The New Jim Crow: Intro || #SJBookClub

So! The current pick for the Social Justice Book Club (#SJBookClub) is The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Our club is a little more structured this time, with multiple posts planned for the month. For more info about the club and our schedule for this book, visit our host Kerry McHugh’s blog Entomology of a Bookworm.

1. Where do you plan on discussing this book the most? Feel free to share links to your blog, social media channels, snap handles, etc.
I’m planning to be here on my blog and tweeting (@alisa) with our group hashtag #SJBookClub. I use Tweetdeck (it’s free), and I have a column set up there just for the club so I can see what everyone is talking about.

There are three posts planned for this book (intro, midway, and wrap-up) and I want to post for all three, even if I am a little behind. I’m still waiting on a library hold.

2. Why did you decide to join in on the reading and/or discussion of this book?
I’ve been with the club since the start, and it’s pretty hard to get rid of me if I don’t want to be gotten rid of. I used to serve in a social justice position at a nonprofit before I moved overseas, and I expect that talking about and participating in social justice activism will always be a part of my life.

Both of our prior reads were also related to injustice in the US industrial prison complex (my thoughts on Just Mercy and The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts), and I’m actually glad that we are getting a thorough look at a singular topic.

3. In the very first line of the introduction to the book, Michelle Alexander writes, "This book is not for everyone." What do you make of that as an entree into The New Jim Crow?
I read a quarter of this book over a year ago and put it on pause. But from what I remember, Alexander uses strong, direct sentences and hard data to shake the reader into alertness about what is going on in America: institutionalized racism.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine recently about how as white women who are actively, daily trying to educate ourselves about being aware of the language we use and the comments or even body gestures we make to break the cycle of racism in our lives, we still make mistakes, we still get things wrong, we still don’t even realize that something is racist/offensive/condescending, and we feel guilty about that.

That guilt and a resulting desire to overcompensate is called white fragility and it’s a real thing.

I think that’s what the author means when she says that her book is not for everyone. Feelings are going to get hurt and some people aren’t mature enough to handle those hurt feelings so they react with their hackles raised, silence, hostility, guilt, fear, argumentation.

4. What, if anything, are you most looking forward to about this book?
I want to know about specific legislation that went into place after the civil rights acts as a way to compensate or get back to preserving legalized racism. For example, today we think of gerrymandering as a way that Republicans legally ‘steal’ votes from Democrats. But before that, gerrymandering was a way to steal votes from African Americans.

I’m looking forward to chatting more and I'm crossing my fingers that my hold comes in soon enough for me to join in for the mid-month check-in! It's not too late to join us!

Review || Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

After millions of people told me to read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, I have finally read it and can now join the masses in insisting that you should read it, too!

The wait list at my library for an ebook of Simon is many months too long. But while vacationing and checking out the new-to-me Vista Grande library in my hometown of Casa Grande, Arizona, I spied Simon there, clean and new and untouched, waiting for me to read it. Which I did in less than 24 hours. I fangirled to the poor circulation desk librarian about how these days all I read are ebooks and I really miss reading on paper and how the stack of books I grabbed have an endless wait list and are OMG popular. He seemed a bit surprised and not in on the world of YA fandom.

When I was younger in Casa Grande, I volunteered at the library, and my ‘boss’ was the children’s and youth librarian (who I now realize was a liberal gal who took a job in a small, conservative agricultural community). I really am grateful for the things she taught me and the experiences I had because of her. I think that if I got my master’s, it would be in library science with the goal of doing youth programming. Anyways, it’s symbolic to me that I was reading this book while being back in my home town, with my younger sister reading over my shoulder.

Simon is a teenage boy who is busy dealing with the drama of typical high school days and navigating just how exactly he should come out.

Not only is the plot well designed, but because author Becky Albertalli is a practicing child psychologist, the characters feel incredibly realistic and authentic. It didn’t read at all like an adult trying to use teenage jargon—it came across as a teenager using teenisms (which may make the book have a shorter shelf-life than normal, but it’s perfect for the moment).

Again, the author is a genius. She deliberately links emotions and physical actions to show that what someone is doing on the outside is a result of something going on on the inside, and those inside things are totally, completely normal. For example, at one point in the story, Simon is upset and having a conversation at the same time. After a moment, he realizes that he is yelling and he feels embarrassed about having a hard time controlling his voice level. It’s these types of details that separate believable YA from adults-writing-to-kids YA.

Simon’s fears and concerns are just so relatable. He talks about wanting to keep even small things as a secret from his family (really small: he started drinking coffee), because they turn everything into a big deal. I still do that! And in a completely non-preachy scene near the end of the book, Simon’s mom explains that as a parent, every new development is an amazing and exciting change, no matter how small. Like new moms posting with way too much TMI on Facebook, moms of teenagers are just as excited.

I wish I had read this book when I was younger, for the sake of realizing how normal my family and feelings really are. While I was reading it, I imagined myself as a youth librarian, recommending this book to someone and it changing their world so that they would remember it years later, even if they never talked to anyone else about it.