Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Actions Have Consequences

When my children were small, one of the ideas I tried hard to instill in them was that their actions had consequences--both good and bad.  I tried not to protect them from the natural consequences of small mistakes because I preferred they suffered from small mistakes before they got to catastrophic ones. I actually can think of lots of examples, sitting here as I type this, and I'm not going to tell you any of them, because when I start telling what I think are amusing little stories about my children without their permission they get angry. And then I have to face the consequences of being my inappropriate on the internet. That's nailed me before, and I have learned my lesson. See? It works.

Which would be the point.

So. Yesterday I got an email from someone who recently read The War I Finally Won. He wrote, "I am a children’s trauma therapist and you got it right. " 

Thank you. I know I did.

Also yesterday I got an online review from another person who recently read The War I Finally Won. She wrote--I can't find it right now, so not quoting, but this is about right--that she didn't understand why Ada was so whiny and ungrateful and didn't appreciate the way her life had changed for the better. I didn't post anything in response--of course I didn't, people are allowed to dislike my writing for any reason at all--but I thought, Trauma has consequences. When you abuse a child the effects last a very long time.

So. Over the weekend I shared something on Facebook about Roy Moore, the current Republican candidate for an Alabama senate seat, who's been accused of sexual assault on 14 year old girls, among other creepy behavior. I don't get to vote in the Alabama elections but I wanted to register my dislike of any candidate with a history of sexual misconduct. A woman friend of mine commented that I and anyone who agreed with me were wrong because it was not fair to condemn someone without proper trial, innocent until proven guilty and all that. Now, I watched the live interview from one of Roy Moore's alleged victims and I believe her entirely. (I almost always believe the women accusers because it is so damn hard to speak up about abuse, particularly when the accused is someone in power. It's so hard, and so important.)

I agree that innocent until proven guilty is a good law. But no one is suggesting we throw Roy Moore in jail. We can't, for one thing--the statute of limitations has passed. He's in no danger of incarceration. But prison and the United States Senate are two different things. We can say, hey, whatever the actual truth is, there's a whole lot of accusations floating around this man--a whole bunch of stories that all point to a similar truth, and if you assault fourteen year old girls when you are in your thirties, I will not vote for you for dogcatcher, much less the second-highest position in our state. Not even 40 years later. You shouldn't have done that. Your actions have consequences. Just because you got away with shit back then is no reason it shouldn't affect you now.

Then on Sunday the University of Tennessee leaked that it was about to hire Greg Schiano as its new head football coach. I live in Tennessee, and lots of my children's friends go or went to UT. My son's twitter, especially, began lighting up with students and recent alums who thought hiring Schiano was a terrible idea. He worked at Penn State during the time in which Jerry Sandusky was sexually assaulting a series of young boys. On Sunday someone at UT painted "Schiano covered up child rape at Penn State," on the giant graffiti rock on campus, and a whole lot of students protested, as did the governor of Tennessee and other state officials. UT decided not to hire Schiano. 

I went to lunch with some friends yesterday and was surprised that not all of us were pleased by the decision to avoid the man. One friend had been listening to a lot of sports talk radio, where a bunch of men heavily involved in college sports were using words like "lynch mob," thus proving that they had no idea what actual lynch mobs entailed. 

Schiano was never charged with crimes at Penn State. His involvement comes from this deposition, of Mike McQueary--we argued at lunch over whether or not the deposition was under oath. My internet says it was. Anyway, here it is:

During the deposition, McQueary said he once discussed Sandusky with another Penn State assistant, Tom Bradley, who most recently was an assistant coach at UCLA. He said Bradley was not surprised by what McQueary told him because Bradley had heard similar.
From the deposition:
Q: “Did [Bradley] tell you that he had had information concerning Gerald Sandusky and children?”
A: “He said he knew of some things. … He said another assistant coach had come to him in the early ’90s about a very similar situation to mine, and he said that he had — someone had come to him as far back as early as the ’80s about seeing Jerry Sandusky doing something with a boy.”
Q: “Did he identify who the other coaches were that had given him this information?”
A: “The one in the early ’90s, yes.”
Q: “And who was that?”
A: “Greg Schiano …”
Q: “And did he give you any details about what Coach Schiano had reported to him?”
A: “No, only that he had – I can’t remember if it was one night or one morning, but that Greg had come into his office white as a ghost and said he just saw Jerry doing something to a boy in the shower. And that’s it. That’s all he ever told me.”
What happened to that nameless boy after his assault in the shower? The effects of trauma are lifelong, severe, even deadly. No one even knows that boy's name.
In 2016, when the court documents were unsealed and this deposition became public, Schiano denied it was true. He said he had no knowledge whatsoever of Sandusky raping children. And that may be true. I personally doubt it--Roy Moore also says the allegations against him are false, as did Bill Cosby, as did Bill Clinton, etc.--but I agree, we can't throw him in prison for it. But even if he didn't have first-hand information, he was part of a program that turned a blind eye to Sandusky and the parade of children he brought into the locker rooms there. No one asked questions and everyone should have. And for that, I agree, I don't think he should get to be UT's head coach. He can go be an assistant coach somewhere. He can have a job. But his reputation is deservedly tainted: he doesn't get to be the highest-paid federal employee in the state of Tennessee. A long time ago he made bad choices and now he gets the consequences.
A few years ago a friend of mine accused a man I knew less well, but worked with on a charity board and very much liked, of sexual harassment. I was so grieved. I didn't want to believe that of him, but the alternative--that the woman was lying--made no sense to me. She was not in a position of power, she was someone I trusted--and I knew the courage it took for her to make that accusation.
Once she spoke up, other women did too. He had harassed a lot of women. He was entirely guilty.
Sometimes we don't want things to be true, but they are still true. Even long-ago actions have consequences. The way to not face consequences for harming women and children is to never harm women or children. That isn't hard. At least, it shouldn't be.
Also, if I ever again hear sportscasters, newscasters, or any voice of authority anywhere claiming that denying a rich white man the position that he craves is the action of a "lynch mob," I will puke. Go to Google Images. Type in "lynch mob." Ignore the photos of the inappropriately-named band, and look, really look, at the other photographs that come up. Right. Throw "lynch mob" into the bucket with "Nigger" as Words White People Don't Get To Say.
That's all I've got, but if you'd like to read another rant on this topic, may I suggest my dear Katykatikate? Only fair warning, she cusses in print a lot more than I do.

Monday, November 27, 2017

We Miss Ralph and Julie

So Thanksgiving weekend is over; my parents, my husband's parents, and both my darling children have all gone back to their regular lives. We had spent Wednesday night through Saturday morning together in our house in the mountains of North Carolina. It's always terrifically peaceful there, and we had a really nice holiday.

When I was a child, Christmas was a variable holiday--for several years my family went on vacation over it--and while it was always family-centered and enjoyable the details changed from year to year. Thanksgiving, on the other hand, was fixed: I could count on the menu (Grandma's baked apples, among many other things) and the venue and the people and even the after-dinner activities (a walk, then playing euchre partnered with my Great-uncle Paul) staying the same.

After I got married, and especially after I had children and moved south, the holidays reversed. Christmas became the one absolutely steeped in tradition (5 pm Christmas Eve Mass, make-you-own pizza for dinner, taking hours to unwrap the gifts one by one on Christmas morning) and Thanksgiving varied. Most years I cooked, though sometimes I didn't; sometimes family members came, sometimes they didn't; often we hosted friends. But we created one invariable Thankgiving weekend custom: on Saturday, we bought our Christmas tree. On Sunday, we decorated it.

In my hometown there's a vacant lot on the corner of Volunteer Parkway and Holston Drive. In spring the strawberry man sets up there. This time of year, it's Christmas trees. Twenty years ago was our very first Christmas in Bristol. We lived on Holston Drive, so the tree lot was only a block away. I was largely pregnant with my daughter and had a very excited not-quite-three-year-old son, so we were slightly memorable, I suppose, because the next year the sellers did remember us and were happy to see our lovely girl.

And every year it was the same. The Saturday after Thanksgiving. The gleeful excited children, the lovely stand of trees. When we moved out to the farm we increased our order, every year buying not only a tree, but also two large wreaths for the barn doors, and, starting a few years after that, seventeen very small wreaths to grace the windows wrapping our dining room and kitchen. The couple who ran the tree stand--we came to know them as Ralph and Julie--made the wreaths themselves, and they were well-constructed and economical. As the years went on they would often have our 17 small wreaths under a tarp behind the camper they parked on the lot, though some years one of their employees would sell them anyway, and we'd have to come back the next day to fill our order.

My son would always be wearing a Notre Dame sweatshirt, and he and Ralph would discuss the football team. My children grew older and taller. One year my son could tell them that he'd just been accepted into Notre Dame; after that, they always asked him how he was doing there.

We probably only spent half an hour at the tree stand every year, but it was half an hour for 20 years, and that adds up. A few weeks ago I saw that the lights and tree stands and the trailer, though not yet the camper, were set up on the lot. I told my children that even though Thanksgiving was early this year I was sure the trees would be ready.

We came home from Linville, unhitched the truck--it's an old truck, it's been part of the day for 17 years--piled in, drove up the Volunteer Parkway--

--and the trees were sparse on the lot, not crammed together as they usually were. There were hardly any wreaths. The camper wasn't there--and neither was the giant blow-up snowman holding the sign that said, "Wolverton Mountain Christmas Trees." There wasn't any sign at all.

We stared. And then we slowly got out of the truck, and a man came up who wasn't Ralph. We asked where the usual people were. The man sighed, as though he'd already answered that question more than he cared to. "They got deployed," he said. "They aren't here this year."

Now I think I remember that both Ralph and Julie were in the reserves. And I get it that people's lives change. But it was still a blow to all of us. We wandered around the not-quite-right lot. "They want a hundred and fifteen dollars for a sixty-dollar tree," my husband said.  I said, "The smallest wreaths they have are too big."

We got back in the truck and drove aimlessly down the Parkway. We found another lot selling better trees for more reasonable prices, and we were able to buy a few wreaths, though not as many and not as good. We sat down to lunch strangely subdued. Ralph and Julie have become part of our lives; we care about them. "I'll see if I can send them an email through the farm website," I said. "I'll thank them for their service. Then I'll tell them to get back here and sell us a tree next year."

Monday, November 20, 2017

In Search of Hope...

So I'll tell you, I started the day by helping my vet castrate a cat on the tailgate of her pickup. It's possible I'm a redneck. The cat did well, though his yowls sounded remarkably like an air-raid siren. (Yes, of course we sedated him--the vet tests to see whether he's sedated enough by yanking out the hair covering his balls. If he yowls--he did--he gets another dose.) My job was to hold the cat still, which wasn't at all difficult once he was appropriately dosed. The procedure was simple enough that I'm pretty sure I could do it myself, next time (though my husband politely requests me not to try).

I was at the National Council of Teachers of English conference in St. Louis the past few days. It's a really nice conference; I'm always glad to go. I felt a little more anxious about my NCTE panel presentation than I have other presentations this year, because this one was my idea. I came up with the topic, recruited the other presenters and the moderator, convinced my publisher to pay for not only my trip but also the moderator's trip, wrote the proposal, and made what slides we had. But I probably needn't have worried, because the other people involved--Andria Amaral, who is a youth librarian in Charleston, SC., and was our moderator, and writers Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Matt de la Pena, and Kat Yeh, are all professionals who also cared deeply about our topic, which was, "Hope for Kids from Hard Places: How the Right Books Can Be Both Windows and Mirrors."

We all spoke from the heart on this one. Teachers took notes. People asked questions. It was super.

Then I came home to 15 boxes of books for my library project. Four more arrived this afternoon, plus my vet gave me books.

After lunch I took one box of books to the Boys and Girls club. I had four boxes for Girls Inc., where I'm revamping the entire library, and I had a box in the car for the elementary school I support, but I never got there, because I ended up spending most of the afternoon at Girls Inc. I showed you in one of my last posts some of the ancient books I weeded last week. Today I removed about as many books as I brought, including about 20 "inspirational romances" which probably didn't have explicit sex in them but were clearly intended for adults. I weeded broken damaged books. I weeded a book written in Latin (I'm not kidding.). I left a lot of grotty paperbacks because honestly the Girls Inc. people were being remarkably sporty about my saying, "all these just need to be thrown away," and I figure we need to take it one step at a time. I've only touched about a third of the shelves so far, so there's plenty of weeding yet to do. But for the first time there are actual YA books on the shelves. For the first time there are graphic novels. For the first time there are picture books that are less than 20 years old AND don't feature movie characters.

After the success of last week's excursion about a dozen girls wrote wish lists for me. I've incorporated them into my Amazon wish lists--but if you're weeding your own shelves, please know we'll take about any series books, including Harry Potter (they have book one, but not two, three...) Easy readers would also be great--I haven't touched that section yet.

And if you're sick of hearing about my book project, just go read the first paragraph again. Then I'll tell you that Bucky, our slightly older barn cat, is best friends with Alex, the cat who was castrated today. When Alex started yowling Bucky grew very concerned and had to be locked in the tack room for the rest of the procedure. Afterwards I took the sleeping Alex, wrapped in a clean towel, and laid him on a tack trunk in the tack room. When I went to check on him a few minutes later, he was laying on his back, eyes open, dazed, while Bucky stood over him, whapping his face with both front paws, over and over, whap-whap-whap-whap-whap. I'm still not sure if he was just beating up on Alex because Alex couldn't fight back, or if he was acting out of concern: "Alex! Alex, talk to me, baby! What'd they do to you?"

By afternoon the drugs had worn off. Alex, Bucky and the others ate ravenously as they'd all been NPO for Alex's sake. It's all good--less traumatic than dragging poor Alex to the vet's office. It would have been air raid sirens all day.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Photos Filled with Thousands of Words

Yesterday started with a cat being an asshole, and ended with incredible grace.

My lovely stalwart Gully, who is a horse, was going to get his hocks injected--this is a way to combat arthritis, and Gully I realized with shock is 21 years old now--anyhow, the vet tranquilized him and scrubbed his legs and was just ready to inject him when our ancient witch-cat, Hazel, jumped onto the tailgate of the vet's truck and smashed all the supplies. So Gully got to brood in his stall while the tranq wore off, and we'll try again Monday.

I went off to Faith in Action, as I usually do on Wednesday. Afterwards I took our two broken printers to the recycling plant, feeling very virtuous until they handed me, in return $1.12. Yep. Two broken printers equal one Pal's iced tea. Or, the gas it takes to drive them to the recycling center.

I went to the school where my husband coaches basketball and fit the team for their uniforms and the librarian at the school gave me a couple of boxes of books--mostly multiple copies they'd bought for of previous state book award contenders that they no longer needed multiple copies of. I put those in my trunk and went off to Boys and Girls Club, where I met the woman who runs the library and gave them some books--plenty more to come, I said. We had a really good conversation about books, and I understand their library better now. It had been full of crap books until last Christmas, when the local Books-A-Million made them the focus of a holiday donation drive. So that's why the books are so non-diverse--they were bought by random customers, without an overall plan. That's also why they have, say, Diary of a Wimpy Kid books 1, 2, 3, and 5, but not 4. Anyway we're going to be able to work well together.

After that I went to Girls Inc., the afterschool place where I'm going to renovate the library. I had one of those reusable shopping bags stuffed full of books, and when I went into the lobby the side of the bag gave out, and the books cascaded to the floor. Girls rushed to help me pick them up--and most of those books never made it into the library room. They got taken home instead. One girl picked up The Hate U Give, and said, "Oh," in happy recognition, and tucked the book under her arm. Another picked up The War That Saved My Life (the girls don't know I wrote it; for that matter, neither does the administration, though the Boys and Girls Club people googled me so they do), held it out to a friend, and said, "This is a really good book." I picked The War I Finally Won off the floor and said, "here's the sequel," and the first girl said, "There's a SEQUEL?" and snatched it out of my hands.

I will get down to the serious work of this library after Thanksgiving--I'm headed to NCTE tomorrow--but I did take away a couple of armfuls of horrible books. Here's a few:

So you see I'm not making things up. These were copyright 1963, 1960, 1959. Also they all had DISCARD written in huge letters on the inside covers. Appealing, right?

There were a whole host of girls now happy about books, so I took them out to my car and opened the trunk and told them to help themselves to the paperbacks I'd just gotten from the school. They said, "You mean to KEEP?" and started hauling books out of the car, some of them selecting a few books for themselves and others just carrying the books into the building for the rest of the girls. It was pretty fun to be the book fairy.

Then I drove home and my back door looked like this:

And when I opened all those boxes I found this:

Can you see it? Can you see the good this is going to do? I've gathered up the gift receipts and I will be writing thank you notes, but for now, THANK YOU, from the absolute bottom of my very grateful heart. Love to all--

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

I Am Overwhelmed

Oh, Y'all. You are so beautiful.

I woke up late this morning, which is what happens when you finally give in and take an Ambien at midnight because shit has been triggering you a little too much, and even burrowing under your 25-pound weighted blanket and even having the best man who ever lived lying gently by your side, taking up the space between you and the door because he knows that makes you feel safer, isn't making you able to relax enough to sleep. Your thoughts dodge into dark places and your skin feels too tight, and where do you think I got Ada from, people? and then the drugs kick in and next thing you know it's mid-morning and your doorbell is ringing, whoops.

It's a new day. There's a lot of sunshine. My husband has sent texts saying he loves me. The doorbell is ringing because the very large new bookcase I ordered has arrived, and the men carry it right up the stairs for me (I don't have to assemble it!).

I open my email and get a message that reads, in part, (and I have permission to quote this): I was reading War with my class and we were having a discussion about Becky, one of my 4th graders guessed that maybe Becky was Susan's wife.  A parent complained and my principal made me stop reading the book until it had been approved through our county.  I was so disheartened and defeated.  I filled out all the necessary paperwork and made some phone calls.  Finally last week, I got the approval to continue!  Since it has been approved through our county, schools  can now purchase class sets and teach with it.  Woot woot!

I already know that most of the one-star reviews my two War books get are from people who think being gay is not compatible with being a good person, let alone a Christian. I would say, Roy Moore has been held up as an Excellent Christian for a very long time. So maybe we're wrong about what it takes to be an Excellent Christian. I myself am perfectly willing to be labelled an Imperfect Christian if it means I can distance myself from Roy Moore and anyone, gay or straight, who preys upon children or forces themselves on anyone sexually at any time. I'll stick with the Doing Our Best Christians who limit sex to between consenting adults and not concern myself with how exactly their adult bits fit together.

I had several messages saying that books were en route to me, and glory, I can't thank you enough. And I want to say right now, loudly, that USED BOOKS ARE GREAT. It's the ancient ratty half-torn racist sexist ones I don't want. If you're unsure, send me the books. I'll sort them. (Last night my husband started reading one. His eyebrows went up, and he said, "I'm pretty sure this is YA." I'm pretty sure, too. That'll be going to the YA section at Girls Inc., not to the elementary school.) Books are my thing, y'all. I can sort them.

Then--just as I was sitting down to write this thank you, for hearing me yesterday and hearing Beverly Young Nelson, and standing up for love and integrity and truth, and sharing my posts on Twitter and Facebook and reading them all the way to the end--just as I was already thinking, this is such a glorious day--

I checked my Amazon wish list. The one I created for these libraries for low-income Appalachian children.

It's gone. Or, rather, it's empty.
I put a ton of books on that list. I put 12 copies of some of the books I wanted most.
Thank you thank you thank you thank you.
I love you I love you I love you I love you.
I promise that I'll do y'all proud.

Now I'm going to add more books to that list.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Crap For the Poor (Books for My Kids)

OK, I'm way behind on blog writing and for that I apologize. It has been an interesting fall, in entirely good ways, and in a related comment my house/office/schedule is a mess. This morning I had a bunch of routine medical tests and appointments and while it was all happening I wrote a really hilarious post about it in my mind--about how when I was asked if I'd had a colonoscopy before I said, "Yes, about four years ago--no, wait, let me think--actually 17 years ago," and how that doesn't actually count as recently. Then I realized I was writing in my head, as I've done for as long as I can remember, and that made me laugh.

Then I went grocery shopping. At first I was really cranky about it, because I wanted lunch and also I wanted groceries to magically appear in my refrigerator, and I shamed myself out of that by reflecting on how damn lucky I am to be able to buy whatever groceries I want whenever I want them. And then I saw the bags of food prepacked for donating to the local food bank. You grab a brown paper sack and put it into your cart. The grocery charges you $10 at checkout for it, takes it from you, and gives it to the food bank. Which sounds like an awesome idea--I quite like our local food bank--until I looked at what was in the bag. Generic mac-n-cheese. Generic tuna. Generic green beans. Generic dried pinto beans, which even I don't know how to cook, and I cook a lot of weird things. I personally would not buy most of the stuff in that bag for myself. I might do generic green beans, if I were ever to buy canned green beans at all (and I totally get that the food pantry needs shelf-stable stuff, and that canned veggies are better than no veggies) but generic mac-n-cheese tastes like orange chalk and generic tuna just might be dolphin. And here's my rule: if I wouldn't feed it to my kids, I'm not donating it to the food bank. Because I am almost certain that the rule is, "Do unto your neighbor as you would have done to you." So I am ALL for keeping our food pantry running, but I'm also all for springing for the real mac-n-cheese and the decent water-packed tuna.

Which brings me to my book rant. So. I've signed Bristol Faith in Action up for First Book, a national clearinghouse for getting books into children's hands, and as a result we have some really lovely new books to put into our Little Free Library on the porch. A mom asked me the other day if we had anything that might appeal to her daughter, who's in 6th grade but reading on a 2nd grade level, and, as such, comes home every day with a book written for 2nd graders that she's supposed to read, which she hates, both because the story is aimed at 2nd graders and because she's deeply embarrassed by her teacher handing her a baby book every day. So I handed the mom one of our shiny new books that I thought might work, and book-talked it a little, and the mom smoothed the cover of the book and said, "This looks new," and when I said that it was, her whole face changed a little, because I was giving her something that wasn't a castoff, wasn't crap for the poor.

It's not to say that donating stuff you can't use isn't useful. It's that donating crap is crap. We put lots of nice used books in our LFL, and they go the way of all good books, which is to say into readers' hands. But when we offer people something of value people recognize that we see them as valuable.

So I am on this whole book rant now, as you know if you've read even a smidgen of my posts lately. When I left BFIA that afternoon--that was last Wednesday, day before I left for AASL--I first went to Girls Inc., which is an afterschool and summer care place for mostly low-income girls in our community. They have a super-cute Little Free Library right by the front door. I opened it to discover the most tragic set of children's books I've seen since the Carter County school library that became my summer project a decade ago. I mean, these were books I wouldn't have been interested in back in the 70s, when color printing wasn't a thing yet and when I was willing to read anything. I don't mean these books were boring. I mean these books were actually from the 1960s and 1970s. They were ancient, ratty, un-interesting. I thought about clearing the whole LFL out, but that wasn't my job, not yet at least, so I went inside with my little box of shiny new good books, and I introduced myself to the director, whom I'd never met, and I said I had some books to donate.

She took me into their library, which is a room lined with bookshelves filled with tattered ancient uninteresting books. The comparison between the books in my box and the books on the shelves was fairly staggering. So, I said, I have access to a lot of books. Can I do something about all this? And the woman said, oh, please, none of the girls want to read these and I can't blame them. She gave me a volunteer form so they could run a criminal background check on me, and I promised to come back this week and get started.

From there I went up the street to the Boys and Girls Club, also afterschool and summer programs for mostly low-income youth. By now school had let out and the place was starting to fill up. A black man happily accepted my books, and showed me their library, which was much nicer, newer, and more organized than the one at Girls Inc. However. "This is," I said, "just about the whitest library I've ever seen." The man looked at me like he couldn't believe I'd said that. I'm still not sure if his reaction was because he didn't think I'd notice that, or wouldn't say so if I did, or because he just assumed from growing up with scads of white books himself that we were still mostly in a white publishing world, and hey, we're not as good as we should be but we're getting better in that regard. So I told him I'd be bringing him some books too, and he said he'd be glad to get any books I wanted to give them. The only sets of books they have (multiple copies for book clubs, etc.)--not making this up--were Treasure Island, Little Women, and something equally moldering.

I went back to the recreation room. Bristol's not very diverse but the Boys and Girls Club is about half non-white. I sat down next to a couple of the middle-school students and started asking them what they liked to read. "I don't like to read," one boy, who was black and introduced himself as Ajani, said. "I like to play ball." So I called up The Crossover on my phone and showed him the cover. "Never heard of him," Ajani said. You'll note he said him, referring to the author, Kwame Alexander.

"I like Stephen King," said a white boy, Jonathon.
"So, you like horror stories?" I asked.
"Not really," he said, "I just like the way Stephen King writes."
"Me, too," I said.

I chatted with a few more kids--they were remarkably polite given that they had no idea why I was questioning them--and then I came home and wrote to my editors and agent and some friends in publishing and then I posted some pleas online, because I need a lot of books here. I need a lot of good books. I'll need a lot of help--I can do some of this on my own, but obviously a whole lot more people helping will do a whole lot more good--and I'm still giving books to Highland View Elementary school, too, which this year is not 100% free lunch. It's 99.5% free lunch--one middle-class kid goes there now. (The librarian said, "some of them are getting really excited about reading this year.") and I've got an idea to put a LFL at the food pantry. And of course I'm cleaning out that wretched one over at Girls Inc.

So many people have offered support in the past week. THANK YOU. It's a true social justice issue. I could go on for hours about it. I put a wishlist on Amazon--here's the link--but as I also have friends who despise Amazon (Yep, I get it)--the general idea of the list is, if it's recent, good, if it's a book you loved or your children loved, if it has non-white characters, if it's YA, if it's a picture book, if it's anything you want to send me, please, go ahead. The address is 128 Old Jonesboro Road, Bristol, TN 37620. This is gonna be a long-term project, so send books anytime.

I'll post updates.

Updated 3:14 pm

Oh, world.

I wrote a big blog post about how I need books for the low-income children near where I live, and then I settled down to write my Egypt book but I was twitchy and checked twitter and there was something about another woman accusing Roy Moore of sexual assault. So I found the feed in time to see Beverly Young Nelson, 55 years old now, all dressed up with makeup on, carefully reading her statement. And she was so brave, and so honest, and I could see the pain and fear of that night in her eyes

it never leaves you. I was five years old, and he said if I ever told anyone I'd be taken into foster care and never see my family again

and whoa it's the hardest thing to hear these stories and the best damn thing and the most amazing thing in the world to see predators suffer some consequences for once in their lives

and it's gathering momentum now and maybe the world will be safer for our children

and I tried to go back to my novel but my hands were shaking

and the UPS truck came right then

and delivered two boxes of brand new children's books, so beautiful. The Hate U Give and Bone Gap and Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Best Man and all sorts of other ones, so good, so exactly what I want and need

dozens of books

and they were gifts from people I don't know. People who read my posts and were moved to kindness

and I stood in my kitchen and sobbed

thank you everyone. Thank you, Beverly Young Nelson.

Thank you forever.