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#SJYALIt: Socio-Economic Diversity in YA Lit

As part of our Social Justice in YA Lit Project, we are inviting guest bloggers to share their thoughts, feelings, books, programs and more. Today, Rachael Allen and Sarah Lemon are discussing socio-economic diversity in YA lit.

I remember sitting in sophomore English and hating Holden Caufield. This kid had every advantage, but he was failing out of some fancy prep school, and we had to listen to him whine about it for 214 pages, while we jumped through academic hoops and wondered if we’d ever be able to scrape together enough for college and a ticket to a new life*. In a sea of books with middle and upper middle class main characters, I desperately wanted books about kids like me.

I still want those books.

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So, I was really excited when Sarah Lemon agreed to write a list of “Favorite YA’s with Socioeconomic Diversity” with me. Here are our recs:

Rachael’s Recs:

socio1DREAM THINGS TRUE by Marie Marquardt

Evan and Alma are from two different worlds, but you can’t read this book without rooting for them to be together. My favorite parts were Alma’s big, warm Mexican family, seeing her life juxtaposed against Evan’s privileged one, and the intersection of living in a lower income family and being an undocumented immigrant. I’m embarrassed to admit how little I knew about immigration before reading this book, and it’s clear Marie Marquardt is an expert. She’s also an expert at weaving all of this information into the narrative effortlessly – it’s rare to find a book that you devour that also opens your mind with every page.

socio2NO PLACE TO FALL by Jaye Robin Brown

This book has stunningly beautiful descriptions of Appalachia and characters that you won’t be able to get out of your head, but my absolute favorite part is Amber’s spirit. Sometimes it seems like all the kids who don’t have a lot of money are hard and angry and cynical – and sometimes that’s true to life, but sometimes it isn’t. Some people remain dreamers no matter the situation, and that’s why Amber was such a breath of fresh air. She’s a girl who brings brownies to travelers on the Appalachian Trail so she can hear their stories, who keeps a map tacked to her bedroom wall, who’s going to sing her way out of her small town. And I love her for it.

socio5ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell

The first time I read this book, I ugly cried at lunch. The second time, I knew better than to read it in public.

I love this book for so many reasons. Because Rainbow Rowell can make you feel like holding someone’s hand on the bus is everything. Because this was the first time I saw my childhood mirrored in a book, and it meant so much it made me cry. And because poor kids and misfits deserve epic love stories too.

Things that were particularly well done: Never having quite enough of anything (food, clothes, etc.). Eleanor keeps a wooden crate with fancy markers and things in the top of her closet. The idea that a crate that fruit came in is an item to be treasured is something I really connected with. Also, the idea of not wanting to share something because it’s your only nice thing. The idea that a song or a comic or a book can be the thing that gets you through because it helps you escape, even for a minute. Also, bad stepdads, and moms who sacrifice their children for a guy they just met, and wanting to get out of your house so badly, and founding members, and feeling like you carry the burden of your parents’ mistakes directly on your shoulders.

Note: For another perspective, see Ellen Oh’s critique of this book.

socio6THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie

This book is hilarious. And very sad. Often at the same time. I loved Alexie’s voice and wit, his portrayal of life on a reservation, and the way he challenges stereotypes. Arnold such a smart, funny kid, and it was really fun to spend a book inside his head. I really liked that he wanted to use school as a vehicle to get someplace else (he gets his parents to allow him to attend a school outside the reservation). I thought the parts of the book where Arnold acclimates to the fancy high school in the next town over, feeling like you have to hide your poor, the flack he catches back home, were very well done. Also, Arnold’s thoughts about tribes and belonging and life make me want to read this book again and again and again.

morehappythannotMORE HAPPY THAN NOT by Adam Silvera

I know the Bronx is a far cry from a small Georgia town, but I feel like Adam Silvera captured a piece of my childhood with this book – the parts about spending hours and hours outside with the neighborhood kids playing games you made up (and, yeah, maybe it’s because you don’t have a lot of money, but it’s also because it’s really freaking fun). And then there’s the part where Aaron can’t afford to buy the comic. I full on sobbed reading this scene. I wanted to reach through the pages and hug him and say, “I’ve been there, buddy. It’ll be okay, I promise.” This book has important things to say about being gay in a poor community. It also has a love story that will squeeze your heart, and a twist that totally punched me in the face (I was legit embarrassed I didn’t see it coming – I am usually so good at guessing twists).

My favorite part, though, was the love between Aaron and his mother. She’s a nurse, and she works her butt off, and she’s an amazing mom. I just loved that. Because here’s a thing – good people, smart people, loving people can still be poor. I get so frustrated when the media makes all the stories with poverty have parents who are alcoholics and drug addicts and bad people who make worse decisions. And it’s not that you won’t find people like that out there in real life, but when those are the only stories we tell, it gets so easy to imagine that every person who lives their life below middle class deserves to be there because of their own bad choices, and that simply isn’t true. So, yeah, I loved Aaron’s mom quite a lot.

socio7WHEN WE COLLIDED by Emery Lord

Jonah’s story is different from the others on my list. When his dad died, his family was plunged into a completely different financial situation. This happens to lots of families for lots of reasons – divorce, death, family illness and mounting medical bills. I think it’s important to show that having a low income is not always a permanent state. I think Lord does an excellent job of painting a picture of what this change is like for Jonah and his family. Everyone had to make sacrifices. Everyone had to grow up a little faster. Jonah and his two older siblings have to become insta-adults overnight. This is a reality for so many kids – having to be an adult before your time – and I loved the portrayal of it here. Also, Jonah has a heart of gold, and the love story is amazing, and this book has beautiful and important things to say about mental health, so. Read it.

socio8SHINE by Lauren Myracle

Myracle does the South like nobody else, and SHINE is no exception. This book captures every good and every gritty piece that makes up Cat and Patrick’s rural North Carolina town – small mindedness and homophobia, moonshine, church ladies, small town politics, grandmothers who can make almost anything better, sweeping class differences, gossip, meth, and the hate crime that Cat is desperate to solve. I love that the characters are so complex – never all good or all bad – even for the characters you expect to be completely unredeemable. I also loved Cat and Patrick’s friendship.

socio9JUST VISITING by Dahlia Adler

I have a special love for books with friendships that have all the power of a love story. This is one of those books. Reagan and Victoria mean everything to each other – they’re each other’s support system in their small town. And for Reagan, who lives in a trailer park and is fighting like anything to go to college, their friendship is the thing that refills her well, that feeds her toughness. Sometimes one person believing in you is the thing that changes all the other things, and I loved how Adler painted these two girls and their relationship. I ship them harder than any star-crossed lovers.

Sarah’s Recs:

socio10SUCH A RUSH by Jennifer Echols

It’s a principal of poverty—if you want to do something cool, you must try and weasel your way into a job that gives you access. For Leah Jones it means a job at a small, private airport until she works her way into flying advertising banners over her beach town. Leah’s home and economic situation have an impact on her life, but it’s not the story. The story is Leah gets to have a hot angsty romance. That is genuinely precious when we’re talking about books with kids in poverty. I highlighted this particular title, but many of Echol’s books involve lower to middle class protagonists. They’re smart, diverse, hilarious, and everyone gets to have hot romances. Teenage me, needed that.

socio11THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE’S HOUSES by Bonnie Sue Hitchcock

This book surprised me. It has a beautiful, but sort-of snoozy cover. A beautiful, but sort-of snoozy title. I got it from the library and it sat around. Once I started reading it, I was hooked. This is an Alaskan book. Oh-so-Alaskan. Centering on four very different teens in the 1970’s, the book captures Alaska’s unique perspective by capturing the unique diversity and commonalities of the character’s experiences as Alaskans. My sister lives in Alaska, so I’m familiar with this difference every time I have to listen forty minutes of talk about the salmon run. The Native representation (“I’m Athabascan!”) is not to be devalued here, in my opinion, because it shows a broad range of families and a nuanced portrayal of non mono-lithic indigenous culture. Not just the stereotype, and not just the ideal minority. It shows modern Native families, in the minutiae of living as modern Alaskan natives. Again, poverty is depicted throughout (both white and non-white families) without being the focal point.

Note: For another perspective, see Debbie Reese’s critique of this book.

socio13THE SERPENT KING by Jeff Zentner

Being poor and religious is often like getting beat with two bats at once. As a child, having religious parents means you might not have access to things like supplemental food stamps, WIC assistance, or school lunches. It can also mean, if you are disenfranchised from your religious community, you have no alternative means of support. This is Dill’s situation. And the grace and care with which Zentner handles Dill’s situation is one that will always remain special to me. Poverty and religious issues are things easily exploited for plot gains, and Zentner resists that pitfall.

Note: Rachael jumping in to say I am in love with this book too and wholeheartedly recommend it! Even if it did break me.

socio14AFTER THE FALL by Kate Hart

I was so excited to read this book by a fellow 2017 debut author. One of my favorite things is how Raychel “on paper” is a stereotype (white, poor, southern, has a “reputation”, child of a single mother, also with a reputation, living in a trailer) and through Hart’s excellent storytelling and prose, we see a complex, dynamic individual that I recognize immediately as being of my own kind. That Raychel’s survival is not exploited is doubly important when talking about this book, due to the content of sexual assault.

socio12SALVAGE THE BONES by Jesmyn Ward

This is not a YA book, but I feel like teenage me would have needed this book, would have been broken over this book in a way all the Sarah Dessen novels in the world could have never broken me (no offense to Sarah Dessen! All the love for Sarah Dessen! How many times can I say Sarah Dessen?). The plot of this book follows a teenage girl who is grappling with the knowledge she is pregnant, while keeping track of her family (which includes their pitbull who just had puppies), as Hurricane Katrina forms and moves into their Louisiana existence. The language of this books is the language I speak—the flip between country talk and words you’ve read, can use, and can’t pronounce. There are SO. MANY. INDICATORS of authentic rural poverty here—the ramen (if you know what I’m talking about seriously, we’re friends for life), the outdoors, the boys, the relationship with your animals, and the recognition of kinship between girl and bitch. The thing that truly makes me want to classify this as crossover YA, is that it doesn’t carry the hopelessness and despair adult books often carry. Hope remains. Hope that does not depend on a change of circumstances. This book maintains that hope even until the last pages, where fate is left still unknown, the way it truly is to a fifteen-year-old girl, regardless of her present circumstances.

socio15CRAZY HORSE’S EX-GIRLFRIEND by Erika T. Wurth

My personal opinion is that this is actually darker than SALVAGE THE BONES, but this one is categorized as YA. (I know why, I just…………*shrug*). This book follows Margaritte, a seventeen-year-old Native American (Apache, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and white) looking at the cycle of poverty, abuse, despair and drug abuse without necessarily being able to escape it. The level of nuance here—in both recognizing the cycle, repeating the cycle, condemning the cycle and condoning the cycle—is so authentically real. Even when poverty itself is removed from a teen or an adult, the cycle of poverty (or abuse, etc.) is not and this book depicts that cycle so vividly, without ever quite losing hope for Margaritte. In the end, the circumstances worsen but the hope rises, which again….real for days, man. REAL. FOR. DAYS.

Given the current state of our nation, I think it’s more important than ever for us to read diverse and #ownvoices books, to plunk ourselves into the worlds of marginalized people so we can decrease our ignorance and increase our empathy. I think socioeconomic diversity is a type of diversity that is often overlooked, and my hope is that there will be more and more stories that feature these characters, stories that show a range of the spectrum of life that is not middle and upper class, and stories that show class intersected with other types of marginalization.

What books are you reading that show socioeconomic diversity? What are you hoping to see in the future?

*Before everyone gets mad, I have read THE CATCHER IN THE RYE as a grown up, and I realize I missed a few things.

Meet Our Guest Bloggers

Rachael Allen
Rachael Allen lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, two children, and two sled dogs. In addition to being a YA writer, she’s a mad scientist, a rabid Falcons fan, an expert dare list maker, and a hugger. Rachael is the author of THE REVENGE PLAYBOOK and 17 FIRST KISSES (HarperTeen).
Sarah Nicole Lemon
Born and raised in the Appalachians, Sarah Nicole Lemon spent the first fifteen years of her life doing nothing but reading and playing outside, and has yet to outgrow either. When not writing, you can find her drinking iced coffee in a half-submerged beach chair near her home in southern Maryland. Sarah is the author of the forthcoming DONE DIRT CHEAP (Amulet, March 2017).

 

More on Hunger and Poverty at TLT

Hunger and Poverty

Additional Sources:

Social Mobility:

Cycles of Poverty:

How Poverty Affects Schools:

Everything, Everything Movie Trailer is Here!

The Teen and I love the book Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon! It’s one of the few books that she has re-read and it made us both swoon. We are not swooners. So we are excited that this amazing book is being made into a movie. Today Anthony Breznican shared the movie trailer over at Entertainment Weekly. Check it out!

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Read about and view the trailer here: http://ew.com/movies/2017/02/14/everything-everything-trailer/?xid=entertainment-weekly_socialflow_twitter

Publisher’s Book Description:

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Love and Justice: What I’ve learned from those seeking refuge in the U.S., a guest post by author Marie Marquardt

Today we are very honored to be talking with author Marie Marquardt about her work with Latin American immigrant families for the Social Justice in YA Lit Project. Her book, The Radius of Us, is very timely given recent events happening here in the United States. You can find out more about the #SJYALit Project here or by searching the hashtag here at TLT.

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Justice lives in my neck of the woods.

I have the great honor of being a resident of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District, currently represented by the beloved Civil Rights hero and U.S. Congressman John Lewis.

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In Atlanta, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born, spent much of his life, and was buried, we take our national Civil Rights heroes very seriously. I can barely contain my pride in going to the ballot box to vote for Rep. Lewis.  Every time I tick off his name, which I have done in many elections, it makes me almost giddy. One of our family’s great treasures is a photograph of my family with Rep. Lewis at the Martin Luther King National Memorial. A few years ago, Rep. Lewis showed up unannounced on MLK day to meet those who had come to honor and remember his friend. We were among them.

Like many proud Americans, I often feel betrayed, disgusted and dismayed by our current political climate. When I learned that our new president made disparaging comments about Rep. Lewis and his commitment to my district, I wanted to throw things, hit someone, kick and scream and fight and, well, hate.

But, dang. That would be about the worst possible approach to honoring and carrying forward the example of John Lewis, a consistent advocate for the philosophy of nonviolence.

Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.

Nonviolence loves without ceasing – which is at the heart of justice. In the vision of the Beloved Community, which Rep. Lewis works so hard to build, justice is understood as an expression of love. This love is not physical desire, not the affection between friends who share a great deal in common, but the unselfish, unmotivated, spontaneous self-giving love that springs forth from recognizing the spark of the divine, which is present in each one of us.

For the past twenty years I worked with immigrants in Georgia. Most are undocumented, and some are asylum-seekers who have made incredibly difficult journeys to the United States. They all made these journeys because they believed America is a place of refuge, a peaceful nation guided by such enduring values as fairness, equality, and the rule of law. Even in the face of clear injustices – blatant discrimination, inconsistent treatment in the courts – they have astounded me with their steadfast desire to participate in American life, to become American.  In fact, they have taught me to see my own nation through new eyes, to affirm and celebrate our core values.

During this time, not only have I written academic books and articles about these immigrants, I also have advocated alongside them, served them, and – most importantly – developed deep and lasting friendships with them.  These days, I spend a good deal of time visiting immigrants and asylum seekers in detention. This work is difficult and heartbreaking, but it’s some of the most important and life-affirming work that I do. In our visits, and in my work with their families and friends, we build profound connections grounded in love.

I share my stories and they share theirs. We cry together, celebrate together, fear and rage together. We connect across vast, power-laden differences. And by connecting, we do not erase those differences. We gather the courage to face them, to ask questions about them, to understand them.  We learn together that, with love and trust, we can begin to recognize the insidious systems like racism and xenophobia that work to keep us apart. We know that, once we recognize these systems, we can begin the difficult work of exposing them, of tearing them down.

Over many years, I developed love for my friends, and out of that love came a deep desire for justice.  My desire for justice drove me to the podium. I’ve stood in front of audiences, armed with data slides and a microphone, unleashing a torrent of statistics, facts, information. I have struggled mightily to engage the minds of Americans, to share information that will help them to understand how very much we misunderstand about undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers. I believe that this information is crucially important, as the foundation for good decisions, for policies that will bring about a more just and humane society in the United States.

I also have come to believe that good information is not enough.

In our media-saturated world, we are bombarded with information and misinformation (which some call “alternative facts”). We are adrift in them. What we need — what most of us long for — is connection. We long for the opportunity to see that spark in another person, to recognize something of ourselves in the other. We also desperately need to cultivate that profound virtue of empathy. We need the opportunity to dwell for a while in the experience of another person, to dive in deep and swim around in it for a while.

Where might we find the chance to develop that profound empathy, to recognize what we have in common with those very people that we are constantly told are irreconcilably, overwhelmingly different from us? Stories. And, what better stories than love stories, stories that celebrate those deep, intimate connections that bind us together, that surprise us with their intensity, that open our hearts to new ways of knowing.

Justice is the expression of love.

Where we find, experience and nurture love, we begin to know justice.

This is why I write love stories.

About Marie Marquardt and THE RADIUS OF US

Marie Marquardt Photo Credit: Kenzi Tainow

Marie Marquardt
Photo Credit: Kenzi Tainow

Marie Marquardt has spent two decades working with Latin American immigrant families in the South and runs a non-profit called El Refugio that serves immigrants and asylum-seekers in detention. This work inspired both her books. To research The Radius of Us, she traveled to El Salvador and to detention facilities across the U.S., where she met with teenagers fleeing gang violence and seeking asylum.  

Told in alternating first person points of view, The Radius of Us is about a boy from El Salvador, who ran from a city torn-through with violence, looking for a safe place to call home. And it’s about an American girl who no longer feels safe anywhere, except maybe when she’s with him. And most importantly, the novel is about two people working together to overcome trauma and find healing in love.

The Radius of Us is available for purchase now from St. Martin’s Griffin

“…this is a compelling story that delivers profound messages through engaging, accessible prose. Both a page-turning romance and a comprehensive view of a young immigrant’s experience, this novel is sure to encourage empathy and perspective… VERDICT A must-have for all YA collections.” –School Library Journal (Starred Review)

Sunday Reflections: Dear World, Here’s What We Want You to Know about Teen Girls

The other day, in attempt to express contempt for President Trump’s Twitter use, Judd Apatow disparaged him by comparing him to a 14-year-old girl who tweets. This is not the first time that I have seen a tweet like this. The idea of being “like a girl”, especially a teenage girl, is a tried and true way of putting down others, especially men. For many, being like a girl is the worse insult they can think of. Teenage girls are so reviled that we effortlessly use them as insults and then we wonder why they are growing up feeling unempowered and rejected by the world around them.

So in response to not just Judd Apatow but to a culture that wants to continue to use teen girls as an insult and a put down, I tweeted about the various teen girls that I know, love, raise and spend time with in my life. You can read those tweets in a Storify here. But I want to tell you specifically what two 14-year-old girls spent last week doing.

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For some time, The Teen, a close personal friend and I have been talking about starting an initative to try and get books into the hands of needy children and teens in our local community. One in five children go to bed hungry each night and if you can’t buy food, you are most certainly not buying books. And as a librarian I know and preach the value of libraries exactly for this reason, but I also know that there is something special about owning a few books and having your own personal library that is open all the time and you get to call yours. So these past few weeks we worked really hard to start making it happen in our local community.

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We knew that getting books wouldn’t necessarily be a problem – many people have already donated – but we kept getting stuck on the how do we distribute the books portion. Then, our local food pantry announced that it was starting a backpack food program. If you’re community doesn’t do this I highly recommend looking into it. Each child who needs one gets a backpack full of food and snacks to take home on Friday afternoon so that they have some food to eat over the weekend. For many children, breakfast and lunch at school may be the only meal they get each week, and weekends are hard. The food backpack program helps bridge the gap over the weekend.

Making bookmarks

Making bookmarks

So we called the local food pantry, who will be putting the backpacks together each week, and asked if we could also put a book in each backpack. They said yes! So now we have begun collecting book donations (or the money to go buy books as some people prefer we buy the books). We also are making bookmarks and READ buttons to put with each book. Our goal is to put a book in each backpack a couple of times a month so that by the end of the school year these kids will have a handful of books to call their own and they can keep reading when they no longer have access to their school library.

Making buttons

Making buttons

So Friday night, out of all the things these two teenage girls could have been doing, they set up and assembly line to make buttons and bookmarks, placed them in books, and organized books by ages to be placed next week in backpacks. To date we have about 131 books.

