Renée Watson on #StoriesForAll

Renée Watson is a frequent contributor to Rethinking Schools. Her most recent article, “Mirrors and Windows: Conversations with Jacqueline Woodson,” appeared in the fall issue of Rethinking Schools and is featured in our upcoming book, Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality. We wanted to make sure you saw this thought-provoking blog on how racist and sexist thinking about marketing can limit which children read which books.


This blog post was featured on Bloomsbury’s Tumblr in hopes that by opening up a dialogue among authors and gatekeepers, we can fight the harmful practice of genderized reading and make all books truly accessible to all genders.

This Side of Home Cover

There’s a feeling I get in the pit of my stomach whenever I see a message from my editor in my inbox with a subject line that says, Cover. I take deep breaths before I click the email open because I know that in many cases, the cover sells the book. The cover is a marketing tool. One image is supposed to convey the essence of the entire novel, while also being aesthetically pleasing, while also whispering to readers, “This book is for you.” And then of course, there are my own feelings. I want to be proud of the cover. That image will be side by side with me on book tours, on posters and flyers for events. I need to like it, want to love it.

I’m sure all authors have some degree of anxiety over the cover. I’m going to assume that female authors who write stories where the main character is a girl might have even more anxiety because we know that books with girls on the cover get put in the “For Girls Only” category. I know many authors have experienced doing author visits to girl-only audiences because the school thought their male students wouldn’t relate to the author, to her book. What this teaches young people is that stories by and about females are less than stories by and about men. It teaches young boys to silence the female voice, to disregard it, to give it less weight than their own.

As an author who is black and female, who writes stories about young black girls, I know that many librarians and teachers will only recommend my book to black girls. And let me say, that I want black teenaged girls to read my work. I hope they see their experiences mirrored in the pages. But I also hope my work opens up the world a bit for readers who are not black, not female. That they learn new perspectives, that they find ways to relate with the characters who maybe seemed so different from them. Most importantly, I want books by and about women, stories by and about people of color, to be made available for all readers. Because our stories matter. Because the young people sitting in our classrooms, coming to our libraries, will soon be adult citizens who will need the life skill of empathy and the ability to understand and analyze themselves, their society, and contribute in a positive way. They will need to understand the importance of valuing many viewpoints.

I am thankful for the educators, librarians, and parents who have shared my work with young people regardless of their ethnicity or gender. These gatekeepers know that themes of loss, change, resilience, love, and redemption are universal. These gatekeepers are committed to pushing against the norm and asking themselves, What if we recommended books to young readers based on the quality of the story, not if the cover has a girl or boy on it? What if we were intentional about making sure young readers have a variety of stories to choose from where protagonists may or not look like them or come from places similar to the place they live? What if the cover of a book that looked “different” or “too girly” or “too ethnic” was seen not as a deterrent but an invitation to step outside of oneself? What if stories were for everyone?


More From Renée Watson

Renée’s “Art is Action Blog”: http://reneewatsonauthor.tumblr.com/

You can find more information at her website: http://www.reneewatson.net/

Teaching Social Justice through Fashion: a blog post that highlights Moriah Carlson and her fashion class at DreamYard.

Beginning the Journey Towards Social Justice: Baltimore. Charleston. Ferguson. How do arts education leaders respond? To help answer this question, The National Guild recently spoke with Renée about her work with
DreamYard & other arts-ed organizations that are hoping to align their internal structures and practices with a justice-driven mission.

National Writing Project’s Radio Interview: Listen to Renéeread from This Side of Home & talk about why she writes.

Books on Home, History & Hope: Renée shares some of her favorite books to use in the classroom & to give as gifts to young readers with Multnomah County libraries.

Mirrors and Windows: Conversations with Jacqueline Woodson by Renée Watson: Jacqueline andRenée have a follow up conversation to their Between the Lines event at the Schomburg Center for Rethinking Schools. Want even more from these two writers? Click HERE


Renée’s Fall Events

After a summer break from touring, Renée will be back on the road again for book events and readings. Visit www.reneewatson.net for event details, updates and changes.

