CAS READS Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Our book club read Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: This epic of a man’s explanation of how he became invisible and why he is now underground is one of the most brilliant, tragic, elucidating books on the Black experience in America. Ellison dissects paternalism. In his pocket, the invisible man carries the visual relics of how he is seen by mainstream Americans, as a paper Samba doll, as a chain link that was used to enslave thousands of intelligent men and women, based on race. These concrete objects are his burden. They blind those who look at him, which is their failure at vision and undoing of their moral fiber. We cannot turn a blind eye.

We are all invisible to those who are spiritually unable or mechanically refuse to look beyond our circumstances, into who we are as single, ejected-from-the-womb human beings. This book is unforgettable. It makes us look into our own blindnesses, our own projections, our own reactions to violence. What do we do? Destroy or corroborate? Or, do we contemplate, until we have an answer? Will we be given the luxury of time and seclusion to “figure it out”?

We had a wonderful discussion and read aloud important passages in our discussion. Big thanks to Helen for her critical questions and curiosity that kept the conversation and reading going at a clip, and Thomas and Brian for sharing their ideas, and to Ash for jumping into a difficult book.

CAS READS Sula by Toni Morrison

Sometimes a book comes at you from all directions. This one certainly has some cosmic power to move across shelves and change people’s lives. If you ever had a best friend when you were young, or if you have survived violence in your immediate family, this book speaks.

Sula is a pariah, seen as evil, but is she?

Nel is a good girl.

Both were raised by outcasts, but with different approaches to life.

They are lifeblood friends. Until. Men.

And the men in the book? Set in the early and mid 20th century, in a southern mountain town, racism rife, what is truly holding the men down, and carrying them away?

This is a book that fills you with spiritual questions. Not easily resolved and never forgotten. We will discuss it on November 28th!

A Glimpse into Court

by Brittney Desir & Lissa Paulson

Many millennials like the show Law and Order S.V.U. or the original one, or they want to be a cop or a lawyer or maybe even a judge, but few of them actually know what it feels like to be in court or know what really goes on in court.

For some of our internships, students actually have to be in the court room so Lissa and I found teen literature books, like Convicted and Dangerous Girls that have trial scenes in them. While reading and skimming through them it is almost like you are in the court room yourself because you can really feel the emotions the characters are feeling. For example in Convicted, the reader can really understand how scared the main character felt about testifying against his own father. In Dangerous Girls, the reader is given the transcripts of the interrogations by officers, the trial, a talk show where the accused and imprisoned young girl tells her story of being framed for murder in a foreign country. You are right in the middle of the action.

Monster by Walter Dean Myers is another book, a classic in its own right, and now available in graphic novel format, which gives the blow-by-blow shots of the trial of a 16-year old accused of murder when he was only the look-out. You are reading a movie script of a court scene, literally.

In Stephen King’s COMPILATIONof short stories entitled Different Seasons, there is a great 10-page in-court scene with great dialogue and questioning about Alan Dufresnye’s murder case.  According to the narrator of the story “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption,” Dufresnye was only one of about ten men he had met during his life sentence whom he believed was innocent, wrongfully convicted.

Check out these amazing court scene books to get a birds-eye view of what happens in court.

Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson

This book will make you cry. First Hurricane Katrina, then death of her grandmother and mother. Then falls in love, falls hard for T-Boom, a meth addict. Who leaves her when she gets hooked. It is a downward spiral for Laurel, but her daddy loves her, she has a little baby brother Jesse Jr., a best friend Kaylee, and Moses, a friend that doesn’t try to come on to her as she sits begging for money, homeless.  The grip that meth has on people rises mysteriously to the surface in this poetic tale of struggle, of continually being pulled back to an addiction, and the people like Moses that don’t judge and don’t give up.

The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake

Maleeka is poor. Her mom sews to deal with the pain of losing her husband, Maleeka’s dad, but Maleeka can’t wear those hand sewn clothes to school. Sweet already teases her so much about her deep dark skin. So she borrows fancy clothes from Char, who has a lot of issues and bullies everyone around her. Then Miss Saunders shows up with her unique skin, her strong attitude, and changes the tone. She see Maleeka and, though caught in the middle of trying to be true to herself and following along doing what Char says, Maleeka will never be the same.

Always Running: La Vida Loca by Luis J. Rodriguez

In his seering autobiography, Luis Rodriguez claims no glory. But he questions his place in world, and seeks to find an answer. You will bear witness to older ones teaching the younger ones to steal, senseless gang violence, abuse from teachers, misguided treatment from school nurses to Latino students, and an evolving consciousness of who he is and what is valuable in his life. Here is a chapter by chapter account.

 

Something Noble by William Kowalski

Dre is in high school and needs a kidney transplant fast, and LeVon, his drug-dealing half-brother is the only one who has his same blood type and can save his life.  They have the same father.  Dre has been told that his half-brother is no good and to stay away from him all his life. Now they need LeVon. If you like emotional stories and stories that cut through stereotypes this is a book for you. On the outside, LeVon is a destroying his life and lives of those around him. But if you read this book, you will see who LeVon is on the inside.

Paul Volponi

by Jerrell M.


“I’m satisfied that I can channel what I’ve experienced and what I feel into books for young adults.” – Paul Volponi“I hear constantly kids and teachers saying, ‘So-and-so doesn’t read. He picked up your book. He read it from cover to cover. Now he’s reading your other books and he’s thinking about writing something himself that he’s seeing.” – Paul Volponi

 

Paul Volponi is writer, teacher, and journalist living in New York City. He have taught in Rikers Island which is located in Queens, New York with incarcerated teens from 1992-1998. However when he left Rikers he taught teens in a drug treatment program. That’s where he got his explicit ability to write about urban teens in tough times. Volponi is a writer that will catch teen’s attention who don’t like to read because the story that he tells is relatable and they will make connections. I say that readers will make connections because in his books there were a lot of text-to-self in Rikers High and also text-to-world in Hurricane Song. Rikers High will get kids attention because it’s about a 17 year old kid named Martin who went to jail for telling someone where to get drugs from and while was he in jail he got slashed on his face trying to help a friend. Hurricane Song is about a kid named Miles who moved to New Orleans with his father that he didn’t like and Hurricane Katrina came and destroyed everything. Then it started to gang beef and a lot of shootings because they wanted to take over the little bit of land that was left after the hurricane. I personally like Volponi because I connect myself to the book Rikers High and I have never even been to jail before but the story sounds so real I feel like I have been. I will tell all teens to read Rikers High because that’s one of the best book I read and was actually interested in.

Work Cited:

“Paul Volponi: Teen Novels.” Paul Volponi: Teen Novels, http://www.paulvolponibooks.com/biography.htm.

 

“Locomotion” by Jacqueline Woodson

This is a window into one of JW’s most magical short novels, a novel in verse, written as a series of poems, but poems that tell the story of Lonnie:

Lonnie’s mom and dad died in a fire. His little sister now lives with a rich family far away. Lonnie is with Miss Edna. Still living in Brooklyn, still going to school, writing poetry in Ms. Marcus’s class, trying to make sense of what has happened.  This excerpt is Lonnie remembering his mother–her voice and her story about him being born premature and nearly not making it, as she is cooking up a chicken:

“Mama cut the wing off the chicken, rinsed

it under the faucet, patted it dry–real gentle

like she was deep remembering.

So I  hoped and prayed and sat by that tiny 

baby every hour of every day for weeks

and more weeks. Doctors said it’s his lungs,

they’re just not ready for the world yet. Can’t

take a breath in. Can’t let one out. So I breathed

for you, trying to show you how, I

prayed to those lungs, Mama said. Grow!

The chicken was cut up, spiced up, dipped

in flour and ready to fry. mama touched each piece

still real gentle before she slipped it into the hot

oil. Then you were four pounds, five pounds, six pounds

bigger than this chicken. My big little baby boy

not even two months old and already

a survivor.” (p. 74)