To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence

To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence [pdf]

In 2004, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) published their groundbreaking report, “Reading at Risk,” which took a critical look at voluntary reading patterns and test scores, and revealed some rather dire trends along the way. November 2007 saw the publication of another thought-provoking report, “To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence.” This 100-page report offers a comprehensive analysis of reading patterns of children, teenagers, and adults in the United States. The report draws on data from over 40 sources, including federal agencies, universities, foundations, and associations. The report includes an executive summary, introduction, and three sections: “Youth Voluntary Reading Patterns,” “What the Declines Mean for Literacy,” and “Why More than Reading is at Risk.” Alternately enlightening and troubling, this report will be of great interest to policymakers, educators, librarians, and countless other parties.

>From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2008.

The lure of made-up memoirs

The lure of made-up memoirs – Los Angeles Times

And here’s one more. The author of this piece compares the current faked memoir to Famous All Over Town, a first-person account of growing up in the gang culture of East L.A., published in 1983. That book, supposedly by a young Chicano writer named Danny Santiago, won a couple of literary awards. A year later writer John Gregory Dunne revealed that the real author of the book was a 73-year-old former screenwriter named Dan James.

Bogus memoir sparks criticism of publishing industry

Bogus memoir sparks criticism of publishing industry – Los Angeles Times

Here’s another reaction to the faked memoir by “Margaret B. Jones,” this one from Los Angeles, where the action of the book supposedly took place.  This article goes further than does The New York Times by looking at this book as “part of a long tradition of white artists impersonating or borrowing the voices and experiences of racial minorities.”

Gang Memoir Is Pure Fiction

Gang Memoir, Turning Page, Is Pure Fiction – New York Times

Yet another memoir bites the dust. Love and Consequences by Margaret B. Jones was published last week.  In this memoir Margaret B. Jones claims to be a half-white, half-Native American who grew up as a foster child in the gangland of South-Central Los Angeles and ran drugs for the Bloods. In reality, “Margaret B. Jones” is Margaret Seltzer, who grew up in the well-to-do Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles.

Faking a memoir seems to be a growing trend:

The revelations of Ms. Seltzer’s mendacity came in the wake of the news last week that a Holocaust memoir, “Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years” by Misha Defonseca, was a fake, and perhaps more notoriously, two years ago James Frey, the author of a best-selling memoir, “A Million Little Pieces,” admitted that he had made up or exaggerated details in his account of his drug addiction and recovery.

Seltzer’s identity was revealed when her sister saw an article with accompanying photo in a New York Times article last week and notified the book’s publisher, Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Group USA, that the story was untrue. Seltzer had worked on the book for three years with Riverhead editor Sarah McGrath. Seltzer’s sister wonders how a publisher could have worked so long on a project without doing any fact-checking.

The book also fooled several reviewers, including The New York Times‘s own Michiko Kakutani, who praised the “humane and deeply affecting memoir,” while noting that some of the scenes “can feel self-consciously novelistic at times.”

50 States of Literature: Heads in Hawaii | Columbia Spectator

50 States of Literature: Heads in Hawaii | Columbia Spectator

The Columbia Spectator heads to Hawaii with the novel Heads by Harry:

Lois-ann Yamanaka is exceptionally gifted at making the unusual and unsavory seem exotic and entrancing—taxidermy is “true art, not a painting or poem, inaccurate and prone to interpretation, but breathing life into flesh drawing breath.” She also renders the Hawaiian landscape as something beyond simply lush. Instead, it is a land full of diverse elements and peoples.

Author Phyllis Whitney Dies at Age 104

Prolific American author Phyllis A. Whitney has died in Virginia at the age of 104. Although she did not write her first book until she was nearly 40, she published more than 100 short stories, 73 works of fiction, many magazine articles, and three books about how to write fiction (including Writing Juvenile Stories and Novels, 1976, and Guide to Fiction Writing, 1982).

Whitney was born in Japan and spent much of her early life in China, where her father worked. After his death when she was 15, she and her mother lived in Berkeley, California, and then in San Antonio, Texas. She got married in 1925 and gave birth to her only child, a daughter, in 1934.

Whitney began her career as an author with short stories. She supplemented her income from her stories by working in the Chicago Public Library’s children’s room, where she learned about children’s reading preferences. Her first books were A Star for Ann, 1941, and A Window for Julie, 1943, both of which were novels aimed at career information for girls. She also worked as children’s book editor for the Chicago Sun and, later, for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and taught a juvenile fiction writing course at New York University between 1947 and 1958.

Her third novel, Red Is for Murder, 1943, was a mystery. She continued to write mystery novels for both children and adults. She twice won the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award for the best children’s mystery story of the year.

In addition to her early life in Japan and China, Whitney traveled extensively. Locales such as the Philippines and Hawaii provided the setting for many of her novels.

Her last novel, Amethyst Dreams, was published in 1997. She was working on her autobiography at the time of her death.

Gatsby’s Green Light Beckons a New Set of Strivers – New York Times

Gatsby’s Green Light Beckons a New Set of Strivers – New York Times

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby continues to inspire urban youth, many of whom are immigrants, with its portrayal of the American dream. The book is still required reading in half the high schools in the U.S. It sells about half a million copies a year, mostly to high school and college students.

What accounts for the novel’s continuing popularity?

teachers at Boston Latin and other urban schools, say their students see in “Gatsby” glimmers of their own evolving identities and dreams. The students talk about the youthful characters — Gatsby; Daisy Buchanan, the married woman he loves; Tom, Daisy’s husband and a onetime Yale football star; and the narrator, Nick Carraway — as if they were classmates or celebrities.

50 States of Literatue: A Trip to Wild Alaska

50 States of Literatue: A Trip to Wild Alaska | Columbia Spectator

The Columbia Spectator is back, with its entry for Alaska,  The Man Who Swam With Beavers, a collection of short stories by Nancy Lord. “At the heart of the conservation debate, and with a population divided between Native Americans, recent locals, and businessmen, Alaska is a state at war with its elements—and this unique quality is what Lord’s stories capture best.”