr and her siblings a better life. I will have to ask my niece for her thoughts about Starr’s parents, but they’re the ones I’m still thinking about after finishing the book.

Reading this book completed the Read a Debut Novel task for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, which I am still working on. More about that journey at this link.

The most important lesson that Starr learns in this story is to use her voice, even when it’s hard and scary and the circumstances are not ideal. I hope that is the takeaway for my niece. 

The Hate U Give will become a film. Click here to see which actors will play Starr, her parents, and her older brother Seven. But … please read the book before you see the movie!

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

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Sarah chose this book (which was published in 1996, seven years before she was born!) on her own. I have long heard of it, but hadn’t read it until now. Into the Wild appears on many school summer reading lists (an edition written for a young adult audience exists), and after reading it I understand why. This story includes science, geography, family drama, mystery, human psychology, history, practical information about survival, and even ethnography. Truly, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this book.

After his 1992 graduation from Emory University in Atlanta, Chris McCandless donated his savings to charity and drove to the American West with the goal to reach Alaska. Two years later his emaciated body was found in an abandoned bus used at shelter in the Denali region of Alaska. The book grew from an article that Jon Krakauer wrote for Outside magazine published in January 1993 about McCandless.

The biggest questions about Chris McCandless start with “why”. Why did he start this adventure? Why did he cut off contact with his family, including his sister Carine, to whom he was close? (Carine wrote The Wild Truth, published in 2014, about her and Chris’s life growing up.) Why did he take on the name Alexander Supertramp? Into the Wild explores those questions, with in-depth reporting from Chris’s family and friends and the people he encountered on his journey to Alaska.

Sarah reported that she is reading the adult edition and had trouble understanding the story at the beginning, but she likes it. What I noticed in the book was what my mother calls “ten dollar words”. Some of the language Krakauer used in the book tripped me up! My hope is Sarah remembers those words when she takes the SAT in a few years.

Sean Penn’s film adaptation of the book is remarkable. Emile Hirsch’s performance, especially in the final scenes of the movie, is haunting. Don’t make my mistake of watching this movie before going to sleep.

Sarah also read Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, which she said was an easy read and really good. Now I feel compelled to add this to my bursting summer reading list because I’ve heard lots of good things about, and was recently made into a movie.

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Stay tuned for the next post, where I write about the books my second niece Alyssa (who I wrote about here) read this summer.

How is your summer reading going? If you have young people in your life, do you talk about books with them?

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

Documentaries to Check Out in Honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance

2 Dec

Transgender Day of Remembrance, occurs each year on November 20.  It is a day to memorialize those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia and to bring attention to the continued violence frequently directed toward the transgender community.  It was started by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998.  Rita was a part of the transgender community in Boston where she worked toward education around transgender issues.

Because of this day, the week from the November 14-20 is considered Transgender Awareness Week by GLAAD and other organizations and some groups also celebrate the whole month of November as Transgender Awareness Month.  Below are documentaries Hoboken and other BCCLS patrons can check out any time from Hoopla!

What’s the T?

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The T in LGBT stands for transgender and the award winning documentary, What’s the T? looks at the lives of five women whose lives began as boys.  They are a diverse group including an actress, a student, a dancer, an activist, and a nurse.  The film was shown at numerous film festivals and was praised for capturing the compelling lives of its subjects.

Growing Up Trans

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The PBS documentary Growing Up Trans looks at transgender children and their families who are exploring what it means to grow up being transgender.  It includes an interesting look at how medical advances are allowing them to make the transition before puberty and how this impacts their lives.

Out Late

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On the other side of the age spectrum the documentary Out Late features five people who came out as lesbian, gay, or transgender, after the age of 55. LeAnna, who served in the military as a man, became a woman at age 60.  The documentary looks at why they chose to come out later in life and what being out meant to them.  Those featured come from a diverse cross section of North America including Canada, Florida, and Kansas.

I Am the Queen

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In the Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago, the Vida/Sida Cacica Pageant brings together the Puerto Rican community to celebrate its transgender participants. I Am the Queen follows Bianca, Julissa and Jolizza as they prepare for the pageant. The women share stories of their transition, their relatives’ reactions, and how they find support in the community.

Do you have other documentaries or transgender resources to recommend?  Let us know in our comment section!

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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