Yesterday was World AIDS Day, a day to learn more about HIV/AIDS, support people living with the virus, remember those who succumbed to it, and fight for further research for a vaccination and cure. Although people living with HIV/AIDS no longer face the kind of systematic ostracization that they did in the 1980s, when HIV/AIDS outbreaks were at their highest, there is still a stigma associated with the virus and the people who live with it.
One way to fight ignorance and intolerance is through reading! Reading books that depict characters living with HIV/AIDS, their struggles, and their bravery, can help readers better understand the virus, how it affects those who are living with it, and how it affects their families and friends. Unfortunately, a preliminary search for young adult novels that feature characters with HIV/AIDS shows a few things:
- Young adult novels that feature characters living with HIV/AIDS are pretty rare.
- Young adult novels that feature characters living with HIV/AIDS are mostly in the “precautionary tale” vein, meaning the HIV-positive character is depicted as a pitiable subject who teaches the main character (and reader) about the dangers of sex and/or intravenous drug use.
- Young adult novels rarely feature characters living with HIV/AIDS in which the illness is normalized, meaning it is not the character’s defining characteristic.
That said, there are some YA novels that feature HIV-positive characters that are worth your time. Give these a try:
Blue Pills: a positive love story by Frederick Peeters
This beautiful graphic novel follows the love story of Fred and Cati, who is HIV-positive. In addition to learning how to navigate an emotional and sexual relationship while living with HIV, this novel also deals with every-day topics like raising a child, falling in love, and talking to mammoths. This graphic novel is just that – graphic; there are depictions of sex and adult language, so keep that in mind before you pick it up.
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
In this novel by popular YA novelist David Levithan, former boyfriends Harry and Craig attempt to break a Guinness World record by kissing for 32 hours straight. This novel is narrated by “the shadow uncles,” a Greek-chorus-style amalgam of men who died of HIV/AIDS during the 1980s epidemic.
I wish I could recommend more than two books, but I can’t! I’ll keep looking for more YA novels in which HIV/AIDS is handled with empathy and respect. In the meantime, check out Two Boys Kissing and Blue Pills. If you want to learn more about HIV/AIDS, check out the World AIDS Day website or visit the library for more information.
There are only 4 days left until November, which is NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH! Yay!
Every year, I encourage students and faculty at Indian Creek to join in NaNoWriMo. There are plenty of reasons to try to write a novel in 30 days:
- Daily writing can be cathartic/exciting/inspiring
- Doing NaNoWriMo is a good way to purge your mind of all those stories that have been building up for the past year
- Giving your inner-editor a month-long vacation may be difficult, but it’ll allow your inner-creative-director to really shine
- You will enjoy such pride when you complete a month-long commitment to yourself!
If you have any desire to write a novel, try NaNoWriMo! It’s a low-stakes challenge that can help you unleash your inner-novelist, bring you closer to other writers, and make you look super impressive to your friends and family.
The Upper School Library will be celebrating the beginning of National Novel Writing Month with a Kick-Off Party on Monday, October 31, from 3:35 to 4:35. Hope to see you there!
If you watched the final presidential debate last night, or if you’ve seen Twitter in the last 12 hours, you’ve probably heard something about “nasty women.” So let’s read some books about “nasty” women!
Medea by Euripides
One of the most powerful and enduring of Greek tragedies, Medea centers on the myth of Jason, leader of the Argonauts, who has won the dragon-guarded treasure of the Golden Fleece with the help of the sorceress Medea. Having married Medea and fathered her two children, Jason abandons her for a more favorable match, never suspecting the terrible revenge she will take.
