2016 ALA Elections

I am standing for election on the 2017 Newbery ballot and I can’t believe I am actually typing that sentence but … there you have it.  It’s real. It’s really real! Even being on the ballot is just a dream come true and I am so grateful to ALSC for the great fortune of being selected for the ballot.newbery

I hope if you’re reading this and are a member of ALSC, you’ll consider voting for me.  I have been a professional librarian since 2007 and since that time, I have worked tirelessly to expand my skills when it comes to critically evaluate material for children and teens.  I have served on the following selection committees: the 2011 William Morris Award Committee and the 2013 Excellence in Young Adult Non-Fiction Award. I am currently serving the second year of a two year appointment to the GLBTRT Stonewall Committee, Youth Subcommittee. I was also a member of  theALSC Quicklists Consulting Committee from 2013-2015 and when I first got involved with ALA, I served as a member and then chair of YALSA’s Outreach to Young Adults with Special Needs committee, 2008-2010. I’ve reviewed for School Library Journal for two year. I am also deeply committed to sharing my knowledge through presenting, training, and publishing.  You can find out more about that on my professional page.

Being a member of the Newbery committee has long been my highest professional goal because I do truly understand its importance and relevance to all of children’s literature. I would be a dedicated and diligent committee member and fully invest in the responsibilities of committee work, including all the reading (I’ve been practicing!) and in-depth, critical discussion. In addition, my workplace and supervisor support my committee work as does my significant other, ensuring that I would be able to focus on my committee duties as needed. Having the chance to serve on the Newbery committee would be an honor and a commitment I would not take lightly and one which I would work to fulfill to the best of my abilities.

Whether you can vote for me or not (not an ALSC member, I know how it goes) thank you so much for all of your support and encouragement – I have the BEST crew of supporters and conspirators out there and I am so grateful for everything.

BUT ALSO BESIDES ME – there are so many amazing people standing on ALL the ALA ballots, so if you’re a member, I hope you’ll take some time to read up on the candidates and VOTE! There are so many great people running, I’ve been talking about many of them on Twitter and I am so lucky to know and have worked with them!

But I want to take a second to talk about three specific women who are some of the smartest librarians I’ve ever met and who have each made me a better librarian.  They are essential, critical voices who would be HUGE assets to their committees, so I’d like to ask you to consider them as well.

For Caldecott: Katie Salo has taught me more about picture books than almost anyone and her deep understanding of the genre makes her a perfect fit for the Caldecott.
For Newbery: Sujei Lugo is a sharp, thoughtful, rigorous evaluator of kidlit and YA and every time I talk to her about books, she opens up new avenues of my understanding.  She would be an excellent member of the Newbery committee.
For Printz: Edith Campbell never fails to make me dig deeper and think harder.  Her astute and fearless analysis of YA and kidlit is beyond compare and she would be a wonderful addition to the Printz committee.

To everyone on this year’s ballot: congrats on being selected by your nominating committee and thank you for contributing to our professional world.  If you’re NOT involved in ALA, well, for me it’s been the most amazing professional experience of growth, learning, and connection so check out ALA! I’d also love to hear more in the comments, so if you’re standing on the ballot or know someone who is standing that you think is qualified, drop a note here or chat with me on Twitter.

Thank you so much for considering me!

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Show Me The Awesome: Stop Calling It Self-Promotion

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Artwork by John LeMasney, lemasney.com

It’s almost impossible for me to think of three librarians I admire and learn from more than Liz Burns, Kelly Jensen, and Sophie Brookover. They have acted as sounding boards, cheering squads, hand-holders, and inspirations for me in all aspects of my professional life. So, it was no surprise to me that they came up with an amazing way to help librarians talk about self-promotion: what it means, what it looks like, why we do it.  They called this project SHOW ME THE AWESOME.  Here’s an intro post from Kelly explaining it all.  SHOW ME THE AWESOME will run over the course of May, with a ton of librarians participating.   Already the past two weeks have been chock-full of great writing and insight into not just what self-promotion means but even great examples of  successful programs and outreach worth promoting. Believe me, you’ll want to read through all these amazing posts – they’re energizing and inspiring. So make sure you bookmark  this on-going round-up of SHOW ME THE AWESOME posts from Sophie.  It’s constantly updated and there’s SO MUCH good stuff there!

When I started thinking about what I wanted to discuss about self-promotion I thought of several programs I’d love to talk about or how I created a teen non-fiction collection or how I grew our manga collection and used it to wildly boost teen circulation.  Those were all serious thoughts and things I wanted to share and promote.  But then I came back to an idea that was even simpler.  I wanted to get all meta and talk about self-promotion itself.  And that’s when I realized that if you’re having problems with self-promotion, with the concept, with what it can do for you – it’s really very simple.

Stop calling it self-promotion.

Self-promotion is focused on self.  It’s the first word, after all.  Self-promotion sounds like someone who is focused on talking only about you, you, you.   It’s even has connotations that, gosh, if that person were any good – if what they were doing was any good – someone else would surely notice and then talk about and promote it without their interference.  So a self-promoter?  That must be someone who just wants to talk about their mediocre work because no one else will.

Think, instead, of having a conversation – of talking to someone about what you do and why you love it.  Think about your part in this conversation: how you’ll talk about what you did, the work you put into the project, the results you had in mind.  Think about this moment, this conversation, as one of sharing.

That sounds much better, doesn’t it? As a matter of fact, that probably sounds like something you do quite often, something you probably even enjoy.  That sounds like something you do at the salad bar and the grocery store and in small talk and, sometimes, without even being totally conscious of it.

It’s time to change that part.  It’s time to start thinking of ALL those conversations: the ones you have with colleagues, the ones you have with library and community stakeholders, the ones you have with friends who want to chat about your job,  as what they really are: self-promotion.

And yet you still don’t have to call it that.  You still don’t have to think of it as something you’re doing because you’re not good enough for someone else to do it for/about you. You can think of it, instead, as just the regular conversation about what you do, what you do in your library, and what you do in your professional life.  You can think of it as the way you explain to people that, no, actually, libraries are still very well used even though Google exists and yes, actually, lots of children and teens still love reading.  When you do this, when you do this with the clarity and passion that comes so naturally to every librarian I’ve ever talked with who believes in what we do, you are promoting not just YOURSELF and the work you do in your library and your daily life but the work all of us in our profession do.

And that, I think, is the most important lesson of “self-promotion” – it SAYS self right there and sometimes it FEELS like it’s all about self, self, self – what it’s really promoting is the value and critical importance of librarianship.  You might feel like you’re only talking about yourself, but you’re not.  You’re talking about the libraries and librarians a person has loved their whole life.  You’re talking about the things they had no idea we do now days.  You’re talking about the kind of dedication and innovation libraries in every single town in this country bring to work every day, determined to push on in the face of budget cuts and public naysayers.

In the end, self promotion, that word and concept you might struggle with or might even think doesn’t apply to all that “regular” stuff you do, is as simple as one thing:

you’re sharing the truth of what we do when you talk about what YOU do. 

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In Memoriam: Richard Azar

“The best part of Kentucky Fried Chicken is the mashed potatoes and gravy.  And the best part of the mashed potatoes and gravy is, of course, the spork.”

I explain this to Richard, my boss at the library, with great relish.  He peers at me through his dirty glasses with a look I know all too well.  “A spork?  What’s a spork?”

I sigh with impatience.  “Everyone knows what a spork is, Richard.  It’s, like, half spoon, half fork.  A spork.  Obviously.”

Yup, there’s the look, no mistaking it now.  “Everyone knows, hmmm?  Then prove it to me.”

It’s the quintessential Richard challenge: prove it.

And I, a 17 year old library student worker, love nothing more than to try to prove it.  So, Richard wants me to prove to him spork is a real word?  No problem, I can do that.

I dig through dictionaries, encyclopedias, cookbooks, and reference volumes until my eyes cross.  And, as Richard has taught me, I not only document all my research meticulously (one of Richard’s truisms: patrons don’t just need an answer, they need an answer they can support.) but keep notes about what gaps there are in the library’s collection and what volumes we need to have updated.  (another Richard truism: research is always more than one question at a time.)

