WARNING: Rant ahead

Those who have been long-time readers of the blog know how I came absolutely unglued reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by Irish novelist John Boyne, for the Cybils Awards in 2006. I thought it was an utter waste of trees, and my friend Leila actually, in sheer desperation, put it down to read about TENNIS, which has to inform readers how bad it was. (Sorry, sports fans, but tennis is ruddy dull to watch, much less read about.) (Leila later voted the book as her most put-downable.) And then, there was the MOVIE.

For me, the whole book – and its celebrants – was almost worse than the existence of Holocaust deniers. Nope, nope, we’re not going to deny it happened. We’re just going to cuten it up! Perk it up! Every genocide needs ruffles! With its simplistic, condescending, patronizing storyline, the novel affirmed that children are so INNOCENT and lisping, pink and cute — so stupid and unobservant — that they’d miss, you know, great atrocity, the smell of death and the fact that their wee bestie was incarcerated and being starved and tortured, prior to being murdered. Also, Boyne wouldn’t mention the lice and the and the bruises and the disappearances going round on his side of the fence. The characters were meant to be nine and twelve, but the baby language of “Out With” instead of Auschwitz and the Fuhrer being called “The Fury” utterly sickened me – what nine-year-old German child would not know the name of his country’s leader in the 1940’s???? In an abusive home, much less an oppressive political regime, children are indoctrinated before they can speak.

Y’know what??? LET’S. NOT. GET. ME. STARTED.

In short, the book showed an appalling lack of respect for its subject matter, for the survivors and the victims of one of modern history’s most egregious and cold-blooded atrocities, and just whistles off, looking at the ceiling, whilst I foam at the mouth because it is truly, madly, deeply inappropriate. OKAY. I get it. John Boyne doesn’t care. But, I swear to you, it’s books and movies like that which give rise to STUPID S$*%*%&# LIKE THIS:

REALLY, ZARA CLOTHING STORE???? Did you sleep through World History? In a company that does business INTERNATIONALLY, was there NO ONE who was at all bothered by a yellow star? No one who thought twice? No one whose job it was to check out stuff like this? I don’t buy that. Maliciously meant or (probably) not — people who don’t do business thoughtfully soon don’t do business.

See, this is a truth:

Truth: human nature is for human beings to have a short attention span.

Truth: we need books that TELL THE TRUE, as Jane Yolen puts it, to remind us of what is real.

Truth: CRAP LIKE THIS is what happens when we lose track of the truth. We grind salt in one another’s wounds. We forget that anyone ever hurt. We walk through life with blinders. We can justify all sorts of things.

Books are weapons in the war of ideas, people.


I’ll leave you with a ZEN Pencils moment, since I’m not feeling all that Zen.

< / rant>

{it all comes down to this}

LEE AND LOW who, for years, have been publishing multicultural children’s books, even before it because a “thing” in the late nineties and the early-oughts, recently brought a simple – but complex – question into the blogosphere. WHAT is UP with the lack of diversity in children’s books?

Childrens Books Infographic 18 24 V3

Way back in the Clinton era, First Book came with that question. They began to answer it by appealing for more books for younger readers – starting the little kids out right. Malorie Blackman, the black British children’s laureate said unequivocally that she’s going to be banging the drum for diversity, because for too long, Britain’s literature has ignored that Britain is no longer one color. So, this is relevant. It’s out there.

Yes, that question’s been asked before, but Lee & Low asked because they’ve now been in the business for eighteen years. Eighteen! And, as you can see, though they’ve worked hard and published more, and added Tu Books in as a SFF arm of their publishing house, they’re still but a little bump in the road, in comparison to what else is put out yearly by The Big Six (or, five, with Random/Penguin(s)). Overwhelmingly, fantasy stories, science fiction tales, spy adventures, mysteries, romances, historicals, easy reader, middle-grade, chapter books, and YA are plain, plain, plain, plain, white. Not Asian. Not Latin American. Not Hispanic. Not Native American. Not African American. Just the most culture-expunged, dominant culture, homogenous output.

