Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Idea Alert! A Customizable Spinning Wheel for Events & Giveaways

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I have always wanted to have a spinny wheel thing for outreach events or programs to do prize giveaways and I recently stumbled across a really affordable one that would be easy to customize – at Ikea! The information is below. It’s a small, table top version, but it worked well and smaller is sometimes better when you talk about having to cart things and set them up and tear them down for outreach events.

Prize Wheel Ideas

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FULFILL YOUR PRICE IS RIGHT DREAM AT THE LIBRARY

In the past I’ve thought about just making my own, but this is a pretty affordable price.

Kicky’s Post It Note Reviews: On the Come Up and The Devouring Gray

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The Teen, as many of you know, is a prolific reader of YA lit but basically hates to write reviews. So years ago she decided to write short reviews on post-it notes and thus, Kicky’s Post It Note Reviews was born. I try to fill in the gaps when I can because she and I talk about the books that she reads often, though not always. So here today are some thoughts from a prolific teen reader about some new and upcoming YA lit titles.

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On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

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Publisher’s Book Description

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.

Post It Note Review

“An absolutely amazing and powerful book.”

The Teen and one of her best friends both read this book at the same time. At first she was kind of meh about it and told me that she thought it was okay but liked The Hate U Give better. Then one afternoon we were driving and she was reading in the passenger seat and she literally gasped/squeed/yelled and starting texting her friend about what was happening. This was a huge turning point in the book for her and as you can see from her brief post-it note review, she ended up really liking it.

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

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Publisher’s Book Description

On the edge of town a beast haunts the woods, trapped in the Gray, its bonds loosening…

Uprooted from the city, Violet Saunders doesn’t have much hope of fitting in at her new school in Four Paths, a town almost buried in the woodlands of rural New York. The fact that she’s descended from one of the town’s founders doesn’t help much, either—her new neighbours treat her with distant respect, and something very like fear. When she meets Justin, May, Isaac, and Harper, all children of founder families, and sees the otherworldly destruction they can wreak, she starts to wonder if the townsfolk are right to be afraid.

When bodies start to appear in the woods, the locals become downright hostile. Can the teenagers solve the mystery of Four Paths, and their own part in it, before another calamity strikes?

Post It Note Review

“Interesting. I’m not a big fan of series but I may read the second book.”

So the Jensens are notorious for leaving series unfinished. The Teen in particular prefers stand alone titles, with paranormal fantasy, mysteries and realistic fiction being her favorites. She liked this book enough that she would consider reading the second book, and I need you all to understand this is high praise indeed.

The Devouring Gray comes out on April 2nd. On the Come Up is out now.

Sunday Reflections: Let’s Update Those YA Lit Articles with Current Titles, and more suggestions for how we talk about YA lit in the media

Several years ago, I wrote a post to the media asking them to write their hot takes about YA literature differently. It was snarky and full of anger at a media that continued to denigrate YA literature and by proxy the teens that read it. At the time, their was a lot of pearl clutching about how dark YA literature was, without a real acknowledgment of how dark the lives of real teens can be, and often are. Recently, there have been a lot of additional articles about YA, with a lot of focus on the idea of “Toxic YA Twitter”, which as best as I can tell is really just people from marginalized groups asking for better representation in YA literature and calling out those books that they feel have harmful stereotypes and representation that may harm teen readers of color.

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But what all of these articles have in common is that they continue to discuss YA literature using books like Twilight, The Hunger Games and Divergent as their go to reference. One of the most recent ones did add The Maze Runner series to the list. The problem with this is, every single one of these books is around 10 years old or older and aren’t really representative of YA literature today. They are a small microcosm of YA lit, and in many places they are now a historic perspective on YA but by no means offer a good look at what is happening in the current YA lit marketplace nor do they represent what today’s teens – the intended audience for YA – are reading.

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For example, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas has topped the New York Times bestseller list for 2 consecutive years. Like the books mentioned above, it was made into a move. Angie Thomas’ most recent release, On the Come Up, debuted on the NYT Bestseller list and was a title that we had so many holds on before release that we had to order additional copies. None of the books mentioned above have appeared on my library’s hold list for years. In fact, given the circulation statistics of the Twilight series, I could easily have justified weeding them from my library’s collection, though I did not.

It’s interesting that articles discussing YA tend to focus on that handful of older titles and neglect to mention more recent bestsellers for several reasons. One, in the past few years the bestseller list has grown increasingly diverse, which is a good thing. But when writers focus on this handful of older titles, they are continuing to highlight white, cisgender and heteronormative titles. Both The Hate U Give and The Children of Blood and Bone, another long term NYT Bestseller, are written by women of color, but they keep being written out of the narrative about YA literature.

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Simon Vs. the Homosapien Agenda by Beck Albertalli is another NYT bestseller that got the movie treatment. It is the story of a gay boy trying to figure out who he is and is accepted by his friends and family. This is just one of the growing number of LGBTQ titles that are popular among teen readers and have been high circulating, NYT bestselling titles in the past few years. Yet the titles being mentioned in these articles fail to represent LGBTQ teens.

Twilight was a huge hit among teen readers, but the first book in that series was released in 2005 and the final book in the series, Breaking Dawn, was released in 2008. I’m not excellent at math, but that seems to be almost 11 years ago. While there are some teens today that still seek our and read these books, this series is by no means as meaningful to today’s teen readers or the landscape of what’s happening in YA as many newer titles. As a reference for discussion on YA lit, it’s now a weird go-to reference.

The same can be said for The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner series. What’s also interesting is that several of these authors haven’t really released a new YA title in many years. Further, the author of The Maze Runner series was recently accused of sexual harassment and if I am not mistaken, is currently without a publisher. Veronica Roth is the only author from this particular group who is currently and actively publishing YA books and her most recent series, Carve the Mark, has been criticized by people of color as engaging in racist and harmful tropes. The titles in the series have debuted on the NYT bestseller list, but they have not had the demand or circulation as other titles among my teen readers.

