Friday, October 30, 2009

President Obama ACTS! The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act is LAW!!!

He did it!

Here's the transcript of a portion of President Obama's remarks from the signing ceremony on Wednesday:

After more than a decade of opposition and delay, we've passed inclusive hate crimes legislation to help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray, or who they are. (Applause.)

I promised Judy Shepard, when she saw me in the Oval Office, that this day would come, and I'm glad that she and her husband Dennis could join us for this event. I'm also honored to have the family of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, who fought so hard for this legislation. And Vicki and Patrick, Kara, everybody who's here, I just want you all to know how proud we are of the work that Ted did to help this day -- make this day possible. So -- and thank you for joining us here today. (Applause.)

So, with that, I'm going to sign this piece of legislation. Thank you all for doing a great job. All right.

(The Act is signed.) (Applause.)

As Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign said in their email blast about this,

This is the first time ANY federal equality measure protecting LGBT rights has become law. The very first time. And it is the first federal law to explicitly protect transgender people. It is a touchstone in our movement, a triumph of what is right. And I truly feel things will never be the same.

Joe goes on to say that:

It took twelve years, over one million emails, faxes and phone calls to Congress, and 14 separate votes on the floors of the House and the Senate to turn the hate crimes bill into law.

It took too many innocent people dying.

And it took so many people standing up for what is right - even when it was hard, or there was a cost to it.

We now have a Law that explicitly says that targeting Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender People is WRONG. A Law that proclaims that we, members of the Gay community, are legally protected.

I do think that all crime is a form of hate crime. But having the Law of this land state unequivocally that GLBTQ people are to be protected is huge.

Here's a quote from the text of the new Law:

A prominent characteristic of a violent crime motivated by bias is that it devastates not just the actual victim and the family and friends of the victim, but frequently savages the community sharing the traits that caused the victim to be selected.

And that's true.

This Law changes the MYTH of what's okay in our society. It's no longer "okay" to gay-bash.

And that is huge.

The world is changing. We finally have some solid ACTION, some results, from electing President Obama.

And we have Halloween weekend to celebrate.

And then, Monday morning, let's stand up and keep fighting for not just our equality, but for what we teach our kids that America is all about:

Equality for all. Liberty and justice for all.

I can see the future. And it's getting better.

Namaste, and Happy Halloween!


Here's the full text of the new Law on the Library Of Congress website.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


By Malinda Lo

A lesbian Cinderella.

Ash's father has died, and her cruel stepmother makes her life miserable.

Ash dreams that like in the storybooks, fairies might come to steal her away. And then she meets Sidhean, a dark and dangerous fairy. And she thinks her wish might come true.

When she befriends Kaisa, the King's Huntress, Ash's heart starts to change. She starts to fall in love.

But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own.

And now Ash has to choose between fairy tale dreams and the woman she loves.

Add your review of "Ash" in comments!

Thanks to blog reader Elizabeth for reminding me that "Ash" had come out!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Luv Ya Bunches

By Lauren Myracle

Katie-Rose, Yasaman, Milla and Violet are in Fifth grade. And they were all named after flowers.

That's about all they have in common. They're certainly not friends.

See, Katie-Rose is going to be a film director. Yasaman's already a computer nerd. Milla's popular. And Violet's the new girl.

But add one "evil queen bee," Modessa, and suddenly all their worlds collide!

Lauren, the author of "Luv Ya Bunches," is one of my heroes. Here's why: She was told that if she changed Milla's two moms to be a one-mom-one-dad family, she's have her book accepted into Scholastic's School Book Fairs. That meant a LOT more sales. More money. More exposure. But Lauren stood her ground, saying
""A child having same-sex parents is not offensive, in my mind, and shouldn't be 'cleaned up.'"
She refused to make the change, and then Scholastic refused to carry her book in their school book fair.

THANK YOU, Lauren, for standing up for your artistic integrity. For standing up for all the children (like mine) who are growing up in two mom or two dad families. For standing up for all those kids who are gay, to let them know that sometimes a Prince ends up with a Prince. And a Princess ends up with a Princess. And that's just another kind of "Happily Ever After!" (Read more on this episode of censorship here.)

Please add your review of "Luv Ya Bunches" in comments!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Registration for SCBWI's 2010 Winter Conference in NY Opens TOMORROW! SCBWI Team Blog Will Be There... Will You?