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We made signs and put collection boxes up around the neighborhood. And we brainstormed other ways we could get books into the hands of kids. For example, our community has a monthly farmer’s market and we talked about purchasing a cart that we can set up with a “here kids take a book” sign. The girls are excited about the prospect of spending their Saturday’s out in the community handing out books to kids.

These are just two teenage girls, there are tons more like them all over doing equally amazing things. So maybe we can stop using them as insults and instead start respecting, nurturing and empowering them. And hey, maybe once in a while tell them they’re awesome. Because they are.

Take 5: A List of YA Lists on Refugees

readmorebooks2Instead of putting together our own list of YA titles that feature refugees here at TLT, I thought I would instead direct you to several other lists that are already out there because this is an important topic and we should all make sure we have some good titles in our collections to represent this important issue.

Nerdy Book Club List of Refugees

Stacked: YA Stories About Refugees

Stacked: 3 On a Theme: Refugees in YA Nonfiction

Scottish Book Trust: 12 Teens Books About Refugees

The Educator’s Room: 5 YA Novels to Understand Refugees

There is also a list of books tagged refugees on Goodreads, but this is a user generated list so you’ll want to investigate the titles a little more.

Goodreads List of Refugee Titles

 

 

#MakerSpace: Typewriter Fun

We got a typewriter for our Teen MakerSpace. Yes, a typewriter. This may  not seem like a very high tech gadget to get for a MakerSpace, but it has proven to be a glorious addition. The idea came to me when I went to a Pinterest conference and they had a scrapbooking merchant who had a bank of typewriters set up and it seemed like such a glorious idea. This belief was further reinforced when we went to ALA and there was someone making zines using a good, old fashioned typewriter. So our hunt for a typewriter began.

Behold our typewriter station

Behold our typewriter station

It actually took us months – several months in fact – to find an old-fashioned manual typewriter in quality condition. I scoured thrift stores, antique stores and online apps like 5Mile. We eventually stumbled onto a man not too far from our hometown that bought and restored old typewriters. We went to his home, which he works out of, and walked down the steps into a basement full of 100s of typewriters put on display. He was a true maker, he owned his own 3D printer which he used to print parts and restore parts of the typewriters. He talked with us about things like type-ins, which are a real thing and they sound amazingly cool. He also sold us our super excellent old-fashioned manual typewriter, which it turns out the teens love.

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type13

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So you have a typewriter, now what?

As I have mentioned before, we have found that having creative prompts and displays greatly helps our teens think about ways they can engage with our various Teen MakerSpace stations. So we brainstormed activity ideas and put together a challenge sheet:

TypewriterChallenge

Some of our activity challenges include:

Photo Manipulation

Type a favorite quote, poem or even just a short letter on the typewriter. Using an iPad for our iPad station, take a photo of your quote. You can now use various apps to change the look of your work. When you make something you like, you can print it out and do a variety of things with your artwork including, frame it, transfer it onto a canvas, or make it into a button. Here are some examples that I made.

type16 type15 typewriter7 typewriter6

It’s interesting to take a plain white piece of paper with some typewritten text and see all the various ways that you can change it.

Button Making

As I have mentioned, button making is widely popular in our Teen MakerSpace, so of course which use our typewriter to make buttons.

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Book and Zine Making

An obvious use for the typewriter is to use it to make a mini book in our book making station. We also have resources on making zines that would work nicely with a typewriter.

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You can tear up strips of typewritten words and mod podge them onto a collage or onto a frame. You can type on a piece of origami paper and fold it into a secret message. One teen made shape poetry using the typewriter. There are really a lot of fun and creative ways that a typewriter can be incorporated into a MakerSpace.

After growing up on computers, it’s interesting to see the teens trying to use a manual typewriter. It’s slower than a computer, so there is a bit of an adjustment the teens have to make. It can lead to lots of my gosh you’re so old jokes (for the record, we did in fact have color television when I was born thank you teens). There is a bit of awe and novelty to it. If you can get your hands on one for a reasonable price, I highly recommend it.

A Note About Cost: You can buy a typewriter at Michael’s as part of the We R Memory Keepers line, but it is around $200.00. We kept waiting and it is almost always exempted from any of the coupons, so those don’t help. They do sell replacement ribbons which are universal so they work even on our much discounted antique typewriter. I recommend asking around in the community to see if someone has one to donate or to check resale apps and lists like Ebay or 5Mile.

January #ARCParty – A look at some new YA lit releases

The Teen, The Bestie and I gathered together to discuss some January 2017 and upcoming YA releases recently. Here's a brief look at what we looked at and how the teens felt about them. Because we did it on Instagram (we often talk books and Teen MakerSpace on the TeenLibrarianToolbox Instagram page, though fair warning, you'll see pictures of my kids there too), the pictures can be hard to see here. You can also find the January #ARCParty storified here.

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So You’re a Librarian (or Library), What Do You Do Now? Librarianing in the Time of Political Turmoil

Sometimes inspiration comes in the strangest moments. Yesterday on Twitter I was thinking about what it means to me now to be a librarian. So I started tweeting and ended up with a long string of tweets highlighting the things that I think we – and that we includes me – can do now in light of current events. These thoughts are inspired in part by my mentor who asked me the other day, “okay, so now what do we do?” This question was asked in part because, if we’re being honest, a lot of not normal things are happening at this moment and people are concerned about privacy, about civil liberties, about the quality of and access to information. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about that. So here are some of my thoughts. You probably has some great ones as well, so please add them in the comments.

