Tag Archives: African American author

These Boundaries, Boxes, and Traditions Can’t Hold Me Back: Labryrinth’s Door–Anyia “Dream of a Warrior” by Jacquitta A. McManus

box

Image taken from Google Images

“I Get Out”  by Lauryn Hill

I get out, I get out of all your boxes
I get out, you can’t hold me in these chains
I’ll get out
Father free me from this bondage
Knowin’ my condition
Is the reason I must change

To keep me in this box
Psychological locks
Repressin’ true expression
Cementin’ this repression
Promotin’ mass deception
So that no one can be healed
I don’t respect your system
I won’t protect your system
When you talk I don’t listen

And just get out
Oh, just get out of all this bondage
Just get out
Oh, you can’t hold me in these chains
Just get out
All these traditions killin’ freedom
Knowin’ my condition
Is the reason I must change

labyrinth's door McManus, Jacquitta A. and Illustrator Toujour Byrd. Labyrinth’s Door—Anyia “Dream of a Warrior.” Worlds to Discover, LLC: 2010. http://www.worldstodiscover.com/

In our digital, 21st century world, among the interactive worlds, Xbox games, and the plethora of apps, there is still a need for story, a mythical tale to take our imagination to a world of fantasy, a narrative that pulls back the layers of adventure and exposes the true gems of wisdom underneath.

In  Labyrinth’s Door—Anyia “Dream of a Warrior,” McManus does just that.  She sheds light on the traditions that hold women back in Anyia’s village. Anyia is a determined daughter of royalty.  The royal tradition is for women to remain behind the battle lines and bear no responsibility for defending the land.  Anyia feels confined in this box.  She knows there has been a woman warrior, Amoonda.  Many people laugh at her ramblings about a “mere woman” being such a mighty warrior. Anyia is very determined to have the last laugh and to prove everyone, including her father, wrong.

As Anyia plans her escape to find Amoonda, she encounters Thor warriors, who are under Empress Zarina’s rule and pose a threat to her people, and magical beings like Pepo bugs and Erow trees.  She begins her journey of becoming the heroine that her people need.

This book has several educational implications in middle school language arts or reading classes and in world literature courses.  It highlights the art of the story, specifically the fairytale, an art form many cultures use to teach morals and traditions.  It also provides a basis for rich classroom discussion on the portrayal of women in different cultures and their struggles with different traditions and expectations.

A great culminating assignment that could be done after reading this book, along with others suggested below, in a thematic unit on gender roles would be a multigenre research paper.

The multigenre research paper breaks boundaries and traditions on its own.  Traditionally, students have written ten page research papers with annotated bibliographies and index cards as a class assignment.  The multigenre research paper allows students to use different genres, such as poetry, short stories, articles, emails, art, etc. to convey the information they have learned from their research.

I have implemented this idea twice, once in a high school classroom and the other in a freshmen composition course at a community college.  I think the most profound multigenre research paper was done one of my high school students.  The class assignment was to take a social construct or an abstract term such as gender, race, love, hate, justice, freedom, etc., research how others have portrayed or defined the term, create their own definition of the term, and represent their definition through at least three different genres.

This particular student chose to define femininity.  It was a profound representation that broke the often portrayed images of women in society/popular culture.  Students could do the same with Labyrinth’s Door.

Students can even break womanhood into different strands:  marriage, career, etc.

For information on and examples of multigenre projects, please visit these sites:

http://www.users.muohio.edu/romanots/

http://writing.colostate.edu/gallery/multigenre/introduction.htm

IMG_Jacquitta2_md 

Five Questions for Jacquitta A. McManus

How did you come up with the idea for Labyrinth’s Door?

It was a daydream that led to the idea of Labyrinth’s Door; a dream that would allow me to
tell stories I myself would have loved to have read growing up. Stories
full of characters that would go on exciting adventures in fantasy lands,
where magic was real and anything could happen. There are four books planned in the series.

Why would Anyia’s character appeal to middle school girls?

Middle school girls are at an age where they are coming of age just like Anyia. They’re
not living in a village and having to follow the traditions of an old
culture, but they are trying to figure out the path they want to take in
life, and if that path differs from what is expect they too will have to
fight for what they know to be true for themselves.

In the book, Anyia expresses her thoughts about the village’s traditions
regarding a woman’s place. What messages do you think young girls receive
from today’s pop culture?

