Inspiring women on the silver screen: Dolores Huerta and Billie Jean King

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Dolores Huerta leads the audience in chanting “Who’s got the power? We’ve got the power!” at a screening of the new documentary about her life, Dolores, in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 15. Photo by Kara Newhouse.

On any given day I’m much more likely to be found reading a book than watching a movie. But tell me about a film featuring rad women in history, and I’m in. I recently wrote about two such films.

In a piece for Excelle Sports, I interviewed female sports leaders such as Olympian Nancy Lieberman and Peachy Kellmeyer, the first full-time employee for the Women’s Tennis Association, about their memories of the Battle of the Sexes. That historic tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs is the subject of a new movie with Emma Stone and Steve Carell. The women I spoke with all shared powerful stories about how the real event affected their lives as women in sports.

For Images & Voices of Hope, I wrote about Dolores, a documentary about farmworker organizer Dolores Huerta, a critical leader in the grape boycott of the 1960s and 1970s. The story includes video clips of Dolores from the post-screening Q&A I attended in D.C.

On the kidlit front, if you’re interested in sharing the stories of these women with your children or classrooms, check out Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers by Sarah Warren. Surprisingly, I was unable to find any standalone picture book biographies about Billie Jean King, though she does appear in some sports anthologies for children.

 

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3 podcasts for Pride

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LGBTQ Pride Month is almost over, but before it wraps up, I wanted to shout out some relevant podcasts. Each of these either focuses on gender and sexuality or is hosted by someone who identifies as LGBTQ.

    1. Nancy — So many media narratives about LGBTQ life focus on issues of coming out, bullying, and harassment. This WNYC podcast doesn’t neglect those struggles, but it also tells a broader range of stories es. In a recent episode, for instance, one of the hosts attended a summer camp for queer adults and recorded the evolution of her crush on a fellow camper. In another, the hosts arranged a Skype meeting between an experienced drag queen and an Alaskan high schooler to get advice on going to prom in drag.
    2. Free Cookies — On this ESPNW podcast, sports journalist Kate Fagan and yoga teacher Kathryn Budig share sports and wellness advice, alongside interviews with top athletes. I love podcasts where you get to hear an authentic personal dynamic between podcast co-hosts, and Fagan and Budig, who are in a relationship, definitely deliver. They are smitten and supportive but also realistic about each others’ shortcomings.
    3. Out Here in America – This is a new podcast from Mississippi’s Sun Herald newspaper, focused on the lives of LBGTQ folks in the rural South. It will take more than a few episodes for the show to hit its stride, but there’s a lot of potential there. The first episode tackled the Pulse nightclub shooting anniversary, and the second featured comedian Tig Notaro recounting her wedding held on the beach in Mississippi.

Of course these are just a few podcasts with LGBTQ themes or hosts. Feel free to share other recommendations in the comments!

Muslims in Kidlit Friday: Update

Clearly I haven’t kept up with my goal of weekly posts on children’s books by or about Muslims. It’s been a busy spring for me: working, taking classes, studying for the GRE and getting ready for my wedding. Up until the last week or so I have still managed to fit in regular intervals of kidlit writing, but ultimately blogging wasn’t a priority.

Today, however, I saw this Bustle post, “11 Books By Muslim Women That Show The Many Facets Of Islam” and wanted to share it. None of them are picture books or middle grade, but teenagers will find titles to try on there, including some books that are specifically YA. I’ve read a few from the list before and I’m adding many of the others to my TBR shelf.

Sylvie’s Chocolate Camel

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Author A. LaFaye has a fun kid lit writing contest going at her blog this month. Inspired by Kevin Henkes’ sweet board book, “Owen’s Marshmallow Chick,” she’s asked writers to craft a story of a character who becomes friends with their food. Entries must be 100 words or less and shared in the comments on her blog. The deadline is tomorrow, March 31st!

I enjoyed getting my creative sugars flowing with this prompt. My entry is below. Thank you to my friend, Vivian Kirkfield, whose blog post and entry alerted me to this treat of a contest.

Sylvie’s chocolate camel

Sandra’s chocolate camel had one hump.

Chomp!

Then it had none.

Jaden’s chocolate camel had two humps.

Chomp! Chomp!

Then it had none.

Sylvie’s chocolate camel had three humps.

She scooped him up.

“You belong in a desert,” said Sylvie. “Not dessert.”

So she carried her camel outside, and they played in the sandbox all afternoon.

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Chocolate camel from Dubai. Source: Economic Times of India.

3 Newsletters you need to read during Women’s History Month — and all year round

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We all get way too much email, I know, but some things are worth adding to your inbox. Like these 3 fantastic newsletters.

  1. A Woman to Know | This well-researched yet concise newsletter is the perfect daily morsel of rad history/inspiration that I can read at some random spare moment and then immediately archive. Created by Washington Post writer Julia Carpenter.
  2. Unladylike | This one comes from Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin, the sharp and sassy ladies who formerly hosted one of my favorite podcasts. Unladylike takes more dedicated reading time, but it catches me up on the good, bad and the ugly of the past week’s societal (and global) conversations about women, gender and feminism.
  3. Women in the World | In a conversational tone, this newsletter shares the gist of stories from the NY Times page of the same name. Full of links to the NY Times stories of course.

True stories of 3 diverse athletes and 1 female sportswriter | #IMWAYR 4/18/16

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“It’s Monday! What are you Reading?” is a meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. as a way for bloggers to swap reading lists. Kellee and Jen, of Teach Mentor Texts, gave it a kidlit focus. Check out the links on their page to see what others are reading this week.

