Book #1 - Ms. Marvel


We had our first Great Stories Club book discussion in ALA’s Great Stories Club series, Growing up Brave on the Margins. this week! We discussed the book Ms. Marvel, by G. Willow Wilson.  

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20898019-ms-marvel-vol-1?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=7CmoJvIeJA&rank=1


From the publisher: “Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she’s comin’ for you, Jersey!”


We gathered at 6:30 with Pizza and an icebreaker.  

What's your Superpower? 

As an introduction to each other, we all chose a card (pulled from here), that gave 'would you rather' scenarios to determine what our super-powers could be.  We went around the table reading our cards, revealing our choices, and explaining why we chose them.


Group Agreement

How will Great Stories Club look for us? This is meant to be a discussion among the members of the Great Stories Club, about the books we read and the topics that might come up regarding these books.  It’s meant to be a dialogue between the students. My job as the facilitator is to help make the conversation easy. I am not an expert, but I can help manage the discussion and keep us on task.  To help the dialogue work well, we agreed on how we are going to talk together. We came up with these agreements to create a brave and honest space.

  • Use the "ouch" Rule (if something is offensive to you, say, "ouch" and then you "I statements")
  • What is said here, stays here, what is learned here, leaves here
  • Lean into discomfort
  • Speak to your own truth
  • Take Space, Make Space (if you're naturally quiet in groups, try to talk more, if you are a talker, leave a space for listening)
  • Be Respectful

Questions and Themes

We talked a bit about the questions this book brings up, and themes that we might want to talk about:
What does it mean to balance your family’s expectations with your own desires? How can you channel your newfound bravery without alienating others? What does it mean to be brave or courageous without being reckless? 
*Rethinking Labels and Challenging Stereotypes *Identity/ Islam in St. Peter
We watched a short video on Muslim representation in the media. Why does representation matter?
You can’t be what you can’t see. Kids don't see themselves positively in the media, books, etc.

As an aside: I didn't bring this to the meeting, but I wish I would've!
I picked up this graphic at a conference earlier this fall, and I find it really interesting to see at a glance how children's books portray their main characters. This is talked about a lot in the library world. If you'd like to learn more, here's an article from the School Library Journal.


Book Discussion

We had a lengthy discussion on the book roughly using the questions found here.  

Some of us struggled with this book, to be honest, especially in the beginning when Kamala first transforms.  Lots of post-it notes and mental notes were taken about how we felt reading the first part of this book. She becomes blond, and blue eyed just like her hero, Captain Marvel? Really?! Our first thought was, are we teaching kids that you need to transform into something you're not to become a super hero?  But digging deeper, and reading on, we realize that there's a tipping point where Kamala starts to feel comfortable in her own skin and creates her character (although she still struggles, as we all do). We also agreed that the character development for the supporting roles was lacking, contradicting and sometimes offensive.  

We talked about how this book seemed to have a weird pacing.  LOTS is happening in a short time.  There is dialogue in nearly every panel.  Other graphic novels that are true novel sized, do this so much better, with better character development and pace.  Here's a link to a review by a Great Stories Member, if you'd like to try another great graphic novel.  

We talked about how Kamala wrestles with living up to her parents expectations vs. her new evolving character and the responsibility it holds, as well as the Legacy of Captain Marvel herself. How does this relate to what teens go through?  

A few parts of the book we loved:  
  • When Bruno says: Who cares what people expect?
  • When Kamala is running laps and her legs are ridiculously stretched  (we also think this is a great example of when Kamala is starting to have fun with her new-found powers and embracing this character of Ms. Marvel as her own)
  • When Kamala and her father have a moment near the end of the book and he says, "...you don't have to be someone else to impress anybody.  You are perfect just the way you are."
  • And then Kamala's inner monolgue continues:  "I'm not here to be a watered-down version of some other hero...I'm here to be the best version of Kamala."  (cue a smiley face post-it)

We then participated in a listening activity

We partnered up and were given this prompt:


When people hear your name, what do they think/say about who you are? Give two specific examples and talk about how this is different or the same from what you think about yourself. 

We decided who would be the listener and who would be the talker in each group - and then set the timer for 2 minutes. It's really hard for the listener to say stay quiet and really listen! It's also hard to talk for a whole two minutes, without getting verbal feedback from your partner!
We didn't get to this video featuring one of the editors and creators of the Ms. Marvel series.  Feel free to watch it now!

Sana Amanat who’s life experiences growing up as a Pakistani-American Muslim in New Jersey helped shape the character of Kamala Khan and the story of Ms. Marvel. says Amanat: “It’s important that we find a way to cultivate our own strength and formulate that identity on our own terms. The story of Kamala Khan is very much about that.”



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