Today’s culture has a lot of emphasis on beauty,money and popularity, from how many Facebook

and  Twitter followers you have to how many YouTube views you get, which emphasizes superficial
assets. Anyia is faced with respecting the traditions of community, where
everyone works as one for the better good of all. It’s very much a
community mentality, which is the opposite of pop culture. Pop culture is
sending out a message that everyone should be about himself or herself
unless helping others is a benefit to the one giving the help, it’s very
much a self-mentality.

What other books have you written?

I’ve written Talee and the Fallen Object, which is a great fantasy adventure series for elementary
school-aged children. It will transport kids to another world through the
description given by the protagonist, Talee.

Talee_Cover_web Synopsis of Talee and the Fallen Object:

One early Saturday morning, Talee had nothing to do. I mean nothing at
all. So she ate a puffy muffin and decided to read one of her favorite
books, Captain Jewel and the Lost City Treasure. Just when she was about
to start chapter three, out of the corner of her eye she saw a mail flyer
drop something from a bag. It fell through the air and landed on one of
the smaller floating landmasses. A bag of treasure, she thought as she
looked out the window. But is it a bag of treasure?

What advice would you give to other authors interested in creating their
own digital illustrated series for children?

Pre-production, productions, post-production and marketing are the same as a printed series. Where
things differ is the distribution aspect. And in order to effectively
distribute you have to know where you want to distribute and through what
means so that you can prepare the correct files. And you should know that
before you start production.

How did you come up with the idea for Labyrinth’s Door?

It was a daydream that led to the idea of Labyrinth’s Door; a dream that would allow me to
tell stories I myself would have loved to have read growing up. Stories
full of characters that would go on exciting adventures in fantasy lands,
where magic was real and anything could happen.

Why would Anyia’s character appeal to middle school girls?

Middle school girls are at an age where they are coming of age just like Anyia. They’re
not living in a village and having to follow the traditions of an old
culture, but they are trying to figure out the path they want to take in
life, and if that path differs from what is expect they too will have to
fight for what they know to be true for themselves.

In the book, Anyia expresses her thoughts about the village’s traditions
regarding a woman’s place. What messages do you think young girls receive
from today’s pop culture?

Today’s culture has a lot of emphasis on beauty,money and popularity.

From how many Facebook and Twitter followers you have to how many

YouTube views you get, which emphasizes superficial
assets. Anyia is faced with respecting the traditions of community, where
everyone works as one for the better good of all. It’s very much a
community mentality, which is the opposite of pop culture. Pop culture is
sending out a message that everyone should be about himself or herself
unless helping others is a benefit to the one giving the help, it’s very
much a self-mentality.

What other books have you written?

I’ve written Talee and the Fallen Object, which is a great fantasy adventure series for elementary
school-aged children. It will transport kids to another world through the
description given by the protagonist, Talee.
Talee_Cover_webSynopsis of Talee and the Fallen Object:

One early Saturday morning, Talee had nothing to do. I mean nothing at
all. So she ate a puffy muffin and decided to read one of her favorite
books, Captain Jewel and the Lost City Treasure. Just when she was about
to start chapter three, out of the corner of her eye she saw a mail flyer
drop something from a bag. It fell through the air and landed on one of
the smaller floating landmasses. A bag of treasure, she thought as she
looked out the window. But is it a bag of treasure?

What advice would you give to other authors interested in creating their
own digital illustrated series for children?

Pre-production, productions, post-production and marketing are the same as a printed series. Where
things differ is the distribution aspect. And in order to effectively
distribute you have to know where you want to distribute and through what
means so that you can prepare the correct files. And you should know that
before you start production.

Author Bio:

“All my life, I’ve gravitated to fantasy stories. Stories I felt I could
be a part of and completely immerse myself in … in my imagination.”

Jacquitta A. McManus, a little girl from Kentucky and author of two
fantasy adventure children’s books, Labyrinth’s Door – Anyia “Dream of a
Warrior” and Talee and the Fallen Object, was always drawn to fantasy
stories. It was a way for her to immerse herself into exciting adventures
in faraway lands that she otherwise wouldn’t experience. As she got older
she would find that immersing herself into those fantasy stories, as a
little girl, was just the beginning of a journey that would lead her to
writing her own fantasy adventure children’s books.

