1.18.2013

things i heard at the library: an occasional series: # 8

At the branch library where I'm currently working as a page, the magazine section is along a back wall forming an L shape - the long part full of magazines, the short part with teen magazines and comic books. This isn't the graphic novel section; it's Archie, Amazing Spider-Man, and such. Around another corner from that short wall is a cozy reading area arranged among the youth novels.

The other day, as I was beginning to file a big pile of magazines, I came upon a girl, maybe tweens or early teens, wearing a hijab (not unusual), standing in the very corner of the L, looking through teen magazines. She was facing the shelves so her choice of reading material was hidden, and every few seconds she would look over her shoulder nervously.

I smiled to myself. I wanted to tell her, it's ok, I'll cover for you.

My presence didn't seem to increase her nervousness - she wasn't worried about me - so I continued to shelve nearby while she read. At some point, I noticed she had moved on to comics, still interrupting herself as a look-out as she enjoyed the forbidden fruit.

You go, girl. Libraries are your friend.

12 comments:

johngoldfine said...

I don't know who deserves more sympathy: the girl in hijab not looking at those magazines and comics or the one you saw--who is starting a difficult and complicated negotiation with self, religion, culture, another culture, family, modernity, and so on.

But, yes, libraries are definitely where the negotiations ought to begin.

Maybe on, maybe off topic: I have a Coptic Christian student recently and originally from Egypt. She is earnestly doing her best with English, but it can be a struggle. Today I was talking about brainstorming, and she asked for clarification.

The online dictionary entry she had found unhelpful was for 'brainstorm' whose common meaning oddly (and I had never realized this before) really has nothing at all to do with 'brainstorming' as teachers use it.

laura k said...

Where I live, lots of girls wear hijabs and read whatever they want, play sports, go to university, become doctors, etc. etc. I see girls in hijabs reading all the silly series books and whatnot. It's not necessarily a sign of repressive parents, although in this case it might have been.

How do teachers use the word brainstorm, how does it differ from common use?

johngoldfine said...

I was talking in class about generating ideas for a project and mentioned brainstorming as a technique some people (not me) find helpful. My student looked up 'brainstorm' and found the noun in the online Merriam-Webster, which someone had told her was the gold standard:

Definition of BRAINSTORM

1
: a violent transient fit of insanity
2
a : a sudden bright idea
b : a harebrained idea

So, she was really at a loss, understandably wondering what I could possibly have meant. I showed her the definitions of 'brainstorming' starting with the wikipedia entry:

"Brainstorming is a group or individual creativity technique by which efforts are made to find a conclusion for a specific problem by gathering a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by its member(s)."

That was more like it!


the salamander said...

brainstorm = a free wheeling flight of fancy - on gossamer wings of idealism

- what flights I still believe is/are only found in the wondrous country called Canada - tho its current government clearly is aggressively opposed to such flights

- That's not an issue really as we fly far higher and lighter than bloated or tarnished and faux gubinments

the salamander said...

PS .. what Canada is supposed to be.. A place where you don't ever need to look over your shoulder .. Thank you for your excellent essay .. ! I need to re-examine my country.. see where it is flailing .. and needs leadership

laura k said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Salamander. I'm pretty sure flights of fancy are found everywhere there are humans, regardless of geography.

What essay is that?

laura k said...

I was talking in class about generating ideas for a project and mentioned brainstorming as a technique some people (not me) find helpful.

This is the only way I've ever heard the word used - not by teachers, by everyone!

johngoldfine said...

This is the only way I've ever heard the word used - not by teachers, by everyone!

We teachers like to lay claim to all human experience and then spread a shroud of mystery over it so that only the learned sage can unshroud it for our eager acolytes.

The idea of "research," for example, is a particular bugaboo for my students who have been told all their lives that research is a special province hedged with warnings and restrictions (footnote layout, for example) and that only teachers can guide them through it.

So, what should be understood as everyone's inheritance as homo sapiens, what all people are always doing anyway (answering questions, i.e., research) somehow becomes a pointless and desiccated classroom exercise.

If it were up to me, Laura, kids would spend much more time in the library (more work for you!) and much much less time in class (I'd have to retire!)

johngoldfine said...

Perhaps in your original anecdote, the hajib was a red herring (and perhaps my own unresolved and unacknowledged stereotypes peeked out in my response.)

But by 'red herring' I mean that the hajib is incidental to the story, not especially relevant. It's simply a color detail.

I mean I used to work with a rabbi who vetted Time magazine before he allowed his wife to see it. I mean I have a fundamentalist Christian neighbor who only allows his wife to read the inerrant word of God and the interpretative pamphlets on the same that he self-publishes.

Cruelty, stupidity, male privilege, misogyny don't seem to have any particular neighborhood where they hang out....

laura k said...

The hijab was a colour detail, that was my point by including "(not unusual)". But I can see how including that detail might point the reader towards a certain conclusion.

The hijab, which covers the head but not the face, is analogous to a yarmulke in my mind (that spelling cracks me up, but seems to be the accepted transliteration). It means the wearer comes from a family that practices the Muslim faith, but doesn't denote fundamentalism or a disconnect with modernity. This is in my experience, anyway.

Cruelty, stupidity, male privilege, misogyny don't seem to have any particular neighborhood where they hang out....

Indeed! I am about to post an excellent piece by Jimmy Carter about just that idea.

johngoldfine said...

I don't exempt myself from stupidity--pretty regularly in fact. No one can be stupider than a regular smarty-pants. Among other things, I'll look to my spelling.

laura k said...

No one can be stupider than a regular smarty-pants.

Well, stupid people are stupider. :)

Re brainstorming, I'm familiar with it as a much-touted writing technique, and as a group exercise in a collaborative project. In most activism I've been involved in, group brainstorming is an important step to come up with strategies and actions.

I had no idea the dictionary definition didn't square with the practice.