For Teachers, LGBT@NYPL
Booktalking "Gravity" by Leanne Lieberman
Ellie, a 15-year-old Orthodox Jew, is happy to go to Bubbie's (her grandmother's) cottage this summer to learn about the flora and fawna. There, she meets Lindsay, a beautiful, provocative blond girl, whom Ellie is attracted to. Unlike boys, whom she is supposed to like, Ellie is captivated by Lindsay. They swim together in a canoe, and she visits Lindsay at her cottage.
However, Leviticus 18:22 states: "A man should not lie with a man the way he lies with a woman. It is an abomination and they should be put to death." This does not bode well for thoughts of a positive relationship with Lindsay.
In fact, as Ellie dreams of marrying Lindsay, she imagines a likely response from her Jewish relatives, "Lightning will leap down from the heavens, rivers will flood, tornadoes will spin. There will be locusts, hail and fire. First born children will suddenly perish, which means Abba (her father), Ima (her mother) and Neshima (her sister) will all die slow and agonizing deaths."
As she thinks of famous pairs, such as Romeo and Juliet, they all seem to consist of one male and one female, not two females or two males. When Lindsay and Ellie return to their homes and resume school, Ellie pursues Lindsay and they begin visiting each other at their houses. When Ellie asks Mrs. Lowenstein (her sex ed teacher) about lesbian attractions, she is informed that "Evil impulses are often just like a bad habit." Ellie fervently attempts to banish thoughts of girls from her head; she even creates a bald spot on her head by punishing herself for such thoughts. However, she is unable to stop thinking about females, and the more Ellie thinks about how gay attraction is frowned upon in Orthodox Judaism, the less enthusiastic she is about the religion. Ellie's sister Neshema is also pulling away from Orthodox Judaism as she moves towards college. Bubbie supports both Neshema and Ellie in their quest for their identities as young women in the world.
Gravity by Leanne Lieberman
Cataloging Gay Community Center libraries: I have greatly enjoyed cataloging the gay community center library in Dublin, Ireland, the Outhouse, and also the gay community center in Albany, NY. Neither of the libraries had a cataloging system. I used index cards and put the pertinent information (title, author, publication date, publishing co., etc.) on each card. I rearranged the books on the shelves so that they were in subject areas. I was also interested to discover the content of such libraries. There is much more written on gay male than on lesbian romance. However, I was happy to discover books on lesbian romance for teens in the collection of The New York Public Library. I have found the gay community to be very welcoming as well.