Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Book To Discover & A Giveaway!


          As a middle school teacher, I was always searching for books that touched the lives of all of my students.   Now as a Literacy Coach, I do the same thing, but have just broadened the age groups of where I look.  Finding a connection to oneself in books can help a student of any age through tough times.  There are books about serious topics for young students as well as older ones, books about loss through divorce or death or moving, books about conflict, and books about making friends. 
       Even within a strong community, adolescents often feel as if they are the only ones experiencing the lives they lead.  But books can show them they are not alone, that there is at least one author who is writing about differences, about cultures, family conflicts and loss, and peer relationships, including love. That author writes from the heart to a reader's heart.
       I recently read a new anthology for older middle-schoolers and high-school-aged adolescents.  Sarah Moon as editor is offering a lifeline to young adults who are questioning their sexuality, feeling so alone, most often teased and bullied, wondering where to turn for answers.  That lifeline is The Letter Q, Queer Writers’ Notes To Their Younger Selves
         The publisher, Arthur A. Levine books, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.  is willing to send one copy of this book to a winner selected by July 5th from those commenting to this post. If you have a special story to tell of someone who has been helped by a particular book, please share in the comments. 
         In an opening letter, Levine says, Not every book I publish has the potential to save someone’s life.  But this one does.  As much as things have changed for LGBT kids since the time when I was growing up, the world can still be a lonely, frightening, threatening place for them. One has only to read the news to know that LGBT teens are among the most vulnerable to suicide.  They need to know that it gets better in the future.  Sarah Moon, editor, shares that despite being called names and having her house egged, she was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who had already been through what she was experiencing and lived to tell the tale.  They told her stories and wrote her letters, which she says she carried with her to school to give her strength.  When things became tougher as she got older, she began to fight back, earning her only more days in the principal’s office, or mornings when one particular kid would follow her around all morning calling her a dyke.  When she struggled with facing the rest of the day, she would take out a letter.  One said:  This is the life of an activist in a small town.  It is not permanent but it is difficult.  I swear to you, you will not be sixteen forever.  
          Sarah thinks it wouldn’t be fair to be the only teenager to carry around letters that support, so she spoke with James Lecesne, founder of The Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to preventing LGBTQ teen suicide, available 24 hours a day.  They began asking those writers they knew, who in turn asked their friends.  And the book began to come together, letters coming in showing the experiences, the threats, the sometimes surprising support of these writers’ early lives.  When I read, I was struck by the clear message of love that was communicated again and again, to be strong, to like who you are, to follow your own feelings and ideas, which are great despite what others tell you. 
         In the end, sixty-four award-winning writers and illustrators sent messages of love and support to their younger selves.  They spoke of challenges and how proud they were to see how beautifully they were handled.  They talked of sticking with the friends that emerge and saying goodbye to those who aren’t accepting, the parents who love and those who took a while, but who did come through to embrace the child they knew needed their love more than ever. And these writers wrote of hope, the clinging to the future times when life would be infinitely better, exciting and challenging, filled with love and friends and life-long partners.  Some of the illustrators drew graphic stories with the same message of future happy lives.

              Here are a few words that show some of the important messages:

from Tony Valenzuela: Toto, you’re going to feel a lot of pressure from kids (and adults) to be normal.  But you’ll never feel normal when by “normal” you know that people mean “like everybody else”.
       
from Doug WrightYes, the indignities you suffer at the hands of bigots can make you bitter.  But they can also strengthen your ability to empathize with the oppressed, and in doing so, enlarge the capacity of your heart.
    Live comfortably – and gratefully – in your own skin.

from Jacqueline Woodson:  Mandy? (an early wish for a different name) I want to tell you.  It gets better.  There is a whole world of women like you out here.  They are amazing!  They are mothers and doctors and lawyers and writers and actors and electricians and builders and thinkers and doers.  They are funny and thoughtful and caring….
        But right now, I want you to just take one step—away from Madison Street.  Off the block, around the corner, onto the L train, into Manhattan—just go somewhere!  And look into the faces of other people.  The world is big—and there is so much love in it.  I promise you—you will find it.  It is already, as I write this, moving toward you.

from Howard CruseMarshal that healthy skepticism you’ve been cultivating and ask: “Where’s the evidence behind all that disapproval?”  Does what the “experts” are selling square with what you’ve experienced in your own life?  Does it square with common sense?

from Diane DiMassaLook how much you have already survived.  You are coping!  I know at your age everything feels like forever.  But the gears will mesh, you’ll get some traction, and you’ll go.  You will!  There is so much waiting there.
         You are awaited.  So keep going!

          The additional authors and illustrators include Michael Cunningham, Amy Bloom, Terrence McNally, Gregory Maguire, David Levithan, and Armistead Maupin and others with strong and loving messages.  This anthology is not only for those students who are  questioning their sexual identity, but for all adolescents who are learning about the world and the people in it in addition to those adults who work with children.  All of us need to learn how it is to walk in another's shoes, and then another, and another.   

        Finally, I think adolescents would appreciate conversation about the following quote from Calvin & Hobbes:  
      “Calvin: The more you know, the harder it is to take decisive action.
      Once you are informed, you start seeing complexities and shades of gray. You realize nothing is as clear as it first appears. Ultimately, knowledge is paralyzing.
      Being a man of action, I cannot afford to take that risk.

       Hobbes: You're ignorant, but at least you act on it.”

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   To learn more about this book, check out the trailer below and the hashtag #TheLetterQ on Twitter.  The trailer is lovely and loving.  You'll need to watch to see what I mean.  


15 comments:

  1. This book sounds amazing. I'm going to have to put it on my list of books to buy! I can think of a few kids to hand it to!

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    1. I thought of you with your high school kids, Deb, & know that many will savor it. It was a beautiful read.

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  2. What a wonderful book. So many children need to hear these words.

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    1. Exactly! So great that the publisher/editor got it together! Thanks Stacy! I was so glad to read that you are safe.

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  3. It's always wonderful to hear of people passionately helping others through stories. This was a lovely post Linda and I hope many can find their way to this book of hope.

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    1. You are exactly right, Betsy, helping through story! I hope it is taken up fast by teachers and libraries all over. Thanks!

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  4. This sounds like a powerful book Linda. I'm glad that others are willing to share their stories to help others. It sounds like this book could really make the difference in someone's life. Thank you for sharing it!

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    1. It is a terrific book, filled with stories you want to read, gay or not. Thanks for stopping by, Robin!

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  5. I love this book, and what it represents for our kids - openness and honesty and acceptance. Thank you for showcasing this, Linda.

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    1. You are so welcome, Tara. I hope that more people learn about it through this post, or in other ways!

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  6. It's so wonderful what a difference books and words can make in the world! This could truly be a lifesaver for so many kids -- I'm glad you shared it! Like you said, it sounds like a great way for anyone to broaden their acceptance by getting a peek into another world.

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    1. Thanks Jennifer, I think you are right. We need to find a way to learn how others are doing, & give them support.

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  7. This sounds such a special book and the video too. These authors have set them selves up as role models and Walter Levine is right, the book sounds as though it has the potential to save lives. The power of the printed word!

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    1. Thanks for reading this, Marjorie. I hope everyone who learns about it spreads the word!

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  8. Oh Linda, most of my closest friends are gays and I love them dearly. I am sure that this would be a lovely book to add to their collection. Let me share this in my facebook page and I am certain that they would do their best to get ahold of this book. I've been hearing a lot about this book and to see you review it has made me even more intrigued. :) Thank you for sharing this.

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Having a conversation is a good thing!