Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Banned Books Week

I talk about this every year, so some of you will be familiar with my stance.  It's fine to not read a book.  It's fine to feel a book is not or not yet appropriate for your child.  Where I get sniffy is when you decide no one who relies on that library should be able to read that book.  I've read problematic books.  I've even read problematic books this year.  I certainly share my concerns with people.  But here's the thing, other people might find something in that book.  And that's fine too.  Goodness knows, I adore some stuff that is problematic.  Stuff that I even can fully see the problems.  And yet, I still love. 
I heard an author at the Baltimore Book Festival talking about how they wished people had to read every book they wanted removed first, so they couldn't just tag everything that had a witch or they had heard might contain sex.  And yes.  Now, looking at this year's list, I can see at least some of the featured books were read far enough to find the offensive word or act.  I confess the expressed concern about Hop on Pop encouraging violence seemed unusual to me.  And scrolling through that list, some of those books might contain legitimately harmful depictions or stereotypes, and that's something that libraries and schools can certainly consider.  I did find the idea that students can now google references and discover the true depths of Brave New World fascinating since it implies that they previously thought the English teacher was just letting that all go over the students heads.  (My English teacher certainly would have asked us about those.)
Read.  Read widely.  If you find something inappropriate or problematic, talk to people about it, including your librarian.  But please consider, that it might be providing something to others.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

7 Things: The Hamiltunes Edition

I pre-ordered the "Hamilton" soundtrack.  I had maybe checked the release date a few times.  I had joked about taking the day off so I could just listen intently and sing along, and think in lyrics for a day.  And then, I swear, totally accidentally, took the day off so I could take my cat to the vet for her annual checkup.  And then...(and then!) NPR released it in early listening form last Monday. So...extra chair dancing steps from my fitness tracker. So here we are. 
1. I had remembered how much of the show is about love.  Love of country, love of ladies, love of men, love of truth, love of power, love for children, love for parents, love of doing what's best not just for you but for others (well, sometimes).
2. I had somehow forgotten how much of it is about writing.  Obviously.  Duh.  But between "Non-Stop" and "The Reynolds Papers" and the references to the Federalist papers to the more overt points made about writing in "Hurricane".
3. And there is a ton of talk about legacy, and who gets to tell the story, in fact there is a song titled "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story".
4. There are a few things I noted are not in the soundtrack.  Now this is the radio play version, so there's some language that is truncated, but also some things that occur in quick dialogue between songs, or that are not crucial to the song that are not there.  (One Miranda was explicitly asked about on twitter and he said they were saving some things to punch you with the live performance. The text has since been posted for the curious.)
5. On the second pass through I started to notice things that reminded me more explicitly of "Bring It On".  I may do a larger piece about this, but some of it is things that show up everywhere, who do you love, what do you stand for, and so on.  The siren bit though, I remembered that from "Bring it On", it has a very different effect here. 
6. These performances, they are stunning.  Stunning live, stunning on tape.  And the orchestrations.  It's just.  Wow.  I got to "Satisfied" and was just, um, blown away, and then I hit "Wait For It".
7. Also, again, this is a story about a man. And his friends and foes.  But there are ladies all over the place.  And Eliza gets the last song.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Baltimore Book Fest

I spent Saturday at the Baltimore Book Fest and well, I should have taken notes because I got hit with a sinus infection Sunday and I feel it has emptied out my brains a bit.  It was a busy weekend in Baltimore, I rode up on the train with some friends who were hitting the Baltimore Comic-Con.  I arrived before the book fest kicked off which gave me a chance to chat with some of the folks at the Maryland Romance Writers (MRW) tent.  They kicked things off with a panel on New Adult books that talked a lot of the differences between adult, new adult, and young adult voices and stories. Quite a few of the authors talked about how new adult men are likely to be a little less experienced, a little more vulnerable, because, just like the young females, they come to a relationship with a little less baggage. 
The next panel was on tropes and they talked about how using tropes can be a useful skeleton to help you build a character and/or plot, and that it can also help you find readers who like such things.  (Like me.  With amnesia.)
Then I hopped over to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America tent to stalk, ahem, I mean listen to the YA writers and bloggers there.  They talked about the freedom that writing YA offered, that it really let you put a dash of this, a pinch of that, and just go.  Adult readers tend to be more worried about how you broke the rules on something.  They also mentioned the tight pacing on YA really gets you to the plot fast, there is no five pages discussing the layout of the space hatch.  A librarian in the crowd asked about diverse YA fantasy selections and the panel gave some great resources for lists (including We Need Diverse Books and Disability in Kidlit) and a quick discussion that sadly sometimes the covers (whitewashed or fontified) make it hard to spot them as you flip through School Library Journal or Publisher's Weekly. 
Then I hopped back to MRW for their YA discussion.  They also talked about YA, particularly with a smoochie bent.  I confess I snuck out a little early because Bryan Voltaggio was cooking meatloaf over at the aquarium tent.  And then I went down to the Literary Salon tent to listen to Greg Proops talk about his book.  He talked a lot about the things that most people don't know these days, whether because mainstream news is so slanted, because we don't curate the things we read on the internet, or because our history classes leave out so much. 
I went back to MRW for the suspense panel.  They discussed making use of the ticking clocking suspense, that you aren't so much going to have a suspense where the bomb will go off in six months or so, and how sometimes that creates challenges for making a believable romance because these people are really not in a position to go on a date night. 
Then at the Pratt Free Library Children's Stage the members of two Youth Poetry teams performed and I have to tell you, if you have a chance to see these kids, they are amazing.  They were touching, funny, heartbreaking, and weird, sometimes all in one piece.  (If I had been better prepared for the awesome, I would have tried to get video.  Find them on the You Tubes.)
And then I grabbed dinner and sat in on part of MRW's final panel, wherein the steamier authors proved some of their dedication for inspiration by spotted a leather jacketed dude, prompting an audience member to go grab him and bring him back for a quick chat. (Names redacted to protect teh guilty, although I think they have outed themselves on other parts of the net.)
Then it was time to head home.  I really am lucky to live so close to such fun. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Three Interesting Things

1. Two different yet similar posts about Viola Davis' historic Emmy win.  Stacia Davis talks about remembering to celebrate and Camryn Garrett spoke about the anger of it taking 67 years.  
2. Those of you who follow me on the Twitters might have seen my obsession with the early listen of the "Hamilton" soundtrack, so, here's a quick interview with Phillipa Soo who plays Eliza Schuyler Hamilton.
3. The Bloggess, as she is often know, has a new book coming out shortly and as part of that asked for people to share things that had broken them and things that made them happy, and then compiled them in a video.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Diversity is Everythwere

This will be a little more round up like for a Monday, because there were Emmys, and, while it's hard to tell how much was the rule changes and how much was the normal cycle where a few of the same things that always win get changed over to new things that four years from now we will groan about.  (None of this is to take away from any of the nominees or winners.  Awards are a system.  Nothing wrong with making it through the system repeatedly.)  But there were some historic awards for women as well as some very knowing comments from the host, and look, there are some firsts that are almost embarrassing that we are only hitting at 2015, but yay, it has happened.  More work to be done, but yay, yay, yay!  (And honestly, quite a few of those actress categories, including Drama, I would have been thrilled for quite a few of those nominees.  It's wonderful to see a category filled with things that I love like that.)
And it is bisexuality awareness week and the nice folks over at Gay YA are doing posts for that. 
And Book Riot is doing their version of a #blackoutday over here

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Three Interesting Things

1. This article noted that along with rising tuition, room and board costs for college have gone up significantly.
2. Edie Harris wrote some tips about being a writer with a day job that are great advice for anyone with a day (or likely night) job.
3. I was fascinated when this discussion about bra fastening emerged on social media, mostly because I confess, I had assumed (perhaps in a flexible, ableist manner) that back clasping was the traditional method.  Yes, I have been known to front clasp and twist if a fastening has gotten a bit mangled in the wash and requires extra finagling, but generally I back clasp. But it it fascinates me the "divide" that erupted over the methodology.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Let's Talk Generations

One of the great things about getting older is that the news cycle starts picking on other generations. I ran across this article written with enough judgey pants on to keep us all pretty warm.  So, the gist is that a twenty-something was travelling in Nepal. She texted a friend that she had arrived and was going to stay with a guy she met through a website where you can find folks willing to rent out their couch to you.  She was killed.  It turns out by the man who lent her his couch. 
So, here's the thing. Yes, some people are more willing to trust various, for lack of a better term, alternative travel arrangements.  I would however argue, that stories of backpackers relying on the kindness of strangers pre-date the internet. It's very sad that she died. I resent that implication that she died because of a generational trust in the internet.  Let's face it every journey on public transit, every ebay transaction, every time you walk into a restaurant you've never been to, there's an element of risk. Yes, staying on a stranger's couch carries a larger amount of risk, then some choices, but to imply that the only reason this woman is dead is because of this, well, it's straight up victim blaming. I feel certain that not everyone who stays on a stranger's couch ends up dead.  I feel certain that people who kill people do not have to rely on the internet to bring them victims. (This article indicates he killed her for her money and phone.)
The purpose of these generational markers should be to take a look at the strengths each group has, instead to pick one to constantly blame for their naivete and selfishness, until we name the next one and shift our aim.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Three Interesting Things

1. Teenagers are too rational when making decisions (um, if you remove social pressure).
2. The folks at the Yarn Mission are doing a blanket square project to support black liberation.
3. One student took a year to sail her way to college

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

All the Authors

In addition to the National Book Fest there were also two panels of YA authors at Politics and Prose this week so I have a lot of things to catch up on.

First up Jennifer E. Smith not only came to Politics and Prose but had also agreed to meet up with my book club before her talk. I missed most of that due to the day job, but I hear they had a great time chatting with her. I had just finished Hello, Goodbye and Everything In Between which was fun.  At the Politics and Prose chat she spoke about how sometimes her editorial background makes it that she is unable to utilize text speak or IM speak because it just hurts her too much. (I do hear now that character limits are less of a thing, text speak is somewhat less prominent with current teens, although certainly looking around the internet indicates that's not true for all).  Smith's inspiration for Hello, Goodbye and Everything In Between was the very strong memory of the night before you left for college and how it felt wonderful and scary and full of such importance as you stand on the precipice of this huge change. She also wondered what would it be like if, in addition to all of that, you were in the middle of a serious relationship with someone where the two of you were headed in literal opposite directions. Smith also talked a little bit about the MFA she had done at St Andrews. (!!!) 

On Friday there was a multi-author panel with Daniel José Older, Libba Bray, and Jon Skovron. I was part way through Older's Shadowshaper (which I have since finished and it is wonderful) and still need to catch up on the next installment in the Diviners series, as well as Skovron's latest. Older talked about how so much of fantasy and urban fantasy author takes place in a very light clean city or in the falling down projects and there just wasn't enough in between. Working as an EMT and also having grown up Brooklyn he certainly saw lots and lots of in between in the city. Also that so much of fantasy involves a character spending 75% of the book being surprised to discover that there is magic or are demons. Worldwide more cultures believe in ghosts believe in supernatural creatures than don't and if you wrote a fantasy that involves a character from one of those cultures you could save yourself chapters of this surprise. I will also say that part of my interest in Shadowshaper stemmed from a comment I saw about it's take on anthropology and the idea that the people who do the studying often treat their subjects as less than. Libba Bray talked about how sometimes she has trouble finding the source of what sparked an idea for a book since she thinks of her writing brain as a giant sticky ball rolling along and picking up stray factoids that then turn into a story. Bray said the Chinese Exclusion Act was a fascinating example of a shift in our country since it was the first policy that specifically immigration policy that specifically addressed a particular race and therefore led to things that we still see the echoes of today. Skovron talked about how being raised Catholic the Bible is full of references to angels and demons that he certainly read as literal as a child. He also talked about how in the first book Man-made Boy it was a road trip across the US that in this book he wanted to expand out to the world and take a closer look at that.

On Saturday with the National Book Fest we arrived a little late and only caught the tail end of Kwame Alexander. Again I will say this man attracts all the teachers. He read a quick poem and also talked about keeping his inner child alive.

After Alexander came the wonderful Ellen Oh who had a slideshow presentation to help discuss what spawned the We Need Diverse Books movement and also how she is starting to see that the problem is not just getting the books there, getting the authors there, and supporting all of that but that once the books are available that gatekeepers steer children away from books that don't look like them.

There was a presentation for The Book That Shaped Me where multiple children who had written essays about books of importance to them were awarded including some special prize winners who had written about Steve Jobs, Homesick, Rules,and Harry Potter. (The Harry Potter winner had an adorable Harry Potter bow in her hair.) Let me tell you these kids were all poised and amazing and wow.

Jenny Han was up next and she talked about how changes in her family with her sister getting married led her to think about the kinds of changes that teenagers experience which inspired To All the Boys since the main character is dealing with becoming the new oldest after her oldest sister goes off to college (which by the way is to St Andrews, I'm just saying). She also said the book's success proved that any character could be the every girl since the main character with an Asian American.

We then snuck out to grab some lunch but made it back to see Sabaa Tahir who had slides and a copy of her book trailer to talk about An Ember in the Ashes.  Tahir said her reporting experience led her to look at a story from two opposing sides. Also her brother is involved in the current movie production and so she expects that the adaptation will be good since she can tell on him to mom.

Not too long after that I donned the red shirt (they were really red) and did my volunteer bit. It did mean I was cross scheduled against romance which was sad but I was happy to help the wonderful festival and I hear the romance room was well packed. I was handing out programs which meant I had a lot of people asking me where things were including Metro. I also had a lot of people who showed up with no idea what this was other than it was a thing and what should they go see or do none of them had very little children in tow and arrived somewhat after most of the children's programming had to completed. Normally I would argue that it was a bit of a failure to research but given the Library of Congress is website was down much of the preceding week I could understand why people might have found pre-planning a bit of a challenge. It was a great festival I hope next year they have even more romance author in addition to all the wonderful speakers that they've been getting.

Edited for clarity.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Refugee crisis in Europe

If you hang in YA centric spaces on Twitter, you may have seen Patrick Ness, heartbroken over the latest news of the goings on in Europe decided to start a little fundraiser for Save the Children:
Save the Children happens to be near and dear to my heart, particularly the UK branch of it, although I have nothing against the US or worldwide bits of it.  In college, since I was without work visa, I could not work for pay while in Scotland, but I could volunteer.  So, I volunteered briefly with a local youth group (this seems very appropos now, I really had no idea I kept picking similar things to do with my spare time) and then also at a charity shop.  St. Andrews, for whatever reason had a large number of charity shops, and I was assigned through the student charity group to Save the Children the first year.  And after that, I was known the the lovely woman who organized all the volunteers so after I got my class schedule, I would go straight to Betty, and she would put me on a shift.  The shifts were short (two hours I think) and we would either sort donations in the back, or run the register in the front.  It was a pretty easy job, and yet, the sales of the donations and some Save the Children branded items went to a good cause, and also, hey cheaply priced clothes and such too.  (I actually ended up getting my student gown there, after someone donated their pristine one.) 
So, Save the Children is a charity that is meaningful to me, partly for silly personal reasons, and yet they do great things.  Certainly plenty of charities and other organizations and governments are chipping in to try to assist with this.  This article from the Independent has a number of suggestions. The governmental ones are Euro-focused, but this is a many pronged problem and there are lots of ways help is needed.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Three Interesting Things

1. A Twitter discussion broke out last week about the potential harm of pop culture characters that represent certain stereotypes, particularly if you live somewhere where these are your primary examples.  This NPR Code Switch piece looks at how pop culture representations of marginalized people can both help and hurt. 
2. Publisher Lee and Low have suggested a baseline diversity survey of publishing so that there is clear data as to the current state of the publishing industry.  Several publishers have signed on, there is an accompanying petition to encourage others to follow suit.
3. This office has a cat library.  You can check out a cat to hang with for the day.  I swear I suggested this idea years ago, but they have made it happen!