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The Last Thank You of 2016 — Library Project

….and it is two days late!

Much has been made of the disaster of 2016, with its notable take down of artists and musicians and cultural points of light and hope.

I kept thinking of Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time when the kids are with the Happy Medium and she is forced by one of the Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which etc to show the kids a happy planet, and a dark planet and then–she shows them Earth. Darkness of course, has  a strong hold on Earth. There is death and suffering and fascism reigning –but there are also those who fight the darkness.

It’s not that part that threw me as a child. I was well aware of darkness. But when the Mrs. W ensemble explain to the children that one can fight the darkness through love and through creation and through art is when my mind was opened up as a kid. There’s that paragraph were L’Engle mentions a sampling of darkness fighters: Jesus. Buddha. Shakespeare. That was it. Writers fight darkness. Teachers fight darkness. I was hooked.

Fighting Evil Through Art and Creation.  I think of that a lot these days. That’s why David Bowie’s death or even Carrie Fisher’s hits people so strongly. Because their art fought the darkness. And there is so much darkness. That’s why Leonard Cohen was the patron saint of my family. Because he offered a path of light through the dark forest.

If I have any resolution for 2017 it is to step up the fight against the darkness. I am needed now more than ever. You are needed now more than ever.

In between the mass shootings and the mass “post-truth” lies and the mass denial of the humanity of refugees, and the declaration of a party in our country to declare war on an already decimated environment there is hope.

There is Standing Rock.

There are all the kid drawings and paintings my kids leave on the dining room table.

There are mayors and cities declaring themselves sanctuary.

There are women getting ready to help women in dark states protect their basic rights.

There is defiance. There is resisting.

I look at 2016 though–the middle of the year, the summer, and there is you. Thousands of you. Who heard a plea for books and donated books to a strange woman in a forgotten town so that she could build a library for kids–to get books into the hands of kids.

That is what I’m looking to as encouragement. As my bright and shiny example of lightness in the world in need of defiance. You who read this and who donated a book. You participated in an act of defiance in a culture hell-bent on being proud of its own illiteracy, its own ignorance. You. Gave. Books. You. Made. Readers. I can’t stress enough how important and profound that is. Fighting the darkness.

Life has moved on beyond the summer. We opened. We checked out so far roughly  500 some books to students and an additional 400 to teachers and about 100 to community members and parents. There are waiting lists for some popular titles (Hamilton Soundtrack/Harry Potter Cursed Child, for example).

We gave bags of books away to foster kids who may not come back to our school district. We gave books to 7 schools other than our own. I officially have a box in the back of my car of duplicate titles to give away to kids who look like they could use them.  Lightness.

The school district is leaving us alone finally. Religious parents are going on to fight other battles. Slowly things are shaping up.  I am in the library five hours a week as a volunteer. I meet with students then, make recommendations, shelve a bit–put out new titles that are still coming in . I make displays.  And I always leave there feeling like I am fighting the darkness. This world is often not a place where writer/artist mothers of limited means feel successful. But because of our thousands of donors, I feel successful every time I walk in the library. Together we have brought light into a world.

It’s January 2nd.

I am at my father-in-law’s in Santa Monica with my kids. We are going museum hopping today and tomorrow and later on we’ll go to my aunt’s and visit my grandmother. I love bringing my kids back to the homeland of Los Angeles so we can soak in the best of southern California for a week. I love the Deep North in spite of itself. It really is beautiful (and currently filled with much needed snow). The environment is, if not pristine, as close to it on the planet as you can find. Lightness. Strength. Beauty.

But I also love  Los Angeles, the city of my birth. Yesterday on New Year’s Day my kids’ godfather and I saw Rogue One at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood (IMAX 3D because, of course) and then topped it off with a nostalgic trip to Canter’s on Fairfax for a Brooklyner and a black and white cookie. Lightness. Strength.