But a week passes and I can’t turn up a single use of the word spork.  (This is before the Internet, my friends).

“I can’t find it,” I concede to Richard.  “But that doesn’t mean anything.  Colloquialisms are acceptable -”

Smirking, he holds out a dictionary of flatware.  There’s a  picture of spork all right but underneath the picture is the caption “Ice cream fork.”

“But – but -” I try to protest.

“Remember this part, youngling,” Richard says, “just because everyone says something doesn’t make it so.  There are answers in this world.  You just have to keep looking for them.”

When I graduate from high school later that year Richard’s present for me is a delicate sterling silver ice cream fork.  For the next 16 years, I will cherish this present above all others and, when my life gets bleak, I will sometimes pull it out to remind myself of Richard’s words: there are answers in this world.

Richard Azar was the director of the Arthur Johnson Memorial Library for five years.  He hired me to work in the library as a student worker in 1994 when I was 15 years old.  Richard was my first supervisor, my first mentor, the first adult outside my family who saw and then encouraged something interesting and fierce in me.  Words cannot express the driving force he was in my life during my adolescence: how he opened my world and my mind and always, always, made me work for the answers.  He gave me great books to read, world literature and American pulp, he talked to me like an adult, he always expected the most from me, and he gave me what I know now is the most important gift you can give a teenager: through his unapologetic, flamboyant, and joyous eccentricity he helped me feel less like an alien from another planet.

Richard taught me that libraries exist for their patrons, that we buy books we might think are crap (“Another stupid cozy mystery?” I’d whine) because “we’re in this for them, not for us.”  Richard taught me that we never add for abridgments for children and teens because “they deserve the whole story too, you know.”  Richard let me get hands-on in every aspect of the library I showed an interest in: accessioning, billing, interlibrary loan, weeding, creating displays and reading lists, collection development, answering in-depth patron reference questions – I had experience in all that and more by the time I was 18 years old.  He never said something was out of my reach or understanding.  He trusted me with responsibility, pushed me in new directions, and believed that I had something worth contributing to this world.  He was the kind of boss, the kind of librarian, the kind of person, I wanted to be.

Simply put: I wouldn’t be a librarian today without Richard.  I wouldn’t be the person I am today without him.

I wish I’d told him that.  I hope he knew that.

Richard left the world this past Sunday and now it’s a much duller and more pedestrian place.  We are poorer because we lost Richard Azar.  I am poorer.

On Monday when I heard the news I left the service desk and called my parents.  Talking to my mom about it, I couldn’t stop the tears.  “There’s only one thing you can do for Richard now,” she told me, her voice soft.  “Wipe your eyes and go out there and be the best librarian you can be.”

That’s just what I’m gonna do.

Find the answers in life, youngling – that’s what Richard would say to me, what he always said.  So I’m going to do that too.

And I’m gonna have my sterling silver ice cream fork alongside for it.

(If you have someone in your life like Richard, I suggest you take this very moment to tell them thank you for all they’ve done for you.  I wish I had when I had the chance.  And if you want to read more about Richard, another tribute from a former employee, check out this memorial written by Thayla Wright, another one of my former mentors, and the current director of the Arthur Johnson Memorial Library, which will always be my first library home.)

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All The Awards! Quick & Dirty Reactions to the ALA Youth Media Award Winners

Monday morning, I got up before the sun rose to sit in a room with thousands of other librarians to listen to the live announcement of the 2012 Youth Media Awards.  While I will have more in-depth thoughts about the winners (and those that didn’t win…) I wanted to do both a quick recap and overview of  both the ceremony and the winners.  This isn’t a post about who “should’ve” won and who were the “right” winners because, well, I know just how hard it is to be on committee (I’ve written about that before)  and I am eternally in awe and thankful for all the work committees do.

