Sunday Morning Paper: Miss America

Why I’m Not Really Here For Emma Watson’s Feminism Speech At the U.N.

Telling men that they should care about gender inequality because of how much it hurts them, centralizes men and their well-being in a movement built by women for our survival in a world that degrades and dehumanizes us daily. This is problematic for the same reason telling white people that they should end racism because racism “holds us all back as a society, so eradicating it will help you, too,” is problematic.

After Paris: Meta, Irony, Narrative, Frames, and The Princess Bride

You can’t write a successful pastiche of something unless you love it.
To make a pastiche work, you have to be able to see what makes the original thing great as well as what makes it absurd, you have to be able to understand why people want it in the first place. You have to be able to see all around it.

“Happy National Punctuation Day!” 😉

[The full-stop] has taken on a brusque aura these days, leaving the reader of any declarative sentence open to detect apathy or annoyance. This has led to a rise in exclamation marks, because people need something to fill the gaps left by informative cues we get only in face-to-face communication—the raised brows, the wide eyes, the smile. Fearing that we could come across as unfriendly, we tack on an exclamation mark (“Thanks!”) to make sure our fine disposition comes across.

Sexy Loki, Queer Tricksters, And The Problem With LGBT Villains

Loki was a thinker in a culture that valued fighters, a sometimes-female shapeshifter in a culture that valued certainty. He was the original effete European intellectual, mistrusted by the red meat-eating muscular menfolk. His trickster nature eventually and perhaps inevitably made him a father (and mother) of monsters and freaks, the enemy of the gods, and the cause of the world’s destruction. The trickster became the villain. He was too much of a freak not to be a traitor.
That’s the role that the queer villain plays; a threat to the “correct” order, intrinsically maladjusted to the way the world works.

Advocating for and writing about girls is a radical act

This isn’t the fault of educators; it’s a weakness in the system of belief that the road to successful adulthood is through the voice and experiences of the straight white male. It’s the fault of a society that values and encourages a certain prescribed path and any deviation from it is, in fact, a failure of the individual, rather than a failure of such a singular, privileged perspective.

“What Are You Reading?” Wednesday (September 24, 2014)

SupermanWhat are you reading?

Right now, I’m reading Superman: The High-Flying History of the Man of Steel. I’m not usually a big reader of nonfiction, and manga aside, I don’t read comics – not usually American comics, and definitely not superhero stuff, but The Magician’s Book got me into this sort-of “biography of a book” genre.

What did you recently finish?

I finished those books I was jumping around reading, What’s Left of Me and I am J. While I recognize the importance of I am J – one Goodreads reviewer called it “the Annie on my Mind of trans-masculine teen narratives” – I did not enjoy it. I didn’t like J, and I especially didn’t like his unquestioned homophobia and misogyny; masculinity, trans or otherwise, is no excuse to disparage girls and women, a lesson J never learned in his story.

What's Left of MeWhat’s Left of Me, on the other hand, was way better than I was expecting and I really can’t wait to find out how Eva and Ryan’s romance is going to work out when neither of them are the only (or even primary) inhabitant of their bodies. Addie and Devon aren’t really into each other, at least not that way. I hope they don’t get together. That would be such a cop out.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I already put Once We Were (Hybrid Chronicles #2) on my phone so I can find out what happens to Eva, Addie, and the others. I am so sold on this premise.

Sunday Morning Paper: Hobbit Day

in a hole in the ground there livedHomodachi and Friends Call For Submissions #2: Self-Care and Community Sustainability

Homodachi and Friends is a zine for the English-speaking LGBT community (and their friends/allies) living in Japan. We are dedicated to archiving and documenting the LGBTQ experience, history, knowledge, and politics in all of its manifestations—whether it be literary, theoretical, poetic, or artistic in structure. We believe that by carving out space for these voices to be heard, we can create community and sustain it simultaneously. With a commitment to this mission statement, we offer our call for submissions for the second issue of Homodachi and Friends.

The theme for the second issue will be self-care and community sustainability.

Don’t Let Classic YA Novels Go Out of Print

Well, you know, it’s interesting. Yes. [YA] is a girl thing. Which is why the whole genre, for ages, has been kind of maligned. … That was part of my resistance to John Green’s books. Because it’s, like, can’t we talk about cancer without these two kids being in love? Very unlikely they’re actually going to be in love. But it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have a deep and interesting relationship. … But it’s, like, why are we even talking about men? Like, I can’t even talk about a genre of literature that was ghettoized because it was by women without also talking about men, too. It drives me insane.

Integrity Disqualifies Sanders for White House

The Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s potential bid for the 2016 Presidency was declared over, on Monday, before it even began, because of a key feature of the American political system that makes a person with integrity ineligible for the White House.

