THE BONES OF BIRKA

UNRAVELING THE MYSTERY OF A FEMALE VIKING WARRIOR

A worthwhile account of a provocative find.

A history of Vikings, archaeology, and the assumptions we make, shown through the story of an unexpected discovery.

In 1871, Swedish entomologist Hjalmar Stolpe traveled to the small Baltic Sea island of Björkö seeking fossilized insects trapped in amber. Instead he found the remains of abandoned Viking town Birka. Intrigued, he became a passionate advocate for a new type of archaeology that integrated natural sciences. One of his most significant finds was grave Bj 581, containing skeletons of a human and two horses, weapons, and the remains of splendid clothes, among other things. Stolpe was sure he’d found an important Viking warrior—naturally, he assumed, a man. In 2009, an examination by Swedish archaeology professor Anna Kjellström, whose specialty is osteology, indicated that the bones were likely female. DNA analysis later revealed that the Bj 581 warrior had XX chromosomes. Mystery writer Surrisi covers this compelling story—including how the archaeological world reacted to the news and what gender (including transgender identity) and sex might have meant in the Viking world—in minute detail along with touching upon the history of the Vikings, how we’ve learned about them, and how our understanding has changed over time. Occasionally her prose lacks clarity and the narrative feels adrift; however, her scope and the thoroughness with which she tells the story give readers a very good feel for how scientific research works and how bias impacts investigation.

A worthwhile account of a provocative find. (glossary, discussion questions, resources, source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: April 18, 2023

ISBN: 9781641607063

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

THE NEW QUEER CONSCIENCE

From the Pocket Change Collective series

Small but mighty necessary reading.

A miniature manifesto for radical queer acceptance that weaves together the personal and political.

Eli, a cis gay white Jewish man, uses his own identities and experiences to frame and acknowledge his perspective. In the prologue, Eli compares the global Jewish community to the global queer community, noting, “We don’t always get it right, but the importance of showing up for other Jews has been carved into the DNA of what it means to be Jewish. It is my dream that queer people develop the same ideology—what I like to call a Global Queer Conscience.” He details his own isolating experiences as a queer adolescent in an Orthodox Jewish community and reflects on how he and so many others would have benefitted from a robust and supportive queer community. The rest of the book outlines 10 principles based on the belief that an expectation of mutual care and concern across various other dimensions of identity can be integrated into queer community values. Eli’s prose is clear, straightforward, and powerful. While he makes some choices that may be divisive—for example, using the initialism LGBTQIAA+ which includes “ally”—he always makes clear those are his personal choices and that the language is ever evolving.

Small but mighty necessary reading. (resources) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09368-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

DISCOVERING WES MOORE

Though awkward, this adaptation still makes for a hopeful and inspiring story.

This story, an adaptation for young people of the adult memoir The Other Wes Moore (2008), explores the lives of two young African-American men who share the same name and grew up impoverished on the same inner-city streets but wound up taking completely different paths.

Author Moore grew up with a devoted mother and extended family. After receiving poor grades and falling in with a bad crowd, his family pooled their limited finances to send him to Valley Forge Military Academy, where he found positive role models and became a Corps commander and star athlete. After earning an undergraduate degree, Wes attended Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. When the author read about the conviction of another Wes Moore for armed robbery and killing a police officer, he wanted to find out how two youths growing up at the same time in the same place could take such divergent paths. The author learns that the other Wes never had the extensive family support, the influential mentors or the lucky breaks he enjoyed. Unfortunately, the other Wes Moore is not introduced until over two-thirds of the way through the narrative. The story of the other Wes is heavily truncated and rushed, as is the author's conclusion, in which he argues earnestly and convincingly that young people can overcome the obstacles in their lives when they make the right choices and accept the support of caring adults.

Though awkward, this adaptation still makes for a hopeful and inspiring story. (Memoir. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-74167-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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