Monday, July 25, 2016

Masterminds & Wingmen

Masterminds & Wingmen

Parenting
"In this book, I'm going to describe and give suggestions for
the most common dynamics and challenges you'll probably face with
boys. How can you help your son when he's struggling? How can you
get a better understanding of how he sees the world and his place in
it? How can you reach out to him without his shutting you out?"
Did you ever encounter a book you wish had been written years
earlier. I surely did this when I read Rosalind Wiseman's Masterminds
& Wingmem. Wiseman, author of Queen Bees & Wannabees and Queen Bee
Moms & Kingpin Dads, has done for boys what she did for girls and
parents. I wish this book had come out when my college son was in
middle school. Don't get me wrong. Those were great years. I miss
them like crazy now with the hubby and Joey cat being the only male
presences in the household. I just wish I'd known then what I have
just learned.
Wiseman had written Queen Bees & Wannabees in collaboration with
many girls and young women. She'd wondered if boys would help her in
the same way. She need not have worried. Over 160 young men signed
up to edit, question, critique, and share their own deep personal
experiences. They are liberally quoted throughout the book. Here's
one example:
"In my AP classes, I was always one of five guys. The same five guys
in a classroom of girls. I had plenty of guy friends who could have
taken those classes, but they didn't want to do it. They'd rather be
the best among the mediocre. Really, my friends would rather look
stupid. They weren't secure enough to compete with the girls."
Wiseman and her collaborators introduce readers to the Act-Like-
A-Man Box: a widely agreed on collection of traits that define status
in Boyland. Not surprisingly, they contain attibutes like good with
girls, tough, confident, good at "right" sports,
And [in possession of] slacker attitude. The box determines a lot
more than social status. When the elite do things that are wrong it
can be quite daunting for lower status boys to speak up.
Another concept we're cued in on is the idea that each small
social group has certain designated roles such as the mastermind, the
associate, and the entertainer. Although each has advantages, even
the most prestigious carry restraints. Although the mastermind has
power and control, it can be difficult and lonely at the top.
After these frameworks are introduced they are used as lenses
through which to see the many situations in which boys get involved.
There are many practical suggestions for parents and teachers. Blocks
headlined LANDMINE! describe things you do not want to do or say.
I consider Masterminds & Wingmen to be a must read for anyone
parenting or working with boys and young men.
On a personal note, I miss even the biggest challenges of active
parenting. I miss those days of belonging and connection, of
dailiness, of doing stuff together and life holding excitement and
surprises. What I wouldn't give for a family trip to the fair or a
snow day or even people telling me what they'd like for supper.
Without kids, especially residing in a town where I've lost my only
connection with anyone in it, life feels like drifting on an ocean.
Randomly good and bad things (mostly good things) happen. But
drifting alone feels so precarious for someone whose prime need is
belonging. Wiseman describes four criteria for happiness:
"...meaningful relationships, the freedom to pursue what interests and
challenges them, a feeling of belonging and social connection to
others, and a sense that they're contributing to something larger than
themselves.". One out of four is...not good."
A great big shout out goes out to my wonderful children and their
significant others and four pawed children.
jules hathaway



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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Moving Diversity Forward

Moving Diversity Forward

Adult nonfiction
Verna A. Myers' Moving Diversity Forward: How To Go From Well-
Meaning To Well-Being certainly reinforced my habit of giving a book a
chance. The size and title looked suspiciously like those of volumes
that take cook book formula approaches to solving complex problems.
The American Bar Association logo on the bottom said this has nothing
to do with me. But when I flipped through the book at the Orono
Public Library and saw how wrong I was, I checked it out and started
reading as soon as I got home.
What I like the most about the book is that Myers perceives and
addresses her readers as complex human beings with multi faceted
identities. Politicians, media, and a lot of others peg us by only
one facet: blacks, whites, men, women, the rich, the poor, the
elderly, and, the one we'll hear too often in the coming months,
Republicans and Democrats. Myers gets that any one of us is a mix of
those and so many more.
Myers urges readers to dig beyond what we think we know to look
at concepts and practices embedded deeply enough to become invisible
to us. White privilege is a prime example. Even if we aren't racist
white people will accrue unasked for advantages from birth on. I was
very aware of this when I had a high school age son. Other perfectly
wonderful boys ran the risk of being shot by police officers just for
going to the store for a snack.
Myers sees any individual as somewhere on a journey in regard to
"racial and cultural awareness and skills." No one gets it perfect;
most people are not beyond hope. Wherever you are, reading Moving
Diversity Forward can give you insights and strategies to keep you
moving in the right direction.
On a personal note, one of the best things about living near UMaine is
the cultural diversity. The Multicultural Center and International
Students Association have great events, discussions about racial and
cultural issues, and spaces to hang out with people from other
places. Right now the Young African Leaders are Here for three
weeks. I have been able to make friends with Ema who will keep in
touch when she goes back to Nigeria. I so look forward to getting to
know her better and learning more about her culture.
A great big shout out goes out to Myers for this thought provoking
book. I hope someday she makes it to Penobscot County, Maine. I
would surely like to converse with her.
jules hathaway



