“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.” JFK

Hello old friends. It’s been awhile. Grad school has been pulling my focus for the last few months, but I was recently posed a question that gave me a good reason to come back.

The question?

What am I going to do, in this field I am working so hard for a degree in, that is going to promote and further human rights?

That is a very difficult question.

To start, it feels necessary to spend a moment considering what exactly human rights are.

This short video can definitely provide the basics (and you get to see a lovely picture book- BONUS!)

 

For a complete breakdown, please check out the full text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but for the sake of brevity, let me try and condense the thirty stated articles as much as possible. It seems to me that human rights can be summed up fairly simply in that trite old phrase, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

So there’s that.

But the bigger part of the question, the part that I have spent a significant amount of time mulling over, still remains unanswered. What is it that I can do, personally, to be the kind of person who makes a positive change in the world?

I suppose the first question is, what am I willing to do? What sacrifices am I willing to make? What stands am I willing to take?  Those are hard questions to grapple with. I think most people want to think that if push comes to shove, they would always step up and do what should be done, but that’s often significantly more difficult to follow through on than perhaps we would expect.

For me, it is easier to state what I am willing to do, by understanding what I am not willing to do. For example, as a person who identifies as pansexual, I am uncomfortable with the idea of going anywhere that might have established anti-LGBT laws or a history of violence towards members of my community. That means that my human rights work might nor take place with groups that are physically on the ground in a variety of different places, trying to spread the message of global human rights.

And that is 100% okay. Individuals who work with groups like Peace Corps and Librarians Without Borders are doing great work in the world, promoting human rights and also helping to provide equal access to information in parts of the world without the same level of accessibility that I am granted as an information professional in Brooklyn, NY. Those individuals doing the footwork for human rights campaigns are making a tremendous difference in the world, but that does not mean that there is no more work to be done. The work I can do will just take place on a more local level.

That said, as I was considering what I was willing to do and what my role should be in furthering human rights, I found myself focusing on a couple of particularly relevant  Articles from the Declaration of Human Rights (linked above).

  • Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
  • Article 26: (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
    (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

These Articles, more than any of the others, speak to me as a future purveyor of information. This strikes me as the area where I can do the most good. You see, information inequality is not limited to economically developing countries*, but can be found as close as my own neighborhood.

According to the Comptroller of New York City, in 2014 almost 20% of Brooklyn households were without a computer. Among those who did have a computer in the home, a significant percentage still lacked reasonable access to the internet. In the world we live in, not having access to online resources can be a serious barrier to future success. People use the internet to research schools, to find jobs, to buy things they need, to search for medical care, and for millions of other daily tasks. Students are frequently tasked with using the internet to complete coursework or individual research projects. Lacking basic accessibility means that individuals who may already be somewhat less advantaged economically have to work extra hard to accomplish the same things as individuals with easy access to connectivity.

So what does this mean for me? As someone who is likely to be spending a good part of her professional life working in a public library setting, this means that I have to be especially diligent about promoting the library’s resources. Public libraries offer free and relatively convenient access to the internet to the communities they serve. There are often programs in place that teach people basic computer skills and others that help people start to become more information literate. In my neighborhood branch of Brooklyn Public Library, for example, classes are frequently offered in internet basics and email, often in both English and Russian, the dominant languages of the neighborhood. But these programs are only effective if people are aware of them, meaning that it is essential that I be a vocal advocate for the library and for the community it is in, a community that benefits from having increased levels of access to information.

A big part of promoting human rights for me is making sure that all individuals have access to the information they need.

Now, how does that relate back to those original Articles that stood out to me? Well, people who have access to information can participate more fully in a local and a global society. For the purposes of Article 19, making accessibility widely available means giving individuals another avenue to “seek, receive, and impart information” as they deem necessary. It also means that those opinions and expressions that we all have a right to can be more informed opinions based on having access to information that may not have been readily available without convenient access to the internet.

As for Article 26, to me access to information is a major component of access to education. Without access to information, the entire second section of the Article would be much more difficult to bring to fruition. Having access to a world of possibilities helps individuals feel connected to the larger society. Information accessibility goes a long way toward promoting “understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups” among other often estranged factions of society. Ignorance begets intolerance, so by promoting education through information accessibility, it is possible to fight the limitations of ignorance and encourage the evolution of a society that is informed and enlightened.

This is how I begin my approach toward furthering basic human rights. With information accessibility and education.

But there is more to what I can do than just providing access, although information access is certainly a major building block in constructing an educated and informed social infrastructure. As I have been writing and reflecting, it has become more and more apparent that what I want is to feel personally connected to the work that I am able to do in the human rights field. For me, that means that a large part of my focus will be in the area of LGBT rights as Human Rights.

