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Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh

Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh

In 1989, Sudhir Venkatesh, a first-year sociology grad student, wanders into the projects wondering if he might be able to get a glimpse of what life is like for the underserved and unserved populations of Chicago. He manages to get in good with a leader of the "Black Kings" (the gang's name was changed for the book) and winds up spending the next seven years grappling with the political and economic structure within the Robert Taylor homes.

Gang Leader for a Day introduces readers to the complexity of urban poverty, a multifaceted institution that leaves more gray area than black-and-white. Venkatesh's naivete throughout his studies allowed him a certain level of intimacy that journalists often don't find, though it also frequently compromised the well-being of the residents as well as Venkatesh himself. Recommended for a gritty, eye-opening read.

Number of Pages: 
302

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, ill. by Elizabeth Baddeley

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, ill. by Elizabeth Baddeley

I Dissent is a picture book biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As with many children's biographies, it begins with her childhood and the injustices she faced as a woman and Jew. Bader Ginsburg was lucky to have a mother who also disagreed with the gender norms of the time and encouraged her to become educated and dream beyond those boundaries. The story keeps some humor by coupling Bader Ginsburg's strengths with her weaknesses -- she isn't shown as a perfect figure, merely one who was willing to stand up for her beliefs and to keep trying. I Dissent is fairly wordy for a picture book, so it is probably ideal for early grade school age -- they'll enjoy learning all the different synonyms for "disagree." Though it is on the longer side, and mentions difficulties Bader Ginsburg faced in her life, it keeps them simple and the story still upbeat, so it feels more hopeful than dark for the younger audience.

Number of Pages: 
40

Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq by Sarah Glidden

Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq by Sarah Glidden

In late 2010, cartoonist Sarah Glidden went along with two of her friends--co-founders of The Seattle Globalist--and a former Marine as they researched the impact of the Iraq War on the region and the refugee crisis. Glidden's focus to document the overall process of journalism and how it was conducted for this specific purpose, but it also comes to encompass the Marine's own experiences and reactions along the journey. Rolling Blackouts, constructed largely from transcribed audiovisual material collected on the trip, offers a glimpse into the horrors of war, complicated history, and voices of both the well-known and unheard victims of the region's violence.

I really enjoyed Glidden's graphic memoir, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, a few years back and found this book to be as enlightening and thoughtful. There is so much food for thought here--the less-documented tragedies of refugees' displacement, ruminations on ethics in jounalism, U.S. military involvement in the Middle East, what it means to be progressive, and so much more. I found it really interesting, too, in the window of time it occurred--just after heavy U.S. military presence from the Iraq War and just before the uprisings from the Arab Spring. For a graphic novel, this is slightly more text-heavy, and Glidden's use of soft-toned watercolors lend to the reflective nature of the book. There are no clear answers, but there are plenty of viewpoints; reading this will likely spark plenty of contemplation and conversation. This is definitely one of my favorite reads this year.

Number of Pages: 
298

Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx/La Juez que Creció en el Bronx by Jonah Winter; ill. by Edel Rodriguez

Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx/La Juez que Creció en el Bronx by Jonah Winter; ill. by Edel Rodriguez

Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx follows the life of the first Latin American to ever become a Supreme Court justice (and the most qualified one at that!). As a young girl raised by a single mother in the South Bronx, Sonia loved reading, studying, baseball, and playing games with her Puerto Rican American family. At age 8, she was diagnosed with diabetes, but she didn't let that stop her dreams of becoming a judge. She went on to graduate at the top of her high school class and attend Princeton, eventually breaking the glass ceiling and becoming a U.S. District Court judge and Supreme Court Justice. She achieved all this despite so many obstacles--this is truly a compelling, uplifting story for any reader.

I love this picture book biography of this incredible woman! It is so inspiring watching her persevere page by page, building to ever greater achievements. The illustrations are expressive yet simple, each focusing on Sotomayor's experiences as she reaches new heights. The bilingual text, in English and Spanish, enables the book to reach a larger audience and touch more lives...and I sincerely hope it will!

Number of Pages: 
40

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin

Daniel Ellsberg entered adult life as a hawk, eager to enlist as a Marine and serve his country. He was a bright young man who became a Pentagon insider and saw action in Vietnam, but as the war progressed, Ellsberg began to form doubts of his own. When he finally got his hands on the top-secret Pentagon Papers--a 7,000-page tome documenting every aspect of the United States' involvement in Vietnam since 1945--he was appalled by how the government handled the U.S. involvement and that American citizens were dying by the tens of thousands for political hubris, blunders, and laissez-faire approach. Ellsberg took it into his hands to leak the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times, setting into motion a new era of the American public and popular opinion clashing mightily against its government, and consequently earned himself the title of "the most dangerous man in America."

