Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Blog Roll Call: Diversity in YA Literature, a list of resources to help librarians diversify their shelves

diversityaudit2

When I talk about doing a diversity audit, one of the first questions I get asked is how I know whether or not a book is diverse. There is no easy answer that does not involve doing a small amount of research. Though over time, because I tend to deal exclusively with YA, I gain a pretty good knowledge of the literature. I also make sure that I spend time visiting blogs that focus on diversity and following diverse authors, librarians and hashtags on social media. Here are a few of the ones that I follow.

Blogs That Promote Diversity and Inclusion

American Indians in Children’s Lit

Librarian Debbie Reese talks specifically about American Indians in Children’s Literature and challenges librarians to think about Native American representation in the books that we place on our shelves. Reese will give very specific discussions about titles and share why the representation concerns her and gives enthusiastic recommendations of titles that she feels represents Native American life well.

The Brown Bookshelf

The Brown Bookshelf has one primary goal: to raise awareness of the various black voices that are writing for young readers.

CBC Diversity

The CBC Diversity initiative was founded in 2012, as part of the Children’s Book Council’s commitment to promoting diverse voices in literature for young people. They discuss specific titles.

Crazy Quilt Edi

This former school librarian works tirelessly to advocate for promoting literacy in teens of color. I follow her on Twitter as well as reading her blog and have learned a lot.

Cynthia Leitich-Smith

Leitich-Smith is a Native American author who promotes the works of other Native American authors.

Diversity in YA

Provides a variety of book lists and reviews.

Latinos in KidLit

Focuses on Latinos in children’s and YA literature.

LGBTQReads.com

Shares reviews and book lists of LGBTQAI+ books.

Read Diverse Books

Focuses on reading and reviewing books about and by people from marginalized groups.

Rich in Color

A plethora of resources that talk about diversity in children’s and YA lit. They also have a great blog roll here that you should check out.

weneeddiversebooks

We Need Diverse Books

This initiative works hard to diversify publishing and is a great resource for book reviews and book lists.

YA Pride

Originally called Gay YA, this blog changed their name recently to be more inclusive of the entire LGBTQIA+ spectrum. It’s a great place to visit for book lists and reviews.

Diversity and Inclusions Hashtags

#OwnVoices

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

Publishers That Focus on Diversity

Just Us Books

Kokila

Lee & Low Books

Little Pickle Press

Month9Books

Move Books

Reflection Press

Tamarind Books

TU Books

Some Additional Sources

9 Publishing Organizations that Promote Diversity Within the Industry

Equity in the Library Resource List

Previous TLT Diversity Audit Resource List

This is by no means an exhaustive list. For example, you will notice that it lacks any type of religious diversity, which is a gap that I hope to fill. So please share your recommendations with me in the comments.

Sunday Reflections: That’s Me in the Corner, Losing My Confidence (as a Reviewer)

darkenergyI like Science Fiction. Like, a lot.

I especially like Science Fiction that has alien invasions. Remember the moment in Independence Day when Will Smith walks out of the house to get the paper and he looks to the left, then he looks to the right, and then he finally looks up and realizes that a giant spaceship is hanging right there over his head? I love that moment.

In the past few years, Science Fiction has been saturated with dystopian and post apocalyptic novels. Don’t get me wrong, I like those too. But I eat up every alien invasion I can get my hands on.

Which brings me to Dark Energy by Robison Wells. Which I really loved. I think.

It’s complicated.

Dark Energy takes place almost immediately after alien invasion has occurred. It’s what happens after Will Smith and the rest of the world looks up and realizes that yes, aliens exist and they are most definitely here. In this case we know this because they have just crash landed. They may be here, but they don’t seem to be very good drivers.

Alice’s father is the head of a special unit that is responsible for investigating what’s happening. So they pack up and move to the Midwest where Alice is stuck in a boarding school with strangers while the world tries to figure out who these visitors are and what they want.

As far as alien invasions go, this is a very entertaining one. Wells puts some very interesting twists on the story. Our original invaders may not be who we think they are. They may not be the only invaders. There are twists, turns, and action packed road trips that take your typical alien invasion story to the next level. Add that to a strong, interesting, and incredibly competent female main character who gets to be a type of hero in her own story and I’m sold.

But . . .

(Isn’t there always a but . . . ?)

Alice is part Native American. This is referenced often. In fact, at one point she flees for safety to a reservation where her grandmother lives. And this is where things get complicated for me as a reviewer.

You are probably aware that earlier this month, author J. K. Rowling began releasing a variety of information about the wizarding world in North America. You are probably also aware that some of this information involves stories about Native Americans. And you are also probably aware that this didn’t go well for her. There were strong reactions about cultural appropriation and misrepresentation, which you can read about here, which were followed in the online community by conversations about how we talk about book criticism/critiques online to the author and to one another.

For me, it was a very interesting discussion. You see, when I read Dark Energy by Robison Wells I then reached out to one of my fellow TLTers. “I really liked this book,” I said, “but I’m kind of scared to review it because I don’t know what to make of the Native American content. It feels like he is being very respectful, but what if I’m wrong?”

And it does. It feels like Robison Wells has been very respectful of Native Americans in this book. He references the history of Native Americans in ways that draw meaningful and appropriate parallels to what is happening in the book; it was, in my opinion, such a subtle but effective way to remind readers that the American people did horrible things to Native Americans under the guise of being the more knowledgeable and helpful people group. And he includes an afterwards where he discusses his own history, research and beta reading process. In fact, he mentions how those he consulted asked him to take out parts of a sacred ceremony that he includes, dialing it back until it was at a place that those readers were comfortable with. He obviously tries very hard to get it right.

But does he?

I don’t know. Because I have no point of reference to make that observation. I am not Native American. This is not my culture. These are not my stories to share and I have no right to say if he gets it right.

So what do I, as a white reviewer, do? This is a question I have been wrestling with. And I wrestled with even more when another fellow TLTer texted me the other day and said, “I read this book that has a mixed race mc with a disability and I think the author does a good job, but I’m kind of afraid to review it. What if I missed something?”

What if I missed something?

That’s the question I have been wrestling with as a reader and a reviewer.

When I review, I think about several things.

1.) Will my teens want to read this book? I’m spending other people’s money and I want to make sure that I am buying books that my teens want to read. Books that just sit on the shelf are of no value to me because if my circulation goes down, then so does my budget. I believe in serving teens, which requires money, so I work hard to build collections that circulate. I want teens to read so I tend to buy the books they want.

2.) Do my teens need to read this book? Not all books have to be world opening and have teachable moments, I buy plenty of fun, entertaining reads. But I also want to make sure my collection is peppered with books that stir the soul, make readers think, and can possibly change their world view. Sometimes you read a book and when you are done you think, everyone needs to read this book.

3.) Will reading this book harm my teens? This is something newer I have been thinking about. And I’m not talking here about sex, drugs and violence. I’m talking about representation. I’m talking, more specifically, about bad representation. I’m talking about fat shaming, slut shaming, harmful stereotypes, and blatant misrepresentation that reinforces cultural norms that make life difficult or dangerous for my teens. This is where a lot of the conversation lately has been online in the kid/ya lit world.

And as a librarian, this is where it gets tricky. You see, librarianship is in many ways supposed to be a neutral profession. I am not supposed to impose my personal views or opinions on others. But what does this mean when we come across fiction titles that have bad or even outright harmful representation? THIS is I think the question that many of us in youth librarianship are wrestling with. Because it puts two of our professional values in direct conflict with one another: serving teens, which I believe means valuing and advocating for them, and professional neutrality. It’s even more complicated by the fact that librarianship is still a predominately white, female profession. I, as a reader, a reviewer and a librarian, sometimes miss things.

killtheboybandAnd teens can miss even more. So now let’s discuss Kill the Boy Band, shall we? We shall.

Kill the Boy Band is a recent release in which a group of girls kidnap a boy that is the member of a popular boy band, think One Direction. It is billed as a fun, darkly humorous read. And one of my teen reviewers agreed very much with this billing. She loved the book. So I was surprised when I started hearing people online complain about fat shaming in this book. My teen reviewer, age 13, never mentioned this at all. And to be fair, 13 is young, she is not yet a sophisticated reader and she doesn’t have a lot of life experience or frame of reference to pick apart all the subtle nuances of a book. Heck, a lot of adult readers don’t.

But this very different reading of the same work got me thinking even more about reading, reviewing and representation. It got me thinking even more about teen readers. My teen reviewer read and loved this book and didn’t blink once at this content that many adults found to be not just problematic, but dangerous. And as a former (?) anorexic, I take body image representation very seriously. I live in fear of my daughters developing the same body image issues that I have struggled with my entire life. And I know that they take in subtle digs every day that help build this often subconscious idea that how you look – especially as a woman – matters more than anything. It really bothered me as someone who cares about teens that my teen reviewer didn’t seem to bat an eye at what others considered to be such problematic content. So much so that out of curiosity, I asked an older teen reviewer to review the book as well to see what she says and her review will go up tomorrow.

This is not a post where I come to you with answers. I have none. This is a post where I come to you discussing the many ways in which I am wrestling with what it means to be a teen librarian in a diverse world that is having important discussions about representation in YA literature and how it impacts readers. I don’t even have a good way to wrap this post up. This is stream of consciousness. It’s complicated. It’s messy. It’s real life.

I’m listening.

I’m wrestling.

I’m reading.

I’m thinking.

I’m talking.

And I hope at the end of the day, I am mostly getting it right. For my teens.

Because at the end of the day, to me, that’s what matters. The teens that I serve. And the ones I’m raising.

PS: Props to REM for the great post title inspiration. And a great song.

Diversity Discussions: (Inter)Cultural Programming at the Library, by Jayla


About two weeks ago I had the privilege of attending a training session on Diversity and Outreach. The presenters of the program are the duo behind the edutainment team, Crisscross Mango Sauce. I thoroughly enjoyed the information that the ladies shared with us. One of the things that stuck with me as I was leaving the session deals with how libraries should incorporate intercultural, not multicultural, programs into our libraries.
You may be wondering what the difference between intercultural and multicultural is.  In a nutshell, multicultural programs are those programs that bring a person of another culture in, but we don’t exchange information. There may be dialog from the presenter, but there isn’t an interaction between groups. As librarians, we should be providing teens with well-rounded cultural experiences. Intercultural programs allow for that exchange to happen.
An exercise the Crisscross Mango Sauce duo asked us to complete sums up my explanation very well. All training participants were asked to break into pairs and, for five minutes, we discussed the prompt, “How did you mother show you…?” The prompt topics included things like beauty, affection, trust, and knowledge. Despite almost all of us having been born into the American culture, we all held so many different ideas of these common topics. Our experiences were all different, but a few pairings shared similar ideals. It was very eye opening and, in five minutes, I learned a lot about people I’d never even met before!


Libraries are diverse populations already. People from different nationalities and ethnicities come into our buildings to find information. Why not use those people as sources of information? You may not use them for your program, but more than likely they know who the cultural leaders are in the community. The most important thing about intercultural programming, any programming really, is to bring people from outside of the library, into the library. I can guarantee you that within your community, there is a group that includes some culture drastically different from your own. Use them! Pick their brain!
One of my co-workers put together a fabulous Spanish-English story time, complete with piñata, jarabe (or the “Mexican Hat Dance”), and duo-language story time. And, get this; she didn’t have to plan ANYTHING! Of course my co-worker conversed with the presenter and they talked about some things she would need to include in the program. But, for the most part, the outsider presenter was the one who ran the program.  
Often times the focus for diversity is spotlighted on younger children. For example, the American Library Association has a wonderful initiative called El Dia de los Niños (dia.ala.org), Dia for short, which celebrates cultural diversity among children. Dia, Diversity in Action, is geared towards children, but I see no reason that teens can’t be a part of that mix as well. It is just as important for teens to realize the wonderful things they can learn from someone not like them. 
http://dia.ala.org/
If you are doing cultural programming in your library, what are some of the resources you use? Are they internal (patrons) or external (business, community centers, etc.)?
List some of the cultural (past, present, and future) programs that take place in your library! What was the response? From teens? From presenters?  Let’s discuss in the comments.
Jayla

Introduction: Diversity Discussions with Jayla from LadyBlueJayReads

Today I am very excited to announce a new monthly contributor to TLT, Jayla.  She has been gracious enough to add her perspective as a new librarian to the mix here at TLT.  She has also decided that she would like to start a new monthly column called Diversity Discussions.  So join us the last week of each month for her posts.  
Meet Jayla . . .
Hello fellow librarians and young people advocates! I’m Jayla Parks, a book blogger and future (hopefully) youth services librarian! My journey to librarianship came out of nowhere really. As an undergraduate, I majored in Theater and received credits towards a minor in English. The two English classes that I absolutely loved were the Adolescent and Children’s Literature classes. During my time in college, I also worked at the school’s library and really enjoyed helping people find what they needed and being generally surrounded by books. Toward the end of my time at school, I expressed interest in working with children to one of the reference librarians. His response — “Why don’t you become a children’s librarian?” and I thought “Children’s librarian? That’s perfect!.”
So there you have it. My MLS will be in my hands in May and I couldn’t be more excited about the field I’ve chosen to work in! In the last year or so, I’ve become heavily involved in joining professional organization where there are wide ranges of topics discussed relating to librarianship and youth advocacy.  Now, I’d like to extend my reach to contribute to those discussions! Particular on the topic of diversity.
It’s no secret that diversity in libraries and literature is becoming a hot topic. People want to see more books that represent people just like them. And it’s not a strictly racial issue. Diversity topics include sexual orientation, physical disabilities, and mental disabilities. In the coming months, I hope to present you all with lists, discussions, and ideas that will not only supply diverse populations with the information they need, but also educate ourselves so we can provide tweens and teens alike with solid, colorful information.