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It’s also interesting that these articles which seem to want to focus on older titles often fail to mention authors of color with longstanding careers, such as Walter Dean Myers. It is unfathomable to me that you can talk about YA literature in any form and not mention Walter Dean Myers, who was a prolific writer and was the first recipient of the Printz Award Medal in it’s inaugural year for his book, Monster. Sadly, Walter Dean Myers is no longer with us, but no discussion of YA literature seems complete without mentioning his influence on the category. By the end of his career, Walter Dean Myers had written over 100 books for children and teens.

TLT TAB member Lexi is a HUGE A. S. King fan

TLT TAB member Lexi is a HUGE A. S. King fan

However, if you want your article to reference authors who have been publishing for a long time and are still publishing, I would recommend authors like Sarah Dessen, who writes popular contemporary books and has been in this business for almost as long as I have. Her latest book, The Rest of the Story, will be released later this year. Might I also recommend A. S. King, who writes mind-bending surrealistic fiction that recognizes teens as intelligent readers and challenges them to think outside the box. Her newest book, Dig, will be released on Tuesday, March 26th. These are just two of the authors that teen readers continually ask for who are still actively engaged in writing YA literature.

What I would like to see in articles about YA literature is some better and more current examples of titles that are of interest to today’s YA reader. Unless you are writing a historical perspective on the category, it seems outdated and out of touch to continue to use this small handful of examples that aren’t even the most popular titles with today’s teen readers. I also would like to see more diversity in the titles being used as examples to better reflect today’s teens. 40% of the population are not white, so shouldn’t the titles we talk about when discussing YA literature reflect the world?

Since the days of The Hunger Games and Twilight, YA publishing has exploded. I have read figures that state that the YA literature category has experienced an increase of around 400%. That’s a lot of growth and a lot of new titles to talk about. And my experience working in libraries directly with teens for 26 years has proven several things:

1. A majority of YA lit titles have a short shelf life and high turnover rate. Titles that my teens were begging for even 2 years ago can have a sharp and sudden drop off in circulation, demand and popularity. There are always exceptions to this rule, but it’s an important perspective to keep in mind.

2. There is often a huge difference between what adults readers of YA are interested in compared to what teen readers of YA are interested in. When discussing YA literature in the media, maybe we need to be more clear about what types of readers we are discussing. As the title of this blog probably informs you, I’m here for teen readers. I begrudge no adult who wants to read YA for whatever their reasons, I’m just personally dedicated to serving and advocating for teens and would like YA category to continue to be written with them in mind and I would like articles that discuss the YA category to be cognizant of teens as readers.

3. When discussing YA in the media, we need more data to help support our discussions. We need things like circulation data, bestselling data and feedback from actual teen readers. This will help us make sure that we are, in fact, talking about YA literature in ways that center factual data and actual teen readers. I’m tired of lazy articles that discuss what’s wrong with YA literature and continues to reference Twilight as THE teen book example.

4. When discussing YA in the media, I want some background discussion at the beginning of the article about a person’s qualifications to write said article. Are you an author? Are you a publisher? Are you a librarian? How long have you been actively engaged in the YA community? What are your credentials and why are you a knowledgeable, reliable and unbiased source of information? In a time when we are trying to inform the general public how to suss out fake news and seek out reliable news sources, we should be asking this information of every article written about teens and YA lit.

To be true to this above demand, let me take a moment to tell you that I have been a YA/Teen Services Librarian for 26 years. I have worked at 5 systems in 2 states in various types of communities, both rural and big cities. I talk with teens directly on an almost a daily basis about books and use circulation data and patron requests to help me purchase books for libraries and build inclusive collections of YA lit. I run this blog, write articles for journals like School Library Journals, and have spoken and taught at numerous conferences and webinars.

If you are a media entity seeking to publish an article about YA lit, please seek out reliable sources and actual data and make sure to talk about current titles that reflect the diversity of YA lit readers. I would recommend contacting a handful of YA librarians in public and school libraries and asking them what their teens are reading and asking them for some circulation data. Most librarians should have a way to go in an run a circulation report to tell you what the highest circulating titles in their YA collection are. In most cases they can give you historical and current data. You should also look at things like the New York Times Bestseller list which will also tell you how long a title has appeared on the list.

If you are a reader of these articles, please take a moment to look at them critically and ask yourself what makes them qualified to write the article, whether or not they have an agenda they are trying to push, and to examine critically the list of titles they are using to talk about YA literature.I would recommend immediately questioning the validity or intent of any article that is referencing older titles and seem to have no knowledge of current YA publishing trends.

If you are a publisher, author or YA librarian and you are asked to consult on an article being written, please take the time to answer thoughtfully and diversely, being respectful of and centering actual teen readers. Provide examples with data whenever possible.

Moving forward, let’s all agree to talk about YA literature differently in the media making a conscious effort to center teen readers and to more fully represent the breadth and scope of all that YA literature has to offer.

Friday Finds: March 22, 2019

tltbutton3This Week at TLT

Monsters united can never be defeated: sentimental queer horror YA, a guest post by Hal Schrieve

Beyond the Collection Diversity Audit: Inclusion is More Than a Book, Why we should be auditing all of our library services for inclusion and best practices

Book Review: Night Music by Jenn Marie Thorne

Feminist AF: What Makes a YA Book a Feminist YA Book?

A Love Letter to Muslim Authors, a guest post by Lisa Krok

Sunday Reflections: The Okay Sign, a Game of Gotcha, and a Symbol of Hate, Why It’s Important to Stay Informed

Around the Web

7 Black Women Authors Crushing the Young Adult Novel Scene in 2019

12 Jewish YA Books You’ll Want to Read in 2019

Funding an Author Visit—There’s Money Available!

CCBC Releases Annual Statistics for Multicultural Children’s Books

Internment Author Samira Ahmed Shares 6 Muslim YA Contemporary Authors You Should Have On Your Radar

Monsters united can never be defeated: sentimental queer horror YA, a guest post by Hal Schrieve

The year I turned fourteen, I came out to my parents as transgender. In 2010, as a young teenager, with Gender Identity Disorder still written into the DSM as a disease, I knew that my eventual medical transition would require doctors’ notes and assessments in order to proceed. But my parents, wearing a look of inscrutable fear, initially took me to therapists with the stated hope that we as a family would work something out that didn’t involve me actually ever transitioning.

 

Eventually, all the doctors my parents took me to, even those most sympathetic to my parents, began to reach the consensus that I was in fact a transsexual. That, the doctors and therapists agreed, meant my parents had to move to the next healthy stage in raising a trans child: mourning my death.

 

This is standard advice, advice that the parents of trans children have gotten from well-meaning therapists for decades. My inexpert Cut Rite haircut, abbreviated name, the desire to to put testosterone into my body and surgically modify my chest, and, not least, my expression of my desire for romantic and sexual contact with gay men—meant that the child my parents had raised was dead. My parents had lost their shot at something. Therapists phrased it in different ways, describing the dead girl who I was not as a child of expectations, or dreams, as someone who had existed and as someone who had never existed. But again and again, the living teenager in front of my parents was ignored in favor of the theoretically dead girl I had replaced.  My parents were given permission to ignore my distress, the bullying I was facing, the discrimination I faced from my school, the lack of information I had about what my future might hold, so they could grieve and adapt slowly to life without their daughter—though I was alive, and their real daughter, my little sister, was right in front of them and living too. For a period of just over a year, and maybe long beyond that, I became undead, unknowable, invisible to the people who were supposed to protect me.

 

Caption: Intervening in each others' lives when we start believing we are dead or deserve death is more important than anything.

Intervening in each others’ lives when we start believing we are dead or deserve death is more important than anything.

 

Just as I died to my parents, my parents also disappeared to me. They were no longer role models, because they believed, at least for a while, that the me that existed should not exist. There were people who could see and understand me as alive, but they were not my parents. I still don’t know what I was to my parents during this time, exactly, but it’s safe to say I was something monstrous, a portent. For me, the result of being discussed and treated as dead was a temporary frozenness in my emotional development, a deep depression, and a lack of ability to fathom or connect to the cisgender and straight people around me. My sense of self esteem and empathy towards others ultimately grew enormously during my transition, but the things that prompted this had little to do with medical change in my own body. What replaced my family unit’s emotional ties was contact with punks and sex educators and old gay and trans people and young teens in my city and online who were like me and count see the beauty in one another. Over and over again, I watched small-town gay and trans people take care of each other, drive to one anothers’ houses late at night to intervene in suicide attempts, house each other, give one another jobs, get in professional hot water to protect each other, build up our mutual sense of safety in the face of horror. As my parents realized I was a monster, I was realizing I found their world monstrous.

I wanted to have a character like Mrs. Dunnigan, who sees and understands younger LGBT people who other adults fear.

I wanted to have a character like Mrs. Dunnigan, who sees and understands younger LGBT people who other adults fear.

 

I am white, which limits how I have been dehumanized in the settler-colonial state I was born in. My family is middle-class. My cognitive differences are such that I was never deemed disabled. I have a body which is able to navigate the ableist infrastructure of our society with relative ease. But I have always related to monsters. This is a trend, among queer people, even those of us who are lucky. We didn’t start it, though—monsters never start our own monstrosity.

 

 

I could theorize about when and how being gay or trans became a monstrous threat in European civilization, and others have certainly discussed how this belief was used as a tool of violent imperialism. But it would take a long time. Instead, here is a page from Alan Bray’s Homosexuality in Renaissance England.

I could theorize about when and how being gay or trans became a monstrous threat in European civilization, and others have certainly discussed how this belief was used as a tool of violent imperialism. But it would take a long time. Instead, here is a page from Alan Bray’s Homosexuality in Renaissance England.

 

 

I remember the first stories I ever wrote, at age four, being about Ursula from the Howard Ashman version of The Little Mermaid running away from persecutors, escaping and starting a new life at the bottom of a deep well. I didn’t know then that the original Hans Christian Andersen story, queer in its own way, regards the mermaid herself as a sort of monster, who nobly kills herself when she is wounded by her prince’s lack of ability to love her. I just knew I sympathized with something unlovable but charismatic, with tentacles, that shouldn’t have died. Further stories I wrote involved noble, ugly troll girls locked into mill-towers, werewolves on the lam, haggard witches and dwarves living under bridges and stealing scraps. I knew, reading fairy stories, that the witches, pirates, and dragons I read about rarely deserved persecution. When I read the story of St. George and the Dragon, the dragon was the only face I could compute as relatable. Nowadays, when I watch a horror movie about a traumatized ghost or psychic evil type monster wreaking havoc on a living straight white family, I only care about what happened to the vengeful spirit, and why it is so important to the filmmakers that the revenge be seen as more horrible than the original violence. I know that monsters are made, and that we usually are less scary than the people that made us. Traumatized people aren’t why the world is violent. Abusive people in power who want to stay in power and refuse to empathize or love others is why the world is violent.

 

The horror I see in the world is the systems of capitalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and ecological destruction designed to divide and alienate us from our friends, our lovers, our children, and break us up so we are easier to break. This horror can come even from systems that are supposedly designed to help us, like doctors. Too many of my friends have been told that their physical or mental pain is imaginary, or given up parts of their lives to afford medical care. My own life has been shaped less than others’ by psychiatrists and their edicts, but I spent all of my adolescent years concealing the distress and mental illness that i knew might stop them from writing essential letters or mean they would disclose something that would cause my parents to institutionalize me. I have been helped by psychiatry. But it’s a strained affection. The closest friends I have have been abused by family members, police, psychiatrists, teachers. My best friend when I was eighteen, a trans boy named Sebastian, was killed by a combination of all these actors. All of whom were ostensibly supposed to protect him.

 

 

My characters Aysel, Z and Tommy are the kids you don't want to talk to at school who have a hard time relating to other people but who feel things really deeply.

My characters Aysel, Z and Tommy are the kids you don’t want to talk to at school who have a hard time relating to other people but who feel things really deeply.

 

In Out of Salem, I want to talk about the way that queer people and many others are seen as monsters acting as a threat to violent systems of control; I want to express as fully as possible the hope I have that we are in fact a threat, that we can break impossibly huge violent systems through survival and solidarity and love. I wanted to talk about the numbing horror of experiencing the world as marginalized, and how that makes it harder to trust people or show love. You have to talk about that in order to speak of the ways that we can survive the horror story that is our whole world by sticking together. My characters Chad, Elaine, Mrs. Dunnigan, Mr. Weber, Z, Tommy, Azra and Aysel are all at least mostly able to see one another’s personhood and personal dignity, even if people like abusive uncles or hostile teachers are unable to. Solidarity and contact between peers kept me and my friends alive during my high school years, as well as contact with sympathetic adults who couldn’t do everything for us we needed but could act as a model of long-term endurance of a hostile world.

 

Stonewall Youth, an LGBT youth organization in Olympia WA, helped me survive high school. Here is me (burgundy blazer) at age 15 in 2012 on their Pride float.

Stonewall Youth, an LGBT youth organization in Olympia WA, helped me survive high school. Here is me (burgundy blazer) at age 15 in 2012 on their Pride float.

 

When you are gay and trans and young, or marginalized in other ways, sometimes seeing the survival of your elders—your real elders, who are monstrous like you— is powerful. Touching someone like you is healing. Holding onto each other is hard but it is the only thing I know is good to do, which can help us survive.

 

 

Meet Hal Shrieve

Image credit: Micah Brown

Image credit: Micah Brown

Hal Schrieve grew up in Olympia, Washington, and is competent at making risotto and setting up a tent. Xie has worked as an after-school group leader, a summer camp counselor, a flower seller, a tutor, a grocer, and a babysitter. Hir current ambition is to become a librarian, and xie works as a trainee children’s librarian at New York Public Library. Xie has a BA in history with a minor in English from University of Washington and studies library science at Queens College, New York. Xie lives in Brooklyn, New York, and hir poetry has appeared in Vetch magazine.

Out of Salem is hir first novel.

Social Media links:
@howlremus on Instagram
https://soundcloud.com/haltalksmonsters (podcast about monster movies)

 

 

 

About Out of Salem

out of salem2The best Teen Zombie Werewolf Witchy Faerie fantasy murder mystery you’ve ever read—by debut author, Hal Schrieve.

Genderqueer fourteen-year-old Z Chilworth has to adjust quickly to their new status as a zombie after waking from death from a car crash that killed their parents and sisters. Always a talented witch, Z now can barely perform magic and is rapidly decaying. Faced with rejection from their remaining family members and old friends, Z moves in with their mother’s friend, Mrs. Dunnigan, and befriends Aysel, a loud would-be-goth classmate who is, like Z, a loner. As Z struggles to find a way to repair the broken magical seal holding their body together, Aysel fears that her classmates will discover her status as an unregistered werewolf. When a local psychiatrist is murdered by what seems to be werewolves, the town of Salem, Oregon, becomes even more hostile to “monsters,” and Z and Aysel are driven together in an attempt to survive a place where most people wish that neither of them existed.
Rarely has a first-time author created characters of such immediacy and power as Z, Aysel, Tommy (suspected fey) and Elaine (also a werewolf), or a world that parallels our own so clearly and disturbingly.

ISBN-13: 9781609809010
Publisher: Seven Stories Press
Publication date: 03/26/2019

Beyond the Collection Diversity Audit: Inclusion is More Than a Book, Why we should be auditing all of our library services for inclusion and best practices

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When I first began doing collection diversity audits, I had no idea that was what they were called. It was actually SLJ editor Kathy Ishizuka who gave me a name for what I was doing. I had Tweeted out pictures of me trying to figure out how inclusive my collection was and she said, “Oh, you’re doing a diversity audit”. And I thought, “Yes! That’s what I’m doing.” Doing diversity audits has radically changed how I approach and think about library services.

Since doing that first collection diversity a few audit years ago, I have changed my approach in the ways that I do a lot of things, keeping an eye always towards analyzing myself for inclusive practices and challenging myself to step out of my personal default, which is a white cisgender Christian perspective. Although I strongly advocate that everyone who buys books in a library do at a bare minimum a book order audit, I no longer do just a collection diversity audit and I challenge us all to think more inclusively about how we approach all of our patron services in the library. We need to be looking at every service, program and offering to make sure that it helps us build inclusive libraries.

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1. Storytimes

I have not done storytimes for a really long time. As a teen librarian, it just isn’t something I’m actively engaged in. If I did do storytimes, however, I would keep an ongoing audit of the books that I use in storytime to make sure that I was practicing diverse and inclusive storytimes. And if I oversaw a department of staff that did storytimes, I would require them to do so and would build that criteria into part of their yearly evaluations. Not to be punitive, but because I believe it is important for children to see a more realistic representation of the world that they live in and we owe it to our public to be as deliberate as possible in making sure that we are doing everything we can to serve them well and with intentionality.

