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Girls Like Me

June 9, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 7.54.54 PMI simply must say that I can’t remember ever reading a book that covered such a difficult subject as gender identity, suicide, teen pregnancy, child cruelty, and mental and emotional abuse…without closing the book and never picking it up again.  Such sensitive subject matter is difficult to understand if you’re on the outside looking in, and even more difficult to share if you are the one trying to navigate through the barriers thrown your way.  Unless you’ve known this world and/or lived it, you cannot speak its truth about it.


Nina Packebush, in this instance, is a speaker of truth for these youth, who are among our most vulnerable young adults.  Her gift as a nurturer transcends the narrative she wrote to serve most definitely as one of the guidepost texts needed by this population, so that they may know of their possibilities for success in moving forward.  As I read of sixteen-year-old Banjo’s mishandling by the psych doctors in the hospital, my rage was soothed by the masterful way in which Packebush could hold the reader’s attention and gently move readers through the contextualizations of the misrepresentation and mishandling of a sixteen-year-old who has experienced severe emotional trauma from her partner’s horrific suicide. A teenager who also shares the parentage of her unborn child with that same life partner, who is now tragically no more.

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Click the above album covers for “Girls Like Me” playlist on Spotify

Nina’s skill makes it possible for the reader to reach the critical point in her text where Banjo attends the appointment with her new gynecologist,  Dr. Alice  Dr. Alice a medical professional who identifies as lesbian, knows how to deal not only with gender identity issues but teen pregnancy because of her own personal experience as a teen mother.  From this point on, in the story, a safety net seems to emerge that was due to:  the emotional damage occurring within Banjo, due to her loss; the decisions that were to be made about Gracie, her unborn child; her relationship with her family; and her clouded view of what success in life and what healthy relationships looked like.

All of these cutting-edge social issues were approached with such seamlessness that readers are not only able to experience each anticipated milestone significant to Banjo’s developing resiliency, they are also able to see a mirrored reflection of their own complexities. As an observer, they find access to the windows that serve as a stage for determining what is right, correct, and healthy for their existence.”



Teen Pregnancy for teens, in general, is on the decline.  Awareness of pregnancy among queer teen populations, however, needs a more broaden platform for advocacy.


As the reader-observer, one can find themselves worried about poor Banjo’s rewiring and the efficacy she needs to build the self-esteem to move forward while not giving up on the unborn Gracie.  With concern to this aspect, I literally found myself as chief-cheerleader-in-charge to bolster support for Banjo’s single-parent family, headed by her mom to click in and not let Banjo allow Gracie to be adopted, to do something to let Banjo know she is loved and accepted for her sexual identity and not marginalize her, to kick into self-healing to save their family unit.

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“Girls Like Me” was a finalist at the 2018 Lambda Awards

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Author Nina Packebush (righthand side). in attendance at  2018 Lammy Awards

With this, of course, being a choice issue,  I can’t help being a soppy romantic at my core, which will find me always rooting for a “happy ever after, if there’s even a crack of daylight left at the end of the tunnel.  With so much emotional undertow, I was surprised at how Nina’s God-gift yet again pulled me through the text. I was even able to make it through the flashbacks of Gray’s suicide, which is literally the part that might be the most difficult. Gray was Banjo’s gender clear partner and the other parent to little Gracie. Without blowing the storyline by sharing their death scene, I do applaud the author in not brushing over this part of Banjo’s story, and incorporating it in flashback with Banjo and Lou, who revisited it for closure at the end of the storyline. My personal breaking point which is reflected of how seamless this story was woven, was when poor little Rags, Gray’s dog, saw the old apartment where Gray lived for the first time since their death.  I found a knot beginning to form in my throat, and realized at that point, how involved I had become in the story’s context.  So with tears softly rolling down my cheeks, for the first time in a long time, I read.  I read and let the tears fall as a release, for the tears had wanted to come at so many moments within this story, but had never surfaced.  They literary built up in a repository, unbeknownst to me, the reader, until the eternally happy Rags became center stage.

This was the epitome of a boundless unjudgemental love.  The same love that we all need and thirst for.  The same love that Banjo was healing from in the loss of Gray and the oncoming birth of Gracie.  The same love that was mending the tears in Banjo’s own family.  The same love that was becoming an emergent promise for Banjo and Lou.”


I can also add that most readers will be more than satisfied with the quality of how the author chose to end the story. It was not rushed and didn’t feel choppy. It simply flowed into a conclusion with logical order. The quality of writing is unquestionable. I have always been aware of gender choice, but feel honored to have had the chance to be introduced to the dilemma of teen pregnancy issues facing queer teens, as well as being made aware of the rising identity of gender clear youth in our society today.   I could not recommend a better manner in introducing these issues than through such a wonderful title from Bedazzled Ink publishers.  Thank you, Nina. Keep writing the stories we need to hear. The youth you write of are our children who are in our care.  Their stories should not be cast aside. Nearly a decade ago, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminded us to never look at situations through one set of lens, for there is more than one story to be told.

“Girls Like Me” is one of the many voices that need space to be heard. It is inclusive of such diverse issues as race, gender binary identity, socioeconomic class, adolescent mental health treatment, family dynamics, teen pregnancy, teen suicide and self-medicating through cutting, and abandonment, to name a few.”

Several have referred to this title as groundbreaking in that it combines teen pregnancy issues with gender binary.  No other known YA novel has approached this complex dynamic. If there is another title out there, it is in a deep state of hiding.

Critical theorists refer to text such as this as “Enabling” because of the capacity it has to guide the troubled adolescents who are suffering from disconnect and disengagement, back from their dark holes and valleys.  Adults who serve as advocates for our underrepresented children should be made aware of text such as this and the healing power it possesses.

As a librarian and educator who has worked with youth in and outside of school environs for over 4 decades, and one who remembers my own adolescent years, I know that without supportive guideposts to provide answers, our young adults will continue to seek out guidance and answers to their dilemma elsewheres.  When they make these turns, a chasm in communications occur and many find themselves in deeper types of unforeseen problems from others that prey on their young innocence and vulnerabilities.”

For librarians and classroom teachers who are concerned with defending issues relating to controversial issues in this title, be assured that the author of this title has been very mindful of how the text presents itself  Its powerful message is absent of unacceptable explicit language and contains no illicit graphic scenes, making it an excellent choice for collection holdings in public, school, and classroom libraries for ages 13 and up.

Visit author Nina Packebush’s blog on Teen pregnancy”



A New Mentoring Text That Strengthens the Narrative of Injustices for our Youth

June 6, 2018

Ghost BoysIn my opinion, this book will have a lasting impact on our contemporary canon due to the readability and historical update of the narrative on the subject matter of Emmett Till’s murder conviction, which was changed due to new information first by his cousin, Simeon Wright, through the publishing of Simeon’s Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till , as documented in a news coverage. The second impact on Emmett’s death was the surfacing of Carolyn Bryant, who after 60 years breaks her silence by standing up against the intense fear she felt due to threats that forced her to lie under oath.

With all of this, author Jewell Parker Rhodes was led to document the change in the story for children, using the voice of Emmett, himself as one of the characters in what became Ghost Boys . The strength, wisdom, and leadership that Emmett’s character emotes is reflective of the change the emergent information caused in the narrative and in the lessons Emmett learned in his place as leader of other youth who ended up in his afterlife world, due to similar conditions that resulted in their deaths.

Image result for roll of thunder hear my cryI truly believe this is one of the new historical fictions we will turn to in curriculum as mentoring text, just as we have done so with Julius Lester’s Day of Tears , Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever of 1793 and Chains.

In a conversation on Facebook, I responded to a request for suggestions on what to do when your administrator says no to the reading of Ghost Boys at the end of the school year. Having grown up in the South knowing adults who feared for their children’s lives due to the conditions of segregation they lived under and having grown up in a small town that refused to be silent against such heinous acts that forced other places to be silent, I knew silence was not the answer. Voice and trust were needed to stop all wrongs AND seeing today, how the silence is still in tack, my heart broke. My heart broke over knowing the anguish that school librarian felt over being rejected, rejected with no explanation.

We’ve all been there, and I couldn’t help but feel for this librarian and admire the brevity of title-choice, which is what caused my heart to respond in such a manner.

Image result for emmett tills correction correctionsIt ached as I wrote my response to the post over the loss of the experience the youth in this librarian’s lit group will not get to be guided through navigating the complicated issues that author Jewell Parker Rhodes spent time to research and present in a manner that youth could understand. It ached over the lost opportunity they will miss in experiencing this important book in a group and with adults who would have made themselves open to provide facilitation support for better understandings, for Ghost Boys is a hard hard emotional book!

There are so many layers: Emmett Tills’ corrected story:  the harsh unbridled details of murder due to hatred; bystanders in both cases in the book (protagonist and the Emmett flashback); current-day police aggression on young males of color; utilization of body-cams video; testimonial statements from authority sworn to protect; silence from unscrupulous cover-ups; AND if you think the racism discussion is the hard part, the discussion of ancestral belief which is an undercurrent of spirituality in the book will challenge views of religion and origin stories. 


I think, before even reading this book, a lot of up-front prep is needed. The students, as well as everyone else, is aware of police aggression but the other subtleties IMHO cannot be overlooked. Due to the fragilities of so many folks with buy-in to the library, I would approach it from a healing perspective, for the book’s protagonist truly wanted the officer’s daughter to heal the rife his death caused. The father showed remorse but never said so. That is the part I would use as a promotional. I would even critique the reviews and explain to my administrator how there is something way more powerful than what the media frenzy shows daily from the murder of young black males…for the silence of the Emmett Till witness is the example of the same silence we are experiencing today with our social and political needs. Silence is a sign of fear and fear does not solve the problems. It takes on hostages and smothers your actions. So, the impact of this book is in the historic silence that our youth today should be armed against doing. The silence in both stories is reflective of society’s silence, which is why so many things keep repeating without correction…the silence and the fear of the loudness…In Ghost Boys, the noise, the silence, the fear, the anger, the history of it in the past, and the action of it in today’s world is all layed on the table for deconstruction…a blueprint for fixing the leaky pipe.

Artist of Color Show Us the Mirror They See Themselves in This World

June 1, 2018


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The artists in this slideshow are Julio Valdez, Edmonia “Wildfire” Lewis,  Ebony Iman Dallas, Nick Galanin,  Aaron Paquatte, Amy Sherald, Kehinde Wiley, and Tim Nyugen.  They represent Southeast Asian, First Nation, Latino, and black American visual artists who reflect a consciousness message needed for our YOC in today’s society.

The artist of color in this slideshow are combined with historical and contemporary names. It is important to include visual own-voice artists from the major groups of color that our YOC exists in.  We sometimes forget Southeast Asians and First Nations.  It is more critical now than ever that our youth not only see themselves in the literature we provide them, but become aware of other groups of color and see how the artists who are members of the groups of color see themselves in the spectrum.  I included in this post an example of the artists I am personally drawn to from the manner in which they interpret the reflections of themselves and their own which is in sepia textures.  It is important to provide our youth with artists who live and breathe in the world today.  When we only feed them historical examples, our narrative is saying “it used to be” instead of “it is.”

