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review 2016-02-22 00:58
"Billy's Booger: A memoir (sorta)" By: William Joyce and his younger self
Billy's Booger - William Joyce,Moonbot,William Joyce

This book could be used to teach biographies and Memoirs. After reading the class could discuss why this is a biography. Students could write their own biography. 

This book could also be used to encourage creative writing. The class could focus on the story from William's younger self to show students that anyone can be a writer. 

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review 2014-03-01 20:34
Voices from a War Zone
Gaza Writes Back (#1) - Refaat Alareer

Fiction can reveal truths that are difficult to face directly. That’s the case with Gaza Writes Back, Refaat Alareer’s stunning and sobering collection of short fiction by young-adult Palestinian writers. The twenty-three pieces in this collection offer fictional yet hyperreal experiences during the Gaza War, also known as the Cast Lead Operation. While no two stories are exactly the same, they all carry a palpable sense of urgency and expose a violent, terroristic world that few of us have seen so clearly before.


Alareer, a literature and creative-writing professor at the Islamic University-Gaza, has selected these stories as much for their unique voice as for the particular place and time they illuminate. All are originally written in English, though their authors’ first language is Arabic. This allows a “much-needed Palestinian youth narrative without the mediation or influences of translation or of non-Palestinian voices,” writes Alareer in his introductory notes.


The pieces themselves are short. A few entries are only three pages long. The spare format reflects the urgency of day-to-day life during the Gaza War, when one bomb blast could change a family’s fate in a second. There’s no time to explain it all, so we drop into people’s lives mid-flow and experience the disruptions of war along with them. One minute, a child watches a football match in the street, and the next all he can see is smoke, blood, and his neighbors running for shelter.


The writers are a talented lot, most of them current or former graduate students who worked with Alareer. But the editor’s own contributions rise above the other slice-of-life vignettes to become thought-provoking, allegorical lessons in human nature. In “House,” for instance, we are privy to a twisted psychological power struggle between the occupiers and the occupied. Similarly, in “The Old Man and the Stone,” Alareer uses symbols to show the strengths and weaknesses of knowledge, innocence, and faith. These more complex pieces stand out as stories you will want to read again, to yourself and to others.


Gaza Writes Back is not an easy book to read, but it effectively shines light on the effects of war on the civilians caught in the crossfire. Readers will come away with a deeper understanding of Middle East politics and the mind-set of the latest generation to live amidst the ongoing struggles there.


Sheila M. Trask for Foreword Magazine
February 27, 2014

Source: www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/gaza-writes-back
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review 2013-07-27 00:00
The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers - John Gardner
In The Art of Fiction, John Gardner explains what it takes for a writer to create great fiction; it takes lots of hard work, advice that is more helpful than reading manuals that set unrealistic expectations through vacuous cheer leading. On a practical note, Gardner describes common mistakes and advises the writer on how to avoid them. I was able to understand through Gardner's examples several mistaken tendencies in my writing.

Some of his lessons are now standard knowledge, such as show, don't tell—but also included are statements that I believe need to be shouted louder, such as avoid sentimentality.

I loved Gardner's explanation that a writer creates a fictional world and must assist the reader in the Vivid and Continuous Dream, which means the uninhibited and uninterrupted experience of it. He discusses prose that disrupts the dream, such as accidental and inappropriate rhymes, inconsistent diction, overloaded sentences, and shifts in psychic distance.

While Gardner emphasizes natural talent and instinct, he provides practical techniques, examples, and exercises that are certainly useful.

I noted terms Gardner used, such as psychic distance ("the distance between the narrative and mind, heart, and body of the pov character.") and profluence ("a requirement best satisfied by a sequence of causally related events, a sequence that can end in only one of two ways: in resolution … or in logical exhaustion."). Understanding new concepts allows them to influence my own writing.

Also interesting was the discussion on what voice should be used for Tales, Yarns, and Realistic stories, and the differences between them.

Gardner states that the serious writer should mind the effect their work will have on the reader. Even if the novel is grim, it shouldn't leave the reader feeling depressed or hopeless. Since my latest novel is darker than my previous two, I need to find some uplift at the end.

Surprisingly, Gardner doesn't like the third person limited POV. He advocated use of the omniscient POV.
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review 2011-07-13 00:00
Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries Of The Holocaust - Alexandra Zapruder Diaries are useful, but in some ways they are so double edged. A prime example of this would be Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. For many students, it is an introduction to WW II. It allows young children an entry way in to a subject that is both difficult and painful. Yet, as several critics have pointed out, the diary is limited because it presents, usually, one point of view. Therefore, Frank's Diary presents a rather limited view of one person in hiding. This collection amends that. Frank is mentioned, but her diary isn't included. Zapruder includes a diaries from a wide variety of social classes, areas, and ages. Both boys and girls are included here.These diaries chronicle not only the experience of those in the ghettoes, but also of those in various types of camps. One gets the experience of the regular, Ghetto dweller and the ghetto elite. Some of the stories end in tragedy, others live. Particularly moving are when writers are wondering about the fate of loved ones, loved ones who in many cases died. In the case of the surviors, there is a sense of finality that comes. Sometimes in a tragic sense and sometimes with a sense of hope. There is something very haunting about entry written two years after the war, where the diariest notes that her brother has still not returned.I do wish that some of the photos and sketches mention had been reprinted in the book.
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