Congrats to the three winners of the self-care kits. I have already contacted you all, and I hope the bundle of zines and/or books gives you a little peace in these bananas times. If I don’t hear from you within the week, I will pick new winners.
Does the never-ending deluge of disturbing news items make it difficult for you to effectively perform the duties of your job? Do you find your mood suffering or your anxiety sky-rocketing because of the current administration’s attack on POC, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, women, and countless others? Does the community you serve have legitimate but increased needs and demands? Do you find it increasingly frustrating to put on a brave and composed face for your public and patrons, whoever they may be?
Welcome to emotional labor in the age of Trump.
I’m struggling myself. It’s hard to admit that I’m floundering, especially in a profession where service and selflessness are the constant goal. Confessing to distress, even in difficult times, can be seen as a sign of weakness or lack of dedication. It’s true, though. I do find some days and certain conversations to be exhausting, and I appreciate when fellow librarians and educators are candid about current stresses on job performance. We need to know that we’re not alone in this and find ways to support each other.
Burn-out is real. Those doing emotional labor, whether they be teachers, librarians, day-care workers, nannies, anyone in the health care field, social workers, and on and on, are focussed on the well-being of others. We try to be dedicated to and invested in those in our charge, especially in this current political climate. Those targeted by the Trump administration are often those we interact with every day and it is our job to support them. However, in doing so, we often forget to recharge, take stock of our emotional reserves, and engage in self-care. Many of us, in addition to being concerned about our patrons or those we serve in our work-related communities, have personal concerns about our futures in this country. Yes, we need to share our strengths with our communities now, more than ever. But none of us are any good to anyone when we’re running on empty.
In addition to activism, which I feel like I could be doing more of (don’t we all?) and donating money to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, etc, I’m doing my very best to take care of myself. I have loaded the Streaks app with self-care activities (reading, journaling, hydrating, etc.) to encourage myself to be a little bit more mindful of my overall state. I know, though, that I am privileged to work for a school that gives me ample time off every year. I am lucky enough to be able to get enough sleep most nights. I am not monetarily restricted from engaging in many self-care activities. I know that, in many ways, I am a very fortunate person.
This is why I want to share some little self-care kits with people who may need them. I know there are people out there working harder than I am am, with communities more at-risk than mine, and who have less access to resources than I do. This is a token of my sincere gratitude to people putting in the hard work every single day for very little thanks. It’s not much, but I three little packages to offer:
Fine print: I purchased all of these items myself, except for the copies of Adam Gnade’s Simple Steps to a Life Less Shitty, which he donated to this giveaway because he’s just one of the very best people. Check out his amazing titles here. If you’re one of those “are these from a pet-free home?” people, I really do apologize. Some librarian stereotypes are based in truth, as these zines and books reside in an apartment that houses a giant cat with no sense of personal space. You can only win one kit. If you win, you must be willing to give me an address to mail them to. This open to United States peeps only. Feel free to enter for yourself or someone you love. Hey, you can split up the zines and distribute them to whoever. The giveaway ends on February 28, 2017.
To enter, here is the link to my very simple Rafflecopter. It would be cool if you followed the blog, liked me on Facebook, commented below, or shared this post, but it’s not necessary. I hooked up the Rafflecopter so that it directs you to visit this blog’s Facebook page, but no further action is required.
And hey, if you love Trump and everything his administration has to offer and think self-care is for entitled liberal snowflakes, you don’t need to troll this page or me, but you probably will. If it makes you happy, fam, who am I to stop you? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Hey, librarians, teachers, social workers, nurses, activists and everyone fighting the good fight? Thanks for all that you do. I appreciate you.
Since 2012, when I became an ALA Emerging Leader, I’ve been a proud member of the American Library Association. While the dues and conferences have been a financial investment that wasn’t always easy to afford (especially on my old BPL salary), ALA has shaped my career and made me a more well-rounded librarian. ALA has given me the opportunity to hone my public speaking and presentation skills, allowed me to serve on the GLBTRT board and the Rainbow Book List Committee, and put me in touch with like-minded professionals whom I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I even found my new school librarian job by networking at an ALA conference. While I haven’t agreed with every statement that ALA has made and sometimes I’ve wondered if I could really afford the high dues, my participation in my professional organization has changed my life for the better.
That’s why it has been beyond disappointing to have been made aware of several statements recently made by ALA President Julie Todaro. The first statement still stands on the ALA website. In this statement, President Todaro promises that, “the American Library Association is dedicated to helping all our nation’s elected leaders identify solutions to the challenges our country faces. We are ready to work with President-elect Trump, his transition team, incoming administration and members of Congress to bring more economic opportunity to all Americans and advance other goals we have in common.”
Two days later, another statement appeared. Reactions to the statement on social media were not positive, the statement was removed, and President Todaro issued an apology of sorts. Here, Todaro stated that she was not able to review the statement before it was posted and apologized for the “error”. While she expressed ALA’s commitment to understanding and inclusion, she was firm that she was proud of the briefs that showcased the kinds of skills librarians and the ALA could bring to the Trump administration. This apology does not appear to apply to previous statement, which echoes similar sentiments to the latter.
While perhaps it is standard for ALA to offer its services to incoming presidencies, I refuse to participate in an organization attempting to normalize Trump leadership. I, like many librarians, am in full on resistance-mode. This includes phone calls and letters to my elected officials (one of whom just received a homophobic death threat for leading a peaceful march) and donations to organizations that are now more important than ever (Planned Parenthood and SLPC, as of now). I’m finding ways to support my students who have certainly been affected by the election. Bizarrely enough, I’ve been coping with a nasty case of vertigo that has limited my mobility for the time-being, but it is my hope to recover soon so that I may take part in marches and rallies. My money and my time are limited and precious. I have been a devoted ALA member, but I cannot give another minute or dollar to a professional organization looking to pander to a President-Elect and transition team comprised of white supremacists.
I fully expected to be making phone calls to my senators about Steve Bannon and the Affordable Care Act. I did not foresee writing angry emails to my professional organization for pandering to racists and homophobes. This is not the most articulate of letters, but after hours of stewing in disappointment and anger, I decided ineloquent exasperation was better than nothing at all:
If you are feeling the way I feel and you’re hesitating to add your voice to the mix because you’re concerned about not saying the perfect thing, don’t worry. We as paying members of the ALA have the right to express our opinions publicly when our leaders are speaking for us in a way that makes us uncomfortable. If the ALA wants to support Trump, they will not be doing it in my name.
For less linguistically clunky statements, please see Emily Drabinksi and the Librarian in Black. But again, if you’re looking for the perfect words and you’re struggling to find them in your anger and frustration, write that email anyway. Your point of view is necessary and needed.
I had read Fat Angie while I was serving on the Rainbow List, and then, not long after, was lucky enough to hear e.E.’s acceptance speech at the Stonewall Book Awards Brunch. I think we were all blown away by her. She had the ability to totally captivate the room and connect with all of us so quickly. Really, I recommend listening to the whole thing. She’s just so warm, and funny, and completely inspiring. I think it was there, at the brunch, that e.E. kindly offered to show her new movie, At-Risk Summer, at my library in Brooklyn, for free.
To ensure a large enough audience, we contacted two schools to view the movie. Due to the large population we served, I had never seen any of the tweens and teens before, nor do I think I ever saw them again. Yet, in the short time it took to show the movie and have a Q+A with e.E., the students were talking about their concerns and fears about their lives in the most frank and honest manner. This is the effect e.E. has on people: You feel like you can tell her anything and your secrets will be safe, free from judgement, with her.
Here you go, everyone, the last of the mini-interviews:
Ingrid Abrams: When it comes to public speaking, you are a total powerhouse. Your speech at the 2014 Stonewall Brunch made everyone feel motivated, validated, and just totally inspired. Then, when you talked to the kids at my last library, after a showing of your movie At-Risk Summer, you had them opening up and participating in very honest and open conversations. What’s your secret to connecting so well with your audiences?
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo: I think the secret is seeing the value in every person I connect with, with a sincere desire to hear and understand each person’s story. It’s incredibly important not to be dismissive of someone else’s journey, and that requires actively listening. And of course, I have no shortage of enthusiasm. If I’m excited about what I do, audiences will be excited too.
IA: YA literature is becoming more inclusive with every new book, but, when it comes to protagonists, there’s a patent lack of body diversity. Fat/plus-sized characters are few and far between. Why was writing about a girl named Fat Angie important to you?
e.E.: It’s important in the way that any incarnation of a character who is struggling to be seen in the world and struggling with self-acceptance is important. And because there is no one like Fat Angie in teen lit, and young people needed someone like her. And because we all have things we struggle with, that we hurt from, that we have to fight to overcome. That’s what’s important – those are the universal truths that any reader can relate to. Angie’s story transcends race, gender, even sexual orientation.
IA: Like the title of your movie suggests, you are juggling what seems like a thousand projects devoted to at-risk youth. What do you think is the biggest misconception about this group of kids and teens?
e.E.: The theory seems to be that these kids are uneducated, that they’re problem children, or criminals, or that they’re worthless, that they have no voice and what they have to say doesn’t matter. We lose sight of the fact that these are kids. Kids who face a behemoth of challenges, when what they really need is someone to say “I believe in you” – and mean it. They need to see their value mirrored back to them. So many of these kids have the richest, most exciting ideas. We just have to meet them where they are so they can access it.
IA: What do you do to relax? Do you relax?
e.E.: This is a tough one because I am always thinking about story or empowerment and the brains stays busy. I do meditate and often. It really clears out the noise. Anyone following my Instagram knows I document the world around me. Um, what else? Oh, I’m a music fiend … the full spectrum. And I film this little web-show on occasion called The Taste Buds with author CG Watson. We do it for fun, just because it’s goofy and people seem to enjoy some of our antics.
IA: If you could pick one fictional world to magically insert yourself into, what would it be?
e.E.: You know, if I were going to pick a fictional world it would be for my teen self. It would probably The Outsiders or The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. Both are stories about stepping into your own voice and accepting and/or finding your tribe.
Just for funsies, I’m including two affectionately glitter-bombed pictures of e.E., just because I can:
e.E. reminded me of this picture from my This is What a Librarian Looks Like days, and, if you’ve seen her aforementioned Instagram, you know this is her patented default face:
I am not going to name all of Robin’s books, because they are plentiful. I will talk a bit about her latest book, Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community, which is an essential-to-your-collection non-fiction title that deals with the origin and the history of the Pride parade. The reviews are glowing: Canadian Materials says, “While many books on sexual minorities fail to recognize non-normative gender identities, Stevenson dives right into the complexities of intersex and transgender individuals and their struggles to fit into gay and lesbian movements.” Pride comes “Highly Recommended” from CM Magazine who calls it, “A fantastic achievement, a book that gives serious attention to often ignored groups within LGBT history…This is an incredibly detailed account, considering the short page count, and Pride should be shelved in school libraries and classrooms alike as a more contemporary companion to Ken Setterington’s Branded by the Pink Triangle.” If your library doesn’t own Pride, you need to rectify that quickly. For more info, see the trailer here.
And now, without further ado, here are Just 5 Things With Robin Stevenson:
Ingrid Abrams: In your book Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community, you
thoroughly examine a part of our collective history that is often ignored.
What is your favorite piece of queer history or trivia?
Robin Stevenson: It is SO hard to pick just one! I’ve been part of the LGBTQ community for more that 25 years, but when I did the research for this book, I was amazed at how much of our community’s history I didn’t know. For example, I had never heard of bisexual activist Brenda Howard, who has been called the Mother of Pride. Brenda Howard was there at the Stonewall Riots in 1969, and she was one of the organizers of the first Christopher Street Liberation Day March to mark Stonewall’s anniversary– the event that is generally recognized as the very first Pride parade. Brenda Howard was one of the first people to promote the use of the word Pride. She was a member of the Gay Activists Alliance and the Gay Liberation Front through the 1970s, and she fought for the inclusion of bisexuality at a time when bi people were routinely excluded.
Another piece of history that I loved learning about (see, I really can’t pick just one!) was about the beginnings of LGBTQ high school activism. The first high school group was formed in the early 70s, at NYC’s George Washington High. Called the Gay International Youth Society, this group of mostly queer young people of color is probably the earliest forerunner of today’s high school Gay-Straight Alliances (and Queer Straight Alliances,
Gender-Sexuality Alliances, and Rainbow Clubs, and so on).
IA: Pride required a great deal of painstaking research. What was that
process like for you?
RS: It was incredibly interesting. Pride is my 20th book, but my first work of
non-fiction, and the writing process was completely different. Fiction,
for me, is fairly solitary (me, coffee, computer) but Pride was a very
collaborative effort. I read a lot, of course, but I also had the opportunity to talk to so many people- kids, teens and adults, both local and around the world- about what Pride meant to them. People- from age 10 to 80- shared stories, thoughts, memories and photographs. They offered to read drafts and gave me critical feedback and pointed out things I’d left out. They helped me make the book better, more engaging, and more
inclusive. I found it a very thought-provoking, moving experience and I learned a lot. As a result of writing Pride, I feel more connected with the LGBTQ community- our history, our youth, our victories and ongoing battles for freedom and equality.
IA: Are there any current authors of YA literature you’re excited about?
RS: So many! I am thrilled that there is a new book coming from Benjamin Alire
Saenz– I adored Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets Of The Universe,
and can’t wait to read The Inexplicable Logic of my Life (and the cover is gorgeous!) Other recent books I have loved include Saving Montgomery Sole
by Mariko Tamaki, Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz, The Last Falling Leaves by
Fox Benwell (formerly published as Sarah Benwell), and The Scorpion Rules
by Erin Bow. I am so looking forward to Erin Bow’s next book, Swan Riders,
and the new one from Fox Benwell, Kaleidoscope Song.
IA: What’s your favorite guilty (or not-so-guilty) pleasure?
RS: Binge-watching Netflix shows while baking cookies and muffins. Currently hooked on The Fosters– queer moms and teen angst!
IA: What’s your favorite question a reader has ever asked you?
RS: At a writing workshop a few weeks ago, an eleven year old asked me “How do
you feel when you are writing?” No one had ever asked me that before and it is a pretty awesome question. I’ve thought about it a lot, since then. I think it’s a good thing to pay attention to.
Robin, like Alex and Emily, is not safe from getting lovingly glitter-bombed. Sorry about it:
Because we’ll be in Orlando and talking Queer books, it’s important to remember how privileged we are to be doing so. Let’s be aware of each other, check in with each other, and take care of ourselves.
In that vein, please consider donating to the following:
I did so myself and encourage you to do the same. They take donations of any size. In addition, you can donate directly to The Center in Orlando (you can find their donation button on the top right-hand corner).
I hope to see you at our panel in Orlando! Come say hi!
To get you totally hyped up about this all-star panel, I’m conducting mini-interviews with the participants. I’ve already interviewed the lovely Alex Gino and am now super pumped to share this talk with E.M. Kokie.
Hopefully you know E.M. (or Emily, as I’ll be sometimes calling her in this interview), from her novel Personal Effects, which is a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults and Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Top Ten, a Lambda Literary Award Finalist, and a 2013 IRA Young Adult Honor Book. It received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. School Library Journal said that, “Kokie beautifully crafts a story about the troubled relationships between an emotionally stunted father and his two sons,” and that it’s “a strong choice for reluctant readers and lovers of realistic fiction alike.” In addition, Emily is passionate about social justice issues, especially in the context of y0uth literature, and blogs about it over at The Pirate Tree. In fact you can read about fellow panelists e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Alex Gino over there. Check it out. It’s a great resource.
Oh, and did you know that she’s also a lawyer?
Now, if you please, here are Just 5 Things with E.M. Kokie:
Ingrid Abrams: How has your background as a lawyer helped you as a writer?
