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Results 1 - 25 of 36
1. Fusenews: If Henry James says it’s wrong I don’t wanna be right

I swear that every time my computer goes on the fritz I feel like I’m walking underwater for days on end while it’s in the shop.  I can’t do email effectively, I can’t update Goodreads, I can’t do anything without feeling like it’s all fake until that little laptop is returned to my knees where it belongs.  It’s a sickness, man.  Not healthy in the least.  But now that it’s back I can’t help but be thrilled!  Woot and woo-hoo and other “woo” related forms of cheering. Now on to the news . . .

  • First off, I’m pilfering this next link from the always amusing and informative Jennifer Schultz.  Because I am a member of PEN here in New York I’ve been vaguely aware of the efforts to help New Orleans rebuild post-Katrina (the Children’s/Young Adult Book Authors Committee helped move an elementary school library from St. Joseph’s School in Greenwich Village, New York City, to the Martin Luther King Jr. School in New Orleans and have continued to aid that school ever since).  The New Orleans public libraries themselves haven’t been on my radar as much.  Jennifer filled me in on the matter:

“Yesterday’s Times-Picayune (New Orleans’s newspaper) had an excellent article about the rebirth of the New Orleans Public Library system, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Ever since they started to rebuild the libraries, their motto has been “Building Back Better.” The NOPL libraries were okay—they’ve always had strong community programming, but there was a lot of room for improvement—but drastic improvements were never going to be in the city’s finances, until Katrina came and they had no choice but to literally start over with many of their libraries. They didn’t want to just rebuild what they had—they wanted to take this unusual and tragic opportunity to make a strong and community-oriented system for the city. They wanted to make them public transportation-friendly, since many residents rely on it, technologically savvy,  environmentally-friendly—you name it. This is their website: http://nutrias.org/ (The nutria is a pest —they are great at destroying wetlands-and a source of humor in Louisiana-Louisianians can have a dark sense of humor. They had a rather colorful governor  years ago who suggested that folks should hunt and eat the nutrias in order to cut down on their numbers, and they’ve been sort of a joke ever since. Nutria fur is marketed as “guilt free fur,” etc).”

Thank you, Jennifer!  Fantastic info.  I can’t wait for ALA to return and to get to see the city (and it’s libraries!) firsthand.

2. The Make It Safe Project

I just learned about The Make It Safe Project at Lee Wind's blog. I hope that you (yes, you, wonderful readers) will help support Amelia's efforts. Here's more about the project, as detailed at their website:

The Make It Safe Project donates books about sexual orientation and gender expression to schools and youth homeless shelters that lack the resources to keep their teens safe.

Giving: We donate books to K-12 schools, their Gay-Straight Alliances (a group that educates the school community about equality), and LGBT-inclusive youth homeless shelters nationwide. For information on how you can help give books or receive books for your school or shelter, please click here.

Support: If you are wondering what starting, leading, or joining a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) would be like, you can browse through stories written by teens who have been involved with GSAs here.

Advice: If you have experience starting, leading, or being in a GSA, you can anonymously submit a story about your experience here.

One book can save a life.

For every $100 raised, the Make It Safe Project sends a pack of GLBTQ books to a school or youth homeless shelter. The pack will include around ten of the books on the following list:

Fiction Books
Ash by Melinda Lo
Annie On My Mind by Nancy Gardener
Empress of the World by Sara Ryan
Luna by Julie Anne Peters
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan
Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger
Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez

Nonfiction Books
It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living edited by Dan Savage and Terry Miller
GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel
Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens by Kathy Belge
Kicked Out edited by Sassafras Lowry
Like Me by Chely Wright
Let's Get This Straight: The Ultimate Handbook for Youth with LGBTQ Parents by Tina Fakhrid-Deen

If you are a student, teacher, parent, or principal at any K-12 school or a volunteer or client at a youth homeless shelter in the USA and your school or shelter is in need of books, please contact the Make It Safe Project.

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3. The Make It Safe Project

I just learned about The Make It Safe Project at Lee Wind's blog. I hope that you (yes, you, wonderful readers) will help support Amelia's efforts. Here's more about the project, as detailed at their website:

The Make It Safe Project donates books about sexual orientation and gender expression to schools and youth homeless shelters that lack the resources to keep their teens safe.

Giving: We donate books to K-12 schools, their Gay-Straight Alliances (a group that educates the school community about equality), and LGBT-inclusive youth homeless shelters nationwide. For information on how you can help give books or receive books for your school or shelter, please click here.

Support: If you are wondering what starting, leading, or joining a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) would be like, you can browse through stories written by teens who have been involved with GSAs here.

Advice: If you have experience starting, leading, or being in a GSA, you can anonymously submit a story about your experience here.

One book can save a life.

For every $100 raised, the Make It Safe Project sends a pack of GLBTQ books to a school or youth homeless shelter. The pack will include around ten of the books on the following list:

Fiction Books
Ash by Melinda Lo
Annie On My Mind by Nancy Gardener
Empress of the World by Sara Ryan
Luna by Julie Anne Peters
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan
Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger
Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez

Nonfiction Books
It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living edited by Dan Savage and Terry Miller
GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel
Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens by Kathy Belge
Kicked Out edited by Sassafras Lowry
Like Me by Chely Wright
Let's Get This Straight: The Ultimate Handbook for Youth with LGBTQ Parents by Tina Fakhrid-Deen

If you are a student, teacher, parent, or principal at any K-12 school or a volunteer or client at a youth homeless shelter in the USA and your school or shelter is in need of books, please contact the Make It Safe Project.

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4. Fusenews: Quoth the kitten “Get some more”.

I guess that there’s a mild irony to the fact that while I’ll write up anyone’s literary event if I’m able to attend, if I help to throw the darn things myself then suddenly I clam up. For example, with the possible exception of the blogger panel I had two years ago, I don’t think I’ve ever written up one of my Children’s Literary Salons. Why is this? Because I am lazy, I don’t have access to photographs of the event much of the time, and because I feel like it’s tooting my own horn. That said, I seem to be more than happy to link to other folks when they choose to write up my Salons. Case in point, this great little recap of what when down when I invited Sam Ita and Kyle Olmon to be a part of my Children’s Lit Salon on pop-up books. Wow, thanks, Kyle! Now who wants to recap last Saturday’s Peter Pan Salon? Anyone? Anyone?

  • I really enjoyed Exit Through the Gift Shop when I saw it on DVD not too long ago (and grateful that it clarified the image on this cover). I guess it makes sense to show the film to kids too. It’s a lot of fun, slightly subversive, and can lead to ideas like the one author/illustrator Aaron Zenz had. Want to get your child’s creative juices flowing without defacing other peoples’ property? Check out one of the more creative rock and paint related ideas I’ve seen. You know what I think? I think a library could have a Street Art craft program (for kids or teens) doing this and encourage them to also hide them around the city. Nice photographs too.
  • Wow! Kirkus doesn’t mess around. When they decided to get into this whole online world thing they didn’t tippy toe into it, but rather leapt headfirst in one fell swoop! Getting bought will do that to you, I guess. Now on top of reviewing Apps, offering readalikes for each book they cover, and making all their reviews free online, they’ve just revealed the second round of book bloggers on the site. I already knew about the YA ones on there (Bookshelves of Doom, YA or STFU, and The YaYaYas) but what’s this I see? Could it be Jules Danielson of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast who is currently writing a book with Peter Sieruta and myself? Tis! A good roster, but what’s up with three YA folks and only one for kids’ stuff? More! I want more fantastic bloggers paid for their work! More, I say!
  • Speaking of Peter, I hope y’all got a chance to check out his most recent post concerning (amongst many things) his thoughts on last night’s Celebrity Apprentice where they had to make a children’s book (oop, ack) and an idea for a children’s book-related reality series. I don’t watch any reality TV myself but I’d change my ways in a heartbeat if Rowling for Dollars ever appeared on my DVR schedule.
  • S

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5. New Voices: Lili Wilkinson

Working in the booth at conferences, we often get questions about the latest GLBTQ books.  I am thrilled to recommend PINK by Lili Wilkinson to them.  And the first thing I tell people in the booth is that I hesitate to attach the GLBTQ label to PINK because it’s a book about identity and figuring out who you are – not only as it relates to sexual orientation but also as it concerns coming-of-age.  It’s about exploration and experimentation in a safe home environment.  And it’s about friendship, belonging, and first love.  So throw out that GLBTQ label – this is a story for most teens.  (Can you tell I’m a fan?)

Lili Wilkinson is an Aussie writer who hasn’t quite broken out stateside yet but, I assure you, that’s going to change with PINK.  Get to know Lili better at her website, her blog, and her Twitter (@twitofalili).

Want to know what your fellow librarians and teachers are saying?  Here are some awesome reviews:

Check out the buzz, read PINK and let us know what you think!  On-sale now.

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6. Obit: Perry Moore, YA author of Hero

I was incredibly sorry to hear that Perry Moore, the producer of the Narnia films and the YA author of Hero was found dead recently.  Perry was really just the sweetest guy, the few times I met with him.  We speak of people being warm, but Perry really was.  There was nothing “Hollywood” about him (and indeed he lived here in New York in Soho).  Back in 2007 I even made him a Hot Men of Children’s Literature.  Perry would later credit that post for the fact that People Magazine named him their Sexy Man of the Week but honestly I doubt they ever saw the tiny post.  He was beloved entirely on his own merits.  On top of that his book Hero remains one of the better known gay teen fantasy novels out there, even today.  Perry, I’m very sad to see you go.

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7. A Look At The LGBTQ Marketplace.. Look Again!

There's been a new addition to the panel for this morning's breakout workshop "A Look At The LGBTQ Marketplace" with Aaron Hartzler (Director of Communications, SCBWI), Arthur A. Levine (Vice President of Scholastic and publisher of his own imprint, Arthur A. Levine Books - as well as an author himself), and Tony Valenzuela (Executive Director of the Lambda Literary Foundation):

ME, Lee Wind (Writer and Blogger of "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" where over 200,000 visitors have come to find out about GLBTQ Teen books, culture and politics!

I hope you can join us in the Palisades Room, 11:15am - because this is going to be awesome!

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8. The GLBTQ Lunchtime Chat By The Pool

More than 40 of us took over the north row of gazebos by the pool at Friday's lunchtime to mingle and meet and talk Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Allied Characters and Themes in Children's and Teen literature. We were joined by Arthur A. Levine and Tony Valenzuela, who were gracious and candid in their answers and comments.

We went around the circle and everyone introduced themselves to the group, sharing what they were working on and mentioning what (if any) GLBTQ content was included in their work.

A few illustrators wondered what opportunities existed for children's book illustrators to include queer content, and we spoke about Marla Frazee's "Everywhere Babies" and a new picture book Arthur A. Levine has coming out (as an author) "Best Best Colors" as examples of the power illustrators have to show diversity in their art and in the books children experience.

Arthur fielded questions on how to include a gay character in a way that wasn't stereotypical (make sure the character is a fully realized character - i.e., if they're muscular - why? how did they get that way?) and about the challenge of including queer content (and diverse content in general) in middle grade books where it's not the main character's focus.

Tony shared that this past year, there were more Childrens/YA submissions than 21 other categories (second most out of 23) for the Lambda Literary Award.

And I brought up, from my perspective blogging at "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" that the tide is shifting - we're no longer in a world with only one or two books representing Queer characters - and with more representations, the pressure to make any one GLBTQ character representative, or perfect, lessens. (And who wants to read about perfect characters anyway?)

All in all, everyone's appetites were whetted for tomorrow's 11:15AM Workshop, when we'll be able to dive in even deeper!

A Look At The LGBTQ Marketplace - Palisades room

With Aaron Hartzler,
Arthur A. Levine
Tony Valenzuela
and
yours truly, Lee Wind.


Hope to see you there!

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9. Revolutionary Voices

A big thanks to Josh Olesker of the National Coalition Against Censorship, who confirmed, on the record, that Revolutionary Voices, a GLBT title, has been removed from Burlington County Public Library in New Jersey because "children may find it."

From Olesker's comment to my prior post on this instance of book banning:

"Greetings All: You have the story correctly. "Revolutionary Voices" has been pulled from not just the Rancocas Valley School library but now also from the Burlington County (NJ) library system. It's not just about the children; simply put, book-banning is now a reality in Burlington County, and everybody ought to know about it. We here at the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) have been following the situation for some weeks now and are glad to hear of your concern.

As the NCAC understands the BCLS part of the story, a female member of the 912 group (possibly Mrs. Marinelli) approached the BC Library staff to complain about "Revolutionary Voices" and push for its removal there too, sometime close to when the book was pulled from the RV school library, since "kids might find it there also." Instead of following the BCLS formal challenge procedure, the staff (under director Gail Sweet and library commissioners including Patrick Delany, whose name appeared on and then disappeared from a local 912 group member list earlier this spring) quietly pulled all available copies of the book off the shelves. Today there are no available copies of "Revolutionary Voices" in the BC library system, but it was pulled quietly in the hope that you wouldn't notice.

It is said that "free people read freely." That is not the case today in Burlington County, NJ. For more information and how you might get involved, visit www.ncac.org.

Joshua Olesker
National Coalition Against Censorship
www.ncac.org"


In a nutshell, then:

the reconsideration process was bypassed;

the book was removed from the adult nonfiction section of the public library;

the reason was "children could find it."





Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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10. Find the GLBTQ in SCBWI

Our Mixer/Discussion is about to start!




People are coming in now, so come by Uncle Charlie's Bar and join us!


Saturday, Jan 31, 2009


139 E. 45th Street







--Posted by Lee Wind

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11. Ash


Ash by Malinda Lo. Little, Brown. 2009. Reviewed from ARC. From BEA or ALA, not sure.

The Plot: A Cinderella retelling. Aisling, nickname Ash. Mother dies, father remarries to woman with two daughters, father dies, stepmother turns Ash into a servant, the Prince is looking for a wife, there's a ball, with fairy help Ash attends the ball. You know the rest. Or do you?

The Good: This retelling unfolds slowly, deliciously. It's an internal story; a story about Ash grieving the loss of her parents, shutting down from it, and eventually choosing life and love. This is a tale about recovering from grief and unbearable loss.

Cinderella has a fairy godmother, right? So it's only logical for Lo to create a world where fairies are real. They are dark and dangerous; the fairy world where girls risk enchantment and death for dancing and eating with these other-worldly folk. In Ash's time, fairy tales are viewed as stories to be told, except for a handful of people who still believed and followed other old ways. Ash's mother was one such; but not her father. Ash, 12 at her mother's death, believes that somehow, the fairies and her mother are connected; and that if she joins the fairy folk she will be reunited with her mother. This belief grows both with the death of her father and with her meeting those that she sought -- the fairy. Yes, they are real.

The metaphor here is obvious; joining the fairies will be a death, a rejoining with her parents. Her life as servant is so devoid of love, of anything, that this choice is not grim. In fact, as Ash reads fairy tale after fairy tale (Lo includes a number of them, all haunting) she is comforted by the promise of being lost to the fairy world, even when those tales are cautionary ones to keep young girls away from that world.

Here, Ash is thinking about Sidhean, the only fairy we meet by name, who revisits Ash again and again, promising that eventually she will join his people. "[Ash] felt the distance between her and Sidhean for the first time, and it made her long for him. She turned over onto her side and closed her eyes, trying to force herself to sleep. But in her mind's eye all she could see was him, and she wanted to be with him, all of his cold strangeness."

His cold strangeness; her death. Part 1, The Fairy, is about her obsession and longing for this strangeness, this escape, this reunion with the dead; Part 2, The Huntress, begins when Ash is 18 and is about her slowly coming alive again and wanting the living world. Instead of Ash and her books and her fairy stories, there is Ash getting to know other people (servants at another house), exploring the Wood, and meeting Kaisa, the King's Huntress.

Ash has been called a lesbian Cinderella; it says so right on Lo's website and it's also how I heard it pitched to librarians and reviewers. So I'm not giving much away when I say that Ash does not want Prince Aidan; she wants Kaisa. Another twist is that Sidhean is the fairy who helps Ash attend the Ball, fairy godfather rather than godmother. Considering the Ash/Sidhean relationship, I'd call this more a bisexual Cinderella.

Ash's friendship with Kaisa begins slowly; they meet in the Wood. They talk. Ash looks forward to meeting Kaisa; but, in part because of her connection to Sidhean, doesn't realize the depth of her feelings for Kaisa. It's someone else's observance that makes her realize it: "She wondered uncomfortably if she had done something to suggest it. And if she had -- did she feel that way? The idea was unsettling; it made her feel vulnerable." Note it's unsettling not because "I'm in love with a girl;" it's unsettling because it makes Ash vulnerable. Vulnerable to life, to love, to feeling, to not having her feelings returned. In Ash's world, no one looks askance at the thought of a female/female pairing. While we don't see another such couple in the book, in all honesty, Ash's world is so limited by being a servant that she doesn't see many couples at all in the book. This makes the story a "falling in love and recognizing love" story, not an issue story. Which is awesome.

I'm a bit of an author junkie, even though I know the book should stand alone. Still, after reading a book, it's fun to discover via a website more about the author. When I read The Devil's Kiss, I found that Sarwat Chadda is very, very funny. After Carter Finally Gets It, I visited Brent Crawford's website and found some fascinating information on jeans and the denim industry. Here, at Malinda Lo's website, I found she's an entertainment reporter and other fascinating stuff.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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12. Lesbian Socks: The Final Frontier

For the record, I am not one of those librarians who believes children need to be "protected" from the realities so gently and naturally portrayed in such books as And Tango Makes Three and In Our Mothers' House. There are different kinds of families out there. Some of them have two moms or two dads. The end. It's not nearly as hard as some people make it out to be.

So when I say I have a problem with the new picture book Dottie the Sock: How I Found My Match, by Christine Gayle (self-published, 2009), it's not a moral one. No, it's a problem keeping a straight face. I'm sorry, but I cannot read, speak, or even think the words "lesbian sock" without dissolving into laughter.

I'll even ignore, for the moment, that clothing has no innate sex or gender, much less desire. I'm a fantasy reader. I can suspend my disbelief. But consider this: most socks are worn in matched pairs. I guess I've always thought of socks as identical twins rather than romantic couples, but assuming the latter, wouldn't it be the norm for socks to be (to borrow a coworker's expression) homosoxual? Heterosoxuals would be the odds ones out.

Or maybe, just maybe, that's point. I'll have to suspend further judgment until I meet Dottie for myself.

(Via AfterEllen.)

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13. Out of the Pocket Wins 2009 Lammy

Last night, the Lambda Literary Awards were announced. The winner for the children's/YA category is Out of the Pocket, by Bill Konigsberg.

Out of the Pocket is a pretty straight-ahead (so to speak) coming out story but effectively in tune with the times. At the beginning of the novel, high school football star Bobby knows he's gay but is terrified that coming out would mean the end of his sports career. (How many out American athletes—much less football players—can you name?) Bobby's tired of keeping his secret, though, and begins the process of coming out to a few confidantes. But when his trust is betrayed, Bobby is suddenly a sensation in sports media, but not for the reasons he would have hoped.

What makes Out of the Pocket a coming out story for the latter Aughts is the focus on the process of coming out to other people, as opposed to self. Moreover, while reactions to Bobby's revelation are varied, Bobby ultimately finds more acceptance (some of it realistically grudging, as from his coach) than adversity. Over all, it's an engaging and optimistic story carrying the message that yes, you can come out and not get tarred and feathered, get killed in a car crash, or commit suicide.

I haven't read all the finalists, but any of those I have would have been solid choices. So, congratulations to Bill Konigsberg and, once again, to all the other shortlisted authors!

Speaking of optimistic coming out stories, I was recently commiserating with my blogger pal Rie (Girls. Books. Food. Art. Love) about how much the climate for queer teens has changed in just the past 10 to 15 years. Rie brought up the trend in early queer teen literature for gay and lesbian characters to meet tragic ends. Meanwhile, I was having trouble remembering how many queer teen books I even had access to; I could only think of a handful. Had there really been so few?

Thank goodness I kept a book log in high school—and kept it filed away all these years. (I still have all those excruciating journals from those years, too. What of it?) When I began my coming out process in 1993, I tried to get my hand on just about every queer book I could: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, plays. I did subject searches in the public and high school library catalogs. I combed the shelves of my local bookstore. In other words, I was looking so hard that if I didn't find it, I'm pretty sure it didn't exist.

So, what was there? Well, aside from a bunch of adult literature (gay novels by Edmund White, Christopher Bram, and Armistead Maupin; lesbian novels by Rita Mae Brown and Jeanette Winterson—whose Art and Lies I found so incomprehensible I never recovered from it to read others; nonfiction by Randy Shilts; plays by Larry Kramer, Terrence McNally, and Tony Kushner), not much. Here's what I discovered on my book log, for queer teen books published prior to 1993:

  • Sticks and Stones, by Lynn Hall (in which a gay character DIES)
  • The Man Without a Face, by Isabelle Holland (in which a gay character DIES)
  • Trying Hard to Hear You, by Sandra Scoppettone (in which a gay character DIES)
  • Happy Endings Are All Alike, by Sandra Scoppettone (in which a gay character is RAPED)
  • Annie on My MInd, by Nancy Garden (in which, unlike the above, there actually IS a happy ending, OMG.)

It's worth mentioning that I didn't encounter Annie on My Mind until late 1995, when I started going to a local queer youth group (this was pre-GSA in my hometown). They kept a Styrofoam cooler full of resources: The Rainbow Gayme, Ivan Velez's Tales of the Closet comic book series, some coming out guides, and a handful of novels with actual happy endings. (Happily, by the time I dropped in for a visit during the summer of 1997, they'd outgrown the cooler.)

In 1994 and 1995, another handful of queer teen books became available—though due to limited availability at the public library (and jack at my school library), I didn't get my hands on most of these until two years after I'd begun to question myself—two years after I needed them so badly. Here's the rest of what I got before I went to college:

  • The Cat Came Back, by Hillary Mullins
  • Not the Only One, edited by Tony Grima
  • Dive, by Stacey Donovan
  • Deliver Us from Evie, by M. E. Kerr
  • Am I Blue?: Coming Out from the Silence, edited by Marion Dane Bauer (which I read piece-meal at the book store, sneaking a few pages here and there when I thought no one was looking)

If there were others, I couldn't find them. I've looked at the Lambda Literary Foundation children's/YA award lists from those years. There were indeed queer books for kids and teens being published. But most of them I've never heard of. They came from small publishers. They may never have gotten reviewed by reputable library journals. They probably weren't making it into libraries and mainstream bookstores. And if they were, maybe the subject headings were so cruddy they were still impossible to find.

I know I had way more literature available to me than teens coming out five, ten, twenty, or more years before me. But it wasn't enough of the right stuff at the right time. I'm so very glad the teens coming out five, ten, fifteen years after me have so much more available to them, much of it available in their local and school libraries, despite ongoing censorship challenges.

And yet, I still think we need more. More books published. More variety of characters and experiences represented. More books making it onto library shelves, especially school library shelves. More and better access through cataloging and bibliographies. It's crucial to providing more information, more support, and more acceptance for queer teens today and in the future.

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14. Day of Silence

"The National Day of Silence brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. Each year the event has grown, now with hundreds of thousands of students coming together to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior."

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15. Amazon Rears Its Ugly, Homophobic Head

If you follow Neil Gaiman on Twitter, you already know this, but for the rest of us: Amazon.com has made the sickening and, apparently, homophobic maneuver of hiding sales ranks for a slew of books with LGBTQ content. These sales ranks are tied in with whether/how books appear on sales lists and come up in searches on Amazon. In other words, we've got an issue of visibility and accessibility as well as (un)equal treatment here.

