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Reflections on Denis Belliveau’s In the Footsteps of Marco Polo

Reflections on Denis Belliveau’s In the Footsteps of Marco Polo

 

 

 

 

After last week’s author visit and presentation from Denis Belliveau, sophomore Sara Z. kindly wrote us a piece on her thoughts…

 

In our history classes, we are often told that we need to cultivate historical and cultural empathy in order to be informed citizens of the world, and I can think of no better way to do so than by observing. Observation is the act of learning without interfering. Most people think this means stepping back to get a broader view of  the situation, and while that often works, the best way to observe is to integrate yourself so fully into your surroundings that your presence and your actions won’t affect what you’re observing. This kind of observation is not something we get to do very often, but it is by far the best way to understand a different perspective. Our guest speaker, Mr. Denis Belliveau, had the opportunity to do that sort of immersion for two years while following the footsteps of Marco Polo.

And what did he learn from all this observation? Did he find anything in common amongst the different cultures? Surely, warlords in Afghanistan don’t have anything in common with monks in Mongolia. We assume this because of the information we have already acquired. We have learned about Buddhist beliefs and rituals in history class, and they sound nothing at all like the ideologies of the gun-wielding Afghans. Sure, they have the same biological makeup, but their historical differences created two completely different cultures that foster two completely different mindsets. Beyond the fact that both groups are Homo sapiens, they can’t have anything in common. Or do they? When asked during the assembly, Mr. Belliveau said that throughout all his travels across Europe and Asia there was one common thread shared by everyone he met. And that thread was kindness and hospitality towards all humans, a sense of kinship with a stranger.

When Mr. Belliveau met with an Afghani warlord to try to obtain safe passage through war-torn Afghanistan, he didn’t know if  he would be killed on the spot by any one of the countless rifles propped against the walls. When the travelers handed the warlord a letter they had received from an acquaintance, the man replied, “The man who wrote this  is my brother. I will do anything in my power to help you.” To this man, it didn’t matter that the travelers were from America. It didn’t matter what their political ideologies were. All that mattered was that someone he respected had asked him to help these people. They had come to Afghanistan to observe, not to interfere. They came simply as human beings. And for that reason, they were treated kindly.

I think that an essential part of nurturing our historical and cultural empathy is understanding that the people we talk about are all human. Sometimes this sense of humanity gets tucked away in our minds because of more pressing issues that draw our attention to the differences between us. When we target terrorist groups, we can’t worry about the fact that those terrorists are people, too, with lives and families. It’s far more important to take actions in the interest of our safety and for the safety and liberty of other countries.

But most situations are less extreme than that. If we are ever to going to create a world in which everyone understands and respects each other, we need to remember that the people we may disagree with are humans, too. When we establish that in our minds, we can begin to see how their emotions, loyalties, and beliefs may factor into their decisions, culture, and ideologies. When we can remember that they are human, we can remember that they have needs and feelings and a heart. With that in mind, we can truly begin to observe in a less biased and self-righteous way. Unbiased observation can only lead to understanding and empathy. And with understanding, we can find ways to engage that are in everyone’s best interest. All we need is our humanity and an ability to step back, watch, and reflect.

By Sara Z. ’18

 

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Upcoming Bay Area Literary Events

Upcoming Bay Area Literary Events

Spring has sprung, and that means new book babies to adopt and love! See some of your favorite authors up close and get to know some debut ones, too.

challengerApril 14, 7:30pm, @ Kepler’s
Are you one of the many students who read Francisco Jiménez’s fascinating memoir The Circuit? He has more stories to tell. He will visit the bookstore to present his fourth memoir, Taking Hold. Learn what happened as he left California to go to college.

April 20, 5pm, @ Kepler’s
We know you love the Unwind series. Its author, Neal Shusterman, is back with a new book called Challenger Deep, illustrated by his own son. This is not to be missed!

April 20, 7pm, @ Books Inc – Palo Alto
Anybody who loves music and realistic fiction will want to check out author Leila Sales, who will present her latest book, This Song Will Save Your Life, and celebrate its paperback release.

April 21, 7:30pm, @ Kepler’s
Shame on you! Shame on you? Author Jennifer Jacquet will talk about the concept of shaming and guilt and present her new book on the subject, titled Is Shame Necessary? New Uses for an Old Tool.

April 21, 7pm, through A Great Good Place for Books
Superstar YA authors Gayle Forman (If I Stay) and Jay Asher (13 Reasons Why) will host an important awareness event and fund-raiser on suicide and mental illness.

blackreckoningApril 21, 7:30pm, @ Booksmith
Passionate about banned books and censorship? Come to this event, featuring Daniel Handler/Lemony Snicket, Mariko Tamaki, and more.

April 24, 6:30pm, @ Book Passage – Corte Madera
John Stephens, author of the popular series starting with The Emerald Atlas, is releasing the final book in the series! It’s called The Black Reckoning. Come celebrate the finale with the author at this event.

April 28, 7pm, @ Kepler’s
Alternate history meets futuristic dystopia in Sabaa Tahir’s new book, An Ember in the Ashes. If you like adventure, strong female heroines, and secrecy, you’ll have to try this book. Meet the author at the bookstore!

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Amber Tamblyn

April 28, 7pm, @ City Lights
You know Amber Tamblyn from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but did you know she’s also a poet? Her new book of poems explores the lives – tragic, inspiring, and creative – of 25 well-known actresses, like Marilyn Monroe and Brittany Murphy.

April 29, 7pm, @ A Great Good Place for Books
A whole panel of YA authors will appear to get you excited about their latest books! Susane Colasanti has a new romance trilogy, beginning with City Love. Maria Dahvana Headley’s debut novel is called Magonia. And Katie Cotugno presents a romantic novel called 99 Days. Do you love love stories? Then be here.

May 2, all day, everywhere
It’s California Bookstore Day! Visit your favorite independent bookstore and support local business by buying a new book for yourself or a friend.

May 9, 11am, @ Book Passage – Corte Madera
Women’s history has never been this rad. Meet authors Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl, whose new book, Rad American Women A-Z, is a colorful, vibrant collection of inspiring ladies’ lives.

May 9, 4pm, @ Books Inc – Opera Plaza
This amazing YA event has more than 15 authors on the docket. Meet them, learn about their books, get your own books signed, take selfies…it’ll be a blast!

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Sophia Rossi and Zooey Deschanel

May 14, 7pm, @ Books Inc – Opera Plaza
Romance stories abound at this event – which will also include cupcakes and a raffle! Meet Sandy Hall (A Little Something Different), Katie Van Ark (The Boy Next Door), Temple West (Velvet), and Kimberly Karalius (Love, Fortune and Other Disasters).

May 18, 7pm, @ A Great Good Place for Books
If your eyes light up when you hear someone talk about HelloGiggles, you’ll want to read A Tale of Two Besties, written by HelloGiggles co-founder (and Zooey Deschanel bestie) Sophia Rossi.

May 22, 6pm, @ Book Passage – Corte Madera
Did you know bestselling author Jodi Picoult also writes YA? Her co-writer, Samantha Van Leer, is her daughter! Their newest book is called Off the Page, and they’ll appear at the bookstore to tell you more about it. (This is a ticketed event starting at $25.)

June 2, 7pm, @ Books Inc – The Castro
Local author Michelle Tea will celebrate the release of Girl at the Bottom of the Sea. It is the sequel to The Mermaid in Chelsea Creek.

June 4, 7pm, @ Kepler’s
Described as Graceling meets A Game of Thrones, The Witch Hunter is the debut novel from a local author. Come to this event to meet Virginia Boecker!

June 5, 6pm, @ The Reading Bug
If you love historical fiction, you’ve probably heard of Jennifer L. Holm. Or maybe if your favorite comic book series is Babymouse, you’ve heard of her. Either way, she’ll be appearing to tell you all about her upcoming projects, give you behind the scenes info on her characters, and more!

June 6, 11am, @ Book Passage – San Francisco
If you love literary-inspired adventures like Story Thieves or A Tale Dark and Grimm, you’ll want to know debut author Jennifer Chambliss Bertman and her new novel, Book Scavenger.

June 13, 7:30pm, @ Mrs. Dalloway’s
Attend the launch party for Delicate Monsters, the newest book by Stephanie Kuehn! This Bay Area writer is also the author of Charm & Strange and Complicit.

June 18, 7:30pm, @ Booksmith
Lev Grossman’s The Magicians series recently came to a close, and with the paperback release of the final novel, Grossman will appear to talk about the whole series and maybe even give you a sneak peek into the TV series, premiering on SyFy in 2016!

July 1, 7pm, @ A Great Good Place for Books
The Anne of Green Gables of this generation may just be Ana of California, the debut novel from Andi Teran. Ana leaves southern California for northern in search of a better life.

Have you gone to one of these events? Tell us about it!

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Upcoming Bay Area Literary Events

Upcoming Bay Area Literary Events

Springtime means the flowers are blooming, the leaves are reappearing on the trees, and new books are coming out! Check out some of these great authors making appearances near you.

thirdtwinFebruary 28, 7pm, @ Kepler’s
Are you a fan of thrilling, spine-tingling stories? Meet authors C.J. Omololu (Transcendence), Melissa Marr (Wicked Lovely), Kimberly Derting (The Taking) and Kelley Armstrong, who are all presenting their latest suspenseful novels.

March 8, 4pm, @ Mrs. Dalloway’s
Body positivity and acceptance are things we could all be reminded of. Author Connie Sobczak will talk about her new book, Embody, which strives to give everyone strategies, tools, and inspiration to love their body.

March 9, 7pm, @ A Great Good Place for Books
This is a star-packed event for YA lit fans! Seth Fishman, Maggie Hall, Jessica Khoury, Rachel Hawkins (Hex Hall, Rebel Belle), and Morgan Rhodes (The Conspiracy of Us), all authors of popular books of all genres, will appear and give you the scoop on their latest titles.

March 11, 7pm, @ Books Inc – Palo Alto
Andrew Smith sure is prolific! The author of Winger and 100 Sideways Miles has another new book already, The Alex Crow. Meet this unabashedly weird author and learn what he’s cooked up in this novel.

paintedskyMarch 12, 7:30pm, @ Kepler’s
If you read The Kite Runner and found it utterly engrossing and fascinating, you’ll want to come to this event. Debut author Elliott Ackerman will present his novel, Green On Blue, which Khaled Hosseini, the author of The Kite Runner, has reviewed, and which everyone is raving about! This intense, mature novel is told from the point of view of an Afghan orphan.

March 17, 7pm, @ Books Inc – Palo Alto
Don’t you love being in on all the new books before they hit it big? Come to this event celebrating the release of the debut novel by Stacey Lee, Under a Painted Sky. If you like historical fiction, you’ll want to read this book.

March 20, 3pm, @ Hicklebee’s
Your abs will be hurting after this event. Jon Scieszka, the hilarious author of numerous books of funny poems, fractured fairy tales, and more, will present his latest book of humor, Frank Einstein. Don’t miss it!

March 24, 7pm, @ Kepler’s
You loved The False Prince trilogy. Now Jennifer Nielsen has a new book series, starting with The Mark of the Thief, about a slave boy in ancient Rome. Get your copy of the book and meet the author!

March 24, 7:30pm, @ Mrs. Dalloway’s
Whether you like speculative fiction or historical fiction, three YA authors are here to make sure you know about their latest books. Stacey Lee will talk about her historical novel Under a Painted Sky. Whitney Miller has a sequel to her adventure book The Violet Hour called The Crimson Gate. And Susan Adrian is releasing Tunnel Vision, a paranormal thriller.

March 25, 7:30pm, @ Kepler’s
Acclaimed writer Joyce Carol Oates has a thought-provoking and controversial new novel out. The Sacrifice is about the aftermath of a racially motivated crime against a teenage girl. (This is a ticketed event starting at $10.)

so-youve-been-publicly-shamed-9780330492287March 26, 7pm, @ Books Inc – Palo Alto
Did you love The Sparrow? Its author, Mary Doria Russell, has a new novel: Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral. Come out and hear her speak, then pick up her new book and get it signed!

April 9, 7:30pm, @ Nourse Theater
Like weird science? Quirky people? Unknown histories? You have to meet Jon Ronson. The author of The Psychopath Test has a new book coming out, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, and he’ll appear in conversation with Jon Mooallem. (This is a ticketed event starting at $27.)

Let us know if you’ve attended an author event and want to write about it for the library website!

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Upcoming Bay Area Literary Events

Upcoming Bay Area Literary Events

Happy new year! Make 2015 the one where you meet your favorite author in person. Here’s where he or she may be appearing in the next few months.

January 6, 7pm, @ Books Inc – Opera Plaza
One of the most hotly anticipated new books of 2015, Vivan Apple at the End of the World, is as imminent as the apocalypse it depicts! Meet author Katie Coyle and learn all about her funny and heartwarming novel about a girl fighting the apocalypse at all costs.

January 9, 4pm, @ Linden Tree
What’s the latest book to be compared to The Fault in Our Stars? Jennifer Niven’s new book All the Bright Places. Learn why at this event.

bostonJanuary 12, 7pm, @ A Great Good Place for Books
Before the movie comes out, meet the author of Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, And The Battle For The American Dream, an inspirational true story about an unlikely group of teenagers who formed a robotics team and overcame the odds to go to a national competition. Joshua Davis will be on hand to tell you more about the book and answer your questions.

January 15, 7:30pm, @ Kepler’s
Popular author Anita Diamant will visit to promote her latest novel, The Boston Girl, a historical fiction about a young girl growing up in a working-class family in Boston at the turn of the twentieth century.

January 28, 7pm, @ Books Inc – Opera Plaza
Dystopian fiction fanatics should get to this event to see Joelle Charbonneau, author of the popular The Testing trilogy. Did you know it’s in development to become a movie?

January 29, 6pm, at Book Passage – San Francisco
Do you love Laura Ingalls Wilder? Do you love nostalgia? Do you love mysteries? If so, you’ll want to learn about Bich Minh Nguyen’s Pioneer Girl, a mystery about the origins of the Little House series. Nguyen will appear alongside Yiyun Li, promoting her latest book Kinder Than Solitude.

1402928540000-The-Fairest-coverFebruary 3, 7pm, @ Kepler’s
You know you are excited for the next book in the Lunar Chronicles. What started with Cinder has continued on with retellings of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel. The fourth book in the series, Fairest, is a prequel starring Queen Levana. Don’t miss this chance to meet author Marissa Meyer! (This is a ticketed event starting at $15.)

February 9, 7pm, @ Books Inc – Opera Plaza
Aspiring graphic novelists, whether artists or writers, cannot miss the chance to meet Scott McCloud, popular author and comics expert.

February 10, 7:30pm, @ Nourse Theater
Popular funnyman Daniel Handler (otherwise known as Lemony Snicket) will appear in the City Arts and Lectures series to talk about his life, career, and probably his recent scandal at the National Book Awards. (This is a ticketed event benefiting 826 Valencia. Tickets start at $27.)

Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby

February 11, 7:30pm, @ Nourse Theater
If you love the witty, pop culture-infused fiction or essays of Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, A Long Way Down, The Polysyllabic Spree, Fever Pitch), you won’t want to miss his appearance at City Arts and Lectures. (This is a ticketed event starting at $27.)

February 12, 7pm, @ A Great Good Place for Books
So why do you love to read? Wendy Lesser will tell you why. Her book, Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books, was released last year, and she’ll appear at the bookstore to read from it and answer questions.

Maureen Johnson

Maureen Johnson

February 15, 6pm, @ Books Inc – Opera Plaza
Whether you like snarky realistic fiction or chilling supernatural mysteries, you’ve probably heard of Maureen Johnson. She’ll be visiting the Bay Area to celebrate the release of The Shadow Cabinet, the final installment in her Shades of London series.

February 19, 7:30, @ The Booksmith
If you like the supernatural and literary short stories of Kelly Link (Magic for Beginners), you’ll have to get to this event to celebrate the release of her latest book, Get in Trouble, another short story collection.

February 26, 7pm, @ Kepler’s
Popular author Pam Muñoz Ryan (Esperanza Rising, Becoming Naomi Leon) finally has a new book coming out! She will visit the bookstore to celebrate the release of Echo, a story of an epic quest.

If you attend a local literary event, let us know about it! We’d love to publish your writeup of the event on the library website!

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Award-Winning Author NoViolet Bulawayo Visits the Junior Class

Award-Winning Author NoViolet Bulawayo Visits the Junior Class

weneedAll the junior backpacks piled around the outside library during long period 1 on Tuesday morning, November 11. Inside the library, NoViolet Bulawayo was ready to speak.

Bulawayo is the author of We Need New Names, a novel read by the eleventh grade class for summer reading. We Need New Names tells the story of a young girl named Darling and the tension that arises when she moves from Zimbabwe to Michigan and is forced to reevaluate home and what it means to her. The book deals with both the personal and the political with rawness and sincerity, all with the voice of an adolescent narrator.

NoViolet reading from her book.

NoViolet reading from her book.

Bulawayo began by reading excerpts from her book. The novel read like poetry as she read it aloud; her words sunk into the ground and grew as the period went by, filling the library with a forest of sound and words. Later during the Q&A session Bulawayo explained that she has a huge love and appreciation of language, and how certain portions of the novel were a way for her to explore her love of language through poetry. Not only is she passionate about poetry, NoViolet Bulawayo also expressed the power of fiction in telling stories and telling the truth. Nayanika K. ’16 asked her why she chose to write a fictional novel as opposed to a memoir, to which Bulawayo began responding to simply by saying, “Fiction is fun! You’re able to invent.” She went on that “stories are stories; they can do the work of non-fiction. You can tell the truth better through fiction sometimes.”

Kiana with NoViolet

Kiana with NoViolet

A main theme that emerges in her novel We Need New Names is home; what we are able to call home, if home is something out of our hands or something we can name for ourselves. Protagonist Darling leaves Zimbabwe and is confronted with the fact that although she may still feel homesickness and a connection to her mother country, the people she left behind when she came to the United States do not feel the same way. Questions about what home truly means are left unanswered in the book — it is complicated issue that is very real and impacts many: something so multifaceted cannot be easily summarized in one novel. When Maddy M. ’16 asked, “Do you agree that [Zimbabwe] is not [Darling’s] country?”, Bulawayo was sure to note the nuanced nature of this issue. But she summarized strongly: “Your country is your country as long you claim it.”

Sophie P. ’16 voiced a question on many students’ minds during class discussions: Why did the last scene go the way it did? Why did Bulawayo choose to end the novel on this bizarre, upsetting flashback? Bulawayo responded that she wanted the novel to come full circle in a way. She also meditated on the idea that for some, going back to their home or country is only possible through memory.

In addition to her reading and Q&A session, NoViolet Bulawayo led a workshop on writing dialogue. Throughout her reading, Q&A session, and workshop, NoViolet displayed a love of language and writing that was inspiring. Fiction and writing and language, she reminded the junior class, are fun and something to be celebrated. We left the library with our eyes brighter and pencils ready to work.

by Kiana B. ’16

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Cartoonist Liza Donnelly Visits Campus

Cartoonist Liza Donnelly Visits Campus

Liza Donnelly

Liza Donnelly

On November 5, Liza Donnelly visited as the Arrillaga-Morris Family Speaker and spoke to Castilleja about her journey to becoming a famous comics artist. Donnelly is known for her cultural and political comics that are published in the New Yorker. Her work has also appeared in many other publications, and she is the author of multiple books.

Donnelly spent much of speech talking about her journey to becoming a comics artist. As a child, drawing and putting on a smile or making a person laugh with her comics were activities she loved. She said drawing and comics had always been a part of her life but were never something she thought she could make a career out of. When she headed off to college, Donnelly majored in biology. After college Donnelly worked at the new York History Museum. While she enjoyed the experience of working at the museum, she regularly sent her work to newspapers and magazines. It took some time, but Donnelly’s work gradually was published. One of her big breaks was when her first comic was published in the New Yorker magazine. She then became a staff artist at the New Yorker, where she has worked ever since.

funnyladiesThrough Donnelly’s speech, she taught me about the power of taking risks and not letting setbacks stop you from trying to reach your dreams. She spoke about how each week, she would send in her comics and normally they would not be chosen. Even today, not every comic she creates is published. She never lets this stop her from doing what she loves. Unlike past Castilleja speakers, Donnelly was more soft-spoken and quiet. At first I thought she did not have much to say, but I quickly realized her true voice was found in her comics. What Donnelly did not say could be seen and understood through the characters and voices of her comics. Her humor and ideas a simply illustrated through her drawings.

From this experience, I learned that not everyone’s point of view has to come from his or her literal words but instead come through in many forms of expression. It is important for each of us to realize and look for these expressions to really get to know and understand a person.

By Molly L. ’16

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