Shouldn’t We Stop Being Rude?

Up until recently, I have always been proud of my country despite its flaws. And, in my heart of hearts, I am naïve enough to hope we can indeed live up to the hopes of our founders. The French part of my father’s side of the family, the Maurys and the La Fontaines, left southeastern France because they didn’t believe King Charles’ version of God. They were part of the Huguenot migration. They had their good points, though I must own up to their racist slave-owning past in Virginia. But my 5th-generation grandfather was the childhood teacher of Jefferson and Madison and one of my 5th-generation uncles was Mathew Fontaine Maury, otherwise known as the Pathfinder of the Seas. Some parts of the Bunker family, my mother’s paternal family, I believe left Germany because of religious persecution since they were followers of Martin Luther’s new church.

My point is though some of them were racist, they still did good things. Many generations later, both families tried to adhere to the ideals of being good people and believed in making a better life for us all. I grieve that my father and grandfather died in WWII to maintain and further a better, more equal life for all peoples; Black, White, Brown, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or whatever. And who cares if a person loves and wants to make a life with someone of the same sex? What does it matter as long as those involved are caring individuals? But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Maybe my father and grandfather died in vain?

It would be easy for me to climb up on my soapbox and rant and rave, but that’s not the point here. The point is for us all to be tolerant, me included.

Anyway the two books I’m reviewing here deal with these issues. Hope you find them interesting.

How will Mark cope with his father’s dislike for Mark’s new identity?

The first book deals with bullying and sexual discrimination, plus where schools do indeed mete out punishment fairly.

The (Un)popular Vote

Jasper Sanchez

Mark Adams didn’t start out life as a boy. Instead, he was born a girl and christened in the Catholic Church as Madison Teagan, daughter of Graham Teagan who is the U.S. Congressman from California’s second district. Dad shows his true colors when Mark reveals who he really is. The congressman insists that his daughter hide her new identity from the voting public. So Mark and his mother move to a different part of California, but she still appears at campaigning events or other political shows. Mark registers as Mark Adams, using his mother’s maiden name, and becomes friends with other superbright LBGTQ kids in school where he witnesses the bullying of a friend who asks for privacy about the incident. The friend is suspended for punching the star athlete who bullied him. Mark decides to take a stand and run for School President, which does not sit well with his father. As the story unfolds, Mark shows tremendous self-awareness growth and ends up coming out to the world, which, of course, tanks his dad’s chances of being the next governor of California. The book is well written and addresses many of the issues now plaguing modern-age children. All of the more important characters in the book show multiple sides to themselves, which is always a good thing. Teachers will find many areas in it as teaching points.

BIBLIO: 2021, Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Publishers, Ages 12 to 18, $18.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult Fiction

ISBN: 978-0-06-3022576-9

How will Zara deal with having to leave the only home she’s known?

The second book deals with racial/religious intolerance and secondarily with sexual preference and the tendency for schools to let athletes get away with more bad things.

Zara Hossain Is Here

Sabina Khan

Social and cultural equality have always been the myth of the United States of America, but have they ever really been the truth of this country? Zara Hossain has lived in Corpus Christi, Texas fourteen of her seventeen years. When she was three her parents left their Pakistani homeland to give their daughter what they thought would be a better life. Well, in part this is true, but all of them have felt the scorn of whiter skinned people. Zara is bright and a hard worker whose parents accept that she’s bisexual and that she tries to conform to the so-called American way. She does have friends in school who try to protect her, but they can’t always be there. One football star in particular seems out to get her and ends up causing her and her family to leave the country for good. There are so many compelling teaching points and discussion issues in this book, teachers could probably spend at least a month addressing them.

BIBLIO: 2021, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 13-18, $18.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult Fiction

ISBN: 978-1-338-58087-7

Even if you don’t agree with what I say, I’d still love to hear from you, but please be polite. Thanks for reading my post and have a good weekend. Sarah

Where Does Each of Us Belong In this World? 

Hello again, after what seems like ages since I’ve posted. I’m blaming all on the events that are happening around the world and in just the U.S.A. alone. Being fearful of being exposed to the virus, I have stayed home a lot and gotten more and more depressed.

Well, ENOUGH OF THAT. My promise to myself is to carry on as if life were indeed normal. And at some point in the future, perhaps it will be what I consider normal.

In the meantime, I have been reading books—lots of books. Some okay, some good, and some outstanding.

The three I’m sharing today all fall into the final category.

 

A Boy Is not a Ghost

The first one continues the journey of Natt Silver’s horrors under Stalin’s Russian rule. He was a cruel man and prone to disliking those who didn’t approve of his way of doing things.

A Boy Is not a Ghost

Edeet Ravel

Presumably based on the author’s family history, this story continues Natt Silver’s saga of escaping antisemitic sentiments during WWII. Natt’s father has been sent to a gulag in Northern Russia for no reason that Natt can figure out. He and his mother are shipped off to Siberia for no reason that he can figure out. The continuance of his journey in 1941 from his original departure from Romania apparently because he’s Jewish, and Stalin doesn’t like Jews. Stalin doesn’t seem to like anybody very much. The story takes us along with Natt first on a train and then from one internment camp after another. Because things aren’t bad enough, his mother is sent to prison for trying to get food for her very hungry son. Natt now has to live with a foster family, who fortunately help him get his mother out of prison. The story is based on the author’s personal history. Along the way, Natt does make friends and discovers that there, indeed good people in the world. Teachers can many discussions started in this book, such as why there are such villains in the world and are there still such villains.

BIBLIO: 2021, Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Grade Historical Fiction

BURYING THE MOON

Those of us who live in the so-called developed countries can’t conceive of not having running water and good sanitation. Of course, that really isn’t true when you think about it. Even in the U.S. we have places where the drinking water is poisonous. Of course, these areas are where poor people live, especially those who aren’t lily-white or native English speakers.

Burying the Moon

Illustrated by Sonali Zohra

Latika hates the moon because she has to wait until dark to “do her business” with all the other females in her Indian village. Which means, if the moon is bright, everyone can see her. Men, of course, can “do their business” where ever. The small, very poor, village has no running water, not even a common well, from which to get their water and, of course, there are no toilets. Latika, though she has the interest and the intelligence, know she won’t be allowed to become an engineer, just because of her sex. But then a very nice government water engineer comes to town to build a common well, so the town will have a safe water supply. He encourages all the children, girls included, to aspire to being engineers. Latika points out to the engineer the lack of sanitation in the village and that she wants to build latrines. He encourages her ambitions and helps build latrines for the villages. He also encourages her to think about continuing her education. Teachers will find a wealth of information to mine in this book, starting with the health risks of not having clean water available.

BIBLIO: 2021, Groundwood books/House of Anansi Press, Ages 8 to 12, $19.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Grade Fiction

ISBN:9781773066042

ISBN:9781773066035

UNBELONGING

Again, on the theme of not feeling welcome where you live, this book discusses how living in a country that is not of your cultural genealogy affects you. In this case a woman of Punjabi heritage, who grew up in Africa. She doesn’t feel she belongs anywhere. Or perhaps we should think of her belonging everywhere.

Unbelonging

Gayatri Sethi

Illustrated by Divya Seshaori

Ms. Sethi was born in Tanzania to Punjabi parents and, as an adult, moved to the United States where she married an African-American man. Together they have children who could most decidedly be considered American Mutts, as are most of people born and raised here, including the Native Americans. In her memoir/commentary on human cultures and societies, she uses free verse and short non-fiction to write about her life and her ways of trying to figure out where she fits in the scheme of things. Of course, she has been plagued with racism and discrimination, never feeling she really belongs anywhere. She may be ethnically Indian Hindi/Pakistani Muslim, but she really knows little of life there. She, of course, knows something of the foods from the area. She could be considered African since that’s her continent of birth, but she’s not of Negroid genetic background. In the U.S.A, she is an immigrant, and though she’s genetically Caucasian, her skin tone is not so-called white. Here she is called a “person of color.” The book is well written and intriguing, but it too pithy to be read in one sitting. Still, teachers most decidedly could and should use the book to launch year-long projects on the issues of race, ethnicity, and where we all belong.