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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Lincoln's Spymaster

Lincoln's Spymaster

Juvenile biography
"I have in my Force from sixteen to eighteen persons on whose
courage, skill, and devotion to their country I can rely. If they,
with myself at the head, can be at service in any way of obtaining
information of the movements of traitors, or safely conveying your
letters or dispatches, or that class of Secret Service, which is most
dangerous, I am at your command."
In an election year we hear the Secret Service alluded to quite
often. Very few of us know how this agency started out. Its
beginning is portrayed quite vividly in Samantha Seiple's biography of
Allan Pinkerton: Lincoln's Spymaster.
Lincoln's election was highly controversial. Plenty of people
didn't want him to get to DC for his inauguration. A group of
Confederate sympathizers, the Palmetto Guards, was planning to take
lethal means to prevent this event. It was up to detective Allan
Pinkerton and his operatives to infiltrate them, learn the details of
their plot, and find a way to thwart it. After they succeeded in
their mission Pinkerton made Lincoln an offer he couldn't refuse.
Even apart from his colorful and highly dangerous work in the
service of his country and later in the wild, wild West, Pinkerton is
a fascinating character. He was a highly unlikely government spy. He
had to flee his native Scotland to avoid arrest with a price on his
head. Arriving in the United States he established himself as a
cooper (barrel maker).
Pinkerton was way ahead of his time in his views on women.
Notice in the quote above he uses the word persons where most folks
would have used men. He hired women as operatives and included them
in his A Team. That was radical in a time when women were considered
the property of husbands.
Lincoln's Spymaster is a great asset for convincing action
loving students that history has a lot going for it. I feel it's a
must acquire for school and public libraries.
On a personal note, last Saturday night there was a cook out a street
over. I had put a box of rescued toys and books on my lawn. I went
over to tell the kids there about my free box. They and their parents
were so happy with the goodies. I was invited to stay. After the
eating there was a bonfire. I impressed people with my rendition of
You Took A Bad Time To Leave Me Lucille. After my second wine cooler
when the sun had set I excused myself to rest up for church.
A great big shout out goes out to the family who held the cook out to
raise money to fight Alzheimers.
jules hathaway


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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Symptoms Of Being Human

Symptoms Of Being Human

YA fiction
Can you imagine what it would be like to be the child of a
congressman running for reelection: being expected to look perfect,
poised, and put together at fundraisers and other huge events and
knowing that every aspect of your life is under the scrutiny of a
scandal hungry press? As an adult with an open book of a life, I'd be
terrified. Riley, teenage protagonist of Jeff Garvin's Symptoms Of
Being Human, has a huge secret and is still learning all its nuances
and implications.
Riley is gender fluid. There's the not knowing whether one
will wake up feeling more masculine or more feminine every day. How
does one dress at a stage in life when peers have expectations of
gender consistency? How does one deal with the bullies who torment
anyone who is in the least bit different? How does one decide whether
to stay in the closet when coming out may be the end of a parent's
career and maybe even the end of that parent's unconditional love?
Symptoms Of Being Human is one of the most authentic and gutsy
coming of age stories I've ever read. I'd highly recommend it not
only to its target audience, but to all parents and the professionals
who work with young people.
On a personal note, I wish they had the term gender fluid in the
popular lexicon when I was growing up. When I insisted on being the
knight rescuer and preferred tree climbing to dressing and undressing
Barbie dolls I was a tomboy. When I was more interested in peace and
justice and camping and mountain climbing than in primping and
simpering to catch the male gaze I was weird. Now I can go with my
ever shifting identity. I have a wardrobe ranging from dresses and
jewelery to button down shirts and ties. Hmm. Maybe this is one
reason I lost that last election. I doubt Veazie is ready for gender
fluid. Too bad, so sad.
A great big shout goes out to gender fluid people and allies.
jules hathaway


