A few links to reviews, articles, sites, etc. of the Diversity in Literature concern from around a small portion the book blogosphere, accumulated over the past week or so.
–Swapna Krishna reviews Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera (St.Martin’s 2014). “A gorgeously written novel about two young women affected in very different ways by the Sri Lankan civil war, Island of a Thousand Mirrors tells difficult stories without being too heavy. Readers who enjoy cultural fiction shouldn’t hesitate to pick up this illuminating book.”
–Thuy Dinh reviews The Lotus and the Storm by Lan Cao (Viking 2014) for Shelf Awareness. “Offering a rarely discussed perspective on the Vietnam War, Cao’s second novel contends that the loss of Vietnam was not inevitable, but due largely to the U.S.’s misguided exit strategy that left South Vietnam vulnerable to the Communist North. Shifting her focus to life in the U.S., Cao also questions the trajectory of material success among Asian Americans. Her novel suggests that a calm, integrated self–in spite of any traumatic history–promises more fulfillment than any outward embrace of the American Dream. As such, The Lotus and the Storm upholds Buddhism’s fundamental tenet: the need to cherish the present and let go of lost dreams.”
–I plan to post a review on this book next week, meanwhile A.V. Club has this to say about Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (Knopf 2014), comparing it to his earlier works: “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki may be Murakami’s most human novel yet.”
–I tend to post Fiction (and Poetry) reviews, but this Non-Fic post included a book of interest to me, so… Edi (Crazy QuiltEdi) shares Up For Sale: Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery by Alison Marie Behnke. “Up for Salebrings to light many of the ways this crime against our humanity is perpetrated today. I liked that the book made sure readers understood this global crime isn’t just committed ‘over there’, but that it happens here in America everyday. The author treats the young adult readers as if they’re aware enough to need to know about human trafficking and without being exceptionally graphic, she provides a dose of reality.”
—-Also at Shelf Awareness, Jaclyn Fulwood’s review of Michael Cho’s comic Shoplifter (Pantheon 2014). I’m looking forward to reading this one. “Cho expertly depicts the internal conflict between the need for security and the desire to explore one’s dreams. His drawings possess a subtlety yet broadcast emotions clearly; a single change in the set of Corinna’s mouth takes her from doubtful to wistful in only two frames. This quick read will capture readers’ sympathies with its everywoman heroine and quiet but powerful climax.”
–Maya Rajami (for The Riverdale Press) writes about how “Students Struggle with Ongoing Segregation.”Kathy Soba remembers her classmates’ disbelieving reactions when they heard she had never met anyone who was not black or Hispanic before coming to the High School of American Studies at Lehman College. “They kind of laughed. They were like, Kathy, you’ve never met a white person before, a Jewish person? And I was like, honestly, no.”
–Claire Kirch (for Publisher’s Weekly) writes “Over the Reading Rainbow: PW Talks with LeVar Burton” “Burton told PW that he was inspired to write The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm in response to “all of the headline tragedies in America these days,” particularly shootings in schools and on streets. “The loss of life and property take a huge toll – especially on children,” he noted, explaining that he wanted to write a children’s book that addresses “when bad things happen to good people – which happens often in life.” Burton also wanted to relay a message of the importance of having family and friends to help one through life’s challenges. He did so via a children’s book because, he explains, “storytelling is my job. It’s what I’ve done for over 30 years.”
–Zetta Elliott’s “pitch” to a kid-lit review journal “Treasure or Trash? The Argument for Reviewing Self-Published Books” “Members of the children’s literature community are paying close attention to the diversity debate but the industry will not change overnight. If the most trusted review outlets exclude self-published books, then they are upholding the status quo by privileging a system that clearly disadvantages writers of color. They are also denying their followers access to titles that might help to fill the ‘diversity gap.'”
You should read the entire “pitch,” it isn’t long. And you should take Elliott up on her offer to read/review two of her books.
–You’ve hopefully seen the articles following Gene Luen Yang’s speech at the 2014 National Book Festival. Michael Cavna’s Washington Post article hosts the transcript. I’ve the impulse to excerpt the whole thing. “We have to allow ourselves the freedom to make mistakes, including cultural mistakes, in our first drafts. I believe it’s okay to get cultural details wrong in your first draft. It’s okay if stereotypes emerge. It just means that your experience is limited, that you’re human.
Just make sure you iron them out before the final draft. Make sure you do your homework. Make sure your early readers include people who are a part of the culture you’re writing about. Make sure your editor has the insider knowledge to help you out. If they don’t, consider hiring a freelance editor who does.
Also, it’s okay if stereotypes emerge in the first drafts of your colleagues. Correct them – definitely correct them – but do so in a spirit of generosity. Remember how soul-wrenching the act of writing is, how much courage it took for that writer to put words down on a page.”
—NPR shares “In A Foster Home, Two Boys Become ‘Kinda Like Brothers‘”. They interview author Coe Booth about her experiences as a Social Worker and how that has influenced her writing. Kinda Like Brothers is her newest middle-grade novel. “On the intended audience for the book: ‘Everybody — but particularly, I want kids who see themselves in this book because it’s hard to find books that are for them and about them. It’s not a fairy tale, it’s a reality and it’s, you know, it’s complicated. But I hope it’s true.'”
–Edi (Crazy QuiltEdi) interviews award-winning author Kekla Magoon whose latest novel is How It Went Down (Henry Holt 2014). “I write about young characters. Probably partly because that is what I knew best at the time I started writing. My first book was published when I was 25, and so the natural things for me to write about were teenage things because that was my experience. […] Young people have a lot to learn, sure, but we also have a lot to contribute. There is always plenty of talk about “when you’re older…” and “what do you want to be when you grow up?” but who is asking kids and teens, “what do you want to be right now, today?” As a writer for teens I get to ask those questions, of my characters and of my readers.”
–This week’s “Writer’s Life” at Shelf Awareness features Lan Cao, author of Monkey Bridge (Viking, 1997) and The Lotus and the Storm (Viking 2014); Thuy Dinh interviews. “Sometimes the American dream is portrayed as something that is a dazzling, slightly Pygmalion-like process that involves taking the raw material of the refugee or the immigrant and molding her into this new being called an American. Sometimes, it’s a very violent process. I remember Bharati Mukherjee saying somewhere that it’s akin to murdering a part of your old innate self and creating this new entity–but the new entity is a cobbled, brittle self prone to dissolution.”
>>A lot of interviews this week, I know! Two more though.
–Rachel Held Evans interviews the author of Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength, Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes. “The StrongBlackWoman is ubiquitous in popular culture and in day-to-day life. It’s hard to find a film or television character portrayed by a Black actress that does not personify the StrongBlackWoman in some way. […] Unfortunately, examples of the StrongBlackWoman are not limited to film. You also see her in the African American women whom you encounter on a daily basis. One of the most striking experiences that I’ve had in writing this book is the fact that when I describe what a StrongBlackWoman is, nearly everyone I talk to, regardless of their own race and gender, can identify some woman in their life who lives into the role – a family member, friend, co-worker, or congregation member who constantly sacrifices herself on behalf of others, who carries an inordinately heavy load of responsibility, and who rarely asks for help.”
–Little Willow (Bildungsroman) interviews comic book creator Jen Wang (Koko Be Good) who has a new book out from First Second called In Real Life by Cory Doctorow. As Willow notes, “If you like multiplayer RPGs and graphic novels, then you should pick up IN REAL LIFE by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang when it hits the shelves on October 14th.” Wang: “I’d never adapted anything before and part of the appeal was First Second allowed me a lot of flexibility in translating the story to comics. Cory’s prose is very dialogue driven, which would’ve been a little visually static, so I was able to move it in a more action-driven direction. It allowed me to use my skills as a writer too, which made the overall experience more fun for me.”
—–Booklists, Sites, etc.—–
–“We Read Too is a book resource app that includes OVER 300 books written by AUTHORS OF COLOR featuring CHARACTERS OF COLOR!” Yeah, I was pretty excited to learn of this as well.
–“Colorín Colorado is a free web-based service that provides information, activities and advice for educators and Spanish-speaking families of English language learners (ELLs).” I love that they provide links in order to purchase bilingual versions of books where available. They are a great resource for books lists: here are a few, but do explore further.