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MTYT: Islandborn

By Michele Ebersole, University of Hawaii, Hilo, HI, and Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM

Michele Ebersole and Yoo Kyung Sung take on the theme of “sense of belonging” in books for young people, to capture different dynamics in stories of communities and also reflect young people’s lives within a community as space. Sense of belonging is a process of making sense of who you are and where you are. This theme unfolds in Islandborn by Junot Díaz with illustrations by Leo Espinoza.

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MTYT: The Bridge Home

By Michele Ebersole, University of Hawaii, Hilo, HI, and Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM

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This month Michele Ebersole and Yoo Kyung Sung explore the deep and complicated theme of “sense of belonging.” Michele began by creating a text set with a focus of sense of Hawai’i. When she shared it with Yoo Kyung, it helped them explore that sense of place could be a sense of belonging, sense of responsibility, sense of excellence, sense of total well-being, sense of aloha, etc. Perhaps for New Mexico, it would take a sense of high desert, turquoise, Indigenousness, and sense of North and South. They think that “sense of belonging” may capture different dynamics in stories of communities and also reflect young people’s lives within a community as space. The four books they chose illustrate various faces of communities; they show that community is something you enter as a new member and sometimes you are a small community itself. Sense of belonging is a process of making sense of who you are and where you are. This theme unfolds with the four books presented this month through different characters and various locations such as India, Caribbean, and the U.S. They begin with The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman.

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MTYT: The Bone Sparrow

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

Subhi, who is nine, is a member of the Muslim Rohingya people of Burma and lives in an off-shore Australian detention camp. He was born there, unlike his sister Queenie. All he has known is the life in the detention camp. Barbed-wire fences and the brutality of the guards who oversee every moment of the campsite define his entire lived experience. His dreams at night and his ruthless reality during the day intersect in a never-ending labyrinth. The appalling food and living quarters, the enclosed spaces and the forever-watchful guards are what he knows as life. His family consists of his mother, sister and Eli (a boy who takes him under his wing, protects him from bullies and provides better quality food for him and his family). He meets a young girl who lives on the outskirts of the camp, and who has lost her mother recently. She is a prisoner of her own reality. Together both characters make sense of their lives.

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MTYT: Amal Unbound

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

In Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed, Amal is an outspoken Pakistani teen who is confident in who she is. She lives in a small village in Punjab (the largest province in Pakistan comprising 62% of Pakistan) and is educated there. She wants to be a teacher and loves reading. She lives there with her father, mother and many younger sisters. Her mother is pregnant again and afraid that she will bear another girl. Amal happens to come in front of the car of the son of village elder and powerful local landlord, Jawad. She confronts the rude person and as a result the landlord calls in Amal’s family debts. Amal ends up in the landlord’s home as a payback. She befriends other servants as well as Jawad’s mother. She has it easy as she is only person serving the mother and not doing any menial labor. In her time there, she discovers criminal actions by the landlord and reports it. She ends up connecting with Asif (a U.S. educated teacher) in the village’s literacy center, funded, ironically, by the Khan family. This is where she learns that the significant family she works for is not invincible. Indentured servitude, class, gender and literacy are some of the themes this novel explores.

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MTYT: Internment

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

Continuing on the theme of displacement and its representations in young adult and children’s literature, we turn our attention to Internment by Samira Ahmed. Layla Amin is an everyday American minding her own business before an Islamophobic president of USA orders a round up all Muslims and throws them in internment/detention camps due to the faith that they follow. Layla’s father is a professor at a university and writes poems with revolutionary content. He loses his job and his books are burned. The detention camp that the Amins are relocated to is situated close to the actual detention camp that the Japanese internment camps were located in California. It is headed by a director who thinks he is above the law and orders attacks on the inhabitants and is deliberately cruel to the women. Layla takes action and riles up the rest of the teenagers in the camp to conduct demonstrations in order to be released from the camp. There is a national uproar as her blog posts and videos get out to the public, which brings reporters and other people to be stationed outside the camp and sends Red Cross workers in the camp as observers. Some guards (especially one in particular) and Layla’s Jewish boyfriend, on the outside help. It is a novel that has hope in its culmination.

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MTYT: Saltypie

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Celeste Trimble, Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

As we continue to focus on the theme of displacement and its representations in young adult and children’s literature, we turn our attention to Saltypie by Tim Tingle. Through family history of racism and displacement, as well as powerful family love and togetherness, Saltypie tells the true story of a young Choctaw boy and his grandmother. In this 2010 picturebook put out by Cinco Puntos Press, Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle shares a story from his own family. One central concept, highlighted in the title, is that Tingle’s grandmother is blinded by a racist neighbor throwing a rock at her after they moved from Oklahoma to Texas. She regains her sight through an eye transplant much later in her life. Reviews and awards for Saltypie include ALA Notable Children’s Books, 2011, Booklist, 05/01/10, Kirkus Reviews, 04/15/10, Library Media Connection, 11/01/10, Publishers Weekly, 04/26/10, School Library Journal, 05/01/10, and Wilson’s Children, 10/01/10.

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MTYT: The Night Diary

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Celeste Trimble, Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

We focus on the theme of displacement and its representations in young adult and children’s literature in this July’s My Take/Your Take. With the present day global and national focus on anti-immigration and children being kept is cages point towards the necessity of giving this theme attention in any or all forums that we as citizens have access to. The textset within this forum includes strong narratives that speak to the issue in various parts of the world, some as historical present and others as historical past that still seems relevant to today. The five books to be discussed each week are The Night Diary, The Bone Sparrow and Guantanamo Boy, Internment, Amal Unbound, and Saltiepie.

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MTYT: The Old Man

By Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA and María Acevedo-Aquino, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, San Antonio, TX

This month Celeste and María consider stories that examine issues of hunger, poverty and homelessness. In each of the stories, the characters are represented in a dignified and respectful manner. This week, they discuss The Old Man, written by Sarah V., illustrated by Claude K. Dubois and translated Daniel Hanh.

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MTYT: A Different Pond

By Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA and María Acevedo-Aquino, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, San Antonio, TX

This month Celeste and María consider stories that examine issues of hunger, poverty and homelessness. In each of the stories, the characters are represented in a dignified and respectful manner. This week, they discuss A Different Pond, written by Bao Phi and illustrated by Thi Bui.

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