Websites & Blogs:

WorldsToDiscover.com

Talee’s World (WorldsToDiscover.com/Talee)

Journey of a Storyteller (WorldsToDiscover.com/Journey)

Social Media Links

Facebook.com/WTDiscover / Facebook.com/LabyrinthsDoor

Twitter.com/WTDiscover / Facebook.com/LabyrinthsDoor

Text-to Text Connections
*****These books are great additions to a thematic unit revolving around this book.  This list addresses a plethora of issues connected to Labyrinth’s Door–Anyia “Dream of a Warrior.”  Some of them deal with traditions, boundaries, and expectations that different women face in different cultures.  Some of them reinvent the classic fairytale of Cinderella, a story that not only captivates young girls, but if examined more closely, it also perpetuates those traditions, boundaries, and expectations.  Some of the short stories and poems examine what it means to be a woman. One of them, Shizuko’s Daughter, deals with the impact of mother-daughter relationships on a girl’s development into a woman. Of course, no examination of womanhood would not be complete without bringing in Hester Prynne’s struggle in The Scarlet Letter.  McManus’ book, paired with these texts, opens the door to critically conscious discussions about social issues and expectations.  What a wonderful way to celebrate Women’s History month! Enjoy!

mufaro's beautiful daughters Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters:  An African Tale by John Steptoe

beauty Beauty:  A Retelling of the Story of Beauty & the Beast by Robin McKinley

green angelGreen Angel by Alice Hoffman

rough face girl The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin

shizuko's daughter Shizuko’s Daughter by Kyoko Mori

woman warrior The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

the foretelling The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman

adichieThe Thing Around Your Neck  by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

a step from heaven A Step from Heaven by An Na

achebe Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

aint i a womanAin’t I Woman:  A Book of Women’s Poetry From Around the World  Edited by Illona Lithwaite

efuruEfuru by Flora Nwapa

cisnerosWoman Hollering Creek & Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros

bride priceThe Bride Price by Buchi Emecheta

scarlet letter The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

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When Your Back Is Against the Wall, What Else Are You Gonna Do Except Hustle?: Tyrell by Coe Booth

Image found on Google Images

Image found on Google Images

Edu-my-cation

By Alexandra Caselle

Extra! Extra!

Read all about it!

Urban schools

are failing, failing, failing!

People, people,

What must be done?

Our kids can’t read or

write ; they can’t do math.

Man, please.

I know how to read and write.

I know that 2 + 2 =4.

I am not illiterate.

See, where I come from

2 + 2 don’t always equal 4.

It equals me getting shot

if I walk on a certain set

or getting beat down for

what I wear, who I associate

with, or where I live.

I know how to read words.

I sometimes comprehend what I read.

But, I also know how to “read” life.

I got to “read” guys standing on

the block trying to find out if

they are trying to be down with me

or use or abuse me.

I got to “read” the cops patrolling

my hood, trying to figure out

if they are really trying to serve

and protect or are they trying

to put another brother in the clank.

I got to worry about if my mama

is coming home tonight or if

I  have to feed my little brother

and be both parents

and on top of that handle being

a kid my damn self.

Oh, yeah.  I know how to write.

But, writing on some bs topic about

why the principal should enforce uniforms

doesn’t help me.

Let me write about why society

doesn’t erase the class boundaries that

make junkies and the homeless

roam aimlessly.

Let me write about the importance

of daddies sticking around so

their daughters don’t seek love inside

a fifteen minute sexual excursion

instead of themselves.

I know I need to get the skills

needed to survive in the real world

and gain my e-co-nom-ic  mo-bil-i-ty.

But, every time I look around you telling

me how I am failing and I’m trying to push

all these obstacles out of my way.

And now you wanna wonder why so

many of us are dropping out.

You hear those bells ringin’?

Class is over.

tyrellBooth, Coe. Tyrell. Push: 2007. 978-0-439-83880-1.

Tyrell is facing a lot to be only fifteen years old.  His father has been sent to jail for the third time.  His mother is not the poster child for the typical parent.  She wants him to get out on the streets and hustle to bring in income.  The burden of taking care of his young brother falls squarely on his shoulders.  To add to the family drama, he has girl trouble.  A new girl, Jasmine, poses a threat to his relationship to Novisha.  But he discovers that Novisha may have some skeletons in her closet that may destroy his trust in her.  Will Tyrell succumb to the sway of the streets?

I truly enjoyed reading this book.  I had used this book as a read-aloud with 11th & 12th grade struggling readers who had failed the state assessment exam several times.  They connected to Tyrell’s story and looked forward to hearing about what happened next every day.  Some of these kids abhorred reading.  A book was the other four-letter word just like pork was the other white meat.  But Booth pulled the students into the narrative.

