50 Middle Grade Titles by January, 2019: The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez

Here I am, on my third book in my 50 Middle Grade books challenge. Dang, I’m a slow reader. I’m thrilled to finally have had the chance to read The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez. I’ve been dying to read this since forever, but was happily bogged down with Stonewall contenders. This title is just gosh-darn delightful, and with starred reviews in School Library Journal, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and a Pura Belpré Author Honor to boot, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

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This cover is magic. I’m reminded about Marley Dias’s call for seeing more girls of color on the covers of books. When it comes to Middle Grade lit, it’s not often you get to see a Latinx girl in a contemporary setting. Kat Fajardo’s illustration is so charming, it makes me want to see Malú in a Saturday morning cartoon.

Don’t let this book’s delightfulness fool you into thinking it’s just fluff: It’s chock-full of thoughtful commentary on identity. Our protagonist, Malú, is constantly at odds with her mother (the “SuperMexican”) and bullyish classmate, Selena, over what it means to be “una señorita“. While Selena is a superstar when it comes to traditional Mexican dance and speaks Spanish confidently and fluently, Malú shows up to school in too much black eyeliner, hates cilantro, spicy food and meat, dresses in band shirts and jeans, and gets nervous when she has to speak Spanish. She never feels like she’ll be Mexican enough to please her mother.

The First Rule of Punk is a real feel-good title and if you haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, here’s a peek at what’s sure to make you smile:

♡Malú’s cheerful, hilarious, and often informative zines, complete with directions on how to dye your hair green, instructions on how to make an ofrenda, a history of The Mexican Farm Supply Program, and information about Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Malú’s namesake, María Luisa Block.

♡Places you wish you could visit in real life: Spins & Needles Records, owned by Malú’s dad, and Calaca Coffee, full of pan dulce, Day of the Dead decorations, soyrizo breakfast tacos, and 80s punk band album covers lining the walls.

♡Playlist inspiration through passages on Poly Styrene, Alice Bag, the Plugz, the Brat, and Lola Beltrán (be sure to Google her image so you can get a good look at those “long spider-leg eyelashes”)

♡Morrissey being an “honorary Mexican”

♡Señora Oralia’s fluffy lady toilet paper covers

♡Malú and her friends starting a band with little-to-no musical experience

♡Literally everything about Mrs. Hidalgo, the best Middle Grade lit mom of all time, who compares identity to a patchwork quilt: “Some pieces are prettier than others. Some pieces match and some don’t. But if you remove a square, you’re just left with an incomplete quilt, and who wants that? All our pieces are equally important if they make us whole. Even the weird ones.”

I feel like students at my school get a little intimidated by lengthy titles, so I’ll be sure to open the book for them to show them all the zine inserts. Hopefully, all of the appealing visuals will make the book’s size less daunting. Speaking of which, for my next title, I’m going for a much shorter title with a lower reading level. I’m less than a year into my work at this new school, and I’m realizing that there’s a larger range of reading levels here than at my last school. Sure, we have kids who read books like Echo and the Harry Potter Series, but I want this reading challenge to help me reach students reading on the other end of the spectrum.

Hey, if you’ve read this far along, consider signing this petition to save Atlanta’s school librarians. What’ve you got to lose? Nothing.

♥ Ingrid

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50 Middle Grade Titles by January, 2019: Marley Dias Gets it Done and So Can You!

Hi! I’ve just come off a year of being on the Stonewall Book Award Committee, and boy is my brain tired. I spent two years on the Rainbow List (check out their 2018 list, by the way), but this was my first time on a book award committee, and the work load is no joke. I learned, once again, that once I’m “assigned” a book, I can sometimes drag my feet when it comes to reading and completing titles, but also that the imposed structure and pace of an awards committee makes me a more dedicated and efficient reader.

Now that my committee work is over, I’m excited at the prospect of reading whatever the hell I want to, whenever I want to, but I’m also missing the discipline I got from strict parameters and goals. That’s why I’m giving myself a mission:

By the end of the year, I want to read 50 middle grade titles. Before I started working for a school, I interacted with a larger age range of children. I did a lot of Toddler and Infant storytimes, so I was pretty knowledgable when it came to board books and early chapter books. Typically, my afternoons were spent at the Young Adult reference desk, so I became an avid reader of teen titles. This focus on the youngest and oldest kids really left a gap in my reading. I read middle grade titles fairly sometimes, but infrequently, and honestly, I didn’t really suffer for it. Now, however, many of my readers fall into the middle grade category. My students range from Pre-K to 4th grade, so my knowledge of infant and YA titles doesn’t really come into play. I’m aiming for 50 middle grade titles by 2018 in order to better serve my student population. It is my plan to mostly read titles that are #OwnVoices, as well as any titles by WOC and queer authors (though, it’s important to mention that when it comes to LGBTQ lit, middle grade is a near-ghost town). I will also probably break my own rules a lot, because, you know, why not?

Continue reading “50 Middle Grade Titles by January, 2019: Marley Dias Gets it Done and So Can You!”

So You’re Going to Put Up a Christmas Tree in Your Library: Some Helpful Tips When You’re Trying to Justify your Holiday Programming and Decorations

There’s a conversation that I’ve simply decided that I’m not going to participate in anymore among fellow (mostly children’s) librarians: Whether or not libraries should display holiday decorations and hold holiday programming. I have always firmly believed that a library should be a holiday-free zone. I’m not talking about displays of holiday books, because of course it’s efficient for staff members and library patrons to have easy access to seasonal titles. I’m talking about decking out a library in Christmas trees, elves on shelves, and Santas, as well as holding any kind of holiday-related programming. Though I don’t condone displays of other holidays such as Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, I find that the biggest perpetrators of library holiday decorations are Christmas-obsessed children’s librarians. Though I could spend an entire blog post discussing why a Christmas-saturated library is anti-community, I will sum up my thoughts by simply saying that Christmas-related displays and programming can feel unwelcoming for many different patrons for many different reasons. If this is the first time that you’re considering whether or not Christmas decorations and programming are appropriate for the library, please read Bryce’s “Holidays and Libraries: Rethinking Our Programming” right now. This post will be here when you get back.

The debates around Christmas in the library start to go down in ALA Think Tank and Storytime Underground starting right around November every year, though I believe SU has an updated policy regarding these discussions. I used to whole-heartedly, and often angrily, participate in every 300 comment argument about this topic. I was told by holiday enthusiasts that I hated Christmas, hated fun, and was clearly “triggered” by sugar plum fairies and Mrs. Claus. Sometimes groups like these can be such an echo chamber, where similarly-minded people pile on and become emboldened by a lack of dissent.

After Trump got elected, I found myself simply out of the emotional bandwidth to take part in these online arguments anymore. With white supremacists roaming the streets, swastikas being scribbled all over children’s playgrounds, Jewish people celebrating the High Holy days in hiding, and general anti-Semitism on the rise, I no longer wanted to be that librarian with the Jewish last name explaining what it feels like to be erased (this is not to diminish our country’s problems with anti-Muslim crime and xenophobia, however my experiences give me the confidence only to speak out about this as a sort-of-Jewish person). I came to the conclusion that librarians are going to do what librarians are going to do, and there was no way I was going to talk anyone out of anything.

So, because librarians love Christmas and there’s no getting around that, I’d like to share just a couple of helpful tips when justifying Christmas/holiday decorations and programming to your patrons and coworkers.

But first, a little background on me as a pseudo-religious person: I was raised by a Presbyterian mother and a Jewish-ish father. After years of Sunday school and seders and being Mary in the Christmas pageant and shoving my brother to get to the afikomen first, I started to identify as a Cultural Jew who dabbles with witchy-stuff just like all good women in 2017. Around this time of year, I dig my menorah out of the closet and put up my pink sparkly plastic Christmas tree. I’m not particularly invested in either holiday, but like many, I enjoy spending holiday time with the people I love.

Now, without further ado, several things to keep in mind for Librarians Who Are Trying to Justify Having That Christmas Tree:

Continue reading “So You’re Going to Put Up a Christmas Tree in Your Library: Some Helpful Tips When You’re Trying to Justify your Holiday Programming and Decorations”

Where in the World is Ingrid Conley-Abrams?, Feminism (A-Z) with Gayle Pitman, and a Little on Vocational Awe™

Croon this in a crunchy 90s Paula Cole voice: ♩♪♬Where have all the blog posts gone?♬♪♩

So, yeah. Not much for the bloggy blogging as of late. You may remember (or not) that I semi-recently left the world of public librarianship for school librarianship. I’m pretty happy with this change, though quite often I’m reminded about how different the public library culture differs from independent school values. I stayed for two years at [name redacted] school but found that the library’s mission didn’t quite coincide with my personal principles. While I very much enjoyed the school, its students and faculty (I still have moments, daily, when I dearly miss that place), I still needed to find the library environment that was, in true Goldilocks fashion, just right. I think I’ve found it, and am quite pleased to be Co-Coordinator of Library Services at an independent school in Manhattan. It’s not easy being the new kid (again!) but I feel like I’ve made the right decision.

In addition to settling in at the new school, I’m also serving on the Stonewall Book Award Committee this year. If you don’t hear from me for a while, it’s because I’m trapped under a large pile of queer books for kids and I can’t reach my phone.

I miss blogging a lot. I feel like there’s so much going on in the world of librarianship that I’ve wanted to weigh in on, but it’s been hard to find the time, energy, and motivation to talk about it lately. I have to say that the news has done nothing positive for my mental state, so when I’m not sending tiny, manageable donations to Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center, the Brady Campaign, recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, and sending faxes to my elected officials, I’m usually curled up in my living room, feeling useless and inept. I’m still searching for the best way to use my strengths to help out in the best way I can. How are you coping? How are you making a difference? How are you resisting?

The current political climate has encouraged me to double-down on my commitment to empathy-building through literature. It is my aim to make my library collection as inclusive as possible. I am often reminded of the Huffington Post article “I Don’t Know How to Explain to You That You Should Care About Other People.” Adults who have not been taught to show compassion for their fellow human beings may be a lost cause (at least, that’s how it feels to me right now), but I fully believe that, as a librarian, I can model the behavior of kindness for my students, as well as provide a collection full of windows and mirrorsI talk a bit about this, through the lens of feminism, over at author Gayle Pitman’s blog. You may know Gayle as the author of one of my favorite picture books, This Day in June. Her new book, Feminism From A-Z, is available for pre-order here. Gayle has also featured some great interviews with Alex GinoLesléa NewmanPhyllis Lyon of The Daughters of Bilitis and many others.


Fobazi Ettarh (in her infinite wisdom) coined the term “vocational awe”, a term meant to convey the misguided idea that librarians and libraries are inherently good. We are sold this idea in library school, by ALA, and by mainstream library publications and organizations, that we, as librarians, are always on the side of good. We are “radical”. We are guardians of free speech and gatekeepers to safe spaces. We are anti-racist, inclusive, feminist, and progressive. And we are. Sometimes. Infrequently. Rarely. At our best, we are all these things. But quite often, vocational awe prevents us from seeing ourselves as who we really are: a profession with the history that proves we have the ability to be racist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, and downright regressive. Instead of resting on the idea that we are intrinsically good for our communities, we must instead make concerted and deliberate efforts to actually do so. Even in small, manageable ways. For me, I give myself the daily task of making sure I’m providing a diverse literary selection of protagonists, communities, and experiences for these students. There’s an entire world outside this school’s neighborhood. If I want our very young students to care about this world, I can provide books which offer a risk-free way of interacting with a variety of concepts and issues. Hopefully, I can be part of a larger effort to turn inquisitive children into empathetic adults.

~Nevertheless, persist, ♥ Ingrid

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P.S. You may have noticed that my last name is now Conley-Abrams. I got married around this time last year, and this is the last name my partner and I have both adopted. I still answer to Abrams.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

P.P.S. I still write a lot, everyday, over at my blog’s Facebook page and Twitter. My Twitter page is locked because Twitter is full of garbage Men’s Rights Activists, but if we have a friend or two in common, I accept follows.

The Winners of the Self-Care Kits for Emotional Labor in the Age of Trump

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.

Winner of Kit #1 is…Gail Gorski!

Winner of Kit #2 is…Jone MacCulloch!

Winner of Kit #3 is…Amanda Costigan!

Thanks to everyone who entered and shared.

~Nevertheless, persist, ♥ Ingrid

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Giveaway: Self-Care Kits for Emotional Labor in the Age of Trump

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:

#1: The first is of three zines: How to Not Always Be Working by Marlee Grace of Have Company, as well as two by Adam Gnade: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin’ Sad (which I have talked about extensively here) and Simple Steps to a Life Less Shitty.

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#2: The second batch has all the zines from kit #1, but also includes Adam J. Kurtz’s Pick Me Up

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#3: This final batch has all the zines from kit #1, but also Yumi Sakugawa’s Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One With the Universe

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Fine print: I purchased all of these items myself, except for the copies of Adam Gnade’s Simple Steps to a Life Less Shittywhich 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.

~Nevertheless, persist,♥ Ingrid

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#NotMyALA #ThisNotNormal

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Since 2012, when I became an ALA Emerging LeaderI’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:

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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.

~Keep fighting, Ingrid

P.S.: ETA: This was posted by Julie Todaro this morning. My concern stands.

P.P.S.: Please excuse me for switching the statements in the previous draft. I did say I had vertigo, though. And this is making my head spin.

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