Toward a History of Children’s Libraries in China: An Interview with Yang Luo

Yang Luo is a PhD student at GSLIS UIUC who studies the history of children’s libraries in China. Ever since she successfully defended her dissertation proposal last spring, I’d been anxious to hear more about the work that she’s been doing. Plans for an interview (conducted under the auspices of the Center for Children’s Books) were put on hold when I found out that Yang would be conducting field research in China this past summer. I’m delighted to say that I’ve finally had a chance to speak more thoroughly with Yang about her research to feature it through the CCB. Though it’s slated to be released with the CCB newsletter on December 2, you can read the full interview with Yang on the CCB website. Here are some highlights from the interview:

Yang says of her research, “I’m specifically looking at the time period from 1912-1937. I begin with 1912 because that year marks the foundation of a new Republic of China after hundreds of years of imperial rule. I end with 1937, at the dawn of the Sino-Japanese War. I’m interested in the development and genesis of children’s libraries during this time, and my initial investigation has found several factors during this time period—modern education reform, the public library movement, the Republic’s investment in child welfare, influence of Western librarianship, the appearance of children’s rooms and children’s literature—that converge to form children’s libraries in the early twentieth century.”

She says, “As China pays more attention to youth services today—we’re seeing more programs and libraries for young people being opened—I hope my research will answer the first question we should ask: ‘Where did we come from? How did we get here?'”

Yang says she draws her inspiration from Hu Shi, an advocate for education reform and young people in China during the time period she’s interested in. He was greatly influenced by John Dewey, and I think he’s someone I’d like to draw inspiration from as well. Yang shared this quote during our interview:

“It is not a disgrace for a nation to lack a navy or an army. It is only a disgrace for a nation to lack public libraries, museums, and art galleries. Our people must get rid of this kind of disgrace.”

Again, please check out the full interview with Yang to find out more about her wonderful work.

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Queer Library Alliance Goes to School

On November 15, I had the opportunity to present alongside Rae-Anne Montague, currently assistant dean for student affairs at GSLIS University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign/soon to be assistant professor at the LIS program at University of Hawaii Manoa, at the American Association of School Librarians 16th National Conference. Our session examined incorporating materials and programming with LGBTQ content into school libraries. Here’s the abstract from our presentation:

This session includes three sections. Firstly, we review options for selecting materials with Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning (GLBTQ) content to support curricular and personal goals. Secondly, we look at challenges to providing access to resources. Finally, we consider possibilities to develop collections and programming with GLBTQ content aligned with community needs. We will offer ideas and incorporate examples to encourage participants to share knowledge and engage in open discussion throughout the session.

You can check out slides from our presentation in both PowerPoint and PDF format. We also provided a handout of YA nonfiction with LGBTQ content generously provided from a work-in-progress by the wonderful Christine Jenkins and Michael Cart. Our presentation also was written up in School Library Journal, if you’re interested in audience reception.

Rae and I had a lot of fun at the conference, and I believe our session went well. Here’s a picture of us spooked by some not recommended materials.

Rae and I spooked by Not Recommended materials

the frightening nonrecommendations

“How can you know what is missing if you’ve never met it? You must know of something’s existence before you can notice its absence.”

I am noticing an absence.

I woke up this morning to the news that author E.L. Konigsburg died last night of a massive stroke.

I cried.

If someone asks for my favorite book, I always hesitate, but if they say I can start to list things, The View from Saturday invariably comes up. If someone asks for a favorite author, it’s much the same. Konigsburg has always made that list.

 I don’t think there is any feeling I like more than the one that someone is glad to see me. -Silent to the Bone

Konigsburg wrote middle grade contemporary realistic fiction. Which has always been one of my favorites. But there’s more than that.

I don’t know if there’s ever been an author who’s granted young people such a magnificent voice. Who took young people’s concerns so seriously and displayed them so eloquently. Her characters are so thoughtful and selfish, foolish and wise. I’ve never aspired to be like someone so much as I aspired to be like Claudia, or Julian, or Margaret Rose Kane.

I was sometimes a boy, and I was often a bitch…but what I always was, was superb. -The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World

I think Konigsburg’s work had such a profound impact on me because I was able to identify with her characters so much. Many of them are a little awkward, a little nerdy, a little queer, often bookish, a little bit of a mess, and often with a good heart but not knowing how to express that.

Every now and then, a person must do something simply because he wants to, because it seems to him worth doing. And that does not make it worthless or a waste of time. -The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place

I honestly don’t have any lofty things to say or eloquent ruminations. I never met Mrs. Konigsburg (although it was always a fantasy), but I feel certain that if I ever had, she would have been the type of person to have called me a “friend.” And it makes me very, very sad knowing that such a person is no longer in the world.

I think the most important thing I ever learned from Konigsburg’s books is to pay attention. To take those little moments of joy and survival and let them fill you up.

She thought that maybe, just maybe, western civilization was in decline because people did not take time to take tea at four o’clock. -The View from Saturday

I don’t know that I’m too invested in “western civilization,” but I do think that more of us would be able to get along in our lives better if we took time to take tea at four o’clock.

Do something for me, will you?

Will you find a collective that helps up find your chops? Will you give someone a voice? Will you unearth a tragic secret and make sure it’s known? Will you fight to keep something beautiful in the world just because it’s beautiful?

Will you run away to a museum sometime soon?

For E.L. Konigsburg.

Because I think we need it.

When Racism is a University Tradition: An Open Letter to the UIUC Community

This is a conversation I really didn’t want to be having. I didn’t think I would have to still be having this conversation. But, we must. Some friends and I (primarily driven by Suey Park) collaboratively worked on this open letter to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign community. If you’re an alum and want in on the signature: tweet, FB, email, or comment. I’ll update periodically. I am happy to add signatures, but will not do so without an explicit statement directed to me stating so. I want to respect people’s autonomy and privacy in this as well.

Dear University of Illinois,

In 6 years, much can be accomplished. Lincoln Hall and the ARC have been renovated, the SDRP has been built, the basketball team has finally beat Indiana, and many of us have walked across stage with a bachelor’s degree. Apparently, though, 6 years has not been enough time to remedy the school’s history of exclusion and cultural appropriation.

Having graduated from the University of Illinois, we are shocked to hear The News-Gazette report that students get to the vote to uphold racism on March 5-6, 2013. Are we really allowing this in the year 2013? This so-called “democratic” system the Student Senate and University uses is incredibly flawed if we point out this whole argument is about protecting underrepresented students, underrepresented meaning “not an adequate amount,” according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. The annual School Report shows there are currently only 25 undergraduate students, 14 graduate students, and 2 staff members identifying as Native American on campus. Do we really think this is a fair vote? The results of this ballot will only give Chief supporters a tangible way to prove how massive and in the majority they really are. Allowing students to vote “yes” or “no” on an issue as complex as the Chief does not simply allow each student to have his or her own opinion but rather gives majority students the choice to have power over underrepresented students. Or, should we say, continues to allow students to have power over underrepresented students.

The Student Senate and this campus’s administration usually do not take a side when it comes to the Chief; it is out of privilege that neither is forced to take a side. Many students who fight against the Chief do so for survival. We do it because we hope to make the university a more inclusive space for those who come after us. Silence or neutrality chooses the side of the oppressor. More than the expected jeers and sneers from the pro-Chief fans, we will remember your silence. This silence is something commonplace in many atrocious events in this nation’s history. In a space where Chief-fanaticism exists, the silence of the administration not only allows for the growth of this fanaticism, but legitimizes it. The university has had 6 years to educate students on this issues instead of hoping it would die out. Instead, their silence has left students to fight for themselves and amongst themselves.

Less than 100 years ago–in 1916–the Ku Klux Klan was an honorary student organization at the University of Illinois. Since then, the university has continually been a site of racist incidents. To ignore our school’s racist history is not to understand fully the Chief debate. Although we have since then “welcomed” students of color to attend our university, recruitment and retention of students of color is still less than ideal.

