9781101907290By Shaka Senghor, author of Writing My Wrongs (Convergent Books, January 2017).

Although I grew up in the ’80s in a very different era, I can still relate to many of the challenges our youth face today. By the time I turned seventeen years old, gun violence had become a normal part of my life. I watched many of my childhood friends and family members get gunned down in the streets. When I was fourteen, my older brother shot my oldest brother in the neck; at fifteen, my childhood friend was shot to death; at sixteen, my older brother was shot, and years later was shot again, this time leading to his paralysis from the waist down; and at the age of seventeen, I was shot several times while standing on the corner in my neighborhood. By the time I turned nineteen, I had been surrounded by so much violence that I became desensitized to it. (more…)

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9781101907290Curriculum Guide Now Available

Shaka Senghor was raised in a middle class neighborhood on Detroit’s east side during the height of the 1980s crack epidemic. An honor roll student and a natural leader, he dreamed of becoming a doctor—but at age 11, his parents’ marriage began to unravel, and the beatings from his mother worsened, sending him on a downward spiral that saw him run away from home, turn to drug dealing to survive, and end up in prison for murder at the age of 19, fuming with anger and despair.

Writing My Wrongs (Convergent Books) is the story of what came next. During his nineteen-year incarceration, seven of which were spent in solitary confinement, Senghor discovered literature, meditation, self-examination, and the kindness of others—tools he used to confront the demons of his past, forgive the people who hurt him, and begin atoning for the wrongs he had committed. Upon his release at age thirty-eight, Senghor became an activist and mentor to young men and women facing circumstances like his. Shaka’s an unforgettable story, one which reminds us that our worst deeds don’t define us and which serves as a compelling witness to our country’s need for rethinking its approach to crime, prison, and the men and women sent there.

The new Writing My Wrongs Curriculum Guide was developed by Dr. Ebony Roberts and provides strategies to bring the book into the high school classroom. This guide, which also includes connections to the Common Core State Standards, features a thorough curriculum framework, activities for students before, during, and after reading the book, and takes you chapter by chapter through the themes (such as childhood innocence and prisons as punishment) that are central to Shaka’s story with suggested exercises and suggested supplementary resources for each.

Click here to download the Curriculum Guide or email us at highschool@penguinrandomhouse.com to request a print copy.

Click here to read about the use of Writing My Wrongs in a community Common Reading program.

Decoded

Since its publication nearly three years ago, Jay-Z’s powerful memoir, Decoded, has continued to engage readers, unfolding the story of legendary rap artist Jay-Z through a blend of lyrics and prose.

Upon reading Decoded, the Mighty Teen Scholars program of Philadelphia, PA discussed the book, specifically talking about the new, diversified age of patriotism that Decoded suggests is replacing an older, more rigid patriotism of the past.

Mighty Teen Scholars helps teenagers to think and write with clarity so that they can achieve success in school, work, and life. Teenagers congregate every Wednesday night to interview professionals, plan for college, discuss and write about current events, and, in this case, talk about books.

We’re delighted to share the opinions of these introspective, enthusiastic teenage readers, as shaped by their reading of Decoded. (more…)

The_SparkWhen our son Jacob was two years old he was evaluated as moderately to severely autistic. At the time, this diagnosis meant there was no hope that he would ever read, tie his shoes or even be able to reach out to us as parents and hug us again. We sought out every avenue we could find to help our little boy. We surrounded ourselves with doctors and specialists, all of which were fiercely fighting to bring Jacob back into our world. A barrage of therapists came to our home and trained their focus on his lowest skills. Their protocol included things like teaching him to put a ball in a cup, a skill that sadly one of the younger children from the tiny daycare I was running could easily do. By the time Jacob was two and a half, he had the standard course of therapy. It consisted of 40-plus hours of early intervention followed by speech, developmental, physical and occupational therapies. (more…)

PersepolisThe Chicago Public School district issued a district-wide ban on Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, a coming-of-age memoir about a young girl growing up under a fundamentalist regime in Iran, sparking protests from students, teachers and faculty. The graphic novel has been read and taught in classrooms throughout the country for years.

After the news went public, Chicago Public School CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett made a statement that the book was only being removed from seventh grade classrooms, “due to the powerful images of torture.”

The choice to remove the book has been condemned by The National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read Foundation. Students, parents and teachers have openly protested the ban in Chicago.

American Widow by Alissa Torres

How did I cope when my world turned upside down?  I used to find solutions to all my problems at the bookstore.  Ever since I started reading, books always saved me. They took me out of my circumstances, gave me answers with advice or by example for whatever ailed me.  But after my husband Eddie died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, nothing was the same.

Waddling down the self-help aisle, newly widowed and 7-1/2 months pregnant, I was unable to find anything to ease my pain and offer me guidance.  Specifically, I wanted to know what was this grief that now filled me?  And what was this life I was now leading, so debilitated by this grief?

But even if I had found what I needed during that awful fall of 2001, I wouldn’t have been able to read it.  In those days, I couldn’t focus: my mind was too scattered and busy trying to comprehend my tragic personal circumstances within such an enormous public trauma.  It took me a month before I could read more than a couple sentences, and many more before I could get through an entire book. (more…)

Half a Life by Darin Strauss

In his powerful, unforgettable memoir, Half a Life, acclaimed novelist Darin Strauss recounts a tragedy and its aftermath. In the last month of his high school career, just after turning eighteen, Strauss is behind the wheel of his father’s Oldsmobile, driving with friends, having “thoughts of mini-golf, another thought of maybe just going to the beach.” Then out of the blue: a collision that results in the death of a bicycling classmate and that shadows the rest of his life. In haunting, penetrating prose, Darin Strauss explores loss and guilt, maturity and accountability, hope and acceptance. The result is a staggering, uplifting tour de force.

Please email us if you would like an advance reader’s edition, and include your full school mailing address.