Saturday, November 28, 2015

#ReadWomen: Why I Already Do It, And Why You Should, Too.

YA is not about the men.

This should be a given. Considering the wealth of hard-hitting authors I know - wielding gorgeous prose, poignant truths and a quick, apt response regardless of situation - who are ladies, considering just how many women are part of this industry and help to make it a better place every day, this should be something we already know, celebrate and consciously position in major news coverage.

(And in case you are not aware of the fact that this is not how things are going, in coverage or in which voices are continuously celebrated as certain members of the industry make overtures to double down on their personal prejudices and sexism...and which voices are perceived as "tearing down", "full of rage", and "unduly sensitive" - have a good, strong dose of my lady Kelly Jensen

You're welcome.)

So, here we are on the cusp of #ReadWomen: an awesome plan to radicalize the month of December by positioning women reads on your reading list and encouraging others to do the same. To tell the truth, this is something that I do already.

My reading diet is comprised of the women I admire and wish desperately I could write like, who stir up my sensibilities and lend wings to otherwise staid ideas and whims, who offer up words that melt on my tongue and warm my veins and give me hope when the rest of the world would have me think that, like the other contents of Pandora's box, it fluttered out of reach a long time ago.

There is nothing - nothing - like reading words from someone who understands how you feel, what you face, the days when you are raising your voice above your head like a trapped bird in your hands and searching for a safe place to loose it and let it unfurl.

And goodness knows I am tired of presenting a friend with the idea of reading YA literature, and having them say, excitedly, "I do read YA! I read John Green and Patrick Ness and Neil Gaiman." Goodness knows I am tired of having male portrayals of teenage girls unfolded and shaken out and presented to me, with a furrowed brow: "This seems a little skewed, but from what I hear, this is what YA has for us."

It is not. It has never been. And the men I mentioned are good at what they do - brilliant, even - but their works are a tasting platter and I've savored the courses these feature writers and list round-ups skirt about with their plates held high and their eyes averted.

Support the voices that know the snarled threads in your heart and want to help you loosen them, one strand of the teenage experience at a time. There are so many of them you may not know of. But they are waiting for you.

All of that said, the #ReadWomen challenge is not limited to young adult literature, and the hashtag on Twitter and Tumblr is bubbling over with suggestions and encouragement. One of my personal favorite lists so far is courtesy of my good friend Fatima, who made a point of adding in WoC authors that many may forget or overlook (remember the marginalized voices, who have farther to go and be heard when it comes to these brief moments of amplification), and is also making a point of reblogging other lists that undertake the same mission.

Another person to keep an eye on when it comes to educated, accurate recommendations with more than a pinch of diversity: Dahlia Adler, my absolute favorite book pusher and a great lady all around. 

I think Fatima has covered a lot of my favorites, but as we draw closer to December, I'll be tossing up a list of my favorites over this year and from farther back in the distant mists of my own adolescence (which, let's be honest, wasn't that long ago).

#ReadWomen. It's coming. Be ready. You have a whole month to devour and discover new favorites and broaden your horizons. Don't pass up that opportunity.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

{in a breath.} McKissack, Jennifer: Sanctuary

short, sweet reviews in the span of an inhale.

September 25, 2015
Scholastic Press
YA Gothic/Supernatural, 306 pages

I received this book in exchange for an impartial, unbiased read and review for the Cybils Awards 2015. 

After the untimely death of her aunt, Cecilia Cross is forced to return to Sanctuary, a rambling, old mansion that crowns a remote island off the coast of Maine. Cecilia is both drawn to and repulsed by Sanctuary. The scent of the ocean intoxicates her, but she’s also haunted by the ghosts of her past—of her father and sister who died there, of her mother who was torn away from her and sent to an asylum, and of the vengeful spirit of a woman wronged. Flooding memories leave Cecilia shaken, desperate to run away and forget her terrible family history.

But then a mysterious guest arrives at Sanctuary: Eli Bauer, a professor sent to examine Sanctuary’s library. Cecilia is intrigued by this strange young man who seems so interested in her—even more interested in her than in the books he is meant to be studying. Who is he and what does he want? Can Cecilia possibly trust her growing feelings for him? And can he help her make peace a tragic past and a haunted present?

Luminous and evocative, Sanctuary is a remarkable exploration of love and loss—and the ghosts that come back to haunt us.

I have always loved the sea.

I stand at the edge of the shore, and wish that I could lift away the sea foam and let it curl and lap at my toes as my slippers. I want to wander deep into the salty waves, up to my neck, and let all the deep, hidden creatures wonder at my feet even as I crane my head downward to see them as they go by: wispy shadows and occasional will o' the wisp, luminescent flashes from way down below.

If there is anything that is better than actually wading in the sea, though, it is reading a book that gets that wistful and occasionally dark atmosphere. And if there is anything that Sanctuary excels at it, it is a wistful and a dark atmosphere - waves of it.

This is one of those titles where you wish you could have had it all, but also feel that you can be happy enough with what you've gotten: skeletons in the family closet, elegantly positioned historical references, and enough Gothic twists and turns that it made my ever-yearning heart near giddy with satisfaction.

The writing is occasionally awkward and I would have liked more show rather than tell (also, explanation for some of the ensemble characters' motivations), but the lingering sense of salt on my tongue and something hovering over my shoulder makes it all worth it.

Of note: Death. I don't think that should bother anyone, but death is almost a character in itself within this story. There are references to mental illnesses and asylums, along with the archaic manner of addressing the former at the time, and the horrific practices rife in the latter.