An Open Letter to the 2011 Quick Picks Committee

First, thanks to all the amazing responses on my last blog, being linked from Courtney Summers own blog definitely made my week!  Using random.org the winner of my copy of Some Girls Are is Claire, hooorah, who I have contacted via e-mail.  If I don’t hear back from her, I’ll try again.  Definitely keep reading for more reviews and giveaways.

I loved Some Girls Are SO MUCH I wanted to *make sure* it was nominated for both the 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults list and the 2011 Quick Picks list, so I headed over to YALSA’s site to check out the current nominations list.

That’s where I saw one of the books nominated for a Quick Picks was the offensive and super problematic This is Why You’re Fat.  I really felt like I needed to write this open letter to the Quick Picks committee, trying to address some of the issues I think are worth discussing about this book and its possible inclusion on the final 2011 list.  I hope this gives people, both on the committee and in general, something to really think about and discuss!

Dear 2011 Quick Picks Committee:

First. let me thank all of you for your work on this committee.  Right now, I’m in the middle of my first term on a YALSA selection committee and I KNOW what hard and exciting work it is; how you start to think, for a few seconds, staring at a huge pile of books you have to read that maybe, just maybe, you might be getting sick of books right before a wave of euphoria at how many damn good books there are being published washes over you.  I know, too, the weight of the responsibility you feel: knowing these lists will be used by literally thousands of librarians and teachers across the entire country.

Because, of course, these selection lists mean something, it’s an honor to be on them, it helps sales, it gives authors traction, it’s something librarians can use when they are justifying purchases, it counts to be included.  That’s why I’d like all of you committee members to seriously think about what it means to include a book like This Is Why You’re Fat.

For those of you who don’t know This is Why You’re Fat is the book form of a blog.  Well, it was a tumblr, actually, and basically it was nothing more than pictures of “disgusting” food posted.  There was no witty commentary like there is at say, Cake Wrecks or Regretsy.  There was just pictures, thrown up on a tumblr dashboard, all under the moniker This is Why You’re Fat. You can’t see the blog/tumblr anymore because it’s been removed (by the creators)  but the pictures ranged from the infamous Krispee Kreme Hamburger to “giant” Oreos.

What this really was, though, was more of the continued fucked up messaging our culture gives about food, eating, and health.  See, we fatties get constantly told about how people are just trying to shame us because they care so much about our health. But if that’s the case, why wasn’t the tumblr called “This Is Why You’re Unhealthy” or, even, say, “This Is Why You Have Blocked Arteries!!!” Oh, right, because it wasn’t about that, it was about TEH FATZ!  The dreaded, disgusting, worst thing you could ever be: this, America, THIS IS WHY YOU’RE FAT!

I’d like to ask all of you who work with teens to take a moment to consider where a book like This Is Why You’re Fat fits in with teens who are suffering from disordered eating and looking for some thinspiration. If you’re not familiar with that term, it’s a word used within the pro-anorexia movement to describe tips, slogans, and, most especially, pictures that encourage continued weight loss and starvation.  And, yes, I just said pro-anorexia, otherwise known as the movement to promote anorexia as a “lifestyle choice” and not a disease.

You can Google thinspiration or thinspo or pro-ana, if you’d like.  Here’s some of what you’ll find: pictures of girls showing off their rib cages, posters sharing tips about how to go for long periods of time without eating, posts of “before and after” pictures of celebrities where you can see wrist bones and clavicles sticking out, and posters positively encouraging each other as they become sicker and sicker.  There’s even many YouTube videos to go with the pictures.  It’s not hard to find, it’s not inaccessible, the most you might ever have to do is register for a free forum or click a button PROMISING you are 18.  You can literally find dozens of examples in one Google search.  Just this week the American Journal of Public Health posted a comprehensive analysis of pro-ana and pro-mia websites, finding that 91% of these sites had public access.

And who is doing all that Googling?  Statistics show it’s mostly teenage girls.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Eating Disorders Association, and the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, one in five women has an eating disorder or disordered eating, and 90% of these women are aged 12 to 25. Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents.

And while it’s not pictures of models with their shoulder blades poking through their skin, a book like This Is Why You’re Fat is MADE for thinspiration.  It acts as motivation, inspiration, and a driving force to adolescents who are desperate for justification about their “lifestyle” choices and on the hunt for visual proof to keep them vigilant about not eating.  This is re-enforcement of the worst, most harmful kind of thinking: don’t eat cookies, donuts, bacon, ice cream, hamburgers, cheese, meat, bread: don’t  eat it because  this is why you’re fat! FOOD IS WHY YOU’RE FAT. This has real-life consequences.  (I know, I must have said that phrase about 20 million times on this blog, but it’s a really important context to put these things in, a frame, and it needs to be said and repeated.)

