And We Watch It All Burn Away

There is no possible way at the moment to be a resident of Oregon and not take note that the entirety of the state, it seems, is burning. The skies have grayed, filling valleys with dense smoke, replacing our beloved rain with delicate flakes of ash. And the fires are close. Our safest havens and most treasured places, those that have been protected for so long as to constitute little more than a pile of tinder, are burning towards vistas, lodges, highways and restaurants. It has, finally, become impossible to ignore. Not that we haven’t tried. In truth, forest fires are a relatively new phenomenon in the psyches of Oregonians. For decades, they have been a growing concern but for most residents, they remained intangible. Forest fires to the average… Read More >

Local Histories- Glenwood, Oregon

Between the sister cities of Eugene and Springfield, Oregon sits an unincorporated community that is neither Eugene, though its postal code is, nor Springfield, of which it is an official annexation. It’s wasteland, half trailers, half bygone industrial complex, the few hundred residents squeezed into aging trailer parks along one of the least picturesque stretches of the Willamette River. How did this come about? It’s a story of racism, classism, and greed. In the first hundred years of the Eugene area’s history (and much of Oregon’s) African Americans were legally barred from first residence, then land ownership and were systematically brutalized in retaliation of anyone that challenged the status quo. In the mid and late 20th Century, the area’s staunch refusal to enact or acknowledge civil rights laws was paired… Read More >

The Necessity of Totality

There is one question on the lips of everyone in Oregon these days, “What are you doing for the eclipse?” My answer, looking up, from exactly where I am. I am not jaded. I’m actually a true lover of rare natural occurrences and celestial events in particular. I have often been accused of being a space geek, having worked a summer at Space Camp notwithstanding. My interest in the eclipse has turned to one of morbid curiosity into the nature of the human psyche. You see, I live less than fifty miles from the path of totality and I am fine with that. The rest of the world, it seems, is not. They are in a frantic feeding frenzy and likely destined to spend most of at least one day… Read More >

Women to Know- Sadako Sasaki

Born in Hiroshima in 1944, Sadako Sasaki was exposed to wartime nuclear radiation at the age of two. By 1955, she had developed full-blown leukemia and was placed in hospital, given less than a year to live. From her hospital room, inspired by a Japanese legend about whoever folded a thousand paper cranes receiving a wish, she started folding paper cranes in the hopes of saving her own life. Her effort, though not lifesaving, became an international symbol and movement for peace. The simplicity of her vision and the enduring symbolism of her work have rung true for generations that have read her story in Sadako and the Thousand Cranes, myself included. In these dangerous and uncertain times, I think it’s important to de reminded of the powers we grant… Read More >

Patriotism, Freedom of Inquiry, and the Texas Library System

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 >

Not to be Forgotten

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 >

The New York Public Library’s Epic Digital Archives

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 >

What’s the Matter with Douglas County?

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 >

Wildman Interactive Road Trip for the American Library Association

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 >

Women to Know- Marge Piercy

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.