Euripides’ masterly portrayal of the motives fiercely driving Medea’s pursuit of vengeance for her husband’s insult and betrayal has held theater audiences spellbound for more than twenty centuries. (from Amazon)
Antigone by Sophocles
Filled with passionate speeches and sensitive probing of moral and philosophical issues, this powerful drama reveals the grim fate that befalls the children of Oedipus. When Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus, chooses to obey the law of the gods rather than an unconscionable command from Creon, ruler of Thebes, she is condemned to death. How the gods take their revenge on Creon provides the gripping denouement to this compelling tragedy, still one of the most frequently performed of classical Greek dramas. (from Amazon)
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Considered by some to be the greatest novel ever written, Anna Karenina is Tolstoy’s classic tale of love and adultery set against the backdrop of high society in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. A rich and complex masterpiece, the novel charts the disastrous course of a love affair between Anna, a beautiful married woman, and Count Vronsky, a wealthy army officer. Tolstoy seamlessly weaves together the lives of dozens of characters, and in doing so captures a breathtaking tapestry of late-nineteenth-century Russian society. (from Amazon)
You Don’t Have to Like Me: Essays on Growing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding Feminism by Alida Nugent
“Feminist” is not a four-letter word, but Alida Nugent resisted it for a long time. She feared the “scarlet F” being thrust upon her for refusing to laugh at misogynistic jokes at parties; she withered under the judgmental gaze of store clerks when buying Plan B, and she swore that she was “not like other girls.” But eventually, like so many of us, she discovered that feminism is an empowering identity to take on. It’s okay to criticize beauty standards but still love dark lipstick, investing in female friendships is the most rewarding thing ever, and no one should feel pressured to eat an “unseasoned chicken breast the size of a deck of playing cards” as every sad dinner for the rest of eternity. (from Amazon)
America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines by Gail Collins
America’s Women tells the story of more than four centuries of history. It features a stunning array of personalities, from the women peering worriedly over the side of the Mayflower to feminists having a grand old time protesting beauty pageants and bridal fairs. Courageous, silly, funny, and heartbreaking, these women shaped the nation and our vision of what it means to be female in America.
By culling the most fascinating characters — the average as well as the celebrated — Gail Collins, the editorial page editor at the New York Times, charts a journey that shows how women lived, what they cared about, and how they felt about marriage, sex, and work. She begins with the lost colony of Roanoke and the early southern “tobacco brides” who came looking for a husband and sometimes — thanks to the stupendously high mortality rate — wound up marrying their way through three or four. Spanning wars, the pioneering days, the fight for suffrage, the Depression, the era of Rosie the Riveter, the civil rights movement, and the feminist rebellion of the 1970s,America’s Women describes the way women’s lives were altered by dress fashions, medical advances, rules of hygiene, social theories about sex and courtship, and the ever-changing attitudes toward education, work, and politics. While keeping her eye on the big picture, Collins still notes that corsets and uncomfortable shoes mattered a lot, too. (from Amazon)
Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation by Judith Mackrell
By the 1920s, women were on the verge of something huge. Jazz, racy fashions, eyebrow-raising new attitudes about art and sex―all of this pointed to a sleek, modern world, one that could shake off the grimness of the Great War and stride into the future in one deft, stylized gesture. The women who defined this the Jazz Age―Josephine Baker, Tallulah Bankhead, Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Tamara de Lempicka―would presage the sexual revolution by nearly half a century and would shape the role of women for generations to come.In Flappers, the acclaimed biographer Judith Mackrell renders these women with all the color that marked their lives and their era. Both sensuous and sympathetic, her admiring biography lays bare the private lives of her heroines, filling in the bold contours. These women came from vastly different backgrounds, but all ended up passing through Paris, the mecca of the avant-garde. Before she was the toast of Parisian society, Josephine Baker was a poor black girl from the slums of Saint Louis. Tamara de Lempicka fled the Russian Revolution only to struggle to scrape together a life for herself and her family. A committed painter, her portraits were indicative of the age’s art deco sensibility and sexual daring. The Brits in the group―Nancy Cunard and Diana Cooper― came from pinkie-raising aristocratic families but soon descended into the salacious delights of the vanguard. Tallulah Bankhead and Zelda Fitzgerald were two Alabama girls driven across the Atlantic by a thirst for adventure and artistic validation.
But beneath the flamboyance and excess of the Roaring Twenties lay age-old prejudices about gender, race, and sexuality. These flappers weren’t just dancing and carousing; they were fighting for recognition and dignity in a male-dominated world. They were more than mere lovers or muses to the modernist masters―in their pursuit of fame and intense experience, we see a generation of women taking bold steps toward something burgeoning, undefined, maybe dangerous: a New Woman. (from Amazon)
Cleopatra: a Life by Stacy Schiff
The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer brings to life the most intriguing woman in the history of the world: Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt.
