deborah: Kirkus Reviews: OM NOM NOM BRAINS (kirkus)
I realize I am actually sick of talking about terrible people and how they treat people badly. So I'm going to talk about something positive: This is my review of Revolution 60, the game created by Giant Spacekat. Disclaimer: I'm a book reviewer, not a game reviewer. I'm not going to review this in a critical, professional way, but only my very personal reaction.

As you know, Bob, I have pain and dexterity problems in my hands, severely limiting what I can do on a touchscreen. I'm not dexterous, I'm not fast, and I have to be enjoying myself a lot to spend spoons on a game. These days most of my gaming is shared with my housemates, where they drive the controller but we make decisions together. Many of the games I install on my iPhone get rapidly deleted for this reason, and even the ones that I do play I specifically don't play in timed modes, or modes that require dexterity.

So I was a little bit nervous about Revolution 60. I knew there was a combat system, which was necessarily going to push my limits. I picked up the game anyway, on the recommendation of a coworker. (This was when the game first launched, long before the Internet blew up at Brianna Wu.)

Revolution 60 review )
deborah: The management regrets that it was unable to find a Gnomic Utterance that was suitably irrelevant. (gnomic)
I had this whole draft post written out which explained how it came to be that

came to record ourselves sitting around for several hours one wonderful afternoon talking about feminist readings of E. Lockhart's young adult novel The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, but Amy's introduction to the videos is so thorough and informative that I can't improve on it.

All I can say is that I will forever be grateful to the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children's Literature (where, full disclosure, I teach) for introducing me to these wonderful people1 and for giving us all the tools and the support to think about literature in so many interesting, productive ways.

Go watch the videos.

(Hey, Kristin just posted, too!)




  • Technically, fandom introduced me to Amy. She is only one of the many wonderful people introduced to me by fandom for whom I will forever be grateful. Fandom, incidentally, also gives people some pretty good textual analysis tools. [back]

deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Amy Stern ([livejournal.com profile] bigbrotherreads) has let me be a guest blogger on her blog YA Subscription, and I started off my contributions there with a post on Francesca Lia Block's Dangerous Angels quintet. I talk about feminism, race, sexuality, and intersectionality, and I'm surprised by how much I liked the books on reread.

(I sent the post to Amy a while ago, and reading it now for the first time in ages I am embarrassed to see how many typos that are in it; I thought I proofread that thing about 17 times. But such is the blogosphere.)

Anyway, please, go over there, contribute to the conversation!

On another note, I feel like Kristin Cashore has joined the ranks of bloggers such as Ta Nahesi Coates and Slacktivist who are just too smart and useful to miss. It feels somehow dirty to say that about someone who is a friend, but I think it's true.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Amy ([personal profile] astern) has a productive reaction to the Bitch Magazine young adult feminist list controversy: she has started a blog to look at young adult books and intersectionality. Go check it out, because I suspect it will be great. [syndicated profile] ya_subscription_feed
deborah: The management regrets that it was unable to find a Gnomic Utterance that was suitably irrelevant. (gnomic)
I'd like you to meet my new friend, who is totally 1337. Her name? BARBIE.

Many images behind the cut, as well as description. )

I do understand that computer engineer Barbie is kinda subversive, kinda hegemonic. If nothing else, she's still Barbie. But right now I'm focusing on glee. She's not a pretty pretty princess or prom queen: she's a hacker extraordinaire.

Besides, with two older sisters, this is the first time I've ever had a brand-new Barbie before.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Karen Healey's guest post over at the book smugglers, "on awesome female characters", calls into question the entire idea of praising people for writing awesome/kick ass female characters. Karen is S-M-R-T smart, and her ideas are smart -- and she then goes on to write an utterly fabulous list of awesome female characters. Because I love every one of the characters in there that I recognized (Tip Tucci! Syrah Cheng! Cass Meyer! Melanie Tamaki!), I'm going to have to add every other book and movie mentioned to my miles-long To Be Read list. *Shakes tiny fist at Karen*

Not to mention that I adore the vid she links to at the bottom of the article, [personal profile] fizzyblogic's "What About", which I just watched to get some inspiration to start the rest of my day.

(OK, I don't agree with everything Karen says. I was not a big fan of Princess Ben; it had some fat hate that made me sad. And before cheerleading becomes an Olympic sport, there are some fairly major issues around sports and sexism that need to be resolved. (Fair warning: that link is specifically about US sports politics and Title IX, and Karen is a New Zealander (ETA MEA MAXIMA CULPA), and the Olympics are international. But it's the link I knew off the top of my head and I'm supposed to be working.))

(But she is still wicked smart, is what I'm saying.)
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Tomorrow I'm going to be teaching Virginia Hamilton's The Magical Adventure's of Pretty Pearl (alongside Donna Jo Napoli's Breath and Robin McKinley's Beauty), and I have to admit I'm somewhat terrified, as a white instructor in front of a classroom of (apparently) all white students. It's such a complicated book, and I just don't feel like I have the qualification or training to deal with the text's complications, such as its valorization of the mammy figure, or the way it presents phonetically spelled-out dialect. This is doubly complicated for me by some of Hamilton's own writings on the language. When she talks about it, she acts as if she's inventing a dialect out of whole cloth, albeit somewhat researched:
"I tried to imagine what the speech patterns would be like for the first generation of blacks after surrender. I decided that the African influence would still be there in some of the characters who were with the group just as in Roots there was the African influence always on the people of that family. I tried to figure out what the language would be like from my research into the narrations from the time done by blacks, from the Caribbean dialects that I had heard and understood were pretty authentic as to the way people talked for generations in the Caribbean, and also from the way Africans speak contemporaneous today. It seemed to me that the use of "him," of the pronoun in a certain way, changed the language to make it seem older or newer in a very special way. I wanted to use "de," pronounced "deh" in the way we say "red," not in the old-fashioned way that blacks are supposed to speak, "and de (dee) man said," not that kind of thing, but "deh" which has a more flowing sound to it. That's why I included the footnote for the pronunciation: I was afraid that when people saw "de" they would pronounce it as "dee" like in the old slave narratives, and that was not what I was getting at, at all. I was trying to do different things, and I used the pronoun "him" many times in a very different way, which changes the language somewhat. It is dialect, but I don't think it's difficult; it is more language structure that has been changed than the dialect."
-- (Apseloff, Marilyn. "A Conversation with Virginia Hamilton." Children's Literature in Education, 14:1 (1983), 204-13.)
She does identify her research here, and as a complete ignoramus even I recognize certain vocabulary and dialect in Pretty Pearl having origins in Gullah, not made up entirely. But she self-identifies as an outsider to this folklore and language:
"The black folktales are uniquely southern. Many of you have known some of them all of your lives. As a northerner, I felt privileged to have got my hands on them. "
--(Hamilton, Virginia. "The Known, the Remembered, and the Imagined: Celebrating Afro-American Folktales" Children's Literature in Education , 18:2 (1987), 67-75.)
And then there are all the mammy issues, which in her own writing and talking about the book Hamilton identifies as strongly feminist, and I feel like my basic fandom/Internet-culture course in Intersectionality 101 hasn't prepared me for this. I feel like I need at least Intersectionality 201, and I probably need more historical context that I have.

You know how Zora Neale Hurston took a lot of crap for writing down oral traditions and making them available to white people? The more I prepare for this class, the more I feel like this is the kind of story which is a beautiful reworking of oral traditions for insiders, but in clumsy (my?) hands can just reinforce stereotypes among outsiders. I'm sure I don't have enough knowledge of musical history to be sufficiently lucid about the gorgeous call and response patterns the book evokes. I have only an academic knowledge of the John de Conquer stories, and though I was brought up on John Henry picture books like many American kids, they were decontextualized from their racial and class history, tossed in a pile with Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox and Johnny Appleseed. I've been spending the evening reading selections from Alan Dundes' 1973 Mother Wit from the Laughing Barrel: Readings in the Interpretation of Afro-American Folklore, and the very fact that I've been finding so many of these incredibly dated essays (many from the 1930s) informative is excessively worrying.