It would take a little bit of additional time, but storytime presenters could use a spreadsheet or set up a Google Form, which then compiles the data into a spreadsheet, to keep a running list of their storytime books and do a bit of data analysis to ensure that we are not skewing to heavily to the white default in our storytime offerings.

2. Displays

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Although I am not currently in charge of doing any displays, at my last position I spent a lot of time analyzing and rewriting guidelines for how we approached displays. I wrote a policy which explicitly stated that each and every display that we presented to the public must be diverse and inclusive and put into practice measures that would help us ensure that they were. A simple display notebook was put together and we took a picture of each display for a variety of purposes, one of which was stepping back and giving us the space to analyze the books put on display to make sure that we were being diverse and inclusive here as well.

3. Book Discussions and Book Clubs

Many libraries offer some type of book discussion group or book club for patrons to participate in. A list is generated, copies of books are bought, and the public is invited to come read and discuss various titles in the library. Again, this is an area where we can step back and analyze our book choices before making them public to make sure that the titles we are choosing are diverse and inclusive.

4. Recommended Reading Lists

Many libraries put together recommended reading lists or best of lists. These may be an ages and stages type of list, such as a books for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. grades, staff recommended reads, best of lists, etc. Whatever types of lists we are putting out to the public, we should always take the time to make sure that those lists are as diverse and inclusive as possible before we make them public.

5. Public Movie Offerings

Does your library have a public movie license and show movies as part of your programming? Are you taking the time to make sure the movies you are showing are diverse and inclusive? I hope that the answer to this question is yes.

What about our marketing that we put out to the public? Whose faces are we featuring? The Fort Worth Public Library, my current library, recently put up a huge window sign and it features a variety of silhouettes and one of those silhouettes includes a person using a wheelchair at a public access computer. I so I appreciated the purposeful inclusion of someone with a disability in my library’s marketing practices. The truth is, every thing we say and do or don’t say and do sends a message to our patrons about who we are, what we value, and whether or not they are welcome in this space.

The Windows of The Fort Worth Public Library Central Branch

The Windows of The Fort Worth Public Library Central Branch

Whenever we put something out into the public with our name on it, we are de facto endorsing that thing. There is a difference between having a book in your collection and putting that book on display or publicly showing a movie as a part of library programming. Most libraries have it somewhere in their mission or policies that part of the mission, role or goal of the library is to be diverse and inclusive. But what practices do you have in place to help ensure that you and your staff are, in fact, doing that? How do you measure it? What type of training and accountability does your library have in place to help ensure that you are best serving, representing and educating your local communities? Even if you don’t do an audit every single time, you can do one say quarterly and get a better sense of how your library is actually doing  as opposed to just well, it’s in our policy and we feel like we’re doing this.

A diversity audit is just one tool in a toolbox that you can use to help ensure that staff are making inclusion a daily practice. An audit is basically like an inventory, you make a list of items, you do some basic investigation into the items on that list, and you come up with some type of analysis to determine how diverse and inclusive the items on that list are. Your goal is to create the most inclusive list as possible. This is especially important for librarians like me who are white and have a tendency to default to the white perspective, and currently 80% of us are.

How you make that list can be determined by you. I am a fan of spreadsheets and I usually set them up manually. Annabelle Mortensen recently discussed in a SLJ training on Equity in Action how she uses Google Forms to do programming audits. I have spent a lot of time training people how to do diversity audits, but the truth is that over time everyone will develop their own methods. What’s important, however, is that we all need to understand why it is that we should be doing them. I believe that we owe it to the public we serve to engage in the conscious and intentional practice of evaluating what we do, having some concrete data to prove that we are doing what we say we are doing, and mostly, that we need to hold ourselves accountable. It’s so easy to say we are doing a thing or that we have good intentions, but there is something to having that concrete data staring you in the face challenging you to do better.

I actually began doing collection and book order audits because I found myself serving a very high LGBTQ teen population and I was very aware that coming from a conservative Christian background that I might be under-serving my teens. I had teens asking me for more LGBTQAI+ books and I was telling them trust me, I’m buying a lot. But then I thought to myself, how do I know that this is true? So I did my first audit and the numbers proved to me that although I thought I was serving my LGBTQAI+ teens well, that they were in fact under represented in my collection. I then purposefully sought to fill the gap and repeated my audit. Even with this intentionality I raised the overall percentage of LGBTQAI+ titles from only 3% to only 6%. What I learned during this process is that even with the best of intentions, that we need more collection development data to help hold us accountable as selectors and to truly serve our local communities well.

As I like to say, diversity audits help us put the science back in library science. Data helps us analyze who we are, what we’ve done, and in what directions we need to be moving. Yes, it takes time and it is an imperfect process, but some data is better than no data. And our patrons deserve some hard work and intentionality from us, they truly do. So let’s do the work.

More on Diversity Audits

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: Understanding Your Local Community (Part 1)

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: The How To (Part 2)

Book Review: Night Music by Jenn Marie Thorne

Publisher’s description

night music2Music has always been Ruby’s first love. But has it ever loved her back?
Slip behind the scenes of the classical music world one hot, anything-can-happen, New York City summer.

Ruby has always been Ruby Chertok: future classical pianist and daughter of renowned composer Martin Chertok. But after her horrendous audition for the prestigious music school where her father is on faculty, it’s clear that music has publicly dumped her. Now Ruby is suddenly just . . . Ruby. And who is that again? All she knows is that she wants away from the world of classical music for good.

Oscar is a wunderkind, a musical genius. Just ask any of the 1.8 million people who’ve watched him conduct on YouTube—or hey, just ask Oscar. But while he might be the type who’d name himself when asked about his favorite composer and somehow make you love him more for it, Oscar is not the type to jeopardize his chance to study under the great Martin Chertok—not for a crush. He’s all too aware of how the ultra-privileged world of classical music might interpret a black guy like him falling for his benefactor’s white daughter.

