Dramarama by E. Lockhart

Book Info
Dramarama by E. Lockhart
© 2007 Hyperion Books, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0786838158

Plot Summary
In the “razzle dazzle deprived” small town of Brenton, Ohio, Sarah was just a tall girl with a big nose who loved dancing and was obsessed with musical theater. Deep inside of Sarah is a star waiting to be born, or as she calls it, “a lurking bigness.” This star is Sadye – a diva who is full of charm, talent and charisma just waiting to be set loose on the stage! When the flyer for Wildewood Academy Summer Drama Camp auditions went up, Sarah knew this could be her ticket out of Brenton where Sadye could be fully unleashed. Sadye is admitted to Wildewood along with her gay best friend Demi – who has a heaping amount of bigness himself – and together they embark on a journey that could determine their future. But when Demi steals shows and hearts while Sadye struggles along, the strength of their friendship is also put to the test. Will Wildewood Academy set them on the path towards Broadway Stardom? Will they overcome the stress on their friendship? Or will they learn that life is not just a cabaret?

Critical Evaluation
This book was a well written, enjoyable read. The characters were realistic, and the situations that took place were very believable, all while weaving in important themes and messages. With a personal background in music and performing arts, I was able to relate to the book and found it rather enjoyable. While I didn’t get every single one, I was able to at least understand most of the references to plays, musicals and Broadway performers. That said I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself the “norm” and can definitely see how someone with little to no interest or knowledge of musical theater would struggle with this book, but would highly recommend this to big fans of the television show “Glee.” Some may also find issue with the mentions of underage drinking, and that the book also has a strong LGBT factor since the best friend of the main character is gay. People who are uncomfortable with the homosexual themes or innuendo might shy away from this book. Ultimately providing a positive LGBT message, the book illustrates the struggles of Demi as an African American, gay teen in a small town where homosexuality is largely unaccepted, and how at home he feels at drama camp where he can be himself in all his “fabulosity.” The book claims to focus on the relationship between Sarah/Sadye and Demi, and how attending the Summer Drama Camp puts their relationship in jeopardy, but I felt that much more of the focus was on the development of Sadye on her own from what she was able to learn from her fellow classmates.

Reader’s Annotation
How do you get from a small town high school to the Broadway Stage? For Demi and Sadye, Wildewood Academy Summer Drama Camp is their best bet and you can expect their summer will be chock full of drama — both on and off the stage.

Information about the Author
From the author’s website:

My books have been translated into 10 foreign languages. Or maybe more. I have a doctorate in English Literature from Columbia University and have taught composition, literature and creative writing courses at Columbia, Barnard and NYU. I have given guest lectures on writing for children at places which include Hamline University, VT College, Hofstra University and Kindling Words.

Twenty-one things you don’t know about me, even if you’ve read through this whole website:

1. I have wanted to be a writer since I was eight years old.
2. I wrote two novels in third grade.
3. I was the fastest typist in my 8th-grade typing class. We learned on manual typewriters.
4. Now I write everything on computer, sometimes with my eyes closed.
5. Favorite lipsticks: Bobbi Brown Cherry. Clinique Black Honey.
6. Movie star crush: Daniel Craig.
7. First car: a white 1964 Volvo with a push-button starter.
8. I make a lot of home movies. You can see the book-related ones here.
9. I am a vegetarian and for a number of years ate a vegan diet (no animal products whatsoever) because I object to the way animals are treated in the meat and dairy industries. I will probably go back to eating vegan again someday, but for now:
10. My favorite ice cream is Häagen Dazs dolce de leche.
11. I swam with sting-rays once.
12. I like wax museums.
13. I used to like roller coasters, but now I’m scared of them. Even so:
14. I love amusement parks. My favorite ride of all time is Pirates of the Caribbean.
15. I used to cry after my fiction writing class in college, because the criticism was so harsh.
16. The teacher of that class was so bored by my work he admitted to me he didn’t even read the final drafts of my stories.
17. I have never kept a journal for more than a couple days. I like to write for an audience, even if it’s only an imaginary one.
18. My advice to aspiring writers: read, read, read. Read the great novelists, especially. Try Great Expectations. Pride and Prejudice. Jane Eyre.
19. More (contradictory!) advice: follow your reading bliss. Gnaw your way through the local library’s sci-fi or romance collection, if that’s what does it for you.
20. I am difficult to recognize. Despite a large and unusual tattoo, people often forget they’ve met me, or tell me I look very different from the last time they saw me.
21. I used to not reveal my first name, just to be mysterious, but then I had to change my website URL.  I couldn’t have e-lockhart or elockhart because they were taken or infected by spambots; emilylockhart was the best address available, so now everyone knows.

Genre
Realistic Fiction, Chick Lit, LGBT

Curriculum Ties
N/A

Booktalking Ideas
Sadye’s penchant for recording her and her friends for posterity gets her in trouble when her roommate listens to the tape where Sadye is saying mean things about her. How would you feel if you happened upon something mean a friend said about you? Would you be able to forgive them?

Demi feels like he has to make himself invisible at his high school as a gay black teen in a small town. Should he not be able to be himself?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
14+

Challenge Issues

  • Positive LBGT themes and occasional homosexual innuendo.

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.

Why Included?
I came across this book while browsing the downloadable audiobooks available from my library. As a musical lover and musician myself, I was drawn to the concept of the book and decided to read it for inclusion it in my blog project. While I found the book to be slightly cheesy at times, I’m glad to have read it and am sure I will encounter situations to use this book as a reading suggestion.

I Am J by Cris Beam

Book Info
I Am J by Cris Beam
©2011 Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0316053617

Plot Summary
J was born Jennifer, but has known since he was very small that he is in fact a boy and that his female body was just a huge mistake. At the age of seventeen, most teenagers are struggling to find their identity and place in the world, but who are you if you feel 100% male while having a body that defies this physically? J is finally at a point where he thinks he can articulate these feelings and figure out ways to make the real and physical transition into J, but not everyone is ready to accept the real him, especially his family and former best friend. When he starts a new school and meets more transgendered people with whom he can relate, J finds a new family of sorts, and even love. J’s path to self discovery and acceptance is a treacherous one, but a beautiful story and lesson for us all.

Reader’s Annotation
He may have been born Jennifer and possess some physically female characteristics, but inside he has always been, and always will be J. At seventeen, J is finally ready for his exterior to match the interior, but the road to self discovery and acceptance is a rough one.

Critical Evaluation
No one blinks an eye with Pinocchio wants to be a “real boy,” but Cris Beam’s character J, who was born female but identifies as a male, is met with anger, hatred, disbelief and a struggle for acceptance by his family and friends. Not only is J transgender, but biracial with a Puerto Rican mother and a Jewish father which adds extra layers of difficulty to J’s story in an effort to fight the male “machismo” that is apparent in many Latin cultures. With such a complex scenario Beam has developed, at times it seems as if she is trying too hard to cover all of the things a transgendered teen might feel or experience, without leaving anything out. This can make things feel very dense and mechanical at times. Aside from this, the book is well-written and teaches some valuable lessons through a moving story.

Information about the Author
Cris Beam is an author and professor in New York City. She is the author of Transparent, a nonfiction book that covers seven years in the lives of four transgender teenagers, which won the Lambda Literary Award for best transgender book in 2008, and was a Stonewall Honor book.

Her young adult novel, I am J, was released by Little, Brown in March 2011, and a nonfiction book about the state of foster care in the U.S. will be released by Houghton Mifflin-Harcourt in 2012. She teaches creative writing at Columbia University, New York University, The New School, and Bayview Women’s Correctional Facility. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Columbia University.

Genre
Realistic Fiction, LGBT

Curriculum Ties
Sociology, Gender issues

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss what it would be like to not feel as if you were able to truly be yourself in public because of how people might react.

Discuss J’s relationship with his parents and how it changes through the book.

Reading Level/ Interest Age
15+

Challenge Issues

  • LGBT themes
  • Sexual identity
  • Sexuality

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.
    • Defend by explaining that whether it is agreed with, homosexuality and transgendered persons exist and should have resources available in the library for them and those who support them.

Why Included?
I came across I Am J while looking through the YALSA 2011 Teen’s Top Ten nominees. After reading a few reviews, I decided to add it to my list of things to read for the blog project.

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger

Book Info
Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger
©2007 Simon and Schuster, New York, NY
ISBN 978-1416916222

Plot Summary
Angela has never felt comfortable in her skin. Biologically, she was born female but has always known deep inside that she is really a boy. Finally coming to terms with herself, she decides to make the transition from the female Angela she was born to the male, Grady, inside. Coming out as transgendered is the most important and liberating decision in Grady’s life, and he knew acceptance likely wouldn’t just be handed to him. His mother can’t handle losing her daughter, his sister is worried about how Grady’s transformation will affect her own reputation and social status, and his former best friend Eve turns her back on him completely. While Grady is finally free to feel like himself, he is left abandoned and miserable at a time when support is needed most. Luckily, he finds that he is not alone and discovers a web of support in somewhat unlikely places such as the school gym teacher, his father, and one of the school’s other social outcasts who explains to Grady that the eccentric are often the most interesting. Follow Grady along his path of transformation and acceptance.

Reader’s Annotation
In nature, parrotfish possess the ability to change gender when needed and the newly male fish become the alphas. Angela knows on the inside that she is really Grady – a boy – but unlike the parrotfish who is instantly accepted and revered upon transition, her path to acceptance has many bumps along the way.

Critical Evaluation
Wittlinger tackles the tough and controversial issue of sexual identity in the teen world. She does a fantastic job of illustrating Grady’s struggle, allowing the reader to achieve great insight on things such as the big issues of family and peer acceptance, to the small things like figuring out which restroom or school locker room he should use. I personally was impressed by the fact that though Grady’s family didn’t always understand, they tried to be supportive and understanding. Many transgendered people in real life are not so lucky and find themselves abandoned by those they love. Many might find this topic to be controversial or even claim it might serve as an influence on teens, but there are teens out there who struggle with sexual identity and gender identity. In the end this book would be an ideal read for any teen or adult who is curious about what it is to be transgender where they are going through it themselves or to help their friends and family understand them better.

Information about the Author
Ellen Wittlinger is the critically acclaimed author of the teen novels Love & Lies: Marisol’s Story, Parrotfish, Blind Faith, Sandpiper, Heart on My Sleeve, Zigzag, and Hard Love (an American Library Association Michael L. Printz Honor Book and a Lambda Literary Award winner), and the middle-grade novel Gracie’s Girl.

She has a bachelor’s degree from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. A former children’s librarian, she lives with her husband in Haydenville, Massachusetts.

Visit the author’s website.

Genre
Realistic Fiction, LGBT

Curriculum Ties
Sociology, Gender issues

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss other types of identity changes (such as a major change in hairstyle/color or wardrobe) that people might make and how they are accepted. Would and should Grady’s identity change be accepted at your school?

In Grady’s situation, he struggles with things that are second nature to most, such as knowing whether to use the men’s room or ladies’. What are some other things Grady might have to be more cautious about that were surprising to you?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
15+

Challenge Issues

  • LGBT themes
  • Sexual identity
  • Sexuality

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.
    • Defend by explaining that whether it is agreed with, homosexuality and transgendered persons exist and should have resources available in the library for them and those who support them.

Why Included?
Since I was a teenager, young adult literature has evolved incredibly and takes on increasingly complex subjects, especially those involving sexuality and homosexuality. I was eager to read some of these more complex and risqué novels and this book came highly recommended by a colleague.