News

Kid Lit Award Drops Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Hate U Give Trailer, and More

Editor's Note:

Also in this week’s Signature Need-to-Know: the Luke Cage syllabus, the prophecies of Hunter S. Thompson… and why your friends won’t buy your book.

For numerous reasons, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books will be worth revisiting for generations to come; however, an award given by the American Library Association will no longer bear her name. “Wilder’s legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness,” the organization has stated, pointing specifically to the way Native Americans and other minorities are portrayed (the award will now be called the Children’s Literature Legacy Award). Cue the obligatory panic over cultural norms changing: “Today, Wilder is only being denied an award named after her, but tomorrow, she may well be seen as unfit to read,” moans USA Today. If they think she’s a complex figure now, just wait till they catch wind of the details contained in Caroline Fraser’s recent Wilder bio, Prairie Fires.

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The effects of forcibly separating children from their parents aren’t a mystery to us – we have voices among us who can spell it out plainly, such as award-winning playwright and novelist Ariel Dorfman, (Death and the Maiden), who has written this CNN piece describing his own experience of being separated when his family emigrated from Argentina in 1945. “Even if I was treated with love and care, even if I was taken from my parents in order to heal my illness and returned to them three weeks later, that separation from my family scarred me for life,” he writes. “I still have panic attacks at the mere thought of being away from those I love for even a short period of time. And I exhibit many other symptoms of someone who has suffered some traumatic event as a child.” As the nation continues its soul-searching, accounts like Dorfman’s remind us exactly how far we’ve already fallen — and how far we may still have left to fall before justice prevails.

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Back in 1994, The Village Voice’s Donna Minkowitz wrote an article about the murder of young transman Brandon Teena that would go on to inspire the Oscar-winning film “Boys Don’t Cry.” However, years later Minkowitz remains haunted by the inadequacies in her reporting, and has now written a thorough apologia entitled “How I Broke, and Botched, the Brandon Teena Story.” Describing the way her own biases as a queer woman (and ignorance of trans issues) colored her interpretation of these events, and also shedding light on important parts of the story that her article unwittingly cast into shadow, Minkowitz offers other writers a path to redemption in the form of revisiting past subjects with fresh eyes, and with a willingness to admit one’s mistakes.

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Recreating recipes from old cookbooks is always a worthwhile experiment, although even successful results may not be to your taste. These researchers took it a step further, cooking a stew from instructions found in ancient Babylonian texts written almost 4,000 years ago — and this was no average meal. “The variety of ingredients, complex preparation, and cooking staff required to create these meals suggest that they were intended for the royal palace or temple — the haute cuisine of Mesopotamia,” says Agnete Lassen, a curator of the Yale Babylonian Collection. It’s okay to remain skeptical, but the results, described in detail within this article, sound truly delicious.

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We’ve located the exact intersection of late-night TV and literature — it’s right here in this summer reading list compiled by “The Tonight Show,” which includes a voting feature you can use to force host Jimmy Fallon to read the selection of your choice. Right now Children of Blood and Bone is leading in the polls, With Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists trailing as a distant second (whomever you root for, the idea of Fallon carrying around Tomi Adeyemi’s doorstopper around the city is just too irresistible). So what’s your pick?  You’ve got until Thursday to help determine which bestseller millions of people will be reading as they sizzle by the pool.

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Don’t touch that dial — there are even more books on TV that request your attention. Consider The Luke Cage Syllabus, which maps out the Netflix series’ many literary influences. “My two obsessions entwined on this show — hip hop and books,” writes the site Black Nerd Problems, and while many of the selections here come directly from Cage’s shelf (such as Walter Mosley’s Little Green), they also include titles like Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop to make sure you don’t miss any of the hip hop references.

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The next time a friend cringes at the sound of words like “moist” or “ooze,” you can educate them about the science of “word aversion” — or rather, the lack thereof, since Slate acknowledges there’s very little academic research to draw from in examining why certain words give us icky chills. At the very least, their article constitutes a healthy inquiry into the phenomenon. As one of their experts points out, it’s possible we’re all just doing this to ourselves: “There could very well be a viral aspect to this, where either through the media or just through real-world personal connections, the reaction to some particular word — for example, moist — spreads.” And now we have done our part.

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At the end of 2016, The Nation hailed Hunter S. Thompson as the American prophet who predicted the rise of Trumpism, citing examples in the late journalist’s 1967 book Hell’s Angels that eerily anticipate “the ethic of total retaliation” that has come to define 21st century politics. A year and a half into the post-election sea change, this article (in addition to the book) already resonates with new significance. “For his part,” The Nation observes, “Thompson thought that what might prove most dangerous about the ethic of total retaliation was the way it encouraged the distrust of all authority — except for the authority of brute force.” With Washington DC already bracing for this summer’s “White Pride” rally marking the anniversary of last year’s deadly Charlottesville march,  it’s clear the author’s concern about dissidents “getting stomped” can no longer be considered merely an Election Day metaphor.

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If you’re fortunate enough to get a book published, who can you count on to buy it? The answer, according to many who’ve been there before, may disappoint you. “I have explicitly lied to colleagues about having read and enjoyed their books,” admits author Tom McCallister, who concludes: “The book industry is partly kept afloat by a shadow economy in which the main currency is bullshit.” This is one of the rare occasions where you shouldn’t miss the comment section, as numerous other authors have come out of the woodwork to share stories about their releases being terminally ignored by loved ones.

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After more than a year of anticipation, (and some controversial setbacks), we finally get to peek at the movie based on Angie Thomas’s award-winning novel The Hate U Give. The trailer below introduces viewers to the complex world of Starr Carter, a black teenager whose life becomes upended by a police shooting. Sadly, the trailer’s arrival coincides with a Pittsburgh officer being charged with the death of an unarmed teen, and though the film won’t arrive until October 19, there will surely be no shortage of reminders of its relevance between now and then. Take a look: