Friday, February 12, 2016

My Reading List for 2015

Welcome to my reading list and report for 2015. I fell a bit behind on this in part because I took some time choosing my reading challenges for 2016. I read a bit less this year in terms of books, but it was in part because I had a busy year at work, and that was a good thing. I am entering my fourth year working here at Berea, and things are still going well. Overall, it was a good year for reading overall.

I continue to read and write about what I read on my personal blog. The Itinerant Librarian continues to grow slowly but surely into a good books and reading blog. It is something that I definitely enjoy both personally and as a librarian. I've even gotten to know, online, a few authors and editors in the process. I am always thrilled when I write a review, and an author or publisher notices and writes back an encouraging word or two. Thanks to them for writing and editing good books so I can keep reading. Keeps The Itinerant Librarian off the streets.

In addition, while I have blogged less here on my professional blog, it is not because of lack of content or ideas. A large reason is I am enjoying my book blogging. Also, to be honest, a lot of LIS blogging out there often boils down to the same few issues and dramas, and I would rather do without that stuff. So I keep up with the LIS literature, but I may not blog here as often, and I am at peace with that. I keep posting the annual reading list here mostly out of tradition. In time, I may or not move it to my personal blog. We'll see.

Here then is the list of books I read during 2015. Books marked with an asterisk (*) are re-reads. Most books were reviewed at The Itinerant Librarian. Feel free to go over there and check some of the reviews out. Simply click on the "books and reading" label in the sidebar of The Itinerant Librarian to get to the reviews.


  • Cornel West, with Christa Buschendorf, Black Prophetic Fire
  • Diane Muldrow, Everything I Need To Know About Christmas I Learned from a Little Golden Book
  • Carl Critchlow, Judge Dredd: Anderson, Psi-Division
  • Lawrence Osborne, The Wet and the Dry
  • Chris Metzen, Transformers: Primacy
  • Vic Malhotra, X-Files: Year Zero
  • Scott Snyder, American Vampire, Volume 5
  • Andrew Bohrer, The Best Shots You've Never Tried
  • Ian Doescher, William Shakerspeare's The Jedi Doth Return
  • Juzo Tokoro, Spawn: Shadows of Spawn, Vol. 2


  • Kennedy Xu, Daomu
  • Juzo Tokoro, Spawn: Shadows of Spawn, Vol. 3
  • Kevin L. Nadal, That's So Gay!
  • Jane Stern and Michael Stern, Two for the Road
  • James Kuhoric, The Six-Million Dollar Man, Season 6.
  • Scott Snyder, American Vampire, Volume 7
  • Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays, Being Dead Is No Excuse
  • Henrik Lange, 90 Classic Books for People in a Hurry


  • Caitlin Doughty, Smoke Gets in your Eyes
  • Bob Budiansky, et. al., Transformers Classics, Volume 4.
  • Michael R. Veach, Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: an American Heritage.
  • Erik Burnham,, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters
  • Ryan Burton,, Dark Engine, Volume 1.
  • Paco Ignacio II Taibo, Pancho Villa Takes Zacatecas
  • John Arcudi, The Mask
  • Mitzi Szereto, ed., Dark Edge of Desire
  • Kevin Smith, Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet
  • James Luceno, Star Wars: Tarkin.


  • W. Haden Blackman, Darth Vader and the Lost Command.
  • Various authors, Predator Omnibus, Volume 1.
  • Seth Holmes, Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies.
  • Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac, The China Collectors.
  • Fred W. Sauceman, Buttermilk and Bible Burgers.
  • Todd McFarlane, Spawn: Volume 1: Endgame
  • Carlton Mellick III, ClownFellas: Tales of the Bozo Family.


  • Martin Luther King Jr., The Radical King
  • Nick Kyme and Lindsey Priestly, eds., Tales of Heresy (The Horus Heresy, Book 10).
  • Geoff Johns, Batman: Earth One, Volume 2.
  • Paul S. Kemp, Star Wars: Lords of the Sith
  • Steve McNiven and Charles Soule, Death of Wolverine
  • Jennifer S. Baker, The Reader's Advisory Guide to Historical Fiction
  • Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou, Deadman Wonderland, Volume 2.
  • Vassilis Gogtzilas, The Bigger Bang
  • Max Dunbar, Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur's Gate Volume 1.
  • Jim Davis, My Laughable Life with Garfield: The Jon Arbuckle Chronicles.


  • Jimmy Palmiotti, Harley Quinn Vol. 2: Power Outage (The New 52).
  • Shawn Kittelsen. Mortal Kombat X.
  • Jim Davis, 30 Years of Laughs & Lasagna: The Life & Times of a Fat, Furry Legend!
  • David Solmonson and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson, The 12 Bottle Bar
  • Paul Kingsbury, Vinyl Hayride: Country Music Album Covers 1947-1989.
  • Nick Roche and Brian Lynch, Monster Motors
  • Rob Anderson,, Creature Cops: Special Varmint Unit
  • Shane McCarthy, Transformers: Drift-Empire of Stone
  • Mark Millar, Jupiter's Legacy, Vol. 1.
  • Scott Snyder, Batman, Volume 6: Graveyard Shift (The New 52). 
  • Adrian Brooks, The Right Side of History
  • Bayard Rustin, The Collected Writings of Bayard Rustin


  • Guy Lawson, Arms and the Dudes.
  • Becky Cloonan,, Gotham Academy, Volume 1.
  • John Lewis, March: Book Two
  • Si Spencer, Bodies
  • Robert Lazaro, Robert Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy
  • Thomas Hodge, VHS Video Cover Art: 1980s to Early 1990s.
  • Brian Michael Bendis, Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3: Guardians Disassembled
  • Steve Niles, October Faction Volume 1.
  • Mitch Broder, Discovering Vintage New York.
  • Various authors, Flash Gordon Omnibus
  • Tim Seeley, Grayson, Vol. 1: Agents of Spyral.
  • Tony Daniel, Deathstroke Vol. 1: Gods of Wars (The New 52).
  • Corinna Sara Bechko, Heathentown.
  • Michael Uslan, Justice, Inc., Volume 1.
  • Cameron Stewart, Batgirl, Volume 1: The Batgirl of Burnside (The New 52). 
  • Robert Kirkman, Battle Pope, Volume 1: Genesis
  • Bathroom Readers' Institute, Uncle John's Beer-Topia.
  • Alan Moore, Nemo: River of Ghosts.
  • Jon Pressick, ed., Best Sex Writing of the Year, Volume 1: On Consent, BDSM, Porn, Race, Sex Work and More.


  • Rebecca Winters, Plucked: A History of Hair Removal.
  • Jim Davis, Garfield the Big Cheese: His 59th Book.
  • Brian Michael Bendis, Age of Ultron
  • Nelson A. Denis, War Against All Puerto Ricans.
  • Boaz Lavie, The Divine
  • Z. Rider, Insylum.


  • Peter J. Tomasi, Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Gerry Duggan, Arkham Manor
  • Sean Ryan, New Suicide Squad, Volume 1
  • Scott Snyder, Batman Eternal, Volume 2
  • F. Leonora Solomon, ed., Tie Me Up: a Binding Collection of Erotic Tales
  • Matthew Algeo, Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure.
  • Mairghread Scott, Transformers: Combiner Wars
  • Louise Baxter Harmon, Happiness A to Z
  • Editors of Penthouse Variations, Penthouse Variations on Oral: Erotic Stories of Going Down.
  • Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection Volume 2
  • Kyle Higgins,, C.O.W.L. Volume 1: Principles of Power
  • Cullen Bunn,, Lobo Volume 1: Targets (The New 52). 
  • Sparky Sweets, PhD., Thug Notes: a Street-Smart Guide to Classic Literature
  • Robert Kirkman, Battle Pope, Volume 2: Mayhem.
  • Derf Backderf, Punk Rock and Trailer Parks
  • Peter Milligan,, The Names


  • Henry N. Beard and Christopher Cerf, Spinglish: The Definitive Dictionary of Deliberately Deceptive Language.
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Left Speechless
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Takes his Licks: His 24th Book.*
  • Lee Papa, The Rude Pundit's Almanack
  • Jeremy Barlow, Star Wars, The Clone Wars: the Colossus of Destiny
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Will Eat for Food
  • Wayne A. Wiegand, Part of our Lives: A People's History of the American Public Library.
  • Joey Esposito, Pawn Shop
  • Mike W. Barr, Star Wars, The Clone Wars: The Starcrusher Trap
  • Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween.*
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Souped Up: his 57th Book


