You Oughta Know: That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger

Happy Friday Eve, Shelfies! Today I’m featuring another book I discovered at the Miami Book Fair (was this a fruitful event or what? My TBR pile is crying for mercy!), this time a Young Adult book. Like the others, I’d never heard of it before I stepped foot on Miami Dade College’s campus for this event. This book comes with a trigger warning for all my Highly Sensitive People (HSPs). 

During my time at the Miami Book Fair, I got the opportunity to catch up with my friend and By Her Shelf Contributor Alex, who lives and teaches in Miami. Alex was there with her book club, who had researched and planned for the fair down to bringing a rolling suitcase full of books to be signed by their favorite authors. Their primary focus was YA panels/authors, so I saw Alex in passing, but we did meet up and go to one panel together: Truth in Troubled Times: YA Heroes Speak Up. Kody Keplinger, author of That’s Not What Happened was on this panel. Alex and I were a little late, but the portion of the discussion I caught piqued my interest in Kody’s book.

That's Not What Happened

That’s Not What Happened is set three years after a school shooting. One of the shooting victims, Sarah, has become a martyr, as everyone knows she died proclaiming her faith. Or do they? Sarah’s best friend, who was there when she died, claims this isn’t true. The best friend struggles with her desire to tell the truth in the face of the potential consequences.

I’m adamant about one thing when it comes to reading: if a book has an intriguing premise, I pay little to no attention to the genre. This book’s premise definitely hooked me. When Columbine happened in 1999, I was week’s away from my last summer vacation before I started high school. I vividly remember the news reports Surrounding the shooting. Americans weren’t used to mass shootings at schools. We weren’t in danger of becoming desensitized to this level of violence.

I was one of those teens who bought a copy of She Said Yes: The Unlikely Marytrdom of Cassie Bernall. Bernall was one of the victims in the Columbine shooting who early reports claimed was killed after responding “yes” to one of the shooters when asked if she believed in God. The book was written by her mother, Misty Bernall. Cassie’s friend, who was next to her when she was shot, told a different story.

It’s clear the seed of the idea for the plot of this book came from Columbine, but according to what I gleaned from Keplinger’s comments during the panel, her book is more concerned with how the media covers tragedy, creates “inspiration porn” from survivors stories, and most importantly, how the stories of those involved in these tragedies get distorted in that lens. It’s also about having the courage to speak up. This book was written before the Parkland tragedy, but Keplinger said she was amazed by the way many of those students have stood up and used their voices in the wake of the tragedy. I’m sure my experience of Columbine when I was in the age group of the victims, and more recent school shootings will influence my reading of this book. It will be interesting to see the differences in how Columbine was handled versus how the events of this book are handled 17 or 18 years later in a very different America.

If an examination of what happens in the aftermath of a mass shooting tragedy, the struggle of a teenager trying to speak up and tell the truth when others would prefer she didn’t, or an examination of how our current culture packages tragedy for distribution sounds like something you’d be interested in, then you might want to give That’s Not What Happened a try.

Your Turn: Are you a Highly Sensitive Person? How does this effect your reading life? What iconic event in your lifetime impacts how you view fiction on a related subject?

Note: There could be things I’m not remembering about this book that could be a trigger or turn off for some readers. I haven’t had a chance to read this one myself or spend time discussing it with the author, and when it comes to books, I’m usually OK with material that would be triggering to others, so I can’t guarantee I did the best job identifying the major ones.

You Oughta Know: One Person, No Vote

Happy Monday, Shelfies. Today’s post is the second in my little series of Miami Book Fair highlights. It’s about one of my favorite parts of the fair. Enjoy!

After the Exchange for Change presentation I chronicled in my previous post, I was in great spirits for my next stop: a panel featuring National Book Award Finalists in Non-fiction. While all three authors and books were phenomenal and deserve their own spotlight, Dr. Carol Anderson and her book, One Person, No Vote, stood out to me the most. Dr. Anderson is a dynamic, engaging speaker, and her book, while political, tells the story of a moment in time with passion and vivid detail I didn’t expect from the genre.

One Person, No Vote

One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy focuses on

the rollbacks to African American participation in the vote since the 2013 Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Anderson explains how voter suppression works, charts the passing and enacting of voter suppression laws since this ruling (known as the Shelby ruling), and explores the activism and organizing geared toward restoring the basic right to vote to all Americans in the lead up to the 2018 mid-term elections.

Since this talk was occurring shortly after the midterm elections had taken place (though Florida was still doing recounts. Sigh), Dr. Anderson’s book opened the discussion. Dr. Anderson’s opening was good; so good, in fact, the whole room burst into spontaneous applause after she read a passage from her book detailing the 2017 special senate election in Alabama.

I have to be honest: when I first heard the title of this book, I groaned inwardly. I was (and am) suffering from political news fatigue. I’m not an activist; in fact, I ended up in a heated discussion around the 2016 election because I said I had no intention of marching or protesting. I read books to escape into fictional worlds, deep dive into intimate stories of someone’s life, and learn something new, not to ingest more of the distressing political climate. Add to my political news fatigue the fact most books on history, even recent history, give me unpleasant flashbacks to a horrible Honors American History class that nearly shattered my liking of the subject, and you have a huge bowl of No Thanks I’ll Pass.

However, there were a few things about Dr. Anderson’s book that made me buy a copy.

1)Her writing style. She didn’t write the dry political discourse I was expecting, but a nuanced look at an issue that isn’t being openly addressed. As someone who’s been named a Guggenheim Fellow in Constitutional Studies, and is the chair of African American Studies at Emory, Dr. Anderson knows this subject. She has the intellectual pedigree to write intelligently on voter suppression, but more importantly, she has the skill to bring to life the personalities and events shaping this discussion. She found the story, and she tells it well.

2) As a citizen of the United States who regularly exercises my right to vote, I was appalled at all the things I didn’t know were being used to hinder others from doing the same. I had no idea the Shelby ruling had such an impact on the protections afforded under the Voting Rights Act. I have family members in the states she cited as habitual offenders when it comes to voter suppression. I’ve heard them complain about many of the things she wrote in her book, but I never thought of these inconveniences as voter suppression. As Dr. Anderson pointed out, many of the tactics used are worded or presented to seem perfectly reasonable until you step back and see the intended effect. As someone who hates being uninformed, especially about one of my constitutional rights, I felt compelled to by this book and educate myself on what’s happening.

If you’re interested in constitutional law, voter suppression, politics, or one of the major issues that influenced the recent mid-term elections, Dr. Anderson’s book might be a good starting place. You can grab a copy at the links below.

Kindle:

Hardcover:

 

Paperback:

Your Turn: Have you read a book on a topic or in a genre you usually avoid? Were you pleased with your decision or did you regret it?

You Oughta Know: Don’t Shake the Spoon Literary Journal

On November 17th, I got to attend the Miami Book Fair for the first time. I didn’t get toDon't Shake the Spoon spend nearly as much time exploring and attending talks as I would have liked, but I’m profiling a couple of the sessions I attended and books I came across during my brief day experiencing the fair. As I’ve been processing everything I was exposed to and thinking of how I wanted to share it, the first thing I knew I had to share, the thing I wanted everyone who didn’t experience it to know about, was Exchange for Change and their literary journal, Don’t Shake the Spoon.

Before hearing about them at the Miami Book Fair, I didn’t know Exchange for Change existed. If you’re similarly unaware, here’s the description of the program from their website:

The nonprofit Exchange for Change teaches writing in prisons and runs letter exchanges between incarcerated students and writers studying on the outside.

Through this program, many inmates are learning to express themselves and wield the power of the written word. I’m absolutely here for a program that brings the power and dignity of being able to express yourself and share your story to those who might have never known that power.

Don’t Shake the Spoon is a literary journal filled with poems, essays and stories produced in the courses taught by Exchange for Change. They are currently selling their first volume, which I immediately purchased after hearing several pieces performed by guest speakers and volunteers. Listening to the pieces read at the fair and reading through the pieces in the journal, I’m struck all over again at the immense amount of talent existing within people that many have gone their whole lives not realizing they have. I walked away wanting to do something to facilitate this exchange of words and world views, to cultivate a conversation about our justice system, and to just be a part of something that can change someone’s perception of their freedom even in imprisonment.

I’m not attempting to argue about the how’s and why’s of people ending up in prison. I realize the conversations around rehabilitation and prison reform are much broader and nuanced than a simple post can address, and the answers much more complicated than the questions make them seem. What I am attempting to do is to shed a little light on what I think is an amazing literary journal, and an amazing endeavor undertaken by Exchange for Change.

If you’re interested in own voices, then I suggest you give this journal a try. If you’re in the Miami Area and are interested in seeing the students perform their original works at one of the upcoming graduations, or you want to get involved with Exchange for Change, please visit their website.

Stay tuned to find out how one session with National Book Award Non-Fiction Finalists piqued my interest in a topic that usually leaves me with extreme fatigue.

Your Turn: What wonderful book have you recently stumbled upon? Share it in the comments!

One Small Step, and One Giant Leap

Hello, Shelfies! I realize this blog has been dead silent for weeks, and I apologize. It’s not because I haven’t been reading. In fact, I read 2 books more than I needed to for October to stay in step with my Goodreads Reading Challenge. I have quite a few reviews to post and Get in My Kindle recommendations to share, but today I wanted to share a couple pieces of exciting news. 

It is officially fall in Florida right now. I’m sitting in a screened in patio area luxuriating in the perfect weather after a truly exhausting day yesterday. Yesterday, something I’ve been thinking about and planning for months finally took a small step forward, and I’m still basking in the glow of its awesomeness.

In June, I began working through an idea I had for a project I wanted to start working on. I know I have a tendency to bail on things, so I gave myself a few benchmarks of things to accomplish before I would tell anyone about it. Later, an author I was working with specifically ask me if I’d ever thought about pursuing the thing I was mulling over. I reached out to my co-contributors on this site with my idea and they both thought it was a great idea and wanted to know how they could support it. Yesterday, after months of mulling and planning, I took the small step of buying something I need to do the thing: a microphone.

Now it’s time to take the big leap and share with you what I’m working on and how you can help or be involved. *deep breath* OK, here it goes…

I’m working on a By Her Shelf podcast!

The By Her Shelf podcast will feature everyday readers as well as authors, entrepreneurs and influencers who will invite me to peruse their bookshelves to find out the kind of people they are, and add an alarming amount of books to all of our TBR piles. There will also be episodes focused on Upcoming releases and book-related events, publishing news, literary discussions, and more.

Friends, I’m beyond excited to let this cat out of the bag. It’s been killing me to keep this idea between myself, my co-contributors and my mom. However, it’s a scary leap to announce this now because the show isn’t ready to launch yet. I’m at least a couple months away from releasing episodes. So why am I sharing this now? Because I want your help.

I’m looking for guests who aren’t afraid to share the books they love or hate, the works that changed their perspective and shaped their lives. I want to host guests who don’t mind judging and being judged by the books people choose to read, all in the name of getting to know each other. I’m dying to hear about the time you gave in to FOMO and regretted it so hard you might have broken your brain, or the weird way you stumbled upon your favorite author, or your goal to read a specific group of books in a year. I want to know what book people would be surprised to find on your shelves and the book you can’t stop pressing into every pair of open hands you find. Tell me all about what subjects or tropes you can’t help but buy, and which ones you wish would go away for good. And we simply must talk about your TBR pile before your family has an intervention.

If a conversation like this sounds right up your alley, let me know! If you’d like to be a guest, or have suggestions for the content of the show, leave a message in the comments, fill out the contact form, or email me at mz.zeyzey2@gmail.com. Want to keep up with my podcast journey and find out when the show will be ready to debut? Subscribe to the By Her Shelf Newsletter via the pop up, or send me your email address and I’ll add you to the list.

Be on the lookout for a new Get in My Kindle post on Monday.

XOXO,

Erica

 

#ReadWhatYouOwn September

Hola, fellow book lovers! This week has been super busy for me, and it’s not over yet! While I’m finishing this month helping two independent authors publish their books and sneaking in a few pages of my current read here and there, I’m already thinking about what I will be able to read with a less rigorous schedule next month. While perusing some #bookstagram pics, I came across a challenge that might peak your readerly interest. It certainly has my vote!

If you’re an avid reader, chances are, like me, you have several books in your house that you haven’t read yet (even though you’re probably chomping at the bit for that new book at the bookstore, or the one coming to your doorstep or kindle soon!). Despite my best intentions, and my desire to read them, many of these books fall by the wayside in favorite of a hot new release of find. Whether it’s because the book requires more thought than I can give it right now or I’m just not in the right mood, many books in my house have gone unread.

If this sounds like you, Instagram user @anovelfamily has a challenge you might want to try next month. #readwhatyouown is a challenge to, well, read books you already own. There are two ways to participate: commit to reading 2 books you already own in September or commit to reading only books you already own in September. Use the hashtag #readwhatyouown to join other participants. Be sure to follow @anovelfamily and give this account credit for the challenge. Easy peasy.

I believe I have over 50 books I already own that I could read this month (o_O), so I’m going to participate. I am also counting books I pre-ordered that I’ll get in September. Once I choose those I want to read, I’ll post a pretty picture here and on Instagram so you can see what I (and my co-contributors, if they’re game!) will attempt to read in September.

Your turn: Are you participating in #readwhatyouown? What books would you read for this challenge?