When Mark Probst, author of a gay YA novel, wrote to Amazon asking why his book's sales rank had vanished, he received a letter clearly implying it was because his book was deemed "adult" material. Since then, dozens (hundreds?) of other books with LGBTQ content with stripped sales ranks have been noted.

Affected books include works of literary fiction and nonfiction. Many (my beloved, squeaky-clean Edwardian romance Maurice, by E.M. Forster, among them; Isabel Miller's Patience and Sarah) are classics. Some have no sexual content or speak in the gentlest of metaphors; others have sex scenes but hardly such that they'd be considered erotica by the average reader. Some are YA books—e.g., Alex Sanchez's Rainbow Boys, the groundbreaking anthology Am I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence. Some are children's books; Leslea Neuman's Heather Has Two Mommies has been stripped of its sales rank. There are even pregnancy guides on the list—lesbian pregnancy guides, but pregnancy guides nonetheless.

In other words, these are not "adult" materials. Yet they're being treated as such by Amazon simply—apparently—because of their LGBTQ content. It's just the latest example of the fallacious equation of "gay" with "pornographic" made by narrow-minded people who can't stop thinking about the "sex" in "homosexual."

Meanwhile, there's plenty of straight romance and erotica (and pregnancy guides) that has not been issued the same treatment. Even Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds hasn't measured up as "adult" content on the Amazon scale.

The Meta Writer community on LJ is keeping readers abreast of the situation. Check out their round-up of what's known and how we can respond to the situation. My personal suggestions: call or write to Amazon, sign Meta Writer's petition, and spread the word.

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16. 2009 Rainbow List

The Rainbow Project has published its 2009 Rainbow List of recommended books for children and teens with GLBTQ characters and content. The annotated bibliography includes 34 books, mostly teen fiction plus a few picture books, middle grade novels, and nonfiction books. All books are highly recommended.

The list includes a number of books I've never even heard of, mostly from smaller presses. So it's definitely worth a peek.

The Rainbow Project is "a joint undertaking of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Round Table and the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association." You can read more about the 2009 list here.

(Via Fuse #8)

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17. My Big Fat Queer Cataloging Project

Back in October, I wrote about ways to improve library service to GLBTQ youth. Here, again, are some of the suggestions and how my library has been working on them this fall:

  • Bolster your collection with recent and high-quality books and increase visibility with paperback copies. On top of our usual collection development based on new book reviews, we purchased a number of backlist titles to round out our collection, especially in the junior high paperback section.
  • Make a recommended reading list of GLBTQ books. Our "Gay and Lesbian Books for Young People" list is now available in the library and on our website.
  • Make queer books visible in a non-stigmatizing way. In addition to making more of an effort to include GLBTQ books in our junior high fiction displays, we made two special displays highlighting our offerings: "Different Families/Same Love" and "Just Be Yourself."
  • Improve access through the library catalog. That's what we're starting to work on now, in what I'm calling My Big Fat Queer Cataloging Project.

In my original post, I described some of the problems with current catalog subject headings for GLBTQ materials. I won't rehash them now, but instead I'll describe the basic steps I'm following.

  1. Print out the catalog records for all books on the GLBTQ list.
  2. Study current Library of Congress queer subject headings, identifying those most applicable to the books in our collection. I found two very helpful lists of headings, a (slightly older) alphabetical list from Dartmouth and a (more recent) topical list from Emory.*
  3. Identify specific headings that apply to each book and would improve access through library catalog searches.
  4. When in doubt, read the book to make that determination.
  5. Suggest additions to our cataloging staff.

Parsimony is a huge deal in cataloging, sometimes to the point of stinginess, in part because time was you could only assign a set number of subject headings to an item. This is no longer the case, fortunately, so we can add subject headings without taking any of the current ones away.

Still, you don't want to dump a bunch of headings on an item. At least, I don't. Which means you need to try and pick the best headings, the ones that are just the right level of generality or specificness, the ones that best match what patrons are searching for with what they actually want. The additional headings I've most frequently suggested so far are "gay youth," "lesbian youth," and "children of gay parents."

My assumption is that patrons looking for these books are more likely to search for "gay" than "gays" (yes, the catalog search engine really is that picky) or "homosexuality," which is how most of these items are currently cataloged. A subject search for "gay" will turn up a crapload of books, including those about "gay youth," "gay teenagers," "gay high school students," "gay parents," and gay everything else. But at least the books won't totally fall through the cracks.

I'm less sure about "lesbian youth," and I would love people's opinions on this one. Should a book about "lesbian youth" also get a "lesbians" subject heading (same picky search engine problem)? Should it get a "gay youth" heading as well?
 

