Thursday, August 7, 2014

     I think I might start writing, "Carrot & Stick" posts, because lately it seems like I'll be reading a book that bashes vegetarianism/veganism, then the very next one I pick up, supports it. Case in point: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander and No Place by Todd Strasser.

        I enjoyed both books, particularly The Crossover, which was written in beautiful free verse, a great choice for this particular title about twin brothers who, while enjoying their fame as junior high basketball stars, worry about losing their father to poor health, and each other. No Place by Strasser, was not quite as compelling or beautiful, but definitely makes readers think about society and how we treat homelessness. 
     But a third of the way through No Place, the main character discusses how his parents, both vegetarian, cook up meat just for him to add "extra protein" to his portion of the family's meals. He states that his parents know he needs the protein, because he is a star player for his school's baseball team. Of course, his mother is the vegetarian stereotype: successful big-wig turned peace-loving, organic gardening expert. The perpetuation of these two myths is frustrating as usual. I know many vegetarians and vegans who are not necessarily the most peaceful people ever (although, truth be told, if you take meat out of the equation for compassion's sake, you can't help but think about being more compassionate to your own species). Most important, the protein myth drives me NUTS. 
     Most Americans get twice as much protein they need each day (or more!), yet the majority also eat far fewer fruits and vegetables - just one or two servings, when the recommended amount is 5 to 8 or more! We should be thinking about how to stave off cancer and other deadly diseases with the rich nutrients, vitamins, and phytochemicals from plant foods. Instead, we are piling on the protein bars when in reality we are not exercising enough to warrant those types of extra calories. And don't think that the running, CrossFit, yoga crowds are the majority (yet). More than one third of Americans are obese. 
    In addition, even if we were a nation of very active people, we wouldn't require that much more protein, and it is easily obtained through plant foods. I should know - I am a "meat-free athlete" who has run two half-marathons, among other things. Here is a great link to more information on the topic: 
     The Crossover by Alexander, takes a different, albeit not much more sensitive approach. Twins Josh and Jordan are worried about their father's hidden health crisis. Their mother struggles with him over it, until she finally is able to drag him to a doctor. She returns with a new healthy eating plan that involves, much to the rest of the family's chagrin, no more fried chicken. Instead, they are eating healthier fare such as hummus, which the twins and their dad moan about. While I understand how hard it is to ditch fatty, salty, fried foods and the like, I have yet to encounter a person who does not like hummus (OK, so I'm sure there are a FEW out there). Even my 87 year-old grandmother, who scoffs at vegan food, likes hummus. Luckily, it is true that a healthy vegan diet can reverse heart disease, and I was pleased to see that emphasized in Alexander's book. 
    Still, while The Crossover treats vegetarian and vegan diets with respect, it misrepresents the food as not being as decadent, filling, or delicious. And, I hate to say it, it also perpetuates the "it's all healthy" myth. Any online search (or cookbook perusal in your favorite library or bookstore!) can immediately dispel these notions. For example: There are vegans out there who are unhealthy and overweight! Thankfully, it is normally a very healthful way to live. Now, off to go eat a bag of Dandies Marshmallows.

Monday, July 28, 2014

     Welcome to the inaugural post of The Vegan Librarian! Yes, if you are an avid blog follower, and happen to be vegan and a librarian, you may have already found my old blog "The Vegan Librarian." Well, stupid account issues meant that I couldn't get into that old account (it HAS been four years since I posted!- it would figure I would forget my password and be unable to reset anything). So, I'm TAKING IT BACK! :) If you are interested, here's a link to the old blog:

     I've been blogging overall since about 2006, so this isn't new hat to me, but I've also been out of the blogosphere (at least as far as writing goes!) pretty much since then, so I have a lot to catch up on! Work, children, and life have taken up much of my time, but I've made it a work goal to post on this blog again, and catch up professionally, so here goes!
    I'll be writing about anything young adult literature-related, obviously, but if something food-ish makes its way onto these pages...well, I don't think most readers will mind!
    What I've noticed over the past few years in my writing sabbatical, is how many teen vegetarian characters there are - vegan as well - in YA lit. So I'll be posting a lot about what I'm reading in regards to that. I hope you will leave your feedback and let me know of titles you are reading that are similar!

    First case in point....Counting by 7s by Holly Sloan.

     A beautiful book, despite some of the professional reviews, that draws heavily on character development, although the plot is intriguing as well. Twelve year old Willow Chance has lost both her parents in a tragic car accident, and now must piece together a new life. Living temporarily with a very kind, but poor family, she doesn't feel right in asking for anything, even vegetarian meals. She simply picks out the meat and, even at the very end of the story, still says nothing when they offer her a bite of picked tongue sandwiches (p 374).
     "I don't want to cause trouble," she thinks, in an earlier passage, "so I haven't said anything about being a vegetarian. I just push the chicken or the pork pieces off to the side and then later transfer them to a napkin, and then at the end of the meal I sneak them into the trash. I know I'm eating meat bits that escape this tragically simple procedure, but the principle of my decision is intact, even if the reality is compromised."
(p 176).
    Willow, a true genius with a gift for numbers and biology (she is an expert on skin diseases and gardening) demonstrates that choosing vegetarianism can be an intellectual choice, even if later it becomes an ethical and heartfelt one. I say, "even if," not to diminish the ethical and heart, but just to say that sometimes you make an informed decision that later makes its way into your values and heart.
    I think that caring for other sentient beings is a heartfelt choice but also one that many authors are having their insightful teen characters make. Addie, in Addie on the Inside by James Howe is another example. Strong and smart, she informs herself about the world around her, and cares deeply about the plight of others, including animals. Being vegetarian or vegan is simply another facet of Willow and Addie, and I applaud Sloan and Howe for not making it a laughable one.