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Tag: #weneeddiversebooks

Diversify YA Life: Diversity at BEA and BookCon

Two years ago at Book Expo America 2014, there was some concern about the lack of diversity in an all white all male diversity panel.  The We Need Diverse Books movement formed after BEA 2014 and because of the movement, there has been a steady rise in diverse authors and characters.

Since its start in 2014, We Need Diverse Books has seen support from the publishing community, libraries, authors, and book bloggers.  Book bloggers are a unique group because they volunteer their time and money to promote literacy to the masses.  Over the past two years, many bloggers have hosted diversity reading challenges, Twitter chats, and author interviews to spread the importance of diversity in children’s/ young adult literature.  BEA and BookCon is the event YA bloggers look forward to to connect with friends, meet authors, and find new books to promote on their sites.  I got a chance to meet several YA bloggers of color and interviewed them on the importance of diversity in YA literature-Steph, Erica, and Hafsah.

Diversify YA Life_ diversity at BEA_Bookcon

Meet the bloggers.

With over 1100 website followers and 7,000 Twitter followers, Cuddlebuggery Book Blog is a leader in the YA blogging

Steph from Cuddlebuggery & Laini Taylor
Steph from Cuddlebuggery & Laini Taylor

community. Stephanie Sinclair started her blog in 2011 called Stephanie’s Book Nook and in 2012 joined Kat Kennedy to form Cuddlebuggery.  In 2014, Meg Morely joined the team that reviews YA lit, adult crossovers and middle grade books in a fresh, inventive and fun atmosphere.  You can follow Steph and Cuddlebuggery on the following social media sites:  YouTube channelGoogle + pageFaceBook page,Tumblr,Twitter,Instagram andGoodreads.

Erica has been reviewing YA fiction since the start of this year and she hosts a regular feature on Mike the Fanboy called Book Beat.  You can follow Erica and her 1,200 followers on Twitter at @Cambear.

Hafsah began her young-adult book review blog, IceyBooks, in late 2010 because she was homeschooled and had no one to share her love of books with. Over the years, she befriended countless people in publishing, other bloggers, authors, agents, editors, and found some of her dearest friends all because she started blogging. She now blogs on IceyBooks with her sister, Asma. You can follow Hafsah and her 8, 000 followers on Twitter and her 3,000 followers on Instagram at @HafsahFaizal.

How do you think the We Need Diverse Books movement has progressed since its start two year ago?

Steph: It’s definitely grown considerably and I’m impressed with how much its accomplished in such a short time. I feel like I can directly see some of its effects as well. There’s been more books being purchased by publishers written by marginalized people and I’m seeing them more prominently at bookish conventions, such as BEA. It’s been a very “in your face” movement, which is exactly what publishing needed. There have always been people campaigning for diverse books, but this just helps us all scream a little louder.

Erica: I haven’t been covering YA books for that long, but I think there is greater awareness across most media. There’s greater awareness that there is a lack of diversity and I think groups are getting more organized on raising their voices. Certainly the internet is quicker to pounce when something happens.

If you look to commercials, the most sophisticated marketers already know they need to feature diversity because they want to connect with as broad an audience as possible. You can see a better mix of races, ages and family units (gay, straight, adopted) in commercials. The ad industry is much further along than the media companies. They have to be or they can’t sell their product.

So there’s a proven business model out there. We need more opportunities for blockbusters (books, movies and TV) with diverse casts to prove this in other industries as well.

Hafsah: I think the WNDB movement has grown tremendously because of what it represents: the innumerable amount of people looking for themselves in the world of fiction, between the pages of a book. We need diverse books, and the WNDB movement is pushing for just that.

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Diversify YA Life: Interracial Couples

As you walk down aisles and aisles of books, that one cover catches your eye.  There’s a couple gazing longingly into each other’s eyes or perhaps it’s just hands inches from touching.  You take that book home to read about that girl who’s suffered a loss and goes to beach to wash her troubles away.  During her moment of reflection, a swoony bad boy walks by and smiles.  Hooray, a new ship has sailed your way.

Find your next OTP (One True Pairing) from the romance titles below.

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The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

elyse

After a serious accident left singer Elyse mute, she decides to live a life of solitude.  During a party Elyse meets Christian, a playboy who doesn’t treat her like glass.  Will Elyse give her heart to a boy who steals many hearts?

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig 

nix & kash

Nix is a member of a four man crew aboard The Temptation-captained by her father.  Captain Slate is fiercely searching for a map from 1868 to go back into time to save his one true love.  Will Nix help him or sabotage his search?

Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman

anne teach-2

What was Blackbeard, the pirate, like as a teenager?  Blackhearts imagines Blackbeard as a teen as he falls in love with Anne, his father’s bi-racial servant.

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

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Diversify YA Life: Diverse Debuts

Who says the little man can’t make waves?  No one in the book business can say it, just ask the We Need Diverse Books movement. With every new year comes new authors and with 2016 we are seeing not only debuts of color but characters of color. Below is a list of YA debut authors of color and books from debuts that feature characters of color.

Diversify YA Life diverse debuts 2

Debut Authors of Color

Inspired by Indian Mythology, Maya’s future life of love is cursed with death. When Maya is forced to marry for political reasons, her new reign as the queen of Akaran soon becomes marked with magic and mystery.

Seeking a change and a little adventure, Julie travels to New Orleans with her youth group to build houses.  When she doesn’t find the change she so desperately needs with her group, she sets out on her own to discover the city when she meets and falls in love with Miles.

Reshma is a high school senior and has made it her mission in life to get into Stanford. When a literary agents seeks her out to write a novel, Reshma soon realizes that no one wants to read about a boring over achiever so she sets out to live the life of the average teenager.  Reshma discovers that there’s more to life than studying.

In this steampunk debut, Avrilis changes history and saves a life that she shouldn’t have saved and she finds herself a fugitive in two different worlds.

Taylor’s rep goes from ice queen to the girl who gets around when she’s found drunk and in the bed of the school’s bad boy.  In order to reclaim her good rep, she convinces the bad boy to pretend to be her boyfriend and not just another notch on his belt.

 

Joss Byrd is just trying to please a demanding director and an overbearing mother in the glamorous world that is Hollywood.

Latoya Williams is a black girl in an all white school and makes a wish to make her life easier and to be white.  Find out what happens when Latoya’s wish comes true.

Paloma High School is shrouded with rumors of a teacher student relationship and everyone begins to find someone to blame.

Vika and Nikolai are enchanters and they are being sought by the Ottoman Empire for political gain.  In order to find the best enchanters, the Tsar announces a duel where the losers must die.  Vika and Nikolai see this as an opportunity of varied reasons but what will happen when they fall in love knowing that they both can’t survive?

After the murder of Sefia’s parents, she’s sent to live with her aunt until her aunt is taken.  Armed with survival and combat skills, Sefia sets out to find her aunt and the answers surrounding her father’s murder.

Set in Victorian London, Rose sets out to find her missing sister and discovers that they both might possess special powers.

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2015 Young Adult Services Symposium: Diverse Teen Fiction

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Diverse Teen Fiction: Getting Beyond the Labels

Moderator: Dhonielle Clayton (middle school librarian, VP of Librarian Services of We Need Diverse Books, author of Tiny Pretty Things)

Panelists: Swati Avasthi (author of Chasing Shadows, 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults), I.W. Gregorio (author of None of the Above), Fonda Lee (author of Zeroboxer), Stacey Lee (author of Under a Painted Sky), Anna Marie McLemore (author of The Weight of Feathers), Renee Watson (author of This Side of Home)
TinyPrettyThingsChasingShadowsNoneoftheAboveZeroboxerUnderPaintedSkyweightoffeathersThisSideHome
  • All children need access to diverse books.
  • We need to change the landscape.
  • Mirror books: books that reflect your experience.
  • Window books: shows you an other experience.

What was your first mirror book?

Avasthi: It was actually Little House on the Prairie, while she was not white, personality-wise she felt akin to Laura. She felt conflicted when reading it though because at the time there was no difference when it came to identifying Native Americans and Indians. Did that mean she was a savage? In her twenties she found Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, and she feels that this was really her first mirror book and it taught her that there doesn’t need to be just one experience.

Gregorio: For her it was In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord. The character was the same as her, but the experiences was not hers. The main character was a first generation immigrant, and she was a second generation immigrant who grew up in upstate New York.  When she read The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan in college, it was then that she found a book much closer to her experience as second generation immigrant. This shows how much diversity is needed in diverse fiction. There are multiple stories and different experiences.

Fonda Lee: She read lots of sci-fi and fantasy, which was greatly lacking diversity. The Sign of the Chrysanthemum by Katherine Paterson was the first Asian character she read. Years later she drew inspiration from reading Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman, since it was a great example of fantasy drawing from other cultures.

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46th Annual Arbuthnot Honor Lecture: Brian Selznick Explores Queerness & The Family in Children’s Books

IMG_2422On Friday evening Brian Selznick delivered the 46th Annual Arbuthnot Honor lecture at Martin Luther King Jr. Library in downtown Washington, D.C.  to a packed house of hundreds of librarians, educators, and youth literature aficionados.  This lecture series was established in 1969 to honor May Hill Arbuthnot, educator, children’s literature critic, professor, and author of both the famous Dick & Jane books and the seminal textbook, Children and Books.  In her introduction, Sue McCleaf Nespeca, chair of the 2015 Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, described their reasons for selecting Mr. Selznick as this year’s lecturer, citing both his groundbreaking The Invention of Hugo Cabret and his powerful speeches in the wake of that book’s awards.  His lecture, titled “Love Is A Dangerous Angel: Thoughts on Queerness and Family in Children’s Books,” promised to be a thrilling additional contribution to children’s literature–and indeed, it was.

Brian Selznick, dressed in a snappy navy blue paisley suit and black bowtie, stepped on stage and thanked his family (including his mother & husband, both in attendance), friends, co-workers, editors, and, finally, the ASL interpreters for the evening, to whom he spoke and signed his gratitude and advance apologies for speaking quickly.  His humor and personalized acknowledgements set the tone for the evening.

hugo_intro_cover2He opened his lecture with a quote from the late Maurice Sendak, who gave the Arbuthnot lecture in 2003.  Mr. Selznick noted that Sendak is his “great hero” and when Hugo was awarded the Caldecott Medal, he was especially thrilled that the award would forever link his name to Sendak’s–an honor that the Arbuthnot lecture enriches further.  To begin, he read out the six sections of the first chapter in May Hill Arbuthnot’s Children & Books.  He used these section titles to structure his lecture, artfully intertwining his evolving understanding of his own identity and his career with his thoughts on the shifting visions of queerness and families in children’s books.

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From Page To Screen: A ‘We Need Diverse Books’ Wish List

image from Flickr user Kenneth Lu (https://www.flickr.com/photos/toasty/)
image from Flickr user Kenneth Lu (https://www.flickr.com/photos/toasty/)

As the number of film adaptations set to be released  in the 2015 illustrates, Hollywood seems firmly committed to turning to the world of young adult fiction for inspiration–and box office success.  While this trend is exciting for YA fiction fans, the lack of the diversity present in the stories selected remains disheartening. While planning a recent movie night at my library, I was freshly reminded of this problem and as usual, I took to Twitter to share my frustration.

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The ensuing discussion was vibrant and, inspired,  I polled friends & colleagues to develop a wish list of diverse young adult novels we’d like to see on the silver screen.

everything leads to youEverything Leads To You – Nina LaCour (2015 Rainbow List, 2015 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Talented young set designer Emi is spending the summer before college with her best friend Charlotte in Emi’s older brother’s apartment when an estate sale & a mysterious letter brings Ava into her life. But despite their immediate, electric connection, Emi & Ava each have pain in their past and their path to happily ever after will be far from simple.  Between Emi and Ava’s “will they or won’t they” chemistry, great supporting characters and an intriguing setting, you’ve got the perfect rom-com of the summer!

One Man GuyOne Man Guy – Michael Barakiva (2015 Rainbow List)

Alek Khederian assumed that summer school will be an extension of his horrible freshman year; he never expected that it would lead him to Ethan.  Alek can’t imagine why someone like confident skateboarder Ethan wants to hang out with him and when romantic sparks start to fly between them, Alek will have re-evaluate everything he knew about himself. This novel isn’t just a lovely coming of age tale–it’s a love letter to New York City and Alek’s Armenian heritage featuring a built-in soundtrack of Rufus Wainwright songs.

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Black Lives Matter: Building Empathy Through Reading (Part II)

black livesYesterday, I wrote about the duty all librarians and educators share to instill empathy and compassion in our young readers by actively promoting books that engage and educate them in the experiences of others. You can read my first post on this topic here and see the books I recommend from Slavery through Jim Crow. I’m continuing that post today with books that address various aspects of the Civil Rights Movement as well as novels that look at contemporary teenage Black lives.

Civil Rights

John Lewis is a civil rights legend and his graphic novel memoir March: Book One (2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound, 2014 Top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens) should be required reading in classrooms across America. The book details his childhood in rural Alabama, his introduction to non-violence, the founding of the SNCC, and ends with the historic lunch counter sit-ins in the late 1950s. With the sequel coming out today, it’s the perfect time to showcase both works!

lies we tell ourselves by Robin TalleyRobin Talley’s Lies We Tell Ourselves is a fictionalized account of the desegregation of schools in the late 1950s. Set in 1959, the story is told in two voices: Sarah, one of ten Black students attending the all-white high school in Davisburg, Virginia, and Linda, the white daughter of a prominent newspaperman intent on keeping segregation alive. The visceral accounts of Sarah’s first days at school alone make the book worth reading but it is the examination of how internal change can and does happen that truly makes the novel a compelling read.

Another book told in two voices is Revolution by Deborah Wiles which follows Sunny, a young white girl, as she grapples with the tumultuous changes happening around her during 1964’s Freedom Summer and Raymond, a young Black boy, who is coming to terms with the vast disparities between his community and the white community that surrounds him. Despite focusing more heavily on Sunny’s story, the book provides extraordinary insight into an era by incorporating numerous primary sources ranging from photographs, SNCC recruiting brochures, song lyrics, and even KKK pamphlets….fascinating stuff!

Kekla Magoon’s debut novel The Rock and the River won the 2010 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent when it came out and with good reason. A complex and layered look at the struggle for civil rights, the book tells the story of 13-year-old Sam, son of a well-known Civil Rights activist. As the story begins, Sam follows his father’s belief in non-violence unquestioningly until tragedy strikes and he finds himself siding more and more with his older brother who is a follower of the Black Panthers. The books offers no easy answers and is eloquent in its portrayal of a time fraught with tension and change.

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Black Lives Matter: Building Empathy Through Reading (Part I)

Martin Luther King Jr. March on WashingtonLibrarians are peddlers of empathy. We understand that reading is a chemical reaction between reader and writer producing a visceral engagement with the characters that allows us to live the lives of others, if only for for the space of a novel. We know that when we give a book to a patron, it can be at once an act of revolution, a strike against ignorance, a catalyst for change, a necessary escape, a life-saving event, a clarion call, a moment of peace, or simply a riveting read. Whatever it turns out to be though, it is always founded in empathy. As readers, each book allows us to, at turns, discover, reaffirm or reimagine what it means to be human.

In the wake of the Ferguson verdict and in solidarity with the growing #BlackLivesMatter movement, it is empathy that we need more than ever. Indeed, as I reflect on Dr. King’s legacy, I am reminded of this quote by him: “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” Ideally, this communication would happen face-to-face, two individuals in dialogue discovering what it means to be the other. However, in certain cases whether due to lack of representation, access, or will, this is simply not possible. What then?

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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. 

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