Posts tagged ‘feminism’

Links: girls on book covers, a Twilight novella, and the Lambda Literary Awards

I wrote a little earlier on the depiction of larger female characters on book covers and touched on the “disembodied parts” look that seems popular on books intended for girls. Karl of Txt-based Blogging wrote a post on the depiction of boys vs. girls on YA book covers (inspired by Codes of Gender, which I watched earlier this year!), concluding that, as in most media depictions, girls and women are shown as passive and off-balance whereas boys and men are given more active, strong poses. He posted a link to this post on YALSA-bk and it generated quite a bit of discussion. What do you think?

Last week it was announced that Stephanie Meyer would be releasing a 200-page “novella,” THE SHORT SECOND LIFE OF BREE TANNER, in June. One dollar of every $13.99 purchase will go the American Red Cross. If you’re reading this for yourself and not buying it for a library, I second Leila’s suggestion at Bookshelves of Doom to read the free downloadable version and donate more than $1 to your charity of choice instead. She suggests Kiva and I encourage Heifer International, but mostly I just want our money to go somewhere meaningful, wherever you decide that is.

Did you see OCLC’s announcement earlier this week about an iPhone app, pic2shop, that lets users scan book barcodes and then see which local libraries have the book. I know that this won’t benefit all library patrons and that the digital divide is very real, but it’s still a neat way to get people who do have iPhones to consider the public library when they’re looking for a book–and for libraries to keep their WorldCat records up to date.

The finalists for the 2010 Lambda Literary Award were announced earlier this month; since 1989 the award has recognized “the finest lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans literature available in the United States.” Miriam at Feministing has a writeup with some thoughts on the categories in which awards are given.

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April 4, 2010 at 11:25 PM Leave a comment

PLA Blog: volunteering and vendors: the exhibit hall

Library conferences aren’t just all sessions and socializing. There’s also a huge exhibition hall full of vendors, publishers, and other organizations. This year I volunteered for a shift at the PLA Membership Booth and learned about continuing education opportunities and women-driven comics. Read “Volunteering and vendors: the exhibit hall” on the PLA Blog for more.

[Full text will appear here in a month.]

March 27, 2010 at 10:50 AM Leave a comment

PLA Blog: queering the library

I wrote about the best session I attended today, Spanning the Generations: Serving the GLBTIQ Community of ALL Ages. Read about it on the PLA Blog: “Queering the Library”.

[Full text will appear here in a month.]

March 25, 2010 at 10:29 PM Leave a comment

Links: larger women and book covers, the popularity of youth lit, and dads reading to daughters

In a delightful bit of crossover, Gwen over at Sociological Images rounds up a bunch of covers of books about larger girls, most of whom don’t look that big on the cover. There’s also been some discussion about how the women on these covers are mostly disembodied parts–common in advertising (see here, here, and here for examples)–but there’s also been counter-discussion positing that it’s because publishers think that women want to be able to identify with characters and that’s harder when you can see their face. I’m not sure I buy that; I’d like to see a study sampling books with covers depicting men and covers depicting women that determines if there is a gender difference in whether or not faces are shown. And what about YA book covers?

Susan Carpenter writes for the LA Times about the rising popularity of YA lit among adults. She addresses the increasing sales of youth lit in general (“Where adult hardcover sales were down 17.8% for the first half of 2009 versus the same period in 2008, children’s/young adult hardcovers were up 30.7%.”), acknowledges the rise in critical acclaim for youth lit, and points to the growing number of movies based off of books for teens and children (my husband and I are finally going to go see the Percy Jackson movie this weekend!). She also makes the great point that current YA writers grew up when YA books were finally starting to mature:

Many of today’s young adult authors were born and raised in the 1960s and 1970s, when YA began to move beyond the staid, emotionless tales of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys in favor of more adventurous work from Judy Blume, Madeleine L’Engle and Robert Cormier. Now, they’re turning out their own modern masterpieces.

And finally, Lee Wind of I’m Here. I’m Queer. Now what the Hell do I read? has a post about reading with his daughter and what other dads need to know about reading with their own daughters. He paints a beautiful picture of a household full of readers and also touches on dialogic reading, which we’ve been talking about in my Youth Services class recently. I also love how he gets to the heart of why, beyond developmental and literacy-related reasons, reading with kids is so great: “Reading is the doorway to a Shared experience with your kid. Don’t just read it TO her. Experience it WITH her.”

