2015 Young Adult Services Symposium: Book Blitz!

On the Schedule at a Glance in the Symposium’s program, Saturday’s list of events included a “Book Blitz” from 5:00-7:00 p.m. The only information about this event were a few pages in the program dedicated to Book Blitz Author Bios and a small box that stated: Each attendee will receive 6 tickets to exchange with these authors for free signed books!

ya_symposium_2015

Symposium veterans knew what to expect from the Blitz, but newcomers could be heard Friday evening and Saturday afternoon pondering, “What is this Book Blitz all about?”

This tweet from attendee Lauren Regenhardt sums up the experience pretty well:

https://twitter.com/PagelaurenPage/status/663164489366290432

Continue reading 2015 Young Adult Services Symposium: Book Blitz!

2015 Young Adult Services Symposium: Diverse Teen Fiction

ya_symposium_2015

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. Continue reading 2015 Young Adult Services Symposium: Diverse Teen Fiction

YA Lit Symposium: Book Covers and Reality

YALSA_LitSymposium2014Continuing The Hub’s coverage of YALSA’s 2014 YA Lit Symposium, I’m here to give you a peek at two of the most thought-provoking sessions I attended.

Talking Book Covers with Young Adults: Whitewashing, Sexism and More

I don’t even know how to begin to summarize this session.

YA LitAllie Jane Bruce presented on her work with sixth graders and books. The reaction from the kids is what stole the presentation; I couldn’t write them all down fast enough. I’m not going to try and quote them all, but if you check out Allie’s posts here, you can see all their thoughts about the book covers they were shown. I highly recommend you look through the posts: really amazing things.

One takeaway from this session was that even young teens can see how problematic book covers are and the patterns they were able to see.

Following Allie’s presentation, Malindo Lo and Jacqueline Woodson continued the conversation about book covers. They pointed out that different backgrounds can add to the discussion. They also emphasized Rudine Sims Bishop’s thoughts that literature needs more mirrors than windows. Continue reading YA Lit Symposium: Book Covers and Reality

YA Lit Symposium: Using Multicultural YA Literature to Examine Racism in the Lives of Teens of Color

YALSA_LitSymposium2014For my last session on Saturday afternoon of YALSA’s 2014 Young Adult Literature Symposium, I had the luck to attend an excellent workshop focused on utilizing young adult literature to examine and discuss effects of racism on the lives of teens of color.  Sandra Hughes-Hassell and Julie Stivers, both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science, shared recent research, exemplary young adult literature, and several practical teaching strategies.

The session began by exploring the question: “how do youth of color experience stereotypes?” Using images from recent viral social media campaigns such the #itooamberkeley campaign as well as passages from young adult novels discussing stereotypes, the presenters reminded the audience of the urgent need for these conversations.  Dr. Hughes-Hassell and Ms. Stivers then began modeling best practices in having conversations about race and privilege by setting conversational norms and encouraged us to put these norms into practice during a ‘pair & share’ reflection on the images & passages.

The presenters continued to model best practices in conducting these conversations by setting out working definition for key terms, including racism, white privilege, microaggressions, the achievement gap, and the opportunity gap.  Drawing on a great variety of recent research, they then shared a range of relevant statistics and data concerning intersections between racial identity and poverty, health, and education in America. The excellent infographics and strong examples created a great starting place for the workshop–after all what group of librarians and educators could resist a pool of well-documented and clearly relevant data?  Afterwards, Dr. Hughes-Hassell and Ms. Stivers pulled together several overarching statements to contextualize this data again:

  • All youth are aware of race.
  • White privilege appears in curriculum, in school structures, in libraries, and countless other aspects of teens’ everyday lives.
  • Research has shown that positive racial identity leads to academic success.

This final statement specifically refers to a 2009 report by Drs. M. Hanley and G.W. Noblit titled “Cultural responsiveness, racial identity and academic success: a review of literature,” which can be found on this page of the Heinz Endowments website. Continue reading YA Lit Symposium: Using Multicultural YA Literature to Examine Racism in the Lives of Teens of Color

YA Lit Symposium: Authentic Portrayals of Trans* Youth and GenreQueer: Smashing the Closet

Diversity was part of the conversation during many of the panels and sessions at the 2014 YALSA Young Adult Literature Symposium. Here at The Hub, coverage of these discussions continues with an overview of two panels that focused on the representation of LGBTQ experiences in young adult literature.

YALSA_LitSymposium2014

Authentic Portrayals of Trans* Youth

Arin Andrews, Katie Kill, Jillian McCoy, Talya Sokoll, and Kyle Lukoff Photo courtesy of Talya Sokoll
Arin Andrews, Katie Kill, Jillian McCoy, Talya Sokoll, and Kyle Lukoff (Photo courtesy of Talya Sokoll)

This session was moderated by Talya Sokoll, a librarian with experience writing about trans* representation in YA literature, with librarians Jillian McCoy and Kyle Lukoff participating in the discussion as well as trans* authors Katie Hill and Arin Andrews whose memoirs Some Assembly Required and Rethinking Normal were published this year.