Today we head out to the Museum of Tolerance and later to LACMA for the Diego & Picasso exhibit. Tomorrow the California Academy of Science Pixar Exhibit and then my sister in law will whisk them away for fun while I catch up on work and a double feature of films that will never reach the north in a theater.  I will interview a couple of people as I wrap up my book proposal I’ve been working on.

Meanwhile my husband and mother are in the north keeping the house warm from winter and managing their own fights against the darkness.

It feels like we are all gathering strength for 2017.

I haven’t said it in awhile but –Thank you, again.  Know that you are appreciated daily and have provided one small town with a shining example of hope and humanity that we see and feel every time we walk through the door of the library. You decided to fight the fight (along with me) against boredom and ignorance and despair. I will always be grateful for that.

Happy New Year.–Margaret

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Michelle Bernier for La Habra School District

 

14721452_1769914903270968_3631945887143844646_nMichelle Bernier for School Board

I haven’t written anything really political here I don’t think. I mean Throwing Chanclas is essentially about throwing a house shoe as a statement towards something that needs changing. It’s also about women taking charge of their everything: bodies , families, communities.

It is in this spirit that I tell you about my cousin Michelle Bernier who is running for school board in the North Orange County town of La Habra–I also ask anyone you know in the city of La Habra to vote for her.  She’s a woman unafraid of a challenge and a woman with a moral compass I’ve always admired.

Personally I love her Garcia streak—that DNA that isn’t afraid to call out elephants in rooms. She has an eye to fix things and to do what’s best.

Michelle  and her husband Jeff have two kids in La Habra school district and one graduate. She’s been an advocate for kids getting the services they need (IEPs) and she’s a major proponent of literacy (did you know that the former superintendent got RID OF ALL THE BOOKS IN THE LIBRARIES?! WTH?!). They are the very definition of involved parents. I love going to their house in La Habra and listening to what’s going on and what they wish could change for the better. Now Michelle has decided to take that challenge on.

Michelle is a busy no nonsense sort of woman. You know that old adage about if you want something done ask a busy person? She gets it done.

She also makes the most kick ass aprons around. I have a cool one being made as we speak! Michelle’s Aprons and Creations. I love my Frida one and now I’m getting a Popa and Itza one!

So forgive my campaigning. But North Orange County needs Michelle. If you know anyone who lives in La Habra–forward this.

Michelle Bernier for La Habra City School Board

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Library Project Ghazal

(forgive me in advance for butchering this form)

Library Project Ghazal

We need to tell you we’ve had a complaint about the library.

An anonymous caller says you’ve got feminism in your books.

 

Kids read books with feminism in them will ruin the morals of the valley.

Girls thinking too much of themselves because of what’s in the books.

 

The girl says, my mom won’t let me read anything in here. None of this is

appropriate reading material for our children. There are ideas in these books.

 

The boy says I don’t really read. Just not into it. Nobody’s story is ever

like mine. I haven’t read one of these things since the second grade. Books.

 

You can’t please hardly any of the people any of the time. It seems strange that

with the other media and short attention spans that we still think banning books.

 

Rural America needs words. Lots of words. Words that fight small despairs,

The late Friday night lights of doom. Diagnosis a life without books.

 

We built a library out of the kindness of strangers. Packages coming from around the world. As if the singular grand solution to all that is wrong could be books.

 

Care to add more lines for me?

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Just. One. Book. Class Set Needed

So it’s probably a good time for an update. I’m in Southern California visiting my 95 year old grandmother, going to appointments with her etc., but my mind is never far from our project.

Our Amazon Wish List is now empty. Wow. You all just completely blew my mind this summer. I have volunteers sorting on site and trying to get things ready for school to start next week.

Did I tell you because of you I was able to make class sets for the two schools plus others in the area?

I made two class sets of Book Thief.

I made three class sets of I am Malala.

I made two class sets of Persepolis and one of Maus 1 & 2.

I made two class sets of Diary of a Part-Time Indian

And about 10 different sets of classics as well.

We have a teacher who wants to do March by John Lewis. We only received a couple of copies of that.

I told him I would throw it out here and see if anyone would be able to help build 30 class sets of the wonderful series.

Here’s our list if you are still interested in helping us.

Also your comments helped, btw. I think bureaucracies have no idea how inhuman they sound until faced with criticism from outside their sphere of power. Keep up the good work.

Also. I had a great conversation with my cousin who lives in La Habra, CA. Her daughter said she was a little jealous because last year her school put books from the library in dumpsters in favor of the One-to-One program ipads with ebooks. That’s fine she said, but when 1/2 of the kids don’t have the Internet at home , it’s hardly fair for the schools to be assigning internet based homework and readings. Our school district Plumas Unified, also is aiming to do that on each campus despite the fact that the Internet goes down without warning even for the households that have it several times a day –at least once a day. And despite the fact that not everyone has it here either.

Sometimes I wonder if school administrators ever met a poor child? Or a family? And why create an uneven playing field and why take books out of the hands of children?

Okay. Grandma and I are on to appointment number 2 today. Then tonight I get to interview someone really fascinating for my book. Tomorrow I will be back on a train headed north. Talk to you soon.

Also. If you’re in LA soon? Do take in the Guillermo del Toro exhibit at LACMA. Definitely worth it.

 

 

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Just. One. Book. One Month In.

Just. One. Book. is still here! Yes. We are still here! OMG are we still here. But I didn’t post anything this week because I kind of needed a bit of a break–to start shelving books in earnest. And then my knee gave out (long boring story of life-long knee issue) so then I’ve been sitting and directing and sending out thank yous–as many as I can muster. But I haven’t been blogging–I have been working on my book though so yay me!

Much has happened. The boxes keep coming but thankfully less than before. We can almost catch our breath. We have promises of shelving coming in. We de-commissioned much of what was left of the old library and are having a book sale of them.

We have sections now! The kids can actually visualize what’s in my head.IMG_8098Sio this happened last Friday. My friend and teacher over at Quincy Junior High School came and got a class set of books + some other materials we had duplicates of. Adrienne is fighting the good fight to get more diverse readings selections in over at QJHS.

Class sets. Because of you. Indian Valley Academy’s junior high are doing I am Malala in the fall as a class. They’re deciding a few others but they are so thankful that you helped with that! I think another class is doing The Book Thief.  My kids and their friends had fun searching for duplicates and making up sets of books for the teachers to come in and see.

We’ve also received a grant from the local rotary to order carousel computer desks for the computer area so that they feel more like individual work spaces.

Right now the library kind of looks like semi-ordered chaos. Thankfully our staff of volunteers has many an admitted organizational freak (self-included). I will post photos as soon as it looks like something other than chaos.

If you haven’t sent a book, please don’t! But alas where should you send them?

In honor of us? Please send them to rural America. Every state has their rural America. It’s fully of half empty towns whose kids are languishing.

I went to the neighboring town of Quincy last week and found out that 19 students in the 4 high schools run by Plumas Unified School district are pregnant as we speak. Given that our graduating classes combined of the four traditional public schools are only about 100 students that’s  A LOT.

I’m hoping too that the diverse books you sent will help our students grasp both their own place in the world and instill a sense of empathy in what they don’t know and what they don’t see.

You have helped with all this wonder. Thank you again, you’re amazing.

 

 

 

 

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Just. One. Book. Curiosities.

Greetings. I THINK I’ve responded to all emails. There’s a chance I haven’t. There’s 30K words of my new book due to my writing group on Sunday so naturally I’m blogging with you all instead.

THANK YOU! You all are one generous bunch of mammals! You are from every English speaking country on the planet at this point. You care about books and young adults and care that no one who wants to read is left without books to read.

Many of you have posted suggestions that we are looking into. I’ve passed on your links, your grant suggestions, etc. to the people who can best deal with them. I am learning to delegate authority and put myself out of work. Yay!

Green Bay is lovely by the way. JUNE is a good month for Green Bay. Mild not too humid. And these people love craft beer and cheese with such abandon it’s rather fun to watch. Back in California I’m sure someone would have told me not to sample 20 kinds of cheese NOT so in Wisconsin. I digress.

Word has spread like summer fire and students are coming to the library in the summer to help out. We have a team of kids coming in Monday to help clean off the dust, pack up trophies from the glory days and scrub the grime from the room as well as knock out all the recycling.

Everyone rather be reading. I have a feeling this library will morph into one the parents and staff use as well.

Since I get so many repeat questions, I thought I’d reiterate here.

Yes we take used and paperback provide they look/feel newish.

Yes we are 7th-12th grade. Not collecting in particular for younger grades.

There are a few books we have multiple copies of which will be great for class sets: Book Thief, House on Mango Street, and Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Ya’ll LOVE those books.

Yes we have a donation plan coming into place for sharing duplicates with other area libraries.

Address wise—the school building will be closed for vacation July 1-15. Please send books to  PO Box 585 Greenville, CA 95947 during this time. If you need a street address email me.

Thank you!

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Just. One. Book. Thoughts from the Airport

Greetings from the Sacramento Airport 5:35 am.

That’s mountain life. If you need to go somewhere, you have to leave the night before to get there. So I’m at the Sacramento Airport waiting on a flight for Minneapolis to go to Green Bay to visit my dad and his lovely wife and…pick up my tween and teen. They just got into social media range as they’ve been cabin camping in the North Woods of Wisconsin. Wait. Mom did what? Started a library?!

My daughter starts 7th grade in the fall; the son starts 9th grade. Because of you? They’ll get to experience a well-stocked library (other than their mom’s office which is arguably a bit poetry/drama/women and early 20th century focused. Now they will have variety to chose from as will their classmates.

Yesterday, before going “off the mountain” to the flatland below, I checked in at the post office (who called me saying they were drowning in boxes) and the library. The director/principal of Indian Valley Academy, Sue Weber was there along with a few community volunteers, and students.  Pam Lyman, the IVA office manager had put a call out to students in town and not off visiting grandparents or at camp to come down and see what was happening–and to help with the breaking down boxes for recycling and making lists of who to thank for boxes with addresses.

The 2016 Silver Buckle Rodeo Queen, Hannah Lambach, stopped by for me to interview her for the local paper. She’s 16 and a Greenville High School student. Her words, “You mean we will finally be able to check out a book?!” She stood there amazed. Then went and got her truck to back up to the building and haul the recycling to Evergreen Market which employs students. The store owners Centella and Ken Tucker are volunteering to pick up boxes while I’m gone and bring them to the library. Ken told Hannah to have the students who work for him help unload the recycling. Hannah promised to come back and tell others to come help.

IMG_7821  These were the bags from Saturday’s UPS haul. That’s not counting the Fed Ex afternoon bags, or the post office which had 5 rolling carts of boxes.

IMG_7824Sue (on the left there) instructed Jazmin how to orderly open and sort. Jazmin was sort of dazed for the first few minutes. “These books are for us?!” As I was unloading the UPS bags Jazmin opened a box and stared at the book inside. You could tell she wanted to pick it up and go to a corner and start reading.

“It’s impossible to open the boxes and not want to read everything,” I said. “Oh yes,” she said.

Then more students started to arrive to help as I was leaving. I was nervous about my trip to Wisconsin for a few days, but one of the things I love about Greenville is that when there’s a project, everyone is all in–doesn’t matter whose idea it was, or what your affiliation is. If there’s something that needs to be done, someone is there to help. Weber wants the students active in this. There’s a whole lot of thank you cards to write.

This attitude is why I like this little hamlet of a town. Despite it sometimes not quite being in the 21st century, despite the Internet going out in the middle of the day, despite the crumbling sidewalks rolling up at 5 pm (hey they have a grant from the state to fix our potholes and highway and sidewalks!), it’s a great place to teach kindness and breathe fresh air. It’s a place where there is always something that needs to be done and there are people willing to show others how to do those things.

