Friday, June 23, 2017

Librarian Friends and Allies: I Hope I'll See You In Chicago at #ALAAC17

I'm really excited that I'll be attending the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Chicago from Friday June 23 through Sunday June 25, 2017. I'll be working at the IBPA Booth (#3529) helping the IBPA Indie-Publisher and Author-Publisher members with their Author signings.

If you'll be there at #ALAAC17, too, please swing by and say "Hi!"

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Unicorn Hunting - A Teen Lesbian Has to Choose Between Unicorns and Humanity

Unicorn Hunting by A.R. Hellbender

Caught between her family's expectations and her own conscience, a reluctant unicorn hunter, Caoilinn "Cal" Valderan, questions the morals of slaying these mystical creatures, and finds herself in a position where she must choose between them and humanity... In this coming of age story, Cal must not only defend her principles and values, as she finds herself caught in a battle between light and darkness, but she must find answers to what others dare not even to question...
What's queer about it? The author explains:

Cal spends the entirety of the book in love with her next-door neighbor and fellow unicorn hunter, Adryan. But in a medieval society in which women are not the first pick when it comes to jobs, she hardly has a chance. Adryan's engagement to Cal's brother changes everything for Cal and makes her abandon life as she knows it and live in the forest with the unicorns.

Add your review of the author-published "Unicorn Hunting" in comments!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Exciting News! I'm The New Director of Marketing and Programming For IBPA, The Independent Book Publishers Association!

Can I get a waiver for over-use of exclamation points, please?

I am delighted to share that I've taken a full-time position with IBPA, as their Director of Marketing and Programming. (I know, I know... I said that in the blog post title, but I really like my job title! And it's still fresh!)

Monday June 19, 2017 will be the start of my third week working at the IBPA offices in Manhattan Beach, California – I hit the ground running and am learning lots, overseeing five different programs and helping shape the organization's marketing and social media strategy.

The most visible project I'm doing is hosting the once-every-two-weeks IBPA Publishing University webinars, PubU Online. I did my first webinar this past Wednesday June 14 with book marketer Shari Stauch, and it was phenomenal (we had live video, polls, prizes, and such inspiring and actionable info on "outside the box" book marketing ideas from Shari!) A great start!

And I'll be going to ALA's Annual Conference in Chicago this week, working at the IBPA booth and helping our Indie-Publisher and Author-Publisher members with their book signings! While I've always wanted to go, I've never been to ALA before (or Chicago, for that matter.)

My IBPA colleagues are wonderful, the community is passionate and engaged, and the organization is all about helping Indie-Publishers and Author-Publishers in a mission close to my heart: For everyone to be empowered to be their authentic selves and to share their stories, their voices... and be heard!

And like they say in improv, "Yes, And..."

Yes, and I will still be blogging twice-a-week for SCBWI (doing my work on the weekends, like this post here.)

Yes, and I will still head up SCBWI's Team Blog, leading the live-blogging and social media coverage of their twice-annual international conferences.

Yes, and I'll keep my new one-day-a-month gig producing and editing SCBWI's monthly podcasts. (Also on the weekends.)

Yes, and I'll keep blogging three days a week here at I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? (Yep, you guessed it: on the weekends!)

Yes, and I'm still writing an hour-a-day, every day. (Which means that Monday through Friday, I'm waking up extra-early, commuting down to Manhattan Beach before most of the traffic, and sitting in a cafe to write for an hour before heading into my new, awesome job!)

I love the new routine, feel very grateful for the opportunity, and am so happy to share the news with you, my community.


The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Thousand-Petaled Lotus: Growing Up Gay In The Southern Baptist Church - a memoir by Michael Fields

The Thousand-Petaled Lotus: Growing Up Gay In The Southern Baptist Church By Michael Fields
It's a story that starts on the first day of creation, leaps ahead quickly to Fields’ childhood in Nashville, Tennessee (the Buckle of the Bible Belt), and follows him through his high school years. Along the way, he shares stories of his sexual awakening and awareness, beginning with his first crush — on a comic book hero — when he was age four, and continuing through an adolescence filled with anguished prayers that Jesus would cure him of homosexuality.

