Our CAS Reads Reading and Discussion Club

Dear Readers&Writers,

Abdii of the Beacon Program and I are co-hosting a discussion and writing group around speculative fiction. Come join us Wednesdays and Thursdays at lunch. We will send stories out a week in advance and meet to discuss them together or write together using prompts.

For our first week of cycle 2 (Wed Nov 20 & Thur Nov 21), we will discuss the 1-2 of stories we read cycle 1: 
There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury
“Repent, Harlequin, said the Ticktock Man” by Harlan Ellison (request pdf via email–email me to get a copy!)
A Descent into the Maelstrom” by Edgar Allan Poe
“Was it a Dream” by Guy de Maupassant
“The River” by Adrienne Maree Brown (request pdf via email–email me to get a copy!)


Cyrus and the Importance of, One In A Minyan

by Raven K.

Last month, the Disney Channel made history by having the character Cyrus Goodman on their show, Andi Mack, state that he is gay. Cyrus Goodman had previously stated that he was interested in boys twice (in the episodes,Hey, Who Wants Pizza?and, “Cyrus’ Bash-Mitzvah!”). The first time was to his best friend Buffy (echoing the groundbreaking coming-out scene in Buffy The Vampire Slayer when Willow tells Buffy she was into Tara 19 years ago), but he never said explicitly that he was gay until “Once in a Minyan.”


Andi Mack isn’t new to breaking new ground in children’s entertainment. They have been tackling topics like teenage pregnancy, mental health, different cultures and learning disabilities for a while now. One such instance was when the show’s love interest at the time, Jonah Beck dealt with panic attacks (which is another thing that also happens in this episode).


The episode, “Once in a Minyan,” now available on the DisneyNow website and app, is about Cyrus’ bubbe’s (or grandmother’s) shiva (funeral) which is tackled with grace and respect as are all of the things this show takes on. He tells his friends that he wished his bubbe would’ve seen the gay part of him before she passed, which then inspires him to come out to his former crush/friend by saying the words, “I’m gay.”


I was a year younger than Cyrus when my bubbe died. Much like his, mine was my role model and my biggest supporter. She’d watch all of my theater performances even though we all knew that they were garbage, she’d read all of my stories and had taken care of me when others couldn’t, but I never got to tell her I was a lesbian. She died before I learned to accept myself. It never was a confusion about what she would’ve said (she wore crop tops in her 70’s)–she would’ve said that she loved me no matter what–but I still wish I could’ve said the words even now, more than 5 years later. But much like the first gay character on the United States Disney Channel, I used my bubbe’s memory to come out. Not at her shiva like Cyrus, but at my bat mitzvah where members of my family and congregation could see me embrace my authentic self.


Andi Mack has been a show in which many people have seen themselves on the screen when they hadn’t growing up, including me. Not only has this show been the winner of a GLAAD media award, but it has been also nominated and has won other accolades over the two years it’s been airing. It has not been renewed for season 4 yet – so I implore you to reach out to Disney and keep watching to let them know that this is a show that’s important and tells kids that they “may be weird, but [they] are no different.”


** Andi Mack’s next episode won’t air for another month for editing out a certain actor which you can read about elsewhere. But this also gives everyone time to catch up! Here is a masterpost with links for every episode.



Teens on Twitter

by Raven K & Gabriela D

Of all the social media apps that we personally spend time on, Twitter is probably the most bizarre. Unlike other apps whose main focus is to have its users pretend their lives are really eventful, Twitter is basically a hive-mind of niche communities all focused on freaking out about pretty much nothing. Besides politicians attempting to stay “hip” with the kids to the endless accounts hoping to convince you that Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes are canonically dating, social media can actually be a very great source for more informational content, from tips on how to construct just about anything to any current news.

Entertainment: Humor and Other Fun Stuff


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Beyond Entertainment: Our social criticism

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Saying Twitter has practically everything would be a huge understatement. As more teens switch their attention from traditional places of getting entertainment and news such as newspapers to Twitter, it continues to provide teens with fun viral tweets and big news stories as they break.

book_reviews, Uncategorized, YA lit

CAS READS Sula by Toni Morrison

Sometimes a book comes at you from all directions. This one certainly has some cosmic power to move across shelves and change people’s lives. If you ever had a best friend when you were young, or if you have survived violence in your immediate family, this book speaks.

Sula is a pariah, seen as evil, but is she?

Nel is a good girl.

Both were raised by outcasts, but with different approaches to life.

They are lifeblood friends. Until. Men.

And the men in the book? Set in the early and mid 20th century, in a southern mountain town, racism rife, what is truly holding the men down, and carrying them away?

This is a book that fills you with spiritual questions. Not easily resolved and never forgotten. We will discuss it on November 28th!

scary, Uncategorized

A collection of short stories by H.P. Lovecraft


“The Call of Cthulhu”

“The Call of Cthulhu”, a grotesque horror short story, is probably H.P. Lovecraft’s best known. It speaks about horrors too great for the human mind, as seen through the eyes of the Bostonian anthropologist Francis Wayland Thurston as he slowly unravels the truth about the entity known as Cthulhu, and the cult and mythos surrounding it.

The story begins when Francis, as his sole heir, inherits the entire estate of his great uncle George Gammell Angell, a professor of semitic languages at the Brown University. He comes across mentions of Cthulhu when he goes through his research, and discovers a clay bas-relief depicting a creature resembling “an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature” simultaneously. Upon reading through his great uncle’s notes he slowly pieces together information about an ancient worldwide cult surrounding a horrendous cosmic entity, said to be resting at the bottom of the ocean. As he pieces together the final bits of information, he begins to fear for his life.

The short story carries a heavy feeling of impending doom, and conveys a strong fear of the unknown. It’s a great read for anyone interested in sci-fi and horror.



“The Rats in the Walls”

“The Rats in the Walls” is another popular short story by H.P. Lovecraft.

It is about a descendant of the De la Poer family who recently lost his son in WWI. Grief stricken, he decides to move to England and renovates the Exham Priory, an abandoned monastery that belonged to his ancestors. He moves in when the renovations are complete, and soon begins to hear the sound of rodents scurrying in the night. Expressing his concerns to friends and servants, he discovers that only himself and his seven cats are able to hear it. Mouse traps are sprung, but catch nothing. His cat (who bears a very unfortunate name) leads him to the basement, where he discovers an ancient room that appears to have been used for rituals. As he delves deeper into the past of his ancestors, he discovers secrets that has him walking out a different man.

I think this is a great read, especially since some things are left open to interpretation. Be advised that depending on the version you’re reading it may contain some racist language (namely, the name of the narrator’s cat). The story is the kind that stays with you for a while after you read it.



“He” is one of Lovecraft’s less popular works, but probably one of my favorites. Our narrator is a young poet that recently moved to New York and is experiencing a healthy amount of culture shock. He is fed up with the city and finds it to be very unwelcoming, but enjoys wandering the streets during the night, observing the architecture by the light of the moon. One night he meets a mysterious man that seems to be from a different time. The man offers to show him the secrets of the city, and he is led through a poorly lit neighborhood, and ends up somewhere that doesn’t quite belong to his own time.

This story, like many of Lovecraft’s other works, renders a strong feeling of fear of the unknown. In this case, the unknown is the distant future and past. There is also the suggestion of dark magic and rituals, another recurring theme in Lovecraft’s stories.


We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

This slim book is addressed to men and women and will give you the space and climate for your ideas to shift, open, and change. Adiche is a Nigerian writer who grew up speaking English and Igbo, but while Igbo was taught as a subject, English was the language of instruction and remains the official language of Nigeria.

She writes that while we are all human beings, there is reason to avoid generalizations because they silence our “specific experiences.” She debunks the stereotype of a feminist. She does not hate men. She is happy. She loves fashion. She explains why we should all be feminists–that you are a feminist is you concur that “there is a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it.” She recounts an incident in Nigeria when she tipped a man for parking their car. The man looked at her friend Louis and said thank you instead of thanking her. The man ultimately thought her money came from the man. Our ideas shape our actions.

If you like to think about what your role is in the world, and help define your ideas of what feminism is, she helps to bring you there. She states, “People make culture. Culture does not make people.” She demonstrates how we create culture and use our specific experiences -to develop healthier ways to interact with other.


Tao of Wu by The RZA

by Wolfgang L.                                                                                                          

The book “The Tao of Wu” is written by the American Hip Hop superstar The RZA, the leader of the multi-platinum selling rap group the Wu-Tang Clan. The RZA uses his experiences growing up in the ghettos of New York City, his rise to fame and superstardom, and his travels throughout the world to relate Eastern philosophy to more understandable experiences such as life in America, chess, kung fu movies, and hip hop. The RZA breaks down complex ideas and stories from several Eastern religions such as Islam, Taoism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Judaism into simpler ideas and takes ideas from each of these religions to use towards self-betterment and one’s search for happiness, spirituality, and meaning in life.

The RZA grew up in harsh conditions, living in several of the worst ghettos in New York City in the 1970’s and 1980’s. During his time growing up, he learns, uses, teaches, and eventually masters the lessons from the Nation of Islam, a religious movement created in the 1930’s Wallace D. Fard Muhammad in America. This religious movement was created by and mainly for African-Americans living in harsh conditions, to give the hope and spiritual guidance to them and help them live better lives and find more success in a time which was hard for many African-Americans living in big cities throughout America. The RZA is continually referring back to these lessons during the hardships he faced in his youth to help him get through to them and help explain these lessons to the reader so they may use the lessons for guidance in their own lives.  

This book provided me with completely new ways of viewing things and experiencing everyday life. Before reading this book, I was completely uninterested in matters relating to religion for the most part, however, this book provided me with insight into each of the major religions and some smaller ones and rejuvenated my interest on the topic of spirituality. After learning about many of the ideas and lessons given throughout this book, I feel I gained incredibly valuable knowledge which allowed me to use parts of multiple religions to better myself as a person, without devoting myself to any of the religions themselves. Even if you aren’t interested in the spiritual aspects of the book, it is still an incredible read if you are interested in hip-hop, especially if you are a fan of the Wu-Tang clan, or if you are interested in a story about a man who came from living in some of the harshest living conditions in New York City, and his transition to fame and fortune and his journey to cope with this radical change.                                                                                                                    


Animal Farm by George Orwell


What a powerful fable of how a manifesto written by the animals for the animals goes awry.  Just under 100 pages, Orwell blasts us with a vision of how egalitarian values can slowly slip away, if there is no ability to read, write, or remember on the part of the collective.  Slowly, the pigs take over and rule. Then one pig, aptly named Napolean, performs a coup d’etat, ousting the other pig, Snowball, turning him into the arch enemy of the farm. Napolean leads autocratically, fueled by greed. And slowly, the animals who had built their own government collectively begin to be dominated by Naploean, who little by little alters their manifesto, with very little notice or resistance.  A classic and a must-read for everyone who cares about equality and democracy and free thinking.