Tuesday, May 24, 2016

New Library Resources

A Book List for Parents of
Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Children

Issues concerning those who are transgender have been in the news a lot lately. Several new state laws have been the object of organized boycotts and fodder for the national political debate. The character of the public discussion suggests that this is a subject still generally shrouded in misunderstanding and lack of knowledge, one that needs broader public understanding.

We hope, therefore, that the book list we have created will help anyone who wants to learn more about this subject. We are especially interested, however, in helping parents of transgender children to understand what their transgender child is experiencing. One of our staff members recently attended a local meeting of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and noted that almost all the parents in the room were there seeking support because they have a transgender child. They were bewildered, desperately needing an understanding of what their child was going through, and wanted to know what they should be doing as parents.

Gender identification issues seem to manifest early in a child’s life. One of the remarkable things in talking to transgender children is at what a young age they are absolutely certain that they are the other sex, and that they have somehow wound up in the wrong body. It is especially important, then, that parents grasp these issues at the point in time when their children are dealing with them, while facing important developmental stages, a time when self-knowledge and self-worth are being formed. We hope this list, available at all three branches of Burbank Public Library (look for them in the children's room, located with the Parenting Collection), will help parents understand their transgender and gender-nonconforming children. and aid them to be supportive parents and effective public advocates for the needs of their children.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

This week at the library...

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

Opera Talk presents...
Join us for a multimedia presentation and discussion of the opera La Boheme, led by our guest speaker from LA Opera's Community Engagement Program.

La Boheme, an opera in four acts by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, premiered at the Teatro Regio in Turin, Italy, on February 1, 1896. The story, a sweetly tragic romance, was based on the episodic novel Scenes de la vie de boheme (Scenes of Bohemian Life) by French writer Henri Murger. A success from the beginning, it is one of the most frequently performed of all operas.

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

Positive and Negative Space
with Noah Fontana

Achieve balance in your art. Noah will cover such topics as shape, tessellations, and notan. Supplies are provided, but space is limited; you must sign up to reserve a spot. Call 818-238-5562 (Laura or Joan).

Buena Vista Branch, 6:30 p.m.


Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

Live and Learn Documentary Series presents...
The film takes us on a journey from the swamps of Louisiana to the slums of Kolkata in search of what really makes people happy. Combining real-life stories of people from around the world and powerful interviews with the leading scientists in happiness research, HAPPY explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion.

76 minutes / unrated

Buena Vista Branch, 10:00 a.m.

Learn how to research your family tree! Taught by Barb Randall from the Southern California Geneology Society. You must reserve a space for this workshop! Call 818 238-5626. You must also have an email account set up prior to joining the class.


Wednesday, 12:00 noon, Buena Vista Branch
For children on the spectrum and their families who are looking for a smaller, adaptive storytime. This is a small inclusive program of stories, songs, and activities that provides freedom to children with special needs within a structured space. Pre-registration is required, and is limited to 10 children. (A small group is what makes Sensory Storytime engaging for the children participating.)  Please call 818.238.5630 to register.

Saturday 10:15 a.m., Central Library

Movement, coordination, rhythm, and dance!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

What we're reading: A children's book for adults?

The Boy on the Porch, by Sharon Creech

One day a young couple, John and Marta, find a small boy sleeping on their porch. Attached to him is a note asking that the couple watch over the boy until his parents return. The boy cannot speak, but is extremely talented in other areas. He can play almost any instrument. He can create gorgeous, surreal works of art using simple paint sets. He can even communicate with animals! As John and Marta become closer to the boy, they begin to feel more like a family and discover a happiness they have never before experienced. However, they always worry about what will happen if his parents return. What would happen to their newly formed family and their newfound happiness if the boy is taken away from them?

This book was a joy. It is so beautifully written that the text almost reads like poetry. The story itself tugs at the reader’s heartstrings. Don’t be surprised if you shed a tear or two.

My only problem with it is that this book is marketed as a children’s book and I do not see it appealing to children. Yes, it is a wonderful story and worth reading, but I think children would find the plot slow and uneventful. I believe adults would find it far more interesting and relatable, since the story is told from John and Marta’s point of view. It is still worth reading, but I would recommend it for adults since I do not think it would hold a child’s attention.

Editor's note: Many on Goodreads appear to agree with BookNerd's conclusion that the book has more adult appeal, although one person did have success reading the book aloud in installments to her eight- and nine-year-olds, and said they enjoyed it that way.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

What we're reading: Mystery Mavens, beware!

Every year about this time, a mad flurry of holds are placed on various and sundry mysteries at Burbank Public Library. It may have been a blip too small for you to notice, but it's there.

The reason is that three teen book clubs are on hiatus for the summer while we instead offer teen summer reading club. This means that instead of reading three teen novels per month as selected by the clubs--one for 6th and 7th graders, one for 8th and 9th graders, and one for high school--plus a variety of other teen books (so we have things to suggest as future book club choices), we teen librarians get to read exactly what we want. And after nine months of teen fiction, some of which I love and some of which, admittedly, I love less well, what I want to read first is mystery!

There are a few mystery authors whose series I follow religiously enough that I manage to fit their latest offering in amongst the teen fiction during the school year--Louise Penny, Tana French, Robert Galbraith come to mind--but there are others whose timing is not regular, or who have somehow managed to sink below my radar for a year or more, with whom I delight to catch up.

All I can say is, thank goodness for Goodreads. I started keeping track of my reading there in 2009, and when I remember a mystery series I was enjoying for a while, with a main character whose name I can't quite recall (although I can remember what he looks like and that he lives in some small town in England) and whose author I can't bring to mind either, I don't have to hope that it will magically come to me, or that someone will recognize and identify it from my description; I can go scroll through the list of "My Books" on Goodreads and eventually track him down: Simon Serailler, the enigmatic, charismatic creation of author Susan Hill! And yes, there's a new book in the series! Hold placed!

There are so many characters with whom I wish to reunite that the first couple of weeks of summer I am positively giddy with choices. Is there a new Scotland Yard book by Alex Grecian? Yes! But they're all checked out. Okay, on to the next...

Is there a new Bill Slider mystery by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles? Yes! Place a hold!

Is #17 in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma Jones series by Deborah Crombie published yet? Nope, Goodreads says February 2017. Moving on...

Okay, Woman in Blue, by Elly Griffiths, continues the Ruth Galloway saga. Hold placed!

Don't worry,  as greedy as this sounds, I do actually have a sense for how many books I can realistically read in a three-week period, and will eventually stop bogarting all the new mysteries. I will remember that it is more important for you, the patron, to get hold of it than it is for me to be first on the list. But give me my first flush of satisfaction at a list of mysteries well found!

Some other mystery authors with whom I intend to catch up:

Steve Hamilton: The Second Life of Nick Mason
Greg Iles: Natchez Burning, and The Bone Tree
Carol O'Connell: The Chalk Girl, and It Happens in the Dark (Mallory novels)
Sharon Bolton: Daisy in Chains (coming later this summer)
Michael Connelly: The Crossing (Harry Bosch #23--don't know how I missed this one!)

Please note that by identifying these authors and books, I am suggesting some authors and titles you may not have on your radar, and selflessly giving you a fighting chance to check them out before I do! May the fastest reader win! Enjoy some mysterious summer reading with me.

P.S. Teen fiction will resurface soon, since we do have four sessions of Book Café during the summer at which the latest YA novels must be discussed! If you have a teenager, be sure to sign them up for Teen Summer Reading starting June 1st. Go to our website, burbanklibrary.com, and look for the sign-up button.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

What We're Reading: Society and Transgender Youth

A Murder Over a Girl:
Justice, Gender, Junior High,
by Ken Corbett

This is a somber book, but it is essential reading for our times. In February 2008, during English class at a junior high school in Oxnard, California, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney stood behind his classmate Larry King, who had recently begun to identify as a girl (Leticia) and fired two bullets into the back of his skull. Larry died shortly after the assault; Brandon was picked up by police a short distance from the school. The incident got brief national attention when Ellen DeGeneres (on her syndicated talk show) spoke of the event as a gay hate crime. She did not mention that Larry King was possibly transgender, and this may have not been understood when information about the crime first came out. An award-winning HBO documentary of the murder by Marta Cunningham, Valentine Road, was released in 2013.

Ken Corbett, a psychologist who has written extensively on boys and gender issues (Boyhoods, Rethinking Masculinities) heard about the crime. A few years later, when Brandon was brought to trial and charged with a hate crime and with first degree murder as an adult, Corbett was in the courtroom each day of the trial. He was trying to understand what had happened--the social and psychological issues surrounding the murder--and this book is, in many ways, a story about how hard it is to know the truth about causation and motives in a tragedy like this. But it is also a book that demonstrates why trying to arrive at a truthful understanding of such a tragedy is important if we are going to do the things that need to be done to prevent killings like this from happening again.

So much seems to make the search for that understanding difficult. At trial, the narrative got framed in tendentious ways by both the prosecution and the defense. Each vied to tell a version of what happened and why it happened that the jury would come to believe was essentially the correct one. This battle played out not just in the courtroom, but in the media and in the community where the crime occurred. Parents, schools, local authorities, and community leaders each sought to exonerate themselves and to shift culpability elsewhere. In the process, the lessons that needed to be learned got lost, especially the communal ones. They were obscured, distorted, or simplified. The axiomatic formulations hid the truth, which was a complex of neglect and failure, both personal and social.

The task Corbett set for himself was a lonely and onerous one. It seemed that he alone was the observer who was there to challenge the serviceable and expedient narratives in order to find the truths, to show us what we must come to understand if we are to have any hope of preventing tragedies like this.

Perhaps the most unsettling revelations in this book are the stories of the lives of neglect, violent abuse, and abandonment that both Brandon and Larry had lived through in their young lives. In Brandon’s case, this produced a store of anger, a lack of coping skills, and an emotional distancing that was profound. The prosecution was focused on making a case about Brandon as a white supremacist and a hater of gays, while his defense tried to portray him as a “normal boy” raised with accepted norms about gender and sex, who had been sexually harassed by Larry into reacting violently. The actual life Brandon had lived wasn’t a part of anyone’s narrative, and yet it was the story that had formed him. And Larry’s struggles were not really part of the story either. At the trial, gay and gender issues were conflated when talking about him, while his own individual story, and his identification as “Leticia,” a transgender, were not part of the narrative either. Neither boy's life experience was a part of the truth or understanding that emerged from the trial.

Shortly before the murder, the victim, Larry King, who had begun 
to identify as "Leticia," poses with a dress that was given to him
by a teacher at  his junior high school.

Corbett cautions that young people today are growing up caught between messages of tolerance on the one hand--often the more accepting and tolerant tone of major media--and geographical and demographic pockets of stringent and violent social norms on the other. It is too easy to assume that the world has changed more than it has; as so many gay and transgender children have come to understand, the social norms in their own communities, in the places where they must actually live their lives (rather than the media or cyber world that seems so encouraging and accepting), can be exceedingly unfriendly places. Certainly educators who insist upon viewing gender, sexuality, and race as matters of discipline rather than education are not going to be able to help these children or be able to change social understanding. But even with supportive adults, these children, and those who might hate them, cannot be left to fend for themselves. Corbett says, “We need people, not metal detectors, at the doors of schools--people who can ensure the bonds through which kids grow--people who can help kids negotiate the trouble they have in relating to kids that are ‘other.’"

But we keep wondering about all the anger, the abuse and neglect, the unconscionable parenting that so many children experience while growing up. That anger often goes inward, creating damaged teens and adults, but it also directs itself outward, finding an easy target in the ‘other.’ Only if more children have better lives are children going to find it safer to explore and express their differences, to be who they are.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

This week at the library...

Central Library, 6:30 p.m.

"Car Free in a Car Culture: Through the Eyes of a Bus Rider"
a photography exhibit by Edward Solis

Join us for light refreshments and a guided narrative of the photo exhibit with photographer Edward E. Solis at 7:00 p.m.

Solis is a 41-year-old Angeleno, born in East L.A. and raised in Whittier. He is a 21-year music industry veteran who views public transportation as a chauffeured form of transport; Solis equates car-free with carefree. For the past 10 years, Solis has singlehandedly raised awareness of and promoted the car-free lifestyle across many communities and cultural environments. He sees himself as a global advocate for a carefree and eco-friendly lifestyle.

The exhibit begins May 16 and runs through Tuesday, August 16, and is open during regular library hours except when the auditorium is in use.

Central Library, 12:00 noon

The club will discuss The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah. Bring your lunch, and join in!

Central Library, 6:30 p.m.

A coloring club for adults!We provide the colored pencils, crayons, and coloring pages, or you can bring your own. Coloring offers a way to unwind and express your creativity. Stop in, sit down, and HAVE FUN!

Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

Family Night presents...
Magic, comedy, and a little juggling!

Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.
(story time room)

The club will discuss Wicked Autumn, by G. M. Malliet.

Central Library, 4:00 p.m.

Family Films presents...
E.T. (The Extraterrestrial)
115 minutes / rated PG

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

The club (not your mother's book club) will discuss My Uncle Oswald, by Roald Dahl. (Definitely not for kids!)

Buena Vista Branch, 10:00 a.m.

Learn how to research your family tree! Taught by Barb Randall from the Southern California Geneology Society. You must reserve a space for this workshop! Call 818 238-5626. You must also have an email account set up prior to joining the class.

Central Library, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Call 818 238-5577 to sign up.


Thursday, 1:00 p.m., Buena Vista Branch

Join us for a fun introduction to the rhythm of music, dance and communication. 

Thursday, 6:30 p.m., Buena Vista Branch

Stories, songs and rhymes, plus a short video, all in English and Spanish!

Friday, May 13, 2016

What we're reading: Innovative science fiction

There has been a lot of buzz about a young adult science fiction book called Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, mostly because of its innovative formatting. Trust YA authors to find a method of fiction writing congruent with today's many ways of communicating. The book is 599 pages long, but that length is deceptive, because the whole story is told through a "dossier" of hacked documents that includes emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and other miscellany, so the page content of readable material is not dense.

As an older reader (not the target market, although as a teen librarian I am also a reader of these books), I have to say that for the first 50 or so pages, I found parts of this formatting irritating! Some of the graphically challenging black pages with teensy tiny gray writing laid out like a pinwheel or a wave frustrated me to no end.

Once that initial reaction was worked through, however, and I kept reading, I rapidly became first fascinated by and then totally immersed in the story:

In the morning, teenagers Kady and Ezra broke up. Or rather, Kady dumped Ezra for a variety of reasons about which even she isn't clear. In the afternoon, the planet on which they live, and where their families work in an illegal mining operation, was attacked by a rival corporation. A fleet of three ships managed to escape the planet with the surviving settlers on board, hotly pursued by the remaining warship belonging to their attackers.

To complicate matters, a deadly plague then breaks out on board ship, and the Artificial Intelligence in charge of the fleet may have been sufficiently damaged in the battle as to have "lost its mind." (Think "Open the pod bay doors, Hal," only much more extensive.) Kady is on one ship, and Ezra is on another, and much of the communication is related to one or the other of them, some of it between them but much of it also involving other personnel at various levels on all three vessels.

The story starts slowly, but soon ramps up into quite the ride. Invasion, retreat, strategy, plague, zombie-like people, a rogue artificial intelligence, a plucky heroine, and a little bit of romance--and you can't beat it for suspense.

So, I will say to adult science fiction fans, as I said to the teens: Pick it up, hang in there through the frustrating gleaning of information from random bits and bytes, and you won't put it down until its breathless conclusion. Although it's written for teens, if you are a science fiction reader, it's written for you as well. And there will be two more books in the series to which we can look forward!

Note: If I had properly grasped the significance of its dossier style to the enjoyment of this book, I probably would not have ordered it for the library as either an e-book or an audio book. This is one for which there is no replacement for the ink-and-paper format. For that reason, we are purchasing a separate copy to put in the adult science fiction collection.