the true reality

I don’t know if the world needs me to say this, but I think I do.  Because this has been bothering me all day.  Yesterday, I saw this on Facebook.

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Do you see it?  Do you see the problem?

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I’m not going to link to the article itself, because my problem is not with the article or its author. In my quick read it felt like an authentic and honest story, and I think it being in the world will probably mean a lot to many, and this person telling her story is not what I’ve been thinking about all day. But this is a topic that cuts deep for many people and others might have real and meaningful problems with the article. On another day, I likely will too. But on this day, I  want to keep the focus somewhere else.

No, my problem is with HuffPo and the framing. This is not the true reality behind adopting a child. It may be true, it may capture and share and communicate truths shared by many, but it is not the true reality. It is one of many true realities — one of many stories.

It’s not my reality. It’s not my story.

But that’s fine. That’s not the point. What is the point? The point is that we don’t need the true reality. We need lots of realities. Lots of stories. More stories.

You’re adopting?  What country is she from?*

Full disclosure – this makes me mad on a personal level. I think my anger goes beyond that, but this caught my eye and stuck in my brain because it’s personal to me.  I am an adoptive parent, and when I met my daughter she was 11 years old and in foster care. Since that day, I’ve become increasingly aware that a lot of people have personal experiences with this kind of adoption — and hardly any of them ever tell those stories in public.

A big part of that (I think) is that these stories are not just ours. My story also belongs to my daughter, to the people in her other families, and to all of the people who connected with her and loved her and invested themselves in her future. And while all of those people have a right to their stories, when it comes to my daughter and hers, it’s different. The stakes are high. Children in foster care quickly learn that their stories are only partly their own, that they don’t get to decide when those stories are told and when they’re not. They don’t get to protect their stories, to define them or choose which pieces to share the same way that they would if they were not in the system. In many cases, their stories are tied to getting protections and resources and safety, making the choices even less their own.

So making sure our daughter knows that her experiences are not mine to share is paramount. If this weren’t something we’ve talked about again and again, and if I needed to share any part of her story that is not already part of her public identity to say this — I wouldn’t be saying it now. Even if she told me I could. And I think many people in my situation feel the same way.**

Which is necessary and important, but means that these adoption stories are rarely told. And they’re rarely told while other stories — about infant adoption, private adoption, open adoption, family adoption and international adoption — are.

It’s not like there is no narrative about my experience out there. We all know the stereotypes about older child or foster care adoption. When we shared that we were planning to take this path, the same fears came up over and over and over and over. Some were grounded in some kind of experience (my cousin’s first husband had an adopted daughter and I think it was really hard).  Others were worse, and grounded in nothing specific. It got to the point where we didn’t share very widely because it was just too difficult to respond to negative and intrusive assumptions from acquaintances or friends of friends.

If there were more stories, sharing more experiences and more truths, this would start to change. I do believe that. This — the importance of stories and reflections on experience — is also something I think about a lot (and have especially been thinking about a lot lately). These aren’t new or unique thoughts. And they’ve been brought to the forefront and expressed better than I ever could — #weneeddiversebooks and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, to name just a few.

We tend to on one level focus on the importance of narrative and simultaneously undercut it on another. On the first level, we accept that we use story to organize and make sense of the world. We get that we use story to communicate and to collaborate.  We talk about the importance of stories in developing empathy and connections with the world. I mean, we even talk about the importance of story in instrumental ways — like in assessment and “sharing our value.”

But at the same time, on that other level, we don’t trust that our stories have value for what they are. We hold up generalizability as the gold standard of inquiry. News outlets entice clicks with exposés that deliver “the real story.” We focus our highest praise on fiction that captures universal truth. And that is what bothers me so much about seeing this on my Facebook all day.

Providing a platform for people to share their experiences honestly and reflectively is a good thing. But it’s not a good thing because it’s a way to get a scoop. Qualitative research isn’t valuable because it’s sampled and significant and generalizable, and HuffPo didn’t find the answer to this question so no one else has to ask it.  We don’t need to find the universal experience, the real story, the true reality. What we need is more.

More stories.

