Happy National Library Week!

It’s National Library Week, an event that celebrates the positive impact libraries have on their communities. To catch a glimpse of what’s going on at libraries around the country, check out the #NLW14 and #LivesChange tags on Twitter.

I thought I’d share some of my favorite library-related things this week. I’ll start with Professional Literature for Librarians, which made me laugh out loud. If you haven’t checked out these pulp-style covers yet, you should. They’re perfect.

The Thing on the Library Carpet The Mystery of Who Will Cover Lunches The Reference Question That Would Not End Librarians and Taxes

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A Bit of Genre Fiction

So, once again, I haven’t done a very good job of keeping up with my monthly reading challenge. I planned to read a ton of genre fiction. However, with only a few days left in the month, I’ve only read three books. Once again, I’ll blame my library holds. My long-awaited copy of Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird arrived. It was captivating and a little strange. Now Chang-Rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea and Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments are on my hold shelf, so it looks like I’ll be putting off my genre fiction even longer.

At some point, I may have to do a catch-up month where I read some of the LGBTQ authors I missed last month and some more genre stuff. In the meantime, I’ll talk about what I did read and why I think reading genre fiction is important for librarians (and fun for anyone else who’s interested).

First, a disclaimer: when I talk about diversity, I’m not talking about reading books from different genres. I think it’s important to address the privilege involved in reading diverse titles for fun, particularly equating reading different genres with reading titles from underrepresented groups. While I will be doing some fun reading challenges throughout the year, including genre fiction, I will continually try to include more LGBTQ writers and writers of color in my selections. As I mentioned, I think this is incredibly important for librarians. We’re in a position to introduce readers to new books through displays, reading lists, recommendations on our social media accounts and through readers’ advisory at the desk. We have to think about the kinds of books we’re recommending and how our recommendations can fight or, unfortunately, sometimes reinforce existing prejudices.

As I browsed the romance shelves at my local library, I noticed there weren’t very many non-white bare chests or heaving bosoms. I was glad to find Destiny’s Embrace by Beverly Jenkins, who is African American. I met Ms. Jenkins at romance festival (more on that in a moment) in 2012 and hear her speak. She was smart and funny, so I was excited to read her book. While I still don’t consider myself a romance fan, I did enjoy the story of Mariah Cooper’s journey to California and her affair with womanizing rancher Logan Yates.

As I said, I met Ms. Jenkins at a romance festival. During library school, I had a chance to work with one of my classmates and a fabulous librarian, Jennifer Lohmann (who is also a romance author), to coordinate an event called Fall Into Romance, a weekend-long event that included talks by several local authors, a chocolate tasting and a book signing. As someone who mostly reads literary fiction, I had hoped it would help me understand the appeal of romance. It did. All weekend, people said again and again that romance was written by and for women, an idea I love. Readers talked about how the books celebrated sexuality and offered escapism. They were unashamed of their love for these books.

In my popular fiction class, we discussed the stigma that often comes with reading romance and other genre fiction. It’s considered low-brow, not real literature. Readers can be reluctant to approach librarians for romance suggestions, because of how they might be perceived. That’s why I want to read romance: so that I when someone checks out a Brenda Jackson novel, I want to be able to chat with them about it and recommend similar titles. I want to create great romance displays and romance-related programming. And I feel the same way about horror and mysteries and every other genre.

So if you’re interested in finding some great romance, you should absolutely check out Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and Dear Author. And if you’re interested in readers’ advisory for romance, grab a copy of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction by Joyce Saricks. I plan to keep a copy of it with me at my new job.

Stay tuned for next month’s challenge. I promise I’ll try to read more than three books!

I Got a Job!

I’m very happy to announce (to the one or two of you reading this blog) that I’m going to be the Reference and Technology Services Librarian at Jefferson Public Library. I found out yesterday on my way home from volunteering, and I was thrilled. I’ll be working in a small, well-loved library with a talented staff (and a library cat and two library dogs).

This will be my first professional library job, and I’m glad that it’ll be in a smaller library where I’ll have a chance to do more than I might in a larger system where my work would be more focused. It’s really exciting and a bit intimidating. Though much of my job involves tasks that I’ve done before, this will be my first time doing any of it as an official librarian and not as a student worker, temp, intern, or volunteer.

So I plan to spend the next few days listening to Beyoncé and reading up on technology instruction and rural librarianship.

flawless2

Throughout the last year of applications and interviews, I was really grateful to have to INALJ, Hiring Librarians, and Open Cover Letters. If you’re looking for library employment, I can’t recommend those sites enough. I’ve mentioned them and other great job-hunting resources in an earlier post.

So you can expect plenty of work-related posts in the future. And I’ll have a post on my March reading goals up in the next few days!

A Few More LGBTQ Books Resources

As promised, I’ve listed some resources for LGBTQ books for adults. Obviously, this is just a small sample of what’s out there, and I’ll add more to this post as I come across them.

Lambda Literacy celebrates LGBT literature. You can view Lambda award winners from 1989 – 2013.

GoodReads has nearly 400 user-curated lists of LGBTQ books.

Autostraddle lists 10 Novels & Memoirs By and About Black Lesbian, Bisexual and Queer Women and Top 10 Queer and Feminist Books of 2013.

The Hairpin suggests a few “Really Good Books About Lesbians.”

Flavorwire has several great lists, including: 25 Essential Works of LGBT Non-Fiction, 50 Essential Works of LGBT Fiction, and The 10 Best LGBT Romances in Literature.

And one more YA list that I forgot to include yesterday: Malinda Lo’s YA Books About LGBT Characters of Color.

February Reading: LGBTQ Authors/Books

Well, I really enjoyed my January reading challenge. As I mentioned, I’ll continue to seek out books by authors of color throughout the year. This month, I’ve been trying to read books by LGBTQ authors and/or featuring LGBTQ characters.

Unfortunately, I’ve only read three novels so far, due of some overflow from last month. I’m still reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland, and the library just notified me that my copy of Rabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman came in. Too many good books!

Of the books I did read, my favorite was The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily N. Danforth. Set in a small Montana town in the 90s, the novel begins with Cameron’s first kiss with her best friend Irene and her parents’ death in car accident. Cameron spends the following years coping with the loss of her parents and her sexuality, which she struggles to hide from everyone. Danforth creates a great cast of characters (every single supporting character is memorable). And I fell a little in love with Montana after reading her descriptions. This is a excellent book that will appeal to teen and adult readers.

In the meantime, I wanted to talk about how I found books for this month’s challenge. Tumblr has been a great resource for LGBTQ-themed titles, especially YA titles. There are a ton of librarian, library and book-themed Tumblrs out there. Plus, Tumblr (at least corner of it that I’ve explored) is filled with enthusiastic, progressive folks who welcome anyone, including people who aren’t heterosexual or cis-gendered.

Here are a few posts I found useful:

I also love this infographic from Epic Reads:

If you’re interested in libraries or librarians on Tumblr, check out this list (which I know I’ve posted before) from the Lifeguard Librarian or search the #tumblarians tag.

I’ll post some more resources for adult LGBTQ titles tomorrow. Share any books or resources that you like in the comments!

Diversity in YA and Children’s Lit

I read two really interesting articles recently that I thought would be a good follow-up to my last post on reading authors of color and this month’s (soon-to-be-completed) post about LGBT books.

School Library Journal devoted their February issue to diversity, and the featured article, “Straight Talk on Race:Challenging the Stereotypes in Kids’ Books” is by YA author Mitali Perkins.

The more novels about a diversity of characters written by a diversity of authors and consumed by a diversity of readers, the better. All I’m asking is that we pay attention to how and why the race of characters is conveyed in a story, because implicit messages matter.

She offers five questions for librarians and educators who want to start a discussion about race with their students. I think these questions, like “how and why does the author define race”, are good for readers of any age to consider. The article also features some wonderful illustrations from Gene Luen Yang.

Another YA author, Andrew Smith, recently wrote about the “boxes” we place books in and about his book Grasshopper Jungle. He is not a fan of boxes.

In the past ten years or so of my writing career, I have been frustrated by all the boxes people hold up to categorize the canon of Young Adult literature. Here are the worst ones, the boxes I’d like to set fire to:

  • Boy books/ Girl books
  • Age level (This book is for grades 10 and up! Squee!)
  • Male author/ Female author
  • LGBTQ books/ Straight (“normal” kid) books

I know, I know… Boxes make things easy for people. They are soothing. Boxing makes peoples’ minds not so electrified with wonder and perplexity. But boxes make things difficult for people, too.

He makes a good point. (The girl book/boy book dichotomy is awful.) However, I can appreciate why labeling LGBT books might be useful. The majority of books published are still about straight, cis-gendered characters. If you’re a teen who identifies with some part of the LGBT spectrum, find books with relatable protagonists can be challenging. A display at the library or a sticker on the spine of a novel might make it a bit easier. At the same time, I agree with Smith that labeling sets those books apart rather than showing younger readers that both straight and queer characters are normal.

Are there any articles on diversity that you’d recommend? Share them in the comments.

Reading Goals for 2014

Over the last few years, I’ve set reading goals. Selecting a number of books to read and posting it on GoodReads motivates me to close Tumblr and pick up a novel. This year I aim to read 75 books. (Last year’s goal was 60; I read 63.) However, recently I’ve been thinking that I’d also like to read more widely and more purposefully. This woman, for example, has read one book from every country, which is pretty amazing.

I’m not quite that ambitious, but I like the idea of discovering new authors and learning about different cultures and lifestyles. So I’ve decided to set a different reading goal each month in 2014.

Without meaning to, I started the year with five books by authors of color: The Secrets Come Out, Persepolis, American Born Chinese, Aya: Love in Yop City, and A Tale for the Time Being. I decided to keep going and read only fiction written by people of color for the rest of the month. It’s embarrassing how easy it is to only read books by white authors. Jason Low looked at the diversity gap in the New York Times Top 10 Bestsellers list, and he found that only three of the 124 authors for appeared on the list were people of color. None were African American. This is sad, though not entirely surprising.

I think it’s especially important for librarians to read diverse titles. I don’t want to spread my own unconscious biases through my reader’s advisory and collection development work. Throughout the year, as I move on to other monthly goals, I’ll still try to seek out books by writers of color.

So far, I’ve enjoyed this month’s titles. Marguerite Abouet’s Aya series is one of my new favorites. I was almost sorry to finish it. Aya is an intelligent young woman living in the Ivory Coast in the 1970s. While her friends want to find good men, Aya wants to go to medical school. Through Aya and the people around her, Abouet captures the drama and humor of small-town life. As Abouet explains, “That’s what I wanted to show in Aya: an Africa without the . . . war and famine, an Africa that endures despite everything because, as we say back home, life goes on.”

Here are my goals for 2014 (They may get shuffled a bit.):

Books I read this January

January: Fiction by writers of color
February
: Books by LGBT authors and/or featuring LGBT characters
March: Genre fiction only
April: Books from my unread pile
May: Literature in translation
June: Books by or about people with disabilities
July: Authors I haven’t enjoyed in the past
August: Books about religions other than my own (Christianity)
September: History I didn’t learn in school
October: Librarian/librarianship books
November: Books by Wisconsin authors/set in Wisconsin
December: Recommended reads

I’ll post all of titles I read here.

Got any book recommendations? Share them in the comments.