Tyrell is a gritty tale that includes some mature scenes.  With the read aloud format, I could skillfully skip over those sections and maintain the students’ interests.  Since my classes had no set curriculum, I read aloud young adult novels as an opening exercise for my classes.  It gave me an opportunity to model reading strategies, teach vocabulary, and hone comprehension skills.  I often created tests based on the read aloud books because I believed in the interconnections among curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

 I specifically chose Tyrell for another reason.  It highlighted the broader definition of literacy that our students function in today.  Learning the basic tenets of literacy such as reading, writing, and mathematics is very important.  Literacy also entails technology and discourses.  According to James P. Gee, author of Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in discourses, literacy is a type of a discourse.  A discourse can be defined as ways of reading, writing, acting, believing, thinking, etc.

With school literacy (reading, writing), there is a certain way to interact with text.  Within one’s neighborhood, church, family, workplace, culture, or society itself, there is a certain way to act, believe, think, etc.   All of those literacies impact our students, and we should embrace those other types of literacies in our classroom as a stepping stone toward guiding our students to the mastery of school literacy.

Tyrell is an excellent example of how different types of literacies or discourses impact an adolescent.

Text-to-Text Connections

upstate Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon  This epistolary novel describes the relationship between a young girl and her boyfriend and how his imprisonment changes both of them. I used this novel as a read aloud as well and used the epistolary format to teach different reading skills and reinforce vocabulary development.

bronxmasq  Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes  This multigenre novel blends poetry and narrative to tell the stories behind each chapter’s character.  Adolescent readers see how domestic violence and other social issues affect young people.  This is another great choice for a read aloud because the chapters are short and it works well for teaching different reading strategies.

bees  The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd  Lily and Tyrell are connected by the impact their circumstances make on them.  Both live with one parent, and Lily’s father and Tyrell’s mom are cut from the same cloth.  One can’t say that kneeling in grits for a long period of time will not distract a child from learning the three R’s.  Adolescent readers also learn the discourse of sorrow as they read about May’s wailing wall.

firstpartlast The First Part Last by Angela Johnson  Being a teenage father is hard enough.  Raising a young daughter alone because her mother is no longer there is even harder.  This is the dilemma that Bobby faces as he takes care of Feather.  Johnson’s narrative style of alternating chapters between the past and present engrosses reader into Bobby’s life.

Teaching Exercise for Tyrell

This exercise depicts a scene that did not occur in the novel.  I used the cloze technique (removing words from a passage and requiring students to use clues within the passage to choose the correct word) to assess students’ understanding of the weekly vocabulary words. In the upcoming weeks, I will begin posting short stories that will teach a vocabulary word, a reading skill, or literary term because I believe that stories can teach concepts.

Directions:  Choose the word from the list below that will best complete the sentences.

ransack

panache

circumvent

ambivalent

expatriate

Novisha was angry with Tyrell.  Her girlfriend, Tasha, stayed at the same hotel.  She saw Tyrell walk into Jasmine’s room.  She called Novisha on her cell phone and told her what she had seen.  Novisha cried at first. Then she wanted to believe that Tyrell would not cheat on her.  She felt (1) ______________.  Novisha caught the subway over to the hotel.  On her way there, she noticed several people from different countries on the train.  They were (2) __________________from their homelands.  Even though she was mad at Tyrell, Novisha felt badly about them leaving without choice.  Novisha got off at her stop.  She showed (3) _______________ as she walked quickly down the sidewalk with her Timberland boots, Apple Bottom jeans, and matching Apple Bottom sweater.  She went inside the building and found her friend in the hallway.  Tasha pointed to room 207.  Novisha cracked her knuckles and popped her neck. The door was slightly cracked.  She threw it open and cried about the sight before her.  Tyrell and Jasmine were kissing each other passionately.  They did not notice Novisha at all.

Tasha took off her earrings and put her hair in a ponytail.  “Oh, no!  Girl, let’s beat both of them up!”  Tyrell and Jasmine looked up.  Tyrell stumbled toward Novisha.  Novisha slapped him so hard that she left her handprint on his jaw.  Jasmine got mad and shoved Novisha.  Tasha jumped in and the girls started to fight.  While they fought, Novisha (4) _______________the room and looked for more signs of Tyrell’s unfaithfulness.  Tyrell saw his chance to (5)_____________the drama.  He paused at the door and smirked at the girls.  It made him feel good to see three chicks fighting over him.   Today was a good day.

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When Pipe Dreams Hold You Hostage: Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson

Picture found on Google Images (FanPop)

Picture found on Google Images (FanPop)

A geyser spewing water up in the air

A rollercoaster hitting a low point 75 mph

A bubble popping in midair

A river raging against a dam

A soul finally seeing the brink of a horizon

A musician crooning out a high note

A woman clenching her man in a tight embrace and gazing

at him like he is the most beautiful thing she has ever seen.

A drug addict twitching and grabbing his thigh after a fix

Multiply those images by 100 and divide them by infinity.

Then you will understand how a high feels to me.

Then you will understand why I can’t let it go.

–By Alexandra Caselle

51ItTFMjorL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_Woodson, Jacqueline. Beneath a Meth Moon. $16.99 (hardcover price). Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Young Readers Group: 2012. 978-0-399-25250-1.   

When tragedy strikes, you feel like all of life’s anchors have unhitched and you are floating in limbo.  Reality disintegrates into white tufts of dandelions in mid-flight. Your feet are in motion on top of terra firma; to you, it feels like nothing is grounding you.

Your past becomes an old friend, walking hand-in-hand with you.  It has certain images set on instant replay, a gag reel of moments you want to go back to and retouch or edit, but you can’t and you are not laughing.  You search for a way out, even though you are already free from harm’s way, though, in your mind, it is as real and fresh as an open wound.

Traumatic events are like that.  They fracture your inner core and you are left with the pieces.  You try to put them back together, but some of the edges won’t fit into their original places. Your only solace is a coping mechanism that only deepens the dissension.

Laurel is a teenage girl who is dealing with this type of situation in Jacqueline Woodson’s novel, Beneath a Meth Moon.  Although Hurricane Katrina displaced bodies, the mind, unfortunately, was left behind.  Laurel struggles with the memories of this natural disaster and the loss of her mother and grandmother.  She relocates to another city and begins a new life. Her boyfriend, T-Boom, introduces her to the “moon,” and the drug provides an escape.

Woodson’s use of italics to enter Laurel’s mind transcends her experience to the reader.  The reader does not see her as just a meth addict.  He or she establishes an emotional connection and becomes overwhelmed with the urge to enter the story and grab her by the arms and save her from herself.  The reader can also connect to the father’s anguish as he witnesses Laurel’s decline.

Adolescent girls can also connect to Laurel’s relationship with T-Boom.  Often, they face a situation in which they must deal with someone trying to exert control over them.  They may not know how to handle it and stay where they are.

As you follow Laurel’s journey and discover if she succumbs to the allure of the meth moon, you will come to understand the true meaning of the phrase of not judging someone until you have walked a mile in her shoes.

Text-to-Text Connections

Product DetailsThe Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow.   Rachel Morse is a  young survivor of a family tragedy.  Her traumatic experience is not a natural disaster, but she and Laurel definitely have similar journeys in trying to cope with life-altering experiences through different ways.  Not only does Rachel has to deal with trauma, but she also has to face issues involved with being biracial.  It is another book in which the author’s writing style draws you into the characters’ experiences and hooks your emotions.

Product DetailsThe Battle of Jericho by Sharon M. Draper  This young adult novel deals with the issue of death by hazing.  Jericho and his cousin undergo the ritual of being initiated into the high school band.  One of the events results in the death of Jericho’s cousin.  Jericho has to cope with the aftereffects of his cousin’s death.  Draper’s book, along with Beneath the Meth Moon, offers an opportunity to bring real-life events from the media into the discussion of this narrative.

Product DetailsGo Ask Alice by Anonymous  This book is an account of an adolescent’s experiences as a drug addict.  Its eye-opening portrayal submerges the reader into what it is like to struggle with addiction.

Product DetailsLike Trees, Walking by Ravi Howard  Even though this novel looks at the tragedy of lynching through a historical lens, the common bond between it and Beneath the Meth Moon is the effects of trauma on those who are left behind, mainly young people who are intricately connected to the victims.

Product DetailsCome Hell or High Water by Michael Eric Dyson  This nonfiction book examines Hurricane Katrina through a critical and sociological lens.  It connects to the Laurel’s narrative because it provides an intimate look into the natural disaster and its effects through the social constructs of race and class.  Through Laurel’s eyes, the reader delves into the personal, psychological, and emotional effects of the hurricane.

What other books or stories that deal with traumatic experiences, natural disasters, or drug use can you suggest?

In what other ways can traumatic experiences affect an individual, a family, a community, or a nation?

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