Finalist: Bianca Hezekiah, Pratt Institute School of Information
League of Readers Book Club (LORe)
Close your eyes and picture a nerd. What do they look like? What about a gamer or manga enthusiast, or someone who goes to conventions? Chances are, you didn’t picture a woman, and even more likely, didn’t picture a person of color, but we do exist! Nerds of color often get left out of the greater nerd and geek communities, and if they are acknowledged, it often comes with lots of awkwardness. Whether that means fans are stuck with unnecessarily specific labels (for instance, “Blerd” is a portmanteau meaning “black nerd”), or get questioned by family and community on the validity of their interests, it can be tough to be a nerd who doesn’t look anything like the characters you’re so dedicated to. All nerds are passionate about their respective fandoms and areas of geek subculture, but it can be hard to fully connect with your fandom peers if you feel like the odd one out.
The League of Readers book club (LORe) will provide a vibrant discussion space and community for Brooklyn teens looking for like-minded peers who also love media and “nerd” subculture. Our book picks aim to be inclusive with diverse characters, and each monthly book also corresponds to a movie or tv show, because fandom goes beyond just books! Titles like Ta Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther and Brian K. Vaughan’s Runaways are cool stories that are contemporary, current, and also let kids literally see themselves in print and onscreen. LORe members will be encouraged to discuss all aspects and facets of each story, from plot to artwork to casting – no detail is too small!
We also hope to support those deeply devoted teens who make fanart and fanfiction, and let them know their creative efforts are not only valued but representative of real skill. To further this endeavor, some meetings will also feature adult guest speakers who will come and speak about their enthusiasm for nerd and geek fandoms, and how it shaped their education and career paths into things like comics retail, game development, and librarianship.
Becoming a member of the League of Readers will give these respective teens a fun place to meet new friends, develop new literacy skills, and be themselves! Lots of nerds have online friends, but hanging out with friends in person is so much more fun. With this book club, we hope to help kids foster new social relationships and to also help them take pride in their passions. If you’ve written a 25k word fanfic about Naruto, you’re not silly, you’re a writer! If you’ve filled sketchbooks with drawings of Sith lords, you’re an artist! LORe aims to “meet kids where they are” and beyond by making an engaging, comfortable space for teens to hang out.
You don’t have to run a makerspace or have a 3D printer in order to have a successful program, and by hosting LORe we hope to emphasize that enthusiasm can get you far – both in your career and also with patrons!