"More than machinery, we need humanity."
Greetings, fellow castaways, cabin boys, and captains! You can call me Shekel, and I’ve been newly press-ganged to write for the Shipwreck. I hope this post serves as a worthy introduction, and provides a jumping-off point for more substance.
When oneofthelibrarians and TheLuddbrarian invited me to join, their first question was what my name should be. I free-associated for a bit, running through my mind the laundry list of all my past Internet handles and vaguely relevant cultural signifiers. I like my OKCupid user name and my old strap-on.org handle, but neither of those seemed fitting and besides, fresh start, new leaf, all that cal, right? (my very first AIM screenname from 1997, “Tweedlebug,” is actually still adorable, but didn’t seem quite right).
In the span of a minute or two I sifted through various portmanteaus combining librarianship, books, and bibliophilia, with queerness, transness, gender, and my real name. A few children’s books characters came to mind, some rhymes, and then I remembered Shekel.
I could go on at length about China Mieville’s novels, but suffice it to say he is a highly regarded science fiction/fantasy author with compelling plots, exquisite wordplay and well-integrated radical politics. In his third novel, “The Scar,” we meet a cabin boy named Shekel who bonds with an older prisoner named Tanner Sack. I already have an affinity for that dynamic, and as the novel continues Shekel begins to haunt the local library, learns to read, and unwittingly discovers a key text disguised as a children’s book that has huge repercussions for the rest of the plot.
There are clearly major disparities between Shekel and myself. I still have a copy of the first book I read by myself when I was 5 years old, the date and accomplishment inscribed by my mother, whereas Shekel is an orphaned adolescent autodidact. Shekel learns how to read from an older librarian, whereas I am an older librarian (well, older than my students at least, none of whom were born before 9/11/2011). I was and remain middle-class, whereas Shekel is a street kid. I have some kind of political consciousness, while Shekel just gets by as best he can.
But it’s a good name. And it works for the sake of this blog, if you don’t think too hard about it. And I likes it.
Who am I, and what am I doing on this leaky tub?
I look like a successful librarian at a private elementary school on the outside (maybe? Albeit with a shaved head and jeans that never quite fit properly), but on the inside I still think of myself as a raggedy queer/trans kid with a smudged hand stamp from last night’s show. While I’m still surprised as hell that they’re letting One Of Those People (i.e. me) work with children, I’ve observed quite a few ways that being One Of Those People (queer, out, some kinda radical) is making me a better librarian and teacher. And, in turn, working with my students is giving me valuable lessons on how to be a better friend, sweetheart, and community member.
So, in brief, that is what I expect to contribute to this blog. Musings on children and childhood and literature and literacy. Also gender, feminism, queerness, other axes of privilege and oppression, consent, bodies, and how those relate to information and literature and librarianship. And sometimes how those two compound sentences are related. I will try to avoid an overabundance of nautical witticisms and wordplay, but no promises.