Booktalking “American Predator: the Hunt For the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century” by Maureen Callahan

Israel Keyes studied those who were similar to himself. For example, he described Ted Bundy as his “hero,” and he relished in the murders of other serial killers. He was also very intrigued by the people who hunt serial killers, especially Roy Hazelwood and John E. Douglas. Both were FBI agents in the Behavioral Analysis Unit. Israel used this info to avoid getting caught. He used the info about how police forces solved the crimes to learn how to avoid leaving traceable evidence. He wanted to succeed at his horrible acts so that he could continue his hobby unperturbed.

His library of books and DVDs about dastardly acts was extensive… and the cops read and watched every single one of these helpful pieces of evidence. Keyes was smart enough to leave a bunch of false clues. One step he took to make identifying bodies difficult was dismembering them. He also triple-bagged the body parts in plastic in order to contain the blood and avoid leaking DNA. Keyes constructed and buried “kill kits” in the areas where he planned to act.

Israel Keyes grew up in an off-the-grid cabin in the state of Washington. He had nine siblings, and he lived in poverty. His parents were Mormons at first, then they joined a white-supremacist church. The boy did not have many friends as a child, and when he found some, a pair of brothers, they also became killers as adults. Keyes enjoyed sojourns into the woods to shoot animals, one of whom was his sister’s cat. He developed some awareness of his differentness due to the horror of other kids at his violent tendencies.

Keyes liked taking things from other people, whether it was money, their autonomy and/or their lives. he enjoyed robbing banks in small towns because it was easier to succeed. He enjoyed kidnapping people and then demanding ransom. He raped, tortured, and killed people of all genders and ages. His only preference was “lightweight.” He tracked the progress of law enforcement on his crimes.

Israel Keyes was not a person that you wanted to meet alone in a dark alley. You probably did not want him to work on your house either. Some customers of his company, Keyes construction in Anchorage, Alaska, were a bit weirded out by him.

American Predator: the Hunt For the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century by Maureen Callahan, 2019

This was an intriguing read; I first saw mention of this case on the 48 Hours TV show.

Maureen Callahan’s web site

John Douglas’ web site

Books on serial killers


Booktalking “Call Me By My Name” by John Ed Bradley

It is 1969 in segregated Louisiana.

Tatum (aka “Tater”) Henry begins playing football at a “white” field. Why? It is two miles closer to his home than the “black” field. The stares and comments that he receives are incessant, but he loves the game and so he perseveres. Rodney decides that he likes Tater, as well, and the teammates become friends. Then, desegregation of education commences. Suddenly, there are many black and white players on the team at school. There, Tater meets a girl that he likes.

That girl, Angie, is Rodney’s twin sister.

Rodney never thought that he would have a problem with his sibling dating a black guy, but he cannot stop thinking about it. Their father is explicitly racist, and their mother does not like the situation, either. However, Angie is devoted to Tater. She speaks to him every day on the phone, and she luxuriates in his attention. Angie continually fears that her father will insist that she end the relationship. She loves seeing Tatum in school and spending time with him in class.

Relations between the twins have been tense since Tatum and Angie’s relationship started. They used to feel that they knew each other so well. Now, Angie wants to spend time only with Tatum. She no longer shows Rodney her art. The inside of the car on the way to school is filled with silence. Matching T-shirts that they received as birthday gifts have never been worn. There is a schism between them that will take some healing.

Call Me By My Name by John Ed Bradley, 2014

This is an excellent novel about interracial relationships.

Books on interracial relationships


Booktalking “Black Klansman: Race, Hate and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime” by Ron Stallworth

A black cop infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Unbelievable, right? Wrong. On a lark, Ron Stallworth responded to a recruitment ad for the Knights in the local Colorado Springs newspaper. He did not expect a response. He used his real name because he figured that the ad was the work of a prankster. Imagine the cop’s surprise when he received a phone call from Ken, the local organizer of the “Organization.” Ken inquired as to the reason for the man’s interest in the group. He also asked if Stallworth was Jewish and if he hated Black people. A no and yes, response, respectively were necessary in order to gain admittance to the group. 

So it happened that Stallworth handled the back end of the investigation, handling the phones whenever Klan members wished to speak to him. To make a believable front end, he enlisted the assistance of his white colleague, Chuck, to appear for in-person meetings. There was constant communication between the two to ensure that conversations could pick up exactly where they left off. Chuck listened to all conversations between Stallworth and the Klan, and vice versa. How the Klan members never noticed the change in voice from telephone to in-person is beyond all of the those involved.

This was an intelligence operation, not a sting operation, so no arrests occurred. However, cross burnings were thwarted and police departments in other localities received warnings of planned Klan activities, such as marches. Though the operation started with simply one undercover officer, Stallworth was able to obtain approval for more officers, and two officers became sworn Klansman in the pursuit of knowledge of the organization. They were able to obtain indoctrinating literature and propaganda that was produced by the Klan. Even the Colorado Springs police force tried to destroy all evidence that this operation even occurred. The only reason that this activity came to light is that Stallworth illicitly removed some of the case evidence from the police force since the investigation is of such import to our society.

Klan philosophy is as follows, and members must swear to uphold these policies. Klan activities and conversations must be kept secret. It is important to publicly profess racial justice and nonviolence, saying that the Klan is a proponent of racial segregation. Interestingly, the KKK originated in 1865, immediately after the banning of slavery. Members of “The Cause” should not use ethnic slurs in public. They agree to participate in Klan activities, such as cross burnings and marches in full robes with only the eyes cut out. They belong to a den and socialize with a few members outside of meetings. They agree to recruit other members, which they frequently do by claiming that a black man raped their wife. Since 1954, the “Cause” or “Organization,” as it is referred to in public seeks to find members to run for political office in order to advance its agenda of their belief of racial superiority of white people. David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Klan, changed his political affiliation from Democrat to Republican, and is a former Louisiana state representative. Incidentally, Trump was purportedly endorsed by the KKK.

Some facts about the KKK:

1. They profess to dislike Jewish and Hispanic people, yet one member had a Mexican wife.

2. They are not supposed to converse with plainclothes police officers, yet it is difficult to know when police are undercover.

3. The membership card of “The Knights” contains these rules and more.

Black Klansman: Race, Hate and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime by Ron Stallworth, 2014

Stallworth is brilliant, and he did a fantastic job exposing the hate-filled Klan for what it is. This cop is so admirable because he took the evidence of this investigation into his home against orders to destroy it. He risked his career in order to expose the KKK for the horror that it is. It was most definitely difficult to slog through the hate and cruelty that filled these pages.

Books about the KKK

Ron Stallworth’s web site


Booktalking “You Have a Brain” by Ben Carson

Sonya Carson had a third grade education, she married at age 13, and she had two boys, Ben and Curtis. The lady was abandoned by her husband when her sons were eight and ten years old. The family lived in abject poverty, and the mother had to work two or three jobs during Ben’s childhood to support the family. The kids spent the afternoons and evenings either at home or at the local public library. They helped with the laundry and other household chores. Sometimes, the mother would drop the kids with relatives for a couple of weeks in order to deal with her debilitating depression.

Above all else, Sonya believed in her kids’ ability to succeed in life and accomplish whatever they wanted to. She demanded good grades from them, and she insisted that they read. After this snowball was started with Ben, it formed an avalanche. Ben’s brain was ignited by the knowledge that lay between the covers of books. Reading opened up his world to possibilities that he had not dreamt existed. Ben loves science, and once he showed a rock collection to a teacher, he felt smart at school. His dream was to become a doctor.

Despite his exemplary grades in high school, Ben struggled at Yale University. He was used to barely studying, then cramming at the last minute and still achieving stellar grades. That strategy did not work so well in the ivy league. It took him almost flunking a class for him to start studying by reading notes. He discovered how he learned best, and he capitalized on his strengths.

Ben learned that he had good hand-eye coordination, which was necessary for surgeons to possess. He decided that he had what it takes to become a neurosurgeon. Although some doubted his choice, due to racism or snobbery, he eventually successfully separated twins who were conjoined at the head. Both of the twins survived and recovered. He credits his mother with teaching him to shrug off the insecurities and bigotry of others because it is their problem. Hard work and using his brain got him through Yale, medical school and propelled him to the great height of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under the Trump administration.

Ben Carson can do anything that he puts his mind to.

You have a brain: a teen’s guide to T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G. by Ben Carson, 2015

I have heard Dr. Carson speak, and I was fascinated to read this memoir.

Books about neuroscience


Booktalking “19 Love Songs” by David Levithan

Quiz bow crush: aka an unarticulated crush on Damien.

Valentine’s Day with mom as an eight-year-old: red hearts everywhere, even the tomato sauce on top of a cheese pizza.

Being Santa Claus for your boyfriend’s kid sister: then, being outed by your boyfriend’s other sister.

Telling prince stories to your lover at night who lost his job and a loved one within weeks of each other.

Stealing kisses with your boyfriend while his parents are at home… and getting away with it.

Love takes many forms, whether it be poetry, discovering that you have a crush on someone that you did not realize, or cozying up with your mom on a happy Feb 14. Love is exciting. Stuffing yourself into a silly costume to make your boyfriend’s sister’s dream come true. Bring vestiges from your childhood back up to comfort your lover who seems so sad after he has lost so much. Sneaking around and finding time to make out without parents catching you in the art is an art form in itself.

Red, pink, purple and blue designate different emotions and feelings, different facets of love. Red for a hot, burning, sensual desire. Pink for sweet affection and kisses. Purple for the stormy hurt that occurs in relationships, whether it heals or not. Blue for loss and sadness that people hopefully eventually get over.

Words and letters like windows into one’s soul.

19 love songs.

Pick your favorites.

19 Love Songs by David Levithan, 2020

I started reading this book during covid in one city, and I finished it in another. As always, Levithan’s creativity never fails to amaze me. I love the cover art.

David Levithan’s web site


What Most People Don’t Know

The inventor of the wooden golf tee began his education in Oswego and was one of the first children to use the Oswego Public Library. In 1857 George Franklin Grant was 11 when the library opened here in our Castle on the Hill.

George Franklin Grant recognized by golf

Born in 1800, Tudor Elandor Grant, the father of George Franklin Grant, was a runaway slave from Maryland who settled in Oswego in 1832. When George was young, Tudor had a barber shop in the basement of the Welland Building and later in the Buckhout-Jones Building where the Children’s Museum of Oswego now resides. Tudor worked tirelessly to free slaves and outlaw slavery. The Grant family lived at 134 W. Bridge St. where George was one of seven children.

George began work at 15 as an errand boy for a local dentist and soon became the lab assistant, learning the basics of a dental practice. In 1867 George moved to Boston graduating from Harvard Dental School in 1870 — the second African American dental graduate in the country. Dr. George Grant went on to be the first African American faculty member at Harvard. He pioneered the treatment of cleft palates, an opening in the roof of the mouth, inventing an oblate palate prosthesis. The oblate palate helped patients around the world eat and speak well.

When he left Harvard, Dr. George Grant opened his own successful dental practice treating patients from as far away as Michigan. He also invented the wooden golf tee in 1899 which was made in an Arlington Heights shop. In Game of Privilege: An African American History of Golf, George’s daughter Frances is quoted as saying “My father had burlap bags of golf tees, but he gave them away instead of selling them.”–george-grant-and-evolution-of-the-golf-tee-.html (link is external)


Booktalking “Taking Flight: From War Orphan To Star Ballerina” by Michaela DePrince

Mabinty Bangura loved her family dearly. Born in Sierra Leone, her mother and father adored her and were sweet to her. Despite the poverty in which they lived and the war crimes that enveloped their community, the girl appreciated her good fortune. Then tragedy struck. Many men in the village were killed by war rebels. Even worse, her mother died soon after of an untreated medical condition. The girl’s unfriendly uncle then delivered her to the doorstep of an orphanage. 

There, Mabinty met Mabinty, and they become the best of friends.

Mabinty Suma took Mabinty Bangura under her wing at the facility. The two friends played together, and they invited others into their games. The aunties who cared for them were cruel to the kids, though. One of the aunties forced a younger child to urinate on Mabinty’s face while she was sleeping. She awoke sputtering and gagging. War surrounded the kids’ daily lives; it constantly made its presence known, and it was a reality that was impossible to forget. One day, Teacher Sarah seemed nervous about the perilous walk home. However, she convinced Mabinty that she would be fine. The young girl then watched as war rebels murdered her teacher in front of her.

