In the Trumpian era, I think there is a good argument to be made for viewing the act of going to a library as one of healthy and patriotic subversion. Libraries are not just symbols of education, free speech, and truth, they are actual physical repositories of these things. They are the keepers of our public, and often private, histories, first points of contact to government agencies and documents, and safe havens for thinkers of all kinds. Texas is not where I thought I would find this point most publicly, and fervently, underscored. The Texas Library Association has an entire portal dedicated to Intellectual freedom, based on the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, a document that until today, I had no idea existed. But it does, and that… Read More >
Anyone who has ever driven across the high deserts of the American Southwest can attest to the barren and foreboding nature of the landscape. It’s a part of the world that few people see in any more depth than through the windshield of an over-heating car; a place you drive through, not to. What almost no one realizes is that for much of the distance, you are driving through a foreign country- the sovereign lands of the Hopi and Navajo Nations. Referred to generally as the “Big Res” it covers an area almost as large as Arizona itself. It is comprised of some of the harshest and resource-free lands in the United States and was ‘given’ to Native Americans because of the inherent hopelessness of survival. Extraordinarily, and against all… Read More >
In 2005 the New York Public Library launched one of the most extensive online library collections in the world. It is one of the most special online places I have ever visited and one of the few websites that I can lose entire days to. Part of what makes the collection special, aside from its open-access format- you don’t need a New York City Library System card to use the service, is the sheer breadth of the archive. While many libraries have online photo archives, the New York Public Library has added an original early manuscript archive, digital dance collection, curated public domain collections, and city-specific history among much more specialized content. It’s a tribute to the vitality of libraries, especially in the digital age and proof that far from… Read More >
In the fall of 2016 Douglas County, Oregon, population 106,972 voted to reject additional funding for its public libraries by a whopping 55 percent. What they rejected, in tangible terms, was to pay an additional 44 cents on every one thousand dollars of property tax. Most polled voters on the issue, which has been ongoing for several years, advocated for the county to do everything within its power to increase revenue from the long-languishing timber industry instead, a notion perhaps spurred on by the impending (and failed) sale of the nearby Elliott State Forest. The consequence of this epic shirking of responsibility? The complete closure of all Douglas County Libraries. And then there’s this: Douglas County high schools rank lowest in the state for high school graduation rates, putting them… Read More >
This week I’m turning Girl Gone Wild over to my friend Jeff Geiger’s amazing cross-country, interactive road trip celebrating the release of his new YA book, Wildman. He’s on the road, trying to get his way to the Big Apple, powered entirely by an ancient Buick and the miles he racks up with donations to the American Library Association. I love this project for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the pairing of the outdoors with literature. I’ve always railed against the notion that interest in reading and outdoor activities were mutually exclusive. If anything, I believe that reading more increases your curiosity and willingness to seek out adventure and that outdoor pursuits give you the time away to read and offer an essential wellness balance…. Read More >
In 1996 Marge Piercy published what would become one of the most influential books in my life, Woman on the Edge of Time. It is a visionary presentation of an alternate world through the eyes of an underclass, institution ensnared, woman of color. In it, Piercy establishes herself on the forefront of issues ranging from mental illness, environmentalism, class, war, and gender/sexuality. It was obscure then, hiding in plain sight among the tidal wave of new and experimental science fiction of the time and is still obscure to mainstream audiences today, regardless of its status as a utopian classic. It’s a vision of the world that I think is worth revisiting, that seems more tangible and attainable than it did twenty years ago, as we transition into a new time.
One of the exciting things to emerge out of the current women’s movement is a general thirst for stories about and biographies of historical women- the ones that got us this far in the first place. In the last few weeks I’ve learned that women are responsible for the invention of wifi, the first indoor cook-stove, the chocolate-chip cookie, windshield wipers, and fire escapes. What’s amazing to me about this phenomenon is not so much the previous lack of media showcasing women influencers, but the breadth of work that was erased. The patriarchy has, over time, become so pervasive that we have forgotten the possibility that great advances in any field might have been made by women. But they were, and they continue to be. For the next few weeks… Read More >
1) Read the news. 2) Civics lessons, civics lessons, civics lessons. 3) Know your elected officials. 4) Make your opinion known to people who set policy. Call. Email. 5) Unify with others. 6) Vote with your dollars. 7) Unplug. Take back the analog aspects of your life. 8) Show up. To vote, to speak, to show support, to volunteer. 9) Retain the ability to be shocked and outraged. 10) Stay woke.
After a winter of deep freezes the wilds of Oregon are bashful. The oaks in particular, seem wary of continued cold, refusing to show even the early signs of leafing out. I, in my eagerness, have already thrown open windows, scrubbed floors, knocked down cobwebs, trimmed brush, and cleared beds. But still it rains and the air clings to its chill. Only the rare brave azalea or rhododendron seem with me, cutting bright swaths of color across my neighbor’s yards. “Come!” We call. “The time for action is now. Why would you ever want to wait?”
There was a lot going on in the United States in 1961. It was the beginning of a cultural revolution and the space race. It was the year of Bay of Pigs. It was a time when politics and the news of the day were primary fixtures in the minds of average Americans and elected officials. Unless, it seems, you were the Mayor of a small, work-a-day town in southern Oregon. Then you might decide you have bigger fish to fry. Jay W. Snider, the Mayor of Medford, Oregon did just that. In 1961 he sent a $1.96 check to the United Kingdom as what he had calculated was the city’s portion of reparations for the Boston Tea Party. In 2016, I am afraid to too-closely contemplate the modern implications… Read More >