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  1. So my fellow librarians, here we are. What can we do:
    1) Print off or create an evaluating media sources page & put it everywhere


  2. 2) Buy diverse books. A lot of them. Put them everywhere. Flood your library with them.
    3) Host diverse or dystopian book discussion groups


  3. 4) Make a super easy bookmark for your local community. Put contact info for reps/senators on it. Websites. Understanding how govt works.


  4. @TLT16 4.) Use a canary for government requests about borrower records.
    5.) Delete all borrower records when the material is returned.


  5. 5) Go right now & make sure your collection is balanced left/right, progressive/conservative Christian, etc. Order accordingly asap.


  6. I mention #5 because as a progressive Christian I can almost guarantee you your collection skews overly conservative.


  7. 6) Don't pretend kids/teens don't know/care about what is happening. Put up a so you want to understand govt. page/display/booklist


  8. 7) Make sure all staff knows phone #/web addresses for things like ACLU, be ready to answer reference questions for help & referrals


  9. 8) Train staff ASAP - again - about freedom of information, censorship, collection development, patron privacy, what to do if records


  10. are requested or books are challenged.
    9) Don't keep patron records. It's a privacy issue.


  11. 10) Don't have a collection development policy or materials challenge policy? Get on that ASAP.


  12. @TLT16 6.) Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. Kids need to understand data collection and surveillance.


  13. 11) Remind staff AND public the value, duty and role of the public library. Stress Democracy, education, freedom of information.


  14. 12) Make sure staff knows who to refer public/media questions to, what they can/can not say. Write out a script. Bad info hard to retract.


  15. 13) Keep business cards of PR person and/or director well stocked at every public desk. Tell staff to refer all questions/concerns there.


  16. Our goals:
    Patron access to info
    Patron privacy
    Patron safety
    Library, patron, information advocacy




  17. Remember, education of local communities doesn't mean protecting people from info, it means providing it. How democracy thrives.


  18. @TLT16 Don't forget historical fiction!! We protest today because we know what happened when people didn't in the past.


  19. @TLT16 Community discussion focusing on historical works and why history and historical memory are important. Create oral history projects

 

Sunday Reflections: My Fellow Americans, You’re Breaking My Heart

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He was different because he was a Muslim, but not in the ways that you think.

You see, he knew you hated him and although he was just a teenage boy, he knew the rules were different for him. So he made straight As, he worked more teen volunteer hours than any teen had ever worked in the history of teen volunteering, he dressed impeccably, he said yes ma’am and yes sir. Because he knew that one slip of the tongue, one moment of being a regular teenager, and you would say see, I told you so.

For three years I worked at a Texas library branch that had a large population of Muslim teens. I had just moved to the state and had worked in several predominantly white communities before moving. This is what I discovered: teenagers are teenagers. They just want to listen to their music of choice, wear what they want to wear, read what they want to read, and they are occasionally stubborn and sassy. They’re all just . . . teenagers, really.

I work once again at a small, predominantly white and rural library in the Midwest, but I am better for having worked in that library. I was introduced to new cultural traditions, I heard amazing family stories, and I learned that what I always thought was true is in fact true: we’re all just people living our lives.

Another branch of that library had a large Latinx population. I would visit it occasionally. The number one complaint that these teens had was how everyone assumed that they were in America illegally and spoke Spanish. Most of them were second, third, and multiple generation Americans, had never been to America, and didn’t know a lick of Spanish. They were so afraid of our (American) prejudice that many of them rejected their rich cultural and family heritage just to try and be accepted. The truth is, as long as they wore brown skin they knew that whatever they did would never be enough.

I am a child of divorce. I am a very, very white child of divorce. But both of my parents are remarried and they are remarried to amazing individuals with a rich Mexican ancestry, though they themselves are all multi-generational Americans. I have thought about them often after November 8th. I am well aware that although many say what they hate is illegal immigration, that when they look at someone who doesn’t look like them they just assume they are illegal immigrants. I have feared for my family’s safety – though not my own because I have the privilege of being white and Christian – since the election. This weekend has proven that those fears are not unfounded.

One of my favorite and closest family members identifies as GLBTQA+. This family member lives in a renewed sense of fear, fear that someone will deny them a job or housing or healthcare – deny them life – because of who they love. I tell this family member often that I love them, because I do.

I do have some personal fears, because I am a woman from a conservative Christian background and I am all too familiar with what rights many conservatives think I should and shouldn’t have, what my role in this world should be. I know how the incoming administration seeks to defund programs that seek to understand and prevent domestic violence at the same time that Russia – who apparently now has great influence on our country – voted overwhelmingly to decriminalize domestic violence. As the mother to daughters, I am not without my own fears.

But mostly what I have is a broken heart. Because I believe in Democracy. I believe in human and civil rights. I believe that all people were created equal and that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, including the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And I care about my teens. The Muslim ones who had to try so hard to be perfect so that you would not hate them. The Latinx ones who hate that you assume they are illegal immigrants. The GLBTQA+ ones who know that you want to shock them into being straight. The female ones who just want to be able to walk down the street without being grabbed by strangers. The poor ones who just want to have a meal that fills their bellies and the chance at a decent education so they can get a job that helps them no longer be starving.

