Monday, September 27, 2010

Maybe people use the word "antediluvian" all the time, and I just never noticed

Okay, my hackles were clearly already up, but as I was finishing The Boxer and the Spy last night I was so distracted by some of the ridiculousness (it's like he was taunting me!) that I couldn't help but grab a stack of Post-Its and start flagging.
Suzi looked like she was planning for her wedding. Her eyes were bright. She was excited. Suzi was adventurous, Terry knew. For Suzi this was fun.
And for an adventurous girl, what could be more exciting than planning her own wedding?!

Later on that page, Suzi is described as a "sexpot." Suzi is fifteen and has, allegedly, been kissing boys.

While in the middle of an intense conversation about an intricate conspiracy that they believe lead to the murder of a classmate:
Nice legs, though, Terry thought, for her age.
This was the umpteenth time this character's nice legs (despite her being all old and gross) were mentioned; I think we could have skipped it during the whole "we suspect you of being involved in a murder" conversation.

There are also many obnoxious references to Terry not knowing the meanings of "hard" words (because, you know, boys have muscles but are kind of dumb), but this one seemed over the top:
"He laughed at me," Mrs. Trent said. "He is a troglodyte. Some sort of antediluvian beast, I think."
A couple other words he'd have to ask Abby about.
Now, I love big words, and I use them a lot. I have used "presumptuous" in a text message before I even had a phone with a QWERTY keypad. I've used "troglodyte" in casual conversation. But "antediluvian"? Seriously? And just four words later? It doesn't seem to fit the character at all, making its only purpose to point out that Terry doesn't know the meaning. And go ahead and accuse me of setting low standards, but I think it's perfectly okay for a 15-year-old to not be familiar with the word "antediluvian", particularly when used in such a stilted fashion.

I did finish the book last night, and while I did enjoy the story, it was really frustrating to be so regularly pulled out of the story by such bizarre and obnoxious gender stereotyping.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Is lavender-lined white paper something I, as a girl, should know more about?

I don't normally write about what I'm reading, mostly because I can barely even manage to update my GoodReads more than once every three months, but I feel compelled to write about Robert B. Parker's The Boxer and the Spy. And not for good reasons.

I am, for the most part, enjoying the story, and I will be booktalking it in the near future. But some the language Parker is using is just a) taking me out of the story and b) ticking me off.

First, "crap" is used and referred to as if it's a big bad word, which wouldn't seem quite as ridiculous if the main character didn't use the word "fag" quite so casually. But I'm not going to say much about that, as I have another post I'm working on that's all about swearing (you might want to skip that one, Mom).

The thing that pulled me right out of the book was a reference to the female lead taking out "a piece of lavender-lined white paper" and then, just a few pages later, using "a Sharpie with lavender ink that matched the lines on her notepaper."


I, of course, Googled "lavender-lined white paper" to see if this was really some sort of cultural phenomenon that was sweeping the nation. For that exact phrase I got exactly one hit. I'll let you guess where it came from. When I broadened the search a bit I found some more references, all to papers that included pictures of fairies, or were lavender scented, or had a pattern of lavender flowers. I did find a couple references to using lavender-lined paper in a special writing project in a middle school. But no indication that there was any particular reason why the lavenderness of the lines on the character's paper (and her matching Sharpie!), needed particular emphasis.

Except, of course, to point out that she's a girl! Who's taking notes! And isn't that adorable!

Abby, the character, is otherwise fairly well-drawn and dynamic. She's smart and assertive and can go toe-to-toe on multiple levels when talking Terry, her male counterpart. And this whole lavenderosity seems thrown in to remind us that she's actually feminine--as if those other traits of hers are somehow not feminine--and that's why Terry is in love with her. There's a very "girls can be smart, but it's even more important to them that things have pretty matching colors, and that's really why boys like them" tone to it. Barf.

I may have been a bit more tuned into these language choices because I was reading Maureen Johnson's amazing blog on gender and reading earlier (which you need to go read right now. Seriously. I'll wait. She says everything I've ever wanted to say on the subject, only better), but I've come across this before, and it's always just so. . . obnoxious. If pointing out the color of the lines on a piece of paper is the only way you can think of to point out that the character is a girl, you need to outsource the writing of female characters to someone who understands that many girls have favorite colors that aren't pastel.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Reference Question of the Day

Student: I don't mean this to be offensive or anything, but were you, like, a nerd in high school?

Me: Still am, honey, still am.

Student: I know. But were you, like, an even bigger nerd?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New year, new blog post

I have several half-started (but nowhere near half-finished) blog posts that I haven’t gotten around to actually writing and posting; now is the time of year when I switch from not posting regularly because not much is going on, to not posting regularly because too much is going on. As a reader, your experience is pretty much the same. I’m all about consistency.

I’ve been back for over three weeks now (two weeks of an intensive Professional Development Institute, and then the regular week-long inservice), but today the new students arrived, making it feel like a real “first day of school.” More significantly, it is the first day of my fourth year at this school. Which is, for the record, the longest I’ve worked anywhere. Which is both exciting and kind of weird. Don’t get me wrong--I love working here, which is why I’m still here, and I’m really excited about many of the changes that are taking place, and the ways in which my job is developing. And I really like the idea of being somewhere for a length of time--establishing myself, building a program, becoming the person that can answer the new teachers’ questions.

Also, this year’s four-year seniors have never known another librarian at this school. I still can’t quite wrap my head around that.

Many exciting things on the horizon for this year (I’m aware that I keep using the word “exciting.” I do know other words, but they are stored in the less tired parts of my brain, to which I do not currently have access). My big goal for this year is to write a real, actual curriculum--beyond the big ideas of what students learn, to a year-by-year, “when and where” do they learn it plan. On one level it seems straightforward, and on another there are too many pieces for me to wrap my head around. But realizing that this year’s seniors have only had me as a librarian has lit a fire in me in terms of really taking ownership for the long-term shape of the information literacy curriculum.

We’re also doing a big push with assistive technology this year, taking what we’ve been doing and making sure it’s implemented consistently across the disciplines. This has, for a while, seemed to be a Sisyphean task (yes, I can come up with “Sisyphean,” but not a synonym for “exciting”), but momentum has finally gotten to the point where real, school-wide change is almost inevitable. I’m psyched and overwhelmed; AT is one of those things where I feel like I know enough to know what I don’t know. But I’m working with a great team of people, and we have built connections to experts who can help.

We’ve switched to a new website portal. . . thing (not to get too technical), and the state of the library website is sort of in limbo. I still have the wikispaces site I’ve had for the past three years, but at some point the library will get folded into the larger school site, which is exciting. I’ve always been a bit frustrated with the wikispaces site; I love that it makes it possible for me to have an easily editable website, but I hate that it’s not really that professional looking. It feels separate from the rest of the school website. Probably because it is. However, that integration hasn’t happened yet, so I’m kind of in between the old site and. . . something new. I don’t know what it will look like or what I’ll be able to do. I am using this experience for building my “making peace with uncertainty” skills.

In a related story, regular readers (hi Mom!) will recall that I had gotten some. . . less than enthusiastic feedback on the summer reading program. Well. In the past few weeks I’ve gotten several e-mails from students who are excited about the books that they’ve read, and are asking good questions about the summer reading projects. And they are doing some cool projects. I can’t wait to see them. In fact, one student showed me his book trailer for Carl Hiassen’s Flush this afternoon, and it was obvious (underneath his “too cool for school” exterior) that he was proud of what he’d created--and he is not the type of student I would have necessarily expected that from. I know there will still be grumbling, and I know that every student didn’t necessarily buy in, but just based on the initial feedback I’m thinking that this new program was a success. So there.

I also did a new student orientation today, which went well, but I’m not really thrilled with what I did. I’m not sure what I would have changed (if I knew, I would have fixed it beforehand); it just seemed lacking in some way. But, one of the prefects did introduce me to a new student as “the coolest librarian you’ll ever meet.” So, I got that going for me.