Teen Ink

Bibliographic Information: Teen Ink (magazine). Newton, MA: The Young Authors Foundation, Inc.

Plot/Content Summary: Teen Ink is a magazine that does not employ writers, reporters, or artists.   The content of the magazine is entirely made up of submissions from teens from all over the country.  Topics covered are diverse, from health issues to discrimination, teen activism to sports.  Teens write fiction and non-fiction and provide paintings, photographs and other forms of artwork for the magazine.  Each monthly issue contains articles written around specific themes, in the December 2011, issue the themes were “Celebrating the Season” and “Sibling Stories.”  The magazine is organized with the following “sections:” Art Gallery, College Directory, College Reviews, Community Service, Environment, Feedback, Fiction, Health, Heroes, Nonfiction, Points of View, Poetry, Pride & Prejudice, Reviews: Book, Reviews: Movie, Reviews: Music, Reviews: Video Games, Sports and Travel & Culture.  The wide range of topics covered provides a place for teens with varying interests to enjoy both reading as well as contributing to Teen Ink.

Critical Evaluation: Teen Ink is packed full with interesting and high quality writing and artwork.  The honest, authentic teen voices that can be found throughout the pages of the magazine lend it depth and significance.  The teen contributors to Teen Ink, both young women and young men, are creative and intelligent, interesting and interested.  Teen Ink provides an opportunity for teens to become published writers and artists, “Hundreds of thousands of students have submitted their work to us and we have published more than 45,000 teens since 1989,” (Teen Ink: About Us, n.d.).  Teen Ink empowers and engages, it provides an important forum for teens to exchange ideas and discuss issues important to them.  It is by teens and for teens making it a great resource for information and inspiration.  The magazine is used in English, creative writing, and journalism classrooms across the country.  Several books have been published by the Teen Ink organization, they are entitled Teen Ink and contain themed collections of essays gathered from the magazine.  The Teen Ink website contains content from the magazine as well as content unique to the web and is an additional place for teens to engage and exchange thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

Genre/Format: Print and Online Magazine

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 14 -18

Challenge Issues: There are many real issues that young adults deal with covered in this magazine, so there might be a challenge to some of the content.  However, this magazine has been praised by The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Teacher Magazine and many more.  In response to challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.

Why is this magazine included? Teen Ink is the perfect magazine for older teens of both genders to include in a library collection.  I found it when I was in search of interesting and independent teen magazines that do not simply repeat the same beauty tips and celebrity gossip as many magazines on the market.


Hear Me Out: True Stories of Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia a Project of Planned Parenthood of Toronto

Bibliographic Information: Planned Parenthood of Toronto. (2004). Hear Me Out: True Stories of Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia. Toronto, ON: Second Story Press.  ISBN: 1896764878.  197 pages.

Plot/Content Summary:

We all need a space to tell our stories, to be heard.  So for me being able to tell this story is an important act of resistance.  I tell my story often and loudly.  I tell it to break the silence, to educate, to inspire.  I tell my story in the hope that someone who hears me might think about the revolutionary potential of simply loving themselves and sharing their stories.

 ayden isak hoffman-scheim

Hear Me Out: True Stories of Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia, pg. 51

Hear Me Out is a book of stories, teen stories, true stories by teens about themselves.  These teens are volunteers with Toronto’s Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia (T.E.A.C.H.), “a peer-based program run by Planned Parenthood of Toronto to educate and change negative attitudes about gay, lesbian, queer, bisexual, transsexual, and transgendered [GLBTT] people.”  These teens are brave, they’ve been through a lot, and they are here to tell their stories, to educate and inform, and, perhaps most importantly, to make sure other GLBTT young people know that they are not alone.  Each chapter is written by one young person, the chapters range from coming out stories to stories about homophobic violence and bullying to stories of first love and family acceptance.  Issues of culture and race are woven throughout the book, as the teen voices come from diverse backgrounds.  Through it all, the wise, honest – and brave – voices of teens come through loud and clear.

Critical Evaluation: This book is important, as it addresses serious subjects from the perspective of the teens experiencing what is being discussed.  Hearing from the teens themselves makes this book powerful and moving as well as telling and illuminating.  One only has to read the first page to realize that reading Hear Me Out is going to be a different experience than reading any other book.  It is honest, authentic, and interesting.  Even people in GLBTT communities will learn from the diversity of experiences and voices, and people outside the community will get a glimpse into what life is like for the young people in the book, and possibly other GLBTT youth that readers may know.  Many of the teens also speak specifically about the T.E.A.C.H. program, which could be useful for those interested in starting a similar organization.  The back of the book includes a brief glossary and section of short biographies of each of the 19 teen contributors.

