Hello friends! Summer has unofficially started, are your summer reading plans set? We are good to go at MHL and are doing the collaborative theme of superheroes this year. I’m excited because superheroes can be great and there are lots of fun crafts and activities to do. One of the most exciting things we have planned for the year is our VolunTeen program which will be putting together a “Superhero Training Day/Academy” for little kids. A few libraries like the Plaistow Library in NH have done similar events with a superhero photobooth, obstacle courses, and more. It should be fun, even if Clare and I don’t have it totally fleshed out yet!

Other than that I’ve been hanging out with my mom:

We could look better but who cares.

We could look better but who cares.

I mentioned that I applied to write for Women Write About Comics and it’s happening! I’ll have two posts in June. I’ll let you know when they will be up so you can read them. In the meantime, here are two of my favorite most current posts:

Fail Better: How Nerd Insecurity Becomes Abuse by Jo Fu

Literal Dehumanization: Erasure of the Black Face in Hollywood by Jamie Kingston

It’s really a great website and if you’re interested in any part of geek/nerd culture (comics, movies, books, TV, games) you should definitely check it out. There is so much great talent writing there and I’m really happy to join the team.

Mini book review before you go:

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King – Can A.S. King write anything that’s bad? I don’t think so. This is one of my new favorite dystopias. Some might describe it as a Handmaid’s Tale for YAs. In the sense that through a hilarious and odd event – the drinking of petrified bat dust* mixed into a beer – Glory sees a future that is openly hostile to women, I can see the comparison. Glory sees a number of states pass laws that forbid women from working outside the home at all ushering in a second Civil War, kidnappings, breeding camps, laws that don’t allow single mothers to collect child support from fathers, and generally a hellish future for women and girls. Sadly, as I was reading this I kept thinking how NOT far-fetched this one. Like dystopias about future (or current) water wars, it hits pretty close to home. Along with the visions of the future, there is Glory learning to deal with the suicide of her mother and deciding whether or not a bad friend is worth having if it’s your only one. Really, really great.

And a travel suggestion before you go, too: If you’re in the Northshore area, check out the Stickwork installation by Patrick Dougherty and PEM in Salem. It’s really cool. It’s neat to stand in the twig houses and see them as the best club headquarters any child could wish for.

One of the four or five big twig houses with rando for scale.

One of the four or five big twig houses with random guy for scale.

Until next time, sweet friends.

*Yes, petrified bat dust. It makes sense in the book…

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Confidence – I’ve got it?

There was a time, not too long ago because I really haven’t been a librarian for very long, when attending a library conference made me feel awful. I would sit in all these sessions and hear what these amazing librarians were doing for their community and I just felt not good enough. Hearing about the wonderful and innovative things that were happening in libraries around me should have galvanized me and spurred me on to good library programs.

Feeling jealous....

Feeling jealous….

But they didn’t. They made me inferior. I don’t know if I thought that I could never have interesting ideas, or that I couldn’t execute a program, or that I didn’t think we had the money or the librarian buy-in to do things, I don’t know. But I thought that presenting programs at conferences was something very successful amazing librarians did and I was just going to be an “in the trenches” librarian. I may not doing anything spectacular but I was still going to be good at my job. In a quiet sort of way.

I did programs like NELLS (aka library summer camp) and had a YALSA mentor to help me feel more confident. They helped tremendously but I managed to still feel that terrible mix of jealousy and self-contempt when I heard of other libraries’ great programs. Then this year I spent one day at the Massachusetts Library Conference where librarians were excited about their programs for one hour a week, self-directed staff learning, or a book bike, or awesome web tools like IFTTT that make some of our work more streamlined. The programs and speakers were great and I was excited to see them.

Then I got home, went to work the next day, and told coworkers about the panels I attended. As I was talking to a friend, I realized I wasn’t feeling that sad, deep-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach-bad-feeling. I felt fine. Clare and I were coming off a very successful and well-loved Teen Poetry Contest and reception, and I had just done another library sponsored Pub Trivia. Our social media numbers were up, summer reading was planned, and a few teachers from one of the middle schools reached out to us (unheard of!) to collaborate on some programs. It’s not all successes: I’ve had a string of crafts in the teen room that have not been popular at all but that just makes me realize I’ve been lazy with my planning; we’re struggling with our summer volunteer programs but we know we’ll figure it out; and more road bumps along the way.

It’s not going perfectly, but I’m doing pretty well. And maybe someday I’ll present at a conference. Or not. But it doesn’t make it difference because I have some confidence in my job. And boy does it feel good.

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And this cover is beautiful.

P.S. You should read Hausfrau. Get over your desire for “likeable” characters and read it. The writing is spectacular and the main character’s name is Anna. So that’s something. But really, it’s incredible. Anna makes really bad choices and yet manages to be interesting, sympathetic, and pitiful all at once.

P.P.S. I’ll mostly likely be applying to be the Hub manager and may be writing for Women Write About Comics, which I’m pretty excited about. Both of those things may affect my already dismal record of updating this blog, but I’ll keep you posted.

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Professional happenings

Goodness have things been busy in Anna-land! I saw sick for a few days, recovered, then went to New Hampshire, and of course worked, too.

In this time, some fun things have been happening professionally. I got appointed to a YALSA committee: the Research Journal Advisory Board! Cool! This is what we do: “YALSA’s Research Journal Advisory Board oversees the peer reviewing process as outlined in the Refereeing Process Guidelines that were approved by the YALSA Board of Directors.  The Board also serves in an advisory capacity to the Member Editor of the journal by assisting with the solicitation of contributors and articles as well as generating ideas for topical articles or themes, when requested from the Member Editor.”

I have not thought about peer review in a long time, so hopefully I will be up to the task. In other YALSA news, I’ve come to the end of my tenure writing for The Hub. It’s been really rewarding and fun for me. If you want to see all of the stuff that I wrote for them, check it out here.

11797414I’ve also had some good luck with books lately. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a slump but the last few books I’ve buzzed through because they were so great! First was Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. A lot of the “shocking” things in the book about the poor quality and horrible working conditions that go into making “fast fashion” I already knew about. But, it’s easy to ignore when you can get a shirt for a few dollars. It made me want to be conscientious about what I buy – and remind myself I really have a TON of clothes – and feel better about trying to make more of my clothes.


18166936The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender and Down from the Mountain, are two very different and yet engaging books. By quality of writing Ava Lavender steals the show with atmospheric and beautiful prose. It’s the story of a girl born with wings and the lives of her mother and grandmother before her. It’s definitely a book for older teens as there is some frank descriptions of sex and sexual violence, but I think older teens would get more from it anyway. You don’t really get to Ava’s birth until about 1/3 of the way through the book. It’s slow moving but fascinating, and will definitely make you want to eat French pastries and breads. Ava’s grandmother owns a bakery and the descriptions made me constantly hungry.

 

23163709Down from the Mountain is one in a strange, mini-trend of teen books about cults. Between the handful of books that came out this year and Kimmy Schmidt, weird cults are having a moment. Yay? I picked it over other teen cult books because I liked the cover better and it was about a girl. Yup, I’m that person. Regardless, it was a fairly straightforward story of a girl in a religious cult in Colorado with a controlling, shaming ‘Prophet Ezekiel’ as a leader. With her mother pregnant with a high risk baby and not enough food, plus the threat of Ezekiel “marrying” 14-year old Eva, the book sort of catapults you along. Her “heathen” friend Trevor who she meets in town is a bit too obvious and pedantic as a student who studies religious cults and helps her process her life. But overall, it was interesting and I did want to find out what happens. The author is a therapist who has worked with people escaping cults, so that added an interesting angle.

I’m also currently listening to Kindred by Octavia Butler and reading Elizabeth Wein’s Black Dove, White Raven. Anyone read anything good lately?

 

 

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Stray observations

I’ve had a few things kicking around in my head that I’ve wanted to write about but have been extremely lazy. I haven’t really been able to form them into coherent longer thoughts. So. I’ll make semi-coherent short thoughts.

Here’s what I’ve been pondering:

-First to all you YA/Teen librarians out there, do you feel an obligation to provide volunteer programs for your teens during the year or summer? My library has for the last few years, but last year’s was a struggle. They are so many kids who need volunteer time and it’s a beast to plan and supervise. My coworker feels she’s done everything under the sun and we’re dreading coming up with ideas? We’ve floated around the idea of not doing anything, but I feel somewhat strongly that we, as the town library, should provide an program. Any thoughts? Are we just being really lazy (this is entirely possible)?

-There was a bit of a kerfluffle in the YA world about some comments Andrew Smith, whose books I do generally really like made about girls. Here is the comment made to Vice:

“[VICE]: On the flip side, it sometimes seems like there isn’t much of a way into your books for female readers. Where are all the women in your work?
[SMITH]: I was raised in a family with four boys, and I absolutely did not know anything about girls at all. I have a daughter now; she’s 17. When she was born, that was the first girl I ever had in my life. I consider myself completely ignorant to all things woman and female. I’m trying to be better though.”

