Evanston and Authenticity

Posted in Favorite Books, Geography at 7:24 am by Janet

Even though I no longer have a crush on John Green, I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson as soon as I could get my hands on it. I loved it. I was particularly excited that the book is set in the Chicago area and that the Will Grayson parts of the story are set in my town, Evanston.

In library school and on various listservs, we spend a lot of time talking about the importance of authenticity in multicultural literature for children.  What I hear over and over is  that it is important to be sure you’re depicting a people from a particular culture or place fairly and accurately. But now I wonder…do you have to represent a town accurately? Does geographical authenticity matter?

Does Evanston’s high school really have lots of murals of its mascot? Does Jane’s house at 1712 Wesley exist and does it really have a porch? Am I being too obsessive? I mean, I live here and I don’t know. Then again, I’m not really the audience the author had in mind, given that I’m, you know, not a teenager. (I do know, however, that Will and Tiny and Jane drove home from the Hideout way quicker than is actually possible, at least when I’m driving. )

I’m still undecided (maybe you people out there can help me decide), but here’s how I’m leaning on this question. In this case, geographical authenticity matters when it shapes the story. It matters that Will Grayson and Tiny live in Evanston because it’s far away from will grayson, who I think is supposed to live over in the southwest suburb of Naperville. It also matters matters because Tiny and Will Grayson are Evanston rich kids, and will grayson is not a rich kid (although I’ve heard there are plenty of rich kids in Naperville). These are things that might pull the characters apart, but various events and strong feelings conspire to bring them together. On the other hand, it doesn’t matter because a story can be, well, just a story. The murals on the wall at ETHS don’t push the story forward, nor do they hold it back. Sometimes fiction is fiction, in that it’s made up,  but it sure is neat when the details correspond with reality.

I’m hoping to give WGWG to a recent ETHS grad, and we’re also going to do a book discussion at my library (one suburb north) on it later this summer. Perhaps some of those teens can tell me if it is authentic, and whether or not it matters to them. I’ll get back to you on that.


La Nouvelle Orleans

Posted in Favorite Books, Geography at 8:41 pm by Janet

Ooh, look what the cat dragged into the Tarts Wardrobe! It’s me, and tarts, I have not forgotten about you. I have just been very busy. Among other things, I’ve been on the road. Last month Lucianonymous and I drove down to New Orleans. New Orleans is like no other place I’ve been. Is it France? Is it the Caribbean? Is it the USA? All of the above? We mostly stayed around the French Quarter, but we did take  a detour when we got lost coming back from Tulane. Business was booming in the French Quarter, but you could definitely still see the effects of Katrina–bad roads, boarded up houses.  I narrowly avoided having a voodoo hex put on me when I skipped out of a mini lecture at the Voodoo Spiritual Temple to rescue L from standing interminably on the sidewalk.  We wandered around a cemetery (the one in Easy Rider). We took a drive through the Garden District. The whole place was fascinating to me.

What am I getting at? After I got back I had to reread Ruined by Paula Morris. I read this book this winter, and it had me glued to the couch. The same thing happened the second time around, except that this time I had actually seen some of the places mentioned in the book and the story seemed so much more vivid. Anyhow, it’s about a New York teen named Rebecca who’s suddenly shipped off to New Orleans to live with an old family friend. An outsider in her very stodgy and traditional private school, Rebecca has to look elsewhere to find friends.  She meets Lisette in the cemetery across the street from her house. Turns out Lisette is a ghost. Lisette introduces Rebecca to New Orleans’s history, with its complicated race relations and class structure. Rebecca soon finds out that New Orleans’s history is, well, not history at all. Lisette is connected to an old voodoo curse on the family of Rebecca’s  snootiest schoolmate, and Rebecca herself may have a part to play in the curse. There’s a cute boy and a dramatic ending and lots of Mardi Gras beads. Morris does a does a great job of creating a sense of place and giving an overview of the history and culture of New Orleans. Plus it’s a riveting story.

So…if I can’t make it back for Mardi Gras, I’ll just read Ruined. You should read it, too.

Tomb of voodoo queen Marie Laveau

Tomb of voodoo queen Marie Laveau

Commander's Palace, mentioned in the book

Commander's Palace, mentioned in the book


Two Tarts!

Posted in Conferences at 9:54 pm by Janet

Bridget and Janet at the Two Tarts

More Things About Portland, PLA, and the Last Few Days

Posted in Conferences at 9:48 pm by Janet

1. Publishers seem desperate to find the next “vampire.” At various events, publishers swore the that one of the following is going to be the next vampire phenomenon: angels (fallen and non-fallen), ninjas, and dystopias.

2. Things seen during conference sessions: a librarian talking on her cell phone; a librarian with her baby (what set of circumstances led her to bring that baby to PLA? I felt like I was back at work in the children’s department when the baby starting crying, which in turn almost made me start crying); a librarian (Nancy Purl, see earlier post) knitting–her pink sweater was really coming along by Friday

3. Thank you, Albert Whitman, for The Boxcar Children, and for dinner on Thursday. Your new books look good!

4. I gave my presentation on Friday. I think our group did well. I hope we spread Scratch to lots more libraries! The presentation is online somewhere and when I figure out where it is, I’ll post it.

5. Bridget and Barrett took me to see the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden!

6. Rumor has it that the Multnomah County Library in downtown Portland has a problem with fake therapy animals. For instance, someone tried to bring in a “therapy squirrel.” Now, I’ll be the first to advocate for therapy animals, but that’s taking it a little too far…

7. On Saturday we had a wonderful dinner with famous authors Laini Taylor and Suzanne Young.

8. The presenters served wine at one session…silly me, I got there too late to get a glass! Now, why didn’t we think of that for our presentation?

9. We went to the Two Tarts bakery! I have never been so full from cookies in my life. YUM!

10. In one 20-hour period, I cleaned up both cat puke and dog puke.


Ten Things I Saw Today

Posted in Conferences, Random at 11:38 pm by Janet

1. Nancy Pearl

2. A librarian knitting (Nancy Purl?)

3. A dirt bike gang

4. A woman carrying a rat on her shoulders

5. A dog on the light rail (with its owner)

6. A long line in front of Voodoo Doughnut

7. A bacon doughnut

8. A panic-attack inducing amount of books at Powell’s

9. A crazy giant pink awning on a store selling funky Asian stuff, but I can’t remember the store’s name. Anybody know what it is?

10. A giant dish of cassoulet

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