Tag Archives: 8 by Eight

8 by Eight: Inexcusable by Chris Lynch and Exposed by Kimberly Marcus

9781442442313Our current set of 8 by Eight books focus on teen relationship violence. Chris Lynch’s Inexcusable (Simon & Schuster, $9.99) is an important contribution because it is narrated from the male perspective. Keir insists that he is a “good guy”. He systematically explains how the situation evolved, the events that led up to Gigi’s accusations against him, and why she can’t possibly be right about what she says he’s done. Keir’s misunderstandings and refusal to recognize the bias of his own perspective are evident from the first sentence: “The way it looks is not the way it is”. As much as Keir tries to convince the reader of his innocence and justify his position, the evidence that he himself proclaims is carefully stacked against him. It’s hard to empathize with Keir at all, but I don’t think we’re meant to. Instead, Lynch’s story reminds us to carefully and critically examine the very essence of who we know we are. Because what we know isn’t always what is.

9780375865916In Exposed by Kimberly Marcus, the story is narrated by Liz, sister of the accused and best friend of the accuser. Liz is a photographer and therefore knows that, when taking pictures, what you leave out is as important as what you put in. Unlike Keir, she also understands that perspective is everything and that there is often an enormous gap between what is and what we want to be. Written in free verse, there is a lot of open space within the narrative and on the page for readers to fill in the story, allowing for a range of possible interpretations.

Both authors provide opportunities for debate and Inexcusable contains a Reading Group Guide. Furthermore, both books have enough respect for the difficult nature of the topic to refrain from imposing superficial endings. Neither book offers answers; both ask a lot of important questions.

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8 by Eight: Teen Dating Violence Awareness

Too Common

  • Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.1
  • One in three girls in the US is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence. 2
  • One in ten high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.3
  • One quarter of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse or date rape.4

1 in 3 girls in the US is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner. These are the statistics on the Teen Dating Violence Awareness website. When I was in college, the numbers we cited were 1 in 4. Anecdotally, I rarely meet anyone who is one of the other 3. The issue is so pervasive, some of the women I meet can’t even be bothered to be upset about it. Which is upsetting.

In honor of Lisa Schroeder’s new YA novel, Falling for You, we’ve been running a poetry contest for teens over the past few weeks. Falling for You is an issues book with a happy ending. Rae lives with her mother and a controlling, abusive step-father. He demands she take care of the house, cook his dinner, and eventually turn over her paychecks from the Flower Shop where she works after school. Rae’s solace is her poetry. She writes through her pain and, because she is afraid to tell even her closest friends about her home life, poetry is her only outlet of expression. When Rae meets Nathan, she is surprised at how much he seems to like her. Rae is even more surprised to slowly discover that Nathan’s feelings towards her are less about love than they are about his need to control her.

Because poetry is such a formative aspect of the novel, we decided to host a poetry contest after the book’s release. However, I don’t want to ignore another significant part of Schroeder’s novel, which is the abuse that Rae endures at the hand of her step-father that then resurfaces in a different form in her relationship with Nathan. Nathan’s actions, in the name of love, are anything but. Rae knows something’s not right, but again and again, the people around her dismiss her feelings. Not surprising really. If 1 in 3 girls experiences abuse in a relationship, then abuse becomes horrifyingly normal.

February is Teen Dating Awareness month, and in honor of ALL teens — female and male — who have experienced violence in a relationship, we have selected 8 novels that deal with these types of struggles. The novels all raise different issues and we hope that they can be used to spark conversations about dating violence and the confusion that often surrounds such conversations. Check back for reviews of a selection of our 8 by Eight books and please jump in and join the conversation.

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8 by Eight: I Lay My Stitches Down Poems of American Slavery

9780802853868Writer Cynthia Grady and illustrator Michelle Wood have put together an intricate collection of poems and quilt-inspired illustrations that focuses on slavery ($17). Grady explains that “Quiltmaking and poetry share similarities in craft” and shows how color, shape, sound, and structure create the overall pattern in both types of art. The poems are unrhymed verse, 10 lines of 10 syllables, which follows the shape of a quilt block. Furthermore, each poem contains three references: biblical, spiritual, and musical, to mimic the three layers of a quilt. The illustrations are equally nuanced and complex and also utilize visual references to quilting and history.

The poems range in subject matter from work to celebrations, education to freedom. The poem, North Star, for example focuses on how slaves, who were inherited by non-slavers, were often educated and highlights the North Star, which was used to navigate the way to freedom.

North Star

Age six saw me with a new master. He
was no slaver. Instead of tobacco
fields, I blowed the planes of Euclid. Instead
of flax, I spun my way through Homer’s verse.
I longed to hear the heavenly hymns of
Pythagoras one starry night, when a
voice in the salt shed said, “Make no diff’rence
what you know. A body wants to be free.”
I bade my master farewell. His blessings
send me north, lighting my way to freedom. 

For the rest of our recommendations for Black History month, visit our 8 by Eight page. The 8 by Eight books change every two weeks. Starting on February 14th, the new selections will focus on Teen Dating Violence awareness.

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8 by Eight: The Other Side

9780399231162The Other Side, by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E. B. Lewis, is one of those perfect picture books. The story begins, “That summer the fence that stretched through our town seemed bigger. We lived in a yellow house on one side of it. White people lived on the other. And Mama said, ‘Don’t climb over that fence when you play’. She said it wasn’t safe”. Clover wonders about the fence. Who put it there. What it means. And why it keeps her away from Annie, on the other side. Although the fence divides them, Clover and Annie start to develop a friendship. They meet in the middle and eventually cross the divide. The ripple effect their small actions have on the community is both heartwarming and inspiring. This story has something important to say about fences, and children, and courage, but it says all of these things quietly, letting the reader slowly absorb the message, rather than forcing it. Like the narrative, the illustrations are subtle and inviting. Each image convey the sun, possibilities, and eternal fun of childhood summers. Recently celebrating its 10th anniversary, if you haven’t seen this book in a while, definitely look for it on our 8 by Eight display. It is not to be missed.

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