Monday, July 06, 2009

summer reading update

I am taking a grad course in YA Lit for library school this month. We have to read 24 YA novels chosen from the ones referenced in the textbook: Nilsen, Alleen Pace and Kenneth L. Donelson. Literature for Today’s Young Adults. 8th ed. New York: Longman, 2009. We also have to read another textbook, several articles, write a couple papers, compile a YA library with a $3000 budget, and do a "webliography" listing 5 websites of interest to teens.

We are expected to immerse ourselves in teen pop culture, including TV, movies, music, etc. I am afraid I don't watch much TV or listen to the latest popular music, so I need some help here. What's hot with teens these days?

I guess with all this reading, writing & surfing that I will be doing I won't have much time to blog. I am going to do short updates on the books I'm reading for the course. Here's what I have read in the past week:

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. My favorite parts are early in her solitary experience on the South Pacific island. First when she tries to leave the island, paddling out East into the ocean in an old canoe she found, in an attempt to join the rest of her people who have left her alone on the island. The canoe has a split and starts to leak so she turns around and goes back and just barely makes it home. I can see this happening to me, only I wouldn't have the sense to turn around and go back. After paddling for a day and a night I would be too stubborn to give up and I'd probably end up swimming with the fishes. My other favorite part is when she shoots the pack leader of the wild dogs with her self-made bow and arrow, then tracks him down and finds him almost dead. Instead of finishing off her enemy (who was responsible for the wild dog pack killing her little brother) she takes him home and nurses him back to life, making him her best friend. That is a miracle of grace, and one of the really beautiful turns in the book. What part do you remember moving you especially?

The Land by Mildred A. Taylor. I hadn't read this 2001 prequel to her Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Logan family series before. I really liked it. It tells the story of Paul, a young man living on his white father's post-Civil War land in his Black mother's house. Paul is treated well and given many of the benefits his white brothers receive, up until he becomes a teenager and his father decides he needs to learn that being Black means he doesn't really live in the same world as the white family members. Angered and humiliated, Paul leaves his father's land with his best friend, a Black teenager. The two have many adventures before settling down on their own piece of land. Very interesting to see the Reconstruction period through the eyes of a mixed teen who identifies as Black although he looks white enough to pass. Taylor tells us in the Author's Note that this is the real story of her own family, heard from her father, uncles and grandfather. I'd love to go directly to reading Roll of Thunder and all the rest of her books, if only I didn't have so much assigned reading.

Day of Tears by Julius Lester. This is the story of families devastated and torn apart by one day's slave auction in Savannah, Georgia in 1859. Lester draws on historical documents to give us a picture of the largest slave auction in US history, This novel is told in first person accounts from different perspectives of both white and black family members. The characters are complex, revealing mixed motives, emotions, and coping strategies. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to live through such horror, this book takes you there. It's disturbing, heartbreaking and riveting. Lester is a master storyteller and one of my all time favorite authors. I highly recommend this book.

I'm keeping a list of the 24 novels for this course on a Goodreads bookshelf here. Please feel free to comment if there are books you've read or wondered about...


vbonnie said...

Great idea! I kind of stopped the blog I had begun for our 532 class last fall...think I'll start it up again! I'll let you know what I select to read! Island of the Blue Dophins is definitely a good one, classic even!

Andromeda Jazmon said...

Thanks! I think it will help me keep track of what I read for the class if I blog the books here. I am wishing I could read more brand new books though. What the kids in my school are excited about instead of what I read in school... But a lot of them are not mentioned in the textbook we have to reference.

El said...

Are you familiar with Ypulse? It is a website that focuses on the latest news in relation to youth marketing trends. I get their daily Rss Feed. This might help you with exposure to trends in teen culture. You can find it at

Pauline Fisk said...

I'm new to blogging and have just come across your site. I notice that we have a number of interests in common, not least that I'm a writer of novels for young adults, and my latest book, about gap year volunteering in Belize, covers issues of diversity which may be of interest to you. Do look it up on my website, It was published a year ago in the UK by Faber & Faber. Since then I've been into schools and libraries all over the country talking about rainforests, Belize and what it's like to be in a country where different races and cultures live side by side and get on with each other.

On the subject of your writers' course, I was interested in what you said about being expected to immerse ourselves in teen pop culture, including TV, movies, music, etc. I know that was a couple of years ago now for you, but how did that work? I also don't watch much TV [I prefer weaving in my spare time] and I've never particular subscribed to the idea that you need to immerse yourself into particular cultures in order to write, preferring to reach BEYOND cultures to find the person inside who- whatever their circumstances - probably isn't that different to me. We're all the same under the veneer of black, white, young, old, male, female etc.

I'd be interested to know what you think. If you get to read this, of course. I realise that this post of your was written quite a while ago!