Friday, June 29, 2012

Dads, geeks and blue haired freaks

Dads, geeks and blue haired freaks
by Ellie Phillips
Language: English 
London : Electric Monkey, 2012.
295 p. ; 20 cm.
ISBN: 9781405258197; 1405258195  
Summary: Sadie Nathanson spends her life trying to survive the excruciating embarrassment of simply existing. It's hard enough being a bit of a shrinking violet within a loud and outspoken extended family, but the unexpected card from 'Dad' on her 15th birthday is the last straw. As 'Dad' was an Internet sperm-donor, it doesn't take a genius to work out that this is a bad joke, probably set up by her ex-best-friend Shonna. But it starts Sadie wondering - just who was her father? Is he the cause of her worry crinkle and wonky bum? What would happen if she tracked him down? So she decides to do just that. With help from her nerd cousin Billy, his friend Nodding Tony and a regular dose of 'Haironomics' (Sadie's own hairstyle-related philosophy system), they uncover a lot more than they bargain for.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Library of Congress Finally Acknowledges Donor Offspring: (But this is only a beginning)

In 2009, I published an article for the American Fertility Association entitled, "Librarians at a Loss to Help Donor Offspring," which I just last month reworked for the AASL blog. In it, I talked about the difficulty identifying books for parents and donor offspring children due to a lack of recognition by the Library of Congress in the form of an official subject heading. In 2010, Patricia Mendell and I published an article in Children & Libraries about self-published children's picture books about assisted reproductive technology. It included an extensive annotated bibliography of about 38 titles which was the entire number of books that we were able to identify at that time. (The number of children's books on that topic has since doubled).

The list was significant because, other than the list first published by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and compiled by Elaine Gordon, PhD and Ellen Speyer, MFT and the ASRM Education Committee, there was no other comprehensive list of children's books on this subject. As a librarian, such a list should have been a breeze to compile. I figured I would start with ASRM's list and then search for those books in the Library of Congress, see what subject headings were assigned to catalog them, and then create a new list. Well, it turned out, that would be impossible as the Library of Congress had no subject headings for "Donor offspring," "Children of gamete donors, or "Children of surrogate mothers," let alone subject headings for children of egg donors, sperm donors, or embryo adoption. Having already identified a few titles about these subjects that were included in the Library of Congress, but not cataloged as such, I wrote to them and suggested they create a new subject heading, "Donor-conceived," defined as individuals who have been created via sperm, eggs, or embryos donated by another person (a gamete donor). I also figured that since I myself was a librarian, my suggestion would have some influence. This is what I wrote:
There are many subject headings for "Children of --", i.e. Children of celebrities, Children of rabbis, Children of single parents, etc., but there are no subject headings for "Children of sperm donors" or "Children of surrogate mothers" or any of the assisted reproductive technologies. As a librarian, I have identified over 40 children's and YA books that have major characters who are the children of sperm donors, egg donors, etc., which is crucial to the plot and purpose of the book. Yet there is no subject heading under which to search for these books. My lists are here: and here: if you would like to see the books I've identified. There are more than enough to constitute the creation of a new LC subject heading. I would love to hear back from you on this as well. I'm a huge fan of the LC and I am at your site every day for my work.
However, this is the response I received:
We have not had the need to establish a heading for the children of sperm donors, as we have not cataloged any items that specifically focus of that topic. The existing headings have been adequate for the items that we've cataloged. We establish new headings only as they are needed for cataloging new works being added to our collection.
Not deterred, I wrote back to them:
How about "Artificial insemination, Human -- Offspring" or "Surrogate mothers -- Offspring?" These subject headings focus on the parents who produce these children, but there are no subjects yet for the donor-conceived. For example, the book: Sperm Donor Offspring: Identity and Other Experiences by Lynne W. Spencer, has as its subject headings: "Sperm banks -- United States" and "Artificial insemination, Human" but other than the title, the average patron might not know that this is a book about donor offspring if they were searching for a book that addressed the specific concerns of donor offspring.
And this is what they wrote back:
Our practice has been to use headings such as "Artificial insemination, Human" and "Surrogate motherhood" to catalog works on this topic.
That was in April 2009. Fast forward to June 2012 when I received a letter from noted radical librarian Sanford Berman, who is to the Library of Congress what Socrates was to ancient Athens and who is the subject of his own biography, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sandy Berman But Were Afraid to Ask. He read our article in Children & Libraries in August 2010 and himself wrote to the Library of Congress on our behalf suggesting they add the subject heading "Donor offspring" based on the extensive list of children's books put forth in our article. His letter informed me that the Library of Congress had finally decided to create a new subject heading for "Children of sperm donors." I jumped out of my chair when I read this! While some would like to believe that this announcement by the Library of Congress marks the beginning of an official public acknowledgement recognizing the existence of families created with the help of donors, the reality is that once again the rights of the donor-conceived are still being only partially represented and totally misunderstood. It is clear that the Library of Congress, in creating this new subject heading for "Children of sperm donors," has shown that they lack a genuine understanding of the donor offspring created with gamete donation, but also the implications both medically and psychologically surrounding the use of assisted reproductive technology (ART), as they also use the subject heading "Test tube babies" for children conceived via in vitro fertilization (IVF) even though they are created in petri dishes and not test tubes.

While their new subject heading follows their own convention for "Children of --," as in "Children of gay parents," and "Children of single parents," (two official LC subject headings), it is less than adequate and quite limiting for librarians trying to help these families find resources, as only one group of donor offspring is represented - children of sperm donors. If the subject heading must be listed under children, then it should be entitled "Children of gamete donors." Other variants then could be "Donor-conceived" or "Donor offspring."

While some will feel positively now that the Library of Congress has at last begun to acknowledge children created through donation with the assistance of another person, my colleague and co-author Patricia Mendell is less optimistic. "As a mental health practitioner who has been working in the field of reproductive medicine for over 25 years, the decision by the Library of Congress to create a subject heading for only one group of donor offspring is not only disappointing and frustrating, but hurtful and offensive to the thousands of donor-conceived individuals and their families who have been created with the help of assisted reproductive technologies."

When I decided to write to the Library of Congress in 2009, it was clear that they needed to create an all encompassing subject heading for the donor-conceived. Also, using the subject heading "Donor-conceived" would be the best and most accurate subject heading since it would recognize all individuals created with the help of a donor. The subject heading "Children of sperm donors" used for "Sperm donors' children," seems to imply an ownership or affiliation that may or may not feel accurate to the donor-conceived.

While the next step might be to get the Library of Congress to create subject headings for "Children of egg donors," "Children of surrogate mothers," and "Children of embryo donation," we would suggest instead that they look at the subject heading "Donor-conceived." Although it was possible to find some of this material using the existing Library of Congress subject headings like "Infertility," and "Artificial insemination -- Human," there was nothing that identified the experience of being a donor offspring. Books such as Janice Grimes' book series, Before you were born: our wish for a baby were cataloged as "Artificial insemination -- Human." And the Iréné Celcer series, Hope and Will have a baby was cataloged with "Infertility," and "Test tube babies" as subject headings. These subject headings were wholly inaccurate and inadequate. So how to find these books will remain a big challenge if one is looking for books about those conceived via surrogate mother, egg, and embryo donation.

I plan to continue to write to the Library of Congress and share with them the books that I have discovered without the help of a Library of Congress subject heading, urging them to create further change in how they catalog their books for this population of children. We know that of the many children's books on this subject, over 95 percent have been self-published, but many have not been sent to the copyright office of the Library of Congress. We would ask that these authors register their books and in so doing put pressure on the Library of Congress that they must, and need to, have a subject heading for "Donor-conceived."

 This post was co-authored with Patricia Mendell

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Catch & Release

Catch & release
by Blythe Woolston
Language: English
Minneapolis : Carolrhoda Lab, ©2012.
210 p. ; 20 cm.
ISBN: 9780761377559; 0761377557
Summary: Eighteen-year-old Polly and impulsive, seventeen-year-old Odd survive an deadly outbreak of flesh-eating bacteria, but resulting wounds have destroyed their plans for the future and with little but their unlikely friendship and a shared affection for trout fishing, they set out on a road trip through the West.

My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer

My mixed-up berry blue summer
by Jennifer Gennari
Language: English 
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012.
119 p. : ill., map ; 20 cm.
ISBN: 9780547577395; 0547577397
Summary: Twelve-year-old June Farrell spends the summer at her Vermont home getting used to the woman her mother is planning to marry and practicing her pie-baking skills, as she hopes to win the blue ribbon at the fair.


by Adrienne Maria Vrettos
Language: English 
New York : Margaret K. McElderry Books, ©2011.
193 p. ; 22 cm.
ISBN: 9781416994695; 1416994696
Summary: Months after coming out of alcohol and drug rehab, high school student Nan wakes up on the subway the day after Halloween wearing a torn Halloween costume, her long hair cut, and "HELP ME" scrawled across her chest, feeling sick and having no idea how she got there.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Librarians at a Loss to Help Donor Offspring

I do research. It might be why I became a librarian. I love to look things up, and then I enjoy the thrill of finding what I am looking for. I also enjoy looking things up for other people. But one of my favorite things to do is to look up subjects that are hard to find. But first you have to find subjects that are hard to find, and then try to find them. Well, I stumbled upon one. It’s books for and about donor offspring. What are donor offspring? They are children conceived via sperm or egg donation.

In 2003, I read a book review in Booklist of the book, Donuthead, by Sue Stauffacher. In the review, it was mentioned that the main character’s mother had had her son via artificial insemination. Serendipitously, I mentioned this to a friend who had an interest in this topic and she said, can you find me other books like that? Excited to perform a search, I said, “sure.” (I actually consider searching a hobby). So of course the first thing I did was go to the Library of Congress. I was going to take a look at their subject headings and just follow them and it would lead me to similar books. Well not so fast. It didn’t happen that way at all. The subjects listed for Donuthead were:

Self-actualization (Psychology)
Single-parent families
Mothers and sons 

Where were the subject headings telling me that the main character was donor-conceived? There were none. Okay. Dead end. I wasn’t expecting that. Where do I go next? I decided to broaden my search by doing a keyword search. Of course this was an option from the beginning, I just wasn’t happy about it. I thought this would be easy. I searched the term “donor offspring” as that is what adults conceived via gamete donor call themselves. A search for this term turned up one book, Experiences of donor conception : parents, offspring, and donors through the years by Caroline Lorbach. I looked at the subject headings and decided to use those to again narrow my search. I found as subject headings:

Human reproductive technology
Infertility – Treatment
Reproductive health

This was not helpful. I was looking for juvenile fiction similar to Donuthead in which the main character was a “donor offspring.” I wanted to impress my friend with my searching skills. Maybe there were no other books? Could be. Long story short, there were other books. The trick was to use so many different keywords to actually find them, but I did find some. But why no uniform subject headings for books that were essentially all about the same subject? I wrote to the Library of Congress about this myself. I gave them the list of all the books I had found that were written for children, and that were in their catalog, who were donor offspring and this is the response I got:
We have not had the need to establish a heading for the children of sperm donors, as we have not cataloged any items that specifically focus on that topic. The existing headings have been adequate for the items that we’ve cataloged. We establish new headings only as they are needed for cataloging new works being added to our collection.
Why were they not responsive? And from a librarian no less? A little reading on the Library of Congress turns out that they have a history of not being responsive to adding or changing their subject headings. Have you heard of Sanford Berman, Library of Congress gadfly? Turns out he’s been battling the Library of Congress to change its subject headings for years so that real people, not just librarians, can find what they are looking for. He actually cited me in an article I wrote so I decided to write to him, and I was happy to hear that he not only read my article in Children & Libraries, but employed his gadfly expertise to lobby them to add a new subject heading. I suggested “Children of sperm donors,” or “Children of egg donors,” or “Children of gamete donors.” Surely these children need representation in the Library of Congress as the Library of Congress subjects headings are the “de facto standard for libraries,” as Hope A. Olson states in her book, The Power to Name. Isn’t it in naming something that we acknowledge that something, someone exists? The existence of these children were not acknowledged by the Library of Congress. At the time I wrote to them, I had discovered thirteen children’s books that were written either for donor offspring children, or about donor offspring children. Thirteen! (And I have since found so many more). And maybe thirteen doesn’t sound like a lot, but did you know that the Library of Congress has just one book on the children of epileptics, yet this category of people gets its own subject heading? Same for the children of clergy in England, the children of coal miners in France, and the children of mentally ill mothers, to name a few. Just one book each! Yet I had identified so many more for the subject I was proposing be added, but the Library of Congress does not budge on these matters apparently. So where does this leave us? It leaves us with people like me who love to look for the hard-to-look-for. I have ended up having to use up to thirty different keywords to find books that could be found with just one subject heading: “donor offspring,” or, to follow Library of Congress conventions, “Children of gamete donors.” But I have managed. To date I have found about seventy-six books written for donor offspring children, and I have found about fifteen books written for young adults, and boy has it been fun searching for the unsearchable. I will continue to publish about this as nobody else is, and maybe the Library of Congress will eventually listen.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Spenderkind (Donor Child)

by Katrin Stehle
Language: German
Stuttgart : Gabriel Verlag/Thienemann, 2012.
237 pp.
ISBN: 9783522302845; 3522302842
Summary from Google Translate: Lina has great parents and her friend Julian. She is envied by many. But a day can change EVERYTHING. The day when Lina learns that her father is not her biological father. Is he really still your father? And as if that were not confusing enough, Lina feels suddenly attracted to Nick as well as to Julian. What matters more - the old or the new, the genes or the emotions? Lina has to find out necessarily where it belongs. A book about love, family ties and the search for identity.
Interview with the author:§ion=2&av=3&Itemid=11&view=interview&interid=74