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review 2019-09-04 23:49
'We Were Eight Years in Power' is an eye-opening set of essays written during Obama's presidency; it's practically required reading on the subject of racism in the United States
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy - Ta-Nehisi Coates

This is an extraordinary book.

It’s a sobering, sometimes difficult read, eye-opening, and enlightening. I had to put it down on many occasions, being constantly reminded of how Obama’s presidency has been followed by Trump’s is depressing enough, but the central focus is on challenging the American racism (and how the current toxic presidency has exposed this malignant state). Coates openly wrestles with his own changing views on the first Black Presidency, and demonstrates how deeply engrained systemic and societal racism infects everything in this country, Obama or no Obama.

‘We Had Eight Years in Power’ is practically required reading.

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/39946134-we-were-eight-years-in-power
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review 2019-08-14 08:05
This YA novel about one night of riots and chaos is a powerful, quick read and is destined for lots of conversation and classrooms
I’m Not Dying With You Tonight - Gilly Segal,Kimberly Jones

‘I’m Not Dying With You Tonight’ is a powerful, quick read destined for lots of conversation and many classrooms and library bookshelves.

 

Following two young girls, thrown together by a high school football game that deteriorates into chaos and a night of city rioting, this YA novel addresses issues of race and class and reflects the fragile state of the domestic climate right now.

Lena, a popular black student, and Campbell, a white teen new to town, who knows no one and is unsure of herself, live in the same world, but seemingly come from different worlds. The book is set over one single night, really over several hours, and that’s what it took me to read this captivating book.

 

Over those few hours, they rely on each other to survive unimaginable circumstances, facing down riot police, looters, vagrants, and gunfire. The perspective shifts back and forth between the two characters throughout and the chapters are short, keeping the action moving quickly and the pace fast.

While it may seem as though there's no time to dig deeper into the enormous issues that come up in this book, all revolving around the race relations canon, debut authors Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal have written a relatable novel that can serve as a great jumping-off point for conversation.

When Lena and Campbell have awkward moments that remind them of their (often ill-conceived) preconceptions and assumptions of each other, the subtext taps into the dialogue we are having as a country and also serves to point out how easy and necessary it is for all the walls to come down. The two girls end up being emblematic of how we work through things better when we work together.

 

I expect that others reading this will recognize how it reflects the racial divide in this country (and some shocking recent current events), yet feel the hope that I felt when I read it. I honestly raced through this, it placed me right in the action myself; it's a poignant read for teens or anyone who needs to have a quick reexamination of their thinking about how we are all judging each other.

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/43352274
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review 2019-05-23 17:56
Outstanding LGBTQ novel encompassing immigration, grief, PTSD, and has a sci-fi twist; this debut is an easy 5-star
The Grief Keeper - Alexandra Villasante

I can already say that this will be on my list as one of my top and most impactful reads of the year (and it’s only May). I’ve not read too many books lately that can bring me to shed both happy and sad tears, as well as make me drop my jaw, and cause me to put the book down for moments so I could collect my thoughts. And although the title would suggest that ‘The Grief Keeper’ is filled with sadness, it also brings with it a bright message of love and hope.

 

The novel opens with seventeen-year old Marisol being interviewed in a federal border detention center, having just crossed into the U.S., after fleeing El Salvador with her younger sister Gabi, afraid for their lives after the death of their brother Pablo. She has dreamed for years for a life in the States, perfecting her English, and getting lost in the imaginary world of her favorite TV show ‘Cedar Hollow.’ When it looks like her asylum request will be denied, and a new and curious opportunity to have it granted arises, Marisol will do just about anything for her and her sister to make that happen. And that’s by becoming a ‘grief keeper.’

 

Debut author Alexandra Villasante has written an expertly crafted novel about the complexities of immigration, grief, sexual orientation, PTSD, depression, and, new love. There are even more nuanced topics woven in  such as attitudes towards immigrants (legal and otherwise) being hired to do menial jobs in this country, our political climate, and how the LGBTQ community suffers in other countries (ie which would cause a young girl like Marisol to flee her home).

This story gives so many deep, complex topics to talk and think about but at the core there is this beautiful story about Marisol and Rey (grieving her own brother) who are discovering their relationship with each other, including Marisol who would never have been allowed to explore this part of her back in the country she has fled. Persecution of LGBTQ youth and ‘conversion by rape’ is brought into the spotlight and from this story of family and migration, I was enlightened and educated.

 

This is a novel about connections as well as grief, and Villasante sheds light on PTSD, and gives new meaning to the idea of taking someone else’s pain away so they don’t have to suffer. There are serious moral and ethical questions to the procedure that’s used so that Marisol will absorb Rey’s grief and pain (this actually brings quite a futuristic aspect to a very realistic story, which I really liked) and shows the extent that Marisol will go to gain entry to the U.S., and it’s heartbreaking.

 

I read this book and I felt so many different emotions, and the very fact that it’s able to envelope immigration criticism, discussion on sexual identity, loss, classism, plus a loving sister relationship, AND a sci-fi twist, make it a VERY special book. I think it belongs on every school and YA library shelf everywhere and I hope many people will pick it up, even if it’s initially because of the insanely gorgeous cover (thanks to Kaethe Butcher and Kelley Brady), and that they end up holding it close to their hearts.

 

*Trigger warnings/mentions: sexual assault, suicidal ideation, violence, bombing, PTSD

 

RELEASE DATE: 6.11.19

 

 

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/34522727-the-grief-keeper
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review 2019-02-12 03:52
Compulsive read about Trump and his journey to the White House, with copious research and a no-nonsense approach: a must-read
Unpresidented - Martha Brockenbrough

This biography of Donald Trump is as captivating as it is disturbing, and not surprisingly because sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. Many readers picking up this book will already have heard or read the countless stories and news items about the current President, but to see Trump’s story on paper, told in linear form, and with 54 pages of references and endnotes, it’s hard to deny just how bizarre and mind-boggling it all is. 

 

From the Trump family’s beginnings in America, all the way up to the middle of 2018, Martha Brockenbrough has painstakingly pieced together a biography that is hard to put down. Written with a young adult audience in mind, the tone and language is one that is pragmatic and clear for any reader, with care taken to keep out any opinion on the matters at hand (which I expect was difficult). 

The more recent events following Trump’s inauguration are pretty familiar to me, but I found the section dealing with his numerous bankruptcies and his past financial deals to be most fascinating (and pretty horrifying). The summary of all the ‘players’ in Trump’s life and administration with Russian connections is nicely laid out, as well as a complete family tree, and bold-typed quotes and tweets to capture your attention (like everything he does). It’s easy to forget how very many shocking things Trump has said and done in the last few years of him constantly in the spotlight, but when they are right there on the page, the moments of frightful truth come flooding back. The public has been bombarded with all of this for so long now that it’s hard to keep track of it all, but Brockenbrough has done brilliantly in her documentation and presentation. 

 

I can’t help but wish more people had read such research before they voted, because surely (aside from his frighteningly loyal fan base) his ‘huge’ win in 2016 wouldn’t have been as likely. I desperately hope author Martha Brockenbrough continues this saga in a second book, because the next piece involving the Mueller investigation looks like it’s about to get very interesting.

A must for any school or home library that needs a concise (and compulsive) read about Donald Trump and his journey to the White House, spray tan and all. 

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863338-unpresidented
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review 2019-01-24 09:03
A heart-wrenching read about one girl’s experience inside an institution as mental illness takes over; Sheinmel brings attention to the stigma around the issue in this important book
A Danger to Herself and Others - Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Hannah Gold has been ‘wrongly institutionalized’, for something that was obviously an accident; her best friend Agnes took a horrific fall (pushed?), ending up in the ICU, her life forever changed. But Hannah’s life is forever changed too, she has been sent away to languish in an institution, missing valuable time before school starts, being evaluated at a judge’s order by a doctor, and with nothing but time to figure out how to get herself out of there.

Hannah has been deemed ‘a danger to herself and others’.

 

The novel starts with Hannah just arriving at ‘the institute’ and the book follows her entire experience there, told in first-person and very much as though it’s comes from deep within Hannah’s complex, non-stop brain. All her anxieties and questions spill out constantly, her thinking is erratic, and she darts back and forth from the present and past as she tries to make sense of what is happening. She is highly intelligent so she knows that if she make friends and gets certain people on her side, maybe she can gain privileges and shorten her stay. Her roommate Lucy understands her, and it seems Dr. Lightfoot is going along with her plan.

This starts out feeling like a thriller, but we gradually are caught up in Hannah’s convoluted thought-processes, and it’s a novel about what it looks like when a young girl’s mental illness takes over and how her unraveling takes hold, even when she thinks she is in control. 

 

This book is one of the most artfully brilliant books written with regards to what mental illness can look like, and I really felt gripped by every page because of it. Author Alyssa Sheinmel has done more than write a YA novel, she has written an experience on paper. People fear mental illness, and right they should. It’s scary. 

I read this book and at times I felt like I was losing grasp of things just like Hannah was. And I have also been in that place myself before. Not to the same extent but I’ve been through my own personal trials that have led me to therapy, to panic attacks, to struggle with depression, anxiety, self-harm and twice (many years ago now) having a stay at the hospital (at my choice) after traumatic events. It’s frightening to feel like your mind is not your own, and to feel like you need help. In Hannah’s case, she doesn’t even realize it. And then she becomes A Danger to Herself and Others.

 

Mental illness has SUCH a stigma to it and it needs to change so that people will reach out to get HELP, offer help, and make help more available. People need to be able to talk about it and not turn away. Sufferers shouldn’t be getting more ill or even dying because they can’t or won’t get help. HELP shouldn’t be a dirty word. Mental health treatment is also woefully expensive in this country and often not covered by insurance.

Sheinmel is right to not even put a specific name on the illness that Hannah suffers from because at the end of the day, does it really matter? If she had done that with this story, her character, with all her flaws as well as her wonderful attributes, would have been reduced to her diagnosis. Which is what we tend to do once we know what people are suffering from. We tend to forget that they are people (like Hannah), not statistics or names of illnesses. 

 

This is a thought-provoking, heart-wrenching read, and it will surprise you as much as it will keep you guessing. It left me with tears in my eyes and I hope that this will encourage more understanding and compassion for those affected by mental illness. 

 

*I gratefully received this ARC as part of Miss Print’s ARC Adoption Program. Thank you!

 

 A Danger to Herself and Others will be published on 2.5.19 by Sourcebooks.

 

 

 

**If you or a loved one needs help for mental illness, or you just want more information about mental health, contact NAMI, the National Alliance for Mental Illness.

 

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/39986808-a-danger-to-herself-and-others
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