Tag Archives: books

Finally seeing my fact checking in person

Scholastic booth display at ALA Annual 2016 with two book covers: Pope Francis and Switzerland

Pope Francis and Switzerland, two books I fact checked at the Scholastic Booth

This year when I went to ALA Annual, I had a chance to see my fact checking work in person and talk to people who know the work. When I walked by the Scholastic booth, I spotted covers of two books that I’d recently fact checked and stopped and stared. They’re in the picture; Pope Francis and Switzerland. When I struck up a conversation with the people at the booth, one of them actually knew Editorial Directions, the company I work for. It was one of the most gratifying moments for a job where the distance between my work and the product is huge.

The next day when I stopped at the booth, I had a longer conversation with another person from Scholastic about fact checking and was able to see and hold two books that I’d fact checked; Vultures and Cybercriminals. Then on Sunday, I think I had a wonderful bonus because for all of these books Scholastic has a website with added information and ebooks providing new ways to access the information.

I’m still smiling when I think of seeing and holding books that I played a part in. Every book that I fact check leaves me with knowledge of new sources and nuggets of facts. I love the process of learning and having a role in the reference materials that students use.

 

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Talking books online and in person

As part of this gorgeous labor day weekend, I volunteered at the book stall run by the Historic Lewes Farmers Market and sponsored by Daedalus Books. All of the books were connected to the market from cookbooks, books about raising animals, children’s books with plants and grown up coloring books. This year the market’s in a new setting as the park its been on for years on the grounds of the Lewes Historical Society is closed for renovations. Due to being in a park with a pond and paths, new people who might not have found the market were walking through. I love all the various connections that grow up around books as people comment on how they have that one, wondering about age level for others and their laughter as my father called out, “Get your red-hot books!”

Due to the partnership, there’s an element of surprise to which books will be there as the market doesn’t choose instead the bookseller does. As the table with the books was near the main entrance, it was a way to see the diverse community that comes through the market from visiting families to people with houses all drawn by berries, bread and oysters.

This year for the third time in a row, I’ve participated in the RITA Reader Challenge on Smart Bitches Trashy Books a romance website that is a wonderful community to discuss books and media. For the first time this year, the books I reviewed generated conversation in a way they haven’t before. I loved that as part of why I love reading this site is how the comments are always full of thoughtful talks of what people liked and didn’t like. A large number of the books on my phone are pulled from their recommendations and I’ve discovered new genres and authors from these conversations.

Toward the Sunrise by Elizabeth Camden was a novella that I reviewed and I liked it, but the second reviewer detailed major issues of Orientalism and racism within the story. The connection between the hero and the heroine is that both of them read Marco Polo’s adventures as children and it gave them a desire to travel to Asia.  As I’ve often found online, this was a major moment for me to be quiet and listen to someone who felt a personal impact from the writing. This second reviewer showed how context is important as the novella was set in the 1890s when numerous conflicts between Europeans and countries throughout Asia happened creating scars that still remain. The comments were full of thoughtful discussions of how writers of historical fiction can balance the truth of history with an understanding of their readers.

The Marriage Contract by Katee Robert was my second review and this was a book focused on three Irish families involved in organized crime. In the comments of my review, it was interesting to see how others were put off by that aspect as well as the style of writing. I found it a gripping book which took on difficult topics and also had a charming romance, but not one for everyone.

I love how the internet has allowed for book discussions to grow from conversations at a market to online and how they continue and move off in unexpected ways.

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Good Book Days and Boston

One of my favorite parts of being a librarian is seeing when someone finds the book that they’ve wanted and needed. As an educator, I adore seeing how there isn’t just one place that a person can learn. In the past two weeks, I’ve seen kids falling in love with science and put the right books into the best hands.

Scholastic Book Fairs have a magic about them, the ones I attended in elementary school were held in the library. Weeks before, I’d fill out my form, debating which books I wanted and then they’d arrive, beautiful new books. Then I’d wander around the school library staring at all the other books, the erasers, the pens and pencils, the bookmarks, there waiting for me to choose them. Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to stand behind the register at a book fair and watch kids have that same experience. The shapes of the erasers have changed from fruits to smartphones and video game controllers, but the love of finding just that one is still there. I was impressed by how easy it was to come in and run the fair as well as how reasonable the prices were for books, 1 to 3 dollars for new paperbacks. The range of options from encyclopedias to every genre and pens that lit up or allowed secret writing.  I know I was tempted by the Star Wars’ stickers and three dollars for the new Misty Copeland autobiography, but this time left with nothing for myself other than the joy of seeing kids buying what they wanted from the fair.

The second book day was an aftereffect of the Lewes Library preparing to move. Over the past few months, I’ve been helping Maureen, the head of Youth Services to weed the children’s library in preparation for shifting to the new space. I’ve found this a fascinating process of looking at what books don’t make sense to keep because they’re out of date nonfiction ones, there are multiple copies or they haven’t been taken out recently. Yesterday all thirty boxes of books ranging from board books to juvenile nonfiction were piled on tables and educators in the area were given a chance to take what they needed. In the course of the afternoon, teachers left with boxes and bags full of free books to help new families, fill classroom libraries and preschool libraries. It was wonderful to wander among them and see some of the kids who came along and recommend books I knew were good. Everything was free which made it even better as the teachers realized how these books could help their kids and then there would be space for newer copies and better editions in the library. At the end of the day, there were only eight boxes left which will find better homes and a few came home with me. I didn’t have a copy of The Queen of Attolia and picture books to send to my nephew.

Last week, I went to Boston as I’m planning on moving there in the near future. Southern Delaware is wonderful but there’s an energy in the Boston area along with many friends that will help me to do all that I want to do. Many of my favorite moments in Boston came from being in a place where people were excited to learn and share the joy of knowing something new. At the New England Aquarium, I heard kids and parents pulling each other to different exhibits and talked with a woman who loves her membership to the Aquarium. She was talking about the fur seals and how well she knew all of them. As I wandered into the bookstores and the gorgeous main Cambridge Public Library branch, I was reminded of the energy that comes from being in a place where everyone is looking at the world around them with the mixture that comes from the past and future alongside each other. Below is the wonderful Greenway carousel which was inspired by children’s drawings and connects science and fun.

2016-04-12 15.53.49

One of the unexpected highlights of the trip was walking around Boston Common and seeing the preparations for the marathon, the booths waiting and what would be the starting line lying on the ground. Boston is a great city and one I plan on exploring more. As I keep looking for jobs, my net is still open wide and if a school or a library comes together in another city, I’ll grab it, but I’m planning on finding a way to live in the Boston area.

 

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Where I don’t have to explain: Yuletide and Chessiecon

As I look forward into this new year, I keep thinking about how powerful it is to have places where I don’t have to explain what I love or why. I’m lucky that for me, most of the times when I have to explain are related to my hobbies but there are times I find myself defending online life, young adult literature and that genre media has value. This is tiring but I feel that its important especially for young people, being told that something that fills you with creativity doesn’t matter can be crushing. As a librarian, I strive to provide this for my patrons whenever I can, taking on the role of explaining to adults that this is why fandom matters.

In my personal life, I miss being close to people of like minds and find myself happiest when I find these connections. In the next year, I’m hoping to move to a part of the country where I don’t have to explain as much and so I can be an advocate for young people feeling as if their likes aren’t seen.

In November and December, I had two experiences where I didn’t have to explain myself that revitalized me. One happens every year, Yuletide, the multi-fandom fanfic exchange that occurs every holiday season, this was my fifth year writing in it and its become a big part of my holidays. The main reason I love it so much is that every story is written as a gift to a stranger in a fandom that’s shared by writer and giftee. This shared knowledge allows for stories that might not normally be written and when the archive is open and all the authors are anonymous, new fandoms are discovered. Every year that I’ve done Yuletide, I’ve stretched myself in terms of my writing as I examine a form of media I love from another angle and find others who adore the same characters and worlds.

After Thanksgiving, I went to Chessiecon, a science fiction/fantasy convention and as soon as I walked in the hotel door, I began to smile. Around me were all the signs of modern fandom; clothing, jewelry, costumes, small and large markers saying I love this world. I was slightly nervous as I’d never attended this con before but I knew that I would meet friends and one of my favorite authors was there. Once I was settled, I sat down to hear first Seanan McGuire and later Tamora Pierce read and answer questions from their fans. Among all these strangers were words and worlds created by authors who cared and I loved it. Later, I met up with my friends and throughout the con there were these moments of sharing and discovering fandoms. A step that’s often present of explaining the love for something was gone because the question was a matter of which fandom and which part and what do you create? I discovered authors, artists and heard discussions that wouldn’t feel out of place in the librarian community.

Yesterday, the Youth Media Awards were announced at ALA Midwinter and as the winners were a diverse mixture, I’ve thought of panels I attended at Chessiecon. One of the best panels was about diversity in young fiction with a focus and to begin with, the authors came from a mix of ethnicities and discussed that there are its important to use all types of diversity and make certain every character feels like a true person. At the moment, I’m dipping in and out of a wonderful anthology of ya lit about girls being engineers that was edited by one of the speakers called Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets and so far all the stories are great. Another panel that was intriguing but didn’t work as well as I think was expected was about young adult literature and what does it mean and how is it changing? The highlight of this entire panel was hearing Tamora Pierce talking about the history of young adult literature as she’s experienced it. It was a big reminder of how many of these distinctions are created publishers and that authors don’t have as much choice as it might seem. Another panel that has been in my mind due to discussions around Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens was about the idea of a Mary Sue. Much of what came out of that panel was that Mary Sue is an awkward label, that has outgrown its origins within the Star Trek fandom and the part that matters is to create well rounded and complicated characters.

I hope in the next year to find places where I can be among people that I don’t have to explain and where I can discover new angles on the world. A reason I’m a librarian and active in fandom is because in both places, there’s a joy in sharing what’s loved and an openness in finding something new that someone else loves.

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Books, reaching out and learning

Life for me has been full with substituting and fact-checking, both of them are constantly teaching me new information about kids and the world out there. My last fact-checking job ended up being more emotionally draining as I was working on a book about Yemen, which has amazing history and so much turmoil. I’m glad to have learned what I did so I can better understand what’s happening but searching through images for illustrations was difficult. The juxtaposition of beautiful buildings and then rubble of the same area captured the damage being done left me shaken and scared for everyone who lived there. In terms of the substituting, every day is different, which is exciting but tiring as I want to be a good teacher and para for these kids though I’m only there for one or maybe two days. When I connect and see that I’ve helped a student understand is wonderful but other days, I wonder if I made any difference. Most days are a mixture of seeing what’s possible in a great classroom and not knowing all of the context to be as much help as I could be.

I’m also doing what I can to become more involved with ALA by volunteering for some committees. ALA is so important and daunting to me, that I’m trying to put myself out there and do what I can to support all libraries and find where I best fit within ALA.

What I finished reading

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. I love Rowell’s books and Carry On was fantastic as she really understands what it is about the Chosen One stories and fantasy that draw people in and how to turn it all on its head. This is a book about two boys who take control of their story even though the story isn’t encouraging them to and their friends who are along with them. I would recommend this book to everyone who loves Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but wishes for more.

What I’m currently reading

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan. I always enjoy Riordan’s books and this one isn’t disappointing, he’s got a great ear for dialogue, action and how kids behave. I appreciate that he’s gotten much better about putting diversity into his casts and understanding that diversity covers a wide range from being homeless to being Deaf.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. At this point, I’m not terribly far into this book and I’m not completely sure how I feel about it. I enjoy the setting and the main character has a good voice but so far, she seems fairly passive. I’m hoping more will happen as so far, there’s not much of a conflict or romance, but I like the author’s style.

What I’m reading next

One of the books I’m reading next is for Yuletide so I’m not going to list it but I’m looking forward to it. Yuletide is a wonderful fanfiction exchange that’s tied to small fandoms and is a major part of my holiday season. I love writing for other people and how Yuletide always ends up stretching my sense of what I think I can write. I also have the newest Jonathan Stroud Lockwood and Company book to read, which should be fun and creepy. The Rehoboth Film Festival is coming up next week, so far this year I’m not seeing a huge amount of films, I know there will be one or two that really stick with me.

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ALA Midwinter

Since leaving Chicago, there’s been a great deal of snow in many places. In some ways, that’s been wonderful, as after I left Chicago, I went to visit friends and stayed inside just reading. Sadly though where I live in Delaware, a lot of snow isn’t the norm and its made life a complicated. This has made substituting a little confusing but workable. I’ve been thinking a lot about Midwinter since leaving and now feel ready to write up my thoughts.

My Midwinter this year felt as if it was all about connections across the library world and the various worlds that I inhabit from seeing my childhood on stage with LeVar Burton’s speech to talking classics at an exhibit booth. One of my absolute favorite parts of Midwinter or Annual is the exhibit hall, because its possible to understand how diverse and huge libraries truly are. It feels like every time I go to a conference, the diversity of people and interests is brought more to the fore and it makes me happy. This year it was made explicit in wonderful ways such as the Day of Diversity, I wasn’t able to attend any of the events but followed a number of attendees on Twitter. A favorite panel that I went to combined a lot of my loves and why I enjoy the exhibit hall since I hadn’t planned on going to it but found myself sitting there. This was the Dark Fantasy panel at the Pop Top Stage which featured Fonda Lee, Ken Liu, Auden D. Johnson and Sabaa Tahir, which was thoughtful about why we read fantasy, what makes fantasy dark, how nice it is to have a fandom and how the authors write. It felt hopeful to hear authors comfortably discussing fandom, how its working within their lives and how they hope their works will fit into fandom. Also to hear them talking about the role of diversity especially within fantasy worlds. All of their books are high in my to be read pile.

Seeing LeVar Burton on Sunday morning was a powerful reminder of why I’ve chosen to be a librarian as he’s proof of the reach of books and reading. He spoke about his mentors from his mother to Alex Haley to Fred Rogers, through them it was possible to see how he grew and changed through his life and is still learning. Part of his talk was presenting a new book that he’s written called The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm. Its an amazing book about dealing with loss and how depression can hit everyone and to hear it read by him was a gift. I found his reading and talk inspiring as he spoke about how he’s still learning and finding ways to make sure that children everywhere have access to books. During the question period, every person spoke about how he inspired them and taught them from helping with a second language to seeing some of their own life reflected up on Reading Rainbow. When I left, it was with the reminder that touching someone’s life can be done in a lot of ways and as a librarian, I can open doors.

It felt like perfect timing that after hearing him speak, I went to the ALA Joblist Open House which was one of the biggest I’ve been to in my three years of conferences. The set up was more relaxed as well since the libraries were at small tables which made it easier to talk and not feel as if there was such a clear line in the form of a large table. That can be intimidating at times as I’ve found myself not always at ease to approach but with this set up, it felt informal and welcoming. I had a great number of wonderful conversations and again was struck by the simple diversity of what a library can mean from academic libraries to independent schools.

Speaking of school libraries, another strange intersection was when Carney Sandoe, the independent school job agency I’m connected to had a booth next to YALSA and there was also a booth of wonderful child friendly furniture. This meant that after I volunteered at the YALSA booth, which is always a pleasure to interact with fellow youth librarians, I could talk to my Carney Sandoe connection. After that I walked one more booth over to pick up a catalog full of furniture possibilities for the new Lewes’ library children’s section. Moments like that are why I adore the exhibit hall, how sometimes just by chance, disparate elements of my library experience are suddenly right next to each other.

I ended Midwinter with the Morris’ awards which were slightly subdued due to weather so only four out of ten authors were actually present. The rest of them had video presentations which were fascinating. A lot of my reading directly after Midwinter on the train to Michigan was from the Morris and Nonfiction awards. I’m going to end by recommending a few of the books that have truly stood out to me of the ones I’ve read so far from my Midwinter haul. All links go to my Goodreads’ reviews.

The Story of Owen and its sequel Prairie Fire. Owen’s world is one of the finest alternate histories that I’ve read with dragons inserted in such a way that the process of history all makes sense. These books remind me of when I read Seraphina and how I wanted to give a copy to everyone I knew. That’s how I feel about these because the characters are complex and real, the setting is fascinating and the language of the writing is beautiful.

Tommy: The Gun that Changed America was an interesting read about gun violence and gun control in American history. Before reading this book, I hadn’t realized how many gun laws were tied to particular issues with gangsters and times of violence. An aspect that impressed me a great deal about this book was how the back was organized to make it easy for the readers to find and understand the sources used. Its something I would like to see done more often as it makes the idea of reading a bibliography less daunting when the author presents the sources under useful headings.

The Port Chicago 50 about a time when racism in the armed forces put a number of men behind bars. This is one of those books that wasn’t easy to read because it deals honestly with the segregation and racism that went on during World War II and the cost of it to America. A cost that we’re still paying the price of and dealing with. An aspect of this book that has stayed with me is how its a reminder that history is never a simple starting point, the discrimination during World War II helped to give tools that made it possible for the Civil Rights Movement to achieve what it did. Also that the tools of change haven’t altered that much through the decades.

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Censorship close to home: Cameron Post and Cape Henlopen School District

Recently I had the odd experience of learning about something occurring in my own neighborhood from the online young adult world and then watching it play out online and in the local paper. I’m referring to the Cape Henlopen School District removing The Miseducation of Cameron Post from a summer reading list. A lot of great posts have been written about how misguided this choice was and I’ve found it inspiring to see how the YA community worked with the local community to get the book into the hands of kids who want it. Here I’m going to speak about the latest development a writing contest that gives teenagers a chance to say their thoughts about the book as well as provide a sense of the local context.

To start, the wonderful coda that is the essay contest. To quote the text of the flyer which is currently hanging over the new young adult books section at the Lewes Library.

The adults have had their say. Now it’s your turn. If you’re a high school student in Delaware, you’re invited to:

  • Get a free copy of The Miseducation of Cameron Post from Browseabout Books (student ID required)

  • Write a 250-500 word essay about what you think board members should know about the book before deciding whether it belongs on a school reading list

  •             Submit your essay to ncac@ncac.org by September 1st

I love the idea of this because one of my main complaints as I read through all of the articles that kept appearing in the Cape Gazette, the local paper, was how there weren’t enough student voices.

Now to get into a little explanation of where all of this happened since Sussex County, Delaware is currently in a great deal of economic and demographic flux. Sussex County and especially the area which Cape Henlopen serves is compromised of a number of different social groups and they don’t all fit together. Along the coast in towns like Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, retirees with liberal backgrounds from major cities such as Philadelphia, Washington DC and Baltimore have second homes and many live year round. Rehoboth Beach is known for being a welcoming place for the LGBTQ population.

A little further inland, farms and developments vie for land with places that conservationists have saved carving out their own spaces. According to the Sussex County Economic Development Office, the three main industries are manufacturing such as PATS Aircraft, Agriculture/Food Processing with the Mountaire Farms, mainly known for poultry the largest and then the three main hospitals; Beebe Medical Center, Bayhealth Medical Center and Nanticoke Health Services. Tourism and educational services also provide jobs through a University of Delaware Campus, Sussex Tech and a branch of Wilmington University. This means that the area can sometimes feel split between those who’ve been here for a while and tend to be more conservative and the newer and older residents that can be more liberal as well as immigrants that move here to work. A good explanation of how this looks politically comes from a write-up of Delaware around the 2012 elections from The New York Times:

“Almost all of Sussex County is rural. It is the top poultry producing county in the country. Along its coast, however, more than two decades of investment has cultivated a string of resorts, Mr. Pika said, and now liberal pockets can be found there. Rehoboth Beach, for example, has a substantial gay community.”

My family came down to this area to retire into one of those liberal pockets and they’re steadily making inroads into changing the political climate but it’s not easy to do.

All of this background is to show how in a place where same-sex couples are common a book can be banned for bad language with underlying homophobia. One aspect that I found fascinating was how little thought apparently went into choosing the list as it was apparently the first year it was done. It’s good that they trusted the Delaware Library Association to make intelligent choices, but the fact that most of the School Board and parents didn’t know much about these books wasn’t. Also none of this went through the normal process for challenging a book, which in the majority of libraries I’m familiar with requires the one challenging to read the book. All of the books were from the Blue Hen list which is selected by the Delaware Library Association, these books were then offered to incoming ninth graders to read. The way it all played out was strange too, the book was banned, then put back on the list and then the entire list was pulled. An interesting aspect was how a major part of rallying around the School Board came not from any thought on the book itself but more supporting the local government.

One letter that stood out for me was from someone who grew up in the area, was proud of not reading the book and fully backed the board; “I would like to commend the board on its decision to remove the above mentioned book from the summer reading list for incoming freshman. I hope that you are able to stand by that decision. I have not read the book.”

In a recent article from July 29th, a number of locals are quoted which gives a good sense of what happened.

“She’s promiscuous, drinks all the time and does drugs,” Hesson said. “Are we pulling students up, or are we just handing them stuff?”

While the Metcalfes and Hesson represented about half of 50 people who attended the meeting, just as many continued to support the book and the message it offers for gay students.

Recent Cape graduate Madison Bacon said gay kids are bullied in school, and “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” could help them handle adversity.

“It is a wonderful book. When I heard you removed it, it made me very sad,” she said.

Looking back over what happened, I think that the entire area has been surprised by how involved the outside world became in the book banning. I know that Browseabout Books is still giving books away as they’re provided for part of the contest and according to a librarian friend, Emily Danforth is going to give a Skype talk to a LGBTQ book group that meets at the library. The entire experience feels like its reflected a lot of the cultural conversations in the country as well as the power of connecting in as many avenues as possible.

I feel proud to be a librarian, a reader of young adult literature and someone who can add a few words to this conversation. For my own part, I read The Miseducation of Cameron Post at the end of 2012 and enjoyed it immensely.

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