Women’s History Month

October is Women’s History Month in Canada, with this year’s theme being #MakeAnImpact. However, the impact made by LGBTQ+ women, particularly trans women and women of colour, is too often overlooked. Here are a few works by Canadian LGBTQ+ women.

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Holy Wild by Gwen Benaway

In her third collection of poetry, Holy Wild, Gwen Benaway explores the complexities of being an Indigenous trans women in expansive lyric poems. She holds up the Indigenous trans body as a site of struggle, liberation, and beauty. A confessional poet, Benaway narrates her sexual and romantic intimacies with partners as well as her work to navigate the daily burden of transphobia and violence. She examines the intersections of Indigenous and trans experience through autobiographical poems and continues to speak to the legacy of abuse, violence, and colonial erasure that defines Canada. Her sparse lines, interwoven with English and Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe), illustrate the wonder and power of Indigenous trans womanhood in motion. Holy Wild is not an easy book, as Benaway refuses to give any simple answers, but it is a profoundly vibrant and beautiful work filled with a transcendent grace.

I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya

A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl–and how we might reimagine gender for the twenty-first century
Vivek Shraya has reason to be afraid. Throughout her life she’s endured acts of cruelty and aggression for being too feminine as a boy and not feminine enough as a girl. In order to survive childhood, she had to learn to convincingly perform masculinity. As an adult, she makes daily compromises to steel herself against everything from verbal attacks to heartbreak.
Now, with raw honesty, Shraya delivers an important record of the cumulative damage caused by misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia, releasing trauma from a body that has always refused to assimilate. I’m Afraid of Men is a journey from camouflage to a riot of colour and a blueprint for how we might cherish all that makes us different and conquer all that makes us afraid.

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For Your Own Good by Leah Horlick

A 2016 STONEWALL HONOUR TITLE in Literature.

In the canon of contemporary feminist and lesbian poetry, For Your Own Good breaks silence. A fictionalized autobiography, the poems in this collection illustrate the narrator’s survival of domestic and sexual violence in a lesbian relationship. There is magic in this work: the symbolism of the Tarot and the roots of Jewish heritage, but also the magic that is at the heart of transformation and survival.
These poems are acutely painful, rooted in singular and firsthand experiences. But Horlick also draws from a legacy of feminist, Jewish and lesbian writers against violence: epigraphs from the works of Adrienne Rich and Minnie Bruce Pratt act as touchstones alongside references to contemporary writers, such as Daphne Gottlieb and Michelle Tea.
In this reflection on grief, silence and community, we follow the narrator’s own journey as she explores what it is to survive, to change, to desire and to hope. At once unflinching and fragile, For Your Own Good is a collection with transformation at its heart.

Small Beauty by jia qing wilson-yang

Small Beauty tells the story of Mei, who in coping with the death of her cousin abandons her life in the city to live in his now empty house in a small town. There she connects with his history as well as her own, learns about her aunt’s long-term secret relationship, and reflects on the trans women she left behind. She also brushes up against some local trans mysteries and gets advice from departed loved ones with a lot to say.

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A Safe Girl to Love by Casey Plett

Eleven unique short stories that stretch from a rural Canadian Mennonite town to a hipster gay bar in Brooklyn, featuring young trans women stumbling through loss, sex, harassment, and love.
These stories, shiny with whiskey and prairie sunsets, rattling subways and neglected cats, show growing up as a trans girl can be charming, funny, frustrating, or sad, but never will it be predictable.

Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir by Kai Cheng Thom

Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir by Kai Cheng Thom is the highly sensational, ultra-exciting, sort-of true coming-of-age story of a young Asian trans girl, pathological liar, and kung-fu expert who runs away from her parents’ abusive home in a rainy city called Gloom. Striking off on her own, she finds her true family in a group of larger-than-life trans femmes who live in a mysterious pleasure district known only as the Street of Miracles. Under the wings of this fierce and fabulous flock, Dearly blossoms into the woman she has always dreamed of being, with a little help from the unscrupulous Doctor Crocodile. When one of their number is brutally murdered, the protagonist joins her sisters in forming a vigilante gang to fight back against the transphobes, violent johns, and cops that stalk the Street of Miracles. But when things go terribly wrong, she must find the truth within herself in order to stop the violence and discover what it really means to grow up and find your family.

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PLIG/LGBTQ Journal Club Sept. 20

Hi everyone,

We’re excited to team up with the Public Libraries Interest Group to kick off their first journal club! Posted here is information about the event, links to the articles, and discussion questions.

Do you love research? Would you like an opportunity to meet and discuss
public library interest topics with your peers?
The BCLA Public Libraries Interest Group (PLIG) is pleased to introduce
the PLIG Journal Club, an informal “reading club” where you can engage
in dialogue about professional literature on selected topics.

SAVE THE DATE!
PLIG Journal Club #1 with co-host BCLA LGBTQ Interest Group
Thursday, September 20, 2018, 7:00-9:00 pm
Pollyanna Library: 100-221 E Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1Z6
Everyone is welcome. Light snacks provided and cash wine bar available.

RSVP:
https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/bcla-public-library-interest-group-journal-club-tickets-49481372116
Watch for information about sessions, topics, articles, and remote participation.
Gillian Bassett, Sara Ellis, Marisa Tutt
PLIG Journal Club organizers

Articles to Read and Discuss

Dawn Betts-Green, Don Latham. “Drawing Queerness: Evaluating Notable LGBTQ Graphic Novels for Teens.” The Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults, vol. 8, no. 2, Dec. 2017, pp. 1–23.

Stevens, Gregg A. “Curry’s Study on the Quality of Public Library Reference Service to LGBTQ Youth.” Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, vol. 13, no. 1, 2018, pp. 57–63.

Discussion Questions

We’ll have additional questions to get us talking at the event. To start, consider the following:

  • Does the article present a clearly focused issue?
  • Does the article present a valid representation of the topic? Consider how the research was performed and/or sources presented.
  • Do conclusions made by the author accurately reflect their analysis/discussion? If not, what more do we need to know?
  • Does the article shed light on any gaps or limitations in current knowledge and/or practice?
  • How might you use this information to inform your work?

Feel free to share your thoughts online as well! Comment on this post or tweet @BCLA_LGBTQ using the tag #BCLAjournalclub

Reflecting on Freedom to Read Week

Freedom to Read Week brings up mixed emotions for me. On the one hand, I relish the opportunity to challenge literary censorship and put some of my favourite books on display. On the other hand, it can be sobering to reflect on the types of books I’m putting out. The term “banned books” conjures images of salacious and violent classics like The Scarlet Letter or The Lord of the Flies, their banning a distant memory. In reality, books are still being challenged in libraries and schools, and a great deal of them are due to LGBTQ+ content.

ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom publishes annual lists of the top ten most challenged books, and half of the 2016 titles (the most recent available list) have been challenged over LGBTQ+ content.

These include:

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

This One Summer

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Drama

George by Alex Gino

George

I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings, and Shelagh McNicholas

I Am Jazz

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Two Boys Kissing

Previous years include many LGBTQ+ titles as well, such as

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

 

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

(This title in particular has been on the list many years running, despite being based on a true story.)

And Tango Makes Three

It seems you could point at essentially any LGBTQ+ title, especially children’s or young adult, and it is likely to have been banned or challenged at some point.

Freedom to Read Kit

Canada is not immune from these challenges either. In this year’s Freedom to Read Kit, Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies professor Rob Bittner discusses the challenges that are frequently levied against children’s books with LGBTQ+ content. His article “You’re Letting My Kids Read What?!” explores the backlash and moral panic that often occurs when these books pop up in libraries and classrooms.

So, while I delighted in watching LGBTQ+ titles fly off the shelves this past week (marking them as banned really does seem to make them more enticing), it was with the heavy knowledge that these books are still under attack, especially when they have younger target audiences. However, it really makes me appreciate connecting with library professionals, academics, and other community members who are fighting for the acknowledgement and acceptance of LGBTQ+ literature for all ages.