BAD BOY

A MEMOIR

Catalogues of books alternate with battles against educational authorities in this memoir from one of the deans of young-adult literature. Myers (The Journal of Biddy Owens, below, etc.) paints a picture of a boy in love with words, an avid reader, and later an enthusiastic writer, but also one whose quick, violent temper kept him in constant trouble. From a cozy childhood in the embrace of his foster parents to an alienated and depressed adolescence, Myers consciously sets out to identify those elements that made him what he is: a black writer of books for all children. One of the book’s strengths, no surprise, is its careful and loving depiction of Harlem’s black community, and readers familiar with Myers’s other work will recognize in many of the figures and situations he describes the inspirations for his fiction. Another is Myers’s wry commentary on his youthful actions and attitudes: when describing his spiritual uncertainty, for instance, he writes, “I wanted to hear a big voice on the phone say ‘Yea, verily, this is me, God. It’s all good, my man, and will be ultracool in the end.’ ” No life can be as tightly plotted as a novel, though, and the text sometimes moves unevenly from anecdote to unrelated (albeit interesting) anecdote, hindering a smooth narrative flow. His attempt to show how his life was constructed, moreover, results in a rather deterministic text from which one has the sense that much was left out, and his musings on the effects of institutionalized racism on his development as a young man and a writer become didactic interruptions plunked into a story which likely could speak for itself. Myers is arguably one of the most important writers of children’s books of our age, however, and this glimpse into his own childhood is wonderfully valuable, fascinating, and even inspiring. (Autobiography. 12+)

Pub Date: May 31, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-029523-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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

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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This deeply personal and boldly political offering inspires and ignites.

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW ABOUT ART

From the Pocket Change Collective series

Curator, author, and activist Drew shares her journey as an artist and the lessons she has learned along the way.

Drew uses her own story to show how deeply intertwined activism and the arts can be. Her choices in college were largely overshadowed by financial need, but a paid summer internship at the Studio Museum in Harlem became a formative experience that led her to major in art history. The black artists who got her interested in the field were conspicuously absent in the college curriculum, however, as was faculty support, so she turned her frustration into action by starting her own blog to boost the work of black artists. After college, Drew’s work in several arts organizations, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, only deepened her commitment to making the art world more accessible to people of color and other marginalized groups, such as people with disabilities, and widening the scope of who is welcomed there. Drew narrates deeply personal experiences of frustration, triumph, progress, learning, and sometimes-uncomfortable growth in a conversational tone that draws readers in, showing how her specific lens enabled her to accomplish the work she has done but ultimately inviting readers to add their own contributions, however small, to both art and protest.

This deeply personal and boldly political offering inspires and ignites. (Nonfiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09518-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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