The BMI Problem: A Linktastic Post

I recently read Body Drama (2007) by Nancy Redd (for my Young Adult Literature and Literacy) class which, in some ways, I did like. I think it’s really valuable because there is this weird stigma or shame about talking about your body–especially when you’re a girl.

(Although I don’t know that teens who are too timid to talk about such matters are likely to pick up this title. I am in many respects a prude and have been for many years. I know that I would have had the nerve to be seen reading this book no matter how valuable it is. Once an aunt bought me a copy of Our Bodies Ourselves for teen girls and I almost died of mortification just from looking at the book. I don’t think I ever opened it.)

What I didn’t like about the book was the focus on the Body Mass Index (BMI) as a way to gauge healthy weight because, frankly, BMI is bogus. The idea is that by plugging your height and weight into a chart you can find your BMI number and compare it to the range of “healthy” BMIs for people with your height and weight. The thing is, it doesn’t always work out as neatly as all that.

I didn’t know anything about BMI until I read about it in a New Yorker book review by Steven Shapin. I appreciated that Shapin took the time to debunk BMI as a means to measure healthy weights (according to BMI some famous athletes would be obese–while in peak playing condition).

Still, in a society that’s already obsessed with the idea of being thin it’s hard to hear that you’re overweight or obese. Even from a chart. I have never been underweight, but I imagine that would be an equally frustrating thing to hear from a chart. Especially one that is widely acknowledged as a flawed system of measurement.

Even with that knowledge, a strong/supportive family environment, and a fair amount of self-esteem, it took years to convince myself that the BMI was wrong and I was not obese. Honestly, I spent a lot of time thinking I was fat–and that’s with knowing full well that BMI isn’t always accurate and that there are all different healthy weights. It’s only been recently that I’ve started to understand that, while I’ll likely never be a size two or whatever, I am not that overweight. In an era where Marilyn Monroe–the sexiest sex symbol ever–would probably also be considered fat, I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way.

If you want to see what I mean about BMI, check out Kate Harding’s BMI project at The project consists of a slide show showing real women and their BMI classification. I can guarantee that none of the labels will be what you expect.

Books like Body Drama are doing a lot to show that women come in all different shapes and sizes–all of which are normal. But until other measurements like BMI (and obviously unattainable expectations set forth by the media) are replaced with something more realistic, there will always be perfectly normal, healthy women stuck thinking there is something wrong with them.

Liar: A Chick Lit Wednesday review

Liar by Justine Larbalestier (revised cover)I’m not even sure where to start this review there’s so much going on with this book. The plot in Justine Larbelestier‘s Liar (2009) is so intricate and crazy awesome that the author has asked readers to please not post spoilers in their reviews (I wouldn’t know how to explain the spoilers even if I did want to post them). Aside from that, the book has gone through three different covers and created a bit of controversy on the way. It doesn’t relate to the story, but I think if you want to understand this book you really need to know about all the covers.

In Australia, Liar features a pretty straightforward and rather eerie cover with the title written in what, I think, is blood. In the United States, the advanced copies of the book were sent out with a cover featuring a white girl with long hair draped across her face so that only her eyes and nose are visible. Which is fine. The cover is pretty intense and kind of true to the story.

Liar by Justine Larbalestier (initial US version)Except it’s completely wrong as a representation of Micah, the main character in Liar. Micah is a black girl who wears her naturally nappy hair short and who could easily pass as a boy. Larbalestier has also said she imagined Micah looking like Alana Beard from the WNBA. The girl on the cover looks more like Maureen Johnson. And that’s sad because, as I will mention later, Micah is one hell of a strong character and she does not deserve to be “white-washed” on her cover (which on top of everything else also invalidates some of the fundamental truths Larbalestier intended to exist in the novel).

On her blog, which I have been crazily linking to throughout this post, Larbalestier has written a thorough and eloquent post about what happened to the American cover of Liar as well as the general difficulty in finding a book with a black face getting mainstream support from publishers. There is an often unchallenged belief, as Larbalestier mentions, that “black books Liar by Justine Larbalestier (Australian cover)don’t sell” which resulted in the rather inaccurate cover of Liar. Since then, when the controversy peaked, a call for change was heard. And answered. Now Liar has a new cover that better captures Micah (exactly as I imagined her actually) which will be available on the hardcover edition in the USA.

And now you are ready to hear about the rest of the book.

One of the only true things Micah will tell you about herself is that she’s a liar. She has always been a liar. She comes from a long line of expert liars. But Micah doesn’t want to lie anymore. Especially not to you–the one person she hasn’t lied to. Yet.

Lies are easy. Micah is quickly learning that the truth is a harder thing to manage. When her secret boyfriend dies, Micah’s carefully crafted lies begin to peel away. One by one. Until all Micah is left with is the cold, hard truth. Or is she?

The author (and the back flap) describe Liar as a thriller. Strangely I never used the word to describe it myself, but now it seems so obvious. The story is rife with tension and Micah’s intricate narration add another level of suspense to the story.

Larbalestier’s writing is amazing. She (and Micah) had me convinced I was reading one kind of book right until they told me I was reading something else. Then the story changed on me again. At this point, I’m not really sure what I read. I think I know. But maybe I’m lying about that. All I know for sure is that Liar is an amazing ride that will leave you breathless.

(I can’t wait for this book to hit the shelves though because when it does I might start a book discussion group for it.)

Possible Pairings: What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell, The Graces by Laure Eve, Everybody See the Ants by A. S. King, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga, Madapple by Christina Meldrum, The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer, Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith, Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten, The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams

“Did the elf have to die?”

Miss Print: “This guy is having problems with the printer.”

Bear: “Okay. First thing we have to do is kill the elf that lives in the printer.”

[Bear walks off to deal with printer problem]

Later . . .

Miss Print: “Did the elf have to die?”

Bear: “Of course. The elves always have to die. Why would you ask such a question?”

Miss Print: “I like elves.” [It’s true.]

The Ten Stages of Twitter

  1. You hear about Twitter from a friend or in the news. Intrigued, you file the information away for future use.
  2. Twitter keeps coming up but you still have no idea what it means. You ask a friend on Twitter to explain it to you. The idea of posting updates about your day in 140 characters or less sounds ridiculous. So does the idea of Facebook status updates minus the Facebook part.
  3. You discover a friend (or famous person’s) Twitter account. Intrigued, you being to read their updates by visiting the site periodically.
  4. After going through this for a week or two, you decide it might be time to join Twitter and see what it’s all about for yourself.
  5. Having joined Twitter it seems likely that you will never have anything interesting to say ever again. (You also have no followers.)
  6. Your Twitter self feels lonely, so you find the friend (or famous person) who inspired you to join Twitter and start following their updates. Some exploring leads you to the Twitter accounts of other interesting friends (or famous people).
  7. You’re starting to get the hang (and even the point) of Twitter. But you don’t understand how people spend entire days on the site. You check every evening or so and update a bit then.
  8. You discover Twitterfox, Tweet Deck, or some other programs that allow you to update Twitter from your internet browser window, desktop, or even your phone. You’re not sure how you  lived without these programs. You waffle between protective your updates and leaving them visible to the public.
  9. You start networking and chatting with the friends (or famous people) you have found on Twitter getting useful advice on everything from books to electronic purchase as well as some other unexpected bonuses.
  10. The next time someone asks for an explanation of Twitter, you’re the one doing the explaining.

“The patron is always right.”

The other day “The Bear” was fielding a phone call from a patron. The patron said she was ten years old but Bear remained uncertain. This conversation took place after he hung up with her:

Bear: “There’s no good way to tell a patron you think they’re lying on the phone.”

Miss Print: “The patron is always right.”

Bear: “What if they’re sacrificing a kitten?”

Miss Print: “Especially then.”

Dramacon Vol. 3: A Graphic Novel/Comic Book (Chick Lit Wednesday) Review

Dramacon Vol. 3 by Svetlana ChmakovaWith two anime conventions under her belt, Christie knows exactly what to expect at the Yatta Anime Convention. Even her artist/partner Bethany feels like a pro at the con–especially with her drawing on the official convention t-shirts. Still both girls are in for a few surprises in Dramacon Volume 3 (2007) by Svetlana Chmakova, the final installment in a super awesome series. (Find it on Bookshop.)

Christie and Matt might finally be ready to connect as more than friends. Matt’s girlfriend is out of the picture and Christie is out of excuses to not try and make their relationship work. But after two years of avoiding each other and denying their feelings, will these two be able to figure everything out before the convention is over?

While Christie knows exactly what she’s getting into at the convention, Bethany is completely surprised when she finds out her mother plans on dropping by the convention center. How will her mother react when she finds out that Bethany is at a comic convention working as, of all things, a comic artist?

This year’s convention might be a chance for the girls to realize a lot of their dreams–if they can make it through all the con drama first!

At this point, I think we’ve already established that I love Dramacon and think it’s brilliant. That said, I still wish this final installment had gone a bit differently. Compared to the first two volumes, Christie and Matt got very little “screen time.” Instead much of the comic focused on Bethany’s relationship with her mother and her own fledgling romance. While this story thread is very dramatic and compelling, I did start the series with Christie and I would have liked to spend more time on her character at the end of it.

Dramacon Volume 3 changes focus rather dramatically in comparison to the first two books in the series (as with the focus on Bethany and with much of the focus moving away from the actual convention). That said, this is still a great culmination to a much-loved series. Christie and Matt resolve (most of) their relationship problems once and for all. Bethany finally reveals her love of art to her mother.

By the end of the book there is a sense that whatever these characters encounter in the future they’ll be okay. Because they have each other. That’s a nice lesson to learn and one that this manga conveys very well. Dramacon was almost always cheerful and exuberant so it was nice to see the series end on an optimistic high note because the characters deserved nothing less as a sendoff.

Poor Little Rich Kids: A Book List for people who want to see how the other half really lives

As many of the characters here will tell you, the hardest part of having it all is having to deal with it all: The good, the bad, and the just plain weird. Living in worlds of privilege that most of us can only imagine, these characters don’t always have it as easy as we might think. Family bonds aren’t always so strong, and it turns out real friends aren’t that easy to find when you can buy everything else. If you want to see how the other half really lives (and how they deal with it) these books can help:

  • The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd
    Dade spends his last summer at home falling in love with a dangerous boy and watching the case of a missing girl unfold from the television in his home’s refrigerator.
  • Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron
    James has no idea what he’s going to do with his life. He just knows it can’t involve spending time with people his own age. Especially people his own age in college.
  • Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci
    Victoria Jurgen should, by all accounts, be one of the beautiful people. Instead she dresses as her favorite Sci-Fi movie character and calls herself Egg.
  • Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
    When you’re the most ingenious criminal mastermind in history at the age of twelve and a vast family fortune isn’t enough, it’s time to steal some gold from some fairies.
  • King of the Screwups by K. L. Going
    Liam Geller is Mr. Popularity until his father exiles him to a podunk town in upstate New York. Could the answer to his problems lie in becoming Mr. UNpopular?
  • Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley
    As she rehabs her busted-up knee, Syrah rehabs her heart and learns that she’s worth her weight in real gold.
  • Confessions of a Not It Girl by Melissa Kantor
    Jan (pronounced “Yahn”) Miller’s life might be one of privilege. But it is definitely not glamorous. She’d have to be an It Girl for that to happen.
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
    Frankie Landau-Banks has everything a girl could want: the looks, the boyfriend, the family money. So what set her on the path of possible criminal mastermind?
  • Trust Falls (Wessex Papers Book 1) by Daniel Parker
    When Fred arrives at Wessex Academy he uncovers intrigue and scandal that even the most spoiled of brats would find shocking.
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare: You’d think being Prince of Denmark would be easy. As if.
  • Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford: When their grandmother “Almighty Lou” announces her intentions to disinherit the family because one of them has deeply offended her, the Sullivan sisters have until New Year’s Day to confess to their trespasses or see the family fortune donated to a charity that donates ponchos to puppies in need.
  • Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar
    When you already have everything else, what’s the harm in a little scandal? Or a little gossip for that matter?

New Category

I decided just this second to start a new category. That category is called “Linktastic” and will point out any posts (in any of my other categories) that are filled with what I have termed to be useful, informative, or just plain interesting links. Enjoy!

Every move MU make, every step MU take, I’ll be watching MU

The library has been crazy this week! No air conditioner on two of the hottest days of the summer and gaping holes missing linoleum tiles all over the floor. Supposedly this will be fixed soon, but I grow worried.

After July 6 (a day that will not soon be forgotten by any library staff) things finally seem to be settling down to a normal keel. I have even reached detente with the new system having finally figured out how to make use of the key stroke option instead of using the mouse to constantly push annoying buttons.

This means I should have more chances to make sure the staff picks display is pretty. It’s been going fairly well. I have managed to suck in (er . . . I mean recruit) both Bear and one of the computer page’s as regular contributors.

What I am discovering, however, is that it’s very hard to maintain a staff picks section when most of your reading was done with a different library’s collection. Many of the books I have read and loved are not at MU because the collection developed and grew in a different direction than my previous places of employ. While not the end of the world, it does make it more of a challenge to find books I have read and want to endorse. I have a new batch of options after my (awesome) YA Lit class which will help–especially since I can add non-fiction books into my rotation of picks (yes, if something is really good I pick it more than once).

Anyway that’s the latest from that neck of the woods.

Book Giveaway: The White Queen[CLOSED]

As part of another sponsored book giveaway I have two copies of The White Queen (2009) by Philippa Gregory to give to two lucky winners. The books comes out August 18, so you could be one of the first readers to have it in hand. Again, I haven’t read the book myself, but you can see what it’s about on Amazon. Or by viewing the spiffy video below:

To enter simply post a comment below. Winners will be determined on the 20 and notified via email. If you like, also take a moment to share what your own favorite historical period is (this is because I am curious, it is not necessary to enter). Personally, I favor the any period between 1860 and 1930 in the USA–a wide spread perhaps but a very interesting time.

UPDATE: This giveaway is over. Congrats to the winners.