The guiding light of all of the kids in the orphanage was that they were going to America to live with families. They received “family books” that had photographs of their parents, siblings, pets and explanations of what their lives would be like there. Except… Mabinty did not receive a family book. M. Suma said that maybe she could join her family. Unbelievably enough, that is exactly what ended up happening.

Elaine and Charles DePrince adopted Mabinty and Mabinty, soon to be renamed Mia and Michaela. Michaela had wanted to dance ever since she saw an elegant ballerina on the cover of a dance magazine in Sierra Leone. In Pennsylvania, her dream came true. She and Mia took tap and ballet lessons. While Mia gravitated towards tap and music, Michaela was entranced with the elegance of ballet. The young girl longed to dance on her tippy toes, and one day that opportunity presented itself. Michaela was thrilled to try on her first pair of pointe shoes. The rest is history.

Taking flight: From War Orphan To Star Ballerina by Michaela DePrince, 2014

I loved this story of a young woman who went through so much and cheated death so many times. She is an amazing woman and a fantastic ballerina.

Books about dance

Michaela DePrince’s web site


Booktalking “My Story” by Elizabeth Smart

In 2002, Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her bedroom in Utah in the middle of a night by a stranger at knife-point. The girl was terrified and feared for her life.

For the next nine months, she would come to know the following well:








Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, teamed up to make her life a living hell. The trio camped in the woods, and Smart experienced unbearable heat, unsanitary living conditions, boring days and long monologues of prophetizing by “Immanuel.” The teen was chained inside the tent and raped almost daily.

When pushed enough by his wife, Mitchell would bring the two females into town to scavenge for and steal food. They wore veils, and Elizabeth was too frightened to attempt to flee. Mitchell repeatedly warned her that he would kill her entire family if she attempted to escape. Smart was happy to be getting out of the camp and hopeful that someone would recognize her and report it to the authorities. However, she always returned to camp somewhat dispirited. Mostly, the people they saw treated them with repugnance and disgust since they were unclean and malodorous.

Then, Mitchell got spooked by a cop in the local library who wanted Elizabeth to remove her veil. The captor sited religious obligation as a reason for refusal. Eventually, the police officer walked away, and Mitchell gloated about the incident later at the camp. So, they moved to California after finding enough money for bus tickets. They stayed for six months and spent their time looking for food and shelter. An extreme weather event was interpreted by Mitchell as a sign that they needed to move again. Elizabeth claimed that God had told her that they should return to Salt Lake City. Mitchell, amazingly enough, decided that she was correct.

Mitchell, Wanda and Elizabeth alternately walked and hitchhiked the 736 miles between the cities. The trek was physically exhausting. They walked with heavy packs in the blistering sun, often going a day without food or water. Eventually, the surroundings became familiar. When they were 20 minutes from her house, the teen became hopeful. This hope was dashed to the crushing dread that they were returning to the high camp in the mountains behind Elizabeth’s house. As they were walking towards the mountains, a cop car spotted them. More cars quickly surrounded them, and the trio was questioned separately.

My Story by Elizabeth Smart, 2013

This is a bizarre story of the kidnapping and prolonged torture and repeated rape of a 14-year-old girl. Elizabeth Smart’s resilience and strength inspire me.

Elizabeth Smart Foundation

Elizabeth Smart’s web site


Booktalking “Filthy Rich” by James Patterson

Jeffrey Epstein had a talent with numbers. He could straighten out many a wealthy person’s finances in no time flat. Though he was born into poverty, he began to reap the monetary rewards of being an economic wiz. Hobnobbing with the rich and famous soon became second nature to him. He enjoyed a life of luxury, which included owning prime real estate in multiple swanky locations, including Palm Beach, Manhattan, and Little St. James Island, which he owned. Epstein enjoyed attending parties and meeting many women. 

However, there was a pernicious undercurrent to all of the glitz and glamour. Epstein had a habit of hanging out with underage girls. Some of the teenagers that he encountered, he turned into pimps. According to them, the younger the better. His choice hunting grounds: local middle and high schools. When girls visited his residences to give him “massages,” he would sometimes offer them $200 to bring in another girl. This seemed like easy money to some, and they obliged. Epstein was seeing two to three girls per day on a regular basis.

All of this coming-and-going activity of young females in and out of Epstein’s homes did not escape the attention of the local authorities. In fact, in at least one of the locations where there was an active, ongoing investigation into him, the billionaire made a hefty donation to the local police department. Eventually, a parent of one of the girl “masseuses” went to police with her suspicions about Epstein. It was not long before the house of cards began to fall.   

Filthy Rich by James Patterson, 2016

This is definitely a tale of the differential treatment of wealthy criminal suspects. The scope and breath of Epstein’s elaborate brothel schemes is shocking.

James Patterson’s web site


Booktalking “Promise Me, Dad: a Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose” by Joe Biden

In 2012, Obama and Biden ran and won the presidential and vice presidential race.

In 2013, Beau Biden was diagnosed with brain cancer.

In 2014, Beau’s diagnosis and prognosis weighed heavily on the family.

In 2015, Joe Biden needed to decide whether to run for president. His son died in May.

In 2016, Biden decided to take the time he needed to grieve the loss of Beau.

Initially, Joe Biden was hesitant to accept a vice presidential position with Obama in 2012 due to the fact that the job has been widely viewed essentially as a non-position. In fact, when he received the request from Obama while riding the train, he flat-out said no. Later, his family urged him to reconsider the offer. After meeting with Barack Obama and discussing the potential partnership, Biden decided that he appreciated Obama’s style of management. He was convinced that he would be able to have input and influence into all aspects of Obama’s administration. He would be invited to attend all the key meetings and to give Obama his advice and impressions of each of them.

During Obama’s second term as president, concern about his son troubled the vice president. Beau’s brother, Hunter, was especially close to Beau, and he provided him with an incredible amount of support. Joe Biden visited Beau at the hospital whenever he could. Beau was an inspiration to all of his family and the medical personnel who worked closely with him. Beau was stoic, and he willingly tried all of the options that the doctors laid out for him. He allowed experimental treatments to be utilized on himself. Through all of the pain and anxiety, Beau had a wonderfully positive attitude about himself, the world, and his loved ones.

As vice president, Joe Biden had the opportunity to travel the world. He ensured that all of his grandchildren travelled to nations with him. He liked to enhance their civic education by taking his grandfatherly duties as seriously as the negotiation talks that he engaged in while he was abroad. In Iraq and Ukraine, he attempted to minimize war and harm to civilians. He spent countless hours in conversation to reach compromises that all countries involved could live with. 

Among his many accomplishments, 46-year-old Beau Biden was a Delaware state attorney general, and he served for a year in the Iraq War. He was married, and he had two children. He wanted everyone to be happy, and he did not want his illness to sadden his father. He urged his father to run for president in 2016. Beau would have been so proud to see his dad take on the herculean task of running to lead the country through the pandemic and racial strife of the USA in 2020.

Promise Me, Dad: a Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose by Joe Biden, 2017

This was a touching book that was difficult to get through due to the pain and heartache of watching a vibrant middle-aged man suffer through cancer treatments. 

Beau Biden Foundation


Booktalking “Racing Manhattan” by Terence Blacker

Jasmine “Jay” Barton longs to work with horses at a racetrack. She visits all of the yards in the racetrack to request a job. At the last barn, the wife of trainer, Mr. Wilkinson, summons her to speak with him. The trainer reluctantly agrees to giver her a job as a “lad.” The lads act as grooms, cleaning the stable, horses and tack. Her training consists of instructions to do as she is told, not ask questions, and remain quiet. The horses come first, or so they say. 

The teen has a front-row seat to the ugly underbelly of the horse world. She gets paid little, and her rent is deducted from her paycheck. She is assigned to work in the back yard with the second string horses, which is much less snazzy than the stable filled with prize equines. The girl observes one of the workers threaten a horse with a pitchfork and the remnants of evidence that his abuse has left behind. She sees a neglected horse left in a bullpen with a solemn, disconsolate look in her eye. Then, Jay is caught between a nasty colleague and a terrified horse when someone plays a trick on her. 

The girl’s home life was troubled, which led her to the job with horses. Jay loves the majesty of horses, and all of these magical qualities are personified in Manhattan. The mare is a big, grey Thoroughbred who has shown promise on the track, but then turned sour. Her unfriendly attitude has led to her disuse. She dislikes men in particular, and no one approaches her without fear of injury. However, Jay takes a shine to her. The troubled teen sees through the equine’s  bravado. She acknowledges the fact that the horse despises people simply because they terrorize and attack her. The teen begs her supervisor to allow her to work with and ride Manhattan. She is deterred at first, but persistence leads the way to a better life for both girl and mare. Mr. Wilkinson, finally, grudgingly, allows Jay to bond with the cantankerous equine.

The young apprentice rider is handling several other horses, and as time passes, she is even assigned to work a race. Jay cannot believe that her dream goal of becoming a jockey has suddenly become true! She has been working hard in the gym on the racehorse simulator to build up her racing muscles, and she studied hard at the training school. Jay rides the second string horse in front of the owner. She is told to ride in the race, but not to win since a winner for that race has already been selected. This unexpected requirement slaps Jay in the face with the reality of the racehorse industry.

Racing Manhattan by Terence Blacker, 2018

The horse racing world is notoriously difficult for both equines and humans. I worked briefly in Australia as a hotwalker at a notable horse racing barn. This book was clearly well-researched and was written by a former amateur jockey.

Books about horse races

British Racing School

Gai Waterhouse Stables


Booktalking “The Perfect Horse: the Daring Rescue of Horses Kidnapped During World War II” by Elizabeth Letts

Hitler stole more than 17 million lives, including 6 million Jewish lives. 

He confiscated the mental health of many survivors, and many years of people’s lives wondering and worrying about the war.

Adolf Hitler also kidnapped horses. 

Alois Podhajsky, director, rider and riding instructor from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, devoted himself to saving the precious Lipizzaner and Arabian horses that were taken from Austria and shipped off to Czechoslovakia. Numerous military officials, such as Colonel Hank Reed, spent much time trying to save these horses. The equines were moved from farm to farm to attempt to escape the dangers of war. Their handlers did not want the hungry Russian troops to eat the horses, have them shot or otherwise destroyed by war, or simply frightened into dangerous situations or starved to death due to lack of resources. Food was scarce for both humans and equines; grain and hay was rationed. 

Lipizzaners are a rare and fantastic breed, and people did not want this treasure to be lost and the art of dressage to die out. The horses execute high-level dressage movements, which is a delicate dance between horse and rider. All of these moves occur naturally in the wild during play, sex or fighting. Sometimes performed to music, dressage requires the horse to execute physically difficult maneuvers that are subtly cued by the rider. Examples include a piaffe, is a trot in place, and a passage, an extended trot with a distinct pause midair, in which the horse appears to “float.” Other moves are pirouettes, hand gallops and leg yields. Airs about ground are courbettes and caprioles.  

The horses were moved from place to place, sometimes by walking them and sometimes by truck. The treks were exhausting for the equines, and many died during the arduous journeys. In some cases, moving the horses was impossible, and the troops simply attempted to protect the horses where they were. Broodmares ready to drop foals and young colts and fillies could not make the journey on foot. Thankfully, the determination of the American military force allowed some of these precious, sweet, and well-trained animals to be preserved. The high-level art of dressage could live on.

The Perfect Horse: the Daring Rescue of Horses Kidnapped During World War II by Elizabeth Letts, 2019

This was a tragic story of the incredible toll that WWII took on non-human animals as well as humans. The suffering that the entire world endured in the early 1940s makes the obstacles that we face today pale in comparison. I have seen the performance of these magnificent creatures live, and it was an awesome sight to behold.

Books about Lipizzaners

Spanish Riding School


Booktalking “Bitter End” by Jennifer Brown

Alex is smitten by a new hot boy that she meets in her class, Cole Cozen. He is sexy, fun and he seems so nice. He is sweet, and he hugs her warmly. The boy waits for her while she is working at The Bread Basket, and then he takes her home. The teen is loving the feeling of being loved. She likes the idea of having a boyfriend… someone to care about and share her life with.  

Alex can always count on her best friends forever, Zack and Bethany. They have been a threesome for years. They recall her awkward moments as a seven-year-old. The friends are currently planning a fantastic skiing trip together. They go out to eat, attend parties and support each other in life. They have so much fun joking together and fooling around. Alex does not know what she would do without them.   

Then, Cole gets jealous of Alex’s relationship with Zack. He insists that Zack wants to be her girlfriend, even though she tries to assure him that their relationship is purely platonic. Cole randomly shows up at her house and admits that he has been following her. He swings her too fast at the playground and refuses to stop even when she pleads with him. Cole is too rough with her, but he apologizes. Then she visits him, and he calls her a slut because he observed her roughhousing with Zack. Alex gets angry and argues with him. Then, he does something unforgiveable.  

Cole grabs Alex roughly and punches her twice in the cheek.  

Alex sees flashes of light and she experiences searing pain. Her hip, face and other parts of her body have never known so much pain. She is forced to miss two days of school. Even makeup and clothing do little to hide the marks and bruises. Her sister, father and work supervisor are concerned, and they try to entice her to talk about her problems. The girl desperately wishes to confide in Georgia, her supervisor, but something holds her back. Cole brings her flowers, sweet apologies and promises to mend his ways. Alex knows that she should leave Cole, but she is hesitant to make the break and trapped in her own silence about the abuse.   

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown, 2011  

This work was a stark look into the reality of teenage domestic violence.


Booktalking “The Truths We Hold” by Kamala Harris

In 2020, Kamala Harris became the first Black and Indian American US vice presidential nominee. In 2017, she became the first woman of color Californian district attorney. Prior to that she was the San Francisco district attorney. Harris has been a lot of firsts in her career, and she does not want to be the last of anything.  

Harris’ mother was from India, and her father is from Jamaica. She appreciates her relatives from both sides of her family very much. As a kid growing up in California, she attended one of the first integrated schools in the 1960’s. The rich diversity and exposure to a variety of cultures in the unique learning environment had a lasting effect on her. When she was a teen, her mother took a job at a Canadian university so they moved to Canada. After that, the young woman attended Howard University in Washington, DC.   

Harris has a passion to work for the people, and she feels compassion for individuals who are facing financial and other hardships. She fights for disenfranchised groups. Kamala Harris is indefatigable in her struggle for justice and equity in this society. This woman is a force to be reckoned with on the political landscape of America today.   

  • Bail reform – Harris believes in busting wide open the school-to-prison pipeline, the poverty-to-prison pipeline, and the young man of color-to-prison pipeline. Incarcerating juveniles only subjects them to the high recidivism rate that plagues individuals in jail and perpetuates the cycle of chronic incarceration.
  • Back on Track – Many young people will reform their ways if given educational and job training opportunities.
  • Elementary truancy – 92% of high school drop-outs were truant in elementary school. She understands that impoverished, overworked parents may ask older children to care for younger ones, but this trend must be stopped. With appropriate supports, the kids can be helped to attend school. 
  • Making health care affordable – Most people cannot afford health care in the United States. We need to fund health care for all, perhaps through a single-payer system. We should stop making big pharmaceutical companies filthy rich. 
  • Home Foreclosure Crisis – During the Great Recession of 2008, many homes were foreclosed upon. This was largely the fault of big banks that approved loans to individuals who did not have the collateral to repay them. Harris turned a proposed $2 – $4 million dollar settlement into a $18 – $20 million dollar settlement by withdrawing from negotiations, then having a heart-to-heart talk with the CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  • Marriage equality – Harris fought to expedite the right to wed regardless of gender of the spouses. She officiated in 2013 at one of the first gay marriages in California.  
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – Harris fights for Dreamers to become citizens and continue contributing to the American economy. She deeply values their contributions, and she wants to prevent the cruelty of kids being ripped from their parents’ arms by immigration officials. 

Kamala Harris became a legal prosecutor in order to represent the people of the United States because a crime against any American resident is considered to be a crime against us all. She has worked to reduce the prison population of the most overincarcerated nation in the world. Harris stands for women’s rights, the rights of minorities and incarcerated persons. She also strongly believes in preserving our environment for future generations; and she has vowed to end fracking and the use of harmful fossil fuels. The USA is so lucky to have her as its Democratic vice presidential nominee.   

The Truths We Hold: an American Journey by Kamala Harris, 2019  

Kamala Harris inspires people to take action and change societal for the better by contacting their local legislators. I hope that the parole system will be reformed. Parolees could be given lawyers to help plead their cases. In many instances, only “the nature of the offense” is considered when individuals come up for parole consideration, and the importance of good behavior and other factors are dismissed. This leads to warehousing individuals who are not a danger to society at the taxpayers’ expense.   

I also read her picture book for kids, Superheroes Are Everywhere. I liked the structure of the children’s book, the illustrations, the photographs and the positive, empowering message for kids.