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Tag Archives: LGBTQ+
It is only fitting that we ring in this year’s Pride Month with a book by the incredible modernist writer Virginia Woolf. Born in 1882, she held “an intense belief in the importance of arts and a skepticism regarding their society’s conventions and restraints.” Not one to repress her romantic feelings for other women, Woolf subverted the system of the time by living openly as a queer woman, with her and her husband happily pursuing a non-monogamous lifestyle. While it’s easy to see the tragic figure of Virginia Woolf, who unfortunately took her life in 1941, it’s hard not to be amazed by her persistence in pursuing mundane beauty and wholeness in both her writing career and her social life despite adversity. These sentiments and strengths have always been at the heart of Pride, and in her novel Mrs. Dalloway, we are given front-row seating to these ideals as we revolve around the daily life of London post-First World War.
It’s the middle of June, the war is over, and Mrs. Cassandra Dalloway is getting ready to host a party. As she moves about London to finish her errands, we pass through the lives of others along the way. Sometimes fleeting, sometimes intimate portraits of everyday people as they move past each other, none the wiser. One focus we find ourselves with is in the thoughts of Septimus Smith. Suffering from “shell-shock” (PTSD) after World War 1, he struggles to get through his everyday life after seeing a man he loves die on the battlefield. No longer satiated by poetry and art like before the war, he has become haunted and void of all feelings, much to his distress. As Big Ben chimes along, Mrs. Dalloway, constrained by English society and her own choices, pushes her anxieties aside as she focuses on creating a perfect party. Attempting to balance her need to participate in the world while deeply fearing it. Emotions run high as she meets old lovers—specifically, the adventurous but self-important Peter Walsh and her first love Sally Seton, and she wonders what could have been had she chosen differently. Finally, the day comes to a head when Mrs. Dalloway and Septimus must choose if being constrained by the set social order is worth the pain it causes.
Known for being a subversive writer, Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, published in 1925, pioneered how literature can pull back the layers of everyday people to reveal their deep inner worlds. In her hallmark, stream-of-consciousness writing style Woolf produces a respectful depiction of a man going mad from PTSD and criticizes the lack of proper care for veterans. While having no real connection to Mrs. Dalloway, Septimus serves as a counterpoint to her daily exhaustion and disillusionment to an extreme degree. And while the titular Mrs. Dalloway does not struggle in the same way, as a woman, she has had to repress many parts of herself to fit into society and is expected to play the role expected of her to the bitter end. As a result, both characters try to balance wanting to be included in society and life while needing privacy to deal with their turbulent emotions. A novel revolving around the enormity of daily life, Mrs. Dalloway is a beautiful classic to include in any Book Club group, especially for those who enjoy diving deeply into the emotional life of characters and its slow but poetic paces.
If you’re interested in requesting Mrs. Dalloway for your book club, you can find the Book Club Kit Request form here. There are 10 copies available. (A librarian must request items)
Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Harcourt Inc, Inc. 1925.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a quiet atmospheric story that takes the reader through the formative years of the titular Cameron as she comes into herself as a person and as a lesbian. Written as the dissertation for her Ph.D. at UNL (co-directed by author Timothy Schaffert and the late Gerald Shapiro), emily m. danforth was inspired by sentimentalist women’s literature, stories of teens being sent to religion-based conversion therapy camps, and her own upbringing in Miles City, Montana. Published three years before the federal protection of same-sex marriage, Miseducation’s impact on normalizing queer culture and issues is phenomenal, especially in how it honestly approaches teens and their families in the discovery and acceptance of their sexuality.
Growing up in early 90s Montana, Cameron Post did her best to keep her head down, not wanting anyone to look further than her “wise-cracking orphan” façade. But, if anyone started to look too closely, they would see she was in hiding. Hiding her feelings for other girls. Detailing her loves and loves lost while fogged in religious guilt pushed on her by her ultra-religious aunt, Cameron learns how to keep her true self out of sight. Betrayed and forced out of the closet, the looming threat of being sent to conversion therapy camp becomes a reality. Cameron must endeavor against those who want to change her and find solidarity amongst the powerless teens also caught up in the mess of religious zealotry and homophobia. Cameron’s story is, of course, a “miseducation” at its core. She isn’t some unachievable, idealized-perfect person, and she shouldn’t have to be. Finding yourself is not easy; you have to be prepared to face what finds you in return.
Perfect fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and John Green, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is appropriate for mature teen and adult book groups. It approaches complex topics with care and empathy. Because it takes place in the 90s, some language is out of date, which opens up room for an interesting group discussion on how we have treated and talked about LGBTQ+ issues and if Cameron’s story would be different if she were a teen today. danforth has the skill to give her characters space to tell their own stories rather than focusing on teaching us a lesson or a hard-hitting moral. Like life, Miseducation revels in its slow pacing. The book is a long scenic road to get where it wants to be. Only a few chapters in, and it feels like you have known Cameron forever.
And if your reading group is interested in a movie night, the 2018 movie adaptation of Miseducation won the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize for the U.S. Dramatic category. I watched it this weekend, and it was incredible. From a review of the movie in the New York Times: “Miseducation is neither a glib sendup of a less enlightened era nor a pious reckoning with the bygone injustices of the past. It is more interested in how its characters feel than in what they might symbolize, and in how they grapple with the conflicting demands of faith and desire. It’s also about the struggle between earnest young people and the equally earnest, painfully misguided adults who are trying to save their souls”.
