Library Update

Well there’s good news and bad news on the library front. I’m not too worried about it and I think we will al persevere just fine.

Indian Valley Academy and Greenville High School and the districts that run them have decided to dissolve their partnership. My editor did a brief editorial on it: Schools head toward divorce.

It seems that the partnership dissolving also means that our beloved Library Project might also face a precarious future.  I have rounded up library volunteers again and can report the following.

Next year Greenville High School–with its less than 70 students will be at the Plumas Unified School District property alone.  The Charter school simply could not afford the rent (which went up to 5 times the amount paid in previous years this wear). Indian Valley Academy will be in two locations: A sixth through eighth grade about a block away from the current location with the high school going to nearby Taylorsville.

Which means my library volunteers and I will be making not one but THREE libraries all connected to each other. Because of duplicate donations this looks very promising. There are some books donated that went specifically with various programs—like GHS ‘s culinary program and IVA’s drama program. Those books will be centered where the programs are both located but with access for any kid in the valley.

Whew. Lots of work cut out for us but we are up for it. Indian Valley Academy has a wonderful new (and much cheaper) space to rent in Taylorsville the cheaper rent means more money for programs! We foresee about 100 students at this location (they also take classes at the local community college).  The IVA junior high likewise has a great room for us to set up in and a good chunk of students as well (Im counting at least 50). We have much material thanks to all of you readers! Enough to go around.

One exciting thing I will post about soon (writing an article for it) is Indian Valley Academy’s sister school Great Lakes High School in Uganda. Nine students from Plumas County just went to Uganda for 3 weeks on a project based learning trip to start three projects that are off to a terrific start. Their library was even worse of than ours was so we’re getting in touch with those in charge of the library there to tell us what they need. Stay tuned.

Thank you so much for all you’ve done for us and please know that we are still in transition, still sending thank you notes, still processing this great generosity.


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?


Just. One. Book. Live with Students!


And of course we aren’t quite done with what we set out to do–bureaucracy and the craziness of school starting impeded some progress. Not to mention having to butt heads with less than enthusiastic maintenance dudes and non-visionaries. BUT THIS IS NOT A GRIPE! This is a celebration.

I quietly shelve and organize. We have two students doing a library elective who are doing the same.  I hear amazing things in the library when I go there now. And sad things when you stop to think.

Like a student who said, “Are we allowed to touch them this year?”

and the one who said, “but, I don’t have any money. What’s the cheapest one you have?”

and the one who said, “Wow. It’s the same old room but now it looks amazing.”

That’s what I’m talking about.

img_8779So here’s our front desk at the moment…no designated computer yet but we’re being old school until we can afford what we need.

img_8780Here’s something that’s not happened very often in our school district. A display coinciding with Hispanic Heritage month…..

img_8782We’re waiting on a thorough cleaning here before we put down the nice rug we were given and the bean bag chairs back. This is the junior high lounge.You folks who sent manga and comics—it’s been THE BIGGEST HIT.

I promise photos of students. Each time I go to snap a pic I get a don’t take my photo! Ah…teens.

IMG_7448Take a moment to look at what it looked like before you all decided to help us. Yeah. You guys did an amazing thing. I for one will never forget the generosity of this summer. Nor will these students. I’ve started doing a thing where if I hear students talking in the library I place a book with an interesting premise in front of them and see how long it takes before the book gets picked up. Seconds. It takes seconds.

Since Sept 6 when we opened we’ve checked out about 65 books, dvds, and cds  to students and faculty.  Considering the two schools have only 200 students combined that’s some great reach.


Oh and on a side note. Whoever sent the soundtrack to Hamilton? I LOVE YOU. That’s the first thing that I checked out.


Just. One. Book. The Night Before a Train

I worked for 10 hours today in the library and I can no longer feel my legs.

It feels like it will be worth it.  Kids were coming in to get their schedules today at Indian Valley Academy. I’ve never seen so many heads pop into the library before. Come in! Come in! This is for you guys.

WHOA!  Even the faces of the haggard 4-H kids who just sold their livestock at auction after a 45 day fair week —kids who looked damn exhausted. As soon as I clean the pens, I swear I’m coming to help. And I don’t feel alone. I have you all and Indian Valley Academy who have been stellar through all of this.

My dealings with the Plumas Unified School District had me going southern Gothic. Let me explain. Some of my all time favorite writers are indeed the southerners. I gravitate toward them when I’m feeling isolated and feel guilty about expecting the worst in people (because thank’s a lot Flannery O’Connor). But in order to not be completely frustrated and pissed off at the gaul of the school district to somehow try and take both ownership and credit for the library I had to go to Carson McCullers and Tennessee Williams. Ever read Reflections in a Golden Eye? The Tennessee preface/introduction? He nails it. He tells us you know what? We artists? We people who feel things? We live on this one plane of existence.  And these officious drones who try and run our lives? They live on this other one.

They have no real jurisdiction over us. We don’t have to answer to them. The only thing I’ll never understand is why so many people who clearly hate children work in the field of education. I just don’t fundamentally get that.

You all sent books to the library project in care of me. And I aim to get books into the hands of children. Whatever that looks like.  Today I set aside 5 books –books that we had in duplicate to give to one particular girl who comes from a family of non-readers. She reads anything she can get her hands on. I gave her my own copy of Michelle Serros’ Chicana Falsa once. Because that girl so needed it.

So it wasn’t a bad day. Tomorrow my son and I take off for a week to see my grandmother and friends and family in Los Angeles via Amtrak. I’ll be interviewing a couple people for my book down there as well. And get this. My short story collection has found a home! Yay! It will be in print finally. So good things. ALL GOOD THINGS.

To the writers who have been sending your books. Thank you in particular for being gutsy and putting yourself and your work out there. It takes a certain tenacity that I greatly admire that I don’t always have. To the agents and the publishers sending books–thank you for the array of work that I wouldn’t have thought of but am glad is here. Great job!

We will make this happen. It may not be the complete original vision but it will be amazing. I’ve already had a glimpse. This is going to be one helluva literate town. THANK YOU.

And here. Enjoy some cookies. I made them tonight when I was supposed to be packing.IMG_8638



Just. One. School. A Saga Continues…

Junior High Section w Kids Hello Library fans. I’m of two minds as I write this but only one school. You’ll get what I mean in a second. Back at the start of this in June I told you what I knew to be true: we are two schools in one building. Greenville High School and Indian Valley Academy. We’ve always had the full support of Indian Valley Academy and its leadership at Plumas Charter–the umbrella charter that IVA operates under. At GHS however, we had the principal’s consent, the superintendent’s consent, buy in of perhaps 3 teachers. What am I missing in this scenario? A school board and a ‘curriculum director.’

For those of you well versed in bureaucracy you can probably tell where this is going. But just play along for the story.

Last night I attended a monthly board meeting of Plumas Unified School District in Quincy, CA. I don’t normally attend such meetings as I thankfully as a reporter do not have the school board as my regular beat. I attended because I got last minute word that the Library Project was an agenda item. I’d received no phone call or email from the district, no inquiries whatsoever. As this was my idea and I’ve been heading up the volunteer effort (we’ll let my 17 years experience as a college instructor + knowledge of books, music, and film go at this point). So I show up there because um…my library, OUR library is on the agenda.

So I address the school board and give them a brief history of the project. As the board only has one member who regularly engages online, they were not all completely aware that we exist.  So I spend my five minutes of public comment time on facts of our project and I answer a few questions.

The curriculum director–who has never set foot in our library, nor called me or emailed me to ask questions–gets up and makes a brief presentation whereupon she states that she’ll “approve” students to check out books as soon as we produce a list of titles so that she can decide whether they belong in our library.


America. This is why we can’t have nice things. This is why Holden Caufield whines about how every time you see something beautiful someone else has scrawled an OBSCENITY upon it.

None of this comes out of my mouth however. I do remind however that we are two schools, not one. That all summer 98% of my volunteers have been from community members and Indian Valley Academy students and parents and that we have no such stipulations concerning censorship and approval. Our goal –which we had thought and hoped was shared–was to get kids reading–especially kids who don’t read. And we’ve already been achieving our goal.

In the photo you’ll note 5 kids. The two boys on the right? Are not typical readers. But the manga and comics attracted them. And so the two kids whom I’ve worked with that one would never see just sitting for 40 minutes and reading are now sitting for 40 minutes and reading. They just came in to do so. No summer reading gimmicks. Just interest and curiosity and cool colorful stuff. But the curriculum director would not, could not appreciate this. Whatever they are reading is not on her ‘approved’ list.

I left after my brief presentation as I had a services district meeting to cover for the newspaper which IS on my beat. In the audience of that meeting were some of my library volunteers. We talked during the break. Shaking our heads.

So you know how this blog is called Throwing Chanclas? I’m throwing it right now. In Latina households, the mother takes off her house shoes and either threatens or throws the shoe at your head (you’re supposed to intentionally miss the head and just be firing a warning shot as I understand it). Why does mama throw the shoe in the first place? Because someone did something out of line and needs to be called out for it. Because someone is acting entitled to something they should be grateful for. Because someone needs to feed mama a hard liquor with a low glycemic index. [I’M TOTALLY UP FOR TAKING DONATIONS OF WINE OR VODKA. JUST KIDDING. MAYBE I’M NOT].

Right now? I’m super thankful for Indian Valley Academy and for all their teachers , staff, and administration do to put kids learning and kids experiences in education first–above egos, above titles. I love knowing that I can drop my kids off and know they will be challenged and thinking and having fun and learning how to reconcile their idiosyncratic quirks with the outside world and be embraced for it not chastised for it.

But I digress.

After I left the board meeting and after I got home after my second meeting, I learned that the school board is playing a familiar Californian real estate move: price gouging.  They want IVA to pay four times the amount of rent it currently pays to remain in the building with no authority to put up so much as an inspirational poster in the space.  What school could possibly do that when school starts in two weeks?

I write to you this morning a bit crestfallen and dumbfounded. My mind races again. Will there be two libraries? One vibrant in a nearby rented building, while another one languishes in a giant space with 200 hundred “approved” books? What child ever wanted to read something ‘approved’?


So…I’m going to keep plugging along and my volunteers will keep checking in books. I keep shelving. Worst case scenario is me slipping real books to  1/2 the students in the dead of night like a superhero, while maintaining a smaller library for the other 1/2.  Best case scenario is  that the centaurs teach Umbridge a lesson that sinks in (although from books 6 and 7 we know that’s not the case).

The real best case scenario? Both schools and their supporters  compromise in a reasonable fashion to the benefit of students in both schools. IVA should have a sane rent increase instead of a San Francisco/DTLA-style one.  The curriculum director needs to remember the goal for us  is literacy and a curious, questioning mind –and that if she can’t embrace our goal she should at least respect it.

I’m headed for another cup of coffee and then a walk over to the library to meet up with today’s volunteers. It never ceases to amaze me how a few people can try and hold the rest of us hostage. But then again–witness the American election. The macro. The micro. I am craving silence and serenity so my mind can focus. Like the kind you can find in a library.

Here’s the link to Plumas Unified School District if you’re interested. Here’s the link to Indian Valley Academy.

Thanks for listening.




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.






Just. One. Book. Thoughts and thanks.

IMG_8095 This is the very sweet Natasha Griffin. She came out to Greenville from Portola to pick up some books for Portola High School. Many of our duplicates went home with her. Portola is the only incorporated city in our county and is home to a more diverse (in terms of Latinx) population of students. I hand picked some books that my daughter and I thought the kids would love over there from our overflow.

So I’ve been reading about banned books because you know there are always a few people in every community who start running around like Chicken Little and think the world is going to end because a student read……well anything really.

I’m trying to wrap my head around the violence from the news, and the TV, and the video games where the point is always to shoot something. I’m trying to wrap my head around teen and tween conversations which seem to always conclude with talk about farts and other bodily functions. What I’m trying to say I guess is do people who want things banned—have they ever even talked to their own kids? Been around kids? Listened to pop music? Geez.

So THANK YOU all again because you know what you guys did? You’ve sent me every book that was on the challenged or banned book lists of the last few years. We have every book that’s been challenged some place in the USA. I LOVE THAT.

I mean we all have our thresholds with out kids. My kids haven’t seen some films because I deemed the screenwriting shitty and as a writer I WANT GOOD SCRIPTS AND THE WRITERS PAID. My son sometimes tries to explain that when other kids ask, have you seen that? And my son groans, “No, can’t watch that with my mom around. It has a bad script…”

I remember being a kid and sneaking around “bad” books too. It’s what kids do. Do censors realize that some things just go over kids’ heads and that also it’s a thrill to see a ‘bad’ word on a page?

So, no banning on my part.  Parents get to sign a form at the beginning of the school year stating whether or not their kids can check out books and how far up the ladder of maturity they can go. But we only have 200 kids in about 120 families. It’s not that hard to keep track of stuff.

Meanwhile my 13 year old and my 11 year old are still reading whatever they can get their hands on.

I’m betting if I ban something though, I could probably ensure that every child reads it. Because that’s how bans work.

I used to work in a record store in college. Moms were always coming in FREAKED out that we’d just sold some rap or heavy metal tape to their precious angel.  The parents who went apeshit wound up with kids who listened to that stuff even MORE because it bothered the parents.  The parents who  were okay with it saw their kids move on to other stuff. It’s a time honored tradition really—kids only want what their parents don’t want them to have.

I’d like to take this opportunity to remind Senator Amanda Chase that her hatred of the Eleanor & Park book just helped clinch the deal that every kid in her district will now read it.

Have a good day. Go read something banned.


Just. One. Big Thank you!

So I know I promised an announcement and here it is.

I decided that this campaign can’t just end because our shelves are full.  Boxes keep coming.

So we are reaching out to other schools in the area and seeing what their needs are–and sharing. We did get a few duplicates of a few popular titles that we think other Plumas Unified School District high schools and Sierra County’s Loyalton High School could also use.

In general, our whole county is underserved. The art teacher for PUSD was just let go. No more art in school. Chester lost its band teacher. Only if you live in Quincy are you lucky enough to have dance. The arts in schools are woefully under represented.  Another place we fall short is technology. I think I mentioned before we often graduate students who don’t know how to send an email and don’t know there’s something else you can do on a phone besides text and play games. Reading levels across the district need to expand. Just from talking to other teachers across the district I can tell that much of their material is outdated and lots of their requests the district cannot fill due to budget restraints.

So with this in mind– we are distributing books to schools in need in our district that have open libraries but those libraries do not have enough newer books and media.

We will be giving to

Portola High School

Plumas Charter School in Quincy

Loyalton High School

One teacher at Quincy High School has been trying to get diverse books in her classroom for two years. She’s coming over next Wednesday to check out the duplicates we have that I think are on her lists.

If you want to keep us in your thoughts and hearts and want to send books over the months as they come out that would be amazing. If you’d like to help us with more bookshelves and purchasing computers that work for the library (we are thinking 5–one for the front desk and 2 Mac and 2 PC for students all together rather than the 14 half working sort of stations we have now) that would be grand too.


I have a bit more faith in people now. My last year of teaching (2015) was a difficult year. I had to face some harsh realities that no matter how great a teacher I was (and I’ll boast here because at least my students have always come back and said I was great), the administration passed me up time and again for not having a PhD and for teaching while Latina. A student on drugs became violently angry in class and threatened me. The administration did nothing. A favorite student committed suicide.  I was devastated. He was brilliant. I wrote about him here:

Eulogy for a Student of Light

It was a hard 11 years there but the last year just wore down both my confidence and my esteem. I quit last August for good, vowing never to let a job or a department chair treat me like garbage again.

2016 has been strange and beautiful year of returns. Post graduate school, I hadn’t meant to teach. I’d meant to write. But a divorce and the need for work meant I needed a steady paycheck. Okay and also traveling around Asia. I’d worked at the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle and meant to go into journalism but wound up teaching instead. I still believe I had a calling to do that. In 2016 I saw a book deal fall through (it would have been my second short story collection) but I also manage to have my first credit on a documentary film.

But now the LIbrary Project and my Throwing the Curve project (I’m writing a book on plus size modeling and the body positive movement) have both given me a new lease on life.  I can do things! I can combine interests! I can write and instill a love of books. YAY! So thank you very personally for making me feel worthy and needed.

We’ve been hearing from authors, readers, writers, publishers from all over the English speaking world. THANK YOU for your notes and your books and other media.

I want to today give a special shout out to the people who’ve camped here at Lake Almanor or been through here visiting on the way to Mt. Lassen National Volcanic Park or those who sent their kids to our own Copper Creek Camp. Your letters have a particular sweetness. You’ve seen us. You”ve said you didn’t know how bad it was here. And you want to give back to the community that you say brought you so much joy and wonderful memories of being in the great outdoors.  THANK YOU for your love and your visiting of our area. Many of us wound up here because of the great beauty of it–we fell in love. We sometimes pay a cost for that in amenities that aren’t here. But you all know more than anyone why we are here and continue to stay here and hopefully that we make your journey here a sweet one.  THANK YOU for recognizing us.



Just. One. Book. CRAZY HAPPY JOY!

So we are pretty much AT CAPACITY.  I think we need more bookcases than books now. What a great problem to have! You guys rock. I got some wonderful personal cards and messages that I opened today. Including a friend of mine, Jenny who sent me chocolate to eat while we open packages. Because BOOKS AND CHOCOLATE are an awesome combination.


I want you to know so many people in our community are revitalized by this effort. We have people volunteering an hour or two a day. A steady stream of kids. But then we also have the postal people cheering us on! The Evergreen Market is helping us by taking the cardboard to recycle. People are figuring out what they can donate when. Perhaps bookshelves. Time. Ideas for programming. It’s like a thousand ideas at once.

You know what was cute today? My kids are back from Wisconsin and are working the library with three of their friends today. They were opening boxes and stacking things so the adults could record what came in and from who where we could see it. The kids would stop every once in awhile , squeal out the name of a book and thumb through and another of them would remind them that we were here to work not read yet, and the kid would say “but I’m dying to read this one!” or “I didn’t even know this was a book!” Stuff like that. So adorable.

Of course they’re all tweens and they drove me nuts too.

So remember those shelves with only encyclopedias and biographies from the 50s?



You can’t tell from the photo but some of these are double rowed. So now begins our process of finding duplicates, of seeing if there was something teachers wanted that we overlooked. If you haven’t sent a box yet but were thinking of it, please hold off for now. We will have a great announcement in a few days for next steps.

THANK YOU  THANK YOU THANK YOU. This was successful beyond any of our imaginations.

This has been such a positive experience for all of us. In the midsts of so much divisiveness politically, in the midst of so much aggression and violence in our world–here is kindness. Here is generosity. Here is life anew. THANK YOU.


Just. One. Book. It’s Starting.

Enthusiasm has taken hold. I’m gone for the rest of the week in the lovely town of Green Bay, WI. visiting my dad– the other person in my family who gave me a love of books. My dad got that from my grandma who used to drop my dad and his brother off at the library for hours on end. Some of my favorite books over the years came from my dad. No rhyme or reason, just every now and then a book he thought a young person should read–and as I’m older now he still does it. Some of my favorite non-fiction comes from him. He came from a family that while, uneducated in its humble beginnings in New York, used libraries. His mother didn’t graduate from high school; my father has a PhD as well as a medical degree. We call him ‘double-doctor.’

I still look to him for book recommendations. And Packers gear. And cheese. Go Packers.

Meanwhile focus in Greenville say packages are still arriving. More kids who are in town for the summer are showing up to help discard old debris, make recycling runs, and the exciting part—opening boxes. One student yesterday remarked to Sue Weber, “I don’t even want to go to classes next year. Can I just sit in here and read?” Book contraband.

Last night when I finally got to talking with my son, he’d asked his friends on FB if there were books they wanted to have in the library.  Every recommendation my son and his friends threw at me I got to answer with, “Yup. Have it. It’s coming.” His friends were amazed. He was amazed.

My daughter revised the summer plans for when we get back. “Okay so, in the morning we work the library; in the afternoons, we go to the pool.” Yes, indeed. Sounds like a sweet summer plan.

Both the Washington Post and Feather River Publishing (the newspaper I work for) have asked me to do stories on the library project.  Yay! And we have teachers working on a campaign as we realize we will need a designated computer for the library–something we don’t have now. The former Greenville High School library was never digitized.

Also we have a name now for the new library. Since it is for both schools and since the community is so intrinsically involved (and we envision them using the library too) we’ve named it the Indian Valley Collective Library.

Hope you’re having a good day. I know we are.

Green Bay!