Tag Archives: memoir

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor by Sonia Sotomayor

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor by Sonia Sotomayor. September 4, 2018. Delacorte Books, 352 p. ISBN: 9781524771157.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.4; Lexile: 1070.

Discover the inspiring life of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, in this middle-grade adaptation of her bestselling adult memoir, My Beloved World
 
Includes an 8-page photo insert and a brief history of the Supreme Court.

Sonia Sotomayor was just a girl when she dared to dream big. Her dream? To become a lawyer and a judge even though she’d never met one of either, and none lived in her neighborhood.

Sonia did not let the hardships of her background—which included growing up in the rough housing projects of New York City’s South Bronx, dealing with juvenile diabetes, coping with parents who argued and fought personal demons, and worrying about money—stand in her way. Always, she believed in herself. Her determination, along with guidance from generous mentors and the unwavering love of her extended Puerto Rican family, propelled her ever forward.

Eventually, all of Sonia’s hard work led to her appointment as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 2009, a role that she has held ever since.

Learn about Justice Sotomayor’s rise and her amazing work as well as about the Supreme Court in this fascinating memoir that shows that no matter the obstacles, dreams can come true

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Drugs, Racism, Alcoholism

 

Author Videos

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 7-10. After seven-year-old Sonia, recently diagnosed with diabetes, awakens to the sound of her parents arguing over who will give her a daily shot of insulin, she decides to take on that responsibility herself. It was the first of many decisions that would challenge her and move her forward. Judiciously pared down from Sotomayor’s My Beloved World (2013), this autobiography for young people records her memories of growing up with her father (who died when she was nine), her mother, her brother, and her extended Puerto Rican American family in the Bronx. She also discusses her education in Catholic schools, at Princeton, and at Yale, her pro bono advocacy work, and her career as an assistant district attorney and a partner in a private law firm. The story concludes as she begins working as a district court judge. Readers will come away with a strong sense of Sotomayor’s background, her steadfast values, and her ability to stand up for herself and for others. Written in a clear, direct manner and enriched with many personal stories, the book also conveys a sense of her gratitude to family, friends, teachers, and mentors. A lively autobiography of the third woman and the first Latina on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2018)
The memoir of a woman who rose from the housing projects in New York City’s South Bronx to become the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. This is the story of a woman who as a 10-year-old fell under the spell of Perry Mason, a fictional TV lawyer. Her life course was set: She would become a lawyer and, dare she dream it, a judge. With a clear vision, hard work, and determination she set out to make her dream come true. In a series of vignettes that help to illustrate her remarkable spirit and motivations, Sotomayor recalls some of the salient moments of her life. Readers are introduced to her close-knit family, friends, colleagues, and mentors that nurtured her along the way. She chronicles her academic and professional achievements and what it took to be successful. She also presents her core beliefs and struggles, never shying from coming across as human. The account of this exceptional trajectory, told with a storyteller’s talent, is filled with a candor and honesty that make her story eminently accessible to young readers. Adapted from her memoir for adults, My Beloved World (2013), in the hope of inspiring children to dream even the dreams they cannot at first imagine, this book should thoroughly achieve that goal. A must read. (glossary, Supreme Court overview) (Memoir. 10-18)

About the Author

Sonia Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1976 and from Yale Law School in 1979. She worked as an assistant district attorney in New York and then at the law firm of Pavia & Harcourt. She served as a judge of the US District Court, Southern District of New York, from 1992 to 1998, and from 1998 to 2009 served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In May 2009, President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; she assumed this role on August 8, 2009.

Teacher Resources

Soina Sotomayor Biography Lesson Plan

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The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor on Amazon

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor on Barnes & Noble

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor on Goodreads

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor Publisher Page

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Camino a las Estrellas by Sylvia Acevedo

Camino a las estrellas: mi recorrido de Girl Scout a ingeniera astronáutica (Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist) by Sylvia Acevedo. September 4, 2018. Clarion Books, 352 p. ISBN: 9781328534811.  Int Lvl: 5-8.

The inspiring memoir for young readers about a Latina rocket scientist whose early life was transformed by joining the Girl Scouts and who currently serves as CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA.

A meningitis outbreak in their underprivileged neighborhood left Sylvia Acevedo’s family forever altered. As she struggled in the aftermath of loss, young Sylvia’s life transformed when she joined the Brownies. The Girl Scouts taught her how to take control of her world and nourished her love of numbers and science.

With new confidence, Sylvia navigated shifting cultural expectations at school and at home, forging her own trail to become one of the first Latinx to graduate with a master’s in engineering from Stanford University and going on to become a rocket scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Spanish translation of Path to the Stars.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racial insensitivity, Domestic abuse

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2018)
Acevedo debuts with an inspirational autobiography detailing how she bucked expectations while growing up in 1960s New Mexico. Though born in faraway South Dakota, where her father was completing his service in the U.S. Army, Sylvia grew up in the southern New Mexico town of Las Cruces. Growing up in a tightknit community of extended family, church family, and fellow Mexican-Americans, Sylvia soon discovered that her interests did not align with many of her peers’. While the cultural expectation for young women, especially Mexican-American women, was to marry and stay home to raise a family, Sylvia longed for adventures. She found a community and home away from home with the like-minded girls within her Girl Scout troop. The skills she acquired selling cookies and earning badges gave her confidence and self-efficacy as she moved through school taking honors courses, refusing home ec, playing drums in the band, and ultimately pursuing higher education in engineering. Acevedo’s narration is frequently repetitive, and she breezes past the many instances of racism and sexism she experienced both within and outside of her home in a matter-of-fact tone. All’s well that ends well, she seems to say. Though the redundancies cause hiccups in the narrative flow, and at times it feels like a long-form advertisement for Scouting, those seeking stories of female STEM trailblazers will find much to love here. Encouraging and uplifting. (Memoir. 8-12)

School Library Journal (September 1, 2018)
Gr 5 Up-A gem of an autobiography. As a girl growing up in New Mexico in the 1950’s, Acevedo recognized and confronted bias in many forms. She fought against the notions that girls should only become wives and mothers, and she strived to be a success in all aspects in her life: a focused student, a successful Girl Scout, a talented musician, and, above all, a young woman who never believed that her future was already written by someone else. Particularly touching is Acevedo’s recollection of her mother’s determination and dedication to her family: she acted as an advocate for her daughter’s success even as she and Sylvia faced domestic abuse. The text is accessible, and the story of Acevedo’s life touches upon a number of salient points for readers including racism, gender roles, and educational inequality. The importance of the Girl Scouts and of always being prepared resonates throughout. The author’s experiences working as a rocket scientist are fascinating, though these recollections come at the very end of the book.

About the Author

Sylvia Acevedo is a rocket scientist and award-winning entrepreneur who served on the White House Commission for Educational Excellence for Hispanics and is currently the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the US.

Her website is sylviaacevedo.org

Around the Web

Camino a las Estrellas on Amazon

Camino a las Estrellas on Barnes & Noble

Camino a las Estrellas on Goodreads

Camino a las Estrellas Publisher Page

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol. April 24,  2018. First Second, 256 p. ISBN: 9781626724440.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.2; Lexile: 360.

In Be Prepared, all Vera wants to do is fit in—but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Her friends live in fancy houses and their parents can afford to send them to the best summer camps. Vera’s single mother can’t afford that sort of luxury, but there’s one summer camp in her price range—Russian summer camp.

Vera is sure she’s found the one place she can fit in, but camp is far from what she imagined. And nothing could prepare her for all the “cool girl” drama, endless Russian history lessons, and outhouses straight out of nightmares!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Body humor, Bullying; Sexual harassment

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 16))
Grades 6-9. Vera feels too Russian for her friends in Albany. She can never quite get the hang of sleepover birthday parties, and she’ll never have expensive toys like they do. So when she hears about a summer camp just for Russian American kids, she’s sure she’s finally found her place. But she’s much younger than her tent-mates, and—impossibly—she’s not Russian enough to fit in. She stumbles over the language, doesn’t know all the songs, and generally can’t quite get a handle on roughing it. But what’s more Russian than suffering? With fantastic pacing and poignant emotional turns, Brosgol’s winsome graphic memoir hilariously captures the lengths kids go to in order to fit in as well as the author’s growth from a girl desperate for a place to belong into someone confident enough to stand up for herself. Brosgol’s pitch-perfect art varies between serene, contemplative snapshot-like images of nature and comedic scenes between Vera—cartoonishly drawn with huge, goggle-eyed glasses—and her friends and campmates, all of whom appear in a relatively realistic style. Even though it’s rendered only in black, white, and olive green, Brosgol’s artwork has immense depth, from the facial expressions and gestures to the spot-on visual gags, and she strikes a perfect balance between heartfelt honesty and uproarious, self-deprecating humor. Perfect for fans of Shannon Hale’s Real Friends (2017), this will easily lodge a place in readers’ hearts, even as it has them rolling in the aisles.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2018)
“This book is a true story. And also made up.” Brosgol’s (Anya’s Ghost, rev. 7/11; Leave Me Alone, rev. 9/16) fictionalized graphic memoir captures the ups and downs (let’s be honest—mostly downs) of a stint at a Russian Orthodox summer camp. Feeling like an outsider at school, Russian American preteen Vera is initially thrilled to attend camp with other Russian kids. Once there, however, she struggles to adjust to the strict rules, lack of modern electricity and plumbing, and drama involving her significantly older tentmates. The story’s visual narrative, exposition, and dialogue are in balance as inky illustrations fill smartly placed panels. The tone is accessible, vulnerable, and hilariously kid-centric (there are plenty of potty references). Angle brackets in the speech bubbles indicate dialogue spoken in Russian, and untranslated words and signs build atmosphere. A monochromatic palette using shades of army green reinforces the natural setting, and a cliffhanger ending leaves the door open for a sequel. Gaps between fiction and reality are clarified in an author’s note, which also includes primary documents: real-life photographs and a letter written by Vera to her mom (“Love, and homesick and crying, Vera. P.S. My stomach hurts every night. It does right now, too”). The story, both culturally specific and universal, is a welcome addition to the growing canon of comics by talented women cartoonists (Raina Telgemeier, Tillie Walden, Zeina Abirached, Cece Bell, and many others) based on their own lives. elisa gall

About the Author

Vera Brosgol was born in Moscow, Russia in 1984 and moved to the United States when she was five. She received a diploma in Classical Animation from Sheridan College, and currently works at Laika Inc. in Portland, Oregon drawing storyboards for feature animation.

She has done illustration work for clients such as Nickelodeon, Sony Computer Entertainment, and Simon & Schuster. Her first graphic novel, Anya’s Ghost, was published in 2011 by First Second Books.

She loves knitting, baking, and trying not to kill her plants. She hopes you are enjoying looking at her drawings!

Her website is verabee.com

Around the Web

Be Prepared on Amazon

Be Prepared on Goodreads

Be Prepared Publisher Page

Poppies of Iraq by Brigitte Findakly

Poppies of Iraq by Brigitte Findakly. September 5, 2017. Drawn & Quarterly, 120 p. ISBN: 9781770462939.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 830.

A personal account of an Iraqi childhood

Poppies of Iraq is Brigitte Findakly’s nuanced tender chronicle of her relationship with her homeland Iraq, co-written and drawn by her husband, the acclaimed cartoonist Lewis Trondheim. In spare and elegant detail, they share memories of her middle class childhood touching on cultural practices, the education system, Saddam Hussein’s state control, and her family’s history as Orthodox Christians in the arab world. Poppies of Iraqis intimate and wide-ranging; the story of how one can become separated from one’s homeland and still feel intimately connected yet ultimately estranged.

Signs of an oppressive regime permeate a seemingly normal life: magazines arrive edited by customs; the color red is banned after the execution of General Kassim; Baathist militiamen are publicly hanged and school kids are bussed past them to bear witness. As conditions in Mosul worsen over her childhood, Brigitte’s father is always hopeful that life in Iraq will return to being secular and prosperous. The family eventually feels compelled to move to Paris, however, where Brigitte finds herself not quite belonging to either culture. Trondheim brings to life Findakly’s memories to create a poignant family portrait that covers loss, tragedy, love, and the loneliness of exile.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Strong language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, War, Violence, Criminal culture, Terrorism, Religious fanaticism, Discussion of rape

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 2))
Grades 5-8. Growing up in Mosul right before the reign of Saddam Hussein, memoirist Findakly recounts stories from her childhood in a country undergoing radical changes. Beginning with family picnics and short vignettes of her Iraqi father’s dental practice and her French mother’s slow acclimation to life in a country very different from hers, the focus shifts to more sobering tales: the casual censorship of everything from magazine articles to phone conversations; students being sent to mandatory work camps; a cousin being disfigured on the battlefield. Each story arc is punctuated by family photos and cultural notes that help bring the family to life and make their experiences personal. Findakly is never naive or sentimental, recounting her life in Iraq with the innocence of a child but the cognizance of an adult. The illustrations by her husband, acclaimed cartoonist Lewis Trondheim, complement that innocence, staying true to the political upheaval described, while keeping much of the trauma offstage. A moving tribute to familial love in times of war.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2017)
From the daughter of a French mother and Iraqi father comes a touching memoir of childhood in Iraq. Writing with her husband, Findakly strings together memories and facts from her family’s past and present as well as from Iraqi culture, as if she is sharing herself with readers over tea. She begins with happy childhood moments in Iraq and her school days, her parents’ backgrounds and how they met, and introductions to other family members and neighbors. Especially poignant are the portrayals of her French mother’s successful adjustment to Iraqi society over 23 years and Findakly’s own process of growing apart from Iraqi society after her father decides they should move to France when she is a teenager. Trondheim’s charming cartoon drawings, colored by Findakly, help readers envision the worlds the family straddles, while occasional pages of family photographs remind readers of the author’s historical reality. Readers feel they are getting an inside look into an impenetrable world with cultural and historical notes on pages titled “In Iraq” interspersed throughout the book. This personal portrayal of the impact of war and societal upheaval on one family will help many Western readers to see how the past half-century of conflict has devastated a region rich in ancient culture. Small in size but large in impact, this intimate memoir is a highly relevant and compassionate story of family, community, prejudice, and the struggle to love when the forces of the world push groups apart. (timeline) (Graphic memoir. 10-adult)

About the Author

Co-writer and colourist Brigitte Findakly was born in Mosul, Iraq, in 1959 and lived there until 1973. Cartoonist Lewis Trondheim was born in Fontainebleau, France in 1964. They have two children and live in the south of France.

Around the Web

Poppies of Iraq on Amazon

Poppies of Iraq on Goodreads

Poppies of Iraq  on JLG

Poppies of Iraq  Publisher Page

Daring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif

Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Avakening by Manal al-Sharif. June 13, 2017. Simon & Schuster, 289 p. ISBN: 9781476793023.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 990.

A ferociously intimate memoir by a devout woman from a modest family in Saudi Arabia who became the unexpected leader of a courageous movement to support women’s right to drive.

Manal al-Sharif grew up in Mecca the second daughter of a taxi driver, born the year fundamentalism took hold. In her adolescence, she was a religious radical, melting her brother’s boy band cassettes in the oven because music was haram: forbidden by Islamic law. But what a difference an education can make. By her twenties she was a computer security engineer, one of few women working in a desert compound that resembled suburban America. That’s when the Saudi kingdom’s contradictions became too much to bear: she was labeled a slut for chatting with male colleagues, her teenage brother chaperoned her on a business trip, and while she kept a car in her garage, she was forbidden from driving down city streets behind the wheel.

Daring to Drive is the fiercely intimate memoir of an accidental activist, a powerfully vivid story of a young Muslim woman who stood up to a kingdom of men—and won. Writing on the cusp of history, Manal offers a rare glimpse into the lives of women in Saudi Arabia today. Her memoir is a remarkable celebration of resilience in the face of tyranny, the extraordinary power of education and female solidarity, and the difficulties, absurdities, and joys of making your voice heard.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
In 2011, Manal Al-Sharif was arrested and jailed for driving a car in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. Her imprisonment attracted international attention to the country’s restrictions on women. Manal’s memoir chronicles her evolution from a fiercely religious young woman into a champion of women’s rights and the face of the Women2Drive movement. Though there is no legal statute barring women from driving, Saudi culture enforces strict customs that force women to rely on hired drivers and male relatives to get around. Without reliable transportation, many women are unable to work, run basic errands, or even seek medical attention in emergencies. After her arrest, Manal was slandered in the national press, received death threats, and was denounced by religious leaders. In addition to her driving, Manal’s experiences as a young woman highlight the many other barriers for women, such as the requirement to have a male guardian’s permission for most decisions. Her memoir is an intimate look at life for women growing up in Saudi Arabia and the challenges of seeking major social change.

Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2017)
Inside the walls of segregation and oppression dictating the lives of Saudi women.Arrested and imprisoned for “driving while female” in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, in 2011, Saudi author and activist al-Sharif, formerly an information security expert at the Aramco oil company, chronicles her long path to feminist activism within a deeply conservative Islamic culture. From forced circumcision at age 8, condoned by her largely uneducated parents, to extreme segregation between the sexes in her poor community of Mecca, including separate entrances, covered windows, high walls, and the necessity for a guardian or close male relative to accompany women anywhere and sign any legal documents, the author found emancipation very gradually, a process she compares to the experience of those involved in the American civil rights movement. Indeed, in Saudi Arabia, the dictates of religious culture, rather than law, were and are iron-clad regarding women; al-Sharif required the permission of her father to pursue everything from education at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah (considered a scandalously “liberal, progressive city”) to her first job at Aramco (the only IT woman employed during her 10 years there) to marriage. The author’s decision to drive emerged from a long frustration with getting around via hired drivers and costly taxis, as all Saudi women were consigned to do: in a kind of perverse logic, al-Sharif had bought a car for her hired driver to use. Yet after a liberating work trip in America, where she got an actual license, she convinced her brother to help her drive and sympathetic women friends to video the great moment behind the wheel, which led to her arrest and harassment by the religious police. Ultimately, al-Sharif’s appalling conclusion is that, in her country, “if you want to race with men, you’d have to do it with your hands and legs cut off.” An intimate and powerful book from what is hopefully only the first of many Saudi voices to speak out.