The Thousand-Petaled Lotus is a gay coming-of-age narrative that is distinctly Southern in character, yet the story of Fields’ personal and spiritual journey poses universal questions and shares experiences that everyone can appreciate, and does so in a unique way. In the Hindu tradition, the thousand-petaled lotus is another name for the sahasrara chakra, the uppermost energy center in the body, which blossoms at the moment of enlightenment. The Thousand-Petaled Lotus is structured as just that, a lotus of many petals unfolding. Fields’ journey to reconcile his faith with his sexuality is a captivating story that blossoms when he finds what Jesus called “the kingdom of heaven” and discovers that it is nothing more – and nothing less – than the present moment.
Add your review of "The Thousand-Petaled Lotus" in comments!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A House of Light And Stone - a young girl comes of age, crushes on another girl, deals with an abusive mother, and tries to figure out where she fits in her mixed-race family

A House of Light and Stone by E.J. Runyon

Growing up is never easy, but for young Duffy Chavez, whose childhood is anything but innocent, the journey is particularly painful.

Swimming against the tides of her troubled family as well as her own cultural identity, she struggles with the cards she has been dealt. Buoyed up by the belief of a select few, she strives to achieve the kind of self-knowledge that comes so naturally to the ‘real girls’ all around her. As gaps in the narrative begin to fill, and the truth surrounding Duffy’s birth is unearthed, her determination to succeed is rendered all the more astounding.

Add your review of "A House of Light and Stone" in comments!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Is My Cis Privilege Showing?

I've been thinking about my signature block when I send an email.

Yeah, I know. That sounds pretty self-involved.

But it's sort of the email equivalent of a name tag. And more and more, when I'm going to LGBTQ-inclusive, LGBTQ-sensitive events, I don't just put my name, "Lee," I'm also asked to share my personal gender pronoun (or PDP). I put He/Him/His under my name, and that's been that.

Only... I recently got an email from someone who had, after their name in the signature block, their pronouns. And I starting thinking... Should I do the same?

Given that I look like a guy, and my pronouns are the guy ones, would it just be perceived as me flaunting my cis privilege?

But as I dug deeper into why I maybe should do it, I came up with three better reasons:

1. To acknowledge there are other options besides the binary cis vision of gender.

2. To present the idea that someone who presents as a guy might not feel the "guy" pronouns works for them.

3. It's a way to for me to communicate to people living their lives outside cis-normative gender boundaries that I am their ally.

And I'm all about being an Ally.

So now, my signature block reads:

Lee Wind, M.Ed.
pronouns: he/him/his

and then the rest.

How about you? Would you consider adding your pronouns to your signature, and maybe even your social media profiles, as a sign of ally-ship for the Trans and gender non-conforming community?

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

ps: because most cis people don't know what "PGP," or personal gender pronouns, stands for, I've gone with the simpler "pronouns" followed by a colon.

pps: need a refresher on "cis" versus "trans" in regards to gender? Check out episode 4 of Gender 101.

Friday, June 9, 2017

An interview with Susie Ghahremani, SCBWI Guest Team Blogger For The Summer #LA17SCBWI Conference

Filling in for SCBWI Team Blogger Don Tate for this 2017 SCBWI Summer Conference, is award-winning illustrator Susie Ghahremani!

Illustrator Susie Ghahremani

Here's our interview:

Lee: Welcome, Susie -- The boygirlparty is in the house!

Susie: Thank you!

Lee: Please share a bit about you, and what's been your journey as a children's content creator.

Susie: I’ve been a full-time illustrator for 15 years, but only recently made my way over to kid lit! Only a few years ago, I illustrated my children’s book debut, What Will Hatch? written by Jennifer Ward (pub. Bloomsbury). The experience of working on a picture book was so unlike any of the hundreds (thousands?) of projects I worked on prior, I felt I was tapping into another career entirely. It prompted me to join SCBWI to build my knowledge and community.

I’m slowly becoming a more seasoned children’s publishing professional. Jennifer and I now share an agent — Stefanie von Borstel of Full Circle Literary; last summer, I was thrilled to be recognized with a mentorship at the portfolio show at the Los Angeles Conference (#LA16SCBWI); and my author debut Stack the Cats (pub. Abrams) ( released just a couple weeks ago!

Lee: Congratulations! Tell us about your blogging/social media/online background. What do you use, what do you love, and why?

