Erin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian: Hello, I’m Erin Kernohan-Berning from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is Library Moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library.
August 12th was designated International Youth Day by the UN as a day to focus on issues affecting youth around the world. This month for our online book club we have selected four young adult novels that portray different youth experiences. We have a book about indigenous Alaskans subjected to forced assimilation in a Catholic boarding school, a book about a boy growing up in a small town and struggling with his sexual identity, a girl who after growing up in a western culture is thrust into a forced marriage in Pakistan, and twins – one neurotypical and one with autism – struggling with their impending separation as they move on to new phases in their lives.
Today on Library Moments Bessie Sullivan and I will each talk about a novel featured in our online book club.
Bessie Sullivan, County Librarian: In Are you seeing me? By Darren Groth, twins Justine and Perry are about to embark on the road trip of a lifetime in the Pacific Northwest. It’s been a year since they watched their dad lose his battle with cancer. Now, at only nineteen, Justine is the sole care giver for her disabled brother. But with Perry having been accepted into an assisted-living residence, their reliance on each other is set to shift. Before they go their separate ways, they’re seeking to create the perfect memory.
For Perry, the trip is a glorious celebration of his favourite things: mythical sea monsters, Jackie Chan movies and the study of earthquakes. For Justine, it’s a chance to reconcile the decision to ‘free’ her twin, to see who she is without her boyfriend, Marc – and to offer their mother the chance to atone for past wrongs. Written in alternating sections from each twin’s perspective, the book gives insight about what it’s like to live with a person who has what Justine calls a “brain condition,” or what it’s like to be that person yourself. Justine is too young to have been thrust into the position of full-time caregiver and the book grapples with not only her deep love for the brother she cares for but also resentment towards the mother who abandoned them both when they were four years old. Young Adult fiction can take on some pretty hard hitting issues that young people are facing, this was a great example of a sensitively thought out story that will help any reader develop empathy.
Erin: In Secrets of the Henna Girl by Sufiya Ahmed, Zeba Khan has grown up in the UK and is just like any other British teenager – waiting for her exam marks, and anticipating going to university. When her parents decide to take her on a vacation to their hometown in Pakistan, Zeba has no idea the trouble she will be thrown into. While there, her uncle holds her father to a promise to protect his son Asif who is in the military. With unrest in the country, the only way to get Asif out of the military is to have him marry a Zeba and send him off to Britain. But Zeba rejects this, and soon becomes a pawn in the family’s politics, with saving her father’s honour now more important than her own self-determination. She ultimately finds herself subjected to the prospect of a forced marriage and few allies to save her.
Sufiya Ahmed has worked as a researcher in the British government, and stories of other forced marriages inspired her to write Secrets of the Henna Girl. A distinction she makes clear in the book is the difference between arranged marriages – where two potential spouses are introduced to one another but ultimately both have to agree to the marriage; and forced marriages – where one is forced – often through physical and emotional abuse – into a marriage unwillingly, an outdated and largely illegal practice. The problem of forced marriage is prevalent enough that there are organizations and government resources devoted to rescuing people from forced marriages – which can happen in every culture. Secrets of the Henna Girl has been lauded as a good introduction to those unfamiliar with this practice which still occurs around the world.
Anyone can participate in Haliburton County Public Library’s Online Book Club by choosing to read one or more of four books selected each month. You don’t even have to read from a particular month’s selection you can just go online and make comments about books and reading in general. September’s theme will be Teachers.
To join the online book club, look for the Social Media links on our homepage at www.haliburtonlibrary.ca. Click on the “g” for Goodreads and it’ll take you right to the Online Book Club page. That’s it for this week’s Library Moments thanks for listening here on 100.9 Canoe FM.
*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM August 28th – September 3rd, 2016.