Diversity Matters: Privilege & Representation in YA Lit

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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 Destiny Burnett from Louisiana.

courtesy of flickr user  patries71
courtesy of flickr user patries71

As someone who’s been an avid reader and lover of YA novels since I was nine years old, I can comfortably say that over the past eight years I’ve accumulated my own little library. In total, today, I own 382 books. Now, books I own are not all that I’ve read, of course, but out of the books that I own (and have read) 27 feature some sort of diversity amongst the characters.

Let me begin by clarifying that I consider a diverse book to be one that features a person of color, a person of a non-Christian faith, an LGBTQ theme or characters, a person with a mental illness or physical disability, or a setting in a lower class area. I consider these factors diverse for YA literature for three reasons

  • most of these are considered a form of diversity in the real world
  • people living with any variation of these characteristics experience an unfathomable amount of adversity
  • these factors are under represented in YA literature, and do not reflect the real world.

So why is representation important in YA literature? To answer that question, one must consider why they read. I read for the enjoyment of experiencing a character’s story. What makes me enjoy a story? Identifying with the character. This is why representation is important; every person who wants to read a book with a character they can identify with should have access to ones where their culture and identity is present. The reality of the situation, especially for YA readers, is that these kinds of books exist very few and far between.

Today I want to recommend some (maybe lesser known) books that promote diversity. Continue reading Diversity Matters: Privilege & Representation in YA Lit

Sort of Like Magic

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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 Morgan Delaney from California.

BookCovers

The mind has to be the most perplexing and magical thing about the human body.

Why?

Because no matter how hard you attempt to explain the crazy, beautiful pictures you paint within the realm of your thoughts, no one will ever be able to see them. No one, but you. No one can see the detail, the exact colors, the movements, the sounds, and the vivid and animated life of your thoughts because no one has your exact imagination. It is crazy and strange, but amazing. Because it is entirely and completely your own.

It is even crazier how reading can expand your own thoughts, your imagination, to places you didn’t even know you could create. Beautiful and colorful places that only you get the privilege to see.

It’s sort of like magic.

And it is so unfortunate that so many teenagers are depriving themselves of the beauty of books. I didn’t realize what huge of an epidemic it was that teenagers didn’t read until I went out and asked teenagers the simple question: Do you like to read?

I received answers from, “No, it isn’t entertaining,” to, “No, it isn’t very detailed.”

I was baffled and incredibly disappointed that kids were judging books based on what they assumed reading was like.

It was sad, and truthfully, there was only one thing that stopped me from losing complete hope in proving to the world how wonderful reading actually is.

That was the small group of teenagers that told me they loved to read.

When they responded, “Yes,” to my question, I pushed further, and asked them why. Why did they love to read when so many kids didn’t?

And each answer to that question was like another piece to the puzzle. I began to see the pattern. Continue reading Sort of Like Magic

Spoken Word Poetry: The Art of Performing and Storytelling

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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 Natalie Harris from California.

LouderThanABombPoetry they say can only consist of roses that are red and little violets that are blue, but they are wrong. There is more depth to poetry than you could ever imagine.

Spoken word poetry is poetry that cannot just be left alone on paper. It demands to be performed, to be shared with someone, and to fill the world with the verses you have created.

Spoken word poetry can be whatever you want it to be about. It can be sad, funny, joyful, serious, even a little bit weird or silly. It’s a way to express yourself, and like Sarah Kay says in her TED Talk in 2011, “It’s not just the average write what you know, it’s about gathering all the knowledge and experience you’ve collected up until now to help you dive into the things you don’t know.”

I had never heard about spoken word until I immediately fell in love watching Sarah Kay’s TED Talk in my 7th grade English class. In the TED talk she performed her poems “B” and “Hiroshima.” She also talked about spoken word and her organization called Project V.O.I.C.E which educates and inspires people about spoken word poetry.

I wanted to know more about spoken word after I heard Sarah Kay, so I looked for more spoken word poets and I loved what each one brought to the table. Taylor Mali continues to make me laugh with his poems “Totally Like Whatever” and “The the Impotence of Proofreading,” I stare in awe when Rives finishes his poem “Mockingbird,” the way Lemon Andersen speaks gives me chills, and the way Phil Kaye pours his feelings and personality into every word and every poem he says is magical. I can only hope one day I’ll be able to do the same, and that all of us will be able to craft our words with such wit and beauty. Continue reading Spoken Word Poetry: The Art of Performing and Storytelling

Reading with Pictures

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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. Today’s post is from Ellie Williams from Massachusetts.

I guess it’s my parent’s fault, the reason why I have an unhealthy obsession with words. Although, looking back on it, I suppose it’s my fault too; I didn’t have to like the books that my parents would read to me, but I did. I was always curious about words, and fascinated that writing could be a way to talk without moving my mouth at all. Drawing is sort of the same way, that just with one picture; an author can show the reader what was tucked carefully behind the walls of their heads.

I don’t remember exactly what the first graphic novel that I read was called; I just remember picking it up and being fascinated that you could use both pictures and words to tell a story. It was different for me, and strange. I remember on one occasion, coming into the library for my usual fix, one of my besties, who just so happens to be my favorite librarian, brought me over to a different part of the library that  I guess in my usual blind rampage I had never noticed before. These books had…pictures. I must say I was apprehensive at first; I mean these books were for kids, right? But oh how wrong I was.

BONEOne of the first graphic novels I read was called Bones. I loved not only the writing (it was hilarious) of the author, Jeff Smith, but also his stunningly beautiful drawings. The images in the novels flowed so nicely together that they seemed to paint a picture for me to see. If you aren’t familiar with the Bones series, well I’m not sure what you’re doing with your life.Jeff Smith creates a fictional world completely from scratch that has humans and all kinds of different creatures living in it, including the Bones, which are cute cartoonish white creatures. The series, which is nine volumes long, takes you through the perspective of three particular Bone cousins and the unexpected adventure they go on. Continue reading Reading with Pictures

From TV to Books: How Movies and TV Shows Bring in a New Reading Audience!

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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 Sara Boivin from California.

by flickr user o5com
by flickr user o5com

It seems today that the argument “the book is better” intrudes into every conversation about the latest hit film in theaters. But how many people truly know that anymore?

It’s no secret that when it comes to movies and books, movies seem like the much less time consuming and much more entertaining option for entertainment, especially in today’s world where time is scarce to spare.
But as an avid reader, and also a true cinema lover, I’m here to say with all seriousness that reading the book is nothing to shake your head at.
And I get it. Reading a book takes more time and the story isn’t always your cup of tea. A movie will give you that similar conclusion but usually within the much shorter time it takes you to watch it. But out of that conclusion comes a new opportunity. Just bear with me as I explain. Continue reading From TV to Books: How Movies and TV Shows Bring in a New Reading Audience!

Why I Review

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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 Anjalika Chalamgari from Virginia.

Let’s just imagine that your super awesome blogger (whom you adore immensely) stops by the library, one of her usual hangouts, on a crisp Tuesday morning. Upon arriving, she decides to open a book near the Young Adult section whose cover seems quite interesting to her. (As we all know she never follows the expression “Don’t judge a book by its cover” when it really comes to books- a hater of all things extremely literal). She flips to the first page of the book and begins reading the long narrow text inside. Then she turns to the next page, and then the next, and then… well, I assume get the picture. The main point is I, the blogger in this instance (who else could it be, really?), become rather engrossed in the book I picked up. Unfortunately, all books come to an end. And this one did too. (Why, oh why?) Continue reading Why I Review

Divining Dystopias

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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 Rashika Rao, age 14.

DiviningDystopias

Ever since The Hunger Games, the craze for teen dystopias has escalated exponentially- are the novels going past the point of no return? This teen certainly thinks so. As more and more YA dystopian novels are written and published, the authors all seem to be forgetting the difference between writing in the same genre and writing with the same outline.

Recently, I’ve started to realize just how cliché dystopian novels are: it’s getting to the point where, if you just give me the first couple pages and a couple of character names, I can often predict an entire series’ main plot line.

Here is a list of what I think are the top 10 clichés in modern dystopian novels (in no particular order):
1. Dysfunctional government: there is always something wrong with the governmental system.

Some people like to argue that that’s the point of a dystopian novel. But if you look up the definition of a dystopia, it qualifies as a “an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad.” (verbatim from Google).

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d like something worse to happen than corrupt government every now and then.

Another quick point: why are these officials always so violent? Torture, secret kidnappings, you name it, they’ve got it. The excuse is always that no one will stand up to them. But, quoting my AP U.S. History teacher here, “when you keep pushing people into a corner, eventually they’re going to push back.” Well, you defenders will say, that’s the point of the rebellion/rising/see #7! Okay. Fine. But how does our main character oh so conveniently get tangled up with them? And why is she/he (mostly she) always the key to their success?

Something everyone always forgets: These characters are just children. Since when have adults trusted children this much? Continue reading Divining Dystopias

For the In-Betweeners

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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 KT Massey.

In-betweeners

When I was working my way through John’s Green books, I stumbled upon Will Grayson, Will Grayson. At the time I was a person who believed in gay rights the same way I believed my school should win its football games; casually and without much real knowledge or experience. I don’t want to say this book changed my life. But it introduced me to books that were unapologetically about queer people.

Another thing this book didn’t do: make me reach out for other books with non-heteronormative narratives. The novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Bejamin Alire Saenz did. When I picked it up I had no idea it was about two gay teens. But by the end I was struck by the depth of their relationship and the subtlety with which Saenz crafted their world and characters. He didn’t write a book about being gay or Hispanic or poor, so much as a book about being human. After this I scoured Goodreads, YA blogs, and tumblr for more. I can across and read Hero by Perry Moore, The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George, and Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You: A Novel by Peter Cameron, among others. Then I realized something about these books that was different from Aristotle and Dante.

They were all white. All the teens were white. And most were male and gay. I realized the books I was looking at, reading, and being recommended lacked characters of color, characters who were bisexual, characters who weren’t cisgender, and characters who fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum rather than at the two ends. A lack of people who are somewhere in-between. I didn’t just notice this in books. I noticed this in TV shows, in news about only G in LGBTQ, in magazines, in movies, and so many other times of art and media. Continue reading For the In-Betweeners

The Hashtag that can Change the (Literary) World

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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. Continue reading The Hashtag that can Change the (Literary) World

Assigned Reading: It’s Okay to Love the Enemy

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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. Today’s post is by Thien-Kim Hoang from California.

glass_menagerieThe other day, while I was looking at the recent #BookChallenge trend on Facebook, where users post a list of their top 10 favorite books, I noticed a comment written by someone who refused to participate. It was something along the lines of “Sorry, not doing this, school has completely deprived me of the ability to enjoy reading anymore.”

Given, this isn’t a particularly uncommon sentiment. But if you think about it, isn’t it a little bit ironic, since that’s the exact opposite of what school is supposed to do—which is to fuel your enjoyment of reading? So that you may learn to Appreciate Literature and become a Productive Member of Society?!

I’ve always wondered how assigned books affect us. Often, we curse them for wasting our time, yet reread them years later. In an article for The Big Read, BBC estimates that out of 100 significant and beloved novels, most people have read approximately six. That number would probably be much lower if schools didn’t assign classics, but whether or not we liked and remembered these books is a whole different topic.

While the idea of being told to do something is not very appealing, if there’s reading involved, it can still result in happy consequences. If I hadn’t been forced to read The Glass Menagerie, I wouldn’t have known that I liked plays, particularly Tennessee Williams plays. Sometimes I’m glad that it was assigned, because there’s no way I would have picked up something that boring-looking in my free time. If I hadn’t, though, I probably wouldn’t have read A Streetcar Named Desire, which has become one of my favorite stories from any kind of fiction.

It’s likely that many of us wouldn’t have found our most beloved tales if we hadn’t been forced to read them first. School-assigned books are often a favorite to complain about (has anyone actually picked up a copy of Les Misérables with one hand?), but they also sometimes turn out to be newfound treasures that we carry throughout our lives. Inevitably, though, we will still have to tread through books we hate, but at least it sharpens our lifelong reading skills so that we can go through the dystopian romance novels a little faster. Continue reading Assigned Reading: It’s Okay to Love the Enemy