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24 March 2019

"Coming of Age" Books Might Be Wasted on the Young

As always, there are tweener (ages 9-13) and young adult (ages 14-18) books which deal with the hard facts of life: teen pregnancy, hellish foster homes, neighborhood or school bullies, frenemies, abusive coaches, running away, best friends or older siblings dying or disappearing, alcoholic single parent, gangbangers, war refugees, and so on, so forth.  There are sympathy, empathy, lessons to be learned, experiences to be avoided, explanations for those hard facts and sometimes, how-to's.

There have always also been science fiction for the nerds who would become the rocket scientists and digital gurus of our time and superhero comic books for the less ambitious.

More and more now, though, I see that the more popular books are escapism -- fantasy, witchcraft, werecreatures and vampires, dystopian worlds where heroines and heroes are made, "regular joes" who turn out to be His Majesty or descended from Apollo or Merlin.  I see many books written today about disabilities, but except for J.R. Polacio's Wonder, none have become incredibly successful and sought-after.  True, in the Southwest -- Arizona to be specific, Dusti Bowling's Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus was recognized for its award-winning story about kids that don't fit in -- a girl born with no arms, a boy with Tourette's Syndrome and a very obese boy -- just being normal kids.  However, while Lynne Kelly's Song for a Whale, about a 12-year-old deaf girl who's wild about science in general and old radios in particular finding an affinity with a lonely whale, is an Indienext Pick, Books on First has not exactly been stormed at the door with purchasers.  Nor is Song for a Whale the only recent book about deaf children being amazingly smart but misunderstood.  (Personally, I think Iris is a bit of a pill, but maybe that's the result of people treating her special, when she just wants to be treated like a normal student (as well as have everyone learn real sign language).

Another type of book littered with juveniles is the coming-of-age, but these don't seem to be children's books, but rather nostalgic memoir-based books for adult reading.  I cite Caitlin Moran's How to Build a Girl (remember daisy wheel printers?) and Jason Rekulak's The Impossible Fortress which seems to throw teen pregnancy and bullying along with programming with FORTRAN on Commodore 64s.

Is the younger generation even interested in the everyday life of a kid their age who suffered 50 years ago?  Is a kid without special needs interested in the thoughts and pains of one who is autistic, blind, suffering from diabetes or born with a club foot?  Is a child of a white suburban family of 2.4 children interested in the trials and tribulations of a black boy in the next suburb whose brother got caught dealing drugs to the white kid's older brother or those of a Latina struggling to raise her three younger siblings while her parents each work 2.4 jobs?

Or, perhaps, in those far-fetched stories of persons so vastly different from themselves, readers young and old might be finding something in common besides age.

05 December 2018

National Day of Mourning

Today is National Mourning Day for George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st President of the United States of America, who died Friday, 30 November 2018.

There is a lot of talk about George H.W. Bush's legacy as a public servant. He was certainly versatile: fighter pilot, head of the CIA, Ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador to People's Republic of China, Vice President, before becoming President.  I believe hearing once when he finished as President, he had 5 pension checks besides Social Security or maybe including Social Security.  It was said that winning that election was important, as he had never been elected on his own to public office before.

I recall when Reagan was elected President, I and Kathryn Bing-You who lived just down the hall, hosted an End of the World Party.  The next year, I was in Beijing and had hoped to go to a reception in which Vice President Bush was doing a homecoming of sorts, visiting China where he had been Ambassador not too many years previous.  The connection I had -- a fellow American student at Beijing Language Institute (now Beijing Language College) preferred to spend the time in her connection's (some guy who worked at the embassy) apartment taking a bath.

He was considered to be more of a foreign policy President and lost the bid for a second term due to breaking the "Read My Lips; No New Taxes" promise from the first campaign.  I personally do not agree that this promise was broken. There were no new taxes. He simply agreed to a budget that involved increases in the rates of existing taxes.