Diversify Your YA Contemporary Reads: A Flowchart

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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 Summer Khaleq from California.

Most of us can attest to the fact that the ever-growing Young Adult genre is one of the most boundless and honest genres in modern-day literature. In terms of innovation, YA wins the gold.

Yet despite the ever-expanding horizons of YA, diversity in general seems to be a taboo topic. There aren’t nearly as many books featuring POC, LGBTQ, and/or disabled characters as there should be, with authors taking the safe route and opting for white heterosexual leads.

I’m certainly not the first to notice this, though. Campaigns supporting and advocating for diversity have been popping up all over the internet (such as the popular #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign), and if you aren’t familiar with any then you’ve either been a) living under a rock or b) hiding under a rock while reading a book. (Really, isn’t it sad the amount of campaigning that must be done in order to implement something that should be expected in this day in age?)

For those who are new to the movement, I’ve created a nifty little flowchart, since it can be cumbersome to look for potential diverse reads (insert expression of disappointment and irritation here). Even for those who have been following the campaigns for years, there are quite a few lesser-known books here that you should definitely give a try. Continue reading Diversify Your YA Contemporary Reads: A Flowchart

Want to Read S’more? Have Some Ooey Gooey Delicious Books in Threes

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Summer is the perfect time for reading for fun and making s’mores. In fact, yesterday was National S’mores Day.

So I decided to combine these two concepts and give you three books on the same topic – think of them as the graham cracker, the marshmallow, and the chocolate of a s’more- all deliciously good.

Fantasy:

Hub 1

Thrillers:hub 2

Continue reading Want to Read S’more? Have Some Ooey Gooey Delicious Books in Threes

Get Inspired: Journaling in YA Literature

journaling_ya_lit_credit_Fredrik Rubensson_outlineI’ve kept a journal on and off for years.  Well, mostly off– but I would like to write more regularly.  I believe that the first key to journaling is to set aside a certain time each day to write and stick to it.  Sometimes that time is hard to find when you are working and/or in school full time.  But now that it’s summer, if you’re someone who has a couple months off and a little extra time, this may be the perfect time for you to start a journal.  And please tell me if you do, because that will inspire me to spend more time on mine!

With inspiration in mind, I wanted to recommend a few current and classic YA novels which are either written as journals or include journal entries.

 

ramsey beyer little fishLittle Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year by Ramsey Beyer (2014  Outstanding Books for the College Bound List, Arts and Humanities)

Just before and during her first year at undergraduate art school, Ramsey Beyer kept a record of her experiences, including a Livejournal blog and a series of zines which included her own lists and illustrations.

Ten years later she published Little Fish, a compulsively readable memoir that pulls together these materials, including many of her original journal entries, and combines them with reflections from her older self.  As Beyer writes in this memoir, it is her account of how she left the farming town of Paw Paw, Michigan and “…made the leap, packed up my life, and moved to Baltimore – mixed in with the awkward college freshman experience.” Continue reading Get Inspired: Journaling in YA Literature

On Walter Dean Myers

Walter-Dean-Myers-photo-for-Obituary2On July 2, the world lost a visionary, revolutionary, and influential member of the YA community: Walter Dean Myers (1994 Edwards Award). His death at 76 has affected the whole field, but more importantly, his body of work impacted all who read his books.

Some Hub bloggers have fond memories of reading or teaching his books:

Becky O’Neil
I really liked Lockdown (2011 YALSA Quick Pick) by Walter Dean Myers. It’s a good book for a guy reluctant reader (the language and tone are simple and straightforward), especially one who romanticizes a life of crime. The book’s greatest strength is its unblinking look at how hard it can be to get back on the right track once you have a record and not much hope of a better life on the outside…even if you’re only in juvie. I really liked this quote: “Every time [the other inmates] see somebody who looks like he might break the cycle and do something with his life, they want to pull him back in. Especially if you look like them, if you come from the same environment they come from. If you turn your life around, you’re putting the blame on them for not turning theirs around.” Continue reading On Walter Dean Myers

Jukebooks: The War Novels of Walter Dean Myers

As you may already know, the world lost a literary hero on July 1 with the passing of Walter Dean Myers, winner of the very first Printz Award, as well as so many other awards and honors.

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers is one of the most powerful, gut-wrenching novels on war ever written for a young adult audience. Since its publication in 1988, readers have vicariously lived the harrowing experiences of Richie, a bookish high school graduate from Harlem, in the jungles of Vietnam. The story portrays not only the dangers of deadly warfare in a foreign environment but also the incompetence and racism of commanders. It has been challenged many times because of its realistic use of language and violence.

There are many great protest songs from the Vietnam Era, but the one I chose to accompany Fallen Angels is “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. The lyrics speak for the thousands of young men who, like Richie, were thrust into this nightmarish war.

Yeah, some folks inherit star spangled eyes
Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord
And when you ask them, “How much should we give?”
Oh, they only answer, more, more, more, oh

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean MyersTwenty years later, Myers returns to war with Sunrise Over Fallujah, which follows Richie’s nephew, “Birdy’, through his service during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Birdy’s unit is part of the Civilian Affairs team, charged with helping people living in a war zone. Working closely with Iraqis is both dangerous and enlightening, as Birdy struggles to understand how they are meant to help. Again, Myers does not shy away from the harsh realities of IEDs, tribal warfare, and rape. Like its predecessor a generation earlier, Sunrise Over Fallujah also faced many challenges over content.

In the book, Birdy’s closest friend is Jonesy, a blues guitarist with the ambition of opening a blues club after the war. Jonesy’s outlook on the world is filtered through his immersion in the blues, as when he says about Saddam Hussein: “…Saddam got a tune in his head and he wants to play it real bad. And when it don’t go right he just play it louder. A lot of dudes do that. They call it music, but it could just be war.” (p15)  Continue reading Jukebooks: The War Novels of Walter Dean Myers

Librarians Love: Books for Young Black Male Readers

by the Allen County (IN) Public Library
by the Allen County (IN) Public Library
YALSA-bk is a listserv with lively discussions among librarians, educators, and beyond about all things YA lit. Sometimes one listserv member will ask for help finding books around a certain theme or readalikes for a particular title. This post is a compilation of responses for one such request.

The original request
A year ago I asked the group a question about books for black MG and YA boys, especially those who were reluctant readers. The response was Bluford High and Walter Dean Myers, and not much else. In the light of the recent loss of Myers, I wanted to pose the question again. Who do you guys see as the next go to author for books to suck in black male readers? Do you know of any such books you would recommend. I was at a session a few years ago where Matt de la Pena spoke and said a young hispanic male had told him “that’s my life in your book.” Who do you see as the authors who could wring a response like that from today’s (and future) black teens?

Continue reading Librarians Love: Books for Young Black Male Readers

Audiobooks for Reluctant Listeners

By RCA Records (Billboard, page 29, 18 November 1972) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By RCA Records (Billboard, page 29, 18 November 1972) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
June is Audiobook Month!  Many of us have fond memories of being read to as a child, but did you know that you can still be read to?  That is the value of audiobooks! The story comes alive and, with the right narrator, you can hear a story much more differently than you would reading it.  Accents are perfected, exclamations are understood, and even words or names you may not know or have never heard before make sense to you.  This is my second year evaluating audiobooks for YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee.  As chair of this year’s committee, I am so excited for all the great audiobook-related things happening this month.  Articles are being written about the importance and resurgence of audiobooks, you can get in “Sync” this summer and download free audios, and the audiobook circulation at my Library sees a nice increase starting in June with many people going on road trips and vacations.

To give you an idea of what makes an audiobook a good listen, here are some of the criteria that gets an audiobook on the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults selection list:

  • The narration has to expand or compliment the original text.  In other words, when you listen to a narrator tell the story, it comes alive and allows the you to experience the text in a different way.
  • Character voice variation is key!  We must have a sense of who the character is by the different qualities in the voices that the narrator uses.  For example, it is a lot more enjoyable when you are listening to a narrated conversation and can tell which character is talking without the text cues letting you know.  Accents, exclamations, and sound effects also are considered.  If done well, they really make an audiobook amazing!
  • There is also the importance of a match between the text and the narrator.  You know when it is right; your ear picks it up.  The narrator embodies the main character and sometimes even all the characters in the books.
  • The technical production on an audiobook is also a criteria for the Amazing Audiobooks list.  We want to make sure the editing is done well, the sound quality is even, and that there are no issues with extra sounds or mike pickups. Additionally, we do consider the music that you hear at the beginning, end, or in between the tracks–does it match the story?  Is it effective in heightening the story? If it is, then it just adds more quality to the production.