You Oughta Know: Book Vloggers

5 Vloggers Who Will Change the Way You View Books

Several years ago, I fell into a YouTube rabbit hole. I clicked on a random recommended video showing a book haul and discovered a whole corner of the video platform dedicated to people who love all the bookish things. One recommendation led to another and suddenly I was subscribed to over 50 channels where I could spend hours getting lost in recommendations, analysis, and videos dedicated to anyone with a literary heart.
I began watching all these videos on a regular basis and I’d be lying if I said they didn’t influence my reading choice and my book buying habits. I quickly grew to love this community that prided itself on connecting with others over their literary adventures. It wasn’t like a book club, per se, but it felt like a conversation with friends who dearly love the same things I did. For a while I even created my own BookTube videos and learned to appreciate the camaraderie from all sides. After all these years I still have favorite BookTube vloggers whose videos I watch instantly. They all have their merits and styles, but what they have in common is a love of books and reading that could make a reader out of anyone.

1. Jen Campbell – Jen is an author, poet, podcaster, bookseller, and fairytale love. Her channel was one of my first BookTube finds. She shares book hauls, intimate reviews, recommendations, and so much more. While she’s a literary judge of several book prize competitions, she’s extremely down to earth and makes books approachable by everyone. Check out her fairytale video on the history of Sleeping Beauty!

2. Jean BookishThoughts – Jean made me fall in love with antiquity. She studies Greek and Roman works of literature and brings such a young eye to works we might otherwise dismiss. She runs a book club through Goodreads called “The Feminist Orchestra” and it’s incredible. Not only does she share recommendations, but she also gives in-depth looks into her university studies and her Ph.D. program. Check out her review of “The Gracekeepers.”

3. Climb the Stacks – I consider this to be a very academic channel, but that’s why I love it! When Ashley shares her reviews and analysis of different books it’s like talking to the most awesome English teacher ever. She just has a way of making the most difficult literature feel approachable. While she doesn’t upload as frequently as others, her videos are worth waiting for. Check out her playlist on different book genres.

4. Books and Pieces – Elizabeth is an amazing vlogger, bringing such a fun energy when she talks about books. Much of her channel focuses on Science Fiction, but she does an amazing job sharing aspects of books in general. She is also one of the few vloggers who gives a realistic view into the ‘behind the scenes’ side of the book industry. Check out her playlist on bookish jobs and careers.

5. Elena Reads Books – Elena is like the mom friend we all wish we had! She is outgoing, fun, and covers such a variety that it’s hard to put her into one category. She makes such great reading choices and rarely do I watch one of her videos without adding at least a couple books to my wish list. Check out her best books of 2017.

There are so many wonderful vloggers bringing books to the front and center. Show these BookTubers some love and I promise you won’t be disappointed. If you end up down the bookish rabbit hole, however, I take no responsibility!

Happy Watching!

Did we miss your favorite booktuber(s)? Share them in the comments!

You Oughta Know: What Should I Read Next Podcast

What Shoul I Read NextHi, fellow readers! I’m happy to introduce one of my favorite features, You Oughta Know. This is where I share all the cool reading related things I find online or in real life that I believe other readers should know about. It can be a podcast, blog, YouTube channel, book related merchandise, or another cool thing related to the reading life. Today, I’m sharing one of my favorite finds: What Should I Read Next?, a podcast that answers the question that plagues every reader. 

If you’re a reader, you oughta know about Anne Bogel. I first found Anne through her interview with Jamie Ivey on The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey podcast. Anne Bogel is a reader’s dream. Between her book-related blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy, and her books, Reading People and I’d Rather Be Reading (you can read my post on this book here), Anne is a treasure trove of bookish delights. By far, the jewel in her literary crown for me is her  podcast, What Should I Read Next?

On her podcast, Anne seeks to answer the question that plagues every reader: What Should I Read Next? On each episode, she does some literary matchmaking with a guest. They tell her three books they love, one book they hate, and what they are currently reading. Anne in turn gives them three book recommendations. If having a practiced hand giving you personalized recommendations isn’t great enough, Anne’s guests are interesting. Anne has interviewed librarians, booksellers, audio book narrators, bookstagrammers, booktubers, authors, and other book podcasters, among others, who bring an interesting perspective to the conversation. Even those who are “regular readers” have fascinating stories of how they became readers, what books they like, and what fits with their current reading life.

I get a ton of book recommendations I never would have found through Anne’s podcast. I also found several of the future You Oughta Know subjects through the show. My favorite book finds through the podcast are A Man Called Ove and Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine, but there are still several more books on my reading list.

Do you listen to What Should I Read Next? What was your favorite episode, guest or book recommendation? Are you a fan of another bookish podcast, blog, YouTube Channel, or product I should feature? Let me know all the things in the comments section.