Just 5 Things with e.E. Charlton-Trujillo: Author of Fat Angie, When We Was Fierce, and more

Friday, June 24th! 5:45 to 6:30! At the PopTop Stage! Meet us for “It’s Not Just a G Thing: Exploring the LBTQ (and Beyond) in Middle Grade and Young Adult Literature.” In the hopes of getting you super-pumped for this panel, I’ve mini-interviewed the authors you’ll be hearing: Alex Gino, E.M. Kokie, and Robin Stevenson.Today, I’ll be taking to author, filmmaker, really-strong bear-hugger, and juggler of about a million other projjects, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo.

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.

In addition, e.E. has two websites: Never Counted Out: A Creative Revolution to Empower At-Risk Youth, and Big Dreams Write, because apparently she never sleeps.

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:


Oh, hey, e.E.’s upcoming book is called When We Was Fierce. It’s gotten crazy good reviews and you can look for it in August of this year.

Lastly, once again I kindly ask you to donate to the following:

e.E. also mentioned that she has been involved with an LGBTQ Book Donation Drive. Click through to donate books to the Orlando Youth Alliance.

I hope to see you all in Orlando. If you come to the panel, please come say hi.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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Just 5 Things With Robin Stevenson: Author of “Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community”

Add it to your ALA schedulers: Friday, June 24, 5:45-6:30 at the PopTop Stage for “It’s Not Just a G Thing: Exploring the LBTQ (and Beyond) in Middle Grade and Young Adult Literature.” I’ll be moderating a panel of can’t miss authors: Alex Gino, E.M. Kokie, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, and Robin Stevenson, who I’ll be interviewing here. Come for an unscripted discussion about representation in LGBTQ middle grade and YA literature.

I am not going to name all of Robin’s books, because they are plentifulI 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 Communityyou
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:

She really has great hair.

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!

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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Your Library Needs These Books: 2014 Rainbow List Nominees Announced

In case you’ve been wondering why my blog posts have become fewer and fewer, it’s because I’ve been Rainbow List-ing like a boss. Now, you can see what our committee has been up to here, as we’ve announced our 2014 nominees.

I did a meme thing.
I did a meme thing.

A librarian in ALATT mentioned that these titles are very difficult to locate in public libraries, and she’s right. If you’re a librarian with any buying power or control over collection development, please consider adding these titles. Even if you think your community doesn’t have LGBTQ* citizens (which, you know, isn’t even possible), you need these titles. Don’t let your collection be the one that totally lacks in diversity! It’s embarrassing. Don’t be that library. The members of the Rainbow List have made it easy for you by selecting some of the best LGBTQ* titles of the year.

I’ve talked about some of the titles I’ve read thus far, if you’re looking for some more information about some of the nominees:

♥ If You Could be Mine, by Sarah Farizan

♥ The Culling  by Steven Dos Santos

♥ Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle

♥ Pantomime by Laura Lam

♥ Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington

Malinda Lo talks quite a bit about diversity in Young Adult literature, so I thought I’d point out the diversity in our Rainbow List nominees. While all of these titles promote diversity simply by having a significant amount of LGBTQ* content, I thought I’d single out some of the works that feature prominent characters who are People of Color (POC) (Be aware, I have not read all the nominated books yet):

♥ Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark ♥  If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan ♥ The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson ♥ Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan ♥ Archenemy by Paul Hobin ♥ Proxy by Alex London ♥ The Elephant of Surprise by Brent Hartinger ♥

Again, this is not a complete list. I’m reading as fast as I can! That said, I’d love to see less titles about middle-class, white, gay boys and more nominees that include lesbian, bisexual, trans*, genderqueer, and intersex characters, as well as more protagonists who are people of color.

I hope our list of nominees is helpful to you, and I can’t wait to see who makes the final cut. Get reading, librarians!

