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.
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!