This is about what it’s like to be there in the second when everything in your professional life changes.  Even if I didn’t attend ALA’s Midwinter conference for the business and committee work that makes it so satisfying, I think I might go just for the live YMA announcements.  It’s truly a magical moment: this was the first year I got to sit with a big crowd of friends and colleagues that I’ve spent so long discussing this literature with and just even knowing you’re surrounded by people who care as much as you, who love as much as you, know as much as you – that alone is a gift.  MUCH LESS the anticipation, the life-changing moments, the roll of excitement and cheers that electrify the crowd – there’s just nothing like it.  Honest and truly nothing compares.

The YMA announcements are always a roller coaster of emotion.  You can’t take the thrill of a personal favorite winning in one second and are heartbroken another favorite was ignored the next.   It changes everything: makes you excited, frustrated, confused, curious, ready to read and explore and discuss books deeply.  And that’s pretty fucking great, ain’t it?

  • I could not be happier with the Printz winner Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley.  I screamed SO LOUDLY when they announced it I think I burst some eardrums and I definitely had a second of going numb with joy.  I’ve been preaching about this book to anyone who will listen and wishing the Printz for it since I finished it a few months ago (I’ve read it twice) so to actually have that happen – OH, ALL MY DREAMS COMING TRUE!!  This is a truly beautiful and special YA book  – the kind for all your non-reluctant readers, the kind to grow into, the kind that will mean so much to the right reader.  And it’s literary and deep and worthy of this big award and LORDY, HOW I SCREAMED!
  • Truly, no moment was more special than when Ashley Bryan was announced as the recipient of the Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.  I wish I had a recording of the explosion of sheer joy in the room.  The cheers and applause were overwhelming.  When I tweeted about it I referred to Bryan as “our beloved Ashley Bryan” because, seriously, I’ve never heard anything like that.  And, as anyone who has ever been lucky enough to hear Ashley Bryan speak knows, if there’s anyone who’d love and revel in an explosion of sheer joy?  It’s him.  It’s a well-deserved honor for a very special talent.
  • I was particularly excited about the Coretta Scott King and Pura Belpré Illustrator winners.  Shane Evans’s Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom is absolutely beautiful.  The way Evans’s uses color is something else.  A band of slaves flee into the blue-black night and stars light their way on every page.  It’s stunning and powerful. This is the kind of story that the picture book format really brings to life, really gives some import to.  Meanwhile, in Diego Rivera: His World and Ours, Duncan Tonatiuh creates one of the best artist biographies I’ve ever read.  It’s not just the way Tonatiuh’s very specific style makes the story entirely his, it’s how he talks about what Rivera’s work might look like in our world, how he explains to children what Rivera strove to create and capture with his art. Tonatiuh never talks down to children, instead, he brings Rivera’s world, the artist’s world, to life.   I was just in love with these selections and am so happy this is going to get this original and daring picture books in even more libraries.
  • There was a gasp of surprise and disappointment when it was revealed that the Schneider committee had elected not to name a picture book winner.  But should we have been surprised?  The Schenider goes to the book that best “embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience” and, well, the disability experience is usually no where to be found in picture books!   Think of the last time you prepared for a baby storytime and went to get a bunch of picture books about, say, body identification.  Think of the Mem Fox refrain, from a book that ostensibly about the wide diversity of human life: “And both of these babies, as everyone knows, had ten little fingers and ten little toes.”  Everyone knows, eh? Think of allllll those books you have about heads, toes, fingers, legs, arms – and think how many feature babies or parents without fingers or eyes or legs.  Can you think of one?  Any one?  A single one?  Of course not!  Because, as everyone knows, we all have ten little fingers and ten little toes, right?  And that’s just a single example, of course, the disability experience is much larger.  But you wouldn’t know that from picture books, would you?  I was proud that the Schneider committee held out on principle and I hope that if ANYONE took a lesson from Monday morning it was publishers.  We want, we desperately need, more portrayals of disability in picture books.  Start publishing them, we’ll start buying them.
  • Love the Alex list and having a reason to read grown-up books!  I was quite beyond thrilled to see the two books I was most crossing my fingers for: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern on the Alex list.  These are deliriously perfect books for teen readers who are dipping their toes in adult fiction.  I was first sold on The Night Circus by a rapturous teen girl who promised me it was the most amazing book ever.   I can’t wait to read all the other books on the list!
  • SO HAPPY to see Money Boy by Paul Yee as a Stonewall Honor book!  I read this book in one sitting in a Indigo bookstore in Canada back in September.  It’s utterly unlike anything I have ever read in queer YA lit.  Ray is a Chinese immigrant in Toronto having a hard enough time fitting in as he struggles with his father’s expectations and learning English but being gay on top of that?  He knows what will happen if his father finds out and, soon enough, Ray finds himself alone and broke on the streets of Toronto.  How is he going to survive?  There’s so much I love about this book: the concise writing that SO accurately sounds like an ESL immigrant teen, Ray’s family situation and the realistic pressures in his life, the pacing, the gay adults Ray meets who are good and bad and unlike he expected, the way things are worse than Ray imagined and better than he could have hoped – it’s just the kind of fresh, original story that queer YA lit needs.  I hope the Stonewall helps get this book even wider recognition – go out and get a copy!

