Kindred: A Graphic Novel

kindredOn October 25th, we had our first book discussion meeting for this grant’s theme, “Empathy: the Cost of Switching Sides.” We read and discussed Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation. Octavia Butler wrote the original Kindred by and the graphic novel version was illustrated by Damian Duffy and adapted by John Jennings.



We started the meeting off with an ice-breaker: “Talk about an assumption people always make about you that is not true (or an untrue assumption you’ve had about someone else). Some students shared assumptions that others had of them based on race and gender norms.”


Here we are (one student is hiding behind me)

We then watched a couple videos: John Jennings talks about adapting the novel (1:32)

John Jennings & Damian Duffy talk about Butler & the book at Comicon (stop @5:20, 7:29)

Comic activity: Jam Comics

We then moved onto a comic activity called, Jam Comics. We handed out a white piece of paper divided into nine sections, and instructed each student to draw in a panel, and then pass it to the next person to draw the next panel, and so on. The writing prompt we used was, “People don’t know this about me, but…” This could be a character and didn’t have to be based on themselves! When all panels were completed, the students received the comic containing their first panel back and got to see how the story they started ended. The students had a blast.

Book Discussion

We started the book discussion by reviewing the GSC Kindred PowerPoint as a discussion prompt.

We had a great book discussion that centered quite a bit around the theme of empathy, and we reviewed the meaning of empathy:

“‘Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings and condition from their point of view rather than your own.’- Psychology Today  ‘In truth, empathy demands a great deal of us. To be empathetic requires us to embrace uncertainty, to loosen the bonds of loyalty and of history in order to truly imagines needs other than our own. To feel empathy is to relinquish a degree of power over another person, particularly the power that comes from violence.’- Essay by Anna Mae Duane about the ideas behind Great Stories Club.”

232.jpgSome of the things we talked about:

  • Is it okay to empathize with the oppressor?
  • Why can’t Rufus empathize with others? Or can he? Does he?
  • Can empathy be taught? Can you change someone’s mind about “the other?”
  • Do you empathize with Rufus? As a child? As he grows up?
  • “When you know better, you do better….” What if you choose not to do better?
  • Are we products beyond our control? At what point can we change?
  • Rufus wasn’t in an environment where he had to be held accountable. Even though Dana was his savior…. Is Dana an enabler or a savior?

We ended the the book club with some surveys, talked about our next book, All American Boys, and passed out copies to everyone.



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Empathy: The Cost of Switching Sides

GSC2017-Empathy_WebBanner (1)

The University Branch of the Seattle Public Library in partnership with Interagency Academy’s UDYC site has been awarded a fifth grant from the American Library Association’s Great Stories Club!

This grant’s theme is “Empathy: The Cost of Switching Sides.”

For each book discussion, we’re inviting guests from the community that have knowledge and experience related to the different topics and themes in the books to present at each book club. Read on to learn more about the theme and the four books we’re discussing.


Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, Octavia Butler, Damian Duffy, John Jennings

I lost an arm on my last trip home.

Home is a new house with a loving husband in 1970s California that suddenly transformed in to the frightening world of the antebellum South.

Dana, a young black writer, can’t explain how she is transported across time and space to a plantation in Maryland. But she does quickly understand why: to deal with the troubles of Rufus, a conflicted white slaveholder–and her progenitor.

Her survival, her very existence, depends on it.

This searing graphic-novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s science fiction classic is a powerfully moving, unflinching look at the violent disturbing effects of slavery on the people it chained together, both black and white–and made kindred in the deepest sense of the word.”

all american boysAll American Boys, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

“Rashad is absent again today.

That’s the sidewalk graffiti that started it all…

Well, no, actually, a lady tripping over Rashad at the store, making him drop a bag of chips, was what started it all. Because it didn’t matter what Rashad said next—that it was an accident, that he wasn’t stealing—the cop just kept pounding him. Over and over, pummeling him into the pavement. So then Rashad, an ROTC kid with mad art skills, was absent again…and again…stuck in a hospital room. Why? Because it looked like he was stealing. And he was a black kid in baggy clothes. So he must have been stealing.

And that’s how it started.

And that’s what Quinn, a white kid, saw. He saw his best friend’s older brother beating the daylights out of a classmate. At first Quinn doesn’t tell a soul…He’s not even sure he understands it. And does it matter? The whole thing was caught on camera, anyway. But when the school—and nation—start to divide on what happens, blame spreads like wildfire fed by ugly words like “racism” and “police brutality.” Quinn realizes he’s got to understand it, because, bystander or not, he’s a part of history. He just has to figure out what side of history that will be.

Rashad and Quinn—one black, one white, both American—face the unspeakable truth that racism and prejudice didn’t die after the civil rights movement. There’s a future at stake, a future where no one else will have to be absent because of police brutality. They just have to risk everything to change the world.

Cuz that’s how it can end.”

stuckStuck in Neutral, Terry Trueman

“Shawn McDaniel is an enigma and a miracle —except no one knows it, least of all his father. His life is not what it may seem to anyone looking at him. Not even those who love him best have any idea what he is truly like. In this extraordinary and powerful first novel, the reader learns to look beyond the obvious and finds a character whose spirit is rich beyond imagining and whose story is unforgettable.

My life is like one of those “good news-bad news” jokes. Like, “I’ve got some good news and some bad news—which do you want first?”

I could go on about my good news for hours, but you probably want to hear the punch line, my bad news, right? Well, there isn’t that much, really, but what’s here is pretty wild. First off, my parents got divorced ten years ago because of me. My being born changed everything for all of us, in every way. My dad didn’t divorce my mom, or my sister, Cindy, or my brother, Paul—he divorced me. He couldn’t handle my condition, so he had to leave. My condition? Well, that brings us to the guts of my bad news.”

march 3 stickersMarch: Book Three, John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell

“Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1950s comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.” Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.”

Posted in Activism, Book Club, Graphic Novel, Great Stories Club, Race and Social Justice, Social Justice, YA Literature | 1 Comment

Racial Healing Circle

This year’s Great Stories Club had a Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation focus. Part of that entailed conducting a “racial healing circle” in our book club.

To learn more about racial healing circles, check out this publication from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Restoring to Wholeness.

In June, we met with racial healer Terry Cross. Terry started the circle with a welcome and self introduction where he talked about the racial oppression he faced during his childhood growing up in New York state as a member of the Seneca Nation. He also shared with us a bit about the work that he does as the founder and executive director of the  National Indian Child Welfare Association (so much good work!).


Terry (blue shirt, left)

We then went around the circle and introduced ourselves and shared our favorite desserts and the superpower we would choose to have. The introductions were a lighthearted way to get everyone in the mood to share a little about themselves.


Group photo featuring Terry Cross and Interagency staff and students

Terry then reviewed the Group Agreements.

Touchstones from “Circle of Trust”:

Be 100% present, extending and presuming welcome.  Set aside the usual distractions of things undone from yesterday, things to do tomorrow.  Bring all of yourself to the work. We all learn most effectively in spaces that welcome us.  Welcome others to this place and this work, and presume that you are welcomed.

Listen deeply.  Listen intently to what is said; listen to the feelings beneath

the words.  “To ‘listen’ another’s soul into life, into a condition of disclosure and discovery¾may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another.” -[Writer Douglas Steere]  Listen to yourself also. Strive to achieve a balance between listening and reflecting, speaking and acting.

Always by invitation. It is never “share or die.” You will be invited to share

in pairs, small groups, and in the large group.  The invitation is exactly that. You will determine the extent to which you want to participate in our discussions & activities.

No fixing. Each of us is here to discover our own truths, to listen to our own

inner teacher, to take our own inner journey.  We are not here to set someone else straight, or to help right another’s wrong, to “fix” or “correct” what we perceive as broken or incorrect in another member of the group.

Suspend judgment.  Set aside your judgments.  By creating a space

between judgments and reactions, we can listen to the other, and to ourselves, more fully, & thus our perspectives, decisions and actions are more informed.

Identify assumptions.  Our assumptions are usually invisible to us, yet

they under-gird our Worldview & thus our decisions & our actions.  By identifying our assumptions, we can then set them aside and open our viewpoints to greater possibilities.

Speak your truth.  Say what is in your heart, trusting that your voice will be heard and your contribution respected.  Your truth may be different from, even the opposite of, what another in the circle has said.  Speaking your truth is not debating with, or correcting, or interpreting what another has said.  Own your truth by speaking only for yourself, using “I” statements.

Respect silence.  Silence is a rare gift in our busy world.  After you or another has spoken, take time to reflect & fully listen, without immediately filling the space with words.

Maintain confidentiality.  Create a safe space by respecting the confidential nature & content of discussions held in the circle. What is said in the circle, remains there.

When things get difficult, turn to wonder. If you find yourself disagreeing with another, becoming judgmental, shutting down in defense, try turning to wonder: “I wonder what brought her to this place?”  “I wonder what my reaction teaches me?” “I wonder what he’s feeling right now?”


Pair and shares

Terry went over the instructions and we paired up and discussed the following:
1) Share what is special/unique about your name and whether your name represents your family/community history or traditions.
2) Share an experience or a time when you laughed hard or smiled wide.
3) Share your first memory of when you first realized that your race/ethnicity/gender mattered.
4) Share an experience of when you felt valued as a human.


Pair and shares (with some pizza)

Prompt 3, “Share your first memory of when you first realized that your race/ethnicity/gender mattered” was one of the most emotionally difficult prompts for many of us. One student shared that because of their race, they were consistently followed in their neighborhood convenience store even though they always purchased something. Others shared similar stories. IMG_4015

We reflected on how it felt to be the speaker and how it felt to be the listener. We shared some of our stories with the group and discussed what touched us, resonated with us, and inspired us.


Pair and shares

Terry and I then modeled some other prompts by sharing our stories with the group.

1) Think of a time when you felt so strongly about something that you just had to speak out and or do something about it? What happened? How did it affect you?

I first brought up March: Book One, and how I talked about taking direct action to protest Neo-Nazis at my school when I was an undergrad.

The students shared some amazing stories about sticking up for peers, friends, and family members during at times, harrowing situations.


Group share

We had some important conversations about racial profiling, bullying, domestic abuse, sticking up for marginalized folks, and more.


Group share

I’m so thankful to have been a part of this process with Terry and the students and staff at Interagency. One of the things that Terry said that has really stuck with me was the phrase, “We can be bitter, or we can be better.” He expanded on this to include the importance of feeding the nurturing part of our brain that contains our emotional memory which can lead to healing. While I still see the importance in calling out those who inflict harm, I realize that I could benefit by choosing to be better rather than bitter more often in my own life.


Group share

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The Hate U Give

We met Thursday, June 14th to talk about The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

hate u giveFrom the publisher: “Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.”

We started our meeting with an ice-breaker question, Who are you today?” We stood in a circle and answered the question in six word poems/memoirs. One student’s poem was, “I’m quiet today and that’s okay.”

After everyone recited their own six word poem, we sat down to talk about the book by starting with code-switching after watching this Key and Peele two-minute video and how it relates to Starr and to ourselves including why people feel they need to code-switch. We talked about how Starr deftly code switches between her two worlds of Garden Heights and her nearly all white school of Williamson Prep. We talked about the unfair burden placed on some folks who are BPOC to adhere to the white standard to fit in and be respected.

Our guest presenter was Ericka Cox from King County’s Office of Equity and Social Justice. She started our conversation by asking if The Hate U Give was realistic, specifically the indefensible brutal murder of a black teenager by a white police officer. Everyone unequivocally agreed that what was depicted was realistic. It was sobering to hear that the students were all fully aware of the current, racist reality that they’re living in. They also felt the unfair burden that has been passed on to them from previous generations – to try to navigate, survive, and positively impact their world. They may not want to become activists, but they’re feeling that pressure.

Ericka also talked to us a lot about institutional racism – how it plays out in the book, in our lives, and here in King County (including the work that her office is doing). It got us talking about how whiteness is the default in our society and how we see it play out in the media we consume, textbooks and standardized tests in schools, and even the memes we share.

As Ijeoma Oluo discussed in her book So You Want to talk About Race, “We celebrate the complex lives of white children, when they are good and bad, cute and exhausting. We see them as whole children. But, children of color are rarely depicted that way, as complex individuals in their own environment…. When our society only defines “children” as young people of a certain color [e.g. predominantly/only white], it can prevent some from seeing children of color as children to be loved and protected.”

In the book, we saw this with how the white officer (115) saw teenage Khalil and his hairbrush as nothing but a threat. Another example was Starr’s white friend Hailey and her refusal to listen to and empathize with Starr. Hailey plays the victim and is the epitome of white fragility when she is actually the one committing the micro-aggressions. Chris, Starr’s white boyfriend is very well-intentioned, and gets a lot right, but he’s also white, so he messes up a lot. Chris asks “Why do some black people give their kids odd names?”  and says that they’re “not normal.” Seven points out to Chris that he’s “fallen into the trap of the white standard” and that their names are not any less normal than white people’s names and not any less common either (it’s all about perspective).

Ericka talked about the opportunity gap for BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) students. (Opportunity gap is the disparity in access to quality schools and the resources needed for all children to be academically successful).


We continued our discussion of the book, by working through these questions:

1) Throughout the novel, Starr talks about how she has to be one person in her neighborhood and another Starr when she’s at school. Some have called this type of posturing “code-switching,” referring to how a person might switch up their speech or mannerisms depending on the social situation they’re in. Is Starr a successful code-switcher? How about other characters in the book? How do you feel about code-switching in your own life?


2) In the opening chapter, Starr and Khalil talk about rap music and listen to influential 90s rapper, Tupac, who (in)famously had the phrase “T.H.UG. Life” tattooed on his stomach. Khalil explains that, for Tupac, the word “thug” was an acronym for “the hate u give.” Why do you think the author chose that phrase as the title of the novel? How do you see the concept used throughout the book? How do you see the term “thug” used today?

3) Starr has a somewhat complicated family situation. She lives with her parents, an older brother (who has a different mother but same father) and a younger brother (who has the same mother and father). She also has a relationship with her older brother’s sister, and a police officer uncle who lives in the suburbs, and any number of community members who treat her like family. How do you see Starr defining family? Is it purely about blood relations or something else? How does this compare to how you feel about your own family?

4) Starr initially has a hard time getting her non-Black prep school classmates to understand her complicated feelings about Khalil’s death and even just living in her neighborhood. What gets (some of) them to understand her perspective? Have you had a situation where your friends just didn’t get where you were coming from? Were you able to change their minds?

hate u give1

5) Starr’s on-again, off-again relationship with her boyfriend Chris has its ups and downs. What do you make of Chris’s attempts to prove his love and loyalty to Starr? How does the fact that they are in an interracial relationship complicate and/or strengthen their bond? What do you think will happen to Chris and Starr after the end of the novel?

6) Community protests in the wake of unpopular legal verdicts are a big part of history, from the Watts protests in the 1960s, to the protest after the Rodney King verdict in 1992, to the more recent protests after the death of Mike Brown in 2015 in Ferguson, MO. Starr’s neighborhood erupts into disbelief, frustration, and rage after the grand jury’s decision for Khalil’s murder. How and why does the neighborhood react to the grand jury’s decision? How does Starr speak out? Why does she feel compelled to jump into the fray? How would you have reacted in a similar situation?


7) Young people of color across the country are currently coming together to advocate for stricter gun laws, citing the recent shootings in Parkland, FL and other places. What do you think Starr would think of these recent events? Would she be involved? Why or why not?

Who’s ready to watch the movie??? It debuts in theaters:
ctober 19, 2018!

Posted in Activism, Awards, Book Club, Books to Film, Great Stories Club, Library events, Movies, Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ms. Marvel!

On Thursday, April 26th, we had our second book club of ALA’s Great Stories Club series, Growing up on the Margins. We read and discussed the first volume of Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson. If you haven’t read it yet, you should!


ms marvel

From the publisher: “Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she’s comin’ for you, Jersey!”

We began our book club with a fun ice-breaker, “Cross if You….” This activity got us moving, gave us a chance to get to know one another a little better, and it helped to demonstrate how similar we are and what makes us unique.

Next, we watched this short video on Muslim representation in the media.


We had a brief discussion around:

  • Why representation matters. You can’t be what you can’t see.
  • Type-casting Muslims deal with – from terrorist to submissive wife and everything in between.
  • The fact that six in ten Americans don’t personally know a Muslim, so media plays a large role in their understanding of the people and culture.
  • #Oscarssowhite
  • and more

Varisha Khan

This was the perfect jumping point for us to dive right into a presentation by our special guest, Varisha Khan, current activist, formerly of CAIR-WA, the Council on American Islamic Relations and the former Middle Eastern Student Commission director at the University of Washington.

