Presenting travails and reading rage

[Random caveat for this post: It’s really long and surprisingly, I start talking about a book that has rape in it, so if that’s something that is hard for you to read about or is triggering, I understand if you want to skip this one. The unpleasant stuff starts at the picture of the book, Fault Line.]

My first library-esque presentation was Monday! Woot! Actually, t was just ok. I presented a table talk at the Massachusetts Library System’s annual meeting in Worcester. I realize Worcester is sort of a central place for meetings and what not, but it is ANNOYING to get there. So much morning traffic! Anyway, I presented about my library’s collaboration with local author Jay Atkinson, the Methuen Fun Hockey League, the Methuen Public Schools, and the Methuen Recreation Department on the Skate & Read Program. It went well for the most part. There was a mix up with my flyers, which did throw we off a bit. They are uploaded here (scroll down to Table #8 for my PDF) if you’re interested in a program that encourages athletes to read for fun as well as participating in sports. I’ve uploaded my powerpoint presentation, too if you’d like to see some pictures.

Another highlight of the program was Christian Zabriskie of Urban Libraries Unite (ULU), a nonprofit organization that he and some other NYC librarians started after threats to NYC library budgets. They’ve done a lot of really cool advocacy and charity work to support libraries and especially to help people after Hurricane Sandy. What I really appreciated about Christian’s presentation and ULU’s work in general is that while it is really creative, cool, and apparently effective, it’s not so far above anyone’s abilities that it’s impossible to replicate. They have a small budget for a nonprofit and it works because the people involved are willing to work hard, collaborate, and try new things. SOmetimes these keynote speakers are library superstars or come from libraries with crazy, astronomical budgets and you leave them thinking, “We/my library could never do that because of  x.” I didn’t feel that way with the work Christian and his colleagues do: it seems to be more about grassroots organization and working with the skills the people have. I really appreciate that because I find realistic ideas much more inspiring sometimes than the big picture, really theoretical, pie in the sky ideas that the library superstars sometimes present. I mean who wouldn’t want to circulate a million iPads like the Darien, CT library or have a sweet makerspace/teen area like the Chicago Public library’s YouMedia area, but for my little and lovely library, that may not be possible. It can be hard to extrapolate big, expensive ideas to small, cheap possibilities. Zabriskie’s ideas – zombie protest marches for libraries, book drives for libraries affected by Hurricane Sandy, a 24-hour read aloud program (which happens in Brooklyn in June. Who wants to go with me?) – while they take a lot of work and organization, aren’t reinventing the wheel. I love that.

The final thing I want to say about the MLS annual meeting is that they debuted their new logo. It is a MILLION BILLION times better than the old one. Take a gander:

Old MLS logo. Yikes.
Old MLS logo. Yikes.
New logo - FANCY!
New logo – FANCY!

Isn’t that so much better? I like it! Well done, MLS people!

And now, to the reading rage part of this post. The first part isn’t really rage, it’s more annoyance and the second part is expected rage. But moving on, let’s just call it reading rage. The first is that I really wanted to like James Dashner’s new book The Eye of Minds because his Maze Runner books are good popcorn stuff: decent but not terrible writing, creepy enough to give you chills, and exciting. A great combination for reluctant readers, I think. I was hoping this would be the same, but with more Internet. It took me forever to read it though: a week and a half. A week and a half doesn’t seem that long but I should have been able to read this book in about a day or so if I was really into it. I had to force myself this morning to finish it. (I may have even bribed myself with the the best thing ever – a pumpkin mascarpone filled brioche roll from A & J King in Salem. Holy crap was that good!)

I did finish it. It was mostly terrible. The writing was meh, the story was almost interesting, and spoiler alert, the main character turned out to be a computer program in the end, which explains why he was the most boring person ever. Anyway, why I was so ragey was really that I wanted to be reading Enon by Paul Harding, The Last Policeman by Ben Winters, and Fault Line by Christa Desir. These are the next three books on my to-read list and they all seem like they will be better than The Eye of Minds. (Started Enon this afternoon – already amazing!) The Last Policeman is a recommendation from Adam, and his recommendations have never failed me.

fault lineThe last one? Fault Line is another instance of reading rage. I haven’t started it, but have read the reviews on Goodreads, which I probably shouldn’t have. Not for spoilers, but because reading the reviews on Goodreads can sometimes be like reading the comments on the latest story about immigration or any other hot-button issue in the online version of the newspaper. (Call me a Millennial, but I have always hated the ink that gets on your fingers after reading a “real” newspaper. Gross.) It’s going to be infuriating. The reviews for this book are infuriating because the book is about a girl who gets very drunk at a party, gets raped, and goes to the hospital with a cigarette lighter still inside her vagina. Yay, YA lit, right? Anyway, I’m interested to see how the book handles this terrible subject especially because of the circumstances in the book, while are sadly always topical, seem to be more so in the light of recent Stuebenville, OH and Maryville, MO rape cases. The frustrating part? The idiot people on Goodreads – and in the world –  who still need a primer on what is rape. If there’s no consent, it’s rape. If someone is dancing on a table beforehand, boasting about sleeping with people, being suggestive and sexual and there is not consent, it’s rape. If someone is drunk and therefore unable to give consent because they are inhibited, it’s rape. If it’s an adult having sex with a child under 18, no matter how much you can say that the child (yes, child) is “wanting it” or “asking for it”, it’s rape. If you think someone is “asking for it” because they are dressed in a certain way or acting a certain way and they don’t give consent, it’s rape. It’s really not that hard to figure out.

Here’s the comment from a reviewer that really set me off:

“Another thing that left me feeling disconnected from the story is the skewed way in which we get told the details of what happened on the night in question. We only get told the story after the fact because Ben wasn’t there and the details are blurry at best. Ani [main character] doesn’t remember much and the friend that was there with her, Kate, didn’t go upstairs so we only know how she was acting previous to going up into the room. There are mentions to her possibly having been roofied but her actions prior to going upstairs seemed to be those of someone who had too many drinks, not someone who was sick from being drugged. There is a possibility that there were other drugs involved but it comes across that she had a bunch to drink, lost her inhibitions and then went and did things that she wasn’t proud of with other, equally drunk guys. Now I’m not trying to seem heartless here, but I just didn’t buy that she wasn’t a willing participant in what went down in that room. She was dancing on tables, bragging about how she was going to sleep with the whole group and it left me feeling very unsympathetic towards her. Maybe if we had gotten details of what actually happened I would have been able to feel bad but I just felt angry at her and her friend Kate, who let her go upstairs with the group of guys.”

Wow. Way to blame not only the poor girl who was gang-raped, but her friend who wasn’t able to stop those people from raping her! I’m sorry if you’re unsympathetic with her, but that doesn’t change the facts of what happened. The reviewer is also intimating that she wasn’t proud of what she did, so she made up a rape story! ARGH! This is why so many rapes and sexual assaults aren’t reported, because people think they are made up or they were deserved, so the survivors think no one will believe them. (Again, I haven’t read the book and I realize this is fiction, but come on people.) You can be a huge jerk and be really unsympathetic to a rape survivor, but it doesn’t make what happened any less of a crime and a violation, and it doesn’t make it any more the survivor’s fault. It just makes you kind of heartless.

So, once I actually read the book I’ll let you know what I think about it. I’m very interested to see how the book handles the issue, but also am dreading reading it. Rape, and the torture and mistreatment of the women, are probably the few things that I really can’t handle in books or art. I can handle some serious violence and terrifying ghosties or zombies if I have to, but rape? No thanks.

Sorry to end on such a downer note, but this is something that I feel strongly about. We need to talk about it and teach people how to be kind, respectful, and helpful towards woman and others. We have to.

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