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A Beetle Is Shy

A Beetle Is Shy

Picture book
One of the most beautiful nature books I have ever seen is
Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long's A Beetle Is Shy. The authors get
readers up close and personal with some of the fascinating members of
a type of critter we tend to literally overlook.
Did you know that beetles arrived or evolved on this terrestial
orb nearly 300 million years ago--quite a bit before other insects
made an appearance? Do you know how we know this? Do you know the
ways in which beetles are useful to our species? Do you know some of
the ways in which they travel, communicate, and protect themselves?
If there are youngsters in your life or you harbor curiosity
about the world of nature A Beetle Is Shy is a great read.
I will be checking out other fascinating looking books the
authors have collaborated on.
On a personal note, I am dismayed to the extent at which people tune
out the natural world, often in frenzied focus on electronics. A few
nights ago I was at a cookout turned campfire. In Penobscot County
out sunsets tend to be rather modest affairs. That evening one of the
most vivid I have ever seen burst across the firmament. The sky was
an explosion of purples and pinks with an apricot undertone. I was
delighted with the show. I was saddened that I was the only one in
the group who noticed.
A great big shout out goes out to people who still notice the world of
nature.
jules hathaway


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Monday, July 18, 2016

Girls & Sex

Girls & Sex

Parenting
"Well, what parent wouldn't freak out? Children were having
indiscriminate sex (or indiscriminate not-sex) everywhere! Under the
table at bar mitzvahs! Behind the monkey bars during recess!..."
Back when I was starting out with my book review blog, 2011 for
anyone keeping track, I read and reviewed Peggy Orenstein's very
insightful Cinderella Ate My Daughter. I feel now, as I felt then,
that it is a must read for parents of girls. Needless to say I was
delighted to the point of doing my library happy dance when I
discovered on one of the Orono Public Library new book shelves
Orenstein's latest: Girls & Sex: Navigating The Complicated New
Landscape. It takes up where Cinderella left off, focussing on high
school and college students.
The media, in the less than fine if it bleeds it leads--
sensational sells tradition, periodically uncovers and delivers the
scandelous and frightening. For legions of middle school girls oral
sex has become the new spin the bottle. Porn and promiscuity are
rampant on high school campuses; hook ups and rape on the college
scene. No matter how well you parent you and your daughter are
probably screwed.
Orenstein's message is that matters are a lot more complex and
nuanced than the news media (and the simplistic solution books) would
have you believe. Her research involved lengthy, extensive interviews
with over seventy girls between fifteen and twenty and consultations
with professionals in the field. Aspects of the dominant culture that
influence objectification of girls and women enter into the picture.
The chapter called Blurred Lines, Take Two focuses on rape.
What specifically constitutes rape? Can lack of protest count as
consent? What if a woman is too drunk or incapacitated to give
consent? Does consent for one act count as agreement to going
further? How do societal factors pressing girls to be nice and polite
impede them from asserting their right to not be sexually exploited?
The background information is skilfully interwoven with a high school
student's really heart breaking story.
Girls & Sex is, in my mind, a must read for parents of girls and
boys, high school teachers and guidance counselors, college professors
and their colleagues in residence life and student development, and
members of the press.
On a personal note, recently I was invited to read one of my poems at
a UMaine reception for young African leaders. After the entertainment
which was music and my poem, we all took food and sat down to eat.
The food was good and spicy. After awhile I got up to get more
juice. A couple of African women were asking my friend Favour who was
a great dancer. She said I'm a great dancer. I started dancing. It
seemed like people were waiting for someone to get that going because
in very short order they all had joined me. They had gone from
pleasantly conversing to having the time of their lives. Don't think
I wasn't proud!
A great big shout out goes out to our visiting Africans who are great
citizen diplomats.


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Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Story Of Seeds

The Story Of Seeds

YA nonfiction
"Scientists, such as the Russian seed collector Nikolai Vavilov,
have recognized the importance of seeds and have given their lives to
protect one of our planet's greatest treasures. There are people
throughout the world who are striving to defend and protect our
seeds. Some plant them. Some save them. All are working toward
keeping the diversity of our seeds alive and well."
Before I read Nancy F. Castaldo's The Story Of Seeds I thought I
knew about seeds. Boy, was I ever wrong! Throughout history people
have gone to lengths usually associated with nuclear secrets to
protect these treasures. During World War II Russian scientists died
protecting from invading German armies seeds needed to feed their
people. In Iraq a seed bank has had to be protected during invasions
by the Taliban and the United States.
If you find yourself wondering what this has to do with you, the
answer is a lot! Defending seed diversity should be a concern for all
of us. A lot of the varieties of plants that once flourished on earth
are extinct. We're on very precarious ground here. The Irish potato
famine happened because of a fungal blight causing devastating food
shortages. A diversity of genetic varieties hedges our bets by
increasing the chances at least a few will survive evolving
environmental challenges.
I don't explain this very well. The book does brilliantly. It
makes a complex subject comprehensible and personal. It includes
important ways kids, families, and groups can make a difference. It's
a must acquire for school and public libraries.
On a personal note, Orono Comnunity Garden is producing nicely.
A great big shout goes out to my community garden family.
jules hathaway


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