Author Archives: gaylepitman

About gaylepitman

Welcome to my blog! By day, I teach psychology and women/gender studies at Sacramento City College. By night, I write children's books and engage in other forms of subversive creativity. "Queer" and "feminist" are personal and political identities for me, and these identities shape everything I do.

. . . Y and Z!!! Y is for Young People’s Poet Laureate Margarita Engle!

I first met Margarita Engle several years ago at a conference sponsored by the Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Fresno State University. The conference was titled “Outlawed!”, and it featured a star-studded list of authors whose work had been censored, challenged, or banned outright. Margarita is one of the most down-to-earth, friendly, and engaging people I’ve ever met. Her books, such as THE SURRENDER TREE, a beautifully written novel-in-verse set in 19th century Cuba, are always captivating. And guess what? She has TWO new books out! One, titled FOREST WORLD, is a great example of eco-fiction – novels or other works of fiction that revolve around nature and the environment. The other, ALL THE WAY TO HAVANA, is a picture book ride through the streets of Havana, Cuba.

 

 

For centuries, Cuba has been at the epicenter of political, economic, and environmental strife, and those issues form the backdrop for many of Margarita’s books. So I was interested to hear how she’d respond to the question, “What does feminism mean to you?”

She e-mailed me back with this:

 

Feminism means equality,

plain and simple.

There is no excuse

for inequality

in modern times.

 

Brief, poetic, and evocative in its simplicity. That’s all that needs to be said.

Thank you, Margarita!

 

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Margarita Engle is the 2017-2019 national Young People’s Poet Laureate, and the first Latino to receive that honor. She is the Cuban-American author of many verse novels, including The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner, and The Lightning Dreamer, a PEN USA Award recipient. Her verse memoir, Enchanted Air, received the Pura Belpré Award, Golden Kite Award, Walter Dean Myers Honor, Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and Arnold Adoff Poetry Award, among others. Drum Dream Girl received the Charlotte Zolotow Award for best picture book text.

Her newest verse novel about the island is Forest World, and her newest picture books are All the Way to Havana, and Miguel’s Brave Knight, Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote.

Books forthcoming in 2018 include The Flying Girl, How Aída de Acosta learned to Soar, and Jazz Owls, a Novel of the Zoot Suit Riots.

Margarita was born in Los Angeles, but developed a deep attachment to her mother’s homeland during childhood summers with relatives.  She was trained as an agronomist and botanist. She lives in central California with her husband.

www.margaritaengle.com

@YPPLaureate

 

FEMINISM FROM A to Z is now available for pre-order!

FEMINISM FROM A to Z

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. . . W-X . . . W is for We Need Diverse Books founding member Mike Jung!

If you aren’t already following Mike Jung on Twitter, you should. (@Mike_Jung. You’re welcome.) Author of middle-grade books like GEEKS, GIRLS, and SECRET IDENTITIES and UNIDENTIFIED SUBURBAN OBJECT, Mike tackles complex social issues (mixed with humor and a good dose of self-reflection) and creates absolute poetry about them – using just 140 characters. His deep self-awareness, along with his insights about privilege and marginalization, made me curious as to how he would answer my question.

 

So I asked Mike: “What does feminism mean to you?”

Here’s how he answered:

I’ve always spent more time in the company of women than men – most of my friends and colleagues have been women, I’m married to a woman, we have a daughter who’s well on her way to becoming an amazing woman, etc. – but I still lapse into behaviors that perpetuate the destructive effects of toxic masculinity. For example, I recently made a joke on Facebook about stalking an author friend at a conference. That was inexcusable, and the fact that I’ve always spent more time with women than men didn’t absolve me for a choice that was made 100% by me. Ultimately it doesn’t matter how many conversations, friendships, and partnerships I’ve had with women, because the need to dismantle age-old systems of sexism and misogyny isn’t conditional; it’s the objectively right thing to do. Feminism shows me how effortless it’s always been for me to be part of the problem, and how essential it’ll always be to try as hard as I can to be part of the solution.

For more about privilege and toxic masculinity, check out my chapter titled “T is for TOUGH.” As a reminder, FEMINISM FROM A to Z is now available for pre-order, and will be released on October 23!

 

FEMINISM FROM A to Z

 

 

Thank you, Mike!

 

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Mike Jung is the author of GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES, UNIDENTIFIED SUBURBAN OBJECT, and the forthcoming THE BOYS IN THE BACK ROW. He’s also contributed essays to the anthologies DEAR TEEN ME, BREAK THESE RULES, 59 REASONS TO WRITE, and the forthcoming (DON’T) CALL ME CRAZY. Mike is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books™, and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his family.

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. . . T-U-V . . . Theatre and Dance Professional Angela Kūliaikanu’u Alforque!

Over Labor Day weekend, I posted a call on my Facebook author page asking for responses to “what feminism means to me.” About ten minutes later, I heard from my friend Angela Kūliaikanu’u Alforque, who formerly taught Theatre Arts and directed the Ethnic Theatre program at Sacramento City College, and who now teaches at the Parker School in Waimea, Hawaii. This is what she sent me:

More than coconut bras and grass skirts:14 extraordinary women in Hawaii history everyone should know.”

I read the article. You should too, because I bet most of these women are unknown to you. (I was familiar with Patsy Mink, who’s featured in FEMINISM FROM A to Z, and Mazie Hirono. That’s it.) Then I followed up with Angela, and asked if she had a more specific response to my question. This was her answer:

Hi, again! I have been thinking about your question since I read your post this morning. I also have been consumed this weekend by thoughts on immigration, Filipina/o American history, DACA, Labor Day, and the unique subsets of privileges and oppressions that underscore my past and present feminist practices. In short, I do not have a concise response to your question. If you can make conclusions about what feminism means to me, at least presently, from my fb and instagram posts in the past few days, I invite you to refer to and repost them. Aloha!

Sometimes pictures speak louder than words, and reveal more complexities and nuances. So I’m sharing a series of images and captions Angela posted on her Instagram account just before Labor Day:

 

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Filipina/o immigrant and domestic workers cleaning our rooms, making our beds, resisting sexual assault, and fighting for justice in your hotels, here in the U.S. and abroad.

 

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Decades and generations of intelligent, skilled, caring Filipina/o immigrants and Filipina/o-Americans providing critical health care in the U.S.

 

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Fish brought to us, and justice fought for us, by Filipino cannery workers and union organizers.

 

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Produce brought to us, and justice fought for us, by Filipino and Mexican workers. Artwork by Angelo Lopez. 

 

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I stand with DACA. 

 

WOW. Angela’s posts remind me that words aren’t everything, and that there are many forms of communication and expression.

Thank you, Angela! Aloha.

 

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Angela Dee Kūliaikanu’u Alforque was born in San Francisco and grew up in South Sacramento, California. She earned her B.A. in Drama/Social Science and M.A. in Multicultural American History & Performance from Sacramento State University; and an Ed.D from Saint Mary’s College of California. She trained and worked as a singer, actor, dancer, teacher, choreographer, director and playwright, and served as Theatre Arts/Ethnic Theatre Professor at Sacramento City College; Associate Director for the Sinag-tala Filipino Theater & Performing Arts Association; and member of Ebó Okokán Afro-Cuban Drum & Dance Ensemble. In 2012 she moved to the “Big Island” of Hawai`i and since then has served as Performing Arts Director at Parker School. She lives in Waimea with her husband, Mario Hill, their daughter, Malaya, and their dog, Kenobi.

FEMINISM FROM A to Z is now available for pre-order!

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. . . T-U-V . . . T is for Take Back the Night organizers Diana Russell and Aisha Engle!

Have you ever attended a Take Back the Night march? If not, you should. There’s one coming up right here in Sacramento on October 14th, and hundreds of other Take Back the Night marches will be happening throughout the nation and around the world. It’s an opportunity to take to the streets, to engage in a form of direct action against rape, sexual assault, and other forms of violence against women.

 

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The first Take Back the Night march took place in November of 1978. Thousands of women took to the streets of San Francisco, protesting against rape and other forms of violence against women. The organizers included Laura Lederer, Andrea Dworkin, Kathleen Barry, Susan Griffin, and Diana Russell – my mentor during my graduate school years.

I asked Diana, “What does feminism mean to you?” Here’s what she said:

I consider myself a radical feminist; and radical feminism has been the guiding ideology and politics in my life for many decades. I cannot imagine what my life would have been like without being dedicated to raising public awareness about the prevalence of several different forms of violence against women and girls (e.g., rape, including wife rape, woman battering, incestuous and extrafamilial sexual abuse of girls, femicide [the killing of females by males BECAUSE they are female], the exploitation of females in pornography and its pernicious impact in all cultures and societies in which it is prevails, as well as other international manifestations of misogynistic forms of patriarchal violence such as genital mutilation, so-called “honor” femicides, and female sexual slavery.

I have been equally dedicated to engaging in feminist activism to combat many of these forms of misogynistic violence against women and sexual abuse of girls — the most significant example of which was initiating the first and only International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women that occurred during four days in Brussels, Belgium, in March 1976. Simone de Beauvoir described this international feminist event “as the beginning of the radical decolonization of women.” It was also the beginning of the internationalization of the feminist movement.

I feel extremely fortunate to have been born at a time when the second wave of the feminist movement began and grew to transform the United States and many other Western nations. I grieve now, however, because feminism no longer plays the transformative role that it did in the past.

I found Diana’s last statement to be intriguing – and disturbing. It’s not the first time I’ve heard that sentiment. Quite a few older feminists worry that the rights they worked so hard to secure are being taken for granted by younger generations of girls and women. In fact, I think they worry that girls and women aren’t even aware of the ways in which sexism and gender oppression operates in their lives.

So I decided to reach out to a younger feminist, who has organized our local Take Back the Night march here in Sacramento. Her name is Aisha Engle, and she is the director of the Women’s Resource Center at California State University, Sacramento. Here’s what she had to say about feminism:

Feminism is the overarching belief in equality for all. It encompasses recognizing difference, intersectionality and the pursuit of change for all marginalized groups. For some it means just women’s right. The reality is feminism means a vast inclusion of all groups . This means all people are needed to create change. Feminism is declaring a voice, making change, asserting agency, crushing institutions and advocating change for all genders. It is not limited to the needs of just one group but is inclusive of all genders. Feminism is the symbol of language that reveals the critical analysis and action necessary to exact change locally as well as globally. Feminism means liberation and freedom.

I think it’s safe to say that while feminism might look very different today, it is alive and well. Thank you, Diana and Aisha!

 

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Dr. Diana Russell is one of the foremost pioneers and experts on sexual violence and abuse of women and girls in the world today. She has a long history of feminist activism in the United States, South Africa, and several other countries. In 1974, she mobilized other feminists to organize the first feminist International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women. She was a founding member of Women Against Violence in Pornography and Media (WAVPM) in 1977 — the first feminist anti-pornography organization in the United States and internationally.  Her book The Secret Trauma, published in 1986, was the first scientific study of incestuous abuse ever conducted, and it was the co-recipient of the prestigious C. Wright Mills Award. In 1987, Diana traveled to her native South Africa to conduct interviews with revolutionary women activists in the anti-apartheid liberation struggle, which culminated in her book titled Lives of Courage: Women for a New South Africa (1989). After focusing for 40 years on conducting research, writing and publishing books and articles, public speaking, and political activism to combat male sexual violence against females, Diana is now working on the first volume of her memoirs.

 

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Aisha Engle grew up in Philadelphia and Oakland, and has spent the last several years in Auburn, CA. She received her B.S. in Women’s Studies from California State University, Sacramento and is currently working on her M.A. in Gender Equity. She has served as the Program Coordinator of the Women’s Resource Center at CSU Sacramento since August 2016, and has been active in community projects like Sacramento’s Women Take Back The Night and continues to make feminist strides.

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. . . Q-R-S . . . S is for Stonewall Award Committee member Ingrid Conley-Abrams!

Do you know the librarians who work at your local school or public library? If not, you should. Librarians are Magical Creatures, you see. Spend a few minutes talking to them, and they’ll be able to find you the book that you never knew existed, but is PERFECT for you. Ingrid Conley-Abrams is one of those Amazing Magical Librarian Creatures. She’s a former American Library Association Rainbow List committee member, and she’s currently serving as a member of the Stonewall Book Awards committee. She blogs, tweets, and Facebooks as “The Magpie Librarian.” And she’s unabashedly feminist in everything she does.

 

 

I asked Ingrid, “What does feminism mean to you?” This is what she had to say:

As a school librarian, feminism is a cornerstone of an inclusive curriculum. For me, it means making sure that I’m presenting my students with a well-rounded view of woman-hood, girl-hood, and childhood as a whole.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story” is shown at nearly every “diversity” or “inclusion” training I attend, so much to the fact that I can nearly recite the whole TED talk at this point. However, in its near-consistent repetition, I have not forgotten its important message: I am doing a disservice to my students if I’m showing them one side of any story. That means that peppering my shelves with the pink, glittery, princess books is still important. Pink glitter is not the enemy. Stereotypically girly things are valid and important and can be fun for all kids. In fact, I want the fairy princess narrative to be a viable option for students of all genders, so I make sure that Morris Mickelwhite and the Tangerine Dress, Jacob’s New Dress, and This Day in June have a home in my library. I want a child of any gender to take home an “Elsa from Frozen” book without judgement from me or any student.

The Pink Princess is just one tiny slice of what girlhood can look like, so it’s imperative that students see themselves, their classmates, and their communities reflected in the books we offer. Young readers today certainly have more options than I did when I was a child (though I, fortunately, had great literary friendships with Claudia Kishi and Marcy Lewis), but I still feel frustration at the lack of inclusive, multi-faceted offerings. I do feel lucky to be able to share titles like Kate Beaton’s The Princess and the Pony. I sometimes wonder if students notice that Princess Pinecone is multiracial or even that she’s an atypical princes. I think they’re having too much fun laughing at me saying the word “fart” and watching massive, epic battles play out. I make sure that the Lumberjanes series sits face-out on the shelf as much as humanly possible. I take joy in showing students that our copy of George was signed by Alex Gino in purple, glittery ink. I get chills every time I read Not Every Princess in class, which reminds readers that ballerinas can be strong and skateboarders can be kind. I am grateful for titles like My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay, Worm Loves Worm, I am Jazz, Bayou Magic, and Drum Dream Girl, which each add yet another necessary perspective on growing up as a girl.

The school library is just one access point for how students see themselves and their peers represented in the world. To me, feminism is making sure that children know that there’s no “right way” to be who they are. With every picture book or comic or chapter book, the library’s aim should be, at least in part, to show the students that they are fine as they are, and that they are not alone in their experience. Representation is powerful validation.

Bet you didn’t think you’d come out of this blog post with a reading list and a TED talk, huh? That’s one of the many reasons I love librarians so much.

Thanks, Ingrid!

 

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Ingrid Conley-Abrams is a new-ish school librarian and a veteran public librarian. She is a current Stonewall Book Award committee member and a former Rainbow List committee member. She has spoken about LGBTQ+ books for kids and teens (and sometimes, but rarely, other topics) for the New Jersey Library Association, Book Riot, the Ontario Library Association, School Library Journal, and others. Ingrid is an ALA Emerging Leader who has been featured in two books: This is What a Librarian Looks Like by Kyle Cassidy and Birds of Paradise by Lee O’Connor.

FEMINISM FROM A to Z is now available for pre-order!

FEMINISM FROM A to Z

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