Tag Archives: memoir

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

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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

 

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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

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Our Story Begins on Amazon

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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

 

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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

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Chasing Space on Amazon

Chasing Space on Goodreads

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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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How Dare the Sun Rise on Amazon

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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

Teacher Resources

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

Around the Web

Imagine Wanting Only This on Amazon

Imagine Wanting Only This on Goodreads

Imagine Wanting Only This on JLG

Imagine Wanting Only This Publisher Page

Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey by Ila Jane Borders

Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey by Ila Jane Borders. April 1, 2017. University of Nebraska Press, 224 p. ISBN: 9780803285309.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 920.

Making My Pitch tells the story of Ila Jane Borders, who despite formidable obstacles became a Little League prodigy, MVP of her otherwise all-male middle school and high school teams, the first woman awarded a baseball scholarship, and the first to pitch and win a complete men’s collegiate game. After Mike Veeck signed Borders in May 1997 to pitch for his St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League, she accomplished what no woman had done since the Negro Leagues era: play men’s professional baseball. Borders played four professional seasons and in 1998 became the first woman in the modern era to win a professional ball game.

Borders had to find ways to fit in with her teammates, reassure their wives and girlfriends, work with the media, and fend off groupies. But these weren’t the toughest challenges. She had a troubled family life, a difficult adolescence as she struggled with her sexual orientation, and an emotionally fraught college experience as a closeted gay athlete at a Christian university.

Making My Pitch shows what it’s like to be the only woman on the team bus, in the clubhouse, and on the field. Raw, open, and funny at times, her story encompasses the loneliness of a groundbreaking pioneer who experienced grave personal loss. Borders ultimately relates how she achieved self-acceptance and created a life as a firefighter and paramedic and as a coach and goodwill ambassador for the game of baseball.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Sexist verbal abuse, Sexual harassment

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Beginning in middle school, Ila Borders played on all-male teams and was the first woman to receive a baseball scholarship to college, where she continued shattering gender barriers as a left-handed pitcher. In 1988, she became the first female pitcher to win a professional men’s baseball game. Her résumé included playing for the St. Paul Saints, Duluth-Superior Dukes, Madison Black Wolf, and Zion Pioneerzz. Besides being a fascinating sports story, this is also a moving biography of a closeted gay athlete pursuing her dreams while struggling with her own identity. Her faith as a Christian helped her navigate the insurmountable challenges. Borders endures taunts from the stands (“Go home, you don’t belong here”) that switched to requests for autographed baseballs when her prowess became obvious. Cowritten with noted baseball writer Ardell (Breaking into Baseball, 2005), this is a welcome contribution to women’s sports biographies. Baseball fans will enjoy the behind-the-scenes details of life in the minors and numerous game highlights; gay athletes will connect to her struggles. A worthy companion to Jennifer Ring’s A Game of Their Own (2015) and an important addition to baseball-history and LGBTQ collections.

Library Journal (April 1, 2017)
The story of Ila Jane Borders (b. 1975), the first woman to win a men’s college baseball game and a pioneer for women in professional baseball, has faded into history. Twenty years ago, she signed a minor league contract with an independent men’s baseball team, proving herself in the clubhouse as well as on the pitcher’s mound. While we are still waiting for the first woman to appear on a major league roster, Borders made meaningful progress, maintaining her poise and sense of humor, despite teammates and fans who wanted to test her resolve, even enduring stalkers and death threats. A difficult childhood and struggles with her sexual orientation gave her the inner fortitude to endure the isolation of being far from home in an often hostile environment, and her personal history, as chronicled here with the help of Ardell (Breaking into Baseball), is related with painful honesty. Borders’s conversational style and intriguing life story make this title a winner for both public and academic libraries. VERDICT An inspiring and important account, told with grace and self-awareness that will appeal to baseball and sports fans along with readers interested in LGBTQ memoirs.-Janet Davis, Darien P.L., CT

About the Author

Ila Jane Borders is the first woman to win a men’s professional baseball game. She has been honored twice at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and was inducted in 2003 into the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals.

Her website is www.ilajaneborders.com.

