deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I have 60 words in which to review a lengthy YA book which includes, in passing, hateful language which is totally in character for the protagonist (e.g. "fags," "spazzes in helmets"). The language is condemned neither by the text nor by any of the other characters; in fact, no attention is called to it at all within the text.

What I'm finding most problematic about this is not how to write the review. That's easy: I have 60 words, which means I tack on "bigoted" to one of my mentions of "the protagonist", which is about all I can do. No, what I'm finding most problematic is that this wouldn't have been an issue for me if the protagonist had been equally briefly and casually fatphobic, because I so take that for granted that I would have cringed and moved on. What's surprising in this book is that I don't actually expect over language of this sort to make it to the editing process without some kind of textual self-awareness being added. (I certainly am not surprised to find homophobia or ableism in contemporary YA, but more of the systemic kind, and not this sort.)

I know some people could make the same post and turn it into a judgment on the publishing industry for self-censorship, but I'm not one of them. I do think that language helps shape thought, and I think a raised eyebrow from another character or from the narrative voice could have clued in even the less aware reader that yes, the protagonist said "fags," and maybe that language is worth a second thought. I find it much more problematic that fatphobia is much more often treated with the same casual disregard this text gave to homophobia and ableism.

(Yes, I acknowledge that children's and young adult literature comprise a corpus created by adults for a group of readers who don't have control over their own literature and that we use their literature as a teaching tool. Like Nodelman, I find this both problematic and necessary.)
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Fillyjonk is spot-on in her analysis of Twilight and a new study about women who watch romantic comedies, and I'm not just saying that because she's name-dropping [ profile] diceytillerman. Her essay reminds me of nothing so much as Herbert Kohl's "Should We Burn Babar?" in his book of the same name. Kohl angsts for some time about protecting his young daughters from the sexism of Barbie and the colonialist racism of Babar, and finally comes to the conclusion that he shouldn't, although he should talk about his concerns with his children and provide them with lots of alternative media. And lo and behold, the kids grow up okay. Not undamaged, but okay. The mass market romances I consumed like oxygen as a preteen absolutely contributed to some of the dysfunctions of my adolescent sexuality. But on the other hand, how many teenage girls don't have dysfunctions when it comes to romance and sex? Any?

Fact: Every accusation of misogyny levelled at the Twilight series is accurate. Seriously. The gender politics of those books are appalling.
Fact: I still enjoyed them (well, the first few), and would have adored them at 12.
Fact: That's okay.

No book is every book. Let me repeat that, because I cannot say it often enough: No book is every book. How about another one: The best remedy for bad speech is more speech. If you want readers to get strong female role models, you're going to need to give them a lot of books: books with strong femme girls and books with strong butch girls, books with strong girls and books with strong boys, books with strong assimilated girls of color and books with strong unassimilated girls of color. You need to let them read crappy books and mediocre books and great books. If you don't let them read books with negative gender roles, you aren't just cutting out Twilight, you are cutting out Speaker for the Dead, all of the later Murry-O'Keeffe books, Zelazny's Amber universe. If you cut out media which occasionally have reactionary sex and gender roles, you have to rule out Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

And let's not even get started talking about applying these same rules to sexuality, class, or race.

We live in an imperfect world, and a lot of fantastic media are products of our imperfect world. All we can do is the best that we can do.

(Although a corollary to this is we shouldn't be ashamed of admitting when some of our favorite books, television shows, or movies are sexist or racist. Imperfect world, remember? The only way to win this fight is not to ban the sexist and racist media, but to shine a light on the problems. It doesn't make me love Casablanca any less to acknowledge that "You'll have to do the thinking for both of us" is not particularly a feminist sentiment. But to deny the inherent sexism of the movie, or to brush it off by saying "it makes sense for those characters!" or "why can't you just enjoy it!" or "it's historically accurate!" makes the infection that much more insidious. The way you love these texts and still grown-up okay is by recognizing what's wrong with them and love them anyway. But the recognition is vital.)
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
If I didn't love my job, I would be applying to be a Library Developer for LibraryThing. You don't need to be in Maine (although ability to get their is a plus). Basically, I have all of their pluses. Alas, I also love my job. One of you should apply, seriously.

[ profile] free_govt_info wonders if the new Bush administration regulations imply that librarians can legally refuse to give out information on subjects they feel run counter to their own personal set of beliefs.

Boston College is going to stop giving freshmen e-mail accounts. The number of pedagogical and security reasons why I think this is absolutely, utterly insane is overwhelming, but since I have no control over it, I will try not to get incensed. Luckily I think they are too smart for this at Tufts.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)'s suggestions to Obama's transition team on improving public domain access to government resources are fabulous. I hadn't known about FedFlix [FedFlix on the Internet archive, Fedflix on YouTube], but what a fabulous resource: and NTIS teamed up together to make public domain digital copies of many government videotapes.

Or how about their idea for The Library of the USA, which would not only create a fantastic archival series of curated documents, but would be a nice New Deal-style public works jobs program in a time where even libertarians are beginning to realize we need one.

And nobody can deny that right now high-speed Internet access is part of enfranchisement in modern society, and a program to bring high-speed Internet to more rural parts of America would be fabulous.

We are in prime time to do both so much good and so much harm. Traditionally, government information has been printed by the GPO, an organization which knows that its mandate from United States code includes permanent public access, and knows that all work of the United States government is in the public domain. Their digitization efforts include an understanding of the public domain. But these days, the US government publishes many documents directly to the Web, without involving the GPO, and the individual departments responsible for that publication can be unaware of their responsibilities to the public. Comedians make jokes about Dick Cheney and his shredder, but the problem goes beyond illegal government programs and secret laws. Evil people will always do evil, and it's our responsibility to stop them, but a lot of what's going on now is just carelessness and ignorance. If government departments don't know they have a responsibility to publish into the public domain, if by bypassing the FDLP with direct-to-Web publication they don't realize they are bypassing a mandate to permanent public access, then it doesn't take any evil whatsoever to deny the public our right to permanent access to these public domain materials.

Some government offices, such as the Government Accountability Office, are already on the right track. Let's make sure the new administration keeps us going the right way.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Two things lately have been making me think how all choices about character description in writing are political, even if they aren't intended to be. The first was teaching Flora Segunda, and wondering about character race and ethnicity in this created world. (We know that among the Califans, some, such as Flora Primera and Udo, are blonde and considered beautiful for it; we know that the Huitzils seem to be related to the Aztec Empire; we know that the Califans have Spanish words in their vocabularies and Latin American-influenced traditions in their culture.)

And I was also thinking about some concerns I know that Kristin has had regarding character description. For example, does not describing a heroine's weight make her automatically thin? Does not describing her skin color make her automatically white? Does not describing her sexuality make her automatically straight? (I am probably putting some words into Kristin's mouth, so Kristin, please forgive me and/or correct me.)

Anyway, Roger Sutton pointed towards this interesting discussion on a very closely related topic on Mitali Perkins's blog. "Should Authors Describe a Character's Race?" (Mitali Perkins is the author of First Daughter: American Makeover, a book I find fascinating, compelling, and extremely problematic, about a white presidential candidate with an adopted Pakistani daughter.)
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Why isn't the library blogosphere abuzz over the to-be-deported librarian (or library employee; the new stories are inconsistent but seem to imply a library employee) Marxavi Angel Martinez? 23-year-old Martinez has been married for two years, works in a library, is attending college, has a 15-month-old son, and plans to become a kindergarten teacher. She didn't criminally race across the border in hopes of stealing jobs from hard working Americans -- that is, unless as a three-year-old she decided to swim the Rio Grande.

You know, at some level it disgusts me that the main defense of Martinez I've seen in the news is, effectively, she had a skilled-labor job and white friends ("To go after productive citizens who have been our neighbors and friends for years? It's insane"), but if that's what it takes to make people realize that undocumented immigrants are also human beings, fine, I will take it. Although what the heck is up with this news story? "Alamance County ? Thousands of people use the internet at libraries around the Triad everyday, but it might not be the safest place. Sheriff Deputies in Alamance County arrested Marxavi Angel Martinez earlier this week. Martinez was employed by the county library system. She is facing federal charges for alleging aggravated identity theft, false claim to U.S. citizenship, social security fraud and fraudulent or misrepresentation of a material fact. This comes less than 24-hours after MySpace had security breach. ... Can the internet be trusted?"

Also, note to self: NEVER read the reader comments on immigration stories in the news. I simply don't have enough Sanity Watchers points to go around.

In more entertaining crazy news, LibraryThing has gotten a warning from Google AdSense for the "adult or mature content" in -- wait for it -- Library of Congress Subject Headings.
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