You can read about ALL the ALA Youth Media Awards and even see an archive of the webcast (listen for those Ashley Bryan cheers!) at ALA’s website.  There’s much more to be discussed, like all the amazing lists ALA committees created and my deeper thoughts on some of the winners, including a more in-depth love letter to the brilliance of Where Things Come Back but I wanted to get a first reaction post done before the week was out.  It’s good to capture those once in a lifetime moments when you can, after all.  At least until next year, when we get to have them all over again!

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Get Out The Vote for the ALA Elections!

Are you a member of ALA?  Have you voted yet in our annual election?  It really couldn’t be simpler, they’ve already emailed us links to our ballots twice.  You can also just visit https://www.alavote.org/2011/ where you’ll find more info on how to vote.

The polls close this Friday and getting out the vote is just as hard for ALA as it is in the USA in general so I am guessing that some of you haven’t yet voted.  Luckily, that means this post can still be topical, because this is the post where I tell you who you should vote for!

ALA Council

  • Vote for Wendy Steadman Stephens.  I’ve worked with Wendy through YALSA before and she is one of the most committed and intelligent librarians I have ever met.  She’s interested in teen literature, her students, and all aspects of libraries and technology.  She is currently a school librarian in Alabama working on her PhD in Information.  This is just one example of her  amazing ability to think across disciplines and look at the BIG picture, something I think is vital to being a successful, effective member of Council.
  • Vote for Ed Garcia, JP Porcaro, and Jennifer Wann Walker.  Ed, JP, and Jenn were all ALA Emerging Leaders and Library Journal Movers and Shakers.  That’s the party line and it’s important to know! But I think you should vote for them because I know Jenn personally and I have seen, first-hand, the unbelievable work she has done for Mississippi libraries and librarians.   The Librarianship 101 and 201 institutes for paraprofessionals that she has spearheaded, programmed, and ran at the Mississippi Library Commission are innovative, empowering programs that give paraprofessionals the tools to be more effective librarians.  EVERY state, especially those with many rural libraries, should have a similar program in place.  When I speak with Librarianship 101 and 201 graduates, they practically glow when talking about everything they learned in the program and how much it’s helped them.  I don’t know as much about Ed and JP, though I have read pieces about and by them, but I know that if Jenn’s running with them, they must have the same kind of dedication and commitment to innovation that Jenn has.  I DO know that Jenn is inspiration, especially to anyone working in a state that struggles to make sure all its librarians are well-trained and confident in their professional abilities.  If she can do for the ALA Council what she does for Mississippi librarians and libraries, we’ll ALL be better off.

Are you ALSO a member of YALSA?  For YALSA offices, one of the big factors for me is a commitment to YALSA.  I honestly think you should “work your way up” as the saying goes.  So, for me, I look for people I know are committed to YALSA and have done a variety of work with/for them.

