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June 9, 2015

Badass Ladies You Should Know: Sarah Hannah Gómez

Kate Hart




picture of sarah hannah gomez
Sarah Hannah Gómez is someone I knew from the internet, but I didn't realize how badass she was until supporters of the project suggested her for a profile. Hannah's a student, librarian, activist, and a writer of all kinds -- not to mention a cycling instructor and classically trained pianist -- and I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I have.

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Kate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) led you there?

Hannah: I'm not sure that I've settled into a "career" yet. I am a credentialed librarian, which is my "job," and I'm a former (hopefully future, too) graduate student in children's literature, so that's my "field." And I like being creative, so I have "projects." I haven't figured out how to make my projects the things that make me money and keep rent paid, and I think that would ultimately be my "career." My ultimate dream is to develop and produce really good television adaptations of kidlit and YA, but thus far I've mostly learned that people in Hollywood don't like educated people, so I'm working on that.

To stop rambling and get back to your actual question, I'm currently working on a textbook chapter for school librarians, a screenplay for the screenwriting class I'm working on, and two novels. I'm also trying to build two collective blogs, one on YA and bodies and one on series fiction, both of which should be launched by the summer, and both of which are projects with really amazing people that I love and respect and am lucky enough to call friends.


This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson
Kate: When and how did you decide to commit to your career? How does it intersect with your passions?

Hannah:  Three things pushed me towards librarianship: first, I read a book called This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson, which made librarians sound like superheroes (often, though not always, true). Then, it was the fact that I have been a lifelong library user but never felt particularly comfortable or welcome in the physical library space, and I thought maybe I should try to become the person I never had. What finally got me there is that I found the dream Master's degree program in children's literature at Simmons, and they offered a dual degree program in library science. So I thought, "Well, here's a way to get the degree I want and a degree in Paying Job." So that's what I did. It was the best two years of my life and it also financially ruined my life forevermore, but it was totally worth it.



Kate: Do you have any (other) creative outlets? How do they influence/affect your main work (if at all)?

Hannah:  I am a classically trained pianist (please don't take that to mean anything fancy except that I can't improvise or play jazz and am a total slave to printed music) and singer, and while I haven't really played the piano much since college, I do have a singing group at work. I'm not sure if it inspires me or just keeps my brain working, but I'm certainly a lot less happy when I'm not musicking. And both of the novels I'm working on star music lovers or musicians, so I guess I was wrong when I said they weren't related. They're so related I don't even notice.


portrait of sarah hannah gomez as a young badass
Portrait of the Artist as
a Young Badass
Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Hannah:  Sticking to one thing all the way through when there are so many ideas and people and things that excite me.


Kate: How do you stay inspired? Productive?

Hannah:  Inspiration's easy. I love books and academic scholarship and television and my students, so there's always a well of ideas there. Productive is hard, because I work full time, and commuting in California is its own full time job besides, so time. But I've learned that I'm happier when I'm learning things (hence taking a community college course in screenwriting) and I'm more productive when I have less free time, so the more that's on my calendar, the more I add my own time slots of writing, exercise, etc, and then I actually get it done. I also have a critique group for writing, so knowing that they're expecting something from me keeps me working.


Kate: How do you deal with negativity?

Hannah:  I wallow for a good long time until the wallowing becomes more awful than whatever was negative to begin with, and then I can reenter the world. I am able to be very zen about lots of things a lot of the time and shake a lot off, and I've spent a lot of time and effort cultivating a very thick skin to constructive criticism and a good double consciousness that DuBois would hopefully be proud of. That said, ask a doctor and they would tell you my blood pressure indicates that I'm not so zen at all. So I guess I deal with negativity by not dealing with it.

I have been thinking lately about how negativity has always been my thing (maybe that's why I don't need to "deal" with it; it's just a part of me - kvetching and criticizing and seeing the dark side. It's not that I don't see positive things or don't like anything, but I can't always be bothered to say that something is a nice shade of blue when there are serious things to be annoyed about), but it's only recently that I realized that what I think of as my quirky pseudo-negative approach to things is seen by more people as Angry Black Woman, and I don't know how to navigate that when I consider that my righteous, earned, educated rage just looks like a cliché to others.


Kate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Hannah:  I have a very, very strong mind block and don't recall any failures. When I am reminded of things that I had wiped from my memory that were "failures," I have anxiety and stress about them for ages. Now that I'm thinking about your question, I'm remembering my GRE scores (only the general impression; I thankfully "lost" the letter and my password for the website and cannot remember the numbers) and the graduate school admission/denial process and other horrible things I don't want to think about, but I guess one of the perks of always being excited about something new is that I can put away failure for a little while, get started on the new thing, and then come back to the failure when I have the mental space to wallow in negativity for awhile. Wow, those questions were connected.


phenomenal woman by maya angelou
Kate: Did you have any defining moments that galvanized your understanding of and/or commitment to feminism? How does it inform/inspire your work? 

Hannah: Hmmm. In 10th grade, we had to bring in a poem that we liked and read it aloud. I had just seen the movie "Poetic Justice" (I was going through a Tupac phase), so I brought in Maya Angelou's "Phenomenal Woman," which I knew almost immediately was not a good choice for high school, but I don't listen to myself generally. This dudebro in my class, who had previously complimented my good taste in rap music, asked after I read it, "Hannah, are you a feminist?" And I knew right then that the fact that my answer was yes but that he wasn't actually asking what he was asking meant that I had to choose my answer very carefully--and that I had to feel insulted even though I knew it shouldn't be an insult, and that I would be labeled.

After that, I think it was a long time before I thought about feminism again. I thought a lot about the sociological concepts I was learning in college gen ed courses, but they were mostly centered around ethnic and racial identities, not feminism. I really think being on Twitter surrounded by amazing current feminists I never would have heard of if I hadn't made the internet such an integral part of my being has made me comfortable calling myself a "feminist" and "woman" instead of a "girl." I'm serious. Twitter is my absolute favorite location in the world. It has changed my life.


Kate: What are the best ways to support other women?

Hannah:  Read them. Retweet them. Recommend them. Talk to them. Listen to them.


Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?

Hannah:  Aspire to be yourself and then someone will dub you a badass. This is the one time where you don't get to have agency for yourself; you have to let others see it in you.

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Sarah Hannah Gómez grew up in southern Arizona. A biracial adoptee raised in an intercultural Chicano and Jewish family of teachers, she attended both public and private schools, lived in a house her classmates described as "the one with all the bookshelves," and got her BA in creative writing, music, and Spanish from the University of Arizona. She received her MA in children's literature and MS in library and information science from Simmons College in 2013. Now she lives in northern California and works as a school librarian. She also just got certified as an indoor cycling instructor, because she has totally drunk the Cali Kool-aid of fitness obsession. She is currently writing lots of things some of the time and thinking about more things most of the time.

You can learn more about her at mclicious.org and her scoop compilation of articles relating to diversity in media, or follow on Twitter @shgmclicious and Tumblr: shgmclicious.tumblr.com.

Keep an eye on the Badass Ladies You Should Know website for part two of Hannah's interview, plus her picks for more badass ladies YOU should know!





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