Thursday, August 27, 2015

Setting a Watchman

I really didn’t want to read Go Set a Watchman. I was in shock, at ALA Midwinter, when it’s discovery was announced. I, like so many Alabamians, was so suspicious. To Kill a Mockingbird is such a part of our culture. What were they doing to Harper Lee’s legacy?

But it wasn’t just OUR story. In Massachusetts, I saw readers clutching their copies the day it came out in July. Will we ever really know the true story behind the discovery? Is it a draft? Is it a sequel? Is it “secondin a series” as the Overdrive metadata asserts? How much was it (and TKAM) shaped by an editorial hand? I would love to see a really talented literary scholar get their hands on those respective manuscripts.

Frankly, I can’t see it as a draft. If the cover didn’t evoke the other, if the authorial name were different, if not for the shared place and personal names, would I have even of connected the two works?

There’s just enough allusion to the “meat” of the Tom Robinson trial, and of Scout’s growing up, for continuity’s sake. But it’s very much about Scout as pubescent, as a teen, about Jean Louise as 1950’s era New York bohemian, about what happens when women in claustrophobic small towns get married. It’s more Shirley Ann Grau or Ellen Gilchrist than TKAM, laced with a much more modern feel. There were passages I loved. The description of the surreptitious ways that people in Maycomb drank was spot-on.

And I think the pre-publishing indictment of Atticus as racist is a little pat. His joining the Citizen’s Council “to keep an eye on things,” him wanting progress, but at a more measured place, echoed conversations I heard growing up, but not from any one with malice in their heart, just people favored by the status quo, people who weren’t cut out to be crusaders. I guess I forgive them, and I forgive Harper Collins, and Tonja Carter.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The opposite of quiet

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Reading Quiet this summer was a revelation. Since Susan Cain spoke at ALA Annual, I know I am late to this particular introversion insight. I had never thought of spending time by myself as anything other than a luxury, but Cain made me see it instead as fundamental to my own self-care.


Probably related to that introversion, I spend a lot of time and effort trying to keep a low profile. Maybe it’s because I believe, a la Banksy, in my heart of heart, there’s no such thing as good publicity.

 
 
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But when SLJ asked me to appear on the cover of their tech survey issue, I agreed. It was too ideal an opportunity to talk about some of my favorite cutting-edge technologies. I was tickled to showcase Google Cardboard (my YALSA App of the Week review) because it is so utterly democratizing for VR, and the Sphero because I see the terrific potential for gateway coding through both the drawing and command line interfaces. These are the sorts of things I am super-passionate about but find it difficult to sell to teachers.


So this happened:

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I certainly never thought I’d appear on the cover of ANY magazine, and certainly not in my forties. I thought it would be more of a headshot, or I probably would have dressed a little differently, but it was fun. The fact I knew the photographer, one of my husband’s newspaper colleagues, helped.

Anyway, I really appreciate all the kind thoughts from my library world friends. The whole thing makes me feel incredibly shy, like a bit of a spectacle. Conversely, I might be a little weird in that public speaking does not bother me in the least. What does bother me is walking into a party. Even if I know everyone there. Just thinking about that makes me want to take a nap.

 
 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Glory Glory!

I have always enjoyed the Walden list from the Assembly for Literature for Adolescents of the National Council of Teachers of English (ALAN), and I do think the Walden Committee has outdone itself this year.

The five finalists are splendid, and varied, and four of them are by women.


The 2015 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Finalists

Diamond Boy by Michael Williams
Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
Revolution (The Sixties Trilogy) by Deborah Wiles

We all know how I feel about Gabi... but the winner, Glory O'Brien, shook my world for weeks. I kept looking at people, wandering around like I'd drunk that bat and saw that same awful future where women were chattel without personal agency, in the name of protecting the family.




It was dark, but so so moving. Bravo A.S. King. See you in Minneapolis in November!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Find out who you are and do it on purpose



I just finished a book so good and so resonant I didn't want it to end: Dumplin', by Julie Murphy. Willowdean Dickson is a heroine for the ages. I know this will be a go-to recommendation and a regular re-read when I need a boost. In fact, I'm sure I'll revisit the painfully small Adobe Digital Edition text well before the pub date. 

Coming on the heels of reading Adam Silvera's showstopper More Happy Than Not, it seems like 2015 is shaping up as quite the year from YA voice. 

It seems like everyone I know is grappling with anxieties, body images issues, and forms of grief. Hearing someone else giving voice to their challenges and seeing it through to the other side can make reading a transcendental experience. But whatever will I read next?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Let's Get Real, Your Little Free Library is Just a Shelf of Books You Don't Want Anymore

In Nebraska. people claim that the books in those twee Little Free Libraries in front of their houses have been taken! More precisely, too many books were taken! From the shelf of books people are supposed to take. That anyone could feign outrage demonstrates a lack of fundamental understanding about what a library, and especially a Public Library, happens to be, and how that differs from an LFL.



Sorry, but there aren't limits on what someone can take when you put a box of things on your curb. And few of the inventories of LFLs equal the number of things one can borrow under checkout limits at my local actual Public Library in our county. So basically, these LFL promoters are dilettantes who want the minimal cachet of the profession of librarianship, but only want people to take one book at a time? Which suggests a basic lack of understand of reading behavior.

But I'm not surprised, because the LFL crowd doesn't get collections, either. I've looked in the LFLs that abound around my area. There isn't anything in there I'd want to read. A few potboilers, outdated self-help, poorly-bound book fair paperbacks from a decade ago, pages falling out. Clearly, the owners are no librarians, or they would have weeded all the contents wholesale. Let's call it what it is -- your cast-offs, Lady Bountiful.

My husband and some of his friends own a microbrewery. Someone who works there wanted to start a "Public Library" shelf. What was on said shelf? Free community newspapers. So it's more a newsstand, but with only free things. I suggested they allocate a few cents from each sale to the purchase of quality materials. I'd volunteer to do selection. But then they got up in arms about how to get anything good back.

Welcome to librarianship.