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Posts Tagged ‘Jacqueline Woodson

My Favorite Books That I Have Read in 2014

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Up until now, I have told you my favorite music and movies I’ve encountered this year. Here is my final favorites of 2014 blog post, my favorite books I’ve read in 2014.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell- I loved reading this book because I can totally relate to Cath, the main character. She loves reading and writing fan fiction (albeit slash fan fiction) about a Harry Potter-ish book series called Simon Snow. At the same time, she is a college freshman who has to learn to get out of her comfort zone as a writer and a person.

I loved that the author understood why some people enjoy reading or writing fan fiction and how she captured the glory days of the Harry Potter fandom with a fictional book series. I also loved how she showed that anybody can geek out over something, not just a particular type of person. In addition, Levi was a thoughtful and sweet love interest for Cath and he is my favorite love interest in teen fiction.

Blackanese Boy by Ramon Calhoun- This is the first book I’ve read that was written by a black and Japanese author. It is also the first book I’ve read featuring a black and Japanese protagonist and the first book I’ve read that discusses what it is like to be bi-racial in the 70s and 80s. A remarkable aspect of the book is that the main character Rafael encounters different cultural experiences and is viewed through the eyes of black, Japanese, white, Arabic, and Muslim people.

Despite taking place years before I was born, I could relate to this book because I am black and asian and have experienced events similar to Ramon’s. I loved how honest this book was and how historical events like the atomic bomb scare and the birth of hip-hop were woven into the storyline.

Of Minnie The Moocher and Me by Cab Calloway and Brian Rollins- This autobiography has Cab Calloway telling about his life from his childhood until the early 70’s. It was a great read because you see how he became a bandleader, how he developed certain songs, what it was like touring with his band, and more. It was just as entertaining as any of his music.

I liked how he said that the point of him being a bandleader was that it was his way of saying, “I know it’s rough out there, but let go of your troubles for a little while.” I also liked that he revealed that he was an introvert offstage.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson- I’ve been a fan of Jacqueline Woodson’s teen fiction for a couple of years, but this autobiography has become my favorite book of hers. I loved how she wrote about her childhood in beautiful free verse poems with vivid sensory detail. I also loved that she also wrote haiku poetry in order to tell about the lessons she learned. Finally, I loved how you can see her writing voice developed in certain poems.

Various Black Speculative Fiction Books- I did a separate post on my favorite black speculative fiction books that I read this year. Since people of color rarely get noticed in fantasy fiction, I decided to promote them as much as I can on this blog and the site Black Girl Nerds. Read about my favorite black speculative books on Black Girl Nerds here.

 

Book Review: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

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Brown Girl Dreaming

Source: Goodreads

Plot Summary (Taken from Goodreads): Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement.

My Review: One of the best aspects of the book is the poems. Most of them are written in free verse, while others are haikus. Many of the free verse poems have great sensory detail that allows the reader to feel like they are right there with the author. Meanwhile, the haikus serve to sum up lessons she learned by paying attention to what was going on around her. They are simple yet poignant poems that make the reader pause and reflect.

Besides the poems in general, the poems that tell the about the author’s love for stories and her beginnings as a writer are very touching. Through the eyes of the author as a child, these poems go from innocent to passionate as the book progresses. After reading about the author’s influences and seeing her writing voice emerge, current and new readers of Woodson will appreciate her more.

Another aspect of the book that is great is its themes. The most prominent ones are freedom, dreams, and a sense of belonging.  Despite being set in the 1960’s and 70’s, these are themes and more are presented so honestly that almost anyone today can relate.

Overall, this book was fantastic. I recommend it to poetry fans and minorities of all ages.

 

Book Review: The House You Past On The Way

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 Even though she is the grand-daughter of celebrities and the daughter of an interracial couple, fourteen year old Staggerlee is lonely. Then, her aunt Hallique dies and Staggerlee meets her cousin Trout. Trout is everything Staggerlee wants her to be, and also a good friend. However, both girls have secrets that affect who they could love and become.

The highlight of this book is the main characters Staggerlee and Trout. They are brought to life very well by the author’s writing style. It uses metaphor and prose in a way that reads like poetry. Some of the best lines from the book involve Staggerlee being together and apart from others by using music and the moon.

Some pitfalls in this book are its pace and length. Since the book has short chapters and only one hundred fourteen pages, this book is good for reluctant readers. However, for readers who connect to the characters, it will feel too rushed. There isn’t enough time to be with Staggerlee and Trout when they are together. By the novel’s end, readers might want more when there might not be.

All in all, this book is good for preteens questioning their identity or their sexuality. However, it could have been drawn out a little more.

Similar Review:

After Tupac & D Foster- https://artsandyouthlove.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/book-review-after-tupac-d-foster/

Written by Serena Zola

August 24, 2012 at 7:57 PM

Book Review: After Tupac & D Foster

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  D Foster, Neeka, and Neeka’s best friend are known as Three The Hard Way. Together, they have a strong bond of friendship and a passion for the music of the rapper Tupac Shakur. For two years, Tupac helps the girls through their personal struggles. As time passes and things change, each of the girls are guided toward their Big Purpose.

One of the best aspects of the book is how the author conveys the impact of Tupac’s music on the characters. During vulnerable moments, D Foster explains to the girls how she connects to the music. These moments are raw because they are only observed by the characters themselves. They do a great job of showing how close the three girls are, making their friendship more tangible.

Another good way the author shows the impact of Tupac’s music is by relating Tupac’s life to the lives of the three girls and those around them. She connects the book to realistic things such as prejudice and the overall plight of young people. Furthermore, she shows how people can misjudge the music and how some people can be badly influenced by it.

Besides conveying the impact of music well, the book also has some well-developed the characters are. An example is the girl who is Neeka’s best friend. She is the brain in the group because she reads biographies. A unique thing about her is that she serves as the book’s narrator, but is never addressed by name. This makes the narrator’s experience universal. Also, the author is skilled at switching between the narrator’s inner thoughts and outer observations.

In addition to the character development, the unity between them is heartwarming. This goes not only for the main characters, but for the supporting characters as well. The latter members vary from adults, to parents, to older siblings. Together, the main and supporting characters form a loyal community. When the author shows how one person’s life affects everyone else, the loyalty is demonstrated.

Overall, this book was a great read. I recommend this book to any young black middle schooler, especially if they are a reluctant reader. Also, anyone who appreciates the music of Tupac Shakur or music in general should give this book a try.

Written by Serena Zola

June 25, 2012 at 7:47 PM

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