Any questions? Fire away.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

I AM READING THIS SO HARD RIGHT NOW: If You Could Be Mine, by Sara Farizan

Diversity in YA literature is a subject that bops around my big dumb head all time. I adore Young Adult literature and I’m so proud of the leaps and bounds I’ve watched it make during my short career as a librarian. Still, there’s much to be desired. I work in one of the most ethnically (and otherwise varied) cities in world. Sometimes I look at the best-selling teen titles and don’t see too many protagonists that look like the kids that hang around the Youth Wing. This troubles me, as it’s important to find yourself reflected in the literature you read AND equally important for teens to be exposed to other cultures and experiences.

Generally speaking, LGBTQ teen literature is considered diverse in its essence. However this facet of literature is still overwhelmingly white-washed. I hardly ever get to read about LGBTQ people of color. In fact, more often than not, I’m presented with a book about two white, middle-class gay male teenagers (typically, these boys tend not to be on the femme-y side). Lesbian protagonists are less common, but clearly not non-existant. I’ve been pleased to discover a few titles that speak to the transgender experience (some better than others) and I just finished a fantastic YA fantasy featuring an intersex protagonist. Forget bisexuals. Sorry, bisexuals! Maybe next year. What I’m saying is, I’m seeing similar experiences rehashed far too often. 

Malinda Lo speaks to this much better than I ever could. I’m not going to bother linking to a specific article or posting one of her quotes, because there are way too many options to choose from. Just bop on over to her blog to access a number of more eloquently stated posts on the topic of diversity in LGBTQ teen literature (and teen literature at large).

All this brings me to If You Could be Mine, by Sarah Farizan, which will be published in August of 2013. Farizan introduces us to Sahar and Nasrin, who are in love. The premise of this book is vastly different than the typical LGBTQ literature I’m accustomed to reading. There’s no awkward coming out to friends and family here, as these characters don’t have that luxury. There’s no end-of-novel prom story or making out behind the bleachers. There’s not even the promise of living as an out lesbian as an adult. Sahar and Nasrin live in Iran where homosexuality is a crime.

There’s a palpable feeling of hopelessness and longing in If You Could Be Mine. Loneliness and desperation permeate every page. There are possible solutions, but none of them are easy or desirable. I don’t do summaries or spoilers, but here’s an excerpt:


“You’re staring again,” Nasrin says. She looks up from her nails and gives me a smile. I look down at my textbook  and hope my face isn’t red, like all the other times Nasrin catches me watching her.

“Don’t you have homework?” I ask.

Nasrin just blows on her nails and rolls her eyes. “I’m not a genius like you, Sahar. I’m going to move to India and be a Bollywood actress.” She stands up and goes into one of her Indian dance routines. Nasrin is an excellent dancer and gets a group of girls together from her school to practice. They usually have me film them while they dance Persian, Arabic, or whatever other dance routines they have been working on…

If she spent as much time on her studies as she did her dancing, maybe we could end up at the same university, but I know that isn’t going to happen. Now that we are getting older, we only have a few more years left like this together. Things will change. Nasrin will have a lot of suitors. The men will line up on her block. All of the well to do Tehran will come to her family’s house, dressed in their best suits.

The suitors will have tea with Nasrin’s parents, and they will explain that they can provide her with a good life with whatever important and boring job they have. Her parents will pick the best man for her, meaning the one with the most money. Nasrin comes from a good family, and they have money themselves, so she will marry the best that there is…I don’t know when I am going to lose her, but it’s going to happen, and I don’t know if I will be able to handle it.

Nasrin finishes her dance, and her face falls when she sees mine.

“What’s wrong, Sahar joon?” she says. She’s always been able to read me, even when she doesn’t want to.

“I wish we could stay in this room forever,” I say. She grins.

“I want to marry you,” I say, and Nasrin looks at me with a sad expression that makes me feel helpless and pathetic. 

“I know you do, azizam. We’ve talked about this.”

“I’ll find a way for us to be together.” I look her in the eye to let her know I mean it.

She bites her lower lip, as she’s done since she was little, and gently pulls at my hair. “We’re together now, Sahar. Let’s not waste time on what can’t be.”

~If You Could Be Mine, by Sara Farizan, pgs. 5-8

It’s odd to say that I’m excited about a book that caused me this much heartache, but it’s true. If You Could Be Mine puts LGBTQ rights in a global perspective for teen readers. I’m certain it deserves a place in your library.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid