Graphic Novel Review: This Place (150 Years Retold)

There may not be a more beautiful pushback against a prevailing cultural narrative than This Place (150 Years Retold), a collection of graphic stories that dig deep into the indigenous peoples of Canada, and all the myriad of ways their lands have been stolen from them, and their heritage, reduced.

I am neither Canadian nor indigenous to the soil I live on, so I openly profess much ignorance and little knowledge of the background of these stories. Alas, I can hear the echoes in the ways my own country has treated Native Indian tribes here, and in the ways other natives of other lands were treated when white Europeans stepped ashore and decided the land was theirs. The pattern of removal from communities, abuse in state-sponsored schools and foster homes, the theft of language, forced assimilation and more is a terribly familiar one.

It’s hard for me here to capture the powerful scope and artistic merit of this collection. So let me say that the variety of graphic novelists here — there are 10 different stories — have different styles — some more modern than others, even as they tell of ancient tales — that neatly connect together the narrative of a people constantly being pushed to the brink by the Canadian government.

The stories almost always center on the people, and the mystical nature of people and the land come through in ways that tap into the creative power of comics and graphic arts. The medium does justice to the stories, as the stories inspire the push at the edges of the medium.

The editors also enacted a brilliant move to complement the stories. They included a running timeline that begins in the 1860s and stretches to the current day by the last story (which is a look ahead into the future of the tribes). I learned more about Canada than I ever knew. What emerges in this collection is a love of tribal nations, the skills of powerful tribal leaders, and a love of the land and of the past, even as both are systematically encroached upon with relentless might of the government.

This Place (150 Years Retold) is appropriate for high school students and older, and it would be a powerful supplement to any historical inquiry into Canada as a nation, or to a study of native people pushing back against assimilation. In the ideal world, this graphic novel collection would not even be the supplement, at all, but would be the main text. But I know that day is probably still far off from this day. Until then, linger on the stories.

Peace (in the lands and people),
Kevin

Annotated Sound Files: Turning Terry’s Poem into Song

Terry Poem Song Annotated

Yesterday, I shared the song I created after reading Terry’s poem. This morning, after reading some lovely comments from him about process and time and effort, I went back into my sound project and began to annotate where his words influenced what sounds. I found it a useful bit of reflection and I suspect Terry might find it a bit intriguing, too.

Note: Shrinking the project to see all the tracks made everything tiny. Apologies.

Read yesterday’s post to better understand the annotations

Peace (sounds like dawn),
Kevin

Words Translated Into Song

My friend, Terry, posted a beautiful poem of a morning with his wife, on the porch, at his blog on his birthday. I read it a few times and thought I could just hear the glimmers of a song simmering below the surface of this lines. Luckily, I had some time to make just that — a song interpretation of Terry’s poem, with sound files, beats, loops and small snippets of his poem (read by me).

What I find interesting is how I was both trying to capture my own feeling of reading Terry’s words but also being intentional in taking it in a new direction. If you read his poem, you should hear some of his moments. You may also wonder what I was thinking, as you listen to other elements. Mostly, I was trying to capture the heartbeat of his piece.

Doing this kind of work brings you deeper into the text, a closer kind of reading. Every word has the possibility of something to give. I hope Terry enjoys the interpretation, left for him as a gift for his birthday.

Peace (in song),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Noticing the Days

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

When the Winter Solstice hit us last month, my wife made note that the days would start getting longer again. Then I forgot. Yesterday, I noticed, and remembered. I was driving my son to track practice at a time about 30 minutes later than usual, and the day still had light. A few weeks ago, we would have been drenched in the dark of the short day/long night.

I pointed this out to my son — this observation of more daylight — and he looked out the window of the car, nodded, and that was that. But I kept my eye on the trees, the lawns, the people, the clouds across the blue sky. It’s still the heart of winter, no doubt, but the day pushing itself larger is a sign that somewhere down the road, spring awaits us.

And there will be plenty of sunshine and daylight to see it.

Peace (in the view),
Kevin

Gathering Quotes Together: NCTE Definition of Digital Literacy

I’m slowly reading and digesting, and appreciating, the National Council of Teachers of English revised definition of Literacy in a Digital Age, and I am appreciating the depth of the inquiry.

This is the final post, with a curated collection of quotes from the various aspects of the definition of digital literacies that I have been taking a closer look at over the last few months.

Peace (in words and beyond),
Kevin

Explaining Mastodon and the Federated Networking Space

I am still pretty active over on Mastodon social network, but I know some folks either don’t know about the federated social networking space (a kinder, safer, more thoughtful alternative to Twitter and Facebook and more) or ask, Is Mastodon still around? It sure is.

I saw this video and thought it would be helpful for anyone wondering what Mastodon is, and how to envision a federated network (basically, the network is a series of networks, all hosted by users and connected via hubs … there is no Mastodon corporation trying to leverage your activity for advertising money).

See this piece by Laura Kalbag about questions/answers about Mastodon and then, if interested, maybe jump here to get started with the Mastodon Quick Start guide. 

Peace (dispersed but connected),
Kevin

(find me on Mastodon, too)

Further Defining Digital Literacies: Amplifying Language and Experience

Defining Digital Literacies NCTE amplifyI’m slowly reading and digesting, and appreciating, the National Council of Teachers of English revised definition of Literacy in a Digital Age, and I am appreciating the depth of the inquiry.

In this last section of the definition of literacy, which centers on how literacy and digital tools can amplify one’s multicultural heritage and stories in the world, I am struck by the guiding questions:

  • Do learners have opportunities to utilize digital texts and tools to validate their existence and lived experiences?
  • Do learners have opportunities to connect them with their textual and historical lineage and narratives?
  • Do learners explore and critique the premises, myths, and stereotypes that are often held by the dominant culture?
  • Do learners have space in the curriculum to support positive racial and ethnic identity development while pushing back against marginalized narratives?
  • Do learners have opportunities to increase engagement with reading and other academic subjects?
  • Do learners have access to images and narratives of multilingual identities and cultures from marginalized communities?
  • Do learners have space in the curriculum to provide healing from the damages to marginalized communities?

These are the topics of our times, as many schools and universities grapple with how to expand the traditional canon and incorporating the stories and learning of diverse cultures, and our students, themselves. The section uses the phrase of “variations of language” in an interesting way, pushing us to consider the quilt of human experience.

Thinking of my own teaching/classroom environment, I often admittedly feel woefully inadequate in this topic, even though I know I have been systematically trying to expand the aspects of literacy with my sixth graders, with different kinds of texts and a wider sense of story and characters.

When I think of how this sense of student agency and empowerment might connect to digital tools and literacy instruction, it seems to me that all students could do more with mapping projects to analyze the world, with creating audio and video projects to project voice and agency, with image and infographics, with writing and publishing their own diverse stories into the world. Such projects would validate their experiences and remind us all that there is not, nor never has been, one single story.

We are multitudes, to twist Whitman a bit.

Peace (amplified),
Kevin

Book Review: Book Love (Comics by Debbie Tung)

A few years ago, I reviewed a book called Book Love by Penny Kittle, which is all about how to instill a love of reading in students. It’s a wonderful book, full of insights and wisdom and ideas. And perfectly titled.

Along comes Book Love, by Debbie Tung, which is a collection of comics about loving books (and tea), from the view of a passionate reader and collector of books, and self-described introvert. And perfectly titled.

I love that we all love books so much. Tung’s small book collection of her comics explores her passion about stories and reading. I saw myself in way too many of her comics, but maybe that is not a bad thing. Each page here is a different comic, and most come from her Tumblr site, focused on books and tea (she loves to drink tea when she reads).

Here, you see her character (her) refusing to pass by a bookstore without either gawking at the window or going in (and coming out with a book or two or three). You see her praising libraries as the most perfect public space imaginable. You see her passing books to friends (and worrying that the books won’t get returned). You see her bringing books with her everywhere … just in case a minute or two frees up for some reading.  You see her worrying that movie versions of books she loves will ruin the stories and characters in her head. You see her choosing paper books over digital books, for the tangible nature of bound stories (and her fascination with the smell of real books).

If you’re like me, you see yourself.

Book Love is a quick read, but a lovely one.

Peace (beyond books),
Kevin

Digital Poem: Tales of Fallen Stars

I’ve been working a few days on this digital piece, that merges an original piece of music I created with a poem, and then complimentary video. Overall, I’m happy with the results.

Happy new year!

Peace (falling and catching),
Kevin