Archive for the ‘Top Picks of the Year’ Category

Hey!!! Here is the list! While I’m not actively working on this committee, I am thrilled that everyone is carrying forth the charge. Once this list is out it’s important that we advocate for the places that we purchase books to carry these titles. I’m about to email Follett and Ingram’s right now. For those of you who are still following stuff I’m doing… I’m now the District Library Manager at Oakland Unified School District. If I ever had any time I’ll start another blog about the wild stuff I’m doing over there.

who do you serveNow in its fourth year, the In the Margins selection committee has released its full list of 2017 winners. The book award committee identifies quality and meaningful resources for librarians and library workers who work with teens in lockdown, foster care, homeless shelters, and other nontraditional venues in the margins. In addition, for the third year, a Social Justice/Advocacy Award winner has also be named. Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?, edited by Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré, and Alana Yu-lan Price, has been recognized as the top book recommended for adults to highlight issues facing marginalized and resilient communities. The full list of the 25 chosen titles and its top 10 books can be found on the committee website. See the press release below for more information.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

01/30/2017

Contact: Dale Clark, In the Margins Book Award and Committee dngclark@shaw.ca

Burnaby, BC – We are thrilled to announce our fourth annual Fiction, Non-Fiction, Top Ten and Social Justice/Advocacy Awards along with our official list of 25 books published by and about those living In the Margins. Our list highlights a survival story of an often overlooked aspect of a teen’s life – aging out of the foster care system – as well as a stunning, self-published fiction debut with a great cover. In a world hungry for diversity in books, we strive to find small press and independent titles and bring them to light, while also acknowledging titles that may be more popular in the US and Canada but specifically resonate with youth living in the margins. Our Social Justice/Advocacy Award goes to the top book recommended for adults to highlight issues facing marginalized and resilient communities. Who Do You Serve, Who do you Protect? brings forth provocative and hard-hitting questions we collectively need to answer.

As we enter our fifth year, we are excited about our next year’s committee and are currently looking for an official sponsor.

In the Margins Official 2017 Top Ten List

  1. Abram, Christy Lynn. Little Miss Somebody. 259p. Humble Bee Publishing. July 2015. PB $9.99.  ISBN 9780692386224.
  2. McLellan, Michael.  American Flowers. 296p. CreateSpace Independent Publishing. August 2015. PB. $11.99.  ISBN 9781516830695.
  3. Carter, Alton. Aging Out: A True Story. 203p. Roadrunner Press. November 29, 2017. Tr. $15.00. ISBN 9781937054298.
  4. Glasgow, Kathleen.  Girl in Pieces.  416p. Delacorte Press. August 2016. Tr. 18.99.  ISBN 9781780749457.
  5. Westhoff, Ben. Original Gangstas: The Untold Story of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, and the Birth of West Coast Rap. Hachette Books. September 2016. Tr. $28.00. ISBN 9780316383899. 
  6. Sterling, S.C. Teenage Degenerate. 252p. S.C. Sterling. January 2016. PB $14.99. ISBN 9780997017540. 
  7. Simone, Ni-Ni. Dear Yvette.  288p. Dafina. November 2016. PB $9.95. ISBN 9780758287762.
  8. Desire, C.  Other Broken Things. 256p. Simon Pulse. January 2016. Tr. $17.99.  ISBN 9781481437394.
  9. Johnston, Jeffry W. Truth. 256 p. Sourcebooks Fire. February 2016. PB $9.99. ISBN 9781492623205.
  10. Free Minds Book Club. The Untold Story of the Real Me: Young Voices from Prison. 106p. Shout Mouse Press. October 2015. PB $14.99 ISBN 9780996927444.

In addition, for the third year, we have chosen a title for our Social Justice/Advocacy Award.  The winning title is:  Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? by Maya Shenwar

The Decision Making

This year’s choice for Top Fiction spot was highly debated amongst the committee members. Popular with our readers, Little Miss Somebody chronicles what so many of our young teens face in their daily lives. Wanting to belong, be part of a loving family and yet facing uncertainty in so many ways is a constant struggle for far too many of our youth. At the same time, American Flowers depicts the tragedy and downward spiral of drug abuse. This is a book which hauntingly highlights the consequences of a few bad decisions easily made by young people. The relevance of this book, in the face of the opioid crisis facing so many communities is undeniable.

Alton Carter’s book, Aging Out was chosen by the majority of our In the Margins committee. as Top NonFiction. We debated whether it best fit the Non-Fiction category or the Social Justice/Advocacy spot. However, throughout the discussions and as the year progressed, we realized that many of our youth were selecting this book to read and were recognizing so many areas of commonality with their own lives and experiences.

Across the continent, young adults face the desperation of racial inequality, social upheaval and economic disparity. Through reading, our young people can find solace in knowing that their struggles are the struggles of others. Most of us who work with marginalized youth are regularly amazed and inspired by the conversations and comments our kids make about the books that they read. (There is nothing more heartwarming than seeing a group of teenage boys debating the qualities of books in a juvenile detention center library.) It is incumbent upon us, as librarians, to provide them with the books that will continue to ignite their enthusiasm for reading.

The full list of 25 titles with annotations and more information on the committee, selections, and process can be found at:

http://www.youthlibraries.org/margins-committee

In the Margins identifies quality and meaningful resources for librarians and library workers who work with teens in lockdown, foster care, homeless shelters, and other non-traditional venues living in the margins.

2017 Committee Members

Sabrina Carnesi, School Librarian: Crittenden Middle School; Newport News, VA
Dale Clark, Teacher-Librarian: Fraser Park Secondary; Burnaby Youth Custody Services; Burnaby, BC, Canada
Marvin DeBoise Sr., Library Supervisor: Free Library of Philadelphia, PA
Susan McNair, Librarian: Birchwood School; South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice; Columbia, SC
Maggie Novario, Teen Librarian: Fort Vancouver Regional Library District, WA
Jean Smith, HS Library Media Specialist: Atlanta Public Schools, GA

(more…)

Advertisements

SLJTeen_ITMAwardsP.D. Workman’s fictional Tattooed Teardrops and Tewhan Butler’s nonfiction title America’s Massacre: The Audacity of Despair and a Message of Hope top this year’s In the Margins (ITM) Book Awards. The selection committee, operating under Library Services for Youth in Custody, selected these winning works among books by, for, and about kids living in the margins. Many of the books selected were either self-published or released by small presses. For the second time in the award’s history, the committee has also chosen a Social Justice/Advocacy Award-winner: Girls in Justice by Richard Ross. For more info about the award, the winning titles, the Top Ten list, and annotations, see the official press release below.

For Immediate Release

3/7/2016

Contact: Amy Cheney,  In the Margins Book Award and Committee

SAN FRANCISCO —The In the Margins Book Award and Selection Committee, (ITM) a committee under the umbrella of Library Services for Youth in Custody (LYSC) selected their top fiction book,Tattooed Teardrops by PD Workman and non-fiction book, America’s Massacre: The Audacity of Despair and a Message of Hope by Tewhan Butler as well as a list of Top Ten, an official list of books by, for and about kids living in the margins. ITM strives to find the best books for teens living in poverty, on the streets, in custody, or a cycle of all three.

Many people in the margins choose to self-publish.  We are dedicated to finding the best of the best of these titles that fit our charge. This is our third year of highlighting self and small press published books that validate, illuminate and humanize those living in the margins. We bring true diversity to bookshelves and libraries by reading, reviewing, debating, soliciting teen feedback and awarding honors for these titles. The majority of  our list may be unknown to you or have gotten little attention in traditional reviews, but are hits with our teens. This is a statement for the need for more of us to look for and highlight diverse books. This year we continue with our top fiction, top non-fiction, and Social Justice | Advocacy award category.  We are proud to contribute to bringing these voices out of the underground and into your libraries, and hope more and more librarians and awards committees will see the value and necessity of including self-published and small press published books.
In the Margins Top Fiction Award, 2016: Tattooed Teardrops by P.D. Workman
In the Margins Top Non-Fiction Award, 2016:  America’s Massacre: The Audacity of Despair and a Message of Hope by Tewhan Butler

In addition, for the second year, we have chosen a title for our Social Justice/Advocacy Award. The winning title is: Girls in Justice by Richard Ross

In the Margins Official 2016 Top Ten List

Butler, Tewhan. America’s Massacre: The Audacity of Despair and a Message of Hope. Raise UP Media. October 2014. PB $19.99. ISBN 9780692281826.

Carter, Alton. The Boy Who Carried Bricks: A True Story of Survival. Roadrunner Press. March 2014. 196p. HC $18.95. ISBN 9781937054342.

Deutch, Kevin. The Triangle: A Year on the Ground with New York’s Blood and Crips. Lyons Press. December 2014. 214p. PB $16.95. ISBN 9781493007608.

Frank, E.R. Dime. Simon Teen. May 2015. 336p. HC $17.99. ISBN 9781481431606.

Kern, Peggy. Little Peach. Balzer + Bray. March 2015. 208p. HC $17.99. ISBN 9780062266958.

Laboucane-Benson, Patti. The Outside Circle. House of Anansi Press. June 2015. 264p. PB $19.95. ISBN 9781770899377.

Lewis, Tony Jr. Slugg: A Boy’s Life in the Age of Mass Incarceration. Hanover Place Press. July 2015. 166p. PB $9.99.

Ross, Richard. Girls in Justice. The Image of Justice. 2015. 192p. HC $29.95. ISBN 9780985510619.

Voloj, Julian. Ghetto Brother: Warrior to Peacemaker. NBM Publishing. May 2015. 128p. PB $12.99. ISBN 9781561639489.

Workman, P.D. Tattooed Teardrops. PD Workman. August 2014. 292p. PB $15.95. ISBN 9780993768750.

Annotations, the full list and further information on the committee and selections can be found at http://youthlibraries.org/2016-margins-official-list-0.

The 2016 Committee members are:

  • Sabrina Carnesi, School Librarian, Crittenden Middle School, VA
  • Amy Cheney, District Library Manager, Oakland Unified School District, CA
  • Dale Clark, Teacher-Librarian, Fraser Park Secondary, Burnaby Youth Custody Services, Burnaby, BC, Canada
  • Joe Coyle, Project Coordinator, Mix IT Up!, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL
  • Marvin DeBose Sr., Library Supervisor, Free Library of Philadelphia, PA
  • Lisa Goldstein, Division Manager, Central Youth Wing, Brooklyn Public Library, NY
  • Sian Marshall, Head of Teen Services, Oxford Public Library, Oxford Michigan
  • Maggie Novario, Teen Librarian, Fort Vancouver Regional Library District, WA
  • Kerry Sutherland, Youth Services Librarian, Akron-Summit County Public Library, OH

Please go to Library Services for Youth in Custody (LYSC) http://youthlibraries.org/  for more information.

By  , published in School Library Journal on February 18, 2015

As librarians who work with incarcerated and underserved teens and see the misinformation in the world about the kids we serve, the In the Margins committee realized a book list and award for adults who work in the margins and understand issues of social justice and inequity was needed. To this end, the In the Margins Social Justice/Advocacy Book Award was created this year. We are enlivened to announce the formation of this award and the inaugural winner.

just mercyThe In the Margins committee recognizes Bryan Stevenson for his tremendous book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Spiegel & Grau).

The decision wasn’t easy. Our debate raged primarily between Stevenson’s title and Nell Bernstein’s Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison (New Press). Just Mercy carried the day (most likely) because of its accessibility and passion. The title is winning tons of awards, and we are happy to be in the good company of his work.

In addition to the winning title, the committee has also provided the other nominations, with annotations. We hope that you will read one or all of these books to increase, deepen, affirm, and clarify your understanding of the issues facing poor people of color in America.

In the Margins Advocacy Nominations

BERNSTEIN, Nell. Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison. New Press. June 2013. 384p. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9781595589569.

Burning down the houseNell Bernstein doesn’t talk the usual talk about the youth involved with the juvenile justice system. Instead, she focuses on societal disregard and epistemic failure to educate and rehabilitate youth in custody. In a country that leads the world in juvenile arrest, this epic failure draws incarcerated youth deeper into the world of crime. Recent studies on offenders have revealed that those who are locked up as youth are twice as likely to be locked up as adults compared to those given alternative choices. Burning Down the House does for children what Michele Alexander’s The New Jim Crow (New Press, 2012) has done for adults: brings this issue to national attention. Bernstein outlines the history of juvenile “reform” schools, the rise and fall of the rehabilitative model, and the reality of what happens behind bars to already traumatized teens: further physical, sexual, and mental abuse. She takes a look at solitary confinement practices, “therapeutic prisons,” and juvenile reentry. Using solid teen developmental theory and research, United Nations findings, and trauma informed care, there is no book that so articulately sets forth the argument against the imprisonment of children. A passionate advocate for children, Bernstein highlights teens’ voices and experiences throughout the book, which adds and insight to the statistics.

GOFFMAN, Alice. On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City. University of Chicago Press. May 2014. 288p. Tr $25.00. ISBN 9780226136714. pap $16.00. ISBN 9781250065667.

on the runFor six years, Goffman emerged herself into the subculture and lives of families residing in a poor black inner city Philadelphia neighborhood. Goffman’s commitment to the integrity of the people involved shows throughout the work as she reveals the desperation, fear, and resourcefulness of a community trying to survive within a culture of surveillance. Children’s games are centered on running and hiding from the police; janitors and other hospital employees end up treating serious wounds, including gunshot wounds, on the street.  Small business arise to assist people who need identification (if you don’t understand why people don’t go to the DMV or the hospital, you will by the time you finish this book). Entire families and some individuals within families are able to escape lives free from police surveillance, custody and control by virtually living their lives inside their homes. Written in clear concise language with scrupulous reporting, readers are able to see through the eyes and experiences of Goffman—a young middle class white college student and daughter of two prominent sociologists—the unfair and disproportional treatment of people by police. Based on the evidence presented in this investigative sociological report, there’s not much more to say about the separate and unequal treatment of people by police and the courts.

HART, Carl.  High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society. HarperCollins. June 2013. 352p. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9780062015884. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9780062015891.

high priceHart was the only black person in America to receive his PhD in neuroscience in 1996.  Hart bares his life and soul as well as his scientific findings in an eye-opening book about drug addiction and society, showing how stereotypes and fear, hysteria and racism, have informed our drug policies and enforcements—not the reality of drug addiction. In fact, it is the policies and enforcements that have destroyed families, lives, and communities far beyond what any drug could do. Coming from a background filled with domestic violence, poverty, and “the streets,” Hart examines his life, work and science in deeply honest, profoundly insightful and provocative ways. Calling for education based on science, and then decriminalization of all drugs, he advocates for a drug policy based on fact, not fiction. Reading this book will forever impact and change what you think you know about drugs and society.

HOBBS, Jeff. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace. Scribner. Sept. 2014. 416p. Tr $27.00. ISBN 9781476731902.

short and tragic lifeHobbs was Robert Peace’s roommate at Yale. After his murder, Hobbs was compelled to understand more deeply the facts of Peace’s life and the full scope of the circumstances that led to his death. Peace grew up in poverty in New Jersey with a hardworking mother and drug-dealing father, both of whom valued and encouraged his education. Peace was inherently and effortlessly brilliant, graduating from Yale University with a degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. Like the three doctors of The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream (Riverhead, 2003), Peace made it out of the ‘hood. Or did he? Unlike the three doctors, he was a rarity in his family and community to attain such levels of education. Several years later he was murdered in a basement apartment where he was selling marijuana. Peace’s life and death were impacted by race, poverty, and education; Hobbs brings these complex concepts into reality through the powerful narrative of the specifics of one young man’s life.

STEVENSON, Bryan. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. Spiegel & Grau. Oct. 2014. 352p. Tr $28.00. ISBN 9780812994520.

