Okay, so I just read an article. And because this is me, I feel like responding in something longer than a 140 character tweet.
So: article. This dude from Princeton protests the term privilege, saying he won’t apologize for his white privilege. He makes one good case: that when people assume they know everything about him based on his skin color, they’re stereotyping.
Yeah, he’s totally right there. Single stories are bad. I’ll say it over and over again. People are individuals, and they should be treated as such.
Okay, great. But then I started to get itchy…because the author goes on to talk about how this country gives everyone the same chance to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and make themselves successful. He actually makes the direct argument that his ancestors came to a country that affords everyone equality. I got itchier.
I paused and reminded myself that I have understood what it’s like to have someone telling you you’re privileged when you feel anything but privileged. I get that. I grew up in a family that sure as heck didn’t have a whole lot of moola, and it probably wasn’t until during or after college that I realized the word “privilege” means a lot more than how much money is in your bank account. I get a little of what’s going on in this author’s head. I told myself that he just needs to grow up; see a little more of the world. He’ll probably better understand the complex meaning of the word “privilege” eventually.
Except here’s what I worry about: what if he doesn’t?
When I posted this to my Facebook timeline, I made a joke about him talking to me when he’s seen some things outside his bubble. I seriously hope he does. But then I thought about how I ended up getting outside of my bubble: I moved around the country a lot. I’ve worked in a lot of different schools with a lot of different populations of people. I’ve learned to listen a lot. I’ve learned to ask questions. That’s how I figured out that “privilege” is a really, really complex word, and it’s not something to throw around or rant against lightly.
I like to think that the author of this piece—Tal Fortgang—will be as lucky as I’ve been, and he’ll get the opportunity to talk and listen and learn with a lot of different people in a lot of different places. But my own experiences have also taught me that many people don’t get as lucky as I have. They stay in their bubbles for a really long time, not exploring the meaning of this word or the background behind it, setting public policy based on their bubbles, defending laws based on their bubbles, influencing public opinion in Time articles based on their bubbles…all without realizing how very not simple the term “privilege” really is.
Tal, I do sincerely hope you pop your bubble and see what I’m talking about someday. In the meantime, here’s a story for you. I’ll try to keep it short. Yesterday, I went to the Colorado National History Day competition with a bunch of my students. It was amazing. A stellar experience that every kid should have the opportunity to participate in. It was an opportunity that was, in many ways, brought to our school because someone in Colorado noticed that, like 95% of the kids who participate in this competition are white…and since 95% of Colorado’s population is not white, they thought maybe they should try to fix that ratio. And they started with our school, since 95% of our population is non-white. And, on a somewhat related note, non-rich. But I don’t want to start single-storying and assume the wealth of the people at that competition yesterday.
Our kids did a great job. They’d worked their butts off, and it showed. One of them placed third in the state, and we’re crazy proud. After the competition was over, two of them were sitting around with us, talking about what they thought of the competition.
“Most of the kids were white,” one of them said. “And there weren’t many projects on Chicano history. I think we had the only one.”
“Yeah,” another said. “And how were we supposed to win the exhibit category, anyway? A bunch of them had, like, Ipads in their exhibits.”
My fellow teachers and I reminded them that technically you don’t get any more points for including an Ipad in an exhibit. We restated how proud they should be, and that they had done exceptionally well in the competition by any measure.
Then one of our students talked about how she might do her project next year on Corky Gonzalez, a leader in the Chicano community in Denver. And you know why I was most proud of them? Because that conversation hopefully means that more people from more places will see her project next year and end up—at least in one small way—looking outside their bubble.
And maybe even popping it.
Not long ago Andrew Smith wrote this awesome Tumblr piece about the problematic ways that adults insist on categorizing, or “boxing” young adult literature. Andrew Smith (in case you just landed here from Mars) is a highly acclaimed YA author whose new book, Grasshopper Jungle, just came out. The Tumblr piece is here, and I would make it required reading for the entire internet if I had such power.
I can’t stop thinking about this piece.