About the Author

Manal al-Sharif is a women’s rights activist from Saudi Arabia who was imprisoned in 2011 for driving a car. She has been lauded by Foreign PolicyTimeForbes, and the Oslo Freedom Forum. Daring to Drive is her first book.

 

Teacher Resources

Manal al-Sharif TED Talk

Daring to Drive Reading Guide

Around the Web

Daring to Drive on Amazon

Daring to Drive on Goodreads

Daring to Drive on JLG

Daring to Drive Publisher Page

Our Story Begins edited by Elissa Brent Weissman

Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids edited by Elissa Brent Weissman. July 4, 2017. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 208 p. ISBN: 9781481472081.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.3; Lexile: 930.

From award-winning author Elissa Brent Weissman comes a collection of quirky, smart, and vulnerable childhood works by some of today’s foremost children’s authors and illustrators—revealing young talent, the storytellers they would one day become, and the creativity they inspire today.

Everyone’s story begins somewhere…

For Linda Sue Park, it was a trip to the ocean, a brand-new typewriter, and a little creative license.
For Jarrett J. Krosoczka, it was a third grade writing assignment that ignited a creative fire in a kid who liked to draw.
For Kwame Alexander, it was a loving poem composed for Mother’s Day—and perfected through draft after discarded draft.
For others, it was a teacher, a parent, a beloved book, a word of encouragement. It was trying, and failing, and trying again. It was a love of words, and pictures, and stories.

Your story is beginning, too. Where will it go?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 4-7. The best authors and artists make their work seem so effortless that it’s easy to assume they’re all preternaturally gifted; it’s easy to forget the inevitable time and labor that went into their work, and this collection is the perfect remedy to that misapprehension. In short sections, kidlit luminaries offer essays about their early artistic efforts and snippets of their early work. Caldecott winner Dan Santat writes about his comically off-the-mark belief that Norman Rockwell was “about a thousand years old,” and therefore had tons of time to practice. Gordon Korman’s essay is, perhaps, less helpful, since he signed his first book contract at the unbelievable age of 13(!). Some of the presented stories are surprisingly good, and more are realistically amateurish, but the main takeaway, of course, is that practice, as well as a lot of inevitable failure, is always part of honing a craft. A sweet, inspirational anthology for any kid who dreams of having their own name on the cover of a book.

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2017)
Twenty-six notable authors and illustrators of children’s books—including the book’s editor—introduce themselves via their childhood memories.The short, straightforward introduction begins with the editor sharing her inspiration for the book: reading through her oldest writings, stored in “a box in a basement,” and reflecting that other creators have similar boxes. Two years of interviewing, collecting, and collating produced the accessible, enjoyable text that follows. Each creator shares a childhood photograph, a brief memoir, a short biography, and a photographed sample of a creative work from childhood. The order of presentation is determined by the age at which the creative work was accomplished, ranging from 7 to 16. The art and writing samples from childhood are occasionally exciting but more often typical of the age represented—and thus encouraging rather than intimidating to young creatives. The memoirs—all (unsurprisingly) engaging—range from humorous to serious, and some slip in good advice, both about the tools of the craft and about self-marketing. There is a wide diversity of ages and backgrounds, from Phyllis Reynolds Naylor to Alex Gino, from Eric Rohmann to Rita Williams-Garcia. Thanhhà Lai is especially memorable; as a Vietnamese refugee, she had no box of writings: “But it turns out, I don’t need tangible objects. I have my memories.” Her recollection of an oral prose poem from age 8 is one that stands out because it is indeed remarkable for one so young. Good for aspiring writers and artists. (Collective memoir. 8-12)

About the Editor

Elissa Brent Weissman is an award-winning author of novels for 8-to-12-year olds. Her most recent books, Nerd Camp 2.0 and Nikhil and the Geek Retreat are sequels to the popular Nerd Camp, which was named a best summer read for middle graders in The Washington Post. The Short Seller, about a seventh grade stock-trading whiz, was a Girls’ Life must-read and featured on NPR’s “Here and Now.”

Named one of CBS Baltimore’s Best Authors in Maryland, Elissa lives in Baltimore, where she teaches creative writing to children, college students, and adults. Her website is www.ebweissman.com

Around the Web

Our Story Begins on Amazon

Our Story Begins on Goodreads

Our Story Begins on JLG

Our Story Begins Publisher Page

Chasing Space: Young Reader’s Edition by Leland Melvin

Chasing Space: Young Reader’s Edition by Leland Melvin. May 23, 2017. Amistad, 240 p. ISBN: 9780062665928.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.6; Lexile: 1020.

Meet Leland Melvin—football star, NASA astronaut, and professional dream chaser.

In this inspiring memoir, adapted from the simultaneous version for adults, young readers will get to learn about Leland Melvin’s remarkable life story, from being drafted by the Detroit Lions to bravely orbiting our planet in the International Space Station to writing songs with will.i.am, working with Serena Williams, and starring in top-rated television shows like The Dog WhispererTop Chef, and Child Genius.

When the former Detroit Lion’s football career was cut short by an injury, Leland didn’t waste time mourning his broken dream. Instead, he found a new one—something that was completely out of this world.

He joined NASA, braved an injury that nearly left him permanently deaf, and still managed to muster the courage and resolve to travel to space on the shuttle Atlantis to help build the International Space Station. Leland’s problem-solving methods and can-do attitude turned his impossible-seeming dream into reality.

Leland’s story introduces readers to the fascinating creative and scientific challenges he had to deal with in space and will encourage the next generation of can-do scientists to dare to follow their dreams. With do-it-yourself experiments in the back of the book and sixteen pages of striking full-color photographs, this is the perfect book for young readers looking to be inspired.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racism, Hazing, Murder

 

Book Trailer

Author Talk

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
Memoir of an astronaut whose road to space took an unusual twist—through the National Football League.Rewritten for younger audiences, this version of Melvin’s simultaneously publishing memoir for adults not only retraces his development from “a skinny black kid” who wanted to be the next Arthur Ashe to an engineer who flew on two space-shuttle missions, but is even capped with a trio of science projects. Though he pushes the conventional platitude that “hard work and dedication are all you need to succeed,” his experiences point more to the value of being ready to take full advantage of second chances when they come along—which they did in his (brief) NFL career, in college after he was suspended for (inadvertent, in his view) cheating, and later at NASA in the wake of a training injury that left him partially deaf. He has also enjoyed a second career as a speaker, educator, TV host, occasional poet, and songwriter with Pharrell and other musicians. Religious faith and racism sound occasional notes in his account, the latter underscored by a picture of his otherwise all-white astronaut class in one of the two photo sections, but he devotes warmer attention to tributes to his mentors, colleagues, role models—and, oddly, his dogs, whose lives and deaths make up much of what he has to say about his adult private life. A detailed picture of astronaut training and work, threaded on a decidedly unusual storyline. (Memoir. 11-14)

About the Author

A former wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, Leland Melvin is an engineer and NASA astronaut. He served on the space shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist and was named the NASA Associate Administrator for Education in October 2010. He also served as the cochair on the White House’s Federal Coordination in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Task Force, developing the nation’s five-year STEM education plan. He is the host of the Lifetime show Child Genius and a judge for ABC’s BattleBots. He holds four honorary doctorates and has received the NFL Player Association Award of Excellence. He lives in Lynchburg, Virginia.

His website is www.lelandmelvin.com

Around the Web

Chasing Space on Amazon

Chasing Space on Goodreads

Chasing Space on JLG

Chasing Space Publisher Page

How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana

How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana. May 16, 2017. Katherine Tegen Books, 304 p. ISBN: 9780062470140.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

In this powerful memoir, Sandra Uwiringyimana, a girl from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, tells the incredible true story of how she survived a massacre, immigrated to America, and overcame her trauma through art and activism.

Sandra Uwiringiyimana was just ten years old when she found herself with a gun pointed at her head. The rebels had come at night—wielding weapons, torches, machetes. She watched as her mother and six-year-old sister were gunned down in a refugee camp, far from their home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The rebels were killing people who weren’t from the same community, the same tribe. In other words, they were killing people simply for looking different.

“Goodbye, life,” she said to the man ready to shoot her.

Remarkably, the rebel didn’t pull the trigger, and Sandra escaped into the night.

Thus began a new life for her and her surviving family members. With no home and no money, they struggled to stay alive. Eventually, through a United Nations refugee program, they moved to America, only to face yet another ethnic disconnect. Sandra may have crossed an ocean, but there was now a much wider divide she had to overcome. And it started with middle school in New York.

