Notes from ALAN 2017

I echo Sarah. As a newly appointed state representative in Oregon (yes, my NJCTE friends, I have defected westward), I can only tout the fine work ALAN does to promote the importance of adolescent literacy in our classrooms and in the lives of youth. In my own experience at ALAN this year, there were the notable authors and inspiration, as Sarah mentions, as well as a challenge from Laurie Halse Anderson to increase ALAN membership to reflect the diversity of our classrooms. This welcoming of new voices, and all the learning we will share in a broader conversation, lay at the heart of NCTE/ALAN 2017.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English

This morning I booktalked half a dozen new and upcoming books to my students, most of which don’t come out until next year. Next week I will bring in a huge box of books that UPS is slowly shipping my way over the holiday weekend. Most of these are books I received at ALAN, sponsored by the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents.  I stuffed 46 lbs of books into my suitcase (thank you, Southwest!) and shipped home another 30 lbs. There are advance reader’s copies, signed books, and brand new hardcover books in those boxes.  My classroom library shelves have been cleared for the day they arrive and my students are waiting with bated breath.

Alan books All the books Sarah took home from ALAN this year!

Walking into ALAN is like celebrating every gift-giving holiday at one time- the publishers have generously donated hundreds of books to the attendees and…

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When a Mother and Daughter Reverse Roles

So much of this moving tribute to mothers and daughters resonates for me, particularly in the details. My mom left behind lists of attempted spellings and basic “who I am” information, too. The cruel, yet uplifting, glimpses of lucidity in the murk that became her relationship with her six children when she remembered us, they remain. This piece captured the conflicts inherent in watching those we love age, with or without the dreaded dementia.


Marlene Adelstein | Longreads | November 2017 | 8 minutes (2,061 words)

Recently my boyfriend and I became completely absorbed in a PBS nature documentary about baby sea otters separated from their mothers in Monterey Bay, and the group of passionate scientists whose mission it was to rescue and rehabilitate them. One particular pup, a bundle of brown fur, dark soulful eyes and long whiskers, whom the scientists named 501, was weak and sickly and couldn’t groom or forage for food, crucial tasks its mother would normally perform. So the scientists took the pup to their research facility to nurse the orphan back to health.

At the rehabilitation lab, handlers wore dark ponchos and faceless Darth Vader-like welder’s masks so the otters wouldn’t become attached to them. Eventually the trainers brought in Tula, an older rescued otter, to act as a surrogate mother. Tula spent months teaching 501 essential otter…

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