Posts Tagged ‘YA underground’

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

Originally published School Library Journal

Reader Expectations for ‘The Art of War,’ Snitches, and 50 Cent | YA Underground

By  on July 23, 2013 

I remember my expectations of the movie Muriel’s Wedding—laughing, having a good time, giggling with my friend over coffee afterwards. Instead, we left completely irritated and depressed. The movie had been billed as a comedy, and was anything but. Another time, I walked into Exit Through the Gift Shop, a movie I knew nothing about and had no expectations. I laughed hysterically and it became one of my favorite movies of all time.

72413takedown Reader Expectations for The Art of War, Snitches, and 50 Cent  | YA UndergroundHow much do our expectations influence our reading? I picked up Allison van Diepen’s newest book Takedown and was expecting a lot. The first pages got me excited: Sick Puppy’s arrest is the beginning of the takedown. YA version of the Wire! But then I got bogged down. Darren’s motivation to play the super dangerous game of informing and risking his life while trying to get out of the game didn’t ring true. However, all the teens that I’ve given the book to have been satisfied and their expectations met.

The cover and trim size of Takedown is different from the author’s previousStreet Pharm (2006) and Snitch (2007, both Simon Pulse) and doesn’t shelve well as a set—as a result I’ve had to call the teens’ attention to the author and content. The final cover isn’t out yet—the  two cover versions I’ve seen so far are both just okay. Maybe  the blue one is a little bit better? The nice interior has lots of white space, big enough type, cool font at the beginning of each chapter, and Darren’s rap lyrics in a different type sprinkled throughout.

72413takedownyellow Reader Expectations for The Art of War, Snitches, and 50 Cent  | YA UndergroundWe are extremely lucky to have some of the best writers for our teens as inner-city school teachers and/or social workers. Coe Booth, Alan Sitomer, and Alison van Diepen are my saviors. I couldn’t do my job without them. I asked Allison about Darren’s motivation, and she said this:

“Making a snitch the hero was a tough sell, especially since it wasn’t because of some dramatic incident, but instead because he’d woken up to the reality that he’d been used—that he’d been the scapegoat—and that he’d lost two years of freedom because of it. My students, both at the alternative school where I teach, and back in Brooklyn, hated snitches, but I’ve always wondered if they might feel differently if they saw the world through the eyes of a snitch.” That’s a worthy cause for writing motivation, and teens will enjoy the read regardless of our lofty hopes for them.

72413thesecret Reader Expectations for The Art of War, Snitches, and 50 Cent  | YA UndergroundAlong the lines of motivating factors, I laughed (silently) when speaker AR brought in a totally hot girl friend (formerly incarcerated, turned her life around) who mentioned Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret. I was flooded by boys requesting the book afterwards. Forget booktalks, just bring in a hot girl to wave a book in the air. Unfortunately, not a one could get into the book—their expectation was way different than the reality. James Allen’s bestseller As a Man Thinketh is a classic version of The Secret, and in many ways th72413asaman Reader Expectations for The Art of War, Snitches, and 50 Cent  | YA Undergrounde old-school language may be a bit more accessible to teens than The Secret’s lofty new ageism.

Sun Tzu’s classic Art of War is one of my most requested books. One of my teens rattled off all the books that mention it, and I should have written them down, but I was scrambling to find copies to fill all the requests. Especially for reluctant readers, it’s great to have different versions of the same book in order to meet differing expectations. Here are the two other versions of the Art of War I offer besides the original:

72413artofwar Reader Expectations for The Art of War, Snitches, and 50 Cent  | YA UndergroundKelly Roman’s adult graphic novel version is amazing. Stark pages feature black and white art that pops with red highlights—thigh high boots, a tattoo, blood, a tie, the American flag—and Sun Tzu’s words in gritty bursts throughout.  A young man with a mohawk and genetic enhancements is released from military prison to face his demons: an ex-girlfriend he severely injured, the ghost of his murdered brother, a sick father, a world at war. Set in the future, the landscape is devastated, except where it’s been purchased—Manhattan has been bought by China. This is one of those “meta-books”, with more meaning and information unfolding with each read.

