Friday, November 10, 2023

Poetry Friday- Ruptured and Writing in Color

Fritz, Joanne Rossmassler. Ruptured
November 14, 2023 by Holiday House
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In this novel in verse, Claire and her parents are vacationing in Maine. Things are tense; her mother (who does fund raising for an art museum) and her father (who is an accountant and sometimes works from home) seem to be constantly in a snit with each other, which makes Claire, as an only child, very uncomfortable. One day, when her father wants to go fishing, her mother plans for a girls' day out shopping, when all Claire wants to do is read her book, Kate Allen's The Line Tender. They have a decent day, stopping to buy jam, and looking at the lighthouses that her mother collects, but when they are eating lunch, the conversation turns serious. Herr mother tells her that she is thinking of telling the father that "it's over". Before Claire can really process all of this, her  mother has a pounding headache and passes out. An ambulance comes, and transports the mother not just to the local hospital, but to a larger one in Portland. The father is eventually located and makes his way to the hospital, but Claire has to spend some time with a social worker, waiting for news and for her father. When they finally get the news, it's grim; the mother has suffered a brain aneurysm, and complications could be severe. Claire's aunt Bobbi is called to come and help the two; she's a photographer who can work a variety of places. Claire meets a boy in the hospital, DeShawn, whose mother has also had an aneurysm. Eventually, the three get a hotel room near the hospital, and the mother's progress is painfully slow. She's doing better, and each day that passes means that her chances are better, but she still hallucinates that her parents have visited, and struggles with basic information. Claire does take an interest in her aunt's photography, and even goes to the public library to look for books where a parent has an aneurysm but survives. (So, not Navigating Early.) She can't find one, but ends up with Sonnenblick's Falling Over Sideways. Claire does tell her father and aunt about her mother's comment about ending the marriage. Eventually, Claire's father decides that she needs to return to school, and her aunt goes with her. It's different not having her mother around; her aunt cooks differently, and everyone at school treats her strangely. Her friend Leala is pretty much her usual perky self, but Trish, who has spent the summer at a music camp, seems distant. Claire remembers that Trish's mother died of cancer just before this met, and eventually reaches out to her friend. When her  mother returns home, it's hard to watch as she slowly regains her strength. The family goes for counseling, and things seem to be better, if not perfect. 
Strengths: First of all, major props for both an excellent public librarian (named for author Kate Albus!), an understanding school librarian, and a mention that librarians don't get to read on the job because we are too busy. Claire rethinks her career goal, which is wise! This had a good mix of hospital scenes interspersed with activities like meeting DeShawn and hanging out with Aunt Bobbi, which also helped keep the book from being too relentlessly sad. Claire experiences a lot of very realistic emotions, and even the school scenes are true to life; Fritz has done her research. This moves fairly quickly, and the free verse will appeal to readers who like this format. Fritz also knows her middle grade literature. Everywhere Blue was one of the few missing sibling books I've seen, and there are not, in fact, books where a parent survives a brain aneurysm, with the possible exception of McGovern's Just My Luck (2016)
Weaknesses: While this is based on the author's own experiences of having a second aneurysm while on vacation in Maine, one of the things I liked best about Falling Over Sideways was that the Claire in that book had to continue going to school, which also appeals to middle grade readers. Being in another city over summer vacation makes this a little slower paced. I have liked to see more of Claire's experiences with her friends and activities at school rather than information about the parents' marital problems. 
What I really think: This would be a good choice for readers who liked The Line Tender, Chow's Miracle, or Keller's The Science of Breakable Things

Azad, Nafiza and Simpson, Melody. 
Writing in Color: Fourteen Writers on the Lessons We've Learned
 August 22, 2023 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

This collection of essays on the craft of writing offers insights into how the Young Adult publishing industry has traditionally been a less than welcoming place for writers of color. Acknowledging that this has been an issue, and offering stories of success, is important to young writers who need to be able to see that there are possibilities for them to take up this craft as well. Tips from writers are a great way to start students thinking about their own journeys in the field. 

The book is divided into two major sections: "Starting from the blank page", and "Querying, publishing, and beyond". Each entry starts with an overview of the writer, the person's cultural background, works published, and a bit of personal information. This is helpful in any anthology, and I always use this to locate books by an author if I like a particular essay. Contributors include: Julie C. Dao, Chloe Gong, Joan He, Kosoko Jackson, Adiba Jaigirdar, Darcie Little Badger, Yamile Saied Mendez, Axie Oh, Laura Pohl, Cindy Pon, Karuna Riazi, Gail D. Villanueva, Julian Winters, and Kat Zhang. Some of these writers also write for the middle grade market. 

Like most of the authors, Kosoko Jackson outlines a bit of his personal process in becoming a writer and becoming an author, including being comforted by seeing other authors of color who have already been through the process. Axie Oh tells readers that they will all have their own unique perspective to add to a topic, and this is even more important because writers of color have been historically ignored. Chloe Gong challenges what publishing "allows" writers to do, and Joan He discusses how characters change the story and fit into the plot. Kat Zhang outlines the ways that cultural tales informed her youth and are threaded into her stories. Pohl, who is Brazilian but chose to write in English, offers valuable information about the monetary motivation to write in English for more exposure. Cindy Pon's experiences show how the publishing market has changed since 2009, when she was told that "Asian fantasies don't sell". Villanueva delves into the reasons behind the Filipino bias towards lighter complections, and why it was so important for her characters to have darker ones. Winters addresses imposter syndrome, and Riazi talks about working within a system that has been controlled by white supremacist ideas. Mendez, who is from Argentina, had to learn about US children's literature while raising four children and trying to write, and Little Badger shows us her journey, as an example how how difficult it can be for marginalized writers to be successful. Finally, Dao talks about the difference between writers an authors, which was very interesting to me. 

The We Need Diverse Books movement started in 2014, and while the publishing industry still has problems, it's truly amazing how much change there has been. There is a much wider selection of cultures, gender identities, and view points offered in both Young Adult and Middle Grade Literature. This collection did seem to be very heavy on female and Asian voices, but for a small collection like this, I imagine it's hard to get submissions. This is a great choice for the aspiring young author who may have read books on writing craft like Carter's Dear Ally, Hanley's Wild Ink, or Klein's Second Sight, and fills a need to see more diverse voices represented.  

1 comment:

  1. I like this idea but I wouldn't have thought kids would actually read it. However, I do remember than when I worked with the For Dummies books, a lot of the Writing Books FD were for school libraries.