March: Discussion Post 1

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Beth and I have both finally gotten our copies of March in the mail, and I started reading it at breakfast this morning! This couldn’t be a more pertinent read. As I am sure you have seen, Senator Elizabeth Warren was officially silenced for the rest of the hearing on whether to confirm Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. She was silenced for reading out part of a letter written by Coretta Scott King to the chair of the judiciary committee in 1986 on Sessions’ possible appointment to a federal judgeship. Warren was officially silenced for, ‘breaking Rule 19, which forbids members from imputing to a colleague “any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”‘ (quote from NPR.)

 

In the letter, King writes about the march from Selma to Montgomery in the letter, setting the stage to discuss subsequent actions designed to deny people their right to vote. She writes, “I was privileged to join Martin and many others during the Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights in 1965. Martin was particularly impressed by the determination to get the franchise of blacks in Selma and neighboring Perry County.” You can read the letter in its entirety here.

 

Volume one begins with Lewis’s early life; we won’t get to Selma until volume 3 (I believe). It is not often that we read historical pieces that are so immediately relevant as we read them.

For this post, I’m not going to ask discussion questions. So, please feel free to comment with your first impressions of the graphic novel. Are you reading along with us? Have you started? How do you feel about pet chickens? We look forward to hearing what you have to say in the comments.

Beth and Kate read: Who is ready for March?!

On this day in 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King and 300 others were arrested for walking to the Dallas County courthouse in Alabama to protest voter-registration rules.

 

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We will be starting to read  March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Artist) this week. There have been shenanigans and I had to reorder it today from the bookstore. Friday I will post our first discussion thread! Please consider joining us as we work our way through this award winning graphic novel!

Beth and Kate read: March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Artist)

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This February Beth and I are going to be doing something we’ve talked about but haven’t yet done. We’re going to be reading a book together (or, three books as the case may be). Starting February 1st, we will be reading March by John Lewis. This award winning book tells the story of Congressman John Lewis’s coming of age in the Civil Rights movement. We invite you to join us in this reading. As we read, we will be posting our thoughts and open-ended questions. We hope that you will join us for the reading and some discussion.

 

 

Review: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

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Friends, oh my god this book. It deserves all of the praise and all of the awards. And, it did win the National Book Award for Fiction! You should read it. As soon as possible. This book.

 

This is the story of Cora, a slave who runs away and escapes from the South on the underground railroad. Whitehead weaves a tale here that is smart and funny and makes so much of America’s history real. Cora starts by telling you of her Grandmother Ajarry and how she was taken from her village in Africa, put on ship and bought and sold in America. Cora then tells us about her Mother, the only slave to runaway from Randall plantation to never be caught. Then, she tells us her story. The narrative from the start makes plain that even “good slave owners” were not good by contrasting Cora’s owner with his brother. Yes, her owner doesn’t go in for harsh punishments or random beatings. But, he’s still indifferent to the plight of the humans who live around him (And, he still owns people, which, I hope we can all agree, is fundamentally wrong). Cora and Caesar make a plan to runaway from the plantation and to take the underground railroad. This is a bit of genius on the part of Whitehead; in this novel, the underground railroad is a literal railroad with station masters, conductors, trains, the whole lot. This gave the novel that magical realist feel. It also gave the story some mystery and gave me, and Cora, something to think about. “Who built this?” she asks. And, person after person says to her, “Who do you think?”

Caesar and Cora’s first stop on the railroad is South Carolina, which Whitehead has set up as a place where former slaves are slowly integrated into society. As part of the integration into society, everyone is required to have regular health checks. Some of the former slaves in town have “blood disorders” and have to come in for regular check ups. But, do they have blood disorders? Or, is something more sinister going on. If you know your American history, you can guess probably guess that something more sinister is going on and what that something might be. Additionally in this part of the story, Cora works in a museum, which allows Whitehead to compare the narrative of American history with the lived experiences of Cora and other slaves and former slaves in the story.

From here Cora moves onto North Carolina, Tennessee and Indiana, all while being pursued by the slave catcher Ridgeway. This gives the novel some tension while also pointing out how society put a wedge between lower income whites and slaves by making catching slaves a lucrative business.

From reading other reviews on Amazon, it seems like people either other or hate this book. (I’m obviously in the love category). One other reviewer said that “there was nothing new here, we know all of this from history.” I feel like this misses the point. Yes, Whitehead has incorporated a lot of American history into this novel. But, he’s done it in a way that his interesting and shocking and he’s given us characters we can sympathize with. This is a book that dramatizes some of America’s racist past and that gives us room to think about and interrogate our understanding of that past and our feelings about it.

I listened to this book on audio. The narration was done by Bahni Turpin and she gave the characters life and personality. I really enjoyed the work she did on this.

I checked this book out from the Buffalo and Erie County Public Libraries.

 

Review: The Reader by Traci Chee

So, Beth already reviewed this book and I wasn’t paying attention at all when I started reading it that we already had a review of it. To be honest, I was just thinking to myself, “crap, I’m going to fail my own challenge! I have to step up my game!” (And, then I did go and fail my own challenge.) This book was totally worth the read. It is a number of stories that are intertwined. The first is the main narrative about Sefia, a young girl who has lived as a nomad with her Aunt Nin since her father was murdered and after her Aunt’s kidnapping has to go it alone in order to find her Aunt and take her revenge against the rescuers. Along the way she meets Archer and is hunted by the kidnappers. The second narrative is the story of Lon, a fast learner and apprentice to the Master Librarian of a Secret Society. And, then there is the story of Captain Reed and his ship and crew that are bound for the edge of the world.

 

I listened to this book on audio and it absolutely sucked me in. The book was read by Kim Mai Guest and she did an amazing job of bringing all of the characters to life. Like Beth, I cannot wait to for the next one to come out!

 

I checked this book out from the Buffalo and Erie County Public Libraries.

Diverse Narrators, Diverse Lives Challenge

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Our second challenge of the year will be led by Beth! It is a challenge focused on story tellers and their perspectives. We give you, the Diverse Narrators, Diverse Lives Challenge! There are fifteen books in this challenge and they are all character focused. The books can be either fiction or non-fiction. Beth will be leading this challenge because she tends to read mostly  fiction. There are a lot of different character-driven stories out there in the world, and she is great at finding them!

So, if you are looking to read books from many different points of view and you’re interested on exploring some new characters and perspectives, please consider taking this challenge!