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Doing a YA Diversity Audit: Answering some follow up questions, including “What about the Conservatives?”

On posts, in tweets, and in my mailbox, one of the questions we – TLT – get asked a lot is “What about the conservatives?” Because we post regularly about GLBTQAI+ literature, talk about advocacy, etc., some are left with the impression that we do not care about meeting the needs of the more conservative parts of our population, which is in no way true. This question came up multiple times regarding my recent series of posts on doing a collection diversity audit.

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To begin, some background, both personal and professional: I have worked in libraries for 24 years. 4 different library systems in two different states. Personally, I am in fact a Christian. I have an undergraduate degree in Youth Ministry from a conservative Christian college. I live and work in conservative towns. I can assure you, the conservative view point is in no way under represented. In fact, doing a collection audit will help you have the factual information you need to help address these concerns.

Also, I want to address the question of what does it mean when someone says that libraries are liberal and don’t respect conservatives. By definition, public libraries should be inclusive which means they should have books on their shelves representing every point of view. That makes us default liberal, I suppose. But what do people mean when they ask about the conservative viewpoint? They could mean politically conservative, fiscally conservative, dealing with religious beliefs, or just wanting what is commonly referred to as “clean reads”. Often they mean from a Christian or political point of view, but even in non-Christian religions there are both more progressive and conservative points of view. When we talk about religion in the public library, it is vitally important that we stop operating from a Christian point of view.

Because I work with teens, I have found they are most frequently talking about 1) this concept of “clean reads” and 2) the inclusion of GLBTQAI+ literature. I’m not going to debate the basic humanity of any marginalized people, so the inclusion of GLBTQAI+ literature in a library isn’t up for debate. An individual can choose to read or not read, but a public library can not choose to buy or not buy.

I find the concept of “clean reads” to be troublesome because 1) it’s very personal, 2) it implies that other types of books are by definition dirty or less than and 3) unless a person has read every single book in their collection (and no librarian ever has or ever will), this can be a very difficult question to answer. So, what I find to be a “clean read” might be different than what the person I am talking to considers to be a clean, or let’s use the word appropriate because what they are in fact looking for is a book that is appropriate for them or their child. Doing an extensive RA interview can help answer this question, but it’s not foolproof. So I always try to add caveats and give the person I am talking to tools to do further research themselves. This includes teaching them how to use the online catalog and subject headings, finding reviews, etc.

So from the get go, the idea of how do public libraries serve and include the conservative point of view isn’t as straightforward as it is presented. Another issue with the question is that the conservative point of view often works from the standpoint that non-conservative points of view shouldn’t be in our public libraries at all, which is by the mission and definition of a public library an incorrect point of view. Many conservatives, and I know this as a member of the conservative Christian community, believe that any point of view that is contrary to their own should not be permitted because it is offensive. The public library is not there to represent only a portion of the population, it is there to serve and represent the whole, although I would argue that there are in fact some exceptions. For example, works that advocate against the basic humanity and safety of any population group would be considered hate speech and should not be purchased because they put a segment of the population at harm. My POC or GLBTQAI+ teens should be able to come safely into the public library and not have their very existence threatened by the books in my collection.

The reality is that the very thing many conservatives fear is the answer to the question of how are they being served: inclusive collections. Inclusive collections mean that conservatives, whether they be politically or religious conservatives or just readers wanting the appropriate book for them, are best served by truly inclusive collections.

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The library that I currently work at, The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, has a large, dedicated Amish fiction collection. This is, of course, in part because we serve a large Amish and conservative population. We understand our local community and work hard to meet its needs in inclusive ways. I have worked at other libraries with large Chinese and Vietnamese collections because there was a large, local Chinese and Vietnamese population. Every library works to understand and serve their local communities in a variety of ways.

I would argue, however, that building inclusive (or diverse) collections, is part of that service. For one, even if it represents a small percentage of your local population, that small percentage still deserves to be represented respectfully in their local library. Their existence is not up for debate, their worth and their rights aren’t either. Secondly, reading diversely is part of the educational value of a public library, the whole “walking in another person’s shoes” and developing compassion for your fellow human beings. We fail our local communities in that aspect of service if we don’t actively build inclusive collections. Even if you serve a local community that is 99% white and conservative, building inclusive collections is part of your mission statement, or at least it should be, because reading outside of one’s own experience is part of a holistic education experience. We are not helping our local communities become educated citizens if we neglect the reality that we live in a diverse world.

We must also never forget that what a person reads ultimately comes down to personal choice. However, our patrons can’t make choices to read diversely if we don’t provide them access to diverse collections. What they ultimately choose to read is on them, but what we provide them access to is on us. If we take away their choices because we presume to know what they want because of a set of very specific and local statistics, then we are failing our local communities.

That’s what inclusive collections are about: ACCESS and CHOICE. That is also why librarians make the statement that if you don’t find something offensive in your local public library, then they are doing it wrong. Take politics out of the mix for a moment and let’s examine another topic: baby care. Not everyone agrees on the topic of baby care. If you have had a baby or listened to people who have tried to raise babies, you will recognize the truth of this statement. Should you let a baby cry it out and sleep train or should you respond to a baby’s every cry and practice kangaroo care? You can find people who will advocate, and quite passionately, for both sides of this coin. And you should be able to find books in your local public library that represent both of these arguments. The person who bought those books might have an opinion on the matter – I certainly do – but that personal opinion doesn’t matter when building a public library collection. We buy authoritative, well reviewed books to represent all points of views. If you walk up to your religion and politics collections, you should find the same: a well balanced collection of titles that represents multiple points of view on a variety of controversial topics.

The truth is, when libraries start doing the work of actively building inclusive collections, it can seem to the majority groups that marginalized groups are taking over. This is part of the fear that comes in equality because those groups that have historically held a position of power are being asked to give up that power in the name of equality, and they almost never want to. For example, men, white cishet Christian men in particular, have historically made up the bulk of the publishing world and there has been a real push of late for publishing to include more diversity and for libraries to build more inclusive collections. And I hear the men saying, well we don’t get to have a voice any more. Which is still statistically not true. I do a diversity audit of my monthly book orders and I can categorically with facts and data prove that this is not true. And even with a very targeted attempt to build a more inclusive YA collection, a thorough audit of my YA collection also reveals that this is not true. Even with targeted, intentional purchasing, my collection is still over 70% white and over 93% straight.

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One of the questions I get asked repeatedly when I talk about my collection audit and the journey I have taken to build a more intentional and purposeful YA collection is about community push back. I have worked in two fairly conservative communities and have experienced book challenges in both. This is where it’s important that we have up to date collection development policies and make sure that we have trained our staff, and trained them well, to talk about the role of the public library and the value of inclusive collections to our patrons. And if we truly have built inclusive collections, then we should be able to say, “this book may not have been for you, but we have others in our collections that may fit your needs, let me help you find those.”

The truth is, building inclusive collections isn’t about excluding anyone, it’s about including everyone.

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

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

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: Resources and Sources (Part 3)

Diversity Audit Outline 2017 with Sources

Book Review: Being Fishkill by Ruth Lehrer

beingfishkillThis book will rip your heart right out of your chest. Several times. Literally.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Fishkill Carmel fends for herself, with her fists if need be — until a thwarted lunch theft introduces her to strange, sunny Duck-Duck and a chance for a new start.

Born in the backseat of a moving car, Carmel Fishkill was unceremoniously pushed into a world that refuses to offer her security, stability, love. At age thirteen, she begins to fight back. Carmel Fishkill becomes Fishkill Carmel, who deflects her tormentors with a strong left hook and conceals her secrets from teachers and social workers. But Fishkill’s fierce defenses falter when she meets eccentric optimist Duck-Duck Farina, and soon they, along with Duck-Duck’s mother, Molly, form a tentative family, even as Fishkill struggles to understand her place in it. This fragile new beginning is threatened by the reappearance of Fishkill’s unstable mother — and by unfathomable tragedy. Poet Ruth Lehrer’s young adult debut is a stunning, revalatory look at what defines and sustains “family.” And, just as it does for Fishkill, meeting Duck-Duck Farina and her mother will leave readers forever changed.

Karen’s Thoughts:

This book was sent to me by Amber Keyser who contacted me and said, “I read the most spot on book about poverty and I think you need to read it.” And she is not wrong, the depiction of poverty in this book is so accurate and is just one of the ways in which this book will rip your heart right out of your chest. Fishkill Carmel lives in abject poverty: she steals food to survive, hordes food for the lean times that will be coming – and they are always coming back, and fights over SNAP cards. This isn’t the we only have $150 in the bank until payday poverty that many people live with (which is real and also horrific), this is the scraping change out of the couch cushions to try and keep the lights on during the cold winter nights poverty. This is hunger pains and naive social workers and empty fridges and clothes and shoes that don’t fit because you HAVE to make do with what you can find at the thrift store poverty that society likes to turn its back to. It’s real and raw and difficult to read, especially if you have been there, but it’s oh so important.

So after barely surviving for most of her life, Fishkill meets Duck-Duck Farina, who has a mom and a pretty pink bedroom and three square meals a day who decides to be Fishkill’s friend. Well, technically she decides to admit Fishill into her “gang”. Duck-Duck is an intelligent young girl who watches way too much procedural TV and wants to be a lawyer when she grows up. Her constant lawyer talk is amusing. Duck-Duck and her mother take Fishill in, both figuratively and later literally when things get complicated.

At the end of the day, this is a book about friendship, and it’s quite a moving one. I loved these girls and their journey, though at times it is truly difficult to read because life is life and no one is spared hardship, least of all Fishkill. Seriously, heart ripped right out. Multiple times. Because that is what life is like for people like Fishkill, glimmers of hope amidst an agonizing parade of hardship, but only if you haven’t built your walls up so thick that you can’t even see the possibility of hope in the future.

This book will move readers. You will sit with it, in both tears of agony and joy. Your heart will swell, get ripped out, swell, repeat. I highly recommend it. Publishes November 14th 2017 by Candlewick Press

TLT: Teens and Poverty in YA Lit

Book Review: The Gatekeepers by Jen Lancaster

Let me begin by saying this: It has been a long time since I have been so very conflicted about a book. If you have read this book, I really would like to discuss it with you.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BOOK DEALS WITH SOME VERY TRIGGERING ISSUES INCLUDING SUICIDE AND EATING DISORDERS. ALSO, I CAN’T DISCUSS THIS BOOK FULLY WITHOUT INCLUDING HUGE SPOILERS.

But first, let me share with you the Publisher’s Book Description:

thegatekeepersAnyone passing through North Shore, IL, would think this was the most picture-perfect place ever, with all the lakefront mansions and manicured hedges and iron gates. No one talks about the fact that the brilliant, talented kids in this town have a terrible history of throwing themselves in front of commuter trains, and that there’s rampant opioid abuse that often leads to heroin usage.

Meet Simone, the bohemian transfer student from London, who is thrust into the strange new reality of the American high school; Mallory, the hyper-competitive queen bee; and Stephen, the first generation genius who struggles with crippling self-doubt. Each one is shocked when lovable football player Braden takes his own life and the tragedy becomes a suicide cluster. With so many students facing their own demons, can they find a way to save each other—as well as themselves?

Inspired by the true events that happened in the author’s home town.

Karen’s Thoughts

In a lot of the discussion surrounding this book, the author and publisher acknowledge the recent controversy surrounding Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and suggest that this is a safer alternative, but I am not sure that I agree with that assessment. I think that within the course of this book the author makes a lot of important points, but as someone who has depression/anxiety and sometimes suicidal ideation, I don’t know that this read was any safer or less triggering. In fact, my teenage daughter has recently struggled with a friend that has suicidal ideation and I would not want her to read this book.

For one, I find the concept of The Gatekeepers as a whole very concerning. The premise is based on the true story of a police officer who would stroll the Golden Gate bridge and look for people whom he believed might be considering jumping. By just walking up and engaging them in conversation, it is believed that he helped prevent a lot of suicides, which is of course an amazing and encouraging story. So at the end of this book, the teens who have just lost several friends to suicide decide that they are going to be gatekeepers, that they will work to be more engaged and notice the signs and try and stop more of their classmates from committing suicide. Although I found the goal laudable, I felt that it put a lot of responsibility for others on these teens, teens who are already struggling with loss and guilt. I just spent the last few weeks telling my teen that she could be present for her friend who was struggling with depression but that it wasn’t her fault and she couldn’t fix him, nor was it reasonable for anyone to expect her to do so. My teen did everything right, she contacted an adult (me), we called the police because we didn’t know how to get a hold of his parents, but this was only after he had made outright statements that were clearly suicidal in intent. Many of the teens in this book didn’t have that luxury as presented in the text of the story and I feel strongly that the overall message of this book could lead to a lot of guilt for teens. And let’s keep in mind we are talking about teens, not an adult police officer who is trained to deal with a wide variety of intense situations.

Although I want to make sure that I point out that when a suicide happened and the survivors expressed guilt, most of their parents (there was one truly awful parent here) did the work of re-assuring their teen that they couldn’t have known and they aren’t responsible. But then there are lots of little points in the text, including the overall creation of the Gatekeepers, which can be seen as contradicting this message. And it’s important to point out that this is based on a true story. I liked the idea of the creation of a community center, of training to learn the signs of suicide, of being more present and a better friend, just not the implicit message that somehow these teens could prevent suicide, because that’s not always how mental health works. Although this book doesn’t do a great job of talking about mental health, but more on that in a moment.

And as I mentioned before, some of the adults in the book say and do really important things surrounding the discussion of suicide. For example, when a new student rushes to take pictures of the first suicide while she is there and write a story for the school newspaper, that story is squashed. Eventually an administrator tells her that the reason the story was not published is because of the contagion effect of teenage suicide and how when one teen commits suicide, several others will often follow and they want to not glamorize or draw attention to the suicides. This was a good and important conversation.

Another concern I had was the framing of suicide in this novel. It is emphasized again and again that these suicides are occurring because of the high academic standards and stress put on these students, which can be a cause for suicide. However, The Gatekeepers does a really poor job, I feel, of addressing mental health issues overall. One teen says to a friend at one point that he is concerned that he may be bipolar, but that topic isn’t really fully addressed. Another teen has a full blown eating disorder, and that topic isn’t really dealt with in a way that I am comfortable with either (more on that in a minute). And finally, there is some very real drug use and addiction in this book, it even talks about the current Opioid crisis, but then there seems to be almost no legal consequences to a teen who is known to be a distributor. In fact, he is just gives up selling after one of the suicides and later becomes a hero figure as he is harmed in a car crash by one of the very teens he was previously selling to. Stress is talked about a lot, but mental health issues less so, and I think it is irresponsible to talk about suicide without talking about mental health.

One character in particular really stood out as problematic, Mallory. Mallory obviously suffers from body dysphoria and an eating disorder. Every student seems to be aware of this and alludes to it. At one point Mallory even says to an adult in authority something about why would they trust her, she’s afraid of a banana. The eating disorder always hangs there, alluded to, but it’s never really fully addressed. In fact, at one point Mallory, who does peer to peer counseling, is counseling another student who is not happy with her body and that scene is really difficult to read. As someone who spent most of my teen years and early 20s dealing with anorexia and has heard teens talk about their body issues, I would in no way feel comfortable giving them this book because of how horribly the issues of Mallory are addressed.

I will also say that this book suffers from some really standard stereotypes. There is the bohemian transfer student from England, the geeks, the super chill non-conformist dude who makes movies and smokes pot, the various athletes, and the Asian American student with a Tiger mom who puts so much pressure on him that he ends up being one of the teens to die by suicide. The characters are given a bit more depth then a standard stereotype, but it seemed like a lazy starting point for character development.

So while I really liked and valued some of what this book had to say about suicide and thought that it had profound moments, overall I can’t in good faith recommend this book. Not as someone who has struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. Not as someone who has wrestled with an eating disorder her entire life. And not as someone who has worked with teens who have done the same. I feel like I understood what the author was trying to achieve with this book, but that she did not successfully achieve it. Mental health issues are really hard to do well in YA fiction, in part because I think they can have such an important impact, and I don’t feel that this book achieves what it set out to achieve.

MakerSpace: Low Tech, Low Cost Printmaking

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Recently while cruising the craft store I came across two items that greatly intrigued me:

1) A Gelli Printing plate

mono52) Jane Davenport acrylic stamps

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These are two different types of art styles, but I used the inspiration of both and realized that it is a type of monoprinting or printingmaking that is being done here. In addition, when you start adding more layers, it becomes a mixed media collage. There are some really great resources out there for these projects. And if you have teens that like to journal, this type of art is often incorporated into journaling. You can also use this process to make framed art, cards, and tags, to name just a few ways that this technique can be incorporated into other artistic endeavors.

The art of the monoprint – Monoprints

Nine Types of Printmaking You Need To Know – Artsy

Gelli Arts: Monoprinting without a Press!

This is a great YouTube video to introduce the process and share some techniques:

 

I liked the effect that these processes have, but it’s the end of the year and buying a bunch of supplies for something like this for our Teen MakerSpace was a little cost. The Gelli Printing plate itself was around $30.00, and then you need ink, a brayer, etc.

So because it’s a MakerSpace, we set about the task of making something similar using lower priced supplies, many of which we already keep on hand in our space. And we did.

Supplies:

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  • A sheet/page protector (yes, the kind you use in a 3-ring binder)
  • A piece of cardstock (placed inside the sheet protector)
  • A brayer
  • Acrylic paint
  • Stamps
  • Stencils
  • Sharpies, black is preferred
  • A surface protector
  • Baby wipes (to clean up afterwards)

Here’s What We Did

1. Creating a low cost printing surface similar to a Gelli Printing plate

The Gellit Monoprinting Plate is designed to be used over and over again, so we made a low cost version using a sheet protector and a piece of card stock. Insert the card stock into the sheet protector to keep it from moving as much. The sheet protector cleans up easily using a baby wipe and works really well. You can’t get much lower cost than this.

2. Creating your inkscape

The first part of this mono printing process is to put little drops of some type of ink/paint onto your surface and cover the surface using the brayer. We used acrylic paint (it’s cheap) and an inexpensive brayer. The brayer is used to spread the ink around. Be careful not to mix up your colors to much as they will become muddy.

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3. Creating your paper

You then take your paper – and here it is best if you buy a little fancier of an art paper as opposed to using copy paper, which does work in a pinch – and place it face down on the ink smear. This transfers the ink (or paint) onto your paper. You want to make sure your paper is completely dry before you do any next steps with it.

4. Getting creative

You can add texture and white spaces by using things like stencils, Washi tape, leaves and other found objects, etc. For example, to create this spiral white space, I simply hand cut a stencil out of clear contact paper and removed it once my paint was dry. I then added a book quote into the white space.

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Here I used stickers of the word Joy which I removed after my paint had dried. And yes, I wrote the lyrics of Joy to the World incorrectly.

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Here I used a Sharpie and some stencils, hand drawing the seaweed in, to create a type of underwater seascape.

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There are several ways you can make your own stamps using things like erasers and wine corks:

CORK STAMPS : 6 Steps (with Pictures) – Instructables

Make Your Own Diy Custom Eraser Stamps.: 4 Steps (with Pictures)

There are also several ways you can make your own stencils using things like a vinyl cutter (higher tech) or more low tech options using card stock, overhead projector sheets or some other type of plastic, or clear contact paper (as I did above):

DIY: How to Make Your Own Stencil – Project Nursery

Make Your Own Stencil: 5 Steps

A few notes:

If you want to make it more Jane Davenport in style, use watercolor paints instead of acrylic paints.

This is a great craft for the pages of discarded books. You can put a light ink wash across the page and a bold black silhouette and make recycled book art.

And because we believe in having books to support our MakerSpace stations, here are some of the books we have purchased:

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I love the way our creations look and highly recommend adding printmaking into your MakerSpaces.

Sunday Reflections: Where Have All the Sunday Reflections Gone?

Every Sunday morning I wake up and think, what will I write about today? But for the last few weeks, I keep coming up blank.

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No, that’s not exactly right. I don’t keep coming up blank. I keep coming up with so many issues that we need, or that I want, to talk about that I feel overwhelmed. I can’t figure out how to pinpoint where to start, where to focus my energy.

Sexual assault, the assaults on women’s bodily autonomy and healthcare, a walking back of ADA protections, tax cuts, corruption, health care, education . . . to name just a few of the many issues that have been weighing heavily on my mind. I literally can’t figure out what – or how – to talk about these things. Which one is the most pressing? Well, they all are.

Politically, it feels like we are in chaos. A few corrupt and selfishly motivated individuals have taken hold of the reigns and they are leading us into a downward spiral that will have long term effects. I wake up every morning and look at my children and my heart beats faster: what kind of world are we creating for them? Spoiler alert: It’s not good and it won’t be for a really long time unless we start holding them accountable now.

Early this morning I woke up and saw a fun little game on Twitter: Now type “I died” and let your Predictive Keyboard write your epitaph, it said. So I did.

This is what came up:

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It seemed a little to on the nose, quite frankly.

So this is my shallow attempt at getting back into writing my Sunday Reflections. No promises, the world is really still very overwhelming.

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: Resources and Sources (Part 3)

In this final post on doing my diversity audit, I just wanted to share my sources and resources with you. It’s also available in the PDF outline of my process, but since these are clickable links you may prefer to access them this way. Also, if you know of additional book lists or titles that you would like to recommend, please add them in the comments.

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Diversity in Publishing

Statistics | Diversity in YA

The Diversity Baseline Survey | Lee & Low Books

Infographic Series: The Diversity Gap | Lee & Low Books

SLJ Resources for Diversity in Kid and YA Lit | School Library Journal

We Need Diverse Books | Official site of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Children’s Book Council (CBC) Diversity ;CBC Diversity Initiative | Children’s Book Council

Cooperative Children’s Book Center: Publishing Stats on Children’s Books and Diversity

Population Statistics

U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts selected: UNITED STATES

LGBT America: By the Numbers | Washington Week – PBS

Doing a Diversity Audit

Diversity in Collection Development – American Library Association

Having Students Analyze Our Classroom Library To See How Diverse It Is

Diversity in Libraries–From Collections and Community to Staff

Third Graders Assess and Improve Diversity of Classroom Library

How You Can Support the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign

Additional Resources: Book Lists and New Releases

Diversity in YA (General)

We Need Diverse Books | Official site of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Reading While White

Rich In Color

Book Lists | Diversity in YAwww.diversityinya.com/category/book-lists/

Diversity in Young Adult and Middle Grade (1351 books) – Goodreads

31 Young Adult Books With Diverse Characters Literally Everyone

Diversity YA Life: Diverse Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror – The Hub

Diversity YA Life: Urban Fiction – The Hub

Rich in Color | Reading & Reviewing Diverse YA Booksrichincolor.com/

Diversify YA Life: Horror with Diverse Characters

50 Years of Diversity in Young Adult Literature by Edith Campbell

60 Diverse Books To Look for in 2017

10 Diverse Books by YA Authors of Color to Read in 2017 | Teen Vogue

Faces of Color on 2017 YA Books – Book Riot

Asian American Protagonists

Best Asian-American Teen Fiction (156 books) – Goodreads

A Round-Up of Awesome Asian American Protagonists in YA Lit

11 Young Adult Novels By Asian-American Authors – Bustle

LatinX Representation

Latinx Ya Shelf – Goodreads

13 Upcoming YA Books By Latinx Authors To Start Getting Excited

9 Books By Latinx Authors I Wish I Had As A Teenager – Bustle

Latinxs in Kid Lithttps://latinosinkidlit.com/ 

Native American Representation

American Indians in Children’s Literature

#OwnVoices Representation: Native American Authors – YA Interrobang

Teen Books With Native American Characters and Stories (66 books)

Some thoughts on YA lit and American Indians – American Indians in Children’s Literature/Debbie Reese