Susie: I love social media for the constraint of its brevity and interaction. There’s no such thing as a one way transmission there; it’s a conversation.
You can find me most frequently here on Twitter and Instagram 

I also have a longform blog on my site and an extremely personal blog though I somewhat rarely post to those these days.

Recently, I became a team blogger for the SCBWI Mentorship Alumni blog: KidLitArtists — where we share process, inspiration, and tips for other SCBWI-oriented illustrators.

Lee: Now we want to hear about your journey so far with SCBWI!

Susie: I can’t say enough good things about the materials and community of SCBWI. Being part of SCBWI these past few years has given me a profound hope for my future as an artist and author: that I am working toward a life of work, not just the “next project” and that there is always more to learn, and a new direction to steer toward.

Winning one of last summer’s LA Conference mentorships gave me something I haven’t had since college: thoughtful guidance and critique from luminaries.

I enjoy the strong sense of community — both amongst fellow illustrators as well as the diverse, inspiring, noble community of publishing and education. Can I also just give a shoutout to Sarah Baker at SCBWI? She is an actual angel and nurtures so many opportunities for illustrators at all stages of their careers.

Susie's illustration (left page) in the SCBWI Bulletin

Lee: What project(s) are you currently working on?

Susie: I’m working on my next book as author-illustrator with Abrams Appleseed now — Balance the Birds! My editor, art director, and agent are incredible, insightful collaborators. I’ve also been busy with the release of Stack the Cats (lots of signings, events, etc.); working on a solo art show this autumn in Chicago; making things / shipping things / running my online shop and all the other things you might expect that add up to life and work as an author/illustrator!

Lee: The top three things you're looking forward to about #LA17SCBWI are:


* Seeing friend and fellow artist Sean Qualls present
* Filling up my sketchbook with inspiring quotes I’ll reflect on for a lifetime. (I wrote so much last year, I had to go out and buy another sketchbook mid-conference!)
* Being part of Team Blog!

Lee: Thank you so much! We're delighted you'll be joining us!

Susie: Me too! Thanks for having me!

Susie is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). When not painting, illustrating books, designing stationery and gifts, exhibiting her work internationally, running her online shop, or connecting with the illustration community, she lives in sunny San Diego with her husband and zillions of pets. Find her at or on instagram/twitter at @boygirlpartySusie

You can find out more about The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators 2017 Summer Conference here.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Felix Yz - a gay 13-year old boy is fused with an alien, and the countdown to separate them is on

Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker

"If it wasn't for the fused-with-Zyx thing, I suppose I would just be normal--whatever that means."

When Felix Yz was three years old, a hyperintelligent fourth-dimensional being became fused inside him after one of his father's science experiments went terribly wrong. The creature is friendly, but Felix--now thirteen--won't be able to grow to adulthood while they're still melded together. So a risky Procedure is planned to separate them . . . but it may end up killing them both instead.

This book is Felix's secret blog, a chronicle of the days leading up to the Procedure. Some days it's business as usual--time with his close-knit family, run-ins with a bully at school, anxiety about his crush. But life becomes more out of the ordinary with the arrival of an Estonian chess Grandmaster, the revelation of family secrets, and a train-hopping journey. When it all might be over in a few days, what matters most?

Add your review of "Felix Yz" in comments!

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Many Lives of Felix Yz - a guest post by Debut Author Lisa Bunker

Today’s guest post is by Lisa Bunker, author of Felix Yz, a debut middle grade novel about a 13-year-old boy fused with an alien, which will be released tomorrow June 6, 2017 by Viking Children’s.

Debut Author Lisa Bunker

Story-making for me comes from a place of childlike geeky-joy play—as in, ooh ooh, what if there was a guy who was merged with a fourth-dimensional being? And what if that gave him superpowers? Like, what if he could detach any part of his body and have it appear somewhere else? Yeah, that would be so cool!

I wrote a scene involving detachable-parts superpowers when I was a teenager, so, fair to say, the basic idea for Felix Yz has been around for a looong time. That would be the idea of a person with a completely different being inside. Was I, as an unexpressed trans girl, groping to articulate my gender truth? No, ya think? Somebody can write that English paper someday. But, it was still also a promising idea for a story.

