Category Archives: LGBTQ

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth

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The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. dansforth ISBN: 9780062020567

Plot Summary: On the same day that Cameron kisses her best friend, Irene, Cameron’s parents die in a car crash. She isn’t sure if it’s her fault, but she realizes that at least now, they’ll never find out what she did. Cameron’s evangelical aunt moves in with her and her grandmother and all happily coexist for several years while Cameron explores her sexuality quietly. She is discovered after getting involved with her friend Coley, and her aunt sends her to a conversion therapy school, designed to turn her straight. The book takes place in rural Montana in the 1990s, and follows Cameron as she explores who she is, and where she is going.

Critical Evaluation: This book is somewhat slow moving. Even the cover gives some indication of that. It is not exciting, or fast paced, though there are some emotionally charged moments, like how she feels after the death of her parents. Instead, it takes its time over 470 pages and several years to build to Cameron’s turning point. Along the way are several important moments that bring her closer to her turning point. I suppose you could call this the narrative structure of the story. I felt like there was a lot of setup that led to the conflict for me; that being when she is sent to the conversion camp. Even so, I really enjoyed the build up to that place, because it explains how she got there and really gives us a very clear picture of who she is. The resolution is not so much of a resolution in my eyes, but it does mirror life in that way. We are left with Cameron’s decision, which is perhaps the most important piece to get out of the book.

After thinking about that, I can’t help but bring up the characters of the book. This is my old standby, but it turns out to be rather applicable most times. What the 470 pages really do is bring us closer to understanding Cameron and her world. Reading about how her grief over her parents’ death led to an obsession with decorating an old dollhouse was fascinating. Or what she and her friends did for fun on the weekends in the middle of the country. Cameron is given plenty of time to reflect, but her unexplained actions can tell us just as much about her and what she is feeling as when she comes out and says it.

Reader’s Annotation: When do we become the person we will be for the rest of our lives? Cameron has been pretty certain that she is a lesbian since she was 12, but her aunt and the conversion camp she’s been sent to would like her to think different.

Information about the author: This was e.m. danforth’s first novel. The book was very well received, as have been her short stories and nonfiction. She was born in Miles City, Montana, which she says in her biography, is “a town best known for its Bucking Horse Sale-which was once listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for hosting the most intoxicated people, per capita, of any US event.”

She received a MFA in Fiction from the University of Montana and a Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. She now teaches English and Creative Writing classes at Rhode Island College. She is also on the publishing and editing staff of “The Cupboard,” a quarterly prose chapbook.

Genre: Realistic Fiction, LGBTQ

Curriculum ties, if any: I’m at a bit of a loss for how to relate this to a classroom. It is very well written, and would certainly invite an interesting discussion, so maybe that’s enough.

Booktalking Ideas: It might be interesting to talk about all the things that adults tell Cameron in this book. The “lessons” that she learns from her parents, from her aunt, from the pastor, from the new adults she encounters and teachers, in contrast with those she learns from her peers. I imagine a lot of teens could also identify with Cameron’s boredom and weird obsessions in this book, and that these would be a good way to introduce the book.

Reading Level/Interest Age: The book starts when Cameron is only 12, but she ages quickly to be an older high school student that engages in sexual activities and occasional drug use. As such, I think it would work better for older teens. Publishers Weekly recommends this book for ages 14 and up; School Library Journal for grades 10-12.

Challenge Issues:

  • homosexuality
  • sexual situations
  • language
  • drug use

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

This novel represents some people’s very real experiences, and is important to represent, while also making it available to those who have not experienced this, but could benefit from being exposed to the idea. I could see the topic of conversion camps and schools as being a rather contentious one, with some people potentially getting offended by the implications of this book. But again, this is one perspective on that experience and people have a right to access it.

Why did you include this book? : It was recommended to me, and it also helps to provide another perspective to the LGBTQ books on my blog.

Reference Page:

Dansforth, e.m. (2013). Bio. Emily m. danforth website. Retrieved from http://www.emdanforth.com/sbio.php

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Pink by Lili Wilkinson

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Pink by Lili Wilkinson ISBN: 9780061926532

Plot Summary: Ava has a life a lot of teens might envy. Her parents just want her to be a teen and get outside the box of normal teens. They are supportive of her relationship with Chloe and give her a lot of freedom. But Ava starts to feel closed in by what she’s become. She wants to try something different: a school where she actually has to try hard in her classes, friends who go shopping on the weekend, maybe even a boyfriend. But being a normal teen is hard. She finds the popular friends she was seeking, but also the stage crew friends that she hates to admit she likes. But there are a lot of lies going in all directions. Can Ava find what she really wants, without blowing her cover or hurting anyone in the process?

Critical Evaluation: Initially, I was going to say that character was the strongest literary element in this book, but after thinking about it a little more, I’m going to say the conflict was the strongest element. I do think that Wilkinson spends a lot of time building her characters. Each is rather unique from the other and has layers to them. They aren’t totally one sided or total stereotypes. Alexis is the popular girl who secretly just wants to watch science fiction movies. Chloe presents this aura of being untouched by everything around her, but she’s actually vulnerable and fears rejection just like the rest of us.

But the conflict is what makes the book so universal. I know I’ve wondered what my life would be like if I had been more popular or if I had studied harder or been a nomad hippie…Our lives are all Choose your own Adventures (or The Road not Taken, for poetry fans) mostly, with strong influences along the way, from our parents, our partners, and our friends. But for the most part, we don’t have the opportunity to go back and see how our life would be different if we had just chosen that other option. Ava’s conflict with who she is heavily influenced by what her parents want for her, what Chloe wants for her, later on what Alexis and Sam want for her. She doesn’t really get to choose for herself until the end of the book. That may be what resonates most for teens; most can probably sympathize with not feeling in control of your own choices and life. So, even though Ava chose to take control in a rather underhanded and deceitful way, I think the idea of doing something along these lines would be very powerful. Hopefully all teens can see beyond Ava’s choice to wear pink and be popular, to their own choices.

Reader’s Annotation: Have you ever been tired of following along with what everyone else tells you to do, or wanted to try being a different person for a change? Ava sheds her ultracool and ultraradical life to give another one a try, and it all starts with a pink sweater.

Information about the author: Lili Wilkinson was born in Melbourne, Australia. She is the only child of another Australian author. She was first published at 13 in Voiceworks Magazine. She studied Creative Arts at Melbourne University.

She has written several YA novels of different genres. She has also won several awards for her books, including a Stonewall Honor for Pink. On her website, she admits that she likes writing for younger readers because they are better fans, and because she doesn’t have to make her “writing all fancy-schmancy.”

Genre: Realistic Fiction, LGBTQ

Curriculum ties, if any: This would be a good book to incite discussion about who we are, the decisions we make as teenagers, and the influence our family and friends have on us.

Booktalking Ideas: I think I would emphasize the themes of going to a new school and trying to figure out who one is and where they belong. The Screws add a more boy friendly element, and that the need for acceptance and uncertainty is something that boys as well as girls can relate to. Perhaps that would be enough to attract a less self-conscious boy. I would also want to play up the humor in the book, and the allure of being able to try out a totally new persona.

Reading Level/Interest Age: The main character is sixteen, and a junior in high school. School Library Journal recommends this title for teens grades 9 and up.

Challenge Issues:

  • Homosexuality
  • Sexual situations
  • Language
  • Drinking and drug use

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

Pink is an important book for teens to have access to because it shows teens in similar situations to ones readers might encounter. It presents a setting where most accept homosexuality, and experimentation with who you are, as long as you are honest with the people around you. The drinking and drug use is shown to have negative side effects, and at least Ava feels some remorse in the form of a hangover the next day.

Why did you include this book? : Besides reading it for class, I am happy to include this book because it represents a book with an LGBTQ theme, and takes a slightly different approach to that genre.

Reference Page:

Lili Wilkinson (2013). Allen & Unwin .Retrieved from https://www.allenandunwin.com/default.aspx?page=311&author=514

Wilkinson, L. (2013). The story of a Lili. Retrieved from http://liliwilkinson.com.au/about