  • Scott Snyder, Batman, Volume 7: Endgame
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Goes to his Happy Place; his 58th Book.
  • Tom Krattenmaker, The Evangelicals You Don't Know
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Tips the Scales, his 8th Book
  • Diane Muldrow, Everything I Need to Know About Love I Learned from a Little Golden Book.
  • Zeb Wells, Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Year One
  • Derf Backderf, Trashed
  • Vanessa Williamson and Theda Skocpol, The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism.
  • Charles M. Schultz, The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 10: 1969-1970.
  • Ben Khan, Shaman
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Lard of the Jungle: His 52nd Book.


  • Various authors, Star Trek: Alien Spotlight, Volume 1
  • Various authors, The Star Wars
  • Elaine Lee, Vamps

Here are the numbers:

I read a total of 123 books this year with 2 re-reads.

Number of books read in 2014: 152, including 2 re-reads (the 2014 list).
Number of books read in 2013: 173, including 2 re-reads (the 2013 list).
Number of books read in 2012: 117, with 6 re-reads (the 2012 list).
Number of books read in 2011: 119, with 3 re-reads (the 2011 list). 
Number of books read in 2010:  119, with 6 rereads (the 2010 list).
Number of books read in 2009: 98, with 5 rereads. I believe this is the first time I started to actively track rereads. (the 2009 list).
Number of books read in 2008: 111 (the 2008 list).
Number of books read in 2007: 85 (the 2007 list).
Number of books read in 2006: 106 (the 2006 list).
Number of books read in 2005: 73

Let's look at a few other numbers and add some commentary and thoughts:

  • I read a bit less this year, though I think I read a few things a more mindful way. It was interesting working to choose books for some of the reading challenges I did in 2015.  I still read actively from NetGalley, less so from Edelweiss. 
  • Best month: July with 19 books read.
  • Worst month: December with 3 books read.
  • 68 print books read.
  • 55 e-books read. The majority of books this year was still in print, but as you can see, e-books number is close. Though my preference remains print, as long as I read via NetGalley, I will keep reading e-books as well. Plus I may read the odd book here or there as e-book due to other sources, say my public library's Overdrive system. 
  • I read 9 books in fiction. This for me  usually means novels and short fiction. It can include erotica. Generally, I count graphic novels and manga together as separate categories regardless of whether some are fiction or nonfiction.
  • I read 34 books in nonfiction. That the majority of books other than graphic novels and manga are nonfiction is pretty consistent for me. I tend to prefer nonfiction overall. This category can include erotica in the sense that it would include sex manuals and other sex writing not fiction.
  • I read 77 graphic novels this year. Many of these I read via NetGalley, but I also read a good amount of them via the library. I also had two graphic novels challenges, which do allow for manga as well, running last year. Plus, this is a favorite genre of mine.
  • I read 3 mangas this year. One reason is that good mangas are not easy to get around here, but when I find them, I read them.
  • I read 7 books via my work library, Hutchins Library. This was kind of low considering I had a good number of books checked out from Hutchins Library. I just did not get to them right away. Those longer loan periods do kind of encourage me to keep things longer. I will try to do better in this regard in 2016. In addition, I got three books via Interlibrary Loan (ILL) through Hutchins Library:
    • Tales of Heresy is probably the furthest out ILL I have ever received so far. It came from Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Library System in Alaska.
    •  The Rude Pundit's Almanack came from King County Library System in Issaquah, Washington.
    • Tarkin came from Rowan County Public Library in Morehead, Kentucky.
  • 34 books came from my local library public, the Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library.
  • I read 23 books that I own, including 12 that qualified for the 2015 Mount TBR Reading Challenge.
  • I read 52 books via NetGalley. I read 2 via Edelweiss.
  • Other numbers: 
    • LIS books read: 2
    • Erotica: 4.
    • Books provided for review, not via NetGalley nor Edelweiss: 6. These are books provided by an author, publisher, or editor for review, either by invitation or because I requested them.
  • I completed 10 Reading Challenges for 2015 (see the link above, where you can see the challenge summaries and additional details). Some of these I did because they went with the flow of my reading. Others I did to try new things. Overall, things worked out OK, and I already have 2016 Reading Challenges going (see link above to see those). I am trying some new things this year, including an audiobook challenge. Overall, I am attempting 12 Reading Challenges this year: 5 repeating from last year, and 7 new ones to me.

What I am currently reading (as of this post):

  • James Swallow, The Blood Angels Omnibus (Warhammer 40,000).
  • Rachel Kramer Bussel, ed., Dirty Dates: Erotic Fantasies for Couples
  • Margie Lapanja, Food Men Love.
  • Elizabeth Warren, A Fighting Chance (audiobook edition). 
  • Julio Patán, Cocteles con Historia: Guía definitiva para el borracho ilustrado.

And as I often do to finalize, if you are interested, here are a few others who did end of year reading reports too:

Have a happy 2016 year of reading.

(Update Note 5/10/16: For some reason, this post has become a spam magnet, especially for Indian and other Asian spam assholes peddling their online scams. I have literally had to remove or deal with I'd say a comment or two a week from those bottom feeders. So, I am closing the comments here. You want to comment on this, shoot me an e-mail).

Friday, November 13, 2015

Booknote: The Readers' Advisory Guide to Historical Fiction

(Crossposted from The Itinerant Librarian)

Jennifer S. Baker, The Readers' Advisory Guide to Historical Fiction. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2015. ISBN: 9780838911655. 

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: readers' advisory, library science
Format: trade paperback
Source: My local public library

I read this in the interest of keeping up with my skills as librarian and readers' adviser. This is an ALA book, so it is fairly similar to other RA books that ALA publishes. I will admit that historical fiction is not a genre that I usually read. For the most part, if I want to read history, I go read a real nonfiction history book. However, I get that some readers find historical fiction appealing, so I read this in order to learn more about the genre and to have some knowledge in case someone comes asking me about it. In addition, I discovered a book or two I have enjoyed in the past such as The Name of the Rose and The Killer Angels that could fall in this genre. From reading this book, I learned that historical fiction can be a diverse and very flexible genre.

Still, the book's text is a bit on the dry side compared to other guides like this I have read. It reads a bit much like a textbook. So while I appreciated the learning, it's basically a book to consult now and then. For librarians with little knowledge of the genre, it does provide a good start.

3 out of 5 stars.

* * * 

Some additional reading notes:

From the RA series introduction, what a book in this series is designed to do:

"They help advisors become familiar with fiction genres and nonfiction subjects, especially those they don't personally read. They provide ready-made lists of 'need to know' elements such as key authors and read-alikes, as well as tips on how to keep up with trends and important new books and titles" (ix). 

At its most basic, this book accomplishes just that.

How "historical fiction" is defined in the book:

"For our purposes, historical fiction is defined as novels (and sometimes short stories) with settings from a historical period at least fifty years  prior to the work's publication or occurring before the author's memory" (1).

A resource to check out mentioned in the book:

What can you do if you can't "figure it out on the spot"?

"I try very hard to find something on the shelf for readers to take home and then offer to send them a personalized reading list. This buys me more time, perhaps a day or two, to come up with more suggestions. To create a reading list for a specific reader, I make a list of about five suitable titles; write short annotations, including reasons I think he or she will like each one; then send the reader that document. Personalized reading lists are time consuming but can be a good option to fall back on when you're flummoxed. A good strategy to prevent going blank is training yourself to be more a more versatile readers' advisor. Read several benchmark books in your least familiar genres and know which reference tools can help you in each (24-25). 

Those last two sentences above are why I read books like this one, to build up a bit of my RA knowledge in areas I am not as strong in.

Something to keep in mind:

"Subjects usually touched on in historical fiction don't always match Library of Congress subject headings, and it can be tricky to find good topical historical fiction quickly" (117).

A pro tip:

"Consider making your own subject book lists for those topics you are repeatedly asked about as part of your historical fiction readers' advisory preparedness training!" (117).

On the question of "can you really learn history from historical fiction?" The author says yes, but up to a point. People who read in this genre often say,

". . .that they can learn history painlessly by reading historical fiction" (137). 

However, even if those books are historically accurate,  you can miss details and elements of cultural experience and a historical time. Personally, this is a big reason I prefer to just read history, but I can see how for many folks this genre can be a start.

The author then argues that for RA in this genre, it is important to engage readers with works that have accurate historicity. In addition,

"Readers' advisors should, however, point out the advantages of reading nonfiction material to augment the readers' learning in areas that fiction doesn't pursue" (137). 

Keep in mind that you offer, suggest, and let the reader take it from there.

Some pro tips on how to build your RA reputation as a resource for others to get reading suggestions:

  • "Host author readings and events at your library.
  • Run several book discussion groups at your library and/or in the community.
  • Write regular book reviews for your local paper and library newsletter.
  • Post your own staff picks on your website and put your picture by it" (223). 
Using Twitter for on-the-spot RA also works.

"Readers' advisors must take advantage of social media as a way to reach readers and increase community awareness of our libraries' relevance" (223).

The author also suggests for readers' advisors to keep track of what they read and even have reading plans. For me, this is why I write about what I read in my journal and write a few reviews online to share. I do enjoy sharing books with others. On making a reading plan:

"To create a personal reading plan for historical fiction, identify your genre weaknesses, and make a plan to familiarize yourself with the best titles in each area of interest. Your personal reading plan can be as simple or complex as you like" (237). 

That's applicable to any genre by the way. It also means you may read outside your comfort zone, and that is OK.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Dean's Faculty Book Reading Group on Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies

These are my notes from the discussion group. Like other book discussions of the group, there were to be two meetings. This first meeting took place on March 25, 2015. The second meeting was the following week, April 1, 2015, which as I have noted elsewhere was "Holy Shit Week, this chronic bronchitis took me out of circulation" week. So you are only getting this set of notes. I did read and write a review of the book (link to the review) with additional reading notes that may be of interest.

  • As a group, we are drawn to read this book for various reasons. 
  • Re: consumers: why do they care more about the land, the food (does it have chemicals, so on?), about the animals than about the actual human laborers? 
  • The author continually reminds us of the systemic violence. He also goes on to show that for migrant workers, this labor is not just an individual choice. 
  • No one in the U.S. speaks of the actual role the U.S. has in forcing the migrants to try and go to the United States. The U.S. basically destroyed their way of life with things like NAFTA. (This is very well explained in the book, and I made a note of it in my review.)
  • The author speaks of the intersection of class and race. 
  • See also the book The American Way of Eating. (On a side note, Hutchins Library at Berea College has this book.)
  • The wrong question to ask is "how do we get food cheaper"? We should be asking how to make food production fair. Yet, we do have to acknowledge, that to many, making it "fair" would mean a price hike they simply cannot afford (many are barely affording food as it is, but that may be a larger question.)
  • See pg. 78 of the book for the passage on "marginalization begets marginalization." 
  • The author's experience is an example of observing his own privilege. He had to balance when he could use his privilege or not. 
  • The possible answer to the question of why Americans disregard immigrants is the American sense of individualism. This is in contrast to much of the world which thinks and acts in terms of community and the common good. This also explains things like Americans resisting universal health care (which pretty much every developed nation has); it is a failure to care and have empathy for others (a.k.a. as the "I've got mine Jack, so fuck you!" attitude). 
  • Note that the organic movement is largely driven by selfishness. These consumers of organic foods do it out of self-interest (i.e. concern over what they put in their bodies), not out of environmental concern let alone concern for the fellow man who actually picks up the food. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Dean's Faculty Book Reading Group on That's So Gay!, Part 1.

These are my notes from the first of two meetings of the Dean's Faculty Book Reading Group to read and discuss Kevin Nadal's book That's So Gay! (link to my booknote and review of the book). The first meeting took place on February 2, 2015. As of this post, the second meeting has not been rescheduled from the original date of February 16, 2015 (this was the day the college closed due to the big snow of 2015). If the second session is rescheduled, I will post my notes in due time (Update note 4/21/15: That second meeting was rescheduled to 3/30/15, which for many was Holy Week and for me was "Holy Shit! I've got chronic bronchitis, and I am bedridden for the week" week. So, no, I did not attend the second meeting). This post mostly contains notes I took during the discussion and some of my impressions of the event overall.

  • We start by looking over the "heterosexual questionnaire." We were given a modified form of this document, replacing the word "heterosexual" and its derivations for "straight" and its derivations.
  • We also took a moment to look at this site: We focused on that "used on Twitter" sidebar. 
  • On the book's preface: 
    • Religion can make these conversations difficult. This can be seen at the college. 
    • The idea of not having LGBT role models. This has changed somewhat recently. There are more folks in the public eye now who identify as LGBT, but being that is not their whole identity. 
  •  On the introduction: 
    • How silent are we or not when a microaggression happens? The answer is not as easy as it may appear. 
  • Keep in mind, in LGBT communities, microaggressions happen, often dependent on identities. 
    • Consider power and the importance of language in marginalized groups. 
  •  When dealing with religion, how do you deal with those who have religious beliefs so embedded? To many, this is difficult as the religious feel attacked and viceversa. Yet, some religious folks can and do evolve as they are educated, confronted, so on. (Keyword in that statement is "some.")
  • To consider: How does one decide to confront a microaggression or not? Are there times one decides not to speak because it is not worth it, can involve risk, other reasons? These are questions that are continually present. 
  • As teachers and educators, awareness of what we do and say is necessary. And then we need to consider how we educate students to be aware of microaggressions. 
  • Notice that what institutions do or say, for instance, choices in forms that need to be filled out, can be a preview of that institution's culture. Not saying anything can often still be saying something. 
  • See page 27 in the book for the concept of vicarious traumatization. 
  • Could we develop a pedagogy of sensitive challenge to those who may think that mistreating LGBT people is acceptable? How we even go about developing it? 

Some additional impressions:

Jumping a bit off the final question, which in ideal conditions I certainly agree with, and it is just the kind of thing the college would foster (or at least give lip service to). However, we do not live in an idea world. Allow me to expand on this. The book for me was not easy to discuss. I will admit that at times I just choose not to engage. Additionally, if someone is given the facts, it has been explained to them that some behavior is offensive and/or hurtful, and they still choose not to change or desist, I have no problem giving up on them and letting them wallow in their ignorance. I know, that may not be the "Berea Way," a term very commonly used here to remind you of the good deeds we should do, but allow me to use Christian terms here. There are moments when you just have to shake the dust off your feet and keep on walking (see Matthew 10:14 and Luke 9:5. Hey, I may be a heathen, but I can certainly quote Scripture as good as any brand name Christian). I have been burned enough to know there are some engagements that are best avoided. Is it the right thing?  Maybe, or maybe not. Sensitive challenge is fine, and as an educator I can certainly agree and work towards that in my pedagogy. Constantly banging your head against a solid wall though is just insanity.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Dean's Faculty Reading Group on Teaching to Transgress, Part 2

These are my notes from the second of two meetings of the Dean's Faculty Book Reading Group to read and discuss bell hooks' book Teaching to Transgress (link to my booknote and review of the book). This second meeting took place on November 10, 2014. This post is mostly notes I took during the discussion and some overall impressions of the event.