Fast forward thirty years, during which I kept trying and failing to write something anyone wanted to publish, and also during which the whole man-project developed more and more strained seams. Eventually, finally, I solved my gender conundrum, and began the switch from trying to live as a man to actually living as a woman. This freed up my writing, which until then had been encumbered with, in the process, lots of resentful mumbling, and in the product, a string of gratuitously angry mother characters. Yuck. Evidently, if you use your story-craft to futilely bang your head against something, you don’t do your best work.

In November of 2012, gender-transition well begun, I found out about NaNoWriMo. OK, I decided, gonna do this. So, what 50K words of crappy rough draft shall I crank out this month? How about that old alien-within concept? Sure, why not. But what if the story was a countdown to separating from the alien? (40-something me was way more interested in the dynamics of connection and loss than in superpowers.)

And so, in 30 days, the first draft of Felix Yz was born. The two things that fascinated me the most as I wrote that draft were working out the logical ramifications of alien-fusion, and capturing something of the lovely family vibe I had with my two adolescent children at the time. Less centrally, I knew I wanted Felix to have a crush, and his mom to have a love triangle, but I didn’t think as hard about those elements. I relied on stock tropes, and the romances were cis-het. (Let it be noted, however, that Grandy was genderqueer from the start.)

Next stage: an experiment in multimedia serial web-fiction. I acquired the URL and set up a fake blog where, since Felix’s story was structured as a countdown, it could unfold in real time, with the posts appearing at the right times on the right days of the week. My child Cy made illustrations, and some friends and I produced the big payoff chapter as audio drama. Lots of people thought this experiment was a wicked cool idea, but hardly anyone actually read it. Take-away: long-form fiction is tricky on the ‘net.

During the let-down after the kerplop of the web experiment, Cy, who is genderfluid, made an important remark. You know, they said, there still aren’t enough stories about queer characters. Especially stories where their queerness is just one detail about them, rather than the preachy Point.

OMG, lightbulb! (Please recall, at the time I was still getting used to thinking of myself as one of the Rainbow People.) Gleeful rewrite time! Felix gay? Yes, absolutely! His mom bi/pan? Yes, that too! Those were the only two big changes, actually...the other LGBTQ characters were already in there. It was fascinating, retrofitting the genders of two major love-interest characters. Turns out, I didn’t have to change much. A crush is a crush. Just more clandestine, is all.

That rewrite was the version I self-published on Amazon, Smashwords, and assorted other platforms, to, still, zero notice.

Then, lucky break time. I met someone who had an agent. (In the gratuitously over-the-top happy ending department, this person and I are now engaged.) My new sweetie read the latest version, liked it, and offered to mention it to the agent. Of course I said yes. The agent read it and liked it. (It was definitely tighter and stronger for having been through so many iterations already.) The agent did suggest changes, most notably aging Felix down from 15 to 13. I thought I had written a YA novel, but, if the Biz said middle grade, OK, sure, middle grade. And then out it went on submission, and certain someones at Viking liked it enough to preempt, and that lead to a contract and the final round of editorial shaping and polishing which has resulted in the book coming out now.

A tight, clean book. A complex, faceted book. A book that, any more, feels so unlike a thing I made myself that I have this bizarre sensation of having been put in charge of a precious artefact that has always existed – a sort of devotional trust.

Writing Felix Yz was a long, often frustrating, but ultimately magical experience. It ended well because I kept trying, both to figure out my own truth, and to work from that truth. So now I finally get to be who I am, and I get to do what I’ve always known I was put on this planet to do: make stories for people. Yep, gratuitously over-the-top happy ending all around. As long as the world still exists by publication day.

You can find out more about Lisa and "Felix Yz" here.

Friday, June 2, 2017

I'd Even Give Up Fireworks - #WearOrange With Me And Help End Gun Violence

Imagine we have a time machine.

We go back, and stop the invention of gunpowder.

Sure, we'd lose out on fireworks, but we'd also avoid the current insanity of gun violence.

Given that there's no time machine, a more practical approach is to get some stricter rules in place about gun ownership. (And maybe sales of ammunition?)

Why haven't things already changed?

One reason: The National Rifle Association donates and spends a lot of money to buy influence. In 2016 they spent more than $57 million on political candidates, races, lobbying, etc...

Politicians won't be motivated to change things unless we the people demand change.

So join me, and Every Town For Gun Safety and all their affiliated groups and demand things change!

And wear orange today, June 2, 2017 to help spread the word.


The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Chris Tompkins' TEDx talk on "What Children Learn From The Things They Aren't Told"

Well worth watching:

A few moments that really resonated:

"My sister, not having the conversation with her kids, about her gay brother, communicates something. It communicates being uncomfortable with the conversation. Which implies that it's different. Further perpetuating guilt, shame, and the closet experience. As a gay child, this is what I picked up from my surroundings, what wasn't being talked about." - Chris Tompkins, 8:04 minutes into his 

And this

"Shame and addiction are so closely related, they don't know where one starts and the other begins."

And this one, too:

"Having open conversations with children at a young age doesn't put them at risk. Instead, it does the opposite. It keeps them from risk."

Watch Chris' whole TEDxCSULB talk here, or above: "What Children Learn From The Things They Aren't Told."

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Monday, May 29, 2017

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Speech on Why The City Has At Long Last Removed Four Confederate Statues

This needed to be said.

Thank yous take up the first three minutes, and then Mayor Landrieu gets to the substance of it.

A transcript from that point on:

The soul of our beloved city is deeply rooted in a history that has evolved over thousands of years; rooted in a diverse people who have been here together every step of the way—for both good and for ill. It is a history that holds in its heart the stories of Native Americans—the Choctaw, Houma Nation, the Chitimacha. Of Hernando de Soto, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the Acadians, the Islenos, the enslaved people from Senegambia, Free People of Colorix, the Haitians, the Germans, both the empires of France and Spain. The Italians, the Irish, the Cubans, the south and central Americans, the Vietnamese, and so many more.

You see, New Orleans is truly a city of many nations, a melting pot, a bubbling cauldron of many cultures. There is no other place quite like it in the world that so eloquently exemplifies the uniquely American motto: e pluribus unum: out of many we are one. But there are also other truths about our city that we must confront. New Orleans was America’s largest slave market, a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were bought, sold, and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor, of misery, of rape, of torture. America was the place where nearly 4000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined “separate but equal”; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp. So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well, what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.

And it immediately begs the questions, why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame … all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans. So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it.

For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth. As President George W. Bush said at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.” So today I want to speak about why we chose to remove these four monuments to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, but also how and why this process can move us towards healing and understanding of each other. So, let's start with the facts.

The historic record is clear: The Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This “cult” had one goal—through monuments and through other means—to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity. First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy. It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America. They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots. These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy, ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for.

After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone's lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city.

(there's an edit in the video here, but the Southern Poverty Law Center transcript includes three paragraphs of the speech)

A piece of stone—one stone. Both stories were history. One story told. One story forgotten or maybe even purposefully ignored. As clear as it is for me today … for a long time, even though I grew up in one of New Orleans’ most diverse neighborhoods, even with my family's long proud history of fighting for civil rights … I must have passed by those monuments a million times without giving them a second thought. So I am not judging anybody, I am not judging people. We all take our own journey on race.

I just hope people listen like I did when my dear friend Wynton Marsalis helped me see the truth. He asked me to think about all the people who have left New Orleans because of our exclusionary attitudes. Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth-grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it? Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too? We all know the answer to these very simple questions. When you look into this child's eyes is the moment when the searing truth comes into focus for us. This is the moment when we know what is right and what we must do. We can't walk away from this truth.

And I knew that taking down the monuments was going to be tough, but you elected me to do the right thing, not the easy thing and this is what that looks like. So relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics. This is not about blame or retaliation. This is not a naive quest to solve all our problems at once.

This is, however, about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves, making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong. Otherwise, we will continue to pay a price with discord, with division and, yes, with violence.

To literally put the Confederacy on a pedestal in our most prominent places of honor is an inaccurate recitation of our full past. It is an affront to our present, and it is a bad prescription for our future. History cannot be changed. It cannot be moved like a statue. What is done is done. The Civil War is over, and the Confederacy lost and we are better for it. Surely we are far enough removed from this dark time to acknowledge that the cause of the Confederacy was wrong.

And in the second decade of the 21st century, asking African Americans—or anyone else—to drive by property that they own; occupied by reverential statues of men who fought to destroy the country and deny that person’s humanity seems perverse and absurd. Centuries-old wounds are still raw because they never healed right in the first place. Here is the essential truth: We are better together than we are apart.

Indivisibility is our essence. Isn’t this the gift that the people of New Orleans have given to the world? We radiate beauty and grace in our food, in our music, in our architecture, in our joy of life, in our celebration of death; in everything that we do. We gave the world this funky thing called jazz, the most uniquely American art form that is developed across the ages from different cultures. Think about second lines, think about Mardi Gras, think about muffaletta, think about the Saints, gumbo, red beans and rice. By God, just think.

All we hold dear is created by throwing everything in the pot; creating, producing something better; everything a product of our historic diversity. We are proof that out of many we are one—and better for it! Out of many we are one—and we really do love it! And yet, we still seem to find so many excuses for not doing the right thing. Again, remember President Bush’s words. “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.”

We forget, we deny how much we really depend on each other, how much we need each other. We justify our silence and inaction by manufacturing noble causes that marinate in historical denial. We still find a way to say, “Wait, not so fast.” But like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Wait has almost always meant never.” We can’t wait any longer. We need to change. And we need to change now.

No more waiting. This is not just about statues, this is about our attitudes and behavior as well. If we take these statues down and don’t change to become a more open and inclusive society this would have all been in vain. While some have driven by these monuments every day and either revered their beauty or failed to see them at all, many of our neighbors and fellow Americans see them very clearly. Many are painfully aware of the long shadows their presence casts; not only literally but figuratively. And they clearly receive the message that the Confederacy and the cult of the lost cause intended to deliver.

Earlier this week, as the cult of the lost cause statue of P.G.T Beauregard came down, world renowned musician Terence Blanchard stood watch, his wife Robin and their two beautiful daughters at their side. Terence went to a high school on the edge of City Park named after one of America’s greatest heroes and patriots, John F. Kennedy. But to get there he had to pass by this monument to a man who fought to deny him his humanity.

He said, “I’ve never looked at them as a source of pride … it’s always made me feel as if they were put there by people who don't respect us. This is something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. It’s a sign that the world is changing.” Yes, Terence, it is. And it is long overdue. Now is the time to send a new message to the next generation of New Orleanians who can follow in Terence and Robin’s remarkable footsteps.

A message about the future, about the next 300 years and beyond: Let us not miss this opportunity, New Orleans, and let us help the rest of the country do the same. Because now is the time for choosing. Now is the time to actually make this the City we always should have been, had we gotten it right in the first place.

We should stop for a moment and ask ourselves: At this point in our history—after Katrina, after Rita, after Ike, after Gustav, after the national recession, after the BP oil catastrophe and after the tornado—if presented with the opportunity to build monuments that told our story or to curate these particular spaces, would these monuments be what we want the world to see? Is this really our story?

We have not erased history; we are becoming part of the city’s history by righting the wrong image these monuments represent and crafting a better, more complete future for all our children and for future generations. And unlike when these Confederate monuments were first erected as symbols of white supremacy, we now have a chance to create not only new symbols, but to do it together, as one people. In our blessed land we all come to the table of democracy as equals. We have to reaffirm our commitment to a future where each citizen is guaranteed the uniquely American gifts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That is what really makes America great and today it is more important than ever to hold fast to these values and together say a self-evident truth that out of many we are one. That is why today we reclaim these spaces for the United States of America. Because we are one nation, not two; indivisible with liberty and justice for all, not some. We all are part of one nation, all pledging allegiance to one flag, the flag of the United States of America. And New Orleanians are in … all of the way. It is in this union and in this truth that real patriotism is rooted and flourishes. Instead of revering a 4-year brief historical aberration that was called the Confederacy, we can celebrate all 300 years of our rich, diverse history as a place named New Orleans, and set the tone for the next 300 years.

After decades of public debate, of anger, of anxiety, of anticipation, of humiliation and of frustration. After public hearings and approvals from three separate community led commissions. After two robust public hearings and a 6–1 vote by the duly elected New Orleans City Council. After review by 13 different federal and state judges. The full weight of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government has been brought to bear and the monuments, in accordance with the law, have been removed. So now is the time to come together and heal and focus on our larger task. Not only building new symbols, but making this city a beautiful manifestation of what is possible and what we as a people can become.

