Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Books on Gender Fluidity

Many of us grew up assuming gender was binary: you were born a girl and grew into a woman or you were born a boy and grew into a man. But gender, it turns out, is a more nuanced experience for many people. If you’d like to learn more about gender fluidity, see below for some books on this topic.

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family, Amy Ellis Nutt

Identical twin boys Jonas and Wyatt looked alike on the outside, but from an early age, they proved to be very different inside. Jonas was comfortable as a boy, but Wyatt was drawn to all things girlish. As Wyatt grew, feelings of identifying as female became undeniable, until ultimately as a teenager Wyatt was able to transition to Nicole. The entire family evolved as a result of the journey, especially the conservative father who initially resisted his child’s nonconformity but wound up becoming Nicole’s strongest public advocate.

As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl, John Colapinto

Shortly after identical twins Bruce and Brian were born in 1967, a circumcision accident injured Bruce to the extent that doctors recommended he be raised as a girl. But in spite of medical and psychological intervention, the child renamed Brenda never felt like a girl, and as she entered her teens, her discomfort grew unbearable. Finally at fifteen, Brenda was allowed to transition back to male and lived the rest of his life as David. The case became an example of how much can go wrong when a person is forced to accept a role incompatible with their feelings of self.

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklind

In the words of six transgender or gender neutral young adults, author and photographer Kuklind puts a personal face on gender fluidity. These teens explain in their own words what it was like growing up feeling at odds with their assigned gender and how they choose to live now. The author’s photographs highlight the uniqueness of each individual. 

There are also many new memoirs on this topic, including:

Some Assembly Required: the Not-so-Secret life of a Transgendered Teen, by Arin Andrews

Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders, by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen, by Jazz Jennings

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and So Much More, by Janet Mock

Do you have other books to recommend on this topic? Add them in the comments field.

-Suzanne Summers LaPierre, City of Fairfax Regional Library

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Forgotten Classic, Perfect for Summer: Dandelion Wine

“The wine was summer caught and stoppered.”

The book is childhood caught and stoppered.

And more.

Ray Bradbury takes his readers through a summer in 1928 in a small Illinois town as seen through the eyes of 12 year-old Douglas Spaulding. Douglas is teetering on the edge of life-awareness. As his physical senses sharpen to the natural, burgeoning world, he awakens to a sense of mortality as well. Green Town is a community of grandparents, a retired army colonel, spinsters, ladies-of the-club, magic shows, a junkman, children playing Statue and Hide-and-Seek, front-porch gatherings, firefly chasing, a trolley, a shop that sells Royal Crown Cream-Sponge Para Litefoot Tennis Shoes, hand-dipped ice cream store, hand-pushed lawn mowers and long, hazy days that savor them all.

At the edge of this idyllic town is the Ravine – an area of untamed vegetation and cool, dark, hidden places. The shadows of this forbidden place seem to reach out ominously throughout the story. Rumors of The Lonely One, an unnamed force of evil, waft from chapter to chapter, culminating in death by sewing scissors! Though seemingly at odds with much of the lush pleasure of Bradbury’s little town, the Ravine, with its icy spew, serves to hone the edge of innocence and forewarn the reader of ultimate loss.

But Bradbury has as much fun as sorrow.

Elderly Miss Fern and Miss Roberta cower in the attic, hiding out, fearful that they have bumped off Mr. Quartermain while recklessly “speeding” in their electric Green Machine, waiting for the evening paper to seal their doom.

A 91 year-old woman meets a young man at the ice cream store, and they fall in love – the real kind that meshes spirit with spirit and for weeks they frolicked through their dreams of faraway places and times with the unbridled delight, despite the inequity of age and space.

A well-meaning Aunt Rose sweeps into Grandma’s gastronomically-delightful, albeit chaotic kitchen and attempts to straighten out the mess creating orderly disaster.

Leo Auffman creates a Happy Machine, which causes his wife to at first weep with delight as she views Paris and Rome and then weep with despair when she realizes all she has missed. (Thankfully the machine burns up, and they return to true happiness within their four walls which shines through the ordinary daily routines.)

The Honeysuckle Ladies Lodge nearly collapses with the weight of hexes and counteracting magic potions.

Summer through the lens of Douglas Spaulding’s heart ends, but a new cycle begins. "Way out in the country tonight he could smell the pumpkins ripening toward the knife, and the triangle eye and singeing candle." Life was moving on. And as methodically as the children picked the dandelions to be pressed into wine to peer at on winter days and "color sky from iron to blue," Bradbury seems to be murmuring over the hum of crickets and the flash of fireflies that it’s prudent to store, in our dark cellars, memories to brighten, strengthen, sustain, enrich and nourish from June to August and all the way to eternity.

--Lois Glick, Great Falls Library

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Beyond College Guides

Members of the high school class of 2016 have by now made their choices about whether and where to attend college and are settling into preparations for the next chapter. After months of research, some students and parents find themselves still fascinated by the broader topic of higher education, while others are happy to pitch their hefty “Best College for You” guides into the donation bin and move on.  

Fairfax County Public Library has summer reading suggestions for both camps. Read on for a selection of thought-provoking studies on the deeper meaning of higher education- its purpose and value- what it is and what it should be. Or, for those who prefer a good comic satire to decompress, see below for a list of humorous novels about the fables and foibles of academia.

Bruni opens his book with examples of students from competitive high schools who thrived at their “safety schools” and went on to be every bit as successful as peers who attended Ivy League colleges. Read this book to find out how any student can make the most of his or her college years.

Are our nation’s elite high schools and colleges creating students who have learned how to game the system at the expense of critical thinking, genuine curiosity and intellectualism?  The author advises students on how to avoid the pitfalls of privilege.

Colleges and students today are focusing more on STEM careers. Is there still value to a liberal arts curriculum? Read this book and be prepared to defend your English or Philosophy major!

And now for something completely different… here are some examples of novels from the rich and wonderful world of comic fiction on academia.


Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis

The Campus Trilogy, David Lodge
Straight Man, Richard Russo
Dear Committee Members, Julia Schumacher
Moo by Jane Smiley

Whether serious or satire, FCPL has plenty of college-theme books to add to your summer reading list.

Do you have a favorite book about the college experience?  Share it by adding it to the comments field.

--Suzanne Summers LaPierre, City of Fairfax Regional Library


Wednesday, July 06, 2016

What We're Reading Right Now

We're enjoying a holiday break this week at About Books, celebrating the nation's independence and catching up on our to-read lists. Enjoy your freedom to read and visit our What We're Reading: Summer 2016 page to see some of the picks we're enjoying right now. See you next week.

-Ginger Hawkins (Patrick Henry), Rebecca Molineaux (Kings Park) & Rebecca Wolff (Centreville)