Hi everyone! I'm really excited to announce two things:

1. The 2010 Winter SCBWI (Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators) Conference is coming up in January... and registration starts tomorrow!!! Conference info (faculty, schedule, the amazing pre-conference writer and illustrator intensives) is now up on the SCBWI website, and online registration starts tomorrow: Wednesday, October 28th at 10 a.m. PST.

2. I'll be live-blogging and tweeting from the conference floor as part of the amazing SCBWI Team Blog!!! Here's the rest of the team:
(If it seems like we're missing one from the summer conference, you're right! The incredible Paula Yoo can't join us again on SCBWI Team Blog because she's crazy-busy writing and producing a TV show - but you can swing on by Paula's website, and her twitter place, too, and say Lee sent you.)

So stay tuned for cool announcements, exclusive pre-conference scoops, and lots and lots of great SCBWI 2010 Winter Conference moments!



Go, SCBWI Team Blog! Go!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Scholastic School Book Fairs CENSOR Lauren Myracle's "Luv Ya Bunches" for one of the character's having GAY parents!

This is so upsetting. Lauren Myracle wrote "Luv Ya Bunches"

"Luv Ya Bunches" is about four elementary school girls who are all named after flowers. That's all they have in common. And they're not friends. At least, not yet. It's the first in a four book series.

But because one of the girls, Milla, has two moms, Scholastic won't carry it at their school book fairs. Here's more from the School Library Journal article:

The company sent a letter to Myracle's editor asking the author to omit certain words such as "geez," "crap," "sucks," and "God" (as in, "oh my God") and to alter its plotline to include a heterosexual couple. Myracle agreed to get rid of the offensive language "with the goal—as always—of making the book as available to as many readers as possible," but the deal breaker was changing Milla's two moms.

"A child having same-sex parents is not offensive, in my mind, and shouldn't be 'cleaned up.'" says Myracle, adding that the book fair subsequently decided not to take on Luv Ya Bunches because they wanted to avoid letters of complaint from parents. "I find that appalling. I understand why they would want to avoid complaint letters—no one likes getting hated on—but shouldn't they be willing to evaluate the quality of the complaint? What, exactly, are children being protected against here?"

Scholastic's response?

“Authors are often given the opportunity to make changes in the books to meet the norms of the various communities that host the fairs,”
Scholastic made a further statement, saying that they didn't really CENSOR the book because it's available via their book clubs. Um... You said you'd include it in the fairs IF the author changed the two mom family to a mom and dad family. She refused. You decided not to carry it in the fairs. That sounds like censorship to me.

And all this was becauase Scholastic was afraid of complaints? Well here's mine to Richard Robinson, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of Scholastic.

Dear Richard,
I am so disappointed that Scholastic refused to carry Lauren Myracle's "Luv Ya Bunches" in your school book fairs solely due to one of the main characters having two moms.
As the child of a two dad family herself, my daughter won't have a chance to buy that book when the book fair comes to her school. She won't have that moment of affirmation, in front of her friends and peers - wow, there's a girl in this book who has two Moms, which is sort of like my two Dad family!
I am so profoundly disappointed in your company's decision. The school library journal article cited your concern that if you carried the book in the fair, then you might get parents writing you to complain.
Well please consider this unhappy parent's complaint. In effect, you are censoring out families like mine from representation in your fair, and that is very upsetting.
I hope you reconsider your position, and not only include "Love Ya Bunches" in your school book fairs, but affirm your support of ALL families - including those with two moms and two dads, like mine.
You said in an interview on the Scholastic website that Scholastic aims to "Align your talents and desires to what society needs" - well, society needs to move forward, and books can help in that. Books can help normalize the reality of kids' lives today - and the reality is that there are hundreds of thousands of children being raised by two dad and two mom families. Scholastic has a chance to be a leader on this. I hope you take it.
Lee Wind

And here's my letter to the author:

Dear Lauren,
I am so deeply deeply proud of you for not backing down to the pressure to change Milla's parents to a straight couple in order to get "Love Ya Bunches" accepted into the Scholastic School Book Fairs.
My daughter has two Dads, and the thought of her excitement at being able to buy your book at the book fair - a book where there's a character who has two moms, which is pretty close to her having two dads, in that it's different from what most of her peer's families look like - is heady. What a shame that Scholastic is so concerned with offending people, and are afraid of the truth of the "norm" shifting. Because they have surely offended me and hundreds of thousands of parents like me.
Again, congratulations on leading with your heart and your conscience. With your standing your ground for families like mine, you have made many new fans - including me!


Wanna write scholastic a letter, and share with them what YOU think?

You can send it from their customer service website.

Want to support the author?

Buy her book, "Luv Ya Bunches"

and write her here.

And if you do write letters of complaint and support, I'd love for you to copy your letters here in comments!


Friday, October 23, 2009

Boys & Book Cover Shame: Will e-books get boys reading more?

So recently on the amazing twitter #kidlitchat that's on Tuesday nights (6pm west coast time), a discussion of e-books came up, and it was mentioned that Romance is the biggest selling category of e-books.

The theory was Book Cover Shame. The idea that it's embarrassing walking around with a book whose cover is pretty much the equivalent of you SCREAMING:
"I'm reading a bodice-ripping romance novel because I need more passion in my life!"

In contrast, an e-book is completely anonymous. You could be reading about Proust's remembering his pastry (Remembrance Of Things Past) or Orwell's dystopia (1984) - nobody knows what you're reading except you.

And I think that there's an amazing upside to this idea.

See, there's this parallel concept in Children's and especially Teen publishing that boys won't read books that they don't want to be seen with. Hence, boys won't read any books that "look" girly. And thus most of the marketing and promotion of Teen books - especially any books with female protagonists - skews towards girls, because they are the "readers." This makes "girl book" covers look even MORE girly, to appeal to girl readers.

Boys, if they read, are seen as reluctant, and only willing to read about boy protagonists on "manly" adventures. Boy book covers are macho.

Much of the time the cover art pretty much conveys to everyone if the book is considered a "girl book" or a "boy book." Look for yourself:

Girl covers:

Boy Covers:

But enter e-books. If I'm a 15 year old guy, I may LOVE vampire stories, but I don't necessarily want the other kids at school seeing me walking around carrying "Twilight." Especially after the movie and all those sparkly-in-the-sunlight Edward moments. Now I can read it. If I want to read "Wintergirls" or "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" - well, now I can. And nobody has to know, unless I tell them.

Think about what this means for GAY books. Boys AND girls can now carry around and read the amazing GLBTQ titles here on this blog anonymously.

Nobody will know if you're reading "The God Box" or "Gravity." Nobody will know if you're thinking about "can I be Gay and believe in God?" or if you're thinking about which Jonas Brother is cutest... err, most talented. If it's on your e-book, you could be reading ANYthing, and no one across the cafeteria would know.

E-books allow everyone access to stories and information in a way that's private. And there are moments as a teenager when I would have LOVED that level of privacy (After all, I read Anne McCaffrey's fantasy novels with girl protagonists!)

So while I love paper books (or as I recently heard someone call them, "the dead tree versions of books") I think there's quite an upside to this whole e-book transition.

And sure, I look forward to the day when anyone can carry around ANY book and not be embarrassed or made to feel bad about themselves because of what that book is. But for right here, right now? E-books mean that boys and girls are going to read more. Without fear of Book Cover Shame.

And that's a great thing.

What do you think?
Have you ever experienced or seen Book Cover Shame in action? Do you think e-books might change that?


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Into This World We're Thrown

By Mark Kendrick

The sequel to "Desert Sons," in this book Scott and Ryan's relationship becomes public knowledge - and amid that tension, Ryan's grandmother dies.

Suddenly, Ryan is questioning everything, even their being together.

And at school, Scott finds out that he has a secret admirer who won't let anything stop him from making Scott his.

This book is a work of passion that the author self-published. Add your review of "Into This World We're Thrown" in comments!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Drowning of Stephan Jones

By Bette Greene

In a small town in Arkansas, 16 year old Carla is pretty liberal.

So when a gay couple (Stephan Jones and Frank Montgomery) relocate there from Boston, she's not too freaked out.

But when her boyfriend, Andy, begins harassing the couple, Carla doesn't say anything. And then the harassment ends in Stephan's murder.

Only then does Carla finally find the strength to speak up... and fight for justice.

Add your review of "The Drowning of Stephan Jones" in comments!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Desert Sons

By Mark Kendrick

1990. Yucca Valley, California.

Scott's 16. He's part of a small town rock band. He's out to a few people.

Ryan moves to town, and he and Scott become friends. Ryan keeps telling everyone he's straight, but Scott isn't so sure of that...

It turns out Scott is right, and their friendship becomes a real relationship.

And then Ryan's secret past threatens everything.

This book is a work of passion that the author self-published. Add your review of "Desert Sons" in comments!

Monday, October 19, 2009

GSA Monday Topic: Watch This Amazing Video... and Discuss

Okay, so for this week I'm loving the idea of everyone finding great video clips of movies or shorts or TV shows on DVD or youtube, sharing them with your GSA, and discussing them.

There's so much great stuff OUT there (in both senses of the word) that can springboard conversation.

My contribution, here at our virtual Gay-Straight Alliance? Two brief videos (the first is under 2 minutes, the second, under 3 1/2 minutes long.) They're both from the TV show Dawson's Creek, which I never watched, but had I known it had stuff like this in it...

I am now, officially, a HUGE fan of this show!

Thanks to Greg Hernandez, who's blogging now at Greg In Hollywood, for highlighting these video clips on his old daily news blog.

Enjoy discussing!


Friday, October 16, 2009

Governor Schwarzenegger, Harvey Milk Day, And the POWER of a story well-told

Big news this week was that our California Governor signed the law setting aside May 22 as "Harvey Milk Day" - a special day of recognition to honor the trailblazing Gay politician.

Here's more:

While it will not be a state holiday, schools will be encouraged to hold lessons "remembering the life of Harvey Milk, recognising his accomplishments and familiarising pupils with the contributions he made to this state".

What is so fascinating is that last year, Schwarzenegger VETOED this exact same bill.

So, what changed?

The decision by President Barack Obama to award Milk the presidential medal of freedom and an Academy award-winning film about Milk's life, starring Sean Penn, persuaded Schwarzenegger to change his mind, his spokesman, Aaron McLear, said.

"Harvey Milk symbolises the importance of the gay community in California," said McClear. "And the governor wanted to honour that community. A well-known film brought awareness of him."

Mark Leno, a Democratic state senator, who wrote the bill to honour Milk, said he was pleased about the governor's decision. "In light of his veto message on the same bill last year," he said, "he clearly evolved in his thinking."

It isn't that our Governor didn't know about Harvey Milk last year. He just thought Harvey Milk wasn't that important outside of San Francisco. And it wasn't like there were no gay people last year in the state, when he vetoed it.

But now, with the movie "MILK" and everything else that's going on in our society, the stories we tell, and the stories others tell about us, are changing. Now our stories are about parenthood (gay penguins can be good daddies, too). Our stories are about fighting for marriage, a pretty "conservative" goal. Our stories are about fighting for our country without lying about ourselves - about how we're honest, and brave, and loyal. And our stories are about our ANGER at being treated as second class citizens. Our Anger over Prop 8, which took away the rights of any new gay couples to legally marry in California.

Our stories are changing, and that is creating a shift in our culture. A shift in how we perceive ourselves, and in how others perceive us. The new story is that:

It's no longer "cool" to slam the Gays.

We're standing up, marching, and demanding some respect.

And this week, happily, we got some.

We got Harvey Milk Day.

And in another wonderful stroke of his pen, our Governor also signed a law that makes California recognize the legality of Gay marriages from other states and countries!

So, Hurray for us in California! Hurray for our Governor, who got these two laws right. And Hurray for what Harvey Milk continues to teach us: Come Out. Stand Up. Be Empowered!

Listen to Harvey - he says it beautifully:



ps: The quotes above are from this article here.

pps: Also, check out the amazing Academy Award Winning documentary"The Times Of Harvey Milk," from back in 1984.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Rose Of Versailles, a.k.a. Lady Oscar

By Riyoko Ikeda

France. The late 1780s.

This yuri (girl-love) manga tells the story of Oscar, a girl who dresses as a man and is groomed to be the leader of Marie Antoinette's Palace Guards.

The women of the court are jealous of Oscar's attention to other women, in particular her relationship with Rosalie.

But as the French Revolution explodes around her, Oscar is torn between her class loyalty and her sense of justice, as well as between being a woman and her role as a military fighter.

In addition to being a series of 10 manga books, "The Rose Of Versailles" was adapted for the theater, an anime TV show, a live action movie and even a ballet!

Add your review of "The Rose Of Versailles" in comments!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Gay Marriage Proposal at Mariah Carey's Concert

This made me all teary eyed. Our World is changing, for the better!


I'm gonna go listen to some Mariah now. I feel like a born-again fan!


Tuesday, October 13, 2009


By Kate Walker

Peter is 15, and trying hard to be macho. 'Cause that's what everyone wants him to be.

So he's pretty freaked out when he realizes he's attracted to his brother's friend, David.

'Cause David is, uh, gay. And that makes Peter...

Add your review of "Peter" in comments!

Monday, October 12, 2009

GSA Monday Topic: Who's Gay? Who's OUT? History, Herstory, Our story... Gay people Past and Present

One of the really fun things to do as a GSA (or heck, just as an individual) is to find out about historical figures who were Gay, or Bi, or Lesbian, or Transgender, or Questioning. And yeah, I know that these words for same-gender and same-sex love are new, but there is a lot of history (and herstory) that tells us that a guy falling in love with another guy, and a girl falling in love with another girl, is NOT so new.

So I encourage you to take some time this week and challenge your GSA members (and yourself) to find and share info about historical figures - and current day figures - who are part of our GLBTQ community.

And since it's a game of sorts, allow me to play first. My category: MUSIC.

Famous Gay Historical Figure from the Past:

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
(Here he is as a Teenager)

Tchaikovsky composed the Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and the 1812 Overture... One of the world's greatest classical composers, he was gay.
And check out this quick look at the Gay version of "Swan Lake," by Matthew Bourne - it's set to Tchaikovsky's famous music, and the entire ballet was amazing! (The swans in it are MEN - not a group of ballerinas in tutus!)

(You can also check out this summary of Tchaikovsky's male loves and his disastrous "friendship" marriage to a woman of only a few months here.)

Famous Gay Historical Figure From the Present:

an international Pop star, who recently came out as Bisexual.

Check out Mika's video "Blame It On The Girls." The next line is "Blame it on the boys," but the best (or is it just the "gayest" line in it - is when he sings "he has a face that makes you fall on your knees."

History. OUR history. What a fun way to celebrate yesterday's "National Coming Out Day", and of course, October being GLBT History Month.

Another way to celebrate is to check out this cool website with a new Historical GLBT Figure every day for the whole Month of October!

Enjoy, and Namaste,

ps: My thanks to loyal reader Adrienne for the Tchaikovsky info!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Don't Judge A Book By It's Cover - Because That's Where You'll Find Out Who Wrote It - And Who They're Sleeping With! The Lammies, The Cybils, & Me

Awards, Awards, Awards.

So, why all the hoopla and controversy about awards?

Well, think about it - there are SO many books published every year (172,000 - just in the U.S.A. last year) that getting noticed - and read - is a challenge. Less than 25,000 of those books sell more than 5,000 copies. (Stats from here.)

So Awards, and reviews in the major journals/newspapers/blogs become really important.

Hence, the rise of the Cybils, a book blogger literary award for Children's and Young Adult books. And I'm really excited to be part of this third year of the Cybils Awards as an Judge!

But there are other awards that have a long history, and recently the Lamdba Literary Awards changed the way theirs works.

See, The Lamdba Literary Awards (the Lammies) used to be for BOOKS that were GLBTQ in content.

Now, they're saying that the AUTHORS have to self-identify as part of the Gay Community for their GLBTQ books to qualify.

That's a HUGE change - and one that would eliminate a lot of wonderful books that might otherwise not find their audiences.

I'm thinking of Ellen Wittlinger, author of one of the few transgender teen novels, "Parrotfish," (a finalist for the 2008 Lambda Literary Awards) and also of "Love and Lies: Marisol's Story" (a finalist for the 2009 Lambda Literary Awards) and "Hard Love" (Which WON the Lambda Literary Award in 2000.)

Ellen is a straight woman, but she is an Ally and Advocate who has done SO much for our community. She writes brave books about Gay characters, she does her homework and her books make an impact - for the good - on Gay Teens.

To tell her, and authors like her, that she can't be considered for any future awards because she herself isn't a lesbian, or bi, or transgender, or questioning - to tell her that her books can no longer qualify because she fell in love with a man (gasp!) is so contrary to what we should be doing as a community.

Instead of encouraging our ALLIES and everyone else to celebrate our lives and yes, create stories that celebrate and incorporate being Gay, Lambda's shift feels like a slap in the face to those same people who are trying to move the world - our world - in a better direction.

Now, I'm a gay man. And I do love the idea of an organization saying "Hey, we're here to help GAY authors get noticed." I think that's awesome. I could use getting noticed. And there are certainly publishing contests for minority authors (Like The Lee and Low "New Voices Award" Contest), and while I might be wistful about not being able to submit to those contests, I appreciate that they're trying to do a bit of affirmative action, to give underrepresented writers from their communities a shot.

But to take an established awards program (this year was the 21st annual event) and switch its focus to be not about the books' orientation but about the authors' orientation, too, feels like the wrong way to go about it.

I would have suggested Lambda create a new category of awards, something like "Best Debut Gay Author" and "Best Debut Lesbian Author," etc... That would shout-out and create a new buzz for authors who are GLBTQ, without shutting out Allied authors from the overall awards.

And as I'm now going to be a JUDGE for the Cybils, I've been thinking about this a lot. I have friends who have had their YA books released in the time period that qualifies them. And I'm going to have to be very careful to be as author-blind as I can be - to really judge the books on the books themselves, and not let any information about WHO the author is influence my "reading" of those books, as best as I can.

A sculpture of Lady Justice from 1543,
on display in Berne, Switzerland.

I think this is why Lady Justice is blindfolded - we all joke that she's blind and it means she (Justice) has no compassion - but I think the original intent may have been that when you judge something, you weigh it with a sense of impartiality.

And I think that books should be judged that way, too.

So, I would hope that the Lambda Literary Foundation re-considers what qualifies a book to be considered for their awards. I think it should be the BOOK itself - rather than who the author falls in love with.

I hope as well that Lambda creates a new awards category to recognize budding GLBTQ authors - I think that would be great.

And I also hope that as a judge for the Cybils, I and my fellow judges will be able to put aside the information of who wrote what, and simply read and judge each book on its own merits.

Because there are so many books out there - and some really deserve to be noticed!

I'm curious. What do YOU think about the Change in Lambda's rules?


You can read more about the Lambda Literary Foundation's guidelines change here

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Cybils* and Me... and YOU! *Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards

I am really excited to share with you all that I will be a 2nd round judge for the Young Adult Fiction category of the Cybil Awards!

And YOU get to participate, too. YOU get to nominate books, until October 15, 2009! Click here to find out how to nominate YOUR favorite books that were published since October 16, 2008.

You can go here to find out all the details about the Cybils.

Check out these amazing blogs of my fellow judges - I'm honored to be in such great company!

Young Adult Fiction Panel

Fiction for young adults is what these bloggers are all about--at least during the Cybils. Check out our panelists and judges for the YA fiction category.

Panel Organizer: Jackie Parker, Interactive Reader

Panelists (Round I Judges):

Sally Kruger, Reading Junky's Reading Roost
Jackie Parker (see panel organizer)
Tirzah Price, The Compulsive Reader
Leila Roy, Bookshelves of Doom
Amanda Snow, A Patchwork of Books
Sarah Wethern, YA Librarian Tales
Sarah Woodard, Sarah's Random Musings

Round II Judges:

Cathy Ensley, Words, World and Wings
Carrie Harris, The Wonder that is my Blog
Kelly Jensen, STACKED
Em King, Em's Bookshelf
Lee Wind, I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? (and look, you're already here!)

Reading books from THIS SIDE of the metaphorical table should be fascinating.

I'm excited about my new gig - and I hope you take your nominating power seriously.

If you've read a book and loved it, check out when it was published and nominate it! The more participation we get from readers, the more representative and better these awards will become!


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

First Love Sisters, Vol. 1

By Mako Komao with original art designs by Reine Hibiki, and illustrated by Mizuo Shinonome

During a visit to Tsunojo Girls' Academy, Chika meets the girl of her dreams, upperclassman Haruna.

Chika becomes obsessed with working hard to get accepted into the school, so she can be together with this older girl (even though they only met that one time.)

When she finally DOES get into the school , things don't go as smoothly with Haruna as Chika had dreamed...

A girl-love, or Yuri, manga, "First Love Sisters" is a translation of the Japanese original.

Add your review of "First Love Sisters, Vol. 1" in comments!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Invented Life

By Lauren Bjorkman

Roz and Eva are sisters. friends. rivals.

See, there's Bryan the skate god. And a starring role in the school play.

Roz wants them both. Pesky detail: Eva already has Bryan as her boyfriend. And Eva's a better actress.

But Roz thinks she's found some dirt on Eva that may change things: Could Eva be having a secret love affair... with a girl?

Lauren calls her book "A modern day quasi-Shakespearean comedy romp for questioning/bi girls," which I think sounds great.

Add your review of "My Invented Life" in comments!

Monday, October 5, 2009

YOU, Your GSA, and National Coming Out Day: Sunday October 11, 2009! An opportunity for EVERYONE to come out as ALLIES!

Coming out - declaring to yourself, your parents, your friends, your school, and/or the world that you're Gay, or Lesbian, or Bisexual, or Transgender, or Questioning, is a BIG deal.

And there are lots of great resources* to help those working through that process come out - and as I said here, it is a process.

But a Gay-Straight Alliance Club holds (among many others) a unique position in a school setting - and that's as a resource to help EVERYONE ELSE come out as an ALLY.

ALLIES are where the real leverage for change comes from. It's always when people are brave enough to speak up against injustice when it's not solely THEIR rights at risk that tectonic shifts in the culture happen. Sure, the affected minority has to stand up. But ALLIES standing with them change the numbers. Suddenly, the minority who are being disenfranchised have more weight. More power. More respect.

Allies give us traction on the road to equality.

So, let's use our GSA meetings this week to put out a call for Allies. Ask people to stand up and say they believe in equal rights and safe schools for GLBTQ people.

Maybe plan some event, or create some petition, where Allies - students, teachers, librarians, faculty, parents, EVERYONE - can stand up and say,
"YES! I believe in equal rights for Gay people."

And hey, if you're ready to come out, and you're Gay (GLBTQ), know that you're not alone. You've got a whole vast community cheering you on.

And look - you have all those Allies, too!


*Look through the "Coming Out? Check Out" section in the right hand column of this blog for some wonderful resources, essays, and inspiration!

Friday, October 2, 2009

I'm Interviewed by THE KIDS RIGHT TO READ PROJECT of the National Coalition Against Censorship! And Ellen Hopkin's "MANIFESTO" for Banned Book Week!

And The Kids Right To Read Project of the National Coalition Against Censorship website is full of other great things, like their "Voices Against Book Censorship" interviews which has an hysterical video "I Am Not A Pornographer" by the Amazing John Green.

And their site is where I found this amazing video - Ellen Hopkins wrote and performs her poem, "Manifesto," that says it all much more eloquently than I:

I'm humbled and honored to be one of the many voices, in such esteemed and brave company, fighting for KIDS' RIGHT TO READ.

So, in celebration of BANNED BOOKS WEEK 2009, go out and get a Banned Book! Heck, get two! And READ THEM!


Thursday, October 1, 2009

So Your Book Has Been Challenged: Ellen Hopkins, E.Lockhart, Jo Knowles, Jacqui Robbins, Sarah Brannen and Frank Portman Tell It Like It Is! (part 2)

Okay, let's jump back into our Author Roundtable Q & A on having their books Challenged with the amazing Ellen Hopkins, E. Lockhart, Jo Knowles, Jacqui Robbins, Sarah Brannen and Frank Portman.

Lee: Are books really that powerful?

Ellen Hopkins: Yes, they are, but not in the way the challengers think. Books are knowledge. And knowledge is power.

E. Lockhart: Yes. But so are parents. If a parent is afraid of something a kid wants to read, I think that parent should read it and have a conversation with the kid about it. If the kid won't talk, the parent can write a letter or an email explaining his or her thoughts about the book and its treatment of the topic. That way, the book opens doors of communication.

Jo Knowles: I think so. Yes. I mean, books have made me weep with despair. They’ve filled me with indescribable hope. They’ve inspired me to volunteer and to give. They’ve inspired me to call a friend I haven’t talked to in years. They’ve inspired me—many, many times—to sit down with my son and remind him that I love him. And every time I read a book I think it inspires me to look at the world a little differently. With a little more compassion.

I’ve had letters from teens who have said that reading about Laine (the main character in Lessons From A Dead Girl) changed their life. They had always felt like they were the only ones who’d been abused the way Laine had. After reading the book they realized they must not be. That they weren’t alone after all. That’s been a huge relief to them and it has enabled them to talk about it with loved ones. I know many authors who’ve received hundreds of similar letters from teens who connected to their books the same way.

I think this is why many of us write. To try to create stories that inspire and comfort and hopefully encourage thoughtful discussion. Knowing that I’ve made one kid out there feel less lonely or less ashamed of something they have no control over is worth the risk.

Jacqui Robbins: Absolutely. Even at their least powerful, they can spark questions, which terrifies some people. At their most powerful, they can dig deep into your soul and show you you're not the only one who feels that way. And that can change your life.

Sarah Brannen: Probably. Books I read as a child still influence me today in more ways than I can even understand.

Frank Portman: You'd think no, wouldn't you? But there's obviously a long history of attempts to stamp out and ban books, so evidently someone must think so.

Lee: Is there a silver lining in having your book challenged in terms
of increased publicity?

Ellen Hopkins: Yep. I can't believe how many times my name has been in print or online in the last ten days. Seriously... the Christian Science Monitor today, and the UK Guardian a few days ago. And across the AP wire. And on NPR. Thousands of people who never would have known about me now do. Hopefully many of them will go buy my books, to find my message for themselves. Message: make wise choices now, because they will affect your future.

E. Lockhart: I doubt it. I didn't even find out about it until five months after the fact and I'm the writer. There was just the one local news article. Perhaps there would be if there was a real fight that went down over the book.

Jo Knowles: Well, I haven’t received a ton of publicity, though thank you, Lee, for having me here. :-) I think so far the best thing that has come out of this for me is the discussions I’ve had with parents, teachers, librarians and other writers about censorship and what we can do to help prevent it. In particular, Laurie Halse Anderson has provided a ton of helpful information on her blog about what people can do when a book is challenged in their school or library.

Jacqui Robbins: I think for my book in particular there's a huge silver lining, since many people heard about it who never would have otherwise.

Sarah Brannen: The challenges have certainly led to a lot of publicity for my book. It would be nice if they also led to increased sales, but I don't know that they have.

Frank Portman: If the stars align, controversy can certainly generate publicity and sell books. I'd love for that particular silver lining to descend upon me and my books and envelop us all in shining, 1st-Amendment-Martyr royalty-generating goodness. Sounds wonderful.

There may well be a downside to it that I'm not considering, though. They put that Lord Horror guy in prison. That would definitely be too "challenged" for my tastes. So I'd say the thing to shoot for with regard to challenged-ness is: glittering prizes with no jail time. Wish me luck.

Lee: Ellen, what do you want to tell people about GLASS in the face of it being challenged?

Ellen Hopkins: That words aren't dangerous. Ideas aren't dangerous. Discourse isn't dangerous. The lack of these things is most definitely dangerous.

Lee: E., what do you want to tell people about THE BOY BOOK in the face of it being challenged?

E. Lockhart: I have an impulse to defend the subject matter: kids do drink and people do touch boobs, and it is a good idea to read about things in a safe context so you can decide whether or not you want to do them when it comes up in real life.

But you know, not every book is right for every kid, and once you start arguing about boob-touching being appropriate for kids to read about, you're not going to win your argument. It becomes an argument about boob-touching, which is a very fraught topic.

Instead, it needs to be a discussion of how libraries make selections and what experts were consulted. I want to encourage people faced with challenges in their own community to refer to experts and to markers of literary merit. In other words, you can say, "This book received starred reviews from these publications, and was recommended by SLJ (or whatever journal) for readers age 12 and up, and those reviewers are certified librarians, and then this writer has received these awards, and it is using these criteria that we make decisions about what to include in our library."

Lee: Jo, what do you want to tell people about LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL in the face of it being challenged?

Jo Knowles: I wrote Lessons From A Dead Girl because I wanted to expose a type of abuse few people talk about but that is quite common. I know that some topics are uncomfortable and hard to discuss, but arming our kids with knowledge is a far better way to protect them than to keep them from knowing about the dangers that exist.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I respect a parent’s decision not to let their child read a certain book, for whatever reason. But no parent should have the right to make those same decisions for other parents and other children.

Lee: Jacqui, what do you want to tell people about THE NEW GIRL... AND ME in the face of it being challenged?

Jacqui Robbins: I feel a little silly talking about The New Girl...And Me being challenged because it's really a story about friendship and doesn't have any of the things the challengers assumed were in there. It's not like I wrote something brave, like the other folks here, or the other authors whose books are in the anti-bullying curriculum. But I also think it's a good story to hear because it can tell us something about letting others tell us what to read without deciding for ourselves.

Lee: Sarah, what do you want to tell people about UNCLE BOBBY'S WEDDING in the face of it being challenged?

Sarah Brannen: The story is meant to entertain and, perhaps, enlighten young children. It's not only for the children of same-sex parents, but for all children. I hope they'll enjoy getting to know Chloe and sharing her adventures, and I hope it may help them realize, as they get older, that gay people are human beings just like them.

Lee: Frank, what do you want to tell people about ANDROMEDIA KLEIN and KING DORK in the face of their being challenged?

Frank Portman: My books are an attempt to show the world through the eyes of characters who are not like everybody else. They think and do some bizarre and occasionally unpleasant things. How could they not? Read them if that type of thing interests you. Don't if it doesn't. If there's something you don't like, you can always write me and complain about it.

A HUGE THANK YOU to Ellen, E., Jo, Jacqui, Sarah and Frank for taking the time out to share with us the real scoop on having their books challenged.

And remember, the best response to a book challenge... is to READ the book! And now we all have seven great new books to read!