Award-winning Author Yuyi Morales’ Pulls Us Through the Sliding Doors so that we Might Know the Pain of the Racial Hatred our Country’s Politics are Causing for Mexican Youth in Closing Remarks at SLJ 2018 Day of Dialogue

June 1, 2018

You simply MUST listen to what Mexican American Yuyi Morales has to say about the damage the political climate is causing her, a Mexican immigrant who crossed the border with her infant son two decades ago, as she realizes today her son would be removed from her arms and she might not have ever seen him again…had it been today.

Yuyi MoralesNow her friend’s children are scared to go to school, frightened out of their minds that someone will come and take them away from their parents, frighten from the bullying, frighten that they might come home to an empty home because someone is coming to take their parents away

Had she not come to this country, we would have never been blessed with the stories she bestowed upon us, in the books she’s written.


Los Gatos Black on HalloweenNiño Wrestles the World (Golden Kite Honors)Rudas: Ni?o's Horrendous Hermanitas by Yuyi Morales (2016-10-18)Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar ChavezLittle Night/Nochecita by [Morales, Yuyi]Just In Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet BookFloating on Mama's SongLadder to the MoonViva Frida (Morales, Yuyi)Sand Sister


[Review] White Flight-A Representation of our American Diaspora of Diversity.

May 25, 2018

What makes this title so fantabulous is that it’s not only a book-in-verse but one that both males and females will find engagement. How often do you get to read an urban bookWhite Flight: A Novel in Verse where the protagonist is a white 16-year-old youth whose just as hip and down as his black friend? But hey, I hate to say it, but just like the horror movie, the black boy dies early. This, however, is not going to be one of those rag reviews on the author for delivering us a stereotypical trope, for the author truly delivered a narrative of his lived world. Just like the story’s setting Chris Paslay grew up in a neighborhood similar to the one featured in the book. When Chris was a teen his neighborhood was filled with white and black working class and professional families, as well as few single-parent -households whose parents worked extra hard to assure they didn’t return to a world of the hood. Mind you, in major cities, the hood is not monolithically black and Latino.  It can be ethnic, however, such as Albanian, Italian, Dominican, etc.


Alex, our protagonist and best friend to Darryl,  was a teen that knew how to walk in the streets of a major city in America because that was the mod of transportation for getting from one place to the other.  It was also one of the environments for social interaction with his fellow peers. We catch the rhythm of the city in the metrics when reading this book’s verse, where the two friends are closer than close.  Hip to the same songs, the same clothing, and taking the same routes in the streets, these two were inseparable. Alex and Darryl. When you saw one, you saw the other close behind. Two friends that had known each other over half their young lives…since elementary. But there was one difference, one instance when Alex forgot…forgot there was a difference between him and Darryl. Forgot that he was white and Darryl was black. That was the night they that Darryl shared the information on his witnessing of a murder by the local thug that seemed to be moving his drug business deeper and deeper into their neighborhood day by day. More cars driving by with music blasting out the windows daily. More drug transactions in the parks and tennis courts at night.

It was one of those transactions that Darryl chanced upon when he witnessed a murder one night and was warned not to snitch. When he shared this news with Alex, Alex tried to be straight and upright. Thinking only of honesty and truthfulness, he urged his friend to do the right thing and tell the police. Darryl, simply looking at Alex as his friend, followed his advice.

What happened next was heart-shattering for street justice took hold and the drug dealer that committed the murder Darryl witnessed, rolled up on Darryl and shot his brains out at point blank range on the sidewalk, and for the rest of the book Alex is left with the guilt of his friend’s death wondering whether or not he told his friend the right thing. Wondering whether or not he was a wimp for staying silent for knowing who the person was that killed the person he felt as close to as one would a brother.

The snitch factor is a major reason for the continuation and escalation of crime in major cities. Retribution is bold and the police don’t seem to have control over the threats. In the Philadelphia area, it’s such an issue that the Philly newspapers run regular series and investigative articles. The Philly Inquirer ran a news series on the issue. in 2013 for one such incident where an Instagram account was shuttered down that threatened snitches. It had 7900 followers and lasted for six months.  Stories such as the ones below were found in the news for four months running:

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1. Website With Pay for Snitch Information (2007)

2. Instagram Account Threatens Snitches (2013)   

3. Philly Jock STAR Says Philly Rappers are Known for Snitching (2018)  


White flight is also a reality. Historically, it occurred when an all-white neighborhood experiences an influx of people of color, namely new black or Latino residents. When this happens, the whites flee the neighborhood and move to other areas, thus making the new neighborhoods more elite.

This book allows us to see an inside perspective on reasons for flight, except the flight was not from just white residents, it was experienced by black residents too.  Readers are also provided a layer to view the broad and diverse topography of what we view today as urban youth, for they are not just black and Latino youth. They are of First Nations. They are Southeast Asians. They are white, black, AND Latino. They are a representation of our American Diaspora of diversity.

Here’s Chris reading an excerpt from his title:                                                   

White Flight is only available on Amazon.


DAY 1: Author Chris Paslay Reads from His Book-in-Verse Urban Title: WHITE FLIGHT

May 8, 2018

514kFzfbxEL-1.jpgOur Blog Tour!  Is Rolling!