Books Outside The Box: Native Americans – The Hub

Teen Books by Native Writers to Trumpet Year-Round | School Library

POC Leads

10 Diverse Books by YA Authors of Color to Read in 2017 | Teen Vogue

Faces of Color on 2017 YA Books – Book Riot

12 Young Adult Novels With POC Protagonists – Bustle

14 YA Books About LGBTQ People of Color – The B&N Teen Blog

BrownBookShelf

LGBTQAI+

YA Pride (formerly Gay YA) : YA Pride (@YA_Pride) | Twitter

30 Essential LGBT Books for YA Readers – AbeBooks

100 Must-Read LGBTQIA YA Books – Book Riot

23 of Our Most Anticipated LGBTQA YA Books of 2017 – The B&N

72 Must-Read YA Books Featuring Gay Protagonists – Epic Reads

The Rainbow Book List

Stonewall Book Awards List

Disability in YA Lit

Disability in Kidlit — Reviews, articles, and more about the portrayal of …

People First: Disabilities in YA Lit – The Hub

Feminist YA

50 Crucial Feminist YA Novels – The B&N Teen Blog

34 Young Adult Books Every Feminist Will Love – BuzzFeed

100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader | Bitch Media

Body Acceptance

5 Body-Positive YA Reads to Take to the Beach – The B&N Teen Blog

Celebrating Every Body: 25 Body Image Positive Books for Mighty Girls

7 Body Positive YA Books That Slay | Brit + Co

Julie Murphy’s ‘Dumplin’ And 6 Other Body Positive YA Novels – Bustle

Religious Diversity in YA

#FSYALit at Teen Librarian Toolbox

Rich in Color | Six YA Books with Middle Eastern or Muslim Protagonists

Diversity in YA Literature: Muslim Teens – The Hub

Jewish Themed Young Adult Books, Not About The Holocaust

The Big Five (+1) in YA: Atheism and Agnosticism – The Hub

The Big Five (+1) in YA: Buddhism – The Hub

Mental Health in YA

#MHYALit at Teen Librarian Toolbox

29 YA Books About Mental Health That Actually Nail It – BuzzFeed

16 YAs That Get it Right: Mental Health Edition – The B&N Teen Blog

YA novels that get real about mental health – HelloGiggles

11 YA Novels That Deal With Mental Health Issues – Bustle

10 Must-Read YA Books That Also Talk About Mental Health – Healthline

Socio-Economic Diversity in YA Lit

Socio-Economic Diversity in YA Lit

Poverty in YA Literature

Rich Teen, Poor Teen: Books that depict teens living in poverty

#SJYALit: A Bibliography of MG and YA Lit Featuring Homeless Youth

Own Voices

MG/YA/NA #ownvoices (216 books) – Goodreads

#OwnVoices in Disability and Neurodiversity | The Daily Dahlia

11 of Our Most Anticipated #OwnVoices Reads of 2017

10 Amazing #OwnVoices Reads from 2016

LGBTQA Science Fiction and Fantasy YA by #OwnVoices Authors

Don’t forget to check out the hasthag #OwnVoices on Twitter

New Releases

YA Books Centralwww.yabookscentral.com/

Teen Reads – www.teenreads.com

Book Riot – www.bookriot.com

Barnes and Noble Teen Blog – www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/teen/

YA Interrobang – www.yainterrobang.com

YA Lit – www.yalit.com

Epic Reads – www.epicreads.com

Pop Crush – www.popcrush.com

Bustle – www.bustle.com

Adventures in YA – www.adventuresinya.com

Coming Soon

17 Upcoming YA by Authors of Color: Bustle

Teens of Color on 2018 YA Book Covers – STACKED – books

2018 YA/MG Books With POC Leads (120 books) – Goodreads

Thirteen YA Books That Feature POC Leads Coming to You This 2018

17 YA Books By Authors Of Color To Look Out For In The First Half Of 2018

2018 YA Books with (Possible) LGBT Themes (114 books) – Goodreads – please note the possible noted here

The Complete List of 2018 YA Releases | Fictionist Magazine

YA Novels of 2018 (708 books) – Goodreads

YA Debuts 2018 (96 books) – Goodreads

Electric Eighteens | Electric 18s – 2018 Debut Young Adult

*with assistance from TLTer Heather Booth

Complete YA Collection Diversity Audit Series

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

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

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: Resources and Sources (Part 3)

Diversity Audit Outline 2017 with Sources

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

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So yesterday I began telling you about doing my diversity audit. I began in a place that many people wouldn’t suspect, by doing a local community needs and assessment evaluation. I thought if I wanted to understand why I was building a diverse/inclusive collection, I also wanted to understand who I was doing it for. Also, this was part of my process on researching target goals. The question I asked myself is this: what does an inclusive YA collection look like? And to do that I thought I needed to better understand what my local community and the world at large actually looks like. No guessing, no anecdotes, but facts.

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After looking at my local community demographics, I then researched what the U.S. population looks like, keeping in mind that U.S. Census data comes out every ten years and involves a lot of margin for error because respondents must use per-detetermined categories to respond and many people identify in more than one way. (Note: please see uploaded outline below for a more complete look at stats and diversity categories to investigate.)

2010 census data

Serving Teens in Libraries Infographic

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Then I dived deep into what diversity in children’s publishing looks like (spoiler alert: it’s not good). I used resources like the Lee and Low Diversity Baseline Survey to get a better understanding of what diversity in children’s publishing looks like. A realistic diversity goal has to include an understanding of what is being published. We can’t buy diverse titles that don’t exist, which is why we must continue to ask the publishing world to work towards better inclusion at all levels of publishing.

Childrens Books Infographic 18 24 V3

“This year, the number jumped to 28% . . . ” – http://blog.leeandlow.com/2017/03/30/the-diversity-gap-in-childrens-book-publishing-2017/

Checklist: 8 Steps to Creating a Diverse Book Collection | Lee & Low

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Another worksheet example can be found here: http://sfpsmom.com/black-history-month-12-diversify-bookshelves/

With a better understanding of what the world looks like and some real investigation into my own personal biases and privilege (which is an ongoing process), I then began looking at my collection in depth. This was a painstaking process that involved a lot of research. I researched each title and author in my collection to the extent that was reasonably possible. Reasonably meaning given an appropriate use of my time, skills, and what information is available. For example, not all authors are publicly out and they deserve to make that decision for themselves, but it can affect a count of Own Voices GLBTQAI+ titles. Please note: you can make your headings and count whatever it is you wish to audit.

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My excel worksheet, created by importing a shelf list, looks like this

At one point my fellow TLTer Robin Willis came out for a week long visit and we went title by title through my shelf list discussing whether or not a title had a main or supporting character that was something other than white, male, cisgender. We had a lot of quality discussions about individual titles, authors and the idea of diversity and inclusion as a whole. And yes, public librarians do indeed end up taking weird vacations, so thank you Robin for taking your time to come spend with me and help me with this project.

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After doing the inventory several times and determining that I had the best knowledge that I could have, I then went and did the math that told me which percentage of my collection was diverse, Own Voices, GLBTQAI+ or featured a teen with a disability. I assumed I was doing a good job of building diverse, inclusive collections. It “felt” like I was doing a good job. I was trying to do a good job. Spoiler alert: I was not. Even when I was being intentional in building inclusive collections, I was not doing as well as I thought I was. For example, the percentage of titles featuring a teen with a disability were dismal at only 2.2%. However, after some targeted ordering, my GLBTQAI+ percentage went from around 3% up to 6.5%. This is part of why this type of collection audit is informative: I thought I was doing a good job of buying diverse titles, but an audit revealed that I wasn’t doing as good of a job as I thought I was and helped me make more informed and purposeful purchasing decisions. I thought I was doing a good job, I learned that I wasn’t, now I am doing better and have the data to back that statement up.

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As a tangential note, I will also admit that this in depth collection analysis has also led me on a quest to investigate subject headings in our catalog. For example, we had books with the heading of transvestite, transsexual and transgender, and since transgender is the term that teen readers will be most familiar with and is the currently preferred term, we added a subject heading of transgender (transgender people – fiction) to all titles. Similarly, we looked at titles like Tash Hearts Tolstoy to make sure that teens looking for asexual representation could find that title using our card catalog without having to ask an adult. Teens looking for GLBTQAI+ materials in particular don’t always want or feel comfortable asking an adult for help so we are working on making these titles accessible in multiple ways for teens who want to read but don’t necessarily want to ask for help in locating titles.

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This work is ongoing for me. As I mentioned above, it helps inform my monthly book ordering. Now when I do a book order, I do a sort of mini audit of each book order to make sure that I am doing the work of building an inclusive collection each and every order. I will also do occasional targeted audits, like this summer when I went through each and every letter of the GLBTQAI+ umbrella and made sure I had quality titles that represented each letter. A yearly or every few years audit combined with monthly book order audits and targeted audits makes my collection development more intentional. It’s not enough to think I’m doing the work, I now do the work. And having concrete facts and figures in front of me helps me to stop assuming while confronting my purchasing biases head on. And since I just took over this collection 3 years ago (new library), it has helped me better know and understand this collection as well as what is offered, making for some amazing RA to be honest. It also helped me fill in title holes and re-order missing or lost books that I think every collection should have.

The benefits of doing a diversity collection audit are plentiful and I highly recommend it, with a few caveats. First, it’s important that we remember that not all representation is good representation. There are a lot of tropes, stereotypes, and controversial titles out there that you should be aware of. You’ll also want to take the time to make yourself more familiar with Own Voices authors and titles. Remember that even when we talk about diversity, we should have diverse titles within that diverse representation. For example, not all GLBTQAI+ titles should be coming out stories, and not all coming out stories are the same. And, finally, we should remember and value the importance of intersectionality: most people identify as more than one thing, and that should be represented in our literature as well. For example, a black woman may identify as having a disability and being bisexual, because we are all complex human beings who are more than one thing and all more than our labels. Those stories deserve to be told and read.

With all that said, here is an in depth outline of this project: Diversity Audit Outline 2017 with Sources

Complete YA Collection Diversity Audit Series

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

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

Doing a YA Collection Diversity Audit: Resources and Sources (Part 3)

Edited to Add: Someone asked about measuring intersectionality. You could simply add a column heading for intersectionality and any book that has more than one tally mark in a column would also have a tally mark for intersectionality. Then you would do the math and have an idea of how many intersectional titles are in your collection.

Also, after you do your original collection audit, you can then just do an audit of all the titles added since the date of your last audit and combine the information. If you do book order audits, that information could also be added to your original audit to keep your figures current.

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

Tomorrow as part of the Library Journal/School Library Journal training on diversity Diversity and Cultural Competency Training: Collections & RA (which you should do), I will be doing a presentation on doing a diversity audit. I will outline what a diversity audit is, how to do one, and what I learned doing mine. I will be sharing parts of that presentation with you here tomorrow.

As part of doing a diversity audit, I tried to develop an understanding of what a diverse/inclusive book collection might look like: I tried to develop target goals. This task was harder to conceptualize than I imagined; we all talk about the need for diverse YA collections but there isn’t a lot of discussion about what, exactly, that should look like in concrete terms. So as part of my research process I decided to do some community needs and assessment research. Who are the teens I’m serving is a foundational question. I wanted to know who my teens were in concrete terms so that I could make sure that every teen in my community who walked into my library could find a book that represented them. If part of building good collections is windows and mirrors, then I wanted to make sure that I had some solid information for the mirrors part.

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We can all tell you, informally and anecdotally, a lot about the local communities we serve. But I wanted to take the deep dive into facts and figures to make sure what I thought I knew about the local community I served was in fact a realistic picture of that very community. So I did research, and a lot of it. And then I put it all together in a notebook (because you know I love me some notebooks) that I could consult and update and refer back to time and time again.

The information I looked for was curated into a table of contents that looks like this:

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1. Basic Demographics

Comprehensive Population Profile

Political Leanings

Religious Affiliation

2. Housing Information – including owning vs. renting, single vs. multiple family dwellings, etc.

3. Overall Economy – including incomes and unemployment

4. Education

5. Entertainment and Recreation – which outlines local resources that are good for networking

6. The State of Our Youth – here I looked specifically at the youth in my local community, including things like foster care, mental health, CPS stats and more

7. Crime Statistics

8. Overall Health

9. Physical Environment

Breakdown of the County

Key Community Facilities and Resources

10. Environmental Issues

11. Transportation – this includes a look at things like vehicle ownership, average lengths of commutes, and more

12. Community Strengths

13. Community Needs/Challenges

14. Additional Resources

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In the Additional Resources category I printed off and curated a large volume of the same types of studies from other area agencies. For example, the health department had a pretty thorough investigation into these same types of questions and it was an invaluable resource, so I printed it off and put it in my notebook. The county itself has a county profile online. The Ohio Department of Youth Services had a statistical report of juvenile crime, so in it went. Other information included the basic U.S. Census data profile and the county sheriff’s office safety statistics.

I want to call special attention to the Knox County United Way Community Assessment because it was an incredibly useful tool and it provided a lot of the organization for my own outline.

All together, this information helped me to develop a more complete picture of the teens that I am serving at my library. Now instead of telling you anecdotally that I serve a primarily white community, I can tell you that I serve a community that is 96.7% white. Instead of telling you that a lot of my teens are economically challenged, I can tell you that 57.5% qualify for free and reduced lunch.

So this was the first part of really diving into the diversity audit, having a really comprehensive understanding of the local community in which I am serving. The next part is developing a better understanding of my collection to make sure I’m not just providing mirrors, but windows and doors and access to a richer, more realistic, more inclusive world view. Tomorrow, I will share with you the rest of my process.

About Windows and Mirrors

Windows and Mirrors: Why We Need Diverse Books

FAQ | We Need Diverse Books

Building on Windows and Mirrors – Children’s Literature Assembly

Complete YA Collection Diversity Audit Series

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

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

Collecting Comics, November 2017 Edition (by TLTer Ally Watkins)

Welcome to the November 2017 edition of Collecting Comics! Here are some suggestions of comics coming out in November that your teens and tweens will enjoy!

collectingcomics

Friends and Foes (Red’s Planet Book 2) by Eddie Pittman (Amulet Books, November 7) In the second book of the Red’s Planet middle grade graphic novel series, Red has crash landed on a strange planet surrounded by a plethora of interesting alien creatures. Somehow she gets caught up in a wild election, and she and her friends must decide what’s worth fighting for.

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Raid of No Return (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #7) by Nathan Hale (Amulet Books, November 7) In the 7th book of the wildly popular Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales graphic history series, Hale tackles a long-requested topic: WWII. After Pearl Harbor, a group of pilots made history by becoming the first Army bombers to be launched from aircraft carriers. Some of them crashed and were captured, and some landed in China. Raid of No Return is a story of survival during wartime. This entire series will appeal to your young history buffs.

Cici’s Journal: The Adventures of a Writer-in-Training by Joris Chamblain, illustrated by Aurélie Neyret (First Second, November 7). Cici wants to be a novelist, and she loves to watch people, especially grownups. By watching the world around her, she notices the old man who goes into the forest every week with a lot of paint. What is he up to? Filled with journal notes, doodles, and Cici’s observation, this middle grade graphic novel will thrill your young readers and writers-in-training.

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The Once and Future Queen by Adam P. Knave and DJ Kirkbride, illustrated by Nicholas Brokenshire (Dark Horse Books, November 14). Rani is a chess prodigy with no plans to be any kind of leader but once she pulls Excalibur from the stone, it’s too late. Now she needs to assemble a new round table to protect earth from an invasion of Fae. This blend of magic, romance, adventure, and mythology will appeal to a large swath of your teens!

Princeless Volume 6: Make Yourself, Part 2 by Jeremy Whitley, illustrated by Emily Martin (Action Lab Entertainment, November 21).  The princess-saving team is ready to strike again! Fresh off fighting vampires, zombies, and swamp creatures, Princess Adrienne, Bedelia the Blacksmith, and Sparky the dragon set off to the mountains to save twin princesses Andrea and Antonia. The Princeless series has been charming readers of all types for several years, and your young patrons will be thrilled with the new installment.

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Goldie Vance Volume 3 by Hope Larson, illustrated by Jackie Ball (BOOM! Box, November 21). Goldie Vance, aspiring teen detective, is back! And this time she’s trying to figure out who’s sabotaging Sugar Maple’s car before the big race. There’s no love lost between Goldie and Sugar, but they need to work together to get to the bottom of the shenanigans or no one will be safe the day of the big race. Collects issues #9-12 of the comic book series.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales Volume 3 by Brian Bendis, illustrated by Szymon Kudranski and Bazaldua (Marvel, November 21). After his encounter with Spider-Gwen, Miles’s life is turned upside down! And so is his mom’s. How can she cope with the situations and who will she turn to? Collects issues #15-19 of the comic book series.

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Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Captain Phasma by Kelly Thompson, illustrated by Marco Checchetto (Marvel, November 28). What happened to Captain Phasma After A Force Awakens? Marvel expands Phasma’s story and reveal how she escaped the destruction of the Starkiller base. Your patrons will want to read this one before The Last Jedi comes to theaters! Collects issues #1-4 of the comic book series.

Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie by Anthony Del Col, illustrated by Werther Dell’Edera (Dynamite Entertainment, November 28). In this noir imagining that older teens will love, teen sleuths Frank and Joe Hardy are accused of the murder of their father. They team up with their friend Nancy Drew to prove their innocence and find the real killer.

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Cloudia & Rex by Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas, illustrated by Daniel Irizarri (Lion Forge, November 28). Cloudia, her sister Rex, and their mom find themselves in the middle of a supernatural exodus of sorts. When their car is hit by lightning, they find themselves with some interesting supernatural adjustments. They slowly realize that they’re being used by gods for their own purposes…and that’s a lot of responsibility. Collects several single issues of the comic book series.

BONUS NON COMIC! Supergirl: Age of Atlantis by Jo Whittemore (Amulet Books, November 7). Supergirl (aka Kara Danvers) has been spotting citizens with strange abilities all over National City. If that’s not weird enough, the Department of Extranormal Operations captured a mysterious humanoid sea creature. Are these two things related?? Sure to thrill Supergirl fans!

 

Cover Reveal: HOW YOU RUINED MY LIFE by Jeff Strand

Have you read any Jeff Strand? That’s one of my go to questions for anyone – teen or YA reader – who lament that there are not enough funny books in YA. And I get it, the funny is definitely outnumbered in YA, it truly is. But Jeff Strand is a pretty dependable author when it comes to the funny. He writes with wit, sarcasm and snark, all qualities that I can appreciate. And horror. That’s right, Jeff Strand often combines horror and humor for a winning combination. A BAD DAY FOR VOODOO by Jeff Strand is one of the funniest books I have ever read.

This is one of the funniest, LOL books I have ever read

So I was honored when Sourcebooks Fire reached out to me and asked if I wanted to host a cover reveal for his most recent book, HOW YOU RUINED MY LIFE. Yes! Yes, I do. But first, what is this book about?

Rod’s life doesn’t suck.

If you ask him, it’s pretty awesome. He may not be popular, but he and his best friends play in a band that has a standing gig. Yeah, it’s Monday night and they don’t get paid, but they can crank the volume as loud as they want. And Rod’s girlfriend is hot, smart, and believes in their band—believes in Rod. Aside from a winning lottery ticket, what more could he ask for?

Answer: a different cousin.

When Rod’s scheming, two-faced cousin Blake moves in for the semester, Rod tries to keep calm. Blake seems to have everyone else fooled with his good manners and suave smile, except Rod knows better. Blake is taking over his room, taking over his band, taking over his life! But Rod’s not about to give up without a fight. Game on. May the best prankster win…

And now . . . The Great Cover Reveal (insert drum roll here please)

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Preorder How You Ruined My Life: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Indiebound

HOW YOU RUINED MY LIFE — EXCERPT

“Thanks for coming out tonight! Are you ready to rock?”

A couple of people in the audience indicate that yes, they are indeed ready to begin the process of rocking. A few others don’t look up from their cell phones, but I’m confident that they’ll discover their readiness to rock as soon as we start playing. The rest of the eleven or so people in the club haven’t bothered to walk over to the dance floor. Presumably, they’re waiting for the headline act before committing to whether or not they’re mentally and physically prepared to rock.

“We’re Fanged Grapefruit,” I say into the microphone. “This first song is an original called, ‘You Can’t Train a Goldfish to Catch Popcorn in Its Mouth, So Don’t Even Try.’ One, two, three, go!”

I can’t remember which of us came up with the name Fanged Grapefruit. I think it was Clarissa, our drummer. I consider myself the creative driving force of the band, but if you see Clarissa, you’ll understand why she doesn’t lose many arguments. She’s at least six foot three (though I’ve never measured her), and you wouldn’t want to arm wrestle her unless you were willing to lose an arm. When she really gets going, her drumsticks become a blur. And when she’s done with a set, the sticks look like they’ve been gnawed on by beavers.

Mel, short for Melvin, is lead guitar and background vocals. I’m lead vocals and rhythm guitar. Ironically, Mel is a worse guitar player and a better singer than me. Not everything we do in Fanged Grapefruit makes sense.

Mel doesn’t look like he should be in a punk rock band. He looks like he should be president of the Chess Club. Which he is, but I assure you, the guy plays chess with attitude. He also gets straight A’s and is likely to be our class valedictorian, and if so, I hope he’ll pause his inspiring commencement speech for a wicked guitar solo.

I’m Rod, short for Rodney. Nice to meet you. I’m pretty much average, I guess.

Other band names we’d brainstormed included Untidy Reptiles, Autocorrected Text Fail, Rod & the Whacknuts, Carnivorous Vegans, Impolite Music for Unruly People, The RMC Experiment, Say Goodbye to Your Ears, Pawn Takes Rook, Crunchy Noise, Crispy Noise, Chicken Fried Noise, (The Parentheticals), Fake News Echo Chamber, Hairnets Gloriously Aflame, Dog Eat Dog Eat Munchkin, The Self- Diagnosing Hypochondriacs, Sequel II, and Sushi Gun.

We play at this club, the Lane, every Monday, which is the only day you can get in if you’re under eighteen. We go onstage around eight, and we’re home by nine fifteen, so all our parents are cool with us being out on a school night. It also helps that they’ve never actually been inside the Lane, which is a bubbling pit of health code violations. If you have to go to the bathroom, hold it. Trust me.

I’m sure we’d have a much bigger audience if we could play on a Friday or Saturday night, but Clarissa, Mel, and I are only sixteen, so we’ve got a couple of years to go. (Sorry if it was insulting that I did the math for you.) We hope that by the time we’re old enough to play there on a weekend, we’ll have upgraded to venues where your feet don’t stick to the floor as often.

Anyway, we begin to rock out on our guitars and drums, and select members of the audience begin to move to the music. Well, okay, only two of them. And one is my girlfriend, Audrey. You might say that she doesn’t count, but we got together because I was in a band, so I think she does count, thank you very much.

Audrey runs our merch table. We never sell anything, though she gives away free stickers to people who look like they might be band managers. She’s as tiny as Clarissa is non- tiny. You won’t believe me if I say she’s the most gorgeous girl at our school, so all I’ll say is that if you look at her and look at me, you’d say, “Wow, how did that happen? He must be in a band.”

By the end of our set, three people in the audience are bopping their heads to the music. That’s a fifty percent increase from when we started. Fanged Grapefruit rules!

***

After dropping off Clarissa, Mel, and then Audrey (because I always pick her up first and drop her off last, even though she lives the furthest away), I go home, take a shower, and start packing my lunch for the next day.

“How was your gig?” Mom asks, walking into the kitchen.

“Great! Every show gets a little better.”

“I was going to do that for you,” she says, pointing to the sandwich I’m making.

“I know.” Mom works two jobs, both of which suck, so I’m always happy to make my own lunch. Plus I’m very specific about the spread of my peanut butter. It should be as close to the edge of the bread as possible without spilling over, and the thickness should be consistent. Generally, I’m a pretty casual guy, but not when it comes to peanut butter application. We all have our quirks.

“I’ve got news,” she says.

“Dad got out of prison?” Dad isn’t really in prison. He left us two years ago. We joke about him being in prison as a coping mechanism.

“No.”

“I’m finally going to get a baby sister?”

“Ha. You wish.”

“You got a raise?”

Mom shakes her head. “I did get a five- dollar tip on an eighteen- dollar meal though. That was nice.”

“Wild panthers have run amok in our neighborhood, gobbling up people left and right?”

“Maybe you should stop guessing.”

“Maybe I should. So is this good news or bad news?” I ask.

“Well…”

I set down the butter knife. “That doesn’t sound like a good ‘well…’”

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it bad news,” Mom says. “It’s definitely not the worst news ever. Nobody died or anything.”

“Tell me.”

“You know your aunt Mary and uncle Clark?”

“Of course.” I don’t think I’ve seen Uncle Clark since I was six. We live in Florida, and they live in California. He and Dad never got along, so every couple of years, Aunt Mary would visit us by herself. With Dad out of the picture, I assumed we’d see more of our extended family, but it never really happened.

“Aunt Mary and Uncle Clark are going on a cruise.”

“That’s cool.” I consider that for a moment and then get very excited. “Are they taking us with them?”

“No.”

“Oh.”

“It’s one of those around- the- world cruises. Three whole months. Doesn’t that sound fun?”

Did I mention that Aunt Mary and Uncle Clark are rich? You probably picked up on that when Mom said they were going on a three- month- long world cruise.

“Is Blake going with them?” I ask.

“No. He’s not.”

Suddenly, I have an idea where this conversation is headed. It doesn’t make me happy. “Maybe you should spell this out for me,” I say.

“Your cousin Blake is going to live with us for three months. Isn’t that exciting?”

I stare at her for a few hours.

(Possibly, I’m exaggerating.)

“Starting when?” I ask.

“Next week.”

“You mean before the school year ends?”

“Yes. He’s going to transfer to your school.”

“That’s messed up!”

Mom shrugs. “They got a good deal on the cruise.”

“Where’s he going to stay? We don’t have a guest bedroom.”

“Well, I thought…you know…”

“He can’t share my room!” If I wasn’t almost an adult, I would have stomped my foot.

“Honey, it’s only for three months.”

“That’s a quarter of a year! I thought we were broke,” I say. “How are we going to pay for all that extra food?”

“We’re not that broke, and obviously, your aunt and uncle will help pay for groceries.”

“Isn’t he a spoiled brat?”

“You haven’t seen him in ten years,” Mom says.

“Well, ten years ago he was a spoiled brat.” “I’m sure he’s fine now.”

“Doesn’t he have any friends he can stay with in California?”

My mom sighs. “Rodney, he’s family. Family is always welcome in our home.”

I hope I’m not coming off as whiny and selfish. If a hurricane tore the roof off their house and they lost all of their worldly possessions, sure, I’d happily donate half of my room to Cousin Blake while they rebuilt their lives. But asking me to give up my privacy so Aunt Mary and Uncle Clark can go on a luxury cruise seems kind of unreasonable.

However, I’m pretty sure this is a done deal, and my mom has enough stress in her life without me continuing to protest.

“All right,” I say.

“Thank you.” Mom gives me a hug. “I think you’ll enjoy having him here.”

Who knows? Maybe I will. Maybe my cousin is a really cool guy. Maybe he has good taste in music. And maybe he’s witty and entertaining. And maybe he’ll be willing to help with emergency cleanup if we’re having a wild party and Mom calls suddenly to say she’s on her way home early.

We might end up being the best friends that any two cousins could ever be. We’ll giggle and frolic and be inseparable.

But probably not.

I can’t believe I have to share my room.

I return to making my lunch. I’ll try to be optimistic and pretend that these will be the best three months of my life. How bad could it be?

ABOUT Jeff Strand

Jeff Strand has written more than twenty books and is a four-time nominee of the Bram Stoker Award. Three of his young adult novels were Junior Library Guild picks. Publishers Weekly called his work “wickedly funny.” He lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Learn more at JeffStrand.com.

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