According to some experts, the electoral system has developed a number of safeguards over the past few decades to prevent someone with independence and backbone from occupying the Presidency.

Judging a Book by Its Cover: Among Others

My fiend and I have this thing about Among Others. Neither of us can decide if we like it. I liked parts of it and didn’t like other parts of it, and I’m not sure I’ll ever reconcile those bits into a book I have a definite opinion about. We’ve talked about this a lot, so when I saw the Japanese edition for sale at Village Vanguard, I snapped a photo and sent it to her.

Among Others

I thought it was a strange design choice, because it doesn’t hint at all about the fantastic/magical realism elements that make this book this book – but it is right there in the title, 図書室の魔法, “Library-room Magic,” or “The Magic of the Library,” as best as I can translate. But it looks, visually, like a school story; I get an almost Anne of Green Gables-ish vibe out of these. My friend said they looked much “younger” than the book; I think this is just “kawaii” in action.

Among OthersI read this in ebook format originally, and thus I rarely even saw the cover as I was reading – one of the major drawbacks of ebooks, if you ask me. I have a lot of opinions about cover design, which is why I write this series. (Obviously.)

So of course, I went to Goodreads to investigate.

We got talking about the other editions of this book. My friend said she didn’t like the American edition: Morwenna’s injury and her subsequent disability is a major part of this book, and the American edition (left) shows a slender girl frolicking in a field, wearing a floaty white dress. I think the hazy photograph captures the feeling of the book, but maybe not the orange.

Among OthersThe French edition, retitled Morwenna, has the same vibe: a white girl in a white dress, skipping and surrounded by stars or glitter or fairy dust for some reason. This one is a little more excusable; I think this is little girl Morwenna, before the accident, working magic somewhere as a young girl.

What gives with the frolicking? Morwenna is a protagonist with disabilities. The French and American editions erase that part of Morwenna’s character which, in an age of #WeNeedDiverseBooks, is honestly a bit disappointing. Even the oddly kawaii and not-at-all magical Japanese edition clearly shows her with a cane in the first book, though she’s lost it in the second where she’s holding hands with her friends.

(*Note on Japanese books: many longer books are published in two or three sections to make them smaller and easier to carry. Among Others is split into two, 上 and 下 (first half and second half); other books are divided into thirds, 上, 中, and 下.)

Among OthersThe Spanish-language version ignores Morewenna’s cane and looked too genre for the book, which I guess is a strange thing to say about a story that’s a love song to science fiction/fantasy genre fiction, but I don’t think that’s the tone of this story. This cover comes off too paranormal romance for my tastes. This isn’t a book I would be “selling” to my students, but if I was trying to get a friend to read it, I’m not sure this cover would tell them what I want them to know, going in, about the story I’m asking them to read.

I ask people to read this book a lot. I’m always saying, “I don’t know how I feel about this, please read it.” I want someone to make up my mind for me. I want someone to work out the tangle of opinions I have about this book, because I can’t decide how I feel, and so I ask people – smart people, people I trust, people whose book recommendations I always accept – what they think.

Among OthersIf I had my pick of any cover, I would go with the Polish edition. Morwenna is depicted, and although you can’t see her cane in the cover art, it also isn’t not there; there’s no reason that it’s not just out of the frame. I think this artwork captures some of the magic of the story, carrying over the sparkles and stars from the French and American editions without any frolicking in sight.

It also recalls a specific scene for me, which I think is strong cover design. I like the aha! moment when you read a book and realize, this is that picture. Maybe that’s just me, though.

The reflection is a nice touch. I don’t want to spoil the story, but I think that adds a lot to my fondness for this cover. This is the one I would most like to give to a friend and say, “read this.”

Among Others

The next-best option would be the Turkish edition. Morwenna isn’t depicted at all, which is un/fortunate: fortunate, because at least she’s not depicted frolicking, and unfortunate because it missed the opportunity to say, this is a book about a protagonist with disabilities. But it gets the mood right for the story. It highlights the awards won, and the Ursula K. LeGuin review quote signals what kind of fantasy we’re in for, here; Among Others is a magical realism/urban fantasy border story. It’s an ode to the kind of story that Ursula K. LeGuin writes, and the kind of story that wins genre awards.

I would hand this book to my friends, if any of my friends read Turkish.

Among OthersI think the Polish cover deserves a special mention. It’s got the genre (although this “reads” a little more sci-fi and a little less magical realism, but that could just be me), the awards, and it very prominently features Morewenna as she’s described in the book, using her cane. I wish I liked this cover better. It has everything that I said I wanted, but somehow it doesn’t speak to me. However, if I were buying this book for the secondary library, this is the edition I would want… too bad our collection is mostly in English, not Polish.

I think I would actually like to suggest this for the secondary library. Regardless of how I feel about it, it won the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, and the British Fantasy Award. There are kids in my school who need to read this novel, and this is the cover they’ll first encounter in my library:

Among Others

“What Are You Reading?” Wednesday (September 17, 2014)

What are you reading?

I am JEverything.

I’m in one of those reading phases where I skip around between several books and can’t concentrate on anything. Right now on my phone, I have What’s Left of Me, and I am J. On my computer, I have The Library BookThe Curious Writer and No Plot? No Problem! and on my desk at work, A Little PrincessUnderstanding Comics, and Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin.

I’m not very far in any of those books. I only started I am J over the weekend, but I think I’m closest to finishing that.

What did you recently finish?


That’s not really true. I finished Changeless.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m not sure. First I have to finish this “currently reading” list, or at least weed it out, but I’ll probably pick up a few more along the way before I get out of this weird phase

Slice of Life: Elvis Presley and Jackson Pollock

Slice of Life I have a little gaggle of regulars who stop by the library almost if not every day for new books, or just to hang out and chat. These afternoon visits are the highlight of my day.

First, one of them picked up the Horrible HistoriesDead Famous” Elvis and His Pelvis. She asked me about the joke. First, what’s a pelvis? so I explained, using Mr Bones, the skeleton model hanging around the third grade classrooms for their current Unit of Inquiry, Who We Are.

Mr BonesThat was the easy part. So how do you explain why Elvis wasn’t allowed to dance on TV without talking about moral panics or using the word “sexy”? I was at a loss, so I just pulled up YouTube and found a video of Elvis singing Hound Dog live on TV. She didn’t get it.

I guess it’s hard to see what’s so objectionable about a little dancing when you’re used to dodging pornography at the convenience store down the street from school where all the kids like to get ice cream. So we talked a little bit about how the media ups the ante to get more attention in an increasingly crowded landscape.

She didn’t take Elvis and His Pelvis after all, even after I told her that Elvis is “The King” that Lilo loves in Lilo & Stitch. That’s okay. It doesn’t matter that she didn’t take it. What matters is the conversations we have and how useful the internet is as a teaching tool.

After this conversation, I had some pre-K art on my desk. One of my other students said it was very scribbly. She is very into fine art, so we Googled some Jackson Pollock paintings and talked about scribbles as art.

Neither of these conversations are earth shattering, but it’s these little things, expanding students’ world views beyond what they’re learning in class. They’re learning lots of great things in there, but I relish the opportunity to teach them these little things they might have otherwise missed.

Sunday Morning Paper: Write Like a Motherf*cker

Dear Sugar, The Rumpus Advice Column #48: Write Like a Motherf*cker

We get the work done on the ground level. And the kindest thing I can do for you is to tell you to get your *ss on the floor. I know it’s hard to write, darling. But it’s harder not to. The only way you’ll find out if you “have it in you” is to get to work and see if you do. The only way to override your “limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude” is to produce.

Trans Women Offer Women’s Colleges a New Way to Support an Old Mission
(I’m quoting myself, as quoted in this article.)

If women’s colleges seek women from diverse backgrounds and to build an inclusive community, that would necessarily mean reaching out to trans women the way they (supposedly) reach out to poor women and women of color.

 Flirting With War: Kantai Collection and the Utility of Moé

Lying beneath the popularity of KanColle and other media like it is an undercurrent that ties into the thread of Japan’s history and the debate over its future. Consider on a granular level the mechanism that hooks players to the game, the step of anthropomorphization. When a battleship of the IJN becomes an anime girl, players begin to think of the newly combined object as more than just a tool of war, but something to care about. The characters are very obviously designed to be moé, to induce that caring or “budding” feeling. … Thinking of hardware in this way brings it closer to us, and, in the case of KanColle, such feelings help to elide the true historical purpose of these vessels, which was to advance the hegemonic cause of the Japanese Empire through force and violence.

Almost All the Books People Say Influenced Them Were Written for Children

It should be noted that though the books may not have had to be the “right books” or “great works of literature,” human nature being what it is, most of the titles on the list are, in fact, the ‘right books,’ by which i [sic] mean, books you can proudly define yourself as a reader of. … No one is listing Fifty Shades of Gray. They are listing books that they think say something complimentary about who they are as a person.

Almost all of these books are YA.

Judging a Book by its Cover: A Clockwork Orange

Lately, I’ve taken to nosily asking people, “what’s your ‘magician’s book’?” and explaining the concept, roughly, from Laura Miller’s The Magician’s Book: loosely, a book against which all other reading experiences are measured and, I think, usually found somewhat wanting.

My mother, to my surprise, said A Clockwork Orange. I never thought of my mom as the “Clockwork Orange” type. I mean, here’s a picture of us: 10565188_10202280447283500_810555654795963155_n

I don’t know what I was expecting her to say, but A Clockwork Orange was not it.