I sent some questions to Varisha ahead of time and we ended up covering a lot of them after watching the above video, but here’s the complete list:


1. Number of Muslims living in the US and Seattle area?
2. Overview and complexities of religion and comparisons to other religions.
3. Challenges encountered in the current social and political environment?
4. Can you talk about the debates around gender within the religion?
5. What does Ms. Marvel get right about Muslim representation?
6. How does Hollywood negatively portray Muslims?
7. What are some of the ways that the media negatively stereotypes Muslims?
8. How are these negative stereotypes harmful?
What needs to happen for this to change?
Recommendations for books and other media featuring positive portrayals of Muslims?

Varisha talked to us about the work that CAIR does and the activism she’s involved in. She described what life has been like for her growing up Muslim and the first time she experienced bigotry as a child because of her religion. She also relayed a terrifying account of a time while Trump was running for the presidency she was stalked by an angry man who followed her on the streets of Seattle while she walked to her Mosque (that was giving tours to elementary school kids at the time), yelling anti-Muslim slurs. She talked about how Donald Trump’s rhetoric and his “Muslim bans” have fueled so much of the anti-sentiment that has become so prevalent recently.

We then transitioned into our discussion of Ms. Marvel.


Here we are as a group!

We concluded our discussion with this video featuring one of the editors and creators of the series, Sana Amanat who’s life experiences growing up as a Pakistani-American Muslim in New Jersey helped shape the character of Kamala Khan and the story of Ms. Marvel. says Amanat: “It’s important that we find a way to cultivate our own strength and formulate that identity on our own terms. The story of Kamala Khan is very much about that.”


Posted in Activism, Book Club, Graphic Novel, Great Stories Club, Library events, Social Justice, Videos, YA Literature | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

March: Book One Discussion

We had such a meaningful and engaging discussion on March 22nd, about March: Book One & March: Book Two.

March book club

Here’s part of the group posing with our copies of Book One.

march club

A few students working on a survey.

We began book club with this ice-breaker on privilege. It helped us start talking about what privilege means and the different kinds of privilege that we possess.

We then watched this ROOTS music video while students helped themselves to pizza and got settled.

We talked about images and footage from the video that looked familiar, because we learned about some of the events and Jim Crow practices from reading March.

We watched selections of these interviews with John Lewis and talked a lot about what it means to get into “Good Trouble.”

We were privileged to have Interagency Academy’s own Ms. Gaye as our guest presenter. Ms. Gaye grew up in the south and was a kid and teen during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

Some discussion prompts for our guest, Ms. Gaye:

  • John Lewis’ mom told him to stay out of white people’s way. Don’t get into trouble. Does that resonate with you? Did you experience elders giving you similar advice? Did you and your friends ignore that advice?
  • Thoughts on youth activism today/youth affecting change  – gun control, for example.
  • Review Civil Rights Timeline: 1954 – 1968
    • What was happening in your life and how did these events impact you?Here’s a short video of Ms. Gaye sharing her experiences with us:

After book club, students continued to work with their English teacher, Kevin Geloff, responding to the prompt, “What does it mean to get into ‘good trouble?'” They also read and discussed the poem, The Ballad of Jimmie Lee Jackson.

[To all who marched from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 and every year since.]

one winter night Jimmie Lee Jackson
with five hundred sisters and brothers
marched down the road singing of freedom
craving the vote the court denied them
one hundred years after emancipation
Alabama’s sons and daughters of slaves    cotton pickers    sharecroppers by trade

harassed    blocked    lynched

trying to register to vote

officers lined the street for protection
someone shot out all the streetlights
plunged the town into dark confusion
sheriff deputies and state troopers
kicked at random and beat on folks
with locally made mahogany bats

special-ordered    extra-long

special-ordered    ball-bearing tips

special-ordered    to stop freedom

Jimmie Lee fled with his mother Viola
hid under a table at Mack’s Cafi
his grandfather Cager stumbled in
troopers pursued wrestled him down
Jimmie rushed to defend slammed away
a pistol was jammed into Jimmie Lee’s stomach

point-blank shots    blood flooded the floor

Jimmie fled    collapsed by the bus-stop

friends got him to Selma in time to die

Jimmie Lee Jackson an American hero
a Vietnam Vet a church deacon
murdered at 26 for trying to vote
the fate of this fighter who fought twice for freedom
wasn’t broadcast throughout the nation
just wailed across the black belt of poverty

the black community was sick from waiting

the black community began to rumble

the black community was ready to boil

movement leaders feared a riot
tried to focus the nation on the plight
of backs in a nonviolent struggle for voting rights
they hauled Jimmie onto a mule drawn wagon
pulled his body through miles of poverty
tramped beside him through acres of cotton

this time the nation carried the news

the march    the people weeping behind the casket

a hero murdered    democracy failing

it took one Bloody Sunday of bashed skulls jailings
Dr King’s call to clergy from every region
thousands swarmed to Selma to join the march
two more martyrs northerners white
Viola Liuzzo and Reverend Jim Reeb
three marches started just one got through
before the nation began to squirm
before the tide began to turn
for 80-year old Cager to cast a vote

Copyright © Molly Watt, 2008, all rights reserverd.

If students have time, they’re encouraged to check out Congressman John Lewis’ Instagram.




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Growing Up Brave on the Margins: Great Stories Club 2018

growing up brave

Click the image!

The University Branch of the Seattle Public Library in partnership with Interagency Academy’s UDYC site has been awarded a fourth grant from the American Library Association’s Great Stories Club!

This is a special “Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Great Stories Club Pilot” and the theme of this series is “Growing Up Brave on the Margins.”

For each book discussion, we’re inviting guests from the community that have knowledge and experience related to the different topics and themes in the books to present at each book club. Read on to learn more about the theme and the three books we’re discussing.

Book 1 (Discovering Your Power): Ms. Marvel Volume 1:
No Normal by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona

ms marvel“Ms. Marvel chronicles the life and times of Kamala Khan, a Muslim-American teenager living in hardscrabble Jersey City, New Jersey, who has to balance school, strict immigrant parents, and newfound superpowers, all while strange and seemingly unexplainable weirdness happens all around her. Superheroes like the previous Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers, and Iron Man are saving the world in nearby New York; meanwhile teens are randomly disappearing all across Jersey City, and Kamala finds herself with newly received superpowers. At the same time, Kamala is trying to maintain her schoolwork, friends, and rise to the expectations of her Pakistani immigrant parents. Sometimes it is harder to say what Kamala finds more difficult — negotiating growing up with her loving and (over)protective parents or figuring out her superpowers and defeating nefarious villains. Kamala is lovable, headstrong, smart, loyal, and sometimes goofy. The first volume of this comic book series finds our protagonist really figuring how what kind of young woman she wants to be: a person who is scared to speak up for what is right; a reckless, untrained superhero; or a young person who is strong enough and smart enough to protect her community, with some help from her friends and family. Ms. Marvel invites readers into a familiar yet fantastical world with a heroine who is still learning the ropes of how to get on in a sometimes scary world. Ms. Marvel raises key questions: what does it mean to balance your family’s expectations with your own desires? How can you channel your newfound bravery without alienating others? What does itmean to brave or courageous without being reckless?”

hate u giveBook 2 (Speaking Truth to Power): The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas
“The Hate U Give is a timely book that focuses on key
themes in young adult literature, like finding your voice,
navigating friends, frenemies, and first loves, and figuring
out family. At the same time, the novel tackles important themes like racism, interracial relationships, gang violence, and police brutality. Protagonist Starr Carter is a smart, hardworking young woman caught between the love and loyalty of her family and community and the possibilities and promises held out in the world of her prep school. After witnessing the murder of her childhood best friend, Starr must figure out if she should move from the shadows of both worlds and step into the light to defend not only her friend, but also her community. Indeed, the novel skillfully balances Starr’s coming of age alongside a discussion of the current civil rights movement known as the Movement for Black Lives, whose rallying cry is “Black Lives Matter,” reflecting the frustration many black communities have in the face of quotidian systemic violence. Thomas’s novel asks: How can you create the space to be yourself wherever you go? What if your true identity is not accepted? How do you stand up for the rights of others? What does it mean to speak truth to power? How can you walk away from violent or hurtful situations with your dignity intact?”

march book oneBook 3 (Fight the Power): March: Book One
by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell
“Generations of slavery, then Jim Crow segregation, followed by the rollback of key civil rights gains, has meant a precarious existence for many African Americans; however, it is often difficult to talk about this painful history. Nevertheless, considering the horrible acts of racist violence like the 2015 Charleston massacre or the persistent threat of racialized violence means that the past isn’t even really the past. Poet and essayist Elizabeth Alexander mulls over the history of black bodies on display, from lynchings to the beating of Rodney King, noting, “Black bodies in pain for public consumption have been an American national spectacle for centuries.” 3 March is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel that manages to tackle serious subjects, such as what Alexander references, in an honest, forthright, and accessible way. It masterfully brings together Georgia Congressman John Lewis’s childhood in rural Alabama, illuminating his early work in the civil rights movement alongside his current work as a legislator. March makes a point of underscoring all the deliberate choices Rep. Lewis made to be brave, make his voice be heard, and to fight for what’s right. March raises important questions: what are you willing to put on the line for your beliefs? How can one person make a difference in a giant system?”

GSC March 2018 Grantees

Most of the 25 Great Stories Club TRHT 2018 grantees and staff.

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UDYC Video Booktalks

UDYC Booktalks!

Will Grayson, Will Grayson


The Party (multiple students!)

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Check out the Zine Collection at the University Branch!

All zines may be borrowed and returned when finished. If you have a zine you’d like added to the collection, please contact Kristy (young adult services librarian) at the University Branch of the Seattle Public Library (206-684-4063).

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Romeo and Juliet

Our third and last book club of the Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide took place Thursday, June 1. We read Romeo and Juliet (No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels) illustrated by Matt Weigle. We invited Susan Sakamoto from the Group Health Teen Center at Interagency Academy to discuss healthy and unhealthy relationships.


Our Book Club with Interagency Academy students, teacher Kevin, librarian Kristy, and presenter Susan Sakamoto.


Susan started our book club by having us brainstorm the words and phrases that come to mind first when we picture a healthy relationship. Take a look at what we came up with below.


Next, Susan discussed potential warning signs of unhealthy and abusive relationships. These included:

  • Your partner tells you what you can and can’t wear.
  • Your partner controls who you hang out with.
  • Your partner monitors your social media behavior. They might read your messages or demand to see your phone.
  • Your partner threatens to spread your information or photos of yourself you don’t want anyone to know or see.
  • Your partner does not respect your boundaries.

Susan emphasized that unhealthy and abusive relationships are about power and control. Unhealthy relationships often happen when your partner controls your behavior and isolates you from your support system.


Some of these signs of unhealthy relationships might be hard to spot, especially at first. Susan shared some great handouts and a Healthy Relationship Quiz that serves as a great starting point for assessing how unhealthy or healthy your relationship might be.

IMG_0142Susan also discussed the difficulties of next steps after recognizing that you or someone you know is in an unhealthy relationship. Below is a list of things to keep in mind if you or someone you know needs support.

  • Talk to a parent, teacher, counselor, or other trusted adult about the situation.
  • Be there to support your friend. Partners exhibiting manipulative or abusive behavior want to distance their partner from their support system.
  • Go to to find resources and support.
    • You can chat with a trained advocate at any time online here.
    • Text loveis to 22522* to chat via messaging.
    • There is also a 24-hour phone line you can call 1-866-331-9474.

*All services of are free and confidential, but Message & Data Rates apply on text for help services.


After Susan’s presentation wrapped up, we launched into a discussion about relationships within Romeo and Juliet. Our discussion started with sharing our thoughts and experiences about love at first sight and whether Romeo and Juliet could really be in love after meeting for the first time. We also talked about what might have caused the “ancient grudge” between the Montagues and the Capulets that fuels much of the story’s plot.

We imagined how things might have been different if Romeo or Juliet had felt they could go to their parents about their relationship and at what points throughout the plot a conversation with their parents could have made a life-or-death difference for some of the characters.

We also addressed the dynamics of Romeo and Juliet’s relationship and discussed whether we thought it was healthy or unhealthy. Susan brought up the great point that social norms differ greatly today than when the original play was written. What might be considered unhealthy today might have been considered normal then because of societal differences regarding gender, power, and violence.


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