Saturday, October 22, 2011

Status Report

I have been busy online for the last several months, even though I haven't posted regularly here. Here's a quick rundown:

Even though I've been reading, I haven't posted a book review here in a while. That doesn't mean I haven't been reviewing books, however! Several of my reviews of lesbian-themed novels have been posted at the Lesbrary: Storms by Gerri Hill; The Jewel Box by Alcamia Payne (not recommended, but the review was fun to write); Rulebreaker by Cathy Pegau; Ghosts of Winter by Rebecca S. Buck; and Rum Spring by Yolanda Wallace. Of those, Rulebreaker was my favorite. Keep your eye on the Lesbrary for more material--I'm committed to reviewing at least one item per month.

On the professional front, Robin (@Tuphlos) and I have been working steadily on our collection development blog, talking about issues that we see every day. Some of my recent posts include:

Weeding Window, Deaccession Drama
Collection Dilemmas: Poetry
Reporting From the Front Lines
Statistics 2: Extreme Close-Up

I also participated in the Library Day in the Life project at Collection Reflection as well as on this blog.

I was interviewed by Sarah at YA Librarian Tales for her "Life Behind the Reference Desk" series. I also recently did a guest post on the Letters to a Young Librarian blog about one of my favorite activities: walking.

And of course I've been busy posting humorous book covers at MARC of the Beast.

When I actually put all this together, it looks like I've been busy! My goal is to post book reviews more regularly here, but in the meantime I have been getting back in the flow of writing by writing a few more personal pieces. I hope they've been enjoyable!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Review: Wake [2008]

On my way out of town for vacation with no audiobooks in the car, I cruised though the Young Adult department at my library and picked up the audio version of Wake, by Lisa McMann.

Janie Hannagan can't avoid being sucked into other people's dreams. It's especially problematic in study hall after lunch, where she is witness to an endless cycle of "naked in front of class" nightmares and sexual fantasies. Janie lives with her alcoholic mother and works as much as possible at a local nursing home, hoping to make enough money to go to college and escape. Cabel Strumheller is a seemingly slacker student who lives near Janie and generally keeps to himself, although Janie has established a tentative friendship with him. When an overnight class trip exposes Janie's secret to Cabe, their burgeoning romantic relationship takes a serious hit. Rumors swirl that Cabe has become a drug dealer even as Janie starts to gain control over her abilities, leading her into a situation she never could have predicted.

Grade: B-

Wake was an interesting "what-if" exercise for one kind of paranormal power, but I'm not sure I'll keep reading the series. The explanation for Cabe's strange behavior [SPOILER] is that he's working for the police to bust a local dealer, which was fairly unbelievable. I know, I was perfectly content to believe that someone might see other people's dreams, but I apparently draw the line at the idea of high school students going undercover. I can't tell from this story, for example, whether they used actual high school students to help with the bust. There's also this fascinating story from twenty years ago--and maybe that's the problem, as a plot device it feels a little weak and dated. Apparently there are academic articles about this stuff. ANYWAY TANGENT OVER.

In addition, I'm not sure what my problem is, but I don't like having to deal with "experimental" tenses when I read. Wake is written in a diary-like format with a third-person present tense that conveys an immediacy ("Janie shakes her head to clear it.") that consistently throws me out of the story. The only time I've ever liked a book that attempted something similar, it was the audio version of The Knife of Never Letting Go. The narrator was competent, if stilted, coming across as very young. All that aside, I would categorize this as a good young adult suspense, and give it to a patron who was looking for something scary but not gory.

Dead Mother: No
Book Review Index

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Meditation on Coming Out

FYI, I am a lesbian.

Today is National Coming Out Day, which usually passes without much acknowledgement on my part. It's an opportunity for people to say "hey, I'm gay!" in a large group, which is theoretically a little bit easier than doing it alone. It also provides an example for people who might not be ready to come out or who might think they don't know any LGBT folks. If you want an example of why coming out is important on a personal level, read this post from Dear Sugar.

The first person I came out to was myself, and man was that a long and complicated process. Despite being raised in a liberal home, homosexuality was not really a topic of discussion during my formative years. Being by nature non-confrontational, even with my own feelings, I opted for asexuality as the safest course of action throughout high school and most of college. I read a lot of my mother's (straight) romance novels. I formed close attachments to other women, but did my best not to analyze that pattern of behavior. In retrospect, I suffered from internalized homophobia and was afraid I would lose friends and family members if I talked about my feelings.

I remember coming out to my parents when I was 21. While I was bracing myself for some sort of strong reaction, they responded in such a mild way that I realized that they'd probably known for years and had just been waiting for me to figure it out. I realize that most people likely don't have such an anticlimactic time coming out to their family, especially if they're living in Utah, but I was lucky. I consider myself lucky, because every time I've come out, the most I've gotten is a skeptical look. Aside from my grandmother, most of my family members took the information in stride.

You don't just come out once, and then you're done. It's a process that repeats over and over as you move to new places, start new jobs, and make new friends. It's the moment you talk to an administrative assistant and explain that you have a wife and you're legally married and you're going to be opting for the family insurance plan. It's the crossroads at which your new co-worker asks if your son looks more like you or your husband. You can choose to change the subject, or explain that the kid is lucky enough to have two moms. It's true that the world is changing, and coming out isn't as agonizing or dangerous (job or life-threatening) for someone like me, in my liberal corner of liberal Massachusetts, as it once would have been. However, there are still plenty of places where it's not easy, and the mere act of being gay is deeply frightening to other people. Everyone's circumstances are different, but coming out is one thing we can all share with each other. And that's why National Coming Out Day is still important.

ETA: I am, of course, coming out about different things all of the time, as I think everyone is. I'm a mom, I'm getting a divorce, I'm dating someone new . . . "coming out" is a way of saying "sharing something personal about yourself that you can't be sure how people are going to react to."

Meditation Index

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Meditation on Birthdays

Birthdays mark the passing of a discrete amount of time and always present an excellent opportunity for reflection. A few weeks ago, a day passed that represented for me both great joy (the birth of my son and my father) and sorrow (the death of my mother). Yesterday my own birthday came and went, leaving me to consider whether I am really where I want to be in my life. When I wrote a birthday post four years ago, I was still in library school. I had just bought a house with my partner and was a nervous first-time homeowner, worried about the lack of a landlord to blame/fix things. I was not yet a parent, and wasn't exactly clear on when that was going to happen, although I knew I wanted to have children. Today, I am separated from my spouse and still live in the house we bought, as often as possible with the vibrant company of our son. I have been working hard to move forward with my personal life, but parts of me remain in limbo while our family is officially divided by the gears of the legal system. I am looking forward to the end of this period of instability. In the meantime, I am happy in a new relationship and I love parenting my hilarious and sweet toddler.

Professionally, I know I am right where I want to be. I love my job as a reference librarian at a public library, and I've built a nice network of librarians and friends on Twitter to whom I can turn with almost any question (professional or personal) I might have. In the past year or so, I've really found my niche and started collaborating with other librarians and sharing that work online. I will soon be dipping another toe--maybe even a whole foot--into the world of library conferences. A co-authored book chapter is in the works. It feels like things are moving in a useful and interesting direction, and when I think about my previous life as an office manager and remember the seemingly endless days I came in to work feeling disconnected, I'm glad that I was pushed to change careers.

When I came into the world, I believe that there were two important witnesses: my parents (I am going to assume that I was too startled by coming out of the womb to act as a credible witness). It has now been five years since my mother's death. I can remember spending that first birthday without her, less than two weeks after cancer finally won their 30+ year struggle, being devastated and angry that she wasn't alive to celebrate the way she had on the day I was born. Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do to mend that wound entirely, no matter how many friends entreat me to have a wonderful day. However, since my father's retirement I've been able to spend the past several birthdays with him, since he spends his extended summers out here on the East Coast. After an adulthood of spending birthdays without either of my parents, it has definitely helped to have him here for both our birthdays, making this two-week stretch land solidly on the side of celebration rather than commiseration. Yesterday we spent a good chunk of time stapling wire mesh on to my garage eaves--in the rain--in a vain attempt to keep out squirrels, but somehow the ridiculousness of that activity pushed the day over the edge and made it a good birthday.

All these events--my mother's death, the dissolution of my marriage, the fact that my father just turned 70 and lives most of the year in Utah, a place that might as well be the moon for all its accessibility to me, and these birthday milestones--make me want to stop and hold on tight to every sensation I can. And be thankful.

Meditation Index