Only a handful of countries condemn children to death row, and America is one of them. What is the one commonality of people on death row? The race of the victim: if the victim is white, the perpetrator is 11 times more likely to be condemned to die than if the victim was black. Stevenson was 23 years old, studying law at Harvard, and wondering why when he was called to an internship in Georgia where his first assignment was to deliver a message to a man living on death row. Face to face with this man, Stevenson realized his calling: representing the innocent, the inadequately defended, the children, the domestic abuse survivors, the mentally ill—the imprisoned. In heartbreaking and personal details, Stevenson interweaves real stories with statistics and his experiences fighting to change the injustices. Fast paced and relentless, Just Mercy reads like a Grisham novel, with short chapters featuring real people’s stories: children, youth and adults who have found themselves in the system since they were teens.

YAMINI, Omar. What’s Wrong With You! What You,Your Children, and Our Students Need to Know About My 15 Year Imprisonment From Age 20-35. Smashwords/The Proper Perception. January 2014. pap. $19.95. ISBN 9780991574605.

whats wrong with youYamini was 20 years old when he was sent to prison for being an accessory to a crime, and spent the next 15 years locked up in various institutions in Chicago. Life in prison is not about the fear of being physically hurt, he says, but the reality of “being kept, treated and controlled like an animal.” It’s the reality of losing human dignity and the struggle to maintain it amidst the chaos, boredom, insanity, humiliations, and degradations that make up life in prison. Hoping that teens who read his experiences will reconsider their behavior in order to avoid the same fate places the book in the realm of “scared straight,” yet the day to day details of a 15-year prison term and what it’s really like will have readers questioning the validity and purpose of locking anyone up.

ZEMAN, Marybeth. Tales of a Jailhouse Librarian: Challenging the Juvenile Justice System One Book at a Time. Vinegar Hill Press. Feb. 2014. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9780615953878.

jailhouse librarianZeman, a juvenile detention center transitional counselor, created a library book cart as a way to connect with incarcerated kids in New York state institutions. Short chapters alternate between Zeman’s life and observations of and interactions with the teens she serves. As she rolls her book cart up and down the hallways readers hear the voices of the kids asking for the “book lady.” Anyone looking for reasons why someone would want to work with teens in custody, or beginning a simple library, will find Zeman’s tale of personal fulfillment encouraging.

After careful consideration and heated debate, the In the Margins (ITM) committee has selected its best fiction and nonfiction, top 10, and overall selection list of 34 titles. On February 18, we will announce our newest recognition—the Advocacy |Social Justice Award—for authors.

Authors on our top ten list are doing great work in their communities; we hope that this acknowledgement from us gives more validation that their work are impacting kids in the larger community of our nation as well. We have evaluated and used these titles across the country and in Canada.

How It Went DownLeft for Dead

In the Margins Top Fiction Award, 2015How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

In the Margins Top Nonfiction Award, 2015Left for Dead by Ebony Canion

In the Margins Official 2015 Top Ten List

BUTLER, Pacc. From God’s Monster to the Devil’s Angel. CreateSpace. 2014. 170p. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781494771669. NF.

Gr 8 Up—Gang life seems like Butler’s only choice when he becomes homeless in Chicago at 16. Abandoned by his drug addict mother and viciously abused by his father, he played football as a child to escape the horror of his home life, but as a young man he learns to dull his pain by hurting others. How can a man raised by fear and violence grow into a loving husband, father, and mentor to others?

CANION, EbonyLeft for Dead. Life Changing Books. 2014. 228p. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9781934230596. NF.

Gr 9 Up—Canion survives financial hardship, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and young widowhood, but nothing prepares her for the vicious hit-and-run that nearly takes her life. When everyone expects her to die, she not only survives but becomes dedicated to helping others find the courage to overcome difficulties in their own lives. Even when the woman who tried to kill her shows no remorse and is given no jail time, Canion refuses to allow bitterness to rule her life.

The LureEWING, Lynne. The Lure. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. 2014. 288p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062206886. FIC.

Gr 9 Up—Brutally initiated into the gang, Blaise is expected to do increasingly dangerous activities including being a “lure” to entice rival gang members. A fast-paced contemporary drama that asks, what are the right decisions when all the options are wrong?

Anatomy of a Girl GangLITTLE, AshleyAnatomy of a Girl Gang. Arsenal Pulp. 2014. 254p. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781551525297. FIC.

Gr 10 Up—Five multicultural girls join together to form the Black Roses, determined to create an organization that is theirs and that will work for them, a place where all of them are taken care of, belong, protected, and benefit. But dreams don’t always come true, especially in the real world.

MAGOON, KeklaHow It Went Down.  Holt. 2014. 336p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805098693. FIC.

Gr 10 Up—Sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson is dead, a young black boy shot by a white man. Witnessed by many in the neighborhood, and told in multiple points of view, everyone has an opinion and explanation of “how it went down.” This timely story depicts the confusion, challenge, and politics of perception and racial stereotyping.

The High Price I Had to PayMILES, Michelle. The High Price I Had to Pay 2: Sentenced to 30 Years as a Nonviolent, First Time Offender. Voices International. 2013. 66p. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780991104109. NF.

Gr 10 Up—How does a young woman find herself serving 30 years for a nonviolent crime? This all-too-common story manifests itself in the life of Michelle Miles who followed her boyfriend into a life of drug dealing. When it all falls apart, Miles finds herself facing a seemingly endless sentence.

REYNOLDS, Jason. When I Was the Greatest. S. & S./Atheneum.  2014. 240p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442459472. FIC.

Gr 7–10—Friends + bad choices = deadly circumstances. When Ali and his friends land an invite to an off-limits party that is so under the radar you can’t even hear the music from the street, it’s just too good to be true. An innocent misstep leads to total chaos and causes the dangers from the streets to almost destroy friendship and family. A fresh debut that captures the heart and soul of life for an urban teen who is trying to make the right choices.

LionheartWILSON, Rayshawn. Lionheart: Coming from Where I’m From. Legendary Publishing. 2014. 196p. pap. $15. ISBN 9780982786321. NF.

Gr 9 Up—Growing up on the streets of Columbus, OH, Wilson learns that survival means knowing how to lie and steal. At the age of six, he is traumatized as he watches the police arrest his crack addicted mother. Foster care, sexual abuse, and life on the streets lead Wilson to prison, ironically for a felony he did not commit. His resilience, hard work, and determination earn him his graduation from college and other accomplishments.

WORKMAN, P.DRuby: Between the Cracks. Vol. 1. P.D Workman. 2014. 486p. pap. $16.90. ISBN 9780992153953. FIC.

Gr 8 Up—At 13, Ruby’s dramatic life is out of control. She’s been out on the streets for several years and rotates sleeping with her social worker, a friend, and the boy she likes above everyone. Things get worse when she gets pregnant by the rival gang member who killed her favorite boyfriend. Sometimes she is the victim, sometimes she is the user—who will Ruby choose to be?

Griots of OaklandZUSMAN, Angela Beth. The Griots of Oakland: Voices from the African American Oral History Project. Story for All. 2013. 206p. Tr $59.99.ISBN 9780988763111; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9780988763104. NF.

Gr 9 Up—Got stereotypes? Get Griots. How do African American young men from Oakland, CA define themselves? What’s important? What wisdom do they have to share? It’s all here in striking photographs, visually appealing graphics, and short narratives. The hardback is of higher photographic quality, but the paperback makes the book accessible to everyone. The Oral History project that created this book can be replicated in other communities.

The Decision Making

Canion’s book Left for Dead won the top nonfiction In The Margins spot by a landslide and with no debate: it is a top read for youth served by the majority of the In the Margins committee. The top fiction slot was an intense debate between How it Went Down and Anatomy of a Girl Gang. These two books were in a dead tie for our entire debate; we kept changing each other’s minds creating another tie until the tie was finally broken. Exciting!

All of our committee members felt that How it Went Down, a multiple person view of a shooting of a black boy by a white man, was relevant, timely, and of great significance. Some of us have kids in our libraries picking it up and talking about the characters and the situations without any type of formal book group or facilitation. Others lobbied hard for Anatomy of A Girl Gang: in spite of its not so great cover, this book is going out and being read by boys and girls alike. It’s a crushingly and heartbreakingly realistic take of why kids get into gangs and their disappointments when the dream does not materialize. As one of my maximum security boys, Luis, wrote about the book, “…the characters show heart.”

We focus on books by, for, and about African American and Latino young adults living in the margins, as these are the kids that are disproportionately incarcerated in this country. First Nations kids fall into this category as well, and the committee is debating adding books by, for, and about them to our charge.

If there are any themes that surfaced this year, it would be, again, the many books written with female protagonists. In addition, there is a dearth of relevant and excellent books for Latino and First Nations youth living in poverty. We loved Hustle by David Martinez, and many argued fiercely for it to be a top ten. There are a few books that didn’t make our list with these protagonists that didn’t get the teen feedback we’d hoped for, or had other issues. More information is available about these titles at theITM website.

We are pleased with and proud of our list. The committee did amazing work in finding top books by little known self-published and small press authors, so much so that the majority of our top ten and even our list may be unknown to you, providing even more relevant books for your collections. We are proud to contribute to bringing these voices out of the underground and into your libraries.

That said, there are many titles that did not make the top ten list that our students are loving and reading. Make sure you take a look at those, and also the books that did not make our list as they may work for you, your libraries, your kids. We feel our selections will work well in any urban library setting with people from the poverty classes, and many titles will work just as well with adults as teens.

Annotations, the full list of 34 titles, the nominated list of 56 titles, and more information on the committee and selections can be found at the In the Margins website.

In the Margins is under the umbrella of Library Services for Youth in Custody. We have openings for our committee next year. Join us!

Originally Published in School Library Journal by Amy Cheney

2015 Committee:

Chair: Amy Cheney, Librarian, Juvenile Justice Center, Alameda County, CA

Administrative Assistant: Dr. Kerry Sutherland, Youth Services Librarian, Akron-Summit County Public Library, OH

Project Assistant: Mackenzie Magee, English teacher, Passages Academy, NY

Sabrina Carnesi, Librarian, Crittenden Middle School, VA

Dale Clark, Teacher-Librarian, Fraser Park Secondary, Burnaby Youth Custody Services, Burnaby, BC Canada

Joe Coyle, Project Coordinator, Mix IT Up!, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL

Marvin DeBose Sr., Library Supervisor, Free Library of Philadelphia, PA

Maggie Novario, Teen Librarian, Fort Vancouver Regional Library District, WA

Amy Wander, Youth Services Manager, Lafayette Public Library, LA

By Mark Flowers

Reading the titles of the books under review–a book about football, and a book about juvenile prisons–a lot of people would not immediately think that they are related, or that either has much to do with race in America. But both authors make persuasive cases that racism, specifically against young Black men is at the heart of their subject.

The more obvious case is that of juvenile prison. Nell Bernstein outlines the case in her introduction:

Juvenile incarceration is also one of the most glaring examples of racism injustice our nation has to offer. Studies based on confidential interviews have found that the vast majority of Americans go through a period of delinquency at some point during adolescence. Fully 80 to 90 percent of American teenagers have committed an illegal act that could qualify them for time behind bars, and one-third of all teens have committed a serious crime. Most, however, never see the inside of a cell, or even a police car. Of this group–the kids who get a pass–the overwhelming majority simply grow out of it. But the time they reach adulthood they are crime-free.

