We Will Rise: A Reaction to Charlottesville and Barcelona

Believe it or not, I’m something of an optimist.  I like to see the silver lining in everything.  But I’m also a bit of a realist as well, keeping my expectations in check.  (For example, I’m optimistic that this school year will go well and I’ll have great students, but I’m realistic in knowing that there will be a few who will test my patience to the extreme.  It happens every year and I don’t see why this year will be different.)

But this latest blast of bad news is awful and so demoralizing that there is no silver lining.  We think that because we are civilized nations, nations of great technology, that we are somehow superior to our ancestors.  And then things like this happen.  Charlottesville.  Barcelona.

I’m having some trouble putting my thoughts into words eloquently, so please bear with me as I attempt to explain myself.

Barcelona is, unequivocally, a tragedy of international importance.  As of this writing, there is still little news making its way to the States, only the death tolls and that the van driver has not been caught.  The fact that this person could drive through the streets/sidewalks and just mow people down is horrifying and my heart goes out to everyone affected.  No one should have to deal with this.  And it’s so terrifying because it could literally happen anywhere.  And that’s the point of terrorism.  It can happen anywhere, at any time, to anyone.  They’re trying to instill fear because it gives them power.

And Charlottesville.  I spent most of Saturday unaware of what was happening as I was stuck in a car for a long road trip.  But what I’ve learned since then has sickened me greatly.  Because, like Barcelona, this is terrorism.

I’m not denying that people have the right to free speech.  Both sides had permits to march that day.  And because we have that free speech, we also have the right to disagree with each other.  But free speech ends where that speech threatens another person.  And I’m not necessarily talking about death threats or threats of violence (though they absolutely apply); I’m talking about any time another person legitimately feels threatened by what you’re saying.  By saying their race needs to go; that their religion makes them monsters; that their gender makes them a sinner bound for hell.  When you hear these things enough times from enough different people, you start to hear the threats behind them.

While I 100%, absolutely, whole-heartedly disagree with President Trump’s “many sides” comment about Charlottesville, I understand where he’s coming from, in that at some point both sides likely tried to start fights.  I’ve seen videos that imply one side or another started a fight.  I don’t know; I wasn’t there.  Maybe both sides played a role; maybe they didn’t.  This article on mob mentality shows how quickly things can spiral out of control in large group settings, so I can’t say for sure that either side is completely blameless.  But I absolutely do not think you can put both sides on the same playing field.  One ideology preaches hatred and exclusion, the other acceptance.  While I don’t think violence is the answer, I think sometimes there is a need to show an amount of force.  I just prefer it to be in the form of legal documents and numbers rather than fists and clubs.

I cannot stand by silently while someone will not condemn neo-Nazis and white supremacists.  That’s not how I was raised.  I was raised that people are to be treated equally.  I was raised to put myself in the shoes of someone else I had a disagreement with to first see their side before I responded.  I was raised to believe that everyone has value.

That is not the rhetoric of those who marched at Charlottesville.  I’ve seen the videos where they march and scream about how the Jews will not replace them.  I’ve seen the Nazi swastikas they carry and the salutes.  It’s frightening, and I can’t even imagine what it would be like to see it in real life.  And the fact that is such a blatant repetition of German Nazi rhetoric and actions is all the more threatening and horrifying.

What kind of things have to happen to a person so that they believe the things they do?  What happens to make them think Jews are trying to replace them or that an African American woman is more of a threat than a man in camo pants and carrying a rifle across his back?  What kind of life does that person have?

I am in no way trying to trivialize the situation as I make the following comparison; I am merely trying to find a context to make everything make sense.  But to me, I see a startling number of similarities between what is happening now and the plots of the later Harry Potter books.  (Again, in no way am I trying to trivialize what’s happened in real life.)  This rise of hatred reminds me of the resurrection of Voldemort and his Death Eaters.  The resistance to them reminds me of Dumbledore’s Army and the original Order.  And, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Cornelius Fudge (maybe Rufus Scrimgeour?) refuse to do anything about Voldemort’s return?  (It’s been a while since I’ve read the later books.)

And it’s from those books that I have learned what happens in these situations: fear will triumph for a time.  For now, we have politicians who fear coming forward and being vocal in their condemnation.  For now, we have average citizens who fear the consequences of standing against them and attending rallies for fear of being attacked.  For now, there are a number of people thriving on the thrill they’re feeling from being in that power position and creating that fear.  For once in their lives, they feel powerful and it’s addicting.

But if Harry and Dumbeldore’s Army have taught me anything, it’s that evil cannot and will not reign forever, not when there are enough people ready to fight for what they believe in.  The roots of evil may not fully disappear for a time (like Voldemort and his Horcruxes), but it can be extinguished.  The Phoenix will rise from the ashes.  We will persevere.  But it will not be a simple journey.  It wasn’t easy for Harry, Ron, or Hermione in Deathly Hallows, and it won’t be easy for us.

I have much faith in humanity, that right will eventually overcome wrongs.  It has in the past.  Slavery was eventually abolished (though after much horrific history that should never be forgotten) and the Nazis were defeated (ditto about the history).  The Civil Rights Movement finally brought about much-needed equality in terms of the law, even if certain lawmakers still try to claw their way back to Jim Crow.  We have risen above it before and I believe we will again.

It’s just so heartbreaking that the cost of bringing change to the world are the deaths of so many innocents.

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Recommendations for People Who Don’t Normally Read YA

Hey guys!  So, as of today, I am officially back in school.  I’m both a little excited (summers can get surprisingly boring after about a month and a half) and a little sad to see summer is over.  And since I am an English teacher with many students who don’t read, I thought this list might be helpful.  As you all probably know, every reader is different.  Some of my students love YA, some don’t.  And I wondered what YA books I could recommend to them that would be different but interesting.  So let’s see what I found!

toptentuesdayTop Ten Book Recommendations for People Who Don’t Normally Read YA

  1. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

    This brilliant book is exciting, action-packed, and even has aliens.  I picture this as a book for some like Mission Impossible/James Bond fan.  Or maybe Independence Day.  Probably that one.  It’s a bit slow in the beginning, but it gets way better.  And not everything is predictable.

  2. Scythe by Neal Shusterman

    Already in its favor, it has won a Michael L. Pintz honor, so it’s basically critically acclaimed (some people are snobby about that stuff).  Anyway, it’s kind of a utopian story, but also a bit of a mystery and a political thriller.  It’s definitely weird, but I expected nothing less from Shusterman.

  3. The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg

    This is such a perfect life (er…afterlife…) story.  Beautifully written and emotional, it takes a look at what it means to have lived and moving on.  I think this is perfect for those philosophically minded folks who want some deeper meaning from their reading.

  4. American Street by Ibi Zoboi

    I like reading diverse books.  This is the story of a young Haitian girl living in Detroit and trying to learn how American culture is different from her own in a very dangerous neighborhood.  It’s real, and sometimes that makes it really hard to read.  But this definitely means something and I want to spread the word.  Oh, and if I remember right, it’s probably better for more mature audiences.

  5. Between the Notes by Sharon Huss Roat

    I adore this story.  It deals predominantly with class and money, which I think is an underrated topic in books, regardless of genre.  (Sometimes, they cover moving up in social classes, but this one discusses moving down, which is rarely written.)  It talks about stereotypes and other things we don’t care to admit we think.  And it’s cute.

  6. A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

    Let’s enter the brief historical fiction section of this list.  This takes a look at the very real terrors that were committed in insane asylums in the past from “professionals” who were little more than sadists.  This book is alternately horrifying, emotional, and hopeful.  But it’s also definitely dark.

  7. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

    This one is amazingly written and I probably should have moved it up higher if this was an actual ranking.  A mystery set in the later 1800s, a young girl sets out to discover who murdered her father–and tried to make it look like an accident.  It takes her all over the darkest corners of New York City, to places that you can barely even imagine existed at one point.  Very historical, sometimes dark, and sometimes funny, I thought this mystery was one of the best I’ve read in a long time.

  8. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

    Kind of a crossover hit already, Shatter Me seems perfect for more poetry minded people, since Juliette’s style is very lyrical already.  Yes, it plays into the dystopian style that has become so common in YA–let alone the romance–but it is so beautifully written that I couldn’t leave it off the list.

  9. Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

    A fascinating look at mental illness, this story will continually surprise you.  I think this is great for people who don’t normally read YA because it seems to defy the genre in different ways–unreliable narration, shocking twists, maturity not always seen in main characters, etc.  It’s different and I love it.

