Monday, July 25, 2016

My Reignited Love for Graphic Novels and More Inspiration at ALA and Comic Con

I have plenty of excuses for having fallen out of reading graphic novels (and sadly reading for fun in general). I have kids. I work. I've been in grad school twice in the past few years... I'm busy. But then again, plenty of people are busy.

And so, right here and now, I commit myself to un-busying myself, at least enough to make time and space in my life for inspiration. Why now?

Because this summer I have gotten a taste of feeling inspired again.

Graphic Novels Course

There have been multiple contributing factors to my rejevenation, but one that set off a whole domino effect was taking a San Jose State University School of Information summer course on Graphic Novels taught by Morgan Pershing.

As a whole class, we read Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, which I had read years ago, but enjoyed reading again and still highly recommend to others. We then got to choose ten titles to read from a list divided into five categories, two titles from each category. I posted reflections on the ten that I selected on this blog:
As a shout-out to my local public libraries, I was able to read all of these titles and more - for free - by requesting them from the San Diego County Library and San Diego Public Library systems. I also emphasize "more," because once I started reading, I couldn't stop. I continued to read other titles from my instructor's reading list, recommendations from classmates, and subsequent volumes in the series that I fell in love with the most: Y, The Last Man, March, and Ms. Marvel.

ALA Annual Conference

As my luck played out, I then had the timely opportunity to attend the American Library Association (ALA) 2016 Annual Conference as a Spectrum Scholar. Connecting with fellow scholars grounded me in a positive, diversely inclusive network that I've lacked since being an undergraduate nearly two decades ago. Being part of this community felt so instantly familiar and like a homecoming of sorts, even though I hadn't realized I've been missing it until finding it.

Some noteworthy conference experiences that further lit up parts of me include:
  • March with Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell - After having just read March for my Graphic Novels class, it was amazing to be in a room with the three creators, hearing directly from them. John Lewis had barely made it to the conference since he had been leading a sit-in on the House floor regarding gun control, a current-day example of his continued advocacy work. I was also so impressed by Aydin that when I returned home, I read his thesis: The Comic Book That Changed The World. It is engagingly readable for a thesis and captures a lot of the content he relayed in person - check it out!
  • #BlackLivesMatter: Documenting a Digital Protest Movement - As a high school teacher librarian, this more academic discussion may not seem directly related to my work, but it was enlightening and got me thinking about how I might weave in themes with my students about how they may participate not just as recipients of knowledge who access history, but also as information contributors and captors who help create and improve the accuracy of the historical record.
  • Toward an Ethic of Social Justice in Information with Dr. Safiya Noble - My Spectrum Scholar hotel roommate is currently in UCLA's MLIS program and has had the fortune of studying under Dr. Noble. On several occasions, my roommate recommended hearing Dr. Noble speak, and I am so glad that I did. Dr. Noble covered so much content that piqued my interest, including seeing how assumptions about the neutrality of Google searches is flawed. As a Google Apps for Education educator who deeply appreciates how Google's tools can empower people (a great example of this is the recent Letters for Black Lives collaboration facilitated by Google Docs), it is a good reminder to approach this technology, as anything, with a critical and inquisitive eye.
  • ALA President's Program Speaker: Diane Guererro - Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this event since I had to catch my flight back home, but it made me aware of Guererro's book: In the Country We Love: The True Story of a Family Divided. While a fan of both Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, I hadn't heard of the book, and so I was happy to make the discovery and eagerly applied one of my Audible credits toward the listen. Hearing Guererro's story made me think about an experience this year of observing students in my school library engage in a "for fun" debate about immigration. The "us" vs. "them" language that I heard made me cringe then and Guererro's book connected with the only interjection I made, which is that both sides make an effort to learn personal stories before making blanket assumptions about whole groups of people. This also leads into ideas I'm working on about how I can try to make a difference in my current work. Below is a sample idea I would love to collaborate on with a teacher - any takers?

Comic Con

Perhaps the best cap-off for my summer has been attending San Diego Comic-Con. 

I've never actually dressed up for Comic Con, but my adventurous daughter usually does. This year, she decided to dress up like Ms. Marvel, and I agreed to dress up along with her. If I ever needed a firsthand experience to validate the importance of the We Need Diverse Books (#wndb) movement, this was it.

While a mix of my Japanese and my husband's Caucasian ancestry, my daughter was born with skin even darker than my own. As her kindergarten classmate innocently puzzled over how my husband could possibly be her father: "You [pointing at my husband] have light skin...she [pointing at me] has dark skin...but she [pointing at my daughter] is full on dark...?"

Over the years, my daughter has dressed up like Elsa from Frozen and Evie from the Descendants, but this time, her natural resemblance with Ms. Marvel was finally a close match. As we worked on the costumes, she exclaimed, "My skin is perfect!" She meant it was a perfect match with Ms. Marvel's skin, but it touched me how this also represents her feeling perfect being in her skin just as she is.

As a bonus, we managed to meet the author of Ms. Marvel, G. Willow Wilson, and she was incredibly kind in person, aligning perfectly with the character Kamala Khan that she has so lovingly brought to life.

The other author meeting that made my Con on was meeting Gene Luen Yang at the First Second Books booth. While I have previously read Yang's other books such as American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints, I hadn't yet checked out Secret Coders, which is what we picked up and got signed.

Maybe it was getting to meet the author, but whatever the case, my daughter begged me to read her the books while we were still at the convention center. After our reading, she exclaimed: "I just love Secret Coders!" It tickled me to see her: A) reading in general, B) appreciating comics in particular, C) geeking out on a STEM topic, D) relating to a female, hapa/mixed protagonist like herself, E) enjoying work written by an Asian American*.

*NOTE: Regarding Yang's "diversity," just as I value his important work with American Born Chinese that was very much about culture as a subject, I appreciate how Secret Coders stands as an example of Diversity 2.0 (I recently heard the term Diversity 2.0 used by Matt de la Peña on the 88 Cups of Tea podcast). The story is not about the main character's culture, but importantly, she is visibly present with her mixed Asian background and she has agency with a fully developed narrative.

As we rode the trolley home from Comic-Con that day, my daughter claimed herself to be a Secret Coder, coding the binary number sequence 0, 1, 2, 3 with her eyes just like the birds do in Yang's book. She was inspired and I am, too.

1 comment:

  1. I love that you and your daughter dressed up as Ms. Marvel!!