Tag Archives: non-fiction

This could be the “New You”!

The blog Awful Library Books is a constant source of hilarity for me. Today’s post is one I’d like to share with y’all. Do you want ot be a more “likeable” teen? Well don’t try “being yourself” or being like the teens you see on TV (who are often played by 20-30yr old actors)… simply go out to your nearest Time Machine and travel back to the 1960’s, an era when you will be able to obtain a copy of Your Home and You by Greer and Gibbs. For a prime example of the benefits this book can bestow upon your forming person please note the list of grooming tips. As always the standard that boys are held to pales compared to what girls have to go through to look “presentable”… barf.

Can you feel the oozing, palpable sarcasm? If not please insert your own. I haven’t read the book, so I the morsels of legitimate information that may exist within are lost to me, however because the book is outdated by 1/2 a century I am guessing that it will lead you farther astray than it will guide you to your true self. That being said I still stand behind a sizable portion of The Little Red School Book which is circa 1969 (see my post on My Little Red Book for some context).

Ultimately, if you want a “new you” you’ll have to do more than just read a book (strangely, reading 100 books would probably help you become a “new you”). Study your desires, decisions, actions, and emotions and FORCE YOURSELF TO BE THE PERSON YOU WANT TO BE/ REALIZE THAT YOU ARE PROBABLY AWESOME ALREADY! Also, don’t listen to jerks. Remember that every second of every day you ARE a new you, so act accordingly.

DFTBA

Sentences: The life of M.F. Grimm

Carey, P., & Wimberly, R. (2007). Sentences: [the life of M.F. Grimm]. New York: DC Comics.

In an earlier post I’d kinda trashed Word Up! magazine for providing incomplete coverage of questionable role models. This book by Percy Carey, aka MF Grimm, is a great example of success in the areas that Word Up!’s coverage of Lil’Wayne fell short.

MF Grimm has a story comparable to Lil’Wayne he unapologetically talks about getting in fights, shoot-outs, dealing drugs, and the “glory” of the gangsta life. The main difference in MF Grimm’s story is that he doesn’t just share the glory, he shares, his pain, his regret, and the consequences of his actions as well. He never blames anyone else for his paralysis nor for his several incarcerations (well, okay he does blame a snitch as the reason the cops pinned him, but admits that if he wasn’t dealing drugs he wouldn’t have been in the situation in the first place).

The graphics are engaging; not too explicit, but not watered down. The dialogue is rough, but real. The story is captivating, heartbreaking, and inspiring. Even in the roughest of situations, Percy Carey is sure to remind readers that good influences are always around. True, Carey’s fighting spirit is what got him into a lot of trouble but, after he smartened up, it was that same fighting spirit that got him out of trouble.

This story is a rollercoaster ride of a black man’s life growing up in NYC in the 80’s and trying to break out of the gang life and into the hip-hop industry. From Sesame Street to being jailed and paralyzed, Carey’s story alterates between down to earth and boastful, but that’s an element of hip-hop regardless. Also, one final shout-out is to the credit that Carey gives the strong female role models he’s had in his life; his Mom, grandmother and sisters. It is nice to see women of colour represented as people rather than objects, a mistake made far too often in the rap world.

Anywho, here’s MF Grimm stats on AllMusic.Com and here’s a track that keeps it real off of his album American Hunger, “I Rather Be Wrong”

Columbine

Cullen, D. (2009). Columbine. London: Old Street.

I found out about this book while reading a YA Library journal, it was in the recommended new release section and the write up grabbed my attention.

Columbine a single word, a verb, a proper noun, one school and an event of massive historic influence. The author, David Cullen was a reporter at the time of the shootings and this 360 page book (Plus notes, timeline, and fifteen page bibliography) details the ten years that Mr. Cullen has spent investigating the events of the shootings, what led up to them, what ensued afterwards, and the powerful draw that April 20, 1999 has on the North american psyche.

What I liked about this book:

  • David Cullen has extensive research citing interviews, victim impact statements, police reports, the killers journals. While he does make some assumptions they seem reasonably grounded in the evidence at hand.
  • Bullying, teen ostracism, and the devastating effects have increased since 1999. It is crucial to understand why people bully, what the effects of bullying can be, and what the warning signs of disaster are.
  • The book doesn’t have to be read from cover to cover, one can pick it up at a random page and start reading (see following comment about what I DIDN’T like about this book)

What I didn’t like about this book:

  • This book jumps around like House of Pain! Reading it straight through is the same as reading it by randomly picking pages.  It’s like he took his 10 years of notes and just bound them up into a book without bothering to organize them into sections.
  • The book is for OLDER teens, or at least mature and morbid teens. Though I saw this book in a YA Library journal it was cataloged as Adult Non-Fiction in my local library.
  • The writing is… average. Short and to the point, but lacking in artistic flavour.

All in all though I’m glad I read this book. For all the coverage this story got in the news at the time. It takes the extensive documentation that David Cullen has collected here to really start to understand what happened at Columbine and why.

Word Up!

Enoble Media Group. (2009, Dec/Jan). Word Up!.

This magazine has been categorized as Undecided, but I think I’m going too easy on it. My problem is the target age group and the magazine’s portrayal of black people, which can be a touchy subject and I wish wasn’t an issue… but is. Moving on…
Word Up! magazine has a layout that is nearly identical to Seventeen magazine so one assumes that the audiences will be roughly the same age level 14 – 16 year olds, give or take a few years. Just replace the regular audience of suburban middle class teens, with urbanless advantaged teens. Then replace the girly cosmetic adds with ads for specialty hair products for black hair, replace Taylor Swift with Lil’ Wayne (aka Weezy) and you’re good to go.

Now, I’m not saying that Seventeen promotes wholesome characters, far from it in fact. But, the specific issue is how different the role models are depending on your skin colour. The medias constant promotion of black celebrity thugs is exemplified in this magazine. At the time of publication Lil’ Wayne was already up for charges of possessing a loaded fire-arm and for drug charges. The second main star of the magazine was Chris Brown, a man who in a months time would be charged with assault and making criminal threats on his girlfriend, Rhianna. The only charge that carries any palpable jail time is Weezy’s drug possession charges which is sickening in itself when you compare it to Chirs’ assault charges. Furthermore, it doesn’t help that Lil’ Wayne’s official reason for quitting coke (the powder, not the soda pop), if he even quit, is because it gives him acne, not because of the bad highs.

I am a middle class, white male. I easily make the judgments that guns are bad and coke ares bad because I never grew up around them. The only exposure I had to knowledge of these items was from every authority I knew saying they were bad. Lil’ Wayne grew up in a very rough neighbourhood of New Orleans where crack-cocaine wasn’t a foreign threat, but a factor in everyday life. It is very easy for people who have never know hardship to harshly judge those who have only known hardship, and I am trying to avoid judging the magazine (and Lil’ Wayne in this way).

This is why I am undecided. Even though the magazine glorifies the lifestyles of people who abuse powerful drugs, carry murder weapons, and beat up women Word Up! is also providing a platform for poor black kids to see people who were born in the same situation they were have (for the most part) rejected the streets, worked on their positive talents, and become successful. Lil’ Wayne is one of the hardest working artists in the pop music industry, an industry where fame and success are often bought and provided for performers rather than being earned. So what if Lil’ Wayne has problems. If you grew up where he did you would too. Check out this article if you want some context.

Ultimately though, Lil’ Wayne, has tons of exposure and there are better role models out there. Although his influence is waning from popular media there’s Master P and if you care to go back a little further, Louie Armstrong, all Louisianan successes. But, if you want to find a current black celebrity who is an entirely positive role model (not counting Obama because he’s a politician and I am specifically thinking about representation in the entertainment industry) they will be difficult to find… Wayne Brady, maybe? Then again the number of celebrities in the entertainment industry, regardless of skin colour, who are wholly positive role models can probably be counted on one hand, maybe two if you search around hard enough.

Groovin’ With the Groovaloos

Rapier, B., Crumbs, ., Boogie, M., & Inspired Productions. (2004). Groovin’ with the Groovaloos: Learn the hip hop grooves. Roseland, NJ: Inspired Productions.

So, if you know me you know I’m a dancer. Not in the sense that I’m coordinated, or elegant, but in the sense that when the good tunes start playing my legs, hips, arms, feet, neck, eyebrows, well, everything starts shaking, twisting, and stamping, not in sync, but usually in that order. As such I felt it would be beneficial to brush up on my hip-hop groove styles by watching this instructional DVD.

Unfortunately I didn’t find this DVD too helpful. Firstly the group of dancers goes WAAAAY to fast for me, even when they slowed down and repeated their moves it was hard for me to keep up. However, that just might be because I’m old, stiff, and grew up listening to Black Sabbath and Metallica, so I spent most of my teenage thrashing my head around rather than swaying my hips. So, the fact that I couldn’t keep up may have been my fault, however the extenuating circumstances did little to facilitate my learning. The video is shot outside and the ever-changing background kept distracting my focus, there were a lot of dancers, I believe seven, so it was hard to pick one and follow them, and the lead Groovaloo didn’t do a great job of interacting with the audience, mostly just told us to watch rather than follow along, not cool Groovaloo, not cool. They were good dancers though.

With all this in mind I think that if I had started with volume 1, or had other people around to feed off of and show off with this experience would have been more fulfilling and my groovin’ might have been pimped out a slightly more than it was.

Understanding Negative Body Image.

Moe, B. (1999). Understanding negative body image. New York: Rosen Publising Group.

I do appreciate the severity of body image issues and eating disorders. I like 99.9% of all teenagers have felt unhappy with my body and I there have been people in my life with mild to severe eating disorders.
That being said, if I couldn’t stand the look of my own skin I wouldn’t feel like looking at this book either. If I wanted to die I don’t feel like book would help. This book is not Hello Cruel World, this book is boooooring! It’s too old, it’s too text heavy, it’s too BORING! Like it was written by an old, wrinkly, rusty robot who may have heard about teenagers, but has never seen, let alone talked, to one.

I found this book in the YA section of my local library… it hadn’t been checked out in years and I suspect that trend to continue until the book is properly recycled.

At the very best this book would be good for a homework assignment because it is factual (hooray, we all love facts) and it is the kind of book that looks really good in a school report 😉

The Urban Dictionary

Peckham, A. (2005). Urban dictionary: Fularious street slang defined. Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel Pub.

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Yo, you wanna work on yo’ steez, maybe catch the eye of that cody, or just jibba jabba with the best o’ them? Well let me mansplain something to you… You need to get the Urban Dictionary!

This book is great for a laugh and great for getting to the bottom of what your favourite rapper (or kid) is actually saying.

One major flaw that this book has… is that it’s a book. What!?! But, books are great, aren’t they? They sure are! However, books, once printed, remain unchanged. A book on slang is a lot like the latest computer… obsolete within the year. Ok, ok, so maybe that statement is a little drastic and exaggerated, but you get my point. After all who says radical, rattletrap, or dead soldier anymore. Not to many people that’s who!

Fortunately the Urban Dictionary began as a website and continues to exist on that platform, accepting entries from the population and staying fresh. Feel free to visit the UrbanDictionary.com to discover what the latest words are. They have a word of the day feature and you can sign up to have a new word e-mailed to you everyday.