So, where should you start if you have never listened to an audiobook before?  Well, some great awards and lists are put out every year: the Odyssey Award, the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults annual list, and the Audies are a few places to start.  Below I have compiled some of my favorites, that I think will be a great first listen for all of you who are new to audiobooks and want to give them a try.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, read by Jeff Woodman.  Brilliance Audio: 7 hours. (2008 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

http://youtu.be/qKVa5d9iE4E

Continue reading Audiobooks for Reluctant Listeners

World Book Night 2014

WBN2014_logo_672x652This year for the first time, I will be a book giver for World Book Night, which is this evening! This worldwide effort celebrates reading and asks avid readers and book lovers to volunteer to hand out free books to people – the hope is that these book givers will hand the books to non-readers, people who do not have easy access to libraries, or people who may not be able to afford to buy books for themselves. The titles chosen range from middle grade to YA to adult titles; classics to contemporary works; poetry to nonfiction to fiction; English and Spanish; award winners to best-sellers. Book givers can choose which book they are passionate about and hand out 20 copies of them. The authors and publishers of these books have printed special paperback editions and are willing to go without royalties so that they can spread a love of reading and a communal passion for popular titles with everyone. The list is well developed, featuring a decent spread of genres, ethnic and racial diversity, and themes.

If this has you excited, be sure to bookmark the WBN website so you can sign up to be a giver next year. But in the meantime, you can join in the joy and passion by accompanying a friend who is giving out books or by reading one of the books on this year’s list. Here are some ways you can catch up on the YA titles that are on offer…. Continue reading World Book Night 2014

Black History Month: Experiencing the Harlem Renaissance Today

Photo by Flickr user The Microscopic Giant
Photo by Flickr user The Microscopic Giant

As we celebrate Black History Month, let’s reflect on one of the most culturally significant time periods of African American history: the Harlem Renaissance.

I have always been interested in the Harlem Renaissance, stemming from reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston when I was in high school.  I followed that up with reading the beautiful biography by Valerie Boyd, Wrapped Up in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston.  I was so impressed by the life and writing of Hurston, and what it meant for her to be such a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance.  Before I knew it, I was exploring more.  Having already been introduced to jazz music in middle school, I knew the genius of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holiday.  What I didn’t know, however, was the extent of their contribution to the Harlem Renaissance movement and all the other art, music, and writing that was being created during the 1920s and 30s in the cultural epicenter that was Harlem.

If you are looking for some authors, artists, musicians, and other prolific people of the Harlem Renaissance to get you started on your search for learning more about this historic time of rebirth for the African American culture, check out some of my suggestions below.  It’s my humble attempt at a beginner’s guide, so please add your own contributions in the comments!

Continue reading Black History Month: Experiencing the Harlem Renaissance Today

Black History Month: Interracial Teens in Historical Fiction

Black White girl-001What’s in a color?

For many Americans, it’s an identity.  It speaks of ancestors from nations unknown, of a history both terrible and proud. The irony is that skin color can hide a past as easily as reveal. Over the long course of American history, countless children have been born to parents of different races, sometimes different skin colors. What race, then, are those children? The deciding factor is often the color of their skin.

To think that Black History is pertinent only to the present generation of African Americans is to miss this long intermingling of black and white Americans. These mixed race children have had to work out their place in society for hundreds of years. The books listed below focus on the choices available to teens of mixed white and black heritage.

 

Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Brubaker BradleyJefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

It was known, even in 1790, that Thomas Jefferson had fathered children with his mixed race slave, Sally Hemings. But this truth was disputed  for over two hundred years, until DNA testing provided a credible link in the Jefferson-Hemings lineage. In this novel, Bradley explores the feelings of Jefferson’s fair-skinned slave children who were denied a relationship with their father. How did it feel, to be the son of one of the greatest men of the time, and yet have no one to call, “Papa?”

 

Hazel by Julie HearnHazel: a novel by Julie Hearn

In 1913, Hazel gets herself involved in the women’s suffrage movement and it leads her to big trouble. As a consequences, she is sent to her grandfather’s sugar plantation in the Caribbean. Hazel is surprised at the different attitudes she discovers in plantation life, where the rise of “darkies” threaten the established order. But she is truly horrified when she discovers the secrets kept by her own family members, secrets that have ruined the lives of their closest relations.
Continue reading Black History Month: Interracial Teens in Historical Fiction