Books for tweens

img_1432

Still, a precocious 12-year-old is not the same reader as a 15-year-old, and certainly different from a 17-year-old, though they all may read YA books. Meanwhile, middle school students go through enormous changes in a few short years. – Katy Hershberger for SLJ

There is a gap in books for tween readers. The MG and YA markets are thriving and great titles come out every year, but there are fewer books written just for ages 11 to 14. Writing for this age group is hard to pull off. There’s such a big range in maturity and reading levels. However, I think these authors did a great job! Continue reading

Dipangkorn, I Am Your Father

There are so many rumors surrounding Prince Dipangkorn, the only son of Vajiralongkorn and Srirasmi. His father is the king and his mother is under house arrest. He is going to school in Germany. There are rumors that he has autism. No one really knows the facts and it can’t be known.

I am concerned that Dipangkorn, 14,  is being raised by a monster. If your only caretaker is using you, you have no one in your corner. Despite being an heir presumptive, Dipangkorn has no advocate.

Some questions I have:

  • Why is he keeping Dipangkorn, unlike the sons from his previous divorce?
  • Why did he separate Dipangkorn from his mother?
  • Is it true that Vajiralongkorn is using his son for HIV treatments?
  • Will Dipangkorn succeed his father?
  • Will he ever realize what his father did to his mother and grandparents?

Continue reading

Power and the Reporting of Sex Scandals

1385
Andrew at Heidi Klum’s ‘kinky sex’ Halloween party. Photograph: SplashNews.com (via The Guardian)

This post is not about Thailand in particular but about how sex scandals are reported. It has to do with Thailand because the king is involved in many of them, and there are parallels to what is happening in the U.S. and with another monarchy, U.K.

While predators absolutely need to be called out, and the survivors coming forward are brave for doing so, these women become forever defined by the sex scandal they were in. Years after it happens, they are still described as the woman “who appeared in the nude video” or the victim “who accused _____ of rape.”

Describing them that way reduces them to a person who had sex with a powerful man. It adds to public shaming and doesn’t take into account their life outside of the sex scandal and whether there was consent.

This isn’t only about high-profile cases. Revenge porn or “non-consensual pornography” happen to ordinary people, so it matters how people continue to talk about it. Sex and power are inextricably linked, so we need to ask questions to get the full story.

  • Does mentioning sex add to understanding of the situation?
  • Besides sex, are we talking about power dynamics and roles?
  • Where is the scandal coming from? (Why are we talking about it now?)
  • How are we describing the perpetrator?
  • Is there any mention of consent? Not knowing matters.

Here are some examples of sex scandals in the U.S. and Thailand, and the problematic ways they’ve been reported.

Ex-Princess Srirasmi (Thailand)

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bx2f2HsgMXA/

Princess Srirasmi (ser-rat-sam-ee) is the third wife of Vajiralongkorn and they married in 2001. He divorced her in 2014 and she has been put in house arrest since then. Her family was accused of lese majesty and put in jail. For a while, it wasn’t known whether she was alive.

The Scandal: At a birthday party, she was only wearing a thong and her then-husband, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, made her crawl on the ground and eat out of a dog bowl.

Vajiralongkorn has also posted explicit photos of him and his wives and mistresses in the palace, which have been leaked by staff.

Why it’s problematic: A video of the party has, of course, been viewed millions of times. Most mentions of Srirasmi include the party video, but doesn’t explicitly talk about consent. It might go without saying that he forced her to be naked, but it disturbs me that it’s often not said at all.

Anti-royalists (and royalists who back Sirindhorn) use the video as evidence that Vajiralongkorn is unsuitable to be king, which makes Srirasmi a pawn in politics. In addition, the video makes it so that people would never take Srirasmi as a queen seriously, despite how well she fulfilled her role as princess. Being with Vajiralongkorn is a lose-lose situation for the woman involved.

There is no consent when it comes to the king. Whether they go along with his sexual exploits OR displease him by exercising any kind of action, he ruins their lives.

If an article is going to identify Srirasmi by the video, it also needs to mention  Vajiralongkorn and his history as a sexual predator.

Ex-Representative Katie Hill (United States)

https://www.instagram.com/p/B25RWl2AT_n/

Katie Kill was a representative in Santa Clarita, California. She resigned from her role in October 2019, following an “alleged relationship with the House staff member.” She acknowledged a relationship with a member of her campaign staff “during the final tumultuous years of [her] abusive marriage.”

The Scandal: Her ex-husband released nude pictures of her. She had relationships with two staffers.

Under new #MeToo-inspired House rules, that’s not allowed. It’s also just wrong for a boss to engage in a relationship with a subordinate, no matter the genders of those involved.

Why it’s problematic: Powerful men pressuring their subordinates into sex is nothing new, even if calling them out on it is. The irony of a first-year representative resigning for having relationships with staffers as well as being a victim of revenge porn, while the president and a Supreme Court justice, who are known rapists, are still in their jobs, is not lost on anyone.

It’s problematic because people who hold themselves accountable would remove themselves from positions of power, while abusers, especially men, would not. As progressive as #MeToo is, it’s applied much more harshly to women than men. Even in the best case scenario where a claim is verified, the abuser still seems to be able to remain in their positions of power or return to it. Consequences are minimal.

The bottom line is that sex scandals don’t end powerful men’s careers.

Prince Andrew (United Kingdom)

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4_6z23nQhi/

Prince Andrew, 59, is the Queen’s third child.

The Scandal: Prince Andrew is implicated in the sex trafficking ring, run by Jeffrey Epstein. His wealthy friend procured underage girls for him to have sex with.

Why it’s problematic: Do members of the royal family go to jail? What happens when a prince is involved in sex trafficking? Even though it’s an open secret that many powerful men across countries and industries benefited from Jeffrey Epstein, they are somehow still shielded from it. Except that shield is starting to thin.

In the most recent interview, Prince Andrew told the BBC that:

“There’s a slight problem with the sweating because I have a peculiar medical condition which is that I didn’t sweat at the time. I didn’t sweat at the time because I had suffered what I would describe as an overdose of adrenaline in the Falklands War when I was shot at.”

Andrew added he is now able to sweat again.

Conclusion

As you can see, women can never emerge from a sex scandal unscathed. It doesn’t really matter whether they are the victim or perpetrator; when a woman is known to have sex (and she isn’t supposed to), it can literally destroy her life.

Even when they ARE supposed to have sex (aka being married), their (ex) spouses can still punish them for it by leaking photos and videos when they decide they are displeased. Sex scandals don’t follow the person releasing nudes.

To take this lose-lose situation further: when you are the spouse whose partner is in a sex scandal, or the child of an abuser, you still suffer. See Brett Kavanaugh’s wife and daughters.

  • Victim = your reputation is ruined
  • Perpetrator = punished for your misconduct
  • Bystander (spouse / child) = you’re shamed

Even when a woman does everything right, there is really no way to win against powerful men. This seems true worldwide.

The House of Mahidol, pt. 1

View this post on Instagram

"เย็นศิระพระบริบาล ใต้ร่มพระบารมี💛" ( ฉันรักในหลวง💛) #kingbhumibol#เรารักในหลวง #รัชกาลที่9 #ธสถิตในดวงใจไทยนิรันดร์ #ทรงพระเจริญ #ทรงพระเจริญยิ่งยืนนาน#queensirikit #พระราชินี #ธสถิตในดวงใจไทยนิรันดร์ #ในหลวง #ราชินี #ในหลวงราชินี #สมเด็จพระนางเจ้าสิริกิติ์ #สมเด็จพระราชินี #สมเด็จพระนางเจ้าสิริกิติ์พระบรมราชินีนาถ #jukkoo #jukkoowong #jukkoostudio#wongstudio

A post shared by jukkoowong (@jukkoowong) on

 

You might know about the Thai monarchy from “The King and I” or “Anna and the King,” starring Jodie Foster & Chow Yun Fat (1999). The only things I knew about the kingdom of Siam prior to this month came from those movies & to be honest, I never thought about who ruled Thailand beyond that. The only things I knew about the country were:

  • People travel to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Ko Samui
  • People travel there for beautiful beaches , elephants, and ancient golden temples
  • It’s known as a sex tourism destination
  • Thai food is delicious! and has Chinese, Indian and Malay influences
  • It’s in Southeast Asia but also different from the countries around it
  • It’s never been colonized by the French or British

The thing that piqued my interest in Thailand was the scandal of Vajiralongkorn, the current king, demoting his consort. Full disclosure: It was his scandal that made me interested, and once I found out about his personal history, I wanted to know about his parents and exactly where the royal family stands in Thailand.

But it gets tricky because the lese majeste law is very strict and demands that Thais don’t insult the monarchy. That, combined with limited English reporting on Thailand, makes it hard to know the facts. I found my information from sources such as banned journalists, social media, and publications that focus on SE Asia.

This is what I’ve found out so far about the current monarchy:

We are currently in the 10th king of the Chakri dynasty. The famous King Mongkut from The King and I was the 5th king. It’s been 237 years!

King Bhumibol

Beloved King Bhumibol (pu-mee-pon) passed away in 2016. He had ruled Thailand for 70 years prior to that. Fun fact: He was actually born in the U.S. because his dad was studying public health at Harvard.

He wasn’t expected to become king. His dad wasn’t king, and he spent most of his childhood abroad in Europe. We’re not really sure how his brother, Ananda aka Rama VIII died. Rumors say that Bhumibol accidentally shot his brother, but no one knows for sure. What we do know is that Bhumibol became king and people really loved him.

He was the king most Thais knew in this lifetime and he was an icon:

  • He’s a musician. He played clarinet and saxophone and composed jazz.
  • He had ONE eye! He lost his right eye in a car accident when he was 20.
  • He visited rural areas and taught farmers how to grow crops instead of opium.
  • He loved photography and was often seen with a camera.
  • People really believed that he was a good king and wanted to do good for Thailand.

Queen Sirikit

View this post on Instagram

#ฉลองพระองค์ ฉลองพระองค์องค์นี้เป็นไอคอนิกของยุค ๑๙๘๐ ห้องเสื้อบัลแมงตัดเย็บจากผ้าไหมมัดหมี่สีนํ้าเงิน ปักประดับคริสตัลทั้งองค์ มีผ้าคลุมไหล่และฉลองพระบาทเข้าชุด ใช้ผ้าไหมมัดหมี่ในทางเฉลียง ทรงเมื่อคราวเสด็จพระราชดําเนินเยือนสหรัฐอเมริกาในปีพุทธศักราช ๒๕๒๘ _ _ _ ขอพระองค์ทรงพระเจริญ #สมเด็จพระนางเจ้าสิริกิติ์พระบรมราชินีนาถ #WeLoveQueenSirikit  #QueenSirikit  #พระราชินี #สมเด็จแม่ #แม่ของแผ่นดิน #คิดถึงสมเด็จฯ #ทรงพระเจริญ Credit 📷 และข้อมูล : www.vogue.co.th/fashion/article/queensirikitsiconicdresses

A post shared by QUEEN SIRIKIT (@we_love_queen_sirikit) on

Queen Sirikit is Bhumibol’s wife. She is fashionable and charming, but she’s also made questionable decisions. For example, she wanted her son to marry her niece so that her side of the family would become the future of the Chakri dynasty. That was a terrible idea because:

  1. even when he was a prince, people didn’t want Vajiralongkorn to become king
  2. Vajiralongkorn didn’t want to marry his cousin
  3. the marriage completely failed & Vajiralongkorn had 5 kids with his mistress

Sirikit’s own marriage: She met Bhumibol in Europe. You could say the 50s and 60s were their glory days — they were seen visiting countries together and the future of Thailand seemed bright & modern. In the 80s, a rift started forming. Sirikit was infatuated with her bodyguard, Colonel Narongdej. After he mysteriously died, she was heartbroken and disappeared from the public for 6 months. This was of course embarassing for Bhumibol and they were estranged after that, even though they still appeared in public together.

Sirikit survives her husband but is rarely seen in public now.

Vajiralongkorn

I’m not saying Vajiralongkorn is the villain in this story, but I’m not not saying that he is the most destructive part of the monarchy today. Vajiralongkorn is the only son of Sirikit and Bhumbibol, and he has an older sister and two younger sisters. His older sister Ubolratana married an American, so forfeited her succession status. His younger sister Sirindhorn (in picture above) is actually very popular and people wanted her to succeed. His youngest sister is Princess Chulabhorn, who has two grown daughters.

What to say about Vajiralongkorn himself? Well, all his actions so far, in 67 years, have indicated that he is a terrible person. A quick google search brings up: crop tops & fake tattoos at airports, shopping in German malls with his mistress, and divorcing his wives.

Despite being the king of Thailand, he spends most of his time in Europe and uses taxpayer dollars to fund his lifestyle of living in villas and flying between European cities to see his mistresses.

You might think those are just his preferences, therefore harmless. But it’s not — he has a history of putting people in prison, tearing down their houses, and abusing his power. He is regressing Thailand to absolute monarchy and no one can check him.

Older teens with heavy hearts

img_1431

I am really glad that there is so much amazing YA out there. To me, it feels like authors are creating a new genre entirely. I didn’t feel that anything I read in high school resonated with me. Books like The Outsiders and The Catcher in the Rye are not only outdated, but they don’t relate to today’s teens at all.

I hope books like the ones I read here make it into the hands of teen readers, even if it’s a long way before schools start teaching these books. Continue reading

Different styles in MG novels!

img_1417

I’ve been trying to branch out and read other types of books, aside from contemporary/realistic and fantasy. Middle grade is a universe and there is so much of it that I HAVEN’T even touched!!! There’s so many wonderful stories in the backlist and I think it’s worth going back to them to find how just how far kidlit has come in terms of diversity and the variety of stories available to kids now. Continue reading

Writing about POC and bias

Before I joined Twitter, I didn’t know that print journalists were celebrities. Journalists seemed anonymous to me.

It got me thinking about a style of journalism I see a lot today, where the journalist’s voice/tone is a big part of the article. The journalist becomes a selling point, if they’re popular. It makes sense in the age of “brand” publications that personality would become a big part of journalism as well. Continue reading

Dress codes

I never thought much about dress codes when I was in school or at work. It seems like a given and not something to argue with or get in trouble over. But when I started teaching middle school I found out that dress codes do matter and they are kind of tricky.

The biggest thing I discovered was that dress coders breakers do not mean to break dress codes. When you are a teen, you are definitely NOT interested in breaking a stupid dress code on purpose. (There are so many more worthwhile things to get in trouble over.) Continue reading