Save the Dates

me (Carrie) in Steampunk attire, speaking at Worldcon
I’ve been asked by one of my fans to post my upcoming speaking engagements for September and October here. The truth is, I’ve been asked by my mom. Because of my interest in classic horror, this is an unusually busy time for me. Here you go, Mom! Love you!

September 29, 2018: Memoir Writing Class

10:30AM, Arden Dimick Library

Do you have a story to tell? Our memoir writing class offers an introduction to memoir as an art form and how to begin writing yours.

Be brave and bring a sample for the class to read and discuss (and if you don’t have anything to share, that’s OK too). Come tell us the story of your life!

Space is limited. Register online at saclibrary.org/events, by phone at 916-264-2920, or in person at the library.

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October 5, 2018: Mary Shelley

10AM, Folsom Public Library

2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley.

Come hear hair-raising stories about the turbulent life of Mary Shelley and the monster she created. Mary drew on her own interest in science and her experience with abandonment and loss to create the first science fiction novel – one which continues to terrify readers today. We will explore her life and the culture or the Romantics as well as the novel itself.

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October 12: Tarot Cards for Teens

4PM – 5:45PM Arden Dimick Library

Learn the history behind tarot with Carrie Sessarego. Get a reading and learn how to read the cards for others. Check out our selection of tarot and other similar books.

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October 20, 2018: Creators of Classic Horror

10:30AM – 12, Arden Dimick Library

Join us for 90 minutes of classic horror as we discuss the origins of Dracula, Cthulhlu, and the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. We’ll share some gossip about classic horror writers, and some insights into their work which continues to inspire so much of the horror genre today. Get your Halloween going in earnest with these early writers of terror!

 

 

Between the Lines Book Club: Race in My Antonia

between the lines book club logoWelcome to Between the Lines Book Club! Our book this month is My Antonia, by Willa Cather. We’ll be meeting to discuss the book on September 22, 2018, at Arden Dimick Library, at 10:30AM.

Most of the characters in My Antonia are “other” in some way. The Shimerda’s are strange to the Burden family, with their outpourings of emotion and their dried mushrooms. The Hired Girls all come from recent immigrant families, and are both admired and shunned by the area’s more well-established residents.

In Book 2, Chapter 7, Jim meets a blind, Black piano player, known as Blind d’Arnault. Jim admires d’Arnaults’s independence (he “refuses to be led”) and his musical ability. However, despite expressing admiration for d’Arnault, Jim describes him in racist and stereotypical terms.

This led me to think of the following questions:

1. How can we read between the lines, and how much does Cather intend for us to do so? Does Martha hide her mixed-race son because he’s “ugly”, or because she’s afraid he’ll be sold and/or she’ll be punished for the possibility that she was raped by her male owner? Is d’Arnaut really “docile” or is this simply what people around him like to believe? Does he retain a strong sense of personality separate from what we hear Jim say about him? Do Cather and Jim see d’Arnault the same way?

2. Is d’Arnault autistic? He is slow to talk, rocks back and forth constantly, and is a musical savant. How is he portrayed in contrast to Antonia’s disabled brother?

3. How does Cather’s description of d’Arnault differ from her proper “Americans,” the shrill and canny Shimerdas, the morose Russians Pavel and Peter, the ethereal scholar Gaston Cleric, and other characters?

4. What is the purpose of this passage?

5. A lot of readers and critics seem to ignore this passage altogether. How should we treat passages like this in older fiction (My Antonia was first published in 1918). How does the passage affect your opinion of the book overall?

Boosting the Signal

Author Jessica McDonald was one of our first guests here at geekgirlinlove. Jessica contributed the wonderful essay “Not Your Mystical Indian” to the anthology Invisible 2. She also posted “Magical Indians that Aren’t Magical Indians” on this site.

Jessica’s debut novel has its very own kickstarter page. To find out more about her new novel, Born to be Magic, check this out! Best of luck, Jessica!

 

Between the Lines Book Club: My Antonia

between the lines book club logoThis month our book club pick is My Antonia, by Willa Cather. This book was published in 1918, and tells about a community of farmers in Nebraska, both on their farms and in the small town of Black Hawk. The main characters are Jim Burden, and Antonia Shimerda, whose family recently immigrated from Bohemia. The book addresses immigration, social class, the role of women, and the nature of the American Midwest.

You can find an online study guide at Shmoop.com and read more about Cather at American Masters. We will meet to discuss the book on September 22, 2018 at Arden Dimick Library!

 

The Chimney Sweeper, by William Blake

white harebell (flower)
This Labor Day, take an action on behalf of child laborers all over the world by checking out these resources:

International Labor Organization

End Slavery Now

And here’s a word from William Blake:

When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry ” ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep!”
So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep.
There’s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head
That curled like a lamb’s back, was shaved, so I said,
“Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head’s bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.”
And so he was quiet, & that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping he had such a sight!
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, & Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black;
And by came an Angel who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins & set them all free;
Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing they run,
And wash in a river and shine in the Sun.
Then naked & white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind.
And the Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy,
He’d have God for his father & never want joy.
And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark
And got with our bags & our brushes to work.
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm;
So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.

Queerness in Paper Girls

cover of the comic book "Paper girls"
Note: This was originally intended for a large and diverse audience, but I pulled it because I realized it was offensive and inappropriate for me to tell LGBT readers how to feel about the homophobic vocabulary of one character.

However, I do think it has some good points to make, so I’m republishing it here for my smaller readership. Please keep in mind that these are the conclusions I, personally draw from the comic based on my personal life experience and are not meant to reflect a universal experience.

My library has all the trades (multi-issue collections) of Paper Girls to date and I’ve been slowly working my way through them. This series follows a diverse group of 12-year-old girls as they have increasingly bizarre and confusing adventures. In addition to being female-centric, the story deals with significant real-world topics, including the gradual realization on the part of one character that she might be a lesbian. While all of the characters have interesting arcs, this one is especially gripping as it plays out against the homophobia and ignorance of the late 1980s in nuanced ways.Trigger warning for discussion of homophobia.

The story is about four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls from Ohio, starting in 1988. Tiffany is African-American, Erin is Vietnamese-American, KJ(sometimes called Kage)is Jewish and Mac struggles with an abusive home life. The girls don’t have much in common but since their routes start at 4am, they band together for protection on their routes, keeping in touch with walkie-talkies.

While the four are delivering papers, a variety of strange events take place and the girls find themselves travelling through space and time, meeting adult versions of themselves, and otherwise leading a weird existence that tumbles from crisis to  crisis. The plot is impossible to explain without spoilers. Actually, it’s impossible to explain at all, because the girls are clearly thrown into some sort of epic storyline that they only see tiny snippets of. Suffice to say that if you’ve ever wanted to see a battle between two giant tardigrades (AKA water bears) in the middle of a city this is probably your only chance. The art is vibrant and exciting and the number of pop culture references is just enough to be fun and not so much that it’s a “Greatest Hits” album.

In addition to dealing with the fantastical, the series also addresses real life issues.  In the first issue, Mac intimidates a bunch of guys by using a homophobic slur. I regret (and I mean this sincerely, not flippantly) that I was a young teenager in 1988 and that is exactly the language that the “tough kids” would use to insult other kids. However, the slur doesn’t go unchallenged – Erin tells her not to use the word and throws in a quick lesson about AIDS in the process. Later on Mac indicates disgust that two men who have saved the girls are lovers and the other girls call her out. Homophobia is pervasive enough that Mac feels comfortable expressing it (as a character from the future says, “You lived in an effed up time,” ) but not so pervasive that it’s shared by everyone.

As the story progresses, KJ has a vision of herself kissing Mac. In Volume Four KJ tells Mac, “Mac, when I grow up, I think I’m going to be a lesbian.” This makes Mac so uncomfortable that Mac asks Erin if KJ might have been “replaced by an imposter.” Erin is supportive of KJ and KJ seems to accept her sexuality with poise (Tiffany is out of the loop at the moment but she hasn’t been homophobic in previous issues). KJ also seems to have a crush on Mac, remembering aloud every detail of how they first met. But she doesn’t express hurt at Mac’s attitude so much as a desire to inform her.

KJ is a character who seems to be pretty level-headed by nature, and who also has a functional family and reasonable understanding of sexual health.She gets her first period in this series, and is completely matter-of-fact about it. In contrast, Mac is horrified about KJ’s period and reveals that she doesn’t know anything about periods or other feminine hygiene issues because her family won’t let her learn for religious reasons. The only things she “knows” are some snippets of “information”that her misogynist brother told her.

Mac is always on edge and cultivates her image as “tough.” Part of her cultivation of that image is to pretend that she knows more than she does – so she ridicules the things she is secretly most curious about,Given this last character trait, and the pressure form the other girls to be more accepting,it will be interesting to see where Mac ends up.

I can’t speak to KJ’s journey, because as a straight person it’s not a journey I had to make. However, I can speak to the casual homophobia and to the confusion about what being homosexual actually meant to tweens and younger teens in the mid-1980s, at least in my experience. The line “When I grow up I think I’m going to be a lesbian” hits the perfect tone of awkwardness and confusion that pervaded the discourse at my school. Some of us were mean, and some were nice, but none of us had any idea what we were talking about.

Today, my middle school daughter and her friends (ages 12-14) talk casually about a dozen or more potential labels for sexual and gender identity (pansexual, asexual, transgender, gender fluid, etc). Obviously these orientations existed in the 1980s whether there were labels for them or not.However,my group of friends had no idea they existed.We weren’t all malicious, but we were all stunningly ignorant compared to the Tumbler generation of today.That ignorance, both hostile (on the part of Mac) and friendly(the other girls) is one of many things that Paper Girls captures so well.

Obviously, Paper Girls might be triggery because of Mac’s homophobic attitude and words. For the first few issues, readers were concerned about where the comic would be going given that such an offensive slur was used in the first issue. However, each issue does make it more and more clear that Mac’s attitude is not one that the reader is supposed to emulate. Instead, it sets up a scenario in which instead of being ostracised for being gay, KJ is comfortable with herself and embraced by her friends. It’s Mac who is left an outsider.
Will KJ eventually reject Mac for Mac’s attitude or will Mac’s attitude change because of her friendship with KJ? I’m not expecting them to run off together to live in bliss – they are twelve. However, in a series full of predictions about future events that involve dinosaurs, giant robots, and more, Paper Girls resonates the most when it is about the personal details of our characters’ lives.

 

 

 

Between the Lines Book Club: Stranger in Their Own Land

between the lines book club logoTomorrow (August 25) we will be meeting at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM to discuss Strangers in Their Own Land, by Arlie Russell Hochschild. On her webpage, Hochschild suggests the following topics to consider with regard to her book:

  • Gender
  • Race
  • Faith
  • The Environment
  • Media

She also introduces the following topics:

The Empathy Wall: an obstacle to “deep understanding”

Deep Story: “a story that feels as if it were true”

Feeling Rules: a shared set of rules regarding to how to feel about certain topics.

Honor Squeeze: “The perception by the right that their identity as white Christian men or women is not seen as honorable.”

Structural Amnesia: “A process by which the distribution of power in a society—monopolized by fathers or controlled by big business, for example—shapes what is collectively remembered or forgotten.”

See you tomorrow!