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Tied Up

I am a library builder.  For over 10 years, I created, crafted and curated libraries, usually the kind without walls.   It's not often.  Or maybe, it's not often enough, that a task at my current job involves books.  This week was one of those universe gifted moments.  Perhaps it wasn't all the universe's doing, which is why I felt so much responsibility to the project.  I had been advocating for years that in lieu of the kind of culturally relevant curriculum missing and/or in development for our program delivery, fiction and nonfiction books were a worthy substitute.  When I had a more captive audience of colleagues, I would extend the argument and state that diverse books were not a substitute at all, but a key ingredient all on their own to building belonging.


The task was juvenile literature centering youth with disabilities written in Spanish.


I started with my 'go to' lists.  I found one book.


I attempted a Google search for lists.  I found one list.


I chose a more limited space with the ability to focus formats and language.  Within the library catalog I added language search terms and topic filters.  I attempted this search with “neurodiversity”, “blind”, “deaf”.  “Autism” was the only search that provided any kind of list.


I dialed my Spanish speaking friend, an inclusive services consultant for my local library system.  I posed my task.  "Am I missing something?  Or, is this a gap?"


At first, she answered with maybes.  “Maybe in larger cities.  . . Maybe in Spanish publishing catalogs. . . And maybe not. . .”


She confirmed that I could certainly pursue the 'maybes', but the likely answer was this task would remain limited.


I was faced with an irony.  For twenty years, I had centered the idea of connection.  A decade ago in my Master's Thesis, I posed that the dividing lines between identities did not serve us.  The strings in our hands. . .  Focusing on connections would provide more options. 


More recently, intersectionality had occupied much of this space.  This is the way to build whole communities, to serve whole people.  The Venn Diagram appeared in my head.  Circle across circle across circle.  The lines squeezed.  The more the intersections numbered, wrapped, and tightened, the remaining space bulged.  This was the gap between reality and the reality of resources.  It was a gap I had sensed ten years ago when I had learned to weave on the backstrap loom. 

Essay excerpt


The Mayan backstrap loom could be to some a bundle of sticks and strings, and to others who use the framework, a useful structure.  Not confined to one place, the women took their looms anywhere there was a secure anchor, a tourist path or a bedroom on a rainy afternoon.  I had lived for weekends.  Early Saturday mornings I left for Santa Catarina to cut fruit with Marta, sip Diet Coke at Oscar’s father’s store, and when weavers had time, I engaged them in conversation about the way the dibujos looked in the example faja and the way mine looked.  Naively, I wanted to know what to fix.  The answer came by way of Anastasia.  She told me my blue cotton loom had been set against me.  I sought out Cantel to confirm this.  I had expressed the desire to learn the intricate ‘etz’ab’al’.  Cantel admitted to doubting my ability to work with a loom with denser strings that would make the image rise and not look scrunched down like mine did.  I had never noticed the distinct arrangement of warp strings in other looms.  I hadn’t been looking at the organizational loom either.  How could I have known to look for a task behind the immediate task in front of me?  The loom’s objective and my own were not in agreement. 


I returned to the narrow loom.  I tried to move carefully with intention, to connect each row of strings on the loom with just one run through the loom with the shuttle.  I felt the tension in the relationships as a result of this action to draw strings together, all seemingly the same, but not. 


For now, that was all I could do, return to the state of publishing as is, the narrow loom, not set up for our needs.  I opened a new email.  I added a brief sentence about my search process and a list of less than ten books beneath it. 


Picture Books


The Girl Who Thought in Pictures by Julia Finley centers autism and shows female leadership in agriculture.


Featherless/Desplumado by Juan Felipe Herrera describes a boy's experience with spina bifida.



Fastest Woman on Earth by Francesca Cavallo is the true story of a para olympic athlete with spina bifida and includes adoption and LGTBQ+.


Graphic Novels


 El Deafo by Cece Bell is the story of a girl who becomes hard of hearing after an illness.


Habla Maria: Una novela grafica sobre el autismo por Bernardo Fernandez is a conversation between two points of view, a girl who is autistic and the people close to her.


Chapter Books


Rules by Cynthia Lord is told from point of view from a sibling of a youth with autism.


Ungifted by Gordon Korman details the story of a boy with ADHD who is given the chance in a gifted program after a mix up.


Out of My Mind by Sharon M Draper is the story of a young girl with cerebral palsy who finds a way to show her classmates her talents.


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