And The Oscar Goes To…


Photo Credit: Graham Kingsley

Writing is apparently a useful skill to have. News stories in the past couple of days have highlighted a teacher using it for therapy, Real Housewife of New York Bethenny Frankel releasing a book about being a single mom after her divorce, and just recently, the Inquisitr reported on a story about a wife writing to the staff of Elle Magazine to ask advice about her husband poisoning her.

Talk about a cry for help! Writing a letter to the local police department would probably have been more effective if she was afraid the phones were tapped.

I have to give major brownie points to Brazil. Though the following is about reading and they have recently been in the news for the mass death at a nightclub, (Gawker recently did an article about the girl who used her last breath to post a Facebook status asking for help in the burning club), they have committed to expanding the horizons of prisoners.

Called “Redemption Through Reading” Brazilian inmates will be able to read up to 12 works of literature, philosophy, science or classics to trim a maximum 48 days off their sentence each year. Prisoners have no more than four weeks to read a book and write an essay, which must “make correct use of paragraphs, be free of corrections, use margins and legible joined-up writing”.

It sounds like an amazing idea, and while it will be reserved for the prisons’ more notorious inmates, for some reason I don’t think the night club owner will be able to apply for the program.

Awards season is upon us, and I’m not talking about the SAG Awards. I’m talking about the Young Adult Literature Awards which are basically the superbowl for young adult literature.

For entertainment value, and in honor of the great literature showcased at the Young Adult Literature Awards today, the following is a list of ten books that I found particularly interesting.

Writing can also bring prestige, a loyal tribe numbering in the thousands of (sometimes fanatic) followers, and mega financial stability—but only if your name is or resembles John Grisham, J.K. Rowling, or is listed below.

1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
“Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common.” I really wanted to read a book about two young Latino boys and how they change each other’s lives. I think there needs to be more positive books with teenage male protagonists

2.  The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

A first person account of a gorilla, Ivan, a baby elephant Ruby, and how he grows to see his surroundings differently

3. Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schultz
Set in Victorian London 1860, the story follows a puppeteer and a young girl Clara who is spellbound by his craft.
4. Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
“Full of wisdom, humor, and grit, this timeless yarn will melt the heart of even the sternest Yankee” according to Goodreads, and I was sold at that.
5. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Historical fiction about two girls from completely different circles becoming best friends while fighting in World War II? Don’t mind if I do.
6. Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by James Dean
This just sounds like it could be by new favorite picture book—a cool cat who is completely nonchalant about his style.
7. Dodger by Terry Pratchett
The book contains lots of historical cameos and apparently Charles Dickens living vicariously through Pratchett.
8. The White Bicycle by Beverley Brenna
A few words made me take a second look at this book: Asperger’s Syndrome, Taylor Jane’s travels to the south of France and babysitting for the Phoenix family.
9. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
A story about a cancer patient, who was diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13 and preparing to die—sounds absolutely haunting.
10. In Darkness by Nick Lake
The aftermath of a Haitian earthquake involves a boy named Shorty, whispers of Toussaint L’Ouverture, and gangsters. I’m intrigued.

If I’m in luck, my bookshelf will forgive me in a couple of years for adding sweet goodness to its bloated system.

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50 Shades of Controversy

 

By Alexandra Harris

 By now, you may have heard of Fifty Shades of Grey, a book based off the doe-eyed interactions of Stephenie Meyer’s Bella and Edward in the Twilight Series. Whether listening to Ellen attempt to record an audio for it or skirting around the buzz of celebrities attached to play the main character Christian Grey in a five million dollar budget movie, this book has prompted controversy and broken ground for changes to the publishing world as we know it.

 I’m not going to attempt to give a summary of the book or rate it, because you’ve probably already heard enough about it, but I wanted to highlight some major aspects.

 
1) The concept of fan fiction. 
 
 Some argue that individuals who don’t intend to make a profit from their fan fiction are participating in a wonderful writing exercise and paying the highest compliment to an author. Others argue that it is plagiarism because the ideas and basis for the stories already came from an author. There are some authors who are flattered by fan fiction (J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer) and others who are adamantly opposed (Anne Rice, George R.R. Martin). Meyer does weigh in on Fifty Shades  but the larger question of fan fiction remains murky among literary circles.
 
2) Opinions about Erotica/Mommy Porn
 
 Everyone has their own reading preferences and this is one of the aspects which makes the literary world so diverse. Many YA books cross over and become adult favorites as well, however Fifty Shades will not have the same effect because of its explicit content. No matter how many teenagers borrow their mom’s/aunt’s/sister’s copy, Fifty Shades will not be talked about much in the YA world.
 
3) Changing tides of books + merchandise
 
 Big YA book tiles like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games market jewelry, bed sheets, and toys based off the books and now Fifty Shades is doing it as well. It will be interesting to see how much revenue this will generate and exactly how many people are going to trot into the supermarket and pick up some Fifty Shades bed sheets or shamelessly wear t-shirts promoting the book.
 
4) Success with Self-Publishing
 
 This is a huge one. The publishing world has changed so much even in the past six months and Amazon is basically considered one of the big six publishing companies. As an aspiring author, I am especially interested in this. The author E.L. James published the book on her website and then through a virtual publisher in Australia before Fifty Shades became a hit in the United States. 
 
 So whether you hated the books, were freaked out by the books, or loved them so much you immediately ordered Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed online (unless you were bold and marched into your local bookstore) E.L. James has definitely provided food for thought for the literary community.
 
Alexandria Harris is a writer and recent college graduate. When she isn’t writing, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, or working in her father’s company, she tweets regularly on her account @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin