The independent student newspaper of Goucher College

Author

Erika DiPasquale

Erika DiPasquale has 8 articles published.

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Erika DiPasquale started as a copyeditor for the Q in the fall of 2016, and took over as Associate Editor for the spring of 2017. She manages the administrative tasks for the publication, regularly writes book reviews, and contributes a features or news article every so often. Erika also reviews submissions for the Preface Literary Magazine and Verge Journal for Undergraduate Writing and is a Writing Center Tutor. She will graduate in May with a degree in English with a concentration in creative writing and a minor in book studies, and dreams of a career as an Editor of Children's Literature. Erika graduated in May 2017.

Book Review: The Sun Is Also A Star

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The Sun is Also a Star is appealing to scientists and poets and everyone in between. Photo credit: Google images

Natasha and her family will be deported by the end of the day, unless Natasha succeeds in her final efforts to delay their return to Jamaica. On the same day, Daniel reluctantly makes his way to his interview with a Yale alumn to satisfy his Korean parents. In a serendipitous twist of fate, their paths cross, and in Daniel’s desire to live one day on his own terms instead of his parents’, he convinces Natasha to participate in a science experiment, hypothesis: When two people share their answers to a certain set of questions with one another, they will fall in love.
The novel takes place over the course of a single day, and is narrated by Natasha, Daniel, and the universe, which shares the perspectives of those that the untimely duo come into contact with throughout their day together—people whose lives shift in unpredictable ways after crossing paths with the protagonists. It’s a simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking story about love and fate, and also about racism and identity.
What about this book made it a Finalist for the 2016 National Book Award, 2017 Coretta Scott King New Talent Award Winner, and one of the top ten best books of 2016 according to Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Entertainment Weekly, and a variety of other publications? Its inspiring characters and innovative form.
The protagonists are dynamic, smart, and incredible role models of diverse identities. Natasha is a strong Jamaican teenager interested in math and science. Daniel is a sensitive Korean-American with dreams of writing poetry for a living. And these characteristics are not just on the surface-level. They’re essential aspects of the characters’ values that inform their decisions, making their identities crucial aspects of the plot and their developing relationship.
The form develops the theme of how one’s actions cause a ripple effect that alters the paths of even those who are many degrees removed from the individual. The alternating perspectives also allow internal access into both protagonists and a variety of characters that would otherwise appear as inconsequential to the plot. Doing so allows the reader to interpret many of the scenes with a variety of perceptions.
The form would’ve been even more effective if the chapters narrated by the universe were always in the same point of view. Even some that are from the perspective of the same character—such as all the chapters from the POV of Daniel’s Dad—alternate between first and third person. Being consistent would better develop the secondary characters whose voices are heard in such chapters, although I was still in love with the novel without this consistency.
While a film adaptation of The Sun Is Also A Star is in the script writing stages, the film adaptation of Yoon’s first novel, Everything, Everything (which is also told with an effective unconventional form from the perspective of a protagonist of color), will be released on May 19th.
The multifaceted nature of the novel makes it appealing to scientists and poets and everyone in between. YA and romance readers will enjoy the unconventional way Yoon tells the young love story, while the larger theme of fate versus free-will will leave philosophers and dreamers pondering beyond the pages of the novel. If you haven’t started to read it yet, you are truly missing out on a wonderfully written, touching story!

The Office of Accessibility Services (OAS)

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Arnelle Hanley from the Office of Accessibility Services (OAS). Photo credit: OAS