OCTOBER

10/23, 10am
Behind the Book Author Visit
Brooklyn

10/27, 10am
Behind the Book Author Visit
Brooklyn

NOVEMBER

11/5, 12noon
Writers In The Schools
Workshop
Portland

11/6, 10am
Author Visit, MLC School
Portland

11/7, 10am-5pm
Wordstock Festival
Portland
*Check HEREfor full schedule

11/11, 9:30am-4:30pm
National Guild Pre Conference: Social Justice Beyond the Classroom:
Moving Toward Equity and Organizational Change
Philly

11/14, 9am-12noon
The Art of Peace: creative approaches to conflict transformation
University of San Diego

11/19, 1:30pm – 3:00pm
NCTE Conference:
Black Lives Matter in Your Classroom
Minneapolis

11/21, 8am-9:15am
NCTE Conference:
Bringing Voice to the Voiceless: Writing Persona Poems
Minneapolis

What does it take to publish a book?

by Jody Sokolower

RSEditors_Jan2012_146We’re in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to publish Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality. Our goal is $20,000 and we still have about $6,000 to go.

Early in the campaign, someone wrote to ask us why we need so much money just to publish a book. We thought you might be interested in where that $20,000 will go.

The overwhelming majority of the work on Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality is volunteer. I am paid staff at Rethinking Schools, but the other four amazing members of our editorial committee—Kim Cosier, Rachel Harper, Jeff Sapp, and Melissa Bollow Tempel—are volunteering their time, wisdom, and energy. None of the more than 50 teachers, parents, students, and teacher educators with articles in the book are being paid. They have written, revised, and revised again out of a commitment to social justice education and to bringing these issues into classrooms everywhere.

So where is all that money going? We have a wonderful art director, Sabiha Basrai, at Design Action in Oakland. She is committed to creating the most beautiful book possible for the least amount of money, but she still needs to be paid. We also have to pay for aspects of production that you may not have thought about—I’ve been an editor for a long time, but I didn’t realize we were going to need money for indexing until a few months ago! Here’s our production budget, which doesn’t even include expenses involved with marketing the book, paying for inventory, etc.

$8,000:  Production editor

$6,800:  Design and layout

$3,500:  Artwork and photos

$1,500:  Indexing

$1,000:  Proofreading

$7,000: Initial print run (3,000 copies of the book)

$500:  Misc

Total:  $28,300

Of course, the real value of Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality can’t be put into dollars and cents. It’s the thought-provoking and inspiring work of everyone who has contributed an article, editorial time, or artwork to this extraordinary book.

As we near the last days of the campaign, we appreciate anything you can do to help us spread the word and make our goal.

Thanks for your support.

 

Beyond Bully Prevention

by Jody Sokolower

RSEditors_Jan2012_146One of the pleasures of working on Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality has been the discussions among the editorial committee as we have outlined the book, reviewed submissions, and brainstormed chapter introductions. We’re a small group but we span generations, cultures, and experiences; our meetings are lively, thoughtful, and mind-expanding.

One of the most important issues we’ve discussed is the proliferation of anti-bullying campaigns now being marketed and implemented in school districts across the country. Talking openly with children about how we treat each other is almost always a good thing, but we have serious concerns about anti-bullying as an approach.

For one thing, anti-bullying is reactive rather than proactive. Building community—helping children look for what connects them with others and encouraging them to feel empathy—creates classrooms and schools where bullying is much less likely to happen.

For another, bullying freezes children (and adults, too) into static roles: the bully, the victim, the potential ally. But all of us are more complicated than that, and most conflict situations are more complicated, too. Teaching young people to understand the social contexts that can lead to problems—racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, among others—gives them the tools to solve problems without labeling others.

9780942961591.MAINI remember an example from when my own daughter had just started 6th grade in a new school district. She has always been gender nonconforming, and middle school is especially hard for nonconformists of all types. Another girl on the basketball team teased her nonstop for dressing like a boy, looking like a boy. I knew that this child was being raised by a grandmother who was now too ill to take care of her; her home life must have been incredibly stressful. As a lesbian, I had a strong hunch that issues of sexuality and gender were barely beneath the surface for her, too. Tensions over race and academic confidence were part of the mix. But the school did no community building; there was no effort to help students talk with each other about the issues they were grappling with as brand new adolescents. What a difference it would have made if teachers were talking to each other about how to create something positive. Instead, my daughter stopped playing basketball.

Giving teachers the tools to support students—all students—is at the core of why Melissa, Kim, Jeff, Rachel, and I are so happy to be working on Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality. The beautiful work being done by educators all over the country inspires us every day.

And the enthusiastic response to our Indiegogo campaign has made us realize how many of us are eagerly awaiting this book.

If you’d like to delve more into the problems with anti-bullying campaigns, check out “10 Ways to Move Beyond Bully Prevention (and why we should),” by Lyn Mikel Brown. You can read it online now or as part of our book as soon as it’s published.

Watch the video that tells the story of how the book came to be, and join the community of supporters who are making it possible for us to publish it.

Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality: Join our campaign!

by Jody Sokolower

Jody Sokolower, lead editor of Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality

How do you respond when a child asks, “Can a girl turn into a boy?” in the middle of circle time?

What if your daughter brings home schoolbooks with sexist, racist stories?

What does “queering the curriculum” really mean?

What if parents complain?

Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality is filled with insightful, inspiring articles on these and dozens of other critical topics. This is the book we wish our own teachers—and our children’s teachers—had well-thumbed copies of in their classrooms.

We’ve got the articles and we’re deep into revision and design. But we can’t publish this life-changing resource without your help! That’s why we’ve launched an Indiegogo campaign—so friends and supporters like you can join us as we work to bring Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality to classrooms around the world.

Please go to our campaign page, watch our video, learn about how the idea for the book was born, meet the book editors, and join our campaign today. (Depending on the size of your gift, you might be eligible for a special perk.) No donation is too small!

 

Most important, please share our campaign with everyone you can think of who cares about these issues and wants to become part of the community making this book a reality. Thanks for your support!

‘Queer Matters’ and other LGBTQ resources

June is Gay and Lesbian Pride month.

At Rethinking Schools, we’ve been writing about gender and sexuality for a long time, including issues affecting the LGBTQ community.

We’re pleased to highlight these articles that have graced the pages of our magazine over the years. We hope you find wisdom, insight, and of course great teaching ideas from these pieces.

We are also hard at work on a new book about gender and sexuality. Look for more information and discounts later this year!

These articles are available free to all friends of Rethinking Schools:

SokolowerStreeterCreative Conflict: Collaborative Playwriting, by Kathleen Melville
A high school drama teacher searches for ways to encourage students to write about their lives without replicating stereotypes.

‘My Teacher Is a Lesbian:’ Coming Out at School, by Jody Sokolower
Adventures of an “out” teacher and some suggestions for deciding if and how to come out to your students.

Heather’s Moms Got Married, by Mary Cowhey
Second graders talk about gay marriage.

And look for “Rethinking the Day of Silence,” by Adriana Murphy in our summer issue, due out in mid-June!

These articles are available to our friends who are also subscribers

Queer Matters, by William DeJean and Anne René Elsebree
Educating educators about Homophobia

It’s OK to Be Neither: Teaching That Supports Gender-Variant Children, by Melissa Bollow Tempel
The everyday experiences of a 1st grader push a teacher to confront gender issues in the classroom.

A Journey to Openness, by Daniel P. Ryan
An elementary principal tells of his journey to being an openly gay administrator.

Fed Up with Gay-Bashing
An 11-year-old student takes a stand against homophobic slurs

Call for Submissions: Attention Educators, Students, Activists

Seeking Narratives for a new book by Rethinking Schools

Working Title: Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality

We invite you to submit a story that relates to teaching and learning about sexism, gender, and sexuality in K-12 schools. We are particularly interested in articles about classroom teaching, curriculum, and youth activism—in and out of school. Students’ voices are important; make sure we can hear them! In order to include diverse voices, we particularly encourage students and educators of color and folks who work in places that are not often associated with LGBTQ activism such as rural schools and schools in the “heartland,” although other submissions will be cheerfully considered. We hope to address gender and sexuality across the curriculum so teachers and students of all disciplines are encouraged to contribute. Other topics may include education organizing/activism, policy matters, and stories that offer historical perspectives with a connection to the present.

Please remember that Rethinking Schools is not an academic journal. We want the writing to be lively, conversational, and to avoid the kind of needless jargon that infects so much education writing. Please approach it as a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end, filled with anecdotes and the voices of teachers, parents, and/or students. Traditional academic/scholarly articles will not be considered for this book.

The best way to understand what works for Rethinking Schools is to read through several issues of the magazine with an eye to how the authors show specifically what they do in the classroom and how they integrate information about the topic into the article. Specific examples you might want to look at include “It’s OK to Be Neither” by Melissa Bollow Tempel and  “When the Gender Boxes Don’t Fit,” by Ericka Sokolower-Shain. As a model of writing for the magazine, see anything by Linda Christensen.

Before you begin writing, check out the writers guidelines.

Please send submissions electronically (Word.doc). We are unable to read submissions of more than 4,000 words, and are generally interested in articles that are substantially shorter.

Many of the articles in the book will also appear in Rethinking Schools magazine. The initial submission deadline is January 31, 2013.

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact Jody Sokolower, managing editor of Rethinking Schools: jody@rethinkingschools.org.