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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
A number of Gansworth poems recall an episode in American history most readers may know little about -- the infamous and abusive Indian boarding schools set up late 19th and early 20th century to "civilize" Native American children. Schools like the Carlisle School (where his grandparents were sent) cut students' hair, gave them new "American" names, and didn't allow them to wear their own clothing, practice their religion, or speak their own languages.
Never be held back by other people's false assumptions about you or what you're capable of achieving.
Positive Role Models
It seemed that few people ever expected much from this kid from the Rez. Gansworth wasn't a brilliant minority student courted by prestigious colleges offering full-ride scholarships. After high school, he went to work in a scrapyard and then to community college. His life growing up and as a young man was a struggle against poverty and bias, but he persevered and found not just success but acclaim as a writer and artist.
Violence & Scariness
A man is beaten with a baseball bat. A boy stabs kittens to death with scissors. A girl is badly scarred as the result of a grease fire.
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Rare uses of "f—k'" and "s—t."
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Products & Purchases
The book is filled with references to comic book characters (Batman and the Fantastic Four), music (The Beatles, David Bowie, ZZ Top), movies (Star Wars), TV shows (Jeopardy, The Brady Bunch, The Love Boat), and books (The Shining) from the author's growing up years in the 1960s and '70s.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens and adults drink beer and smoke cigarettes and a teen uses smoking as a way to ease his hunger pangs. Teens use fake IDs to get into a bar.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Apple (Skin to the Core) is a critically acclaimed memoir in free verse by Eric Gansworth, an enrolled Onondaga writer and artist, who grew up on a Tuscarora reservation in New York State. The book's title refers to a Native American slur: Someone is an "Apple" if they're red on the outside and white on the inside. The book unfolds in poems that are vivid snapshots of his life from childhood into middle age. Growing up poor and sometimes hungry on the "Rez," he loves comic book superheroes and Batman. Cautioned by his mother that "it's a white man's world," he struggles as a Native American student against the low expectations teachers had for any student from the Rez." As a young person," writes Gansworth, "I looked a long time for a story like mine … and tired of not finding it, I decided to write my own ..." Brief references are made to a man being beaten with a baseball bat and boy who stabs kittens to death with scissors. Apple was named a 2021 Michael J. Printz Honor Book, was longlisted for the 2020 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, chosen one of NPR's Best Books of 2020, and one of Time Magazine's 10 Best YA and Children's Books of 2020.
Is It Any Good?
This memoir is at once heartbreaking, achingly intimate, enraging, and inspirational. A deeply affecting window into a world where books seldom travel, Apple isn't a quick or easy read. It's long, the typeface is small, and the rich content of the poems means readers need to pay close attention. But these poems will send a powerful message of encouragement to any young reader who's ever been an outsider or felt they could never dream of a future full of promise.
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