Goucher’s Office of Accessibility Services (OAS) opened its doors four months ago, and its director Arnelle Hanley has been busy at work ever since. The purpose of OAS is to provide a space for students who are seeking accommodations “to better engage with the Goucher community,” according to Hanley. Her work is not limited to learning or physical disabilities. Rather she is available to help students gain access to help with whatever limitations and barriers they may experience inside the classroom and all around campus. This can range from long term, chronic issues to temporary issues, such as broken ankles.
She collaborates with “pretty much any office that you can think of,” including residential life, counseling, health services, FMS, dining services, admissions, financial aid, and the Office of International Studies. She’s been meeting with prospective students and their families through admissions. With OIS, she’s been helping students think about the accessibility of the study abroad programs they’re considering and supporting them with aspects of their applications. She’s also been meeting with every academic center. She’s been a part of ongoing conversations with FMS about what accessibility looks like as Goucher is building new buildings and what it looks like in our current buildings in regards to what types of accommodations we can make now to make the buildings more accessible.
In respect to the dining halls, she may help students navigate dietary restrictions, as well as help develop systems that will make the dining halls more physically accessible for students who use a wheelchair or cane. One idea she’s been in conversation with the dining facilities about is the acquisition of trays for those who need to better balance their food and plates and utensils, etc.
Yet, Hanley’s job doesn’t stop there. “I look at my job as not just helping students access Goucher, but also preparing them to advocate for themselves after Goucher…I’m always thinking of life after Goucher.” She strives to empower students to advocate for themselves while at Goucher so that they can do so confidently with HR in their future careers: “Your parents can’t call your future employer,” she says.
Currently located in an office in the Alumni House, she will hold open hours for students to book appointments with her on Starfish. In the meantime, students can email her at arnelle.hanely@goucher.edu. “If you’re not sure who to go to, start with me…once you talk to me, I already know who the contact person is for you,” she says. ACE, Frona Brown (the Learning Disabilities specialist), and Hanley are developing a system that will allow them to effectively communicate between themselves. Starting the conversation with Hanley will allow her to efficiently direct students to the best resources for their personal needs. If a student already has a relationship with ACE or Frona Brown, Arnelle encourages them to maintain those relationships, but any student who hasn’t yet developed a relationship with these resources should contact Hanley first to discuss whether they need accommodations and what those resources would look like. Hanley reiterates that “my office is here to help you problem solve, not to solve your problems.”
Students, faculty, and staff can help Hanley make Goucher more accessible by reporting all barrier issues they notice and experience on campus. This can be suggestions as to where handrails can be placed around campus, or something as specific as the magnet locks being so low in a dorm building that people are likely to hit their heads on such a barrier. Reporting handicap buttons that don’t work and any barriers in classrooms are also helpful.
For more information about the Office of Accessibility Services and other campus resources, please visit the new and up-to-date Accessibility website: http://www.goucher.edu/student-life/accessibility-services.

Center for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching (CAST)

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C.A.S.T is here to support students. Photo Credit: CAST’s Facebook page

All students have complained about a professor or an assignment or a particularly bad incident in a classroom at least once in their lives. Maybe you’ve written these complaints in an end-of-course reflection or approached a professor directly about the issue. But how do faculty know the best ways to resolve these issues and navigate the feedback they receive? What can they change in order to make the next renditions of their courses more successful?
As of last year, Dr. Robin Cresiski at the brand new Center for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching (CAST) is that support system, which will “provide resources to faculty to help them be the best teachers and scholars they can be.”

Cresiski will help faculty integrate the latest research in effective teaching in their classrooms, promote undergraduate research, and cultivate student success. “Making faculty happier without increasing student performance is a failure,” according to Cresiski.
There is a variety of ways she is and will be undertaking this role. Faculty workshops and Lunch & Learns about a variety of topics are one route. The topics are selected from a survey Cresiski administered to faculty at the beginning of the semester to gauge the ones that are most in demand among Goucher’s faculty. Topics include “best practices for week 1,” “transparent assignment design,” and a variety of topics surrounding inclusivity and accessibility. While attendance is optional and some professors’ schedules may conflict with such workshops, Cresiski is working on a website where recordings of all the workshops will be available for faculty to consult if they could not attend.
She is also available for individual consultations to help faculty revise areas of their curriculum where students are falling asleep, to discussing ways to address a classroom incident, to anything else faculty made need support for. Faculty research is another area Cresiski will help with, such as thinking about research design and organizing research into a publication plan. Faculty may reach out to her or may be referred to CAST by another faculty member, administrator, or department chair. When faculty wish it, Cresiski will also observe their classes.
“The administration was very forthright with me about various issues on campus before I came forward,” says Cresiski, “[such as] the change in curriculum and the video from students about their experience as diverse students on campus. I am absolutely going to be a resource for faculty to make their classrooms more inclusive.”
In an effort to confront these issues, Cresiski has already started collaborating with the Academic Center for Excellence in order to help faculty reinforce the messages that ACE tells students and the Center for Race, Equity, and Identity about not only the Phoenix Program, but also what kinds of faculty programming CAST and CREI can collaborate on.
“Several of the workshops will revolve around helping faculty make their content and curriculum and lessons accessible and engaging for all students,” Cresiski promises. “There have been limited opportunities for faculty to learn how they might do that up to this point.” She cites the transparent assignment design workshop as an example of how she will empower faculty to be more inclusive. “Faculty that make just two of their assignments more transparent have smaller equity gaps between white and non-white students and between continuing and first generation students.” She also knows that addressing the issue of inclusivity and accessibility will require deeper work, more self-reflection and confrontation of the implicit bias one has when regarding examples used in class, hiring students for research or teaching assistant positions, and orchestrating class discussions.
Cresiski’s previous experience has definitely prepared her for this new role at Goucher. After completing a PhD in Immunology and serving as a visiting biology professor at Mt. Holyoke College (she will also teach biology at Goucher), she was hired at a small start-up college in Nevada where more than 50% of the student body were students of color, 67% were first generation, and almost all were low-income. Cresiski helped build a biology program and an undergraduate research program before becoming an administrator. As an administrator, she oversaw faculty development because she had become “very interested in developing faculty practices, especially in relationship with students who are very different than themselves and their experiences.”
In order to best serve the faculty, Cresiski is trying to figure out the best way to get feedback from students about their experiences with faculty at Goucher: “I’m a nice neutral resource…I’m nobody’s boss. So if students would love to see something happen differently in a classroom, I’m a place where they can come talk to me and they’re not getting anyone in trouble.” She’s hoping to figure out how students can compare and contrast their experiences and point out trends that they see, which students currently don’t have the opportunity to do in end-of-course reflections. Other colleges have advisory committees or pizza hours, which Cresiski has considered. In the meantime, she has been in conversation with ten students from a variety of disciplines that Dylan Margolis from GSG put her in contact with. She intends to form a working group including these students to think about the new center pair exploration courses—curriculum development being another aspect of faculty support that CAST will be a large part of.
In the meantime, students are welcome to email Robin.Cresiski@goucher.edu their ideas about how things could be better. She’s also welcoming students to tell her about really positive experiences they’ve had with faculty so that she can highlight such great teaching in her faculty newsletter.
“I’m really excited to be here!” Cresiski says, not only because her great-grandmother was a Goucher alumna, but also because she is “so inspired by [President Bowen’s and Provost Lewis’s] dedication to building Goucher into an accessible, transformative liberal arts institution.” Their dedication to accessibility is very important to her and she’s excited to contribute to the process of implementing the changes that will ultimately achieve this vision.

Garrison Keillor Visits Goucher

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Keillor-Headshot-2.jpgErika DiPasquale, Associate Editor

March 5th, 2017

On Monday, February 20th, Kraushaar Auditorium was filled to capacity for the sold out Garrison Keillor Event. The master storyteller was the first performer of “The Power of Storytelling” themed-semester event series, which strives to encourage “learning to gather stories, learning to craft stories, listening to one another’s stories, hearing master storytellers, and community reflection on stories,” according to Emily Perl, Assistant Vice President for Student Success, and leader of the themed-semester committee. The event was funded entirely by the Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Visiting Professorship fund.

Garrison Keillor hosted his very popular radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, from 1974 through July 2016 when he retired. His career earned him 3.5 million listeners on 700 public radio stations and Grammy, ACE, and George Foster Peabody awards, the National Humanities Medal, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He’s also an author of many books and editor of poetry anthologies. According to Emily Perl, Mr. Robert Meyerhoff and Ms. Rheda Becker “were instrumental in the decision to bring Garrison Keillor to campus this semester.”

Keillor entertained the crowd for 2 hours and 45 minutes straight—without stopping. Even during a ten minute intermission about an hour and a half in, he remained on stage and sang nostalgic songs with anyone in the audience willing to join in, expressing more than once how blessed he was to be in the same room as people who know the words to the same songs he knew—something he expects to not experience again in the coming years.

As for the content of his performance, his stories were certainly tailored to the audience, which consisted of more people with gray and white hair than Goucher College students. The age demographics of the audience shouldn’t come as a shock, being that a goal of the themed-semester is “to have a variety of speakers who appeal to different audiences and achieve a number of different goals,” according to Perl. Keillor started with stories about his brother-in-law’s hip replacement and his prostate, and then jumped backwards in time to share stories about college and his childhood. The audience heard stories about his first kiss, childhood punishments, and a couple funerals he’s recently attended. None of the stories he told took place during his impressive radio career. This organizational decision contributed to the development of the theme that “We strive to go far and then we end up back in the same place.”

Another theme he kept circling around to—one that is very relevant to the goals of the storytelling theme semester—is the act of writing things down and being remembered. After his longer stories, he would repeat the statement, “And I thought…I should write about this. But I haven’t written it down because I haven’t figured it out yet.” The first time he thought this, he was six years old. He wished to preserve the memory and prevent himself from simply disappearing from this earth. He wanted to write “to make sense of it.” The “strongest impulse of a writer,” according to Keillor, is “to hold onto the past and not let it vanish.” In his more recent reflections on his own mortality, as his performance illustrated, he’s felt this impulse even more so, in part because of a desire to be quoted posthumously like the greatest writers of all time—something he perceives as more meaningful than if he were to have a building named after him.

Because he told ordinary, relatable stories about his pre- and post- career life, the most resounding take-away from his performance is that anyone can tell their stories and be remembered in any form and style that comes naturally to them. Keillor’s style was one that evoked consistent waves of laughter and involved the audience in song at the beginning, middle, and end. Perl said, “The audience thoroughly enjoyed their evening with Garrison Keillor—I would call it a rousing success!”

A list of the remaining events in the series is below. Reserve your free tickets in advance at http://www.goucher.edu/tickets .

Queen Nur: Monday, February 27th, 7pm

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Wednesday, March 1, 7pm

Alec Dun: Thursday, March 23rd, 4:30pm

Ann Hamilton: Thursday, March 30, 6:30pm

Curtis Sittenfeld: Monday, April 3, 7pm

Peter L. Borst: Wednesday, April 5, 7pm

Anna Deveare Smith: Wednesday, April 12, 7pm

Participate in various Story Circle Sessions throughout the semester to listen and share stories in the ATH.

A Day in My Life Abroad: Tuesday, March 7, 4pm

The Place Where I Grew Up: Wednesday, March 22, 3pm

Hair Stories: Tuesday, April 11, 4pm

Goucher Stories: Wednesday, April 19, 3pm

Immigration Stories: Tuesday, April 25, 4pm

Visit http://www.goucher.edu/storytelling for more information about the speakers/performers and the Story Circles.

Post-Study Abroad Poster Session

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Photo courtesy of Google Images.

Erika DiPasquale, Associate Editor

February 25th, 2017

During the common hour on Wednesday, February 15th, the 45+ students who studied abroad during the Fall 2016 semester took over the Hyman Forum for a poster session. The poster session is a brand new addition to the mandatory study abroad curriculum. OIS asked students to choose topics from a list that they were most interested in presenting—such as arts, transportation, sports, education, food, etc.—and assigned them into groups based on those preferences.

The poster session is the brain-child of Jennifer White, the Associate Director of OIS. According to White, “The Office of International Studies, along with many on campus, has long recognized the need for creating opportunities for students to share reflections on their study abroad experiences.” The poster session is the most recent attempt to fill this void. Each group had about three students and “in most cases, the groups [were] comprised of students from different countries, to allow for a comparative framework,” said White. The groups informally presented their spiel to those who approached their table, some groups using posters while others showcased Power Points from their laptops.

The presenters had mixed reviews about the experience. Ryan Salamony ‘17 “thought that being able to connect with others concerning our chosen topics and to discuss how such topics impacted our interactions with the local culture…was fascinating and a good way of showcasing different perspectives…It was a good way of letting us step back from the situation, back with our Goucher goggles on, to look at our time abroad in a different way.” Brandon Creed ‘18, who studied abroad in Scotland, liked the poster session because it gave an overview of what everyone experienced. Rachel Grosso ‘18, Meg John ‘18, and Grace Flannery ‘18, the members of the transportation group, all expressed how much they learned from the conversations they had with one another when developing their presentation. Anna Young ’18, who studied in Greece, said, “The centralized space to tell stories about our experiences is beneficial. It validates that the Goucher community does care about our study abroad experiences. There’s room for improvement, but it’s a good step to integrate the abroad experience into the Goucher community in a meaningful way.”

Many of the presenters also agreed that there was room for improvement.  Although Meg John ’18 appreciated the space to speak about her experiences in Uganda, she said “the assignment felt forced.” Transportation, the topic she was assigned, wasn’t all she experienced abroad. “The presentation speaks to the project, not to my experiences…Goucher can do wonders [with the post-study abroad program] so that it’s not a chore,” said Meg John ’18.

Grace Flannery ‘18, held similar sentiments. She “didn’t go abroad [to South Korea] to compare and contrast, but to experience Asian culture.” Love-Moore, who studied abroad in Argentina, said, “I don’t know if [the poster session] is helpful. It was annoying to be arbitrarily put into groups with a more or less random topic.” Anne Werkheiser ‘18 agreed that it wasn’t as effective as it could’ve been, stating, “it feels like something I did in middle school” and “no one is here.” Attendance was extremely low, with as few as three people visiting one of the Education tables throughout the hour-long session, according to Lea Love-More ‘18.

Along with such criticism, the presenters have ideas for how to revise the program. Many suggested small group conversations in place of the poster session. Grosso noted that her group discussed so much beyond their assigned topic, and their fruitful conversation was the beneficial aspect of the assignment rather than the presentation or assigned topic. Desirae Moten ’17 said, “Let’s just have a dinner and chat.” Flannery also thinks that conversations would’ve been “more meaningful.”

A couple of students would’ve preferred formal presentations. Doing so would’ve allowed the presenters to hear other students’ presentations, which was not an option with the poster session format, according to Werkheiser. Salamony also wanted the opportunity to hear the other presentations, but he wouldn’t have liked to present to the entire community. Jennifer White assured that “as with any new venture, we’ll evaluate [Wednesday’s] events to see how it can be enhanced in Fall 2017 for the 95+ students currently studying abroad this spring semester.”

The poster session was just the first step in revising the post-study abroad experience. More changes are to come, with each rendition improving upon the last, in an effort to provide students with the best framework to process, reflect upon, and share their study abroad experiences.

Campus Construction Update

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Erika DiPasquale, Associate Editor

February 25th, 2017

On Friday, February 17th, Linda Barone, the FMS project manager, and the Whiting-Turner Construction Team co-hosted a community update on the campus construction plan. Despite free pizza, attendance was extremely low.

This was the first of a series of updates that will occur every other Friday at 3pm in Heubeck Dining Hall Room A. Although the next update will likely be the same presentation they gave on the 17th, once the construction gets moving, the meetings will be updates about what has happened and what changes have been made. The meetings give students the opportunity to ask their questions, see an interactive digital 3-D version of the Mary Fisher Project, and watch a video about how the Wolfe House & Building Movers Company will move the Froelicher building across the street. Future updates will take place on the following dates:

-March 3rd

-March 31st

-April 14th

-April 28th

In the meantime, if you have questions, please contact Lee Block, our GSG Senate Representative and Chair of the Student Life committee at leblo001@mail.goucher.edu .

Mary Fisher: present-Summer 2018

The reason there hasn’t been much progress is because there is a permit pending to carve a temporary access road between the chapel and Bacon for moving building materials. Once they have the permit, this temporary road will be built and the Mary Fisher Lawn will basically turn into a temporary parking lot.

Bacon, Dulaney, & Hooper will remain open as residence halls for the duration of the project. For those living in Bacon, there is an area of refuge within the fence so that in case of an emergency, you can exit the building at any exit. In such an instance, public safety will let you out from within the fence. Otherwise, the area around Mary Fisher enclosed by the fence is completely off limits to students. Public Safety monitors the cameras that overlook this off-limits area.

Two additions will be made to Mary Fisher in addition to completely renovating the interior of the building as it currently stands. Ultimately, the top floor will be the only all-you-can-eat dining hall on campus, featuring a Mongolian Grill and a large seating area. A retail dining hall (think former Pearlstone/current Heubeck) will be on the entrance floor. The Office of Student Engagement (OSE) will have an entire wing in the final building.

Mary Fisher is projected to be complete by Summer 2018, so current Sophomores and First-Years will be here to enjoy its services.

Froelicher: this Summer

Sometime between June and July, Thorman & the Froelicher courtyard will be demolished, but Alcock, Gallagher, & Tuttle will literally be picked up and moved to the SRC side of the street where the basketball court, swingset, and old garage are located now.  Expect to see some digging and pipe-laying on the SRC-side of the road in mid-to-late March to prepare for this move. Attend a future construction update meeting to see a video of the Wolfe House & Building Movers Company in action! This decision to move Froelicher instead of demolish it will be half as expensive as building a new building and save a lot of time.

The First Year Village: this summer-2018

Once Froelicher moves across the street, the construction of Buildings B & C where Froelicher currently stands will begin this May when the semester ends. For safety reasons, a fence will be built around the entire construction site, closing the current pathway from the Residential Quad to the SRC and P Selz. Consequently, until the buildings are complete in 2018, you will have to walk to Loop Road in order to reach the SRC from the Res Quad.

Interfaith Center: July-January 2018

This project will hopefully begin this July and be complete as of January 2018 to the left of the Chapel.

Equestrian Center: 

This will be located behind the President’s House. Toward the end of this summer, some trees will be removed back there in order to grow grass for the horses to pasture. The reason for this edition to campus is that the current paddocks are too small for the amount of horses that we have.

Hoffberger: 2019

An addition and renovations to this outdated building are projected to begin in 2019.

But what about Stimson?

According to Barone and the Whiting-Turner Team, a lot has to happen before this. The current plan is to demolish Stimson Dining Hall to plant a grassy area once the new Mary Fisher opens in Fall 2018. In the early 2020s, they will demolish one section of the Stimson dorms at a time. Senior Apartments will be built in this space.

Area between front gate & Peabody:

Goucher has a permit to rezone this area and is in the process of talking with developers to build something on this land as an additional source of income for the college. Some trees have already been removed in this area.

Where will everything be?

The Post Office is in its permanent location. The self-service lockers are here to stay. The Bookstore will continue to do online books as they started this semester and its current location in the ATH by Alice’s is also its permanent location, “At least for the foreseeable future,” according to Linda Barone. Whether the Commuter Lounge will move back to its former location—where OSE is now—is unclear.

The Athenaeum:

No construction will be happening there, but there will be some internal changes. The current conversation is how to make better use of the Info Commons Space. The computers aren’t going away, but they will likely be moved. Speak to a Librarian for more information and to share your ideas about how future changes can serve how you use the library resources.

Concerns: 

One of the students in attendance raised the concern about the trees that will have to be removed in the construction process. Barone said that the law requires them to replace every tree they remove and that they are making an effort to take down as few as possible.

Another question was about the plan to use a ton of glass in the Mary Fisher editions like the Athenaeum. 6 windows in the ATH have shattered in the last 6 years for no explainable reason, despite many engineers investigating the situation. John, the Whiting Turner Project Manager, says that the shattering glass is a “freak accident” and that they can’t do anything to prevent it from happening in the future buildings other than build the building correctly. The glass panels are designed to expand and contract with the changing temperatures, and hopefully will not shatter in the future.

There are still a lot of questions to ask and concerns to raise. Please attend future updates in order to join the conversation and ensure that all your concerns are addressed before the construction is finalized.

Book Review: The Memory Book

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Image courtesy of Google Images

Erika DiPasquale, Associate Editor

February 25th, 2017

Lara Avery’s The Memory Book is the next The Fault in Our Stars and the Young Adult equivalent of Still Alice. Upon being diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Type C, a genetic degenerative disease that causes severe physical and mental handicaps, memory loss, and ultimately death, Sammie, a high school senior, starts an electronic journal in conversation with her future self. Despite the diagnosis, she’s convinced that she can still win debate nationals, give her valedictorian speech, go to NYU and law school, and become a defense lawyer worthy of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s praise. As her NPC episodes increase and her imagined future self unravels, her relationships get more complicated—including two love interests—forcing her to self-reflect and revise her values and goals.

What makes this book extraordinary, and worthy of its place on the Barnes & Noble Best Young Adult Books of 2016 list, is the character development. How Sammie chooses to tell her story in her journal builds her into an honest, Type A character. She’s socially awkward, ultra-driven, and dynamic. When she’s experiencing a NPC episode, her tone, diction, and syntax change significantly, adding to the authenticity of her character and narrative. A few other characters contribute to her memory book and their voices are marked by distinctly different tones and syntax. Thus, each character feels like an authentic person with realistic reactions to Sammie’s condition.

Another refreshing quality about this book is that it’s not cliché. The diary-like form is paired with a strong, confident voice rather than an angsty, insecure one. The romance sub-plot is indeed secondary to the main self-growth plot line and even undergoes an unexpected twist. Sammie’s fate is as unpredictable as her romantic relationships because of the form, confident tone, and selection of detail. Furthermore, the theme isn’t the trite make the most of life and love in the face of adversity as many sick-teenager narratives preach. Rather, it encourages self-reflection and self-growth in periods of uncertainty and probable doom.

This theme, in conjunction with the realistic characters, make it suitable for any audience. Anyone in a transition period will relate to Sammie’s story regardless of their age or gender, especially seniors about to graduate. Sammie’s character will resonate with readers who set high expectations for themselves, have experienced social anxiety, and/or who are passionate about what they do. The debilitation that NPC causes Sammie makes the story relatable for anyone diagnosed with a chronic disease or disability or whose loved ones experience such circumstances. However, one doesn’t need to be in any of these categories in order to appreciate this story: the universal themes of self-reflection and growth in conjunction with the experiences of strained friendships and romantic and familial relationships make this a heart-wrenching, tear-jerking story for readers of all identities and experiences to enjoy.

I cannot attest whether Avery accurately represents NPC. In the acknowledgements, Avery says, “To anyone who has had to suffer through a terminal disease like Niemann-Pick (or anyone who is related to someone who has), thank you for the liberty to live in your shoes for a few hundred pages. Forgive me for inconsistencies and exaggerations. If the way I told Sammie’s story doesn’t feel right, write to me. Or better yet, write it the way you would like to see it.”  But regardless of its accuracy, the story is still a powerful one about life, love, and the flexibility of values.

Book Review: “Ember in Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir

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Image courtesy of Google Images.

Erika DiPasquale, Associate Editor

February 15th, 2017

In Sabaa Tahir’s fantasy world of An Ember in the Ashes, Martials train as ruthless Masks at Blackcliff Academy to protect the Empire, and all other races are subjugated to their rule, including the Scholars, some of whom lead an underground Resistance against the oppressors. The novel alternates between the perspectives of Laia, the daughter of two Resistance leaders executed for treason, and Elias, the bastard son of the Commandant of the Mask-training school Blackcliff. In order to rescue her only surviving relative from torture, Laia agrees to spy for the Resistance as the Commandant’s slave in return for the Resistance rescuing her brother. Elias yearns for freedom from his violent future as a Mask, yet he is named an Aspirant, one of the four Masks competing to be the heir to the throne when the Emperor’s line fails. In an unexpected twist of fate orchestrated by the immortal Augurs who facilitate the Aspirant Trials, Laia’s and Elias’s destinies weave together.

Between the setting descriptions, introductions of supernatural beings, character names, and flashbacks, the world-building is exquisite. There is no moment of stagnation throughout the 445 pages: whenever a resolution seems plausible, another complication arises. All of the tension and suspense build up to the last chapter, which perfectly sets up the sequel instead of reaching a resolution (and that sequel, A Torch Against the Night, was recently published). Furthermore, the characters are well-rounded: they’re motivated by their guilt and grief, and their romantic interests are signs of their humanity rather than a distraction from their goals.

Because of the variety of elements, An Ember in the Ashes will satisfy a wide audience. The assortment of supernatural creatures will appeal to the fantasy and sci-fi audience. The romantic sub-plot will grab the attention of romance readers. Since there is both a hero and a heroine, both genders will find empowerment. Although the Empire isn’t dystopian, lovers of the dystopian genre will enjoy this book because of the characters’ ultimate involvement with the Resistance. The origins and values of the characters in Harry Potter are emulated in both Laia and Elias, widening the audience even further. But it’s not for the faint of heart: graphic instances of violence and torture will likely trigger a visceral reaction for many readers.

While a preface orienting Laia’s and Elias’s stories in the context of the Trials and the Augurs from the begging would’ve made the book even better, as would’ve straightening out the few instances where the alternating perspectives confused the timeline, An Ember in the Ashes deserved all the awards it earned. Such awards include Amazon’s Best YA Book of 2015, People’s Choice Award Winner—Favorite Fantasy, and Bustle’s Best YA Book of 2015 in addition to it being an instant bestseller.

After devouring Ember and its sequel, A Torch Against the Night, you’ll join the hoards of readers anxiously anticipating the release of Book #3 in 2018, to be followed by a fourth. Even better, Paramount owns the movie rights to Ember, so we should have the opportunity to experience the incredible story on the big screen in the (hopefully near) future.

If immaculate world-building, fantastic character development, and perfect pacing are what you look for in a book, Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes deserves a top spot on your To-Read list.

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