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Berkley native’s novel to be part of school district’s curriculum

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published October 9, 2013

 Berkley native Brent Meske, who now lives in South Korea, had his first novel, “Super Nobody,” selected to be part of the middle school curriculum in the Sunnyside Unified School District in Tucson, Ariz.

Berkley native Brent Meske, who now lives in South Korea, had his first novel, “Super Nobody,” selected to be part of the middle school curriculum in the Sunnyside Unified School District in Tucson, Ariz.

Photo submitted by Brent Meske

BERKLEY — Lincolnshire isn’t Berkley, but to Brent Meske, a native of the small metro Detroit city, it is as close to his hometown as he can get while living in South Korea.

In actuality, Lincolnshire is a fictional town created by Meske in his debut novel, “Super Nobody.” And just as Lincolnshire helps Meske relate to Berkley, so do the people and the buildings in the fictional town, from the high school to the library.

“I write this series, and I imagine what it’s like in Berkley and to head over to the public library,” Meske, 32, said. “I head over to the high school and roam the halls in my mind. My high school days were filled with really amazing friends and some good laughter, and heading to Lincolnshire takes me there.”

Drawing from his own hometown and own high school years, Meske was able to create a book that spoke to the problems teenagers face. And it is a big reason his book was selected by the Sunnyside Unified School District in Tucson, Ariz., as required reading for the middle school students.

“Super Nobody” will be read by around 1,300 sixth-graders in five schools in electronic form this school year as part of the district’s core curriculum. District Technology Coach Frank McCormick played a big part in helping to get Meske’s book into the curriculum.

“We are a one-to-one laptop district, and one of the big initiatives we had was getting students familiar with online texts,” McCormick said. “Brent’s book seemed to connect with what we were looking for with solid themes for middle school kids: peer pressure and alienation, and dealing with your emotions and navigating the world of being a middle school kid.

“And it deals with superheroes, too, which is pretty cool, and we can tie those themes into our common core standards we hope to address.”

Meske’s book was released May 21 and follows a character named Michael who lives in Lincolnshire, a city with more superheroes than any other place on the planet. However, Michael doesn’t have super powers, meaning he has to deal with the crazy circumstances that arise without the aid other students have.

Meske, a 1999 Berkley High School graduate, said having his main character not have super powers allowed him to stay away from common trends in the fantasy genre. It also allowed him to include themes in the book that would make it a good novel to have in schools.

“I’m extremely flattered that the book was chosen to be part of the curriculum, and I think the students can probably relate a lot to what Michael goes through; he’s bullied, denies the help of his parents and grandparents, handles that situation on his own, grows a lot on his own and is ostracized for being a good student, constant reader and just for being bullied,” Meske said.

“I think anybody who has lived, or (is) living, through adolescence can connect with the confused, misunderstood, odd and quirky. The struggle between wanting to be accepted and wanting to be unique and different is a classic, hallmark conflict in American society, and ‘Super Nobody’ explores that in depth.”

Outside of the normal teenage angst that “Super Nobody” includes, Meske said showing kids they don’t need powers to make a difference is key to his book.

“What sets ‘Super Nobody’ apart is the ability for students, hopefully, to see the word ‘super’ in a different light,” he said. “You don’t have to have an amazing amount of talent to be super, and even people who seem super can turn out to be super jerks. Being super means having the courage and strength to do what’s right and what’s necessary when it counts.

“It’s something everybody can do, super powers or not, and I hope the students will be able to pick up on that.”

Meske began writing comics in high school with his friend and wanted to get into the world of art, but eventually he realized he couldn’t feasibly do it financially, and he moved on to teaching. Seven years ago, he moved to South Korea with his wife and child, and began teaching English as a second language, accepting a position this year to teach at Inha University in Korea.

“Super Nobody” is the first in a four-book series. It originally came out in an electronic format, but it has since been released in paperback. By releasing his book by self-publishing, Meske said he was able to fulfill a life-long wish of publishing a book, as well as tapping back into his artistic ways.

“All my stories were getting dusty and moldy on my hard drives, and when I found a free option for sharing my work with the world, I jumped on it,” he said. “My art background allowed me to generate my own cover designs, which was a great way to feel like an artist again. Most importantly, since I was doing everything myself, if there was a single shred of success, I could claim every bit of it.”