The presenters compiled a helpful resource packet that includes a list of suggested titles, discussion of terminology, and links to resources by state.

In addition, these were my key takeaways from the session:

The trans* community exists on a spectrum; there are as many stories as there are people. No one story or memoir is going to speak for the experiences of all transgender individuals. Katie and Arin were quick to acknowledge that they were only seeking to share their own stories. Continue reading YA Lit Symposium: Authentic Portrayals of Trans* Youth and GenreQueer: Smashing the Closet

YA Lit Symposium: R.L. Stine!

YALSA_LitSymposium2014I really wasn’t sure what to expect from R. L. Stine’s speech, the closing (dare I say, crowning?) event of YALSA’s (awesome!)  2014 YA Literature Symposium. Would he scare us? This seemed unlikely, as it’s not really the traditional mode for keynote speakers to terrify their audience, but from a bestselling horror author, who knew? I just knew I was pumped to see the writer who had fueled so many of the nightmares of my adolescence, in the flesh. I was surprised (but definitely amused) when he opened with a self-deprecatingly hilarious quip about a recent interaction with a fan, in which the admirer asked, “Can I get a picture with you? My kids all think you’re dead!” This was followed with the equally humble and hilarious recounting of the time someone came up to him to say, “Did anyone ever tell you you look like R.L. Stine? No offense.”

R. L. Stine's speech at YALSA's Literature Symposium 2014

He continued by sharing fan letters both hilarious and charming, and demonstrating in person his wonderful sense of humor. He told us that his first dream was to run a comedy magazine; and he did! It was called Bananas (I felt like a pretty subpar fan when one of my work colleagues was not only totally unsurprised by this, but had had a subscription to Bananas!). He shared that his son told him Morgan Freeman should play him in the upcoming Goosebumps movie, and that when he floated the idea of playing himself onscreen to his wife, she told him he’s too old. The role went to Jack Black, and Stine assured us that all the monsters are in the film (which comes out next summer).

I read a lot of horror when I myself was a teenager. All the Fear Street I could get my hands on. So imagine my delight when my seat turned out to have one of the golden tickets (er…yellow standard raffle-style ticket). The prize was pretty much as good as getting to tour a chocolate factory, too; I got an advance copy of the next Fear Street novel, due out in April 2015, called Don’t Stay Up Late)!   Continue reading YA Lit Symposium: R.L. Stine!

YA Lit Symposium: YA Realness – What Makes Contemporary Realism Feel True to Readers?

YALSA_LitSymposium2014I began the first full day at the 2014 Young Adult Literature Symposium with a session that perfectly suited this year’s “Keeping It Real” theme.  Titled “YA Realness: What Makes ‘Contemporary Realism’ Feel True To Readers?” this Saturday morning session featured a self-moderated panel of established authors discussing a range of topics related to contemporary realistic fiction for young adults, including the genre’s authenticity, controversial topics, writing craft, and continued appeal to teens.

In many cases, a panel without a formal moderator could go horribly wrong, but the excellent crew of authors in this particular session instead created a casual and very thoughtful conversation about many aspects of contemporary realism. Matt de la Pena, Coe Booth, Sara Zarr, Sara Ryan, and Jo Knowles are all authors well-known for their varied, popular, and critically acclaimed works of contemporary realistic fiction written for and about young adults.

ya realness panel 2014
My sadly grainy shot of the excellent author panel in action!

lucy_variationsSara Zarr started the session off  by getting right to the most basic but unavoidable question: “How do you define ‘contemporary realism?”  She broke the ice by offering her own, excellent definition of the genre as a story that takes place more or less in the present in which nothing happens that could not feasibly happen in our world and nothing occurs that might violate the space-time continuum.  The other panelists chimed in, mentioning their emphases on honesty, emotional truth, and grittiness.  Matt de la Pena shared his usual response to questions concerning his preference for realistic fiction over fantasy: “I am so infatuated with the real world that I don’t go there [to supernatural creatures, etc.] creatively….you all have great stories in your lives, you just think they’re normal.” Continue reading YA Lit Symposium: YA Realness – What Makes Contemporary Realism Feel True to Readers?

YA Lit Symposium: Something Wicked This Way Comes of Age: Horror Tackles the Real Issues

I don’t read as much horror as I probably should, since it’s very popular with a lot of teen readers.  So, I was very happy YALSA_LitSymposium2014to attend this YA Literature Symposium session presented by the two Paulas (Paula Willey and Paula Gallagher) both from Baltimore (MD) County Public Library. Not only did I hear about some horror books I wasn’t familiar with, I also won a scary shark t-shirt! Thanks to their generosity, lots of us in the audience got prizes of galleys of YA books, and everyone got creepy body part shaped candy and packets of Old Bay Seasoning (Why? Because it’s made in Baltimore).

I can’t describe their presentation any better than they did:

“Teens of all types gravitate to horror fiction – perfectly nice kids with perfectly comfortable lives (as well as perfectly nice kids with difficult lives) seek out books by Darren Shan, Alexander Gordon Smith, Jeyn Roberts and the like. In our presentation, we will make the link between the psychological developments that characterize coming of age and the metaphors of horror, and argue that just because it’s all in your head, that doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

Photo Nov 19, 12 11 17 PM
Paula Gallagher (standing) and Paula Willey (sitting)

They mentioned that teens who like horror are nostalgic for series they read as kids like the Goosebumps series, Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories, or David Lubar’s Weenies series. Teens today are cutting their teeth on new horror TV shows, and films, even foreign ones like Let the Right One In and are big consumers of media, especially horror series like The Vampire Diaries.

Paula Willey explained why it’s important that we understand why teens like horror:
1. We may need to overcome our own revulsion; people who don’t like it don’t understand the appeal.
2. Horror is unusually good at shining a light on concerns of adolescents in ways other types of fiction do not. Horror is a window into their worries.

They also said that issues of morality can be explored in horror. Alexander Gordon Smith can talk abut good vs. evil in his Escape the Furnace series and get away with it. I had to laugh when they showed a slide from their PowerPoint stating that adolescent development is characterized by poor decision making; risk-taking; and a changing sense of identity and the image on screen was a photo of Bella and Edward from the Twilight movie.

Continue reading YA Lit Symposium: Something Wicked This Way Comes of Age: Horror Tackles the Real Issues

YA Literature Symposium: Reaching Reluctant Readers

yalsa_ya_lit_symposium2014On Saturday afternoon at the 2014 YA Literature Symposium, I attended the presentation entitled Reaching Reluctant Readers: from Creation to Circulation. The speakers were Patrick Jones, a librarian and author based in Minnesota, and Zack Moore from the Austin Independent School District in Texas.

The presentation focused on why reluctant readers aren’t reading, qualities of good book recommendations for reluctant readers, how to ease in-library access, examples of what reluctant readers will read, and things that you can do to reach reluctant readers of tomorrow. One point to mention here is that both speakers stressed the importance of remembering that reluctant readers may be aliterate, not illiterate. There is a big difference between approaching a teen who can read, but chooses not to and a teen who cannot read.

I have listed a few examples from each section below. The full presentation can be found here if you wish to read more.

Reaching Reluctant Readers

Why They Aren’t Reading Continue reading YA Literature Symposium: Reaching Reluctant Readers

YA Literature Symposium: Keeping it REALLY weird

yalit14I feel very lucky to have been able to attend YALSA’s YA Literature Symposium in Austin this weekend. It was a great weekend full of thought-provoking panels, amazing author interactions, and just a lovely time talking about YA literature!

One of my favorite panels that I got to attend – and sometimes you had to make some hard choices! – was Sunday morning’s “Keeping it REALLY weird (books for the fringe & reluctant readers).” This had a great lineup hosted by Kelly Milner Halls it also included Chris Barton, Andrew Smith, Lisa Yee, Jonathan Auxier, Bruce Coville, and Laurie Ann Thompson. These authors have a reputation for writing about subjects sort of on the fringe compared to other YA books. Their books involve cryptids, unstoppable giant insects, Star Trek geeks, gamers, oddballs who make change, aliens for teachers, and ghost gardeners among other things. But many readers connect strongly to these stories of outsiders and happenings on the edge of what may be normal or accepted. Not only was this a really informative panel but it was also so much fun. Why? Take a look…

photoSee Lisa Yee in the middle? Jonathan Auxier bet her that she wouldn’t come to the panel dressed like Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s and said if she did, he would  sing all of his answers to the questions to the tune of “Moon River.” So Lisa dressed up and Jonathan had to sing until he brokered a deal with the audience to do yo-yo tricks for a singing reprieve.

That’s the fun stuff, but what did we talk about? The panelists talked about the weird things they did as a child – Lisa Yee used to pretend she had headgear to fit in with her friends; Chris Barton jumped off a second story roof; Jonathan Auxier, after an obsession with Teen Wolf, tried to convince his mother he was a werewolf – and then moved onto to more serious fair.

Asked whether the publishing industry made it harder or easier for so called “weird” books currently Bruce Coville and others noted that publishers often just want to clone hits like the Hunger Games or Harry Potter. They often are trying to catch up to trends instead of create them. Andrew Smith noted that it was really the author’s fear of ‘going there’ that kept the strangeness out of books. Continue reading YA Literature Symposium: Keeping it REALLY weird