Her palace shimmered with onyx, garnets, and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator.
Though her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first when both were teenagers. She poisoned the second. Ultimately she dispensed with an ambitious sister as well; incest and assassination were family specialties. Cleopatra appears to have had sex with only two men. They happen, however, to have been Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, among the most prominent Romans of the day. Both were married to other women. Cleopatra had a child with Caesar and–after his murder–three more with his protégé. Already she was the wealthiest ruler in the Mediterranean; the relationship with Antony confirmed her status as the most influential woman of the age. The two would together attempt to forge a new empire, in an alliance that spelled their ends. Cleopatra has lodged herself in our imaginations ever since.
Famous long before she was notorious, Cleopatra has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. Shakespeare and Shaw put words in her mouth. Michelangelo, Tiepolo, and Elizabeth Taylor put a face to her name. Along the way, Cleopatra’s supple personality and the drama of her circumstances have been lost. In a masterly return to the classical sources, Stacy Schiff here boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose death ushered in a new world order. Rich in detail, epic in scope, Schiff ‘s is a luminous, deeply original reconstruction of a dazzling life. (from Amazon)
Founding Sisters and the Nineteenth Amendment by Eleanor Clift
A nonfiction book about the women’s suffrage movement and the passing of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote in 1920.
Dumplin‘ by Julie Murphy
Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . . until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.
Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Having grown up an orphan in the home of her cruel aunt and at a harsh charity school, Jane Eyre becomes an independent and spirited survivor-qualities that serve her well as governess at Thornfield Hall. But when she finds love with her sardonic employer, Rochester, the discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a choice. Should she stay with him whatever the consequences or follow her convictions, even if it means leaving her beloved?
Frankenstein, by “nasty” woman Mary Shelley
Few creatures of horror have seized readers’ imaginations and held them for so long as the anguished monster of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The story of Victor Frankenstein’s terrible creation and the havoc it caused has enthralled generations of readers and inspired countless writers of horror and suspense.
Wild: from Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Collins delivers equal parts suspense and philosophy, adventure and romance, in this searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present.
Prophecy series by Ellen Oh
Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and she’s also the prince’s bodyguard. A demon slayer and an outcast, she’s hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And she’s their only hope. . . .
Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King’s prophecy, but the legendary lost ruby treasure just might be the true key to victory. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, an evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost, while raising a prince into a king.
The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
Flora and Henry were born a few blocks from each other, innocent of the forces that might keep a white boy and an African American girl apart; years later they meet again and their mutual love of music sparks an even more powerful connection. But what Flora and Henry don’t know is that they are pawns in a game played by the eternal adversaries Love and Death, here brilliantly reimagined as two extremely sympathetic and fascinating characters. Can their hearts and their wills overcome not only their earthly circumstances, but forces that have battled throughout history? In the rainy Seattle of the 1920’s, romance blooms among the jazz clubs, the mansions of the wealthy, and the shanty towns of the poor. But what is more powerful: love? Or death? (Death is a #nastywoman in this book!)
Looking for more books about “nasty” women? Come by the library for more fiction and nonfiction books with strong female protagonists!
If you don’t know anything about the Boxer Rebellion (or Boxer Uprising) in China from 1899 to 1901, this fantastical two-volume graphic novel is a fun and educational primer! Gene Luen Yang, who is currently serving a two-year stint as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, wrote this amazing duology about two young people living through the rapid globalization and Christianization of China at the beginning of the 20th century.
The first volume, Boxers, tells the story of Little Bao, a boy who loves traditional Chinese theater, his village, and his father. When the “foreign devils” – Christian missionaries – come to his village and smash a statue of the local god Tu Di Gong, Little Bao begins to understand that his way of life is under threat. He seeks out martial arts training from a mysterious man named Red Lantern, who inspires the men of the countryside to protect their Chinese traditions from the encroaching foreign devils. Later, Little Bao trains with Master Big Belly, who reveals the secret ritual that gives him the power to defeat his enemies. With this priceless knowledge, Little Bao takes over where Red Lantern left off, training the men of his village in martial arts and teaching them the ritual that turns them into powerful gods during a battle.
Little Bao and the young, poor men from the Chinese countryside form the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist, travelling from village to village, killing British soldiers, Christian missionaries, and the “secondary devils” – Chinese Christian converts who flee from the roving Society army. The weeks-long battle in Peking, the heart of the Chinese kingdom, end badly for the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist, and for Little Bao, who could never seem to reconcile his love for China with his understanding of justice and fairness.
In Saints, the second volume of this duology, Four-Girl is the much-abused and neglected daughter of a widow in the Chinese countryside who seeks out Christianity for some strange reasons. At first, she thinks that she is meant to be a devil, a malevolent presence in her little village. Through her relationship with the local acupuncturist, Dr. Won, she learns about Jesus Christ (and has a free supply of cookies to sate her hunger). Four-Girl drifts farther away from her family and closer to the Church, though she feels no real connection to Christianity. In the woods one night, Four-Girl meets a strange girl, clad in armor, who she later learns is the spirit of Joan of Arc. With the vision, Four-Girl begins her full conversion to the Christian faith, taking catechism classes and ultimately choosing a new name, a real name: Vibiana.
Vibiana is cast out by her traditional Chinese family and finds refuge in a walled village far from her home. The growing threat of the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist bring more Christians and missionaries to their little enclave, where Vibiana helps watch over the orphans. Restless, Vibiana seeks out the vision of Joan of Arc and decides to become a maiden warrior for God. When the Society overtakes the village, Vibiana stands steadfast in her faith, even as Bao raises his sword to strike her down.
Yang’s visual storytelling is out of this world; his use of crisp, clean lines and pops of bright color lead the eye from one action-packed frame to the next. This glimpse into the little-known Boxer Rebellion, from the points of view of both a Boxer and a Chinese-Christian convert, will make you want to learn more about this important event in Chinese history! Fans of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Hope Larson’s Mercury will love the story and artwork in this wonderful duology. Check these books out in the library today!
When Marie-Laure loses her eyesight at the tender age of six, she has to start life over again, but she has the help of her loving father to guide her through the twists and turns of the streets of Paris. Her father, a master of locks at the Museum of Natural History, builds a perfect miniature replica of their neighborhood, which she traces again and again with her fingers. Later, she uses her hands to read and reread her favorite books while her father works diligently on his locks in the museum, or on the model of the city in their apartment. Marie-Laure and her father live a quiet life, full of love and happiness, until the rumbling of war begins to build in the west.
Werner’s childhood is significantly less charmed than Marie-Laure’s. As an orphan growing up in the shadows of a dusty, dirty mining town in eastern Germany, Werner has only his little sister and an old, cobbled-together radio to distract him from the constant hunger that he faces each day. Werner’s curiosity and tenacity helps him become a sort of expert in radio technology, a trait that consequently puts him on the fast-track with the Hitler Youth. Before he can begin to understand the implications of his trajectory, Werner is marching, shooting, and designing intricate radio systems at a Nazi school for boys.
When the war intensifies, Marie-Laure and her father flee Paris for the relative safety of Saint-Malo, a seaside town in northeastern France. There, Marie-Laure and her father take shelter with their reclusive Uncle Etienne, in a house that hides a powerful radio and a priceless gem. Werner, meanwhile, is sent from the brutal Nazi school to a special assignment in the military, tracking down freedom-fighters who use radio signals to communicate. Werner’s assignment leads him to Saint-Malo, where his life intersects with Marie-Laure’s in the most unexpected way.
This beautiful, haunting book is historical literature at its best. Doeer’s use of poetic language creates a lyrical and emotional experience that will make you pause, reread, and reflect. Doeer brings the reader’s senses to life, especially in Marie-Laure’s chapters, as we experience the world as she does, through touch, sound, taste, smell, and memory. At just over 500 pages, the length of the book might put you off, but don’t be afraid; this wonderful novel is worth the time. You’ll want to savor every chapter.
Fans of Geraldine Brooks’ The People of the Book and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go will enjoy this novel. I’ve also heard that the audiobook is fantastic!