 


*My daughter is from the United States. Just like most adopted children in the U.S. are. Public agency and international adoptions account for about half of the adoptions in the U.S. every year. The other half includes lots of things — step-parent adoption, adoption by relatives, private agency adoption, etc. — and most of those also involve children from here. Only about 15% of children in the U.S. are adopted from other countries, and this number has been dropping. Still, this is almost everyone’s assumption when they hear we adopted. This is likely a result of many factors, including our age, education and income bracket, but I think it also illustrates how skewed the public conversation about adoption is. 

**I’m not sure the author of the essay does, which is another reason I didn’t link to it. She has a blog where she talks about these issues too, and I don’t read that so I really don’t know what her attitude or policies are about privacy. That’s what I mean by on another day, I might be focused on something else. Plus, you’re all librarians so if you who want to find it you will. 

 

Something clever about pictures, thousands of words and 140 characters

So it is probably not shocking that sometimes I can’t express myself in one tweet.

(It is probably more shocking that I ever can)

I was talking about the ACRL-OR/WA Fall Conference, which was hosted this year by ACRL-OR at the Menucha Retreat in the Columbia Gorge, and about which I went on in this post.

(View from Menucha)

Jim Holmes from Reed College did an amazing job running technology at the conference – and captured all of the amazing women noted above while he was doing so.  The results are available now.  If you weren’t able to join us (or even if you were) —

Barbara Fister gave an inspiring and thoughtful opening keynote.  Ignore the fangirl  giving the introduction.

Rachel Bridgewater put together a two hour program called Fair Use as Advocacy Laboratory, integrating a remote talk from Brandon Butler at ARL (who was also fantastic)

And Char Booth wrapped up the conference with a closing keynote that built on and wrapped around the themes of the previous two programs.  It was like magic.

Thanks again to everyone who put so much work into this conference, which means every single member of the ACRL-OR Board.  Interested in being a part of the next one?  ACRL-OR elections will be happening in the next few months.  Watch the ACRL-OR blog for the announcement.

Signs of Spring

So the second day of spring found us in the middle of Finals Week (courtesy of the quarter system that I am still not used to after 8 years), in a world that looked like THIS –

snow fort in a front yard of a house in Corvallis

Our world here doesn’t usually look like this even when it is winter.  Seriously, this is the first real snow fort I can remember seeing in the Willamette Valley and I have lived in western Oregon since I was seven.

(Finals week = no snow day, and I can’t imagine what kind of logistical nightmares people were having to deal with anyway)

So this is a long way of introducing the fact that we’re in the middle of Spring Break now, so EBSCO going dark yesterday was probably going to be as low-impact as it possibly could around here.  Which doesn’t change the fact that Shaun was in his office for less than a half hour before I saw this tweet –

– which turned out to be about EBSCO.

Which is a long way of introducing this awesome telling of the EBSCO tale, which is also a really awesome example of how to use Storify:

EBSCO:  The Reckoning

While using my iPad for article-reading, a blog post about Storify appeared

It has been ages since I talked about a new tool/service like this but Shaun came home talking about Storify the other day and it sounded good so I got myself an invite.

Basically, it lets you pull content from the dynamic web, including all of the social social media suspects plus search results, into a timeline-like interface. You add text (or not) and you have a story.

Reading the “one year out” iPad posts that have been popping up, I have been thinking about how I use mine — especially how I use it differently than I expected.  One thing I didn’t expect was the extent to which I have used it to replace some of the paper in my life.  Not all of it, but some of it.   And one of the most interesting pieces of that story, to me, has been the extent to which some of the papers being replaced are the reams and reams of paper worth of article printouts I used to create.

Those printouts were totally outside my workflow in so many ways – but I had to be able to:

  • Take them places (even my laptop is so much less mobile than a folder of paper and a pen).
  • Read them (which I could technically do, but not really do on my phone).
  • Take notes on them (typing doesn’t count for me.  I wish it did.  But it doesn’t).

With the iPad, some of that started to change.  Here’s a story about how.

 

Screenshot of the top few lines of a story created using the Storify tool

 

There are definitely some glitches – the integration with Flickr wasn’t working at all for me, for example.  But it was quick and intuitive and I like the output a lot.  I have some more interesting ideas for using it than this one.

History and libraries, but not always history of libraries.

Nicholas and I presented this afternoon at Online NW.  Presentation materials are available here, on Nicholas’ blog.  Good times!

We used Prezi to create the presentation.  This is what it looked like, all together, when it was done.  I know that some people I know have found it difficult to get used to, but I kind of really liked it.  Plus, I’ve used it so far on three very different computers in three very different contexts and it’s worked smoothly every time.

Plus, no dongle drama.

Pride and copyright

So everyone knows that they mixed some zombies into Pride and Prejudice.  And coming soon!  Mr. Darcy is a vampireTwice.

Austen didn’t tell us what happened next, but lots of other people have.  What happens when the Darcys (or the Bingleys) have children? Solve crime? Deal with their families?

Georgiana Darcy was so nice – lots of people are interested in what happened to her.  Caroline Bingley finds her own Mr. Darcy (but he’s an American cousin?  Seriously?).  The existence of the Lydia Bennet story isn’t too surprising — and if you spent your time thinking Pride and Prejudice would just be awesomer if there was more about the De Bourghs, you’re not alone.

And as for Prada & Prejudice up there, well, wacky time travel hijinks seem to send people back to Regency England more than any other time period, don’t they?

And there’s not enough room here for the  straight-up retellings.  Same book, different take –  shift the point of view away from Elizabeth, set it in India, set it in UTAH, play the what-if game, play it again, tell the story but add in more boats.

Tell the story on Facebook, rewrite it for Twitter, tell it with Barbies, turn it into Gone with the Wind (okay, they don’t say they’re doing that, but look at those hats), move it to the next century.

Seriously, if you just want to read the same story one million times, it’s out there for you.

Note: I haven’t read most of these – link DOES NOT EQUAL endorsement!

Looking just a bit ahead on Amazon or similar and it’s pretty clear the steady stream of Austen-inspired stuff isn’t drying up any time soon.  Which is sometimes taken to mean that Austen is awesome, which she is.  There’s lots of mentions of the Austen brand and what it means for an eighteenth-century author to be so currently popular and relevant.

But that brand language is odd because it’s not like you can point to the group of Austen family descendents or the current version of her publisher who own the brand and who are systematically and strategically leveraging it for all it’s worth.  A lot of the stuff above is professionally, commercially produced, but a lot of it isn’t.  There are so many self-published components to the Austen pastiche available on Amazon, and off Amazon.  The Barbie thing?  totally not commercial.  It got me thinking the other day about how much all of this has to do with copyright and how it should work and how it doesn’t.

austenP&P is in the public domain, so anyone can do what they want with the story.  Colin Firth’s particular Darcy may be limited, but that leaves a lot of room for a lot of creativity, some more creative, some more good, some more horribly, horribly wrong.  But a lot of creativity – people building on the creativity and stories of our past.

How much of this creative energy is focusing on Austen because it can?  How awesome would it be if other stories, other artifacts were fair game as well?

BBC Memoryshare – visualization + history

I have only spent 7 minutes in here, but I am already in love.  From the BBC – Memoryshare, “a place to share and explore memories.”

memoryshare

It’s a totally fun visualization tool – a sliding timeline down the left side of the screen lets you drill down to a year and browse through people’s memories from that year.

From the stuff you read in history textbooks — Queen Victoria’s funeral procession in 1901 (1901!!)

“Well, I was thrilled to the marrow. Because I had never seen troops of soldiers, I had never seen mounted police. Being brought up in the country, I had never seen a crowd.” (Mrs. G.S. Freeman)

To the stuff you don’t – like the day John Ballam met his wife (1987)

Compared to where I grew up the UK seemed terribly crowded and also the university issued very careful guidelines about how to anticipate violence and certain areas to avoid and of course having grown-up in the middle of nowhere this seemed to be very shocking so I got myself a roll of ten pences and carried them in my hand to defend myself.

(via infosthetics.com)