When I saw the comments, I thought, “Huh. So he didn’t try to investigate the lives of girls until he had a daughter? Not even his wife?” It reminded me a bit of when people try to get a man to care about women’s issues by saying, “Imagine this happening to your mother or wife or daughter?” As if men can’t possibly care about a woman that isn’t related or known to him. That men can’t care about women as greater members of humanity first, and then humans they know second.

Fellow YA author Tessa Gratton wrote a response to the comments and ends saying, “I’m not asking for boycotts or apologies, I’m asking that we keep talking about this, keep pointing it out, keep making it shameful and at least annoying to say things like this. I was nearly scared out of writing this up simply because it’s hard to listen to haters and stalkers and trolls, and I’m pretty damn busy writing my feminist novels. But shouldn’t it be harder for someone to willingly participate in a culture of sexism than it is for us to talk about it out loud, and publicly?” I agree with her completely, and because this is the life we lead, she was harassed and threatened on Twitter. You know, by grown-ass people.

The whole thing just made me sad and tired because I’m not sure Smith was trying to be sexist, it’s just that its so easy for many of us to get caught up in that culture, and say things that reflect it without knowing. Chuck Wendig writes about this a bit, in a post that is very thought-provoking. Maybe that’s why I started the Alex Crow and didn’t get far. I just couldn’t get into it. And maybe it was because of this backstory. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad that is books feature mostly boy characters. There can be books about boys and everyone can read them. But I will admit, if I’m looking for a book that has great girl characters, I’m probably not going to read an Andrew Smith book. I guess, I just don’t know if that’s ok. It’s still something to think about.

-Finally, this piece in the Harvard Crimson (yesssss, so fancy! Ted, make me another martini!) is really lovely and piercing:

“There were books you didn’t write because you are sensitive, because of course you are sensitive, because the half-sleights and the full-sleights wear you down and all the books in you start rioting and say: Hey! I am a book! Let me out, let me out of here! […]

Let’s tally up all the days it was difficult to get out of bed.

Let’s tally up all the time we spent turning to the side, and then to the other side, so we could see our bellies in the mirror every morning before showering: grabbing our thighs, grabbing our other thighs, doing it again. Five minutes a day for 10 years. […]”

I feel that way sometimes about writing or about trying new things or doing the hobbies I enjoy. Sometimes I wonder what I could do if I could get out of my way and not let others hold me back.

Deep thoughts this morning, folks. Luckily, I’m actually ok. The sun is shining and the snow has melted from in front of my house. Go forth into the world and be great, friends!

 

 

 

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Current Gordon College and OneGordon news

“If gay and lesbian community activists have been treated 10 years ago the way that Gordon College has been treated in the last 9 months, they would have been significantly silenced, not have had any of their opportunities. So some of the very people who were at one time, by their own sort of perspective, oppressed, now have become the oppressors.” – Gordon College President Lindsay from The Blaze.

Oh dear. Yes that is the very oppressed, white, straight, well-off, privileged, male president of my alma mater. Before I get into everything else, let me talk about the oppression of Christians. I know that Christians are being oppressed, persecuted, and martyred for their faith around the world. Take a look at what ISIS does to Christians for just an example. But having people say mean things about you while you are still the majority religion in the richest country in the world is not being oppressed. Yes, I am a Christian and I have had people tease for it or think I’m odd and that’s fine. I don’t feel oppressed. Can it be hard? Sometimes, but I have not felt silenced for being a Christian or felt that I haven’t had any of the opportunities that I’ve had. I’m not at any great risk of hate crimes in the U.S. for being a Christian, or being fired from my job, or denied many of the same basic rights as others, like what happens to LGBTQ people. It’s not the same.

It’s not the same, President Lindsay. Criticism does not equal oppression.

Anyway, the actual point of this post is to update people about what’s been going on with Gordon College since last summer. A lot of things happened in the last week, so I wanted to update you. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, see my letter to the president here. Since the summer, OneGordon – a group not affiliated with Gordon but made up of friends and alum of Gordon – has had a number of events for students and alumni. Basically the goals have been to support current students, to create dialogue and discussion, and in a sort of unspoken goal, to get Gordon to change it’s Life and Conduct statement, and maybe even it’s stance of homosexuality. The Life and Conduct Statement is something students have to sign every year. The problematic phrase has to do with students promising not to engage in “homosexuality activity.” There is not a promise not to engage in “heterosexual activity” but rather just not premarital sex. Fine, many of us think. We know it’s a Christian college so premarital sex is out. But can’t premarital sex just include heterosexuality and homosexuality. (Plus, what does “homosexual activity” really mean? Gay hand holding? Lesbian hugging?!) Making a separate point for LGBTQ students is unfair.

The college convened a “working group” in the fall to work out some of these issues and you can read the one of sole LGBTQ student’s view of the working group here. Jesse says in his letter of resignation from the group, “The individuals in charge of this working group are the very Trustees who will take all the dialogue material into account during their retreat as they consider the current stance of Gordon College’s policies and procedures. Within the group are four trustees who are tasked to take their firsthand experience onto the retreat with them. While I find it extremely valuable to have personal conversations with those in charge I have noticed power-biases within conversations. I have been disregarded for my claims even though they have been rooted in fact or objective experiences, however this has not been respected.”

And finally, which I find very telling, “More importantly, the student body, faculty, staff and any other individual with connection to Gordon College has not been given the full picture of the situation. Following each meeting emails were distributed to the “community” (I use this word as a grouping sense and not to provide any portrayal of the interpersonal feelings) that were extremely positive, even though there were rarely any meetings that I did not cry at.”

The whole working group seemed disingenuous to me from the start; a way to make it seem like they were thinking about it all when the conclusion was set from the beginning. So it came as little surprise to me when President Lindsay sent an email to the Gordon alumni. My interpretation of this is: we “thought” about it and we’re going to stay the same, but I guess we’ll make sure any LGBTQ isn’t bullied. But bullied by the students, teachers? From what I hear it’s not the students or professors that are the problem. I’m also not against more training for bullying prevention and care, but I don’t think that’s the problem here.

Then there was the news that Gordon is planning on selling part of it’s rare book collection which was donated to the college. Generally, you aren’t supposed to sell those things and it’s embarrassing when the relatives of the donor call you up and ask why. Then finally, amidst all this, we find out President Lindsay – who many of us hoped would not continue as the president of our college – got his contract extended.

But there has been some bright spots. David Gushee, a prominent evangelical ethicist, spoke at Gordon yesterday about changing his mind about LGBTQ people in and out of the church. I wasn’t able to attend the lecture – but I did attend the after party because I’m that kind of person – but I heard it was very affirming and amazing. My friend Hannah who is on the OneGordon board made a recording and if it becomes available I’ll let you know.

Also, Jesse Steele, who is quoted above is publishing a zine and holding an art show responding to the events at Gordon over the last year. I love this idea and am so happy that students, alumni, and community members are using art to express themselves. These are the types of things that make me proud to have attended Gordon. If you’re in the Northshore area, the show will be at the Salem Old Town Hall on Friday. Or you can donate to Jesse’s zine and project here.

Finally, I just want to say, if you’re not where I am in regards to LGBTQ people in the church, in life, in marriage in whatever, I don’t hate you. I know and love many people who disagree with me about this. One of the wonderful things about being complex human beings with opinions and also compassion is that we get to disagree and discuss. I have close friends and family who take the more traditional and evangelical view of LGBTQ people. I still love them and hang out with them. I hope that they come around to my view, but I’m sure that they hope that I come around to their view. What’s important to me in those situations is that we are in respectful discussion and dialogue, that we are both putting in the work to understand each other.

I remember once at Gordon we had a speaker come talk to us about Ignatius of Loyola. Now, I am not a philosopher or a theologian so I may be butchering this interpretation but I’m also kind of a pluralist Episcopalian, so what the hell here I go… He was talking about when you are in an argument with someone or in dialogue, your role is to try and understand the other person’s point of view so much that you are actually defending their point of view. That is the only way that we can ensure we are being kind and the most understanding of other people. I think I found the quote that he was talking about from Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, the Presupposition:

In order that both he who is giving the Spiritual Exercises, and he who is receiving them, may more help and benefit themselves, let it be presupposed that every good Christian is to be more ready to save his neighbor’s proposition than to condemn it.

I don’t think that this applies to just “good Christians,” or Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises, I think it applies to everyone who has ever had an argument or disagreement. I know that I need to work on this myself. To me, it says that we need to listen so intently and carefully to the ‘other side’ that we strive towards compassion and full understanding. That is the only way that we can have discussions; once we are working towards that we can start to decide.

 

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