Yes. I’m still tirelessly pushing for arts and literature and libraries in Plumas County. We do hiking and contemplating our own outdoor navels here–especially if cows, horses, or footballs are involved. But you know, might need other things….
Not long ago, my kids’ school, was–when you get right down to it–bullied by the local school district. Almost since its inception, our school has been accused of ‘recruiting’ students to its programming–though most arrive on the doorstep of our charter severely exhausted at what amounts to beating one’s head against a wall advocacy of one’s kid in the traditional school setting. Our kids wound up in charter not because we’re religious fanatics, our mountain crazed hippies, but because the school district refused to meet the needs and goals of our children. Plain. Simple.
Earlier this year, the school district began a campaign against our school which I deem to be one of those last straws kind of arguments. They accused our school of racism saying our school didn’t have enough people of color and therefore we were effectively, an elite and racist school. Come again?
Dude, we live in a county that’s pretty damn white. How white? According to the Census Bureau we clock in at 90.5% white. Asian American, African American, and Pacific Islander ethnicities alone COMBINED don’t add up to 4%. Latinos and Native Americans make up the rest at staggeringly small numbers. But the school district says our school is racist because we don’t have non white students.
And this is where I, the mother, need to throw a chancla at someone’s head. Because we DO have Mexican American, Latinx children at our school. We DO have children who have Native American blood running in them. What is being said without being said is that our children, my children (Mexican American_, don’t count. My son’s girlfriend’s family (El Salvadoran) doesn’t count. Along with many other kids whose families are bicultural.
My kids are invisible and do not count the way successful ethnic minorities never get counted. You only see us in the negative. You don’t see us when it’s positive.
I’ve been asked if my kids had the same father (they do) because of the melatonin variation in their skin. Ummm…have you seen large Mexican families?!
I’ve had a lifetime–as has my mother–of people making ass backwards comments that go along the lines of “Wow. You guys are Mexican? But you’re so educated…” Heh. The department chair of my old department said as much to me. Somehow in her eyes, I wasn’t allowed to be Chicana because no one in my family had picked vegetables.
My kids speak English. They go to school. They are by and large successful students. One holds down an after school job. One does gymnastics and dance and both are in musical theater. But the vibe I’m getting from the school district is that since neither one of them is in a gang, sells drugs, or is pregnant, they somehow aren’t brown enough. Trump logic. Pendejos.
So, PUSD, come after us. Go ahead. My chanclas are ready to thwack that nonsense right out of your two-bit heads.
Remember how the library used to look? I thought I’d make the feature image the original photo I took. It so does not look like this now. The sports trophies from 30 years ago are going some place else. There are new shelves salvaged from a closed school in the county. In one month, students have checked out over 300 books (keep in mind there are only 175 students). Parents are checking out books. On Friday nights families are checking out DVDs (which given our cold weather is a GREAT thing). I introduced a kid to Tom Waits because of one of you and the opera AIDA because of someone else. YOU GUYS ROCK.
In a world where facts seem not to matter, it’s refreshing to hear kids talking smack that they don’t know a thing about and just going over and putting a book in front of them. Yesterday , for example a junior high student was coming up with generalizations about African Americans in Los Angeles. I was able to pull books out to show him some reading suggestions that might make him think differently. That’s what I was after and I thank you.
Here’s some photos from open house.
Whew! It finally happened. Though we’ve been open to the kids since Sept. 6th we finally got around to having a celebration with our community volunteers. Thanks again to all of you who made it happened. We just finished another giant batch of thank yous so hopefully those will go out this week.
It’s not easy writing a book, doing that mom thing, working half-time at a newspaper , and freelancing AND oh yeah volunteering for the Library Project but it is so worth it.
We still have a bureaucratic dark lord threatening to not let kids have access to books (thankfully she lives 30 minutes away and makes Dolores Umbridge sound warm and fuzzy), but she doesn’t have any jurisdiction for one of the two schools so we are okay –yay!
It’s funny to watch bureaucracy try to keep ownership but because of you and national coverage they haven’t been able to do so.
But the fun stuff.
We had a party! We set up our first adult book clubs for the community, and we celebrated our volunteers.
My volunteers! (That’s me in the red boots).
On top of that the sweet superintendent from the school district showed up with sandwiches and I steamed up a plate of tamales. It was fun.
We are by no means done. But we have come so far! And that’s all because of you and what you did by sending us books, carpets, bean bag chairs, and kindles. THANK YOU! We also thank Plumas Charter School and Indian Valley Academy for being so supportive through out and all our volunteers from IVA and our community members.
Up next we’re hoping to start taking authors up on their suggestion to have them come speak. Also I will be the poet doing Poetry Out Loud with the schools –so shout out to you all for giving us a top notch poetry section.
We will be starting our film series soon once a week with films for the kids to watch after school while awaiting rides from parents.
Words really cannot express. Thank you.
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.
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.
[THIS IS THE POINT IN THE STORY IS WHERE MY MIND TRAVELS BACK IN TIME AND STARTS REMEMBERING ALL THE BULLIES OF CHILDHOOD AND EARLY JOBS. IT’S WHERE I DAYDREAM AND WONDER WHAT BOOKS ARE ON EVERYONE IN THE ROOM’S SHELVES AT HOME–I’M IMAGINING BOOKCASES THAT HOUSE PRECIOUS MOMENTS STATUES AND INSPIRATIONAL PLAQUES. I BET SHE LOVES EISNER ERA DISNEY. SEE? MY MIND IS JUST GOING THERE. IT’S THE MOMENT WHEN I THINK ABOUT MOVING BACK TO THE COAST TO PAY $5K FOR A STUDIO APARTMENT FOR THE FOUR OF US AND TWO CATS. IT’S THE MOMENT WHERE I REALIZE WHY HARRY POTTER’S ORDER OF THE PHOENIX RESONATES SO MUCH MORE THAN SOME OF THE OTHER HP BECAUSE THE DOLORES UMBRIDGES OF THE WORLD UBER ALLES. MY MIND DRIFTS TO THE ELECTION OF TRUMP. HANDMAIDS’ TALES. TO MEAN GIRLS WITH BEADY EYES AND CLEAR SKIN SMILES. WAIT. I’M SORRY. DID YOU SAY SOMETHING?]
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’?
[SIGH. SILENCE. SWIG OF COFFEE WHICH WILL NOT ADD TO MY WEIGHT WATCHER POINTS. EXPLETIVE. EXPLETIVE. I CAN HEAR MY KIDS WAKING UP AND PLAYING PANIC! AT THE DISCO. DUDE. I BREASTFED YOU TOM WAITS. WTH? MORE COFFEE. FUCK. STOP THINKING ABOUT CHEESECAKE AND WHISKEY IT’S BARELY 8 AM. AND DAMN MY OPTIMISTIC AND TRUSTING NATURE].
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.
Thanks for listening.