Wednesday, February 18, 2009

LIS 722: Week 7

Week 7: Identity: A Sense of Self
Books: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie & What Are You? by Pearl Fuyo Gaskins

American Born Chinese is a graphic novel that would be good for readers of ages 9+, yes, even adults. The basic message is "You are who you are, be proud of it." Well, that, and "Treat everyone with kindness & respect because you don't know what kind of battles they are fighting, or probably even their true circumstances."
In the book, there are 2 (2.5ish) storylines concurrently happening, that all come together at the end. It's a quick read, and is well done.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a semi-autobiographical novel by Sherman Alexie. I liked it just fine, even as I was thinking, "Wow, this is really glossing over the harsh reality, I bet." I grew up in Oregon, but my extended family (both sides) were in central/eastern Washington. 1 set of my grandparents lived in Cheney, which is just outside Spokane, so I know the area in which the book is set. I think he probably has the right tone in the book because I'm not sure anything heavier would have the same appeal. I did listen to a short audioclip of him reading it, and loved the sing-song quality of his voice as he talked. In my experience, that's how stories are told. If it hadn't been for the cartoons in the actual physical book, I would've preferred the audio version.

One of my favorite moments was after his Reardon basketball team stomped the crap out the of the Rez school team, and in the midst of his celebrating, he realized that he'd gotten it backwards. It was his Reardon team that was Goliath, not the Indians. It was the guys from the Reardon team who had all the advantages, both now and in the future, and just because they had beaten the Rez school, well, that didn't mean anything. Beating an 'enemy' that really never stood a chance isn't the right or honorable thing to do, and it was interesting to see him realize that. I've long held the opinion that just because I *can* do something doesn't mean that it's either the right or the honorable thing to do; I try to live my life with that in mind.

I'm glad I got past the award sticker on the front and gave it a go. (I usually stay away from books that get awards, because for the most part, awards=Books Other People Say Are Good and That I Should Read, not books that I'd want to read. There's a difference, slight though it may be.)

What Are You? reminded me of a book I had to read for one of my undergrad classes: GSJ: Dismantling Racism (in 'normal' English, Global Search for Justice). I liked how the voices of the YA/Teens interviewed really come through about their internal struggles with who they are. It comes down to: I'm both (whatever racial backgrounds), and that's who I am.
It also reminds me of something I figured out for myself as a stepmother. When parents get divorced, and especially if it's not amicable and there's lots of smacktalking going on, it's easy to forget that although the marriage is done, the kids still are part of BOTH sides of the family. To talk badly about the ex-spouse is to disrespect that part of the child too, which isn't good. Yeah, I'm not explaining this nearly as well as it is in my own head, I know.

So, all in all, the books this week weren't too bad. Do I think YA/Teens would be beating down my library door to get at them, no. But that's OK too.

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