The Art of War: How to Be Successful in Any Competition isn’t as complex, 72413artofwarold Reader Expectations for The Art of War, Snitches, and 50 Cent  | YA Undergroundclassy, or gory as Roman’s version, but it’s more accessible and definitely more shelvable in a teen section, and a good choice for less-skilled readers. Tzu’s wisdom is revealed in full-color art in a variety of settings including a SWAT team, jail cell, old school gangsters, and a poker tournament.

7241350thlaw Reader Expectations for The Art of War, Snitches, and 50 Cent  | YA UndergroundThe 50th Law by Robert Greene and 50 Cent is perfect for inner-city teens, or any reader looking for an edgy approach. The good cover image of 50 Cent does not carry through to the inside art, but the combination of story—from hustler to hip hop artist—and words of wisdom and keys to power packs a powerful punch.

72413hesaid Reader Expectations for The Art of War, Snitches, and 50 Cent  | YA UndergroundKwame Alexander’s He Said, She Said has the winning alternating girl/boy chapter format along with texts and Facebook posts. He also taught high school, so I had high expectations. Omar is the star quarterback and all around full of himself big man. Claudia is a brainy Beyonce look-alike who is done with playas—but can’t deny she feels a spark, especially after Omar surprises her and uses his fame to rally students in a silent protest to bring back the arts programming.  Sigh… Our gritty kids will probably find it too nerdy—in fact they rolled their eyes at me when I booktalked it—and none of them have picked it up. An author visit would rectify and stimulate interest. This isn’t to say that it’s not a great book for lots of teens.

72413changinggameplan Reader Expectations for The Art of War, Snitches, and 50 Cent  | YA UndergroundRandy Kearse, after serving 13 years, 6 months and 2 days of a federal prison term, was highly motivated to change his life. In prison he researched and wroteStreet Talk and began work on Changin’ Your Game PlanHow to Use Incarceration as a Stepping Stone for Success. Upon his release he applied his drug dealing skills to hustling his books, selling 35 or more a day for three years on streets and subways. Clearly a charismatic and engaging person, Kearse is definitely a speaker I’d bring in. It’s terrific when he gets specific about the steps he took to change, and there are definitely gems amidst all the repetitions, generalities, and preachiness. You will not hear my usual lament of too much of the dirt (which actually hooks the kids and gets them reading), and not enough of the transformation, as this barely skims the surface of what he was incarcerated for. It’s also surprisingly free of the religious factor except for a guest chapter. Teens aren’t going to be flocking to read it, but it’s a must-have for adult facilities and urban libraries, especially on the eastern seaboard, where the majority of his resource list is oriented.

ALEXANDER, Kwame. He Said, She Said. Harper Teen/Amistad. 2013. 336p. Tr $17.99. 9780062118967.

ALLEN, James. As a Man Thinketh. Tribeca Books. 2013. 62p. pap. $6.99. 9781612930220. (Note: I haven’t found the best version of this classic—still looking.)

BYRNE, Rhonda. The Secret. Atria. 2006. 198p. Tr $23.95. 9781582701707.

GREENE, Robert and 50 Cent.The 50th Law. illus. by Dave Crosland. G-Unit Book, Inc., Robert Greene and SmarterComics, LLC. 2012. 60p. $14.95. 978-1-6108-2006-6.

KEARSE, Randy. Changin’ Your Game Plan! How to Use Incarceration as a Stepping Stone for Success.3rd ed. Positive Urban Literature, Inc. 2012. 248p. $14.99. 978-0-9800-9740-5.

KEARSE, Randy. Street Talk: Da Official Guide to  Hip-Hop & Urban Slanguage. Barricade Books. 2006. 700p. 978-1-5698-0320-2.

ROMAN, Kelly.The Art of War: A Graphic Novel. illus. by Michael DeWeese. Harper Perennial.  2012. 346p. $ 22.99 978-0-06-210394-9.

TZU, Sun. The Art of War: How to Be Successful in Any Competition. illus. by Shane Clester.  Reprint Edition. SmarterComics.  2012. 88p. $12.95. 978-1-6108-2008-0.

VAN DIEPEN,  Allison. Takedown. Simon Pulse. Sept. 2013. 288p. $16.99 978-1-4424-8690-4.