This matters. Not because I am a person of color. Not because I don’t feel “comfortable” reading books that don’t feature people of color. But because the longer we tell young adults and children that they are invisible from their own imagination, the more we’re allowing them to disappear from the world’s stories. The more we’re encouraging them to be audience instead of actor, observer instead of participant. The more we’re saying, “Yeah, just sit back and plug in, and let the reality TV track of the world scroll past your eyes. There’s no room on the stage for you – just watch how others live.”

And, a big, fat, NO to that.

The piece itself (and please, please, PLEASE read it) has a lot of information from people I consider to be knowledgeable and savvy folk – librarians, professors, authors; people of color, taste, and education. And corporately and separately, they have a lot of reasons, but hardly a definitive answer. They do touch on a couple of points that ring true to me, though – one, we keep telling people of color that their books don’t sell – and don’t stock them? Well. You can’t sell what isn’t stocked. Two, there’s this idea that books by people of color are, like, homework and vitamins – things you’re supposed to have to have a well-rounded meal. Nobody wants the food they’re “supposed” to have. Everyone just wants good food. Until we can get over the “people of color as cod liver oil” idea that seems to have permeated American society, and the idea of “tolerance” – man, I hate that word, because all it means is “putting up with crap we don’t like,” instead of actually being loving and inclusive – this is where we’ll be.

And the point that hit me most of all: nowadays, just selling a book is harder. People are all about the new – you’re only as good as your next book, new authors are better than old, next big thing is better than what you loved last year, and readalikes to THE HUNGER GAMES or HARRY POTTER or whatever are all the rage. Writers of color, however new, are expected to produce …what? Not the next HUNGER GAMES, that’s for sure. The expectation seems still so weirdly strictured: poverty, slavery, history.

It’s actually hard, perhaps harder after winning a nod from the ALA, to write a book that feels “worthy.” That’s the word I’ve heard repeated: “worthy.” Roger Sutton kind of hit the nail on the head for me, when responding to this – that there’s an awful lot of earnest, good-for-you type of literature accepted from writers of color, and “we need more rubbish.” I’d say “rubbish” is his little joke, but the intent is serious. I LOVE MARE’S WAR. I will always love it, and the story that should have been commonly known about those women just trying to take part in what was supposed to be all of the country’s struggle. I’ll always love the process, the wonder, the discovery of those pages – for myself. But, I don’t love how long it took me to publish a book afterward, how my editor repeatedly told me that she wanted something more like MW, that I got the feeling that if I would only produce another work of historical fiction that doors would be opened to me. I actually felt like I was being stubborn for hoping to write science fiction, for dabbling in contemporary YA fiction – like I had to have a greater hook than other writers just to get in the game.

This isn’t me getting out my tiny violin and wailing sad songs – no, way. Getting published was a dream come true. Being published three times is the stuff of giddiness. But, in between those three publications were four or five novels which were shopped around and to which people said, “Well, they’re fine, but…” and could give me no concrete descriptions of that “but” meant.

My editor tells me that the time of the Contemporary has swung round again at last. Novels about real people with real lives and normal families with no fangs or fey blood in their family trees are on the rise. I will keep writing. I will also, however, hope for a couple of things:

*** One, that we remember that publishing is a business. They’re in it to make money. They are not in publishing for social reform. We cannot look to publishing companies to lead the revolution. People’s attitude about race and ethnicity in this country are as fractured as ever, and are reflected in the production of multicultural books. We don’t truly believe we’re all alike and sisters under the skin. We really do think – and it shows – that there are stories of “us” and then there are “others.” We need to stop othering, as a world, before we expect to see that from publishing. We need to get to know people from other cultures and skin colors, and truly accept that there is a commonality in the human experience. We all were embarrassed and horrified dorks during adolescence. We all had a rough “first love.” We all have had heartbreak. We’ve all had besties and worst enemies. We really are all alike.

*** Secondly, I hope we keep passing along good stories – stuff we’ve read that isn’t perfect, but is worth buzzing about. I’m not just talking about something as simple as choosing a book by a writer from another culture for your next book club or summer reading list selection, though that is a fab step. I’m also talking about talking up books to your local bookseller, and making some noise when they don’t have a book. “I’m surprised you’re not carrying _____. We have a really diverse community, and could use books like this.” We have to all be advocates for multicultural children’s literature.

*** Finally, I still hope someday to be a published SF author, and a mystery writer, and a heart-thumping romance novelist. I think we, as writers, simply have to keep trying.

A lot of thinking to do, yes, about this, and other things. But, more than that, a lot of writing to do. And, I’d best get back to it.

{what we mean when we say we’re ‘blessed’}

Hayford Mills 221 HDR

Well, here’s a rare moment, me actually being in the know on a pop culture news item WHILE IT’S HAPPENING. Go, me.

Poor Wolf Blizter.

By now everyone has seen and commented on his slightly pushy conversation with the Oklahoma tornado survivor, standing in the midst of collapsed houses, playing with her toddler. We all know, by now, that reporters love natural disasters because they give them those ratings gold that few other things can provide, and Wolf Blitzer – probably an otherwise legitimately genteel and perfectly nice person – likely angled them in between some rubble, just so it could be seen on camera. Just so he could say she was blessed. Just so he could, awkwardly, ask her if she “thanked the Lord.”

Though why he asked, when it was so clearly not his business, no one knows.

To sidestep the elephant in the room. *I* believe in Divinity. I go to church(es) – sometimes with more or less cynicism than I should bring along, but I attend. I make myself part of the community of believers. I believe that matters of faith are, in large part, like matters of politics: personal, tap-roots kinds of things that determine which way one’s mental trees grow. I consider myself to be both a thinking person, and a person willing to suspend disbelief on some topics. I hope that an inquiring mind doesn’t prohibit me from having a faith (though I know that for some people, and some variations of faith, it does). I know that what Wolf Blitzer said was pushy and invasive. Why would you ask someone who hadn’t volunteered it about their religious point of view, especially on live camera? He was after something — and maybe he got it. Or, maybe he got something else entirely.

Hayford Mills 228 HDR

There has been a lot of fomenting and foaming about the mouth (to which I won’t link) about what Blitzer said to the woman he was interviewing. The thing is this: it’s not that big a deal, for two reasons. One, we don’t any of us have, in dot matrix print on our foreheads somewhere, the words “Christian” or “Not Christian.” I think he was, clumsily, trying to ask about her stance on faith, and I don’t know why he felt he needed to know, especially since a.) he wasn’t a friend and b.) he was there to talk about the tornado, and the woman’s narrow escape. Perhaps because she was sharing a personal vignette on national television, he decided she needed to share ALL of her personal thoughts?

The second reason I don’t think this is all that big a deal is this: the woman and the reporter are Americans. Americans talk God all the time, whether they believe in Divinity or not; it’s a weird leftover from a Puritan past. If you don’t believe this about Americans, I challenge you to live where people don’t come from a long-ago Puritan past. It makes a difference to the linguistic patterns like you wouldn’t believe. Saying “we’re blessed,” is American shorthand for lucky – and many people don’t actually believe in a Divine Blessing thing going on, but they will say, “Thank God it’s Friday,” even though, if pushed, they’d say, “what God?” This really is an American thing! In my limited experience of five years in Central Scotland, I find that British people don’t so casually invoke God (except for in profanities). So, Americans talk God, yes, they do. Culturally, folks, you have more in common with many Christian “generalists” than you might think, so maybe hold back on the urge to Other so hard?

Blitzer’s trespass was not so much that he was talking faith. The problem was not just talking – he was nosy and ham-handed and pushed. It wasn’t enough that the woman had escaped with the clothes on her back, her husband and her child, he wanted to stick his grimy fingers further into the bleeding gash in her world, and expose her guts. That is never right.

Hayford Mills 225 HDR

I believe in Divinity – but have many friends who are complete agnostic non-believers, atheists (which is not the same as agnostic, there’s a difference), Jewish believers, Muslim believers, and humanists. I avoid certain religious discussion with my Jewish friends – and I don’t think it matters, we share a lot of items a faith without arguing over Messiahs and the Trinity (which, I fear, isn’t particularly Biblical anyway, but let’s not Go There). I am on nodding acquaintance with the idea that there is no God but God, so my Muslim friends and I can talk in general terms, or avoid talking faith altogether. Fine. I can talk social justice with my non-organized-religious humanist friends, I can talk Pirates of Penzance or Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms with my Unitarian friends (no, seriously. My friend Jo tells me of the many great musicals she’s been a part of for her church’s musical program). I am a person who feels the importance of a lingua franca to bridge the various thought streamlets, brooks, rivers, lakes, and open water of my varying friends. I’m more of a “something-in-common” seeker than a difference underliner. I wish we all could be; it would save reporters from asking prodding, dumb questions of rattled strangers on camera.

Maybe that’s what Blitzer was doing – trying to find a “something in common” between one young mother and the rest of his viewing audience. Well, FAIL, on one level. On the other hand, if people could then gather under a similar banner of “Go Gently! Don’t Push! Speak Cautiously! Build Bridges!” well, then, we will have gotten somewhere.

{and, postulating on progeny…}

People don’t always recognize racism. My friend “Molly” and I, in high school, always joked about her relatives – I had to joke, because I was so horrified at the, “your people” comments that laughing seemed to be the best way through it – we always joked that her aunt was a benevolent racist. As in, “Gosh, look how nice I am, to put up with your shortcomings as a spokesmodel for your race!” Here I come to find out that there’s a sociological descriptive for it – benign. Scientific American explains it for benign sexism. And I am backwards applying it to my high school self for benign racism.

Okay, honestly, there’s no such thing. Racism is corrosive internally or externally, there is no benign. And, when I hear things like, “You’ll have such cute babies,” I can understand how people think they’re saying something nice. Still, though… Dear, People, let me be clear: YOU ARE NOT saying something nice.

Number One, my metaphorical babies are MY business. Please see to your own, and stop talking about my reproductive organs/issues/choices as if they are yours. What if I’m not having babies?? Number Two, the assumption that my babies will be spectacularly beautiful JUST because they’re biracial is …wow, so troubling. Is it the civilizing Caucasian influence alleviating the savage animalism of African Americanism? Is it the perky jive and Soul Train divaism alleviating the oppressive white-breadedness of being Caucasian? Are you possibly building a race, and trying out the idea of hybrid vigor?

Oh, don’t answer. Just… think before you speak.

Not So Adorable

If I had wanted
My baby’s looks to suit you,
I would have had YOURS

call me ishmael

“I like a little
chocolate,” he said, and I
thought of homicide

she meant no insult

“Perfectly toasted.
Means not burnt, and not too raw.”
Man lives not by bread.

the test

as long as brown girls
still pick out the whitest doll
we still have issues

Around Glasgow 269

{why i vote: the irrational season}

Thursday, the downstairs sink flooded, twice. The plumbers – two men with big boots – tromped gunk on the stair carpet, which needs to be cleaned. Today, Maya Thompson, to use her Starbucks name, is coming by to stay until Monday. We still don’t have a washer (next week!) so I must schlepp loads of soaked towels to Mom’s; the last four Fuji apples are going slightly soft, which means they need to be diced and turned into a quick apple cake which is okay for the both the vegans and the omnivores, and there are four gigantic boxes yet in the garage to unpack, my fabric remnants – victims of the downstairs flood – to unbox and wash before they mildew. This is not to mention the other weekend chores of chiropractic appointments, choir rehearsal, raking the front, making an altar arrangement for church, and bringing cans to the food drive.

This is also not to mention the 143 books only read by one person on the Cybils list, plus the 95 books read by no one yet at all, plus my revision, on which I am slightly stuck, which I really need to finish by the 17th, latest. Which, with the aforementioned reading stack, I may not do. Which annoys me.

Oh. My. Gosh. I do NOT have time to sit down and decipher all of the electoral paperwork. I don’t have time to read the doublespeak and triple takes, and the dubious linguistic looping of proposition amendments and the perky bios on various district representatives, eager for my vote. I don’t have things to do. I don’t have time to vote. And, why should I? Psychologists tell us that voting is completely irrational. Statistically, an individual vote makes very little difference – and it’s personally time-consuming to register and do all of the rigamarole to get the right paperwork or the right polling place. I’m over-scheduled and grumpy, and I don’t have time…but I will make the time. Why? Well, I’ve given that some thought, and come up with roughly four reasons:

  • I vote, because…I can read. My literacy is an immense gift; in a state where once upon a time public school was the ideal so that everyone could learn, today there are so many impediments toward people getting to school that 14% of my community is lacking in basic prose skills. I didn’t receive my education in a public school setting, but I support the right and privilege of those who do. I also support libraries as bastions of public knowledge. My votes protect these things,
  • I vote, because…I can disagree with the way my country is run. I hate some of what is done, in the name of big, glad-handing, we’re-number-one, jingoistic American interests. We are the world’s scariest friends, the world’s worst bullies, the world’s nosiest neighbors (and if you tell me to take my opinion and go back to the UK, so help me). I have some very harsh opinions, I’m DEEPLY cynical and suspicious and judgmental and yet, I have the right to these opinions and judgements, because This. Is. My. Country. And it’s my right to love it enough to hope that it changes, and to speak up, and MAKE IT change in the best way I can. And I support your right to do so, too,
  • I vote, because…I can embrace our differences, knowing that we hold some truths that are the same. We The People are from various walks and ethnic groups and cultural backgrounds and ages – and thus we come at fact or falsehood or a piece of legislation (sometimes the same thing) from different directions. Our greatness is in shared perception, and shared participation. We are a unique voice because of the powerful societal norms which push us out of our comfort zones and into the arena of sometimes harmonious, other times fraught and dissonant opinion. Our very inability to walk in lock-step is what makes us a uniquely and intriguingly special group. It also makes us exasperating, obstreperous, faithful, thoughtful, dangerous, mouthy, brilliant, eager, impatient, and really, really emo. I see this now more than ever, having lived abroad for five years and been regarded as a crazy person for much of that time. We are a bunch of loose cannons pointed in sixty-million different directions, and yet we can live together without killing each other too often. Participation really does make democracy work – and Americans are all about getting in there, and getting our hands onto something, even if it’s the completely wrong end of a thing.
  • I vote, because…I can. Yes. I can. Voting is both privilege and gift, and obligation, for someone whose ancestors were slaves and Native peoples, and whose chattel status prevented them from being thought of even as human. It is a right that is too often taken for granted in my age group, and in my country. Somewhere, people have sent out the wrong dates and times or polling information, to communities filled with first generation Americans, because they don’t want their voices. Somewhere, those who haven’t paid their child support or back taxes are frightened into believing that their voices aren’t worthy to be heard. Elsewhere, women are silenced; in other nations, disputed religions or tribal affiliations are an impediment to voting polls, and in some places, there is simply dictatorship, and no choice. But here, in this country, we have the right to our speech, our choice, and our mistakes, and these amendments are written into law. Here we’re going to celebrate our Four Freedoms, and add eight more. It’s our privilege! But, more than that, it’s our right. Let’s step up and take our chances.

Perhaps these aren’t as patriotic of reasons, or as coherent of reasons as you would choose for voting. In many ways, democracy – politics – you name it – is both incoherent and unpatriotic – full of greed and bad intentions. However, in many ways, it comes down to that same irrational response psychologists warn us about – I just want to do my bit to change my world, to do my part to support truth and righteousness — which is a big laugh, putting those words in the same sentence as politics. But then, je suis American. Maybe irrational is as good as it gets.

This is a non-partisan party; others will be pondering and posting about this today. Colleen’s got the round-up @ Chasing Ray. Don’t miss Justin’s piece @ babble comics, which make me both snort-laugh and wince; also, Mr. Elzey is talking about the one time he didn’t vote, which takes a lot of courage, in a way – talking about it, I mean. Not voting is bone-headed, and he agrees. Anyway, more links as power outages and people’s thought processes make them available. Happy Friday; remember to vote.

{Far Too Far, Too Fast}

Paper Dolls 1.3

Despite the paper-doll making, I don’t have kids.

Wanted to get that out in the open first: I don’t have kids. This is a kid-centric train of thought here, and I probably have no real right to my opinion on this topic, but guess what? I’m going with my opinion anyway. And boy howdy, right now do I have an OPINION.

Be advised: this is a teensy, tiny rant. 👿

As some of you might know, I was a classroom instructor for six years – first for the state of California, later at a private school for kids with learning disabilities. When I was working for the state, all of my students were a.) incarcerated, and most were b.) way, way, WAY behind where they should have been grade-wise, based on truancy. I had a lot of 1:1 remedial work I needed to do with them, in order to get them on track.

Woodlands 27

I read aloud to them – to seventeen-year-olds who were pimply and hulking with great big adam’s apples (who still managed to whine occasionally as if they were seven. This may, or may not have something to do with the fact that I don’t have kids. Hmm.). We did art projects, which gave them a break from struggling so hard to do work conventionally expected for students their age (and you have not really lived until you’ve heard the whining over having to do a diorama from someone who usually tags freeway overpasses – some inspired ranting there), we watched movies, to compare and contrast cinema vs. books, and we did board work, to break up the monotony and isolation of having that great blank stretch of lined paper before them. Basically, we did everything but have circle time and finger paint, because they didn’t get a childhood, and that’s what they needed first, before I could hope to cram their heads full of subjects and predicates and dates and names and quadratic equations. Replay: Third Grade, the Sequel. Now, With More Hormones!

Some of the books we read would have been considered well below par. We read things with pictures. We colored. We acted like little kids. But the goal was learning, and I think I can say that those kids learned. A couple of them that I know of beat the system, got away from their pasts and went on to graduate high school and find a happier life.

Which is why it was just shatteringly disappointing to me to read this piece on the decline of picture books in the NY Times today.

Woodlands 29

Anyone in publishing has known for some time that picture books have had a terrible time finding a market in the last five years as the economy has wobbled and people’s play money has diminished in turn. Editors warned writers, and agents wrung their hands as they tried to sell them. The fact is, picture books are fairly expensive — a forty-word hardback with gorgeous illustrations can run you between $18-$25. The second fact is, we don’t value childhood as we should in this country, we don’t value children, and the idea of paying “that much for just a baby book,” galled some people, and they wouldn’t do it.

Intellectually, monetarily, unfortunately: I get that.

What I don’t get, is crud like this: “Now Laurence is 6 ½, and while he regularly tackles 80-page chapter books, he is still a “reluctant reader,” Ms. Gignac said.

Sometimes, she said, he tries to go back to picture books.

“He would still read picture books now if we let him, because he doesn’t want to work to read,” she said, adding that she and her husband have kept him reading chapter books.”

::expression of wordless horror:: 😡

CAN WE TAKE A MOMENT, HERE? The kid has been on this earth six and a half years. Can we give him a second or two to, say, figure out where he is before we attach him to the choke chain of what he SHOULD be doing??? Isn’t it bad enough when people do that to us??

10.22.10, EDITED TO ADD ~ Amanda Gignac was quoted out of context in the New York Times. Please read her explanation here, and hat tip to her good friend, Jodie, who sent the word along.

Woodlands 28

I had no idea that this pushing and shoving of the young child was the reason picture book sales have slumped, (and to be honest, I still have no idea if this is at all true. The NY Times has cited a few people, but I’d really love to hear from more than the small selection of teachers and booksellers.), but it’s a ridiculous reason. What is the rush, really? To where are these types of parents pushing their children? We can’t speed up time — so it’s not like six and a half is going to be seven or seventeen one whit faster with a parent shoving Stuart Little down their six-year-old’s throat.

Jen Haller, the vice president and associate publisher of the Penguin Young Readers Group, said that while some children were progressing to chapter books earlier, they were still reading picture books occasionally. “Picture books have a real comfort element to them,” Ms. Haller said. “It’s not like this door closes and they never go back to picture books again.”

That is, not unless Mom and Dad aren’t barring the door…

The world spins faster and faster, and after awhile, people feel like they’re going to fly off. Even kids. Especially kids. It disturbs me to think that an adult would be immune to the idea that a child could feel stressed. Maybe we could cut them some slack? Let them read what they want?

This is always going to be a big deal with me. I was force-fed nonfiction and I longed to escape reality like gee whiz and desperately, and every time people talk about parental pressure and all of this, I get twitchy, even though I know very well it’s one of those Get People Panicking tactics – most parents are perfectly happy to let their kids read whatever, and are just glad they’re reading. I know that. And, I know my parents meant well – in spite of how I loathed having my reading choices reduced. But I just cannot agree with pushing a kid forward so fast – especially not merely for reasons of producing a smarter, faster, keep-up-with-the-Jones’ kid.

Woodlands 30

The drive to get ahead is a corrupted reflex left over from what we once believed was the American dream. Everyone was supposed to dig and dig and work and pull themselves up by their collective bootstraps. The thing is, this competitive strap yanking produces, in my teaching experience, unhappy, tense and very resentful children. I know their parents love them and don’t intend that. I know it. And yet, from my lofty childless vantage point, I just keep thinking, “Dudes: Ur doin it rong.” I just wish I could lead them to a seat, push their child into their arms and hand them a picture book. “Here,” I’d say. “See what your child thinks of this one. This is their time, after all.”

We can’t stop the world, or get out of the rat race entirely, but slow and steady means you — and the kids for whom you’re responsible — get there sane.

If You Were Having A Good Day…

…I’m maybe going to ruin it.

“And yet on the other hand unless warinesse be us’d, as good almost kill a Man as kill a good Book; who kills a Man kills a reasonable creature, Gods Image, but hee who destroyes a good Booke, kills reason it selfe, kills the Image of God, as it were in the eye.”— John Milton, Areopagitica, 1644.

THIS IS OFFICIALLY A RANT. If you are having a nice day, you may just want to steer clear of me just now. I am NOT feeling the love. ‘Kthnx.

Awesome SFF author John Scalzi calls them “Leviticans,” those people who claim Christianity, but who obviously have only read Genesis – so they can have a firm opinion about evolution – Exodus, so they can be upset about the Ten Commandments not being posted in public places, – and Leviticus, so they can be homophobic and tell gay and lesbian people that God hates them. Whatever way you look at it, the opinions of people on that lunatic fringe, no matter how embarrassing, are, well… lunatic.

We know this, right? And, okay, this is fourteen people in North Carolina who are going to burn books, and it’s only fourteen, and I shouldn’t get all hung up over fourteen people burning books for what is probably a PR stunt, to boot. These are nutters: we can’t take them seriously. But the problem is, I get hung up on anyone burning books for any reason. It’s just. Not. Right. You cannot attempt to eradicate ideas and concepts if they scare you. You cannot think to conceal evidence with fire. You cannot seriously think this is Christian behavior… can you?

Thing is, this isn’t about Christianity. It’s about control, and once again we have people who would like to control what everyone reads and thinks and even, since they’re burning “heretical” versions of the Bible, even how people perceive God.

I am SO all about freedom of speech and religion and these people are well within their rights to burn all these books and negatively affect the air quality of a little corner of North Carolina. It is SO much their right. But wow, do I wish they wouldn’t exercise this particular right. I truly believe the statement of exiled German essayist Heinrich Hein (1797 – 1856) who wrote,

Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings. (Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen) – From Almansor (1821)

Especially because this is taking place in a small Southern town, I think this has more to do with a need to go back to an alleged state of “good old days”-dom than any actual theological debate. It just bothers me so much; it seems that if they could get away with burning women who they considered to be witches, or other people they just considered unsavory — Jewish people, African Americans, gay people, gypsies — they would. And it’d be Nazi Germany all over again.