 

Around the Web

Making My Pitch on Amazon

Making My Pitch on Goodreads

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Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Bornstein

Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Borstein. March 7, 2017. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 352 p. ISBN: 9780374305710.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.5; Lexile: 890.

In 1945, in a now-famous piece of archival footage, four-year-old Michael Bornstein was filmed by Soviet soldiers as he was carried out of Auschwitz in his grandmother’s arms. Survivors Club tells the unforgettable story of how a father’s courageous wit, a mother’s fierce love, and one perfectly timed illness saved Michael’s life, and how others in his family from Zarki, Poland, dodged death at the hands of the Nazis time and again with incredible deftness. Working from his own recollections as well as extensive interviews with relatives and survivors who knew the family, Michael relates his inspirational story with the help of his daughter, Debbie Bornstein Holinstat.

Shocking, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting, this narrative nonfiction offers an indelible depiction of what happened to one Polish village in the wake of the German invasion in 1939.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Genocide, Harsh realities of the Holocaust, Antisemitism, Desecration of corpses, Sexual assault

 

Book Trailer

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 5-8. In 1940, Michael Bornstein was born in Zarki, Poland—then a Nazi-occupied ghetto. In 1944, Michael and his family arrived at Auschwitz. Miraculously, in 1953, Michael celebrated his bar mitzvah in New York City. Here, with the help of his television news producer daughter, he recounts the spectacular story of his survival. The duo chronologically document the Germans’ ruthless occupation—and eventual liquidation—of Zarki; the Bornsteins’ compulsory stint at an ammunitions factory; their tragic trek to Auschwitz; and the aftermath of the war in a land ruptured by unconscionable brutality and bigotry. But this account is shaped less by events than it is people: Michael’s father, Israel, with his dangerous devotion to a crumbling community; Michael’s infinitely courageous Mamishu; his ever-resilient grandmother; and his stubbornly spirited slew of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sprinkled with Yiddish and appended by an informative afterword, captioned photos, and brief glossary, the first-person narrative is a tenderly wrought tribute to family, to hope, and to the miracles both can bring. A powerful memoir for the middle-grade set.

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2017)
Michael was only 4 when he miraculously survived the liberation of Auschwitz in January 1945.Filmed by Soviets liberating the camp, he saw his image years later, but he was not ready to tell his story until he saw his picture on a Holocaust-denial website. He enlisted his daughter, a TV journalist, to help him uncover further information and to co-author this book. In the preface, Holinstat writes: “we tried to keep the book as honest as possible. While the underlying events are entirely factual, there is fiction here.” The father-daughter pair found documents, diaries, and survivors’ essays to supplement the limited memories of a very young child, and they write about this process in the preface. The first-person narrative begins with the events of September 1939, even though Michael was not born until May 1940, which feels artificial. Horrific as the experience was, the Auschwitz chapters are just part of Michael’s journey. Living in an open “ghetto” in his hometown, moving to a forced-labor camp, then to the extermination camp where his older brother and father die, returning home where Jews are not welcomed, and then living in Munich as a displaced person for six years until he can emigrate to the United States with his mother, the chronicle of Bornstein’s first 11 years parallels the experiences of many other surviving victims of the Final Solution. In today’s world, it remains more important than ever to remember these survivors. (afterword, photos, characters, glossary) (Memoir. 11-14)

About the Author

Michael Bornstein survived for seven months inside Auschwitz, where the average lifespan of a child was just two weeks. Six years after his liberation, he immigrated to the United States. Michael graduated from Fordham University, earned his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, and worked in pharmaceutical research and development for more than forty years. Now retired, Michael lives with his wife in New York City and speaks frequently to schools and other groups about his experiences in the Holocaust.

His website is www.mbornstein.com.

Teacher Resources

Survivors Club Teachers’ Guide

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Survivors Club on Amazon

Survivors Club on Goodreads

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The Dead Inside: A True Story by Cyndy Etler

The Dead Inside: A True Story by Cyncy Etler. April 4, 2017. Sourcebooks Fire, 288 p. ISBN: 9781492365734.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 640.

