Everyone's been talking about Jonathan Franzen's new book, Freedom. While book reviewers raved and readers waited with great anticipation for the August 31st release date, authors Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner both saw all the hype as a platform from which to start asking questions about why books written by women don't get this kind of attention.
While the decision to paralyze Barbara Gordon was certainly a misogynistic one, the way that her character develops after the shooting speaks to the transformative power of information and technology...and librarians! Last week we looked at Barbara Gordon's character prior to The Killing Joke. She was a librarian by day and Batgirl by night. Her role as a librarian disguised her alter ego as Batgirl; reasserting the stereotype of librarians as meek and the opposite of badass. But this all changes after The Killing Joke. Thanks to a few writers who decided to make the best of what had happened to Gordon, Gordon's character decides to embrace her identity as a skilled librarian. She becomes Oracle, a computer hacker who discovers that access to information is a pretty phenomenal superpower.
Meet Barbara Gordon, librarian at the Gotham City Public Library by day, and crime-fightin' wonder Batgirl by night. Gordon was first introduced to the Batman comics and TV show in 1966, as an attempt to bring in female readers and viewers. While previous female characters (Batwoman and Bat-girl) were introduced in an attempt to dodge accusations of homosexuality between Batman and Robin, Batgirl wasn't there for romance as much as she was for ass-kicking. And did I mention that she was a librarian?
This past spring, Revolutionary Voices, a multicultural queer youth anthology published in 2000, was pulled from the shelves at a Mount Holly, New Jersey high school library. A formal complaint was filed by Beverly Marinelli, a resident of Lumberton, NJ who just happens to belong to a local chapter of Glenn Beck's 9.12 project. Marinelli stated that the book is "pervasively vulgar, obscene, and inappropriate". Following the request to remove the book, a review committee voted to take the book off the shelves at the school library.
Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie, has been described by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) as "the first creative resource by and for queer and questioning youth of every color, class, religion, gender and ability". The anthology is comprised of prose, art, letters, diary entries, and performance pieces.
This week marks the first From the Bitch Library post that examines the history of female librarianship as well as the relationship between feminism and libraries.
Image: Melvil Dewey
Melvil Dewey, creator of the Dewey Decimal System, is oftentimes praised for having created a new job field for women in the US. In 1883, Dewey was hired as the head librarian at Columbia College (which later turned into Columbia University), and he soon convinced the trustees to let him open a library school. At the time, Columbia College only allowed women into a special women's college, so Dewey's plans to invite women to join the library school were controversial. His first class was comprised of 20 people, 17 of whom were women. While many have focused on Dewey's success in educating and opening up jobs for women, attention is rarely paid to why he felt women would make great librarians. Spoiler alert: he held some pretty sexist beliefs.
The title of this zine comes from an old Irish expression that says, "There will be white blackbirds before an unwilling woman ties the knot." The zine features interviews with 11 women who all have something to say about why they don't want to be married.
Upon hearing about our library's need for zines, Virginia Paine hand-delivered a stack of her diary comics to our office, tucked inside of a paper bag package. When I arrived at the office the next day, I was pleased to find the parcel sitting on my desk. I read all of them before the day was over.
From the Bitch Library will be used to explore the relationship between libraries and feminism, to profile radical and alternative libraries across the globe, to highlight Bitch library happenings, and to review books and zines that are new to our collection.