In even the most liberal countries, hate crimes still take place with disturbing regularity and LGBT people frequently see their rights discussed in a way that classifies them as “other” and removes them from the discussion of human rights as fundamentally available to all. And the truth of the matter is that there is not a lot that I can do about that on a global level. Changing minds starts with the individual. Thus if my overall motivation is for LGBT Rights to be Human Rights and Human Rights to be LGBT Rights, my work begins at home.

As an information professional, I have so many avenues open for me to work towards increasing tolerance, encouraging acceptance, and ultimately helping create the world I wish I lived in. For starters, as a librarian I have varying degrees of influence on collection development. This means that I can work toward making sure there are books with LGBT themes available in all sections of the library. I can work towards inclusivity by making sure the materials available cover a broader range of subjects than might typically be available on the LGBT specific shelf. I will also be able to work toward finding diverse choices that represent more than just the middle class white experience of being part of the LGBT community.

Making sure my collection represents the intersectionality of this community is imperative. These books offer patrons both mirrors and windows, giving readers a way to see themselves in texts and allowing them insight into experiences they may not have even known were possible. Additionally, I can make sure that these materials receive attention every month, not just in June during LGBT Pride celebrations. Finally, in terms of collections, I will be in a position where I have the privilege of recommending materials to readers, which is a great opportunity to put more diverse books in the hands of patrons who might not gravitate toward them on their own.

Additionally, as a librarian, I have some responsibility for instituting programs and classes for my library. This means that I can use an intersectional lens to create content and expand access to educational opportunities so all members of the community have the chance to develop new skills and explore unfamiliar concepts. There really is no limit to the work I can do.

So, that was a lot. But a serious question deserves serious reflection, so that is what I wanted to give it. My version of helping to save the world and further human rights may not feel huge in a global context, but the more I reflect, the more I realize that we all have opportunities to be a piece of the puzzle with our own unique contributions and our own distinct approaches to making the world a better place. And we all know that every piece of a puzzle matters as much as the other pieces. We all have the potential to make an impact in a multitude of different ways. For me that means embracing my potential as an information professional and future librarian and using what I know to make the difference that I can.

So now it’s your turn. What have you done today to make tomorrow a little better? Let me know right down there in the comment section. Let’s chat about how to make things better around here.

For Further Reference

Bishop, R. S. (n.d.). Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors. Retrieved October 1, 2016, from https://www.psdschools.org/webfm/8559

Calendar. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2016, from http://www.bklynlibrary.org/calendar/list?loc%5B%5D=568

Hate Crimes. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2016, from http://www.lgbtqnation.com/tag/hate-crimes/

Librarians Without Borders. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2016, from http://lwb-online.org/

Peace Corps. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2016, from https://www.peacecorps.gov/

Silver, M. (2015, January 4). If You Shouldn’t Call It The Third World, What Should You Call It? Retrieved October 1, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2015/01/04/372684438/if-you-shouldnt-call-it-the-third-world-what-should-you-call-it

Smith, G. B. (2014). Poor NYC areas have slow or no access to Internet: Report. Retrieved October 1, 2016, from http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/poor-nyc-areas-slow-no-access-internet-report-article-1.2036599

Stringer, S. M. (2014, December). Internet Inequality. Retrieved October 1, 2016, from https://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/Internet_Inequality.pdf

Universal Declaration of Human Rights | United Nations. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2016, from http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

*Sidebar- I understand that the term “developing countries” is potentially problematic and would welcome suggestions for replacements, but am modelling my use of language in this context after the AP style guide. A more detailed debate on this terminology can be found here if you would like to learn more.

 

 

Hello Friends!

I think it’s time to resurrect this old blog o’ mine.

If you’ve come back after my grad school/ anxiety induced hiatus, many thanks.

If you’re here randomly, also thanks.

Lots of big changes are coming.

I’ve learned a little stuff about being a semi-grown up person during my absence. Can’t wait to share.

Stay tuned for more soon.

Cheers!

“With some luck I just might keep on climbing…”

I always have a hard time settling on what kind of music I want to listen to while writing.  I can literally spend several minutes deliberating on what type of songs fit the tone of what I’m hoping to write about. It may also be a form of procrastination, but I prefer thinking of it as a strange little quirk.

Today’s quirky procrastination soundtrack is old school No Doubt. Something about these songs takes me right back to a very different time.

I had coffee with an old friend today, someone I haven’t seen in over five years, someone who was around during that very different time. She’s in the city for a couple of weeks auditioning for some stuff (everybody wish her many broken legs!) and she took an hour out of the craziness to have some coffee and catch up.

This seems like a little thing to reflect on but, for a few reasons, it’s really not.

First, if you’ve ever dealt with any kind of anxiety, you may understand how nerve-wracking making plans can be and how easy it is to find a million reasons to blow them off. To make social plans and follow through with them is an accomplishment for me. And it’s one I’m very happy about because seeing an old friend and being able to catch up like no time had really passed, well… that’s pretty awesome.

Second, something my friend said resonated with me. Something simple. She remarked on how we had a lot of fun back then. And I thought, “Yeah, you’re right.” And that was a strange thought because I’ve spent a great deal of time judging myself for my indiscriminate youth. But it wasn’t all bad. Seeing this friend reminded me that the good memories deserve as much weight as the not-so-good ones. Maybe they even deserve more.

Third, talking with someone my age who hadn’t given up on the big dreams definitely made me wonder how crazy I’ve been to put such strict limitations on my own. I spent a year auditioning for everything I could get seen for and it was overwhelming and stressful and just really, really hard. But there were times it was also exciting. Hanging out with this friend reminded me of how much courage and optimism it takes to try. She’s still determined to somehow make a life out of performing and that deserves a standing ovation.

And finally. Between apartment hunting and career uncertainty and life changes, my love affair with this city has felt very tenuous lately, but somehow just being able to say to a friend, “This is my favorite place in the city,” reminds me that roots take time to grow, but that some of mine are sinking into these busy sidewalks. And that’s something to hold onto.

One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years…

Well, it’s about that time again. Time to start packing up all the crap that has accumulated throughout the year and putting it in boxes. Time to pull up whatever tiny roots have managed to sprout and transplant in some other neighborhood. As someone who has moved at least once a year for the last decade, I gotta tell ya, I am OVER IT. Packing an apartment up to move has to one of the most heinously grown up tasks that exists and I hate it violently. Possibly the only grown up chore I hate more than packing is actually finding a new apartment.

rent

If you’ve never tried to find an apartment in NYC, there is nothing I can possibly tell you to illustrate how awful it is. If you’re in the same boat as me, whether for the first time or as a seasoned New Yorker, well, Godspeed. Apartment hunting in NYC is a special level of hell reserved for serious masochists. The only thing that makes it at all worthwhile is that once it is over, you get to wake up every day in the greatest city in the world. Whether you end up in an affordable place in the Far Rockaways or an outrageously overpriced loft in Williamsburg, you still get to lay your head down every night in New York City. And that? That does not suck.

But still, if we could maybe cut down just a little on the bait and switch nonsense and crazy broker fees, well, that would be helpful.

Wish me luck, friends. The next six weeks could be rough.

“Growing older does not seem to make you more certain. It simply presents you with more reasons for doubt.” -Jessie Burton

First order of business is to announce the winner of the Everything, Everything giveaway! The lucky new owner of this completely incredible book is…

LISA!!

Congratulations to my final commenter! You made it just in time and random.org decided it was your lucky day! Please let me know where you would like your book sent by emailing me at grownupsforpretend@gmail.com.

And thanks to everyone else for entering. This has been a great week for my blog and it means everything, everything to me that you all took the time to stop in and say hello. Feel free to follow along on my misadventures and keep an eye out for more giveaways. I picked up lots of amazing ARCs at Book Expo and BookCon and I want to share this embarrassment of riches with all of you!

Now, I’ve spent a good amount of time since that crazy book-filled weekend talking about books and kind of ignoring the other purpose of this page, which is to share the ups and downs of navigating this weird thing they call adulthood. I think I’m gonna get back to that a bit today. But never fear, book lovers, I have a To Be Read list that’s a million pages long, so I’ll still spend some time chatting about books with you, but I have had all kinds of grown up stuff on my mind lately that I feel the need to blather about a bit.

So here goes.

My wife and I received some information recently about becoming foster parents. Full disclosure, this is not a decision we’re quite ready to make. We’ve barely got owning a ten pound dog figured out at this point. But the thing that is so interesting about this particular agency is that they focus exclusively on placing older kids. Now, I fully realize how important this is, but, no lie, one of my first thoughts was, “They’re gonna trust me with a teenager?!?” My face still regularly breaks out and I rarely manage to get laundry done before the day I run out of underwear. How is it possible that someone in the world thinks I could potentially have a positive impact on a half grown kid? Most days I still feel half grown myself. And I definitely don’t feel mature enough to guide someone else into adulthood.

That said, later the same day I found myself pre-treating some stains on my clothes before the laundry people came to pick them up. I feel like it is unarguably a grown up type thing to pre-treat clothes instead of just throwing them all in the bag and hoping for the best.

So I noticed myself doing this grown up thing and I stopped for a minute and marveled at my hard won maturity before continuing to scrub the coffee stains off my white shirt. (Sidenote- I should seriously just stop wearing white- it’s basically inevitable that white clothes plus me equals Jackson Pollock-like fashions by the end of the day. But I digress…) And I thought to myself, “Well Self, maybe that organization isn’t so crazy after all.”

It seems to me that this grown up thing doesn’t happen all at once and for some of us maybe it’s a little slower. For me it seems to be coming in a series of little moments here and there like paying the bills on time every month or learning to carry a Tide pen on white shirt days or even occasionally having something for dinner that involves more work than pulling up delivery.com. So maybe today I’m not sure if I can positively change a life, but perhaps I’ll be a little more confident tomorrow and even more so the day after that. I definitely don’t have all this stuff figured out yet, but my shirts aren’t covered with coffee and, hey, that’s a start.

pollockI think Mr. Pollock would like my shirts better if they looked more like this, but this sometimes grownup is a Tide pen ninja now!

“In the beginning there was nothing. And then there was everything.” Nicola Yoon

I’ve finally had a chance to start reading some of the Advance Reader Copies I brought home from Book Expo America. First up, one of the top YA picks for the fall- Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon.

everythingeverything

I have to admit, the premise isn’t one I would normally gravitate to, but after hearing it discussed at BEA, I added it to my must read list. In this story the protagonist, Maddie, has a rare disease and faces some insurmountable odds. She’s basically a bubble girl, allergic to the world, and unable to leave her house.

And then a boy moves in next door.

I’m not usually a fan of girl meets boy and life finally gets interesting, but Yoon gives the old archetype some new life and the book is insanely readable. There’s a love story, sure, but it’s part of a larger narrative and that’s what keeps you reading. Maddie makes you want to root for her.

Also, being a big supporter of diverse books, I have to say that I appreciate that the protagonist was racially diverse, but was allowed to tell a story that had nothing to do with race. Stories about learning to accept what makes you different are important, but equally important are stories where diverse characters are accepted as part of the story without having to highlight the ways in which they are different.

Kudos and congratulations to Nicola Yoon on writing a story worth reading. I couldn’t pull myself away from the book until the end, and even then I wanted to know more. Everything, Everything comes out on September 1, 2015 and I highly recommend finding yourself a copy.

Oh, and of you want to read it first, leave me a comment below. If at least five people comment with their favorite book featuring a diverse character, I’ll pick one commenter randomly to win a copy of Everything, Everything before it goes on sale. The winner will be posted next Friday, July 10th. Good luck and happy reading!

“I know we’ve come so far, but we’ve got so far to go…”

June 26th is a good day to be gay!

As I was walking out of the house this morning, my dad called me, bursting with news that I hadn’t expected to hear until early next week. He wanted to make sure I knew right away that the world was becoming a better place for me and my wife and the rest of the LGBT community. He was thrilled to be the one to tell me and I was so touched to hear how excited he was.

LGBT folks have to fight for their own freedom, but we couldn’t have made the strides we’ve made without having some wonderful allies in our corner. So, today’s a day to celebrate how far we’ve come, but I think it’s also a day to thank the people who helped you get there.

So, here’s to us, LGBT friends, and here’s to our wonderful friends, families, and allies.

But I’d caution us all to remember that tomorrow, when we wake up, we’ll still have battles to fight and ignorance to try and eradicate. We have much to do before we can claim that all citizens are equal in the USA. We’ve won a major battle, but the war on intolerance and prejudice and bigotry is far from over.

As for me, I’m dreaming of a day when coming out won’t be necessary, let alone one of the scariest experiences some of us have. I’m looking forward to a day when no one is bothered if a transgender person uses the bathroom of the gender they identify with. I’m waiting for the day when no kid gets physically attacked for being gay. I want to witness the day when discrimination is just this thing that happened way back when people were still learning how to accept each other and love without prejudice. There’s going to come a time when the idea of tolerance is antiquated because the idea of homophobia will be so archaic that we won’t need to teach people that they have to deal with each others differences, because they just won’t be that important.

I don’t know if I’ll live to see that day, but I’m hopeful. I’d like to live in the kind of country where I can walk hand in hand with my wife with no fear, no matter what region/state/neighborhood we’re walking through.

Still, despite the challenges that remain, I’m going to bed tonight feeling just a bit more welcome in the country I call home and that’s worth celebrating.

Happy LGBT Pride Month, my friends! And here’s to many more years of victories to celebrate.

empire_state_of_pride_by_eldru-d6bafh5