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.”


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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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It’s Kind of a Funny Story

We held our second book club of the Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide for It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini on Thursday, May 4th. We invited Eric Wirkman from Teen Link to provide a Youth Suicide Prevention Presentation (YSPP).

book club funny story

It’s Kind of A Funny Story Book Club with guest presenter, Eric from Teen Link on the right, (me) librarian Kristy Gale next to him, and teacher Kevin in the middle!

Eric brainstormed with us the warning signs to look for that someone we know might be contemplating suicide. Check out our list below.


He also reviewed with us how to help a friend if we’re concerned about them. Namely:

  1. Showing we care.
    • This could take the form of “I statements” and look like this: “I noticed you doing this, and I’m concerned/worried etc. Instead of placing blame and making accusations, such as “You’re so different now. What’s wrong with you? Why are you doing this?”
    • Listen!
    • This also includes empathizing while not minimizing. Don’t say “It’s not a big deal. OR Everything will be okay.”
  2. Ask the question directly:
    • “Are you thinking about suicide?” This questions contains no judgement, it’s a yes or no question, and there’s no confusion as to what’s being asked. It’s a difficult question to pose, but an important one.
  3. Talk to a trusted adult.IMG_9219

Finally, Eric passed out Teen Link brochures and shared with us these important resources:

Teen Link Help Line
Call for assistance in figuring out what to do or just to have someone to talk to. Confidential and anonymous. Available every evening from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Toll Free: 1-866-TEENLINK (833-6546) 

24-Hour Crisis Line
Call for immediate assistance or someone to talk to in case of an emergency. Confidential and anonymous. Chat also available during select days/times.
Toll Free: 1-866-4CRISIS (427-4747)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24 hours)
Call for assistance or someone to talk to in case of emergency. Chat also available during select days/times.
Toll Free: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

The Trevor Project (24 hours)
Call for assistance or someone to talk to in case of emergency. Focus on LGBTQ individuals. Chat and text available during select days/times.
Toll Free: 1-800-4UTREVOR (488-7386)

We also had a short but rich discussion. We talked about the warning signs that both Craig from It’s Kind of a Funny Story and Hannah from Thirteen Reasons Why displayed. Many of the students had seen the show, 13 Reasons, so they were able to talk about how her friends, classmates, teachers, counselor, and parents failed her. We also talked a lot about Craig’s obsessive perfectionism to the detriment of nearly everything else important in his life an how that had a negative impact.

We talked about the tentacles and anchors that Craig experiences and some of us shared the tentacles and anchors that we have in our own lives.

We discussed how mental illness is a real and serious disease just like diabetes or heart disease, and even though it’s something that one will always have, it can be managed. It’s a journey of trial and error – at times medication, therapy, and other supports are necessary.

Have you read the book? What did you think?





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Free Audiobook Downloads!

sync logo
Do you love to listen to audiobooks?
Do you like FREE books?


SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens 13+ and readers of any age. The 2017 season is April 27th – August 5th 2017.

SYNC will give away 30 titles – two paired audiobook downloads a week! Download them (to keep forever) before they expire each week!

Text syncYA to 25827 to receive text alerts.

2017 SYNC Audiobook Title Pairs

April 27 – May 3
May 4  – May 10
2017 titles 1
May 11 – May 17
May 18 – May 24
May 25 – May 31
2017 titles 3
June 1 – June 7
June 8 – June 14
June 15 – June 21
June 22 – June 28
June 29  – July 5
July 6 – July 12
July 13 – July 19
July 20 – July 26
July 27 – August 2
August 3  – August 9
August 10 – August 16
2017 titles 2
Download Details
  • Downloads are in MP3 format and are Mac and Windows compatible.
  • Downloads will operate through the OverDrive app.
  • Most listening devices are supported.
  • Each SYNC audiobook is available for download for a period of 7 days (only).
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An Intense and Important Discussion

The first book in the Great Stories Club grant, Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide, was Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.


Interagency Academy Book Club featuring student participants (some who didn’t want to show their face), Rachel Taylor from KCSARC and English teacher Kevin Geloff.

Because the book deals with the heavy yet relevant

13 post it

A Post-it from our ice-breaker

themes of teen suicide and sexual violence, I thought we’d begin with an ice-breaker that centered around why we all matter inspired by the author’s Twitter campaign, #ReasonsWhyYou Matter. We all used the prompt, “I/you/we matter because…” and wrote down a sentence on a Post-it note and put inside a bag. We then all grabbed a Post-it from the bag, introduced ourselves, and read the phrase that we drew. It was a way for all of us to be vulnerable without being too vulnerable.


13 pic

Booklist review:  “When Clay Jenson plays the cassette tapes he received in a mysterious package, he’s surprised to hear the voice of dead classmate Hannah Baker. He’s one of 13 people who receive Hannah’s story, which details the circumstances that led to her suicide. Clay spends the rest of the day and long into the night listening to Hannah’s voice and going to the locations she wants him to visit. The text alternates, sometimes quickly, between Hannah’s voice (italicized) and Clay’s thoughts as he listens to her words, which illuminate betrayals and secrets that demonstrate the consequences of even small actions. Hannah, herself, is not free from guilt, her own inaction having played a part in an accidental auto death and a rape. The message about how we treat one another, although sometimes heavy, makes for compelling reading.”

13 tapes

Rape Culture

“In this novel by Jay Asher, the voice of the deceased teenager Hannah tells her own story in a series of cassette tapes that describe her snowballing experiences of gender-based humiliation, bullying, and violence at her new high school. Her hopes to fit in, safely explore romantic and sexual feelings, and maintain her dignity quickly become crushed as classmates and strangers alike map their social and sexual desires onto her body. She addresses thirteen people who contributed to her suffering, and their trespasses range from peer “locker room talk” about her appearance and sex life to violations of her privacy to outright sexual assault. Buffeted by the paradoxical standards that young women are held to — to be both alluring and chaste; both independent and compliant — Hannah gradually loses confidence in herself and others until she feels completely isolated and decides to turn her loathing onto herself. Listening to her story and retracing her steps, Hannah’s classmate and crush Clay seeks to unlock the mystery of Hannah’s suicide. But instead of a single answer he finds a complex web of structural inequalities and everyday cruelties embedded in seemingly normal behavior, and is left to ponder how to live ethically and compassionately towards others in the face of these norms.”

According rapecultureto the Oxford Dictionary, rape culture is defined as “A society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse.”

We decided to explore the prevailing theme of rape culture within Thirteen Reasons Why and our very own society by inviting sexual assault prevention specialist, Rachel Taylor to read the book, present, and contribute to our discussion. Rachel works for the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC). IMG_7697Rachel started off the discussion by talking about power structures and asked a student to visually convey what power looks like to them through a drawing. Students then took turns contributing their thoughts as to the different types of people that hold power and what power can look like within relationships. This brought us to talk about how age of consent and consent in general. Rachel passed out KSCARC’s “Age of Consent” cards that included important information such as,”Just because your relationship is legal, doesn’t mean it’s equal.” AND “Consent is not just a lack of no. You need a YES! Here’s a portion of the card:13 consesnt
Rachel reviewed other resources including a handout on Washington sexual assault laws and how to support a friend who has experienced sexual assault. BTW, the KCSARC Resource Line is 1-888-99-VOICE (86423).

Our discussion also covered victim blaming, slut-shaming, the Madonna-Whore Complex, gender based violence, and more.

We delved into the snowball effect that Hannah talks so much about and how rumors and gossip about her quickly lead to a negative reputation, betrayal by her classmates, sexual assault, and dangerously low self-esteem. We also discussed the fact that Clay deserved to be on the tapes for two main reasons:

  1. He worried that the rumors were true and that Hannah was too experienced for her. Therefore, he didn’t reach out to her even though there were obvious signs that she needed support.
  2. Even if the rumors were true, so what? What if she was more sexually experienced? Why should she be treated any differently and as less than?

13 cast

Ultimately, we had a powerful discussion and could have used more time. We also talked about how excited we are for the Netflix adaptation of 13 Reasons Why set to be released in just a few days on March 31st, 2017.
Check out the trailer!

***Considering suicide? There are people you
can talk to and who can help you.***

National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Whether you are personally in crisis or you are concerned about someone who is, you can ALWAYS call 1-800-273-TALK and get a listening ear, resources, and support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Trevor Project – 1-866-4-U-TREVOR
This is also a free, confidential 24-hour hotline. It focuses on crises and suicide prevention among gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth.

Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741 to talk to a trained counselor. It’s free, confidential, and available 24/7.

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