A Words Look: Linda Sue Park

“In order to find yourself in a book, you have to lose yourself in a book.” – Linda Sue Park

I kind of came to a Linda Sue Park fandom through a roundabout way. I didn’t read her books first. The way I came about it was through hearing her Ted X talk, Can A Children’s Book Change the World?. I highly recommend this video if you haven’t seen it yet. She hits it dead center in the middle of the target. Reading is magic. Libraries are the magic castle.

If I were a rich man, I’d buy every middle school kid in the country a copy of her book A LONG WALK TO WATER. All I can say is that it is great in a riveting, dramatic, true-life story kind of a way. Everyone NEEDS to read this book!

Empathy is another of the superpowers that grow from being a reader.

Empathy —> Engagement

A LONG WALK TO WATER is one of the three middle reader selections for the 2017 Global Read Aloud starting October 2, 2017. The other two books are Victoria Coe’s excellent FENWAY AND HATTIE and the completely awesome out-of-left-field book, THE WILD ROBOT from Peter Brown. These three authors (and possibly GRA Founder Pernille Ripp) have agreed to participate in a #MGLitChat Pro Chat I am hosting on September 21, 2017, to spotlight the 2017 Global Read Aloud program, the three middle reader selections, and these authors. This is your invitation to join us at 9:00 PM Eastern on the #MGLitChat Twitter feed.

And to let you in on a little secret…

Linda Sue Park, Victoria Coe, Peter Brown, and Pernille Ripp are just about the nicest people you’d ever “meet”.

Keep reading people! Read out of your comfort zone. Read about the “other” and develop an empathetic eye and mind. We need diverse books in each of our lives. Diversity = difference. Empathy allows you to accept the differences and build relationships.

Build a better world, one book at a time. Right, Linda Sue Park?

 

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Early North American Culture Clash

One of the great powers of the 16th Century northeastern woodlands were the nations of the Wendat Confederacy. They were a highly successful, highly organized confederation populating the Lake Huron region.

The Wendat were a maternal society, meaning that women played a meaningful role in the politics and economics of the tribe. All property was held down the maternal lineage and marriages had to be outside the maternal clan. Women were even in charge of selecting the tribal chiefs.

This strong maternal influence on the tribe caused more than a few riffs with the French Jesuit missionaries who were the first whites to establish contact with the Wendats in the 1600’s. There is a story told of complaints by the Jesuits to the men of a village about several outspoken women. The Jesuits convinced the men they were being led away from the path of salvation by these outspoken women. To force them to change their ways, the Jesuits threatened to bind the ankles of the women and tether them to a stake in the ground.

Needless to say, this philosophy did not go well and soon the Jesuits found a way to look past the maternal leadership and influence.

Culture clash…early North American style.

The American Dream

Almost 230 years ago, a group of men gathered as part of a convention in Philadelphia and dreamed. What came out of that convention was the United States Constitution. Flawed men (some more flawed than others) produced a document for a nation which did not exist, which could not exist under their current leadership limitations, and could only someday be realized when the United States of America could and would live under the credo that “All men are created equal”.

The Founding Fathers, most of whom had as many character and moral flaws as patriotic and leadership attributes, possessed a vision of the potential in their young nation. They set the groundwork and, most importantly, made the constitution an open-ended document. The created a constitution which could be amended, or added to, as problems arose. For their part, they addressed the pending issues of their time in their first ten amendments, collectively called The Bill of Rights. They allowed for change. They allowed the people of the near and far future to move the country forward as issues, new and unimaginable in 1787, threatened the potential of what the United States of America could be.

We still aren’t there in 2017 as witnessed by the divisions of race, economy, philosophy, and policy. But this is not a complete failure of the dream. It is the fight between moving forward toward the dream and staying firmly planted and looking back. These are the growing pains of a diverse nation that dreams of greater things. Two steps forward and one step back.

The Civil War was the first hammer of change after 1782. It changed the nation. Not completely, not permanently, but it changed who and what the United States was forever. It recreated the shift of the young nation as being a single nation and not a collection of separate entities. Historian Barbara Fields and Shelby Foote perhaps said it best at the opening of the final episode of Ken Burns’ classic documentary, The Civil War.

Dr. Barbara Fields, professor of history at Columbia University, on the American Civil War:

“It is the event in American history in that, it is the moment that made the United States as a nation. And I mean that in different ways. The United States was obviously a nation when it adopted a constitution. But it adopted a constitution that required the war to be sorted out and therefore, require the war to make a real nation out of what was a theoretical nation as it was designed at the Constitutional Convention.”

Author-historian Shelby Foote:

“Before the war, it was said the United States are, grammatically it was spoken that way and thought of as a collection of independent states. And after the war, it was always the United States is, as we say today without being self-conscious at all. And that pretty much sums up what the war accomplished. It made us and is.”

In my humble opinion, our responsibility as Americans—the job devised and written into this dream document called the United States Constitution—is to keep pushing toward the goals set by the Founding Fathers. Two steps forward and make sure we fight and scratch and claw to limit any step back to one, preferably short, step backward. We need to push toward an American vision and dream to which we have pledged our allegiance to virtually every day of our lives.

“…one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Let’s be the people the writers of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence hoped we would become. Let’s acknowledge our horrific deeds and flaws of our past in order to make this a better place for everyone today. Let’s leave this country today a little closer to the dream for those of tomorrow.

Live the American Dream.

  • Sacrifice
  • Respect
  • Hard work
  • Compassion
  • Honesty.

These are the attributes that make America great (as always).

A Words Look: Hamlet, 4.5

I received a daily quote from my Shakespeare app which is usually the first thing I see on my phone in the morning and often the last things I see in the evening on my iPad. There are worse ways to start and finish a day than with The Bard.

“Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be. ”                                      -Ophelia, Hamlet, 4.5

Reading and contemplating on this quote by Ophelia from Hamlet, I wonder if this is the perfect description of who we are as a nation. The United States of America is struggling with itself right now in 2017. We are a nation that has entered into its adolescent years. We’ve survived infancy, Independence and setting up a tremendous framework, called the Constitution, and struggled through our terrible two’s during the American Civil War.

Now that we are firmly in the adolescent period, we are struggling internally as a middle school or early high school kid might do. We may think we know  100% more than 99% of everyone else, especially the adults/parents and we often fly off the handle emotionally and physically. With a lack of disregard for the opinions and viewpoints of others, we continue to sludge through the muck, making mistakes, and moving further to opposite ends of the spectrum.

Things may seem crazy now, but we will work through this. We will grow as a nation into the fine young adult stage and maybe figure out a thing or two about ourselves as a nation along the way. The opposing forces in the U.S. currently driving at breakneck speeds away from each other will eventually realize it’s time to turn around and address each other because nobody likes running full speed into a wall.

Have hope America! As we mature as a nation, we may actually find out “what we may be”.

Thanks, Bill Shakespeare! You would have been a great American.

…even the dead are not allowed to rest.

“Huron Cemetery is to be sold. The government has broken every treaty with the Indians and they have been driven place to place until even the dead are not allowed to rest in peace.”

Excerpt from a February 8, 1910 Letter of Protest by McIntyre Armstrong, Wyandot Nation (1852-1926). The letter was written after the Supreme Court of the United States decision to uphold the lower court’s dismissal of Lyda Conley’s case to prevent the government from selling the Wyandot burial ground located in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.  With the case, Lyda Conley became the first woman attorney of Native American heritage to argue before the Supreme Court.

By the way, Lyda and her sisters, Lena and Ida, occupied the cemetery grounds in an 8 x 6′ shack built next to their parent’s graves for several years in an attempt to prevent the sale of the Huron Place Cemetery.

Despite losing the Supreme Court case, many of Lyda’s legal arguments became the cornerstones for future laws enacted to protect the land and property of Native American Tribes. In addition, the legal case and the Sisters’ act of civil disobedience, raised enough support among the citizens of Kansas City for the Huron Cemetery to protect it from sale to economic developers. The cemetery, later renamed the Wyandot National Burial Ground, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. In January of 2017, the United States National Parks Service announced the elevation of the cemetery to a designated National Historic Landmark, the Wyandotte National Burying Ground (Eliza Burton Conley Burial Site).

In my humble opinion, Lyda Conley should definitely be a member of the #BygoneBadassBroads list.

Boom! Boys are reading influencers!

Great news from the 2017 Digital Book World Conference via Jane Friedman and Porter Anderson in their January bonus issue of The Hot Sheet.

According to Nielsen Book Research director, Jo Henry, boys ages 9-12 have grabbed an increased market share of the juvenile book market! Boys are influencing more book purchases so (hopefully) we can infer boys are reading more. That is fantastic news!

Several very interesting points from Jo Henry’s presentation were highlighted in The Hot Sheet about this current upward development in the boy reader.

  • This trend shows up when comparing 2010 to 2016 figures, with an increase in books being bought for boys aged 9 to 12.

  • What books are being bought for boys? Fantasy and adventure.

  • Authors represented in this realm include J.K. Rowling, of course, as well as Rick Riordan, Suzanne Collins, R.L. Stine, James Dashner, and Kathryn Lasky.

  • Interestingly, 64 percent of these books aren’t being bought for boys as gifts; in many cases, they’re being asked for by the boys and offered by their parents.

  • The main discovery method of these books by boys is in-person, usually through spotting a store display or TV ad.

                                                     (Source The Hot Sheet, January 2017)

Boy readers, I applaud you! You are awesome. You are readers, despite what we are continually fed about your lack of desire to read. Keep it up. Keep seeing books or hearing about books you are interested in and asking for them. Your action in regard to finding the reading material you like is impressive. It gives me hope.

Reading builds empathy. Empathy builds great human beings. Great human beings build great societies.

Boy readers, keep searching for books that interest you. Keep struggling until you find your fit. It is out there. Don’t give up. Ask your librarian, your friends, or your teachers for recommendations. Check out http://www.guysread.com or send me a message if you are struggling to find your reading niche. Find your place in the world of literature. You are never bored with a book around.

But most importantly, keep reading, boys!

lincoln-as-a-boy-reading-at-night

Eastman Johnson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Fort Conley

Summer 1906, Kansas City, Kansas.

Lyda Conley wiped the beads of sweat from her forehead with the sleeve of her dress. It was a warm, humid late June day. She carefully laid the hammer into the box of her late father’s tools and stepped back next to her sisters, Lena and Ida. The Conley Sisters viewed their handiwork—an 8’ by 6’ cabin constructed mere feet away from their parent’s gravesites in their Wyandot tribe’s burial land, Huron Indian Cemetery.

A hundred feet away behind the “TRESPASS AT YOUR OWN PERIL” sign hanging from chain-locked iron cemetery gates, a small crowd gathered along the downtown street in the heart of the rapidly expanding business district of young Kansas City, Kansas. A crowd of people clapped and cheered their support of the Conley Sisters and their defense of a prized, downtown park. Other scowled at the sisters; seeing their illegal occupation of this piece of prime real estate in the heart of the city as standing in the way of the city’s growth and prosperity.

The game was on.

Fort Conley was built.

fortconley-with-sisters

Fort Conley

The occupation of Huron Indian Cemetery, in opposition to a 1906 United States’ Congressional Bill authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to remove the bodies of the Wyandot tribal dead to nearby Quindaro Cemetery in order to sell the land, had begun.

Buried in the appropriation bill, actually buried in the middle of some treaty business with the Sac and Fox Tribe of Kansas for fee-simple patents, payment appropriation for a school, and land payments, is the authorization to sell Huron Place Cemetery from under the rightful ownership of the Wyandot Tribe.

On that June day, the Conley Sisters, behind the intellectual leadership of the youngest sister, Lyda, and the spiritual leadership of Lena, began a lifelong battle which would ultimately save their tribal burial ground from the destructive forces of economic development.

lydaconley

Lyda Conley

The battle that started in the streets of downtown Kansas City, Kansas, would take many detours. From Washington, D.C. when Congress passed the 1906 bill authorizing the sale of the cemetery, to the downtown cemetery occupation by the Conley Sisters. The fight would move to the courts, starting with the United States Circuit Court of Kansas in Topeka, Kansas and eventually, it would land with an appeal at the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court—where Lyda became the first woman of Native American heritage to argue a case before the court.

What made the Conleys take up arms and occupy their tribal burial ground?

“In this cemetery are buried one-hundred of our ancestors…why should we not be proud of our ancestry and protect their graves? We shall do it, and woe be to the man that first attempts to steal a body. We are part owners of the ground and have the right under the law to keep off trespassers, the right a man has to shoot a burglar who enters his home.”

– October 25, Kansas City Times quotation from Lyda Conley.

First and foremost, it was to protect the sacred ground on which their relatives and tribal kinsmen were buried.

They builded [sic] a hut within the grounds, close to the graves of their parents, with tiny windows overlooking the cemetery on all sides. They loaded their guns and took up their abode in that city of the dead, and the “word went out that the first man to turn a sod over one of those graves, would either turn another for the Conley sisters, or have some other person perform a like service for himself. Threats were made, a treaty of peace was attempted, the federal troops were announced as being on their way to take the Conley Fort, but the sisters remained firm. The commission remained in Kansas City for a stated period and then left — surrendered to the Indian maids. The fall passed into winter and the winter into spring, but the Conley Fort remained, with the Conley sisters on guard. They braved the biting blasts of the winter and plowed their way through the snow and over the mounds of their forefathers, to the tiny fort from which they were determined to defend, against the federal government, what was more to them than life and all that it could give them.

-Kansas Magazine, July 1909.

According to Lena, the reason for their act of civil disobedience was triggered by a dream she had when the cemetery was threatened. “My father’s spirit came to me in a dream and was unhappy and I knew what that meant. The dead want this holy place defended and it will be.”

huron_cemetery_1_-_kansas_city_ks_-_july_2015

By Peter Greenberg (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons