Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold. Crown, 1991.
A bold opening paired with dramatic illustrations.
Poverty without self-pity.
The story opens with a dream, immediately pulling the child in via fantasy. It is true to her life, but seen as she would see it, without self-awareness. The quilts and fantasy are used to deal with the heroine’s difficult emotions (she is a true heroine) and to give her beauty and hope. Startlingly real, honest, lovely.
This book is a model for handling difficult topics like race, poverty for the very young. There's no preaching, only relationship. Story builds connections; books like this give me hope for the future.
In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian 14-year-old Arnold (Junior) Spirit fights racism and his tribe’s anger as he tries to escape the alcoholism, depression, and death of life as a reservation Native American. I can see why this book received so much attention.
Forged by Fire is gripping! And excruciatingly painful to read. A few thoughts: I’m not sure if I bought...
Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood crafted a moving introduction. The importance of keeping a family story alive. I wonder, though, if this story would have more power in a different format?
In We Are the Ship Nelson combines fabulous paintings with rich text full of voice for a truly interesting look at the Negro League of baseball. The paintings are gentle, respectful, full of love with absolutely amazing use of light.
Bronx Masquerade. I’m torn on this book. My first impression was that the voice was good but not as good as Tyrell by Coe Booth, and that the book was a yawner. I couldn’t get into the world, couldn’t “see” it. I had that first problem, the seeing, all the way through even though I later found that the book was not a yawner at after all.
Absolutely Positively Not is a book about being gay (or not). I absolutely loved the short chapters. Proof Cheryl Klein (at Levine) didn’t edit it since she snarked at me once about having short chapters. She’d never let these wee chaps make it to publication.
Monster has an interesting form, but I’m not sure it worked for me. This book was told in a combination of diary and screenplay, both supposedly written by the protagonist, Steve. I bought that a kid could be on trial for something he maybe didn’t do...
Esperanza Rising is a moving story that opens a world seldom seen with authenticity, and without seeming politically motivated. Real, not a soapbox.
Ok, time for a rant. I haven't ranted in a while, have I? Well, maybe. Even so, a rant is due so here it is:
The chapter on Du Bois: Do we have a reliable narrator? Du Bois is introduced as “one of the greatest scholars the world has ever known.” First we have the issue of a lose definition of scholar (what is a scholar, exactly?), and then the absurd grandiosity...
If a culturally rich adaptation of a classic tale is going to be on a required reading list for any MFAC program, I think it should be Yeh Shen.