Steve Sheinkin is a brilliant author of histories for young adults; even as an adult, I found the clip of the book and level of detail to be incredibly fascinating. I learned so much about the politics motivating the Vietnam War and how the media of the time influenced Americans. Sheinkin is so adept at building suspense, you quickly lose yourself in the story as if it is all unfolding this very day. I absolutely loved his award- and honor-winning book, Bomb, and am so happy to find that Most Dangerous carries the same heft and talent.

Number of Pages: 
370

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson

At the start of World War Two, Stalin made (yet another) political blunder in thinking that he could get on Hitler's good side, but instead his support wound up opening the floodgates to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Among the atrocities visited upon the country was the siege of Leningrad, one of the most horrific and destructive sieges in history. Amid this turmoil, composer Dmitri Shostakovich was called upon to share his seventh symphony to rally support against Nazi totalitarianism, but his life and work as an artist within the Soviet Union's Communist regime was not always so vaunted...

Symphony for the City of the Dead examines the intersection between artistic expression, politics, and history during the extraordinarily tulmutuous era of Russia's Communist Revolution to its participation in World War Two. I found it fascinating to learn in more depth how the Revolution impacted certain aspects of cultural life in Russia as well as to read more about the Russian point-of-view during WW2, both from the figures holding office to life on the streets in Leningrad (modern-day St. Petersburg). I listened to it on audio, which enhanced the experience as the production includes excerpts of Shostakovich's music (I got a copy through the fabulous and free-to-all summer audiobook program Sync). While this is billed as Young Adult non-fiction, it is an engaging read for teens and adults alike.

Number of Pages: 
456

Persona by Genevieve Valentine

Persona by Genevieve Valentine

Suyana Sapaki is a political Face, one of the assembly representatives in the government, known more for her public presence than her opinions. Daniel Park is a photographer, hoping to get some pictures of Suyana at a secret meeting that he can sell to the press. But when shots break out and Suyana's handler disappears, she's left with two bulletholes in her body, and just Daniel, a stranger, helping her run away from the scene.

Number of Pages: 
307

Avengers VS X-Men by Jeph Loeb; Jason Aaron; Brian Michael Bendis; Ed Brubaker; Jonathan Hickman; Matt Fraction; Kathryn Immonen; Steve McNiven; Kieron Gillen; Christopher Yost; Rick Remender; Ed McGuinness; Dan Slott; Mark Waid; Yves Biger

Avengers VS X-Men by  Jeph Loeb;  Jason Aaron;  Brian Michael Bendis;  Ed Brubaker;  Jonathan Hickman;  Matt Fraction;  Kathryn Immonen;  Steve McNiven;  Kieron Gillen;  Christopher Yost;  Rick Remender;  Ed McGuinness;  Dan Slott;  Mark Waid;  Yves Biger

The Phoenix Force is returning to Earth.  The Avengers are determined to stop it... But, the X-Men believe that its arrival will restart the mutant population, which has been on the verge of extinction.

When five X-Men recieve the power of the Force Marvel's greatest heroes battle to determine what will happen to the Force and ultimately the future of the planet.

Just how far is each side willing to go?

Number of Pages: 
384

Battle Of The Atom by Brian M. Bendis, Brian Wood, and Jason Aaron

Battle Of The Atom by Brian M. Bendis, Brian Wood, and Jason Aaron

After a disastrous incident with the Pheonix Force Hank McCoy brought the X-Men of the past forward to the present in order to try to remind the splintering X-Men about Charles Xaiver's dream of peace between mutants and humans.

Unfortunately, their presence is presenting a danger to all of the time-space continuum. They have to go back to their own time.  But, past Scott Summers and Jean Grey learn about what will happen to them should they return... and they refuse to return.

Then, the X-Men of the future arrive inisting that the past X-Men must be returned to the past.  Jean Grey uses her psychic powers to run away and starts a huge battle between past, present, and future X-Men!

Number of Pages: 
248

Uncanny X-Men Vols 1 & 2 by Brian Michael Bendis

Uncanny X-Men Vols 1 & 2 by Brian Michael Bendis

After an event involving the Pheonix Charles Xavier is dead and his X-Men have splintered into a couple of groups. This series follow those who joined with Scott Summers (AKA Cyclops).

Scott is trying to loctate new Mutants to convince them to join his cause for mutant rights and to defend them against those who would see them exterminated.

Some of his new recruits are Magik (sister of Colossus and a teleporter), Triage (a healer), Tempus (who can stop time), The Stepford Sisters (three daughters of Emma Frost), and Goldballs (giant golden bouncy balls fly out of his body).  They are joined by Magneto and Emma Frost.

His X-Men face the Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., Sentinels, and even travel to Limbo in pursuit of their goals.

And who is managing to send the Sentinels wherever the X-Men go to try and recruit a new mutant?

Number of Pages: 
280