Sunday Morning Paper: Injustice System

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Peace among protest: A Portland police officer noticed a 12-year-old boy holding a sign that read “Free Hugs” during a Ferguson demonstration in Oregon. The officer started talking to the boy about the demonstration, school and life. When they were done talking, the officer asked if he was going to get a hug. The boy teared up — and obliged.

From Stuff White People Like to #NotYourShield: How irony is killing activism 

Snark works. No one likes to be the object of it. Especially when it’s tearing down a hypocrisy that you’re all too aware of; how many guys who are into feminism aren’t, at this point, aware of how negative the “white knight” stereotype is?
So in the aggregate it discourages guys from speaking out; it makes it that much easier for a guy to say “This isn’t my business” or “I don’t want to get involved.” And in the aggregate it makes it easier for women to get disproportionate harassment without resistance, and forces women to bear more of the burden of speaking out.

Regulations For Your Rage

Your rage can be something when it grows up.

Please make sure your rage is logical rather than emotional. Your rage will have a hard time if it is overly sensitive.

We would advise your rage that it should bring along a resume and/or CV with a timeline of proof.

If only your rage had had two parents. Think what it could have done!

Your rage should take the time to educate others about what has made it so inexplicably angry.

If your rage uses that word, why can’t I?

A Nationwide Outpouring of Support for Tiny Ferguson Library

With the donations this week, Bonner plans to purchase more “healing kits” for children to check out. The kits include books about dealing with traumatic events and a stuffed animal that they can keep.

Judging a Book by its Cover: Sassy

Sassy For some of my students of a certain age, they love series chapter books. I probably shelve and reshelve more Rainbow Magic and Beast Quest and Geronimo Stilton books than everything else combined for this age range (Grade 2~5).

Some kids go in for fantasy – Rainbow MagicBeast Quest – but others like realistic fiction, like the Little Animal Ark books and Critter Club. Some combine their love of princess and cute animals with the Rescue Princesses books.

Judy Moody and Junie B. Jones go in and out daily, but Sassy sat on the “chapter books” shelf, mostly ignored, even while Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind is a huge hit with slightly older students. Every year, I have at least a handful who come in, clutching it to themselves, breathless, telling me ohmygoodnessit’sthebestbookeveryouhavetoreadit all in one breath.

So why not Sassy? It’s a heartwarming story about a quirky, adorable little girl and her family and her best friends – so, basically all of the things Junie B. Jones is about, or Judy Moody, and really what’s at the heart of the Rainbow Magic books, except they have wings.

6609765 Out of My Mind looks like this. In a Q&A on her website, Sharon Draper says that Melody’s race is intentionally left ambiguous.

We’ve all heard about the doll test, and a more recent study showed similar results. I do honestly believe that this is why Sassy books aren’t flying off the shelves with Junie B. Jones. (Can you imagine Junie B. and Sassy in a classroom together?)

Although this blog post at YASLA is about YA lit, it probably filters down to middle grade and even early chapter books. The Rainbow Magic fairies that my students love so much come in a variety of colors, but there’s not much/any diversity in shape, hair texture or style, clothing…  Junie B. goes home every day in kids’ backpacks, but Sassy is a tough sell.

So what do I do? I keep selling ’em. When younger students ask me for Dear Dumb Diary (a series that lives in the secondary library), I suggest Sassy as an alternative. I mention Sassy to the kids who read Out of My Mind and come back jumping up and down to tell me it’s soo great.  (They’re shelved in different areas of the library, so students wouldn’t necessarily find one with the other.)

It’s not just Sassy, either. As a librarian, I make a conscious effort to purchase, display, book talk, and share diverse books – not just during special theme months, but all of the time. I believe in the importance of diverse books, and I believe in the power of good books. I believe in windows and mirrors. It’s not enough to simply buy these books and let them gather dust on the shelves. It’s my job to put books in students hands, and help them find titles they might otherwise miss.

“What Are You Reading?” Wednesday (November 26, 2014)

Brown Girl DreamingWhat are you currently reading?

I’ve wanted to read Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming since I first heard about it, but after National Book Awards, I knew I had to read it. (I hadn’t known that Jacqueline Woodson grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, which made me that much more interested in her memoir. I was never religious, but my BFF in high school was a Witness and I used to read the Watchtower and Awake! magazines.)

I can’t wait to get this book into my library. I think it’s so valuable, and so important, and so good. My students love novels-in-verse historical fiction – the older students’ teachers read them Tofu Quilt and I have a few girls who rave about Inside Out & Back Again, and I think this will be an appreciated addition to the collection.

I also started The Twistrose Key while waiting in line at the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater for a friend, and I … read a bit, and then checked Twitter or Facebook, then read a bit. I don’t know. Lately talking animals just don’t do it for me? That’s what made me put down Hollow City, too. It’s weird, because I grew up on the Redwall books and, duh, Iorek Byrnison in The Golden Compass, but I dunno. I’m going to keep at it, but slowly.

What did you recently finish reading?

Last week, I was eight books behind on my Goodreads Challenge. This week, I’m only three. I read Mem Fox’s Reading Magic, hoping there would be some useful tips for teachers, not parents, but there wasn’t much.

finally finished Superman: The High-Flying History of the Man of Steel and The Cambridge Companion to Children’s Literature. (I was nearly finished with both of those things, anyway. I just actually got around to finishing them this week.)

The Story of Fish & SnailI read all of Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty. I was super excited for this book after Kelly Jensen‘s glowing review, but I found it a little bit meh. Maybe it would have been better in print, or even on a bigger screen, so I could get a better view of the photos that accompany each poem?

In my library collection, I had the opportunity to read Fortunately, The Milk in one short sitting during an inservice day, and the good luck to read the utterly delightful The Story of Fish & Snail. I read it out loud eight times from Monday to Friday, and I liked it more and more each time – definitely a keeper. One class even asked for an encore. It’s so much fun to slam the book shut when Fish says “THE END.” and the students can see there are still pages left. (I like that the end then is a new beginning, and doesn’t say “THE END.” I liked how cleverly the illustrations are used to be in the book/about the book. It’s meta, but it’s subtle.)

What do you think you’ll read next?

Well, like I said… I’m not so good about TBRs. I think The Twistrose Key will be a lingering read. That’s not a bad thing, just different. After Brown Girl Dreaming, if I’m not burned out on novels-in-verse, I might pick up Inside Out & Back Again. One of my students adores this book, it seems like a good “readalike,” and I know she would be thrilled if I picked up a book at her suggestion.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books in My Winter TBR Pile


Top Ten Tuesday I should start by saying that I don’t “do” TBR piles. In fact, when I first saw the term on Book Riot, I couldn’t figure out what it meant. I had to look it up. “Oh, a ‘to-be-read pile!”

It’s true, I have over a hundred books on my Goodreads TBR shelf, which I thought was just totally out of control until I heard about people with, like, thousands of books there! Yikes.

I don’t even use it as a checklist or “what’s up next?” but a list of books I might want to read, like if I don’t already have something lined up or I’m in the mood for something different.

I go through and I purge books that no longer look interesting to me, since I add things willy-nilly as the mood strikes and I know I’m never going to get through all of that, not when there’s so much else out there!

But, either way, without further ado: Top Ten Books in My Winter TBR Pile.

love Christmas stories. I think this grew out of the ritual of my mom reading me and my sister the same few Christmas books every year on Christmas Eve – The Littlest Angel (1), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2) and ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (3). I love this so much that when I moved to to Japan, I asked for copies of my own. (For some reason, I don’t have Grinch, so I check it out from my library to take home over the holiday.)

Shoebox ProjectSo for me, winter is a time of rereading. I read those Christmas classics to myself on Christmas Eve, or to my friends, or my mom reads them to us over Skype. (I love technology.) But for me, it’s not just books; I have my own private rereads of my favorite holiday fanfiction. Building on my mom’s tradition, in high school, I started reading them to myself: the Good Omens fanfic, The Week That Wasn’t (4), and the Harry Potter fandom classic Shoebox Project (5), the chapter with the evil mistletoe.

Hey, we make our own traditions.

It’s not just Christmas books (and fic) that get reread at this time of year. A chilly winter day is the perfect time to crack open The Golden Compass (6) and follow Lyra into the frozen north. The Lord of the Rings movies were released in Decembers, so why not start The Fellowship of the Ring (7) again? ‘Tis the season and all that.

Then comes New Years, which usually means a reread of either Weetzie BatWitch Baby, or Baby Be-Bop (8). What better magical start to the New Year than a reminder to look for love in everything, and the feeling of accomplishment of having read a whole entire book in the first day or two of the new year? (I read v e r y  s l o w l y, you understand.)

So what about reading something new? Well, I would love to get my hands on a copy of My True Love Gave to Me (9). Remember what I said about Christmas stories? I had to check Goodreads reviews, because I am so not interested in reading an entire short story set about straight couples, but I eventually found out that there is at least one girl/girl couple in the collection. So I would like to read that.

The other book on my Christmas wishlist is Sacred High City, Sacred Low City: A Tale of Religious Sites in Two Tokyo Neighborhoods (10). If I’m not reading books, I’m visting shrines, so why not read a book about shrines, right?

Slice of Life: “A Bit OCD”

Slice of Life

Content note: OCD, in some detail.

Internet, we have to talk.

A preference, even a strong preference, for tidiness and organization is not “a bit OCD.”

Always running late because I have to check if I’ve turned off the stove, or locked the door, or closed my window is “a bit OCD,” especially on days when I haven’t either used the stove or opened my window, but I have to go back anyway, just in case. What if I opened the window and forgot about it? What if I opened the window last night and didn’t close it before bed? What if…

Sometimes the thought strikes before I’m even out the door. Those are the best, because they’re easiest to fix. I walk through the house, saying, “off, closed, locked” and pointing to the stove, the window, the door as I go. “Check, check, check.”

Usually, it hits me at the intersection near the barber shop. “Oh, shit. Did I…?” and then I have to turn around on blisteringly hot summer days and trudge back, or run, shivering in the icy winter, back to my apartment to check. “Check, check, check.”

On really bad days, it occurs to me a stop or two away from my station, and then I’m really late. I have to wait for the next train back home, walk from station to apartment, “check, check, check.”

I’ve never left the stove on, the window open, or the door unlocked, but some days, I’m afraid that this is the day. This is the day my apartment building will burn down, or my papers will all blow away, or bandits will come in through my unlocked door like an invitation and take my laptop, my compass, my mom’s silk teacher scarf.

I have to go back and check. If I don’t, something bad will happen. So I go back, and I check, and I send apologetic text messages about forgotten train passes. It sounds better than the truth.

The truth is, I’m “a bit OCD.”

It’s only a bit OCD. My mental health problems aren’t debilitating, but they aren’t a picnic, either. The need to “check” fluctuates, as does what needs “checking.”

Lately, it’s my stove, windows, door, or how recently my mother posted to Facebook or emailed me back, and I have to end every conversation with some sort of promise or plan we’ll talk again soon. “Let me know what you want for Christmas” will do, because it’s implying that I’ll hear back from her. This is a major step in the right direction from when I was more than “a bit OCD.”

Back then, in high school, I had to end every parting with, “Goodbye, I love you, I’ll see you __________.” I’ll see you after school, at the library, when you get home from the grocery store, when I get home from the mall. I’ll see you.

This was not just “a bit OCD.” This was me hyperventilating and sobbing at school, calling my mom’s workplace from the secretary’s phone in the main office while curious onlookers, kids I didn’t know, watched out of the corner of their eyes, confused. We fought that morning, I hadn’t said it. Or maybe I had, but then I forgot? I couldn’t remember. I had to call and say it, just in case.

We heard a siren on our way to school. An ambulance passed by the bus. I didn’t think it was heading in the direction of my mom’s workplace, but I had to “check.”

If I didn’t, something bad would happen.

It wasn’t just “a bit OCD.”

It wasn’t just “a bit OCD” when, during undergrad, I had to keep saying the Lord’s Prayer or God would kill my cat. I said it over and over again to myself, all day and all night. I wasn’t allowed to think certain thoughts, say anything unkind, fail to hold open a door or pick up a stray napkin and chuck it in the bin, because if I racked up enough strikes against me, enough bad karma, God would kill my cat.

I don’t even believe in God.

My cat passed away that summer.

CleoIt wasn’t because I thought something mean about a stranger on the train. It wasn’t because I only said the Lord’s Prayer because I don’t know the whole Rosary, the Hail Mary. God didn’t kill my cat. She passed away because she was old, and sick, and that’s what happens to pets when they get old, and sick, and even all the Hail Marys in the world couldn’t have saved her.

When I held her in my lap on the day the vet came, I knew that was the last time, and I knew I hadn’t killed her with my bad deeds, because that doesn’t even make sense. I knew that then, and I knew it in the months leading up to that moment. I knew that it didn’t make sense, but how could I live with myself if I slipped up and put my recycleables in the trash bin and God killed my cat to teach me a lesson about sustainability? I had to be careful, just in case, even if it didn’t make sense.

But OCD doesn’t make sense. OCD tries to make sense out of a senseless universe. Even knowing that it doesn’t make sense, you have to “check.”

This is what it’s like to be “a bit OCD.” No matter how senseless, embarrassing or strange, there are some things I have to “check.” I know I locked the door, but I have to “check.” There’s nothing I can do about the exchange rate, but I have to “check.” Mom hasn’t posted on Facebook for a few days, so I have to “check.” In my last email, did I say or imply that I wanted to hear from her?

If not, time to think up an excuse that doesn’t sound crazy, doesn’t make her worry, so I can sign off with, “Talk to you soon!”

That’s “a bit OCD.”

Sunday Morning Paper: Some Things Are Impossible

Some Things Are Impossible: How a Rural Queer Lives with Depression

I no longer believe that people can shake themselves out of depression with merely a determined fist. I think that’s bullshit. To be alive in this world at all: indeed to be queer, a person of color, a person with a disability, trans, a woman or poor, is to have self-hatred non-consensually woven into your education in personhood before you’re even aware the air you are breathing. I believe sometimes depression is the natural effect of attempting to cough some of the toxic waste of self-hatred out of one’s lungs that can’t be out run.

IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Accidentally Joined a Cult After Leaving Another Cult

What’s important is listening to your inner Dana Scully, no matter how badly you want to believe. The truth is out there, sure, but it’s also inside you.

How to Deal with Anxiety, Trauma, or Heartache – 4 Steps from Research

But what is it about writing that calms the mind and helps us heal emotionally?

There are no solid answers but there’s plenty of research showing the human mind needs meaning— a story to make sense of what has happened.

Only then can it rest. Writing forces you to organize your thoughts into a coherent structure. It helps you make sense of life.

German town plays prank on neo-Nazis

Although Wunsiedel’s inhabitants had observed the march from a distance over the past years, this Nov. 15, some of them welcomed the neo-Nazi protesters effusively with rainbow confetti and even cheered for them. What had happened?

No, the residents of Wunsiedel — most of them skeptical and critical of the neo-fascists — had not suddenly turned into Nazi sympathizers.

Instead, the group Rights versus Rights (Rechts gegen Rechts) had come up with a new way to protest the annual neo-Nazi march: For every meter the neo-Nazis walked, local businesses and residents would donate $12.50 to a nongovernmental organization devoted to making it easier for neo-Nazis to leave behind their hateful politics.

Fandom Fridays: Things We Lost in the Fire

Once a week, as we look to the weekend, I’m going to highlight some kind of fannish contribution to online fan culture.

Why fandom? Fandom is a real, authentic, and undervalued way that (some*) readers respond to their favorite books – and movies, and video games, and TV shows.

Let the Organization for Transformative Works explain their mission, and why fandom matters:

The Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) is a nonprofit organization established by fans to serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms. We believe that fanworks are transformative and that transformative works are legitimate.

With that out of the way, our first fanwork, a fanmix for the Fëanorians in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, a generally tragic lot with incredible taste in music, if fandom is to be believed.

Why start with fanmixes, and not a more “legitimate” fanwork, like fanfiction or fanart? ‘Cause I really, really love fanmixes, that’s why. My job allows me a lot of time alone, and it gets lonely up there sometimes, and I love library work, but does anybody love shelving? I’d like to meet that person.

Listening to fanmixes, I can stay in the story. I love figuring out why this song and that one, how the tracks flow together like any good mixtape but with the added bonus of staying in Middle-earth, or Fuyuki City, or Hogwarts while I work.