Emily Kokie: I suppose my training as a lawyer helps with my writing, at least in terms of training the way I think and forcing me to become disciplined about writing and revision. But I think it is more that I have natural tendencies that have helped me become both a lawyer and a writer. I think there is a reason we see so many writers for kids and teens who are also lawyers. Effective lawyers are very good at putting themselves in other people’s shoes, figuring out what that other person thinks, wants, needs, and will compromise. Effective lawyers are natural storytellers — whether that story is persuading a client to imagine a future scenario, advocating for a client’s goals, examining the what-ifs of the application of laws, or, perhaps the height of storytelling, persuading a jury or court to accept your client’s version of events. We are often called on to look at competing explanations, look at documents, and figure out what really happened. And so much of that is also what goes into making a good novel — being able to effectively tell someone else’s story, to know how they would feel and what they would want. To understand that people don’t always say what they mean or show who they really are, and so often the greatest truths of a story are hidden between bits of dialogue and action.
IA: Is there a current YA novel that you wish you had when you were a teen?
EK: Oh, there are many. I was a voracious reader, but I didn’t really find books about queer kids — few about queer adults, either — when I was an adolescent. And I didn’t know any out queer people, and the ones I suspected were queer were also people for whom the suspicion meant they were made fun of or ridiculed behind their backs. I didn’t want to be laughed at or worse. And I’d never even heard the term bisexual. So, I spent my teens and a good chunk of my twenties totally confused about my sexuality and worried something was wrong with me, or that I wouldn’t be able to have a good life if I was queer. If I had had books with queer teens then I might have understood myself sooner, and might have felt more able to be who I was. Books like Empress of the World by Sara Ryan, Ask The Passengers by A.S. King, Sister Mischief by Laura Goode, Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger, Ash by Malinda Lo — books that explored friendship and love and showed me queer girls living, loving, questioning, growing, etc. And books that would have expanded my world view beyond the heart of middle-class, predominantly-white suburbia, like How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon, The Boy In The Black Suit by Jason Reynolds, Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang.
IA: On The Pirate Tree, you talk a lot about social justice issues. The term “social justice” can be really loaded. What does it mean to you?
EK: I think of social justice in terms of social conscience. To me it means being aware of and interested in the ways in which societies restrict the rights, opportunities, and lives of people without social or political power — whether those restrictions are issues like systemic racism, sexism, ableism, or homophobia, constructs like toxic masculinity or imbalances of economic power, and even violence and war.
IA: What literary character, of any genre, would you least like to spend time with?
EK: Well, there are many. I read a lot. But probably the one with whom I would least like to spend time would be Randall Flagg from The Stand by Stephen King.
IA: You’re a huge Buffy fan. Who is your favorite Buffy-verse couple? Fanfic pairings totally count.
EK: And here is where I admit that fandom/fanfiction questions make me anxious, like admitting to deepest secrets and desires. But, I digress… None of the cannon pairings were my end-all-be-all pairings. Willow and Tara felt incredibly important and empowering to me at the time that relationship was first developing on the TV, but it also always felt very sweet to me. Not enough heat. I wish we had had longer to see where Giles/Jenny would have gone. Jenny had potential to be interesting. I wanted more Faith (though I found the Faith/Wood cannon pairing boring and uninspired). I will admit to being intrigued by a lot of the Buffy/Spike dynamic, as highly problematic as it was (and we could talk for hours about that, and some of the later plot moments I wish had been handled differently). But in fanfic I’ll read almost any pairing if well done. I am incredibly interested in layered stories that explore these characters as full-fledged adults (though not necessarily as portrayed in the post-series comics). Especially well-done Willow and Faith stories. I wish for a post-series Faith exploring her sexuality. And I was always fascinated with Giles, and the layers of that character — straight-laced facade, a lot of darkness, but good intentions, underneath. And Giles’ practically-cannon pansexuality has made for a lot of interesting Giles-centric fanfiction. When I first found Buffy-verse fanfiction, I read a lot of Giles/Xander post-series stories and I hunted for Faith/Willow. But since I see almost all of the characters as having fluid sexuality, at least in fanfiction, there is almost no one I wouldn’t ship, if written well.
Since Alex’s post ended with a picture of them being lovingly glitter-bombed, I figured it was only fair that I did the same for Emily:
I did so myself and encourage you to do the same. They take donations of any size. In addition, you can donate directly to The Center in Orlando (you can find their donation button on the top right-hand corner).
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.