NEW: Share the joy of books, reading in “Off the Shelf”

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Welcome to our new book review feature, “Off the Shelf.” Open to any book reader who wants to share your thoughts on how you’re affected by what you read, Off the Shelf is also led by decades-long voracious reader and personal reading activist Cathy Chavez, who will provide a monthly review. Take a look at Chavez’s first review, on an award-winning book from July 2019. BOOK: “The Nickel Boys” AUTHOR: Colson Whitehead ABOUT THE BOOK: Historical and literary fiction of 213 pages, released in July 2019 RATING: 5 Stars REVIEWED…

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“Letter to Lori:” transgender man reaches back in time to former self

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Dear Lori, I know things are rough right now. I know that every day carries such an overwhelming feeling of dread and confusion. I know you’re afraid to go to school, that you feel sick every morning and think it’s hopeless, like it’s never going to stop hurting. I know it seems like the taunts will never stop, the things other students, even teachers, say to you. Things like “Amazon,” dyke, freak, linebacker, or lezzie. Like they’ll never stop asking you things like,  “Why can’t you just stop trying to…

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High school writers connect across chasms with Page Poetry Contest

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IOWA CITY — With the 2020 murder of George Floyd, and the trial of the officer who killed him, a program I started as a high school writing program has become an escape, an outlet, and a way to deal for the young writers who are participating. Page Poetry Contest Winners from IC Speaks Over the past year, IC Speaks and our members have dealt with a pandemic, and an explosion of political conversation happening worldwide. In some cases, I had BIPOC students writing pieces about the anger and pain…

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Warhol numbs, Dylan Kelly makes us care: two Scholastic Art Award winners then, now

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This is a case of a lesson learned, and then unlearned. Some years ago, as a high school art teacher, I learned to withhold praise for personal styles in student work. Teens, not fully formed in mind or body, will stay with the praised style, hesitant to explore other ways of working. Andy Warhol embodied this behavior. TEEN WARHOL Hyperallergic Magazine reported on teen art at NY’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, a display of students who had won this year’s 90-year-old Scholastic Art Awards. The magazine mentioned that Warhol won the same award…

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Trans kids (and everyone): don’t listen to Caitlyn Jenner, misinformed fallen hero

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That collective groan you heard recently? It was the transgender community nationwide learning Caitlyn Jenner launched her bid for Governor of California. That whistling kettle-like sound you also heard? It was our collective anger boiling over when she said this weekend, “It’s a question of fairness, that why I propose that biological boys that are trans competing in girls’ sports in school…it just isn’t fair, and we have to protect girls’ sports in our schools.” When a reporter asked Jenner if her views de-legitimized trans girls’ identities, she ran away.…

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Jay Wallerich: “I’m Empty Reality”

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“I’m Empty Reality” by Jay Wallerich My mind leaks empty reality; Onto these pages it spills Freely, Chaotically, Endlessly. Something profound festers inside but I have no words to work off of. The madness stays within. I feel need to explain the process in which my thoughts are growing from But my tongue is tangled in the weeds My teeth chipped from rocks, My lips dry from the dirt. Words become utterly useless. What is it called when one’s self is overfilling? Being held above oxygen level, looking down upon…

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Aidan Spurgetis: “Out of Sight”

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“Out of Sight” by Aidan Spurgetis He lost the staring contest because the stucco ceiling had too many eyes. He sat up stretched and yawned. It had been two days since his apocalypse and he brushed his teeth. The arm moved in the old pattern like an explosive jackhammer stinging the edge of his gums. It wasn’t self-punishment only habit. He didn’t know how long he brushed but he stopped when it felt right. He lost the staring contest with the mirror because he had water in his eye. and…

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“Kindness Queers,” “queerantine kits” brighten LGBTQIA youths’ lives during pandemic

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CHAMPAIGN, ILL. — When Anna Peters and her business partner at the Art Coop began to think about how the pandemic might affect LGBTQIA children, they became worried. And then, inspired. Peters and co-owner Hilary Pope, along with Pope’s art teacher partner, realized they were already equipped to help with the arts resources all around them in the Coop, founded in 1971. The result, quickly, was 250 “queerantine kits” filled with art supplies out the door to “Kindness Queers,” who are LGBTQIA youngsters who may not have access to arts…

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“Justice for Breonna Taylor” inspires events throughout Iowa, Illinois

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Events are coming together quickly throughout Iowa and Illinois to honor the late Breonna Taylor, the Louisville victim of a police raid shooting earlier this year. Racial justice events are happening tonight in Decatur and Elgin, Ill; tomorrow (Saturday) in Belleville, Ill., and Davenport, Iowa; and next week in West Branch, Davenport and Cedar Rapids in Iowa. The events are organized by many of the social justice groups that have become more familiar since June, Advocates for Social Justice in Cedar Rapids and We FIGHT in Davenport. Online events about racial justice are growing almost daily, and you’ll find several highlighted in the…

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