React and Respond: The Phenomenon of Kony 2012
By Barbara B. Brown, John Metzler, Christine Root, and Patrick Vinck for the Outreach Council of the African Studies Association
(2012) 11 pp. Free
When Kony 2012: Invisible Children went viral, it was propelled by the same common U.S. stereotypes about Africa that led many to view the film uncritically and comply unquestioningly with the filmmakers’ call for intervention. React and Respond is a much-needed critique. As this guide from the African Studies Association shows, the filmmakers ignore the real history and interests of the Ugandan people. The guide provides a brief history of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army, a media literacy guide for the film, and a carefully selected list of books and websites with African commentary and recommendations.
I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters
Edited and introduced by Michael Long
(City Lights, 2012)
522 pp. $18.95
As Julian Bond explains in the foreword, “Bayard Rustin was one of the most influential civil and human rights advocates in U.S. history.” Yet, as with so many other key people in history, most students don’t recognize his name, except possibly with reference to the 1963 March on Washington. Although Rustin was the logistical genius behind the historic march, this was just one of his accomplishments over many decades. Textbooks have left Rustin in obscurity, no doubt in part because he was gay and for a period of time a socialist. But most likely it is also because he does not fit into the traditional narrative. He was one of the major proponents and practitioners of nonviolence before Dr. King “brought nonviolence to the United States from Gandhi.” And Rustin was active in civil and human rights struggles dating back to the 1940s—before textbooks begin the Civil Rights Movement in 1954 with Brown v. Board of Education. Most of all, he was an organizer, and textbooks want heroes who make history alone. Much of the treasure trove of letters by, to, and about Bayard Rustin would be engaging for high school students, such as his correspondence while in jail, including with the warden.
A Child’s View from Gaza: Palestinian Children’s Art and the Fight Against Censorship
By the Middle East Children’s Alliance
Foreword by Alice Walker
(Pacific View Press, 2011)
79 pp. $33
This moving little book began as the print version of an international exhibit of artwork created by Palestinian children following Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s 2008–09 bombing and invasion of Gaza. Then, when the Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland, California, bowed to political pressure and canceled the exhibit at the last minute, it became a book about censorship, too. A Child’s View from Gaza could engage high school students around issues of censorship, the impact of violence, or the conflict between Palestine and Israel. The children’s drawings are extraordinary and are appropriate for students from upper elementary through high school.
Education and Capitalism: Struggles for Learning and Liberation
Edited by Jeff Bale and Sarah Knopp
(Haymarket Books, 2012)
285 pp. $17
What perfect timing for this important book to appear, just as the Occupy movement has focused new attention on economic inequality, and capitalism. In conversations about schooling—not to mention energy, the environment, militarism, and health care—capitalism has been the proverbial elephant in the room, the Great Silence. Bale and Knopp are aware of the tension between the belief that “education can change the world” and recognition of the need for a fundamental reorientation of our society and economy. As Knopp writes in her chapter on “Schools, Marxism, and Liberation,” “We can lead critical inquiry in our classrooms, even as we recognize the limitation of what we can achieve as individuals.” Bale and Knopp write as partisans in the struggles to transform schools in the process of transforming society—and they have invited contributors active in teachers’ unions, solidarity movements, and classrooms. The book’s foreword is an interview with Rethinking Schools editor Bill Bigelow by teacher-activist Adam Sanchez.
What Teaching Means: Stories from America’s Classrooms
Edited by Daniel Boster and Marni Valerio
(Rogue Faculty Press, 2012)
235 pp. $20
At a time when everyone from computer geeks to talk show hosts pontificates about what should happen in the classroom, the press and the government ignore those who know schools best—teachers. The editors of What Teaching Means: Stories from America’s Classrooms, however, chose to ask teachers to tell stories from their classrooms. The result is a series of compelling essays that remind readers that what matters in our schools isn’t laws or standards, but the lives of students and the teachers who nurture them. For the teachers in this book, classrooms are not about lockstep lessons fashioned by people who either taught decades ago or never taught, classrooms are about the student who learned to write, the one taken away from his home, the one killed in a drive-by, the one whose anger masked her pain. It’s about the messy, painful, sometimes tragic, sometimes delicious work of teaching at a time when so many in our country struggle to survive. Readers will weep and laugh along with the teachers who crowd these pages.
The Queen of Water
By Laura Resau and María Virginia Farinango
(Delacorte Press 2011)
342 pp. $16.99
María Virginia Farinango’s story, as told to award-winning young adult author Laura Resau, is about an experience shared by countless indigenous women in the Americas who work in virtual slavery as maids for mestizo families. It is also a story of perseverance and resilience. When Farinango is just 7 years old, her parents give her to a middle-class family to work as a servant. After eight years of abuse and deceit, she tries to go home, but finds that she no longer feels that she belongs there either. When she finally leaves and is asked if she wants revenge, she responds: “My revenge will be getting an education and having my own career.” She is able to pursue her dreams. Best of all, she embraces her indigenous roots and is proud of who she is and where she comes from. For high school students.
Under the Mesquite
By Guadalupe Garcia McCall
(Lee and Low Books, 2011)
207 pp. $17.95
Beautifully written in verse for grades 6 and up, first-time author Guadalupe Garcia McCall tells the story of high school student Lupita. Uprooted from her native Mexico, Lupita has to learn a new language and a new way of life in Texas. “And I doubted los girasoles [sunflowers] would understand me anymore, because now I was speaking a different language. I swallowed consonants and burdened vowels.” Throughout the book, Lupita reflects on what it means to be part of two worlds. Lupita has to care for her seven siblings when her mother gets ill and her father is working. While Lupita is in her senior year, her mother dies, leaving her feeling even more adrift. Her grief keeps her from finding a connection to either of the worlds. After graduation, Lupita goes to her grandmother’s house in Mexico to heal and reflect. She comes to the realization that sometimes you have to start fresh, comparing herself to the cicadas that wait 17 years before they emerge from the ground.
The Wild Book
By Margarita Engle
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012)
144 pp. $16.99
Based on the true story of her grandmother in turn of the century Cuba, this historical fiction title for upper elementary school readers is told in verse. Engle’s grandmother, Fefa, has a condition known as “word blindness.” The novel tells the story of Cuban poetry; the history of Cuba (including the brutal Spanish war against Cuban insurgents); and the saga of a young girl learning to write despite her dyslexia, thanks to her mother’s wise approach. Many of the historical references will be lost on young readers without help with background information.