Black and brown youth, especially those from impoverished communities, face far different prospects than do their white counterparts on this front. Those living in poor neighborhoods are subject to what sociologist Victor Rios calls a “culture of control”–treated with suspicion and harsh discipline at school, on the street, and even in the community. They also face discrimination at every stop on the juvenile and criminal justice circuits. They are more likely than white youth who commit identical acts to be arrested; to be charged and detained rather than released to their families; to be sentenced to locked institutions; to be kept behind bars longer; and to be sent back more often. . . . These cascading inequities dramatically curtail the prospects of young people who are already at a disadvantage when it comes to educational and employment opportunities that serve as the bridge to secure and successful adulthood. (pp. 8-9)

Visiting some of these poor neighborhoods that Bernstein is describing, Steve Almond, author of Against Football, makes some very similar comments:

Their teachers saw them mostly as discipline problems. They had no positive male figures in their lives, no power in the world, no idea how to acquire any. So I could understand why they were desperate to join a game that gave them a sense of purpose and direction, that earned them the approval and guidance of respected elders . . . a game that offered them a chance at riches and fame, however remote. They accepted the need to sacrifice. They had to learn strategy, cooperation, how to channel their aggressive impulses, how to evade or defeat the opponent. They understood that the game in question gave people tremendous pleasure, but that it wasn’t economically productive for the local community. And though they preferred not to think about this part, they knew that it came with considerable risks to their health.
Despite all this, some of them still wanted to sell crack cocaine.
Am I now suggesting that football is as bad for the African-American community as crack cocaine?
No.
I’m just making the point that neither is a realistic solution to the crises that poor African-American boys face growing up in this country. In fact, they are distractions from the systemic inequalities that keep such boys locked in a cycle of poverty and incarceration. (ARC, pp 105-106)

In comparing football players to drug dealers, Almond’s point is that football is among the very few limited options available to black youth. And it is not one without consequences. He spends much of the first half of his book detailing the new medical knowledge we have about the damage concussions and sub-concussive hits have on the brain, especially young brains. What’s more, as a form of entertainment, he indicts football fans for becoming complicit in its cult of violence, and (perhaps) for participating in another kind of racism:
Yes, football attracts fans of all races and classes. Yes, players choose to compete and are well paid. But the power dynamics remain eerily familiar: a wealthy white “owner” presides over a group of African-American laborers.
. . .
Does football provide white Americans a continued sense of dominion over African American men? Do their huge salaries give us the right to pass judgment on them incessantly? To call up radio programs and yell about how they’re lazy or money-hungry or thuggish? Do we secretly believe they belong to us?
. . .
What does it mean that 95 percent of our most famous African American citizens are athletes? Or that, when we see a physically imposing African American in the lobby of a fancy hotel . . . we immediately think: football player.
I’m going to get hammered for asking these questions. Fine. Hammer away. But don’t pretend that’s the same as answering. (pp 112-113)

That last sentence is perhaps the most important one in Almond’s book. Throughout the book, he makes provocative claims, not just about racism, but about violence, money, and more, and it is easy for a fan to brush aside his arguments. But brushing them aside, or even acknowledging them, without actually grappling with them, is different from proving him wrong. And that’s a lot harder to do.

Bernstein is similarly provocative in her book. And, like Almond, has much more to discuss than race. Her chapters on the origins of the juvenile prison comprise one of the most fascinating pieces of nonfiction I’ve read this year. And her ultimate goal is similar to Almond’s: abolition. Just as Almond is essentially calling for an end to football, Bernstein is calling for an end to juvenile prison. Neither one of these calls is likely to be heard, and one of the strongest reasons is laid out in the books themselves: the amount of money invested in these two enterprises. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think long and hard about the options our society appears to have set up for young Black men and what we do to participate in these institutions.

burning-down-the-house* BERNSTEIN, Nell. Burning Down the House: The End of Youth Prison. 319p. Free Press. Jun. 2014. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9781595589569. LC 2013043709.
Bernstein outlines the history of juvenile “reform” schools, the rise and fall of the rehabilitative model, and the reality of what happens behind bars to already traumatized teens: further physical, sexual, and mental abuse. The author takes a look at solitary confinement practices, “therapeutic prisons,” and juvenile reentry. Using solid teen developmental theory and research, United Nations findings, and trauma informed care, this title articulately sets forth the argument against the imprisonment of children. A passionate advocate for young people, Bernstein highlights teen voices and experiences throughout the book, adding humanity and insight to the statistics. Burning Down the House does for young people what Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow (New Press, 2010) did for adults: brings this issue to national attention. Readers meet influential adults such as Jerome Miller, who closed down the entire system in Massachusetts in the ‘70s, and Gladys Carrion, Chief Commissioner of New York, who not only closed down 18 state facilities by 2012 and halved the number of incarcerated kids, but also diverted $74 million to support community-based alternatives to incarceration. Teens interested in history, social sciences, and one of the biggest issues facing young adults in the U.S. will find lots to love in this book.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA

ALMOND, Steve. Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto. 160p. Melville. Aug. 2014. Tr $22.95. ISBN 9781612194158.steve-almond-against-football-210x300
Alex Award-winner Almond delivers a provocative if slightly uneven book. As the subtitle suggests, the author is a longtime devoted football fan, and he spends much of the first quarter of the book solidifying his football bona fides before beginning his onslaught of reasons that he feels he can no longer watch his favorite game. Anyone who’s been paying attention to the sport, in particular the NFL, will find little in the way of new arguments here—Almond spends chapters on concussions and sub-concussive hits; the game’s twisted monetary incentives, especially in college football; its cult of violence; racism; and its vexed relationship with the American institutions of capitalism and patriotism. But the sheer weight of the evidence Almond marshals is impressive and hard to ignore. Even when his arguments against the game seem strained, he is able to put the burden of proof squarely back on readers to disprove him with more than a simple dismissal. Particularly strong is his complete demolition of the argument that the mere popularity and fixity of the game in the nation’s consciousness somehow puts it above criticism. Many fans of football will react to this book with derision, and many non-fans will consider his points self-evident: both are wrong. These are arguments that deserve to be considered deeply and grappled with, and teens—who have not yet devoted their lives or opinions to or against the sport—are in a perfect position to take Almond’s manifesto seriously.—Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Vallejo, CA

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL AUGUST 18, 2014 BY MARK FLOWERS

Image

Jarrett’s mom takes in foster care babies. And NOW, she’s taking in Kevon, baby Treasure’s older brother, and so Jarrett has to share his room with him. Totally unfair.

Image

Coe Booth’s new book  is about the relationship between two middle school kids. She writes truths about boys relationships with each other that are real in all of their complexities. AND this book is showing relationships between African American boys and men in a big, big profound way.

Every single character in this book has a story, and just enough is written about each one to have us feel we know them and want to know more about them.

 

This book is a classic. Newbury!!!!!! Brilliant. I am in awe. I am a reluctant reader of middle school boy books and she had me turning the pages. Complex. Real. Funny. Not one thing that doesn’t work. Shout out!

MK Asante

Posted: February 12, 2014 in Resources, Top Picks of the Year

is the hottest book and the best speaker I’ve had in a long time. The WORD is SPREADING – every day I’m getting more and more requests for his book from units where the kids didn’t even meet him, but just HEARD about him! Kid who met him have been asking for books on history, metaphor, and quotations!1743566_10152308872592122_1781677793_ni

In the Margins Book Award and Selection Committee, (ITM) a committee under the umbrella of Library Services for Youth in Custody (LYSC) selected their first list of 25 titles and a top 10.  In the Margins strives to find the best books for teens living in poverty, on the streets, in custody – or a cycle of all three.

The 2014 top ten are:

  • Asante, M.K. Buck: a Memoir. Spiegel & Grau. August 2013. 272p. HC $25.00. ISBN 9780812993417.
  • Jones, Marilyn Denise. From Crack to College and Vice Versa. Marilyn D. Jones. May 2013. 105p. PB $14.95. ISBN 9780989427401.
  • Langan, Paul.  Survivor. Townsend Press. January 2013. 138p. PB $5.95. ISBN 9781591943044.
  • McKay, Sharon E. War Brothers: The Graphic Novel. Illustrated by Lafance, Daniel.  Annick Press. February 2013. PB $18.95. ISBN 9781554514885.
  • McVoy, Terra Elan. Criminal.  Simon Pulse. May, 2013. 288p. HC $16.99. ISBN 9781442421622.
  • Medina, Meg. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Candlewick. March 2013. 260p. HC $16.99. ISBN 9780763658595.
  • Nussbaum, Susan. Good Kings, Bad Kings. Algonquin Books. November 2013. 304p. PB $14.95.  ISBN 9781616203252.
  • Rivera, Jeff. No Matter What. CreateSpace. October 2013. 112p. PB $5.38. ISBN 9781493544141.
  • Ryan, Darlene. Pieces of Me. Orca Book Publishers. September 2012. 240p. PB $12.95. ISBN 9781459800809.
  • Young, Pamela Samuels. Anybody’s Daughter. Goldman House Publishing.  October 2013. 374p. PB $16.99. ISBN 9780989293501.

“We are pleased with the founding of this list and our efforts of the first year. We have a great list, bringing to national attention books that are new finds and not widely publicized in the library world along with standout books of the year” said Amy Cheney, chair of In the Margins Book Award and Selection committee. “The committee is  excited to share these books with you for teens living and interested in the margins of society.”

The full list of 25 titles with annotations and more information on the committee, selections, and process can be found at:

http://www.youthlibraries.org/margins-committee

2015 Committee Membership is open. Please go to http://www.youthlibraries.org/margins-committee and fill out an application.

Be on the lookout for YA Underground in School Library Journal  2/19/14 for more details and an inside view.

ITM identifies quality, age appropriate resources for librarians and library workers to share with the teens in lockdown, homeless shelters and other non-traditional venues for teens living in the margins.