WHITE FLIGHT is a YA urban title that features 16 year-olds Daryl and Alex, two teens from diverse backgrounds, that have  been friends for almost half their life, until one fateful day shattered it forever, due to the retribution of a street thug who saw justice in a much different way then either of the two young friends were raised to ever know.  Now only one of the pair still

remains, filled with remorse and guilt from the unknowingly fatal advice he gave that ended his friend’s life, wondering if can he step up to the plate and be as brave as his friend was.  For both were eye-witnesses to a targeted execution.

Please welcome the talented and much-acclaimed author, Christopher Paslay, as he reads verses from this newly engaging title that can cause readers to experience a powerful impact from the experience it brings when youth read its text.




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ON WEDNESDAY follow us over to  In The Margins Book Awards Site to and let us share with you the author interview, and see what Chris has to say about the experiences he’s had with writing  WHITE FLIGHT while holding down a full-time job as a Philadelphia high school English teacher.


[Review of Dread Nation] A Wise Placement of Dialogue for Issues of Colorism Amoung Those of Color: Bravo Justina!

April 28, 2018

I didn’t get to download the ARC because I was so busy with other titles (not that it shows on my Goodreads, but I was…really. That didn’tImage result for dread nation stop me from trolling everything that was being said about this book by everyone else, especially when I knew it was entrenched in the fight against zombies by People of Color. Zombies are deeply ingrained as a practiced belief found in the Vodun religion of the Ewe and Foh from Northwest Africa, from the practice of Quimbanda (Kimbanda) in Central Congo and Angolan regions of Africa .  In the Western Hemisphere, chattel slavery brought these African cultural groups together and they used the similarities of their indigenous religions to synchronize them into practices of Santeria, Palo Mayambe, Voudon, Voodoo, CandombléHooDoo, etc.“This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government for white men,” he wrote in 1866.

It is also set in an altered post-Civil War Era. All my life, I have had to debate the “Lincoln Freed the Slaves” term by those that took it literally as Lincoln showing empathy towards chattel enslavement and those who were proud of their Confederate heritage and loved to harp on a more degraded view of Lincoln’s move as economical and had nothing to do with slaves.  The Confederate harping was a more true view, but because most Americans with involuntary immigration in their heritage have little opportunities to speak with and study their history contextually and critically,, they are not aware of what was actually put in place by Lincoln that was cut off by Vice President Johnson who had a white supremacist nature and favored a weak version of the Civil Rights Bill of the 19th Century Reconstruction. His short stint as president brought about the state’s right move to determine who could and could not vote based on race. He was an open opponent of the 14th Amendment, his mannerism so disgusted some that they compared his time in the Presidential Office to that of  Caligula’s horse, in other words…disgusting. Sounds a little bit like the attitude towards the Trump White House.

This, however, is not discussed much in K-12 curriculum but is definite food for thought with the reading of Dread Nation.  In fact, the entire procedures for ending chattel slavery should be looked at from within a critical historical context, for Lincoln played this as one would when applying the strategy of an ingenious investment move on Wall Street…one that could end up bringing down the Confederacy’s whole House of Cards.  This was possible because the entire basis of America’s economy was vested in the success of the forced unpaid labor of the enslaved that were not viewed as human beings, and that were insured as collateral on the stock market as one would a herd of cattle or real estate.

That Justina goes into the heritage of her protagonist who at the beginning of the story was well aware of her birth mother was perhaps a possible construction for the war was over and she was spared the fate of death at birth, due to the midwife who raised her. It was astonishing, however, that there was no mention of the father. Slave owners felt it critical to not even document the names and origin of their slaves. Better documentation was made of horseflesh. Granted there are a few exceptions, but very very few. For instance, the Tucker family of Hampton Roads Virginia (Jamestown) has origins that trace their heritage back to the White Lion, a Dutch ship that brought the first Africans  to the shores of the British New World in 1619. Those Africans were from what we know today as Angola and were classified as indentured, a term that many whites with this ancestry group love to refer to as enslavement. NO. Please stop aligning the limited servitude of indentured work with the that of chattel slavery. It’s demeaning to those whose ancestry ended in a bill of sales. All on the White Lion were eventually free, for they came before chattel slave laws existed. Two were legally married with signed documentation. Anthony and Isabella were their names. They are two of the few from that period when the country was being formed who possessed a legally acknowledged marriage certificate by the Virginia Colony. When they had their son William and baptized him, this made William recognized by the Crown and able to own land. Their small family, which was granted a plot of land after indentured service was up, were the first legally recognized black family in the New World. All whosoever that can claim blood lineage to members of that ship should be viewed as blue blood elites due to their ancestral heritage. But not many black Americans know much past I875, due to the insignificance of their humanity, an insignificance that was not lost in this altered historical state, I might add. It is also some of the things the reading of this story should be able to stir up in the minds of the readers. I call these the what ifs. What if this was included in our history books? It’s not. What if this was included in the state of Virginia’s history books? It’s not. What if black Americans knew they had a blue blood heritage of free blacks living and owning land in America before Colonial times? They don’t. What about all the black Americans whose surnames are Tucker. Are they aware of what their heritage might be? Even the Tuckers in Virginia are bickering over this. Take a DNA test. In this country, it should be mandatory that those of the enslaved past take mandatory DNA tests. The purposeful separation from cultural connections in Africa was so severe with black Americans in the USA that little children even today in the 21st Century say “I don’t have a history due to the effort to erase it.” Now I hear that the state of Texas is challenging students to think critically by listing and discussing both the positive and the negative impacts of slavery. I want to be a Texas student today. I want to exclaim how the striping of my cultural heritage and the degradation of my race has served to positively let me know that there are those in this country that saw my ancestors as less than animals and based on the hunting mentality of police in this country, they still see black males as a threat. It is also a positive fact that the efforts from unpaid labor made millions if not billions for individuals, and the economy of the nation. I could go on and on and on with this list of positive impacts. The most successful achievement is the hierarchy of race slavery allowed for those in this country who needed to feel empowered. That sense of elitism is still in existence today and going strong, without challenge due to textbooks, the children’s book publishing world, and the media that whites out what is depicted of our society. There’s some movies, even today that don’t show the existence of on person of color, hue, tent, shade, whatever. Still.