The actions of fourteen people shouldn’t be that big of a deal, though. Right?

Neither Fish Nor Fowl

Charing Cross 371

“Books can not give you freedom, or a big bank account, but they can light a pathway and for kids like Autumn, I wonder if we are doing enough. By not writing about someone in Autumn’s situation, by not making money part of the story are we ignoring her yet again, along with everyone else in or near her situation?” – Colleen @ Chasing Ray

Collen Mondor, together with her posse of fellow authors and bloggers, has put together another intensely intelligent What A Girl Wants (W.A.G.W.). This month the question deals with socioeconomic levels as viewed through the lens of young adult literature.

This is a …difficult topic for me, because I grew up differently from what I became. Or, I was different, even as a kid, than people expected, or than I appeared. Not sure just how to put that.

Fact: my parents had a high school education and nothing more, for a long time. Fact: I’m the first person in my immediate family to have a Master’s, although my eldest sister did me one better and a year and a half later came away with a double-Master’s. (Yeah, I know. Overachiever Alert!) Fact: there is NO ONE in my family with a PhD. No one. We’re blue-collar janitors, bus drivers, and childcare workers. No doctors or lawyers in the pack. Not yet, anyway.

That being said, I went to private school. My parents scrimped and saved and stretched the pennies ’til they wailed to send me to a Christian school with a small teacher-to-student ratio, where I would excel and achieve. Despite the massive blocks of government cheese we ate, or the Safeway reject flour, out of which we sifted the cigarette butts (which is why they probably only rarely sell flour in bins in grocery stores anymore) and the reject produce from which we cut the bad spots and froze the rest, there were expectations about how we were to act, speak, and think. There were kids with whom we weren’t allowed to socialize, because we were moving out of the class and economic strata where our parents were currently situated. ALL OF US went to school, even my parents. We were ALL supposed to move up and out, and do better.

Maybe that’s the kind of novels I should be writing, those plucky “hard luck” tales of socioeconomic woe, where Determined Girl Makes Good. Those novels in which a girl strives and stands on the shoulders of the past to uplift herself and her race… maybe those should be my forte. Certainly it seems lately like those are the only ones that will sell.

Glasgow Uni D 490

Ach, don’t mind me. I’m a little disappointed, a little cranky. Two recently rejected manuscripts have characteristics in them which shake the status quo, which is what got them rejected, I’m afraid. I’m not sure how to react to that. I’m determined as a writer not to be pigeon-holed, not to be stuck writing just one kind of book because that’s what the market supports, but I’m a little worried now, two strikes later. What if there’s only one kind of book I’m expected to write? Where’s the mirror reflecting the world for kids who grew up like me?

“Possessing characteristics which are seen as “normal,” and thus not worth being mentioned. In this society, at this time, this includes being white, male, heterosexual, cisgendered, affluent, and with certain physical abilities. Just about everyone deviates from the unmarked state in one way or another, though some ways are deemed important and others are not.” – Nisi Shawl, co-author Writing the Other

If you haven’t read W.A.G.W. yet, go — it’s well worth your perusal. Here’s to thinking deep thoughts and writing them down.

Okay, I’m going to be rude, and I’m JUST GOING TO SAY IT:


Kadir Nelson, for that blindingly spectacular book, We Are the Ship did not receive the Caldecott?

The Coretta Scott King honors for writing and illustration? Awesome.
The Silbert Medal — way, way cool.

But seriously? No Caldecott?

Once again I really wonder if they work out these awards in tandem, as in “oh, he’s already got one of those. Give it to someone else.”

If so…

Okay, I'm going to be rude, and I'm JUST GOING TO SAY IT:


Kadir Nelson, for that blindingly spectacular book, We Are the Ship did not receive the Caldecott?

The Coretta Scott King honors for writing and illustration? Awesome.
The Silbert Medal — way, way cool.

But seriously? No Caldecott?

Once again I really wonder if they work out these awards in tandem, as in “oh, he’s already got one of those. Give it to someone else.”

If so…