Am I taking this to the extreme?  Probably.  But that’s the entire premise of the book, isn’t it?  The thought process behind the pro-ana and pro-mia movements?  Dealing with extreme ends of the spectrum, thought taken to its most grotesque and overwhelming ends?  That’s how they end up being so perfectly, nightmarishly suited for each other, this book and thinspiration within the pro-ana and pro-mia world. Maybe only one in five teenagers might see this book and get “food is why you’re fat!” from it (although I would argue this is the not so thinly disguised premise from the start) but the point is: we know there’s that one in five teenager out there.  And that the one in five figure is probably a  modest estimate.   What are we saying to them?

Thousands of libraries across the country will purchase This Is Why You’re Fat if it is selected as a 2011 Quick Pick.  That means even more teenagers will have access to it, will see it on library shelves.  What messages will they be getting from it?  That they should try to live “more healthy lives” or that eating a burger is what has made them so disgustingly fat? Is that none of our concern as librarians?  Does that have nothing to do with the books we chose, from the thousands published every year, as worthy of this distinction and honor?

I see that selection criteria for Quick Picks informational titles includes “Accuracy” and “Objectivity.”  I know that you, as a committee, will be sitting down to discuss all these nominations during Annual.  As a fellow librarian who works with teens, a YALSA member, and a librarian who uses YALSA’s lists for collection development, I’d like to ask you to really consider and discuss if This IS Why You’re Fat is either accurate OR objective.

What we do matters, don’t you think?  I do, it’s why I do it, after all.  I don’t think that this book shouldn’t exist, that it should be pulled from all library shelves and bookstores.  But I think it’s worth questioning what purpose it serves, what audiences it is geared for, and what purpose we, as a librarians, would serve by selecting it as a 2011 Quick Pick.

Thanks for your time and hard work on the committee.  Like so many other librarians, I appreciate all your work and I do know, first hand, what a significant commitment it is.  I know you don’t take that commitment lightly and I thank you for taking the time to read and really consider my thoughts and point of view.

I hope to see you at Annual,

-Angie Manfredi

25 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the 2011 Quick Picks Committee

  1. I lost forty pounds in less than two months with the helpful coaching of a pro-ana group. Losing that weight that fast did more harm than good. It’s in my belief that the pro-ana folks will find their thinspiration no matter what list this book is on, or off. All of that being said, we don’t need to help them find it in their local library.

  2.  Some Girls Are has in fact been nominated for QuickPicks. Voting does not take place until Midwinter 2011, so there are no guarantees that it will make the final cut.

     This is Why You’re Fat: Where Dreams Become Heart Attacks has also been nominated, but again, voting does not take place until Midwinter 2011.

     The image of the book cover includes the entire title of the book, but nowhere in your post do you include the entire title of the book. So, for the record, the complete title is This is Why You’re Fat: Where Dreams Become Heart Attacks.

     The QuickPicks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (QP) is not a selection list. While many librarians use the QP list (and others) as a tool to direct them to titles they may not otherwise be aware of, YALSA has never advocated for librarians to use the list as a blanket ordering tool. Professionalism still comes into play. Librarians should still read reviews and base their purchases on what will be useful for their communities. Every community is different. Some QP titles work well in some communities, but they bomb in others, for various reasons. The QP committee is composed of librarians from all over the country, and includes urban areas, such as New York, to small towns in South Carolina, to border towns, such as Chula Vista, CA. A book that is a QP in New York may not work at all in South Carolina, and vice versa. However, the QP committee recognizes the value of books that work well in these very different communities, and we try to come up with a representative list that will meet the needs of reluctant readers from around the country.

     Will a book like This is Why You’re Fat work well in all communities? Of course not. However, if the book has value by even one group of reluctant readers, then it deserves to be on the QP list. At this stage of the game, the QP committee is testing the books with their teens to see which ones are of value. Will the book draw reluctant readers to the library and potentially lead them to find other books? If This is Why You’re Fat meets a need for reluctant reader YAs, then it will likely make the cut.

     You attack the book because you feel that it attacks fat people: “What this really was, though, was more of the continued fucked up messaging our culture gives about food, eating, and health. See, we fatties get constantly told about how people are just trying to shame us because they care so much about our health. But if that’s the case, why wasn’t the tumblr called “This Is Why You’re Unhealthy” or, even, say, “This Is Why You Have Blocked Arteries!!!” Oh, right, because it wasn’t about that, it was about TEH FATZ! The dreaded, disgusting, worst thing you could ever be: this, America, THIS IS WHY YOU’RE FAT!” Again, I would like to point out that the book is subtitled, Where Dreams Become Heart Attacks. It does, in fact, address the blocked arteries of which you speak. The foods pictured in this book are extreme. These are not foods that are intended to be eaten as part of a healthy diet. But yes, these foods exist as a guilty, gluttonous pleasure. That Krispy Kreme hamburger on the cover makes my mouth water. I know that this fat-filled, cholesterol-packed, sugary, bacony concoction is available at fairgrounds across the country, and if I ever find one, I dare say I’ll eat it. But will I eat it every day, 3 meals a day? Of course not. Further, one of the featured meals is served at a restaurant in my own neighborhood, and the Elvis doughnuts are a mere hour away. One of these days, I will try them both. The crazy taco-wrapped-in-a-hoagie-wrapped-in-a-pizza was even featured on a recent episode of The Doctors. Their point was, no, no human being should ever try to live off of these foods. But every now and then, it’s okay to junk food-crazy. But the recommend sharing with a group of friends because the portion size is also outrageous. And no, they were not recommending going on a binge. They were recommending eating a healthy, nutritious, balanced diet 99% of the time so that it’s okay to have the occasional treat.

     Frankly, I liken the whole thing to “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.” Yes, America, this IS why WE’RE fat. As a nation, we eat crap like this, and as a nation, we are obese. This is fact. Like the Doctors say, it’s okay to indulge once in a while, so long as you’re eating healthy most of the time. Jamie Oliver’s point is that we’re eating like this too often. I am of the opinion that a book like this, like Jamie Oliver’s recent TV show, points out our bad habits and may make us think the next time we’re about to dive into a deep-fried-anything. Initially, the people of West Virginia felt that Jamie Oliver was exploiting them, blaming them, and laughing at them. They came to realize, though, that he really just wanted to make them think before they eat. But would you call his Food Revolution pro-ana? I don’t think so. And I don’t see how anyone can find their thinspirations in this book. Although, as “A Survivor” pointed out, people with eating disorders will find their thinspirations anywhere.

     I’m not sure you’re giving teens enough credit. Yes, there are teens with body image issues, but again, as “A Survivor” pointed out, those teens will take anything and twist it to meet their, sadly, warped view of themselves and of the world. Those teens need their loved ones to help them get the treatment they need. But for the teens who do not have body image issues, this book will not “turn” them anorexic any more than Harry Potter will “turn” kids into devil worshippers.

     And finally, I think you’re just reading too much into this! It’s a funny, cringe-inducing book. It’s the kind of book that many teens will flip through to say, “Oh my gosh, that’s disgusting!” But some may even say, “Hey – we should try to make that Deep-Fried Coke.” However, I seriously doubt that the majority will say, “Yum! Let’s eat like this everyday!” or, as you seem to suggest, “I already eat like this everyday, which is why I must now become anorexic.” Just flip through the book and have a laugh or a cringe. Just be frivolous and stop trying to make everything AN ISSUE. Enjoy life – perhaps with an Elvis doughnut on the side.

  3. First of all, who are you? I had the courage and respect to sign my name to my post, I expect the same from you. Are you a member of the 2011 Quick Picks Committee?

    Second of all, thanks for being my very first concern-trolling comment. I’m excited it’s only taken four posts to get stop trying to make everything AN ISSUE. You clearly didn’t take the time to read up on what this blog is about. I’m a big unfun meanie who takes everything soooooooooo seriously! It’s kind of my mission statement! I will, of course, address all your points in a thoughtful follow-up blog but in the meantime, I just wanted to assure you that I really do “enjoy life” (I know you were faux-concerned about that) even when I am critical about certain things, for I posses the ability to be critical and analytical and still find joy and pleasure in things. Mind-blowing, I know.

  4. Who we are: The 2011 QuickPicks committee. My apologies for not signing all our names, but I only have the roster in a PDF file, which is awkward to cute & paste from, and I simply did not feel like typing in all of our names. I figured that since you are a member of YALSA, you could look us up, if you so desired. I thought that by posting under the name “Open reply from the 2011 QuickPicks committee, that that would be sufficient.

    While in DC, a member of our committee Googled us and found your post. We discussed it briefly during one of our meetings, and I thought that would be the end of it. Then, the discussion continued via email once we returned home. Well, it wasn’t so much of a discussion as it was, “Should we respond?” I voted that we should NOT respond, but I composed a response, anyway. The committee voted that we post what I’d typed up.

    So, there you go. However, I still feel that we should not have responded, because now we have this back-and-forth that will go nowhere. We have our opinion; you have yours. It is doubtful that either of our opinions will be swayed via this format.

    And no, I did not read your mission statement. As I said, a committee member stumbled upon your post purely by chance at ALA. Our response is to this post only, not to your blog as a whole.

    Happy 4th of July!

  5. It’s not only members of YALSA who can see who you are, the committee roster is posted here: http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/sellistcontacts/quickpicksreluctant.cfm

    I will respond in much longer format after the weekend, including addressing the points in your original comment, but you should rest assured I know about the mission and selection criteria of both the Quick Picks committee and YALSA selection committees as a whole. While we both know it is factually true to say that YALSA does not advocate that librarians use their award lists “as a blanket ordering tool” I hope we can both acknowledge that the lists DO encourage librarians to think that titles that make it to these final lists have been singled out as merit-worthy, that as I stated in the original post, librarians now have some guidance on what to buy and some professional justification as to why said title is worth their money. Why do we, as a division, work so damn hard on them otherwise? Why do we tout our expertise in selecting and compiling them otherwise?

    I would like the whole committee to know that I am not, and never was, trying to “sway” your opinions simply by stating mine and pointing out problems with this text. I also don’t think an open, honest back and forth goes “nowhere” I think it opens a dialogue worth having about what YALSA’s awards means and what messages books and media send to teenagers. I bristled at the suggestion, with its implied insult, in your first comment that I am taking all this too seriously and I should just “be frivolous” when it came to something I thought was worth discussing.

    Like I said, your comments merit a follow-up post, which they will receive, and it’s up to you and the Committee if you chose to respond. However, I would like to highly suggest that you, or whoever is commenting on behalf of the committee, takes the time to read the “about” regarding this blog (http://www.fatgirlreading.com/about/ and http://www.fatgirlreading.com/wait-what-about-the-reading/) before you comment here again.

  6. At this point, the committee has decided that we should refrain from continuing to engage you via this forum. However, I wanted to respond to one minor point:

    “It’s not only members of YALSA who can see who you are, the committee roster is posted here: http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/sellistcontacts/quickpicksreluctant.cfm

    Yes, we are aware. That is why I linked to the QuickPicks website in my replies (linked from the “Open reply from the 2011 QuickPicks committee” tag). You seem to suggest that we are hiding. We are the QP committee, and yes, the roster is public. It doesn’t really matter which one of us is typing. You mentioned in your initial post that you are an active member of YALSA, which is why, as I said previously, I did not feel the need to type out all of our names. I figured that you would have the wherewithal to look it up. And yes, any non-YALSA readers may also look it up, since I linked to it.

    But again, the committee will not be posting again to this forum. Have a happy 4th of July weekend.

  7. I am sorry you will not choose to reply, but I will be responding to your original comment, as I feel like it had issues that were worthy of being examined. (Not the least of which being I need to “enjoy life” more.) You and the committee can chose to read the follow-up post or not, but it will be posted.

    Let me also clarify that I did not mean to imply that you were “hiding” I simply wanted to know who was commenting. While your original comment linked to the Quick Pick page it did not identify, in fact, that it was coming from anyone officially associated with the QP committee. Any random Internet commenter could link to the page and label it an “open reply” from the committee. All I wanted to ascertain was that whoever was responding was doing so on behalf of the committee. Signing your names was not required, I was merely trying to point out that identifying who was speaking would have been helpful.

    I appreciate knowing that the committee at least read my comments, even if the end result was a dismissive “you’re reading too much into this!” I wish you and the rest of the committee good luck with the rest of your selection tasks for the year and I will endeavor to make my follow-up post sufficiently clear on my opinions in this matter. (it’s how I enjoy life.)

  8. As a librarian who works in collection development, I’m disappointed in Angie for suggesting that libraries shouldn’t purchase this book and that YALSA should not have promoted it. This is what you’re advocating, right? That a certain title would offer so much potential harm to impressionable young minds that we ought to protect them from themselves by denying them access to a book? I’ll answer you as I answer the religious nuts who protest that we have too many books about homosexuality: if you don’t like it, don’t look at it. I guarantee that the minute I have a chance to select legitimate works on fat acceptance, I’ll do so—even though I personally think your arguments are ridiculous. There is room for all points of view in a library, even for books that we think are stupid, silly or bad.

  9. As a librarian who works in collection development, I’m disappointed in Anna for not actually reading the post she thinks is commenting on and thinks is “ridiculous.” Here, I will help by repeating myself: I don’t think that this book shouldn’t exist, that it should be pulled from all library shelves and bookstores. But I think it’s worth questioning what purpose it serves, what audiences it is geared for, and what purpose we, as a librarians, would serve by selecting it as a 2011 Quick Pick. So, no, I am not advocating that libraries don’t purchase this book and YALSA shouldn’t promote it. I am advocating that librarians, both those on the Quick Picks selection committee and those who simply use the QP list or do collection development, think about the issues being presented in the book, have a dialogue about what they might mean, interact with them as “accurate” or “objective” and see if they meet libraries selection criteria and see if this title is legitimately worth having collection development resources spent on it.

    But way to go with lumping me in with the “religious nuts” who hate books about homosexuality. Because, you know, it’s exactly the same and not insulting to me AT ALL.

    Since you work in collection development, I am surprised that you don’t know that your “chance” to select “legitimate” works on fat acceptance is NOW, because many of them have already been published and many more have been published that address dealing with healthy eating and coping with disordered eating, all of which falls under the auspices of “fat acceptance.” I can make you a list, if you’d like.

    Which, of course, brings me to my final question: what part of this do you find “ridiculous” exactly? My feeling that librarians should engage in dialogue about the harmful messaging in This is Why You’re Fat or the idea that a fat acceptance movement exists at all? If it is the former, I would be happy to continue to engage in dialogue with you explaining my points in greater depth. If it’s the latter, I don’t think we have anything else to say and I am *quite* sure this is not the site for you. In short, if you don’t like it, don’t look at it.

  10. Angie,
    I feel I should weigh in on this if only to bring perspective as to what the QP committee is trying to accomplish. I feel qualified to make a statement as I have been on the committee both as a member and past chairperson. I served for 4 years in total and am now off the committee.
    The committee has one charge- to find books that are of interest to students between the ages of 12-18 who for one reason or another do not like to read. That is it, period end of story. Quality is nowhere in the charge. If you review the lists over the years we’ve had many there have been many books that aren’t of the greatest literary quality. To make the list a books has to have appeal to reluctant readers.
    As a committee, we look for books that reluctant readers will pick up (appealing cover, concept or premise), share with friends, and ultimately read. While you may not agree with this particular book and it’s possible inclusion on the list you have the same choice as any other library professional to choose not to purchase this book.
    You are also welcome to make a field nomination of books that you feel are better representations of fat acceptance. The link is on the YALSA website. Prior to making nominations I would also encourage you to look over some guidelines that we (several of us from past QP committees) put together to assist people in making selections for reluctant readers particularly for nominating for this list. It is on my wiki page Quick Picks 101 http://quickpicks4reluctantreaders.pbworks.com/Quick%20Picks%20101 .
    I hope my reply has helped clarify any issues you might have in regard any of the books that are on the nomination list in previous years or the one you referred to in your post. I appreciate your concern over the content but, the purpose of the committee isn’t about anything but finding books reluctant readers will pick up and read.
    The committee is guided by the ALA Bill of Rights and as a whole we do not allow our personal feelings to enter into the nominating and voting process. Our sole focus is on finding books that the various types of reluctant readers will want to read, share, and enjoy. We attempt to find books that will appeal to kids across the country and that is a challenge because the students that we all serve have many different interests – in fact, the only common interest is that they don’t like to read in many cases.
    I hope this post brings clarity and perspective to how the committee works. This selection list is not an award it is a selection tool for library professionals. It helps us all find books for those who don’t like to read– we all have kids like that and it is helpful. But as has been suggested previously we all have to weigh the list against our community’s needs and interests.
    There was a great book that made the list either last year or the year before called Body Drama (long subtitle I can’t recall) by Amanda Redd and it was amazing! It was all about young women’s bodies and acceptance of our body. I highly recommend it if you are in a public library. I had a doctor review it before including it in our library collection but later had to remove it due to administrative edict.
    Again, I hope this post helps you come to terms with the committee and the hard work they do to help all of us. After 4 years on the committee I can tell you that the work is an immense labor of love. In my 4 years on committee I read an average of 170 books a year for the committee alone.

  11. PS- as for accuracy and the blogs-to-book format– that’s not necessarily a given. Yet, we cannot expect the committee to read and then research every book that is nominated. Quite simply, they will do their best. That is all any of us can ask from them.

  12. Hi Joy,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, let me try to address a few points.

    First, I do understand the charge of the Quick Picks committee. (I’m not sure why so many people commenting seem to want to keep explaining it to me as if I have no idea what the purpose of the QP list is. I do.) I carefully reviewed all of the information available before I made this post, including the selection criteria. I know that quality is not part of the charge. As a matter of fact, whenever I do trainings or even talk to other librarians who don’t know about YALSA’s lists, Quick Picks are always one of my favorites to talk about, because I am so proud to be a member of an organization that selects a list that has nothing to do with “literary merit.” But what the selection criteria (http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/booklistsawards/quickpicks/quickpicksreluctantyoung.cfm) DOES cover is what I stressed in this entry: accuracy and objectivity. I have NEVER said that no library anywhere should buy this book, that it shouldn’t exist, that it shouldn’t even be mentioned as a Quick Pick possibility. My contention has ALWAYS been that this book is not accurate *or* objective. The criteria also states, of course, that “not all criteria may fit all books” but I wrote this post hoping to point out some of the problems with the book in terms of accuracy and objectivity, so that, hopefully, some dialogue or consideration about the accuracy and objectivity of this book would arise. The accuracy objection was not about “how does this book exactly translate from its blog form?” it was about if it accurately depicts/explains “this is why you’re fat” i.e. if it is accurate when it comes to its own stated purpose.

    My post was never intended to question the dedication or hard work of the committee members, I know what a time (and monetary, frankly) commitment being on a selection committee is. I can’t remember the last time I read a middle grade novel and I sometimes feel guilty if I am reading anything other than a first novel. I appreciate their hard work and I know, like I said, 1000s of librarians will take advantage of it come January 2011.

    What I wanted the post to do was open a dialogue about the content of the book, about what messages it might send to reluctant readers who pick it up and have food issues, about how we might react if, say, a book based on the Engrish Funny (http://engrishfunny.com/) blog was nominated. I know this list is intended solely to “finding books reluctant readers will pick up and read.” I appreciate that. I understand that. I am thankful for that. But my question was (and remains) what about reluctant readers who have body image issues? What about “those who don’t like to read” who struggle with disordered eating? Aren’t we selecting books for those reluctant readers too? I don’t expect the answer to be “Well, we just won’t have anything on the list that could upset anyone ever!” I wouldn’t want that, I am not and have never been advocating that. But I am interested in more conversation about it. I am interested in knowing if we, as librarians, can dismiss those conversations by saying things like the commenter writing on behalf of the 2011 QP committee said: “stop trying to make everything AN ISSUE.”

    That’s why I breathed an audible sigh of relief at this part of your comment: I appreciate your concern over the content… because it felt like this was the first time anyone had said this. It was never about “coming to terms” with the committee and their hard work (which I acknowledged, repeatedly, from the beginning) it was about wanting to explain and explore my concern over the content of this book and, hopefully, to get other librarians thinking about it when they consider purchasing this title for their collections. I wanted to add my perspective and my voice to the conversation. Because of that, I’m not sorry I started this discussion, even though I have felt attacked and dismissed because of it (see my follow up post) because I think it’s worth having and because my concern is legitimate.

    Thank you for participating in the conversation.

  13. I have experienced several situations where content was a concern to some over specific titles. In this instance, I haven’t read the book, nor the blog so I cannot comment on the book’s content or it’s accuracy.
    We have had titles make the list in the past that addressed body issues and healthy perspective of the female body (see Body Drama by Redd. We have always done our level best to live up to the ideal of the selection guidelines set down by YALSA’s governance. If it is found that this title is inaccurate I am sure it will fall to the wayside.
    As you aptly expressed, the committee works very hard and will discuss the title in detail at Mid-Winter. I can assure you that this book will be given the same careful discussion, and attention as is our common practice on this committee.
    As always, the committee meetings are open to YALSA members, ALA Conference attendees, as well as publishers/authors. You may elect to attend and see how it is handled. Every person in attendance is allowed to speak about titles that have been nominated.
    I hope you get the discussion of the title that you were hoping for when you first posted.

  14. I am a high school Teacher-Librarian, a former member of the QP committee, and my students would most definitely pick this up, read it, get grossed out (it’s like the kind of Fair food that just gets grosser and grosser each year – fried twinkies, fried Snickers and the like), AND if a student were a reluctant reader, they might say, “hey – this book is crazy! I didn’t know libraries carried more than just Jane Eyre!” and then check out another book in the 394.1’s. Or maybe check out this book. And that’s what a QP is (which I know you know and we all know).

  15. Here’s another possible scenario – oftentimes, when sharing books with reluctant readers during my time on the committee, the strangest books would be an in to the deepest conversations.

    For example, a biography on Eminem lead to a discussion on race and who gets to comment on it. A book featuring photography from Vibe magazine lead to conversations about gangs. THIS IS IN NO WAY PART OF THE QUICK PICKS CHARGE. However, it happened organically when a group of kids was looking at a seemingly innocuous book, and it was an amazing experience every time it happened.

    So picture this – kids are looking at this book, and someone brings this up and it leads to the discussion you are hoping to have – about fat acceptance, nutritition, whatever. Now this book has picked up a lot more, no pun intended, weight.

    You never know what is going to happen when kids pick up a book!

  16. Well, it’s obvious at this point that, somehow, my post is now making the rounds amongst former members of the QP committee. I am not sure, exactly, how the call to defend the Quick Picks list came up but I would REALLY like to stress, for what feels like the thousandth time: my objections or “misunderstanding” does not stem from hostility towards the current committee, difficulty understanding the charge and intention of the list, or an inability to grasp what the benefits and intentions of the QP list is. Everyone is welcome to join the conversation, but I’d ask that you please bear that in mind before you comment to tell me how wrong I am about everything.

    Marie: I will refer here to my next post on the subject: why is gross in the conversation again? How far away from “that’s so gross!” is “You’re so gross!”? Is there anything potentially problematic or triggering about the use of that word? Are there any reluctant readers that might have problematic reaction to a book that provokes the reaction of “gross!” when it comes to food and eating habits? (as an aside: do you really think fried twinkies are on the same level of “gross” as, say, sandwiches made with eighty slices of bacon and forty slices of cheese? If you do, do you think *I* am gross because I don’t? Do you think I am gross because I think fried twinkies are a fun, tasty food to sample and indulge in? I am sure you don’t, but see how quickly it came around to gross being applied to me?) Do we, as librarians, not care at all about that conversation, even if it is only amongst ourselves and not had with our teen patrons?

    Jamie: *That’s* the discussion I was hoping to start with other librarians, yet it hasn’t managed to materialize, as instead, along the way I have been told I was “reading too much into this” and “ridiculous.” And, yes, I cherish and appreciate the countless discussions of this kind I have had in my interactions with teens. I hope that every librarian who selects this title for inclusion in their library has a chance to have these kinds of interactions and discussions but I cannot help wondering about those who don’t.

  17. RE: “Engrish Funny.” No, a book based on that blog has not been nominated. However, the books “Chinglish: Found in Translation” and “More Chinglish: Speaking in Tongues” were both nominated & both made the list. Part of me was incredibly uneasy about those choices because of the racist overtones. Now, if you take the time to read the forward by the author (a college professor of Chinese), you will see that he collects these strange signs for the insight they provide into the minds of the Chinese people. Where we in America would simply say, “Keep off the grass,” the Chinese sign is a lengthy paragraph about how grass is a living thing, and if you step on it, you will harm it, therefore, keep off the grass. (Obviously, I don’t remember the entire sign). If you read the signs with this in mind, it’s a very thoughtful, thought-provoking book aobut the differences between East & West.

    But the book is on QuickPicks because teens think it’s funny. Most probably aren’t reading the long, boring forward by the author. Most are likely just flipping through & laughing at the “bad” translations. Still, the book served a need for reluctant teens, who then asked for other books to read. Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about.

    The reason the current QP committee voted not to continue responding to your blog (I’m writing all my own now) is because your initial reply to our comments was quite hostile. Remarks like “concern-trolling” and “faux-concerned” indicated to me that you were going to take everything personally, and not professionally. I tried to professionally talk about QP & the reasons this book has been nominated. You responded with name-calling. The real kicker for me is that the part you seemed most upset about is my closing remark to “Enjoy life — perhaps with an Elvis donut on the side.” I did my best to keep the response positive, up-beat, and to refrain from attacking. Obviously, you felt attacked when I said to stop making everything “AN ISSUE,” but you seemed to skip over the part where I was encouraging a light-hearted look at the book (the “be frivolous” part). It wasn’t an attack: it was a suggestion to look at the book through a different lens. The “Enjoy life” part — well, I was going to end with “have a nice day,” but I thought that “enjoy life” went better with the Elvis donut. I really don’t know how you could take a positive closing statement and turn it so negative that you had to tweet about it:

    “I’m so excited! It only took four entries on my blog before someone said “stop trying to make everything an ISSUE!” Concern troll FTW!”

    “a member of the Quick Picks committee told me I was “reading too much into this” & I needed to “enjoy life” http://bit.ly/bvGaaw WOW.”

    “@scottyrader I mean, disagreeing with my point is one thing but saying I just need “enjoy life” … I don’t even know where to go w/ that.”

    Your subsequent replies on this blog, both here and your July 7 “Unfun” post continue to rail on “enjoy life.” I also wished you a Happy 4th of July, which obviously did not touch a nerve, since you did not tweet about it. Had I gone with my original, “Have a nice day,” would it have garnered such a negative reaction from you? If your goal was to start a professional discussion with other librarians then why start off by calling me a concern troll?

    You’ve repeatedly stated that you understand the charge of QP. Ergo, you should understand why the book the was nominated. Just as I have issues with the Chinglish books, you have issues with the Fat book. Regardless, there were many reluctant readers for whom the Chinglish books met a need, and so far, there are reluctant readers for whom the Fat book meets a need. But we’re not looking at OUR reactions to the books; we’re looking to the teens. We’ll see how it shakes down at Midwinter.

  18. Hi Susan,

    I am glad you brought up the Chinglish books. I am glad that you acknowledged that you had problems with their racism. (there’s no overtones, it’s just plain racist, haha, people talk funny!!) What I wanted was a discussion of content, the acknowledgment that JUST PERHAPS This is Why You’re Fat had content that could be triggering, upsetting, and problematic to reluctant teen readers. That’s not what the QP committee responded with. What they responded with, via your comment, was “stop trying to make everything AN ISSUE” and get over it. I’m sorry, but I wasn’t satisfied with that as an answer. I was looking for a comment like the one Jamie or Joy left. I was not interested in being told that I just didn’t understand what the QP committee did and, besides, I was just trying to make everything AN ISSUE.

    *I* think it’s upsetting that teens think a racist book is “funny” and ask for more. What are the read-alikes for the Chinglish books, exactly? I think, as a librarians, we owe them *more* than that. Equally, I think it’s upsetting, it’s insulting, that we send a message that “reluctant readers” won’t be offended by a Chinglish book, by a book insulting to fat people. This is basically saying that, oh, well, they might be encountering problematic, racist, offensive content, but what can we do about it? They’re enjoying it and laughing and they picked it up, that’s what matters! If that’s the charge of the QP committee, then I guess I DON’T understand it after all.

    Now let me try to address the “enjoy life” comment. Yes, I did feel like the original comment from the committee was an attack and I responded as such. I detailed in my follow-up post why I felt it was an attack and why I felt it was trying to derail the conversation I’m trying to have. I also detailed the moment I thought the comment became personal, not professional, and it wasn’t JUST the “enjoy life” it was also the “be frivolous!” And, yes, a lot of it centers around the “enjoy life” comment. (which happened, along with “be frivolous” and “you’re not giving teens enough credit” before I supposedly got hostile with you.) “Enjoy life” is dismissive in a way that “have a nice day!” is not. I’m not sure, exactly, why this needs clarification, but I hope I have covered (in the literally thousands of words I have written) why this was problematic to me. But, just in case: you don’t know anything about me, you admitted you didn’t even bother to read anything about this site or me, you just commented. The implication that I would be just fine with this book if only I could be “frivolous” and have a little fun was extremely insulting, dismissive, and completely off the mark to anything of value I was trying to say. That *is* personal, not professional. Also, I had no idea who was commenting the first time. As I pointed out, there was no mention of who was commenting or any official identification. You linked to the QP site but used I. Who was speaking? (and in your comment here, you again use “I” when describing the original comment. Is it “I” as in you, Susan Hawk, or “we” as in the entire QP committee?) I didn’t know. This all smacks of concern-trolling and derailing. (Again, as I outlined in my follow-up post.)

    All I wanted was to have a genuine discussion about the content of the book, but the first remark from the committee not only didn’t contain that, it brought up false corollaries and implications in my post (Jamie Oliver! America is fat because it eats like this! The book says not to eat like this! You don’t give teens credit and it’s not like this will “turn” anyone anorexic! The book does address health because in the title it says the word heart attack!) which, in the follow-up post, I then tried to debunk.

    And then, yes, it closed up with a personal attack of me. Thank you for assuring me that’s not what it was, but you don’t get to dictate that part, because that is certainly what it felt like, read like, and came across as to me. I’m sorry I keep “railing” on that, but it was (and remains) important to me because it sets the tone in your very first comment. It wasn’t “attacking” me, it was INSULTING me.

    Because of that, I will not be engaging in public dialogue with you anymore. I feel like I have given you ample time and space to air your opinions (and the opinion of the Quick Picks committee) in my public forum. You do not seem to want to engage in a substantive dialogue about the content of the book and so there’s not much else for us to say. You may contact me via e-mail but any other comments here will be marked as spam and deleted.

  19. Vitriol, vitriol. I happen to be Facebook friends with some people, that’s the only reason I replied. Because you are ridiculous. Vitriol.

  20. Marie,

    Who are the “some people” you are Facebook friends with? How does that have anything to do with why you posted? I will say, however, thank you for that thoughtful reply! I really appreciate your substantive contributions to this discussion! I love being insulted and told I am ridiculous on my own public forum after I have written literally thousands of words trying to elucidate my perspective and express my genuine concerns. It’s so helpful and contributes so much to the dialogue!

    PS: vitriol!

  21. Marie,

    I’m sorry, I should have added this to my comment: You do not seem to want to engage in a substantive dialogue about the content of the book and so there’s not much else for us to say. You may contact me via e-mail but any other comments here will be marked as spam and deleted.

    Also, I know this will come as a giant shock to you but since you have never actually linked to your blog/twitter or given your real name, I have no idea who you are.

    And you’re right, I should have left up your comment, because it was really awesome that you called my “unfun-ness” ridiculous, as that was really the cherry on the top. (and I’m sorry I was so combative and vitriolic! Why do I have to be so angry?!)

    (And I have to admit, I am curious to know who posted a link to my blog on their facebook wall and what exactly it said, but, eh.)

  22. you erased my comment? That was my substantive part! Anyway, I apologized on twitter. If you want to erase a comment, erase my vitriolic one. 🙂 Peace!

  23. Comments are now closed for this post. I’d like to thank everyone for taking the time to participate in this thread, but since I’ve written a comprehensive follow-up post to only read this post and comment here doesn’t let that follow-up be addressed and doesn’t give us a chance to engage in a fair dialogue. Please, read this post, all the comments, but then refer to my follow-up post, “Unfun” (http://www.fatgirlreading.com/unfun/) and direct any further comments there. Thanks.

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