I read this last night while crying. Like Book One, Lewis doesn't shy away from difficult historical moments and this book, which is roughly double thI read this last night while crying. Like Book One, Lewis doesn't shy away from difficult historical moments and this book, which is roughly double the length of Book One, emphasizes the violence, hatred, and brutality of Jim Crow America. It still flashes back and forth from the 2009 inauguration (happy tears!) to the early 1960s, as Lewis recalls his time as a Freedom Rider (horrified tears!), an organizer for the 1963 March on Washington, and SNCC organizer.
This is a great historical primer for people unfamiliar with Jim Crow, the Kennedys' conflicted views of civil rights, the Freedom Ride, the March on Washington, SNCC, and nonviolence. Lewis devotes pages to A. Philip Randolph (a completely unsung hero of Civil Rights) and Malcolm X, as well as explain who major figures are--Fred Shuttlesworth (another unsung and largely overshadowed leader), Stokely Carmichael, James Farmer, Diane Nash, Bull Connor, and George "Segregation Forever" Wallace, in particular.
Lewis doesn't shy away from recognizing the internal conflicts, especially with Carmichael, who chafed against the nonviolent doctrine (of course, we know he'll leave SNCC and become a major figure in the Black Power movement in a few short years...), and those who wanted SNCC to be all-Black. Lewis briefly shows how figures like Farmer and King were not always as beloved as they have perhaps been remembered. There were two truly heartbreaking moments--when Lewis recounts the March in August 1963, he writes that he's the only speaker "still around." (So much sobbing!) And, he ends on a "cliffhanger" (I guess it's a cliffhanger if you don't know why Sept. 15, 1963 is important to American history). Tears again! I'm very much looking forward to the concluding book.
Two final points: first, Lewis' story is SO IMPORTANT for a number of reasons. Too many of these names, dates, events, places, and moments have been forgotten or overshadowed by flashier, more well-known figures of the movement (*cough* King *cough*), and, especially in the 21st century as we as a nation grow ever-further from King's "Dream," that these recollections be shared. African American Studies, especially the 1960s, is "my" area of expertise and scholarship, and I am constantly shocked that students and adults don't know the struggle. And, even more depressingly, the number whose only knowledge of Civil Rights is Rosa Parks and MLK. I'm so glad Lewis is sharing his story while he can.
Second: this book reminds me of Bill Clinton's reminder that "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what is right with America." Book Two seems to be a manifestation of that. The horror of setting dogs on teenagers and children; the despair of Jim Crow; the hypocrisy of local, state, and national figures (including the dearly-departed Kennedy brothers) in handling issues of race; the sheer injustice of "laws" that protected racism and racist ideology--all that would almost be too much to read. However, balancing it with the bravery, courage, and the inauguration reminds me, anyway, that our country can evolve and be better. It's not enough, but it's a start. GO READ THIS!...more
I really, really enjoyed this book--4.5 stars would be more accurate. So. Much. Commentary here about history (I LOVE books where the English teacherI really, really enjoyed this book--4.5 stars would be more accurate. So. Much. Commentary here about history (I LOVE books where the English teacher is the hero and the jocks/gym teachers are the dunces), the way we behave around people society has labeled Other, the power of language and writing, the tragic and unrelentingly heteronormative way males feel they must behave, the tragic nature of our teen years...this book had humor (a few laugh-out-loud moments even!), sadness, joy, and Koningsberg (who I've never read before) allows us inside the head of these characters in a way my favorite male YA author, David Levithan, doesn't (although, he shares Levithan's propensity for writing caricaturized teen girls with annoying habits and sayings no one in real life would imitate)--we are literally in the locker room with our male characters, seeing, hearing, and feeling what they're feeling.
It's truly a sign that I'm getting older when I'm relating more to the adult characters than the teens...I adored the writing teacher, Mr. Scarborough, and literally have had same or similar conversations with my own students! Ha! But, Rafe is a likeable character, even when doing things we as readers know will turn out badly we root for him. He's a more layered, nuanced YA character than many--a gay jock/nerd hybrid, who's looking for what we all are--friendship, love, someone to accept us, a group to belong to, and ultimately, self-acceptance. But, Konigsberg's genius comes from his cleverly-integrated use of terms like "queergender" and "hetereonormative" and "lenses" (particularly brilliantly used in relation to race AND orientation), showing readers that while some aspects of life, like those listed above, transcend race, gender, class, and orientation, there are certain burdens? differences? that POC and the LGBTQ+ communities have to deal with. Trying to pretend those differences away, like Rafe does, leads to trouble for all involved.
I'd love to teach this book sometime. There's a lot of complexity here; a lot to discuss, and I look forward to reading other novels by this author....more
I like Dunham, her show, and this book, and it was amusing to read about experiences that have made it into Girls--3 1/2 stars would be more accurate.
I like Dunham, her show, and this book, and it was amusing to read about experiences that have made it into Girls--which is her prerogative.
Is it the best book of the year? Not even close. It's not even a great memoir. What makes this compelling is the honesty and reflective nature of her chapters, which are brief and quickly readable. She does acknowledge, albeit briefly and indirectly, her privileged upbringing; she's certainly a product of her generation, with her belief that she was special and different from her peers; and she is honest about her flaws, which range from her inability to stick to a diet to not being a good student to her poor work ethic.
What I loved is how much I could relate to this. The awkward hook ups, the tenuous friendships, the desperate desire to feel a connection to someone, something, someplace, and the need to feel important and what you're doing is worthwhile. (Also: her use of 2nd person did grate on me after a while.) A few lines made me laugh out loud, and I respect and appreciate her cultural references, which are many, and range from the obvious to the obscure.
If you don't like her or her show, don't read the book. There's not anything here that's earth-shattering, or that will likely change your opinion of her one way or the other. But, it's always reassuring to know that others have experienced the same or similar feelings, moments, and events as you, so you're not alone.
Beautiful illustrations help readers understand the difficult upbringing Washington endured, and his quest to become literate and educated. Asim incluBeautiful illustrations help readers understand the difficult upbringing Washington endured, and his quest to become literate and educated. Asim includes a biography that doesn't overlook Washington's now-controversial views and status as, Du Bois coined, the "Great Accommodator." A good addition to libraries' inclusive collections....more
A beautiful story about home, family, language, finding one's self--this is how historical YA is done well. Historical reference ground the story in tA beautiful story about home, family, language, finding one's self--this is how historical YA is done well. Historical reference ground the story in time--"Each morning the radio comes on at seven o'clock. / Sometimes Michael Jackson is singing that A-B-C is as easy as 1-2-3 / or Sly and the Family Stone are thanking us for / letting them / be themselves" (262), for example.
Woodson's gift is in her showing us, not telling us. The free verse style of this book might scare some readers away, but I'd recommend this for readers who perhaps want a challenge. Though this is a memoir, many of the tales are universal--stories of sibling rivalry, illness, school, family, friendship--those transcend race in this book. Another great book by Jacqueline Woodson....more