As graduation approaches Mike and his friends just want to make it through all of the mundane end of the year rigamarole so they can continue on with their lives. Unfortunately there are a group of kids in his town lovingly referred to as the “indie kids” who seem to be all of the chosen ones.
In The Rest of Us Just Live Here Patrick Ness brings us the story of the kids in the background. Basically this is the Perceys and the Larrys of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Ness gives a few nods to BtVS throughout the novel which brought me joy. This book was great and had one of the most diverse character spreads I have seen in young adult fiction. None of which felt forced or tokenized. The fact that all of these kids are just trying to have fun with their friends and do their thing in order to graduate I present a lovely poppunk song about dealing with high school and getting out alive, Doing Time by MxPx.
The woman who represents my district in the Virginia state senate, Amanda Chase, is calling for the firing of Chesterfield County Public School librarians. What atrocities did they commit? Surely they were reading 50 Shades of Grey aloud to first-graders. Maybe they strapped a bunch of middle school students to chairs and read the book of Leviticus while performing atonement rituals? No, they simply created a summer reading list with highly popular books. All lists can be found under the 2016 link at the Chesterfield County Public Schools summer reading list.
It’s quite obvious from the statements Chase made to the Chesterfield Observer reporter that she has not read the books that were questioned by parents (including herself.) Chase called the books on the list, “pornographic” and “trash.” Really? Eleanor and Park is far from either of those regardless of your opinion on whether the book was good reading (and I may be biased as I loved it). I can’t even recall if Eleanor and Park even have sex, because I was too busy reading a story about how people are shitty to poor kids and Asian kids and do anything to ostracize them. I was caught up in how they found each other and had a really kickass relationship. How Park’s parents were there for Eleanor when they found she was a victim of neglect by her own family. Certainly this type of thing never happens in *PEARL CLUTCH* our schools!
I’ve got news for Amanda Chase. I went to Chesterfield County Public Schools from 1986 thru 1998. My librarian in 5th grade called me Blossom because I look like Mayim Bialik but it was also a term of endearment. She showed me where all the ghost stories and got me hooked on Betty Ren Wright and Mary Downing Hahn. When I was in middle school and didn’t want to spend lunch not feeling welcome at any lunch table, I was allowed to hang out in the library and cut the donated Campbell’s soup labels down to size. No one ever questioned my reading choices during that time. I may have been suffering from depression so badly that I disengaged from my education in high school but my English teachers always commented that they wished I would apply myself as they enjoyed my banter in class regarding our reading. I didn’t have the vast amount of young adult fiction that exists today. I reread The Catcher in the Rye sixteen times and felt solace that this kid in New York was experiencing a similar outlook on life. I didn’t feel so alone, and it probably kept me alive during a time when suicide was an option on the table more often than not.
If I had a more vast and diverse library to choose from, I wouldn’t have had to rely on just that one book. If the other kids had a more vast and diverse library to choose from, maybe they would have learned empathy sooner and not yelled, “dyke!” at me when I walked down the hall. Oh does that happen in Chesterfield County Schools? You bet. Fiction is an excellent source to teach kids empathy for those who are different from them. It normalizes the marginalized.
If you are local, I ask you to contact Amanda Chase and tell her to let the librarians do their job. They know what is happening in their schools and with their students. They know what books their kids need access to. And if there is a questionable book in the stacks, let the parents do the censoring for their own children. You don’t get to censor other children’s’ reading, Senator. Maybe I will include a copy of Fahrenheit 451 with a letter explaining how your comments on the Chesterfield County summer reading list are absurd at least and dangerous at most.
I have extremely vivid dreams. They are so strong and detailed that some nights I feel as I’ve gotten no sleep as either a participant or observer of these dreams. When they get to a certain point I have to take Ativan before bed to keep them from waking me in full panic attack mode. It’s been a challenge at times, but whereas a common reaction to, “Let me tell you the dream I had!” is a groan, people I regularly share with can’t wait to hear the next installment of whatever my brain has concocted.
One may think having a book related dream might be rather mundane. You forgot to bring your book to class, you are in the biggest bookstore ever and can’t choose a book, or you get lost in the library stacks.
