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review 2017-05-11 23:14
Good primer but would need supplemental resources.
A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America - Ronald Takaki

This book looks at the history of the United States as told by people who came to the country in search for a better life. It is not strictly about immigrating to the US in itself, but rather why and how they came here and what challenges, successes, prejudices, etc. they encountered while trying to make their way on this land.


It is quite dense (in a good way) in the text of the groups that came (or how they adapted/coped in the case of Native Americans). There is a great deal of ground to cover and obviously it's not possible to do all of them justice. But there is probably a great deal to learn. I knew about the Chinese men who came and their struggles with being unable to bring their wives (in contrast to many of the Chinese women who were brought over and subjected to sexual slavery) but I did not know many of the stories like the Japanese in Hawaii as one example. 


In many ways the book is great in giving us snapshots of various groups, providing historical context that is likely just not taught unless you take a special class or happen to read about it in a book. But as others point out sometimes it can get formulaic (group moves to the United States, is the target of discrimination and struggles/adapts). Which is rather horrible in itself repeating over and over again. The framing device in using Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' and Caliban in particular is quite annoying (since I haven't read this play or watched any adaptation of it I kept wondering why Takaki kept mentioning Caliban/'The Tempest').


But if you liked Howard Zinn's 'A People's History Of The United States' you might like this. It's actually been many MANY years since I've read Zinn's book but as I read I couldn't help but think of that text. Takaki's book would make a good compliment but as mentioned it's a rather thick book.


Some other recommended readings to go along with this (perhaps to expand) would include: 'The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration', 'The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness', 'The Making of Asian America', and 'Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask'. There are probably tons more really great books but those are some I can think of off the cuff. That said, this is a book that you can probably read on its own but you might get more out of it if you have other sources to compliment your reading.

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review 2017-05-11 02:17
Graphic Memoir of Growing up in Iran
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood - Marjane Satrapi,Mattias Ripa,Blake Ferris



Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi's memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.


I love that this is told from Satrapi's point of view. It allows us to see a child's perspective of life during a revolution. There are vast differences between her home life and public life. We see how it feels for her to witness protests, hear her parents' worries, deal with loss, and try to decide who she is in the middle of all of this.


The story is touching and sad and also hopeful. I read this for my grad school multicultural literature class. I just found out that it is also an option for my daughter for summer reading this year. I'm going to encourage her to read it. :)

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review 2017-05-09 04:24
Review: Shadowshaper (Shadowshaper #1) by Daniel Jose Older
Shadowshaper - Daniel José Older

Initial reaction: One of my favorite reads this year so far. I loved this book so much. The MC had a strong voice and the overarching storyline was imaginative and exciting. I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel.

Full review:

I'll admit I saw this book on the shelf at my library and was completely taken by cover lust. If you also want a different experience than reading the physical book, the audio version is wonderfully read by Anika Noni Rose (I ended up purchasing this from Audible because I loved the book so much.)

I think one of the things that I can say off the bat about this book's collective experience was that it was so much fun to read and very imaginative. I haven't read any of Daniel Jose Older's work before this point, but my experience with "Shadowshaper" makes me want to read more. The story revolves around a young woman named Sierra who descends from a long line of "Shadowshapers": those who can magically manipulate the art they create. Sierra's ill grandfather suddenly snaps out of his near comatose state, begging Siera to finish a mural that she notices has come to life and is quickly fading away. She doesn't understand what it means at first, but a rich history and harrowing adventure unfolds as Sierra discovers not only her hidden abilities but a rich and dynamic family history that was kept hidden from her because of the rising conflicts between members of her family. I really enjoyed Sierra's strongly asserted voice and the dynamic characters that I came to know in this book. Even the romantic angles of the story were well-developed and in a dynamic I was rooting for throughout the story. It's the kind of tale that I wish more YA novels had the depth and development to tell. Plus, the multicultural cast, lore and history really sets this book apart from many of its peers.

I'm definitely looking forward to the next book in the series.

Overall score: 4.5/5 stars.

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review 2017-05-04 18:42
Art brings hope, even in war...
Amina: Through My Eyes - Lyn White,J.L. Powers


The debris was her canvas, the detritus of war her personal collection of art materials. And the itch in her fingertips drove her to keep creating, no matter how dangerous it was to do it.

- Chapter 1


She wanted both freedom and safety but she knew that was impossible.

- Chapter 1


Sometimes she forgot the fear, but when she remembered, it was worse than if she'd never forgotten. Because what kind of person could forget that you were living in the middle of a warzone?

- Chapter 8


Amina is 14-years old and she lives in Mogadishu. Her home has been damaged in the war. When her father is arrested and her brother is kidnapped by rebel forces, she is left to provide for her pregnant mother and ailing grandmother.


Amina is a brave girl who feels vulnerable and abandoned. She creates street art to help deal with her feelings and also to encourage people to feel hopeful. I liked Amina's character a lot. She tries her best to be strong, but she is also vulnerable. The story ends on a note of hope even though there is also sadness.


This book is part of the Through My Eyes series that chronicles the lives of children caught up in contemporary conflicts. The themes of courage, determination, and perseverance appear throughout the series. I think young people will enjoy this series and it could help promote empathy and cross-cultural understanding.


Amina isn't preachy, and it gave me an understanding of the conflict in Somalia that I never had before. 

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review 2017-04-22 05:12
Two teenage boys figuring out their identity and their friendship...
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz



This is an amazing book that seems to truly understand the minds of teenage boys trying to navigate life. It appeals to both boys and girls who are trying to figure out their identity and their lives. Dante seems to know who he is from the beginning, but Aristotle (Ari) is constantly worrying about the fact that he doesn't know who he is or what he wants.


Some of the students in my class found Ari's angst to be more than a bit annoying, but I really enjoyed this book. I felt for Ari, even though, at times, I didn't really understand why he was so angry. Dante didn't always understand it either. However, I am certain I was just as confused and confusing as a teenager (especially to my mom). And now, I have my own teenage daughter. Her moods are more than a bit unpredictable and confusing; so now I know what my mother felt like.


I think teens, especially those questioning their sexuality, will enjoy this book.


Recommended to:

Grades 9-12, both boys and girls. 

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