  10. Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

    This is by far the darkest book I have on this list, but it’s also the one that I think matters the most.  Following a girl of Middle Eastern descent, she tries to break with some of her parents’ traditions since she’s grown up in America and wants to act like an American.  It’s absolutely horrifying what happens to her, but it’s also something that is socially acceptable in places around the world.  Far from being written to shame a culture, it’s more written to explain the different culture and help us understand what girls like Naila are up against.  This is definitely for more mature audiences.  Like, this is one I would never ever recommend to middle schoolers.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Recently Added To My To-Read List

Hey guys!  This is really my last week of freedom before I have to go back to school (noooooooooo) so I thought I’d take advantage of it and write about books.  I don’t do that enough, right?  Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the books I’ve recently added to my to-read list and why.  Maybe you’ll find something new there too!

toptentuesdayBooks I’ve Recently Added To My To-Read List

  1. How to Disappear by Sharon Huss Roat

    I absolutely loved Roat’s debut novel Between the Notes, so I’m interested to see what this one does.  Vicki creates a perfect life online, only to discover that there are others like her, who feel alone and hopeless.  I have this as an ARC, so hopefully I can read it soon!

  2. Jesse’s Girl by Miranda Kenneally

    Seriously, who doesn’t like Kenneally?  I just need to keep plugging away at this series.

  3. Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

    I have this from the library!  I just need to read it.  I’m not entirely sure what it’s about, but it had a diverse main character (she’s Muslim) and there’s something about monsters (figuratively, I believe).  Guess we’ll see!

  4. Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

    A story of two people whose timing is off, this feels a bit like Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares.  It involves two people working at a bookstore, notes, and a little bit of a tragic backstory.  I’m interested to see how this plays out.

  5. Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

    I only added this one after much deliberation because I’m very very afraid of how this relationship between Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler is going to be portrayed.  I’m interested…but hesitant.

  6. Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George

    I actually have this as an ARC and I think I’ll be reading it in the next week or so.  It’s a retelling of Much Ado About Nothing (which I love anyway), but it’s set in the 1920s with Prohibition and all that fun stuff.  I’m totally game.

  7. Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

    This one feels like a cool fantasy novel.  Basically, there are a bunch of illegitimate children who feel left out by their parents and they befriend each other and, I think, try to stop a rebellion since they’ve become targets.  Sounds full of action and probably some interesting characters.

  8. Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

    Now this looks cool and pretty funny while being deep.  Briefly: Will has always been blind and that doesn’t make high school easy, so he’s just happy when he’s made some friends.  Then he learns he qualifies for a surgery to give him sight, only he then finds out that the seeing world has been keeping secrets from him and his friends haven’t exactly been honest about a few things.  It looks funny and I’m truly interested in the insights he’s going to come away with.

  9. Every Little Thing by Jill Hathaway

    This book goes way dark side, far darker than I usually go.  Briefly: Lil is suicidal and self-destructive, but that changes when, after writing a suicide note and wrecking her car, she learns in the hospital that she killed someone.  Lil, depressed, says she did it on purpose and goes on trial for murder. But this is also supposed to be uplifting (somehow), and I’m interested in seeing how that plays out.

  10. The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren

    This feels a lot like a Sarah Dessen/Morgan Matson story.  Briefly: Lucy and Ben are secretly crushing on each other, and just as they’re about to spill the beans, Ben’s sister drowns.  A year later, Lucy and Ben reconnect near the anniversary of the drowning and they have to decide if they can move past it.  It’s heartbreaking (which I’m always drawn to), but I think it will also be uplifting and cute.

Asylum (Asylum, #1)

First Lines: They built it out of stone–dark gray stone, pried loose from the unforgiving mountains.  It was a house for those who could not take care of themselves, for those who heard voices, who had strange thoughts and did strange things.  The house was meant to keep them in.  Once they came, they never left.

For a couple of years in my classroom, this book has had quite the following among a select group of students.  And for a long time, they tried to convince me to read it.  I’m not opposed to horror/scary stories, but I have a hard time reading them because I feel like I can’t read them late at night.  (I sometimes get nightmares; thanks, Stephen King.)  But having read another Roux book, I thought I’d give this a try.

Itching to get out and experience the world, Dan thinks the perfect start is to go to New Hampshire College Prep.  It’s a program on a college campus that gives students a taste of college, pulling students together from all over the country.  It’s perfect for Dan…except for the part where summer housing has been closed and they’re forced to stay in the Brookline dorm–a former sanitarium.  As Dan and his new friends Abby and Jordan begin exploring Brookline, they discover the horrible things that happened there, and the secrets that tie Dan and his friends to the asylum’s past.  Because Brookline wasn’t just a hospital, and sooner or later the truth will come out.

I can see why middle schoolers like it. The pictures (similar to the ones in the Miss Peregrine books) give a creepy feel to the book in a way that words alone don’t. The asylum setting is definitely creepy. The strange happenings at the asylum are also sufficiently creepy.

But that’s about all it was. It was low-level creepy, enough to be unsettling. And that was mostly because Dan starts to become a potentially unreliable narrator. But beyond that? It wasn’t the scary, nightmare inducing story I thought it was going to be.

I’m starting to notice this with Roux’s work, actually. The plots always sound incredibly interesting and creepy, but the follow-through just isn’t there. Suspense is not something she excels at. She really just seems to take things that are normally creepy and hopes that their creepy factor is enough to carry the story.  After trying two different series by her and being underwhelmed by them both, I think I’m just done with her writing.

The characters were interesting enough, if sometimes acting in unexplained ways. Like sometimes the characters fight and none of them know why. Or they talk in slightly bizarre ways (Felix comes to mind here). So I didn’t really connect with the characters as well as I would have liked.  I mean, they just didn’t feel like people.  Even the main characters felt like caricatures.  Actually, now that I think about it, that’s the way characters are in horror movies too, and it’s the exact reason why I can’t stand horror movies.

It’s not a bad read. It’s actually pretty quick. But I think a younger, less choosy audience (like my students) would like it better.

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3)

First Lines: The painting was a lie.  A bright, pretty lie, bursting with pale pink blooms and fat beams of sunshine.

I got this for my birthday about a month ago because, duh, I had to own it.  I own the other two books in this series (and reread them from time to time), so it wasn’t a surprise that I thought this one would be the same.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*  Of course, there truly isn’t much I can say anyway without giving the plot away.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, though not because she wanted to.  Stuck, she decides to use this opportunity to spy on Tamlin and gather information about his maneuvers and those of the invading king.  But this means playing a deadly game, one that could cost Feyre dearly.  If she gets caught, it could mean the end of Prythia as they know it.  As war approaches, Feyre will have to decide who to trust among the High Lords, and maybe find some allies in unexpected places.

I’m going to give you the warning that I never received before reading this: this is more or less the end of Feyre’s story.  Apparently there’s still more coming in the world of Prythia, but the crux of Feyre’s story is over.  I didn’t know this, so the end of this book surprised me and I was a tad disappointed that I wouldn’t be reading more from Feyre.

Ok.  One thing I love about Maas’s writing is how clever she is. She can spin and twist things in ways that you never expect but still make so much sense. It’s brilliant and engaging in so many ways. And she has a wonderful way of writing about relationships between characters, and their emotions.

That said, this one felt different in a few ways. Since it’s really the first book where Feyre is settled emotionally, I didn’t feel things as strongly with this book as much as I did the others. (Though, as one other reviewer said, I definitely stayed for Nessian.) I actually had trouble staying with the story in the beginning because I wasn’t connecting with Feyre the way I expected to. Not that I was going to put it down, but it just felt different from the previous two books.

But the action was great, the plot was superb, and the conflict was definitely worth it. So much backstabbing and two-timing, to the point where you don’t even know who to trust. I liked that.

I wasn’t expecting this to be any sort of ending, and I’m a little disappointed by that, as I said.  I was expecting another huge cliffhanger, the likes of which we saw at the end of the previous book, but there wasn’t.  And so here I was reading along, all the while noticing that this felt like an ending but hoping otherwise.  And when I got to the end, it just didn’t feel as satisfactory since I thought there’d be more.  True, there are still loose ends that will probably be worked into whatever future books there are, but I didn’t want it to be over.  Ugh.

Still, this was another excellent book in this series and I’m always looking forward to what Maas puts out next.

Top Ten Tuesday: Hey, I Should Probably Read That…

Hey guys!  This is a Top Ten list I came up with on my own after an off-hand comment I made in yesterday’s review.  I started thinking about some of the books that have been on my to-read list on Goodreads the longest and I thought I’d bring them to the light of day and see which ones you guys recommend I should hustle up to the top of my to-read list!  Some of these have been on Goodreads for an embarrassingly long time.  If any of these are your favorites/worth checking out, leave a comment!

toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday: Hey, I Should Probably Read That…

  1. Briar Rose by Jane Yolen (since June 23, 2008)

  2. The Hollow by Jessica Verday (since May 14, 2009)

  3. Intertwined by Gena Showalter (since June 22, 2009)

  4. Forever… by Judy Blume (since June 29, 2009)

  5. Kiss Me Kill Me by Lauren Henderson (since July 11, 2009)

  6. Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken (since July 24, 2009)

  7. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (since September 5, 2009)

  8. Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson (since September 9, 2009)

  9. Deerskin by Robin McKinley (since November 5, 2009)

  10. Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (since November 6, 2009)

…This was way more embarrassing than I thought it would be.  These have all been on my to-read list since before I graduated high school…

So?  Any of these worth checking out?  Or should I just give up?