It’s been four months since my last blog post, but I am still here, still librarian-ing, but honestly reeling from a huge career change. Please accept this interview with the tremendous author, Alex Gino, as my sincere apology.
Next week, at ALA in Orlando, I’ll be moderating a panel called It’s Not Just a G Thing: Exploring the LBTQ (and Beyond) in Middle Grade and Young Adult Literature, which features four authors I couldn’t be more super-pumped about: e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, Alex Gino, E.M. Kokie, and Robin Stevenson. I thought it would be nice to use this blog as a platform to drum up some excitement for what I am sure to be is a powerful and fascinating discussion. In the next several days leading up to the conference, I hope you will enjoy a series of micro-interviews with these writers that I am thrilled to share the PopTop stage with. Let’s keep YA Queer, y’all.
I have already talked about introducing George to my new school’s fifth and sixth graders, and how special and privileged we were to have Alex Skype in with us. I’ll never forget how lucky I felt that our students could connect with Alex, who responded to their numerous questions with warmth, joy, honesty, and unending patience. After the Skype visit, a student said that she felt like she and Alex were friends now. Students don’t respond to every speaker in this manner, but that’s simply the impact of Alex’s radiant presence. If you haven’t seen Alex speak, I highly suggest you rectify that soon.
And now, I give to you, Just 5 Things with Alex Gino:
Ingrid Abrams: You were kind enough to Skype into my school to talk to my students about George and I know you’ve made lots of connections with your middle grade readers. Have you found any of your interactions with kids surprising?
Alex Gino: I’ve been surprised by the level of maturity and awareness I’ve experienced from kids. I had an 8th grader in Ann Arbor, MI introduce me to the term “gender-designated bathroom” which I love. Certainly, there’s a range of responses, but by and large, these kids have access to language and conversations I couldn’t have dreamed of as a child. I also find that kids tend to ask more interested questions than more adults do, but that doesn’t surprise me in the least.
IA: Like me, you’re a glitter fanatic. If you had to survive on one color of glitter for the rest of your life, what would it be?
AG: Really, you’re going to do this to me? I would have to go with traditional silver glitter. Which is not my favorite kind of glitter. That would be purple. But silver glitter is more flexible. Also, I would like all glitter to be biodegradable and chemically-safe, please.
IA: You’re currently traveling the country in an RV, going to Chicago, NYC, and Richmond, among other places. What’s been your favorite stop so far?
AG: I’m not into “favorites”, because there are so many variables at stake, but I was surprised with how much I liked the Arkansas/Kentucky/Tennessee area. Gorgeous rolling hills, stunning water, and I even enjoyed the cities I visited. Chattanooga writers showed me a great time!
IA: What’s one thing you’d like educators to know about reading George with their students or library patrons?
AG: There is no age before which it is appropriate to learn more about yourself and others. Kids are already in the world, and are ready for the conversations. You can meet kids at their developmental level without being condescending, and let them guide the conversation. Any fears you may have? They’re yours. Please don’t pass them on.
IA: Is there a book that got you hooked on reading?
AG: I was one of those annoying kids who read at 3, so I was hooked on reading the moment I was able to decode the letters on the page. But an early love was The Runaway Road by Stan Mack, about a highway that got bored of going to the mountains all the time, so it took a vacation to the beach, taking a family with it. Other childhood greats were Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and The Girl With The Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts.
I thought I’d conclude this interview with a picture that fills my heart with warmth and sparkles. Here’s Alex being totally doused in glitter after winning the Lambda Award for Children’s/Young Adult literature:
Before I close out this post, I want to briefly and, I’m sure, quite clumsily, talk about the lives tragically and devastatingly lost in Orlando, Florida, where our ALA conference will take place. I’m sure many of us are travelling to the conference with broken hearts and worried minds. This is a national tragedy of horrific loss, but of course it feels more palpable when it happens to a community you’re so deeply entwined with.
I was practically raised by Mr. Rogers, and too often I’m reminded of his advice to “look for the helpers” in times of distress. Orlando has suffered an unthinkable trauma, and there are many kind helpers we can support. I have donated to the following, and I hope you’ll consider doing so too. Both allow contributions of any size:
Alex helpfully suggested donating directly to The Center in Orlando (you can find their donation button on the top right-hand corner).
In addition, I found this article on talking about the Orlando shooting with children, as well as the #PulseOrlandoSyllabus, to be invaluable resources.
Let’s not forget that the Black Caucus of the ALA denounced ALA’s decision to hold the conference in Orlando in 2014, due to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” laws. Because of this, in addition to the LGBTQ and Latinx lives recently lost, let us be aware of the needs of our fellow conference goers. Let’s not be dismissive of anyone’s concerns or fears. Librarians are upstanders, not bystanders, and therefore can be thoughtful and supportive in times of crisis. Be mindful of each other and make sure to reach out to anyone who needs someone to lean on. Hey, if you see me around and you need someone to chat with, please come say hi (I’m a veritable font of social awkwardness, but otherwise not so bad for company).
Tune in soon for my interview with author E.M. Kokie.
~Love and Libraries, Ingrid