That’s mostly because I AGREE WITH EVERY ONE OF ANDREW SMITH’S SENTIMENTS. I feel like I have to mention that up front, because I’m about to say some things that might, at times, make it seem like I do not agree with Smith. But this is one of those unfortunate moments in life when things are simply not that black and white and this is not a case of he’s-right-I’m-wrong. Rather, this is a case of HE IS DEFINITELY RIGHT AND I AM TRYING TO RECONCILE SOME OF THE WORLDLY PROBLEMS ATTACHED TO THE FACT THAT HE IS RIGHT.
In other words, this post isn’t going to fit nicely into a box.
This post is also, apparently, going to be filled with capital letters, as I seem to be in that mood right now. (I’m in that mood a lot. Let’s just be honest.)
So. Andrew Smith wrote this amazing Tumblr piece about how society likes to put literature, particularly YA literature, into boxes. It’s a great read. Especially this quote:
“In the past ten years or so of my writing career, I have been frustrated by all the boxes people hold up to categorize the canon of Young Adult literature. Here are the worst ones, the boxes I’d like to set fire to:
· Boy books/ Girl books
· Age level (This book is for grades 10 and up! Squee!)
· Male author/ Female author
· LGBTQ books/ Straight (“normal” kid) books”
I read this and immediately thought THAT’S EXACTLY RIGHT. Then I started making a mental list of the many ways my first book, Here’s to You, Zeb Pike has been “boxed” since it came out. I mean, there’s the fact that about 90% of the blogs that have reviewed it exclusively review books with LGBTQ characters. Or the fact that the only Goodreads group that seems to have noticed it exists is a YA LGBTQ group. Or the fact that whenever people ask me what the book is about, they won’t stop looking at me until I put the poor thing into as many boxes as possible. If, for instance, I say, “it’s a contemporary story,” they keep their eyes locked on mine until I add things like “aboutaboy” or “aboutaboystrugglingwithhissexuality” or “aboutaboywho’sneglectedbyhisparents” or “aboutaboywho’safreshmaninhighschool.”
I think the reason I reacted with such YES THAT’S EXACTLY RIGHT when I read this post is that I have been incredibly frustrated by the sheer amount of boxing that has happened with Zeb, especially around the main character’s sexuality. This book is, for me, about so much more than just a character who’s gay, or has neglectful parents, or is in high school. It’s about everything from self-confidence to the importance of family to how much the weather in Vermont sucks in October.
I haven’t liked the fact that the only thing some people see when they look at this books is “GAY TEEN.”
So there I was, reading Andrew Smith’s piece, and reflecting on the fact that I don’t really like how boxed this book has been, and how glad I am that someone much more clever than myself put this into words far better than I’ve been able to…and this line of thinking, of course, led me to imagine a world where books were never boxed or categorized
Which, of course, is where things get complicated.
One potential problem in this world: ensuring kids have access to diverse literature. I’m a middle school curriculum director. Last year, I compiled a book list for a 6th grade curriculum with some utterly brilliant teachers. And it was a killer list of books. Until some very awesome person went, “um, are you going to teach any books with lead female characters?”
I’m glad someone took a moment to put our list of books into a few boxes and notice such a huge diversity gap in that list. I want to make sure my students are constantly being introduced to a wide variety of human perspectives on life, and that may not happen if I don’t take a minute to consider which perspectives they have and haven’t seen.
Another potential problem: sometimes we have to acknowledge the boxes books have already been put in if we want to get those books out of their boxes.
This one’s a little harder to explain, but I’ll try. (C’mon, brain.) I write a lot about the importance of getting LGBTQ books into schools and school libraries. This is definitely boxing on my part, but it’s very intentional. There are so many schools that, either purposely or subconsciously, keep books off of shelves and out of curriculum because they've placed these books in “the LGBTQ box.” If we don’t acknowledge that those boxes exist and that this censorship exists, it stands to reason that this “quiet boxing” will continue and these books will remain out of classrooms and school libraries…despite the fact that a) this is doing a horrible disservice to children and b) all of these censored books are about much more than just an LGBTQ character.
