The Promise of Amazing~ Robin Constantine’s Glimpse Into the Young Adult World of Today

Ah spring is pushing up jonquils and young love is in the air. If images of fresh face youths courting fair-haired maids with handfuls of flowers comes to mind when you think of young love, well, Constantine’s young adult novel, The Promise of Amazing, will disabuse you of such daydreams. Contemporary teenage romance has little to do with June and Ward Cleaver scenarios despite some sharing of milk and Oreo cookies. Welcome to the world of boy and girl prep schools for the children of lawyers, catering business owners and real estate agents. These people don’t worry about having enough food or clothing for their families. Their concerns are with social status and money-making in the realm of suits and ties. Their teenage children are highly aware of clothing labels, drinking, drugs, and sex. This is the world of who might become who — or not. Enter quiet good girl Wren Caswell whose relationship self-confidence quotient has had a hard  knock from what she refers to as a “hump and dump” with a young lad with no interest in anything more than sex before he heads off to college campus and the rest of his life–without looking backwards. It doesn’t help her college dreams any when the guidance counselor unwittingly makes callous remarks about who is and isn’t Harvard material.  From stage left-wing comes talented bad boy Grayson Barrett who has been forced to face the music of academic misconduct for selling papers to other students–oddly enough none of the buyers seem to have suffered any consequences for creating a demand for Grayson’s product. These boys are working out their future manners of behavior for being successful in a corrupt mainstream world which rewards doing whatever you do to be successful as long as you don’t get caught. The lads of St. Gabe’s have more than plagiarism on their questionable efforts plates. Meanwhile, Sacred Heart’s lasses are mistresses of manipulation and serious verbal aggression. Some of their hearts and minds are very short on sugar and very high on arsenic.  Wren and Grayson are not exactly Juliet and Romeo material—or are they? There is serious potential for tragedy if some life lines don’t get straightened out with some positive choices. In today’s American mainstream culture they’re the kids with all kinds of opportunities — yet, they’ve got some very steep learning curves regarding relationships, peer pressure, family issues, values and sexuality which all children, and adults, encounter.

Robin Constantine delivers a touching young love story set in what is now the normal context, with variations on degrees depending on location, that teenagers move through today. It’s a landscape rift with absent parents, underage drinking, rebellion, drug use, and sexual explorations often without any emotional attachments. Emotions are problematic for teenagers and the young people in The Promise of Amazing have emotional issues in spades.  There are a lot dysfunctional families across the spectrum of social economic class lines. Yes, there is a very serious class structure in America based on economics–the idea of a society where everyone is equal is an ideal, not a reality. This isn’t a The Catcher in the Rye world–this is post Salinger–the phoniness of the deluded game playing adult world is almost a cliché today.  The children mimic it to no small end.  With friends like his, it’s a wonder Grayson and his social peers are all not headed straight to jail before graduating from high school.  Yet, Constantine manages to avoid falling into a cynical narrative of all things troubling teens.  Wren’s practical step right up and deal with the problem nature sets things in motion when she meets Grayson by saving him from choking to death while everyone else stands around watching the show at her family’s catering hall– called Camelot. Of course, one thing leads to another as Constantine develops the plot via chapters alternating Wren’s and Grayson’s perspective. This is one of the things I enjoyed most about this young adult novel–the effort to present the perspectives of both sexes to tell their story. What goes through the minds of teenage boys and girls isn’t exactly the same–but they’ve got a lot more common ground regarding issues than they often realize when they’re struggling to communicate with each other even though texting seems to make it all so simple.

    I watched her disappear up the block, her plaid skirt swaying. When she was out of sight, I landed with a thud and walked back to the reality of the ER. I pulled Wren’s scarf up to my nose, inhaling her scent and getting dizzy all over again. I was happy to have my face covered–no one walks into the hospital with a grin that wide unless he’s heading to the psych ward. But I couldn’t help it.

She kissed me.

The Promise of Amazing is a an easy read writing-wise, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s about easy things. It’s not.  It offers a certain very dark slant on contemporary teenage world. This novel portrays a young couple’s efforts at dealing with family, friends and love relationships without any magic or supernatural elements to distract from real life issues. Constantine manages to make us care what happens to Grayson and Wren as individuals and as a couple with some definite potential for being a lot more than a “hump and dump” round. They both need and want more than that even though their hormones are certainly giving them a workout–complete with condoms. It’s the promise of sharing a genuinely caring relationship that gets these two together. What’s unsettling is just how hard that is to find despite all the musical hype about it. In a world of broken homes, second and third families, amoral role models and shallow values, experiencing and sharing some real love is no easy deal.

What’s the teen in your world reading?

~

Robin Constantine’s site –>>  http://robinconstantine.com/          http://robinconstantine.com/books.html

The Restorative Justice League of Le Grand High School jumps in to save the day

Schools and The Restorative Justice League–someone is doing something right for a change!

ACEs Too High

A teen starts a fistfight with a fellow student. Another brings alcohol to school. Another urinates on a fellow student’s locker, and a fight ensues.

Three years ago at Le Grand High School, in Le Grand, CA, these students would have been immediately expelled or suspended. This year, they weren’t. They didn’t miss any classes. They made amends. They learned from their mistakes.

In 2010-2011, Principal Javier Martinez suspended 49 students and expelled six. Last year, he suspended 15 and expelled only one.

This school year, with the help of the Restorative Justice League, he’s going for double zeros.

___________________

ARJLogo

Le Grand High School is tucked on the edge of a town so tiny it has not one traffic light. Orchards and fields

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Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog – Brave Bird ~ “It’s hard being an Indian Woman.”

Young Indigenous women are some of the most invisible and unrepresented people on Earth. That is one reason to read Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog,  nowBrave Bird, with Richard Erdoes even though it was published in 1990. Another reason is that it won the American Book Award in 1991.  Yet another reason is for the insight it provides into some of the tough issues young women on reservations continue to confront: violence, rape, alcoholism, drug abuse, racism, exploitation, poor education, grinding poverty.  This is not a calm, quiet memoir of a certain time and place written by a woman looking back in nostalgia with some polite veneer of wisdom gained by mature hindsight. Lakota Woman offers the perspective of a very candid, blunt spoken, tough, and passionate young woman who makes no apologies for anything. This is a woman who now knows who she is, where she came from, and why.  Part of her story includes giving birth to her first child during the siege at Wounded Knee in 1973 after refusing to leave in spite of the increasing danger. While Lakota Woman does not offer any in-depth analysis of the American Indian Movement, the Trail of Broken Treaties or the Native American Church, it does offer a no punches pulled, first person female perspective based on direct experiences with all of them– a young Lakota female perspective seldom encountered in the mainstream American culture.

 I am a iyeska, a breed, that’s what the white kids used to call me. When I grew bigger they stopped calling me that, because it would get them a bloody nose. I am a small woman, not much over five feet tall, but I can hold my own in a fight, and in a free-for-all with honkies I can become rather ornery and do real damage. I have white blood in me. Often I have wished to be able to purge it out of me. As a young girl I used to look at myself in the mirror, trying to find a clue as to who and what I was. My face is very Indian, and so are my eyes and my hair, but my skin is very light. Always I waited for the summer, for the prairie sun, the Badlands sun, to tan me and make me into a real skin. (p.9)

Such are the words of Mary Brave Bird of the Brule Tribe from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.  Consider the memoirs current teenaged women of Rosebud, Pine Ridge, Standing Rock and the Cheyenne River Reservations might share–if anyone dared put them into print.  Lakota Woman might offend some, might make some very uncomfortable, and distress others.  It certainly won’t bore anyone. It definitely offers a great deal to think about regarding women, culture, family, history, spirituality, politics, and values.

Mary Crow Dog/Brave Bird online http://marycrowdog.com/index.html

Wikipedia list of American Book Awards http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Book_Award

American Book Awards  —  Before Columbus Foundation  http://www.beforecolumbusfoundation.com/about-bcf.html

Maze of Injustice, the failure to protect Indigenous Women from sexual violence in the USA, PDF file of Amnesty International http://www.amnestyusa.org/pdfs/MazeOfInjustice.pdf  Perhaps this report offers one explanation for the legistative difficulties faced by the VAWA.  Why would non-Native men want to start allowing arrest and prosecution of the non-Native men who rape Indigenous women on reservations? No rocket science required.

 

 

Catch “Up Heartbreak Hill” on POV via PBS July 26, 2012

What’s on the minds of young people contemplating their future choices on the Navajo Reservation? Find out in a documentary that will air on PBS July 26, at 10 pm EST.  I caught a preview for this film while watching my local PBS station Sunday evening. Then I noticed the segement featuring the young people on Native America Calling and listened online. Serious issues are raised about education, culture, generations and being Native in America. Some of the issues are similar for all teenagers –even those swiming hard in the maintream.  At its best,  when “the box”  offers more than moronic junk food it can get us all thinking outside all sorts of boxes.  “Up Haertbreak Hill” sure does not sound like mental junk food.

Visit the “Up Heartbreak Hill” site for information about  director Erica Scharf and the other filmmakers, including producer Chris Eyre, involved in this documentary –>> http://www.upheartbreakhill.com/

Life is tough and complex for teenagers everywhere so the issues in this film are of interest to everyone, not just Native American/Indigenous/Indian people.  How would you handle being a teenager in America in these times?

 

Native Voice 1 — News and Native America Calling Now: “Up Heartbreak Hill”

Click to find listening options for NV1

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 – Native Teens Racing Towards Life:
As teenagers get older and start reaching their last years of high school, many will look towards leaving home to pursue their life and education far from home. But, just how common is this dream? A new documentary, “Up Heartbreak Hill,” follows two bright Native American high school seniors through their final year of high school as they tackle daunting decisions and questions that will alter their life forever. What all is at stake in answering the question, should I stay or should I go? How do economic hardships on tribal nations skew visions of opportunity? Guests include Native youths Thomas Martinez (Navajo) and Tamara Hardy (Navajo) and Erica Scharf, Director & Producer/”Up Heartbreak Hill” Documentary.

See More of Native America Calling’s upcoming shows here http://www.nativeamericacalling.com/

 

The Dirt Chronicles– A horror story about the lives of punk street kids on the mean streets of Toronto. Ready, set, dumpster dive!!

Click to visit Arsenal Pulp Press

Kristyn Dunnion strikes hard punk gold again in The Dirt Chronicles, a Lambda Literary Award Finalist, which is mis-identified as a collection of short stories.  I can see how that labeling came about. These can be read as short stories. But, in reality, this is a novel presented from several different characters’ viewpoints and fully individual voices. It’s a little disconcerting unless you’re a fan of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. The story is dark, hard, gritty and it’s all about the lives of several punk street kids in Toronto. It’s not pretty. There’s the corrupt cops, drugs, rape, murder, sexual identity issues and relationship issues galore. This may not be an easy read for some folks. But if you’ve got a rebellious teenager overflowing with angst–you might want to take a hard look at the issues Dunnion deals with head on–from the perspective of the kids instead of the adults they run from.  Dunnion’s ability to present convincing male and female voices and perspectives is uncanny. Writing about such subjects with harsh realism is the forte of few. It’s verification of Dunnion’s talent as a writer every time you cringe while discovering the very dark side of street and squat life.  Oh and yes, again, this is also a love story (ies). How much does Oreo love Ferret? Enough to leave the entire world behind while pole dancing. What will Eddie do to get back to protecting Ray Ray? Whatever it takes.

Warning: This is not Patsy Cline crooning on this video.

Why did a child commit suicide by train?

Clicking on the image above will take you to One Spirit and information regarding an ongoing effort to support a safe house for Lakota children.

There does not seem to be any delicate way to broach this topic. So right up front, this attempt to raise some awareness is not intended as an insult or affront to the people most concerned. There is no intention to pick at open wounds. This is reality–it’s not nice, it’s not comfortable, it’s not a feel good topic.  But the only way anyone might get any assistance is by meeting the issues head on. Have to face reality in order to deal with it. So–in spite all my brainstorming writing efforts I’ve yet to come up with an opening besides this:  Native American children have the HIGHEST rates of suicide in the entire USA–and possibly the world.

 Why does a 10 year old commit suicide? Why did a group of Native American children aged 8 to 16 carry out a suicide pact of killing themselves? Why would 20 Indian children at one school attempt suicide in one year? Why did 8 children commit suicide in the last two months on Pine Ridge?

Perhaps the bottom line is a lack of hope due to all the longstanding economic and cultural-social problems that have been rampant in Native American communities/reservations ever since the 1880s. Yes, the 1880s.  The legacy of genocide, forced assimilation–Indian Commissioner T.J. Morgan once wrote that Indians “Must submit or die.” — boarding schools, and cultural destruction has deep historical roots. 

News today from the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana–six children took their lives this year one by gun, four by hanging–one by train.  For more visit the Indianz.com news coverage link->

                         http://64.38.12.138/News/2010/022577.asp

From Native American Times–>

http://www.nativetimes.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4416:principal-under-fire-in-school-stung-by-suicides&catid=50&Itemid=26

The following  selection of videos serve only to introduce the topic.  Posting other videos and links to news coverage and other information  is encouraged.   This issue is not the sole provence of the Pine Ridge Reservation–child suicide is rampant across Indian Country and Alaska.

http://www.nativeamericansuicideprevention.org/

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