But as the New York City summer heats up, so does the spark between Ruby and Oscar. Soon their connection crackles with the same alive, uncontainable energy as the city itself. Can two people still figuring themselves out figure out how to be together? Or will the world make the choice for them?

 

Amanda’s thoughts

My first note for this book was “Ack! This book is SO LOVELY immediately.” That’s pretty much how I felt throughout the read. Later I wrote, “Their banter! I love them!” I’m old. My reading tastes haven’t really ever changed and probably won’t ever. I like realistic stories with strong characters, good banter, and lots of emotions. This book hits all three.

 

Oscar has all the reasons in the world right now to be egotistical and insufferable. He’s a composer and conductor whose YouTube video went super viral. The music world is treating him like a genius superstar. He’s spending his summer training with one of the greatest living composers, Martin Chertok.

 

Ruby Chertok comes from a family of talented, famous classical musicians. Until recently, she thought this was her path too, until a less than stellar audition at her father’s school makes her break up with music. She needs to distance herself from that world, from her famous last name.

 

So when Ruby and Oscar meet, neither of them are looking for a relationship. Oscar is supposed to be completely focused on composing and the last person Ruby needs to get involved with is a musical protege studying under her father. But, of course, life makes its own course. With their attraction rather immediate, we know they will get together before too long, but both have so much else going on that they need to deal with. First love is great, but it’s hard to juggle that enormous thing with Oscar’s sudden fame/career and Ruby’s complete fixation on what on earth she will do with her life if not be a classical musician. She hopes to spend the summer figuring out her life (an ambitious summer project when you’re 17). Does she even have the option to travel her own path? Her whole life has been music. Now, without her, she needs to find other ways to fill her days—she takes up running, reconnects with an old friend, hangs out like a regular teenager, and, of course, falls for Oscar. Their relationship is beautiful and intense and profound, but it’s not without its issues. Both could come off looking like opportunists here. And dating Oscar certainly ropes Ruby further into the world of classical music, not exactly giving her the distance she expected this summer. And if she’s Oscar’s muse and his girlfriend, will this get in the way of forming her own new identity? 

 

There’s a lot more going on, too, that starts to come to light as the story unfolds, including financial questions about the music school and a push for the school to sell its “diversity” with Oscar as the face of that. But how genuine is their commitment to diversity? And why are their rewriting Oscar as some poor kid from the rough streets of DC instead of who he really is—an affluent kid from the suburbs?

 

This look at pressures, identity, first love, and the desire to be seen is heartfelt and moving. This great romance with a lot of depth is an easy one to recommend widely to fans of contemporary YA. 

 

 

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780735228771
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 03/19/2019

Feminist AF: What Makes a YA Book a Feminist YA Book?

feministI don’t think there is a clear cut answer, and that everyone’s answer is a bit different. I have been asking myself this question for months now, and I thought I would take this chance to explore my thoughts on the subject.

 

At first when I considered this question, I was thinking of YA books that have been presented to me as feminist books.  The quickest that came to mind were those with storylines that directly grapple with feminism in the form of a fight against a male-dominated establishment. What I have discovered is that most of the time, the way that has shaken out is we look at books where characters fight back against sexual assault and we say “this is feminist.” Which, yeah, they can be. For sure. I certainly consider books like Natasha Ngan’s Girls of Paper and Fire, Joy McCullough’s Blood Water Paint and Tehlor Kay Mejia’s We Set the Dark on Fire to be feminist. Do we require our feminism in YA books to be reactionary? Does something terrible have to happen first for us to fight back against? I think the answer is no.

 

I think about books like Rebecca Barrow’s You Don’t Know Me But I Know You and Brandy Colbert’s Finding Yvonne, which both deal with reproductive choices as they relate to a single character. By nature, these are feminist YA books, though they don’t involve a huge outward fight. Books like Olivia Hinebaugh’s The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me and Camryn Garrett’s upcoming Full Disclosure, feature girls who want access to information about sexual health. Feminist.

 

As I was writing this, I went back to the idea of reactionary feminism in YA. And I think, in a different way, there are books that are feminist in a reactionary and revolutionary way, just because media has told us for so long that this isn’t what our stories look like. I’ve started counting named roles in musicals, and the percentage of them that belong to women. It’s usually less than half, even in musicals with female leads. And then I think about Mean Girls, which features a substantial amount of girl roles, but is still filled with girl-on-girl hatred, fatphobia, and just a general sense of unease. In so much media, whether it be musicals, or movies, or tv shows, women are shown to be less. Less speaking time, less characters, less opportunity for antiheroines or messy life choices, less strong female friendships (or romance where one of them doesn’t get killed, I still haven’t finished Buffy after the thing happened). It’s gotten better, but there’s still so much that needs fixing.

 

So what are some books that feel revolutionarily feminist when it comes to these issues? Well, I think Rebecca Barrow’s This is What it Feels Like presents female friendship and the messy nature of its evolution in a way that shouldn’t feel as radical as it does (again, thanks media!) I see Julie C Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix in this revolutionary feminist light. The first has a main character who doesn’t shy away from being an anti-heroine, the second has a quiet princess—and neither has to apologize for existing that way. Do you remember the way it felt when If I Was Your Girl released? A moment that was astounding, and long overdue? Amy Rose Capetta’s The Brilliant Death features a demigirl main character in a fantasy setting, and the fact that I was even able to write that sentence feels sensational.

 

An important point I want to note. A book cannot be feminist and transphobic. If your feminism is at the expense of transgender teens/readers and non-binary teens/readers, then your feminism isn’t feminism, it is cruelty.

 

I’ve mentioned a number of books through this that I think are great feminist picks, but I want to make special note of Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan’s Watch Us Rise. It is intersectional in its feminism, it is fighting back against a broken system, and it has a strong female friendship at its core.

 

There are many ways a YA book can be a feminist YA book, and I think I’ve only scratched the surface. It is important to keep in mind that not every feminist book will tell you loudly that it is feminist. We have to talk about the loudly feminist books and the quiet feminist books and all the volumes in between.

 

profilepicRachel Strolle is a teen librarian in a Chicago suburb. Prior to that, she was an indie bookseller for five years. She currently runs Rec-It Rachel, a blog where she yells about books you should read and makes your TBR way too long (and she is not sorry).

A Love Letter to Muslim Authors, a guest post by Lisa Krok

Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, many Muslims in the United States and elsewhere have been the victims of prejudice and stereotypes. Recently in the young adult book world, a novel written by a non-Muslim writer received backlash in some reviews regarding the portrayal of Muslims and the Kosovan Genocide in 1996. The author has since apologized and pulled the book from publication. Additionally, Muslim congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) has faced death threats and Islamaphobic hate, linking her to the September 11 attacks. The horrific Mosque shootings in Christchurch this past week demonstrated white supremacy in action, bringing tragic consequences for many families.

My heart is so heavy for the hurt Muslims repeatedly endure. My heart is also so very full with peace and love for them. With so much negativity directed towards the Muslim population, they truly deserve a love letter for all they bring to the world of young adult literature. Muslim teens have historically not had much representation in books, and thankfully, this is changing. I have personally read eight books in the past few months by Muslim authors and/or featuring Muslim characters. At first, I was choosing books that had summaries that sounded interesting. As I read more, I found that the #ownvoices books by Muslim authors had stories that captivated me, so I began seeking out more of them. The selections below are primarily published in 2018 and 2019, with some forthcoming very soon.

The realistic fictional accounts depict Muslim teens having many of the same issues all teens have, albeit sometimes at a much more intense level: concerns about fitting in, bullying, first love, sexuality, parental expectations, mental illness, etc. Hijabi teens are included, with explanations of the hijab and why they choose to wear it. A terrific example of this is illustrated in Tahereh Mafi’s A Very Large Expanse of Sea (Harper Collins, 2018). When hijab wearing teen Shirin couples with school basketball star Ocean James, many of their classmates are critical. Shirin faces unfair intimidation and threats. Fortunately, her relationship with her brother is strong, and together they work on a breakdancing routine for the school talent show. Mafi has stated that the book is not autobiographical, but is inspired by situations that happened in her life. Teens will be interested to learn that Mafi is a breakdancer herself, as demonstrated in the book trailer below.

alkafThe Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf (Salaam Reads, 2019) propels readers into Melati’s world during the race riots of 1969 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Melati is a Beatles loving, movie going teen with OCD. When tensions rise, a riot leader storms the movie theater. Melati and her best friend are forced to separate, and their lives are forever changed. The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan (Scholastic Press, 2019) portrays a lesbian teenaged girl wanting to make her own decisions about who she will date and marry, with some roadblocks from her controlling parents. Kick the Moon by Muhammed Khan (Pan Macmillan UK, 2019) features Ilyas, who is battling on many different fronts, including toxic masculinity, misogyny, test pressures, and accountability.

What I adore most about these realistic fiction novels by Muslim authors is that even with the differences in culture, religion, geographical location, and time periods, the characters are so very relatable to a broad spectrum of teens. This is a harmonious merging of what some perceive as “other”, to help them see that our commonalities are far greater than our differences. The more Muslim teens view themselves reflected in books, the more they will feel validated and seen. These accounts can also help non-Muslim teens progress from possible stereotypical thoughts and promote conversations on the path to real life acceptance and celebration of each other. These are ideal and highly encouraged for classroom book discussions or book club picks. Some of the themes represented include racism, resisting, self-acceptance, family issues, homophobia, mental illness, and dating. All of the realistic fiction books below are available now, with the exception of Internment by Samira Ahmed (Little, Brown BFYR, March 19, 2019), Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali (Salaam Reads, April 30, 2019) and Symptoms of a Heartbreak by Sona Charaipotra (Macmillan, July 2, 2019).

YA Realistic Fiction

 yarealistic

For teens interested in books with a sci-fi/fantasy element, Muslim writers have you covered there, too! Digging deep to find your inner strength, even in the most dire of circumstances is a common thread in many of these SFF novels. Three incredible debut books by new Muslim authors are shown below. Mirage by Somaiya Daud (Flatiron, 2018) is available now in stores and libraries. The Candle and the Flame, by Nafiza Azad (Scholastic Press) and We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal (Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR) share a book birthday on May 14, 2019.

YA Fantasy yafantasy

Teens who enjoy dark, edgy reads will inhale these two gripping series. The “Queen of Cruel” (but we love her dearly), Sabaa Tahir, will rip your heart out, dance on it, and leave you begging for more. Book four of the An Ember in the Ashes series is slated to come out in 2020, giving those who have read the first three time to recover and crave vengeance. Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series is also intense, with novellas provided in between the books to satiate readers clamoring for the next installment. Defy Me releases April 2, 2019.

YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy Series

                                              scifi1

 Middle grade readers can find some commendable options from Muslim authors, also. Karuna Raizi’s The Battle (Salaam Reads, 2019) is the sequel to her previous book, The Gauntlet (Salaam Reads, 2018) and has special appeal for gamers. Raizi’s book is forthcoming, August 27, 2019. Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018) has already grabbed the hearts of many librarians, teachers, and students, who have become immediately engaged with the very likable protagonist, Amal, and her struggle to be free.  Also, forthcoming by Aisha Saeed is Aladdin: Far from Agrabah (Disney Press, April 2, 2019).

Middle Grade Readers

middlegrademuslim

To the many incredible Muslim authors who have worked tirelessly to bring their stories to teens, thank you. Thank you for giving Muslim teens their chance to be SEEN. Thank you for addressing issues affecting teens, such as mental illness, sexuality, racism, bullying, and more. Thank you for the strength of your characters and for their resilience. Thank you for opening the door to discussions for non-Muslim teens to see that we are all more alike than they may think.  Inshallah, this is just the beginning of a journey spreading peace and understanding to many.

With love,

Lisa Krok,   M.L.I.S., M.Ed

If you would like to help families affected by the New Zealand shootings, please visit the official Victim Support donation page:  https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/christchurch-shooting-victims-fund?fbclid=IwAR0xUiUdpGsfqVgBgQ1eUqAFqIFLMejM47pZDYfh90uiDI5i-GvoDyDyu_Q

lisakrok2019 -Lisa Krok is a librarian, die-hard YA reader, social justice warrior, and a Ravenclaw. She has a passion for reaching reluctant readers, and was appointed to the 2019 and 2018 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers teams. Lisa can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.

Sunday Reflections: The Okay Sign, a Game of Gotcha, and a Symbol of Hate, Why It’s Important to Stay Informed

tltbutton5

When I first began working as a librarian, one of my supervisors told me she felt it was important for her staff to read the newspaper everyday. To visit blogs. To thumb through magazines. It was built into part of our daily work because she felt it was important for her staff to be aware of current events, the news, and various moments of pop culture. Over the years, this bit of wisdom has served me well. Perhaps none so much as recently.

Many teens like to play a game where they make what looks like an okay symbol with their hands and if you look at it, they then get to punch you. I have heard this game referred to as gotcha. This hand gesture, the okay sign, has also been co-opted by the white nationalist party. Much like the Swatiska, which had a different meaning before being co-opted by the Nazi party, this hand sign has morphed in meaning. What makes it particularly insidious is that not everyone is aware of the various potential meanings of this hand gesture, which can put those of us who work with teens at a serious disadvantage.

Is that an OK sign? A white power symbol? Or just an online troll?

A few weeks ago, one of the teen library pages I follow uploaded a picture of their Teen Advisory Board. Brimming with pride, as they should be, this library shared this picture on Facebook and I was immediately alarmed to see a teen in the picture making this symbol now associated with white nationalism/pride. I immediately sent them a “just in case you aren’t aware” message, because I wanted them to avoid the media firestorm that could potentially happen. Just in case you aren’t aware, I told them, that hand sign is now considered a sign of the white pride movement and I would hate for you to keep posting this picture and possibly get into a lot of trouble for doing so.

The teen librarian and I conversed back and forth briefly. They had no idea that this hand gesture could potentially mean that and felt that her kids were just partaking in the gotcha game, which is of course a strong possibility. But the truth is, despite the teens intentions, sharing that picture far and wide on social media was inviting a PR nightmare. So the picture was edited so that none of the teens hands were showing.

A lot of things happened here. I just happened to be online when the picture was posted and saw it pretty quickly. I just happened to know the potential controversy that this picture could have caused. And when I privately contacted the librarian, they also just happened to be online right then.

Shortly before this had happened, there had been a couple of other incidents of schools posting photos with students engaging in white nationalist behavior and there was a justifiable firestorm that erupted as a result. Reading about these two incidents in the news made me aware of the hand gesture itself and I had seen first hand the very real social media push back that happened in their wake.

Urban Dictionary: The Circle Game

One of the things that makes the hand gesture so insidious is that because they are co-opting an existing hand gesture, and something that is such a popular game among a lot of teens, it does put a lot of naive and innocent people at risk. It also gives offenders plausible deniability should they get called out. Take, for example, the recent picture from Baraboo. There were multiple students making the Heil Hitler salute, which has undeniable meaning to us. We instantly recognize it as being a form of hate speech. But also in that picture you see a young man making the “ok” sign below the waist. In context, it would be hard for him to say that he was playing a game of gotcha because everyone around him his doing the Nazi salute, but if you are posting a picture of a teen group standing with their arms at their sides and only one teen in the group is making the hang gesture, it’s hard to know what their intentions are. But it’s important that we know what the possible meanings of this are to help prevent us and our libraries from being accused of supporting or promoting white nationalism. One of the other important things that a previous supervisor taught me is that my goal is to make sure that I don’t set the library up for bad PR.

I’m not sharing the Baraboo photo here, because it can be upsetting for many to see the Heil Hitler. There is an article discussing the photo here that you can read.

Please note, Snopes currently lists the ok sign as a white power hand sign as unproven. Other online sites also list it as being unproven. But there is reason to believe that it can be a symbol of white power, and that alone should give us all pause in how we approach it.

I had several takeaways from this. One, my previous supervisor was 100% correct, we should make it a part of our daily mission to be aware of what is happening in the world all around us, it makes us better at our jobs. And two, we should make sure everyone on our staff is aware as well. It’s pretty common for libraries to post pictures of program attendees online as part of their promotions, but I hope that we are all doing our due diligence in making sure that everything about those pictures represents as message we are comfortable putting out into the public. Just a month ago, I would never have thought twice about the picture that I had seen, but with a little more knowledge and awareness, I was alarmed and wanted to help prevent my fellow librarians from the social media backlash that was sure to occur if they left those pictures up for very long.

ADL: Hate Symbols Database

One final thing I would like to note about this. On Thursday, a brutal attack on two Mosques in Christchurch happened. It was horrific in every way and resulted in the tragic end of multiple lives. Upon arraignment while entering a plea, the offender in these attacks was photographed making this very hand gesture. It is doubtful that he was referring to a childish game of gotcha. We all need to be aware of this and other symbols associated with white nationalism and make sure that we aren’t being unwitting purveyors of this hateful message.