Tackling National History Day

NHD initials above two red bars, interspaced with National History Day text

By Deborah B.

It’s not cheating! 

September is around the bend, bringing refrigerators adorned with leaf collages, stink bugs, and virtual football parties with snacks of imaginary calories. It also catapults middle and high school students into the vast expanse that is the National History Day Project, a year-long exploration of an historical topic where students analyze the topic’s immediate and long term impact and its connection to the annual theme, then create a structured presentation model showcasing their extensive research and conclusions in a national competition for grades, glory, and potential monetary awards. Piece of cake.

Parents, do not hit the liquor cabinet! We are here to help! Seriously, it is not cheating for students to get research and analysis assistance. Teachers and parents are frequently tapped, but there is a local, free, natural habitat for history and research nerds eager to help search for buried sources… Howard County Library System.

This year’s theme is Communication in History: The Key to Understanding. How do people exchange information and interact with each other? Think of the act of communicating, the motivation for the communication, the who or what the communication affects. Think of how we struggle with conveying meaning today, even without Zoom calls.

Our virtual classes such as Topic Development and Maximize Your History Day Research offer insights into these questions and others relating to the theme. In October, the NHD Thesis Workshop is a safe mosh pit for students to deconstruct, reconstruct, and beat the heck out of their arguments until they are honed enough to substitute as historical reenactment weapons. Well, maybe not that sharp. Our classes, databases, and collection resources are also not cheats. National History Day encourages students to create a reliquary of history-hunting tools.

Also, these classes are not exclusive to NHD students! We welcome parents and teachers and all teens interested in upgrading their critical thinking skills. In addition, we will host a complement of news literacy performance training. Beware aged opinions. Ideas and thinking can stagnate, even ideas originally based on empirical evidence. Have there been new discoveries? Is there new data? Healthy, critical thinking requires stimuli and exercise, and we coach students through bias obstacles and teach strategies to combat fallacies and fear of opposing viewpoints.

In the next few weeks, somewhere in the county, a child will be assigned a NHD project. There is hope! Our mission, aside from mixing as many metaphors as possible in this blog post, is to help students achieve their academic potential. A small donation of the student’s time rewards them with research guidance and alleviates a librarian suffering from an overabundance of historical minutia. So, go online or call to register for one of our fall NHD classes as soon as they open.

Remember, it’s not cheating.

Deborah B. is a triple threat nerd of books, history, and actual triplets. 

Bypass the News Paywall Using Your Library Card

Stack of folded newspapers sits in right hand

By JP Landolt

The next time you’re trying to read a news article online and hit a paywall, consider finding your library card instead of your credit card. HCLS eNewspapers offers current and past issues of national and local newspapers, as well as historical newspaper archives and news from around the world! 

The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times use paywalls and limited article views; with our eNewspapers you can enjoy all the articles at any time. All you need is your library card (barcode) and your PIN. If you ever find yourself without your barcode or PIN, please contact any of our branches or use our AskHCLS chat service for assistance. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the distribution of local print newspapers. These physical publications are not presently available in our branches. However, you still have digital access to local news. The Howard County Times and Laurel Leader are among the 45 local newspapers listed in the Maryland Digital News Bank

Paywall-free access to news is essential in this time when we’re looking for credible and balanced perspectives. Our eNewspapers provide this access as well as the unique opportunity to explore news from around the world and news of the past. 

I use ProQuest Global Newstream to read my homeland’s newspaper, Pacific Daily News (Guam), and I use PressReader to browse publications from around the world. PressReader offers thousands of newspapers and magazines in various languages and can be easily translated from one language to another. My late father would have truly appreciated this resource as it would have given him the chance to read Filipino publications in his native language.

Historical Newspaper Archives is an invaluable resource for newsophiles and lifelong learners alike. You can survey American national and local newspapers from the 1800’s, pore over first-hand accounts during the Civil War, and delve into our nation’s formative years. 

I’d like to highlight the acclaimed Baltimore Afro-American Archives which touts nearly a century’s worth of weekly papers (1893-1988). This newsletter-turned-newspaper holds a seminal role in American societal change by challenging Jim Crow laws and public school segregation in the Atlantic region. I invite you to read through these papers and experience American history being made. 

Whether “old” or current, news is exciting! You can improve your news consumption with your library card. When you use eNewspapers, you’ll never have to worry about news paywalls again!

JP has worked for HCLS since 2006. She loves learning new things and playing disc golf, albeit as a novice.

My Teen is Bored! – Part 2

A frazzled parent’s guide to keeping your teen learning with the most powerful card in their wallet – their library card!

Quadrotor Flight Controller

By Lori C.

My last post explored the many fun and engaging ways to expand on your teen’s interests and hobbies with our online eResources. Let’s explore how your high school student can supplement their learning goals and expand their academic success with more eResources from HCLS.   

Test Prep:  While we don’t know if the current situation will change the testing landscape, it can’t hurt to keep practicing for the SAT and/or ACT tests as well as for high school AP tests. HCLS offers many resources for teens to keep their testing skills sharp and to supplement their learning: 

LearningExpress Library: Practice tests for AP exams, the GED, the SAT, grad school entrance exams, and various jobs. Also find tutorials for grades 4 – 12 on math, reading, and writing skills.  

Testing & Education Reference Center: Practice tests for entering private high school, the AP exams, the GED, the SAT, grad school entrance exams, various career tests, and the U.S. citizenship test. Also includes a scholarship and college search tool. 

Lynda.com: Search for Test Prep: PSAT, ACT or SAT for courses on test-taking skills and best practices for maximizing your standardized test score. 

Gale Courses: If your teen needs a more structured course to follow, try the six-week SAT/ACT Test Prep courses with rolling start dates throughout the next several months.  

Language Learning: Learn a new language or supplement classroom instruction with these three language learning tools: 

Mango: Teens and adults can engage in fun conversational online lessons in more than 70 languages.  

Pronunciator: Take your language skills to the next level. Learn 80 languages in any of 50 languages – for example, a native French speaker can learn Chinese in French! Also includes ESL for 50 non-English languages plus a comprehensive citizenship prep course.  

Rosetta Stone Online: Engage in the proven language immersion method that more than 22,000 schools and 12,000 businesses have trusted for over the last 20+ years. Select from 30 languages structured around core lessons in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. A microphone is required for speaking lessons. 

These additional educational opportunities can boost your teen’s confidence when taking standardized tests and improve their overall academic outcomes. In addition, your teen can add these courses to their resumé and college application forms. Guidance counselors and admissions officers will be looking for teens who used their time stuck at home to continue learning and expanding their academic skills. Keeping your teen busy and occupied is as easy as using the library’s online eResources! 

Lori C. has worked at the Glenwood Branch for six years.  She loves to read and knit, and is excited about the return of baseball. 

My Teen is Bored!

A student seated in front of a curtain peeks over the monitor of her computer.

By Lori C.

The traditional summer job or internship probably didn’t appear as an option this year, so what’s a bored teen to do? And how’s a frazzled parent going to keep them occupied while social distancing? 

Now’s the time for your teen to fully utilize the most powerful card in their wallet – their library card! HCLS offers so many fun and engaging ways to expand on your teen’s interests and hobbies with our online eContent.    

Gale Courses: This resource offers more than 300 six-week structured online classes on topics ranging from business to hobbies. Is your teen a budding entrepreneur? Take a class on starting your own business. Maybe photography or writing are of interest to your high schooler. If so, there are classes for digital photography as well as creative writing and publishing.  Gale also offers 44 personal enrichment classes ranging from an introduction to journaling to starting your own edible garden. 

Lynda.com: Find more than 3,600 streaming video tutorials taught by experts on technical skills, creative techniques, and business strategies with your HCLS access to Lynda.com. From individual classes to entire learning paths, your teen can explore a wide range of skills and hobbies from 3D animation to becoming a digital illustrator.  

ArtistWorks: Learn an instrument, vocal techniques, or art skills from award-winning teachers with these free, self-paced online video classes. Classes include traditional instruments such as piano and guitar, as well as less common ones such as mandolin and ukulele. Entice your teen with Hip Hop scratching lessons or dabble in a music theory class. Better yet, dust off that old harmonica and have your teen learn some songs to enliven summer nights in the backyard.  

Opportunities to expand your teen’s horizons abound with HCLS’ eContent. Not only will they gain new skills and grow their repertoire of talents, but they also can use these courses to boost their resumé and college applications. Future employers and admissions officers will be looking for teens who used their summer stuck at home to discover a newfound passion or to deepen their knowledge in a current hobby.   

My next post discusses how your high schooler can supplement their educational goals using the power of their library card and the eContent offered by HCLS.  Look for it soon!

Lori C. has worked at the Glenwood Branch for six years.  She loves to read and knit and is excited for the return of baseball. 

Research Your Genealogy with Resources from HCLS

The picture depicts an old book, with underlining and notes in the margins, and a vintage black and white photograph of a young woman standing on a bench in front of a ship.

By Rebecca W.

Remember when genealogy records first started popping up online? When you were finally able to research those mysterious New England ancestors without actually driving to New England, or even worse, calling someone on the telephone? And then remember how you jumped on your computer and, within hours, had a complete record of your family tree? Yah, me neither… But recently, with a little extra time on my hands, I got the itch to give it a try. After a number of – let’s face it – failed attempts, I can confidently report that I’ve caught the “genealogy bug.”

So, what brought on this sudden urge to research? Free, I repeat FREE, access to genealogy records through HCLS. If you’re anything like me (a total cheapskate), you just can’t turn down free. Though these resources have always been offered by our system, a limited time offer from ProQuest for at-home access to Ancestry.com library edition (previously available only in the branches) makes now the perfect time to start for all of our cardholders. 

Ancestry.com is truly a great resource for genealogy research, but it can easily lead a novice down the wrong path. So where to start? Well, I decided to search the names of random ancestors without a whole lot of other information. I did not have an organized plan of attack. My suggestion: start with a timeline. I mean a physical timeline. Not, “oh, I have an idea in my head,” or “yah, I know when so-and-so was born.” Check out Ancestry’s “Creating Timelines that Produce Answers Guide” to see best practices for using your timeline, including evaluating sources and tracking your ancestor’s migrations (from the Ancestry.com homepage, click Learning Center and scroll to the Getting Started section). 

Now, my number one piece of advice… check multiple sources! You will be surprised at how many birth certificates, marriage records, draft registration cards, you name it, will look like they fit into your family tree, but are actually unrelated. If you think you found the marriage certificate for your great-grandparents, make sure you can cross-check a solid number of facts on there. Do you have another source that verifies their age when the certificate was issued? Is their place of birth listed on the marriage record? Do you have a birth certificate to back that up? What about their parents’ names? You get my point: never take a source at face value. 

While there is a bit of a learning curve to genealogical research, these online tools really help with the heavy lifting. With just a day of searching, I was able to find information on my family tree that my relatives didn’t even know. Hopefully this post sparked a little curiosity and you are ready to start your search. Make sure to look at all of the HCLS genealogy research tools, including MyHeritage, HeritageQuest, and Gale Genealogy Connect. While Ancestry.com is a robust and popular resource, these other online tools can help fill in the gaps you are bound to encounter. Happy searching! 

Becky is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the HCLS East Columbia Branch who enjoys art and everything science.

The Magic Words: Free SAT Practice Tests!

The picture depicts a student writing in a notebook while looking at an open laptop computer.

By Piyali C.

I heaved a sigh of relief as I parked my car. I think you will agree, finding parking in a high school parking lot on a Back to School Night is a sheer stroke of luck. I did a mental check as I walked towards the high school carrying my bag of library goodies. Did I have all that I needed? Howard County Library System’s tablecloth? Check. HCLS pens to give out as gifts? Check. Brochures with library information? Check. Little giveaways with the library logo? Check. I was ready. With a deep breath and a bright smile, I entered the high school. I was going to represent HCLS in one of our local high school’s Back to School Nights, to inform the community about how we supplement students’ academic pursuits by providing free databases for research. It’s a fond memory and one I hope to experience again soon.

I was ready! National History Day research? No problem: we have curated a whole set of databases for that endeavor. Having trouble finding primary sources? We can help. You need a last minute resource for the paper due next day? We can tell you where to find it. The magic lies in your library card and your PIN number. Once you have that, the world is your oyster. If you do not have a library card, never fear. You can sign up for a temporary card to access our databases right away. To create a temporary library card, click here.

As I set up the table and spread out library goodies along the hall of the high school, I was approached by a harried parent, “Can you tell me where Room 113 is?” After being asked directions to rooms three times in a row, I armed myself with a map of the school and, like a very efficient human GPS, directed people to their desired classrooms. After the initial chaos settled down, I turned the full force of my winning smile on an unsuspecting parent with her reluctant teen and told her I was from the library. Would she be interested in hearing about how her student can take practice SAT exams on library database for free? That was it! I had said the magic words, “practice SAT.” After that, I never looked back.

Parents swarmed around me as teens looked on, bored. I explained our databases for homework help – LearningExpress Library and Testing & Education Reference Center – with glee. Physical copies of SAT prep books fly off of the branch shelves. But with LearningExpress Library, you will never have to wait!

Even without being at school in person, I still want to tell you about all the amazing ways the library can help prepare teens for standardized testing. It is always a good idea to start at the beginning: How to find these magical databases. First, click on to our website: http://hclibrary.org/

On the top right hand corner you will find the option, “How do I…” Hover over it.

You will see some options, and the sixth one from the top will be “Get Homework Assistance.” Click on it.

If you scroll down through the databases, the fourth one is LearningExpress Library. You will need your library card and PIN number to access the database.

LearningExpress Library provides interactive online practice tests in a variety of academic and career-related areas. These include advanced placement tests, GED tests, college entrance exams (ACT and SAT), and job-related qualification tests in areas such as nursing, the military, real estate, and a variety of public safety fields.

Instructions on how to use LearningExpress Library can be found here.

Right under LearningExpress Library is Testing & Education Reference Center.

Testing & Education Reference Center offers practice question sets for grades 6-12 in math, science, reading, and writing, as well as practice AP exams and private school admissions tests for high school students. Prepare for college with test prep eBooks for the PSAT, SAT, and ACT, and use the scholarship and college search tools to help select a college. Study for and practice taking graduate school entrance exams, occupational exams, the TOEFL, and the U.S. Citizenship test. 

Instructions on how to use Testing & Education Reference Center can be found here

Now that I have written about my favorite databases for students, I invite you to explore them, familiarize yourselves, and take the tests. Get out your library card, type your PIN, and voilà, you are ready to take on those standardized tests because you have practiced hard on our free databases. Good luck! And remember, we are here to help you succeed every step of the way – even while practicing social distancing and online learning.

Piyali is an instructor and research specialist at HCLS Miller Branch, where she co-facilitates both Global Reads and Strictly Historical Fiction.

I Am An E-book Convert

The image shows a pair of hands holding an ereader with a remote sandy beach, rocky hills, and a turquoise sea and hazy blue sky in the background.

By Alan S.

I am a recent convert to the pleasures of an e-book. I appropriately played the T-Rex who needed help in a recent Facebook video. I have always preferred physical books over eBooks, enjoying the feel of holding a book in my hand more than the feel of a tablet or phone. I resisted the call of eBooks for a while. Working in a library, all of those printed books were right in front of me. Why choose to look at a screen? What would ever make me choose to read a book on a device?

The first thing that changed my feelings about the electronic version was packing for trips, especially those requiring plane travel. When taking a road trip, it is easy to fill a bag with books and throw them in the trunk. This is not so simple when you are packing for a plane ride. I started packing one or two physical books, then downloading a few e-books as a backup. I still usually take at least one physical book on a trip, but tend more toward eBooks when traveling. I’m sure my family likes the extra space to pack other things.