March 11, 2010 at 8:57 PM 2 comments

Gender-exclusive programming

Last night my Youth Services class took a field trip to Greenwood Public Library to observe a preschool storytime and hear from Emily Ellis, the YA librarian; Rachel Korb, a children’s librarian and recent IUPUI SLIS grad; and Anne Guthrie, the assistant head of children’s services and the early literacy specialist. I’d never actually been to a preschool storytime (at least as an adult!) and it was interesting to observe all of the different components of the program–and we got to dance and play with the parachute! Anne is very energetic and is a grant-writing machine and in her introductory talk, she covered a lot of the highlights of connecting with preschoolers and encouraging a love of reading and libraries at an early age.

She also showed us a PowerPoint presentation that I’d seen her give at the Indiana Library Federation‘s Children’s and Young People’s Division Annual Conference last August. In it, she talks about how boys are different from girls: their brain scans look different and different chemicals are present in their brains, and because of this, boys learn best through movement and enjoy competition.

So to draw boys into the library and keep them there, Anne’s created an ongoing program called the Boys’ Adventure Club. There’s also a parallel program for girls, the American Girl Club. In the brochure for upcoming programs I picked up on my way into the library, I noticed that the next American Girl Club will center around Molly and her Victory Garden and will teach girls about gardening. The next Boys’ Adventure Club is called Survival 101 and will “[test] your knowledge on what you could eat, which herbs would help you heal a wound, how you could make your own shelter and other interesting strategies for staying alive if you were ever stranded alone in the wilderness.”

I know that libraries (and educators generally) are worried about a “boy crisis” now, and it’s true that boys don’t read the same way that girls do and that libraries are generally the realm of girls and women and that lots of measures of literacy show boys behind girls. I want to find a way to get boys into the library and to show them that literacy, reading, libraries, and librarians are cool. And I have no problem with planning programs that appeal to a specific subgroup within your service population. But what kills me about this gendered programming at GPL is that it’s gender-exclusive. If you’re a boy, you’re not allowed to go learn about Molly’s Victory Garden and how to have your own garden. If you’re a girl, the library isn’t going to teach you to live off the land.

I’ve been thinking about this since CYPD and there are plenty of other examples of how gender expectations influence our library service to young people, like when we don’t recommend books to boys that have a female protagonist or feel we need to make excuses for that, because everyone knows that although girls will read books about anything, boys won’t read books about girls. Scott Westerfeld wrote a little bit about whether or not the UGLIES series is a “girl book” series, and Amber at Amber’s Xtreme Writing addressed this from a reader and young writer’s perspective earlier this month.

In some cases, gender-specific programming seems to me like a positive thing. Jon Scieszka’s Guys Read initiative works to help boys become motivated readers for life. One of the components of encouraging boys to read is providing male role models who read, and having a father/son book club is a great way to do that. On the other side, having a self-esteem-building after-hours event for teen girls is a great way to help girls like themselves for who they are without worrying about pleasing boys, but there needs to be a similar program for boys. It’s not gender-exclusive programming that bothers me, I guess, so much as the library enforcing gender-specific interests and offering such a limited role–for both girls and boys.

So the Boys’ Adventure Club and American Girl Club bother me on a personal level. I grew up as a tomboy who would have much rather learned about wilderness survival than some stupid garden in the backyard, and this experience, this part of who I am, wants me to stand up for the tomboys of today.

They also bother me as a feminist. Of course there are gender expectations everywhere, in everything we do. The gender of the person to whom we’re talking influences how we talk, what we say, how we behave in the conversation. But do libraries have to overtly support gender norms like this? What does it say to girls who want to join the Adventure Club or boys who want to learn about gardening or even something like knitting?

But they really bother me as a librarian. We sell the library as a place to learn and explore, a place to figure out the world and ourselves. We invoke the 40 Developmental Assets–especially when working with teens–to make a case for how the library helps young people grow into healthy adults. One of the internal asset categories is Positive Identity. Making non-equitable gender-exclusive programming can tell young people that they have no place in the library as who they are.

Can we bring boys into the library without falling back on exploiting gender norms? I’m not sure. How do you target a specific group without using statistics and expectations about that group? But there’s a difference between relying on data about a group and relying on stereotypes about a group or shutting out non-members of that group. So can we bring boys into the library without enforcing gender norms? Absolutely. And it’s better for everyone if we find ways to do so.

(If I get another degree in culture and gender studies or do a PhD in library science, I think I’d like my thesis to be related to how our gender expectations inform our library service to young people.)

February 23, 2010 at 6:09 PM 1 comment