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Tag: Ellen Oh

#BFYA2019 Nominees Round Up, September 11 Edition

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
Delacorte Press / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: July 31, 2018
ISBN: 978-1524718329 

Five years after the deaths of five Sunnybook cheerleaders Monica, the sister of one of them, decides to look further into their deaths when she uncovers information that leads her to believe their deaths by car accident, murder, and suicide actually had fowl play involved.

Resolve to Read Better in 2015

resolve to read betterAs is usual with all new year tasks, I’m a bit behind on reading resolutions for 2015. Crazy as it seems, it’s almost halfway through January! I’ve been thinking about this due to some great reading resolution posts from around the internet. Book Riot has some especially great posts about how trying to read as many books as possible isn’t always the greatest and some suggestions for “reading harder.” Pop Sugar also has an interesting list of ideas to spur your reading habits.

Of course there are also the excellent and fun reading challenges that we do here on the Hub like the Morris/Nonfiction challenge and the Hub challenge. There’s still time to get in on the Morris/Nonfiction challenge and then get ready for the Hub challenge after the Youth Media Awards are announced! Full disclosure: I didn’t quite finish the Hub challenge last year but may give it another go this year!

In addition to these reading challenges and resolutions, I loved following all of the updates and news about the We Need Diverse Books campaign and thought that I was doing well reading diversely. But then I took a look at all of the books that I read last year and so many of the authors were white, straight, and featured characters who were the same, and a lot like me. In the library where I work, most of the teens that I see all day are minority students. And most of them are boys. My reading – about a lot of white girls in science fiction or fantasy settings – may not be necessarily speaking to their experiences. It’s actually pretty embarrassing; I should be doing better! I try my best to be an advocate for LGBTQ students and our populations of color. I buy a lot of diverse books for my library’s teen collection. I guess I just don’t read as many as I should. 

Is This Just Fantasy?: It’s A White, White World–And That’s Got To Change.

Just Fantasy PoC fantasyAs a life-long devotee of fantasy fiction, I’ve frequently defended the value of stories that feature dragons, magically gifted heroines, or angst-ridden werewolves.  And while I’ve often stated that fantasy fiction isn’t necessarily an escape from reality simply because it includes magic or ghosts, even the most committed fan must acknowledge that the genre is incredibly disconnected from reality in fatal ways.  For one, fantasy fiction remains an overwhelmingly white world–an area of literature where you might find vampires or psychic detectives but rarely characters of color.

This lack of diversity is a widespread problem in young adult literature and the larger publishing industry but speculative fiction is especially guilty of inequitable representation within its stories and industry.  Just last week, The Guardian published an article by speculative fiction author & essayist Daniel José Older  discussing the insidious ways that systemic racism and white privilege has permeated the science fiction and fantasy publishing & fan communities.  At last month’s YALSA Young Adult Literature Symposium, there was an entire panel titled “Where Are The Heroes of Color in Fantasy & Sci-Fi?”, which Hub blogger Hannah Gómez recapped with great accuracy & insight.

So, how do we, as readers, fans, & promoters of these genres, demand & nurture fiction with imaginary worlds as diverse as the one we live in?  To start, we need to read, buy, promote, and request titles by and about people of color.  Accordingly, I pulled together some authors and titles to check out, focusing on fiction that falls on the fantasy side of speculative fiction.  This list is far from comprehensive; for more titles, I recommend checking out Lee & Low’s genre-specific Pinterest board, Diversity in YA, and We Need Diverse Books.

High Fantasy

2004 Edwards Award winnerearthsea Ursula K. Le Guin has long been considered one of the best and most beloved high fantasy writers; she’s also consistently written stories with people of color as protagonists–although film adaptions & book covers have often blatantly ignored this, white-washing characters like Ged, the brown-skinned protagonist of A Wizard of Earthsea.  The 2013 Edwards Award winner Tamora Pierce also includes characters of color in her novels; her Emelan books feature both black & multiracial protagonists.

silver phoenixFans of thrilling adventures & complex heroines should try novels by Cindy Pon, Ellen Oh, or Malinda Lo for rich high fantasy tales rooted in a variety of East Asian cultures.  Cindy Pon’s lush & exciting Silver Phoenix and its sequel, The Fury of the Phoenix follow young Ai Ling as she discovers her unique abilities and battles an ancient evil based in the royal palace. Ellen Oh’s Dragon King Chronicles (beginning with Prophecy) also focuses on a powerful young woman struggling to embrace her destiny–the yellow-eyed demon slayer Kira who might be the key to saving the Seven Kingdoms from destruction.  Malinda Lo’s Ash (2010 Morris Award finalist, 2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults and Huntress (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012 Rainbow List, 2012 Amelia Bloomer List) are richly imagined, romantic novels I recommend to all fantasy readers!

The Hashtag that can Change the (Literary) World

teen_blogging_contest_winner

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Amy Yoelin from Colorado.

Earlier this year, during the time that BookCon was being held, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, and noticed a similar hashtag among the authors, publishers, and booksellers I follow: #WeNeedDiverseBooks. These four words capture what has been absent from current and previously published novels of all genres, but especially those pertaining to young adult and children’s fiction.

So why discuss the topic now? For BookCon, they hold the prized panel of “Blockbuster Reads,” which includes the promotion of many buzzed about authors. For example, 2014’s “Blockbuster Reads” panel featured Rick Riordan, James Patterson, Lemony Snicket, and Jeff Kinney. What do these four authors have in common? Besides being male, they are all Caucasian.

Angered by this line-up, lead curator of #WeNeedDiverseBooks Ellen Oh joined forces with twenty-two members of the publishing industry, both official and nonofficial, to do something about this. Hence, the movement #WeNeedDiverseBooks was born and bred.

There Be Dragons!: New YA Dragon Books

dragon kizette's FlickrThere’s one type of fantasy book I’m always getting requests for: dragon books! Since they are so popular at my library, I was thrilled to find not only quite a few new releases featuring dragons, but the selection is quite diverse. There are dragon books inspired by Asian mythology, those that take their inspiration from tales of medieval Europe, and those that imagine our world if dragons were real, or even a post-apocalyptic future where dragons are kept on reservations. Dragons can be the “bad guys,” sympathetic creatures, or even humans who can shapeshift into dragon form. It’s a good time to be a fan of dragon stories! Here’s a chart to help you select which one might be your new favorite:

liketrywhydragon

ALA Midwinter 2014: Authors Weigh in on Diversity in Youth Literature

photo by Lessa Pelayo-Lozada
Soman Chainani, Phoebe Yeh, and Ellen Oh

At ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia, the conversation surrounding people of color in youth literature left the halls of the convention center and headed over to the Karma Cafe for the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association dinner.   The dinner featured a discussion with authors Soman Chainani and Ellen Oh, moderated by Phoebe Yeh, vice president and publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House.

Both authors started off describing their works and the process behind their stories.  Unsurprisingly, both were rooted in a need for books about non-mainstream ideas and characters.

Soman Chainani began by discussing his series, The School for Good and Evil, which was recently optioned for film.  He discussed the gap he saw between his beloved Disney versions of stories which were often sanitized versions of their origins.  This served as the basis for his series which, from the cover, looks like a classic Disney-esque book, but which he describes as containing almost anti-Disney in themes such deconstructing notions of what it means to be a boy or a girl, and looking at binaries such as young and old in addition to the traditional battle between good and evil.  Chainani also described how he purposefully creates diverse characters, since in fantasy traditional race and ethnicity are not as common and diversity relies instead on subtleties such as names of characters (he tries to pick a name from a different culture each time) and skin color. 

Dystopia in Color

Elysium2I saw the movie Elysium when it opened earlier this month. This dystopian movie includes a multicultural future, with Matt Damon plays Max daCosta,  a Hispanic anti-hero in future LA.   This look at a Hispanic main character given the chance to change the world or save his life (he can’t do both) was a break from the usual round of science fiction in general and Dystopia stories in particular, where the man or woman who rights wrongs and changes society is usually white. A search of recent young adult and middle grade books led me to several that provide readers with a future filled with heroes of different backgrounds, ethnicities, locations and circumstances.

silver sixThe Silver Six is a middle grade dystopian graphic novel written by A.J. Lieberman, and illustrated by Darren Rawlings and published in 2013 by Graphix.  The cover shows the six heroes: Phoebe,  Hannah Yoshiama, Patel, Oliver, Rebecca, Phoebe, and Ian. Their scientist parents are assassinated after they discover a cheap form of power that would free humanity from bondage to Craven Mining, the world’s only energy  supplier.

The children meet at an orphanage where they are assigned silver jumpsuits, a sleeping pod, dangerous jobs, and little food (the future is truly cruel to orphans). Thus begins a story that will have young readers turning pages as the children learn the value of friendship and sticking together, and work to find a place they can call their own. They discover that their parents’ deaths was not an accident and find a way to beat Craven Mining and have their own, peronal paradise. The science is more fun than real, but the pages are full of heart and love and self-discovery, the graphics are fun, and kids who are into science fiction will enjoy this story.