Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Different Ways of Knowing

Growing up, I hung out with my brothers more than my sister - she was the oldest, I was the second youngest and we usually got along like oil and water. This meant that I was often drafted for various pick-up games. Baseball, basketball, races, soccer, golf, pool: you name it - we did it. And when we did, every so often one of them would stop and pause, make that fake crowd noise, and soak up the fake adulation. I never did; I never really understood it.

My brothers and I also played soccer from kindergarten until high school. We played other sports as well (they played more sports than I did), but soccer was the main sport for all three of us for most of our childhood. My dad was taught how to play by friends in college who were from South America and he fell in love with the game immediately. He was always one of our coaches, always a volunteer ref, and would get excited like a kid at Christmastime when the World Cup would come around and soccer would finally be on TV. Cable and then affordable satellite was a gift from the gods because with it came soccer games on Univision and then the English Premiere League (and by then, the MLS, as well).

When the World Cup finally came to the US, our parents splurged and got plenty of tickets. I was never really one for watching sports, but I was excited to finally go see people play a sport that I understood in a huge stadium with tens of thousands of screaming fans. The reality was even better than I imagined it would be; in some ways it like my first time in a stadium. I couldn't believe that everyone there loved my sport as much as I did; I was so used to it being ignored, mocked, and looked down on. I finally understood why so many guys liked watching sports so much and why they enjoyed live games in big stadiums so much. The adreneline was unlike anything I'd felt before - it was almost as good as playing a championship match myself.

When the Women's World Cup came to the US in 1999 I was dissapointed that the start of my grad program and financial situation meant that I couldn't go to any of the games, but I watched all the ones they showed on the basic cable my roomates and I could afford. Simply watching them on TV gave me the same rush I felt the first time I walked into the Rose Bowl in 1994; the world felt so full of hope and possibility.

Several months later I was in my parents front yard, getting some exercise by practising the drills I remembered from AYSO and high school. I made an especially spectacular move (for me) and was immediately startled to hear the the soft roar of a fake crowd coming out of my mouth. I was stunned. I hadn't known until then that it was in there, inside of me, just waiting for the right time to come out, but I knew right away who had put it there: Mia and her teammates. I was not silent as a child because I dared not give into the urge - I was silent because I lacked the frame of reference that the impulse required. Mia and the rest of the gang planted that picture in my head, and in the minds of thousands of other girls and women. It was as if someone had finally shown me what colors were after years of living in shades of gray. For some reason, when it came to soccer, I needed to see women succeeding in order to dream in technicolored hues.

(I remember thinking in the summer before seventh grade, as we watched the 1990 World Cup on pay-per-view, that my junior year, and the 1994 World Cup, was a really long ways away. Now it's 2006 and I'm reminscing about ditching grad school classes to watch the first Women's World Cup in the US - in 1999. My how the time flies and the world turns.)


I started writing this post back in the summer; I'd originally meant for it to be a segway into talking about soccer, sexism, the World Cup and the infamous importing of prostitutes for the most recent Cup in Germany.

I've ressurected it from the draft graveyard because of this link from When Fangirls Attack. In it Dane quotes (I don't know who)* as an example of sexism

It’s the difference between "this is written/drawn for me and it’s nice" and "this is written/drawn for me and it could have been written/drawn BY me because I can really identify with the women doing it."

*Dane - links please!

(side note: while I don't completely agree with the label, The Dane gets a whole plateful of cookies for calling it sexism, and not reverse sexism)

There's been a lot of discussion about the Minx line, female creators, and Minx's lack thereof. When it comes to real life examples like Minx, there's a lot of things that come into play when discussing they whys, wherefores, and why nots of gender disparity. I just wanted to take a step back for a moment and remind everyone (and possibly explain to those that don't understand yet) why we even care about the gender of artists, writers, and even soccer players.

It's not because we don't think men can't do a good job. In fact, it's often quite the opposite. It's because we've all had that feeling of not being connected to something we love; of doubting ourselves, despite intellectually knowing we shouldn't, simply because we belong to a group that is (practically) invisible within a community of fans or among the superstars that we aspire to be. We all know what it's like, in some way or another, to watch our brothers cheer themselves on, and wonder why they do that or what it would be like to feel the same way.

The saying that you should write what you know has some truth to it, and that's where some of the complaints come from as well. Of course, most of the great stories are about the kinds of things that everyone can relate to. So obviously, writers can write about people they empathise with, but are not exactly like, and readers can read about characters they empathise with, but are not exactly like. The entire fantasy and superhero genres wouldn't exist of this weren't true.

When entire groups of people are almost completely missing from the equation, however, this often means that even well-meaning writers and readers will overlook what should be obvious. Michele Serros, the author of Honey Blonde Chica and other YA books, remarked during a panel on YA novels at last year's Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, that a professor once told her that she ought to change some of the references to various aspects of Hispanic culture from her books because the "average" reader wouldn't recognize them. Serros' logical reaction was that she and her mother had figured out all the references to east coast life that dominated the YA novels available to her as a child, why couldn't other readers do the same? Far too often though, people's reaction - both critics and readers - includes the assumption that the dominant group is the norm.

Often times this goes beyond never asking the dominant group to stretch their empathy and imagination and always asking other groups to do so - and into innacurrate and riduculous portrayals. Based on what people are saying about the Minx authors, Minx books very likely won't have all the idiotic assumptions that many of DC's other comics have.

However, it's not illogical for new readers to be wary of these authors because of their gender. It's not as if the girls who choose Dramacon or The Babysitter's Club over a Minx title never read anything created by men or are choosing not to read these particular authors because they think boys are icky (ok, well -some, maybe) or because of something they only heard or went through once or twice. When women and girls are wary of unknown male authors, it's often because of repeated bad experiences and they almost never write off male creators altogether. The same can't necessarily be said of the hypothetical "average" readers that may be confused by references to Hispanic culture in Serros' novels or people who use stereotypes about certain groups to avoid dealing with them altogether.

While unfortunately some of the end results are similar, there is a difference between picking a writer/bookseller/mechanic, who is hispanic, female, etc. because you fear being condescended to otherwise, and not picking a writer/bookseller/mechanic, etc. who is hispanic, female, etc. because you think that they are incapable of doing a good job.

I'm not happy with the situation, and I'll recommend the Minx titles (or not) based on the books themselves, not the creators gender, but I'm not going to criticise teen and tween girls if it turns out that they need that Mia Hamm moment or if they need some time to recover from the getting burned by yet another clueless attempt to relate to them as girls, teens, whatever.

After all, for all that I complain that boys need to learn some empathy and pick up a few more books that are written by women or - god forbid! - where the main character is a girl, I completely understand why so many boys who wander into the library and bookstore look at me and mostly see yet another woman trying to tell them what they should read or would like. I understand that these are completely different situations, and that part of the solution to the latter has to be making sure that it's not only women who are helping them choose their reading material. Part of helping people learn to be gender blind is making sure that no one gender dominates - especially to an absurd degree.

There is a lot to criticise about DC's choice of authors in light of DC's own comments about wanting to open up comics to more girls. As a line of books, Minx looks promising. As a line of books that's (supposedly) meant to do more than ride the manga wave, it leaves much to be desired.

In the end, it's as simple as that.


In 2001 the WUSA began it's inagural season. In 2003 play was suspeneded permanently, without my ever having gone to a game.

All kinds of people have all kinds of opinions on why the WUSA failed, and if was doomed to do so or not. Here's mine: the WUSA failed because there aren't enough girls and women who make that fake crowd noise, and for most of us that do, it was often a fleeting experience, nothing like the layers upon layers of memories that most men build up over their lifetime. But make no mistake, the WUSA will be back. The memories may be few and faded, but there are still more there than there used to be. It's just a question of how long it will take to build them up high enough.

Eventually, as with DC's attempt to tap into the vast numbers of girls and women who read comics, even the mostly clueless will be trying to get a part of the action.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

One Last Thing....

...about the meeting for YA librarians.

The conference room we were in had all these celebrity "Read' posters up on the walls. (For some reason Sean Connery holding a book about Scotland sticks in my mind.) One of the posters that was almost directly across from me was of Orlando Bloom.

It was really quite distracting.

I rather suspect that we have all of our meetings in that same room.

So - I'm wondering if it would be better to sit on the same side of the room as I did this last time, that way I know I'll have something to entertain me if the meeting gets boring, or if I should make sure my back is to the poster so that I don't miss anything important.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I Promise I'll Talk About Something Else Soon

From the Comic Book Resources forums, via this post from Sporadic Sequential, via When Fangirls Attack:'s a fantasy story and they've explicitly said they're not publishing genre work under the Minx line.



I missed that.

And why the hell would they do that?

And why the hell would they make a rule that all their stories have to be about being a girl, and then hire almost no female creators?

(And don't some of the upcoming stories fall under the superhero and action genres anyway?)

Oh, and for the record, people need to learn to shut the fuck up with the comparing the excitement over TinTin's comic to the buzz over Snakes on a Plane. Not the same thing at all. Yes, it's true that online buzz may not equal actual money for a company. Oddly enough, intelligent people knew that before Snakes on a Plane bombed.

Snakes on a Plane however, was loved because the very name was a satire on Hollywood marketing and project greenlighting. It's not terribly surprising that when it came to going to watch an hour and some change movie that wasn't a satire, a lot of people that loved the name passed on opportunity to watch the actual movie. (Honestly, who the fuck didn't see that coming?) The problem with the buzz over TinTin's comic, however, is the normal one of "just because a dedicated fanbase is willing to pay money for it, that doesn't mean enough people are willing to may money for it." Which is entirely different, since the question for prospective publishers is not 'will the fanbase abandon the idea in droves" but "is there a larger market for this product?" The answer may not be "yes", but it's also not the obvious "WTF were you thinking?" that applies to Snakes on a Plane.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Yes, More Minx

David Welsh has some of the best and most intelligent comments on the new Minx line floating around the blogs, imo. His recent article for Comic World News is no exception. (via CC) In it he does a great job of explaining something that's been bugging me for a couple days now (and in an aside, no less).

He starts out by admitting that:

Categories like shôjo and shônen don’t have they weight here that’s attributed to them in Japan; if a story sounds good or the art appeals to a given reader, they won’t much care who a Japanese publisher tried to market it to originally.
But then adds:
(Of course, DC is shooting for just that kind of compartmentalization with Minx, so maybe it’s more relevant than I think.)

Look, I'm not at all pleased that kids are so gender consious when picking books. And not all kids are. And boys tend to be more so than girls. (I'd love to see a graphic novel imprint for 10-14 year-old boys try to make it with mostly female creators.)

So, it really shouldn't matter that Minx currently has only one and half female authors.

Except that the girls that are going to be appealed to through names like Minx and authors like Castellucci tend to be, in my experience, among the most gender conscious for their age. Not every girl will care about the gender of the creators. Most girls won't. But the ones that do are the same ones that DC seems to be going for. Which really begs the question - WTF were they thinking?

I would also like to point out - as others already have - that girls wanting books that are about being girls to be written by people who were once girls is more along the lines of wanting mysteries to be written by people with experience in solving them. It doesn't make sense as a hard and fast rule, but it's not completely illogical to consider such things when one is deciding on whether or not to try a new series. You may already know that Mike Carey rocks, but your average Clique reader hasn't ever heard of him.

Tokyopop Visits

As promised, my notes from Tokyopop's presentation - and an answer to Lyle's question (sort of):

As I mentioned in the previous post, Hillery Pastovich came out to talk to us at our Youth Services Director's request; a request that was prompted by a previous controversy surrounding an adult book about Manga.

Ms. Pastovich was very nice and was very good at her job, which was mostly to convince my fellow librarians that graphic novels have a place in libraries, to get us interested in her company's products, and to give us some knowledge that would be useful in responding to concerned parents.

Since none of us need the vocab lessons or to be convinced that graphic novels are good things, I'll skip ahead to the interesting bits.

- Tokyopop is in the early stages of revamping it's rating system. Generally, some of the OT stuff will become M, some T stuff will become OT, etc. Don't expect to see it until fall, and they may or may not go back and adjust some of the already published titles still in print.

- The first copies of Kilala Princess just came off the presses. She brought a few copies for us to look at. Sadly, there wasn't much time to do so. You can see even more on their website than I got a chance to read. (Although it was different pages, weirdly enough. I think the website must start with the first chapter, but the book includes a prologue.)

- Any librarians out there (and presumably laypersons as well), you can go directly to so that you don't get "lost in message boards for the rest of the day" trying to find useful information.

Which brings me to Lyle's questions:

- I don't know about Tokyopop, but Ms. Pastovich was well aware of the problems caused by revamping the site. I doubt they plan on drastically changing it anytime soon, although one would hope that they figure out a better way to direct potential readers to actual content sometime soon.

- With regard to how librarians (and readers) can find out which titles belong to which genres (since Tokyopop's imprints are mostly by age) Ms. Pastovich says the new books should have the genre printed on the back and side of the cover. Their website does break down the titles by genre as well, although I'm not sure if they make that information clear on the synopsis pages or on lists of new books, etc.

The whole hour was a lot more fun than I've made it out to be. Ms. Pastovich had some pretty funny comments about some stuff. Tokyopop apparently called up YALSA and asked them "Are you sure?" (or something to that effect) when they found out that some of the more controversial manga - such as I Luv Halloween, which she described as "South Park meets Quentin Tarantino" - had been nominated for various awards. When talking about Fruits Basket and it's popularity, her comment was "we're not sure why, but ok!" She said the same thing in reaction to middle aged women being the largest demographic for Yaoi. (I decided my first meeting was not the best time to explain the attraction to those that don't already get it.)

She also did a good job explaining why they started the Jr. Manga imprint and how it was different from regular manga. Essentially, little kids were always asking to be read from manga books, but pre- and early readers have a hard time following lots of panels of sequential art (which makes sense, considering how kids learn to read) and the stories weren't always appropriate, so they started making larger books with only two panels per page with stories appropriate for young children.

I'm not sure about the new MangaChapters line, just because from what I've seen, the mix of manga and print hasn't been completely worked out. However, I think it's a good idea, especially since some of the librarians who were skeptical about the value of graphic novels perked up at the idea of a book that would be a bridge from sequential art to "literature."

And that's all, folks!

County Removes Graphic Novel With Hamster Sex From it's Shelves

First, Some Background

This is going to be hard to explain without naming names, but I'm going to try.

I live in [Blank] County, CA. It is one of the largest counties in the United States. A big bunch of that is desert, national forest, designated wilderness, etc. There are huge swathes of land - some of it with people living on it - that are not incorporated into any city. It is the county's job to provide to these areas the kind of services that cities provide. Thus, we have a countywide library system with branches anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour apart. Please understand, though, that [Blank] County also has a lot of people. Some branches are very tiny and serve small communities (like mine). Others are big and serve areas as heavily populated as any decent sized city.

[Blank] County, like a lot of local governments, has had some issues with corruption recently. That means they have an image problem at the moment. [Blank] County is also one of those reddish-purple spots on those voting maps that everyone likes to post. The reps we send to the state and national level tend to lean right, several of the homes near my branch up in the mountains are strictly vacation homes, and we have one of the largest Mormon populations outside of Utah. Needless to say, we also have a very diverse population, including a a very large working class and poor population and a significant number of Spanish speakers. [Blank] County is still very much California, but it's slightly poorer and much more conservative than most people imagine California to be.

I mention all this only because it turns out that there was a reason why Tokyopop was invited to speak at my library's countywide meeting for YA/Childrens' librarians.

[Blank] County Removes Graphic Novel With Hamster Sex From it's Shelves

Last spring, a kid from [Middle of Nowhere], CA, checked out Paul Gravett’s Manga: 60 Years of Japanese Comics from his local [Blank] County Library Branch. When he showed his parent the one page that showed Hamster Sex! (why? what self-respecting teen does that?), the parent brought this fact to the Library's attention.

The book ended up getting pulled completely from the shelves of every branch in the county that owned a copy, rather than simply moved to the appropriate location in each branch. Yes, someone had decided that since it was full of "cartoons" that it belonged in the Juvenile section. Publicly, the Library Director says that it was a joint decision with the County Board of Supervisors. The rumblings I heard today suggest that that the decision was made against the library's wishes. I don't know which story is correct.

I do know, however, that we can request this title from a nearby county through the same system that we use to request books from other branches in our own library. No, I do not mean interlibrary loan, I mean that all a patron has to do is walk in and ask us to request the book from the system and it will arrive a few days later, free of charge. This isn't something special for this book, it's just a deal we have. I thought I'd mention it because it highlights so well, IMHO, just how ridiculous this stuff can get to be.

But Shouldn't Children Be Saved From Graphic Hamster Sex?

I was in grade school when The Simpson's came out and were a Big Thing. Kids used to wear Bart Simpson T-shirts to school all the time. My parents never let my brother or I watch it.

I'm still not sure if this was a good decision or a bad one. The Simpson's is not a children's show and children really shouldn't be watching it. However, since it's not a show made for kids, I really don't think we would have liked it, and I wonder if not letting us do so simply made it forbidden fruit.

I'm not against directing children's media choices. I think that's our job as adults. But I also know that I read a lot of stuff as a kid that would have shocked my parents, and I really think I benefitted from it in the end (here is where I would link to my as yet to be written posts on scifi/fantasy and romance novels). Generally, I'm mostly for directing children's choices, and mostly against dictating children's choices. When it comes to stuff that isn't schoolwork or chores, I think it's better for kids if they have a certain amount of freedom. I also think weeding out the really bad stuff is easier if you keep the dictating to a minimum and stick to more creative ways of directing their choices. Even as a teenager, I knew that it would be easier to get my then preschool cousin away from Ren and Stimpy and Rocky and Bulllwinkle (neither of which seemed appropriate to me for a four-year old) if I said that it was time to play outside instead of making a big deal about either of the shows. I understand that sometimes you just need to say "no" in clear and plain language - I just don't see that the library had gotten to that point. I think people were mostly just freaked out by something odd and no one wanted to be seen as defending Hamster Sex! - for kids!

Most of all though, I'm really against other adults telling me what I can read. I happen to like a lot of stuff that I don't think kids should read and a lot of stuff their parents wouldn't read themselves. But my tax dollars go to pay for library books as well. It's one thing to argue that the money should go to pleasing an audience consisting of more people than just me, it's quite another to get rid of books already bought just because kids (possibly) shouldn't be reading it.

I'm also beyond fed up with the idea that if it's cartoons, it must be for kids. Thankfully, that's slowly changing - it just needs to change faster, then we won't have as many problems with stupid stuff like this.

After all, Laurell K. Hamilton's books and Gregory Maguire's Wicked include a lot of weird sex (the former probably more explicit than the Hamster Sex!) and they're still on our shelves.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Million Reasons Why Andrew Clements is Awesome

And Mike Reed Isn't Too Bad Either

Since I had to type out a bunch of reviews of recent books for my Library Studies class, and it is the holiday season, I figure I'd share some of the better ones with you. (After translating them from HW speak.)

A Million Dots.

Written by Andrew Clements. Illustrated by Mike Reed. Published by Simon and Schuster. Copyright 2006. ISBN: 0689858248

The author of Frindle, The Report Card, and other favorites has a new book out this year, A Million Dots. This new book, however, is a picture book - and non-fiction to boot! Lucky for us, it turns out that Andrew Clements writes awesome books for kids of all ages.*

A Million Dots is a book with - you guessed it - a million little dots. Really, really, itsy bitsy, tiny, little dots. In order to help children understand scale and conceptualize just how big those really big numbers are, Clements, and artist Mike Reed, use all those tiny dots to count to one million.

The book begins by showing one dot about the size of a period, and then ten, and then a hundred tiny dots. The rest of the pages each have a couple thousand dots on them, so that by the time you get to the end of the book, you've looked at one million tiny dots.

Each page also features an odd and/or interesting fact (the distance from the earth to the moon in school buses or some such) and an accompanying retro style illustration. The illustrations are covered with a grid of tiny little dots and the effect is stunning rather than distracting. The dots make the illustrations look similar to the way grainy old photos do, thus the dots end up complementing and blending in with the pictures instead of detracting from them. To top it off, the dot corresponding to the number mentioned in the sentence is highlighted in the illustration by not only a slightly larger light colored circle, but often a cleverly placed star, or other relevant feature, as well.

(This would be as good a time as any to say that I'm putting my vote in for Reed to at least get a Caldecott Honor this year)

In short, A Million Dots is very cool and would make a great gift for any kid between the ages of 5 and 10.

*Yes, Clements has written pcture books before, and beginning readers as well, but (as far as I know) he's best known for his novels for children.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Oh Good Lord

Someone is trying to make my brain explode.

Originally Posted by EmeraldGuy32
I think she's refering to the [strippers] that aren't actually whores.

wh...who would want one of those? what the hell is the point?

(I suspect Ragnell.)


Must. Finish. Homework.

although my post on why I started reading romance novels is obviously long overdue as well

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Goodbye to Fanboys (for the moment)

So, I'm procrastinating because I have homework that's due tommorrow but the work is damn boring because it's all about kids books and the class isn't that hard, so it feels like busy work.

So, I'm procrastinating by clicking on links at When Fangirls Attack and I run across this:

and the girls women thing is 30 years old. Most people today don't care. Most women I know still refer to themselves as girls, have girls night out, refer to movies they like as chick flicks. We don't need 30 year old feminist garbage, we've moved beyond it. People are people.

There is so much that could be said in response to that, but for the moment, I simply must congratulate spiderrob8 on accomplishing something I had previosly thought impossible: I am so ready to go do my homework now.

Explaining for the umpteenth time why Mo Willems and Sandra Boynton rock my world suddenly sounds infinitely more appealing than it did ten minutes ago.