Usually these “Judging a Book by its Cover” posts come from books in my library, or books I’ve been reading lately. I wrote the first post, about Ellen Renner’s Castle of Shadows, because I was surprised (in a bad way) by the default cover/edition on Goodreads. Today, I’m writing about a book that I have never read and, given what I understand about the story, probably never will.

I used to be in design. I’ve never read this book, but I’ve seen this cover. It’s iconic.

A Clockwork OrangeWhat do you do, as a designer, when redesigning an iconic book cover?

Do you go with the same idea, like a callback?

A Clockwork OrangeOr do you do something completely different?

A Clockwork OrangeI’ve never read this book. I probably never will. I definitely won’t be buying it for my (elementary) library, so I’m interested in this one less as a reader or as a librarian, and more as a designer. It’s certainly a conundrum. I like the callback, and I like the jarring, unexpected discontinuity of the all-white cover. I mean, even the Penguin Modern Classics paperback uses orange as the accent color:

A Clockwork Orange



My favorite cover on Goodreads is this Georgian edition, published in 2013. It reminds me of (M.T. Anderson’s) Feed.
მექანიკური ფორთოხალი


“What Are You Reading?” Wednesday (September 10, 2014)

What are you reading?

ChangelessI’ve been flailing around since finishing The Magician’s Book, entirely unsure what to do with myself. I plonked my digital copy of Changeless on my phone ereader app, because anything with Madame Lefoux is bound to be entertaining, but my heart really isn’t in it except for an particular interest in a certain cross-dressing French inventor. This isn’t the first time I’ve read Parasol Protectorate, and I think I’ll stop here when I finish; I have some feelings about the narrative treatment Madame Lefoux , the only canonically lesbian character, towards the end of the series.

I also picked up and read the first half of No Plot? No Problem!, the NaNoWriMo how-to book by Chris Baty. I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo on and off since 2005, and I’ve even read the book before, but it was there and I read it. The second half deals more with week-by-week tips and tricks, which will all be very useful… two months from now.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Magician's BookI think there comes a time in every reader’s life when they are stopped dead in their literary tracks for a bit by a book that was just that good. It’s happened to me before – offhand, I remember this happening with What Happened to Lani Garver and Farewell My Concubine, and I know there have been others – but this is the first time it’s been a nonfiction book that’s haunted me like this.

I mean, I liked it so much I tweeted Laura Miller for suggestions and she was kind enough to respond with a link to her list of books for kids who love Narnia (which I don’t, but I like the idea of Narnia) and her bibliography.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I don’t know! Help.

I have a (metaphorical) stack of unfinished books: The Ocean at the End of the LaneUnderstanding ComicsA Little PrincessRedwall. I’ve got a “to-read” list as long as my arm (including, but not limited to, SabrielThe Magician’s Land) and none of those seem like quite what I’m looking for right now.

Slice of Life: A Wrinkle in Time

Slice of LifeOn Friday, I suggested a student read A Wrinkle in Time. This student is someone who adored the Narnia books and is generally a great reader, especially of fantasy and quirky, offbeat things that maybe aren’t so popular at my school, where Geronimo Stilton is king. He finished The Last Battle, complaining that it wasn’t as good as the rest of Narnia. He said “it didn’t feel the same,” something I’ve heard from other Narnia fans, child and adult.

(Confession: as much as I loved The Magician’s Book, I actually never cared much for Narnia and I’ve only read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.)

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic NovelSo I suggested another multiverse with a religious bent, A Wrinkle in Time. I have a hard time selling this to my students. They just aren’t that into it, although a few have picked up the graphic novel. That was on Friday afternoon.

Monday morning, he comes rushing into the library during snack time – probably the first chance he had to get downstairs from the fifth grade classroom. He’s got the book tucked under his arm and he’s breathing like he sprinted downstairs.

“Miss Leslie,” he gasped. “I need the next one.”

So we look up the title of the next book. (Shame on me, I couldn’t remember it!) I don’t have it in my collection, so I ring the secondary library for a special favor so this student can get A Wind in the Door before he explodes with wanting to know what happens next.

A Wrinkle in TimeThis is the kind of enthusiasm I want to impart in my students. Maybe not everyone has the temperament for really immersive, obsessive reading, but for the students who are inclined to be readers, I want to encourage them. For those disinclined, I hope they see the joy their peers get from books and want to share.

Of course, as a bookish sort myself, especially as a kid, I can say that maybe we aren’t always the coolest kids on the block and the other kids won’t look to us as role models, and that’s OK, too. Reading was always my secret haven. I hope my collection has a book for every reader, but I live for the kids who really love books.