For readers of Girl Interrupted and Tweak, Cyndy Etler’s gripping memoir gives readers a glimpse into the harrowing reality of her sixteen months in the notorious “tough love” program the ACLU called “a concentration camp for throwaway kids.”

I never was a badass. Or a slut, a junkie, a stoner, like they told me I was. I was just a kid looking for something good, something that felt like love. I was a wannabe in a Levi’s jean jacket. Anybody could see that. Except my mother. And the professionals at Straight.

From the outside, Straight Inc. was a drug rehab. But on the inside it was…well, it was something else.

All Cyndy wanted was to be loved and accepted. By age fourteen, she had escaped from her violent home, only to be reported as a runaway and sent to a “drug rehabilitation” facility that changed her world.

To the public, Straight Inc. was a place of recovery. But behind closed doors, the program used bizarre and intimidating methods to “treat” its patients. In her raw and fearless memoir, Cyndy Etler recounts her sixteen months in the living nightmare that Straight Inc. considered “healing.”

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Drugs, Sexual abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
Grades 9-12. Cyndy Etler was by all accounts a “normal” teenager until her mother, for ill-conceived reasons, pushed her into a drug rehab facility known as Straight, Inc., kicking off 16 months of hell. Straight’s methods of treatment were unconventional and abusive; they used “healed” teen graduates of their program as counselors, and their methods ranged from locking the teens inside rooms, sleep deprivation, physical abuse, spit therapy, and brainwashing disguised as positive peer pressure. The only way Etler knew how to survive was to confess to nonexistent sins and earn praise for her “honesty.” Etler weaves her story with conviction, self-deprecating humor, and hard facts, showing how Straight left in its wake people who were terrified of the real world. This memoir will leave readers scouring the Internet for more survivor stories and info about Straight (some of which is in the epilogue). Readers will come to respect the fighter that Etler is and the advocate she became for other teens in similar situations.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2017)
In this debut memoir, Etler takes readers on a harrowing journey into Straight Inc., a nightmarish drug rehab that used controversial methods to “treat” its patients. At 14, Cyndy Etler was a white teenager desperately looking for a place to belong. Trying to escape from the abusive hands of her stepfather, she finds solace in Pink Floyd, God, and Bridgeport, the Connecticut city where she can escape with her best friend on weekends. When her mother reports her as a runaway, she sets off a chain of events that lands Cyndy at Straight Inc., a drug-rehabilitation facility in Virginia. Bewildered, Cyndy is sure she will be released as soon as the staff realizes she is not a drug addict. She cannot imagine that she will be stuck in this place—“a warehouse, literally…where, for a fee, parents can disappear their fuckups and rejects”—for the next 16 months. The treatment at Straight is bizarre and abusive, consisting largely of peer-led intimidation, emotional abuse, and mind games where the extensive rules are strictly enforced by the “group.” Cyndy’s progression into Stockholm syndrome is shocking yet wholly believable. Etler channels her younger self’s voice with pitch-perfect verisimilitude as Cyndy goes from wide-eyed disbelief to acquiescence, having finally found a place where she feels like she belongs. An epilogue offers a redemptive conclusion, and an author’s note provides chilling context for Straight’s history and Cyndy’s story. Raw and absorbing, Etler’s voice captivates. (author’s note) (Memoir. 15 & up)

About the Author

A modern-day Cinderella, Cyndy Etler was homeless at fourteen, summa cum laude at thirty. Currently a young adult author and teen life coach, Etler spent sixteen years teaching troubled teens in schools across America.

Before she was paid for teaching Etler did it for free, volunteering at public schools and facilities for runaway teens. Today she speaks at fundraisers, schools and libraries, convincing teens that books work better than drugs.

After years of hopscotching, Etler now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and dogs.

Her website is http://www.cyndyetler.com

Teacher Resources

The Dead Inside Teaching Guide

Around the Web

The Dead Inside on Amazon

The Dead Inside on Goodreads

The Dead Inside on JLG

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Girl Code by Andrea Gonzales & Sophie Houser

Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done by Andrea Gonzales & Sophie Houser. March 7, 2017. HarperCollins, 272 p. ISBN: 9780062472502.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Perfect for aspiring coders everywhere, Girl Code is the story of two teenage tech phenoms who met at Girls Who Code summer camp, teamed up to create a viral video game, and ended up becoming world famous. The book also includes bonus content to help you get started coding!

Fans of funny and inspiring books like Maya Van Wagenen’s Popular and Caroline Paul’s Gutsy Girl will love hearing about Andrea “Andy” Gonzales and Sophie Houser’s journey from average teens to powerhouses. Through the success of their video game, Andy and Sophie got unprecedented access to some of the biggest start-ups and tech companies, and now they’re sharing what they’ve seen. Their video game and their commitment to inspiring young women have been covered by the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, CNN, Teen Vogue, Jezebel, the Today show, and many more.

Get ready for an inside look at the tech industry, the true power of coding, and some of the amazing women who are shaping the world. Andy and Sophie reveal not only what they’ve learned about opportunities in science and technology but also the true value of discovering your own voice and creativity.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 6-10. Here’s a welcome addition to STEM shelves. Teenagers Gonzales and Houser met at a Girls Who Code computer camp in 2014, and, for a final project, they created the game Tampon Run, which aims to break down menstruation taboos. To the girls’ surprise, the game took off, and soon they were minicelebs in both pop culture and the tech world, with lots of opportunities. Their experiences are recounted in alternating chapters. Sophie, the girl terrified of public speaking, finds her voice, while Andrea, who comes from a strict Filipino household, must deal with making her own choices. (Though their story lines are distinct, the girls tend to sound the same.) The paucity of women in computer science is a thread, but there are plenty of mentors here, women and men, urging the duo on. Readers who come to this knowing nothing about coding will get an introductory primer—and, at the book’s conclusion, the opportunity to try coding on their own. This shows both the ups and downs of success and celebrity, and the wisdom of keeping options open.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2017)
The teens behind the web video game “Tampon Run” tell how they got started in programming.This is a first-person account of how Filipina Andrea “Andy” Gonzales from the East Village and the Bronx and white Sophie Houser from the Upper West Side met at the Girls Who Code summer program and joined forces to create a video game that received viral media attention. The chapters are organized chronologically and, inside each, switch between the two authors’ lively narrations. First, they introduce themselves and their backgrounds with programming: Sophie was a high achiever crippled by self-doubt and terrified of public speaking who was drawn to the GWC program to learn a new way to express herself; Andy was a lifelong gamer and programmer’s daughter who had already attended coding programs by the time she attended GWC. What brought the two together for their project was a desire to combine social commentary with their coding, resulting in their successful game. The game (and networking opportunities from GWC) has brought them attention and many more opportunities, but it also took more time and energy than they had to spare. By book’s end, they find themselves evaluating their futures with technology. The psychology of self-doubt and value of persistence are well-presented—the co-authors stress that the greater the frustration, the better the payoff. Tech-centered empowerment for those who feel voiceless. (coding appendix with glossary, sample code, resources) (Memoir. 12-17)

About the Authors

Andrea “Andy” Gonzales is a graduate of Hunter College High School and is now attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Robertson Scholar. The summer before her freshman year of high school, Andy started learning to code. Since then, she’s been passionate about computer science and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). When Andy attended Girls Who Code, she learned the power of working with other girls, and that led to the creation of the video game Tampon Run, which she co-built with Sophie Houser. Tampon Run’s success exceeded all expectations, and Andy was thrown into a world outside of her high school. Beyond her passion for computer science, Andy is a music, comic book, and video game enthusiast. She looks forward to remaining an active advocate for women in computer science.

Sophie Houser is a student at Brown University who learned to code at the Girls Who Code summer program. As her final project she co-created a game called Tampon Run with Andrea Gonzales to break down the menstrual taboo in society. The game went viral, throwing her into the limelight of the press, the public, and the tech world. In addition to coding, Sophie also enjoys laughing with her friends, wearing socks with interesting patterns, and Photoshopping funny scenes. She is pursuing all of these passions as well as many more at college and beyond.

Around the Web

Girl Code on Amazon

Girl Code on Goodreads

Girl Code on JLG

Girl Code Publisher Page