With all of this baggage of misrepresentation that has built up in our society, in struts Justina Ireland! Oh my God! …and what does she strut in with? Zombies rising up out of the sacred battlefields of the Civil War and POCs made to be the natural deterrents who are now required to undergo an educational experience that only the white elite was once privileged to, must also berained in the art of defense using futuristic steampunk weaponry which led to the Civil War and slavery coming to an immediate end…I couldn’t wait for this mamma bamma to come out. I also couldn’t help but think of this new forced education as yet and still another means of the dominant society to control those they feel are inferior to them. I couldn’t also help but the thing about the forced deprogramming that missionary schools performed forcefully on the Indigenous People in the Northwest. I have to say, my antennas were tweaking.

I literally trolled Justina on Twitter AND WHEN SHE CAME OUT WITH A PLAYLIST on Spotify on the release day, I flipped because she. had. my. girl.  on. the.  list!  Yes! Valarie June and her bluesy country-twinged folk stylings.

Oh, did I mention that I bought 3 signed copies, in advance for gifts? It is my dream that the kids will start reading the title and get so hooked that they will not only get into the culture of the world of Dread Nation they will read up on the real facts of the era and look at it in a more critical way, in the manner that Justina did when she so adeptly redefined the post-Civil War world where slaves and First Nation people were elevated to a higher social level yet still commodisized by white society to fend off their communities from the Zombies through a systematic forced educational policy which required all POCs to successfully complete finishing school so they can be shaped and molded into killing machines….

Continue From Goodreads

… in service to the white elite women who lease them out from conglomerates such as the school Jane, the protagonist attends (Ms. Preston’s School of Combat).  Told in such as way as to mirror today’s world, the story succeeds with being both thought-provoking and heartbreaking, for the protagonist yearns for some form of communication from her mother.  The trick for implementing this is done by using unanswered letters as dividing lines of transition between sections.  The letter are ones written by Jane to her mother in Kentucky.  It’s of interest that Jane is from a border state and not the Deep South, too.  Although I’m not sure if that really matters, for the racism in this country permeates all areas, regions, and societal levels.

So with all that said the action didn’t get going as much as the setup for the action to come in future installments, which was the most disappointing part. That in no way stopped me from finishing up the story, for I was curious to see how this post-slavery world-dynamics was to be situated. Growing up in an America where,  as a POC with involuntary immigrant ancestry, I was interested in seeing how the author handled a world that had to overcome the idea that blacks were not able to contain any levels of intelligence, a world where blacks  had

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  Colorism is not a thing of the past.

to purposely misspeak to keep from being severely punished while enslaved, for this showed insubordination, yet in the altered state, they were expected to learn the skills of high society.  While stations in life were raised to meet the level of service required of the dominant members of society, there still existed the belief of inferiority.  I was finding it a little confusing that the protagonist could easily adapt to her new station in the society, one that approved the black and First Nation youths’ advanced educational training, yet still disapproved of equality…one that used the Bible once to prove how dumb POCs were, and now allowed them the grandest training of social graces.   Granted, Jane being born with the first rise of zombies did not have prior memories of what once was socially.  She certainly would not have been free to express herself in the manner in which she does had she been raised as chattel.

Another question that came into my head as I read the story concerned the survival of off-spring by white women who were impregnated by blacks (as mentioned before). They would have been more than likely killed along with the black man that impregnated them in many cases. Even if the child was taken away and raised by another woman of color, that child, to save her, would normally not have been told that her mother was the white owner of the estate. On the other hand, nothing usually happened to the planter who did the same thing with half the female slaves in his ownership.

I did, however,  like how Justina jumped into the issue of colorism within the race. That is a huge unspoken issue among POC, and it is important because it’s often not brought out in the public, for all the world to see. My background is of Afro-Cuban and American black and the colorism is rampant on both sides rather people like to admit it or not. It’s an issue that will never end, in my honest opinion and it takes on so many forms with its origins in the preferential treatment of lighter skin slaves by their owners.  Until the 60s, the colorism dealt with the brown paper bag test, whereas those that were darker needed to step back.  In the hip-hop world, the problem is so prevalent that females in the music industry are never seen wearing their natural hair if it is not naturally long. Almost all black American females in the music industry wear hair weaves, color contact lenses, and body enhanced injections.

In the Latin American world, the media is whitewashed.  There are no Afro-Latino on TV, in the movies, nor in the music videos, and no one questions this on a grand scale. In the United States, I remember last year either reading or hearing someone say “there are black Hispanics” which I thought wow, how long did it take you to figure that one out? But that’s understandable since most Americans don’t realize the majority of Cubans who migrated to Florida due to Castro’s rule, are not white but identify as such.  This is because they, like many of Hispanic origins cling to an Anglican and mestizo identity as the supreme caste in society.  This is also a truth throughout the Caribbean and South America.  It has origin in to how POC were identified post-slavery, with those that were the closest to white European being of the most accepted socially, with the next in line being those mixed with only Anglican and Indigenous genes.  Those that were mixed with Anglican and African, African and Indigenous,  or all three were categorized as mulatto but were considered illigetimate, because during slavery, this group were the result of people partnering up outside their marriage.  Today Cubans embrace cubanidad or the African influence in their society, and few would say there still exists racist practices due to colorism.