Reader’s Annotation: Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, and transgendered teens tell their stories in their own words of what life is like for them.  Their stories describe adversity and struggle as well as achievement and triumph.

Information about the Author: n/a

Genre: Non-Fiction

Category: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual, and Transgendered youth

Topics Covered: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, Transsexual, Homophobia, Racism, Bullying, Violence, Family, Friends, Identity, Coming Out

Curriculum Ties: Gender and Sexuality

Booktalking Ideas: Read a piece from any of the essays, like the quote included above in the “Content” section.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 12 -19

Challenge Issues: This book is all about GLBTT youth and sends a message of the importance of acceptance, so it could very well be challenged.  In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.  Also, there are several positive reviews of the book, including reviews by VOYA and Booklist.

Why is this book included? Initially found in the YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults 2006 list, under the GLBTQ heading, this book is included because young adult collections should address the needs and issues of the diverse communities they serve.

References:

Planned Parenthood of Toronto. (2004). Hear Me Out: True Stories of Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia. Toronto, ON: Second Story Press.


The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Bibliographic Information: Hinton, S.E. (1967). The Outsiders. New York, NY: Speak.  ISBN: 014038572X.  188 pages.

Plot Summary: In Ponyboy Curtis’s world (yes, that’s his real name), there are two things you can be: a greaser or a Soc, short for Social.  Greasers, like Ponyboy and his brothers and all their friends, live on the east side.  They are poor, they slick back their hair and are often considered “hoods” or JD’s, juvenile delinquents, by non-greasers.  Socs, on the other hand, live on the west side, are wealthy, and are not considered to be hoods, but often behave like JD’s toward the greasers.  It seems that when Socs get bored, they beat up greasers for entertainment.  One night 14-year-old Ponyboy and his friend Johnny get jumped, not the first time either of them has been attacked by Socs, but this night things go terribly wrong.  What will happen to Johnny and Ponyboy, who will help them, and how will they survive?

Critical Evaluation: S. E. Hinton was 16 when she wrote this classic coming-of-age novel in the 1960’s.  The Outsiders contains universal themes relevant today.  Tweens and teens struggle with fitting and not fitting in, being labeled and pre-judged, going along with or against the crowd.  All of these challenges are presented in a compelling and engaging story, which is filled with narrator Ponyboy’s thoughtful reflections and raw emotions.  The honest real-life situations of The Outsiders set it apart from other books, for young adults, from the 1960’s.  Perhaps because she herself was a young adult, Hinton captured authentic voices and her readers responded with great delight.  This classic is still meaningful and alive and well today.

Reader’s Annotation: Ponyboy Curtis lives with his two brothers on what some would consider to be the wrong side of the tracks.  When a fateful event brings Ponyboy and his friend Johnny together with the rich socialites, their lives change forever.

Information about the Author: Susan Eloise Hinton was born in Tulsa, OK, in 1950.  She still calls Tulsa her home.  The Outsiders, which takes place in Oklahoma, was inspired by people and the social situations in her own Oklahoma high school.  Her first book was The Outsiders, but she has continued writing, with her most recent book, Some of Tim’s Stories, a book of short stories, being published in 2006. (Hinton, n.d.)

In 1988, Hinton was given the first ever Margaret A. Edwards Award.  She has written several novels for young adults, children and adults.  Several of her novels have been made into movies, including The Outsiders, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and released in 1983.

Genre: Issues, Realistic Fiction

Subgenres/Themes: Issues: Social concerns: Gangs

Topics Covered: Social Status, Fitting In, Outsiders, Gangs, Violence, Love, Friendship, Family

Curriculum Ties: As The Outsiders is a classic, it could be read for an English class with lots to dissect and discuss,

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Imagine being in trouble, the kind of trouble you have no idea how to get out of…

Reading Level/Interest Age: 12 – 16

Challenge Issues: Profanity and violence.  In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.  Also, the book is considered by many to be a classic and was, and still is, highly praised by critics.

Why is this book included? As a young teen, I loved this book (and the movie) so much that I decided I would memorize the book.  I was a dreamer, to say the least.  It took me forever to learn the first two sentences and I lost interest in memorizing after that, but not in reading it and re-reading it and re-reading it again.  A classic in YA lit!

References:

Hinton, S. E. (n.d.) Biography.  Retrieved from http://www.sehinton.com/bio.html


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Bibliographic Information: Alexie, S. (2009). The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Forney, E. (Illus.). New York, NY: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.  ISBN: 0316013692.  288 pages.

Plot Summary: “My parents came from poor people who came from poor people who came from poor people, all the way back to the very first poor people.” Fourteen-year-old Arnold Spirit, Jr., called Junior by his friends and family, lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation. His best, and only, friend Rowdy protects him from kids on the “rez,” who use Junior as a punching bag. He is teased and picked on because he’s skinny, he wears glasses, he lisps, and, according to him, “Everyone on the rez calls me a retard about twice a day.” But, Junior is smart and thoughtful, he’s an aspiring cartoonist, and he has managed to eke out a small amount of hope for his future. He makes the life-changing decision to leave the rez school to attend Reardon, a school 22 miles from the reservation, with only white students in a wealthy, all-white town. Students at Reardon are high achievers, both academically and in athletics. Will Junior’s Indian community feel betrayed by his decision? Will the kids at his new school open their hearts to him? Readers will root for this unassuming, honest, witty and smart protagonist, as he makes his way through the murky waters of growing up and self-discovery.

Critical Evaluation: Alexie’s honest, authentic writing tells Junior’s story with intimacy and feeling.  And while this book reads like a memoir, it is fiction, but heavily based on Alexie’s own life.  Readers get the opportunity to be present for day-to-day life as well as some of the more dramatic moments of Junior’s life, and through it all Alexie’s dry wit and social commentary are meaningful and not at all didactic. The complex issues of race and class intersect, intertwine, and give readers plenty to think about.  Part devastatingly sad, part funny, and part hopeful, this coming of age story provides pause for thought about life’s complexities, as well as some of its most simple, and basic, pleasures.  Alexie’s is an important voice in young adult literature, as there are very few books depicting contemporary Indian Reservation life.  Though Junior is fourteen, the novel’s content is mature enough to keep older teens engaged.  In fact, the many levels of this book would likely be best understood by teens older than the main character.  While the content is often heavy, the writing is accessible for a wide range of reading levels; this book, with its many cartoon illustrations, is enjoyable to read, and could be a great choice for reluctant readers.  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian won the National Book Award

Reader’s Annotation: Junior’s life takes a dramatic turn when he decides to leave the Spokane Indian Reservation school for an all-white school in an affluent town 22 miles away from his reservation home.

Information about the Author: Sherman Alexie is an author, a poet, and a filmmaker.  He has written 22 books, and has received numerous honors for his creative works.  Alexie has a strong voice and does not shy away from controversy (see “Challenge Issues” below). He is a frequent public speaker and an advocate for Native American Youth.

Genre: Issue, Realistic Fiction

Category: Issue: Social Concerns: Racism; Issue: Life is Hard: Multiple and Unique Issues, Outsiders

Topics Covered: Growing up, American Indian, Indian reservation, racism, poverty, discrimination, Bullying

Curriculum Ties: This book would provide plenty to talk about for a high school English or social studies class

Booktalking Ideas:

  • “I think Rowdy might be the most important person in my life. Maybe more important than my family. Can your best friend be more important than your family?” (p. 123)

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 14 to 19

Challenge Issues: This book contains a lot of cursing and references to sexuality.  It also exposes readers to poverty, racism, hatred, sadness and grief, things that some adults feel they need to protect young people from.  Alexie’s own experience of hearing from teens that this book speaks to them and they appreciate its honesty is discussed in his Wall Street Journal Blog piece, entitled Why the Best Kids’ Books Are Written in Blood.  More information about censorship of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian can be found in the Blog of The Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association.

Why is this book included? This book is included for several reasons.  1) Authentic American Indian voices are underrepresented in American literature in general, and in young adult literature in particular, so it is important that Alexie’s voice is heard and available for young people to read. 2) It is a great book, funny, poignant, and gives us all a lot to think about.  I enjoyed it a lot and think you will too.  3) Related to #2, it won the National Book Award among other honors and was highly critically acclaimed.

References:

Alexie, S. (2009). The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York, NY: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.


Teen Voices

Bibliographic Information: Teen Voices (magazine). Boston, MA. ISSN: 10747974.

Plot/Content Summary: Teen Voices is not your average teen magazine.  It is a print and online magazine for teen girls, BY teen girls.  The mission: “Teen Voices supports and educates teen girls to amplify their voices and create social change through media.”  Teen Voices is not just a magazine but a non-profit organization that supports teens’ development in creating the magazine and mentors teens through the process.  Teen Voices also supports teen girls’ leadership development and social justice awareness and activism.

Articles in Teen Voices cover a wide breadth of topics, like arts and music, book reviews and author interviews, diversity and equality, food, health, the media, careers, teen activism, relationships, social networking.  The magazine also includes fiction and poetry written by teen girls.  Recent articles include:

  • Recent Events in Egypt from a Girl’s Eye View
  • Girl’s Hurt by Gang Violence
  • Got the Knowledge to Go to College? Teen Voices Helps You on Your Way!
  • When Relationships Get Tough, Can They Be Too Rough?
  • Got the Facebook Blues?

Critical Evaluation: The content of Teen Voices, like the voices it represents, is diverse and intelligent.  Since teens are creating content, the magazine is highly relevant and authentic.  Articles cover real-life issues and, while there is always room for fun, the magazine addresses young women as competent, intelligent people with the ability to think and analyze and question the status quo.  Other teen magazines, with their emphasis on appearance and social status, do not compare to the depth and strength of the content in Teen VoicesTeen Voices and its staff have received awards and honors, that acknowledge the important and life-changing work that the organization does.

Genre/Format: Print and Online Magazine

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 14 -18

Challenge Issues: There are many real issues that young women deal with covered in this magazine, so there might be a challenge to some of the content.  However, this magazine has won awards and has a positive review in School Library Journal.  In response to challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.


What Are You? Voices of Mixed-Race Young People by Pearl Fuyo Gaskins

Bibliographic Information: Gaskins, P. F. (1999). What are you? Voices of Mixed-Race Young People. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN: 0805059687.  273 pages.

Plot/Content Summary: “What are you?” a question some people hear every day, particularly people of mixed racial heritage.  Pearl Fuyo Gaskins, herself a mixed-race child of an Asian-American father and a European-American mother, interviewed 80 mixed-race young people about their experiences growing up in the US.  Gaskins’ book includes poetry, essays and portions of interviews with approximately 45 of these young people.  The young people address discrimination, racism, dating, family dynamics, identity.  They discuss that issues that are unique to being mixed race as well as issues that are universal to young people in general.  Readers of mixed race heritage are likely to find validation and reflection from the book as well as new ideas to consider.  Those reading the book who are not from a mixed race background will likely find a great deal of insight and information from the brave young people who share their stories.  The book also includes an extensive, annotated “Resources” section at the end.

Critical Evaluation: In What Are You? Gaskins has managed to take on a big and complicated topic with grace and intelligence.  The diversity of the voices in the book lend it great accuracy.  Chapters are organized by common themes experienced by multiracial youth, and many of their voices appear in multiple chapters.  Gaskins explanatory and exploratory pieces throughout the book reflect and expand on the young people’s thoughts and feelings.  Their voices are authentic and clear and leave readers feeling as if they have gained insights into hard-to-grasp topics.  These issues are complex and multifaceted, but hearing directly from the people who experience them brings the issues down to a human level, reminding us that no matter what we are, we all have similar needs to be accepted, celebrated, and loved for exactly who we are.  Derek Salmond, age fifteen says, “People often ask me the question, ‘So, what are you anyway?’…I say, “I’m a human being.  Why?  What are you?” (p. 21).

Reader’s Annotation: Mixed-race young people, in their own voices, tell of the joys and pains of living in a culture that wants them to “check one box.”

Information about the Author: After the dedication page, the first line of What Are You? is, “I’ve wanted to write this book since I was fifteen years old,” (p. vii).  Gaskins was herself a mixed race child, born in 1959, a time when interracial marriage was illegal in many states.  As Gaskins grew up she experienced many of the same things that the young people in her book describe: racism, discrimination, feeling invisible and alone.  Gaskins watched as consciousness grew within multi-racial communities as well as in society as a whole.  She wrote this book for the mixed-race young people today, it is a book, she says, “I wish I’d had when I was a teenager,” (p. 8).

Genre/Category: Non-Fiction

Topics covered: Identity, Mixed-race, Multi-racial, Racism, Discrimination, Family, Friends

Curriculum Ties: Social Studies, Race in America

Booktalking Ideas:

  • There are so many great quotations to read to stimulate discussion, like, “People often ask me the question, ‘So, what are you anyway?’…I say, “I’m a human being.  Why?  What are you?”

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 -25

Challenge Issues: There are no obvious challenge issues associated with this book.  Preparation for any challenge can include the librarian’s: reading of the book, adhering to the library’s collection development department, and possessing reviews of the book from well-regarded sources.

Why is this book included? A good collection includes a diversity of books.  This book contains the voices of mixed-race youth, a group often underrepresented in literature, so is an important piece to include in a collection for young people.

References:

Gaskins, P. F. (1999). What are you? Voices of mixed-race young people . New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.


Who Will Tell My Brother? by Marlene Carvell

Bibliographic Information: Carvell, M. (2002). Who Will Tell My Brother? New York, NY: Hyperion.  ISBN: 0786808276.  160 pages.

Plot Summary: Evan Hill was born to a white mother and Mohawk father.  Unlike his brother, Evan looks more like his mother than his father, so has to claim his Mohawk identity more explicitly.  His concept of his identity is confusing and complex, particularly because Evan is an artistic, sensitive, and thoughtful teen.  He is a senior in high school and decides to stand up and speak out against the racist and stereotypical Indian school mascot.  His brother, before him, tried to get the Indian mascot removed, but did not prevail, and Evan has taken up the torch.  Evan talks to teachers and students and attends school board meeting after school board meeting to express his point of view.  Those who want things to stay just the way they are are far less civilized in expressing their dissent.  Evan is harassed and even physically threatened by students, and then his family’s beloved dog is killed by people trying to send a message.  Evan wonders who will tell his brother about the dog’s untimely and undeserved death.

Critical Evaluation: Who Will Tell My Brother?, beautifully written in free verse from Evan’s point of view, is touching and inspiring.  It is accessible, even for reluctant readers, because, being in free verse, it makes its point eloquently, but with fewer words than many novels.  Addressing issues of anti-American Indian racism, stereotyping, bullying, and bystanders this book has a lot going on in it.  But, life has a lot going on in it, and this book makes these complex topics accessible through poetic free verse and deeply expressed emotions.  American Indian students who have felt this very injustice or other students who have experienced similar injustices will likely find strength and inspiration in Evan.  Students who have not been exposed to these issues will gain insight and empathy due to Evan clearly articulated outrage at an American Indian being used as a school mascot.  This book provides a great opening for discussion on racism, bullying as well as the roles and responsibilities of bystanders to bullying.

Reader’s Annotation: Evan Hill must face strong opposition from bullies and an unsympathetic school board when he fights to have his high school’s Indian mascot removed.

Information about the Author: Carvell says that Who Will Tell My Brother? was, “inspired by the experiences of my two sons.”  Carvell’s sons, like Evan and his brother in the book, have a white mother and their father is a member of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe. Carvell’s books are well regarded by American Indian reviewers for their authentic portrayals of Indians.

Genre: Issues, Multicultural Fiction, Realistic Fiction

Subgenre/Theme: Issues: Social Concerns: Activism; Multicultural Fiction: Native Americans

Format: Free Verse Novel

Topics Covered: Racism, Violence, Bullying, Bystanderism, American Indian, Stereotypes, Family, Identity, Social Justice

Curriculum Ties: English, Social Studies, History

Booktalking Ideas:

  • What would YOU do?  If you saw bullying…
  • What would YOU do?  If your ethnic group was being used as a mascot…

Reading Level/Interest Age: 14-18 years

Challenge Issues: There are those who believe that Indian mascots should be allowed, but I doubt that would make them challenge this book.  There are no obvious challenge issues associated with this book.  Preparation for any challenge can include the librarian’s: reading of the book, adhering to the library’s collection development department, and possessing reviews of the book from well-regarded sources

Why is this book included?  This book is a high quality book in a unique format, that might have particular appeal for some teens.  It was well received by reviewers and covers an important topic not often addressed in literature.

References:

Slapin, B. (2003). Who will tell my brother?. Multicultural Review, 12(2), 98.