My Epic Summer of Reading: Be Brave
|My latest courageous adventure. Read about it here!|
As I mentioned before I read a long list of books for my course at Simmons. I cranked through that list in record time and had plenty of time to make it to my extended summer reading list. (I'd like to pat myself on the back for reading a whopping 20 books this summer. And no, not all of them were picture books.) There were 3 bonus books that weren't on the original list but they were some of my favorites. In each book, the characters had to overcome great feats and demonstrated courage in unique ways.
I love books with brave characters because they inspire me to do more, to tackle my own obstacles, and remind me that sometimes my problems aren't all that bad. The three books, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sàenz, Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos, and The Absolutely True Diary of Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, all featured young men trying to find their path in life. Each faces a different challenge and each learns something important about themselves.
For today's post, I am introducing you to these phenomenal books and adding a little Dance Friday twist. Sara Bareilles just released a new album and a video to her song Brave. I love the video and there is some particularly fantastic dancing in it so it all sorta works well together. Happy Friday and cheers to taking on your own challenges. Be brave!
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sàenz, YA
Aristotle (Ari) and Dante are two Mexican-American teenagers growing up in Texas in 1987. They meet at a pool when Dante notices Ari needs help swimming. Ari isn't really sure why he lets Dante help him but they become fast friends. Ari comes from a poor family working hard to get by. He has twin sisters who are significantly older and have their own families. He has an older brother, Bernardo, who is in jail, although Ari is not sure why because his family never discusses the matter. Ari struggles with his own temper, his place in his family, and his friendships. Dante is easy to get along with, has an optimistic view of his future, but is unsure of his place in the Mexican culture because his family's experience is, as he puts it, "too white." This unlikely pair find that their normal teenage angst is magnified when Dante reveals to Ari that he is gay. Sàenz presents a story that hasn't been told, but one that our world desperately needs to hear. It was an honest portrayal of the universal story of youth, and two teenagers who try to unlock secrets as they navigate that universe.
|My favorite line from Aristotle and Dante|
Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos, YA
Jack Gantos is the author of the middle grade Joey Pigza books, of the Rotten Ralph picture books, and of the Newbery award-winning, Dead End in Norvelt. He also used to be in prison. Yes, that's right, one of the most celebrated children's authors served several years in prison. In this memoir, he describes his path to that sentence, how he became determined to get out of prison, and the transformation of his life from wandering soul to writer. He describes how he yearned to write in prison but wasn't allowed to keep a journal. To get around the restriction, he wrote between the lines of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamozov every day. What I loved most from Hole in My Life is a reminder to all of us that we have the right to learn, just as Will, a pie baker, once told me at a bakery many years ago. Gantos shows us that the small decisions in life matter and can turn our life upside down, but that we can also make small decisions to turn that life back to where we want it. I appreciated his comment in an interview at the end of the book, when he described why it took him so long to write the book. Gantos says, "... ..it allowed me time to sort through the experience and develop a strong voice for the range of strong and subtle emotions."
|Yep, it's true, I met him!|
The Absolutely True Diary of Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, YA
Sherman Alexie is a name that has been in my life for many years. It started when I was a student at Western Washington University and had the privilege of meeting Swil Kanim, a Lummi Indian living in Bellingham. Swil Kanim was in Alexie's movie The Business of Fancydancing and from that moment on I have been interested in the work of Alexie. In 2007, Alexie's wrote The Absolutely True Diary of Part-Time Indian. It was the first of his books directed toward a younger audience. The story tells of 14 year-old Junior, a member of the Spokane Indian tribe. Junior has suffered from a long list of medical conditions since his birth and lives in extreme poverty on the reservation. He doesn't have many friends and often finds himself the victim of bullying from his peers and other adults on the reservation. Junior makes a decision to leave the reservation to attend school at a private high school in a town 20 miles away. His ambition to change his path in life proves to be extremely difficult. Often he is forced to walk home from school, he is shunned by members of the reservation, and he struggles to find a place at his new school. He is truly brave, taking a risk that he knows might not work out, but persevering through all the ups and downs. I love the fresh perspective of the book, reminding us that within our own country there are still many issues left to be resolved. There are many former students I wish I could have passed this book onto.
|My favorite line from The Absolute True Story|