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Gloves and Hat minus the Umbrella.  Protection from darkening is an obsession in Japan.

As with all races of color,  this does exist.  The history,  however,  is not the same as that of the United States which is filled with written laws and actions that brought about missing opportunities that could establish financial stability for members of these groups.  It seemed that those in the dominant position refused to witness this chance to happen and would carry out atrocities of degradation and even death, to ensure it as a non-possibility.  No opportunities to live separately in functioning all-black towns.  Burnt down.  No chances at educations in schools that provided the needed classes to qualify one for certificaiton in particular elite jobs. They were denied the opportunity to enroll and take these classes.  No chance to even check out the needed book with the information from the library.  The book was in the whites only library and not meant for blacks to read.   Although these things never occurred in Cuba, there is the existence of racism.  Just consider the manner in which Cubans are identified on the Census.  A way that is still entrenched in the systemic identities of slaves of free men.  This gives rise to the existence of the 44 degrees of colorism due the subgrouping of citizens in Cuban society. 44! In America there is something similar in New Orleans, although many say it is no more in existence.  I say this simply isn’t so.  There might me more people who don’t allow themselves to be ruled by the societal pressures of the different distinctions of identity, but it still is in existence.

Now, in America, which is obsessed with racial identity,  there is also the mixed-race youth population who are counted as the fastest growing group in America’s young adult population.  When I was in K-12, this group was so mixed up, because they were raised by and are still being raised by parents who are so intent on NOT using skin tone as an identity that there are mixed-race youth who are black, especially males who don’t identify themselves as black, because their parents are trying to build another way to exist.  This is not working in a country where the current president is the new poster child for the fair treatment of racist groups.  Our mixed race youth must be well equipped with how to handle societal situations that could find them endangered.

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No, this is not the zombies from “Dread Nation”  These are Chinese women at the beach in 2018.

Blacks and Latinos are not the only ones with colorism issues. Asians have colorism. In Japan, women in 100+ heat walk around covered with fingerless gloves above their elbow, sunglasses, and wide brim hats. Mixed race Japanese have told me of their negative experiences in Japan because the culture is such a purist with race. Mexico has colorism issues, too.  Mexico did not recognize or even count in their census the 1.4 million Afro-Mexicans until 2015.  Most Americans don’t even know there are Afro-Mexicans in existence.  Many Mexicans don’t know, either.  I’ve met many Dominicans from DR who literally deny they have African blood in them.  Mestizo (Euro-Indigenous heritage) carries the highest rank in the western hemisphere with Latin countries.

So, with that said, it is of great interest that Justina addresses these flawed and disregarded marginalized issues in her new series which includes not only issues of color, she also without hesitation is inclusive of gender binary definement within her characterizations, another untouchable subject.  The dialogue this title brings to the foreground for its readers can be controversial in some instances, but undoubtedly rich in social consciousness.  I think such topics of conversations generated by this title are timely and have been long needed.  They are ones in the heart and minds of our young adults who are living and breathing some of the same situations reflected in a historical setting but still apropos for today.  In many instances, the young adult readers will be able to handle the subject matter for such dialogues in far better ways than many members of the older generation, for older gens carry with them a trunkload of historical and social damage. So wise is Justina’s placement of these social seeds of thought in her new series, so calculatingly wise.

One Cut: One Found Guilty: All Charged with Felony Murder

April 21, 2018
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Felony Murder:  The rule of felony murder is a legal doctrine in some common law jurisdictions that broadens the crime of murder: when an offender kills (regardless of intent to kill) in the commission of a dangerous or enumerated crime (called a felony in some jurisdictions), he/she is guilty of murder.  Some 46 states in the union have some form of felony murder rule on their statute books. Of those, 11 states unambiguously allow for individuals who commit a felony that ends in a death to be charged with murder even when they were not the agents, of the killing.

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 Is Felony Murder a fair charge to use on underaged youth who witnesses didn’t have anything to do with the crime?  
When I first passed out Eve Porinchak’s One Cut for feedback, I had no idea how much engagement this true crime story would bring to the young adult readers our committee sought feedback from who were either in juvenile detention facilities or in secondarypublic schools and who often identified themselves as nonreaders. This title however caught and held their interests, due to the authenticity of the storyline. Authentic usually means conversational dialogue and environment, but not this time. The characters and environment is just the opposite of most of the youth who participated in feedback. They are mostly browns and blacks while the characters in the story are white middle-class teens in Southern California. What pulls them is that these youth got entangled with the justice system and arrested, some under critical pretense, which is much the conditions of environment they live in that find them being racially profiled and arrested at unprecedented rates. The fact that this injustice happened to white teens too, is what brought about engagement and the fact that the story is a real-life well-written truth is what produced a reason for much dialogue amongst those reading the story. A cohesiveness not often experienced by these reluctant readers.

The events took place when the characters were around the same age group of the readers the book is intended for, highlighting a tragedy of enormous proportions in the teen characters’ world… one in which the ordinary routine of comping reefer, went haywire in an instant. The fact that this occurrence is accounted for some twenty-three years in the past is of no importance, for within the framing of the events, the reader can easily see themselves within the story’s boundaries, for this scenario is still occurring today.

Continue from Goodreads:

Due to the court action focus of this story, there is a need to bring about a clear understanding of the legal jargon. An in-depth amount of effort was put forth by the author to bring about a better understanding of the legalese. Ms. Porinchak also devoted extensive time to reviewing individual recounts of the fight that occurred between the six male teen adolescents ending up with one dead and the rest ended with their lives changed forever.

In today’s world of media profiling on youth of color, there’s an added interest in this story for it involves the arrest of young middle class white youth, a so-called drug pickup, and gang affiliation accusations, ending with life without parole for all members in the group. To read a story that involves circumstances similar to what they have mostly known to be associated with a youth of color, but that is instead associated with white upper-middle-class youth is a real event that is next to impossible for them to imagine in their lived world. Most of the youth showing interest are of color and used to being racially profiled by the police. They’re used to being forced, in some instances, to even confess to events they have had nothing to do with…or know of someone who plea-bargained for a lesser conviction of something they didn’t commit, but the people they know are usually of color.

In this 1995 situation which was closely after the OJ trial, there was no apparent plea-bargaining, only two possible sides to the same ending: the perspective of Mike McLoren, a neighborhood drug dealer and his friend and neighbor Jimmy Ferris, who died from the incident; and the perspective of the four young men (Brandon Hein who wielded the knife (life + 8 years), brothers Jason (life + 4 years) and Micah Holland (29 years to life), and Tony who did not get involved but witnessed the event [life w/o [parole]).


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These four boys went onto the property of Mike McLoren’s family to the backyard hangout to either buy weed.  Their driver Chris Valardo who was waiting in the car unaware of what was going on received 11 years and was released in 2000. The conflict revolved around Mike’s constant change-up of what happened, of the jury taking Mike’s inconsistent testimonial accounts, and of Chris, the driver receiving as harsh a sentence as the rest of the group which was accused of gang-style activity.  Jimmy, by the way, was the son of a policeman. Now we also have the silent blue line and payback for the slaying of one of theirs’.

The feedback from the student reviews I received was filled with statements referencing corruption of ethics, with most expressing how the judge literally didn’t show empathy towards the youth involved, especially to Chris who was not at the scene of the crime. Many responses were concerned with Chris saying had DNA been available then, it would have cleared him of involvement. Some even speculated that the case would have been thrown out of court, due to Mike’s inconsistent accounts and that the judge was probably associated with Mike’s father through some sort of private affluent leisure club or investment affiliation…incredible insight for youth of today who are now witnesses to repetitive injustice by a public law enforcement and court system so often found to be corrupt, due to a fraternal code of silence.



Ebb & Flow by Heather Smith

April 7, 2018


I have a tendency to give everything I read high marks simply because I love to read, however, I rarely assign 4 of 4. I must admit the artistry of poetic form in this book has allowed Heather Smith to handle the ugliest of marginalized situations for the young child is just simply unquestionably wonderful and gentle. This book slowly addresses one summer in the life of a child whose life has been shattered by the incarceration of his father, revealing his father’s drunk driving that caused the death of a mother and child and severed the parental relationships with his biological mother too, for she hasn’t recovered from the experience to nurture her son back to he

The author is very careful to address the core issue that is at the heart of the problems facing the main character Jett, which is the loss of the father-son bond. So hurt is he by his father’s incarceration that he hasn’t yet cried over the loss of his father from the family nor can Jett be moved to go see his dad who is in jail in the town of his birth. When Jett is sent to his grandmother for the summer in New Foundland, his acting out signaled the internal conflicts churning within. Choosing to attach himself to everything that he can which he counts as broken, he makes friends with the socially rejected Junior Dawson, town bully, town thief, town lier…you name it this child acted out on it, due to a revealed daily abuse by his father. Junior is also living in a home of which he shares with his uncle/brother Alf who is an adult who suffers mental illness.

Having to live off food samples because no one supplies meals for him at home, Junior bitterly resents Alf because they share the same mother due and he feels their mother left Alf a fortune of money before abandoned him to the abusive behavior of his aunt and father. When Junior breaks into the safe box, it is discovered that the money is Monopoly money. His anger leads to him beating up Alf and running away, as Jeff, who was pulled into his plan, stands back in horror witnessing the attack and in turn gets initially accused of the assault.

An eloquent clean read that covers issues of elder abuse, extreme physical abuse by a biological parent, dysfunctional settings threatening child-safety, living w/adult mental illness, death, parental incarceration, and feelings of abandonment/disengagement is masterfully handled for the younger reader from grades 4 through 6. The one irritating moment was when Junior confessed his mistreatment by the adults responsible for him and the callous response of the classroom teacher who responded threatening him with removal from the home he wanted removal from.  He was so not in putting the needs of the student’s well-being first, an attitude I was never exposed to in my pre-service or in-service positions as a licensed classroom elementary or middle school teachers.  I am hoping this was added for fictional purposes and would hate to think this was based on a consistant truth in educators from one N. A. country to the other.

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[Review] The Perspective of Today’s Youth is Found in the Text of “The Day Tajon Got Shot”

April 4, 2018


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Beacon House Writers, K. Crutcher (Ed.), Z. Gatti (Dsgn.). The Day Tajon Got Shot. 230p. Shout Mouse Press. March 2017. PB $14.80. 9780996927451. Ages 13 to 15.  I think this has been one of my favorite books in the past seven months because when I picked it up to read, back in September, it was right before grad class and so good, I couldn’t stop the sneaky reading throughout class. When class was over, I literally set in the parking garage and finished the story otherwise I probably would have pulled over enroute home to finish the book, I was so stoked. The hooks to this story hypnotized me, a feat which has not happened for a long while. When I shared this book with an 8th grader just to preview it, he went home and had his mother go online and purchase the title.  This was a student that rarely if ever finds engagement in the text that’s offered in school for him to read.  This book, contained the majical formula: own-voice authors, culturally relevant to the reader’s lived experience, short chapters that serve to heighten the reader’s anticipation, and photo-illustrations that help create an illusion of debth that has readers wondering if the story is not based on events that actually happened in real life. 

I couldn’t believe, at the end of the story that 10 separate individuals wrote this one single narrative. I couldn’t believe that young adolescent girls were the voices of their elders, were voices of their adversaries and were voices of males old and young. When the story opened up with Tajon Williams selling weed because he was driven to help his struggling mother, the same old repetitive story rung loud of the male son trying to step up to the man’s role in the best way he knew how against the advice of everyone that had a vested interest in his well being. With that said, Tajon had no business selling weed. It was illegal and as Rakia warned, a bad decision.

When Pete the policeman pulled up on the last sell of Tajon’s life, it really wasn’t a sell, but a thief, for Tajon’s supply had just got stolen by the thug he thought he was making a sale to. When Tajon saw the policeman, his mistake was to turn and run while reaching for his phone and because of course, the policeman seeing the cell phone shot him at point-blank range saying he feared for his life in the ever-repetitive cell-phone-that-looks-like-a-gun-in-the-hand-of-a-perp-not-turned-in-the-direction-of-the-cop scenario. Rakia, Tajon’s best bud who just happened by to see if he was still out, got it all on her phone.

PICK-UP FROM GOODREADS: This scenario can’t help but bring to mind a dystopian-like rite-of-cultural passage existing in this society today which is to teach young black males to tie their shoes, memorize their addresses and phone numbers, never call the police in an emergency, never go in your pockets in the presence of a policeman, when walking down the street and you see a policeman…change your pattern of direction by casually crossing to the opposite side of the street (practice them) / turn the corner / go into the nearest building until they pass.

Albert Einstein, Einstein, and It has become  appallingly obvious  that our technology  has exceeded our  humanity  --Albert Einstein

As an adult, if pulled over in your car as passenger or driver NEVER go in your dashboard after you have told them you are licensed to carry and never think for one minute that your life is viewed as precious in a society that is locked into a systemic pattern of genocide against your race and gender. Unfortunately, I hate to go there with this subject matter, but that is basically what the climate is for the teen authors of this novel who are seeing their peers, families, neighbors, and friends profiled in D.C. and that was the catalyst that stimulated their writing of this story. In fact, the authors kept track of every police murder of unarmed persons in the country from their project’s start in 2015 to finish in 2017, but as they stated in the back info pages of the book, there wasn’t enough space to add the entire list of ALL the white, black, Latino, Asian, and Indigenous male deaths that occurred over the 2 years of their project, so they listed the unarmed black deaths.

What made this book so special was the perspective of the youth through the voice of the characters. The policeman had children that attended school with Tajon, Ashley and Zach. In fact Zach was a good friend with Tajon, while Ashley played on the school basketball team. The policeman (Pete) that shot Tajon was white and he couldn’t even tell his son and daughter what happened. Pete’s loyalty to the neighborhood and to Tajon was gallant. The retribution on these children, however, was brutal. Both were beat up. Ashley was left battered by her own basketball team on the bathroom floor, not even knowing why. When the family moved to another part of the country, Zach remained behind and stood up against the storm forsaking his father and his family for he like the youth that was mostly of color and hostile against him due to his association as the son of the policeman that shot Tajon, was more torn from Tajon’s death and just as hurt if not feeling deeply guilty that his own father was the cause.Related image

The duality of this existence was a nuance that is seldom given light and is also reflective of the diversity our youth living in today’s world experience, one in which the socioeconomic racial lines are blurred, for the youth of today might hate and be angry.  In the situation concerning Tajon’s death, the clashes were racial because the youth were black and white but not necessarily from the traditional intersections of black and white aggressive behavior. In this book, it would have happened to whoever the son and daughter of the policeman was. It didn’t matter what the race was.  The characters just happened to have been white. For the police aggression against black males in this society has no color. It’s those in blue against the males whose skin are brown and black, and according to academics, researchers, and writers at the Roots <>, nothing’s going to change because the police are going to consistently get away with the shooting deaths, due to their close collaborative work with the prosecuting attorneys’ offices across the country in a one hand washes the other arrangement.  As Michille Alexander has so eloquently stated in The New Jim Crow, “The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid” (2013, p.6).

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24 March 2018 –  MarchforOurLives rally in DC

The literary use of alternating voices and short chapters in this title will keep even the most reluctant readers vested and engaged with anticipation. The use of multimedia graphics, such as newspaper headlines, black and white journalistic photos, social media text, and protest signs and posters aligns this books’ storyline directly with the headline human rights protests and injustices that have occurred since the book’s publication. Of particular interest that comes to mind are the women’s’ rights protest marches in January 2017 and the Parkland, FL. school shooting, which led to the March for Our Lives rally in Washington on  24 March 2018.  There’s also the continued police killings of black males with cell phones in their hands, such as 22-year-old Stephon Clark in Sacramento, CA. who was shot 6 times in the back and 2 times in the side 18 March 2018, in his grandmother’s backyard, by multiple police personnel who saw him as an endangerment to their lives (see 30 March 2018 Washington Post Article on Autopsy Results for Stephon Clark).

Youth who enjoyed books on this subject such as THUG by Angie Thomas, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, Ghost Boys by Jewel Parker Rhodes, All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, and How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon, will enjoy adding this title to the list and rejoice in knowing there is not a single story being told to this tragic phenomenon.




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