24 Hour Library

A Library Blog by Abby Hargreaves

Month: November 2016

Projects: DNC Voting Members List

See update notes at the bottom of the article.

When it was announced that Bernie Sanders was endorsing Keith Ellison for Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, I knew I had to do something. It was evident I (we) hadn’t done enough during the primaries for Bernie, so I decided to take on a huge project. As it turns out, the Democratic National Committee does not publish a full list of their voting members, nor their contact information. In fact, the circumstances surrounding the election were hazy a few weeks ago — who, exactly, was eligible to vote? How did voting happen? When would it occur? I started to piece together what I learned from various articles on the election (they were few and far between prior to this week). I learned that state democratic committees had officers who had the power to vote in this election. I learned that state chairs and vice chairs were eligible. I learned DNC committeemen/committeewomen were eligible. I learned that the eligible voting population was made up of about 445 individuals. Beyond that? It was unclear.

With that information, I started putting together a spreadsheet that included the names of state chairs, vice chairs, secretaries*, treasurers*, and committeemen and – women. The process was slow. I spent hours visiting each state committee’s website, hunting down their officials page (which was different from their staff and elected officials) and deciphering their contact information. I copied what I could into my spreadsheet, often revisiting a state’s page after I learned some trick from another state’s website. As it turns out, although these committees all feed into the larger DNC, there’s no streamlining. You can’t expect each site to look the same, let alone hold the same information. While some sites (the more progressive ones, I noted) provided spreadsheets with voting members’ (and other committee members’) names, titles, phone, email, and mailing addresses, others would not even provide the name of the chairperson. So, not only was the DNC obscuring their membership, but so were state committees, thus excluding “the People” from the democratic process of, you know, the Democratic Party.

I still hadn’t hit the 445 mark by the time I felt I’d done all I could this afternoon, but it was something. I checked the news one more time to see if they might have leads on who else I might include in my list. As it turns out, Andrew Prokop had posted one week ago today an article describing the process and, lo and behold, strong agreement that there was a whole lot of lack of transparency going on and no official voting roster to be found. He also had created a list similar to mine. I’ve looked over it — his list is more complete and does not erroneously include secretaries and treasurers, but he has not (yet) provided contact information. Therefore, I’ve decided to publish what I have.

Using Prokop’s list moving forward, I hope to add what I currently have missing with the inclusion of what contact information there is to be found. In the meantime, if you would like voting committee members from your state to support Keith Ellison (or one of the other candidates), I hope you’ll find the appropriate members on my list and get in touch.

The Voting DNC Members list can be found here, in Google Sheets.

*I have since learned that secretaries and treasurers are not voting members, but I’ve kept them on my list for the sake of completeness.

 

Update 12/1/2016: Highlighted position-confirmed voting members to include chairs, vice chairs, and DNC members. Cross-checked several supposed voting members on my list with Prokop’s list. Found discrepancies. My list is only as up-to-date as the state’s websites, and I’m guessing their sites are less up-to-date than the list Prokop put together from the DNC.

Show Off: Retellings

With a new film adaptation of Anne of Green Gables recently broadcast on PBS (which you can stream on the PBS website until December 22, 2016) and the upcoming adaptation of Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson, it felt like the perfect time to showcase some of the Alexandria Public Library’s access to retellings of classic novels and fairy tales in the young adult fiction section. I was surprised at how many were available in the stacks. Not only were there retellings that stuck fairly strictly to the original material, but there were plenty that only followed the originals loosely. Below are the results of the display for the first week, though it needed significant restocking throughout its display life. I’ve included a list of the titles I used on the display.

The flyer posted with the display explaining the theme also included a list of other titles available throughout the system, which patrons might place a hold on to come to the Duncan branch or pick up at its owning branch after searching the catalog for the item.

Each book sat with a bookmark encouraging browsers to check them out and with a secret message lower down, hidden in the pages of the book. I always found as a browser at public libraries when I was a teenager that I was never sure if the books on display could be checked out or not. In fact, I was convinced they could not be checked out because doing so would disturb the display and leave a gap! Knowing what I know now, this sounds ridiculous. I’m inclined to believe, however, that plenty of people who browse my displays have the same feelings of uncertainty now, so I feel it’s really important to indicate somewhere on the display that patrons are allowed and even encouraged to check out items on the display.

What retellings do you love?

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Titles Used on Display

Dark Companion Acosta, Marta
Everneath Ashton, Brodi
The Looking Glass Wars Beddor, Frank
Jekel Loves Hyde Beth Fantaskey
Antigoddess Blake, Kendare
A Curse as Dark as Gold Bunce, Elizabeth C.
Abandon Cabot, Meg
The Goddess Test Carter, Aimee
Oh My Gods Childs, Tera Lynn
Sweet Venom Childs, Tera Lynn
Goddess of Yesterday Cooney, Caroline B.
Black Spring Croggan, Alison
Entwined Dixon, Heather
Prom & Prejudice Eulberg, Elizabeth
The Sea of Trolls Farmer, Nancy
Bewitching Flinn, Alex
Towering Flinn, Alex
Nobody’s Princess Friesner, Esther
Masque of Red Death Griffin, Bethany
The Fall Griffin, Bethany
Just Ella Haddix, Margaret Peterson
If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince? Kantor, Melissa
Enchanted Kontis, Alethea
Tender Morsels Lanagan, Margo
Catherine Lindner, April
Ash Lo, Malinda
A Court of Thorns and Roses Maas, Sarah J.
Throne of Glass Maas, Sarah J.
September Girls Madison, Bennett
Eyes Like Stars Mantchev, Lisa
Wildwood Dancing Marillier, Juilet
Spindle’s End McKinley, Robin
Cleopatra Confesses Meyer, Carolyn
Cinder Meyer, Marissa
Prophecy Oh, Ellen
This Dark Endeavor Oppel, Kenneth
Dorothy Must Die Paige, D. M.
East Pattou, Edith
Fathomless Pearce, Jackson
Sistes Read Pearce, Jackson
Life After Theft Pike, Aprilynne
Withering Tights Rennison, Louise
Cleopatra’s Moon Shecter, Vicky
A Long, Long Sleep Sheehan, Anna
The Madman’s Daughter Shepherd, Megan
Her Dark Curiosity Shepherd, Megan
Alice in Zombieland Showalter, Gena
Enthusiasm Shulman, Polly
Man Made Boy Skovron, Jon
Nameless St. Crow, Lili
The Chaos of Stars White, Kiersten
Briar Rose Yolen, Jane
Sass & Serendipity Ziegler, Jennifer

Abby Reads: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
Balzer + Bray, 2016, 352 pages
YA Realistic Fiction

Jeff Garvin’s Symptoms of Being Human tells the story of Riley, a genderqueer* teen who struggles with their identity especially as they deal with their father’s political campaign, a new school, and all the usual challenges of being an American adolescent. To help deal with some of these challenges, Riley starts an anonymous blog about their life as a genderqueer teen. It’s not long before their identity is discovered by someone at school, though, and Riley has to contend with the harassment and bullying surrounding them.

Jeff Garvin uses masculine pronouns on his website and I saw him speak at the NoVa Teen Book Festival, so based on what I heard there and his site, I believe he is cisgender (which means he was born and assigned male at birth and identifies as a man). There’s quite a bit of contention around the majority writing about the minority. This is especially true when the content of the writing focuses on the specific issues involved with the identity at hand. It’s one thing to write, as a white man, for example, about a black man who is working through the grief of the death of a pet. It’s another thing to write, as a white man, about the specific racial oppression he encounters as a black individual in the throes of job searching. So, right off the bat, Garvin stats off with the deck stacked against him because Symptoms isn’t just about a teen who happens to be genderqueer. It’s about how at teen lives their life as a genderqueer individual.

That said, I don’t want to tear Garvin down for writing about a genderqueer teen when he is not one. He’s brought into the world a representation of someone who is rarely represented. And while we certainly can and should be doing a better job of representing all kinds of people, there’s something to be said for at least making a start of it, even when it might be misguided. Some readers who are genderqueer have weighed in on Garvin’s book, and I highly encourage you to read their thoughts rather than rely on my own above. Like Garvin, I’m cisgender and really don’t have the authority to speak at length on this. I’ll leave it at: this is potentially problematic and Garvin certainly gets some things wrong according to some readers who would know better. I think that’s valuable information to have going into the book, especially if you might find that content triggering.

But I’m never one to slam a whole book based on one aspect (I see that as an attack on intellectual freedom), so moving on from that one admittedly large issue – one of the main concerns Garvin had writing the book was how to make the lack of pronouns feel natural in Riley’s story. Garvin does not ever reveal Riley’s biological sex – nor does he need to. Garvin even avoids letting the perception of characters around Riley interfere with the lack of gender the readers experience with Riley. There are only a handful of lines where the lack of gendered pronoun feels obvious and unnatural from a writing perspective. Garvin avoids using the non-gendered “they,” too, which works well, most of the time.

None of this takes away from the rawness of Riley’s story. In a scene which graphically depicts an assault (warning, for readers who might want to avoid sexual assault content), the immediacy of the moment makes for a powerful passage that demands the reader’s attention and investment. The authenticity with which Garvin describes this scene helps bring it home and achieves an extraordinary amount of empathy in the reader. At the same time, the scenes following this one tend to be toned down in the authenticity and, frankly, basis in reality. The change which takes place in Riley as a growing human seems too stark a change for them (or most humans), and left me a bit disappointed in the conclusion.

One final piece is this: I did not find Riley a very compelling character overall. They lacked a personality I could get my hooks into. I suspect this has something to do with Garvin not wanting to inadvertently favor one set of traditional gender expectations over another and therefore vaguely indicate Riley’s biological sex one way or another. I can see how doing so might hurt the narrative, but with enough balance and editing, I think that could have been avoided. Still, Riley is a person who makes mistakes and, when they do have a personality, isn’t always reasonable or likable. This was a nice twist on the typical YA character who often cannot do wrong.

For an exercise in empathy and an opportunity to read about a group of people who are too-frequently overlooked, Symptoms of Being Human isn’t the worst place to start. I’d still recommend reading accounts from people who aregenderqueer. But sometimes, we’ve got to work with what we’ve got. In this case, Garvin’s novel seems to be fairly well-researched and he clearly is dedicated to giving these voices a platform.

 

*I am using this specific terminology because that is how Riley describes themselves in the book. I recognize this is potentially problematic due to the issues discussed in the second paragraph, but I hope with this note, readers will understand my intent.

 

❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: Vicious Little Darlings by Katherine Easer

Vicious Little Darlings by Katherine Easer
Bloomsbury USA, 2012, 320 pages
YA Thriller

Vicious Little Darlings by Katherine Easer came into my life as a result of looking for books that take places at women’s colleges. In my attempt to find such novels for the purpose of writing one of my own, I’ve been severely disappointed at the lack of them. I can’t say I’m really all that surprised about it, though. I came upon Vicious Little Darlings and felt optimistic about it — after all, it had been written by an alumna of a women’s college, so she had to know what she was talking about.

The disappointment continued. The title pretty much sums up everything as simply as possible. Easer’s depiction of women — and of vaguely-identified lesbian, bisexual, and asexual women in particular — is almost hateful. Let me set the scene for you. We begin with Sarah, who, living with her grandmother is sent to a women’s college across the country due to her boy-crazy lifestyle. Sarah, the first-person narrator, spends a good deal of the book slut-shaming herself while simultaneously criticizing the lack of boys at her school and desperately pursuing any opportunity to meet boys. But, okay — humans have conflicting and complicated feelings and, while I disagreed with Sarah on her attitude, I held out hope that through her narrative, she would come to a change in the end, having learned empowerment.

No such luck. Sarah talks about feminism as a sort of disease one contracts while attending a women’s college. Yikes. This kind of talk is especially prevalent toward the beginning of the book, but persists throughout, even when she starts to recognize some of her own actions as feminist (debatable, I think). It’s at this point she considers herself maybe-infected and she’s disturbed about it. Another yikes.

Anyway, Sarah makes friends — sort of — with the strange and lying Maddy and the off-putting Agnes. Despite Maddy’s lies, Agnes is obsessed with Maddy and they have this really odd friendship going on that makes Sarah uncomfortable. The three decide, however, to rent a home to live in off-campus and drama ensues.

Through much of this book, I was waiting for some kind of supernatural element to appear — it never did. It felt like it should, given the generally oddness of the entire novel and the tension that never felt real, but there was nothing. Despite the odd tension, the book moves very slowly with little action until the final few chapters, where everything happens all at once and oh-god-make-it-stop-it’s-too-fast-what-just-happened goes down. And, too, despite the drama of these last moments (melodramatic, even, like a lot of the prose), the direction of the main plot wasn’t strong enough for me to get a grasp on. It wasn’t until the very end that I understood how things had led to other things. In some novels, this works incredibly well; not so much, in this one.

The novel’s events are ridiculous — some of them I couldn’t help but share in a live-blog fashion through Facebook. It was just too much. As they say, I couldn’t even.

For all her anti-feminism and slut-shaming, Sarah is, compared to Maddy and Agnes, pretty normal. She’s fairly believable as a character, though she takes on the I’m-really-good-at-drawing trope like the millions of other young adult protagonists. She’s manipulated by both Maddy and Agnes as humans are wont to do, so I don’t find the manipulation and, frankly, abuse unbelievable — but Maddy and Agnes? I think I half-expected to find out they were figments of Sarah’s imagination. No such luck. The most glaring personality trait I found was Agnes’s style of speaking. It’s tight, it’s lofty, and it’s completely unlike anything I’ve ever heard come out of the mouth of a teenager or twenty-something in earnest. I can handle some of this in light doses when it’s intended to convey the personality of a character, but the heavy-handedness of it made it to unrealistic. Maddy, meanwhile, could perhaps be explained by a psychological disorder, but I still found much of her character to be unbelievable.

Truth be told, none of the characters had likable personalities. This wasn’t the horrible kind of character you like, either (you know, the ones you shouldn’t sympathize with, but do, anyway? Loki? Kylo Ren? Pretty much the whole cast of The Secret History?) Make of that what you will, but I found it disheartening especially when the women I knew at my women’s college will full of heart and bravery while being so kind and thoughtful.

If you’re looking at this story for lessons, the one I come away with is, “See?! This is what happens when you have an environment of all women! Chaos! Violence! The collapse of society as we know it!” It’s silly and ridiculous and, honestly, kind of offensive. I had sincerely hoped that as an insider to women’s institutions, Easer would flip the tables on her anti-feminist character in a way that wasn’t a cliche or an attack on the values so many women’s institutions hold. I was severely disappointed.

I can’t, in good faith, recommend this book, even my own feelings about equality and such aside. I so wanted this to work out, but with a lack of direction, characters I can’t believe, and a plot I can’t make much out of, I leave Vicious Little Darlings with one heart.

❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

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