In just a few days, The Day of the Dead (El DÃa de los Muertos) will be celebrated in Mexico, other Latin American countries and a large number of U.S. cities. Celebration dates vary from October 31st through November 2nd. On the Day of the Dead, people remember and pray for family members and friends who have passed. To celebrate the dearly departed, it is common to visit their graves and to create altars which often include marigolds, photos of the deceased and items that were important to them in life.
Communities, libraries and schools all over are currently making final preparations for their own Day of the Dead celebrations. I’ve attended the Santa Ana, California celebration several times, and am always amazed by the range of altars that families and local organizations create in honor of loved ones and various causes. The festivities also include Mexican folk music, face painting, sweet bread (pan de muerto) and Mexican hot chocolate. If you live near a Day of the Dead celebration yourself, I strongly encourage you to check it out.
You can also see The Book of Life, a beautifully crafted new animated film in current release which includes a Day of the Dead celebration. And of course you can always celebrate by reading one or more of the following YA novels (and one adult graphic novel) in which the Day of the Dead plays a role!
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 Burnettfrom Louisiana.
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.
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?
As a follow-up to Hannah GÃ³mez’s post #DiversityatALA about the current movement to be vocal about the need for more diversity in YA literature (#weneeddiversebooks), and Kelly Dickinson’s post featuring LGBTQ titles, I’m here to list some upcoming YA books that contain non-white, non-heterosexual, non-cisgendered or differently-abled characters that you should be on the lookout for. If you are attending the ALA Annual Conference this weekend in Vegas, ask the publishers about ARCs for many of these. Not all of them will be available as ARCs because some aren’t being published until 2015, but publishers’ reps should still be able give you the scoop on them.
To start, I’m including a few recent notable books that you probably know about and a few that aren’t as obvious because the reviews might not have mentioned their diverse content, or you can’t tell from their jacket flaps.
Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark (2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults) is a novel about a transgendered boy while a strong pick for a nonfiction book about transgendered teens is Susan Kuklin’s Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out.
I wasn’t aware that the main character Chevron “Chevie” is descended from the Shawnee Native American tribe in Eoin Colfer’s Warp: Book 1 the Reluctant Assassin until I started reading it. The second book in the series, Hangman’s Revolution is coming out today. Park in Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2014 Printz Honor book) is half-Korean.
In Stick by Andrew Smith the main character â€œStickâ€ is differently-abled because he was born without an ear & his older brother is gay. Chasing Shadows by Swati Avashi has a main character of Indian descent and there’s a lot about Hindu mythology in the book.
Padma Venkatraman’s A Time to Dance is about a classical Indian dance prodigy whose life seems to be over after she becomes a below-the knee amputee.
Erin Bow’s Sorrow’s Knot is a fantasy flavored by Native American cultures and Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore features a lesbian character.
Now that you’re up to speed on recently-published diverse titles, here are some upcoming books with diverse content to keep an eye out for at ALA Annual and other conferences:
Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco (Sourcebooks, August 2014) is a ghost story about Okiko, whose spirit has wandered the world for centuries delivering punishment to monsters who hurt children, but when she meets teenaged Tark, she tries to free him from the demon that invaded him.
Blind by Rachel DeWoskin (Penguin, August 2014) A 15-year-old teen girl loses her eyesight the summer before high school after a firecracker misfires into a crowd.
Positive: a Memoir by Paige Rawl (HarperCollins, August 2014) (NF). Memoir of Paige Rawl, HIV positive since birth, who was bullied in school once she disclosed her HIV-positive status and from that moment forward, every day was like walking through a minefield. Continue reading Diverse YA Titles to Look for at ALA Annual
Since you are readers of YA and children’s books, you are likely aware of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement, which ignited about a month ago in response to BEA’s all-white lineup for their first ever Book Con. While the hashtag has died down, the furor, uproar, and excitement certainly have not.
Some librarians and authors (myself included) have decided to take a similar effort to Annual later this month. This is something that can be done in person and online, so you can participate whether or not you’ll be at the conference.
The goal is simple: ask reps on the exhibits floor to show you their diverse titles. Ask if they know what those titles are. As many people have noted in the past month (and before), part of the problem with diversity in YA is that publishers do not seem to dedicate the same effort, care, and promotion to these titles as they do to their “mainstream” or “general” ones, so even if they exist, they quickly get lost in the shuffle and then don’t sell, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, since books can’t sell if no one knows they exist. So ask the reps (or, let’s be honest, the editors themselves are often present) to show you what they have in the way of non-white, non-cisgendered, non-heterosexual, or differently abled characters and stories. Are they prepared for the questions? Do they know what kinds of diversity their publisher has in its upcoming catalog? What does it say about them if they know or don’t know? What does it say if they don’t have anything to offer you? If you don’t ask, they won’t know how many people are searching for diverse books. Continue reading #DiversityatALA
A few weeks ago, I was lamenting the closing down of one of my favorite restaurants in San Diego. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how choked up it made me feel, but hear me out: This particularly eatery was so important to me because 1) It was the only place nearby that served the authentic South Indian cuisine I grew up eating and, 2) It’s where my husband and I grabbed lunch after our courthouse wedding nine years ago.
For years, my husband and I made the 30-minute drive to Madras Cafe – it would usually be packed with Indian families (many of whom were South Indian like mine). While perusing the menu, I would take comfort in being surrounded by the familiar strains of Tamil or Telugu – the languages spoken by my father and mother, respectively. The walls were also plastered with faded photographs of temples in the southern part of India, and food was served on traditional stainless steel dinnerware.
Because my parents live in Northern California, this place was the closest I could come to my mother’s home cooked meals. More than all of this, this restaurant represented a space where I belonged, and where I was not an outsider. This sense of belonging also applies to my feelings about diversity in literature – I continue to search for books in which I find my personal cultural experiences accurately mirrored. Discovering a story where the characters eat the same food as I do, pepper their English-dialogue with Indian language, and express the frustration of straddling two cultures elicits an internal sigh, like, “Finally! Someone else gets it!”
While there are fantastic YA and children’s books with representations of all kinds of diversity out there– several recent Printz titles come to mind, such as Eleanor & Park, Maggot Moon, In Darkness, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, The White Bicycle— we here at The Hub are always looking for more, more, more. And we’re not alone. There’s a campaign happening right now called We Need Diverse Books, intended to raise awareness of this important issue.
We’re participating by sharing photos of the many reasons we need diverse books.
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. Continue reading ALA Midwinter 2014: Authors Weigh in on Diversity in Youth Literature