“You’re really pretty for someone in a wheel chair.”
As hard as it is for some to believe, YA novels are not all supernatural romance books about sparkly vampires or good vs evil, save-the-world-by-finding-the-chosen-one-and-watching-him/her/it uncover-special-powers-intended-to-overcome-the-forces-of-darkness novels. Okay, maybe lots of them fall into these categories, and, if we’re honest, we all have our favorites among them. However, many YA novels offer a deeper and more realistic look at life, self-discovery, and what it means to move toward adulthood as a part of a larger community. They help the reader see the world from a different perspective. One of these perspectives is that of a person with a disability.
I know there is controversy surrounding the correct terminology to use when discussing this topic, so let me start with this. I will be using person-first language (“person with disabilities” instead of “disabled person”) because we’re all people first. Also, while terms like “other-abled” or “differently-abled” may be apt and appropriate, I won’t be using them here.
YA literature is famous for tackling issues and not shying away from uncomfortable topics, which, for some, includes disabilities. So how has the world of YA literature presented the perspective of those with disabilities? The short answer is: in a variety of ways. Of course, we’re not just going with the short answer.
I had been hearing for years that the YA Author Coffee Klatch was fantastic, so this time I decided to pony up the cash and see for myself and I was not disappointed!
For those of you not familiar with this supremely awesome event, it works a lot like speed dating. Librarians and YA author groupies park themselves at tables in a big room, and authors move from table to table every time the whistle blows, which was about every five minutes. With nearly 40 authors in attendance, it was impossible to meet everyone, but the authors that I did meet were all incredibly gracious, funny, and charming. At our table, we talked with Michael Grant, Maggie Stiefvater, Garth Nix, Daniel Handler, Wendelin Van Draanen, Jenny Hubbard, Craig Silvey, and Daniel Kraus.
Monday was a big, big day for young adult literature. After months of speculation, Mock Printz committees, posts about the finalists for the William C. Morris and Excellence in Nonfiction Awards, and tons and tons and tons of reading by dedicated committee members, the ALA’s Youth Media Awards were announced at the Midwinter Conference in Dallas.
One of my favorite things about being a young adult librarian is the incredible sense of community that’s grown up about libraries and young adult literature, and the YMAs were a perfect example. I wasn’t able to be in Dallas this year, but luckily for me and other librarians, publishers, and YA and children’s lit fans around the world, the announcements were streamed live (in fact, you can watch the archived announcements and videos by some of the honored authors and illustrators on the YMA’s YouTube Channel).
I watched the announcements in one window and had Twitter up in another. There was plenty of buzz on Twitter–so much so that #alayma was trending for more than an hour! Lots of author names and book titles also trended following the announcement of each award. If you haven’t had the chance before, I highly recommend watching the announcements live if you can. It’s so great to hear the audience erupt in cheers when the winners are announced, and if you’re anything like me, you might find yourself cheering along. Being a reader of and writer for the Hub made this year’s awards especially fun for me. I’d read four of the five Morris finalists (two of which won other awards–including the Printz!), something which I might not have done were it not for The Hub.
Here’s the complete list of all the awards given in young adult literature. The name of each award will link to the award’s page on the ALA website, where you can learn about the history and see a complete list of winners. If The Hub did any coverage of a book before its big win, I’ve linked to that too. Enjoy!