Tag Archives: censored2celebrated

Celebration IS the way through.

Gratitude for the Ability to Celebrate

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After a whirlwind year of celebratory projects, webchats, and blogs, I wanted to take some time on this Thanksgiving Day here in the US to reflect on why it is so important to me to do this work. (Then I got sidetracked by one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving – the baking! And then again by an impromptu pop-in by my daughter as I was trying to write this morning with a thank you gift for me. Seven year old kids are the best!)

Back to the topic at hand, this is a time for gratitude and celebration of the abundance I have in my life with wonderful family, friends, and the gifts that I continue to garner through conversations about diverse sexuality and gender with everyone I meet through my work with Censored2Celebrated, The Human Empathy Project, and PFLAG. As I know, not everyone has the privilege to celebrate as openly as I am able.

As you may know, or surmise, two of my primary values are authenticity and empathy. You can imagine how much joy it brings to my life to be able to have authentic and empathic conversations about topics that are so close to my heart. And yet, even in 2015, I know that this is not a universal gift.

Indeed, you may be a person who is challenged in finding ways to have authentic, empathic conversations about sexuality and gender with the people in your life. And you may have lost people in your life because of who you, or your child, is in the world.

In the spirit of this day of thanksgiving, and in the spirit of honoring those of us who may not have family celebrating us today, I wanted to share some of my own personal journey about why I fiercely dedicate myself to move beyond tolerance and acceptance to full-on celebrate diverse sexuality and gender.

Not only is celebration a tool of empowerment, but I believe that it is a matter of life and death. And while I am able to celebrate diverse sexuality and gender in my own life, this has not always been the case. Everyday I try to do something that helps me – and others – be more brave in the world.

In that spirit, here is my story. I shared it at the Transgender Day of Remembrance / Transgender Day of Resilience on the steps of Austin’s City Hall on November 21, 2015. And now I share it with you. I hope it helps you be more brave to speak with authenticity and empathy to celebrate all the people in your life.


Celebration as a Tool of Empowerment
by Melita Inara Noël, MA
Presented at Austin’s Transgender Day of Remembrance event

Last November, my daughters and I sat where you now sit – perhaps a little uncomfortably – on the concrete steps of Austin City Hall. As you may remember, one year ago, befitting the mood, it was raining. As we listened to the challenges and heard the names of the dead read, I remember looking at my girls, and worrying about what these words might be teaching them about what it means to be different – whether that difference is language, race, ethnicity, class, ability, age, or sexuality and gender identity – or any intersection of these differences.

Mostly, I remember feeling grateful that I had the forethought to tell my girls that this event dares to speak out loud about the challenges that many transgender people experience in their lifetime. Challenges stemming from cultural censorship, such as the basic right to “pee in peace” – more on that later – or the internalized self-censorship where a trans person might feel that they must “pass” in order to be fully known as their authentic self.

Some say that I am an unusual mother in the world of people who parent transgender children. After all, I have a Master’s degree in Sexuality, and I have a long history of exploring gender identity. I have also walked through my own internal and external censorship as a single woman who identifies as queer, femme, and pansexual. And I am delighted to celebrate diverse sexuality and gender as the CEO and Founder of my business From Censored to Celebrated, and as the Vice President on the Board of The Human Empathy Project, and a proud member of PFLAG Austin (and hopefully, soon, a Board member!).  

My 7 year old daughter has been self-identifying as a transgender girl for 18 months. I celebrated her right to explore and speak her truth long before that. For the most part, I have been able to shield her from overt expressions of censorship and hate. As we know, differences are sometimes feared, sometimes tolerated, and sometimes even accepted. However, in my experience, differences are very rarely celebrated.

Sitting on these steps, trying to keep dry from the rain, we had our first in depth conversation about the challenges that so many transgender people feel everyday. I was grateful my girls witnessed this powerful event that speaks hard truths about these difficult experiences. Even though it can be so painful, I am grateful that this community – and many others internationally – takes this time in November to share these stories.

Given who I am in the world – inhabiting the space of a sexuality and gender educator, parent of a transgender youth, and identifying as queer – I want to focus now on how I use celebration as a tool of empowerment. I have three tools to share with you that any one of you can use to celebrate a person who is “different.”

Create Safe Space_Tool of Empowerment 1_Censored2Celebrated_MelitaNoelCantu

TOOL 1: CREATE SAFE SPACE
Let me start by admitting: I am a feminist. So to have my “assigned male at birth” child racing home from preschool everyday to put on a skirt, or a dress, thrilled me. I celebrated that my child felt comfortable exploring gender roles and gender expression. A child who lives authentically, with the fullest range of options before them, doesn’t consider the adult labels of gender important. And, most importantly, I had a child who was expressively, undeniably, happy.

But the language of adults can be tricky, so I chose to use my fancy “adult language” to make space for my child to just BE. I talked openly to anyone who would listen – including my child – about how it is critical for healthy self development to be able to express one’s authentic self fully.

If I don’t celebrate my child.

If you don’t celebrate your child, WHO WILL?

 

 

Through these conversations, and my celebratory support, I created space for my child to play in the safety of our home, friend’s and family’s homes, as well as at dance and music classes, birthday parties, and our church.

I am aware of the privilege I hold in knowing the language of diverse sexuality and gender. I am also aware that anyone can celebrate their child. I think that the most important path to celebrating your child – or anyone in your life – is to witness and engage them, as well as the world around them, and create the space for their most authentic selves to develop.

Change the conversation. _Tool of Empowerment 2_Censored2Celebrated_MelitaNoelCantu

TOOL 2:  CHANGE THE CONVERSATION
When we go to bat to celebrate our children – or anyone who feels the weight of having their identities suppressed in whole or in part – we make the statement to the world that the hate stops with us. Sometimes you have the privilege to be private about a difference, and to walk in the world in “stealth” mode, as it were. Other times, differences are seen the first moment you walk in the door and no option of privacy is available. In either case, you can make the choice to celebrate differences everywhere.

For those who have transgender family members who are living in the closet for a period of time, consider whether you can celebrate diverse sexuality and gender on social media feeds, or by calling out subtle microaggressions in conversations with coworkers, or at the grocery store. For those of us who can be loud and proud, we can march in parades, attend events, give speeches, write a blog, lobby our government, and listen mindfully before outwardly celebrating the stories of those of us who need to be in the shadows for now.

The goal is to seek small and large ways to change the conversation, give space for the evolutionary process, and approach tough talks with a empathy-filled heart.

Celebrate everywhere_Tool of Empowerment 3_Censored2Celebrated_MelitaNoelCantu

TOOL 3: CELEBRATE EVERYWHERE & IN THE EVERYDAY
These days, with the creation of safe space in my home and community, and by being so aware of censorship, it has become easier and easier to change the conversation. As a result, — please, listen closely here — in this moment, right this second…this is the first time I have been given permission to publically celebrate my daughter’s transgender identity.

It makes me more proud than I can convey in words, and I am so honored she has trusted me with this opportunity. I take this moment for her, for myself, and for everyone here and at home who don’t have the same freedom – to celebrate diverse sexuality and gender in all their beautiful and complex prisms, and I want you to do the same where you can.

Here are two examples of what celebration looks like in my everyday life:

First, through my work with From Censored to Celebrated this summer, I was able to travel with my daughters to 24 states and Ontario where we spoke with librarians and donated children’s books celebrating diverse sexuality and gender. The celebration was two-fold in that we had the honor of receiving these books from families who celebrate their own transgender child’s journey while allowing me to recognize their celebration by having me gift these books on their behalf.

Secondly, this past March at Wildflower Unitarian Universalist Church in South Austin, we were preparing for our 9 month old daughter for her child dedication. Simultaneously, I invited my older daughter to be recognized for her transition to identifying as a transgender girl, to which she agreed, and her ceremony became one of the most powerful and celebratory moments I have experienced at our church. I was grateful to hear that many in our church community also experienced her celebration in a very powerful way.

During the child dedication ceremony the minister, Reverend Brian Ferguson – who is here with us tonight – said:

Six years ago we dedicated you as [a boy]. Since that time, you have realized that you are a girl and seek to honor yourself as such. While this is often referred to as a transition and we are referring to part of our ceremony as a transition celebration, in many ways it is an act of recognition within you of who you most authentically are.

Consequently, we wish to honor and celebrate this recognition for you. You said to me that you are a transgender girl. For you, it is an act of honest recognition. For those of us around you, it is an act of transition as we commit to recognize and celebrate you as a girl. This is a courageous path you have chosen to find your wholeness when much of society is forcing you to conform in a different way than feels right and authentic to you. Today, we honor you as the girl you are and admire you as you undertake this journey to make your spirit whole.

These words alone took my breath away.

Then the minister continued:

May your journey of recognition, and your parents example as loving, committed parents, be a gift to this community. May you all be an example of what it means to live with honesty, courage, and integrity.

Whether you claim your child with pride in a public forum such as this one, partake of a sacred ceremony with your inner circle, or simply champion co-workers as allies – do what you can, where you can, to lift up and affirm diversity wherever it occurs.

FINAL WORDS

Having shared all of this, I imagine that many of you here tonight knew as a child that you were different. You may have wished – more than anything – for safe space to explore what that might mean for you.

Imagine…
Imagine for a moment if someone had created safe space for you to feel celebrated. Imagine if you now choose to consciously create safe space for another person in your life who deeply needs to explore their authentic selves. What would that look like? How could this one act of quiet celebration change someone’s life?

Audre Lorde once said that poetry is not a luxury. Similarly, for me, celebration – in the face of censorship and hate – is NOT a luxury. Indeed, celebration is the way through. Those are the words I live by. Those are the words that shape my thoughts, and direct my actions.

Celebration IS the way through.

Celebration IS the way through.

In celebration of you, in celebration of all of our children, I commit my business, my time, and the time and talents of the team that supports me to making sure that every single-stall restroom on the planet is safe for you. It begins here in Austin as I lay the foundation for the #PeeInPeace project.

PeeInPeace_twitterheader_Censored2Celebrated

I commit to you now, today, in this moment, that at this event next year I will say to you: In Austin, it is done. Never again will you be in this city without allies like me making it safe for my ally in you.

If you want to join me, in making Austin a safe place and setting the standard for public restroom ordinances elsewhere, let me know.

#PeeInPeace                    

Thank you.


Support the basic human dignity to #PeeInPeace here:

Click here to watch why Ivan Coyote thinks we all need a safe place to pee.

Powerfully said #IvanCoyote. #PeeInPeaceSupport 100% of Austinites being able to #PeeInPeace by 11.16.16 here:http://igg.me/at/PeeInPeace/x/12809685

Posted by From Censored to Celebrated on Wednesday, November 25, 2015

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Best of Luck_Anna Nguyen_Censored2Celebrated

Anna Nguyen on #Censored2Celebrated (Season 3, Chat 3)

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Season 2, Chat 3 features PFLAG Austin Board President, and fashion maven, Anna Nguyen.

Anna_Nguyen_RainbowHeader_111215_Censored2Celebrated (1)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 headshot

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.


Best of Luck_Anna Nguyen_Censored2CelebratedAnna the Awesome was
one of our first supporters of the Celebration Tour!

Check out Anna’s personal website here. Connect with Anna here.

A quote that inspires Anna Nguyen

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 a Rainbow Video Clip Q&A with Melita about DSG

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.

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Celebration IS the way through.

Celebration Quotes & Questions

Quotes and Questions_MIN_Censored2CelebratedI’ve been collecting quotes and questions on Pinterest,
and also wanted to post some of my
absolute favorites on the website.
Enjoy!  
~Melita

Quotes & Questions for You…

Quote_Celebration IS the way through_MelitaInaraNoël_Censored2Celebrated

Celegration IS the way through

Why isn't this a gender nonspecific restroom sign?

Why isn’t this a gender nonspecific restroom sign?

AudreLordequote_Made verbal and shared_PeeInPeace_Censored2Celebrated

Audre Lorde on speaking one’s truth

bell hooks on power

bell hooks on power

"What one reads becomes a part of what one sees and feels." Ralph Ellison #CelebrationTour

“What one reads becomes a part of what one sees and feels.” Ralph Ellison

Q for Librarians: What's your favorite book celebration DSG?

What’s your favorite children’s or young adult book celebrating Diverse Sexuality and Gender (DSG)?


 

Parenting Tips from Remi Newman

Remi's Parenting Tips

Remi’s Parenting Tips

Remi Newman Parenting Tip 1- Impart Your Values_Censored2CelebratedRemi's Parenting Tip #2 - Start EarlyRemi Newman Parenting Tip 3 - It's Never Too Late
Remi Newman Parenting Tip 4 - Be honest
Remi Newman Parenting Tip 5 - Make a Plan


More Favorites…

Quote that Inspires Amy : "The best is yet to come." - William Shakespeare

Quote that Inspires Author Amy G. Dalia

Celebrate DSG

Celebrating Diverse Sexuality and Gender

This work is truly world wide_Joel Baum and Mexico City_Gender Spectrum_Censored2Celebrated_July2014

Joel Baum on connecting with 140 people in Mexico City via the Censored2Celebrated-facilitated webcast during the Gender Spectrum conference: “This work is truly world wide.”

Censored2Celebrated_AhaMoment_MNCantu

What’s an aha moment you’ve had recently about Diverse Sexuality and Gender?

In response to this meme: "Normal is a setting on a clothes dryer." - Dr. Sally Ember

In response to this meme: “Normal is a setting on a clothes dryer!” – Dr. Sally Ember

Censored2Celebrated_98vs2_MNCantu

Do you agree? 98% commonality vs. 2% difference?

Celebrate all the people in your life.

How Melita wraps-up every webcast: “Celebrate ALL the people in your life.”

#ItGetsAwesome #CelebrationStories #DSG

“It doesn’t get better. It gets awesome.” – Mimi Lemay

Celebrate Inspiration to Live Life Fully

Celebrate Inspiration to Live Life Fully

What does DSG mean to you?

What does Diverse Sexuality and Gender (DSG) mean to you? Share your thoughts – and favorite quotes too! – with us in the comments here.

Q for Librarians: What's your favorite book celebration DSG?

Share the Celebration

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Question:

Spread the Celebration

Answer:
Listof8Steps_censored2celebrated

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 here for 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.

CelebrationTour_CelebratingHeroes_Coopersgtown_072815Librarians 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. 

3. use the [All Gender] restroom
This is both a practical suggestion, as well as a political point.

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.

Politically, I had hoped to see some All Gender Restroom signs on our travels, but I have to report that I didn’t see any. I am proud that my hometown, Austin, Texas, has joined Philly and DC in passing All Gender Restroom signage requirements for single-use restrooms.

Perhaps my next Celebration Tour will be about gifting All Gender Restroom signs. Oh wait, that’s already a thing – you can download your very own sign right here.

CelebrationTour_SparkingConversations_0621154. 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.

CelebrationTour_SacoME_071615

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. CelebrationTour_BelovedBooks_061915Each 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.

Celebrating Community in CTAs 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 sexualityCelebrationTour_Celebrating_TangoMakes3_NH_072115 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.

CelebrationTour_CelebrationGifts_061615The 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.

They know how precious books are.

They know how books change – and even save – lives.

WhatBookHasChangedYourLife_Twitter_Censored2Celebrated

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.Celebrating Community in CT

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 me if 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.

11888539_10206955960360328_3447993944447683351_oThe 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.

Celebration Tour_Celebrating ChildhoodI 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.

CelebrationTour_MuskogeeOK_080815Once 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. CelebrationTour_SparkingConversations_061515

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 Jazz would 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 Mind to 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!

Check it out:
You can see how many of our pics come up when I googled #CelebrationTour here. What conversation will your picture/video spark? 

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.


Are you inspired to join the Celebration Challenge?

Some Inspiration…
CelebrationTour_CelebratingCivilRights_061615

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, she courageously 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.

Share your library adventure:
Email me, or connect on facebook, or any of the #censored2celebrated social media spots.

Flag waving & Songs of Celebration for you!

Flag waving & Songs of Celebration for you!

Hey…before you go off and do your celebration dance, would you do me a favor?
I would be honored if you would help me share the celebration by clicking on the social share buttons on this page. 

We appreciate all who are able to celebrate DSG with publicly. We also celebrate all who celebrate DSG privately.

Remember: All celebration is powerful. All celebration can change the conversation, our communities, and the world.

In celebration!
Melita, Tulip, Azalea Javi

"What one reads becomes a part of what one sees and feels." Ralph Ellison #CelebrationTour

“What one reads becomes a part of what one sees and feels.” Ralph Ellison


Would you like to keep up with
our celebrations throughout the year? 

Sign-up for our Email List here.


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Day10_10,000Dresses_Censored2Celebrated_June15

Day 10: 10,000 Dresses

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DAY 10
10,000 Dresses
Story by Marcus Ewert
Illustrations by Rex Ray

Day10_10000Dresses_Censored2Celebrated_June15_YouTube


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 here if 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!”


Book Review: School Library Journal
10,000 Dresses

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 PrincessElena’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.

Click to find out how you can support the Celebration Tour.

Thank you for your generosity!

In celebration~
Melita

PS: Click here to gift this book, or another book, to a library along the Celebration Tour!

Tulip Lavender on Libraries

Support Libraries & Librarians by Supporting our Celebration Tour!

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Day 8: Every Day

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DAY 8
Every Day
by David Levithan

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This book has not yet been gifted for the Celebration Tour!

Donate it using our handy Wishlist here.


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

Censored2Celebrated_AhaMoment_MNCantuThis 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!)

Here’s a synopsis in a review by Noah Towne – a High School Sophomore in Buffalo, NY:

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.

Censored2Celebrated_98vs2_MNCantuMy “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.

In the #aBookaDay blog, I have been surprised at how many books that we’ve been celebrating for kids and young adults have been challenged, or banned outright. (I wrote about this quite a bit on Day 3 with And Tango Makes Three.)

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)?Censored2Celebrated_CulturalCensorship_MNCantu 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?

Using data from the CDCThe Trevor Project reports that:

  • 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.

Censored2Celebrated_SelfCensorship_MNCantuWith 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?


Love Worthiness
I recently attended the Conference of Contemporary Relationships here in Austin, Texas. I was struck by a phrase shared in a workshop on Love Worthiness, presented by Amelia Coffman, MA.

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!


Have you ever asked your local librarian about banned or challenged books in your community?  Let us know what they said!

A Book Can Change A Life

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 books gifted 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!


How Do You Celebrate Diversity?

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.

Click to find out how you can support the Celebration Tour.

Thank you for your generosity!

In celebration~
Melita

PS: Click here to gift this book, or another book, to a library along the Celebration Tour!

Tulip Lavender on Libraries

Support Libraries & Librarians by Supporting our Celebration Tour!

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Red: A Crayon 's Story

Day 7: Red

DAY 7
Red: A Crayon’s Story
by Michael Hall


With gratitude to Alexis for gifting this powerful, colorful
“story about a crayon I know.”

Alexis dedicates this book to:
Maria – 
for always knowing her true colors.

Many thanks to the author, Michael Hall, for donating an additional
11 hardcover, library-bound copies to Censored2Celebrated!

Watch the video:
Red: It’s about being true.

We will update when & where these generously donated books are
gifted to libraries here.


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From: BookReview.com
Red: A Crayon’s Story

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.

Quirk and colour at its best.

From an interview with the author, Michael Hall, about the power of picture books:

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!


How Do You Celebrate Diversity?

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.

Click to find out how you can support the Celebration Tour.

Thank you for your generosity!

In celebration~
Melita

PS: Click here to gift this book, or another book, to a library along the Celebration Tour!

Tulip Lavender on Libraries

Support Libraries & Librarians by Supporting our Celebration Tour!

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Day 6: Roland Humphrey is Wearing a WHAT?

DAY 6
Roland Humphrey is Wearing a WHAT?
by Eileen Kiernan-Johnson
Illustrated by Katrina Revenaugh


With gratitude to Sue for gifting this colorful, life-changing book
to the Celebration Tour.

Sue says:
“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.”


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From: Picture Books Review
Roland Humphrey is Wearing a WHAT?

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.

From an interview with the author, Eileen Kiernan-Johnson, about her experience reading this book to children:

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.


How Do You Celebrate Diversity?

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.

Click to find out how you can support the Celebration Tour.

Thank you for your generosity!

In celebration~
Melita

PS: Click here to gift this book, or another book, to a library along the Celebration Tour!

Tulip Lavender on Libraries

Support Libraries & Librarians by Supporting our Celebration Tour!

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Day 3: And Tango Makes Three

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DAY 3: May 17th
And Tango Makes Three
by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell & Henry Cole


With gratitude to Amy Pittel for donating this book that has allowed  so many individuals, libraries, and communities to move From Censored to Celebrated!

Amy writes:
“I’m thrilled to be able to help bring stories like these to kids who so need to find characters with whom they can identify.”


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Three is a powerful number in this book due to baby penguin, Tango, born to Roy and Silo, a family of male penguins, at Central Park in New York City.  According to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), in 2014 it was also third on the list for attempting bans in communities across the USA. And it is my pleasure to celebrate And Tango Makes Three on Day 3 of our #aBookaDay preparations for the Celebration Tour in June.

I have to admit that I was surprised when I realized the extent that Tango had been censored, not just in its early years, but even through 2014. The reasons given for challenging it are listed as follows: “Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group….and promotes the homosexual agenda.” For these reasons, “Tango ranked as ALA’s most frequently challenged book for a record four years in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010.” Check out this timeline from the American Library Association for a visual history of banned books in the US.

As I mentioned, my family and I read this book without realizing thow much it has been banned over the past 9 years. Given that my daughter, Tulip, was born in 2008, and that she has a mother with a Master’s Degree in Sexuality Studies, it is not surprising that she didn’t find this book to be controversial or unusual. We both loved it, and had a great chat about it here.


While Tango engaged both my 6 year old and 16 month old, it also had the added benefit of finally helping us name our very large penguin – a much beloved and bemusing gift from Grandpa. (Our family penguin is now, yes, “Tango Lavender.”)

Tango also allowed us to further explore how families can grow and thrive when they have a safe environment where their strengths, innovations, and connections are recognized, and, yes, celebrated.

My Favorite Quote
Out came their very own baby! She had fuzzy white feathers and a funny black beak. Now, Roy and Silo were fathers. “We’ll call her Tango,” Mr. Gramzay decided, “because it takes two to make a Tango.” 


Many people have read this book on video. Here Tango is engagingly read by staff at Seattle’s Sanislo Elementary School during Banned Book Week: 

Here’s a fun, more adult video clip with staff and visitors to the Central Park Zoo about how Roy and Silo became a committed couple, and had baby Tango.

Finally, I appreciate the sentiment shared on this version of the video
“Everyone should have the right to see themselves & their families in the books they read.”


How Do You Celebrate Diversity?

  • Do you have a favorite book that celebrates diversity?
  • Have you read the And Tango Makes Three?
  • Why do you think it’s been challenged so often?

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 a-book-a-day blog.

Click to find out how you can support the Celebration Tour.

Thank you for your generosity!

In celebration~
Melita

PS: Click here to gift this book, or another book, to a library along the Celebration Tour!

Tulip Lavender on Libraries

Support Libraries & Librarians by Supporting our Celebration Tour!

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Laverne Cox on "I Am Jazz"

Day 1: I Am Jazz

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Day 1
I Am Jazz
by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings
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With gratitude to
Susie (copy in Biloxi, MS)
&
Jessica Herthel (copy in Brookline, MA)

for this life-changing donation!


UPDATE: July 2015
Jazz featured on ABC News about her show on TLC!

Be the Change
This book  has made a huge difference in my family’s life, and across the US and beyond. It was published in September 2014. Amazingly, as I was in the process of writing this blog, a friend sent me this video.

Here, I Am Jazz was performed by 5th graders in my friend’s community in December 2014. Talk about dramatic impact – within 3 months of publication!

Favorite Quote
Here Charles Girard, Welcoming Schools Project Coordinator, writes about the play performed at the Malcolm X Elementary School in Berkeley, CA:

Right before the play ends and the class dances with a little help from Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” Jazz’s character addresses the audience:

“I don’t mind being different. Different is special. I think what matters most is what a person is like inside. And, inside, I’m proud of who I am.”

These inspiring words go beyond Jazz’s gender identity – they show the real changes that today’s youth are seeing as they grow up in a culture that is increasingly embracing – and celebrating – diversity.

As Charles Girard notes, our youth are “increasingly embracing – and celebrating –  diversity.” Indeed, they are teaching the rest of us – bravely, beautifully and courageously.

Thanks Jazz, the youth at Malcolm X Elementary School, and all of you who are celebrating diversity in ways both big and small.

Every little bit of celebration you can offer to an individual, your community, or to yourself helps. Just look at the impact a book with only 32 pages is making!

How Do You Celebrate Diversity?
Do you have a favorite book that celebrates diversity? Have you read I Am Jazz?

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 book-a-day blog.

Click the image below to support the Celebration Tour.

What's your favorite book for youth of DSG?

Click here to donate a book to change – even save – a life!

Thank you for your generosity!

In celebration~
Melita

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Click here to gift this book, or another book, to the Celebration Tour!

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