{diversity in lit} friday #10: (re)sources

Gabriel Picart – “Passion for Reading”

There are some brilliant blogs and challenges out there that provide lists, reviews, or linking hubs for reviews regarding Diversity in Literature. Below are a few links from recent weeks. I try to keep links relevant up to a week, but I’ve been away.


Leah at Books Speak Volumes reviews Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole (Random House 2014) “A young Nigerian man living in New York returns home to Lagos for a visit. While there, he wanders the city and reflects on what has changed and what has stayed the same.” 

“Cole muses on different episodes of his narrator’s visit to Lagos. Each chapter has a theme and is accompanied by a black-and-white photograph. It is easy to imagine that many of the vignettes are drawn directly from Cole’s experience of Nigeria’s capital city. Cole’s writing is exquisite, and I loved his portrayal of life in a city that I am unfamiliar with.”–Leah

I’ve been stockpiling reviews from Alison at An Uncalibrated Centrifuge [they’re so good]. I will restrain and share two today. both are young person’s novels.

1001 cranes–A young person’s novel, 1001 Cranes by Naomi Hirahara (Delacorte 2008) is about 12-year-old Angela Kato summer in L.A., “the last thing she wants to do is spend the entire summer with her grandparents. But in the Kato family, one is never permitted to complain. Grandma Michi and Aunt Janet put Angela to work in their flower shop, folding origami and creating 1001 crane displays for newlyweds.” goodreads

“I wish 1001 Cranes had existed when I was a kid. It reminded me a lot of my own childhood. I used to visit my grandparents in Pasadena each summer. One summer Ama read me the story of Sadako, and we learned how to make origami cranes. Luckily, my home life was never as fraught as Angela’s is.

1001 Cranes is a great story about love and identity. All of the characters are well-developed. I would love companion novels about some of the side characters to Angela’s story.”–Alison

good braiderThe Good Braider by Terry Farish (Marshall Cavendish 2012): In spare free verse laced with unforgettable images, Viola’s strikingly original voice sings out the story of her family’s journey from war-torn Sudan, to Cairo, and finally to Portland, Maine. Here, in the sometimes too close embrace of the local Southern Sudanese Community, she dreams of South Sudan while she tries to navigate the strange world of America – a world where a girl can wear a short skirt, get a tattoo or even date a boy; a world that puts her into sharp conflict with her traditional mother who, like Viola, is struggling to braid together the strands of a displaced life.”–publisher’s comments

“From the author’s note at the end it seems Farish really did her homework in the writing of this book. I don’t know much about Sudan or Sudanese refugees, but I found Viola’s story pretty compelling. I appreciated that Farish didn’t shy away from heavy subjects. The story does drag at times but always picked up again.”–Alison

Debra Ginsberg reviews a book I am going to have to read for Shelf Awareness (May 2nd issue): Ruby: a novel by Cynthia Bond (Hogarth 2014). “Cynthia Bond’s debut novel, Ruby, manages fully to explore memory, racism, community and the resilience of the human spirit–no small task–by creating a sort of dream in which human kindness and cruelty are shown as they are: inextricable.

rubyThe once beautiful and literally haunted Ruby Bell, who fled her Texas town and her own demons in the 1950s, returned some years later, though her tenuous grasp on sanity slipped away soon after. She became the locus for all the town’s fear and shame. For all, that is, but Ephram Jennings.

Ephram remembers her as the girl he has never stopped loving, and asks his sister to make one of her legendary “white lay angel” cakes–light, sweet, precious, coveted. Dressed in his Sunday best, he tries to carry it through the woods to Ruby’s house, a place of nightmare and squalor. It is a hero’s journey, fraught with danger and trial. Cake in hand, Ephram falls and tears his clothes, fends off questions from passersby, encounters racism and harassment from the law and forces himself to lie about his destination. With each obstacle, we learn a little more about the history of the town, of Ruby, and of Ephram’s connection to her.

Much of Ruby involves situations and events that are dark and difficult but within and around these are also the powers of love and kindness. Cynthia Bond renders all of it with exceptional grace and insight. This is an unusual, rare and beautiful novel that is meant to be experienced as much as read.”

————Book Lists/Sites/Challenges———–

site:   In my researching diversity in Christian Fiction, I found Debra Johnson’s blog She Likes to Read, which may be of interest to those looking for readers and reviewers of multicultural lit.

site  I’ve started a pin board “Read Me: Diversity in Lit {grown-up shelves}” where I am showcasing authors (poets/fiction writers), their image is linked to their site, or a site about them. I will be slowly adding images so as to not overwhelm followers.

site/list:   The Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards “are given annually to the children’s books published the preceding year that effectively promote the cause of peacesocial justice,world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence.” And they’ve just announced their 61st Awardees: Michelle Markel, Melissa Sweet, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Debbie Levy, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Elizabeth Suneby, Suana Verelst, Katheryn Erskine, and Anne Westrick. 

Challenge:  Spanish Language Literature Month JULY 2014: “join in with all literature translated or written in Spanish!” the hosts are Caravana de recuerdos and Winstons Dad’s BlogThey’ve resource lists and what-not. 


The first 3 are found via Tor.com:

Chen Qiufan (aka Stanley Chan) writes (and Ken Liu translates) “The Torn Generation: Chinese Science Fiction in a Culture in Transition” : “In 1903, another revolutionary time in Chinese history when the new was replacing the old, Lu Xun, the father of modern Chinese literature, said, “the progress of the Chinese people begins with scientific fiction.” He saw science fiction as a tool to inspire the nation with the spirit of science and to chase away the remnants of feudal obscurantism. More than a hundred years later, the problems facing us are far more complicated and likely not amenable to scientific solutions, but I still believe that science fiction is capable of wedging open small possibilities, to mend the torn generation, to allow different visions and imagined future Chinas to coexist in peace, to listen to each other, to reach consensus, and to proceed, together.”

Another article translated by Ken Liu, “The Worst of All Possible Universes and the Best of All Possible Earths: Three Body and Chinese Science Fiction” by Cixin Liu. “Science fiction is not a genre that has much respect in China. Critics have long been discouraged from paying attention to the category, dismissed as a branch of juvenile literature. The subject of Three Body—an alien invasion of Earth—is not unheard of, but rarely discussed.Thus, it surprised everyone when the book gained widespread interest in China and stimulated much debate. The amount of ink and pixels that have been spilled on account of Three Body is unprecedented for a science fiction novel.”

Comic book creator Gene Luen Yang shares the “Top Ten Asian Pacific American Comics Characters“: “I’m doing my part [in celebrating May, Asian Pacific American Month] by sharing with you my Top Ten Favorite APA characters in comics. They aren’t listed in any specific order, but they all meet these requirements: They’re in comics, they’re of Asian or Pacific Islander descent, they’re American, and they make my heart happy.” It is, unsurprisingly, an informative and entertaining read.

Zetta Elliott posts “Making our own Market: Dr. Zetta Elliott on the power of self-publishing” at The Brown Bookshelf. “At this point in my career, self-publishing is probably the only way I can put my books in the hands of the urban kids I serve.”

I hope you did not miss Zetta Elliott’s May 18th article in The Huffington Post: just in case: “It’s Not Me, It’s You: Letting Go of the Status Quo” : “Missing from the diversity conversation is any mention of equity–equal opportunities for all. Right now the vast majority of children’s books are written by white authors. If more of those white authors start to write about people of color (and/or LGBT people, people with disabilities, people from different socio-economic classes), that will increase diversity; more books for young readers will begin to reflect the range of different people in our society. But such a move would do nothing to ensure equity within the industry. Equity insists that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate and right now less than 5% of the books published annually in the US are written by African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans.” 

Fans of Laini Taylor and diversity done well : K. Imani Tennyson at Rich in Color writes about “Diversity Done Right: Dreams of Gods & Monsters” looking at Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. “I fully respect authors who don’t insult the intelligence of the teen reader and my respect for Laini Taylor has grown three-fold with her creation of a truly diverse world.”


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