An increase in the number of audiobooks I listened to also led to an increased use of eBooks. My car is still equipped with a CD player, so a book on CD is an option, but there are benefits to an eAudiobook. The biggest is the lack of a need to change CDs. I hated listening to a book in the car and getting to the end of a CD with no safe way to change to continue the book. With eAudio, the book continues without your help. I have also learned the joy of increasing the speed on some books. When reading for an assignment, or if the reader reads very slowly, I can listen at a faster speed and still enjoy the book (I might also be a tad impatient).

If you are ready to join me as an eBook convert, see HCLS’ resources.

If you need help accessing your eBooks or with any of our other online resources, please join us for live Online Tech Time Wednesday, July 22 at 11:30 am. Other sessions of this useful class will be offered in the future.

Alan has worked for HCLS for just under 25 years, currently at the Savage Branch. He enjoys reading, television, and most sports.

Consumer Reports Online

By Eric L.

Often, when I give customers an overview of Howard County Library System’s resources, people are surprised by all that we offer online. As I show them the brochure, I explain that among the other great databases and online resources, they can access Consumer Reports through hclibrary.org with their library card and pin number. They are normally flabbergasted (maybe a strong adjective).  

To get started, browse by Resource Category on the HCLS Now! Research page of our website. You’ll find Consumer Reports listed under Consumer Ratings & Reviews.

To be sure, this is full access to the Consumer Reports website, just like an individual subscription except for the ability to customize the account (sorry, it’s the library’s account). Researching even the smallest purchase through Consumer Reports is prudent, especially since your only cost is  time. You can even print the wonderful charts they include in the magazine for their product reviews. A couple was delighted when I showed them this feature. After reviewing the charts online, and printing them, they changed their mind concerning the brand X washing machine. Personally, I recently read all about the mattress in a box trend. I learned, opted for one of the “best buys,” and now I’m sleeping better. 

My significant other, a nurse currently working with COVID-19 positive patients in the ICU, decided to take up the automobile dealers on their offers of special savings for medical professionals, along with other incentives. After she did the research on the type of car in which she was interested, she used the Consumer Reports “Build & Buy Car Buying Service.” This feature allows you to build the car by selecting the model color, options, etc. You can even view the current incentives (e.g. cash back, special financing) on the vehicle. There are pricing charts, some local dealer inventory and pricing, and user reviews. (My words really don’t do justice to the interface, graphics, and ease of use).

If you’re willing to provide your email, phone number, and address, you can view more specific inventor and receive “personalized” offers from “True Car” certified dealers you’ve selected. The caveat here is that dealerships may contact you quickly. However, let me highlight that you’ve not gone to the automobile dealership, and I’d contend that’s a good thing! 

Consumer Reports even has an article concerning how to buy a car at home and spend less time at the dealership during the pandemic. There’s no commitment and nothing that would prevent you from contacting other local dealers to see if they’d match these offers. 

Sadly, it’s not possible to peruse the Consumer Reports magazines at the library at this time, but I’d still like everyone to remain an informed consumer. 

Eric is a DIY Instructor and Research Specialist at the Elkridge branch. He enjoys reading, films, music, doing nearly anything outside, and people.

Just Mercy

Michael B Jordan stands tall in a gray suit and blue shirt and tie, looking off into the distance.  Behind him, in muted yellow are scenes from the movie. Just Mercy is written in white, along with names of actors, Michael B Jordan, Jamie Foxx, and Brie Larson

Let me be clear… Just Mercy is a hard and emotionally draining movie to watch. And it needs to be seen. This film tells the true story of a civil-rights attorney, Bryan Stevenson (Michael B Jordan), who works to defend wrongfully convicted death-row inmate Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx).

In this deeply affecting movie, the repressed and palpable fury that Bryan Stevenson feels sits uneasy with me. Jordan portrays the complexities of emotion in a stirring and emotive way. Stevenson conducts himself professionally at all times, even when the behavior he endures made me want to scream.  My indignation and anger at Stevenson’s mistreatment pales in comparison to the outrage at the injustices that are perpetrated against his clients. This film is honest and frank about sharp truths, and it had an impact on me.

In the United States, we proclaim, “Liberty and justice for all,” but this movie shines light on the harsh reality of systemic injustice. Our system is broken: for every nine people executed by the state since 1973, one person has been exonerated and released. It is an untenable rate of error. I felt uncomfortable after watching this movie and investigating further. However, I think it is important not to shy away from that response.

Sit in that discomfort.

Ask hard questions.

Have the conversations.

Advocate for change.

“Always do the right thing, even when the right thing is the hard thing.”

– Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, is available as an eBook and eAudiobook on CloudLibrary and OverdriveJust Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults) is also available on eAudiobook on Overdrive.

During the month of June, Warner Bros. has made Just Mercy free to watch through a variety of digital movie services in the US, including Amazon Prime Video, Apple TVFandangoNowGoogle PlayMicrosoft, the PlayStation Store, RedboxVudu,  and YouTube.

Just Mercy is rated PG-13 for thematic content including some racial epithets.

Click here to learn more about Bryan Stevenson’s work with the Equal Justice Initiative.

Kimberly is a DIY Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS Elkridge Branch.  She enjoys reading, photography, crafting, and baking.

Celebrating Pride Month

A photograph of a rainbow flag with red at top and purple at bottom, symbolizing gay pride.

For members of the LGBTQ community and our allies, June is not just the start of summer: it is Pride season, a time of year dedicated to celebrating our authentic selves and affirming our right to exist. In the United States, Pride Month is held in June to honor the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, which catalyzed the Gay Liberation Movement in response to police brutality and social stigma.

The fight for equal rights is ongoing. Discrimination is far too common, especially for our black sisters and brothers and gender-diverse siblings. There is still much work to be done. We must learn about and remember past struggles. We must take action towards further social change. And to maintain strength, we must also find moments of hope and joy.

In my own attempt to share queer hope and joy, I have put together this brief list of book and film recommendations available online via RBdigital, cloudLibrary, OverDrive, and Kanopy. Whether you identify as LGBTQ, I hope the following titles provide a source of entertainment, education, and inspiration.

If you would like advice on how to browse LGBTQ content on these digital platforms, or are interested in more recommendations, you can Ask HCLS or (eventually) visit me at work.

eBooks

Gay Like Me: A Father Writes to His Son by Richie Jackson

The LGBTQ community is unique from many other socially marginalized groups in that most LGBTQ youth do not grow up with community members who share the same marginalized identity. However, this is not the case for Richie Jackson and his son, who are both gay.

Short in length but full of heart, Gay Like Me is an engaging, intimate work of nonfiction that addresses the joys and the challenges of being a gay man in America. Jackson connects the past, present, and future as he recounts his life experiences and offers advice to his college-bound son. I found this book to be a quick, engrossing read. I was deeply moved by Jackson’s fierce celebration of being a proud, openly queer person in a society that doesn’t always recognize or support our truest selves. This message is even more inspiring within the context of a father addressing his son. That’s the core of this book: a father’s love.

With broad themes of love, parenting, and self-discovery as well as specific experiences of gay culture, history, and sexuality, Gay Like Me resonates with both LGBTQ people and allies.

Available on OverDrive.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

This title appeals to readers interested in highly lauded, nonconventional literary fiction. Written with a lack of standard punctuation or capitalization, the style blends poetry and prose in a way that Evaristo refers to as “fusion fiction.”

Girl, Woman, Other portrays the interconnected lives of a dozen black, British characters—all female or nonbinary—with a diversity of ages, sexual orientations, occupations, and so on. With its exploration of intersecting identities, told from the varying perspectives of characters that share a racial identity, I am fondly reminded of There, There by Tommy Orange. Where Orange challenges the idea of a singular Native American experience, Evaristo also makes clear that there are many narratives for black British women.

This novel requires one’s full attention. The poetic structure gives weight to each line, beckoning the reader to focus and truly listen to each character. With its celebration of underrepresented voices, the characters of Girl, Woman, Other deserve to be heard.

Available on OverDrive.

eAudiobooks

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe 

Written by Benjamin Alire Saenz, narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda 

I can confidently say this is my favorite YA novel of all time, as well as one of my favorite novels, period. I own the audiobook on Audible, and I have two treasured physical copies on my bookshelf. 

The simple yet poignant writing style tenderly captures the voice of a lonely Mexican American teen named Aristotle, or “Ari” for short. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s narration beautifully brings this story to life. Set in El Paso, TX in the 1980s, the center of the story centers on the development of Ari’s relationship with Dante, a boy his age who is his opposite in so many ways—and yet, they complement each other. Through joy and tragedy, the two boys grow to understand deeper truths themselves, each other, and who they want to be. 

If you enjoy a “slow burn, friends-to-lovers” storyline with a wonderfully satisfying ending, this one is a must! A beautiful celebration of love in all forms, I cannot recommend this book enough.  

Available on cloudLibrary and OverDrive.

Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us (Revised and Updated) 

Written and narrated by Kate Bornstein 

One of the first gender-focused books I read when I was coming to terms with being trans, it has a very special place in my heart.

Originally published in 1994, Gender Outlaw has been described as, “ahead of its time,” but I would argue that it is the rest of the world that has been lagging behind. Bornstein, now aged 72, is living proof that nonbinary gender identities – those that do not fit the male/female, man/woman binaries – are not new. However, the language used to describe gender identity has significantly evolved since 1994, which is why Bornstein updated this book in 2016 to reflect those changes.  

While our cultural and communal understandings of gender still continue to shift and grow, the core ideas expressed here are forever revolutionary, and listening to Kate Bornstein’s narration feels like wisdom from a loving, quirky, genderqueer grandmother. 

Available on RBdigital.

Films

Hearts Beat Loud (2018)

This comedy-drama is quite possibly my favorite queer-inclusive movie that I’ve watched with my parents. The central storyline tells of a daughter and father bonding over music, struggling with the decline of business at their record shop, and adapting to change as the daughter prepares to move across the country for college. The father-daughter bonding over music is beautiful, especially given that a source of musical inspiration for the daughter is her relationship with another girl. I love how her queerness is a non-issue; she simply gets to exist and love as her authentic self.

Stories that highlight LGBTQ+ struggles are certainly important, but it’s also important to have stories in which queerness is not a source of conflict. There is no grappling with internalized homophobia, experiencing harassment, or even “coming out,” and that makes Hearts Beat Loud so refreshing. The film celebrates this story of two girls falling in love, which is naturally intertwined with a story of growing up and moving forward while still remaining connected to one’s roots.

Available on Kanopy.

Vito (2011)

To all lovers of history and activism—this documentary is for you. The film follows Vito Russo, a gay activist, film historian, and author. Russo took a leading and long-lasting role in creating social change, as a founding member in organizations such as GLAAD and ACT UP. His research regarding representation of gay themes in film was groundbreaking, bringing awareness to the power that media images have, and remaining relevant to this day.

My own interest in studying LGBTQ media representation was ignited when I first watched The Celluloid Closet, an adaptation of Russo’s landmark book. My appreciation and respect for Russo only increased when I watched Vito. It is a moving portrayal of him, his accomplishments, his struggles, and the social context in which he lived and died. This story is inspiring, heartbreaking, and so important to LGBTQ history.

Available on Kanopy.

The Way He Looks (2014)

Are you a hopeless romantic interested in foreign films with satisfyingly cute endings? Look no further than The Way He Looks, a tender Brazilian film about Leonardo, a blind teenager who grows increasingly fond of Gabriel, the new boy at school. Frustrated with the taunts of his peers and the concerns of his overprotective mother, Leo strives to gain independence and live his life on his own terms.

This inadvertently strains his relationship with his best friend Giovana; fortunately, their friendship grows stronger. The friendship that develops between Leo and Gabriel has its drama too, full of romantic uncertainty, burgeoning sexuality, and mutual pining. Fortunately, their feelings for each other are brought to light in the most tender way possible, and my heart is flooded with warmth whenever I watch their final scenes.

Available on Kanopy.

Ash Baker is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the HCLS Central Branch. They have been working at HCLS since graduating May 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and LGBT Studies. Their favorite TV shows with LGBTQ representation include Steven Universe, Pose, and The Bold Type.