Nonfiction Award Committee

  • Vote for Adela Peskorz and Angela Frederick.  I worked with Adela on the Morris and she’s just brilliant – one of the most incisive and critical readers I’ve ever worked with.  Sometimes I would read one of her emails and just sit back and say “Wow.”  I haven’t met Angela in person, but I follow her on Twitter and we’ve had some great conversations, I think she has a really sharp perspective on the field of YA lit and culture in general, so I think she’d be a good fit for this committee.
  • ALSO  … I’d really like it if you’d vote for ME! Yes, I’m running for the Non-Fiction committee this year and I’d love your vote.  You can read my “official” bio at the voting site (another cool thing ALA does that gives you no reason not to vote and be informed – you can read up on all the candidates right there on the site!) but I will say here that I would love to be on the Non-Fiction committee.  Having just completed a term on the Morris, I feel like I’m prepared to be a rigorous, attentive committee member and I’m currently in love with and utterly excited by what’s being published in NF for young adults, so having a year to discuss and analyze it would be sheer heaven for me.

Printz Committee

  • Vote for Sarah Bean Thompson! Sarah is one of the most dedicated and talented  bloggers I know/read.  She has a great grasp of the nuances and breadth of YAlit and she can stick to a schedule like no one I know!  In other words: she’s an ideal Printz candidate!  She generously agreed to answer some of my questions about YA lit, why she wanted to be on the Printz, and her involvement with YALSA.
1. The Printz Award has only been around since 2000.  What pre-2000 book would you award the Printz and why? 

This is the hardest question! One, because I was a teen during the pre-2000 years and honestly as a teen, I didn’t read much YA because all my library had was Sweet Valley High, Fear Street, and Nancy Drew Files, none of which would win the Printz!  So I’ll answer this one from my teen self perspective. My teen self would answer The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman because it was one of the few YA books I read and was completely captured by. I loved Sally Lockhart and the mystery was so fantastic and I was sucked in from the start. I don’t know that my adult librarian self really agrees, but my teen self is telling me that’s my pick!:)

2. Can you share a story with us about an experience you’ve had using/sharing a Printz winner or Printz honor book with your teens? (though booktalking, programming, or in some other way)
There are so many great books that are picked by the Printz commitee and I think often we’re afraid to booktalk them because many times we roll our eyes and wonder if teens really will enjoy the books.  I love the moments when a teen has read a Printz book and comes in to tell me about it-most of the time they don’t even realize it’s a Printz book, it just looked good. I’ve had teens tell me about how they laughed over Going Bovine and Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging (which many people forget is a Printz Honor book!)  I’ve booktalked A Northern Light to many teens who have come back and said how much they loved it.
I guess the biggest thing that I’ve dealt with is the recent banning of Speak in a local community close to my library.  Speak won a Printz Honor and it was so great to hear from patrons, teens, teachers, bloggers and librarians who spoke out for this book when the banning happened.  To me that reflected the importance of the book and shows exactly why it was chosen to be a Printz book.
3. What would serving on the Printz Committee mean to you as a librarian?
It would be a librarian dream come true! To be part of the committee who will decide what books best reflect and represent young adult for that year? How cool is that?  I really think it’s important to pick a book that librarians can pick up and say “this is why I read YA, this is why I do what I do and why I serve teens.” Sure, not everyone will agree with all the picks, but at least you can be proud of the books because they will spark discussion.
4. Can you tell us a little about your history with YALSA and/or any other work you’ve done on selection committees?
I’ve been involved with YALSA for four years now. I pretty much jumped right in and got involved right away. I’m currently serve on the Fabulous Films for Young Adults Committee, I’ve blogged on the YALSA blog, and I attend YALSA events at ALA. As for other committees, I’m also  serving on the Gateway Readers Award committee which is the state book award list for high school readers for Missouri.
There you have it, some of my recommendations for who you should vote for.  But OF COURSE the most important part is: if you’re an ALA member – vote! We can TOTALLY do better than 25% turnout – and if you think it’s important enough to you to actually pay to be a member of this organization (I respect not everyone does/can) you should also think its important enough for you to do a little bit of reading/research and vote for the future of the organization.
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Game Shoes

“Sympathizers are spectators; empathizers wear game shoes.” -John Eyberg

I have been so lucky in my professional life.  From the tight band of women who were my grad school friends and are now librarians and archivists all over the US to the friends and connections I made through my work in YALSA to the people I’ve been lucky enough to work with in my day-to-day librarianship, I’ve found nothing but support and encouragement from my professional colleagues and it’s made me even more excited to do what I do.

And, of course, there’s the online world of connections, another place I’ve found a warm welcome.  (waves to all my blog readers and twitter followers.)

Today, I wanted to start by talking specifically about a group of fantastic, inspirational colleagues (and friends!) I connected with at Midwinter this year, thanks to an amazing event organized by the dynamic and amazing Kelly.  This group stayed in contact after Midwinter.  Boy, did we ever stay in contact!

Kelly, Andrea, Katie, Sarah, Abby, and me formed an email chain after Midwinter and it took on a life of its own.   I cannot even tell you how much inspiration and support this group has given me over the past three months.  Booklists, summer reading strategies, dealing with our administration, plans for outreach, sharing our success to inspire each other, venting about bad days so we feel less alone – it’s a group of people ready with encouragement, ideas, humor, experience and always there to jump into the game.  I’m so lucky to even be part of this group and to have these girls in the game with me.  It makes me better and it makes me try harder.

For me, one of the most important parts, one of the best parts, of having empathizers there with you is for the moments of outrage: the moment when you find someone who has the same outrage as you, feels the same injustice and wants to raise their voice in the same way you do.

Just about a week ago,  author Brendan Halpin posted some commentary on a Washington Post article about the “gender divide” in YA fic. (and, yes, that totally means “boys don’t read!  there’s all these supernatural books for girls!”  Which is a totally legit point, because we all know boys won’t/don’t/can’t read paranormal books and it’s not like 4 of the 7 children’s/YA titles that sold over 1,000,000 copies in 2010 had male protagonists and were written by men. )

First of all, the Washington Post article had good intentions, I guess, and was at least semi-researched and really wasn’t that bad.  But, I swear to GOD it just made me want to pull my hair out.  OH GOOD, LET’S HAVE THIS DISCUSSION AGAIN!

SO GLAD this issue is getting coverage and being brought up yet again because, WOW, there’s just not enough discussion about it.  It’s not like there are numerous professional titles about engaging boys with libraries and literacy, blogs written by and centered on boys reading, or a monthly column in VOYA about books and programming for boys, or that over half the Printz winners have been written by men and feature teen boy lead characters.  Oh, wait! It’s exactly like that.

So, yes, I had issues with the Washington Post article … but then came Halpin’s post which took things to a whole other level.

And that level is: Really?!

Let’s start with: “we’d better find more books for boys because boys need books that reflect their realities.” Which, you know, that’s an issue close to my heart.  I am totally a person that speaks up for the importance of that, OK?  But really?  Really? There aren’t enough young adult/childrens books out there that reflect boy’s/men’s reality?  Really?  I know, what a stirring point, but honestly!  If you can look around our culture, around every single part of our contemporary culture (and, yes, publishing is included as part of said culture) and still say to yourself: “Women are the machine and they are bringing an unconscious bias towards men to their gatekeeping!!” I honestly can’t say more to you than: Really?!

MUCH LESS than the unspoken end of that is “because boys can’t relate to girl’s experiences, you know the way girls can so easily relate to boys.”  You know, there’s a real gender divide happening and that gender divide is: girls love books with boy protagonists because of course they can relate but no boy in his right mind would be caught dead reading a book with a girl protagonist.  How’s he expected to relate???!

This is what we might think of as the Twilight/Harry Potter faux-dichotomy: Harry Potter sells well?  Gee, that’s because it’s such a universal, magical, epic story we can all relate to and lose ourselves in!  Twilight sells well?  Teenage girls and middle age women are buying them all because NO boys or men are interested in stuff like vampires and werewolves and love stories.  Gross-out!  WOMEN: RUINING THINGS BY BUYING TWILIGHT, WAY TO GO.

While I read Halpin’s post, my mouth dangled open in disbelief.  It wasn’t just about the Washington Post article, it wasn’t just about getting boys to read – it was about how “women of twitter” weren’t taking the issue seriously enough, about how further that in children’s publishing “women are the machine”, about how women, i.e. the machine, do not serve everyone equally.  Halpin’s post was an exquisite experience in privilege, a perfect illustration of it, really, because it used privilege to deny privilege.