I'm starting to think I'm not smart enough to teach Virginia Hamilton. Last year I tried to teach Justice and Her Brothers. It's bad enough that the book makes no sense without the rest of the Justice cycle. I find that trilogy too difficult for me under any circumstances. I hoped that teaching it my students might bring some insights to it but they were fairly hostile and I felt too dense about the whole thing to bring any deeper understanding.

And yet at the same time, the more I read children's literature critics discussing Virginia Hamilton, the more uncomfortable I am with their overall treatment of her. Not because it's not deserved -- Hamilton is an artist, an author who writes beautiful books that frequently made me feel like a complete idiot because they are so rich and complicated. But because the towering pedestal on which Hamilton's work is placed in the context of decades lacking any critical praise for any other black writer of children's and young adult novels feels, well, icky. How much of the praise for Hamilton's work acts as a Band-Aid making people think it's unnecessary to confront the absence of critically praised black American writers for children? Yet by raising this question, am I implying the Virginia Hamilton has received praise she hasn't deserved? Because that's not what I mean at all.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
yAt! My copy of the encyclopedia Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Robin Anne Reid, has arrived. I wrote the essay "Girls and the Fantastic" and the short entries for Ursula LeGuin and Raphael Carter. I'm so pleased by it, and will shelve it right next to my Oxford encyclopedia of children's literature.

In other news, I'd like to encourage you to check out the Tufts Digital Collections and Archives blog ([livejournal.com profile] tufts_dca), especially if you like photo blogs. [livejournal.com profile] lamentables, I'm looking at you! We post about once a week, and most of the posts involve an awesome picture from our archives. For example, my most recent contribution there, "Disaster!", features a fabulous photo of Jumbo the Elephant looking just a tad battered.
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 [livejournal.com 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)
It's odd to pull up your blogs in the morning and see your own name, you introducing yourself, at the top of the list.

Gender and Fan Culture, Round 16, Part One: Deborah Kaplan and Alan McKee, over at Henry Jenkins' place.

The generosity of Henry for making these conversations possible, the drive of Kristina Busse for rounding us all up and making this happen, and Alan McKee's all-around wonderfully funny smarts have made this entire experience a thoroughgoing pleasure. As an independent scholar, I get far too little opportunity to interact with others in media and fan studies outside of the sometimes stultifying atmosphere of conferences; this has been really a great experience for me.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
This is a repost of some thoughts I once put elsewhere which I'm reframing because of recent discussions about women in libraries and technology at Dorothea's and Bess's and Karen's and Rachel's. I'm also posting this because after spending the weekend with multiple generations of Haverford and Bryn Mawr alumni, I got to thinking about computer science education for women.

cut for length (1800 words of frustration) )
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I've just come back from a conference, and even though it wasn't a library conference, I think it's interesting to post about here; in fact, there are some issues that arose at the conference which I think are of interest to librarians. Console-ing Passions is a feminist media studies conference. While there is ostensibly a focus on new media, most of the panels I attended had to do with traditional forms of interacting with more traditional media, such as television, news media, and the like. Even many of the panels which focused on the Web treated the more static forms of media still created by an editorial team. Don't get me wrong, many of the panels were extremely good and I enjoyed the conference, but there wasn't a lot of emphasis on social networking. Facebook and Myspace got mentioned in passing several times, but I only went to one panel (decides the two fanfiction panels with which I was involved), which really focused on user-created content. That panel had two papers about message boards and one about identity creation on Friendster.

I think there's a good space open for a crossover conference that covers issues of social networking. From a literary analysis perspective I'm primarily interested in the texts which are the product of social networks; as a librarian I am interested in various forms of communication and information sharing that social networks enable. I assume media scholars would also be interested in social networking but that's not my field of expertise, I'm afraid.

In any case, it was absolutely wonderful to me my fellow panelists in person, when before I only knew them online (and in the case of [livejournal.com profile] kbusse, on the telephone). Everyone had great things to say, and I've great ideas about this paper and more. Now I just need to find an OA humanities journal to submit the paper to. *g*
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