First off, that was a lot of fun. Learning is NOT supposed to be fun, ever, remember this. I’m throwing this notion aside, because that was an entertaining week of reading. I had not engaged with young adult literature since I was fourteen or fifteen, I suppose. There is no need for me to further explain how engaged I was with my readings, so I will jump into the books I read.
For week one, I read “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, and “Under the Mesquite” by Guadalupe Garcia McCall. I choose these books at random, but was entirely surprised at how similar the books were. They could not have lined up more perfectly in their themes. The mood and tone of the two works were different but they had a similar story arc. I am not going to bore you with a review of the works but I will summarize quickly in blunt terms. Alexie’s work: male, Native American protagonist who chooses to open his future by leaving the reservation for high school and gets degraded heavily by his childhood community for doing so. McCall’s work: female, Hispanic American protagonist, whose mother gets cancer which forces the protagonist to deal with grief, while at the same time trying to carve a future for herself beyond high school. I like the concept of borders that exists in both of these works. Their is the metaphorical border, which constitutes the two high schoolers having to leave the lives they have known. Then there are the physical borders: the Rio Grande river, and the reservation line.
Alexie’s work really places the reader into the mind of young Junior, and Junior is a funny kid. This humorous side of Junior stems from Alexie’s comedic side which is further explained by Alexie, himself, in this clip.
I think all people impassioned by literature can agree to an extent that it is a stuffy subject every now and then. Especially when trying to discuss it. The words speak for themselves and drawn out conversations about books, for me, can be completely empty. Notice I said “can be,” because most times I relish an opportunity to talk about books. Still, a sizeable dash of humor can make any book or literary conversation more involved. Alexie certainly keeps it light in his work, but then I would flip a page and he would level you with a blunt recollection of an abhorrent event. Despite the gut wrenching events, his use of juxtaposition in doing so was impeccable.
Garcia’s work was a verse novel. I had never read a verse novel, and it was different. I will have to read a few more to find my overall consensus on the genre. Here are some recommended verse novels by Goodreads. I have never read a border novel I haven’t enjoyed, so Garcia’s book was right up my alley. I’m a total sucker for nature. Any time an author inserts a natural element and then uses that element as a symbol, I’m in. To be honest, nature doesn’t even have to be used a symbol for me to enjoy it. It can just be there as a metaphysical force. Garcia does just this, she slots the mesquite tree into her novel as the main symbol of focus, and then slips in quick recollections of interactions with nature. These interactions with nature are not centered on nature. They are centered on family. But the natural world in the background helps to clarify the family’s grief. Below is a book trailer of McCall’s story.
I will updating my blog soon to a premium version so I can insert some themes and hopefully improve the aesthetic quality by doing so. Regardless, I’m looking forward to reading more young adult lit, and scoping out some blogs to follow on the topic. I’ll leave you with a padlet I have created for this course. It is the works I have read, five words describing them, and a redeeming line from the text. I believe it is open to the public so feel free to post your reviews of young adult lit there as well.