Tag Archives: Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

A Librarian Takes on the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Read A Superhero Comic with a Female Lead, Task 3

5 Apr

Last week I promised a post about my next completed task in the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, and here it is!

Click here to read more about my Read Harder adventures. Learn more about Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge at this link. (Look for a post about Task 4 in this space soon.)

Ms. Marvel: No Normal, written by G. Willow Wilson and art by Adrian Alphona

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I chose to read “a superhero comic with a female lead” because my copy of Ms. Marvel: No Normal that I purchased shortly after it was published in 2014 recently turned up. I moved last year and many of my books were donated to Symposia Bookstore on Washington Street, gifted to others, or recycled (the latter was a painful but necessary choice in some cases) but Ms. Marvel made the cut of books I kept. The time was finally right to read it.

While I love graphic novels, I haven’t read many traditional comics from either the Marvel or DC Comics universes. As a kid I had comics about the late 1980s/early 1990s boy band New Kids On the Block (which can be purchased online!), but I don’t think comics purists would consider those legitimate comic books.

With Ms. Marvel I was intrigued by the concept of the heroine being a Muslim-American teenage girl living in Jersey City named Kamala Khan. Lack of diversity is a problem in books, but more effort is being made by publishers to remedy this. Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel is a step in the right direction. Check out the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign for more information on book diversity.

When we meet Kamala, she is a regular teenage girl whose religion prohibits her from eating pork, so she sniffs bacon egg and cheese sandwiches at her local deli while her friends roll their eyes at her. This is the first example of Kamala’s struggle with being part of two distinct but different cultures.

(Tangent: Where is the best bacon egg and cheese in Hoboken? I vote for Black Rail Coffee!)

Back to the topic at hand: The action starts one fateful night when Kamala sneaks out of her house to attend a party at the waterfront, where classmates she wants to be accepted by will be present. She is embarrassed by those classmates and her friend Bruno at the party and flees as a mysterious fog covers Jersey City. Kamala blacks out in the street, interacts with Captain Marvel, Iron Man, and Captain America (some of whom speak Urdu), and then awakens with superpowers.

She uses these powers to save the life of a classmate who is often unkind to her, but runs into trouble at home when her strict parents discover that she snuck out. The rest of the volume is the push and pull between Kamala trying to be a good daughter and friend while learning to harness her new powers and assuming her identity as Ms. Marvel.

I enjoyed the stories, and Kamala’s struggles feel authentic. The art was compelling and I liked the little details, such as the “Coma Chameleon” eye mask and “Nuclear Clean” for sale at the deli. I would purchase both, if those were real products.

My one gripe, as a Jersey City resident, was that the setting doesn’t feel like the real Jersey City. Sure, there were references to Grove Street, as well as a diss about the Greenville neighborhood, but the party at the “waterfront” reminds me more of Liberty State Park. Perhaps the intention wasn’t to topographically depict Jersey City and I am overthinking things. (I do that sometimes, I blame my English degree for training my brain to do that.)

Ms. Marvel was a fun read, and I look forward to reading the next volumes, which are available to borrow from BCCLS libraries. As for my found copy of Ms. Marvel: No Normal, I will pass it on to my comics-loving niece to enjoy.

What are your favorite superhero comics with a female lead? Don’t forget to shout-out your favorite bacon egg and cheese in Hoboken.

-Written by Kerry Weinstein

A Librarian Takes on the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Read A Book About Sports, Task 2

29 Mar

I am excited to report that I am still following the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge! Here I will document the second task I have completed. You can read about what I read for the first task here.

The task at the top of the Read Harder Challenge list is “Read a book about sports.” I was excited to take that one on, as I love good sports writing. I’ve written about the World Champion 1986 New York Mets, and my love for the team, on this blog.

(Yes, I prophesied in that post the Mets would win the World Series in 2016, which didn’t happen. There’s always next year! Baseball season starts again Sunday April 2.)

I planned to read a book about soccer for this particular task. Then I came across Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of the Team that Barnstormed Its Way to Basketball Glory by Lydia Reeder. The jacket copy describes this book as “The Boys in the Boat meets A League of Their Own…”, one of my all-time favorite movies, and the soccer book fell out of favor.

Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of the Team That Barnstormed Its Way to Basketball Glory, by Lydia Reeder

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Dust Bowl Girls is about the Oklahoma Presbyterian College Cardinals girl’s basketball team and their Cinderella 1931-1932 season. The author of the book, Lydia Reeder, is the grandniece of the team’s coach, Sam Babb, and committed the team’s fascinating story to print using interviews with the surviving Cardinals or their descendants and friends, the athletes’ personal scrapbooks where they kept newspaper clippings and other souvenirs, and other sources.

Coach Babb recruited high school girls, many from farms in rural Oklahoma, to play for the OPC Cardinals basketball team with offers of full scholarships. These were amazing opportunities for the girls, as Oklahoma farmers were hit hard by the Great Depression and their families couldn’t afford to send them to college. It was also a tough choice for some of the girls, whose lives were centered around the farm and hadn’t spent much time away from their families.

The stories of the individual Cardinals were interesting to read. Lucille Thurman was 16 when she joined the team and often felt out of her league. Doll Harris was the team captain and a talented basketball player despite her five feet four inch stature. Lera and Vera Dunford were six feet tall, red-haired identical twins and always together. Juanita Park, who went by “Bo-Peep”, served the team as a guard and a driver–her father taught her to drive at age 11.

Dust Bowl Girls is enriched by the history of Oklahoma; depictions of life on a farm; the Great Depression and its impact on the state; and the Native American populations that live in Oklahoma. Durant, where the team was based, is the capital of the Choctaw nation.

I learned a lot about the evolution of basketball, which was a young game in 1931. The matchups were six-on-six, the ball could only be dribbled once and below the knees, and players were fixed to certain sections of the court. It was so different from how I learned to play basketball at the Bayonne PAL, and how basketball is played now.

The book documents the outrage about girls playing basketball, which was seen as a less feminine sport at the time. Some believed that a woman’s uterus would simply fall out of her body as a result of too much jumping. La Homa Lassiter, a member of the Cardinals, asked Coach Babb if playing basketball will make her less of a lady.

The chapters depicting the Cardinals at play are riveting to read, although it can be a little confusing to visualize the game play as the 1930s basketball rules are so different. Reeder captures the tension on the court when the Cardinals are down, and the joy when they win. The Cardinals faced a team that included Babe Didrickson, the most famous female athlete of that time, which were exciting games.

I enjoyed following the Cardinals season, its ups and downs, and learning about these amazing athletes. Seeing how basketball has evolved was fascinating, too. Baseball still has my heart, but I learned so much about basketball in this book.

This completes the second task of my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. My post about he third task will be up soon.

What is your favorite book about sports? Let me know in the comments.

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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