March: Book Three

On Thursday, January 31st, we discussed March: Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and illustrated by Nate Powell.

march 3 stickers

“By the fall of 1963, the Civil Rights Movement has penetrated deep into the American consciousness, and as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, John Lewis is guiding the tip of the spear. Through relentless direct action, SNCC continues to force the nation to confront its own blatant injustice, but for every step forward, the danger grows more intense: Jim Crow strikes back through legal tricks, intimidation, violence, and death. The only hope for lasting change is to give voice to the millions of Americans silenced by voter suppression: “One Man, One Vote.”

To carry out their nonviolent revolution, Lewis and an army of young activists launch a series of innovative campaigns, including the Freedom Vote, Mississippi Freedom Summer, and an all-out battle for the soul of the Democratic Party waged live on national television.

With these new struggles come new allies, new opponents, and an unpredictable new president who might be both at once. But fractures within the movement are deepening … even as 25-year-old John Lewis prepares to risk everything in a historic showdown high above the Alabama river, in a town called Selma.”


We started off our book club by listening to John Legend’s version of “Woke Up This Morning” a freedom song made as a revamp of the old gospel song “I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on Jesus” from the 1960s. We watched Selma earlier in January and this is one of the songs that was played throughout the film.


For our ice-breaker, we broke into groups, and I asked the question, “If you had the power, what would you do to make a ‘better past’? You could choose an example from your own life, or from history. What would have to happen to make this past better? Who would benefit? Who might lose out? Why?”

We had an interesting discussion about historical figures who have caused great harm, weapons that we wish were never invented, and the institution of slavery, including the long lasting impacts that it continues to have.


Guest Presenter

We had a guest presenter, Belle Archaphorn, the empathy trainer from the Woodland Park Zoo as our guest speaker. She gave us a great overview of what empathy means and how the zoo teaches guests how to be empathetic toward all animals .



Before we started our book discussion we, watched a few quick videos:

Interview with the authors: (.40-2.40) 

“Good Trouble” interview with Congressman John Lewis:

Some of the questions we discussed:

  • What do you see as the reasons why John Lewis and his compatriots felt it was important to remain nonviolent? What happens when you refuse to strike back? How might it be effective? How does it work in the book?

  • Why does LBJ get so upset when Fannie Lou Hammer is giving her testimony? What does he think will happen? Similarly, what happens when the images get out of that woman’s face? How does this incident compare with other instances in which one person is confronted with someone else’s pain?

  • Does the testimony or the footage of the beatings (like Annie Lee Cooper’s on page 165) change minds? Does it change the laws? Why or why not? The civil rights movement is often remembered as a movement that inspired empathy in powerful white people to change their mind. Is that how you would describe what happens here? Why or why not? Why do you think John Lewis and MLK were able to have some success? Who made it happen?

  • On page 192, one marcher advises the other to “maintain eye contact” because “you gotta connect with your attacker’s humanity.” What do you make of this advice? Here, as in All American Boys, seeing becomes the gateway to empathy. One scientist researching this topic has declared that “empathy needs a face.” Do you agree? Can you remember a time in which eye contact changed how you felt about someone? What happened?

  • Malcolm X tells John Lewis when they meet in Africa that the movement should begin to focus on class, rather than race. This has been very difficult to do — people seem to resist feeling connected to others based on shared financial difficulties. What would happen if we did? If people wanted to change poverty for all, what actions would have to be taken? Who would be the victims? Who would be the oppressors?

  • Why might this trilogy be entitled “March”? How many marches can you find depicted or mentioned in March: Book One (front and back covers, pp. 5–9, 19–20, 88, 90–91, 96, 110, 116, 117)? Analyze the multiple meanings, and connotations, of the word march with respect to the “how far we’ve come” theme (p. 19) that runs throughout the frame story. Specifically, how do the actions of Lewis and his comrades exemplify the defining characteristics of marching, such as being resolute, unified, and steady? If the word is usually used to describe the movement of an army, what is the significance of nonviolent groups doing the same? Finally, how might John Lewis’ line “We have to march,” in response to the bombing of the Loobys’ house (p. 116), signal the climax of the book?

  • How does nonviolent resistance as espoused by Gandhi, King, and Lawson (pp. 76–77) work to bring about social change, and how does it compare to other methods? Contrast the violence which opens the book with the emphasis on the “peaceful transition to power” in the 2009 television’s broadcast (p. 14) and the similarly peaceful, largely silent pages (pp. 10-12) that precede it. What is the historical message implied by this contrast?

  • In what ways do Lewis’s religious background and values influence his approach to the struggle for civil rights as well as the movement as a whole (e.g., pp. 8, 27–28, 56, 104)? Do you feel that love of one’s attacker is a requirement for effective nonviolent resistance (p.82), and are there any signs of it in the book (p. 95)?

  • History is often considered to be made up of recorded facts. In contrast, what important role might subjective factors such “dreams” and “fate” play in history, according to March? Trace the theme of wishes, dreams, and the “spirit of history” during the course of the book (pp. 19, 25–26, 50, 73, 87, 113). When the alarm clock on page 13 goes off, in what ways might it signify the end of a nightmare, or the transition from a dream to a reality, in terms of national race relations? Does the inauguration of Barack Obama represent the complete fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream, or merely a step?

  • The phrase “law and order” seems to imply that maintaining social order is an important function of police and other law enforcement authorities. But what happens when preserving the existing status quo makes such authorities the instigators of violence rather than those who protect citizens from it (pp. 6, 101)? How should individuals and groups respond when the justice system itself is bent to serve certain positions and interests (p. 107)?

  • What is the relationship between geography, community, and politics in March? As just one example, how does the isolation of the chickens in their henhouse reflect the isolation of Lewis’s family on their farm (pp. 20–22, 28)? What visual elements help convey these ideas? Similarly, how does the trip to Buffalo, with its bright lights and vertical heights (p. 42) that mirror the scale of Lewis’s aspirations for himself and society, illustrate his dawning  sense of possibilities both figuratively and literally (as a Northern city free of the everyday prejudices of the South)? On the other hand, in what ways does the rural community of Alabama exemplify the notion of a tight-knit community despite being spread out geographically (pp. 58, 72)?

  • To practice a crucial skill when reading the memoir form, identify and analyze the “turning points” in John Lewis’s life. Some of these the text’s  language highlights for us, as in “home never felt the same” (p. 66), Jim Lawson’s words signaling a “way out” (p. 78) and “my first arrest” (p. 103). What would you add to such a group? For example, is the attempt to transfer to Troy State (p. 66) a turning point even if does not work out? How do the authors use the visual layout of their pages to emphasize important moments and emotions (for example, by giving a large amount of space to a single image, up to a full page or “splash page”)?

  • The phrase “law and order” seems to imply that maintaining social order is an important function of police and other law enforcement authorities. But what happens when preserving the existing status quo makes such authorities the instigators of violence rather than those who protect citizens from it  (pp. 6, 101)? How should individuals and groups respond when the justice system itself is bent to serve certain positions and interests (p. 107)?

  • What role did economic factors play in the process of desegregation? Specifically, if African Americans had represented a far smaller part of the buying public, do you think tactics such as boycotts and sit-ins would have been as effective? (pp. 59, 83–84, 92–93, 96, 110) What example of economic freedom early in March may have inspired Lewis by providing a model of what racially integrated commerce looks like in practice (pp. 42-45)?

  • How do the events depicted in March connect to your life personally? Discuss with an older family member or friend their memories of the early 1960s and the civil rights movement. Alternatively, is there a modern-day issue for which you might be willing to take a stand? Would you use the same techniques as the Nashville Student Movement, or a different strategy? Has reading March changed your perspective, and if so, how?


After the discussion, we introduced February’s book, Binti.

Winner of the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for Best Novella!

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself — but first she has to make it there, alive.

The Binti Series, Book 1: Binti

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Stuck in Neutral – Book Discussion


On Thursday December 20th, we discussed Stuck in Neutral by 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.”

“Fourteen-year-old Shawn McDaniel, who suffers from severe cerebral palsy and cannot function, relates his perceptions of his life, his family, and his condition, especially as he believes his father is planning to kill him.”


We started off the book club by reviewing our group norms and then went into our ice-breaker: “Common Ground.”

I had the group form equal sized teams. Each team was given a sheet of paper and a pencil. I informed the teams that their challenge was to list everything they could think of that all team members had in common. For example, attending the same school, liking the same kind of music, having the same brand of shoes, etc.

The only rule was that they couldn’t list similar body parts or clothes e.g. “We all have two arms, we’re both wearing shirts, etc.” I timed them and gave them three minutes to finish their lists (warning them when they had a minute left, 30 seconds left, and so on). When time was up, we talked about the similarities they listed. 


  • How easy was it to discover something in common with another group member?
  • How can similarities draw us closer together?
  • How can our differences draw us closer together?


Cerebral Palsy (CP)
I reviewed cerebral palsy with the group. CP is an umbrella term that refers to a group of disorders affecting a person’s ability to move. It is due to damage to the developing brain either during pregnancy or shortly after birth.

Cerebral palsy affects people in different ways and can affect body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. Although cerebral palsy is a permanent life-long condition, some of these signs of cerebral palsy can improve or worsen over time.

People who have cerebral palsy may also have visual, learning, hearing, speech, epilepsy and intellectual impairments.

“Every hour, a baby is born with cerebral palsy.”

We watched part of this video for more information:

We then watched this hilarious top ten video:

Top Ten Things You Should Know About CP


Finally, we watched this video about Nike signing the first professional athlete with cerebral palsy, Justin Gallegos this past October.


CP Discussion

Have these videos made your perceptions of those with disabilities change? How so? What about the book?

Stuck in Neutral – Empathy discussion

We reviewed the Stuck in Neutral PowerPoint.

  • Is this story about failure of empathy?
  • About too much empathy?
  • How does empathy function here?
  • How does the father “feel” his son’s pain? What action does he want to take?
  • Is the father a villain? He’s attempting to kill his son. Is he doing it out of love? Is he a good guy? Why/why not? (Misguided power over less powerful in the name of love, benevolence, knowing better).
  • Father justifies his actions out of love. Do you believe him?

Discussion questions:

  1. Terry Trueman has said that he wrote this book “to make us care about kids like Shawn.” Does it work? Why or why not?
  2. Is the father a villain? Why or why not?
  3. Does the father consider himself a villain? How does he feel about himself? How does he feel (or think he feels) about Shawn? Do you agree with him?
  4. Read the passage on page 52 (very end of chapter eight) about Shawn and his dad sharing the trait of having double-jointed thumbs. Why do you think that Shawn’s dad feels closer to him when they are showing off this similarity? Is it easier to feel connected to someone who reminds us of ourselves?
  5. What are the differences in what Shawn sees as valuable and what the father sees as valuable? How do we (especially those in authority) come to think about some ways of living as more valuable than others?
  6. Read the passage on page 86, where the bullies try to burn Shawn. Who do you identify with? Shawn? His brother? What would you have done in this situation? What do you make of Shawn’s response to the incident? To his brother’s?
  7. The father justifies his actions out of love, out of a desire to save Shawn suffering. Do you believe him? How is love being defined here?
  8. If you had to give advice to Shawn, what would it be? If you had to give advice to the father, what would it be? How could this situation be made better for both?

One thing that really captivated us was the interview by a seventh grade class with the author in the back of the book. They asked him if the book was based on the author’s life and it was. They asked him how he could’ve abandoned his family like the dad in the book. All of us appreciated the candor the students possessed in interviewing the author and that they called him to task.

We ended the book club with an introduction of January’s book, March: Book 3 and passed out copies.


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All American Boys


all american boys

We discussed All American Boys on November 29, 2018.

“When sixteen-year-old Rashad is mistakenly accused of stealing, classmate Quinn witnesses his brutal beating at the hands of a police officer who happens to be the older brother of his best friend. Told through Rashad and Quinn’s alternating viewpoints.”

Group Agreements

We started off book club with a review of our previously agreed upon group norms and asked if anyone had anything to add. 

  • Follow school rules
  • Be respectful
  • Share “airtime” (everyone who wants to gets a chance to speak) 
  • One person speaks at a time 
  • Don’t make it personal
  • Personal stories stay in room unless someone says it’s OK to share them

empathy baby

Empathy Theme

We also reviewed the theme of empathy and talked a little more about what it means to be empathetic. “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.


Ice-breaker: “Graffiti Walls”

While “What’s Going on” by Marvin Gaye played in the background, students silently walked around the room and “tagged” the chart paper hanging throughout the space.

Each chart paper had one prompt written in the middle. The prompts were inspired by themes in the book (Police, Loyalty, Racism, Ally, and Activism).

Reflection: Afterward, I read aloud the responses and we discussed the meanings of the words. “Activism” and “Ally” were new words for some.  We talked a bit about what allies and advocates can do including documenting as a bystander when you see police and/or school officer brutality.

Activity from We Need Diverse Books


chips.jpgChips Taste Test

Next we did a chips taste test inspired by Rashad wanting to select a flavor that wasn’t too boring like “Plain” but that wouldn’t make his breath stink for the party. Surprisingly “Plain” was one of the favorites as well as “Barbecue” flavor. Students weren’t too interested in taste testing but just ended up choosing their tried and true favorite flavors. 

 Video: Race in America

Before the authors wrote the book, they themselves got into some uncomfortable conversations around race and privilege.


We explored the artwork of Aaron Douglas and Family Circus.


We reviewed the All American Boys PowerPoint and started our discussion:


  • “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” Desmond Tutu
  • Throughout the book many characters exhibit acts of bravery. Consider the individual actions of these characters. Who do you believe to be the most courageous?
  1. As the novel opens, Rashad states, “Let me make something clear: I didn’t need ROTC. I didn’t want to be part of no military family.” Despite his lack of desire to be involved in ROTC, he remains a member in good standing to make his father happy. What can be inferred about Rashad from this knowledge? Have you ever been in a similar situation where you remained committed to something to please the people you love? If so, share your experience.

    2. Rashad’s father tells him, “There’s no better opportunity for a black boy in this country than to join the army.” Based on what you learned about his father’s experiences, do you think he has a valid point?

    3. Consider the cover of All American Boys. In what ways is the image symbolic for the events that transpire throughout the course of the book?

    4. Describe Rashad and Quinn. What makes them dynamic characters? Are they the type of people you would want to befriend?

    5. What is your earliest impression of Spoony, Rashad’s brother? Do you find him to be a good brother to Rashad? In what ways are these two brothers similar? How are they different?

    6. Quinn states, “On Friday nights, there were only two things on my mind: getting the hell out of the house and finding the party.” Why do his responsibilities at home make him feel such a need to escape? How would you describe Quinn’s family? In what ways has the absence/loss of his father impacted how the family functions? Are they in any way similar to your own? If so, in what ways?

    7. For what reasons do you think Quinn begins to feel connected to Jill? How would you characterize their relationship, and how does it change over the course of the novel?

    8. Guzzo states, “People have it all backward. They do . . . I’m sorry, but my brother did the right thing. He has to make tough calls.” When his brother attacks Rashad, Guzzo is around the corner from the store, so he doesn’t bear witness to the assault. Why is Guzzo unable to come to terms with the truth about his brother’s actions?

    9. Consider the variety of settings for All American Boys; name the three places you believe to be most important to the story. Using textual evidence from the book, explain why you find them to be significant to the overall story structure.

    10. Jill tells Quinn, “I don’t think most people think they’re racist. But every time something like this happens, you could, like you said, say, ‘not my problem.’ You could say, ‘it’s a one-time thing.’ Every time it happened.” Do you agree with her assessment?

    11. Quinn states, “And if I don’t do something. If I just stay silent, it’s just like saying it’s not my problem.” How does this moment show that Quinn is actively choosing not to be a bystander? Though difficult, do you agree it’s the right decision?

    12. How does the discovery of the spray-painted tag, “Rashad Is Absent Again Today” change the dynamics about how students at the high school are able to deal with the event? In what ways does this initially non-spoken symbol become an avenue for reflection and conversation among both the student body and the faculty?

    13. All American Boys is told in a dual first-person narrative. How would the story be different if someone besides Rashad and Quinn were telling it? Do you think changing the point of view would make the story better or worse? If you could, would you want another character’s perspective to be included in the novel? If so, whose?

    14. Dwyer tells Quinn, “Listen, man. You’ve got to fix this. We got to get the team straight . . . This is too big. This is our life, man. Our futures.” Consider English’s, Shannon’s, Guzzo’s, Dwyer’s, and Quinn’s shared passion for basketball. What role does the game play in the lives ~of these characters, and in what ways does this sport allow these young men to come together as a team? How is the team changed after the attack on Rashad? From your perspective, what will they have to do as a team to overcome this divisive experience?

    15. Explain the title, All American Boys. What does it mean? In your opinion, does it accurately describe the events and relationships portrayed in the novel?

    16. What is the significance of the march? Why did it mean so much to Quinn, Rashad, and Spoony? How about the rest of the characters? Why do people protest? Do you think protests are effective in voicing a cause? Can they institute change?

    17. How does finding his father on the Police Plaza steps, waiting to join them on the march, affect Rashad? What makes this act such a powerful statement?

    18. As the novel closes, Spoony and Berry read a roll call of real names of black people killed by police. What was your emotional response to the novel’s closing?

    19. How is All American Boys a statement, or a response, to some of the racial injustice featured in the media today? What is the message that you think the authors are trying to convey through this novel? Do you think this book is an accurate reflection on society today?

Stuck in Neutral

I introduced the next book by showing this book trailer for Stuck in Neutral

We ended our book club by with some surveys!


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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

Posted in Book Club, Great Stories Club, Library events, Race and Social Justice, Racial Healing, Racial Healing Circle, YA Literature | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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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