Booktalking George, by Alex Gino: It kind of takes a village

When I started this blog, I was a public librarian with a clear mission for what I wanted to write about here. Now that I’m a school librarian who is settling into a whole new work culture, it’s become less apparent to me what I’m supposed to talk about on this blog, except to say, “This is really different from my last job and sometimes it feels like I have no idea what I am doing.” Though I have been a school librarian for almost 6 months, it somehow only feels like a couple of days. The newness has not worn off yet. Hence, the lack of blog posts.

I thought I would talk about how George, by Alex Gino, became a project that much of our Upper School became involved in: 2 sixth grade classes, me (the librarian), several teachers, and the school psychologist. It all started when the 5th and 6th grade teachers asked me to present some booktalks to their classes. First, I asked if I could include books that acknowledged the existence of gay and trans* people. This is what I mean when I say that I’m adjusting to a new work culture. I would have never asked if this was OK at the public library. It would never even occurred to me to do so. It was never an issue there, a place where I was heavily protected by the First Amendment and an environment that supported freedom of information. Schools, especially independent schools, are trickier places to navigate, especially for us rah-rah liberal librarians, and I felt compelled to ask permission. Luckily, the teachers were open to my book selections.

I presented several titles: Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (which none of them had really read, oddly enough. I know this is an obvious choice), Better Nate than Ever by Tim FederleThe Marvels by Brian Selznick (I showed this trailer), The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (another older title they hadn’t read), and George by Alex Gino. While we saw increased circulation on all the titles, George generated the most discussion. I couldn’t keep a copy on the shelves and students were constantly asking when they could get their hands on it.

Here’s how I booktalk George: I say that it’s funny that the book is called George, because it’s actually about a girl named Melissa. Melissa gets home from school every day and does some pretty stereotypically “girly” things: She reads magazines written for girls, puts on lip gloss, and combs her bangs down over her face. However, before her mom and brother come home, she must fix her hair, clean her face, and put the magazines back in their hiding place. You see, while Melissa has always known she is a girl, her family sees her as a boy named George.

This last line usually elicits a good deal of confusion, so I ask that if I said Melissa was trans, would they know what this means? When Melissa was born, she was assigned the male gender, but she never identified as such. The teachers and I found that while the students were certainly curious about trans* people, their only exposure to a trans person is Caitlyn Jenner. And while I’m grateful to Caitlyn for giving the students some sort of access point to discuss this topic, she’s certainly not the default experience.

When talking to the class, I referred to the author, Alex Gino, with the pronoun “they“. I explained that beyond she/her and he/him, there are a myriad of other pronouns, including they/them. I quickly realized that they had never heard of anything like this before. Caitlyn Jenner has exposed them to the idea of transitioning from one end of the gender binary to the other, but otherwise, they had no concept of people who exist in the middle (or outside the gender binary altogether).

I thought the booktalks would sort of be a one-off deal, but conversations around George kept sprouting up around the library and the classrooms. Students were asking me if I had anything else like George (I don’t, outside of a copy of Beyond Magenta in the inaccessible professional collection). I mentioned to Alex on Twitter that our students were obsessed with George and they suggested that we have a little Skype session to discuss how that was going. I appreciated this, as talking to kids about the book and trans-related issues was way harder than I had anticipated. They had questions and I had answers (or at least I thought I did), but how were we going to tackle all this in the limited time I, as the librarian, have with students?

Continue reading “Booktalking George, by Alex Gino: It kind of takes a village”

A Visit to Giovanni’s Room: A Sponsored Post!

I use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker online because if I’m going to screw up a blog post, I want to keep all the credit for myself! Plagiarism’s for dorks!

That’s right kids! This is a sponsored blog post. The nice folks over at Grammarly know that a) plagiarism is played out and b) Mama needs a new pair of shoes. I’m Mama in this case.

While I was attending ALA’s Midwinter conference in Philadelphia, I learned that the GLBT Round Table, of which I am a Director-at-Large, had recognized Ed Hermance, the owner and operator of the iconic bookstore Giovanni’s Room, for his contributions to the LGBTQ community. I had never been to Giovanni’s Room before, so I decided to check it out.

GR_historical_marker_photo_with_flagFirst of all, it’s a big store. In NYC, stores as big as this one usually belong to mega-chains, not independent owners.  Everyone at Giovanni’s Room was incredibly nice, but that was pretty much the case everywhere in Philadelphia. Before I entered the bookstore, I swore to myself that I was taking a break from LGBTQ literature. I know that sounds harsh, but while I did love my time on the Rainbow List (and I look forward to my upcoming term), I felt like I was getting burnt out on LGBTQ fiction.

