Happy Samhain-o-ween de Muertos… What?

Samhain-o-ween de Muertos…???

Good Morning Collage Fam!

So, it’s October 31st, and in many places around the world, people are preparing to celebrate…

I bet you expected us to say Halloween!

Indeed, may people do celebrate Halloween today (or tonight), but that isn’t nearly the only holiday celebrated on or around this day; across the world, there are numerous versions and variations and even utterly different holidays centered around this exact same time of year. Halloween itself is rooted in a much older holiday called Samhain. And some people refuse to celebrate anything at all this time of year.

You might be a little bit confused now, and that’s alright! We’ll do our best to clear that all up… so pull up a chair, grab a hot drink or perhaps a bag of treats, and let us break down a little bit of what makes this day so special.

Before Halloween, Samhain

Long, long before Halloween was ever the holiday it’s become, there was on the very same day the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain (pronounced Sow-in). This holiday was far from the goofy and commercial holiday we celebrate today, however; Samhain was a celebration of the end of the harvest, and the transition into the cold and dark months.

Ancient Celts believed that this time also signaled a “thinning of the veil” between the world of the living, and the world of spirits and the dead. It was a time to give offerings to lost loved ones, and to the gods and forces responsible for a safe winter.

Today, many people practicing a variety of pagan and earth-based religions still celebrate Samhain. This article has some ideas on how to craft that for kids.

Halloween Expands in the US

Halloween originally came to the Americas with the very first European colonizers – the so-called “pilgrims”; although it had roots in Catholicism and the celebration of All Saints, Protestants begrudgingly retained it, as it gave an outlet for people to channel some of their old traditions (that were seen as being in opposition to Christianity). Over time, as those traditions faded and the nation’s identity, Halloween began to morph into the holiday it is today.

Modern Halloween

For readers in North America and much of Europe, modern Halloween requires very little introduction; whether you were allowed to participate or not, it’s nearly guaranteed that you’ve been exposed to that holiday in one way or another. Across the United States, stores begin carrying Halloween items as early as late July or early August, meaning by the end of October everyone and nearly every place it seems has been completely overwhelmed by pumpkins, and candy, and black cats, and more. Needless to say, modern Halloween is highly commercialized, and much tamer than it used to be.

As much fun as the holiday can for some, it’s important to note that for a number of reasons, Halloween is not a welcome holiday for many people in the United States and around the world. Parents, teachers, and students should be aware that many people feel the holiday conflicts with their spiritual beliefs, and so they may be very offended if asked to participate. For this reason, many public schools no longer have Halloween celebrations. Although it can be frustrating and confusing sometimes, it’s very important to respect those beliefs.

Dia de los Muertos

For many in the Americas and particularly Mexico, the holiday celebrated around this day is not in fact Halloween, but rather Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, and while the two may seem similar in many ways, the two holidays are very different. Though Dia de los Muertos shares the theme of cracking the barrier between the living and the dead, the holiday is not one of scares and horrors, but rather a loving celebration of those who have gone before. This fantastic article dispels some of the bigger myths of the holiday.

Further Reading

Hopefully by now you’ve got a broader idea of just how big a time of year this is! We hope you have a wonderful and safe season no matter what. If you’re still interested in some further reading and viewing to keep you in the Samhain-o-ween de Muertos-y mood, we here at Collage love these books and movies for the season:

Books:

This book is a beautiful bilingual (Spanish/English) adaptation of one of Mexico’s most well-known ghost stories.

Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, is a wonderful kid-friendly scary story that happens to have a fantastic movie adaptation to boot!

For those interested in digging deeper into the pagan roots of Samhain, this book is a must; it is one of the best family-friendly explanations of pagan belief and practice available.

Movies:

The Book of Life is one of two wonderful movies about the Dia de los Muertos holiday.

Coco is arguably the best English-language film to date to give a real sense of the power and importance of the Dia de los Muertos holiday.

Although Pan’s Labyrinth is not strictly a Halloween movie (or even tied to Dia de los Muertos), it is a fantastically creepy (though not truly scary) film, entirely in Spanish, that captures some of the feel of the old pagan roots of both holidays. This movie is Rated R however (for some violence); be sure to watch it first before sharing it with kids.

Flipping the Script: Why “A Wrinkle in Time” is So Imporant

“Ultimately, DuVernay has done more than make worlds (and she invented many for the movie), she has also fundamentally changed our own, just by making her film.”

The Beginning…

There is really no doubt about it – Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is a fantastic story; in equal parts it blends magic and science, fantasy and fear, and a persistent theme beneath it all of the many sorts and expressions of love. It’s a story that has appealed to literally millions of readers over the past five decades since its original publication, and continues to be enjoyed by millions more. Despite its controversial (and frequently-challenged) nature, the book clearly stands on its own as worthy literature, but recently, there’s been a shift…

Seeds of Change

Given the book’s controversy and incredible success, it was clear from early on that it was rife with possibilities. Numerous adaptations of the story have been made over time, including a 2003 Disney TV movie that was, well… pretty boring, but still kept up interest in the by-then classic.

Virtually all of these adaptations were as one might expect – plain, more or less true to the source imaginings of the story. All fine and dandy, but at some point the same old thing no longer advances the conversation, and that can make a story go stale (one of the worst things that can happen to a work of literature). Though nothing can take away the beauty of the words, it seems likely that A Wrinkle in Time was on its way to being irrelevant.

A Risk, and a Paradigm Shift

By even her own account, there was a lot of risk in Ava DuVernay taking on the role of director for the newest adaptation of L’Engle’s work. From the outset she needed to take on (from many sides) the misogynist doubt that a woman could direct a successful science fiction movie. Others considered it a strange departure from her previous work. No matter what she did, DuVernay was constantly taking risks in making this movie.

Rather than shying from that, however, she took in on, head-on. In one interview with her, DuVernay describes the moment she decided to make the film, when she was offered the chance to “build worlds”. What she did in fact was bigger though; DuVernay began a genuine paradigm shift.

More than Building Worlds

Ultimately, DuVernay did more than make worlds (and she invented many for the movie), she also fundamentally changed our own, just by making her film.

Normally, making a movie out of a book is risky business of its own. Even in our current era of remakes and reboots, there are many that are outraged at the adaptation of page to screen, arguing that it ruins, demeans, or debases the material. We at Collage are maybe not so militant, but we do generally agree that it’s always best to go to the source, at least first off.

In making A Wrinkle in Time into the modern film it is, however, DuVernay worked real magic, and on a global scale. Almost overnight, she transmuted a character forever into something more than she already was: she gave her real dimension. By making the main characters of the story biracial, Ava DuVernay added further depth to a character who was already deeply emotionally complex… but in a way that was utterly organic. In doing so, she imagined the family so artfully that, for millions or even billions of readers for at least the next several decades, that is who Murry family will be.

It is an epic accomplishment, and one that we feel is worth celebrating here at Collage Colorado.

What do you think about the book, or the movie? Let us know in the comments!


Own the Book or Film!

We absolutely love both the book and most recent film versions of A Wrinkle in Time, and we highly encourage you to read and watch them as well! Follow the links below to see both on Amazon.

We Made a Thing!

The Story

As most readers know, last week was Banned Book Week, a very special “holiday” for us here at Collage Colorado. During that time, we did lots of things to celebrate, such as the fantastic guest articles we featured and our classroom discussions. We were so delighted by the wonderful response we had last week that we were inspired to design a poster, in honor of banned books and the folks who read and fight for them. We’re pretty proud of it, and we hope that you like it, too! That’s because…

We’re Going to Sell Our Posters!

That’s right – coming very soon, we will be selling our ¡Viva la Literatura! posters (and a whole lot more)! Collage Colorado, LLC is dedicated to working on a non-profit basis; proceeds from the posters will go to funding Collage Colorado’s classroom work, and expanding our Revolutionary Reader library.

The Details

We’ll have more details very soon, but for now we can tell you that posters will come in two sizes: 8″x10″ and 16″x20″. Both are high resolution and glossy, and the 16″x20″ posters are printed on durable 80lb paper.

Ordering details will be posted on a separate page, but for now, please email collagecolorado@gmail.com or send us a message through our Facebook page if you’re interested in buying one! We love commentary too (trolls aside), so feel free to tell us what you think, too! Depending on how these do, there may be other ¡Viva la Literatura! items soon, too.

Censoring White Supremacy: Building Blocks of Pride

Banned Books Week: Guest Perspectives
By M. Giles, Director of National Outreach, Birth
Doula, Sexual Health Educator

When we think of banned books, we think of books that involve something that causes a moral or ethical disturbance for the people in power. As history continues to teach us, it is always written by the oppressor, and by proxy the books we have access to are controlled by the oppressor as well. One of the most relevant examples as it relates to The United States of America is Black Boy by Richard Wright, banned purely for candidly detailing the Black experience. The act of lynching, Jim Crow, and genocide are seen as more tasteful than the experience of those most affected. Again, lynching, Jim Crow, and genocide are seen as more tasteful than the experience of those most affected. Let that sink in – it’s easier to palate a lynching, than to hear the story of a man whose community is being lynched; and while we have an entire week to to reflect and engage in this conversation, I offer that censorship has a place and that place is in my home.

Outside the four walls of my house, society will teach my children to value, covet, and conform to white normative standards of beauty, education, mores. Outside the four walls of my house my children are bombarded with images and stories of all of the ways their Blackness is dangerous and their whiteness is safe. Make no mistake, my children are Black. They will navigate their world through the lens of a person of color, regardless of the genes they carry, and will be well acquainted with that perspective by the time they reach adulthood. I cannot protect them from that (and I wouldn’t want to), but I can insulate them through censorship.

In my house, we censor as much whiteness as we can. We censor out Disney’s Cinderella in favor of Rodger and Hammerstein’s version featuring Brandy. We censor out Aileen Quinn in favor of Quvenzhané Wallis. We censor Judy Garland and replace her with Diana Ross. We avoid American Girl dolls because the narrative of the only Black doll in the history line is as a slave… as if that was the only place Black women have had in history. Of the other two Black girls offered in their other lines of dolls, one carry’s a ghetto blasting boom box and the other is a singer. Meanwhile the white girls, which outnumber them more than 2 to 1, get to be a second wave feminist (*cue eye roll*), a patriot, a journalist, and – better yet – a debutante with staff she pities.

This censorship is necessary then because children as young as two are able to identify people by the stereotypes we’ve build and by the time they are five, they have internalized the racial prejudices of society. So in raising Black children, it is my duty to build an identity that rejects white as the default, and even more disturbingly the only thing worth striving for. My job is to insulate my children from white supremacy, and since it is so pervasive, the only way to build the blocks of pride is to censor out white media until they identify the racial pride as readily as other kids can identify the stereotypes.


Maníge Giles is an active member of several intersecting communities in the Denver area and beyond, as well as a contributing member of Collage Colorado, LLC. We were so delighted to add her voice to this series!

Beyond Revolutionary Reading Part I: Apps

Banned Books Week has begun, and of course the focus this week is on the books! Still, that doesn’t mean that books should have the spotlight alone; there are lots of other resources like music, apps, and movies, that can supplement what you or your Revolutionary Readers are already doing.

Today, we’re focusing on apps for your phone or tablet.

Apps:

Our go-to Revolutionary Reader apps here at Collage…

Yes, there really is an app for everything. Apps can be a fantastic way to step up your reading game in more ways than you might expect; there aren’t just ones to find or read books, there are also plenty to help you build your reading and even activist community, and a whole lot more.

Below are a list of apps we at Collage like to use when we’re looking for ideas for what to read next:

  • We Read Too | This app is specifically designed for children and families of color, to help connect folks to books by, for, and about marginalized communities. Given this and We Read Too‘s simple and intuitive interface and guided suggestions, make it a wonderful tool for anyone looking to expand their library.

We Read Too

  • YALSA’s Teen Book Finder | Where We Read Too is an app largely geared toward slightly younger readers, the Teen Book Finder app from YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association) is, not surprisingly, built for out tween and teen learners. The app suggests an ever-changing list of new books, breaks down lists of fantastic reads based on year, genre, author, awards, and more, and gives students a number of ways to search for new books to read, regardless of theme or controversy. LGBTQ+ students may be especially delighted to find several lists just for them in the app, too!

Teen Book Finder by YALSA

  • Goodreads | Goodreads is, at its core, social media for readers. The app provides a simple, easy-to-use platform to build a reader community with friends, family, and beyond. Although lots of kids books are covered as well (and intrepid younger readers can definitely enjoy the app, too), Goodreads is definitely geared more toward mature readers.

Goodreads

  • Audible | If you’re reading this on a phone or tablet, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of Audible, the audiobook arm of Amazon. Audible is a fantastic app for all readers, but is especially handy for supporting younger readers, or those struggling to pick up skills. It can be used in conjunction with paper texts to give students another way to access the content, and can help kids build excitement around reading. And besides, who doesn’t love being read to?

Audible

  • Merriam-Webster Dictionary | This app makes the list simply because everyone should have an easy-to-access dictionary when reading, and considering that Merriam-Webster’s is free, it’s an easy choice!

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Of course, these are far from the only reader apps out there; these just happen to be our favorites here at the moment. If there are others that you love to use, let us know in the comments below!

Banned Books Matter

Happy Banned Books Week, Collage Fam!

What’s Up With Banned Books Week?

This year, Banned Books Week begins today (Sunday, September 23rd, 2018). Banned Books Week is a pretty big deal for us here at Collage, but before I explain why, maybe I should explain what exactly it is.

“We would argue that [Banned Books Week] is at its core a celebration freedom of speech and the fight for civil rights.”

First and foremost, it is a celebration each year of books that have been censored, challenged, or banned entirely from schools, libraries, and other places that gather literature. National organizations such as the American Library Association (a major supporter of Banned Books Week) keep extensive lists of what books are being challenged or kept out of libraries, and encourage discussions about why books might be banned. Banned Books Week is a chance to bring that discussion to the forefront; more than that though, we would argue that it is at its core a celebration of freedom of speech and the fight for civil rights.

How?

That goes back to why books are banned in the first place. The common perception is that books are banned for people’s “safety” – because they contain words, or topics, or ideas that some group has deemed dangerous in some way. And while it’s certainly true that there have occasionally been books that were banned because they gave dangerous information (such as how to build a bomb), the reality is that a whole lot more were banned for a far more sinister reason: censorship, and the silencing of certain people’s voices.

“It doesn’t make it any easier for a kid to come out, or to feel welcome in their skin wherever they go, if all the voices like theirs are hidden, forbidden, gone.”

If you look at the graphic above, you’ll see that although some books are challenged because they are “pervasively vulgar” (meaning they have a lot of bad language or potentially inappropriate content), still more are banned for political reasons (and not always friendly ones), and many others never see shelves simply because they portray People of Color, racism, or LGBTQ+ characters. Keeping those books away from folks is pretty darn silencing of people for whom those are daily experiences. It doesn’t make it any easier for a kid to come out, or to feel welcome in their skin wherever they go, if all the voices like theirs are hidden, forbidden, gone.

“Banning Books Silences Stories…”

By now I bet you’ve started to guess why Banned Books Week is so important to us here at Collage; it’s no secret that a big part of our mission as an organization here is to elevate the voices of as many people as we can. We believe that by doing this, we elevate the conversation, and build greater community. It’s even written in our Mission Statement.

We believe that censoring and banning books largely hurts our society and our communities, and especially marginalized communities and communities of color. It very clearly silences them. Destroying stories destroys culture, and ruins the legacy we leave for future generations. It’s up to all of us to stop that.

Join us all this week, as we celebrate Banned Books, Revolutionary Readers, and making our voices heard!


Take a look at the list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2017, courtesy of bannedbooksweek.org and the ALA. See one that looks interesting? Maybe pick it up and take a look. It might be banned, but it’s almost certainly awesome.