Founding Members of the 2014 In the Margins Book Award and Selection Committee:

Chair: Amy Cheney, Juvenile Justice Center, Alameda County, CA; Administrative Assistant: Amy Wander Lafayette Public Library, LA; Katie MacBride, Mill Valley Public Library & Marin County Juvenile Hall, CA; Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan, Institute for Learning, University of Pittsburgh, PA ; Selenia Paz, Helen Hall Library, Galveston County, TX; Viola Dyas, Retired, Teen Services Librarian, Berkeley Public Library, CA; Dr. Julie Ann Winkelstein, Postdoctoral researcher, University of Tennessee, TN

Originally published in School Library Journal 2/19/14

ASANTE, MK. Buck: A Memoir. 272p. Spiegel & Grau. 2013. Tr $25. ISBN 9780812993417.  Buck e1387316282621 Truth & Responsibility

Adult/High SchoolBuck is dynamic, enlivening, and superbly written. At 12, Asante was living in “Killadephia, Pistolvannia,” admiring Uzi, his older brother with “a temper so hot you can fry bacon on it.”  Asante writes, “I even duck like him under doorways, even though he’s way taller and I don’t need to duck.” When 16-year-old Uzi had consensual sex with a girl who turned out to be 13–and white–he got 10 years in prison. Asante was left alone to cope with his Afrocentric Pops (“We can’t celebrate some big fat white man bringing us gifts,” he says about Christmas). Mom was just getting out of a psychiatric facility. Dropping out of school, jumping into a gang, slinging dope, “I’m blowing money faster than a hollow-tip….It takes my mind off the bullshit: off the fact that my best friend is gone, my mom is in a coma, my dad left, my sister’s on the funny farm and my brother is locked in a dog kennel in Arizona.” He was sent to an alternative school where he was given a blank sheet of paper–both literally and figuratively. After struggling for days, he finally wrote the first word that came to his mind: Buck. Asante’s writing is passionate, fresh, and electric–a unique style that is informed by hip-hop, the classics, street slang, and everyday voice mails, rules, and found journal entries. From the title to the chapter headings to the interior, Asante has crafted a powerful, funny, deep, and universal truth-telling book that teens will love.–Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA

Originally published at: http://blogs.slj.com/adult4teen/2013/12/18/truth-responsibility/

The Debut: Lac Su, author of I Love Yous Are for White People

Amy Cheney — School Library Journal, 12/16/2009

Lac, every year there are one or two books that I get really excited about. This year it’s your memoir, I Love Yous Are for White People. The book has everything—action, gore, humor, a good story, depth, and thoughtfulness. The intensity of the cultural divide between generations and growing up as a son of refugees from the Vietnam war makes it an excellent discussion starter on a number of topics—immigration issues, an abusive parent, and gang life, just to start. How much do you struggle with all the stereotypes that you play right into, such as Vietnamese eating dogs and capturing animals in public parks?

That’s the beauty of nonfiction and memoir writing. I can tell—I have to tell—the stories as they were without fearing the repercussions of any political and social judgment. To make this memoir work, I had to put myself or any misconception about my culture out there—raw and uncut. My goal as a memoirist is to tell stories and not worry about any social backlashes they may stir. I feel readers can appreciate honesty and authenticity. Without knowing, many of my stories explained how these stereotypes came about for me, in my life.

How irritated are you by the classification of your book in libraries and the media as an immigrant’s story? My primarily African-American and Latino youth all relate to your story even though they aren’t immigrants.

I’m not irritated at all. America is so fascinated by immigrant stories—for good reasons. We have rich and compelling stories to tell. But once readers start to read the book, they will see, really, it’s a story about a human being’s quest to find love and his voice. Universally, aren’t we all looking for the same in some form or another?

In your memoir, you write about arriving in this country as a five year old boy and the alienation you felt, your father’s increasingly violent outbursts and the pressure you felt to align yourself with local gangs as you grew older. Growing up in such a brutal environment, how were you able to stay in tune with your own thoughts and feelings?

I think genetically, I possess my mother’s kind, altruistic, and loving heart. Behaviorally, I’ve learned from my father the devastating force of anger and violence. I always walked on both sides of this fence growing up. The troubles I’ve been in with my peers were about me trying to prove to myself that I was as tough as my father. But deep inside, I knew I was doing wrong—it was not in my character to do such things. I just knew this. The way I kept in tune was to believe that I was a good person in spite of it all.

When you came to the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center in California and spoke to the incarcerated kids, they were hanging on your every word. I think the most poignant story you told was of your father coming into a reading. Can you share that story?

I don’t want to give too much of this story away because I plan on including it in some form in my sequel. Briefly, my father made a surprise visit to one of my book signings to hear me talk. On that night, some 30 years later from where I began in I Love Yous Are for White People, I heard the words “I love you… too” from my father—for the very first time.

You immediately hooked the kids when you talked about watching The Bill Cosby Show and Leave It to Beaver and your bafflement that your own home life wasn’t like that, and, somehow, you thought it was your fault.

The idea was for me to tell them all the back stories about the hardships I’ve been through to try to explain the reasons why I got into trouble. There have to be reasons why we hurt others, why we violate and break rules. It’s a cry for love. I knew my stories resonated with them. The room was dead silent, and I saw hands rise in anticipation to ask me questions. Some even shared their own experiences with me—perhaps for the very first time. It was a victorious and fulfilling moment. All the tears I’ve shed writing my book were wiped away when I connected with these young men.

Did you consider any other titles for your book? Whenever I booktalk it, kids laugh about the title—I Love Yous Are for White People—and immediately start a conversation and debate it.

I toyed with several potential titles. This Much Is True, Learning to Fish, The Son Has Yet to Rise, and The Crippled Walk. We ended up using I Love Yous Are for White People because, according to my editor, it was an edgy and provocative title—one that would catch people’s attention. It was already a chapter title before we decided to make it the book title.

Glad to know this was the final choice—so much better than the others!

See also: The SLJ review of I Love Yous Are for White People (Nov 09)

Amy Cheney is a recognized expert on books, literacy, and programs for underserved youth. Her Write to Read program at the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center won a 2006 award from the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities. In 2006, she was named a Library Journal Mover and Shaker, and in 2008, won the New York Times “I Love My Librarian” award.