31 May 2009

YA Lit:: Twilight love/backlash?

A good friend passed on this hilarious take on Twilight on NPR. The gist? Author Brad Meltzer pulls out the big guns and defends his glee over Twilight because he should be allowed to openly love the famous vampire love triangle. Even if he's not *supposed* to. After all, he's heterosexual and other big men might call him a pansy.

I love Meltzer's argument. It's sweet, articulate manna from a kindred spirit. Dude, I can so relate. Twilight is a guilty pleasure for me too because I'm
~ a librarian
~ an educated feminist
~ a twenty-something looking into my thirties.

I'm supposed to leer at Meyer's simple writing style. I'm supposed to scoff at Bella's weaknesses and insecurities. My girl parts shouldn't melt when-- *Eclipse spoiler*-- Jacob keeps Bella warm with his body heat and Edward has to suck it up.

It's really the second book that cemented my bond with this series. *New Moon spoiler* When Edward abandons Bella and she does idiotic things to bring his voice back... I was sincerely touched. I lost my mother to breast cancer a few years ago and I still hear her inside me sometimes. I still cry when I see round women with the familiar Mexican hips and big booty. I suppose my only consolation is the memories and the fact that my body seems to be headed in the adorably rotund direction too.

I recently looked back at my old MySpace profile that I haven't updated in months. In the section where you get to list the books that mean a lot to you, Twilight is right there, big and bright. You see, I read the book long ago, before the characters were associated with movie actor faces and before avid teen fans turned their backs on it when it became too popular. I saw it there on my profile and cringed. I even thought about editing it away so that it no longer bears shame on me.

But why should I? Yes, in a way, the series' phenomenal popularity has spiraled out of control. And yes, I absolutely despised the ending, which lessened my love for it significantly. Still, the books capture a little something that many books can't fake. For me, these were the books I was reading when I was studying to be a librarian and I was getting ready to get married. They're like songs that remind you of your youth. The Twilight series will forever be tied to my mid-twenties through love and backlash and whatever the future holds for it.

29 May 2009

Road Map:: Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas (Mexico)

As many of you may or may not know, I spent a big chunk of my childhood living on the border, speaking Spanish and watching 80's cartoons like She-Ra and G.I. Joe. I still have family there, so on occasion, we make the trip to my parents' homeland.

It's greatly disheartening that this second hometown of mine has become a battlefield for drugs and violence. The current economic outlook has affected everyone around the world, but Nuevo Laredo started its decline long ago. If you're a citizen of Nuevo Laredo, you take a great risk going out, sometimes even in daylight. Tourism is way down and shops have been going bankrupt for years. The club scene is not as carefree as it was a decade ago. Newspapers aren't reporting incidents ever since the newspaper offices got sprayed with gunfire. Such is the fear that drug lords can create.

See this bumper sticker? It says "Paz en los 2 Laredos vale la pena," which means "Peace in both Laredos. It's worth it." By the 2 Laredos, one means Nuevo Laredo on the Mexican side and Laredo, Texas on the American side. Both cities are physically divided by the Rio Grande (or el Rio Bravo, as I always knew it) but now they're divided by a contrasting number of daily crimes.

I remember the one and only library in Nuevo Laredo in the 80's. It was as large as a normal classroom in the middle of a park square. I have a vague memory of going in once with my mother but not being impressed with the dearth of kiddie books.

Now, though, there are two new-ish options for the literate, and I was able to visit both of them. YEAH!

a) Biblioteca Pública Municipal Profr. Rubén Miranda Villalba
Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas (03.14.09)

My street smart cousin drove us to the library but felt a tad uncomfortable by my jumpy tradition. I realize that I shouldn't call too much attention to ourselves, even in the daytime, but we couldn't resist. This library is really close to a park, where a few men watched me do my ridiculous jumpy "dance."

I wanted to take a light-hearted picture in a somber setting, but don't I look like a bit of a dumbass? My pose either belies my glamourous librarian nature or confirms my dorkiness. I'm fine with either.

More pictures to come, including those taken at Estacion Palabra, a lovely building dedicated to the first man I ever wanted to marry, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

YA Lit:: 2009 Young Adult Book Challenge Part Deux

I've interpreted this 2009 Young Adult Book Challenge as a means to entice me to read more YA novels, the old school way. No audio books, no downloads, nothing. Just my eyes on the page. Aw yeah.

Luckily, I have two new titles to report. As usual, the new titles are in italics.
  1. The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas

  2. Sucks To Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire by Kimberly Pauley

  3. Luna by Julie Anne Peters

  4. Deep in the Heart of High School by Veronica Goldbach

    I'm currently reading a couple of other candidates, which will hopefully end up on this list by next month.

    Here's to YA lit!

YA Lit:: A-Z Reading Challenge Part Deux

So this is part deux of my A-Z Reading Challenge. Alas, not much has changed. I was able to add a title to the letter "M"-- a charming picture book in Spanish-- but other than that, I'm dry this month

I also decided to go easy on the list. Instead of listing every single title with the same first letter, I figure one can suffice.

Does anyone out there have the title for a picture book that starts with the letter "X"? Ha ha.


The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party
, M.T. Anderson


Batman and the Outsiders: The Chrysalis, Chuck Dixon

, Melanie Watt

Dad Runs Away with the Circus, Etgar Keret

Emiko Superstar, Mariko Tamaki




Inubaka (vols. 6 & 7), Yukiya Sakuragi

Janes in Love, Cecil Castellucci


Love Roma (vol. 3), Minoru Toyoda

El mejor mariachi del mundo, J.D. Smith


Ouran High School Host Club (vol. 1), Bisco Hatori

Plain Janes, Cecil Castellucci


The Rules of Survival, Nancy Werlin

Something Rotten, Alan M. Gratz

Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling


A Visitor for Bear
, Bonny Becker

Watchmen, Alan Moore




YA Lit:: 999 Reading Challenge Part Six

Another 999 category finished. We are about to hit the mid-year mark, but I think I'm doing aight.

As usual, new entries are in italics.
  • 9 teen books with multicultural characters
    ~The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas
    ~The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson
    ~Deep in the Heart of High School by Veronica Goldbach
    ~The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim
  • 9 teen award-winners
    ~Japan Ai: A Tall Girl's Adventures in Japan by Aimee Major Steinberger
    [YALSA's 2009 Great Graphic Novels for Teens]
    ~Life Sucks by Jessica Abel
    [YALSA's 2009 Great Graphic Novels for Teens]
    ~Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Rolston
    [YALSA's 2009 Great Graphic Novels for Teens]
    ~Luna by Julie Anne Peters
    [National Book Award Finalist]
  • 9 graphic novels (Category finished! 05.01.09)
    ~The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci
    ~Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci
    ~Skim by Mariko Tamaki
    ~Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore
    ~Watchmen by Alan Moore
    ~Awkward and Definition by Ariel Schrag
    ~Abandon the Old in Tokyo by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
    ~American Widow by Alissa Torres
    ~Blankets by Craig Thompson
  • 9 blogs & podcasts
    ~YALSA blog
    ~The YA YA YAs

    ~Stuff You Should Know podcast
    ~Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast

    ~Book Lust with Nancy Pearl podcast

  • 9 webcomics
    ~Cyanide and Happiness
  • 9 Overdrive audiobooks
    ~Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
    ~Something Rotten by Alan M. Gratz
    ~The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin
    ~True Story by Bill Maher
    ~A Brief Chapter in my Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt
    ~Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
  • 9 picture books (Category finished! 04.08.09)
    ~Dad Runs Away with the Circus by Etgar Keret
    ~Chester by Melanie Watt
    ~Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt
    ~A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker
    ~Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel
    ~The Cat's Tale by Doris Orgel
    ~When Randolph Turned Rotten by Charise Mericle Harper
    ~Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems
    ~Wink! The Ninja who Wanted to be Noticed by J.C. Phillips

  • 9 non-fiction books
    ~Obama: The Historic Journey by The New York Times
  • 9 titles I never thought I'd read
    ~The Coffee Trader by David Liss
And in the face of the often traumatic summer reading programs at public libraries across the nation, I send all you children's and teen librarian a hug for your summer headaches.

25 May 2009

Author Monday:: Interview with YA author Veronica Goldbach [Part One]

This entry marks the beginning of my Author Mondays, where I shall endeavor to post something author-esque each Monday. Whether it's an interview or a one-shot question, here is a chance for various authors to have their say.

On Friday, May 22nd, Veronica Goldbach and I shared some happy drinks and melded our high school history with our new friendship as author/librarian. (I type this as I listen to My Morning Jacket's sumptuous song "Librarian.")

So when we were nice and warmed up, this is what followed.

TBiblio: So this is TeenBibliotecaria’s Author Monday—even though today’s not Monday. I have this plan now where the first Monday, starting in June, until as long as I can carry it, I’m going to have some kind of author-related blog post. And I’m gonna see how this one goes.
So my guest today [*laughter*] is young adult author Veronica Goldbach. She is a San Antonio native and she has just published a really charming young adult novel called Deep in the Heart of High School. And it’s published by… The pronunciation? I never get it right.

VG: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux.

TBiblio: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux.

VG: I don’t know, I could be getting it wrong, too.

TBiblio: No, no, that’s pretty cool. So, first of all, what kind of pushed you to write this book?

VG: Hmm. Okay, well, I was teaching at Irving Middle School here in San Antonio and I got some money from Title I funds—federal funds—to buy books for my classroom library. And I went to Barnes and Noble and started looking for books, and at the time, I couldn’t find a lot of teen books that I felt my 7th and 8th graders could relate to. It seemed like everything was set up north, with upper middle class families with upper middle class characters. And I was looking for something, you know, more working class—more like my own background and my students’ background. So I thought, hmmmm. Maybe I could write a book set here in San Antonio and have my characters be more like people I know.

: And was it always a young adult novel from the very beginning or did that come later?

: Yeah, it was always a young adult novel ‘cause I was aiming it at my students, my Irving students. And I like young adult novels.

TBiblio: Good! A convert!

VG: [*laughter*] Yes. For researching, I started reading just a lot of YA, and I kind of skipped that when I was, you know, in middle school. I went from [Ann M. Martin’s] The Baby-sitters Club to romance novels. I kind of skipped the whole young adult genre.

TBiblio: Do you think that was because there wasn’t that great [a selection of young adult] literature back then?

VG: It feels like it. I didn’t see a lot of stuff that I was really drawn to.

TBiblio: Now with this young adult explosion, there’s kind of this need to either be romantic or have vampires or be really high-tech.

VG: Yeah.

TBiblio: But your book has some of those elements, but at the same time it’s very organic, there’s not as much technology. Was that intentional from the get-go?

VG: No, it wasn’t really intentional. I just didn’t really… I’m not really a big technology person so maybe that’s why, you know. I’ve got a cell phone. A computer that sometimes works. [*laughter*] That’s about it.

TBiblio: But that’s also what makes it not a fad.

VG: That’s what I was… You know, I was worried about making it sound dated. I thought if I threw iPods in there all the time and then, you know, a few years from now when iPods are passé, it’s gonna be, like, you know.

TBiblio: Exactly. I like the fact that the story could happen at any time ‘cause the characters themselves are pretty timeless archetypes, if that makes any sense.

VG: Cool.

TBiblio: So some writers say that their characters feel like children and that it’s really hard to choose a favorite one. Did you have a favorite one or was there one that you felt you had to be really careful with in terms of what happened to this character?

VG: I shouldn’t say I had a favorite. I’ve said that before but it was more of a misstatement. Fatima has a special place in my heart because she was my editor’s favorite. And so I feel like she kind of got me in with my editor, and a lot of people like her so she’s kind of got a special place in my heart. Olivia, I was real careful what I did with her. She needed a lot of care, I thought. Perhaps I was a little bit too careful with her and her story got a little boring at first, but during many rewrites, I had to toughen her up a little bit. And then I was kind of harsh on her, but she needed it [*laughter*].

: School Library Journal mentioned how they liked the development of your male characters? What do you think made them different from what’s out there in young adult fiction right now or from what’s expected of male characters? […] Because they’re lovable but they’re also flawed. They’re not Edward Cullen. […] What do you think made them different from, say, something in Gossip Girl or something in Twilight?

VG: Well, they’re kind of insecure. They’re not really that cool. Carlos thinks he is, but the rest of them… They’re not really very cool. They’re just… But they’re lovable.

TBiblio: They are lovable. Like I said in my review before, one of them doesn’t even have money to pay for a movie ticket. So he may think he’s all that, and he’s in a band, and he feels that all the girls worship him, but—

VG: They’re insecure. I guess they don’t have the money of the Gossip Girls or even the Edward Cullens. What are you gonna do?

TBiblio: Exactly. Another thing I noticed about Olivia, at least, is that one point she mentions that even though she’s half Hispanic, she has a Jewish last name so she feels like she doesn’t get the street cred for being Hispanic. Was that from a personal experience?

VG: [*laughter*]. Yes. Yeah, going to school where we went to school, a Goldbach was not exactly, you know... I’m a light-skinned Goldbach and people didn’t exactly believe that I was Hispanic. Sometimes I’d introduce people to my mom and they’d be, like, “Ooooooh, so you really are Hispanic.” [*laughter*] Just don’t listen to me, okay?

TBiblio: Right right.

VG: Maybe that’s another insecurity of mine, big time. My sister goes out of her way to seem really Hispanic and I pass myself off as Irish sometimes. It just depends, you know. [It's easier to let people think i'm Irish or whatever than to try and explain my complex background. I get tired of trying to prove my Mexicanness and some people never believe me which can be annoying and sometimes hurtful. Then it just gets weird because I feel like I'm trying too hard to be Hispanic so does that mean I'm ashamed of my German or Italian or Irishness? I could go on and on about this.]

TBiblio: [Your book is set in] San Antonio. Vanna starts off idealizing Plano and having a hard time adjusting to San Antonio but then she winds up falling for its charm. What would you say to people who have, maybe, slightly negative preconceived notions of San Antonio or Texas?

VG: There are a lot of those out there.

TBiblio: There are a lot of those out there. Oh my god. They’re shameless!

VG: Yeah. I lived in California for a year and you would not believe what they think of Texas and San Antonio. Thanks to the LA/Spurs tension. People still think we have horses and guns and crazies, and there are some horses and guns and crazies here but… [*laughter*] I’d always tell them, because they’d be like, “Oh you’re from Texas? You don’t have an accent?” In San Antonio we don’t have an accent. In South Texas, it’s different. And I just love San Antonio. I couldn’t stay away from it. I tried for a year but it’s a really great place. We have so much culture and so many different things going on.

TBiblio: What did you miss the most when you were gone?

VG: Well, of course, the Tex Mex food but you’d be surprised. Chicken fried steak! In California, their chicken fried steak is country fried steak and a lot of people don’t know the difference. But there’s a difference! Food, oh, food, big time. And just the pace of San Antonio. We think we’re a small town. Everybody talks to everybody. You can have these long conversations at the checkout, with people you barely know, about the Spurs or whatever’s going on. Whereas in other cities it just seems like, you know, they’re nice. They’re just busy, faster. San Antonio has this nice sorta slow feel. We walk slower, we talk slower. I just like it.

TBiblio: Another thing about San Antonio is, in some ways it’s Little Mexico because we’re practically in Mexico. So there have been political issues regarding immigration and you took a pretty risky step by making Fatima, one of the main characters, part of an immigrant family. Was that intentional or did it just kind of come about?

VG: Like I said, it was written for my students at Irving and I taught ESL there. My students were immigrants. I felt that maybe that needed to be portrayed and not be so… You know, just make it normal. Because there are lots of immigrant families in San Antonio and it’s a pretty normal thing. It’s not, you know, a big deal. And I didn’t realize it was such a risky stance until later on when all the [protests against harsh immigrations laws] were going on. It worked for [Fatima].

TBiblio: That’s wonderful, though, because more stories like that need to be told, I think.


This is just the first third of our glorious 30-minute chat. If you're patient, you'll wait for me to put up the rest of the interview in the future. (Actually, you're in luck. Check out part two and part three here.) If you're immediately curious, feel free to click here for the audio podcast, with all its imperfections.

Wow. I had no idea how many times I say the word "um" when on tape, or that I had the recorder closer to me than to Veronica. Well done. Ha ha.

Enjoy and may the force and the YA fandom be with you.

10 May 2009

Review:: Deep in the Heart of High School by Veronica Goldbach

Know what a quinceañera is? A cumbia? A birthday money corsage? How do you give someone ojo?

Veronica Goldbach's charming debut novel Deep in the Heart of High School does what few YA books have done before: cash in on thousands of past and present band geeks by telling a story similar to theirs. This is the tale of three sistah girls brought together by band practice. Vanna has to move to San Antonio from Plano after her parents' divorce, much to her disillusionment. Olivia (pictured on the cover of the book) is a product of family loss and tries desperately to please her mother. Fatima is the resilient and rotund latina who occasionally works construction with her father and helps raise her little brothers. Though their origins are vastly varied, these amigas support each other through their romantic leanings and family issues.

Like most YA lit, this book touches on family dysfunction and death, but breaks free of the mold with themes of extreme shyness, cheating in school, and even immigration. T
his is a book where mexicanos are-- surprise!-- normal, hard-working people and don't have to prove their worth to anyone for any political purpose.

At times the book feels like it was written for another time. There is little mention of modern technology as it is currently being explored by teens. You'll find no iPods, YouTube, or IM chatting excerpts. In fact, for a book with a heavy theme of music, most of the bands mentioned are old school acts like the Beatles, Santo & Johnny, even Selena. However, this lends a timelessness to the story, almost as if all teens are destined to see oldies-but-goodies Sixteen Candles and Buffy the Vampire Slayer as touchstones of their youth.

And that's what makes this book precious. Instead of trying to capture idealized youth as experienced by so few (ahem, Gossip Girl), this is a book where the parents are actually around to be parents. Here, teens have crappy cars and don't have money to pay for movie tickets. The usual plot formulas don't always apply. After all, how often have you found a story where the chunky girl has the most exciting love life without having to be a slut?

Goldbach paints Texas as a place that really feels like a different country. San Antonio is forever steeped between the cultures of two nations-- the United States and Mexico-- and its presence is as crucial to the story as the girls' choices. San Antonio natives will connect with this story rather easily, given the ingeniously engineered landmark mentions-- ie, the Alamo, the White Rabbit, and China Latina. Still, you don't have to be Hispanic or San Antonian or lost to find this story highly enjoyable.

8.21 of 9
Moderate. I mean, this isn't Bring It On or American Pie. Thankfully, there are no catty cheerleaders or band geek playas/dominatrixes. So if that kind of conflict moves the plot along for you, then you might find this slow.
Tweens and up. This book is clean, clean, clean. A brief mention of drugs was handled in such a clever fashion that I doubt many parents would protest.
Like it? Try this!::
Well of course I'm going to say Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares. But if you liked this book, you might very well enjoy this review by Alea.
Further Notes::
A friend who also read the book felt that he wanted to "smack" Fatima (playfully, of course) because he found her self-deprecating mentality really grating. When I pointed out that she was so real she felt like someone any of us might know, he kind of stared off into space and agreed. In a world of forced female heroines and neat perfection, it's so refreshing to be exposed to a real girl with real curves and a real brain.

Deep in the Heart of High School. By Veronica Goldbach. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2009. 208 pages. $16.95

02 May 2009

YA Author:: TV interview with Veronica Goldbach

Looking for a book that's *not* set in NY for a change?

Author/teacher Veronica Goldbach-- who was also a good friend of mine in high school-- just came out with her debut novel "Deep in the Heart of High School," which Kirkus calls "enjoyable and notable for its Texas milieu." I have not read it yet because I want to buy it at one of her book signings, but it sounds like the kind of book I would enjoy tremendously.

For a peek at the book, here's her TV interview yesterday morning: