Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Review: Americanized by Sara Saedi

Title: Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card
Author: Sara Saedi
Year Published: 2018

Genre: YA non-fiction (memoir)
Pages: 277
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)USA (CA)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): At thirteen, bright-eyed, straight-A student Sara Saedi uncovered a terrible family secret: she was breaking the law simply by living in the United States.

Only two years old when her parents fled Iran, she didn't learn of her "illegal immigrant" status until her older sister wanted to apply for an after-school job, but couldn't because she didn't have a Social Security number.

Fear of deportation kept Sara up at night, but it didn't keep her from being a teenager. She desperately wanted a green card, along with clear skin, her own car, and a boyfriend.

Americanized follows Sara's progress toward getting her green card, but that's only a portion of her experiences as an Iranian-"American" teenager. From discovering that her parents secretly divorced to facilitate her mother's green card application to learning how to tame her unibrow, SAra pivots gracefully from the terrifying prospect that she might be kicked out of the country at any time to the almost-as-terrifying possibility that she might be the only one of her friends without a date to the prom. This moving, often hilarious story is for anyone who has ever shared either fear.
Review: I like immigrant stories; it is interesting to me to hear how other people see the United States, what cultural differences exist, and why they left their country in the first place. Perhaps it's because my parents were immigrants (1963 from the United Kingdom brain drain) and my ex-husband is an immigrant (1969 from Tanzania due to the revolution). Perhaps I am just interested in international living and what it means to be "American."

Whatever the reason, I am drawn to immigrant stories so was looking forward to this book. And it mostly satisfied me. Iran and it's recent history with the US are definitely interesting and the author's battle to gain a green card and, eventually, citizenship were definitely frustrating (for her) and interesting (for me). 

Growing up in America for Sara Saedi, even though she was an immigrant, was very similar to what my growing up was like. I guess that isn't all that surprising given that she also lives in California and though she is younger than me, she grew up in approximately the same era (pre-2000). Really, that's the purposed of books that tell the immigrant story: although we come from different places, we are really the same.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR

I don't think I've ever done a Top Ten Tuesday post before, but here goes...

I recently treated myself to a number of books at our local indie bookshop and I have a couple from Book of the Month so I feel like I have a great set of books to do for this post! And they are such an interesting mix.

Youth Fiction

Youth Non-Fiction

Adult Fiction

Monday, March 19, 2018

Review: The Longest Silence by Debra Webb

Title: The Longest Silence
Author: Debra Web
Year Published: 2018

Genre: Adult fiction (thriller/mystery)
Pages: 390
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)USA (GA)

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): A killer stole her voice. Now she's ready to take it back. Joanna Guthrie was free. She had been for eighteen years--or so she needed everyone to believe. What really happened during the longest fourteen days fo her life, when she and two other women were held captive by the worst kind of serial killer, wasn't something she could talk about.

But when more women go missing in an eerily similar manner, Jo knows her prolonged silence will only seal their fates. She's finally ready to talk; she just needs someone to listen. FBI special agent Tony LeDoux can't deny he finds Jo compelling: he's just not sure he believes her story. But with the clock ticking, Jo will do anything to convince him, even if it means unearthing long-buried secrets that will land them squarely in the crosshairs of the killer....
Review: It's always a pleasure to be part of a TLC Tour. They really know the kind of book I like and this one did not disappoint!

This novel was a real page-turner for me and a quick read. It says it is a Shades of Death novel and I don't know if the same characters appear in the other books in the series, but it didn't seem to matter one bit.

The story of the kidnapping of college-age girls and their mistreatment will haunt any female or parent of a girl. As someone whose child is going off to college next year, this hit a bit close, but it was really well done. I felt the fear from the young women, the evilness of their captors and all those involved, and the desperation of those trying to find them.

I liked and understood the character of Jo, the original victim of a kidnapping eighteen years prior. She definitely has PTSD and hasn't done very well at readjusting to "regular" life. Tony, the ex-FBI agent, is also troubled, but together they help each other figure some things out, find friendship and deal with some of their demons. 

Challenges for which this counts: none

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Innovator's Mindset by George Couros (Part 3)

Wow! We are already on week 4 of this IMMOOC (Innovator's Mindset Massive Online Course) and I find myself thinking about the ideas in this book often. 

This week's reading has a number of pages dog-eared and I am not really sure how to put them into one post that answers the question "how do we create conditions that empower learners," but here goes....

