Matt Mendez’s emotionally demanding Barely Missing Everything (2019) explores the lives of working-class Mexican Americans living in El Paso, TX. A teenage boy named Juan anchors the text, which focalizes his experiences as well as those of his mother, Fabi, and his best friend, JD.
Juan and JD are high school seniors planning life after high school, but just barely. They both have hazy visions of the future. JD, a film enthusiast, aspires to make movies and carries a camera wherever he goes. Juan, a high school basketball star on a mediocre team, doesn’t imagine himself doing anything else. Additionally, Fabi, a teen mom turned 30-something mom of a teenager, tends bar to make ends meet. Continue reading
A few kids. A crash landing. An island that may or may not be inhabited (or possessed). It’s the stuff of a story we don’t seem able to stop telling.
William Golding’s 1954 version, Lord of the Flies, lives on in our collective imagination, resurfacing in songs by Iron Maiden and on random television shows like The Simpsons. Golding’s take was inspired by The Coral Island: A Tale of the Pacific Ocean, an 1858 book by R. M. Ballantyne. In Ballantyne’s version the kids who crash on the island are moralistic cherubs with a penchant for converting cannibalistic barbarians (yes, it is racist). Golding wasn’t buying the moral simplicity proffered by Ballantyne and created a dystopian parody emphasizing human nature as well as the relationship between humans and nature. Continue reading
I was initially attracted to Gwendolyn Brooks’ collection of poems, Bronzeville Boys and Girls, because I enjoy the author’s work for adult audiences. I was not disappointed. Originally published in 1956, when depictions of African Americans in children’s literature were even more dismal than they are now, Brooks managed to create an assortment of poems that represent children and childhood complexly and with dignity and humor. She carefully walks the line between representing relatable emotions and experiences and refusing to abandon the specificity of the urban black community represented.
With the help of a Kickstarter Campaign, Innosanto Nagara’s A is for Activist was published in 2012. As the title suggests, it is the obvious alphabet book choice for any budding social justice warrior’s collection. Continue reading