So I Won an Award, and am Going to an Academy

I don’t blog to gain millions of followers or to make money (although that’d be nice…). I write because  I have something to say, and think that this is the best medium for that. So imagine my surprise when I won a YALSA writing award for something I wrote for the YALSA blog in February, 2013.

The article, titled Serving Homeless Teens: other ways to help was true third in a series, with the first two authored by Kelly Czarnecki (Technology Education Librarian at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library), and Marie Harris (Teen Services Specialist, ImaginOn-Charlotte Mecklenburg Library). The YALSA blog editor sent out an email asking which YALSA bloggers had experience in serving homeless youth in libraries. The three of us responded, and coordinated topics so we weren’t writing about the same service or situation. Each of the blog posts are distinctly unique to serving homeless youth, which I think proves the complexity of serving that demographic. Each homeless teen has a different story, different dreams, and different needs – but they all need and deserve service from librarians who have ways to help.

Check out the blog posts – linked above – to read about our experiences and our ideas.

A big thank you to YALSA for recognizing my (and our) work. It validates the hard work we put into not only writing, but serving.

 

A second shocking piece of news came across my desk this month – but this one I had been hoping for. I was accepted into the 2014 class of the Virginia Library Leadership Academy – sponsored by the Virginia Library Association. The Academy begins in May with a 2-day workshop in Staunton, Virginia where I (and the other 23 attendees) will receive project management training. I will then meet with my Academy mentor, who will work closely with me for the next year. Over that year’s time, I will plan and implement a program that utilizes the skills I learned at the workshop.

I am honored to be a part of the 2014 VALLA class, and cannot wait to discuss my experiences on this here blog.

Book 63: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

It is National Hispanic American Heritage Month, and I just finished reading the most appropriate book for the occasion. It could also fit very nicely into a book list for National Characters We Want To Be Best Friends With Month. Okay so that month doesn’t quite exist yet, but if John Green and J.K. Rowling fans have any say in the matter, it will be established very soon.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz is the story of a fifteen year old Hispanic-American boy named Aristotle. He is a loner, the youngest of four children by eleven years. His brother is in prison but no one will tell him why. And it’s Texas in 1987, so Google isn’t around to make such an inquiry easy to answer. He struggles with his identity as a Hispanic American in that he knows he has a temper and a reputation of being a fighter, and he doesn’t quite know what to make of life. That is, until he meets Dante, and his confusion is tripled, quadrupled.

For a few minutes I wished that Dante and I lived in the universe of boys instead of the universe of almost men.

This coming-of-age story is more than the story of two friends trying to understand themselves, their peers, their families, and each other. This story is one of love, acceptance, and honor. I adore Ari, and at times my heart actually hurt for him and all the teens that are wading through such confusing thoughts and feelings. I know those loner feelings, those confusing feelings, those inexplicable angry feelings towards the very people who don’t deserve it. And for how much I empathize and adore Ari, I straight up fell head-over-hells for the foil characters. The moms, dads, and even the sassy high school girls are so realistic, it’s like the author was Ari, was Dante. It’s like he opened up the journals and diaries of teen boys and copied their words, attitudes, and dreams.

I wanted to ask her, Mom, when will I know who I am?

I recommend this book to any and every Hispanic American teen because it deals with ethnic identity in an honest and mature way. I will also recommend this book to any young person struggling with sexual identity, as being gay today is much different than being gay in America in the 1980s. There were no laws protecting gays. “Hate crimes” were more rampant, but there was no It Gets Better campaign, no celebrities like Ellen Degeneres. The book covers acceptance and rejection, love and hate, sure and unsure; the very range that most teens have a hard time finding their place on. I think it will be a long time before I stop longing to ride around in a car with Dante, or sip a beer with Aristotle. The combination of their depth and their silliness is what makes teens so much fun to be around. I am so glad my job allows me to do just that.

Book 56: girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

girlchild by Tupelo Hassman is a poetic novel about a child born into a life no one would ever ask for. A life one must either succumb to, or fight through. A life that takes you, or a life you take back. The hardened characters we meet throughout this story are each fighting battles and demons, some that we see, but many more that we cannot.

This is so much more than a story of a friendless trailer park kid, her alcoholic mother, her “make a better life for yourself, dammit!” grandmother, and the molesting and bullying demons that defined her childhood. It was a very difficult book to read, though there were a few moments of true hope. “Oh, she will survive! She is a survivor!”  In fact, I had to put it down a few times to compose my emotions and remember that I was just reading a book (but sadly, for so many, this life isn’t fiction…).

girlchild reminded me a lot of the novel Room by Emma Donoghue, which is narrated by a five year old boy born into captivity. His mom was kidnapped, raped, and forced to live in a reinforced shed for over 5 years until they escaped. It was a harrowing novel to read, and the child narrator was both naive and smart beyond his years. I felt the same way of Rory Dawn in girlchild. Every so often you wanted to scream, “No! No! Don’t go in there!” or “No, he’s evil! Don’t talk to him!”. Being a child, Rory succumbed to the pressure of the older child, or the manipulation of the adult. It made my stomach turn knowing that this happens all. the. time. To thousands of children. It made me think of the Penn State scandal. It made me think of the first thing I did when that news came out: donate to RAINN: Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network. Reading girlchild made me want to do it again. Maybe my $20 could inform one more adult, which could save one more child.