With sophisticated wordplay and poignantly spare description, this lyric bildungsroman creates as effective a portrait of...

HOW I DISCOVERED POETRY

Multiaward-winning poet Nelson (A Wreath for Emmett Till, illustrated by Philippe Lardy, 2005, etc.) tells how growing up as a daughter of one of the first African-American career officers in the Air Force influenced her artistic development.

In its 50 unrhymed sonnets, the memoir reflects on Nelson at ages 4 through 14, as she and her family followed her father during the pivotal 1950s. Moving to 11 locations in 10 years, from Ohio to Texas, Maine to California, Nelson, her sister and parents crossed the country, repeatedly giving the speaker in these first-person poems the full-throttle experience of being not only the new kid on the block, but often the lone African-American in her class. Nelson grippingly conveys the depth of her resulting isolation, noting the strangeness of how in Kittery Point, Maine, “we’re the First Negroes of everything.” There’s also the bafflement of having meaning attached to simply being herself—for example, while standing in line to get a polio vaccine in 1955 Kansas, “Mrs. Liebel said we were Making History, / but all I did was sqwunch up my eyes and wince. / Making History takes more than standing in line / believing little white lies about pain.”

With sophisticated wordplay and poignantly spare description, this lyric bildungsroman creates as effective a portrait of race relations in 20th-century America as of formative moments in Nelson’s youth. (author’s note) (Memoir/poetry. 10 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3304-6

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

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Small but mighty necessary reading.

THE NEW QUEER CONSCIENCE

From the Pocket Change Collective series

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 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today.

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THEY CALLED US ENEMY

A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei’s (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans.

Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for “processing and removal” due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei’s family’s story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU’s Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei’s parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions.

A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60309-450-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2019

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