It starts off that I am at some sort of technology/weird kitschy item expo. As I look around at the booths, one being a company offering business cards and wallets made out of strange materials, a woman approaches me. She kind of looks like Judy King from Orange is the New Black. She asks me if I like to read and if so to come over to her booth on the other side of the aisle. I cross over where she has a sort of lounge chair, almost like a dentist’s chair but more comfortable set up. As I sit, she begins to explain that her product is a collection of short stories. As you read each story you chew a special piece of gum. The gum brings certain tastes and smells as you progress in your reading. I can’t recall any of the specific tastes, but I know that I remember something woodsy and dirt-like. When I got to the second story the woman brought me a cup of very weird rooty tea. On the surface of the tea was foam that was in the shape of small Runt candy like bananas. I had to drink it in order to get to the piece of gum floating around inside.
And that is it. I woke up from this Willy Wonka madness wishing I could invent such a book companion. I suppose for now I will stick with my beer pairings until we level up to Wonka’s vision. As we all know, his gum didn’t have all the kinks worked out yet.
Reading stats for June 2016
Cut by Patricia McCormick
Real World by Natsuo Kirino
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings
The Rest of us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
George by Alex Gino
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan
Total finished: 9
Borrowed from library: 5
LGBTQ Authors: 4 (Books w/LGBTQ characters: 6)
Women authors: 7
POC authors: 1
In translation: 1
Favorite: The Sunlight Pilgrims (I’ll be writing more about this one soon.)
In celebration of LGBTQ+ pride month, I would like to present to you for this Tunesday in June, Spit and Passion by Cristy C. Road. I met Cristy in the late 90s when we were both awkward teens trying to figure our shit out on America Online in the depths of Punk and Green Day chatrooms. After years of publishing zines, Cristy put out this amazing graphic memoir examining her identity as a queer pre-teen in a Cuban household in Miami. Like myself, Cristy clung to Green Day as a life preserver in deep seas of identity confusion. Spit and Passion explores being queer and closeted while reaching out to grasp art and music that keeps one afloat when feeling alone.
You may recognize Cristy’s subversive artwork that has appeared all over progressive politics and punk rock showing us a beautiful world of queer people of color. In this pairing, I present the song that closed out Green Day’s MTV live show, Jaded in Chicago, She. I wore out my VHS playing this over and again, sobbing and singing. This song was a big part of staying alive through the 90s for me, and it is the perfect soundtrack for Spit and Passion.
I was so lucky to have met Alex Gino at Book Expo America and get a copy of their most recent book, George, signed. Alex was a bright and lively spirit and I am so happy to have met them and had an opportunity to thank them in person for the tremendous work they are doing for LGBTQ+ and children’s literature. Because of this serendipitous event I have my very first blog giveaway!
I present to you a signed copy of Alex Gino’s George!
During the month of June, also Pride month for the LGBTQ+ community, I have made it a point for the vast majority of my reading to be LGBTQ+ friendly. George fit right in as it is the story of a fourth grader who knows they are a girl despite what the outside world sees. George sets her heart on playing Charlotte in her school’s rendition of Charlotte’s Web but is turned down due to her teacher reading her as a boy. Frustrated, she plots with her best friend Kelly to overcome this wrongdoing. Meanwhile, George struggles with family life and school bullies as a transgender kid. (TW for emetophobia as there is a large plot point involving emesis.)
George isn’t only for trans kids, but for all children to read and learn how to have empathy and understanding for people who are not the same as them. In all honesty, it’s a book for adults as well. George serves as a starting point to learn how to create a safe environment for transgender kids to thrive.
If you are interested in winning this signed copy of George please fill out the form below by June 30th. You must be over 18 and in the United States. If you are under 18 please ask a trusted adult to enter under their name and pass the book along to you. A winner will be chosen at random and will be notified by email on July 1st. I won’t pass along your email address, I just need it to request your address!
I’d like to invite the bookternet and beyond to participate in an event to raise up positive stories that portray LGBTQA characters. A Literacy Memorial for Orlando was created by my friend Rebekah in the goal to “fill our communities with positive images and stories of the LGBTQA community.”
Participation is simple. Donate books with a positive portrayal of LGBTQA characters. Donate them anywhere you feel they are needed. Schools, libraries, prisons, little free libraries, your coffee shop “give a book take a book” etc. It is asked that you add a bookplate or a inscription with the language below:
This book is dedicated in remembrance of those who lost their lives in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2016. We hold those individuals in the LGBTQA community in the light and wish for a future of hope and understanding.
One of the easiest ways to create empathy for marginalized groups is to share our stories. We know that in reading even fictionalized accounts of characters with different experiences than our own it creates a greater understanding and acceptance. Change comes from going into our communities and showing them that we exist. We are their neighbors and co-workers. We are the soccer moms and the doctors and the fast food cooks and the CEOs and the bus drivers and the clergy and the children who haven’t decided which of these they will be.