Let us remember what the once exiled, imprisoned, and now universally loved Nelson Mandela and what he said after the fall of apartheid. “If the pain has often been unbearable and the revelations shocking to all of us, it is because they indeed bring us the beginnings of a common understanding of what happened and a steady restoration of the nation’s humanity.” So before we part let us again state the truth clearly.

The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered. As a community, we must recognize the significance of removing New Orleans’ Confederate monuments. It is our acknowledgment that now is the time to take stock of, and then move past, a painful part of our history.

Anything less would render generations of courageous struggle and soul-searching a truly lost cause. Anything less would fall short of the immortal words of our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, who with an open heart and clarity of purpose calls on us today to unite as one people when he said, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds … to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Thank you.

Friday, May 26, 2017

#WearOrange One Week From Today - June 2, 2017 - The 3rd National Gun Violence Awareness Day

Join me and wear orange on June 2, and

"pledge to honor the lives of Americans stolen by gun violence, help keep firearms out of dangerous hands, practice responsible gun ownership, and promise to do our utmost to end gun violence."

More on the event:

On January 21st, 2013, Hadiya Pendleton, a high school student from the south side of Chicago, marched in President Obama’s second inaugural parade. One week later, Hadiya was shot and killed on a playground back in Chicago. Soon after this tragedy, Hadiya’s childhood friends decided to commemorate her life by wearing orange. They chose the color because hunters wear orange in the woods to protect themselves and others. On June 2nd, 2015—what would have been Hadiya’s 18th birthday—a broad-based coalition asked people nationwide to join in what Hadiya’s friends started, honoring her life, the lives of the 93 Americans killed by gun violence plus the hundreds more who are injured every day, by wearing orange. In its inaugural year, 30,000 Americans chose to #WearOrange—including more than 100 nonprofits, corporate brands and cultural influencers. In 2016, Wear Orange grew eightfold: President Obama, Viacom, Univision, Kim Kardashian West, Steph Curry, Vogue, Kenneth Cole, the San Francisco Giants and more than 300 noteworthy individuals, brands and organizations answered the call, taking to social media to show their support. The #WearOrange message echoed globally, reaching millions in a single day.

And a special note to my fellow authors, illustrators, and professionals in the world of children's literature: Please join me in the Everytown Authors Council of the Everytown for Gun Safety organziation, the largest gun violence prevention non-profit in the country with more than three million supporters.

As author Jodi Picoult put it so powerfully,

"My job as a writer is to get people talking -- and this is a conversation we as a nation desperately need to have. Will you join me in this fight?"

Click here to find a Wear Orange event near you to help raise awareness in your community.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity - Jess, A Trans Teen, Travels with her Best Friend To Jess' Dad's Wedding... But The Last Time Jess' Dad Saw Her, He Thought She Was a Boy.

Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

The last time Jess saw her father, she was a boy.
Or, he thought she was a boy. She knew she wasn't.

Now Jess is a high school graduate, soon to be on her way to art school. But first she has some unfinished business with her dad. So she’s driving halfway across the country to his wedding.

He happens to be marrying her mom’s ex-best friend.

It’s not like Jess wasn’t invited; she was. She just never told anyone she was coming. Surprise!

Luckily, Jess isn’t making this trip alone. Her best friend, Christophe—nicknamed Chunk—is joining her.

Along the way, Jess and Chunk learn a few things about themselves—and each other—which call their feelings about their relationship into question.

Add your review of "Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity" in comments!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Unbecoming - Katie kisses her best friend and is then shunned by everyone at school... and her grandmother is suddenly in her life, with lots of secrets

Unbecoming by Jenny Downham

Katie's life is falling apart: her best friend thinks she's a freak, her mother, Caroline, controls every aspect of her life, and her estranged grandmother, Mary, appears as if out of nowhere. Mary has dementia and needs lots of care, and when Katie starts putting together Mary's life story, secrets and lies are uncovered: Mary's illegitimate baby, her zest for life and freedom and men; the way she lived her life to the full yet suffered huge sacrifices along the way. As the relationship between Mary and Caroline is explored, Katie begins to understand her own mother's behavior, and from that insight, the terrors about her sexuality, her future, and her younger brother are all put into perspective.

Add your review of "Unbecoming" in comments!