Stephanie Fryburg and her colleagues at the University of Arizona, Stanford University, and the University of Michigan have done multiple psychological studies on the effects of mainstream characterizations of Native imagery on Native students’ self-efficacy and academic well-being. In an article published in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology, Fryburg and her colleagues found that exposure to Native imagery, including images like Chief Illiniwek and Disney’s Pocahontas, had a pronounced negative impact on Native students’ well-being, while the same imagery actually boosted White students’ self-efficacy. Not only does imagery like Chief Illiniwek not properly “honor” Native peoples, it is actively discriminatory in this way when propagated on a college campus. We have seen countless incidents of cultural misappropriation protected as humor or tradition. From the infamous “Tacos and Tequilas” party to commonplace games of “cowboys and Indians,” it becomes evident that not enough has changed. Perhaps we can argue that modern day racism is all in good “humor,” but only one year ago Prof. Dharmapala was stabbed 6-inches into the throat as a result of racist ideology on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Such shocking incidents make us reasonably question the neutrality of such “humor.”

Other times, racism is upheld not as “humor” but as “tradition”. Is it of any surprise that 2nd and 3rd generation Chief supporters feel entitled to this mascot, along with other societal advantages? It shouldn’t be, since it is conceivable that these student’s ancestors contributed to pushing Native Americans onto reservations and stripping them of their rights, land, and dignity to begin with. Even those Chief supporters who do not have such connections benefit from a tradition of excavating, destroying, and abusing Native land and culture; nor have they faced the very real and potent difficulties that shape the lives of Native peoples living in this country today. Now our generation fights over the symbol that still remains a reminder of “tradition” to some and of death to others.

Let’s start calling it as it is. The real, choice students will be making on March 5-6th is not simply choosing the Chief or a new mascot. It is choosing whether or not to go backwards and reinstall a racist mascot or choosing to move forward toward new traditions. We can find a mascot that can represent all of us. We can find other things to fight for.

Sincerely,
The Undersigned Embarrassed Alumni

Thaddeus Andracki
Suey Park
Katie O’Brien
Maja Seitz
Andrea Herrera Orrala
Kate Higgs
Kaytlin Reedy-Rogier, class of 2010
Melorie Masacupan
Patsy Diaz
HoChie Tsai
Stephanie Anne Ladrera Camba
Erin Andriamahefa
Kimberly Oco
Maria Koularmanis
Shikhank Sharma
Gabriel Machabanski
Nicholas Wood
Meghan Bohardt
Xavier Diaz
Kathlyn Oco
Ariann Sahagún
Jessica Nicholas
John-Ben Soileau
Benjamin Barnes
Erica Manzo
Xanat Sobrevilla
Emma Murdoch
Rae-Anne Montague
Matthew Knight
Pryscilla Bolander
Marina Sivilay
Shola Rufay
Tiffany D. Johnson
Sarah Rowe
Margaret Olson
Gwendolyn Wydra
Sarah Park Dahlen
Marcela Reyes
Peter Odell Campbell
Liz Watts
Jessica Harrison
Samantha Chavez
Samantha Sednek
Richard W. Chang, Esq.
Glynn Davis
Philip Slater
Matthew Francis Rarey
Erin L. Castro
Dawn Scanlon
Bryanna Mantilla
Jessica Kursman
Samuel Jesse
Jerry Diaz
Robyn Bianconi
Thomas O’Malley
Hilary Morris
Esther Ikoro
Patrick Brown, Champaign native, UIUC alum
America Campos
Liz Elsen
Ashley Rayner
Dan Wright
Masood Muhammad Haque
Jean Lee
Alexandra Bellis
Christine Dasko
Eric Schacht
Sunah Suh
Ryne Dionisio
Kristin Drogos
Aaron Parker
Tina-Marie Smith
Lucas McKeever
Steven Rosado
Sam Sednek
Zane Ranney
Christie Barchenger
Bert Berla
Andrew Y. Kim
Lorrie Pearson
Hector Mandel
Brian Bell
Rudy Leon
Benjamin Stone
Bryan Anderson
Chloe Edgar
Jessica E. Moyer
Deborah E. Dorsey
Ingbert Schmidt
Mathew J. Carroll-Schmidt
Mary E. McCormack
Alex Orozco
Debbie Reese
Elizabeth Berfield
Kent Carrico
Dana Robinson, Ph.D.
Mark R. Linder
Regina Serpa
Emily Henkels
Konrad Taube
Leah Zinthefer King
Sivling Heng
Roy Saldaña, Jr.
Lee Roberts
Thomas Webb
Jessica Dickson
Lily Huang
Viraj Patel
Justine Chan
Emily Wilson
T.J. Tallie
A.J. Kim
Berenice Ruhl
Jennifer M. Snapp
Kathleen Bowman North
Rafter Sass Ferguson
Raúl A. Mora, Ph.D.
Ryan Kuramitsu
Julian Ignacio
Thomas Joseph Ferrarell
Maren Williams
Victoria Murillo
Rosalie Morales Kearns, MFA
Stephanie Chang
Valerie Enriquez
Lukasz Wojtaszek
Amber Buck
Mike Suguitan
Brian Kung
Janaki Patel
Homari Oda
Suraiya Rashid
Christine Asidao
Archaa Shrivastav
Kathryn Conley Wehrmann
Dustin Lovett
Cynthia Wang
Kati Hinshaw
Isabel Diaz
Pei-Lynn Juang
Phillip N. Lambert
Jane Emmons
Damian Satterthwaite-Phillips
Amanda Beer, PhD
Ruxandra Costescu, PhD
Scott Kimball
Amanda Karkula
Lynsee Melchi
Victoria Mwansa Seward
Frank Hassler
Julia Dossett Morgan
Lauren M. Graham
Robert Mejia
Catherine Knight Steele
James D. Bunch
Gretchen Madsen, MLIS
B.A. Davis-Howe
Eric Mills
Rose Stremlau
Ian Binnington, Ph.D.
Carlos Daniel Rosa, Student Senator Emeritus
Amy Strohmeier Gort, Ph.D.
K’La Albertini
Eva Au
Guillermo Delgado
Cassie Connor
Michelle Birkett, Ph.D.
Adrian Bettridge-Wiese
Anusha Narayanan
Julie Boone
John Miller
Jeffrey DiScala
Emily Litchfield
Tyler Guenette
Sidoni Gonzalez
BWS Johnson

edited 2/25/13 22:59 to add signatures
edited 2/25/13 22:35 with more signatures and signature caveat in preamble
edited 2/26/13 11:07 with more signatures
edited 2/26/13 12:00 with more signatures, changed “Illini” in 2nd to last p. to “Chief supporters”
edited 2/26/13 13:45 with more signatures
edited 2/26/13 16:15, more signatures
edited 2/26/13 19:53, more signatures
edited 2/27/13 6:53, more signatures
edited 2/27/13 14:24, more signatures
edited 2/27/13, 20:10, a few more
edited 2/28/13, 20:52, one more
edited 3/3/13, 12:03, one more signature
edited 3/12/13, 18:09, another signature added

Of Trolls, Horror, Movies, and Calling Dibs

I’m writing this mostly to let people know that I’m still alive and thinking, but also to pull something my digital acquaintance Kerry Mockler has pulled over on her blog: calling “dibs” on ideas for papers.

Over break, I’ve been watching a lot of movies. Like, a lot. Probably more than is good for me. Two that have stuck out at me more than others are House, directed by Nobuhiko Ōbayashi and The Night of the Hunter, the only film ever directed by Charles Laughton. Both of these are horror films (by most classifications), both involve children (and childhoods) in critical ways, and both of them are–to say the least–outliers of the genre. I had been turning over the films in my head and trying to make some interesting connections between the two, when I found that Evan Calder Williams has already done so in a remarkable essay in Film Quarterly. In “Sunset with Chainsaw,” he suggests these two films resist typical readings of horror, but instead offers a new method of reading horror politically through focusing on visual environments as opposed to horrible content. Williams’s reading is provocative, and it’s spurred me to think through how it might be developed. Again, since I’m particularly interested in understanding childhoods, I’m wondering how focusing on horror through the lens of the child might affect this reading. There’s also some interesting feminist stuff floating around those films (particularly House), which I’d like to explore. Finally, I’d love to see if some of the stuff garnered from reading childhood horror in these films might apply in horror in children’s fiction. Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn was–for some reason–one of my favorite books when I was around eleven or twelve, and I’d both love to write a paper on it and revisit it trying to understand childhood horror.

Relatedly, I also watched Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles recently, and–maybe because I’ve been thinking about horror so much (in addition to watching these films, I’m working on a horror film collection development project for my job)–I’m wondering if there’s a way of reading the film as horror? The orgasm as a monstrosity? What might the implications of that be? (Has anyone already done this? Beyond calling it “horror,” I can’t find anything to suggest they have.)(Also, I may hold off on this one until I see what Annemarie Jagose says in her new book.)

I also don’t normally blog about books I’ve been reading a whole lot on here, but I recently finished Troll: A Love Story by Johanna Sinisalo, and that also make my mind start racing. I guess it seemed relevant because the book (serendipitously) dealt with a lot of things I’d been reading about lately: monstrosity, queerness, affective geographies, some tangential relationships to childhood studies. The book also could bear with some fantastic readings in terms of posthumanism, critical animal studies, and ecocriticism (particularly with regards to the project of pet-making and the allegory of taming our own “wildness”), but I’m less grounded in those approaches.1 I guess it’s also interesting because I’ve been thinking a little about Moomins recently–I’m starting a class in Scandinavian childhood studies and children’s literature next week. The connections between Finnish trolls is remarkable–although the trolls don’t resemble each other all that much, I think there’s some particularly interesting things I’d love to explore between the two. (I believe it is possible I may have already found a term paper for this class?)

All of this to say, “hello!” and “Please don’t write about any of these things before I get a chance to.”

1. As a side note, Troll also contains one chapter that is literally the best description I’ve ever read of the experience of being a queer person in a smallish city, like the one I live in now.

“…Our city’s unique, but with a slightly different nuance for each of us. In a little town like this, we don’t have our own streets, shops, or galleries, but we do have our individual hidden topography, our own street corners. A man’s smoking a cigarette on a bridge, and we see him quite differently from everyone else: we take in a hand movement, a furtive glance, which, for others, is just visual bric-a-brac…”

The Mayans Weren’t “Wrong”…You Were

I was prepared to say exactly zero things about the Mayan apocalypse prediction debacle, until my friend Debbie Reese made a point on Twitter that I’d been turning over in my head vaguely, but hadn’t concretized as well as she did.

The Mayans weren’t wrong.

I can’t repeat that enough. The Mayan’s calendar ending around this time was never a prediction that the “world would end” or anything like that. It’s like the end of the year–your calendar runs out, and you start over. Maya scholars–like Lisa Lucero–have been trying to scream this at us for years.

You were wrong.

Settler colonialists were wrong. This is a classic example of a colonial mistranslation of Indigenous knowledge and culture. God knows we’ve seen this enough.

Outsiders came in, saw what they wanted to see, used their frame of reference to make a claim, and when that claim didn’t “come true,” they make a false claim about the wrongness of Mayan thinking.

The Maya were pretty amazing. Their art is breathtaking, their building skills were impressive, and their mathematical and astronomical knowledge were astounding. To call them “wrong,” when the wrongness really lies with a colonialist misinterpretation of their knowledge, is bullshit. And it only serves to further obscure, erase, and devalue Indigenous knowledges.

Let’s Have a Wiki

God, I’ve wanted to make that joke for so long¹.

I know it’s been ages since I’ve written anything on here, and I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t really have all that much to say. But…

There is a Youth Services Librarianship Best Practices Wiki! And I am a contributor!

It’s really not that exciting because it’s just an ongoing class project, but there really is a lot of potentially valuable information for people who are interested in libraries, or young people, or any of those sorts of fun things. I thought I would share it with you.

If you are interested, I contributed content to pages on non-native speakers of English, LGBTQ youth, and multicultural literature for youth. But there are also super-rad pages with tons of information about youth services from an international standpoint, reference services for youth, and most anything else you can think of that has to do with young people and library services for them.

In other wiki news, the CU Wiki (for Champaign-Urbana) has launched, and it’s also a pretty nifty resource. Intended as a community informatics project to promote local knowledge and collaborative work with users across CU, it’s chock-full of interesting, locally created content. There’s information about my places of work, for example, as well as local businesses, and even local hauntings. The local wiki movement is, I think, an interesting one, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this one in particular pans out, since I’m here. Also, if they reach 120 users by December 6, they’ll be able to win free site hosting for a year. So, maybe you could help them out and create an account?

Wikis, man. They’re great.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

1. Also: “Forget the kiki, let’s have a bouba.” #undulycomplexgaylinguistjokes