Many of us are not from here. I’d say maybe half the town is originally from somewhere else California. We all found our way here from one place or another. I lived in San Francisco in my 20s and early 30s and have become one of the SF economically exiled. I had a hard time visualizing raising a family in a studio apartment for 2K a month, so I moved up here so I could stay home with my kids when they were babies and have them grow up near their grandmas ( my moms live 5 miles away). The moms aren’t from here either but good friends of theirs were. Mom 2 found this place in the 60s when she was the then Methodist minister’s wife. She lived in the parsonage which became the thriftstore and never lost ties to the area and its people. That’s how we are up here now.

Housecleaning:

I’ll work on an Amazon list (thank you for making all those items on the list enter our library) from the Minneapolis airport.

We accept gently used.

It’s a 7th-12th grade library. Some kids a little behind , some a little ahead.

If we get duplicates we have two other area libraries that we think could use help—they weren’t in dire straits like us but nor did they have a lot of new books either.

Okay. My plane is boarding. Have a lovely day.

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Just. One. Book. Updates and Observations.

Honestly, folks. I do write about other things. I figured if you’re following my posts lately that I should let you know that. Tales of a Sierra Madre is my blog hub with links to all the esoteric creative things I wind up doing in this beautiful but strange place called Plumas County. Since I’m more of a writer than a blogger, things over there tend to go looong. I started Throwing Chanclas to be fun! Short! Photo driven! Light hearted and airy. Or something like that.

Anyhow, I’ve received a few emails on here wanting to know if I am a real person and if this book drive is real, etc. Yes. I am a real person. I write for a newspaper by day. I’m also a fiction writer. And I write and produce a play every once in a while. Also? I love books, I have too many, and I’m constantly giving them away. As I think many of you are too.

IMG_7340So this is me. Margaret Elysia Garcia. When I do modeling or anything of that nature I use Greta Garcia. Because ‘Margaret’ sounds like someone’s aunt in an old folks home. Not the sexiest name. And for the reporting gig and when I have to write something innocuous and boring I go by Maggie Wells whom I assume is my doppleganger sorority pledging, well-married twin with no student loan and a much larger house.

But then there’s you! You’ve been sending books. You are amazing. Sunday was hard. I’m from a very gay family–as in lesbian mothers, lesbian sister in law,  raised by gay men in the 70s, etc. My best friend from junior high was off  at Pride in DC with his new husband and we were doing that FB thang  and then bam. Orlando. And it reminded me of the kid in my daughter’s class who always tries to tease the one lesbian girl in class. And I wonder sometimes is there a way that I can personally offset this madness and hatred? Can I give the bully a book ? Will it open her world? Maybe. Maybe not. But I have to try.

And then it was Monday and  I stopped by the post office to mail a package and the post master lady said can you pull your car around back?

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And then I drove to Greenville High School/Indian Valley Academy and the secretary looked up from her computer and said, “WHAT DID YOU DO?” I walked into the library and saw this:

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So thank you. You restored my faith in humanity. And the cool English teacher and our awesome special Ed teacher and the culinary arts teacher–who is used to getting all book requests denied  all stood there at different times with their jaws dropped.  We are so used to being ignored that it is taking awhile to sink in. I started crying when I opened books. I sniffed in the books. If anyone was watching I’m sure it looked weird. I also cried when I read some of the notes with the books. Full disclosure: my dad and his wife  flew my kids out to Wisconsin to visit him and go kayaking in the North Woods so I’m a little weepy this week anyway. 

But you people are beautiful. Here are three themes going on in the notes.

  1. Retired librarians (and current ones ) get really pissed off at closed libraries. I am picturing some kind of librarian march on Washington where you all just shame Congress for continually gutting arts and education.
  2.  You remember where you came from. So many people are writing “I grew up in a small town and books SAVED me. I can’t imagine not having books. Here’s my favorite.” To this I say I know what you mean. I was a very shy army brat and it always took me six months to say hello to people. Meanwhile I just made friends with books.
  3. You care about the nation’s children and rural America. You send books to open up worlds to them. I opened up a box for LGBTQ teens and cried yet AGAIN. 

So from the bottom of my very real heart. THANK YOU.

Tomorrow is my day in the big city–the neighboring town of Quincy (population 5000) but I’ll be back on Thursday–stopping at the post office and the library. I can only imagine what the table will look like then.

So Thank you! And I’m so sorry if I’m slow in answering email. As all people who live here do, I have like six part time jobs (think Northern Exposure). So I can only get to so many at once. Here’s the current wish list for those asking:

Amazon Wish List.

And to whomever ( I think it was a few people) sent kindles YOU ROCK SO HARD THANK YOU. My husband the IT guy will be setting them up this summer so they’ll be ready to go come fall semester in September!

 

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Just. One. Book.

Just. One. Book.

I live in a town of 1200 people in the Northern Sierra Nevada –where it meets the Cascade Range near Mt. Lassen National Park and about two hours drive northwest of Reno, NV.  Two hundred of that population is students. Over the years as the population dwindled after mills closed, then –nothing except tourism and retirement have emerged as ‘industries.’ Many businesses have closed down and with it many things we take for granted—like libraries.

The local junior/senior high school has not been able to purchase new books since the 90s. Some of the “check outs” for old books are in the 1970s-1980s. There are no books by people of color in the library. Hardly any books by women are in the few book cases except your standard Austen and Lee. It’s an uninviting place. There hasn’t been a librarian for nearly a decade. And volunteers weren’t allowed. The last eight years students couldn’t even check out books.

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But all that is changing now.

Greenville Junior/Senior High School and Indian Valley Academy, which share the library space have new leadership which are welcoming the idea of revamping the library. Both principals want to see the area’s students supported and reading. Like most of rural America we have no budget for such things as books, film, music , and other media and arts.

I’ve lived here 13 years. I’ve watched kids succumb to despair. Our suicide and alcohol abuse is rampant as it is in many small rural communities. 75% of our county is beautiful national forest. 44% of jobs are government jobs—mostly forest service. There used to be mills but they closed down in the 90s. So much of that other 56% is underemployed and unemployed. It’s a beautiful place to live but it’s also a scary place for the mind to atrophy. We have a median income of under 30K. At the local elementary school 2/3 of students qualify for free lunch. Getting the picture?

What we’re good at:

Because we live in a forest we do have great resources about natural resource management, forestry, conservation. We have a number of environmental organizations that help with a good deal of education and hands on learning experiences related with the great outdoors. We also have organic farms and sustainable ranches. Yay! So there’s the silver lining.

What we’re lacking is pretty much everything else.

We need racially diverse books. We need graphic novels. We need women’s studies. We need science. We need series. We need film. We need comics. We need music. We need biographies of important people. Looking for Young Adult. Classics. We want zines! Contemporary. Poetry. Everything that would make a difference in a young person’s life. Writers send us YOUR BOOK. We have many non-readers who we’d love to turn on to reading. We need a way to take this tiny area and bring it into the 21st century. We have a whole bunch of kids who don’t like to read because all they’ve ever been given is things that are either dull , dated, or dumbed down.

The students who excel are doing so because they have supportive parents at home and access to books and tablets elsewhere. But most students are without.

So here’s what I’m asking. Will you donate a book? A real book. Something literary or fun—something that speaks to your truth, their truths. Something that teaches them something about the world. Makes them feel less alone?

I’m asking for you to send a new book or film or cd to us to help us build a library we can be proud of.

We want things that will make a difference and get kids wanting to read and wanting to create. We want to engage.

We also are getting students onboard to design their new space. Students are actively reimagining and recreating their library space.

So who is with us?

Send us one book.

GHS/Indian Valley Academy

Library Project Attn: Margaret Garcia

117 Grand Street  Greenville, CA 95947

Thank you!

We now have an Amazon wish list up:  Amazon Wish List