Ronit & Jamil… & my disappointment

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I usually don’t write about books I didn’t love. I get very uncomfortable using my (modest) platform in a negative way, or even a less than positive way. But I feel like I need to make an exception in the case of Ronit & Jamil by Pamela L. Laskin.

I was so excited about this book. The subject matter spoke to me on so many levels that I was almost bursting at the seams when I got it.

Ronit & Jamil is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet (get it?) set in present-day Israel. In this version, the star-crossed lovers are an Israeli daughter of a pharmacist and the Palestinian son of a doctor. And the whole story is told in verse or poems written by the protagonists.

I want to be clear: I didn’t hate this novel, I was just disappointed with it.

I wanted Ronit & Jamil to be amazing. I wanted it to move me and make me think. Sadly, it did not.

I mostly just felt that Laskin was hindered by the narrative structure she chose. The subject matter is so dense and so charged that a series of poems felt like a disservice. There is only so much a person can related in 14 lines of rhyming couplets.

I also felt, too often, that Laskin’s personal voice and politics weaseled their way into the text, making it difficult to believe the characters.

But I think the thing that was most upsetting to me was that it was clear in the writing that she was not actually from the region. She did a lot of research, that was evident. But you could tell she didn’t really know. It was in little things. It was in Ronit only knowing one Israeli singer, and it being the one who sings in English. In was in Ronit living in Ma’ale Adumim and saying it’s in the West Bank (regardless of whether it is or not, no one who lives there would say that). It was in Jamil quoting classic Muslim poets but no contemporary ones. At a time when so much emphasis is put on diversity in publishing, on authors of colour writing characters of colour, it felt out of place to have an outsider write something that requires an insider’s understanding.

I felt that Laskin skimmed the surface of a subject that deserved much more. Her book left me starving for more and I am eager to find it. We need more stories like these, stories that acknowledge the difficult reality we live in but recognize the glimmer of hope. But we need these stories to dig deep, to go the extra mile and represent the issues, we can’t just slap flowery language on the ugly bits and call it a day.

So no, I didn’t love Ronit & Jamil. But (!!) I urge you to read this book. You can do it in an hour (though that is another issue I have with it). Read it with an open mind and then please tell me what you think. And if you feel so moved, do me a favour and write your own version on our Write It blog because we need more stories about this and things like it.

Get Job-Ready, Recent Grads

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Hello my recent grads! With school just around the corner for everyone but you, you’re bound to be thinking about your next steps! NPower Canada is a non-profit organization that provides free industry-certified IT skills training, career development, and life skills support, as well as paid internships and job placement opportunities for underserved youth who have an interest working in technology. If this sounds like the kind of opportunity you’ve been waiting for, check out the application process here! Remember, no prior IT knowledge or skills are necessary. Good luck, and good luck with your futures!

End of Summer Escape Room Party!

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Good bye summer, hello GoPro!

This summer’s Teen Summer Reading Challenge asked the teens of Vaughan to read as much as they could and to complete a new mission each week, such as review a book in 150 characters, or make a video of yourself singing the national anthem! What did you guys think of the missions this year?

 

As a whole, you guys read 286,889 pages and completed 157 missions! Way to go! All summer long we gave away amazing prizes, but our grand prize winner, Ofrie, received her brand new GoProHero5 camera on August 26 at our End of Summer Escape Room Party. And yes, Ofrie escaped the room!

 

 

Week of Geek: Only Inhuman after all…

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Hiya Geeklings!  How are the last days of summer going?  Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s almost over.  Get as much fun in as you can!  We’re in the last week for the Teen Summer Reading Challenge so keep reading, keep up those missions and our End of Summer Party is THIS SATURDAY!  Sign up here!

Also, how about that eclipse this week, huh?  The sun was a crescent!  How cool was that?!  It blew my fragile little mind!

Speaking of the moon (bit of a flimsy segue, but bear with me), there’s a new addition to the MCU coming out next week in theaters before premiering on television this fall.  Check it out!

(I say bravo to their marketing department for using Rag’N’Bone Man‘s “Human” for that second trailer.  It worked perfectly.)

The Inhumans are an interesting group of Marvel characters with a rich and somewhat complicated history.  In short, their ancestors were once full fledged humans, who were experimented on by the Kree (we meet those guys in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie).  Most of the Inhumans went on to create their own society, though some broke away and mingled with regular humans, creating descendants on earth that have no idea they’re part Inhuman (this became a pretty big plot point in the show Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD).  The thing that reveals if someone is an Inhuman is something called Terrigen Mist.  When an Inhuman is exposed to this mist it triggers their latent powers.

The Inhumans who created their own society in the city Attilan on the moon (that’s right, the moon) have a Royal Family, who tend to be the main characters of any Inhuman storyline.  This family consists of…

Black Bolt: Full name Blackagar Boltagon, and he’s the King of the Inhumans.  He’s always been a fascinating character to me; he’s the ruler of an entire people, despite not being able to say a word.  He can’t, because his voice creates shock-waves that can cause serious damage.  A whisper is enough to knock the Hulk off his feet.  A shout will level an entire city.  As such, he does most of his speaking through other means like sign language, body language…

and spokespeople, including through his wife…

Medusa: Full name Medusalith Amaquelin Boltagon, Queen of the Inhumans.  Her power is in her long red hair, where every strand acts as an extra appendage.

Maximus: Full name Maximus Boltagon.  He’s Black Bolt’s brother and a prince.  From what we’ve seen in those first trailers, and considering how he gets the moniker Maximus the Mad at some point in the comics, the dude is definitely trouble.

Crystal: Full name Crystalia Amaquelin, she’s Medusa’s sister, a princess and she can manipulate natural elements.

Gorgon: Full name Gorgon Petragon, he’s a cousin of Black Bolt and head of Attilan’s military.  He has hooves instead of feet and they can create shock-waves.

Karnak: Full name Karnak Mander-Azur, also known as the Shatterer, he’s a cousin and adviser to Black Bolt.  He stands out amongst the Inhumans in that he opted NOT to be exposed to the mists, and instead decided to be the most formidable martial arts master all on his own.  Good on him.

Triton: Full name Triton Mander-Azur, he’s another cousin of Black Bolt, as well as Karnak’s brother.  He looks a little… aquatic, and that’s because he has the ability to breathe underwater, as well as other skills.

Lockjaw: He’s a larger-than-average dog.  A teleporting larger-than-average dog.  Really, what more do you need to know?

Got them all straight?  If not, no worries.  You can read more about them in books like War of Kings, the Secret Invasion storyline, World War Hulk and in the Ms. Marvel series.

That’s all for now True Believers.  Keep working on the TSRC, stay tuned for more news and until next time, End of Line.

FINAL WEEK FOR TEEN SUMMER READING CHALLENGE! AND THERE’S A PARTY!

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Hiya guys!  LAST WEEK OF TSRC STARTS TODAY!  We’re at the finish line so keep reading those books and logging those pages!  Our last two missions are Random Word Poetry and Deciphering Canadian English so pop into your local branch and give ’em a try!  You got this!

And don’t forget to sign up for the party, happening a week today at the Bathurst-Clark branch!  After all your hard work this summer you deserve some partying!  And room escaping!

And for one more book list, how about we keep it short and sweet… with a list of short stories.  See what I did there?  Enjoy!