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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Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series

When the book Clariel, a prequel to Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series, came out earlier this year I was excited but also worried. I loved the Abhorsen books in middle and high school, but would I still love them if I re-read them? Sometimes re-reading books reminds you who much you loved and still love them, and other times it makes you think, “Why did I like this again?” I wanted to re-read the whole series again and then read Clariel. I have really distinct memories of seeing Sabriel at the school library in elementary school and being intrigued.518848

I mean, just look at this cover and tell me you aren’t intrigued. (Sadly, all the books in the series have been re-issued with covers more like the Clariel cover so that they look like every other YA series with a round fiery symbol on the front.)

It’s got an interesting looking, badass young lady on the cover with bells, a sword, her clothes have keys on them, and the hem is turning into a wave. Plus, there’s a terrifying creepy monster behind her! I think that the illustration is gorgeous and I think it took me a while to read the book because of the cover. I think I was afraid it wasn’t going to be as great of a book as the cover made it appear to be.

But I loved it and I read the next two books in the series, and even Nix’s collection of short stories set in the world of the Old Kingdom. In the first book, Sabriel, a school girl in nonmagical Ancelstierre, has to travel back to the magical Old Kingdom to save her father, the Abhorsen, a man who uses magical bells to send the Dead back to Death. Death is a river with a series of gates, and each of the bells has a specific power like putting people to sleep, making them walk into Death, binding them, etc. Along the way she meets a peculiar cat named Moggett, and Touchstone, a super hot prince-turned-statue-turned-prince-again. Finding her father on his way to Death, she assumes the title of Abhorsen and with the help of her friends binds the big, bad, evil Kerrigor and saves the Kingdom!


I would totally wear this librarian outfit.

In the next two books, Lirael a daughter of this matriarchal society of seers feels outcast until she finds her calling with the children of Sabriel and Touchstone. There’s more but I’m still in the first third of Lirael and don’t remember what comes next.

And how could I forget that Lirael spends some time as a librarian! I must say that the equipment she receives on her first day – fancy emerald bracelet that serves as a magical key, whistle, clockwork mouse, DAGGER – is way cooler than what I got: key to my office in a shape of a regular key and passwords to my email. Not as exciting. Her library also has more thrilling, dangerous, and interesting things than mine: “There were also very special or dangerous items that had to be fetched in person, or even by large parties of armed librarians.” Fun!

It’s been so wonderful to revisit a world that I loved when I was younger. The books have all the touchstones (see what I did there?!) of what I love about fantasy series: magic, badass ladies (the Old Kingdom is really egalitarian as Abhorsens can be men and women, the royalty is the same, and the magical seers the Clayr are all women), magical objects (the bells) with special properties with special bonus points for having a rhyme about them, old prophecies, and impish talking animals.

I’m having a great time re-reading the series and if you are interested you should definitely check them out. What books from your younger years do you still love or have re-read recently?

[Edited to add this sweet cosplay!! This woman did some amazing work!!!]

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Lady lists

Hey all! It’s been a while since my last post because it’s been busy in the teen room. My schedule has changed for the last few weeks since we were trying to find a new – aide for the teen room. Well, we did interviews and found one! Hopefully now the teen room can get back to normal. She will be starting in a couple of weeks and we are very excited about her. She reads comics, likes Doctor Who, reads a lot of YA, and wants to be a librarian. So . . . perfect! In the meantime I’ve been working on a couple of feminist reading lists for the blog. It’s just above – take a look. feministreadinglist I also wrote a mini version of that list for YALSA’s The Hub for International Women’s Day on March 8. That’s it for now. Stay tuned for some upcoming book reviews, an update on how I’m trying to do Free Comic Book Day at the library, and summer reading preparations.

