ICYMI: 2021 Honorees from ALA’s Rainbow Round Table

Every year, the American Library Association (ALA)’s Rainbow Round Table (RRT) releases booklists which honor quality publishing on LGBTQ topics. The Rainbow Book List collects titles for children and teens, and the Over the Rainbow Book Lists (Fiction and Poetry, Nonfiction) collect titles for ages 18+. In case you missed it, here are some highlights from the three lists, released earlier this year.

Rainbow Book Listsee the full list here

The Every Body Book by Rachel E. Simon and Noah Grigni (juvenile non-fiction): an inclusive guide to bodies, gender, relationships, puberty, families, and more.

Goldie Vance: The Hotel Whodunit by Lilliam Riviera (juvenile fiction): in the 1960s, a hotel detective in training investigates a missing swim cap during the filming of a movie at the hotel, with the help of many entertaining characters including her parents, a Hollywood megastar, the hotel’s official detective, and Goldie’s crush Diane.

Troublemaker for Justice by Jacqueline Houtman, Michael G. Long, and Walter Naegle (middle grade non-fiction): details the life of Bayard Rustin, a lesser-known figure in the civil rights movement whose work was repressed because of his sexual orientation.

Ana on the Edge by A.J. Sass (middle grade fiction): a young figure skater sorts through gender identity while preparing for a big competition.

Queerfully and Wonderfully Made: A Guide for LGBTQ+ Christian Teens edited by Leigh Finke (YA non-fiction): a compassionate and informative guide to living an authentic and fulfilling LGBTQ life in Christian community.

The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett (YA fiction): when her family plunges into sleeping sickness unexpectedly, Ekata finds herself thrust into the role of duke, marrying her brother’s warrior bride and struggling to wield her family’s magic and power.

Over the Rainbow Book List, Top 10 – see the full fiction and poetry list here and the non-fiction list here

Here For It: Or, How To Save Your Soul In America by R. Eric Thomas: a collection of biographical essays on being an outsider in many arenas of life.

Homie: Poems by Danez Smith: highlights the struggles of modern queer life and the ways they’re counterbalanced by the saving grace of friendship.

Real Life by Brandon Taylor: an emotional novel about an African-American gay man coming to terms with his identity in the context of his university community.

Homesick: Stories by Nino Cipri: a collection of stories highlighting the longing for home, representing a broad spectrum of characters and situations.

A History of my Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt: a memoir of coming-of-age in a First Nation community exploring memory, gender, shame, and more.

The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels: the story of a man coming back to his hometown to live out the final days of his battle with AIDS.

My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir by Jenn Shapland: a chronicle of the author’s journey into the life and living spaces of noted author Carson McCullers.

What’s Your Pronoun: Beyond He and She by Dennis Baron: a historical look at the evolution and usage of gender neutral personal pronouns, with recommendations for best and most sensible usage today.

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth: a story of queer women, historical and modern, and the eerie goings-on that threaten them all at an all-girls’ school.

Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen: a comprehensive look at the diverse world of asexual individuals and experiences, with insight into the ways asexuality can and should reform societal values around sex and relationships.

Fear of Missing Out by Patrick McGinnis

Fear of Missing Out by Patrick McGinnis is a book I’ve always needed – and most likely, you do too. In it, he describes the concepts of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), FOBO (Fear of a Better Option) and their evil combined force, FODA (Fear of Doing Anything), as well as how to combat them in your own life to be more decisive and independent of social manipulation.

McGinnis first identified FOMO and FOBO back in the early 2000s (though they date back to the earliest days of human history), but he since observed them turning into an epidemic as social media and internet technology became widespread. The wealth of options and opportunities that we see every day on our phone screens can be paralyzing, leading us to feel left out, run ourselves ragged trying not to miss anything, and to constantly seek that ‘perfect’ choice. With this detailed examination of the phenomena, their underlying causes, and the tools at our disposal, he seeks to give the reader back the power to make choices that actually reflect their values and desires instead of reflecting what they’ve been told to want (or what others want).

Perhaps the most important insight McGinnis shares into FOMO and FOBO is their roots in narcissism and their poisonous effects on our relationships with others. When we constantly strive to keep our options open, running after the imaginary ‘perfect’ choice and scrambling not to miss out on cultural trends, we not only do ourselves no favors, but we don’t show much respect for the people around us. Our friends, family, potential employers and more are left hanging as we procrastinate making decisions until we’re sure it’s the ‘right’ choice. This part struck home for me, as someone who’s made many a lunch companion die of boredom while I struggle to decide what to order. Importantly, he urges readers not to waste time on unimportant decisions like a lunch order, because there are no bad options. Careful decision-making processes must be reserved for high-stakes decisions only, where the outcome is very important to your life.

For the most part, I found this book helpful and interesting, though his focus on corporate entities and professional corporate life wasn’t relevant or interesting to me. Luckily, most of his strategies remain relevant outside corporate life as well. If you want to work on being decisive and/or less addicted to social media validation and guilt, I recommend giving this book a try.

Leave Only Footprints by Conor Knighton

“It was always possible to trace my experience in a park to the experiences of those who had walked the land long before I ever set foot on it.”

I’ve always been more of an armchair traveler than a globe-trotter (luckily for me in this year of canceled plans). I prefer living vicariously through books by people like Bill Bryson and David Sedaris, who can portray the joys and headaches of their various travels with gentle humor. My latest read in this category was Leave Only Footprints by Conor Knighton, published earlier this year.

In this non-fiction read, Knighton (a CBS correspondent) tells the story of the year he spent visiting 59 of America’s National Parks. He undertook this ambitious project in 2016 after a broken engagement left him desperately in need of a change of scene, and over the course of the year crisscrossed the country from Maine to Arizona to American Samoa to North Dakota and back again. In the process, he met park rangers, locals, and other travelers who gave him the inside scoop on the beautiful landscapes and ecosystems, and he also had lots of solitude to reflect on the meaning of nature, community, history, God, and more. With the book, he seeks to describe the lifechanging effects both of the individual awe-inspiring parks and of his journey as a whole, making a case for humility, unity, exploration, and conservation.

As a nature lover, I adored this book. His description of the cathedral-like Redwood forest and the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula sparked my imagination and increased my longing to see them for myself someday, and his appreciation for desert landscapes in the Southwest gave me a greater appreciation for their unique beauty. I especially appreciated his taking the time to delve into the unique cultures of parks in more remote locations like American Samoa, Hawaii, and Alaska; the history and peoples in these places are just as important as the landscapes. All in all I thought this book was a beautiful introduction to both our National Parks and to the wide scenic diversity of the United States as a whole.

That said, it took me a little while to get used to the book’s structure. Rather than taking a strictly chronological, “travel diary” approach to his journey like I expected, Knighton divides the book into topical chapters, grouping together similar parks under one heading; these headings can be as straightforward as “Volcanoes” or “Mountains”, or as unexpected as “Love” or “People”. For me, it felt like the individual parks and his time in them weren’t necessarily described in much detail. Instead, each park was given a broad overview before being compared to another one, interspersed with Knighton’s epiphanies and inspiration from his experiences. The book was still effective, but it seemed like the ambitious scope of the project sacrificed a sense of narrative in order to keep things concise.

However, the humor is on-point and Knighton is relatable, with an infectious enthusiasm for our national scenic heritage. If you like travel narratives, hiking, the National Parks, or historical figures like Teddy Roosevelt, I recommend you try this book.

An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff

guest post by Georgann

invisible threadWow. This book was so good. It captivated me from beginning to happy ending. The Invisible Thread is just an amazing true story about a well-to-do career woman and a street kid she meets. He asks her for money and she, like many other New Yorkers, walks on by without actually seeing the boy. Suddenly, in the middle of the street, nearly getting hit by a car, she stops. She turns around, goes back to the boy, asks him if he’s hungry, and takes him to McDonald’s. They spend the afternoon together, just hanging out, and an unlikely friendship is born that spans until today, almost 30 years later.

The story of Laura and Maurice is so powerful! Laura chooses to invest her time, money and family in this young street kid. As you can imagine, everyone tries to tell her what an awful idea this is, but she persists. She sees something in him, something special, and her instinct proves correct. She gives him experiences that he had seen on TV but never imagined would actually be for him.

He comes from a home life that is foreign and unimaginable to most of us. Laura comes from a very rough background, as well; perhaps that is the basis of her compassion.  He says she was his lifeline. She says she has learned much more from him than her learned from her. I say all of us will benefit greatly from reading their story!