The difference a prosthetic can make

I am well aware that if I had been born in a different time or place my life would not be what it is.  I might point to my eyeglasses and reference my very poor unassisted vision as one way my life would have been quite different if I’d been born a few hundred years ago.  But I think that my prosthetic arm is the more obvious tie to the modern era that I rely on regularly.

I might argue that I can’t go without my glasses for more than a few minutes, and I can go without my fake arm for days if necessary, but the truth is that I don’t want to go without either.  There are plenty of one armed people who don’t use prosthetics– and most insurance companies will consider them cosmetic–but I can’t imagine my life without mine.

IMG_0140.JPGI wish I had a cool story like the girl in A Time to Dance who was able to live her dream of pursuing a career in dance even after losing her foot because of her prosthetic leg.  Yes, it’s fiction (teen fiction, to be specific), but there’s a real precedent there.  For Veda in the story, it is obvious how having a prosthetic leg changed her life.  It opened her to opportunities that were otherwise closed.  Sometimes I can forget that that’s possible.

My prosthesis is neither here nor there in my dreams, which revolve around books, libraries, and writing.  My story is nowhere near as dramatic as the usual inspirational novel.  And the truth is that if I’d never had a prosthetic arm, my life may very well be basically the same.

I have no idea what I would do with my hair without my prosthetic arm, but I’m sure I would have figured out something.

The real story is this: I have had my prosthetic arm since before I can remember.  It has always been a part of me.  I am not sure how much it has changed my life to have had it.  It simply is my life.  I could probably live without it if I had to, but I really don’t want to.  It does make my life much easier, and I definitely need it to put my hair in a pony tail.

My story isn’t an inspirational novel.  My story is set in a world where I haven’t had to consider “Ugly Laws” or other limitations.  I live after the Americans with Disabilities Act made accommodations available to those who needed them, and I’ve never need any anyway.  I was able to pursue whatever career I wanted, and I never had to worry if I would be barred from anything because of what I lacked.

I am very grateful that I live here and now. But even in the here and now, prosthetics are prohibitively expensive for many.

When I read stories like A Time to Dance, I am reminded of how powerful access to prosthetics can be, how it can truly change people’s lives.  I’ll never know how my life would be different without my prosthetic arm, if at all, but I am extremely grateful that my parents made it happen for me.  I would love to give someone else a chance to experience what prosthetics can do.  Perhaps it will be integral to their dream.  Or maybe it will be integral to their sense of identity.  Either way, I think it’s a worthy cause.

Consider a donation to the charity that made my prosthetic arms possible: Shriner’s Hospital for Children Twin Cities.  Or explore other options for limb deficient people who find that their insurance does not cover prosthetic devices or their repair such as Limbs for Life.


Note: This is not a sponsored post, and the book was a library copy.


Reading while waiting

IMG_0178.JPGI’ve had a bit of extra reading time over the past couple of days as I’ve mostly been stuck in a jury waiting room.  I didn’t really think about my reading choice for the first day of jury duty; I just grabbed a book from my library stack.  How was I to know that I’d grabbed a road trip novel that typifies a wandering spirit on a day when I was confined to an underground room?  Despite the circumstances, I did enjoy the story.  And I had plenty of time to read it. ;)

Let’s Get Lost had several elements that I tend to like in a book.  It was a feel-good story of self discovery with a little bit of romance.  Not to mention a connection to the Twin Cities and references to music I like.

To celebrate a cute book and getting through my first two days of jury duty, I thought I’d share a musical connection to the book.  Here is Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Oh Comely,” which has a small but significant place in the story:

As a side note, when I got home from my day of jury duty during which I finished this book, my partner had Neutral Milk Hotel playing.  Weird, right?  I bring this up because I just read a book that focused on coincidences, and I’m seeing them everywhere these days.  If feel-good road trip romances aren’t your thing, maybe the thought-provoking suspense of She is Not Invisible is more your style.

Either way, don’t forget your book if you have jury duty.


Trends in Teen Fiction

A couple of weeks ago, a librarian colleague asked for some input on the trends in teen fiction for the year. Since I am getting ready for my team’s big Best New Titles Booktalk this fall, I have been knee deep in teen fiction.  Here’s what I’m seeing:

  • wewereliarsSecrets, Lies, and Unreliable NarratorsWe Were Liars has been one of the most anticipated and talked about titles this year, but it isn’t the only one that will keep you guessing.  Just a quick scan of the ARCs on my desk shows Little Blue Lies by Chris Lynch and Little White Lies by Katie Dale.  There are secrets in We are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt and What We Hide by Marthe Jocelyn.
  • Fish Out of Water – I have a small running list of teen fiction on this theme, and I’ve added three books to it already this year: Wild by Alex Mallory, Searching for Sky by Jillian Cantor, and Starbird Murphy and the World Outside by Karen Finneyfrock.
  • Multiple Perspectives – Of course there are the dual perspective romances following the popularity of Eleanor & Park, but there are also books that use multiple narrators to tell the story, like The Art of Secrets by James Klise, The Truth about Alice by Jennifer Mathieu, and A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall for example.

I’ve also seen at least three teen novels in 2014 or early 2015 that are about the rapture, which strikes me as an odd little mini trend.  That said, I did like the two rapture books I’ve read so far.  I’ll be curious to see what my colleagues come up with for #YAlittrends.  Watch the Teen Librarian’s Toolbox for updates.

Thursday 3: New Teen Fiction

Teen fiction is my preferred reading material, and I’ve been rather immersed in it in recent weeks as I prepped for a presentation at the Minnesota Educational Media Organization Conference in which realistic teen fiction was my responsibility. Here are a
few of my favorites from my part of the presentation.

  • Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon – It’s a novel set in hospice care, so be ready to cry. But it’s also pretty funny.
  • The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider – This romance/coming-of-age novel reminded me a bit of Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas, which I loved.
  • Hostage Three by Nick Lake – I read this modern day pirate thriller in one sitting. It doesn’t come out until November, so add it to your library hold list now.

  • My apologies for the lack of links and pictures in this post. I am having some computer issues, and I used the WordPress app on my phone to write this post.

    Where are you from?

    I’m sticking with the theme from my last post and my new zine, Whereverland, for today’s Thursday Three post.  I have three books in which moving and/or exploring one’s roots plays a role.

    • Tlittlefishhe Language Inside by Holly Thompson – Emma spent most of her life as an American living in Japan–that’s home.  Now she’s back in the States re-orienting to the place her parents have always thought of as “home.”  Really beautiful teen novel in verse that explores connecting with people, places, and poetry.  Teacher/Librarian note: There’s a discussion guide here. (Teen Fiction – Find it at your library or indie bookstore)
    • Little Fish by Ramsey Beyer – Ramsey Beyer captures her first year at art school in this graphic memoir.  She’s a blogger, zinester, and an artist, so I was obviously a little biased toward liking this book even before I started reading.  It’s a more innocent look at college–no parties or hangovers here–than you might find in other books, and Beyer’s sincerity and sweetness make this a cute coming of age book that zinesters and other creative sorts will enjoy.  (Teen/Adult Memoir – Find it at your library or indie bookstore)
    • Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan – This is an oldie, but it is not to be missed.  When Naomi’s mom returns and wants custody of Naomi (and not her brother who has a birth defect), Naomi explores her father’s side with a trip to Mexico.  That one sentence description hardly does the book justice.  It is a thoughtful look at identity and family.  A long-time favorite of mine.  (Children’s Fiction – Find it at your library or indie bookstore)

    Have you read anything that fits this theme?  What would you add?

    From Kissing to. . .

    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.

    twoboysTwo 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.

    tellthewolvesimhomeThen 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 Homelibrary or indie bookstore.