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Yesterday was our Life-Sized – not “life-seized” as I posted on Wednesday; proofreading’s dumb – Candyland and it was a success! We have been planning this for a few months with our Volunteen Advisory Board (VAB). In the fall, we asked them if they wanted to put on a life-sized board game for little kids and they thought Candyland would be really fun. I had seen a few libraries that had done it on Pinterest and was especially inspired by the Villa Park Library, the Wayne County Library, and Teen Librarian Toolbox’s roundup of live action games for this event. Thanks all for your great ideas! So we’ve been working on it in our VAB meetings since December. Sadly, a lot of the VAB kids who started working on it weren’t able to make it but it still was a great success!

We had six amazing teen volunteers who came to help us set up and run the program and about a dozen or more kids who played through the game. Tuesday Clare made the lollipops and I spent Wednesday morning doing final crafting while Clare graciously covered my desk shift. Thursday afternoon we scrambled to assemble it. Clare made signs and did the whole layout and finishing touches.

I was up here for like 3 hours working on it Wednesday.

I was up here for like 3 hours working on it Wednesday.

Lollipop/Peppermint forests; ice cream sea; assorted candies.

Lollipop/Peppermint forests; ice cream sea; assorted candies.

Despite the fact that this was a lot of work, it wasn’t really that expensive in the grand scheme of things. We used a lot of craft supplies that we had lying around the teen office like cotton batting from a summer program for the fluffy ice cream sea waves, some balloons, wrapping paper roll wrappers from coworkers, wigs and hats we had, and costumes we brought in ourselves. We had our Volunteen Advisory Board members make the game path/tiles out of construction paper and the cardboard rectangles that come in our book deliveries. For the craft supplies that we purchased it was the cellophane for wrapping, jars and modeling clay to hold up the lollipops, and plates for the peppermints. I wasn’t keeping track but I’d say we maybe spent like $75/85? Not too bad for a bigger, more elaborate program.

We used a house the Children's room had an candy-fied it.

We used a haunted house the Children’s room had (that’s why the window says, “ahh!”) and candy-fied it. That’s Clare in the background in her daughter’s old prom dress and my Effie Trinket wig!

We didn’t have all of the locations and characters from Candyland but we did have the Lollipop Woods, Peppermint Forest (couldn’t these be combined, Candyland?), the Candy Castle, the Ice Cream Sea, and Gloppy, the molasses swamp creature of nightmares. I think our Gloppy is pretty cute though:

Made with boxes, chairs, an old brown blanket, and construction paper eyes. Easy peasy.

Made with boxes, chairs, an old brown blanket, and construction paper eyes. Easy peasy.

We had teens dressed up as Princess Lolly (with my senior prom dress making a cameo!), King Candy, Lord Licorice, and Queen Frostine played by Beth, our head of Children’s Services who is amazing and helped with the little kids, and then Clare, my spectacular fellow teen librarian. I offered but they beat me to it! I also made the gingerbread me-me* cutouts for the kids to wear as they played.

I didn't have any parents' permission to post these so everyone gets candy faces!

I didn’t have any parents’ permission to post these so everyone gets candy faces! Princess Lolly is in the yellow dress next to the Lollipop Woods. Gloppy and Leah, who is passing out the deck of cards, and the ice cream sea are in the background.

It was a great time. It made this week a bit stressful between the TARDIS-building Wednesday and this yesterday but it was really fun. I think the kids and teens had a good time and it did look really cute. A lot of staff members including our boss and administration said that it was cute and that we did a nice job. That’s always nice to hear!

Happily I’m off today since I’m working tomorrow. I was pretty exhausted yesterday after all of the prep and running around.

If you’re thinking of doing this or another life-sized board game at your library I’d say go for it. We are going to save a lot of it so we can do it again. Just make sure you have enough time and help to pull it off. It doesn’t have to be costly; you can do a lot with paper, cellophane, and some general crafting supplies!

So get going. You’ll have a blast!

*I always called the things you move around the board in “Sorry!” and other games me-mes. I’m not sure how Child Anna would spell that but that makes sense. I asked my board game expert boyfriend what they are usually called and he said tokens or “meeples.” “Meeple?” I’ll like with me-me.

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