Thursday, October 29, 2009

When a book makes me blush

Let me preface this by saying not much gives me pause. I read all those BBYA titles and could never imagine keeping them from anyone, not even the wide-eyed fourteen year olds at my school. I have written about and presented on students and censorship, and am excited about the new YALSA interest group looking at intellectual freedom issues. I like to think that I am pretty unflappable. But I had a strange sensation this week, reading Michelle Embree's Manstealing for Fat Girls. It's about two high school seniors, maybe friends, maybe lesbian, maybe bisexual, or maybe just libidinous. I can't tell you too much about it because I couldn't get too far into it. The book is descriptive in its preoccupation with, if not with sex acts, with genitalia. I've noticed regretsy  has a similarly pronounced vulval theme.

A few weeks after Banned Books Week, this is my personal exercise in intellectual freedom.  Even in my sheltered middle class existence, I will encounter some things I do find offensive and  would not recommend it to minors, but, unlike these women, I would never try to prevent anyone from accessing them. I am much more concerned with preserving our right to choose what it is we want to read. As Colleen Mondor describes, our bookbuying options are in danger of winnowing to a few blockbuster titles, so I salute the bravery of Soft Skull Press  in publishing Embree's quirky, if bawdy, book.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Anticipating Charlotte

I've had a series of email exchanges this morning with the elementary school librarian who I'll be rooming with in Charlotte next week, and it's helping me see the conference in a new way. I haven't begun to think about what to pack or gotten all my contributions uploaded to the smackdown wiki, or revised my presentation for the blogger's cafe, but she reminded me how magical it is that all thes people will be descending on Charlotte. It will be her first AASL, and I like to think I helped persuade her it was a good investment in her professional life. We're more than a week from leaving, and her enthusiasm is infectious. I hope to see some old friends and spend as much time as possible learning about the ways school librarians are connecting with learners in these very exciting times.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


At the close of the intense, day-long meeting organizer Pam Coughlan (Mother Reader) thanked the librarians who were in the audience in particular for taking a leap of faith and attending the third annual Kidlitopshere Conference. It was a very different sort of event for me, but almost relaxing to be a spectator in this world. When I step back and think about it, perhaps the very fact that this sort of online content -- all related to and derived from print, for the most part -- is being produced by an engaged group of individuals is really remarkable. These bloggers are grappling with all sorts of ethical and practical matters related to what often stared out as a very private passion. Perhaps that in itself rather indicative of life in the 21st century. And as someone (I am sorry I can't tell you who) from the closing panel noted, none of these books were written for us.

If there was a theme of the day, I would think it was overlap and connection -- authors interacting with readers online and the growing social networking imperative, librarians who read and write reviews, the bloggers whose work benefits librarians doing selection and literacy advocates. I expected to hear more about the blog creation stories, the impetus between this devotion to what is usually unrenumerative and sometimes stressful manifestation of one's reaction to literature online. That aspect of the process was eclipsed by talk about search engine optimization and FTC disclosure, and the careful negotiation in writing a review that was less than entirely favorable while still preserving the good graces of the author. There was also a lot of talk about participation in memes, blog tours, and other programatic elements which link blogs together.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The social side of reading

This weekend, I'll be eavesdropping on the biblioblog-types at the third Kidlitosphere conference. I'll be desperately trying to come up with some social aspect of reading that will intrigue my faculty committee and reinvigorate my stalled dissertation progress. That, and after reading these blogs for a bit, I am utterly taken with these women (because they are largely women) documenting their intellectual lives in these complex and interconnected ways, and if the NYT story yesterday about Nina Sankovitch was any indication, I'm not the only one interested. I'm thinking about data modeling (recommender systems?) for visualizing viral aspect of bookblogging, to lend some chops to the squishy-ness of the social web, but what I would really like to talk about are the strange external factors that govern the books we buy and read, like Janice Radway's A Feeling for Books: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle-Class Desire or Joan Shelley Rubin's The Making of Middlebrow Culture. I will keep you posted.