WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF -- a beautifully written and evocative novel that fearlessly examines the courage and struggle of being a teenage girl in the modern world
What Girls Are Made Of by Elana K. Arnold (2017, Carolrhoda Lab TM; 208 pages)
When Elana K. Arnold was a little girl there was a nursery rhyme that made her feel smug. The rhyme goes like this: “Sugar and spice and everything nice; That's what girls are made of.” The stuff of girls is meant to be consumed, a yummy sweet treat that melts in your mouth, the rhyme seems to say. But to an adult, the rhyme reads as a warning rather than an assessment, the author tells us. It's an imperative: to be a girl, one must be sweet and delicious, and one must be made entirely of everything nice.
What Girls Are Made Of is a book that brings awareness to the fact that girls are not made entirely of sweetness; on the contrary, they are made also of gore, and negatives, and all the functions of a body. The book examines from a fearless point of view the courage and struggle of being a teenage girl in the modern world, and the result is stunning in honesty and depth.
With beautiful prose, Elana K. Arnold takes us to all sorts of places to show us what girls are made of: a high-kill animal shelter, an abortion clinic, a bridge to nowhere that adventure seekers bungee jump from, and all the way to Italy, to the sites of classical and religious art, where the main character and narrator of the story, a sixteen year old girl named Nina, learns the sacred tradition of how stories are told via the distortion and pain of a woman’s body through the statues of saints who endured unspeakable torture because of their unquestioning devotion to the divine.
The question of what is love perspires along the book. Nina will do anything for the boy she loves, just to prove she's worthy of him, but when he breaks up with her, Nina is lost and wonders what she is made of, what is love made of. After all, Nina's mother informs a fourteen-year-old, “I could stop loving you at anytime,” adding that “No one loves without conditions.”
Raw and unflinching, this book is fantastic. Recommended to older teens and mature readers.
Find this title in our catalog: What Girls Are Made Of
Recommended by: Maite
PIECING ME TOGETHER -- an elegantly crafted novel about how girls stitch together their talents to find their voice and power
Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson (2017, Bloomsbury USA Children's; 272 pages)
This is a book about Jade, a girl striving for success in a world that feels too often like it wants to break her. The novel explores issues of race, privilege, and relationships, and it does so in a thought-provoking and relevant way.
The action of piecing means to assemble something from individual parts. Jade loves art and she creates complex and extraordinary collages, where she overlaps, juxtapositions, and shifts images and pictures of what she observes in her world. I found it fascinating that the author would choose this art practice to define Jade. Collage is a medium that allows the artist to shift centers and margins, where the borders are not fixed, and this message is fundamental in Jade's story.
Jade believes she must get out of her poor neighborhood if she's ever going to succeed. Her mother works hard to help her do that, and she sends her to a private school far away from her friends and neighborhood, where she has plenty of opportunities, but where she also feels like an outsider. One of the opportunities she can enjoy is a mentorship program she joins on the promise of a scholarship to go to college. The program is called Woman to Woman, and although Jade is thankful for being chosen to participate in it, she also tires of being singled out as someone who needs support, or someone people want to fix. She doesn't doubt her desire to speak, to create, to express her joys and sorrows, her pain and her joy. And so she decides that maybe she can show other women about understanding her world and about finding opportunities to be real and make a difference.
Each chapter has a title in Spanish and English. Jade loves learning Spanish, and she uses this second language as a way to piece thoughts together.
"I am learning to speak.
To give myself a way out. A way in."
The power of woman’s friendship is a continuous stream in the story of Piecing Me Together, a book that also includes an extraordinary reflection on violence and race. Beautiful reading, recommended to all, especially if you enjoyed The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
Find this title in our catalog: Piecing Me Together
Recommended by: Maite
MARCH: BOOKS ONE, TWO AND THREE -- an extraordinary presentation of the life of Congressman John Lewis and the Civil Rights movement
March: Books One, Two, and Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (2013, Top Shelf Productions; 576 pages)
This three-part series of graphic novels, told through the perspective of Congressman and Civil Rights leader John Lewis, depicts aspects of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It focuses on numerous events, juxtaposed with the inauguration of Barack Obama, the nation’s first African American president.
Find this title in our catalog: March
Recommended by: Ariadne
#NOTYOURPRINCESS: VOICES OF NATIVE AMERICAN WOMEN --an eclectic collection of poems, essays, interviews, and art that combine to express the experience of being a Native woman
#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women; Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale (2017, Annick Press; 112 pages)
Fifty contemporary artists come together in a compelling collection with a great title to break into pieces stereotypes about what it is like to be an indigenous woman or girl today.
#NotYourPrincess reveals and shares stories of strength, diversity, pain from the past, and hope for the future, and shows the incredible talent of Native American girls and women across North America.
"I am always trying to escape - from dangerous situations, from racist stereotypes, from environmental destruction in my territory, and from the assault on my freedom as an individual and as part of the Nishnaabeg nation. As an indigenous person, I have to escape in order to survive, but I don't just escape. I hold this beautiful, rich indigenous decolonial space inside and around me."
The words of Leanne Simpson (Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg) acompanied by a gorgeous illustration called RedWoman by Aza E. Abe (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe) open an incredible book of testimonies that becomes a love letter to all young Indigenous women trying to find their way, shattering stereotypes, and, as one of the editors of the book writes, a way to "collectively move forward to a brighter future for all."
The book includes photographs and art from Native American Women artists and photographers, and they add an incredible layer of complexity and raw beauty to the publication.
Recommended to older teens and adults.
Find this title in our catalog: #NotYourPrincess
Recommended by: Maite
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