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Bric-a-brac--a collection of reflections

Alexis, 20: I used to go yardsaling with my Grandpa Joe. When people asked what he was looking for, he'd always say, "Oh, just some bric-a-brac." We're at home, doing school/college online, playing video games, driving around town in masks and gloves to pick up stuff the growns. But we're still talking about kidlit & Ya Lit. This is our bric-a-brac!

Alexis, 20: I can't afford to buy A GIRL CALLED ECHO, VOLUME 3: NORTHWEST RESISTANCE. The first two volumes, written by Katherena Vermette, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson & color by Donovan Yaciuk, may be my fav books in the Indigenous New Wave. Echo is edgy and her day to day life and historical dream travelling are highly compelling. I looked at the Library website for YA graphic novels with female/femme protagonists. I found the excellent ALMOST AMERICAN GIRL: AN ILLUSTRATED MEMOIR by Robin Ha. I picked it randomly and liked the preview, but it seems right to be reading and celebrating a Asian (Korean) American author these days.

Ha's 1st book is the terrific COOK KOREAN!, an introduction to Korean cooking in graphic novel form. So, I knew to expect something unique and authentic.

Robin is fiercely bonded with her mom. It's totally relatable to me and not something I often see in books. They leave Seoul for a visit to Huntsville, Alabama. As it turns out, it's not just a vacation. Her mother intends on marrying a Korean American man with children. Robin is taller than most Korean girls and she has a short tomboy haircut. The way Americans pretend to be nice to her and then unleash ugly racism is not at all didactic. It's heartbreaking. Her cultural observations about America, like "Wow I can see the top of her boobs," are nonjudgmental and funny. Through it all, Robin has her favorite manga series and draws comics (with her mom's support) to survive. I was pulled in and read it quickly. It's not trite and has no tropes, as the following panel demonstrates. Highly recommended!

Charlie, 17: Disrupting the frequency. That's what I'm about lately. All the mainstream stuff I'm supposed to like produces a similar sound. Whether it's Marvel bro movies or hot Netflix shows, most rap or the latest video games--or a lot of YA, I'm sorry to say. I'm looking for stuff that produces static. Voices that break the ho hum. Is this because I'm an Black Native gay Two-Spirit person? That probably has more than a little to do with it.

Enter Kacen Callender. I'm afraid there isn't a Native author for kids or teens whose work connects with me so deeply. (I do love me some Daniel Heath Justice.) Callender's and their characters' transitions are a reflection of my and others' teens real lives. They also write daring things which other authors don't want to discuss or will take sharp turns against without personal experience. Take Callender's new MG novel, KING AND THE DRAGONFLIES.

I believe it's the first MG with a Black gay boy MC by a Black queer author. It's also a take on toxic masculinity, with a title similar to LORD OF THE FLIES.


Twelve-year-old Kingston James is sure his brother Khalid has turned into a dragonfly. When Khalid unexpectedly passed away, he shed what was his first skin for another to live down by the bayou in their small Louisiana town. Khalid still visits in dreams, and King must keep these secrets to himself as he watches grief transform his family.
It would be easier if King could talk with his best friend, Sandy Sanders. But just days before he died, Khalid told King to end their friendship, after overhearing a secret about Sandy — that he thinks he might be gay. "You don't want anyone to think you're gay too, do you?"
But when Sandy goes missing, sparking a town-wide search, and King finds his former best friend hiding in a tent in his backyard, he agrees to help Sandy escape from his abusive father, and the two begin an adventure as they build their own private paradise down by the bayou and among the dragonflies. As King's friendship with Sandy is reignited, he's forced to confront questions about himself and the reality of his brother's death.

                                                          #classicstyle  #icon  #MascNotToxic

This book deals openly with queerphobia in poor white and Black southern communities. Men being men, fathers naming their son King with all the expectations and the bigotry that spills from their mouths.
Black people can't be gay." Those are the words he said once, talking to Auntie Idris one Thanksgiving dinner, down in New Orleans. I sat next to Khalid, staring hard at my dinner plate. "If a black person is ever gay, it's because they've been around white people too much" Auntie Idris had told my dad he was wrong, but he wasn't listening.
Queer kids and teens look for family everywhere--sometimes anywhere but their own house. KATD shows that someone different from you can be closer than your own marginalized family. This is the kind of thing you only understand if you're in it--and authors and critics with good intentions from the outside get it all wrong. Not Callender. This is Sandy talking to King:

"And then I told you--" he hesitates, his voice getting lower. "I told you I like guys, and that was it. You looked at me like I was spit on your shoe. Like I disgusted you. You think my granddad is bad because he was a racist. But what you're doing, King? You're doing the same. Exact. Same. Thing.

The use of punctuation there is one of so many things is the book that signal to my gen. Things thrown in casually, like a grandfather who survived Hurricane Katrina only to die soon after, are written for us. And the prose is always flowing, gorgeous--yet functional. I'm reading and loving FELIX EVER AFTER now.

Another hero of mine, Alia Jones, tweeted from Kweli20Virtual:

YES! @ofglades and Indigo's Bookshelf have been calling for intersectionality from the beginning and we're always told it's coming. But it's been here. It's us--and elders who have been waiting much longer while you were trying to figure it out. You need to make room for them *now.* You've got to be open to things that will make you uncomfortable or even contradict you. Don't get through the gates and shut them behind you--binary, heteronormative, no racial/ethnic intersections, abled, neurotypical IPOC. I'm sayin': IT'S NOT ENOUGH!!!! Have you seen Goodreads reviews of IPOC queer #ownvoices. Vicious! How/where are you standing up? I'm looking and I don't see you. Except some, like Ms. Alia. Darcie Little Badger's ELATSOE will drop from Levine Querido in August 2020. Not too early to start boosting!

Langston, 13: I feel the book is young for me, but I still enjoyed JOHNNY'S PHEASANT. We've talked a lot about the Cree-Metis illustrator Julie Flett, but we haven't talked about Ojibwe author Cheryl Minnema before. Grandma and Johnny are driving home from the market with a bag of groceries and Johnny sees something by the side of the road. It's a downed pheasant.

Johnny says: "Let's bring him home. I will make a nest in the garden and feed him carrots.

Grandma says: "I'm sorry, Johnny. I think he may have been hit by a car, but I can sure use his feathers for my craftwork."

That's a practical grandma, but surprising things happen at home. This includes the pheasant flying in the house and landing on grandma's head! "I guess he was only knocked out." says Grandma." "Hoot! Hoot!" says Johnny.

The writing is simple in a nice way. The book says a lot with a few sentences on every page. That makes it good for sharing. Flett's illustrations look clean and sparse, but if you keep looking they definitely have texture.

It's a boy with his grandma book. For some reason, I don't see that a lot like that and I like it. The pheasant leaves Johnny a feather and he "zigged and zagged" saying, "Hoot! Hoot!" And grandma played with him, saying: "Howah." Many children can have fun with this good book.

Ashleigh, 14: We live in a small town outside of Gainesville in Alachua County, but I go to school in Gainesville. We don't have good Internet connection at home--the whole town. My mom drove into the city to pick up paper copies of my schoolwork. Mom said there were hundreds of pages to sort through to find your grade. The person who printed them didn't change the cartridges because you can't read some of them. One lady Mom helped to find materials works at Walmart and another job and can't be home with her kids to help them do the work. (My mom is working part-time at the domestic shelter.) There is a lot of inequality now in Florida. I know which kids will do perfect assignments online with help from parents and be not only caught up but ahead when we finally go back to school. Their families will read advanced books, have tutor help and do artistic and STEM projects. This makes me sad and angry. When Mom asked the one person at the school who would talk with parents if she really wanted us to take the papers into our homes and then bring them back, the lady silently said, "no." Fortunately, we checked out piles of books for me and my sister Vi right before the libraries closed. Because the books the schools are assigning are not diverse. At least, I could pick a poetry book for an April. I chose VOICES IN THE AIR: POEMS FOR LISTENERS by Naomi Shihab Nye. I recommend it!

Thanks for reading and everyone stay safe or get well!


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