And it’s not just schools that are boxing books—it’s the publishing industry as well. Here’s to You, Zeb Pike is published by Harmony Ink Press, which deals exclusively with LGBTQ YA literature. HIP was founded in response to the low number of books with LGBTQ characters that are currently succeeding in the publishing marketplace. Do I think it’s ideal that a company like Harmony has to exist? No offense to my awesome publisher, but no. In an ideal world, perspectives from all types of people would be evenly spread in bookstores. Am I incredibly grateful that Harmony exists? Yes. (And not just because they put up with my email tardiness.) I’m grateful that they exist to fill a void in a marketplace that has boxed a bunch of books and put them in a proverbial garage.
At the end of the day, though, Andrew Smith is absolutely right: by constantly putting books in boxes, we are sending the message that to kids that people belong in boxes. I’ve definitely been heard uttering things to my students like, “I think the guys in this class will like this book a lot.” I was once in a classroom where the books were shelved with such labels as “Books for Athletes.” This doesn’t make me or my colleague bad teachers. We were just doing our best to get kids interested in putting away their PSPs for a few minutes. But it does make us guilty of sending the wrong subliminal messages to some pretty impressionable minds. And as Smith reminds us, once you put something in a box, “the box can’t be destroyed.”
We obviously need to stop sending the message to kids that books, and therefore people, need to go in a box and never come out and once you are there this is the only box you can ever be in. Which means we all need to be much more aware of how we over-box books, or box them unnecessarily, or make a book out to be nothing more than a box it’s in. And if we MUST put a book in a box, we need to make sure we’re doing it for the right reasons.
Hopefully we will someday become a society where the only boxes young adults ever put a book in is the “I LOVED IT” box. I think I’ll like that world a lot.
And in the meantime, you should go read Grasshopper Jungle, so I have people to discuss it with when I finish.
Warning: I’m still crying, so this will likely be one of the more disjointed pieces of writing I ever produce, and I might even decide not to edit it, because the whole reason I am crying a in a hotel room has a lot to do with the fact that life is ultimately unedited, no matter how hard to try to take your red pen to it.
It all started…well, with me NOT in tears. I was sitting in this hotel room, which isn’t so bad, despite some really questionable décor choices involving pineapples. I’m here in Albany for a Conference to Make Me Better at Helping Kids Read Good, and overall it’s been a decent few days. Hundreds of teachers and school administrators together in a room are actually kind of a hoot. That’s what happens when you let us all sleep in longer than 5 a.m. AND we get to eat while sitting down for two days in a row.
But tonight has been surprisingly rough. My colleague who flew in with me already left, so I decided to lock myself in my room with overpriced room service, about twelve hours of unit plan reviewing and assessment writing, and a determination TO FIGURE OUT THE ENDING OF THIS BOOK THAT JUST KEEPS ENDING DIFFERENTLY AND MY POOR EDITOR.
And I just started to feel all very WHAT ON EARTH IS THE POINT. Because I’ve just spent two days in a room with educators who are amazing and awesome and who I know on MANY levels are doing this whole Teaching Kids to Read Good thing better than I am, and I often tend to wonder how I am perceived by these other Educators of Amazingness. Also because I am basically paralyzed by finalizing the ending of my newest book and I’m not sure why. I have seriously re-written it so many times, and my editor right now likes it, but I just cannot call it finished—and today I realized I am probably paralyzed because a few reviews of my first book that were unfavorable towards the ending.
Anyhoo, it was about then when I realized I AM THINKING A LOT LATELY ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE THINK OF ME AND HOW I COMPARE MYSELF TO OTHERS. This was disappointing for two reason: one, I read a book this summer that told me to stop doing that and I was trying really really hard. And two, I hate when I do that.
Anyhoo again, then I did what any sane person in this situation might do: I started watching John and Hank Green videos ad nauseum (spell check says I have that wrong, but it’s got no better suggestions). This was helpful at first, because John and Hank Green videos, I only recently discovered (yes, yes, multiple years behind here…I’m also still trying to learn how to squeeze all my thoughts into 140 characters), have this weird way of saying exactly what I need to hear. So when John (following his own Twitter rule, I am allowed to call him by his first name) almost immediately dropped this quote from Franny and Zooey about how “I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody” I knew I had picked the right activity for the evening.
Until THIS video happened.
I just put it on again and teared right back up. Watch that video. Right now.
I was watching, and listening, and I got to the part about Lord of the Flies. Right about then I also got an email message that my book has a new review. So I started reading the review while watching the video, because all those studies claiming multitasking isn’t really good for us can’t POSSIBLY be right.
Here’s what I then heard John Green say:
“There are always nerdfighters…who will listen to you if you will also listen back.” (If you don’t get the nerdfighters reference, a few John and Hank Green videos will cure you of that right quick. And you want to be cured.)
At the same time, I read this review. Bear in mind that my first book has not sold well. And because I’m published through what is kindly referred to as a “boutique” publisher, not many people know about it. So I’m always a little surprised when, well, anyone at all has read it.
The review said:
“When I finished this book, I was in tears. If I could meet the author, I would wanna hug her and thank her for writing this book. The more I’d read the more I wanted to read. And in the end, I found it to be a literary masterpiece.”
I realize and recognize that not everyone in the world will have that reaction to my book. In fact, just last month someone basically said they regretted the moment they ever laid eyes on it. But the fact that even one person ever in the world thinks that....
Well, I’ll come back to that in a second, but first you have to know what I then heard come out of John Green’s mouth:
“I call up the great Robert Frost quote: the only way out is through. You will get through. I will get through.”
And then I was REALLY, REALLY crying. Surrounded by strange pineapples in a city about 2,000 miles away from my home. And when I really wasn’t quite sure why, I decided if I started writing that eventually I might figure it out.
Here is what I think I know: it is a ridiculous exercise to base all your self-worth on what others say and think of you, obviously. And Salinger, as he so often did, captured perfectly that the human fear of invalidation or lack of validation is at best bizarre and at worst paralyzing. And Twitter proves that this really is a human condition.
So all we can do, I think, is what John Green pushes us to think about in this video: find the people who appreciate us for whatever it is that we are and want to be, so that we can validate each other in a space where that validation is real, and healthy, and worthwhile. I will never be sorry that the validation of that review makes me cry. That kind of validation is why I wrote it in the first place—because the truths in that book are truths for me, and I wanted to share them with people who have similar truths. But obsessing over whether or not an entire populace of people will like the ending of my next book? That’s when the human need for validation becomes so dangerous.
As Cyril Connelly put it, “Better to write for yourself and have no audience than to write for your audience and have no self.”
And I didn't get into education to be the best at it. Meeting other awesome teachers is amazing because they make me more awesome. The comparisons only drive the community apart rather than bring us together. It’s a sucky thing that in this day and age of teacher evaluation and pay-for-performance that so often the first thought on a teacher’s mind IS whether or not they are better than their peers. This is a collaborative practice, and it needs to stay a collaborative practice against all odds. And my inner human desires to be competitive and WIN AT EVERYTHING (especially Scrabble) that I thought I had squelched years ago must go back to being squelched because I clearly am not squelching them well.
John Green created that video for a teenage audience. I jokingly made the title of my author-world website “writing books for the young adult in all of us” because I, like so many YA authors, know that that gap from young adult to adult is a pretty short one, and we’re all crossing back and forth all the time.
The same twelve-year-old me who used to sit in class and wonder if what she just said sounded stupid to everyone else was at that conference today. And that same thirteen-year-old me who just had to win the spelling competition because I wasn’t good at basketball comes back every time I see my book’s sales rank on Amazon. And that fourteen-year-old me who swooned in happiness when my teacher said I was a good writer was reading that review today.
John Green’s right, and so was Frost: “The only way out is through.” I think you have to find your way out of a place where you simply let many others determine your happiness so that you can get to the place where you let THE RIGHT people determine your happiness. At that point, I think you’re actually determining your own happiness. And if you forget to do that for a while, it’s okay—apparently someone will eventually get on YouTube or a book blogging site and remind you.
Or something like that. I’m still crying at little, and I can’t find my red pen. But I think that’s close.
If you follow me on Twitter at all, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I’m a football fan.
Yes, yes, it seems unlikely. After all, I’m five-two and have limited athletic ability. I also grew up in a household that is fairly disdainful of most sports, and my parents cringe a little when I try to talk to them about passing stats.
So when people ask me how I became a football fan, I find it a little hard to explain what really happened. The truth? I fell into the football world for two reasons: the competition and the camaraderie.
When I first fell in love with my husband, I did it in spite of the fact that he likes football. I spent the first year of our lives together avoiding him on Sundays and changing the channel at every commercial on Monday nights. (Drove him nuts.) Then he and his friends started a fantasy football league, and even though I didn’t have a clue what a wide receiver was (they receive…packages?), I figured, why not? They needed an extra person, and I like games. What could be the harm?
Famous last words.
Next thing I knew I was spending every Wednesday hunched over the computer peering over waiver lists and every Sunday morning screaming at the TV as though my life depended on it. I almost broke a window during our league’s second year when my team lost in the playoffs and I chucked a book across the room.
Whoops. So clearly, I’m competitive, and football (particularly fantasy football) gave me an outlet for that.
But here’s the other part of football that made me a likely lifelong fan: the camaraderie.
No one ever told me that becoming is football fan is sort of like joining a club. It’s not a secret club or anything, sure, but it is certainly a club. My students taught me this during my first year as an Official Football Fan.
See, I teach middle school. And every middle school teacher on the planet will tell you that finding a way to reach and connect with every one of your students in nearly impossible. But you do what you can. And it turns out joining Football Fan Club is just one of many things you can do.
So there I was, teaching a grammar lesson, and because I’d been very bored the week before, I’d snuck some pretty not-so-subtle fantasy football references into the day’s exercises. Steve Smith will earn a hundred yards in the game this week and make your teacher very happy I think so don’t you. You know, fix the run-on. Or something like that. I have no memory of what the exact sentence or assignment was, but I’m sure you get the idea.
And one of my kiddos, who I had remained woefully disconnected from all year, who wanted nothing to do with me and who, while not a troublemaker, certainly wasn’t living up to his full potential in my classroom, jerked his head up. “You drafted Steve Smith? What were you thinking?”
It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. And the kid passed my class.
Being mildly socially inept, I have used my membership in Football Fan Club as a way to start conversations at awkward social gatherings, bond with co-workers, and convince a whole army of middle school kids that I’m not quite as uncool as I look at first glance. Because this is a sport that breeds serious camaraderie. Members of Football Fan Club, even when they root for different teams, are often so passionate about this sport that they will instantly form some kind of bond with anyone else who wants to discuss the pass interference rules with them. As someone who hated sports for much of my life, I’ve found this instant connection to be both strange and amazing at time—but the more years I live as a football fan, the more I appreciate it.
And that’s just the level of camaraderie that builds between fans of the sport. Now let’s talk about the camaraderie that builds between fans of the same team.
I have a lot of non-football friends (I keep ‘em around anyway) who are consistently appalled by what I’ve heard referred to as the level of “fanaticism” over football teams. Yeah, that’s fair. It’s definite fanaticism. What else can you call it when 90,000 people dress in the same color and all go hang out in the same area of a city to yell and scream with one another?
But I would argue that this sort of fanaticism is, in some ways, one of the best things that can happen to a place. Let me tell you why.
I started out my football career as a Giants fan, having been a recent transplant to Colorado from the east coast. Because if you’re going to watch the hours of football I instantly started watching when I joined that fantasy league, you’ve gotta have a team. (Plus, Eli Manning is cute; I don’t care what the polls say.) I remain an avid Giants fan who has cried her way through two Superbowl wins and hates the Patriots with an appropriate level of passion. But I’ve lived in Colorado a lot of years, and because Colorado only has one football team, it’s hard not to get sucked into the fanaticism that surround the Broncos in this state. I’ve been a Broncos fan since the first time I went to a game and got to dress just like 90,000 other people and yell with them. And in years like this, when they’re WINNING, and they are about to go to the Superbowl, I think it would be impossible to live in Colorado and not get sucked into the fanaticism currently surrounding Orange and Blue.
Here’s why that fanaticism is not just a good thing—it’s an amazing thing.
We’re a pretty divided state, Colorado, in a lot of ways. In Denver the signs change from Spanish to English rapidly, depending on what part of town you’re in. Red and blue cities vie for who has more political power in state-wide elections. Socioeconomics are so variant here that school choice is everyone’s rallying cry for education reform, because the same city can have the best and worst schools in the state within mere miles of each other.
But every Sunday this year, when I’ve gone grocery shopping before football starts, I’m surrounded by people wearing orange and blue shirts with me, and talking about Manning (Peyton this time; at least I keep allegiance in families) and whether or not he’ll come back next season, and what the playoffs picture looks like. Every Friday at school you can hear students and teachers murmuring to each other about what the upcoming game is.
And now? On the cusp of Denver’s first Superbowl appearance since the days of John Elway? Well, you literally cannot avoid how united in our fanaticism we all are.
Schools on Friday showed staffs and classes decked out in nothing but orange and blue. Every electronic billboard in this state is flashing congratulations and luck towards the Denver Broncos. When hubs and I went out to get food last night, I literally stopped counting how many people were wearing jerseys. Even the buildings have gotten in on the act.
People are talking about this team in Spanish AND English, and it doesn’t matter what language you’re cheering for the Broncos in. Red and blue cities have the same billboards flashing. Teachers in every school, regardless of how many computers the students there have, wore their jerseys on Friday afternoon.
This state is, truly, United in Orange. And yes, you could also say we are united by our fanaticism. But it’s a fanaticism that’s bringing us together, rather than driving us apart—and those types of fanaticisms seems harder and harder to come by these days.
I’m hardly saying football is perfect sport. It is sexist in its mere existence, homophobic in its silence on issues affecting gay people, and racist in its undertones. It comes with its own inner fanaticisms that are extremely dividing.
But I’m still a proud football fan and a proud Broncos fan, because I’m proud to be part of a state that’s united around something which is bringing us together. Hopefully it is in this space, where we all agree on one thing, that we can begin to talk to about the things we don’t always agree on—and that we will all become better people for it.
Well, it happened. Finally.
I watched the documentary about the Bronies.
Truthfully? I blame the review website foreveryoungadult.com. Not long ago they did a review on this documentary called Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Fans of My Little Pony, which has apparently been making the rounds on Netflix. And after reading that review, I couldn’t get watching this documentary out of my mind. Because here’s the premise, people: there are a whole bunch of teenage and twenty-something men (and a handful of women) who are totally obsessed with the TV show My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic. And I do mean obsessed. This isn’t like “I watch it with my kid or brother when it’s on.” This is like “I make remixes to their songs and laser light shows and wear costumes and collect the figurines and go to conventions.” Because yes—there are Brony conventions. One of which had, like, 4000 people in attendance.
I’m going to be honest: I didn’t make it to the end of the documentary. Not because I was totally creeped out or disgusted by the Bronies, as some commentators in the film seemed to be—quite the opposite, actually. There are several Bronies in that film who are incredibly courageous and really tear at your heart strings. One guy nearly got the crap kicked out of him because of his thing for My Little Pony. Another dude with Asperger’s makes the trek into a decently-sized city and deals with all kinds of difficult interactions with people just to go to the Brony convention. Yup, I totally teared up.
No, the Bronies themselves were actually quite endearing. But the My Little Pony thing? I could not grasp this. I really tried. The Bronies kept talking about all the great lessons in the show, and how much they connected with the characters, and how the show made them feel at peace and like life is good again…and yet every time the film showed a clip from My Little Pony, all I thought was this: “ohmigwardpinkandpurpleandcheesyandwhyisTwilightSparkle’svoiceSOHIGH?”
So yeah. Poor Friend Who Didn’t Know What She Was Getting Into When She Agreed to Watch This With Me and I actually turned it off to try watching a full episode of Friendship is Magic, because it turns out those are on Netflix too. And I still could not get it. Yeah, there was some nice generic messaging about friendship and kindness and loyalty etc. But no more or less than I’ve noticed in any other kid’s cartoon.
All this got me thinking about something that fascinates me: the way humans are wired. The fact that some people just seem to be so wired to like certain things, and the way others can be so wired to be repulsed (or in my case, more indifferent) towards those things.
For years, I thought I was the craziest person in the world because I would rather read a book written for teenagers any day of the week than pick up something in the adult literature section. It wasn’t until I published my first book and was shoved into the world of internet book sub-culture that I realized plenty of other adults are also wired to love young adult lit, and the friends who mocked my books and asked me when I was going to get serious about my reading weren’t the whole of the population besides me.
For years I thought I was the only one who read romance novels under the covers and hid them under my bed. Then Fifty Shades of Grey took over the world (which I actually hated, BTW—never made it past the first book), and I realized that nope, plenty of other people were wired to like books like that.
I never did figure out why that particular book made it suddenly okay for people to really talk about the fact that they might be wired to like romance novels. I just know I’m really grateful it did.
And here’s why: if there’s one thing the Bronies documentary will probably make you think about, it’s tribes. You know, tribes like the ones Sherman Alexie talks about at the end of his amazing young adult book, Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian:
“I realized that, sure, I was a Spokane Indian. I belonged to that tribe. But I also belonged to the tribe of American immigrants. And to the tribe of basketball players. And to the tribe of bookworms. And the tribe of cartoonists. And the tribe of chronic masturbators. And the tribe of teenage boys. And the tribe of small-town kids. And the tribe of Pacific Northwesterners. And the tribe of tortilla chips-and-salsa lovers. And the tribe of poverty. And the tribe of funeral-goers. And the tribe of beloved sons. And the tribe of boys who really missed their best friends. It was a huge realization. And that's when I knew that I was going to be okay (217).”
The documentaries about the Bronies—at least the part that I got through—is much more about a tribe than about a fanaticism over a TV show. It’s about a group of people who are able to own what they are, who they are, how they’re wired, because they’ve found their tribe of people who are wired the same way. And that makes it okay that they’re not always accepted by the people who aren’t wired that way.
Lately I’ve found myself falling head-long into a lot of Tribes I didn’t know I had. Joining the internet book world (well, kind of, I’m still introverted enough that it’s a slow entry) has given me access to a whole tribe of people who love YA lit as much as I do. Publishing my first book has made me realize that there’s a whole author tribe out there who are wired to understand my love of writing and support me when I'm struggling with it. And, because my YA publisher is an imprint of a publisher that produces gay romance novels, I’ve also happened into a tribe of people who also love romance novels.
All kinds of tribes.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the Bronies. And even though I didn’t make it through the whole film (I AM SORRY BUT TWILIGHT SPARKLES IS SO ANNOYING I AM JUST NOT WIRED THAT WAY), I feel qualified to say that these are the most important ones:
1. Accept how you’re wired, and know that it is very, very unlikely you are the only person who is wired that way.
2. Find the tribe of other people who are wired that way.
3. Be excited when this tribe embraces you, and when you embrace them. Because embracing people for who they are is not something that’s coming easily in our world these days.
4. When someone isn’t wired the way you are, it’s okay to shut off the TV and just be glad that they found their tribe. But don’t judge them because you don’t understand the way they’re wired.
No matter how much Twilight Sparkles may annoy you.
So, I've actually been blogging all over lately. Just not on my own website.
Partly 'cause this website is brand-spanking-new...and partly because lots of other AWESOME people have been kind enough to share my writing with the world.
So if you've just arrived here, and you were hoping to learn more about the Life, Beliefs, and General Dispositions of Johanna Parkhurst, here are a few other blogs I've written that live throughout the internets. Check 'em out!
A nifty piece on--yes--how the main character of Here's to You, Zeb Pike came out to me while I writing him. Seriously. Characters do have minds of their own sometimes....
Me on my soapbox about why students need more LGBT books in schools. And a few things you can do to get them there.
Hey, it's an important soapbox. Why and how teachers should stand up for LGBT books in schools.
Adventures in climbing a mountain (and being smoked by an 8-year-old)!