Season 2, Chat 3 features PFLAG Austin Board President, and fashion maven, Anna Nguyen.
RSVP to tune in for the Blab with Anna and Melita on Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 3 pm CST here, or watch it right here on this webpage.
Why Join Us for the Live Blab? Our webcasted conversation is an opportunity for allies and advocates of the LGBTQ community to gather. Together, we will explore how to connect in order to support – and celebrate – each other around diverse gender and sexuality.
Through this webchat, Anna will offer her experience and insights to gender variant people considering transitioning or is in the process of transitioning. Join us live to learn and jump in to ask questions!
About Anna Nyugen I am a transgender woman from Austin, Texas. I started transitioning in December 2013 and came out in July 2014. I am the current President of PFLAG Austin, which is co-sponsoring the Transgender Day of Remembrance event at Austin’s City Hall on 11/21.
I am a software engineer. I currently own a small software company that publishes fashion-related applications.
Anna Nguyen, modeling a Halloween costume of her own design
PFLAG Austin had provided a supportive and welcoming environment during the early stages of my transition for which I am very grateful. I serve on its Board as a way to give back, to ensure that PFLAG will continue to be a supportive and welcoming environment for all those who need it.
Check out Anna’s personal website here. Connect with Anna here.
A quote that inspires Anna Nguye
More on What We’ll Be Talking About in Season 2 Each month in Season 2, we’ll be diving deeper into our discoveries from the Celebration Tour 2015.
In September, for Chat 1, we talked with author and educator Sally Ember, Ed.D. Watch the video clip with Sally here.
In October, for Chat 2, we learning more about what author Amy G. Dalia is up to, as well as got a chance to see her in-depth lists of LGBTQ books and films. To launch our new season we wanted to explore some of the most common questions we covered last year in Season 1, give you insight into the many reasons we align ourselves with the rainbow, and lay the groundwork for our next-level conversations focusing on the Celebration Tour.
Click here for the Rainbow Video Clip Q&A series with Melita about Celebrating Diverse Sexuality & Gender
Get all the Censored2Celebrated news delivered to your in-box: Sign up for emails here.
RSVP to tune in for the Blab with Amy and Melita on Thursday, October 15, 2015 at 1 pm CST here.
Why Join Us for the Live Blab? Our webcasted conversation is an opportunity for allies and advocates of the LGBTQ community to gather. Together, we will explore how to connect with youth in order to support – and celebrate – them around diverse gender and sexuality.
About Author Amy G. Dalia Season 2 continues with special guest Amy G. Dalia, inspiration for many of the books that were gifted to the Celebration Tour.
Amy is an author who makes a difference for LGBTQ youth, families, and anyone who’s ever felt they’re somehow “less” or “other” in the world. She is currently writing a contemporary Young Adult (YA) novel with LGBTQ themes. She also has a YA fantasy trilogy stewing on the back burner.
You can check out her blog here. And here’s a FREE sample of her book – just in time for celebrating Halloween!
Amy is passionate about LGBTQ equality, travel, and anything related to Greece. She is the proud mama of three children.
Quote that Inspires Amy
Check out Amy’s writing portfolio here. Connect with Amy here.
More on What We’ll Be Talking About in Season 2 Each month in Season 2, we’ll be diving deeper into our discoveries from the Celebration Tour 2015. In September, for Chat 1, we talked with author and educator Sally Ember, Ed.D. Watch the video clip with Sally here. To launch our new season we wanted to explore some of the most common questions we covered last year in Season 1, give you insight into the many reasons we align ourselves with the rainbow, and lay the groundwork for our next-level conversations focusing on the Celebration Tour.
Click here for the Rainbow Video Clip Q&A series with Melita about Celebrating Diverse Sexuality & Gender
Get all the Censored2Celebrated news delivered to your in-box: Sign up for emails here.
What We’ll Be Talking About in Season Two Each month in Season Two, we’ll be diving deeper into our discoveries from the Celebration Tour 2015. To launch our new season we wanted to explore some of the most common questions we covered last year in Season One, give you insight into the many reasons we align ourselves with the rainbow, and lay the groundwork for our next-level conversations focusing on the Celebration Tour.
Click here for a Rainbow Video Clip Q&A with Melita about DSG
Get all the Censored2Celebrated news to your in-box: Sign up for emails here.
Is it really that easy to join the Celebration Challenge?
Yes. Let me break it down.
I Am Jazz was the most donated & gifted book during the Celebration Tour.
1. buy a book While libraries vary in their donation policies, most libraries prefer books that are a) new, and b) hardcover.
Choose any book that is meaningful to you. Click herefor some ideas of recommended books. (Although this list is on Amazon, we highly recommend supporting your local bookstore with your purchase.)
2. go to the library Check out your local library’s LGBTQ selection online if you can. But the great thing that I learned about libraries, and librarians, is that it is just fine to drop in. They love talking about books, and they love getting donations.
The point is that one of the great things about libraries is that they are free and open to the public. And, of course, they have lots of books to read.
Librarians are also family friendly drop-in options for summertime road trips as they often have special programs. For instance, during the Summer of the Celebration Tour 2015, the nationwide program was Every Hero Has a Story.
When you’re doing a road trip, libraries are easy to find in most communities, and they have convenient, clean, family-friendly restrooms. Believe me when I emphasize how important these aspects were when traveling with two kids, and our alternative – and sometimes necessary stop – was at a gas station.
4. visit the kid’s/YA section Initially, after our restroom visit, we headed to the kid’s section because that was fun for my young ones (ages 18 months and 6 years old during our trip).
It also gave me a good chance to familiarize myself with the books in the library collection. Many libraries also had lots of interactive activities and computers that thoroughly engaged my kids.
After visiting 21 libraries this summer, I realized that visiting these sections of the library also allowed me some time to get to explore that library’s individual nature, read some books we liked, and casually meet some other people who were hanging out there. In short, we became part of the library community during our visit.
For me, this was very important as I didn’t want to come across as a crazy person or zealot when it came time to talk with a librarian. I am, first and foremost, a parent who cares about having great books in my kid’s lives. And I believe in giving back to a community space that I have always cherished. (Indeed, I think I was a librarian in another life.)
By taking the time to honor the space and the people, it felt a lot more comfortable for me – and for them, I think – to have a meaningful conversation. This brings me to point #5.
Celebrating Families in Saco, Maine
5. talk with a librarian This is the part that most people want to know about, and each conversation started in a different way depending on the situation. But there were some commonalities.
Most of the time, I approached someone at the desk with my Box of Books.
In this video clip, you can watch my littlest one, Azalea, fully explore our Box of Books while Tulip talks about some of her favorite books.
Other times, we met in the stacks or in the kid’s play area and started talking about something in the moment.
Each and every time, I made sure to introduce myself, briefly mention the Celebration Tour, and let them know that I would like to donate a book. I would also mention that all of the books were donated by families who celebrate their LGBTQ youth.Each gifted book also had a bookplate celebrating the person for whom the book was donated.
This felt particularly important to me because – even with all the censorship around diverse sexuality and gender in our culture, and in books – there are a lot of families who fully celebrate their youth who identify as LGBTQ. I wanted their names – or pseudonyms – to be celebrated in the books that were gifted in their honor.
As we know, it is not always comfortable – or safe – for some families, and individuals, to be as publicly celebratory as they might wish.
For instance, as of August 2015, there have 25 murders of trans women in the past two years. This is one example of how powerfully violence, or the fear of violence, can censor those of us who identify along the spectrum of diverse sexuality and/or gender. It also shows how courageous it is to celebrate DSG in whatever ways we can. I am hopeful that all of us can find ways – both small and big – that we can celebrate DSG despite the very real self and cultural censorship.
For all of these reasons, and even with all of my experience and comfort talking about diverse sexuality and gender for 30+ years, it wasn’t always easy to walk into a library, and talk about sexuality and gender in the kid’s section, or in communities that might censor such topics. However, I knew that I had this was a way I could step up and celebrate all those families, and youth, who might not yet be able celebrate their own diverse sexuality and gender.
Although it made me anxious every time I walked into a library, it also made me feel deeply powerful and connected every time I connected with a librarian to gift another book.
The thing to remember is that librarians love books. They are also – rightfully so – proud of their libraries, and how their libraries serve the community. Though some had different policies, or a different staff member who could accept the donation, none of the librarians declined the gift of a book.
Give Gifts In addition to a gifting a book (or more) to the library, I gave each librarian a gift of a bookmark, a magnet, and my business card with a question on the back. I also had rainbow PRIDE bracelets, rainbow crayons, and bumper stickers as additional gifts for all the wonderful people who hosted us along the way.
Thanks again to Mimi for creating such a beautiful collage of our visit at the library in Darien, Connecticut showing all the fun swag we shared during the Celebration Tour.
You can download the bookmark here. We still have a few bumperstickers, and magnets left.
Connect with meif you’d like me to send you some materials. I’m also happy to send you my templates if you’d like to get copies printed for your own celebrations. The Celebration Tour is not mine. I may have started it, but it is all of ours.
The Importance of Asking Open-Ended Questions
Each of my business cards has a different question. These simple, open-ended questions not only allowed me to learn so many interesting things, but I also got so many great book recommendations. I didn’t plan for this to be part of my visit, but I was very grateful that I had the business cards with conversation sparking questions on them. Thanks again to Kate McCombs for inspiring this wonderful idea!
6. take a pic (or video) Understandably, not every librarian will want their picture taken. However, all of them allowed me to feature their beautiful libraries with the gifted book. I know these photos have meant a lot to the families who originally donated the book as it is a form of public celebration.
I highly recommend taking a picture or making a short video of your experience. The most important thing is to do something in a way that feels fun and celebratory to you.
Here’s one of my favorites from Fayetteville, Georgia. That teddy bear was HUGE!
7. post the #CelebrationTour pic Not everyone can be public about their celebrations, but everyone can celebrate in some meaningful way.
Once you’ve taken pic(s) or a video, find a way to share your excitement with someone who can celebrate with you. This may be through something as ephemeral as snapchat, or as permanent as sending a printed copy of the pic to your grandma. And, of course, there’s always email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, YouTube and more.
However you choose to celebrate, I would love to see it! (I want to honor you in your celebration, so please be sure to let me know if this is a private celebration, or if you would allow me to celebrate your library adventure on social media and my website.)
If you’d like to share your celebration pic/video on your own social media, please use the hashtag #CelebrationTour.
I hope that your visit will spark some powerful conversations.
I will never forget the joy I felt in Biloxi, Mississippi when I met Jackie at the library. She told me that no one had ever asked her about books for youth celebrating diverse sexuality and gender. She shared with me that our visit offered her the opportunity to have start conversations about DSG – something that had never occurred before among the staff or visitors to the library. When we left, she said she expected that having the book I Am Jazzwould continue to spark celebratory conversations about DSG.
Honestly, when we walked into the Biloxi library, I had no idea what to expect. It was our second day of the trip, and the second library we visited. I had been so nervous in Lake Charles, Lousiana that I forgot to ask for a picture when we donated Annie on My Mindto the wonderful teen librarian there.
We had chosen to stop in Biloxi because it was lunchtime, and we needed a spot to eat our picnic lunch. (We learned that libraries have great playscapes in addition to excellent restrooms for kids and families.) Jackie was so welcoming and engaging from the moment my kids and I walked in. Our conversation felt magical in how direct, honest, and heart-warming it felt. It continues to be one of the most powerful experience of our trip, and it gives me chills every time I think about it. Thank you Jackie!
8. celebrate! Dance a dance, sing a song, march in a parade, donate another book, hug yourself, or your family member or friend, who identifies as LGBTQ, share your story.
Celebrating Courage at the Rosa Parks Library & Museum
Rosa Parks was a 42-year-old African American woman, who worked as a seamstress. On a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, shecourageously said “No” to injustice, and “Yes!” to civil rights for all.
I am a 41 year old white, queer-identified woman with a family who says “Yes!” to talking about and gifting books that celebrate DSG. (I say “Yes!” to books that celebrate diversity beyond DSG, too. For instance, check out the indie publisher Flamingo Rampant.)
Rosa Parks took her stand (or rather seat) on a bus. This summer, I took my stand in libraries, through celebrating my joy of books. All of the librarians, and all of the people we met along the way became part of our story. All of you reading these words are part of our story.
Each time I had a conversation, or gifted a book, I felt that much more powerful. Imagine if each of you gift a book to a library, or have a conversation, or wear a PRIDE bracelet in support of celebrating DSG. Imagine how amplified the celebration will be when it ripples out across social media and into our conversations and actions in our communities.
With gratitude to Josh & Shawn McAdams for donating this book.
This book truly celebrates moving beyond self, family & cultural censorship to celebration. It could easily be named 10,000 Celebrations!
Censorship Hurts, Celebration Heals As we prepare to head off for our Celebration Tour tomorrow, I wanted to share a book that truly embodies the spirit of moving from censored to celebrated.
In this colorful and celebratory story, Bailey attempts to get support for her dreams of dresses, as well as how she identifies her gender, from her family. Each family member censors her with their hurtful responses. (We’ve shared some life saving resources hereif you or someone you know are experiencing similar challenges, and need support.)
Soon Bailey comes upon a community member, Laurel, sewing a dress on the porch of her little blue house. In making a new friend, Bailey finds a person and place where she is celebrated for her whole self.
Caleb Matthews, Tulip Lavender & Azalea Lavender talk about their favorite parts of 10,000 Dresses here:
Our Favorite Quote
“These dresses don’t show us the Great Wall of China, or the Pyramids,” said Laurel. “No,” said Bailey, but they do show us OURSELVES.”
“You’re the coolest girl I ever met, Bailey!” said Laurel. “Hey, do you think you can dream up any MORE dresses?”
Bailey grinned. “I think I can dream up 10,000!”
I had a graduate student come up to my reference desk the other day asking for picture books where the characters acted out non-traditional gender roles. When this happens (and it happens more than you would think) I tend to begin with the stories that can be interpreted multiple ways, like The Story of Ferdinand. Then I pluck out The Paper Bag Princess, Elena’s Serenade, and William’s Doll. The piece de resistance is our very special copy of X: A Fabulous Child’s Story which you will not find circulating in just any library system, thank you very much. However, the book I most wanted to show off was 10,000 Dresses.
— School Library Journal
How Do You Celebrate Diversity?
Do you have a favorite book that celebrates the Diversity of Sexuality & Gender?
Have you read the 10,000 Dresses?
Share in the comments how this, or another book, has changed – or even saved – a life. I will be highlighting your celebratory quotes about books I feature in my #aBookaDay blog.
With gratitude to Susie Hayesfor gifting this colorful – and bilingual – book that ends with this quote: Call me tree / Llámame árbol Because / Porque I am tall / Soy alto I am strong / Soy fuerte And like a tree / Y como un árbol I am free / Soy libre
Call Me Tree You may have noticed some transgender people have been a bit busy breaking cultural taboos recently. There are a few hashtags running around which might be recognizable.
Depending on your relationship with the transgender community, you may know one or all three of these hashtags:
It has been a week where Caitlyn Jenner’s image on the cover of Vanity Fair was tweeted the world over. It has also included notable responses from the transgender community such as Jenn Dolari and Crystal Frasier’s powerful call for trans people to create their own Vanity Fair cover celebrating the beauty and strength in the transgender community. (They also wanted to make the point that not every trans person can – or wants to – subscribe to “white, cisnormative beauty standards.”)
“Far too often the ‘T’ is left behind or out of sight when we talk about LGBT issues, and it’s important to visibly make a commitment to work that we know needs to be done. I can’t think of anything more visible than putting the trans flag right next to the American flag at City Hall,” she told Philadelphia Gay News.
“We have far too many times where the trans community is mourning, from Trans Day of Remembrance to every time we lose somebody. But instead we should take a moment and revel in the empowerment of where the community is going because that’s incredibly important to celebrate.”
Author Sam Martin, who is now 43 and transitioned after reading a photo journalist book featuring transgender people, says, “When I was growing up, I never saw people like me in movies or books.” He continues:
“My goal was to write stories that would have helped me feel less alone at that age,” said Mr. Martin, who works as a Starbucks barista in Washington and writes at night.
A few years ago, gender fluidity was rarely addressed in children’s and young adult fiction. It remained one of the last taboos in a publishing category that had already taken on difficult issues like suicide, drug abuse, rape and sex trafficking. But children’s literature is catching up to the broader culture, as stereotypes of transgender characters have given way to nuanced and sympathetic portrayals on TV shows like “Orange Is the New Black” and “Transparent.”
Transgender actress-activist, Laverne Cox, echoes this sentimentwhen she reviewed the book I Am Jazz, co-authored by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings.
Mr. Andrews, 19, said that books for young adults on the subject were scarce when he began transitioning to male from female in 2011.
“When I first started transitioning, I mostly had YouTube as a source,” he said. “I wanted to write a book to help others because there were not a lot of sources out there, and I thought that one book could save a person’s life.”
Mr. Andrews says he receives 15 to 20 Facebook messages a day from readers about his memoir, “Some Assembly Required,” including notes from children as young as 8 and readers in their 60s and 70s who say the book helps them navigate questions about their gender identity.
Books are a path to self-understanding, and these books are clearly making a difference for many people – of all ages. I cannot wait to see what books will make a difference for the people I will be meeting on the Celebration Tour!
Call Me Tree / Llámameárbol
While there are a number of books which focus on what it feels like to move from one gender box to another, there are fewer that focus on the non-binary experience. These are the kids and adults who identify as gender creative, gender expansive, gender fluid, and/or gender non-conforming. Recently, my webcast guest, Krysti Ryan, noted how she has seen an increase – just in the past year – around the next generation pushing the gender binary norms.
Call Me Tree fits that need in that it provides a “gender free” multicultural reading experience where all children can see themselves.
The author, Maya Christina Gonzalez, writes:
You may or may not notice something different about my new book, Call Me Tree. Nowhere in the story are boy/girl pronouns used. No ‘he’ or ‘she’ anywhere! I found it easy to write this way because that’s how I think of kids, as kids, not boy kids or girl kids.
I even requested that no ‘he’ or ‘she’ be used anywhere else in the book, like on the end pages or the back cover when talking about the story. I also asked the publisher to only refer to the main character as a child or kid when they talked about my book out in the world. Because I wanted Call Me Tree to be gender free!
(Read the note to the reader from the author about creating a “gender free multicultural book” here.)
Gender Free While I knew this book was “gender free” before I read it, and liked that it was about growth (a big theme for me), and celebration, I was curious if reviewers would recognize or highlight the gender free message. None of the reviews I found seemed to even notice this message, and always referred to the child (“Tree”) in the book using the “he” pronoun.
Given that the author was very intentionally creating this book to be gender free, I was happy to see this review where Crystalee of The Best Books Ever, writes:
I rushed out and picked up a copy from the library. It’s a beautiful picture book with bright illustrations and sparse language in both English and Spanish. However, if I had never read the article, I probably wouldn’t have realized the gender-neutral tones. This isn’t a book that hits you over the head with an agenda, but it DOES do a great job of conveying the message that everyone is unique and everyone should go after their dreams.
Like me, this reviewer knew about the intentionality around gender. On one hand, given the more subtle undertones about gender, this book may appeal to a broader audience, and it may not be as likely to get challenged or banned. On the other hand, it could mean that some youth who would enjoy – and see themselves reflected in it – may not know how to access it easily.
Alphabet Soup Paradox
This seems the paradox around how and why we choose to categorize any literature – or identities, for that matter. Witness the many discussions around language and the LGBTQ+ alphabet soup that we discuss on my monthly webcast. Regardless, I will be interested to see which library chooses this book to add to their collection, and why!
Our Favorite Quote My daughter, Tulip Lavender (her chosen pen name), loves that this book is bilingual. She particularly enjoyed sharing it with her bilingual Spanish/English 1st grade class earlier this year.
Some trees reach
Some trees teach
Some trees stand so still
Algunos árboles se extienden
Algunos árboles se enseñan
Algunos árboles se quedan tan quietos
My Recent “Aha” Moment about DSG One of my favorite questions to ask guests on the Censored2Celebrated monthly webcast is about an “aha” moment they have had recently in their work or personal life about Diverse Sexuality & Gender (DSG). My most recent “aha” moment this week came about when I read David Leviathan’s book for young adults entitled Every Day.
This book not only entranced me as a story, but it also explored difference and sameness in an unusually compelling way. (I also celebrate that this book features a delightful, very much in love transgender and cisgender teen couple. I am not sure I have ever seen this!)
The fascinating concept that Levithan has based his story around is a peculiar choice, even for the genre of fantasy. The plot revolves around a teenager named “A,” who is forced to travel between bodies every day. Whenever “A” wakes up, he/she needs to quickly adjust, as he/she will have to live the life of that person. One day, our protagonist finds himself controlling the body of a rude boy named Justin.
Despite a vow to never interfere with the person’s life he/she inhabits, “A” ends up falling in love with Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon, who Justin emotionally abuses. After “A” gives her the perfect day, he/she comes to the realization that Rhiannon’s heart will be broken after Justin returns to his bullying ways. “A” continuously returns to her in different bodies, and eventually reveals the truth about his/herself and how it wasn’t Justin that was so kind to her that day. The rest of the book involves the blossoming romance between “A” and Rhiannon, and how it is a struggle for both of them to see each other, due to the freakish circumstances.
While I am a big fan of Young Adult fiction, and science fiction and fantasy in particular, I appreciated how unusual it is that this book’s premise allows the reader to explore difference in so many ways. The differences explored by “A” include: gender identity, ethnicity, class, immigration status, sexual orientation, and mental health.
This exploration of difference and sameness is explained beautifully by “A” here:
It’s only in the finer points that it gets complicated and contentious, the inability to realize that no matter what our religion or gender or race or geographic background, we all have about 98 percent in common with each other.
Yes, the differences between male and female are biological, but if you look at the biology as a matter of percentage, there aren’t a whole lot of things that are different. Race is different purely as a social construction, not as an inherent difference. And religion— whether you believe in God or Yahweh or Allah or something else, odds are that at heart you want the same things.
For whatever reason, we like to focus on the 2 percent that’s different, and most of the conflict in the world comes from that. The only way I can navigate through my life is because of the 98 percent that every life has in common.
My “aha” moment came about as I reflected on the 98% in common and 2% that’s different that “A” experiences in the different lives he/she/they inhabits for a day at a time. When put in such stark numerical terms, it struck me how powerful that 2% “difference” is. Some fear these differences, some tolerate, some accept, and some celebrate them.
The aha moment for me came when I connected some disturbing dots about how the fear – often communicated through censorship – effects those of us who identify with marginalized gender identity and/or sexual orientation.
About Books, Censorship, and Suicide Rates
Not surprisingly, with the Celebration Tour road trip taking off from Austin on June 13th, I’ve been thinking a lot about celebration, censorship, and books. Although Every Day isn’t on the banned book list, the quote about difference and commonality made me thinking more about the fear of difference that often seems to behind censoring books about DSG.
Cultural & Self Censorship
How does this cultural censorship of books effect those whose difference is rarely – if ever – celebrated by the culture around them (i.e. those of us who identify as LGBTQ+ or DSG)? Is there a connection with intensive cultural censorship, and self-censorship? Is this cultural and self-censorship related in any way to the high suicide rates we see in youth – especially those who identify as LGBTQ+ or DSG?
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24.
LGB youth are 4 times more likely, and questioning youth are 3 times more likely, to attempt suicide as their straight peers.
Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives, and one quarter report having made a suicide attempt.
LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.
With such high rates of self-harm and suicidality among LGBTQ+ identified people, it is not a surprise that cultural censorship – such as banning books about DSG or throwing youth out of the house who come out – may turn inward and manifest as self-censorship. With this culture of censorship, how do we experience internal love worthiness when we are so often found unlovable by those around us?
My memory of the phrase is: “A person has to earn the right to hear your story.”
Earning the Right to Hear Your Story In this day and age of the examined – and some might say over-shared – life on social media, this phrase struck me forcefully. In this world where so much is shared, the boundary between public and private often becomes even more sacred.
What does it mean for someone to earn the right to hear my story, or your story? What does that look like when the boundaries are often so blurred by social media, and the instant clickability that can so easily make our communications – like emails, texts and videos – go viral? What do we keep to ourselves, or choose only to share with our intimate circle of friends, family members, lovers and other significant others?
In the book Every Day, Rhiannon earns the right to hear “A’s” story through trust built on communication, connection, and a leap of faith. There is a sense of the sacred in their connection – something that – literally – transcends the body. Something that transcends the fear of the 2% difference. This allows them to move beyond self-censorship – particularly “A” who had never told anyone his/her/their story before – to celebration, as well as continued challenges by their unusual situation.
Books, Books and More Books There is a funny paradox about how books create such an intimate internal world, but are words that are (usually) publicly available. It is amazing to me how an author’s words can connect with my inner world and become something unique to me – but also connect me with the author and the community of readers who have read this book. As a reader, I find such joy when an author chooses to share their story with me (and the rest of the world). As a result of their choice to publish their work, I have earned the right to hear their story. Stories are sacred.
When I have felt alone in some challenge – especially in my youth – I often turned to books in order to “see” myself. It is a form of celebration to see yourself in the books you read. You realize you are not alone when you can see a glimmer of that 2% that makes each of us different connecting with another person’s experience in a book.
Given all this, I am saddened – but not surprised – that books are challenged and banned. I am so grateful for all the librarians, authors, educators, and readers who celebrate censored books. These are the powerful stories that so often can help us move from cultural and self censorship to celebration.
I cannot wait to get on the road to hear more about what librarians are hearing from their communities about diverse sexuality and gender!
It is my joy and pleasure to be doing this work. I know how much books have changed my life for the better. I see how they have impacted my 6 year old daughter as well. She has pored over It’s Not the Stork (featured on Day 4) for many years now, and always comes up with new and interesting questions for me based on her reading. Books can – and do – change lives.
An Outpouring of Support We’ve had the great fortune to receive 13 children’s lit and Young Adult booksgifted for the Celebration Tour in the past few weeks. I love receiving the private messages with suggested titles to add to our Wishlist, and with the promise of more colorful books, wrapped in lovely brown paper packages, winging their way to our door.
Our goal is to be able to gift at least one book in every state or province that we will visit, for a total of 24 books gifted to public libraries from Austin to Montreal and back again by way of Chicago and St. Louis. With the help of our supporters, we are well on our way to meeting that goal by June 8th.
If we will see you along our route, please check out the Wishlist online, but purchase the book from your local bookstore. We will be happy to pick the book up from you in person during the Celebration Tour!
Red is feeling blue. Literally. He can’t understand why nothing he does comes out red. It says ‘Red’ on his label after all, but he just can’t get the hang of it. Nothing he draws is right.
Strawberries are blue. Fire engines are blue. Red ants are … well, blue.
Perfect for kids learning about colour or individuality or being true to oneself or just looking for a story that firmly sits outside the square, this is entertaining as it is brain-expanding. I particularly enjoyed the gorgeous, naive-style illustrations and Michael Hall’s author voice–hip, current, utterly kid-friendly and dry.
My favorite picture books are the ones that you can revisit over the years and continue to find something new and relevant. I think of picture books as more than a stepping stone to other kinds of reading, but a legitimate form of literature — and art — in their own right. I hope that my books have something in them for all ages. For children, I hope my books will help them broaden their sense of wonder, celebrate their differences, and come to know the power of their imaginations.
On a personal note, I can relate to how the author sees the world (and also bumps into people and things!) as he is also blind in his left eye. Michael Hall notes:
Early on, I became interested in making images that are built to exist on a two-dimensional page rather than using perspective and light and shadow to suggest three dimensions.
Actually, my world is relatively flat. I lost the vision in my left eye about fifteen years ago, so my depth perception is lacking. I still occasionally run into people on my left side from time to time.
From the author’s website, here’s a fun video clip about this lovable crayon.
Our Favorite Quote My family and I really enjoyed this book – it is simply done with a powerful message.
It’s actually hard to find a great quote as the story cleverly interacts with a number of different colored crayons – representing family, friends, teachers – with varying opinions about “Red.”
This book is best when experienced. We hope you get a chance to read and enjoy Red!
With gratitude to Sue for gifting this colorful, life-changing book to the Celebration Tour.
“I read this to my daughter (mtf) when she was 5, and when we got to the end she exclaimed, “Roland is just like me!” It was the first time we read a book she really related to….very powerful.”
Not surprisingly, the book was written about the author’s own son. Looking her up, I found her blog which I felt was pretty interesting, and goes into more detail and emotional honesty than the upbeat ending of the book delivers: “We like you for you, whatever you wear.”
After her son had decided that he wanted to start wearing boy clothes because of the comments of some of his classmates, Kiernan-Johnson writes: “I suppose it was inevitable that the weight of peer pressure would reach him at some point. I just imagined that it would be further down the road, that we’d have more time to inhabit our happy little bubble of authenticity, that he could obliviously be who he is without the burden of arbitrary societal dictates intruding on that. It isn’t that I want my son to waltz through life in a ballgown; it is that I don’t want the world to crush his spirit and stamp out his unique way of being. I don’t want it to burst his bubble.”
I don’t think she has to worry about the world crushing his spirits just yet (that doesn’t happen until you start working), but it did make going back reading the joyful exuberance of “Roland Humphrey” a bit bittersweet, and for me, more meaningful.
Usually there are a few shy comments about how “my brother likes pink,” or “my brother likes to wear girls’ swimsuits,” etc.( and it has been kind of amazing to hear about how many of these little “pink boys” are out there) but usually it segues into a very broad conversation about the small and large unkindnesses children endure no matter what they wear and how they present themselves.
Kids pick up on the universality of the acceptance themes and seem to be really hungry to talk about the slings and arrows that have bruised their small hearts. It has been a tremendous honor to be trusted with some of those stories. I was expecting more narrow questions about why Roland liked girls’ clothes etc., but these kids have been so savvy and have just honed in on the heart of the story and message and have been really honest in sharing how their own experiences have resembled the character’s. It has been an unexpected privilege to hold those stories with the kids.
My Favorite Quote I’m so much more than what colors or clothes I choose. And if you judge me on just that, I’ve got some sad news: You’re the one who misses out. It’s what inside that really counts.