Here We Are: Feminism & Social Justice In Action by Kelly Jensen (#SJYALit: Social Justice in YA Lit)
Tomorrow, Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World edited by Kelly Jensen is released out into the world. This week, as part of our Social Justice in YA Lit Project, we will have a new piece about this book each day. We’re also doing a t-shirt giveaway (see below!). It’s exciting to see this book launch just days after somewhere around 3 million people marched in protests organized and promoted by women around the world. Today, we are honored to have Kelly Jensen here to talk with us about how and why this book came about.
I believe feminism and, by extension, social justice are more than words we share. They’re about actions, too.
Here We Are: Feminism For The Real World began with a tweet. There’s been rich conversation online about feminism for a long time, and because of how social media allows those whose voices have been marginalized to have a space to share, the importance of intersectionality became more and more a conscious part of my personal feminism. It wasn’t new to me. I’d worked with people — teenagers, especially — of all shapes and colors and backgrounds since I started my career in librarianship. But reading and listening to the words coming from voices unlike mine made something inside me click.
I tweeted about my dream to make an anthology of feminist essays for teens and the responses to that tweet were incredible. That tweet stream is a riot to read now; I didn’t know the hows or the ways to make it happen. One person who tweeted in response ended up being part of the anthology; another who tweeted sarcastically in response made me laugh because of course, girls are angry and “what about the boys?” A couple of responses were from women who, just a few months later, would become trustworthy allies standing with me, speaking out against blatant sexism in the YA world.
But the response you don’t see is the one that made my dream a reality.
Shortly after tweeting, I was asked to be in touch with Elise Howard at Algonquin Young Readers and she, along with Krestyna Lypen, became my editors for this anthology. We began talking about what it could look like and feel like, what sorts of stories could be told, the kind of art that could be included in a project like this. We were all in agreement that making this happen needed to happen.
Putting this collection together meant thinking long and hard about the stories that not only should be told, but also the ones that many might not necessarily connect with “feminism.” It was imperative to include not just young adult authors — many of whom YA readers would be familiar with — but to also broaden the circle and bring in varied voices outside of the YA and writing community. Because as much as social media has allowed many to raise their voices and be heard, it’s also an echo chamber. Yelling into the void to see the same trends play out again and again becomes repetitive and boring and ineffective.
My last library job, the one where I’d been the most professionally prepared, was the one that opened my eyes and my mind the most. I worked in a poor, semi-urban community, and it wasn’t unusual for me to be the only white person in a program with teens. It wasn’t unusual for me to see some of the kids coming and asking for more and more food at events not because they were greedy, but because it might be the only thing they ate until free meals at school the next day. I’ll never forget an event where a young girl shared, with a room full of teens and adults, a poem she wrote about her friend who’d committed suicide the day before.
The weight of these things sat in my mind as I thought about the reader for Here We Are. It would be for these teens. I thought about the teens I worked with in the library every time I reached out to a potential contributor. I thought about the teens I worked with in the library each time I edited an essay. I thought about the teens I worked with in the library each time I considered how I wanted the anthology to come together.
It’s easy to take for granted that in an “everything’s online” world, there are huge swaths of the population that don’t regularly, if ever, access the internet beyond what’s necessary for their survival. I saw those teens in libraries. I watched as they figured out stealth ways to get extra time each day to do something or begged to let me break the policy on having their time extended “just this once” so they could finish a homework project (or play a game — it wasn’t my job to judge).
These same teens deserve to see themselves and know that they, too, are seen.
Here We Are: Feminism For The Real World is my attempt at offering something for young readers who haven’t seen their stories told or who don’t know what feminism is or how it might benefit them. It’s my attempt to take the rich conversations so many of us see and engage with day-to-day out of the digital world and into a format that teens can pick up at the library or in a bookstore. It’s my attempt to show them that they are seen, that their stories matter, and that others are listening. That they have allies and advocates in the world around them who, like them, come in all shapes and sizes and colors and genders and sexualities and from all backgrounds and experiences.
The 44 pieces in this book are actions. They are actions of love. They are actions of seeing. They are acts of social justice. And every action is an invitation to one of the most life-changing parties around: feminism.
Meet Kelly Jensen
Kelly Jensen is a former librarian-turned-editor for Book Riot and Stacked. She’s author of It Happens: A Guide to Contemporary Realistic Fiction for the YA Reader. She loves black licorice and debating genre. Follow her on Twitter @veronikellymars.
WIN A TSHIRT!
U.S. residents can do the Rafflecopter thingy below by Saturday, January 28th at Midnight and we will select a winner. Shirts will be mailed out by Algonquin. Special thank you to Algonquin for the shirt giveaway.
January 24th 2017 by Algonquin BFYR
Filed under: #SJYALit
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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