  • We start out with 8 people. We added 5 latecomers for a total of 13 people attending plus bell hooks. I can't help but wonder what happened to scare the rest. We had between 20 and 25 or so last month, maybe a bit more. Also, there were only two men in the room, including me (make of that what you will). 
  • At the opening, there was some expression of discouragement from bell hooks on seeing the world differently. The thinking here was in terms of balance. 
  • On a side note, an observation about the many artists here who do "mundane" work to pay the bill, eat, so on and to keep doing art. 
  • During the previous week (November 6, 2014), the college featured a convocation with writer Barbara Kingsolver. (This one was a really big deal. They even set up a second watching area in the library where they could stream the event. Personally, I skipped because Kingsolver is not really my cup of tea.). bell hooks and a few others described this convocation as "the middle-aged white women convo" (which is actually pretty accurate from what I heard and from the crowd we got at the library at that time). If nothing else, we think of language, and we could say those women clearly found their language there. 
    • Kingsolver did evoke white writers. Virginia Woolf and Charles Dickens look over her shoulder. 
    • White bourgeois, according to bell hooks. Working classes would not likely share Kingsolver's brand of humor. 
  •  There is still a gulf separating black and white women. 
    • How do you express about being hurt with people who look like those who hurt you? Especially when trying to form new relationships in new places? 
    • To this day, places are still segregated: beauty shops, churches, funeral homes for example. 
  • The importance of spaces to open conversations even in academia. Talking about work is not conducive to discussing deeper issues. 
  • We talk a lot about diversity and inclusion, yet we find it very difficult to relate to someone who may be very different, even when that different one is trying to enter and learn. 
    • This idea of learning. When is it enough? Is it ever? Or perhaps not so much being enough for we continue learning over our lives. 
    • The challenge is the assumptions we make about people. 
      • For instance, the faculty convocation for bell hooks, and some other events, where you see a sea of whiteness. Some of us (and here I do mean us, including me) can feel not part of it. 
    • A question came up: how do we truly desegregate Berea College. (Yes, in spite or perhaps because of our history, we do have to ask that question and address it.)
      • For instance, our downtown area is configured for tourists with money. (Heck, I work here, and I can certainly attest to it.)
      • We do lack integrated spaces on campus. 
  •  An observation came up during the book discussion about people here being and/or feeling overworked. Working after hours, over the weekend. (This is something I see a lot here. Certain bosses who are sending emails on Sundays from home are an example). Part of it could be the small town atmosphere where people submerge in their work (also, not much to do in the small town, so reinforces the people submerging in their work. Fine if they choose to do so. In my case, my weekends are mine, and once I leave on Friday after work, you are not hearing from me until Monday). 
  • Another question: has feminism become something for everybody and therefore meaningless? 
    • Intersectionality comes into play here. This is a difficult concept to understand.
    • Feminism seems focused on male violence against women. Where does this leave, for instance, upper class women? 
  • Border crossing is not really discussed, the notion of crossing lines from one group to another. We are more divided by class than we acknowledge. 
  • The book is 20 years old or so by now. Yet it seems so little has changed since it was written. We also reflected on how people see it as relevant today. 
  • Again, language is a place of struggle. 
  • A good thought from the other guy in the group (remember, there were only two of us this evening): being aware of how little he knows. (I can certainly relate to that)
  • Observation: the greatest diversity in the college is in the student body. Not too much diversity in the faculty, even less the staff. 
  • For the future, we hope to have more discussions on diversity. 
  • How do we exist in places where we may lack a voice or be valued? How then do we help foster change and dialogue? 

Some of my impressions and thoughts after the meeting:

In the end, the discussion was good, but compared to our first meeting it was much more underwhelming. Maybe this was due to less people being there. And yet, I still sense a thirst for people to come into such spaces and discuss these topics. But for some of us, though it is claimed the space is safe, is it really safe? I often sit and listen in order to learn. But for me silence is also a way to avoid the land mines.

On the topic of being overworked, it's not so much that it did not happen elsewhere. It is that folks here seem to embrace it so much. I am sorry, but as I have said before, my weekends are mine. I rotate a Sunday at the reference desk here or there because I have to, but the rest of the time is mine, you all need to learn to chill (or find other hobbies to do in the small town).

As for the diversity thing, let me tell you. Being a Puerto Rican in Berea, Kentucky can be interesting. I may have mentioned (at some point, not sure if it was during the discussion or more likely I just wrote about it  upon reflection) that I don't recall any person of color during my campus interview. It was not something I thought of at the time, but on reflection, it is interesting to ponder. Now, the students I met at that time were diverse in terms of gender and color. But for me, being caught between the history, the "story," and the reality of the campus and area, well, it can be a bit challenging, isolating, exciting, and other feelings. Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe.

Also on a side note, the whole town as a wealthy tourist playground makes me wonder a bit. Allow me a moment of bluntness here. I live here, and I work here, but I sure as heck can't afford a lot of what the artists here produce. However, a lot of people assume that I could afford such things because I work for the college; as faculty member, well, I must be well-heeled (I may have faculty title, but I am a librarian. I can assure you I am not well-heeled. Heck, I am lucky I have heels on the shoes I walk on to work). We are not all well-off academics is all I can say. I am very aware of my fortune (small as it is) and privileges that I do have, but as that wise man once reminded me, there but for (the deity of choice), go I.