BIBLIO: 2021, Mango & Marigold Press, Ages 14 +, $16.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult Memoir

ISBN: 975-1-7370550-2-0

My ethnic and cultural heritage is a mix. One my father’s side I am French, Scottish, Welsh?, Irish, and, according to his mother, a dash of Cherokee. Since I’m a faded redhead with very white skin, I don’t see the Cherokee, but my grandmother was a raven-haired beauty, with an impish grin. She looks like she could have had a bit of Native American blood in her. People do say I have what they decide is an indication of such genes. They say I have high cheek bones.

On my mother’s side of the family, aside from a smidge of English blood and a bit of Swiss blood, I’m almost exclusively German. The bottom line is I am an American Mutt. For the most part, both sides of the family tree have been in the U.S. since before it even was such. In fact, my fifth-generation paternal great-grandfather was Thomas Jefferson’s grammar school teacher, along with other well-known men.

My point of all this family history, is that even I don’t feel I fit comfortably in any particular niche. Though, of course, it’s not the same as being slandered and sneered at and disregarded because of the simple fact of my skin color or ethnic background.

We should all try to find the good in other people and how much we do have in common. Mostly we have more similarities than differences.


As I have in the past, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my blogs. If you disagree with what I’ve said, that’s fine. All I ask is that you be civil in your response. Thanks and stay healthy. Sarah

RIGHTS TRAMPLED

As I sure most of you have noticed we have a new president. And in my view a much saner and more reasonable person. We also have a woman as vice president who is a rainbow all unto herself with her Indian, Black and probably some White European heritage because her father was from Jamaica. President Biden is of Irish heritage. All of this is important because these groups all suffered prejudicial treatment when they first came to the United States of America. But especially those ethnicities that don’t look like White Europeans. I remember reading in the “Washington Post” back in 1950s explaining why Sikh mean wear their turbans. If I remember correctly, the article included how the turban was wound around the man’s head and the religious significance of the turban. I believe there had been local complaints about the turban, though I don’t remember what the complaint was. I do remember wondering what the fuss was about, but then I was a typical self-absorbed teen in the ‘50s.

A great number of my Facebook Friends are celebrating the beginning of the next four years with a new set of leaders who tell the truth and want all of us and the world to prosper. But at least one person is concerned enough about the perceived threat of having our rights trampled upon to have commented on her worries that she wrote something to the effect of: “Yeah, just wait until they take your rights away.”

Hmm, thinks I. What rights are going to be taken away? And where did this person get that notion? Probably from lies told by leaders who want to keep us in line.

I have been accused of being a socialist because I didn’t approve of the just departed president’s aspirations. The accusation so took me aback that I couldn’t think to say: “Oh? Tell me, do you take advantage of your entitlement to Social Security income?” “Yes?” “And do you take advantage of your Medicare entitlement?” “Yes?” “Well then, you’re as much a socialist as I.” That would have been the best response if I felt the need to do something other than shrug my shoulders and walk away. Unfortunately that was not an option since the person who accused me was a guest in my house.

I suppose the person who worried about rescinded rights was thinking of the first amendment right to free speech. I’ve not heard of that being rescinded.

Or the person was thinking of the Second Amendment which gives people the right to bear arms. No, nobody’s planning to take that away, but do remember that there are restrictions to the amendment. If I recollect correctly, the Second Amendment was to allow citizens the right to protect their property or hunt for food. I don’t believe it was meant for people to use for storming public buildings. Or not let me walk down the street because I have a different ethnic makeup.

The other thing about rights is that in exercising one’s right to not wear a mask, for instance, is that one cannot impinge on another person’s right to try to stay healthy. In my view that also means exercising plain civility. You don’t want to wear a mask? Fine by me, but only if you’re not going to endanger anybody else’s health.

Non-White, Non-Christian, Non-Male citizens of the United States of America have the same rights as those White, so-called Christian Men. But even today that is not always noted.

The books I’ve included today have to do with these issues.

And like President Biden and Vice President Harris, I believe that there is room in our nation for all peoples and all points of view. But could we please be civil to each other and accept our differences.

You may remember these books, but I thought it important to mention them again.

Since 911, Muslims have frequently been looked at askance, though most are as God worshiping as the majority of Christians. So are most Jews. So are most other advocates of true religions. But one of the most egregious wrongs that White Americans have perpetrated is our continuing disregard for the rights of Native Americans whose lands we White European ethnic groups stole.

Look for some Native Americans’ stories in series such as The First Peoples series. BIBLIO: 2020, Creative Education/Creative Company, ISBN: 978-1-64026-223-2 is for the Book on the Cheyenne.

People tend to be afraid of what they don’t truly know. And it seems easier to believe what your friends or your parents or newsfeeds tell you than to find the truth yourself.

No True Believers

Rabiah York Lumbard

Salma’s best friend, Mariam Muhammad, isn’t just moving away from their northern Virginia suburb, she’s moving to a different continent. Mariam’s family is moving because her father’s medical practice is losing patients prejudiced against him because he and his family are practicing Muslims as are Salma and her family. Then a new family moves into Mariam’s house and at first they seem nice, but then things begin to be weird. The book is well written and an important contribution to our country’s discussion of ethnic prejudice. It also sheds light on the need to not trust what we read on the internet at face value. People aren’t necessarily what they seem to be. We mush be diligent in cross checking what we see to make sure we’re getting the whole truth. Salma learns important lessons about the computer hacking she’s been doing and the online so-called friendships she’s developed. The book presents lots of opportunities for classroom discussions on religion, computer information, and personal growth.

BIBLIO: 2020, Crown Books for Young Readers/Putnam Random House, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult Fiction

ISBN: 9780525644255

The second book I’ve chosen is important to repeat because of the wealth of information on our voting process. During the 2020 General Election there was a great deal of misinformation spewed forth and it is important to remember how our system works and how fragile that system can be.

Votes of Confidence, Second Edition: A Young Person’s Guide to American Elections

Jeff Fleischer

This is a fascinating book. Any person over the age of ten should read it, including so-called “grown-ups.” Chapter 1 focuses on how the United States of America has evolved since its inception. The trick was to get all the states to agree to who could vote and how and where. That has changed over the years since originally only land-owning white males were permitted to vote. But there were, and are, many other people whole live in our country. Shouldn’t they have the right to help determine who is going to govern? Chapter 2 discusses how voting works and why it’s important. Chapter 3 is about the role of political parties and the history of how we got them. The book focuses on issues such as the Electoral College and what its function is and whether that is still relevant.  Chapter 4 explains how to vote and why your vote counts. Chapter 5 is about how to learn what’s being discussed by candidates and Chapter 6 lists ways to get involved. Teachers could spend several months discussing the whys and wherefores of elections and voting using this book.

BIBLIO: 2020, Zest Books/Lerner Books, Ages 11 to 18, HC $37.32, PB $14.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Non-fiction

ISBN: 978-1-5415-7896-8

ISBN: 978-1-5415-7897-5

I included this one because we’ve just gone through a phase where the power of rumor can lead to utter chaos.

If the Fire Comes: A Story of Segregation during the Great Depression

Tracy Daley

Illustrated by Eric Freeberg

Consultant: Andrew Lee Feight, PhD

A book the whole country should read, this tells the story of more unnecessary discrimination against people just because of their skin color and ethnic makeup. Joseph McCoy shines shoes in Elsinore, CA, to support his uncle and sister, Maya, who is crippled by polio. His parents are dead and his uncle is jobless as is most of the world during the Great Depression. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt has started a program called the Civilian Conservation Corps or CCC as part of his New Deal. CCC workers were sent all across the U.S. to do things like fight wildfires. Such as group is sent to Elsinore, but most of the townspeople are not happy. The town is predominately white, but the camp is all black. Joseph and Maya show why the prejudice is wrong. The book is well written and full of lots of information for teachers to use with their students.

BIBLIO: 2020, Jolly Fish Press/Northstar Editions, Ages 8 to 12, $19.99 (Lib. Bound), $8.99 (PB), $8.99 (eBook).

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Grade Novel

ISBN: 978-1-63163-371-3

ISBN: 978-1-63163-372-0

ISBN: 978-1-63163-373-7

I have been told that I’m going to Hell because I don’t go to a particular church or believe that the Christian Bible is the literal Word of God. In my view how can it be? It was cobbled together from different languages and has been rewritten many times to kowtow to the rule of particular leaders, some secular and some religious. My French forebears had their lands confiscated and the first born son of at least one family was brutally murdered all for religious differences. The bottom line, IMHO, is that we should honor each other’s right to disagree, but be civil about it. Here’s to our country surviving the whims of those who would like to dominate. And here’s to our world living in harmony.