I am just back from the CUE Conference in Palm Springs, which is always a highlight of my year. I get so energized by the buzz of the attendees, the enthusiasm of the presenters, the excitement of tech-lovers-users, learning new "stuff," and the potential for what we can do for our learners, whether they are teens or adults. Since I was at the conference with tech coach colleagues/friends, we did a lot of talking about how to bring that enthusiasm back to our school district and how to get our teachers to turn to more student-centered learning rather than teacher-centered teaching. 

On page 125 George says that "[t]eachers often design classroom experiences that mimic the school culture and the learning opportunities they've experienced." This is so true; most of the social studies teachers that I work with learned from teachers who lectured. It's what we know! To turn that upside down is scary and takes time and I need to remember that. I am running a PD day for our social studies teachers in a couple weeks I am planning it as a student-centered day (with teachers as students) in which they work their way through a HyperDoc, post to Padlet and Flipgrid, and work in small groups. I hope by the end of the day they will realize that I "taught" a class of 70 people in the style which I hope they will teach their students. If I can do it with 70, they can do it with 35. :-)

Part 3 continues on with ideas on how to change course, which is what I am trying to do in our district. I need to remember to emphasize to our teachers that we should be doing what's best for our students and that which improves learning (page 147). Spoon feeding information that is available in a textbook or on Google, does not help our students to become critical thinkers, problem-solvers, or adults who are able to be creative and collaborate with co-workers.

One of my activities for our PD day is to ask the question When was a time that you felt most engaged in learning? I tested it out on my 79 year-old professor father, afraid he would say "graduate school" or "college lectures." To my delight, he immediately said, "when I collaborated with my colleagues." Here's to hoping the answers from my colleagues are as wonderful.

In amongst the thoughts of a shift to student-centered learning, collaboration, creativity, etc I am trying to also instill the idea of sharing our work with one another. So many times teachers feel that they have spent hours and days creating an amazing lesson or unit and they don't want to hand it over to others who "haven't contributed or done any work." I get it. I have definitely felt that way. But in the past two years, as a social studies coach, I promised myself that I would create curriculum for teachers and share it as widely as possible. And guess what? It feels great! With that in mind, I love George's idea of a district hashtag and having teachers tweet out their awesome lessons, units, and happy classroom moments. I think I am going to work with our district's public information officer to get that going....

Friday, March 16, 2018

Review: The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

Title: The 57 Bus
Author: Dashka Slater
Year Published: 2017

Awards Stonewall Award

Genre: YA non-fiction (LGBTQ)
Pages: 261
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)USA (OR)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the back of the book): One teenager in a skirt. One teenager with a lighter. One moment that changed both of their lives forever. 

If it weren't for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students in Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard lived in the economically challenged flatlands and attended a large public one. After school each day, their paths overlapped on the bus for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight. But in The 57 Bus, author Dashka Slater shows that what might at first seem like a simple matter of right and wrong, justice and injustice, victim and criminal is something more complicated--and far more heartbreaking.

This true story, first chronicled in The New York Times Magazine by Slater and artfully, compassionately, and expertly expanded upon here, is a riveting exploration of race, class, gender, identity, morality, and forgiveness. Told with honesty and insight gleaned from both teens' lives, The 57 Bus will inspire you to rethink all you know about crime, punishment, and empathy.
Review: Another 2017 Youth Media Award winner! Wow. I am not sure what else to say about this book. It is so interesting, captivating, and important.

This book reads like a fiction book, it is a story well told. The chapters are short, each with a specific emphasis and piece of the story, which works well as there is a lot to tell about this tragedy. We know about the incident immediately, but I liked that the author then went back and had large chunks of the book in which the reader gets to know Sasha and Richard. We don't just learn about them, but also about their family and friends and their life situations. By the time the details of the fire are described, I felt invested in both Sasha and Richard and I hoped I could stop it all from happening.

The actual lighting Sasha on fire is such a small part of of this book though it is the central event. Once we read about the incident, we learn about what happens to both Sasha and Richard, how they move on (or don't) and how they feel about what happened. Compassion, forgiveness, and hope are important themes that come up again and again. The author also takes great care to teach the reader about ideas and terms for the way people associated with this story feel about themselves, their sexuality, and how they identify themselves. There really are a lot of levels to this book and they are all relevant and important.

Challenges for which this counts: