I am a librarian now, but for the last year and a half I had the opportunity to put my Women’s History degree to use and teach some History 1301 and 1302 classes. One topic I was constantly searching for added readings or movies on was Executive Order 9066, which gave the green light for the forced relocation and imprisonment of about 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry in the United States during World War II.
Oh, how I wish I’d had this book for supplementary material!
They Called Us Enemy is co-written by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott, and gorgeously illustrated by Harmony Becker. It focuses on Takei’s childhood experiences, when his family was sent to live at the Rohwer camp in Arkansas. Later, his parents refused to mark “yes” on a survey declaring that they were wiling to serve in the US armed forces and disavow the Japanese emperor. As “no-nos,” his parents were treated as enemies of the state, and the family was sent to a higher security camp, Tule Lake in California. It was particularly sobering to realize that his parents were about my age when all of this was happening; they lost everything and were forced into an uncertain future with very young children in tow.
What it is: A young adult novel about a 16-year-old girl named Bri who wants to become the next great rapper. Her father was a rapper who died before his time, but she doesn’t want to be a mini version of him, the way everyone thinks she’ll be; Bri is her own person with her own style. She’s feeling the pressure to succeed: her mother has lost her job and her neighborhood is ruled by gangs. If she can make it big, she can help her family.
Why I read it: Angie Thomas is a great writer.
What I thought: I read Thomas’s debut, The Hate U Give, and while I wasn’t as blown away by it as so many others were, I could appreciate the book; it just felt like Thomas was throwing too much in at once. I didn’t feel like that about On the Come Up; in fact, I liked it more than The Hate U Give. Here, all of the plot points — even the over-the-top ones — felt appropriate; Bri is trying to make it big as a rapper, after all. Thomas beautifully balances bigger social and political issues with the important, personal questions that teens face as they come of age.
Graciela Iturbide is a Mexican photographer and artist whose photographs seem to straddle the line between stark reality and another dream world. She was a creative child who dabbled with a camera in her youth, but she didn’t dedicate herself to photography until after marriage, motherhood, and the devastating loss of one of her children. She became an apprentice for the photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo, honing her skills and learning to wait for the right shots.
Her career took off; she’s known for photographing indigenous communities in Mexico and the United States, but she has traveled the world to photograph landscapes and communities for international publications. When Frida Kahlo’s bedroom was unsealed in 2004, Iturbide one of the few artists granted access to the private quarters.
I’ve never been a huge TV watcher, but I definitely have always a roster of shows that I’ve dedicated myself to at any given time. I’m also in the NO SPOILERS EVER camp, so I tend to avoid television and movie reviews and stay off social media if a popular show — say, Game of Thrones and its wretched final season — airs before I can watch.
That said, I’ve been a fan of Emily Nussbaum’s Pulitzer Prize-winning culture critiques for as long as I can remember. I loved reading her Approval Matrix in New York magazine, back when I read it religiously in college. And even though I’ve become more of a lurker than an active tweeter, her Twitter feed remains one of my favorites. I was thrilled to learn that this book, a collection of both new and previously published essays, was coming out.
In her opening, Nussbaum writes about how she fell in love with television — Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to be exact — back before the concept of “prestige TV,” when people could still sniff their nose at television and get away with calling it lowbrow, inferior entertainment. It was before The Sopranos and Breaking Bad, before the concept of showrunners. Nussbaum took it all seriously, interacting with it intellectually, miffed that shows like Buffy and Sex and the City — women’s TV — never got their due credit as Important Television Shows™ began earning critical acclaim.
The Warmth of Other Suns is one of those books that I’d been meaning to get around to and just never did. I knew I’d love it. I knew it won all the awards when it was published. My friends raved about it. I even name dropped the title, derived from Richard Wright’s Black Boy, in my History 1302 lesson on the Great Migration. Nearly 9 years after its publication, I finally picked up a copy on audiobook and was instantly smitten with Isabel Wilkerson’s masterpiece.
The book focuses on the lives of Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, George Swanson Starling, and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster. They each had different backgrounds and found varying levels of success, both personally and professionally, after leaving the South. Some were just trying to make it out of Jim Crow alive; others had dreams and felt called to specific parts of the nation. But though the book focuses on these three individuals, readers learn about the myriad reasons why over 6 million African Americans fled the South from around 1915 and continued their exodus all through the 1960s. The impact on the economy, the Southern workforce, American culture, and the arts — not to mention impact on families’ educations and upward mobility — is overwhelming and immeasurable.