Posts Tagged ‘coming of age story’

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates

December 5, 2012

Author:  Wes Moore

Title:  The Other Wes Moore:  One Name, Two Fates

Genre:  Non-Fiction, Biography/Memoir

Publication Date:  2010

Number of Pages:  233

Geographical Setting:  primarily in Baltimore (MD), the Bronx (NY), and Wayne (PA)

Time Period:  1982-2010

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  In 2000, Wes Moore read a series of stories in the newspaper about a robbery/homicide in Baltimore; one of the young men arrested and convicted of the crime was also named Wes Moore.  Wes contacted the man, who was serving a life sentence in prison, and discovered through their letters and conversations that they shared much more in common than a name alone.  As boys, both had lived in poor neighborhoods, were fatherless, struggled in school, and had run into trouble with the police- yet their paths would diverge and lead to different ends.  Alternating between their stories, this insightful and thought provoking book follows the lives of the two boys named Wes Moore as they grow up, exposing readers to various factors that would influence their choices and opportunities (or lack thereof).  An extensive resource guide of over 200 youth-serving organizations across the country is provided at the end of the book.

Subject Headings:  Biography/memoir, African Americans, Childhood & youth, Baltimore (MD), Social conditions, Urban life, Family relationships, Life choices, Criminal activities, Prisoners, Education, Military service.

Appeal:  Character-driven, Coming-of-age story, Reflective, Thought provoking, Inspiring, Life choices and expectations, Second chances, Memoir, African American characters, Family relationships, Single-parent households, Mother-son relationships, Mentors, Leadership, Urban street life, Drug dealing & gangs, Baltimore (MD).

Three appeal terms that best describe this book:  Character-driven, coming-of-age story, urban life.

Similar Authors and Works:

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1. The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.  Readers interested in learning more about the social justice inequities exposed within The Other Wes Moore may want to read this title- it addresses issues surrounding the high rates of incarceration for people of color in our country’s prison system.

2.  The Beautiful Struggle:  A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Both The Other Wes Moore and this memoir are coming-of-age stories about African-American young men, set in Baltimore, and involving life expectations, choices, and consequences.

3.  My American Journey by Colin Powell.  In his book, Wes Moore describes Colin Powell’s memoir as being influential in his life, and more specifically in his decision to join the military.

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.  Muchacho by LouAnne Johnson.  The Other Wes Moore and this novel are both thought provoking, inspiring, coming-of-age stories in which young men struggle to overcome their circumstances.

2.  Yummy:  The Last Days of a Southside Shorty written by Greg Neri and illustrated by Randy DuBurke.  A graphic novel based upon a gang-related murder that happened in Chicago in 1994, this title could be a good match for readers who found the violence, drug selling and gang life depicted in The Other Wes Moore to be compelling.

3.  Slam! by Walter Dean Myers.  Both Wes Moore and the main character (Greg Harris) of this novel are African-American young men who come from tough, city neighborhoods and have to adjust to life at new, mostly white, schools.  In both stories, the young men find supportive mentors who help open their eyes to life’s possibilities.

Name:  Nicole

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Girl in Landscape

March 21, 2012

GirlinLandscape.jpg

Author: Lethem, Jonathan

Title: Girl in Landscape

Genre: Literary Fiction, Science Fiction

Publication Date: 1998

Number of Pages: 280

Geographical Setting: New York, Planet of the Archbuilders

Time Period: Future

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:

In this lyrically written coming of age story, Pella Marsh and her family make the trek from Brooklyn, New York to the Planet of the Archbuilders to start over. The children’s mother dies shortly before leaving for the new planet, leaving Pella, her two brothers, and her father, Clement, to explore this new planet without her. The planet was previously inhabited by Archbuilders who have left behind a few of their own, as well as viruses, and ruins in a desolate landscape.  The remaining Archbuilders are peaceful and unique creatures, fascinated with the English language. There are a few human inhabitants on the planet, all of who take anti-viral drugs to stop the Archbuilder viruses from growing within them.  Pella and her family opt not to take the anti-viral pills, leaving them susceptible to the viruses. Pella finds herself turning into an invisible “household deer”, creatures that cover the landscape of the planet, entering homes, and running wild.  This gives her the ability to spy on others in the new town, sometimes much to her dismay. Pella finds herself both repelled and attracted to the town xenophobic leader, Efram Nugget. This novel explores grief, growing up, sexual awakening, and the morals created in society.

Subject Headings: Teenage girls, Aliens (Non-humanoid), Father and daughter, Homesteaders, Loners, Space colonies

Appeal: set in the future, moving, darkly humorous, offbeat, suspenseful, sympathetic character, engrossing, exotic location, lyrically written, haunting, coming of age story, alien life

3 Appeal terms to best describe book: coming of age story, exotic location, offbeat

3 Fiction read-alikes:

The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway: This book was chosen because it takes place in an unfamiliar landscape and explores our sense of humanity.  This offbeat, darkly humorous story set in the future is a genre-bending fast paced story of friendship.

The Searchers by Alan LeMay: Girl in Landscape is often compared the classic western film, The Searchers, adapted from this novel.  In many ways, Girl in Landscape can be considered a western set in the future.  The Searchers deals with frontier life, xenophobia, and relationships between siblings.

Jumper by Steven Gould: Much like Pella, the main character of this novel, Davy, is given special abilities.  He is able to teleport himself away from his troubled life at any time.  This coming of age story combines science fiction with reality as it explore ethical dilemmas.

3 Non-fiction read-alikes:

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs: This book was chosen because it is a coming of age story full of interesting and unique characters.  Like Pella, Augusten grew up in a very unconventional manner without rules or much parental guidance through their teenage years.

First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth by Marc Kaufman: This book discusses the scientific reasoning behind the belief that there is extraterrestrial life out there.  The book is not too technical, making it accessible for readers not familiar with scientific terminology and concepts.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers: This witty, character-driven memoir discusses dealing with the loss of parents at an earlier age.  Dave is also responsible for his brother after the death of his parents, much in the way Pella takes on responsibilities with her brothers after the loss of her mother.

The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint

September 28, 2011

Title:  The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint

Author:  Udall, Brady

Publication Date:  2001

Number of Pages:  423

Genre:  Western

Geographical Setting:  The American West (mostly Arizona and Utah)

Time Period:  Modern setting, but otherwise unspecified date.  Spans first approximately thirty years of Edgar’s life.

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  At the age of seven, Edgar Presley Mint has his head run over by a mail truck.  Half Apache and half white, the story of Edgar Mint begins with his miraculous recovery in the hospital.  Abandoned by his alcoholic mother and crazed grandmother who give Edgar up for dead, Edgar is orphaned and sent to live at an Apache reservation school for delinquents with an old and distant uncle.  At the school, Edgar’s otherworldliness, introversion, and inability to socially mingle immediately type him as an outcast.  Armed with a typewriter and a dum-dum loving friend named Cecil, Edgar learns how to survive against the cruelty of children and the ignorance of adults while never losing his innocent yet perceptive outlook on life.  Edgar is then discovered and converted to the Mormon religion by two missionaries and is sent to live with a foster family in Utah, where he again struggles with the concepts of family, love, pain, and growing up.  The story is told from Edgar’s point of view, using alternating first-person and third-person perspectives.  The novel chronicles the life of Edgar from age seven until approximately age thirty, focusing on the years from 7-15 as Edgar encounters hardship after hardship, yet never completely losing faith that the miracle of his survival happened for a reason.  This is a beautifully written, picaresque novel that depicts the very unique character of Edgar Mint, a boy who doesn’t seem to fit anywhere yet tries with all his might to find the one place that he does.  Winner of the Spur Award (best novel of the American West) in 2002, it is thought-provoking and revealing, addressing real issues of Native Americans in the contemporary west, and emotionally engages the reader with Edgar’s quest from page one.

Subject Headings:  Apache Indians; Arizona; Head wounds and injuries; orphans; foster home care; boys; coming-of-age; Mormons; alcohol and drug abuse; families and family dysfunction; reservation schools; hospitals.

Appeal:  character centered, coming-of-age story, single point of view, linear storyline, emotionally engaging, moderately paced, picaresque, Dickensian storytelling, funny, heart-breaking, detailed setting, conversational, multicultural, quirky character, thoughtful, hopeful.

3 Terms that best describe this book: Emotionally engaging, funny, thoughtful

3 Relevant Authors and Works (Fiction): The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti (also features young, disabled protagonist on a journey to self-discovery).  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (adventures of a young boy growing up in a specific racial climate). The Misadventures of Silk and Shakespeare by Winfred Blevins (coming-of-age story that takes place in the West, humorous tone like certain parts in Edgar)

3 Relevant Authors and Works (Nonfiction):  Addie  by Mary Lee Settle (a nonfiction memoir that recounts the childhood of a young girl in the Kahawha Valley of West Virginia during the Great Depression); Oh what a slaughter: massacres in the American West, 1846-1890 by Larry McMurtry (recounts the slaughter of Native Americans in the West, authored by prolific and well-respected Western writer); Sitting Bull by Bill Yenne (documents the life of Sitting Bull, starting from his youth).

Name:  Rebecca C.

The House on Mango Street

November 18, 2009

Author: Cisneros, Sandra

Title: The House on Mango Street

Genre: multicultural fiction

Publication Date: 1984

Geographical Setting: Chicago

Time Period: 1980s

Series: no

Plot Summary: Esperanza Cordero is an 11-year-old Mexican American girl growing up in a shabby apartment in the barrio of Chicago. She dreams of someday moving to an actual house with a yard – her version of the American dream. But first she must escape the oppressive environment around her, full of poverty, violence, fear, and disregard for women. She watches as a beloved aunt dies from illness, friends are married off before they reach eighth grade, and others stay trapped in their homes because they cannot speak English or they cannot go outside without their husband’s permission. Her only hope is to work hard in school and stay out of trouble. As a friend’s aunt reminds her, however, “When you leave, you must remember to come back for the others… you can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are.”

The book is made up of short stories and lyrical prose that tell an overall story. Written in first person, the narration is childlike, telling the stories of Esperanza’s friends, family, and neighbors through her 11-year-old eyes. Cisneros writes thoughtful descriptions of Esperanza’s colorful neighborhood and the people who live in it. The stories are told like memories—not following a linear plot. Instead, readers get an inside look at what it is like to grow up poor and Hispanic in a big city. The mood is earnest, sad, yet hopeful, with an unresolved ending that you hope turns out well.

Appeal Terms: personal, nuanced, spare, simple, nonlinear, first person narration, moving, poetic, lyrical, vivid, innocent, coming of age story, character centered, intergenerational, descriptive, urban, unpretentious, colorful, serious, thoughtful, female empowerment in a male dominated culture, inspiring, Mexican American immigrant experience, violent, set in Chicago, unresolved ending

Subject Headings: Mexican American fiction – immigrant experiencehome – memories – family and relationships – poverty – physical abuse – rape – short stories – adolescence – Latino neighborhoods of Chicago – female empowerment

Three Terms that Best Describe the Book: vivid imagery, coming-of-age story, immigrant experience

Three Nonfiction Titles:

Barrio: Photographs from Chicago’s Pilsen and Little Village by Paul D’Amato
– A collection of 90 images taken of life on the streets and in the homes of the Mexican American communities of Pilsen and Little Village.

Home: The Blueprint of Our Lives edited by John Edwards
– A collection of brief, evocative personal essays and photographs from 60 contributors—some famous, some not—about the houses they remember and family relationships.

The Latin Deli: Telling the Lives of Barrio Women by Judith Ortiz Cofer
– An autobiographical assortment of essays and poems

Three Fiction Titles:

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
– The story of four sisters who must adjust to life in America after having to flee from the Dominican Republic

Flight and Other Stories by Jose Skinner
– Realistic stories about Latinos living in the American Southwest

Migrations and Other Stories by Lisa Hernandez
– Short stories present the life, loves, and predicaments of very different Chicana women in America.