That was, of course, until I saw the awesome selection of books available at Giovanni’s Room. It was great to see all the Rainbow List and Stonewall Book Awards titles out on display, but also really refreshing to take a look at some books I had never heard of before.

The covers alone made me want these books. But I restrained myself. For a while.
The covers alone made me want these books. But I restrained myself. For a while.

I ended up picking up two books from Giovanni’s Room and I’ve enjoyed every second of them.

First, I picked up a yellowed-and-curling-paged activity book called “Brittany Lynn’s Summer Fun Activity Special”. Copyright 1999, sons! I was still unironically highlighting my hair at that point! Anyway, I don’t think Giovanni’s Room has any more copies, so you’ll have to live vicariously through Miss Ingrid. I saw a couple of other copies on eBay, but that’s it.

Hijinks!
Hijinks!

I bet you’re wondering what this activity book is all about. Brittany Lynn’s here to break it down for you:

I can’t bring myself to write in and cut up this little treasure quite yet, but Brittany and I have many good times ahead, I can tell:

Oh, Brittany. You *get* me.
Oh, Brittany. You *get* me.

Next, I decided to get myself a graphic novel:

I think I've finally found my preferred superhero.
I think I’ve finally found my preferred superhero.

Behold, Glamazonia by Justin Hall! She’s not one of those boring do-gooder, goody-two-shoes superheros. Glamazonia gets shit done!

Aren’t you just in love?

If you’re ever in Philadelphia, skip that cheese steak crap and head over to Giovanni’s Room. Word has it that the store will close if a buyer doesn’t step up and save it (Mr. Hermance is retiring). I hope it doesn’t come to that, but just to be safe, head on over and buy a bunch of stuff right now.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

♥ Facebook ♥ Twitter ♥ Librarian Wardrobe Libraries Changed My Life ♥

Rainbow List-ing and it Feels so Good: My first go-round on an ALA book committee

As soon as I became aware that the GLBT Round Table and the Rainbow List existed, I knew I wanted to be involved. I have always wanted to be a good ally and advocate for LBGTQ patrons of the library (and out of the library, naturally, but the library is my home). I have known that LGBTQ kids, teens, and families have been shamefully underrepresented in literature. It’s not as if a multitude of LBGTQ characters in children’s and YA books will fix anyone’s life or experience, but I’ve always believed in the healing power of literature. All children need to see themselves reflected in the books they read. This includes children of a variety of races, ethnicities, financial backgrounds, physical/mental abilities, geographic locations, religious affiliations, sexual and gender identities, and a number of other factors that I’m not clever enough to think of at this point. When a child (or teen, but I think it’s especially important in a person’s early years) reads about a character that speaks to their experiences, it can instill a love of reading and a sense of belonging in the world. We’re all looking for a witness. We all crave someone to validate our experiences and to say, “Yes. You went through this and you are not the only one.” Books can be so life-affirming.

This is why I am a proud Rainbow List member. I want LGBTQ kids and teens (and the children of LGBTQ-identified parents) to have the opportunity to see themselves in the books they read. I want to recognize and promote the authors who make this possible.

I know lots of librarians want to be involved with the Printz, Newbery, Caldecott or Alex Awards and that’s totally valid. The awards committees seem (I say “seem”, I’ve never been on one) very exciting and they’re certainly prestigious and impressive. However, there’s so much to be said for committees like Rainbow List. The Rainbow List is not an award. We’re a list of quality books for kids and young adults (birth to 18 years). The titles must contain authentic and significant LGBTQ content. The Rainbow List can include as many titles as the members would like, but it also includes a Top Ten list that features the best titles of the year. The Rainbow List, and other lists like it, are a tremendous resource for librarians, teachers, parents and readers of all ages. If you’re a youth services librarian, the Rainbow List is a valuable resource for collection development purposes. It’s not always apparent which books are LGBTQ-oriented and it can be difficult to locate them. The good folks of the Rainbow List find these titles for you, read them, and let you know which ones are worth including in your collection. I have cut-and-pasted entire Rainbow Lists into Baker and Taylor for ordering purposes, and this was way before I was involved with the list or the Round Table.

On Sunday, January 26th, the Rainbow List committee members made our final decisions concerning this year’s titles.

Are we not adorable?
Are we not adorable?

Here’s our committee with our Top Ten picks. That’s me on the left with the pink hair. I’m holding Kate Bornstein‘s My New Gender Workbook and The Culling by Steven dos Santos. Christine, right next to me, is holding Pantomime by Laura Lam and Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle (the latter being one of the few exceptional submissions for young readers. Most of our submissions were YA books). Anna, in the scarf, is holding Sara Farizan’s If You Could Be Mine and Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block (it pained me to not hold either of these titles. I really love them both. They hit me right in the gut. I should say that I’m honored to being holding Kate Bornstein and Steve dos Santos’s books. No doubt). Erin, who has the gorgeous curly hair, is holding Freak Boy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark (give this one to your hardcore Ellen Hopkins fans) and Leap by Z Egloff. Seated on the floor is my girl Naomi and she’s holding Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington and Alaya Dawn Johnson‘s The Summer Prince.

Though they are not Top Ten selections, I’d like to bring some attention to some of my other favorites: Tyler Buckspan, Giraffe People, Rapture Practice, Archenemy (great for your not-so-advanced teen readers), If I Lie, The Waiting Tree, Calling Dr. Laura, and Blue is the Warmest Color, all of which I think would make worthwhile additions to your collection.

If you work in a library that serves teens and children, I would like to insist that the above titles are essential for your patrons. If you don’t think you have LGBTQ library users, you are wrong, I assure you. Also, these are great titles for expanding the horizons of all your readers, including those who identify as straight. A book that represents an unfamiliar voice can truly broaden one’s understanding of the world.

I highly recommend serving on the Rainbow List (Or any ALA book committee. I also think that the Amelia Bloomer book list looks like the jam and I can’t wait to work with them in the future). Here are a couple of reasons to get involved:

  • Not to sound like a hipsterbrarian, but I read Better Nate than Ever before most people did. Being on the Rainbow List gets tons of ARCs/galleys delivered right to your door. Receiving all those books and getting that smug “I read it before you did” look on your face is truly priceless.
  • I got so many nice emails, tweets, and Facebook messages from authors thanking me for getting them on this list. Seriously, it makes you feel so good.
  • There’s not a much better feeling than participating in a committee that helps bring underrepresented voices to libraries everywhere.

Not convinced? Non-award committee meetings are open to anyone at ALA. Come on in. See what we do. See if it’s something you’d enjoy. We usually have chocolate.

Want to volunteer to be on the Rainbow List? You need to be a GLBT Round Table member, as well as a member of ALA. Click here to get involved.

I am serving one more year on the Rainbow List until I have to take a break. Here’s what I’d like to see in upcoming Rainbow List submissions:

  • More books including and representing People of Color. Books about middle-class white boys are great and needed, but we’re failing a good deal of the population here.
  • Picture books! Come on now! Todd Parr can’t be the only one knocking out books like this. More! More!
  • More books for young readers. Hopefully Better Nate than Ever has opened the door for more LGBTQ children’s chapter books.
  • More books featuring women.
  • More books with trans* characters.
  • More books that acknowledge that gender is a spectrum.

I hope you read through our list and order some titles for your library. Put these books on hold. Trot over to your local bookstore and purchase these titles. Go on Twitter and tell these authors that you appreciate them.

I love you, Rainbow List.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

♥ Facebook ♥ Twitter ♥ Buy Me a Coffee ♥ Libraries Changed My Life ♥ Librarian Wardrobe 

I’m Reading This So Hard Right Now: Everything

This is a desperate catch-up post because the books I’ve yet to “review” (blather about is more apt) are piling up and threatening to kill me. Rather than waiting for Dr. Robin Zasio to rush in with her sandy hair and sea-like eyes and rescue me from unsteady pyramids of hoarded library books, I’m just gonna bust out some impressions from these books and move the hell on with my life.

♥ Wildthorn by Jane Eagland is another one of the many wonderful suggestions I got from  the Seattle Public Library’s Reader Advisory program. It comes complete with the creepiest setting ever, a Victorian asylum. There’s lots of deceit and intrigue in this piece of YA Lit, lots of it reminding me of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, where normal human emotions exhibited in women are treated as mental illnesses (OK, a woman creeping in the patterns of Victorian wallpaper isn’t normal, but you get the drift). That’s probably the scariest part of this book: Homosexuality treated as insanity. Here’s a little snippet:

“Come on, you great dollop, move.” I stumble and she punces me on the back with her fist. 

Patients under the beds are dragged out and we’re hustled through the doorway and along the corridor. All the time, the attendants chivvy us with blows.

We scramble through a door into a bleak courtyard overshadowed by high walls. I stagger a few paces, using a wall as support, but I haven’t the strength to stand. I collapse on to the hard ground and it takes me a while to get my breath back, for the shuddering in my body to subside.

This must be our exercise yard. There are a few snowdrops in one corner, but they’re lying on top of the soil, their blooms crushed. The light hurts my eyes–above our heads is a square of blue sky, so bright I can’t look at it. The air is fresh and sharp and I breathe in great lungfuls. How long since I’ve been outside? Not since the night I tried to escape…

No one is walking. They carry on as they did inside while the attendants stand around gossiping. Some patients squat in the dirt. One piles stones up in a heap, another is eating a snowdrop. Out here the rampaging ones have more room to fling themselves about and I hunch up close to the wall, trying to keep out of their way. Some are amusing themselves by throwing things over the boundary. One has a crust in her hand, which she launches with a whoop, while another tips out her shoes. A brown lump falls out–and I suddenly realize, with a little shiver of revulsion, that’s it’s excrement. This is hurled over with a scream of glee. The shoes follow after.

Something sharp strikes my head.

“Come on, you booby. Time to go in.”

The attendant move off, her keys dangling from her hand, leaving me stunned, but not from the blow.

What roots me to the spot is the realization that to her, I’m no different from the others. I’m one of these lots, abandoned souls.

I’ve entered the lowest circle of hell and there is no escape.

Wildthorn, by Jean Eagland, pgs. 218-219

It was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for LGBT literature in the LGBT Children’s/Young Adult Category.

Continue reading “I’m Reading This So Hard Right Now: Everything”

Serving Readers’ Advisory Realness at the Seattle Public Library

Seattle Public Library is offering a rad, unique, and extremely helpful Readers’ Advisory service that I just had to try out for myself. It’s called Your Next 5 Books. All you have to do is fill out their quick and easy form, tell the librarian what you’re interested in reading, and they send you, you guessed it, a list of five books they think you’ll like. I sent them the following statement:

My favorite book is Weetzie Bat, I just finished the Diviners by Libba Bray (an ARC, about 1920s NYC+occultism). I enjoy GLBTQ lit, magic realism, and anything by Francesca Lia Block.
I’m not against Sci-Fi, but it’s not my favorite. I tend to like dark, dark fiction, but am open to non-fiction.

Within just a few hours (amazing turn-around time, librarians! Way to hustle!) I got the list of the following five books (all the images and summaries come from the SPL website):

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters: “Orphan Sue Trinder is raised by pick-pocket ‘fingersmiths’ and becomes involved in a scam to defraud Maud Lilly, a young heiress. Sue begins to have serious misgivings about the plan, when she discovers she has fallen in love with Maud.”

It won a Lambda Literary Award in 2002!

Continue reading “Serving Readers’ Advisory Realness at the Seattle Public Library”

I AM READING THIS SO HARD RIGHT NOW: Where’s My Wand?

Welcome to “I AM READING THIS SO HARD RIGHT NOW”

In this segment, I like to share spoiler-free notable quotables on books I am loving the hell out of. Spoiler free, kiddos! I will not tell you Dumbledore dies. I will also not write you summaries. Writing summaries is for chumps, and I’m not a chump. I’m a woman in control of her own blog. I trust that you’re totally able to read the publisher’s summary or the jacket blurb on your own. Right? We’re all big girls here. I have no idea why I’m talking so sassy. I think I’m just cranky about the supposed finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Wait. Um. Huh? I’m so sorry.

I mean, I want to share with you an awesome excerpt from the funny and touching Where’s My Wand?: One Boy’s Magical Triumph over Alienation and Shag Carpeting by Eric PooleWhere’s My Wand was on the 2011 Rainbow List under “Young Adult/Crossover”. Personally, I see it more as a biography for adults (our library system even catalogs it that way). But, I guess if you have a pretty smart teen who likes David Sedaris-y type stuff, this will be a good fit. Hence, “crossover”. But first, this:

[source]

You cannot talk about this book without talking about Endora from Bewitched (kids, ask your grandparents. Or maybe it’s on TV Land. I have no idea. It’s a good show with good hair and really spot-on eye makeup). When I was a kiddo, I liked to Wonder Woman my way around the basement:

In her satin tights, fighting for her rights.

But Eric was all about pretending to be Endora, who, let’s face it, has mad style. She’s all swooshy and chic in her caftans:

I can see the appeal

[source]

I’m getting real ramble-y here. So, I wasn’t a closeted gay teen growing up in the Midwest in the 1970s. I didn’t grow up in a super-religious family. BUT, I was out of place, bullied, subject to a mother who liked things extra, extra, extra clean, faced with unreasonable standards I could never measure up to, and sometimes thought I could magic/pray my way out of bad situations. Poole had unique circumstances, but manages to be endlessly relatable, endearing, and hilarious. He also makes me want to buy caftans and swish around.

Continue reading “I AM READING THIS SO HARD RIGHT NOW: Where’s My Wand?”