Yesterday was a long day. I was up early for last minute stapling, and then I was off to spend my day asking where people were from. Last year I asked people at the Zinefest to share a book they had read recently. This year I tied my question in to my new zine, Whereverland, which explores my here-and-there roots, with a new question: Where are you from?
For many, it was a straightforward question. They wrote their answers with confidence. Others shared several answers. ”I’m not from only one place,” a woman said almost apologetically as she wrote the names of three different cities. By the end of the day, I had collected many, many places. Some came with tidbits of trivia: Did you know that Waseca, WI is the home of Cool Whip? I did not. Some were from far away (three from China, two from Germany, one from Australia), but most were from Minneapolis or very close. I loved the neighborhood pride that popped up occasionally. Powderhorn, Northeast, Bryn Mawr, and Uptown are all represented at least once.
As for me, I like to say that I’m from Minnesota, but you can read more about that in Whereverland. :)
Twenty years ago I might as well have been living in a bunker without access to the outside world for all I knew about music or pop culture. Don’t get me wrong. My family owned a television and lived a generally normal life. We just weren’t tuned in to some things. Mostly I think that was a good thing. But occasionally I find that there are gaps. For example, I would not have recognized a Beatles song until I was an adult. Not kidding.
This weekend I found another gap: Nirvana. I’d always told myself that I was too young. I was only a young teen in the early 90′s after all, but the crowd at the Uptown Cheapo store for the In Utero tribute on Saturday afternoon wasn’t any older than me. Actually many were younger. The musicians on stage spoke of memories of Cheapo, Nirvana, and being a teenager, and I found myself considering my gaps. So I missed it the first time around. This is clearly something worth going back for.
HighTV covering Nirvana at Cheapo
When it comes to books, I live in the future. The nature of my job means I’m reading books before they are released. My desk is stacked with 2014 titles right now, and it’s hard to look back to a previous publishing season to a title I didn’t get around to last year, or even earlier. If I miss something, I’ve missed it. Or so it seems sometimes.
I feel like I should conclude with something profound about balance, but I think I’ll just turn on some music.
Maybe I should start listening to The Current’s Teenage Kicks occasionally? I’ll catch up with the rest of you eventually.
Fall is for dreaming. The leaves haven’t even started to turn yet, but it seems that we have our eyes fixed on what lies ahead.
My daughter’s school sent home a blank cloud for us to share our hopes for the new school year. The new minister at the Unitarian Universalist church I’ve been attending asked the audience at last Sunday’s service to scribble aspirations for the upcoming season of assemblies on scraps of paper, which he collected and read aloud. My partner is already figuring out ways to make his fall as fulfilling as his summer was with music and travel at the forefront. It’s catching, I think. The more everyone talks about their dreams, writes about them, the more I start to imagine my own cloud filled with writing and ideas and opportunities. Thanks for the push, everyone.
Fall is in the air, and it is beautiful.
This week and next are all about zines. The Twin Cities Zine Fest is September 21st at Powderhorn Park. I’ll have new stuff available, and I hope to see you there.
Through the luck of the library hold list draw I went from reading an ARC of Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan to a library copy of Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I think I had tears in my eyes the entire time I read these books back to back.
Two Boys Kissing a a teen novel about a couple of gay teens trying to win the world record for the longest kiss. In the hands of David Levithan, one of my personal favorite YA writers, the story becomes about more than winning a record or about making a statement about gay rights. He uses an unusual narrator to tell a larger story. Our storyteller is an omniscient view from the collective voice of gay men who have passed. They watch the characters being so open with their sexuality and speak of their experiences before being out was okay, before AIDS was a thing. It was very powerful, and it is easily one of my favorite books of the year.
Then I picked up Tell the Wolves I’m Home from the library. I’d been waiting for the book for months, and it seemed serendipitous that it arrived in my hands when it did. This book is set in the 1980′s, when AIDS was just beginning to be a thing. June’s uncle whose relationship to the family is strained because he was gay has just died, and June is devastated. She tries to understand the choices her family made. But it’s hard to make sense of why we choose to cut off the ones we love the most when they make choices we don’t understand.
I was reminded of these words from the collective narrator of Two Boys Kissing (quoted from ARC):
“So many of us had to make our own families. So many of us had to pretend when we were home. So many of us had to leave. But every single one of us wishes we hadn’t had to. Every single one of us wishes our family had acted like our family, that even when we found a new family, we hadn’t had to leave the other one behind. Every single one of us would have loved to have been loved unconditionally by our parents.”
It’s gotten better for LGBT kids, I think. I hope. But I know that there are still some who have to deal with families who want nothing to do with them. It breaks my heart to think about the people I know personally who are separated from their families for reasons like this.
Stories like these make me hug my daughter tightly and promise to love her no matter what. I hope she knows that she can make different choices than the ones I made without fear of losing us. We will always act like her family.
Find Two Boys Kissing at your library or buy it from an indie bookstore. Then you’ll probably want to do the same for Tell the Wolves I’m Home–library or indie bookstore.
My daughter is different from me. She is our neighborhood welcoming committee. She never misses an opportunity to meet a new friend at the park, at the store, or through our living room windows. Frankly I get a kick out of it.
That isn’t me. In classic librarian fashion, I’m more introverted. Sure, I’ve gotten pretty decent at faking extroversion over the years. I can hold my own in a trade show booth and enjoy it, and I’ve done a fair amount of public speaking. But I’m far from greeting random passersby out my windows. And given the choice, I’d probably sit in the grass with a good book rather than approach strangers at a park.
My daughter’s extroverted tendencies–and I always speak of these traits as tendencies rather than absolutes–are delightful and at times nerve-wracking. Sometimes putting yourself out there can hurt. Sometimes people are mean. Usually, though, saying hello is great. You might make a new friend, learn something new, or travel on an adventure. Like Ruby in Philip Stead’s new picture book Hello, My Name is Ruby.
Ruby is a little bird who says hello to every bird she meets. Usually, it’s awesome.
But every once in a while, it isn’t, and Ruby feels a bit sad.
It’s an ode to the extroverted. Just like Eileen Spinelli’s When No One is Watching is an ode to the introverted. Together, the books make a an opportunity to appreciate everyone’s tendencies.
Miss last month’s Book Pick? See Mouse Bird Snake Wolf by David Almond
Check out Hello, My Name is Ruby at your local library or buy it at an indie bookstore. You might also be interested in When No One is Watching from a library or bookstore.
I don’t have the time to write something about each and every book I read. I try to keep track in Goodreads, but I can never quite keep up. In any case, here are a few sentences for some books I’ve read recently.
- Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean Pendziwol – I will freely admit that I have a particular weakness for winter-related picture books. Like a good Minnesotan, I love to romanticize wintry weather for all the magic it offers. This picture book turns the idea of winter into a lullaby. The illustrations are striking and beautiful. Well worth checking out. Find it at your library or buy it at an independent bookstore.
- Emmaline and the Bunny by Katherine Hannigan – Technically, I suppose I still have a chapter left to read on this book. I’m reading it aloud to my daughter, and we are quite enjoying it. There are lots of fun words to say (dinglederrydoo and hoopalala) and plenty of alliteration, wordplay, and general silliness to make a good read-aloud. Check out the author’s web site for instructions on drawing a bunny. Find it at your library or buy it at an independent bookstore.
- A Matter of Life by Jeffrey Brown – This graphic novel memoir of faith and fatherhood is a quick read full of real moments of life with a preschooler along with memories from Brown’s childhood. He was raised in a religious family, but he has since moved away from his childhood faith, which makes for some awkwardness with various family members. Brown won the Eisner Award for Best Humor Publication for his previous book Darth Vader and Son. Find it at your library or buy it at an independent bookstore.
You can like this blog on Facebook for regular #Fridayreads posts. As usual, it’s all over the map. Some Fridays, it’s a picture book. Other Fridays, it’s a teen novel. Occasionally I even read books for adults. :)
My partner and I don’t agree on everything. But we do agree on post-rock. Friday night we were out together without the five year-old for the first time a what felt like a long time, but it wasn’t really a date night. His band was playing that night and celebrating the release of a split EP, so he was busy with last minute details for the show and networking–the life of a local rock star is a glamorous one–while I enjoyed the music.
Falcon Arrow, a local post-rock duo, opened the show. They have been around for a couple of years, but they were new to me. And I loved it. When I re-connected with Chad later in the evening, he had procured a Falcon Arrow CD. It seems we still have something in common, after all. :)
Check out Falcon Arrow on Bandcamp for their latest. Here’s a video from the album:
“I didn’t want a big wedding myself, but I love when other people do,” I said to a friend this past weekend while people bustled all around setting up, taking photos, and practicing their roles in the day’s event.
I was very early for the festivities since my partner was playing a role in the wedding, and my role was mainly staying out of the way while trying to explain to my daughter why she wasn’t chosen as the flower girl. If I had been thinking like a librarian I would have made sure to reread Lilly’s Big Day by Kevin Henkes or some other not-the-flower-girl picture book before we left for the out-of-town wedding weekend. But I wasn’t thinking like a librarian. I was thinking like a romantic.
At this wedding, it seems they were thinking like storytellers. The vows were more than promises to each other. They were thank yous to every one of the guests for sticking with the couple through what had been some ups and downs in their history. The bride told her story of how they met and courted, and the groom his. Then they promised to use their strengths to take their story into the future.
The best thing about stories is that they are contagious.
On the way home from Duluth, my daughter asked for our story. ”How did you and Papa meet?” I smiled as I thought about how far our story stretches back now. It’s hard to believe it’s been over ten years since our meet-cute moment, and it’ll soon be nine since we spoke our promises in front of a small group of our loved ones. A lot has changed since then, and we are still speaking promises to each other.
Since we got home, my daughter has been thinking like a matchmaker. She’s already wondering which of the couples we know will be the next to wed and who their flower girl will be.
It was, indeed, a lovely wedding.
Photo above from A Kiss for Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Get it from your library or an independent bookseller. I also mentioned Lilly’s Big Day. Check that out or buy it.
Earlier this week, I sat at the Wood Tick table at Camp Read-a-Lot. Fortunately, there were no actual wood ticks. Just teachers, librarians, and books. Lots of books. I started the morning by standing up in front of everyone and talking about books. I made sure to wiggle my toes and listen for background sounds to calm my nerves as a friend had suggested. I hope it worked. It was all a bit of a blur, to be honest.
The real memorable Camp moments were later when William Alexander took the stage. Here is a writer who knows what stories can do. He spoke of the contradictory way people perceive fantastic fiction–it’s silly or foolish, but it’s also dangerous. Not unlike the way comic books or video games are often perceived. As a culture, we keep fighting over fiction without taking into account that we are wired for storytelling. We need stories–foolish and serious. Kids, especially, need stories of all sorts as they work out the intricacies of their worlds.
At this point in the presentation, I was live tweeting as quickly as I could. Eventually I stopped trying to tweet it all, but not before he thanked librarians and teachers for perpetuating the love of reading aloud. He said, “Read aloud always. Learn what delicious language tastes like.”
I have to admit, I haven’t read Goblin Secrets. Even after it won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, I didn’t give it a chance. Frankly, it’s rare that I pick up a fantasy novel. But I have been won over. In this PW interview Alexander said, “The thing about all stories, really, but especially about fantasy, is that they have the potential to throw our basic assumptions about ourselves into question.” Perhaps it’s time I gave the genre another chance.
I came across Want to be in a Band? at work recently as I was going through some new picture books, and I paused. It isn’t often you find a picture book that is one part memoir, one part instruction manual for the music industry. And it’s illustrated by one of my favorite illustrators?! Love.
I wasn’t familiar with Suzzy Roche of the family folk-band The Roches before this book. I’ll add it to the list of trivia I have learned from my work in the book industry. In any case, Ms. Roche reveals the secrets to successful musicianship. Here they are for anyone secretly harboring a desire for family folk band stardom: A lot of practice, a lot of shows, and not letting the critics get you down. Most of all, it’s about love. Love for the music and love for your sisters. That’s the important thing, she says.
Maybe I liked the book because I have a thing for memoirs and picture book memoirs are so rare. Or maybe it’s because I really do want to be in a band despite my ridiculous lack of musicality. Actually, it’s probably because I’ve been listening to a lot of The Ericksons (a local sister band with a folk/rock sound) lately, and I can’t help but wonder if they sing at breakfast. Because that’s what being in a family band is like, right? Perhaps Roche spoiled the fantasy a little bit with her pragmatism, but next to Giselle Potter’s folk art style illustrations, I’ll allow it.
Whatever the reality, sisters can make some lovely music. Here is “Where Do You Dwell?” for you to listen to while you imagine a life in which you practice a lot, play a lot of small shows, ignore the naysayers, and just love music.
Find Want to be in a Band? from your local library or support an independent bookstore. No affiliate stuff here. Just trying to support my fellowbook people. :)
Also, you can name your price for The Ericksons music here.