*For those of you who don't know much about cataloging, the Library of Congress is continually creating new official subject headings. If a new book comes along that doesn't fit the current subject headings, they'll create a new heading that does. (It's not quite that simple, but that's the general idea.)

Anyway, sometimes you'll be frustrated that there isn't that "perfect" subject heading for the book at hand. Other times you wonder what-the-heck book prompted the need for such a weird and specific subject heading. Some examples I turned up today:

  • Astrology and homosexuality
  • Gay labor union members
  • Lesbian Girl Scouts
  • Lesbians on postage stamps (also Gay men on postage stamps)
  • and, near and dear to me, Bisexual librarians.

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18. "Different Families" Book Display

Here's the promised book display to highlight our new GLBTQ list. "Different Families / Same Love"—that goopy enough for you?

The lit holder has copies of our Gay and Lesbian, Adoption, and Celebrate Diversity lists. And the books are a selection of picture books from those lists!

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Sorry for the crummy (as usual) photos. I'd blame the camera, but—no, actually, I'll just blame the camera.

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19. Vintage: A Ghost Story

What if you've met the guy of your dreams, but he died 50 years ago? The teen boy who narrates Vintage: A Ghost Story, by Steve Berman (Lethe, 2008), has recently moved into his aunt's New Jersey home, having been thrown out by his parents for being gay. Walking home along Route 47 one night, he encounters a handsome boy wearing a vintage 1950s letter jacket—a ghost of local fame. What's truly remarkable is the ghost notices him back—and follows him home! Our hero, painfully unused to romantic attention, is so flattered and infatuated he doesn't realize how much danger he's in...

When I started reading, I was worried this would be one of those ghost stories in which it takes the characters half the book to realize the ghost is a ghost (e.g., Deep and Dark and Dangerous, by Mary Downing Hahn). Not so here. The narrator's friend Trace recognizes the ghost's description at once, and the friends begin researching the ghost's history. Meanwhile, our hero becomes gradually aware that he's attracted the attention/affection of an actual flesh-and-blood boy, too. There are occasional horror-y bits, more creepy than gory, but the romantic and mysterious elements win the day. I also found the sensitive narrator likable and highly relatable in his fear that none of his peers could ever love him.

Warning for people who care to be warned, whether for themselves or "for the sake of the children": there's some sexual encounters and recreational drug use. Nothing a high schooler couldn't handle.

Any disappointment in Vintage can be attributed to its having been published by Lethe, a small house founded by the author. It's an enjoyable, well-told story that deserves wider distribution and readership. I could easily see it having come from a more established publisher, where it would have benefitted from stronger style editing and copy-editing, not to mention (and here the book snob in me comes out) a greater air of legitimacy. Actually, one more gripe: do you know how hard it is for me to write a book blurb when the main character has no name?

All in all, though, Vintage was a page-turner that left a smile on my face. And I won't get tired of seeing more good, teen books with "incidentally" gay protagonists any time soon.

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20. More Book Displays

I'm playing catch-up with my book display photos (which are, I realize, probably more for my own archival benefit than anyone else's). Here's the one I took down this week...

HistoryMysteryBookDisplay.jpg

...with some historical fiction, some mysteries, and some historical mysteries. Today, I put up this Halloween horror display...

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...as well as this mostly realistic fiction display.

BeYourselfBookDisplay.jpg

I'm unable to escape the irony of creating a book display for junior high kids with the heading "just be yourself," considering that it's hard enough to know yourself, much less be yourself, at any age—especially when you're in junior high. But hey, it's something to aspire to.

The "just be yourself"/"stand up for what you believe" display is full of books about individuality as it relates to exploring one's own identity and/or standing up for social causes. It also serves as an opportunity to include a larger-than-usual number of books with GLBTQ characters in a nod to National Coming Out Day on October 11.

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21. Diversity in Clip Art

Yesterday I was making a flyer at work and wanted some clip art images of families. Mindful that there are many different kinds of families, I went looking for a little diversity—namely, racial and gender diversity—in the Microsoft Office clip art.

In my search, I was pleasantly surprised to find that MS has included several images of families with same-gender parents (search "gay families"). There are only eight among hundreds, but I bet that's eight more than there were ten years ago.

Diversity is still lagging on other dimensions, however. It's hard to find images of obviously multiracial families. I found a small handful, but there isn't a catalog heading for them, making it difficult to find them. All-white families dominate, followed by all-black families. There's a small number of obviously East Asian-featured families but pretty much zip in terms of obviously South Asian, Hispanic, or other "brown" ethnicities (though if you search for Muslim families, you'll find a few in traditional dress).

OK, Microsoft, you're on your way, but you're not there yet. Get to it!

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22. Poetry Friday: National Coming Out Day

I spent some time this morning reading Walt Whitman's "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking," probably the first slow, proper read I've given it. It's beautiful. The rolling, wave-like rhythm, the image of the mournful bird singing by the ocean in autumn, the awakening of a poet's soul, the endless cycle of birth and death... Blah blah blah, Walt Whitman was a genius, blah blah.

My reason for sharing it today, though, is this stanza:

O you singer, solitary, singing by yourself—projecting me;
O solitary me, listening—nevermore shall I cease perpetuating you;
Never more shall I escape, never more the reverberations,
Never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent from me,
Never again leave me to be the peaceful child I was before what there, in the night,
By the sea, under the yellow and sagging moon,
The messenger there arous’d—the fire, the sweet hell within,
The unknown want, the destiny of me.

The Destiny of Me is a play written by Larry Kramer, who was better known as a gay rights and AIDS activist than as a playwright. This Whitman stanza is the play's epigraph.

When I was in high school, one of my older friends performed a portion of The Destiny of Me as his "dramatic interpretation" piece for forensics competitions. Though he didn't explicitly come out until years later, those Saturday performances in dingy classrooms, with their tiny audiences of high school and college students, were the beginning. At least, that's how they seemed to me, watching him whenever I could, wondering if I could gather the nerve to tell him I understood.

I couldn't, didn't. He went off to college, and except for a couple of notes and emails that talked around the subject, we never spoke of it. My friend is now out to his family and friends. He's happily (and legally—thank you, Massachusetts!) married to his husband. But I still feel regret that neither of us was brave enough to come out to each other in high school.

Tomorrow is National Coming Out Day. I encourage everyone, regardless of your gender/sexual identity, to take time in the next couple of days and come out in support of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and otherwise queer members of your community, your country, your world.

Don't be shy in asserting your belief in GLBTQ individuals' right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—equal rights in the workforce, in the community, and in the eyes of the law. By doing so, we create a more enlightened and accepting environment for everyone. We make it easier for the closeted teens of today to gather their nerve, come out, and embrace their destiny.


poetry_friday_button-2.jpgCatch this week's Poetry Friday round-up at Picture Book of the Day!

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23. Voting Prep

I'm thinking about voting early. I've heard from several people who have done so, and they've all had waits of 45 minutes or more. Given how crowded my polling place was during the primary election at 6 in the morning, I'm a bit fearful of what it will be like next Tuesday. I've still got to do my research, though.

If you live in Cook County, Illinois, be sure to check out the invaluable Vote for Judges.org. See what various bar associations think of the decisions handed down by judges up for election or retention. Here's what the site says about who's behind the ratings:

The Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening is comprised of the Asian American Bar Association, Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago, Chicago Council of Lawyers, Cook County Bar Association, Decalogue Society of Lawyers, Hellenic Bar Association, Illinois State Bar Association, Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois, and Women’s Bar Association of Illinois working collaboratively to improve the process of screening judicial candidates in Cook County, Illinois.

Sometimes a judge will get a universally good or bad score. Most times, it's mixed, and then you can make your choice based on the values of the association that gave its thumb's-up or -down.

At the state level, the big referendum is whether Illinois should hold a constitutional convention. The Illinois Library Association has spoken against it. There's some more extensive and balanced discussion on Illinois Issues. Right now I'm leaning against it, if only for the enormous cost, but I want to do some more research before I vote.

At the national level, the Human Rights Campaign has published its 110th Congressional Scorecard. You can see how U.S. senators and representatives voted on various pieces of legislation of relevance to the GLBTQ community. Most of the decisions go along party lines, of course, but it's still worth checking out if you've got folks up for reelection in your district.

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24. GLBTQ Book List Goes Live!

Progress report on what my library has done since the ILA conference session on library service to GLBTQ teens:

So, more about the list. "Gay and Lesbian" is not a very inclusive title, I know. But we were going for transparency, and it was the best title we could think of that wasn't too long, clever, obscure, general, or clinical. We figure that people looking for a GLBTQ list will recognize this as such, and that people serendipitously finding the list will have a good idea of what it includes. The list description spells out the contents further.

As for what's on the list, it's got books about queer youth, children and teens with queer family members and friends, various other queer issues, different types of families, and some other gender identity issues. The books have an intended audience of preschool through high school. All the books are owned by the library. It's not comprehensive, but I squeezed in as many titles as I could within our one-sheet, double-sided constraints.

I'm very appreciative of my boss (Hi, boss! Yes, my boss reads my blog), my uber-boss, and my fellow youth librarians, who have been very supportive of this list. (So far, no one has asked why we need this list.) My boss has even suggested we do a display to highlight the list, after our Day of the Dead display comes down. That's really gutsy, but what is a good librarian, if not gutsy? Let's do it!

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25. Vintage Author Interviewed

Steve Berman, author of Vintage: A Ghost Story (which I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here), was interviewed by Fanboys of the Universe. Take a listen and you'll hear some passages from the book, the story behind the story, and Berman's thoughts on the higher-than-average appeal of speculative fiction for queer readers. Great interview, Steve!

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