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Friday, July 15, 2011

The Wakanheza Project Principle 6: The Moment

From The Wakanheza Project Agency, Business and Community Organizing Guide:
The Moment. The Wakanheza Project is all about suspending judgment, understanding the impacts of powerlessness and environment, appreicating culture, and practicing empathy and respect. We all have the ability, and the obligation, to show sincere caring, kindness and respect in the moment. We cannot change the past or predict the future, but if we practice The Wakanheza Project principles in any given moment, we can reduce the harsh treatment of children and isolation and harm of young people, and improve the lives for families and communities.

I think this concept is especially relevant in libraries. We only see a snapshot of the people who come in our libraries. Even in small towns, we don't know all the past and future things that shape people's lives. It can be paralyzing (and unrealistic) to think about what we can do to Solve the Problem (someone's financial stress, a kid who is treated harshly, teens who seem disconnected and surly). For me, it is much less paralyzing to think, "what can I do, in this very moment, that will help make this moment better?"

In the long run, sometimes it is the small kindnesses we offer that actually do make a big difference in people's lives. I can think of several cases where that has been the case for me--someone else's assistance or help in a stressful moment have made that moment bearable, and have had a ripple effect for me and my loved ones. Sometimes I wish I could track all those people down and tell them about that!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Super-cool Odds and Ends

The Stoop Singers, an up-and-coming traditional 2-piece string band from Eau Claire, performed at the Fall Creek Public Library as part of their Summer Library Program.

Jenna Gilles, youth services librarian, said:

"We had a great time a few weeks ago with The Stoop Singers! Here are some photos from the event! It was great b/c they played some instrumental, threw in some fun facts about musical instruments, and related very well to the kiddos! " Dancing was inspired, as you can see here:

On another note, thanks to Hollis Helmeci for sending in this information about a neato-keen bookmark project that looks like this:

That looks fun! Directions are on the wonderfully-named blog: I Could Do That!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Review and Digressions: This Girl Is Different

Johnson, J.J. This Girl Is Different. Peachtree, 2011 (978-1-45145-578-2)
(gr. 7-12) Evie has been homeschooled all her life, but decides that she is interested in attending school for her senior year, just to experience it before she heads off to Cornell to study Urban Planning (with a concentration in Social Justice). She gets more than she bargained for. Having a crush and then falling in love do a number on her self-confident, independent spirit at times. Well-educated in the balance of power and its misuse, she finds the strictures and rules of school, along with the inequality and disrespect, difficult to swallow. Her attempts to address these wrongs end up backfiring, putting in jeopardy nearly everything she values.

Evie’s voice is engaging, she is a likeable character, trying to balance her own strong values, opinions and education with the new information coming in. She has believable prejudices and preconceptions, even though she tries not to. But she is also admirable in her ability to examine them and move on. Her two new friends help her to do that.

Coming from a family that homeschools, I notice a few things about every novel I’ve read about kids who home school, and this one certainly falls into that category. Somehow, despite the fact that most of these books include characters who are fascinating, interesting, and attractively true-to-themselves, the kids don’t seem to have any sort of social life beyond their families. Before she goes to school, Evie has a mom, an uncle, and…that’s about it. No family friends. No yoga classmates, even though she is adept at yoga. No email correspondents from previous homes. This irritates me, since every homeschooling family I know is deeply involved in one community or another, and kids have strong relationships with other kids.

My daughters both enjoyed this book, though another point of irritation for both of them is how often books about homeschoolers portray them as being completely off-the-wall, from very alternative families. Sure, we know our share of very unusual kids who homeschool, and some of them come from families that are pretty far from mainstream. And to be fair, it is a non-mainstream practice, homeschooling. But most homeschoolers—families and kids—are more regular. You can find another un-schooler's reaction to the book here. This frustration with the book was mitigated slightly for my daughters by the facts that Evie’s mother works at Wal-Mart (though this didn’t ring completely true for me), and Evie is likeable, smart, and believable.

There is a lot of discussion about the importance of writing authentically, particularly in multicultural circles and the disability community. Someone from a community, or with a deep tie to it, is much more likely to be able to get it right when it comes to the feel, the details. I am more aware than ever of the importance of this when I read a book about a character who is part of a community I am part of, myself. Another example: when I read the novel Good Enough, by Paula Yoo, I was astonished at the number accurate details about being a serious violinist (I’m not one, but my oldest daughter is), and wasn't surprised to find out that the author herself is a violist. If I Stay, which has several unbelievable details about being a dedicated student cellist rubbed me the wrong way all the way through, even though it was extremely well- reviewed and got much more attention than Good Enough did. It distracted me from the main plot. I notice this when reading about homeschoolers, now, too.

I wonder about all the inaccurate details in books where I don’t have an inside scoop. Literature is a way to explore things outside ourselves, both as writers and as readers. But shouldn’t research be part of that exploration? And shouldn’t research include meeting some real people who are part of the community you are trying to incorporate into your work? Is research enough? Maybe. Or maybe not, maybe you have a different take on this.

Overall, I recommend this book, even though it inspired such a lengthy rant on my part. It is interesting, very readable, has romance, relationships, and plenty of page-turning plot. And, as you can clearly see, it was thought-provoking, at least for me!