In this profoundly moving memoir, Sandra tells the story of her survival, of finding her place in a new country, and of her hope for the future.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Discrimination, War, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Graphic description of refugee-camp massacre, Racism

 

Book Info

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 8-10. As America’s doors threaten to shut against refugees, this memoir could not be timelier. As a 10-year-old in 2004, Uwiringiyimana (pronounced oo-wee-ring-GEE-yi-mah-nah) and her family fled conflict in their native Congo for a U.N. refugee camp over the border in Burundi. The stay, overcrowded and miserable as the sanctuary was, proved short-lived: on the night of August 13, armed rebels attacked the camp, slaughtering 166 people. Uwiringiyimana’s narrative starts with a terrifying moment-by-moment account of that horrific event. Her ability to summon the chaos and terror is extraordinary, but then, so is she. Plagued by PTSD and severe, recurrent depression in the years since—the U.N. succeeded in bringing the surviving members of her family to the U.S. in 2007—she has emerged as a powerful spokesperson for the plight of the dispossessed. Her account of the family’s first few years in upstate New York, where she was made to feel again unwanted and alien at school, is almost as heartbreaking as the memory of that one world-shattering night.

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2017)
Congolese refugee Sandra Uwiringi-yimana recounts life before, during, and after war. At ten, Sandra sees her sister gunned down along with others at the camp where she and her family were temporarily staying. Before readers can find out which of Sandra’s family members survived, she takes us back to her life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where, as Banyamulenge people, they were considered stateless foreigners. Despite the discrimination, Sandra spent much of her childhood in a comfortable middle-class home, although frequent civil unrest would require the family to enter refugee camps for a time and then return home. After the night her sister was murdered, she and her surviving family members began the long process of applying for asylum in the United States. From there, Sandra recounts her American adolescence, trying to make sense of what race means in America and how she fits in as an African but not an African American. The prose may be workmanlike, but the politically and culturally complex picture of Africa that the author paints is welcome, and the complexities of black identity for recent immigrants versus that of diasporic black people are not often touched upon in YA literature. sarah hannah gómez

About the Author

Sandra Uwiringiyimana is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

She came to America as a refugee with her family, and started middle school in New York. She has shared the stage alongside Charlie Rose, Angelina Jolie, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Tina Brown at the Women in the World Summit. She also addressed the United Nations Security Council. She is a graduate of Mercy College.

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Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay. June 13, 2017. HarperCollins, 306 p. ISBN: 9780062362599.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

From the bestselling author of Bad Feminist: a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself

I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.

In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.

With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
More than once, Gay, author of essays (Bad Feminist, 2014), short stories (Difficult Women, 2017), and crime fiction (An Untamed State, 2014), refers to writing this memoir as the hardest thing she’s ever done. Readers will believe her; it’s hard to imagine this electrifying book being more personal, candid, or confessional. At 12, Gay survived a devastating sexual assault, a point on her time line that would forever have a before and an after. She focused the trauma inward, and, as a frequent refrain goes, she doesn’t know, or she does, how her body came to be “unruly,” “undisciplined,” and the kind of body whose story is “ignored or dismissed or derided.” The story of her body is, understandably, linked to the story of her life; she tells both, and plumbs discussions about both victims of sexual violence and people whose bodies don’t adhere to the ideal of thinness. In 88 short, lucid chapters, Gay powerfully takes readers through realities that pain her, vex her, guide her, and inform her work. The result is a generous and empathic consideration of what it’s like to be someone else: in itself something of a miracle.

Kirkus Reviews starred (May 15, 2017)
A heart-rending debut memoir from the outspoken feminist and essayist.Gay (Bad Feminist, 2014, etc.) pulls no punches in declaring that her story is devoid of “any powerful insight into what it takes to overcome an unruly body and unruly appetites.” Rather than a success story, it depicts the author, at 42, still in the throes of a lifelong struggle with the fallout from a harrowing violation in her youth. The author exposes the personal demons haunting her life—namely weight and trauma—which she deems “the ugliest, weakest, barest parts of me.” Much of her inner turmoil sprang from a devastating gang rape at age 12. “I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe,” she writes. Gay painfully recalls the “lost years” of her reckless 20s as a time when food, the anonymity of the internet, and creative writing became escapes and balms for loneliness. The author refers to her body as a “cage” in which she has become trapped, but her obesity also presents itself as a personal challenge to overcome the paralyzing psychological damage caused by rape. Broken into clipped, emotionally resonant chapters, Gay details a personal life spent grappling with the comfort of food, body hyperconsciousness, shame, and self-loathing. Throughout, the author is rightfully opinionated, sharply criticizing the media’s stereotypical portrayal of obesity and Oprah Winfrey’s contradictory dieting messages. She is just as engaging when discussing her bisexuality and her adoration for Ina Garten, who taught her “that a woman can be plump and pleasant and absolutely in love with food.” Gay clearly understands the dynamics of dieting and exercise and the frustrations of eating disorders, but she also is keenly in touch with the fact that there are many who feel she is fine just as she is. The author continues her healing return from brokenness and offers hope for others struggling with weight, sexual trauma, or bodily shame. An intense, unsparingly honest portrait of childhood crisis and its enduring aftermath.

About the Author

Roxane Gay’s writing has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, West Branch, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, Salon, The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy culture blog, and many others. She is the co-editor of PANK and essays editor for The Rumpus. She teaches writing at Eastern Illinois University. Her novel, She is the author of three books–Ayiti, An Untamed State, and Bad Feminist. She very much wants a tiny baby elephant.

Her website is www.roxanegay.com

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Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body Discussion Questions

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Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke

Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke. April  18, 2017. Pantheon Books, 278 p. ISBN: 9781101870839.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A gorgeous graphic memoir about loss, love, and confronting grief

When Kristen Radtke was in college, the sudden death of a beloved uncle and the sight of an abandoned mining town after his funeral marked the beginning moments of a lifelong fascination with ruins and with people and places left behind. Over time, this fascination deepened until it triggered a journey around the world in search of ruined places. Now, in this genre-smashing graphic memoir, she leads us through deserted cities in the American Midwest, an Icelandic town buried in volcanic ash, islands in the Philippines, New York City, and the delicate passageways of the human heart. Along the way, we learn about her family and a rare genetic heart disease that has been passed down through generations, and revisit tragic events in America’s past.

A narrative that is at once narrative and factual, historical and personal, Radtke’s stunning illustrations and piercing text never shy away from the big questions: Why are we here, and what will we leave behind?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
When Radtke was in college, studying art in Chicago, the uncle she’d grown up adoring died of a heart condition. Around the same time, she visited Gary, Indiana, and began to cultivate a deep interest in the ruins of cities and decaying places. The idea of “how something that is can become, very suddenly, something that isn’t” obsessed her. Radtke’s neat, grayscale drawings are detailed and coloring-book precise, and her thoughtful, meticulous narration makes true visual essays of them. In grad school, she travels to the Philippines, Burma, Singapore, and Vietnam, seeking and studying international “ruin-porn,” as she notes some call it. Her story cartwheels, too, exploring the science behind her uncle’s defect and the probability that she has it, too. She tells the story of the infamous fire in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, her home state, which decimated the area and took thousands of victims but remains regional lore after occurring on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire. In her cerebral journey of a first book, Radtke, an illustrator, designer, and managing editor of a small press, asks and answers: Why do ruins fascinate, and why is this fascination considered perverse? Why are ruins there at all?

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2017)
Insights and images combine in a meditation on loss, grief, and the illusions of permanence.  Sarabande Books managing editor Radtke isn’t an artist who also writes a little or a writer who scrawls but a master of both prose narrative and visual art. Like memory, the narrative loosens the binds of chronology, playing hopscotch through the author’s girlhood, college, formative years as an artist, and apocalyptic fantasy of her current home in New York. A strain of heart failure seems to run in Radtke’s family, and the key to this memoir is the death of her favorite uncle, who was recovering from the surgery that ultimately killed him and whose death made the author and her family all the more concerned with the family medical history. The event also planted the seed for this book and its larger thematic focus, as Radtke became “consumed by the question of how something that is can become, very suddenly, something that isn’t.” On her return home for the funeral, the author discovered an abandoned mining town that she would later revisit. During art school, she became fascinated by Gary, Indiana, a city in ruins, where she discovered the photos of someone whose attempts to document the city led to his death. She left a fiance and what she imagined to be a “stagnant future” for vagabond travels taking her from the ruins of Italy to the ravages of Southeast Asia, while her own heart condition gave notions of impermanence and loss a personal emphasis. “I couldn’t comprehend why the dead couldn’t be made undead,” she writes. “Why a heart that caved couldn’t be filled out again.” In a way, what she has done in this impressive book is to revive the dead and recover the lost while illuminating a world in flux, in which change is the only constant. Powerfully illustrated and incisively written—a subtle dazzler of a debut.

About the Author

Kristen Radtke is a writer and illustrator based in Brooklyn. Her graphic memoir, Imagine Wanting Only This, is forthcoming from Pantheon Books in April.

She is the managing editor of Sarabande Books and the film & video editor of TriQuarterly magazine. She has an MFA from the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program.

Her website is kristenradtke.com

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