It finally turned springlike in recent days, with buds on trees, and kids returning to baseball diamonds and lacrosse fields.

Apropos of the change in season, I’ve read several great children’s books about athletes (and one sportswriter) recently. Here are my Goodreads reviews for those books.

Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl's Baseball DreamCatching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream by Crystal Hubbard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This picture book is about Marcenia Lyle, a girl who loves baseball more than anything. We learn in the afterword that Marcenia was signed to the Negro League Indianapolis Clowns in 1953, making her the first female member of an all-male professional baseball team, but this story doesn’t get into Marcenia’s adult life. It focuses on one spring when Marcenia dreams of being accepted to a summer baseball day camp run by the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. That means not only showing off her skills to the man in charge, but also convincing her father to let her attend.

Crystal Hubbard’s choice to highlight one emblematic chapter of Marcenia Lyle’s childhood is a great way of introducing a lesser known athlete through a conflict that builds and that draws in young readers.

The William Hoy Story: How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the GameThe William Hoy Story: How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game by Nancy Churnin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

William Hoy is a man worth knowing about. Plenty of details and events in here for all kinds of kids to relate to. Well written and well illustrated.

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Listen up! Here’s a new podcast about diverse children’s books

thecutheaderI listen to podcasts every day, but the past two weeks have brought an extra infusion of podcast-y goodness to my life.

First I met Alex Laughlin, host of The Ladycast, during a journalism training. A few days later I interviewed Caroline Ervin and Cristen Conger, hosts of Stuff Mom Never Told You, for a freelance article.

And finally, I am featured in a new episode of a podcast all about diversity in children’s books, The Cut with Pam Margolis. I met Pam, a librarian and book reviewer, at KidLitCon last fall, when she was still conceptualizing her show. It launched this month, and I can’t wait for more episodes.

For the episode that I’m on, I talked with Pam about the dearth of picture books featuring Muslims, getting beyond sexuality as the main conflict in books featuring LGBTQ characters, and whether to label diverse books as such.

I also shared some of my favorite diverse children’s books. Those titles are below, along with my GoodReads ratings and comments on them.

Listen, SlowlyListen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

totally enchanting

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It’s Monday! What are you reading? #IMWAYR 2/8/16

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“It’s Monday! What are you Reading?” is a meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. as a way for bloggers to swap reading lists. Kellee and Jen, of Teach Mentor Texts, gave it a kidlit focus. Check out the links on their page to see what others are reading this week.

On Saturday, I saw the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform at the Kennedy Center in D.C. In anticipation of the show, I recently read a picture book biography of Ailey and another one about Robert Battle, the company’s current artistic director.

Here are my Goodreads reviews for those books.
Alvin AileyAlvin Ailey by Andrea Davis Pinkney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This basic bio of Alvin Ailey, who brought the spirit of African-American traditions to modern dance, would be good for a classroom unit in which students write reports on historical figures. The text is active and the scratchboard illustrations create the sense of motion and flow that ought to be in a dance-centered picture book.

View all my reviews

My Story, My Dance: Robert Battle's Journey to Alvin AileyMy Story, My Dance: Robert Battle’s Journey to Alvin Ailey by Lesa Cline-Ransome
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The story of how a little boy wearing leg braces became a 13-year-old beginner dancer and eventually the artistic director for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. While it highlights Battle’s hard work, this picture book doesn’t leave out the guidance and support he received from family members and teachers, who are also part of his story and his dance.

Pairs well with “Alvin Ailey” by Andrea Davis Pinkney, “A Dance Like Starlight by “Kristy Dempsey,” and “Firebird” by Misty Copeland.

View all my reviews

Are your bookshelves ready for Black History Month?

America’s 40th Black History Month begins today. Here are several links to help you find relevant books to read with your children or students throughout the month.

  1. 28 Books that Affirm Black Boys and 20 Books that Affirm Black Girls: These two lists from Baby & Blog are a great starting point.
  2. 28 Days Later campaign: Throughout February, The Brown Book Shelf blog will feature guest posts and Q&As from authors and illustrators of color. The line-up looks fantastic!
  3. Top 100+ Recommended African American Children’s Books: Titles compiled by the African American Literature Book Club. This list could keep you busy till next February!

Weekend Round-up: #WhereIsRey & other problems in children’s toys and media

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I’ve been reading/listening to some interesting debates and discussions on social issues in children’s books and toys lately. Here are a few links worth checking out.

1. Missing in action figures

Without seeing “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” I’ve heard enough about to know that the main protagonist, Rey, is female. So I was surprised to hear about her absence from most of the film’s merchandise. The Brood, a parenting podcast/radio show, dives into the details, reactions and corporate explanations.

2.  More smiling slaves making desserts, more controversy

You may have heard about the backlash a few months ago over the portrayal of slaves in “A Fine Dessert.” Now a new picture book, “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” is receiving similar scrutiny.

3. ALA’s Youth Media awards are here, and so are some ugly reactions

The Caldecott, the Newbery and all the other annual Youth Media Awards from the American Library Association were announced Monday. I was happy to see many great books I read last year in the mix, including a good number with diverse characters and authors. Apparently not everyone was as pleased. The Reading While White blog rebuts some commenters’ claims that committees must have been kowtowing to PC-ness. The short post ends in a perfect way, by using the beautiful last line from Newbery winner “Last Stop on Market Street.”