Diversity in Reviewing

Apr. 1st, 2015 05:42 am
[syndicated profile] kirkus_kidlit_feed
The children’s-lit world has been abuzz recently with Malinda Lo’s thoughtful, heartfelt four-part blog series on diversity in book reviews. I had distinctly mixed feelings when I saw how prominently Kirkus’ reviews figured in her analyses: it’s always nice to know that people are reading what you have to say, but it’s always a bummer to be accused of racism, as we were pointedly in reference to one review. I’ve been in something of a brown study ever since I read it.
[syndicated profile] kirkus_kidlit_feed
When I met U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, astronaut, at the Texas Book Festival five years ago, I immediately reverted to my 6-year-old self and got all fangirl on the poor man, who had just returned from a mission on the International Space Station and was suffering from mammoth jet lag. I was so star-struck I don’t think I uttered a complete sentence while he blinked politely at me. I saw redemption, therefore, in the opportunity to talk with him about his new children’s book, Astrotwins: Project Blastoff (co-written with veteran middle-grade novelist Martha Freeman).

New YA to Check Out in April

Mar. 30th, 2015 05:07 pm
[syndicated profile] kirkus_ya_feed
So, have you worked your way through all of those new March titles yet? Yeah, I haven’t, either. Nevertheless, it’s time to look at what’s coming in April!

Parties and Gifts

Mar. 30th, 2015 01:36 am
[syndicated profile] sumana_feed
To what extent do you think of your open stuff contributions as gifts? Does this match up with your sense of your communities on the caring-to-combative spectrum?

several papercraft pieces I made, and gave awayTo you, what are the manners surrounding giving and receiving gifts?

In transactions without money changing hands, how do we demonstrate what we value?

Does it motivate you to think of your fanfic, your bug reports, your wiki edits, your patches, your teaching as gifts for a specific person? Or for a community?

Do the community leaders in your open stuff communities treat those artifacts as gifts? What about other participants?

What would a "Secret Santa"-style gift exchange along the lines of Yuletide Treasure or Festivids look like in the world of English Wikisource? Or Django? Or wherever you contribute bits?

More Books I've Read Recently

Mar. 29th, 2015 02:44 am
[syndicated profile] sumana_feed
More book reviews from the past year or so! I am still catching up and am not done catching up.

Up Against It by MJ Locke. You can read the first 5 chapters free online. I read this fast-paced space mystery during the 2014 summer vacation I shared with Julia and Moss, and enjoyed it as a mystery/procedural, as solid hard scifi, and as a character study of the protagonist. The first time we see Jane Navio, head of the Resource Commission, she makes a tough call. She is the kind of creative, tough leader who can abandon a few likely-to-die people in order to save resources the space colony's going to need in three weeks' time. Later we see that she's a cunning, passionate, thoughtful, and empathetic leader as well -- once you've read it, talk with me about a monologue she delivers in the last few pages of the book, about work and the public eye, because when I read it (as I was thinking about the job I then had at Wikimedia Foundation) it struck me as though I were a gong. And you get space surveillance, posthuman subsocieties, and some teen drama as well, but basically I am all about super leader Jane. Incidentally, MJ Locke is an open pseudonym for Laura J. Mixon, whose work Leonard has really liked. I should pick up more Mixon.

Life Class and Toby's Room by Pat Barker. I thank yatima for bringing my attention to Barker's Regeneration trilogy, which is super great. And thanks to Sam Read Book Shop in Grasmere, where Julia, Moss, and I stopped during our walk. I saw and picked up Perfecting Sound Forever, then got to talking with the store clerk, found out Pat Barker had new World War I fiction out, and bought it. I read both of these books in spare moments while continuing the Coast-To-Coast walk, which meant I had a sort of double vision of England, seeing it in front of my face in 2014, and seeing it in my head a hundred years previous. During my Coast-to-Coast walk in 2012 with Mel, I'd basked in the hospitality of rural northern England. And I enjoyed it again when I came back last year, but I also saw it through wartime eyes -- participant and observer at once. The cosy bits of life -- board games, pub trivia nghts, jokes over breakfast -- felt like civilization, like something to protect, like "what we're fighting for." Life Class -- in comparison to Regeneration -- feels like Young Adult, perhaps because we see the journey these youngish adults take because of the war. Toby's Room has a lot to recommend it but there is a sex-related content warning that I'll put in the comments as it's a spoiler.

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho (reread). So fun and funny and heartwarming and incisive. "I used to be a good girl and that was uncomplicated, but I thought complicated would be more interesting than safe." If you liked Jade Yeo, check out this interview with Cho about fluff for postcolonial booknerds, the fantasy of communicating easily with your ancestors and heritage, and her writing in general. I particularly love the bomb she drops nonchalantly: "I've always loved stories that examine the dynamics within small communities with their own rules and conventions -- Jane Austen's two inches of ivory, Enid Blyton's school stories, L. M. Montgomery's Canadian villages, Star Trek's starships." YES. Just add that last one on there. Ooof.

your blue-eyed boys by Feather (lalaietha). Via a recommendation from yatima. I read this both before and after I watched a bunch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it makes more sense afterwards (me during the first read: "who's this Sam guy?"). It's the longest piece of MCU fic I've read, but you might also like my Archive of our Own recommendations and Pinboard bookmarks.

American Taxation, American Slavery by Robin Einhorn (2006, University of Chicago Press) (partial reread). This history remains brainbending and full of astonishing anecdotes. Dr. Einhorn's particularly great in describing the importance of institutional competence in government agencies and in refuting "taxation=slavery" rhetoric. Check out this example of her amazingness.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (reread) and Iacocca: An Autobigraphy (reread). I wrote about these at the time but I did not really talk about why I read Iacocca. I was about eight, and visiting India with family, and I read voraciously. I remember reading many issues of Reader's Digest (the Indian edition, which was different from the US edition). And a relative of mine had a copy of Iacocca and I read it with tremendous interest. I had never read such a detailed narrative about grown-up work before! He used the f-word and I was SCANDALIZED. Cars, these things that I utterly took for granted, did not just emerge ab nihilo; someone had to think them up and design them and compromise and whatnot. And I think I also liked reading Iacocca -- as I liked watching and reading Andy Rooney -- because they used plain language and owned up to their frailties.

So I monologued, a lot, the way kids do, but about Lee Iacocca and Chrysler and the K-car and the Mustang and various other topics, and these Indian aunts and uncles of mine smiled and nodded and perhaps presumed I would be an automotive engineer when I grew up. And then my parents held a sort of family reunion party (the hook being "Sumana's and Nandini's birthday (Observed)"), and my uncle Ashwin gave me one of the most memorable gifts I've ever received: Iacocca's new book of essays, Talking Straight. I don't think I even knew it existed before I had it in my hands! I was SO EXCITED. I probably forgot the minimal socialization my parents had painstakingly attempted to instill in me and went off to a corner to start in on it right away. I am still laughing about this.

Incidentally, the hunger for reading material also affected me eight years later, on another trip to India, as I was preparing to return to the States. Airplanes had no seatback entertainment; you brought twenty-two hours' worth of self-entertainment resources to get you all the way to San Francisco or you explored new depths in boredom. The day before my flight, Mom took me to an English-language bookstore. I'd heard The Lord of the Rings was good, and long. The store didn't have it. But they did have this other super long book. And that's how I read Atlas Shrugged.

(Even so, somewhere above the Pacific I started skimming that Galt radio speech. It is so repetitive you could programmatically transform it into a musical score suitable for Koyaanisqatsi!)

An inflight shopping magazine that helped me discover my roller derby name ("Asian Competence").

[syndicated profile] alaskanlibrarian_feed

Posted by Daniel Cornwall

From my Congress.gov alert:

There has been activity on bills associated with Representative Don Young.

Bills cosponsored:

  • H.R. 1600 – To amend title XXVII of the Public Health Service Act to limit co-payment, coinsurance, or other cost-sharing requirements applicable to prescription drugs in a specialty drug tier to the dollar amount (or its equivalent) of such requirements applicable to prescription drugs in a non-preferred brand drug tier, and for other purposes.
  • H.R. 1114 – To modify the definition of "antique firearm".

