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:

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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:

1111111111111eeeee

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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My glitter-heavy displays for GLBT Book Month, complete with images for you to steal

Did you know that June is GLBT Book Month? It’s true! And while I try and knock out LGBTQ displays all the time, I’m extra excited about the GLBTRT’s first GLBT Book Month. Everybody freak out!

While I do adore the official poster for GLBT Book Month (featuring the artwork from one of my favorite picture books, This Day in June, which I talk about in length here), I made my own ’cause mama’s on a budget. I used this for both the children’s and YA displays I made:

GLBT book monthWe have limited display space in the children’s room, so I made an ever-so-tiny display behind our reference desk:

Some of the books have left the display to go circulate, so I’m a happy camper.

My larger display ended up in the YA section, where I just have much more room to set stuff up. Here’s a simple book display:

Over by the YA ref desk, I had even more room to work with, so I created my own images to display on a corkboard. I also laminated the individual images and stuck them up in each YA computer terminal (I can’t promise that every teen will see the corkboard, but most of them use the computers at some point). I used images and quotes of famous LGBTQ folks and allies. I’m still new at creating images. I should have, perhaps, rethought my font choice (some of the commas look like periods. Ugh.). Some of the transparent edits on the images are my own, and that’s why they SUCK. Also, if the person in the picture is wearing a flower crown, it means I accidentally cut the top of their head off. Not cool.

If you want to use any/all these images in your displays, please do. If they go up on your blog, please credit me, your main girl Ingrid.

harvey milk lavernecox jazzjennings

Continue reading “My glitter-heavy displays for GLBT Book Month, complete with images for you to steal”

Upcoming Presentation on LGBTQ Lit!: Why I’ve been kinda quiet lately

I aim to post about once a week on here, but I’ve been busy with a presentation I’m pretty excited/terrified about. It’s for the Ontario Library Association, and it’s called “No Stereotypes Allowed: Building LGBTQ Collections for Kids and Teens“. Here, I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned in my years in the Rainbow List and as a Rainbow List/Stonewall Book Award enthusiast/wannabe. I hope to help you and your library build a better and more inclusive collection. Consider it a crash course in the best that LGBTQ literature has to offer.

There’s still time to register! Click here!

When it’s done, maybe I can blog more often. Maybe.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

(ETA 12/4/2014: The presentation has been moved to April 2nd, 2015. More time for me to make it extra awesome. Stay tuned!)

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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

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I AM READING THIS SO HARD RIGHT NOW: Pantomime by Laura Lam

Welcome to I AM READING THIS SO HARD RIGHT NOW, the segment that brings The Magpie Librarian lots of hits from people who have no idea how to do a proper internet search. I can’t tell you how much traffic this site gets from people Googling “SO HARD RIGHT NOW”. Sorry to disappoint, folks. This is where I talk about books that I am enjoying so much that I want to make sure you know about them, too. No summaries or spoilers here, my friends. Just honest opinions and excerpts from yours truly.

Today I want to talk about Pantomime by Laura Lam. I adore YA fantasy, but I’m extremely picky about what I read. The alternate worlds I read about must be full-bodied, totally realized, and completely seamless. I am far more discerning about the fantasy titles I read than I am about realistic fiction. The author needs to build an intricate support system in order for me to suspend disbelief, or I’m out after a couple of chapters. If the author does their job, hopefully I get completely wrapped up in their version of reality.

Laura Lam is a skilled world-builder. The world of Pantomime is deep and complex. It’s so rich, I swear you can smell it (it smells like smoke, beeswax, labdanum, and leather, in case you were wondering. This book is so ripe for BPAL, it’s scary). There’s markets and hologram ghosts and forgotten civilisations and diverse cultures and mythology and hints of steampunkery (but not so much as to overwhelm the novel).

Oh, and, did I mention much of the book takes place in a circus? I’m a huge fan of movies like Freaks and shows like Carnivale, which depict the circus as glamorous and magical, yet gritty and sinister. R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is no different, featuring a cast of characters that are colorful as well as unpredictable. Hardly anyone is exactly what they seem.

Micah Grey is a protagonist unlike any other that I’ve encountered in YA fantasy. There are so many layers and mysteries surrounding Micah, and I’m sure I don’t have them all figured out (if you have any theories, let me know). I was sort of disappointed to find out this book is part of a series (Pantomime is a page-turner to the extreme, so I was hoping to find out more about Micah’s origins by the time the book ended), but that only means more Micah in my future.

I don’t want to give everything away about Micah, but here’s a little excerpt that will get you on the road to understanding this character:

pantomime-cover

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I AM READING THIS SO HARD RIGHT NOW: The Culling by Steven Dos Santos

For those of you just tuning in, this is I AM READING THIS SO HARD RIGHT NOW, where I talk about books I am loving the hell out of.  Of course, I won’t summarize them, because I am a busy 21st century woman with some heavy, heavy shit on my mind. Go find your plot recaps somewhere else! I’m looking at you, teens doing book reports.

If you were my patron at the library, I’d be shoving this book into your hands like nobody’s business. I am aggressive when it comes to Reader’s Advisory. Take the books I recommend or face the wrath of an over-caffeinated, neurotic librarian!

Or maybe I’m feeling tough and ballsy because I’m talking about The Culling: The Torch Keeper: Book One  by Steven Dos Santos. There are some tough mofos in this YA novel and it’s gory and suspenseful as hay-ell. The Culling comes in one of my favorite book flavors (yes, I call them flavors), Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic. Remember the Capitol and President Snow in The Hunger GamesThe Establishment, the tyrannical government that rules the world of The Culling, makes the Capitol look like a bunch of pussycats knocked out on ‘ludes. I hope Dos Santos won’t begrudge me making a comparison to The Hunger Games, but I feel it’s very apt. The Culling is fast-moving and totally gruesome. It also bares a  bit of a resemblance to the Furnace books by Alexander Gordon Smith, which I also enjoyed.

The Culling, of course, stands apart from The Hunger Games and the Furnace books in many ways. I’ve been referring to it as “The Gay Hunger Games”, which I have to stop doing, because people immediately imagine some sort of lip-sync for your life scenario. So, let me explain myself a little better. The Culling features families being torn apart (literally and figuratively) by cruel, totalitarian governments and bloody fights to the death. But, unlike other titles of this ilk, this novel features several gay male characters. Lucky, our narrator? Diggory? They are tough and strong and absolute badasses. They are the ideal action movie heroes. Are they into each other? Sure. But you wouldn’t think of messing with either of them for a second.

Squeamish readers better head for the hills, because I’m about to go straight into an excerpt. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, suckers! Here, all the Recruits for the Trials are gathered together in front of their drill sergeant:

The Culling Final-1

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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:

Farizan

“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