These are my teens. All of them. And I fear the world we are creating for them.

Still Learning Every Day: HERE WE ARE editor Kelly Jensen interviews contributor Sarah McCarry

It’s the final day in our week celebrating the release of Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World edited by Kelly Jensen. Today, Kelly joins us as she interviews one of the contributors, Sarah McCarry. Be sure to visit our post from day one to enter to win a Feminist t-shirt!

“I’m Still Learning Every Day”: Sarah McCarry on Feminism

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 Sarah McCarry’s essay in Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World is about relationships. More specifically, her piece conveys the hard lessons that so many girls learn and experience when it comes to finding and making true friendships. Where do you let yourself stand out? Where do you make yourself fit in? And at what point do you have to confront the roles you’re playing to do one and not the other?

Here’s a short excerpt from her essay:

You make yourself superior. Superior in your silence, your lack of want. You take up no space. You quit eating and do not name aloud the hunger that rages every day in your belly. You are not like other girls. You are not like other girls (“You are not like other girls,” the boys you run with will tell you, and you will try not to let them see you preen under the glancing light of their approval). You learn their books and their language. You laugh at their jokes. You listen to their stories, sit blank-eyed on their couches while they play video games, pass them your English notes. You keep their secrets. You use the words they use about other girls in order to assure yourself that they will never use those words about you. You make yourself into nothingness, a ghost conjured into being only through the desires of boys, the rules of boys, the ideas of boys. You’re not like other girls. If you turn sideways, you are so thin, you can almost disappear. If you are good enough at this, you will be safe.                                                           

You are never quite good enough at it, as it turns out. You were never, in their company, safe.                                                           

It will take you long, lonely years, but one day you will grow tired. Tired of boys, tired of contempt, and then where will you be? All these girls around you with their stories and their lives, the solace of one another, and you will be as far away from them as an anthropologist among a foreign people, curious but unable to make contact. Have faith: you will learn.

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Sarah McCarry (and a bear)

The ways this essay talks about how we judge girls, as well as how those who identify as girls judge ourselves against other girls, is a gut-punch. It forces the reader through painful “ah ha” moments to get to those powerful, self-affirming moments. It’s an essay that defines so much of what social justice means: standing up for yourself and standing up for those who are disadvantaged by social, cultural, and political beliefs.

Kelly Jensen: If you had to pick a moment that really defined you as a feminist, where you felt like owning the term, what was that moment?

Sarah McCarry: Mmmm, that’s a good question. I can think immediately of a moment in my senior year of high school. I was in a study group with these guys from my physics class and it was important to me that they like me, that they think I was tough and cool and hot and not like other girls and all that other bullshit. They weren’t popular, exactly, but people liked them, they were rich and confident and they moved around in the world with this absolute ease that I wanted to be a part of. They sexually harassed me all the time; they harassed other girls in the class all the time; they said what, in retrospect, were horrific things about other girls in our class all the time, one of them had at that point sexually assaulted me; but I thought, then, that the way to deal with that was to be really cool. I didn’t think the issue was them or the culture that enabled them or the teacher who thought they were funny; I thought I just needed to be skinnier and meaner and more quiet and prettier but not girly and tell the right jokes and not take up any space and then I would have achieved that magical state of being one of them, of being, basically, human.

So this had been going on all year and their behavior was finally starting to trouble me in a way I couldn’t write off as my own hysteria. I will never forget a moment when we were all studying together in the café of a Barnes and Noble—this was a very small town, only goths and smokers went to the coffee shop—and they started talking about a girl in our class, saying things like she’d given dudes blow jobs to get them to do her homework for her, she was such a slut, she was trash. This girl was a thousand times smarter than all of them put together, I think she’s literally a neurosurgeon now. They were pissed because she knew better than to study with them and she did better than them by far in the class and had the audacity to be better at science than them while female and having sex with people who weren’t them. And suddenly something connected in me that had never sparked before; I understood in that moment that what they were saying was really fucked up, that what they’d done to me and to other women all year was really fucked up, that what I’d enabled them to say about other women was really fucked up, that they had never, at any point, thought of me as anything like an equal, that that was a battle I was never, ever going to win, and that I didn’t care whether or not they liked me anymore because I didn’t like a single one of them. I felt it through my whole body: I. Don’t. Care. Anymore. Just like that: I was free of them. And I stood up so fast I knocked my chair over and said, very loud, “Fuck all of you,” and walked out of there, and pretty much didn’t talk to them again after that. It was one of the more cathartic moments in my life, for sure.

But my feminism is also an organic, constantly evolving thing. For years after that moment with those dudes I still thought and said a lot of dumb things about race and class and sexuality and gender and how they operate together. I thought and said a lot of transphobic and racist and ableist and classist and just generally very stupid shit. It was a long time after that, when I had been doing social work for years, and organizing and working with a lot of incredible women of color who taught me so much—and were (god bless every one of you, you know who you are) incredibly patient and generous with me, which was a huge gift that of course I took for granted at the time—anyway, it was a long time after that before I would call my feminism anything resembling intersectional or committed to real social justice and transformation, and if my feminism is a useful tool now it’s entirely because of the work and ongoing work of women of color and trans women of color and because of the decades upon decades of work—again, in huge part by trans women of color and women of color and queer women of color—of women who came before me. I’m still learning every day.

Kelly: Your essay, while personal, is told entirely through second person. Talk about that choice and what you hope it is that readers feel as they go through the painful experiences associated with “fitting in.”

Sarah: I think that experience of internalized misogyny, of trying to transform yourself into the girl who’s not like other girls and ultimately failing—because that girl doesn’t exist, the girl who’s cool enough to be safe and respected and valued in a patriarchal system, no one has ever been that girl no matter how hard she worked or how many women she cut down or how many men approved of her—is a very common one for a lot of young (and not so young) women. I spent a long time working through shame about that experience: I wanted people who sexually assaulted me to like me, I spent a big chunk of my life putting myself into situations that I knew were physically and emotionally unsafe, I said shitty things to and about other women, and for years I thought that meant there was something fundamentally wrong with me or that I deserved what I’d been through. And of course that’s not true. I learned, working with survivors of extreme trauma, that surviving can often mean making choices that look—and often are—pretty terrible and part of moving out of trauma, of moving toward a life where trauma doesn’t define your existence, is forgiving yourself for making them in the first place. Like a lot of people, I was able to apply those lessons to others long before I realized I also got to apply them to myself. And I think the more easily you are able to be generous with yourself, the more easily you can extend that compassion to other people and see them in all their messy complicated beautiful infuriating human-ness, and hold yourself and other people accountable for your shitty choices in productive ways, and work together to move toward a world populated with the opportunities to make better ones.

The second person in the essay wasn’t a conscious choice but I think in some ways it manifested as a reminder to myself to extend the same kindness to the person I used to be as I do to other people. And for readers—I hope, wherever you’re at, that that’s useful to you.

Kelly: In what ways have you incorporated social justice/feminism into your everyday life?

Sarah: I don’t think you can separate those things, honestly. The lens of social justice isn’t something you can put away once you start looking at the world through it. It can make going to the movies a real pain in the ass, I tell you what. Once you see how power works in a system, you can’t ever unsee it again, even if you just want to watch dopey space battles on the IMAX screen.

Kelly: What are some of your favorite books and/or resources that would benefit all readers eager and curious about social justice/feminism?

Sarah: SO MANY!!!!! Mariame Kaba’s website (http://www.usprisonculture.com/blog/) is an incredible resource and so is all of the work she does—she is an extraordinary organizer who works a lot with young people around transformative justice. Everything Jenny Zhang has ever written, especially her essays and stories for Rookie. Read Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Leslie Marmon Silko, Sandra Cisneros, Gloria Anzaldúa, Maxine Hong Kingston, Sandra Cisneros, Joy Harjo, Toni Morrison (fiction and non!), June Jordan. I am a big fan of Walida Imarisha’s work, Natalie Diaz and Aracelis Girmay’s poetry, Rahawa Haile’s essays, everything Topside Press publishes… I could make this answer forty pages long, tbh. I use my twitter (@therejectionist) to flag particularly fabulous books I’m reading, you can keep an eye on that as well.

I will say that I think we have a responsibility to know our history, to know how long we’ve been fighting the exact same battles, the incredible transformative work that’s come before us; that’s something I wish I’d figured out way earlier. Read about the Black Panthers, read about ACT UP, read about Stonewall and SDS and the Combahee River Collective (http://circuitous.org/scraps/combahee.html) and AIM, read Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells and Angela Davis and Assata Shakur and Leslie Feinberg and David Wojnarowicz and Ronald Takaki and Cherríe Moraga. People have been thinking about—and doing a really good job of thinking about—this stuff for a long, long time.

Kelly: How can young readers and those who advocate on their behalf better prepare themselves to be actively engaged with social justice and feminism? Perhaps more specifically, how can girls help other girls so that they don’t have to learn so many of these “Girl Lessons” the hard way?

Sarah: Honestly, I think the kids are all right these days—I mean, Teen Vogue is doing some of the best, most intersectional journalism in media. This book exists. I am constantly inspired by the energy and awareness and activism of young people; I feel like I learn a lot more from them than they can possibly learn from me.

As far as people who advocate for young readers, I think one of the best things we can do is ask young people what they need most from us and then shut up and listen when they answer.

Kelly: What is the biggest thing you hope readers take away from your essay in Here We Are?

Sarah: One thing I wish I had known when I was younger was that becoming the person you want to be is a lifelong process. You don’t have to—you’re not going to—get it right straight out of the gate. If readers take away a little more compassion for themselves and for the other people around them who are struggling too, then my work here is done. For the most part, we’re all doing the best we can to thrive within a system that doesn’t want to see us flourish, and we’ll do a much better job of taking care of each other as part of a community of loving dreamers and empathetic activists than we will trying to go it on our own.

Meet Sarah McCarry

Sarah McCarry (therejectionist.com/@therejectionist) is the author of the novels All Our Pretty Songs, Dirty Wings, and About a Girl, and the editor and publisher of the chapbook series Guillotine. Her books have been nominated for the Norton Award, been a finalist for the Lambda Literary Awards, and shortlisted for the Tiptree Award, and she is the recipient of a fellowship from the MacDowell Colony. She has written for the New York Times Book Review, Glamour, Book Riot, Tor.com, and others.