    May Book Pick: Formerly, Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham

    formerlysharkgirlWhen I’m talking to people about my prosthetic arm, I am quick to point out that I was born this way and that I’ve been wearing a prosthesis since before I can remember.  Most people assume that there was some kind of accident and subsequent rehabilitation, and they often ask questions around that assumption.

    Then since I’m a children’s librarian by trade, people will bring up Izzy Willy Nilly–a book in which a teenage girl loses a leg in a car accident–and I try to differentiate my experience from this classic teen novel that tends to be a lot of people’s only context for limb deficiency.  Izzy’s situation in the book is just as different to me as it is to anyone else.  There isn’t as much in common as you might think.  I’ve said those sentences many times over the years.

    But, honestly… I’m kind of lying.  Well, let’s call it exaggerating.  I do have a few key commonalities with Izzy in that book and with Jane, the main character in my Book Pick for May, Formerly, Shark Girl.  Izzy, Jane, and I all live with a lot of assumptions about who we are and what our lives are like.  We are heroes or victims.  Inspirations or curiosities.  But we’d like to be more.

    This is an uplifting novel about the big life decisions that will appeal to fans of realistic teen fiction, especially if you like novels in verse.  But it’s also an opportunity to challenge your assumptions about people who look different.

    If you are curious about my story, you can check out Fake Arm 101 for answers to some frequently asked questions. You can also find more reading material on my list of books about various disability experiences.

    Did you miss last month’s Book Pick?  Check it out: The Fairy Ring by Mary Losure.

    Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  A portion of purchases made from these links may benefit Proper Noun Blog.  Thanks for your support! :)

    The New Forever

    judyblumeFew writers can compare with Judy Blume.  Mostly because, it seems, few writers want to take on some of the subjects she was willing to write about–at least not for young people.  

    You will find some Judy Blume novel at the heart of some “growing up moments” for so many women.  You only have to read read Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume to see just how she influenced a generation with her fiction.

    A couple of the essays in Everything take on Forever… (a.k.a. The Sex Book), and Stacey Ballis describes it like this:

    Forever was the book that got passed reverentially from older sibling to younger, usually with key passages highlighted and essential page numbers listed in the back.  It was the book that we read aloud at slumber parties, whispered about in the back of the school bus, and was the single most likely item to be stolen from a sixth-grade desk.”

    foreverYes, the book’s notoriety among tweens and teens was related to the fact that it talks about sex.  But the book’s resonance went beyond the illicit content.  Ballis continues:

    “Judy Blume opened a door for me by simply depicting something real and not overly romanticized, which seemed to make it even more, well, romantic.”

    That’s what I was thinking about when the teen novel Anatomy of a Single Girl by Daria Snadowsky landed on my desk at work.  The ARC had an eye -catching jacket that promised the kind of illicit content that made Forever what it was.  In case you can’t read it in the photo below, the jacket says:


    Reading may produce the following side effects:

    Rosy cheeks

    Sweaty Palms

    Racing Heart”

    Snadowsky does make good on that promise.  There is sex in this book and plenty of it.  But what reminded me so strongly of Judy Blume was its lack of romance.  The sex in Anatomy of a Single Girl isn’t really about being erotic, despite what the warning might make you think.  It’s more clinical than sexy, and our narrator manages to be scientific and emotional.


    The story began with Anatomy of a Boyfriend, which follows the same storyline as Forever.  Life goes on, of course, even after a break up.  And we get the second installment in Anatomy of a Single Girl.   I don’t know if Snadowsky’s books will have the influence and staying power of Judy Blume’s books, but they definitely add to the list of books that answer all the questions about sex and relationships that girls are often afraid to ask.  I think that’s a good thing.

    Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  A portion of purchases made from these links may benefit this blog.  Thanks for your support! :)

    February Book Pick: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

    justoneday“We are born in one day. We die in one day. We can change in one day. And we can fall in love in one day. Anything can happen in just one day.”

    Here is a story for the romantic in you that touches on so many of the themes that make coming-of-age novels great.  There’s a whirlwind romance in a foreign country, an opportunity to be someone else just for a day, and then heartbreak.  And not just any kind of heartbreak.  The kind with no closure, no certainty of any kind.  Willem disappears while Allyson sleeps after they share one day in Paris.

    And that’s just the beginning of the book.

    I picked it up because I loved Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, and there was a lot to draw me in with Just One Day.  Frankly, I love find-yourself-while-traveling novels, of which there are many in teen fiction.  But this is less about the romance and the travel in this book than one might think.  It’s more about what comes after.  How do you come back from an experience like that?  For Allyson, the question is whether she can still be who she was before.  The girl who lived out her mother’s plans and followed every rule.  It’s time to ask herself what she wants.

    Recommended for readers of teen fiction who want to read a bittersweet story of self discovery.  As a bonus, we are promised to finally get Willem’s side of the story in a companion novel to be released next year, Just One Year.

    Read an excerpt of Just One Day here.

    Check out last month’s Book Pick: Goliath

    Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  A portion of purchases made from these links benefits this blog.  Thanks for your support!

    Teens, Grief, and God in Fiction

    Teens, Grief, and God in Fiction

    Most of the time, I avoid books with the potential to make me cry.  Frankly, I do most of my reading these days on my commute, and I hate to cry on the bus.  It has happened more times than I care to admit despite my attempts to screen  out tearjerker titles from my to-read pile.

    The Theory of EverythingRecently, though, I found myself reading J.J. Johnson’s new teen novel The Theory of Everything on my bus ride home from work.  It was clearly about grief and loss, which would usually be screened, but it managed to intrigue me anyway.  I’m glad it did.  It was a nice contrast to the many, many novels about grief that invoke faith. (Not to knock those that do invoke faith when characters are grieving; See You At Harry’s, for example, is excellent.)  In TToE, Sarah isn’t particularly religious, and when her best friend dies in a freak accident, people  offer religious ideas to comfort her.  Sarah finds it more alienating than comforting, especially when it comes from her boyfriend who turns out to be more religious than she thought.  The book isn’t all sad, though.  Sarah is a snarky narrator, and each chapter begins with a humorous chart or diagram.  I appreciated these attempts to off-set the grief, and Sarah’s growth throughout the novel made this a book I would recommend to readers who enjoy the tragicomic.

    37 Things I LoveThis is somewhat similar to another book I read recently that addressed loss.  In 37 Things I Love by Kekla Magoon, Ellis narrates her feelings as she and her mother make the decision to take her father off life support:

    “We’re not religious, but when I think about what’ll happen when Dad goes away, I have to wonder.  I don’t know if I like the idea of an afterlife.  It feels like a huge gamble.  I mean, it’s pretty much fifty-fifty that there’s life after death.  But on top of that, it’s fifty-fifty that life after death is going to be something worth hoping for.  You just don’t know what you’re casting your lot toward.  It could be awesome, a euphoric heaven where you never feel worried or hurt.  Or it could totally blow, and then you’re really stuck.  What if heaven/eternity/forever is this horrible trap that’s way worse than life as we know it?

    Maybe it’s better if the end is just the end.”

    It’s good for teens to read that there are many ways to find comfort when you lose someone you love.  These books introduce the idea that one person’s answer isn’t necessarily going to be your answer.  I think that’s an important thing for teens to know.

    I’ll add these books to the very short list of teen fiction with secular main characters, and I’ll go back to reading books that won’t make me cry.

    However, if you do like to read books that make you cry, here is a list of Contemporary YA Fiction about Grief and Loss from Stacked.

    Also pictured: After Eli by Rebecca Rupp, which has a young teen dealing with the death of his older brother.  It is for a slightly younger audience (middle school) than the TToE and 37 Things, which are for teens.

    For more about secular family life, see my Secular Thursday page or check out the Books for Secular Families Amazon Book Shop.  A portion of purchases made from links on this site benefit Proper Noun Blog.  Thanks for your support!