To see more of our LGBT+ & Queer book club titles, visit the link here.
If you’re interested in requesting this book for your book club, you can find the Book Club Kit Request Form here. There are 10 copies available (Items must be requested by a librarian)
danforth, m. emily. The Miseducation of Cameron Post. HarperCollins. 2012.
When asked to write a flagship title for the new Random House imprint “Make Me a World,” author Akwaeke Emezi set out to create a story that they would want to read if they were a teen today. Their final product, Pet, surpasses that goal, having earned a spot in TIME Magazine’s “100 Best YA Books of All Time”. In 2021, Emezi was named a Next Generation Leader by TIME and is a National Book Foundation “5 under 35” honoree, setting the standard (and a high bar) for contemporary childhood reading and authors alike.
“There shouldn’t be any monsters left in Lucille.” In the utopic town of Lucille, “angels” have defeated and locked away all the “monsters,” creating a small paradise where all are welcome. Unfortunately, these angels, who then took up positions of power, only locked away these monsters, and did not prevent them from being created. Then, one summer night, a horrifying creature emerges from Jam’s mother’s painting and warns her of a monster still in Lucille. And when the adults refuse to believe them, Jam, and the creature, Pet, have no choice but to go on the hunt alone. Finding themselves deep in the local library’s archives, Jam, with her best friend Redemption and Pet, finally learns what monsters are and how to spot them. The trio discover that the horrors the angels claimed to have defeated are still there. But with the world around them in denial, what can they do?
Pet is a perfect jumping-off point for YA (or adult) book groups to explore the world of language and communication. Especially since Jam is selectively verbal, mainly communicating through sign, the language in this book is very specific and resounding. Because language is constantly evolving, Emezi asks the reader what happens when we lose the words that shape our experiences. Does something really go away just because you don’t talk about it? Community is also a strong theme in Pet, which can lead to discussions over how it affects our sense of self. For example, Lucille, an all-Black town, was written to be like the ones found in Toni Morrison’s novels, where they are a whole world unto themselves. What would it be like to live in such a welcoming and insular community like Lucille, where everyone belongs without question, even a Black trans girl like Jam? What does it mean when the characters say, “We are each other’s harvest? We are each other’s business. We are each other’s magnitude and bond”. And do they mean it?
If you’re interested in requesting this book for your book club, you can find the Book Club Kit Request Form here. (Items must be requested by a librarian)
Emezi, Akwaeke. Pet. Make Me a World. 2019.
Today’s Book Club Spotlight, Melissa (previously published as George) by Alex Gino is a beautiful story that explores bullying, self-expression, and having the courage to stand up for yourself and your friends. I have always appreciated books that don’t talk down to children and aren’t afraid to explore tough topics while handling them with care. And Melissa is a perfect example of one of those books. Recently added to our collection thanks to a grant from the Reading Classic Committee, Melissa is a winner of the Stonewall Book Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and Alex Gino is a Children’s Choice Book Award Debut Author.
Melissa is like any ten-year-old girl; she loves tween magazines, cute clothes, and her awesome best friend. However, she also has some big problems. Not only does she have to deal with awful bullies at school, the whole world sees her as a boy named George! As a school project, Melissa’s grade is putting on a play of Charlotte’s Web, and she desperately wants to play the wise and supportive Charlotte. But her dreams are crushed when her teacher tells her that “boys” can’t try out for “girl” parts. Between school and a mother who thinks her girly interests are “childish,” Melissa doesn’t feel safe confiding in anyone that she’s transgender, except for her best friend. Taking inspiration from Charlotte’s confidence, the two girls form a plan to get Melissa the role she deserves.
Have you ever had to be brave in order to be who you truly are? Recommended for 8 to 12-year-olds, Melissa is a timeless and tender approach to finding yourself, which all readers (even adults) can relate to. Group discussion with your readers can focus on what it would feel like to be born in the wrong physical body, issues with parents, and how to support your friends when they are going through a difficult time. Melissa shows how gender conformity can hurt everyone, not just trans kids, and letting kids express themselves without fear of ridicule will lead to a more confident and happy future.
If you’re interested in requesting for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. (Items must be requested by a librarian)
To see more of our LGBT+ & Queer book club titles, visit the link here.
Alex Gino. Melissa. Scholastic Press. 2015
It’s Jem and the Holograms meets #BookFaceFriday!
We see your true colors shining through with this week’s Pride-themed Bookface! Nebraska OverDrive Libraries has a special collection this month “Rainbow Reads” dedicated to books, both fiction and nonfiction, telling LGBTQ+ stories. Just one title from the collection is “The Brightsiders” by Jen Wilde (Blackstone Publishing, 2018) it’s available as an Audiobook. Join teen drummer Emmy King in this rock and roll fantasy about the trials of stardom, friendships, and love.
“The author adeptly captures the essence and confusion that young people may go through when trying to figure out their identities. This inclusive romance features multiple LGBTQ+ protagonists, including a nonbinary character who uses the pronouns they/them… Perfect for collections seeking high drama and romance.” ― School Library Journal
Find this title and many more through Nebraska OverDrive Libraries. 180 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 25,520 audiobooks, 32,303 eBooks, and 3,403 magazines. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!
This week’s model is NLC’s Information Services Librarian, Aimee Owen, she’s the better half of this Bookface duo. Aimee’s back in the office after a year of working from home, and I gotta say, I’m really excited to have her here!