I knew I had to respond, to try to point out how problematic Halpin’s blog was.  I knew I had to voice my outrage.  And just as I started to wrestle with how I was going to do this: how I was going to approach the inherent privilege and straw man logic in his post, how I was going to address all of the coverage this issue consistently receives, so to approach it as if it were entirely novel was ridiculous. Believe me, I wasn’t relishing this.  I didn’t want to start a “fight”, I didn’t want to be “unfun“, I have a thousand other blogs I need to write so I didn’t want to be writing this one.  But … well, some things you just have to address.

And then?  Just like that – I found out that Jodi, AKA bookgazing, had written the perfect, comprehensive response over at Lady Business.   Said response had everything I wanted to say only said better.

It wasn’t just relief that now I didn’t “have” to write a response, it wasn’t just knowing that there was someone out there as outraged about a particular issue as I was: it was knowing that there was someone else in the game with me.

I am so grateful for all the empathizers in my life: the people like Kelly, the bloggers at Lady Business, and so many more people than I could possibly list, both within my professional field and just in my life:  the people who share my outrage and speak out about it.

All of them make me so glad I’m in the game and I am eternally grateful for the reminders and the assists.

(who are some of your empathizers and inspirations?)

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Body Positivity & Fat Acceptance @ 2010 YA Lit Symposium


It’s me!  A wonderful, blurry picture of me, snapped by the fabulous Allen Zadoff at the beginning of my pre-conference.  (I didn’t take any pictures because I wasn’t really thinking …)

The YA Lit Symposium was a great time, especially once I survived my pre-conference!  I attended some really interesting and exciting sessions.  (and only one that I felt was really, really frustrating.)  I also had the chance to catch up with some of my fantastic librarian colleagues/friends (Wendy, Liz, Melissa, and Gretchen chief among them!) and network and feel the power of YALSA.  (I just think we’re the most fun.  I just think no one has more fun than us!)  There was A LOT of tweeting happening, which was a great way to both take notes and keep up with what was happening in other panels.

I’ll blog a little more about the symposium and the sessions I attended later this week, but in the meantime, I wanted to get all the information from my pre-conference up here for anyone who was looking.  This is all the material and links we covered at the session, you’re  free to use it in your programming or booklists as you see fit.  I’m not sure how much sense this will make to people who weren’t at the pre-conference, but definitely feel free to take a look either way.  And, OF COURSE, if you have any questions or want any more information, please let me know.

Two recaps of the session can be found at the YALSA blog (thanks Meredith!) and at Librarified. (thanks, Gretchen!)  If there’s any other reviews/wrap-ups out there, please let me know so I can link to them!

THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who attended the pre-conference: thanks for caring and paying extra to attend and being so attentive and interesting and fun to bounce ideas off of!  Thanks to the outstanding and talented authors Megan Frazer, Madeleine George, Susan Vaught, and Allen Zadoff, who agreed to talk about their excellent books and be part of the story.  Thanks to all of you for showing up and listening and inspiring me!   I really feel like we had a great session and, as I said, started a really important conversation.  I hope all of you will continue that conversation, and that work, with me here on the blog and in your libraries with your teen patrons!

The literature review in Powerpoint format. (through Slideshare … all those covers!)
The literature review as a Word doc. (through Google docs)

YouTube Videos
Fat Talk Free Week #1
Fat Talk Free Week #2
Operation Beautiful #1
Operation Beautiful #2
Joy Nash’s FAT RANT (we didn’t get to watch this in session, but it’s great and HIGHLY recommended for those who haven’t yet seen the awesomeness!)

Web Resources
Reflections: The Body Image Program
(Remember this program was started by a college sorority, Tri Delta, so some of these activities obviously need to be modified for use in a teen/library setting:
Activities, More Activities)
The Illustrated BMI Project
Operation Beautiful

And, of course, remember that any time you have questions, want to continue the conversation, or share ideas, you can contact me via e-mail, (fatgirlreading at sign gmail) through this site, or follow me on Twitter.

The pre-conference was truly an amazing experience.  Together, I hope we can make it just the beginning of something great.

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