Filed under: alaska, politics Tagged: guns, healthcare
[syndicated profile] alaskanlibrarian_feed

Posted by Daniel Cornwall

From my Congress.gov alert:

There has been activity on bills associated with Senator Dan Sullivan.

Bills cosponsored:

  • S. 873 – A bill to designate the wilderness within the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve in the State of Alaska as the Jay S. Hammond Wilderness Area.
  • S. 738 – Genetically Engineered Salmon Risk Reduction Act
  • S. 571 – Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2
  • S. 872 – A bill to provide for the recognition of certain Native communities and the settlement of certain claims under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, and for other purposes.

Filed under: alaska, politics Tagged: Alaska Natives, aviation, gmos, Lake Clark, Land, salmon
[syndicated profile] alaskanlibrarian_feed

Posted by Daniel Cornwall

From my Congress.gov alert:

There has been activity on bills associated with Representative Don Young.

Bills sponsored:

  • H.R. 1730 – To amend the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act to provide that Alexander Creek, Alaska, is and shall be recognized as an eligible Native village under that Act, and for other purposes.
  • H.R. 1729 – To amend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to exempt certain Alaskan Native articles from prohibitions against sale of items containing nonedible migratory bird parts, and for other purposes.
  • H.R. 1728 – To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to improve the efficiency of summer meals.

Bills cosponsored:

  • H.R. 1694 – To amend MAP-21 to improve contracting opportunities for veteran-owned small business concerns, and for other purposes.
  • H.R. 1677 – To amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 to ensure health care coverage value and transparency for dental benefits under group health plans.
  • H.R. 1684 – To amend the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to impose penalties and provide for the recovery of removal costs and damages in connection with certain discharges of oil from foreign offshore units, and for other purposes.

Filed under: alaska, politics Tagged: Alexander Creek, birds, healthcare, oil, pollution, retirement, summer meals, veterans
[syndicated profile] alaskanlibrarian_feed

Posted by Daniel Cornwall

From my Congress.gov alert:

There has been activity on bills associated with Senator Lisa Murkowski.

Bills sponsored:

  • S. 872 – A bill to provide for the recognition of certain Native communities and the settlement of certain claims under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, and for other purposes.
  • S. 883 – A bill to facilitate the reestablishment of domestic, critical mineral designation, assessment, production, manufacturing, recycling, analysis, forecasting, workforce, education, and research capabilities in the United States, and for other purposes.
  • S. 873 – A bill to designate the wilderness within the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve in the State of Alaska as the Jay S. Hammond Wilderness Area.

Filed under: alaska, politics Tagged: Alaska Natives, Lake Clark, Land, Mining, Research

Heather's Descendants

Mar. 27th, 2015 05:58 pm
[syndicated profile] kirkus_kidlit_feed
Know what picture book is having a big birthday this year? Lesléa Newman’s Heather Has Two Mommies is turning 25 years old, and Candlewick Press is celebrating with an anniversary edition of the book. Originally illustrated by Diana Souza, this birthday edition includes illustrations from Laura Cornell, who has illustrated many of Jamie Lee Curtis’ bestselling picture books.
[syndicated profile] aotus_feed

Posted by David Ferriero

The National Archives’ Strategic Plan includes the bold initiative to digitize our analog records and make them available for online public access.

Our new digitization strategy outlines the many approaches we will use to achieve this goal, and I am proud share with you the results of some of our recent digitization work.

Recently digitized by staff in the National Archives Still Picture Branch, these stunning color photographs from the Battle of the Bulge were taken by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in St. Vith, Belgium. The photos depict the wreckage in St. Vith in the days after units of the 7th Armored Division liberated the town in January, 1945.

