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Immigration: In Pictures for Any Age Group

by Holly Johnson, The University of Cincinnati


”Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere.”

–Jean Rhys

Books do make us immigrants! They take us to place in which we are unfamiliar, where we might be lost, but with a chance of being found and welcomed. This week, I wanted to share some picture books in which readers—regardless of age—can get lost, but from the journey we find a new understanding of the world, others, and ourselves. Continue reading

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Immigration: Stories about All of Us

by Holly Johnson, The University of Cincinnati


“The land flourished because it was fed from so many sources–because it was nourished by so many cultures and traditions and peoples.”

Lyndon B. Johnson

My grandparents were immigrants. Like many Americans, I can trace my roots to other parts of the world. When I talked with my Norwegian grandmother about her experience of immigrating to the United States, it was one of adventure. Asked by her older brother to make the trans-Atlantic trip in 1920, she responded immediately, and gave her Oslo employer two weeks’ notice. She was 20 years old. Continue reading

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Outstanding International Books 2015!

by Holly Johnson, The University of Cincinatti

USBBYOn January 30, 2015, USBBY announced the Outstanding International Books for 2015. The OIBs, as stated on the USBBY website are “deemed most outstanding of those published during the calendar year. For the purposes of this honor list, the term “international book” is used to describe a book published or distributed in the United States that originated or was first published in a country other than the U.S.” The criteria includes artistic style and literary merit, creativity of approach, distinctiveness of topic, uniqueness of origin, and qualities that engage and appeal to young people. Continue reading

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“The Aftermath of Diaspora”

by Holly Johnson

washington-dc-chinatownThe month of May has allowed us to think about diaspora and movement. And with such movement, there is the question of the aftermath of such movements. Do those who were forced to move feel settled in their new homes? Is the new place even home? I would suggest that the aftermath may be similar to borderlands, whereby there is a hybridity of both the old mixed with the new. Continue reading

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“The Nature of Diaspora”

by Holly Johnson

holocaust-victims-182744_640The month of May in many locations heralds the return of spring and the renewed energy of insects, birds, and animals. They forage throughout their landscapes, spreading and scattering seeds, nuts, and pollen as they travel. With their movement, they create a natural diaspora that spreads life to new locations that may be appreciated or rejected, depending on how that new life is perceived by the environment in which it starts to grow. Similar to this natural diaspora and subsequent outcomes in the new environment, human diaspora also interjects lives and situations that are either appreciated or resented within the new environment with treatment similar in replication to that which is found in the natural world. Yet, all too often, human diaspora is not “natural” but rather forced as part of horrific circumstances generated by other human beings who do not recognize the humanity of those they have displaced, mistreated, or killed. Continue reading

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MashUps: Beauty in Genre Blending

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati

I recently read that “the mashup is the New Black” (Corbett, 2012). Nice way of explaining the beauty of combining genres to create new and exciting stories that allow young people (and the rest of us) to engage in fantasy and atmospheric realism, to follow vampires through high school, and to revisit the classics with a zombie twist. Steampunk, paranormal romances, the genetic thriller, and the historical supernatural are new ways of seeing the world, transacting with literature, and engaging ourselves in a good read. Continue reading

Adolescents, Adolescent Novels, and Authors Writing the Edges

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

“If you are not living on the edge,
you are taking up too much room.”

–Jayne Howard

As I explained at the beginning of the month, I wanted to explore and share my thoughts about a number of books that 1) have characters on the edge of something 2) have their readers on the edge of something, or 3) have brought to the fore topics that reside on the edge of something.  The books I shared are excellent pieces of work that have the potential to shift the discourse with adolescents, but this may only be done if we recognize that—in reality—most of us are on the edge of something, and if we aren’t, well, maybe we should be. Actually, that’s probably the best thing about working and reading with adolescents.  They are venturing out and testing the edges and we can be there with them! But we often need some tools to facilitate young adults’ learning, and the books I have highlighted can be a great start. But if there is hesitation about some of the books I have already mentioned in the last three weeks, perhaps we start with the books that show just how many of us are on the edge. Continue reading

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Adolescents & Adolescent Novels on the Edge: Survival

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Book cover for Once

Perhaps catastrophe is the natural human environment,
and even though we spend a good deal of energy trying to get away from it,
we are programmed for survival amid catastrophe.

–Germaine Greer

So, sometimes when we are standing on the edge of the next place, the next situation, the next move in our lives, we find ourselves pondering the concept of survival–survival of our ideologies and beliefs, our current relationships, or our lives as we know them. What might seem foreign to some readers is that many adolescents in the world are on the edge of survival in any or all of these ways. Continue reading

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Adolescents, Adolescent Novels, and Authors Writing the Edges: Choices

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Book Cover for Crossing the Tracks“I loved everyone who said yes to the world and
tried to make it better instead of worse,
because so much of the world was ugly—
and just about all the ugly parts were due to humans.”

–Cat, from Shine (p. 290)

In the last few months I have read a number of books that would fall under the category of “social issues realism,” and so often that sub-genre is about the ugly parts of the world. What is so timely about these texts for adolescents is their ability to present young adults, who may just be emerging into the world with their own opinions about the reality they encounter on the news, at the dinner table, or in all the other spoken but not examined arenas of their lives. In essence, many young people have few opportunities to test their theories, hypotheses, and values. Adolescents are on the edge of discovery about the world, its politics, and both the world’s and their own potential. They have so many thoughts, so many questions, and so many opportunities to make a difference, yet they don’t know how much that difference can mean. Continue reading