Wreckage in St. Vith Belgium
Wreckage in St. Vith, Belgium. National Archives Identifier 16730732

Snowsuited Soldiers Walk through the Snow Covered Streets of St. Vith, Belgium
Snowsuited Soldiers Walk through the Snow Covered Streets of St. Vith, Belgium. National Archives Identifier 16730733

 

American Soldiers Man a Dug-In Mortar Emplacement near St. Vith, Belgium
American Soldiers Man a Dug-In Mortar Emplacement near St. Vith, Belgium. National Archives Identifier 16730734

M-4 Sherman Tanks Lined up in a Snow Covered Field, near St. Vith, Belgium
M-4 Sherman Tanks Lined up in a Snow Covered Field, near St. Vith, Belgium. National Archives Identifier 16730735

Yanks Trudge through Snow from Humpange,Belgium to St. Vith

Yanks Trudge through Snow from Humpange,Belgium to St. Vith. National Archives Identifier 16730736

I will be featuring more digitization projects in upcoming blog posts.

More photos from the Battle of the Bulge are featured on Today’s Document Tumblr, and you can read more about “The Bloodiest Battle” in Prologue Magazine.… [ Read all ]

Let's Hear It for Live Bugs

Mar. 27th, 2015 06:16 am
[syndicated profile] kirkus_kidlit_feed
Editing reviews of children's and teen books can lead to some pretty strange diversions. Take fireflies—or more precisely, best practices in catching fireflies.

The Dark Side of Love Bonds

Mar. 26th, 2015 05:02 pm
[syndicated profile] kirkus_ya_feed
The sun is rising. The myth is not in the telling, but the constant retelling. This is my story. I want to tell it, not once, not just to myself, but over and over again.
[syndicated profile] alaskanlibrarian_feed

Posted by Daniel Cornwall

From my Congress.gov:

There has been activity on bills associated with Representative Don Young.

Bills cosponsored:

  • H.R. 1546 – To amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to provide eligibility for public broadcasting facilities to receive certain disaster assistance, and for other purposes.
  • H.R. 1531 – To amend title 5, United States Code, to provide a pathway for temporary seasonal employees in Federal land management agencies to compete for vacant permanent positions under internal merit promotion procedures, and for other purposes.
  • H.R. 1538 – To extend the principle of federalism to State drug policy, provide access to medical marijuana, and enable research into the medicinal properties of marijuana.

I’m very appreciative that Rep. Young is cosponsoring HR 1538. It’s past time we had some real federalism in our drug policy.


Filed under: alaska, politics Tagged: federal personnel, medical marijuana, public broadcasting
[syndicated profile] alaskanlibrarian_feed

Posted by Daniel Cornwall

From my Congress.gov alert:

There has been activity on bills associated with Senator Lisa Murkowski.

Bills cosponsored:

  • S. 854 – A bill to establish a new organization to manage nuclear waste, provide a consensual process for siting nuclear waste facilities, ensure adequate funding for managing nuclear waste, and for other purposes.
  • S. 856 – A bill to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to require criminal background checks for school employees.
  • S. 578 – Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act of 2015

Filed under: alaska, politics Tagged: home healthcare, nuclear waste, schools
[syndicated profile] sumana_feed
Now that I'm not all arrrrgh I just want to launch this thing I'll talk a little more about why I made Randomized Dystopia: to help us think about how dystopian fiction (and real repression) works, and to remind everybody of rights that don't get enough airtime, like variety in breakfast

wait, no, I mean:

Freedom of association

In January, I read Courtney Milan's Trade Me, in which protagonist Tina Chen mentions how hard it is for many Americans to wrap their heads around the oppression of Falun Gong practitioners. A stripped-down excerpt, from page 9 of my edition:

I hate trying to explain Falun Gong to Westerners. Sometimes, I wish my parents had been caught up in something comprehensible, like tax reform or Tiananmen Square....

No, it's not a freedom of speech issue. No, it's not a religion, not like you understand it. It's never going to make sense to you ... It's like free exercise of ... exercise...

Milan goes into more detail on this point in an interview about Trade Me. Again, a snipped-up excerpt:

...the communist regime is very, very jealous of concentrations of power in anyone but the Communist Party. And so near the end of the '90s, there were probably millions of people who were practicing Falun Gong, and they would get together in the park and they would practice and, you know, all of this stuff, and they, the Communist Party started getting a little worried about it, because they didn’t like the idea that there were these people.... he had followers, and they don't like, they didn't like the idea of somebody having followers, so they banned the practice. And to their amazement, people protested it, and they didn't know the protest was coming. So, like, 10,000 people showed up to protest in Beijing, and they were like, the fuck did these people come from?

And that, it scared the shit out of them, basically. You know, like, all these people care, and this is just sort of like what happened with, like, almost no organizing over a weekend? This is scary. So they cracked down on it, and they cracked down on it really, really hard.

One way to understand the Falun Gong crackdown is as a denial of freedom of association (articulated as "the right of the people peaceably to assemble" in the First Amendment to the US Constitution, to oversimplify). A totalitarian state only allows relationships that the state can surveil or break. We need not only privacy in the metadata of our group membership, but respect for our underlying freedom of association, the freedom to belong to a despised group.

But when I hear people talking about rights, including when we explore dystopias where someone's denying us those rights, I don't usually hear us explicitly mention freedom of association. We talk often about privacy, freedom of speech, reproductive and sexual freedom, fair and free elections, and judicial due process.

And so I'd also like to raise awareness (especially in the US) of more comprehensive lists of rights. In "Randomized Dystopia" I draw from The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Convention on the Rights of the Child, and The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Too often in the US I hear people talk as though the first ten amendments to the US Constitution comprise all the rights we ought to honor, and humanity has done some more thinking on those topics in the intervening centuries.

Upon using Randomized Dystopia, several commenters noticed how the US falls short regarding many of the rights in the UDHR, CEDAW, and CRC. Yup.

How dystopias work

And then, in mid-March, I was talking with Sabrina Banes about current dystopian fiction, especially novels in English for the Young Adult market. She sketched out their basic themes and trajectory (and Sabrina I'd love for you to write more about your thoughts on what aspects cluster around Evil Villain Governments versus around Plucky Young Protagonists). And I realized how essential it is, as a plot mechanic, that cookie-cutter YA dystopias deny freedom of association.

Chapter 1. My parents, friends, and government tell me I can't ever go talk to Those People Over There. They're bad and wrong and subject to arbitrary arrest or execution. But sometimes I don't particularly want to be a WheelCog. But what else is there?

......

Chapter 5. So I talked to Those People Over There and hoo boy, I was spectacularly underinformed about the nature of my world, political system, and socially constructed values! [If freedom of association is limited, the author can more plausibly dribble out exposition to the reader -- it's easier to play keep-away with the MacGuffin -- and it gets easier for authorities to enforce limits on speech.]

.....

Chapter 10. Oh wow, I am one of Those People Over There. In fact maybe quite a lot of us don't fit as WheelCogs, down underneath! [If you hang out with someone, it's a lot harder to treat them as a category, an object. And once you can talk freely with an ostracized group, you might see how you are like them; your perception of your own identity might change. I believe the standard YA dystopia character development arc depends on struggles around freedom of association.]

...

Chapter 12. However this is causing certain problems with, well, every other part of my life. Time to overthrow things!

What other rights have interesting properties as plot mechanics within dystopian fiction? I hope writers find "Randomized Dystopia" interesting as a writing prompt, and I'd be interested to hear others' thoughts on the interaction of rights and dystopian narrative.

Technical details

See the README in the code repository (go ahead and reuse the code and the idea -- the code is GPL). If you've never written a web application before, this kind of toy -- massage some text into structured-data form and use random.choice or random.sample to display a few selections to the reader -- is a fun starter project.

Takeaways

  1. Yeah the US is not doing so hot (and many other countries are not, either); there's a lot to be done
  2. Please write science fiction about Article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 14, Section 2, Clause E of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (or, failing that, please write about insurance fraud and/or Quakers in space, so I can read it)
  3. I launched a project making fun of the tropes of dystopian science fiction just before Taco Bell did, which means I'm an influencer and available for consulting at exorbitant rates

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