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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Musings &, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 114
1. Book Activities for the Family

amanda_boyarshinovAmanda Boyarshinov is one of the creators of the blog, The Educators’ Spin On It, a site that makes everyday moments into teachable opportunities. She has a Master of Reading Education for grades K-12 and a B.A. in Elementary Education. Additionally, she has her English Speakers of Other Languages (E.S.O.L.) endorsement and has received her National Board Certification in Early Childhood Education. In this post, we’ve been given permission to share her steps on building a family theme Love Book Basket, as well as how to create an “I Love You” book.

HOW TO BUILD A FAMILY THEME LOVE BOOK BASKET

family basket 1

1.  Choose a Book

Select themed literature that is appropriate for your child’s age.  Younger children may enjoy shorter stories.  Older children may like more detailed picture books.  Consider both non-fiction and fiction text. Lee and Low Publishing Company sent me the 3 books to read with my children for this article.  All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

How Far Do You Love Me?

How Far Do You Love Me? is a delightful tale of families all around the world and how much they love their children.  Each page introduces a new place on the globe, with a sweet sentence about their love. Geared for 3-6 year olds Click here for the Teachers Guide

Grandfather Counts

Grandfather Counts (Reading Rainbow Books) is a picture book about making connections with your family, no matter what the language may be.  Author Andrea Cheng draws upon her own family and friends experiences to weave this tale of love and family. Geared for  6-8 year olds It is a Reading Rainbow selection Click here for the Teachers Guide

Honoring Our Ancestors

Honoring Our Ancestors: Stories and Paintings by Fourteen Artists is a non-fiction picture book highlighting some AMAZING artists: Carl Angel, Enrique Chagoya, George Crespo, Mark Dukes, Maya Gonzalez, Caryl Henry, Nancy Hom, Hung Liu, Judith Lowery, Stephen Von Mason, Mira Reisberg, JoeSam, Patssi Valdez, and Helen Zughaib.  Each short story and accompanying artwork gives the reader a snapshot into the importance of family to that artist. Geared for  8-10 year olds.

family basket 2

2. Gather the Supplies for the Selected Activity.

In this activity, children make an “I Love You,” book for a family member.  This can be done with art materials around the house.  Directions for each page below.

3. Arrange and Display.

Arrange the materials and books in a pleasing manor in a basket, bag or container.  Then, leave it on a table or desk area as an invitation to explore.  Snuggle in and read.  Then make the activity!

family basket 3You can find directions (and pictures) on how to make an “I Love You” book on The Educators’ Spin On It website.

Make your #LOVEdiverseBooks Basket today!

Stay TUNED!!!!

Next week, The Educators’ Spin On It will be highlighting author Andrea Cheng, author of Grandfather Counts. Here is a sneak peek…

 


Filed under: Activities and Events, Art and Book Design, Educator Resources, Guest Blogger Post, Lee & Low Likes, Musings & Ponderings Tagged: activity basket, Andrea Cheng, arts and crafts, Children's Book Press, educator activities, Educators, educators' spin on it, family activities, family basket, grandfather counts, honoring our ancestors, How Far Do You Love Me, i love you book, kid activities, Lulu Delacre

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2. The Little Melba Playlist: A Jazz Music Primer from Frank Morrison

Summer is coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean the fun stops! With cooler weather comes fun indoor activities, like catching a great jazz show. We asked Frank Morrison, illustrator of our new picture book biography, Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, to share some of his favorite jazz numbers with us. Many of the artists below played or arranged with Melba Doretta Liston; others inspired Frank while he created his illustrations. So sit back with your cup of apple cider and let the rhythm carry you away!

  • John Coltrane: “Out of This World,” plus Coltrane’s albums The Inch Worm, Big Nick, and Giant Steps
  • Thelonious Monk: “Well, You Needn’t,” “Ruby, My Dear,” “Off Minor,” and “Bemsha Swing”
  • Dizzy Gillespie: “52nd Street Theme” and “A Night in Tunisia”
  • Miles Davis: “Freddie Freeloader,” “Round Midnight,” “Airegin,” and “Blue in Green,” plus Davis’s album Kind of Blue 

little melba and her big trombone

  • Chet Baker: “My Funny Valentine”
  • Art Blakey: “Dat Dere,” “Moanin’,” “Blues March,” “The Chess Players,” and “Señor Blues” (performed with Horace Silver)
  • Abbey Lincoln: “Afro Blue”
  • Clifford Brown: “Daahoud,” “The Blues Walk,” “Jordu,” and “Parisian Thoroughfare”

little melba and her big trombone

  • Duke Ellington: “In a Sentimental Mood” and “Take the ‘A’ Train”
  • Stan Getz: “Corcovado” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”
  • Louis Armstrong: “Summer Song,” “West End Blues,” and “I Got Rhythm”

Still can’t get enough jazz music? Here’s Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood.”

Have your own favorite jazz tunes? Leave ‘em in the comments!


Filed under: Art and Book Design, Lee & Low Likes, Musings & Ponderings Tagged: dizzy gillespie, Duke Ellington, Frank Morrison, jazz music, jazz videos, louis armstrong, melba liston, miles davis, Music, musical instruments, trombones

0 Comments on The Little Melba Playlist: A Jazz Music Primer from Frank Morrison as of 9/17/2014 1:48:00 PM
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3. Lee & Low Likes… Djuan Trent

In 2010, Djuan Trent made history when she became one of four African-American women to win the pageant title of Miss Kentucky. Earlier this month, she made history yet again.

On her blog, Life in 27, Trent opened up about her sexuality and announced that she was “queer,” becoming the first contestant to publicly come out as queer.

djuan trent

Former Miss Kentucky Djuan Trent. (Photo courtesy of Facebook/Kellie Carter Photography)

In the world of beauty pageants, an industry often accused of objectifying women and embracing outer beauty rather than inner beauty, it’s refreshing to see someone who is breaking down the barriers of what is “beautiful.” Trent struggled with whether she should come out or not, but ultimately, she decided it was something she needed to do, especially after a Kentucky federal judge overturned parts of Kentucky’s same-sex marriage ban in February and set an effective date for his ruling today.

Trent encourages others to follow her lead, saying, “People can’t know that their best friend, brother, sister, co-worker, neighbor, news anchor, favorite singer, or local coffee shop barista is being oppressed and denied the rights in which their heterosexual counterparts are so happily welcomed partake, unless you open your mouth and say it.”

We couldn’t have said it better. 


Filed under: Diversity Links, Lee & Low Likes, Musings & Ponderings Tagged: beauty pageants, djuan trent, kentucky, lgbtq rights, miss kentucky

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4. Interview with a Librarian for Incarcerated Youth

Amy CheneyAmy Cheney is a librarian and advocate who currently runs the Write to Read Juvenile Hall Literacy Program in Alameda County, CA. She has over 20 years experience with outreach, program design, and creation to serve the underserved, including middle school non-readers, adult literacy students, adult inmates in county and federal facilities, students in juvenile halls, non-traditional library users and people of color.

Cheney was named a Mover and Shaker by Library Journal, has won two National awards for her work, the I Love My Librarian award from the Carnegie Institution and New York Times, and was honored at the White House with a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. Her six word memoir: Navigator of insanity, instigator of enlightenment. Her theme song is Short Skirt, Long Jacket by Cake. 

Thank you for being with us, Amy! Let’s start with the basics: how would you describe your job, for someone who has no idea what you do?

Entrepreneur, innovator and relationship builder. But my overall job title would be Schlepper.

How did you become a librarian for incarcerated youth? Was it something you always knew you wanted to focus on, or did you begin your career with a different focus?

When I was a teen, a neighbor was friends with Maya Angelou, and they invited me to hear her speak in a church basement.  I remember clearly not wanting to be there, and then as Maya Angelou spoke with such passion and intensity, I felt the hard armor around my heart begin to crack. I remember the struggle to hold onto what I thought was me, or at least my I am constantly trying to advocate and educate for the library to be a right, and not a privilege that can be taken away.protection: the rage, indifference and sullenness. I recognized that if I was struggling with it, then I wasn’t a fundamentally hateful person. That was life changing for me.  I felt such a deep connection with her as a result of this inner experience, I read every book she wrote as it was published.

It took me a long time to realize that this experience is the basis of my passion for bringing in speakers and activities to stimulate the minds and hearts of those incarcerated. From Shakespeare to Cupcake Brown to Ishmael Beah to MK Asante (wonderfully, one of Maya Angelou’s protege’s), I see kids feel encouraged, enthusiastic and interested in a place that tends to dampen all of that.

In the 80’s I was a part of the anti-nuclear protests – when my friends were released from jail I was horrified to hear there were no books where they had been housed. I immediately started a book drive for the jail and that ultimately led to employment at the library serving those incarcerated in Alameda County.

What does your average day look like? Do you even have an “average day”?

Almost every day involves advocacy. Today one of the staff told me that going to the library was like a field trip, all the kids love it. But, she said, the girls had not “earned” a visit, so they couldn’t come. This didn’t make sense to me. I am constantly trying to advocate and educate for the library to be a right, and not a privilege that can be taken away. I am advocating for youth to be able to come here, as well as in general, advocacy for the youth, library, etc.

What kind of relationship with books do your students have? What kind of role do books play in their lives?

I think initially, many of them have a negative relationship with books and reading, and others have a non-existent relationship with them. Some students do have a positive relationship with reading before they come here, but there is a huge percentage—probably the majority—that start reading here and get excited about it and read more than they ever have in their life.

Regardless of their relationship to books and reading the library is a desired destination and activity. They are fully respected and acknowledged here. And the atmosphere is remarkably different from the rest of the facility. There are plants in here! And windows! And outside the window you can see trees and clouds and birds and grass! Real furniture and comfortable chairs! We play a game (Taboo) and laugh almost every library visit.

there is a huge percentage—probably the majority—that start reading here and get excited about it and read more than they ever have in their lifeThe majority of the kids here ultimately develop a positive relationship with books and reading. Books are a de-stressor, they are a life saver. In fact, the staff that call me the most, that request that I come down and talk to a kid or bring a kid a book, are the therapeutic staff. They also advocate with me for kids on suicide watch, etc. to be able to have a book. Today I went out and talked to a kid that has been under a blanket for hours if not days. He actually sat up and showed some life when I brought him some books.

Are there any books that your students are scrambling for? What flies off your shelves?

The bottom line is a. anything with action, and b. something they can personally relate to. And c, it makes huge difference if the cover is dynamic. My job is to find those books that have the right combination of the above. It’s a constant part of my job. While there are a few authors
MIDNIGHT, Sister Souljahwhose books I can’t keep on the shelf no matter what  (Sister Souljah, Cupcake Brown, Tookie Williams, Coe Booth, Alison Van Diepen, Alan Sitomer), there are others whose books I work hard to bring to light.  Right now as I look around I don’t see any of MK Asante’s Buck, for example. That’s an accomplishment: a cover with only words and no visuals isn’t something that in general attracts them. He visited here and so his book has taken off. He also stimulated the youth to read about their history, the history of rap music and books about the educational system in the US. Yah Hoo!

What kinds of books are allowed in a juvenile detention center? What kinds of books are not allowed?

In general, what is NOT allowed is anything that’s graphically sexual or violent or that outlines how to make a weapon or alcohol—something that would be a direct threat to the security of the institution.

What is “allowed” is a huge issue, and is one reason that we wanted to create a listserve, web page Library Services for Youth in Custody, and now the In the Margins book award. My hope is that the book award will lend legitimacy to our titles and hopefully enable more facilities to carry them. I am working with a facility right now that says, “Books must be limited in violence, sexually explicit material, promotion of drug or alcohol abuse and vampire stories.”  It’s just bizarre the things people come up with to exclude and how they word and interpret it.

In my facility, I’ve made the choice not to advocate for “street lit” mainly because I think that There is definitely a group of kids - maybe 5% - I am unable to engage in reading due to my choice to not advocate for street lit.battle is too big to fight since I’m fighting for kids to get to the library. In addition, I spend a huge portion of my life finding books that I believe will work with both the authorities and the kids. Street Lit titles often do have a lot of violence and sex in them which is why I’ve chosen not to advocate for them – but it’s a hard choice every day, and one full of contradictions. There is definitely a group of kids – maybe 5% – I am unable to engage in reading due to my choice to not advocate for street lit.

What do you wish people knew or understood about incarcerated youth?

They are super resourceful. They are caught in a trap not of their own making—poverty—and are punished for many of the things that I, and honestly, most of us did when teenagers. I am constantly amazed the privilege afforded the white middle class and what people of color and/or those from the poverty and working classes have to work extra hard for.

A recent example: Kareem, who is a college educated African American wrote me an email and then recalled it because of the typos.  Meanwhile I wrote an email to the head of a very lucrative organization. My email was typed in lower case, and even had the phrase, “gratitude for all you do, dude.” I mean, not exactly thoughtful. Would anyone question that I was college educated? I doubt it. Kareem, and his beautiful, eloquent email with a few typos—he felt the need to correct it in order to present himself in the best possible light. It’s exhausting to constantly have to do that. And that is a *minor* incident.

There is so much policing and criminalization of poor youth and youth of color, I don’t think the majority of white middle class people really understand the depths of the inequity and the daily assaults. The juvenile hall (criminal justice system) is the crucible of race and class inequity in America.

Being in a detention facility, what unique limitations are you working with that a public or traditional school librarian might not be dealing with? 

You know the supposed foundation of our country, that we are all innocent until proven guilty? For the most part, that’s not in operation here. There are a lot of unspoken power dynamics and struggles. When I’m in the living units I’m on the staff’s terms to a certain extent. When they are in the library, it’s more on my terms, but they always have the power to override me. It is definitely a dance.

There is so much policing and criminalization of poor youth and youth of color, I don’t think the majority of white middle class people really understand the depths of the inequity and the daily assaults.There is a completely different culture in a facility and if you don’t learn what the norms are you can’t be effective. There are unspoken rules and meanings. For example, kids walking down the hallway with their hands behind their backs are living there—on their way to court or medical. Kids walking with their hands by their sides are on their way out of the institution. There is a spoken language that is not used “on the outs” with phrases like, “the tone is high,” “live scan,” “pods,” “talking is dead,” and “prepare for transition.”

The biggest limitation is “security” issues. Those can run the gamut from restricted access to the internet or books on tape to candy, pencils, and envelopes, or even to students being prohibited from getting out of their chair on their own volition.  Things that you would never imagine are security issues can be seen that way from a certain perspective (that I actually have come to understand on some level). These limitations force a creative response.

Are there any common misconceptions you’d like to correct about what you do?

I think the biggest misconception is that the kids are hard to work with. And I’m not saying they aren’t hard to work with. I’m also not saying we don’t have seriously disturbed and disturbing kids. But in actuality, it’s the entire toxic system of mass incarceration that’s hardest to work with.  Finding your correct place in that toxicity is challenging, ever evolving, yet doable. The kids are the least of the problems.


Filed under: Musings & Ponderings, The Diversity Gap Tagged: interview, justice system, juvenile justice, libraries, social justice, Why I Love Librarians

5 Comments on Interview with a Librarian for Incarcerated Youth, last added: 4/7/2014
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5. Poetry Friday: “A Poem!” from Etched In Clay

andrea chengAndrea Cheng is the author of several critically-acclaimed books for young readers. Her most Guest bloggerrecent novel, Etched in Clay, tells the story in verse of Dave the Potter, an enslaved man, poet, and master craftsperson whose jars (many of which are inscribed with his poetry and writings) are among the most sought-after pieces of Edgefield pottery. Etched in Clay recently won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award.

April is National Poetry Month, so we asked author Andrea Cheng to share one of her favorite poems from Etched in Clay:

FEATURED POEM

Etched in Clay, p. 65

A Poem!

Dave, July 12, 1834

The summer’s so hot,

it’s like we’re living

in the furnace.

The clay doesn’t like it either,

getting hard on me

too quick.

I better hurry now,

before the sun’s too low to see.

What words will I scrawl

across the shoulder

of this jar?

I hear Lydia’s voice in my head.

Be careful, Dave.

Those words in clay

can get you killed.

But I will die of silence

if I keep my words inside me

any longer.

Doctor Landrum used to say

it’s best to write a poem a day,

for it calms the body

and the soul

to shape those words.

 etched in clay jar

This jar is a beauty,

big and wide,

fourteen gallons

I know it will hold.

I have the words now,

and my stick is sharp.

I write:

put every bit all between

surely this jar will hold 14.

Andrea Cheng: There are three poems in Etched in Clay which speak directly about the act of writing.  In the first one, “Tell the World,”  (EIC p. 38) Dave writes in clay for the first time.  Using a sharp stick, he carves the date, April 18, into a brick; he is announcing to the world that on this day, “a man started practicing/his letters.”  In the poem called “Words and Verses,” (EIC p. 52) Dave thinks about writing down one of the poems that has been swirling around in his head as he works on the potter’s wheel.  Finally, in “A Poem!” (EIC  p. 67) Dave actually carves a couplet into one of his jars.  His words are practical and ordinary; he simply comments on the size of the jar.  But he is no longer silent.

Further Reading:

Andrea Cheng on Writing Biography in Verse

An interview with Andrea Cheng about Etched in Clay in School Library Journal

A look at how Andrea Cheng made the woodcut illustrations for Etched in Clay


Filed under: guest blogger, Holidays, Musings & Ponderings Tagged: Andrea Cheng, dave the potter, david drake, Etched in Clay, National Poetry Month, poems, poetry, poetry Friday, pottery, slavery

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6. Happy Mother’s Day: Honoring the Mothers and Grandmothers in Our Lives

Today is Mother’s Day, a time when we tend to think happy thoughts about our mothers or other maternal figures in our lives. We might buy them cards and presents, or take them out to eat. There’s no right way to celebrate it, but we each have our own special ways or traditions.

anna jarvis

Anna Jarvis

While most people think of Mother’s Day as a joyous day, the founder of the holiday, Anna Jarvis would probably think we’re celebrating it all wrong. Jarvis originally created Mother’s Day as a way to honor her own mother after she died. She worked to get several states to recognize it as a holiday. In 1914, Woodrow Wilson declared that the second Sunday of every May would be Mother’s Day.  It was a day to honor your own mother, not mothers in general. Prior to this, Jarvis, who was a peace activist and cared for wounded soldiers during the Civil War, tried to create Mother’s Day to honor women who had lost sons during the Civil War.  When Hallmark and other card companies latched onto the holiday, it became greatly commercialized, much to the chagrin of Jarvis.

Anna Jarvis spent the rest of her life fighting against the commercialization of Mother’s Day.

Despite this, we still believe that Mother’s Day is a wonderful way to show your mothers and grandmothers that they hold a special place in your heart!

Here are five titles we’ve rounded up that celebrate mothers and grandmothers:

  1. Abuela’s WeaveA girl in Guatemala learns about family tradition and trust from her grandmother.
  2. Goldfish and Chrysanthemums: A Chinese American girl helps preserve her grandmother’s childhood memories of China by creating a special garden for her in America.
  3. Love to MamáThirteen Latino poets celebrate their bonds with their mothers and grandmothers.
  4. Love Twelve Miles Long: Frederick’s mother walks twelve miles each way for a nighttime visit with her son, during which she recounts what each mile of the journey represents. Based on facts from the life of Frederick Douglass.
  5. Raymond’s Perfect Present: A Chinese American boy receives a nice surprise of his own when he tries to surprise his mother with flowers that he grew.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

love to mama

Image from Love to Mamá


Filed under: Holidays, Musings & Ponderings Tagged: grandmothers, History, mother's day, Mothers

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7. Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part V: Diversity in Genre Fiction

New Visions Award sealIn January we announced the finalists of our first New Visions Award, a new writing award for a debut author of color for a middle grade or young adult science fiction, fantasy, or mystery novel. Over the last few weeks, we’ve highlighted these talented finalists on our blog as they answer questions about what inspires them, the writing process, and more. Perhaps among these five finalists you’ll find your next favorite author!

Previously, our New Visions finalists shared their experiences as young readers, and whether they saw themselves represented in books.

In this last post, they share their final thoughts on diversity in genre fiction for middle grade and young adult readers:

Ailynn Knox-Collins

I applaud the efforts that publishers like Tu Books are making to bring diversity into children’s lite  rature. I am humbled and grateful to have been given a small part to play here. I may not ever be published but I will always be writing and will most certainly be a reader for the rest of my life. As a teacher of children from all over the world, I am excited to introduce them to a new stage of diversity in books, where they may find themselves reflected in the stories.

From where I stand, the future of children's fiction is looking up.From where I stand, the future of children’s fiction is looking up. They will see more and more books where the covers feature people like them, of all races and creeds, beliefs and lifestyles. Everyone will have a chance to be a hero and every reader will find a place for themselves in the thrilling worlds of mystery, fantasy and science fiction. I can’t hide the huge smile on my face because the child in me is thrilled. I am so proud to be a part of this movement. I hope more writers of color will be encouraged to write from their cultural backgrounds and enrich the book world with new ideas. It wouldn’t surprise me that although the names and settings have been changed, in the end, we’ll discover that there is much that we share with each other; that we have more in common than we realize.

Valynne E. Maetani

Somewhere out there are children just like me. They use reading as a way to escape life’s obstacles. They enjoy being sucked into magical worlds that challenge their imaginations. Sometimes books help them realize their problems are not as bad as they seem. They realize through characters that difficulties are a part of the human experience, but there are others like them who feel and react the same way they do.

In other ways, those same children might be not like me. They are children who might know little about Japan and its foods or customs. They may not have any idea what’s it’s like to grow up Japanese-American or understand how deep-rooted our traditions are.

For all children, books are a way of making connections and allowing them to experience something new. Diversity in middle grade and young adult literature enriches the reading experience by increasing the breadth and depth of what our children have access to, and because of this, there is also an increased chance for children to connect and learn. Both characters and authors of color can provide an introduction to unique perspectives. I find that most intolerance stems from a lack of understanding, and books are one forum which can equip children with information. I’m not naïve enough to think diversity in genre fiction will change everything, but every time we connect with a child, we open doors, and that makes writing worth it.

Rahul Kanakia

In any discussion of diversity, the shadow constituency is white people. Obviously, it’s really nice for teens of color to see depictions of themselves in the media that they consume. But unless those depictions also appeal in some way to white people, then those depictions will not get the major play People don't consume media because it's good for them. They consume it because they want to be entertained.that they need in order to be published and widely distributed in a way that makes sure they get into the hands of people of color.

And, of course, we all know that it’s good for white people to see the diversity of the world. But that also doesn’t matter. People don’t consume media because it’s good for them. They consume it because they want to be entertained.

So the challenge is to create depictions of PoC that are also entertaining to white people. It’s hard. And it’s often a bit unsatisfying. Writing for an outsider audience means including explanations and “authentic” detail that insiders don’t necessarily need, or want, to see. And if you veer too much in that direction, then you alienate people of your own culture. And that alienation can often be good business, actually, because those people are actually just a tiny fraction of your audience and in terms of getting fame and book sales it makes a lot more sense to feed the preferences of a white audience that hungers for PoC characters who hang around in this tiny sweet spot where they’re alien enough to be picturesque but also relatable enough that they don’t pose a serious challenge to majority culture.

Akwaeke Emezi

I’m curious about what effect it would have had on me as a child and young adult to have had access to more fiction with characters that looked like me, or that came from cultures that I could have related to with more ease. I’ll never know, but I believe that kids nowadays should definitely have access to all that material and I am grateful for all those who are working to make this happen.

Disclaimer- I’m not very immersed in the writer world so this conversation is somewhat new to me. However, it seems to me that diversity in genre fiction (or the lack thereof) is essentially a race issue- who is considered the default race and the limited range of cultures, descriptions, etc that spring forth from that. It’s just not representative of the real world and it does people and children of color a disservice. Stories help people relate to whatever they’re reading about- I had no problem as a child believing that pixies lived in my compound or imagining that the tree in our backyard was The Faraway Tree even though all Enid Blyton characters were white. All children (all people, actually) would benefit greatly from having access to diverse fiction and being exposed to different cultures and people.

Ibi Zoboi

Culturally relevant stories will equip these students with the level of critical thinking skills the standards are asking of them.I teach in New York City public schools as a writer-in-residence.  So I have a pretty good idea of what inner city children and teens are dealing with in terms of literacy. These new Common Core Learning Standards are asking students to read broadly and deeply—more informational nonfiction texts.  And part of my job entails listening to teachers complain how this is a huge leap for many of their students. They’re being asked to argue these complex ideas and think critically, yet they have very little sense of themselves, their world and their place in it.

When I teach fiction in places like Brooklyn and the Bronx, I’d get so many blue-eyed, blonde-haired characters in these stories you’d think we were in Norman Rockwell’s America.  They’re emulating what they have to read. Reading the classics is a good thing. But culturally relevant stories will equip these students with the level of critical thinking skills the standards are asking of them.  A great number of sci-fi classics can be paired with well-written YA dystopian novels, for example.  And what if they can see themselves and their culture in these books?  Orwell’s 1984 then becomes that much more relevant.

Underrepresented students who experience school closures, substandard housing, and violence need to be able to think critically about a genre MG or YA novel and how it relates to them.  They need to see themselves taking center stage in heroic stories before they can begin to affect change in their own communities.

Further Reading:

Meet Our New Visions Finalists I: How we got involved in the New Visions Award

Meet Our New Visions Finalists II: How we got involved in the New Visions Award

Meet Our New Visions Finalists III: Writing for people of different backgrounds

Meet Our New Vision Finalists IV: Your relationship to books as a young reader


Filed under: guest blogger, Musings & Ponderings, Tu Books Tagged: diversity, New Visions Award, Power of Words, promoting diversity, Race issues, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Teens/YA, Tu Books, writing contests

3 Comments on Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part V: Diversity in Genre Fiction, last added: 3/14/2013
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8. Spring into Multicultural Children’s Books!

While it may not feel like it, today is the first day of spring! We’re very excited for our forthcoming spring titles, which you can check out here. To kick off the spring season, here’s an image and poem from Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems/Jitomates Risueños y otros poemas de primavera, written by Francisco X. Alarcón, and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez, published by Children’s Book Press, an imprint of LEE & LOW.

Spring

the hills

are starting

to crack

a green smile

once again

Spring1

 Primavera

las colinas

comienzan

a sonreír

muy verdes

otra vez


Filed under: Art, Celebrations, Holidays, Musings & Ponderings Tagged: Children's Book Press, flowers, green, growth, poetry, seasons, spring

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9. Cultural Travels in Korea

by Stacy Whitman, Publisher of Tu Books

I had two Korean roommates in college. Ever since then, I’ve said, “Someday I will learn Korean and visit Hyun Mi in Korea.” Last year, when I made new Korean friends here in New York City, I decided that “someday” needed to finally be today. I started to learn Korean from a book and a podcast, got addicted to Korean dramas, and this May, finally made that trip to Korea I’ve been meaning to make for over a decade.

On my way to Korea, I had a 7-hour layover in London, another place I’ve never seen in person before. I got to meet Cat Girl’s Day Off author Kimberly Pauley, who showed me 221B Baker St. and the whole area around Parliament—Big Ben, the London Eye, and Westminster Cathedral, for example (the outside—no time for the inside), and then we finished off our whirlwind tour with a full English breakfast.

Stacy Whitman in London

(center) Kimberly Pauley and Stacy Whitman at Paddington Station with Paddington Bear; other sights in London

Busan subway

A subway entrance in Busan, South Korea

I didn’t get to visit my old roommate, but I did visit my new friend from New York, who had moved back to Seoul. I stayed with her and her family in Mokdong, a suburb of Seoul, which I loved not only because I was visiting my friend, but also because I got to experience Korean culture from a closer point of view, not as a tourist in a hotel but as a guest. I got to do normal everyday things with my friend, like going to the grocery store and post office, to the bookstore and to the repair booth on the corner run by the ajussi who might know how to fix my purse (sadly, he didn’t have a good solution). I was greatly impressed with the public transportation system, which got me everywhere I needed to be, and often had malls in the stations!

I also met up with the Talk to Me in Korean crew (from whom I’m learning Korean), who happened to have a meetup when I was in Korea. Here I am with Hyunwoo Sun, the founder of Talk to Me in Korean, and his wife, Mi Kyung. A few of us went out for a kind of fusion chicken, the name of which I’ve forgotten, and then patbingsoo—sweet red beans over shaved ice—after the meetup of over a hundred TTMIK listeners.

Talk to Me in Korean group

Meet-up with Talk to Me in Korean teachers and students

I love Korean dramas, which are often historical, so of course I wanted to see places like National Treasure #1, the Namdaemung Gate (officially known as Sungnyemun), which burned down in 2008 and was just recently restored and reopened, and Gyeongbokgung Palace in the heart of Seoul. The folk museum was fascinating, letting me see Korean history in person—for example, they had a living replica of a Korean street that brought you forward in time from the Joseon era to the 1990s.

gyeongbokgung palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul, South Korea

gyeongbokgung tour guide in hanbok

A tour guide at Gyeongbokgung Palace wearing a hanbok, a traditional Korean dress

A children's library

Outside the National Children’s Library in Gangnam, Seoul, South Korea

I also went to the Namdaemun Market, across from the gate, and had my first real Korean market experience, and found a stylish purse. I rode a bike along the Han River (and saw cleverly disguised trash/recycling cans), discovered the national children’s library in Gangnam, watched the changing of the guards at Gyeongbokgung Palace, stopped off for a chocobanana smoothie at Starbucks for a quick wifi fix, wandered around in a park filled with fortune teller booths, got makeup samples in Myeongdong, and found bargains in an underground shopping mall at the subway entrance. What I didn’t do was stalk a Korean drama star, though that was tempting. :)

cleverly disguised recycling bins

Cleverly disguised recycling

cheonggyecheon river

Cheonggyecheon River, Seoul, South Korea

Not too far from the palace was the Cheonggyecheon River, which is a reclaimed river that has been turned into a recreational area. It was my favorite area of Seoul—I loved to walk along it and returned three times while on my way to other places. The first time I discovered it (on the recommendation of Korean American library educator and friend Sarah Park Dahlen), it was decorated for Buddha’s Birthday, a national holiday in Korea. The next day, on Buddha’s Birthday, my Korean host and I went to the local Buddhist temple to discover how the holiday was celebrated among Buddhists, which neither of us are. That night, the Cheonggyecheon was all lit up in celebration.

Buddha's birthday

Stacy Whitman at the Buddhist temple in Mokdong, South Korea

cheonggyecheon at night

Cheonggyecheon River, Seoul, South Korea

busan buddhist temple

Beomosa Temple, Busan, South Korea

I spent a total of two weeks exploring Korea, the second week of which was spent climbing a mountain on Jeju Island, discovering a Buddhist temple and a famous beach and fish market in Busan, and staying in a hanok (traditional Korean house) in Jeonju—where I also happened upon a famous Joseon picnic spot (Omokdae Terrace, famous for a king having once picnicked there), a famous royal shrine, and a Confucian school where one of my favorite dramas was filmed, and where I saw a delightful sight, a class full of toddlers in hanbok, learning about their country’s history. Jeonju also is the home of a traditional Korean paper (hanji) museum, where they have a hands-on room where I made a sheet of hanji! Later I met the driver of a truck full of garlic, who insisted I take a picture of his truck.

confucian toddlers in hanbok

Schoolkids at Jeonjuhyanggyo Confucian School in Jeonju, South Korea

garlic truck

Truck full of garlic in Jeonju, South Korea

Then I rounded out the experience with my friend’s one-year-old’s birthday party in Seoul. (The first birthday is very important in Korean culture, a momentous occasion for which my friend and her husband rented hanbok to wear for family pictures, which I took for them.) However, I didn’t get to the top of 9 km-high Hallasan, the big mountain in Jeju (though I made it 7.5 km!), as I didn’t start early enough in the morning. I’ll just have to go back. Oh darn! (I did, however, get the rare opportunity to see a native deer.)

I ate loads of delicious Korean food, most of which was homemade by my host family, but I also discovered new foods like Jeju’s famous gogiguksu, a pork noodle dish very similar to good ramen. I also had the chance to try Koreans’ interpretation of Italian food, which is very popular—and was very tasty.

Korean food

(clockwise from upper left) Korean street food in Busan, kimbap in Seoul, pizza in a cone & smoothie in Jeonju, Italian food in Jeonju

And I took a break from my vacation one day to work, because you can’t publish diverse books and travel halfway around the world and not take the opportunity to meet publishers in the country you’re so interested in. An agent at the Eric Yang Agency was happy to introduce me to several Korean publishers, who were happy to introduce me to their books and to learn about mine. Here’s a picture of the mural in their lobby, a testament to the love of reading in Korean culture and a great riff on the famous photo.

Mural in Korean publishing house

Lunch atop a Skyscraper, now with books!

It was interesting to see how similar and yet different the two country’s publishing styles were—often, we publish similar books, yet we market them completely differently because Korean parents/readers and American parents/readers are looking for different marketing messages in the books they buy. Young adult literature as a category is still relatively new in Korea, particularly in fantasy (though the age category’s storytelling is strong in dramas and manhwa, the Korean form of manga)—the emphasis in Korean children’s book sections of the bookstore is very much on educational supplements. I look forward to someday bringing Korean YA and middle grade voices to a US audience looking for diversity and new stories.

* And it was a bear trying to pare down my pictures. If you’d like to see more, follow me on Tumblr, where I will eventually be posting more pictures a few at a time.


Filed under: Dear Readers, DiYA, Musings & Ponderings, Tu Books Tagged: Buddhism, Buddhist temple, Busan, Cat Girl's Day Off, Cheonggyecheon, Cheonggyecheon River, diversity, Eric Yang Agency, Gangnam, gyungbokgung palace, hanbok, hanok, hyunwoo Sun, Jeju Island, Jeonju, kimberly pauley, Korean, Korean food, Korean history, London, Mokdong, myeongdong, namdaemung gate, namdaemung market, publishing, seoul, South Korea, stacy whitman, Talk to Me in Korean, traveling, vacation

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10. Voices from the Civil Rights Movement: Interview With Moses Teel Jr.

guest blogger iconAs Fast As Words Could Fly tells the story of Mason, a teenager growing up in North Carolina who becomes one of the first black students to attend an all-white high school. In this guest post, we interview author Pamela M. Tuck’s father, Moses Teel Jr., whose experience during integration inspired the New Voices award-winning title.

Moses Teel Jr. around the same age as Mason in As Fast As Words Could Fly Moses Teel Jr. around the same age as Mason in As Fast As Words Could Fly

Moses Teel Jr. around the same age as Mason in As Fast As Words Could Fly

Lee & Low: In the Author’s Note, it says that you used your “typing talent to defy the prejudices of people who considered [you] inferior.” Did you also participate in a typing contest similar to the one Mason was in? What was that experience like?

Moses Teel Jr.: Yes. In my typing class, we had five-minute timed typing exercises. Five strokes counted for one word and every error took one word away from your total word count. I participated in a lot of these classroom competitions and won. That’s what helped me qualify for the tournament. By the time I had to compete, I felt pretty confident in my skill and I stayed focused by telling myself, “I can do this.”

L&L: How did you handle the hardships you encountered while at Belvoir-Falkland High School? Was there a piece of advice that you were given that inspired you? What advice would you give others who experience some form of prejudice directed toward them?

MT: The encouragement from my family and other members of the civil rights group helped me handle the hardships I faced. My dad had sacrificed a lot during the Civil Rights Movement so as to make a difference. Integrating the schools was one of the most important parts of the Civil Rights Movement in Pitt County during that time. By the time I started Belvoir-Falkland High School, I knew I had to remain humble in order to stay there. I went there for a better education, so I could make a difference in my community.

I can remember one black custodian at the school who inspired me. He would catch me and some of the few other black students outside the school to tell us that he was so proud of us for coming to that school to knock down some barriers. He told us to keep our heads up and to do the best we could.

My advice to others is to realize that prejudice does exist and you’re going to have to deal with it one on one. Just remember to stay humble and treat people the way you would like to be treated. Then you will be able to work your way through it.

L&L: Mason’s story takes place in the mid 1960s, a decade that saw the historic March on Washington, the Birmingham campaign, and the Freedom Summer of 1964. As a teenager, how strong was your sense that you were part of a greater national movement for equality?

MT: I was well aware that we were part of a national event. During that time, we had gone to a meeting to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak, and in part of his speech he told us to go back to our communities and make a difference. By my family being the first to integrate the school system, we felt stronger knowing that we were taking part in an integration movement that was happening all over the country.

L&L: Who were your role models growing up? How did these individuals influence your actions? 

MT: Two of my role models were Golden Frinks and Reginald Frazier. Golden Frinks was a field secretary for the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference). I realized how powerful Mr. Frinks was when we visited places that wouldn’t serve blacks, but after mentioning his name, attitudes changed and we were served. Reginald Frazier was a powerful attorney during that time period and I remember when he represented a black family during a racial case. The family couldn’t afford a lawyer, so he took the case for $1 and won.

These two men showed me how their determination to fight for equality could make such a difference, and how justice was more important than money. It was people like them who made me believe that with the right education, I could obtain justice in society.

L&L: When you first began at Belvoir-Falkland High School, was there anyone who surprised you with his or her kindness? Were there other African Americans who you befriended at the school or were you the only one?

MT: I’m afraid I’ll have to say no, there wasn’t, other than the black custodian. I didn’t receive much kindness from the students or faculty at Belvoir-Falkland. There were other black families who also had their children integrating during the same time, and the few of us watched out for one another. We had to stay to ourselves during physical activities because during the pick-up games we were never chosen to play with the white students. In later years, as we remained at the school, we began to be included in more activities.

L&L: Although we now have our first African American president, we still live in a country plagued by many types of inequality. How far do you think our country has come since you were a teenager in the 1960s? Where do you hope we will be ten years from now?

MT: I feel that we have improved about 70% in correcting some inequalities, but there are still a lot of hidden prejudices that have to be dealt with. I hope that ten years from now I can say we have improved 90%.

Moses Teel Jr. and his wife, Pauline Teel

Moses Teel Jr. and his wife, Pauline Teel


Filed under: guest blogger, Musings & Ponderings Tagged: African American history, As Fast As Words Could Fly, Civil Rights, historical interest, integration, interview, overcoming obstacles, Pamela M. Tuck, typewriters

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11. New Voices Award Winners: Where Are They Now?

New Voices Award sealLast month we brought together past New Voices Award winners to see what it was like to publish their first books. Today, in our final installment in the series, we ask these talented authors to share what they have been doing since entering the contest. guest blogger

This year marks our 14th annual New Voices Award writing contest. Every year, LEE & LOW BOOKS gives the New Voices Award to a debut author of color for a picture book manuscript. The submission deadline this year is September 30, 2013, so get those manuscripts in!

Q: What have you been up to in the time since your book won the New Voices Award or Honor?

Linda BoydenLinda Boyden, The Blue Roses  (our first New Voices Award Winner)

Winning the first New Voices Award for The Blue Roses gave me something I didn’t have before: confidence in myself as a writer. I had had a distinguished teaching career, but as a fledgling writer, it seemed I’d never get out of the slush pile. After the New Voices Award, my book also garnered the Paterson Prize and Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers Children’s Book of the Year. Buoyed by this incredible good luck, I wrote more and queried more. Though not represented by an agent at that time, I was lucky again and found a publishing home with the University of New Mexico Press for my next two picture books. The UNMP editor I worked with, W. Clark Whitehorn, convinced me to do my own illustrations for both Powwow’s Coming and Giveaways: An ABC Book of Loanwords from the Americas. Recently I’ve written and illustrated my fourth picture book, Boy and Poi Poi Puppy from Progressive Rising Phoenix Press and signed with Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary for my YA novel. I’ve been very lucky and thank Lee & Low Books for believing in me and for the wonderful jump-start!

Paula YooPaula Yoo, Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story

I won the New Voices Award in 2003 for Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story. Since then, I have had the honor of having two more books with Lee & Low Books. My second book came out in 2009. Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story, illustrated by Lin Wang, was a biography about Chinese American Anna May Wong’s rags to riches life from a laundryman’s daughter to an international Hollywood film star. I also have a third book picture book biography coming out with Lee & Low soon, too. Stay tuned for more details! I also had a YA novel published in 2008 (Good Enough from HarperCollins) and I’ve worked on a bunch of TV shows as a TV writer/producer, most recently with SyFy’s EUREKA. But most exciting of all… ever since winning the New Voices Award, I adopted three cats. Hmmm… now how can I sneak my three cats into my next Lee & Low book?

Glenda ArmandGlenda Armand, Love Twelve Miles Long

Since I won the Award, I have retired from my “day job” as a teacher and school librarian. While working part-time, I have been able to spend a lot more time writing.  I love it. I am also happy to say that, next year, Lee & Low will publish my second book about a very talented man with an unlikely dream who I discovered while researching Love Twelve Miles Long.

Don TateDon Tate, It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw

As a longtime children’s book illustrator, I have several new books out that I painted. But winning the New Voices Honor award launched my writing career. Winning the award boosted my confidence with words. Since then, I’ve written several more picture books. My next authored book will publish in 2015. I will also illustrate this book. I have another authored book under contract, and I can’t wait to share that news, too. I’m thankful that Lee & Low recognized and nurtured my writing talents.

Jennifer TorresJennifer Torres, Finding the Music  (2011 New Voices Winner)

The most significant thing I’ve done since my book won the New Voices Award was have a second daughter! Soledad Daisy was born in March of this year. She and her big sister, Alice, are truly delightful people and it is a joy to watch them grow.

I’ve also been working hard at editing and revising my book, Finding the Music. Though it can be challenging, this is honestly one of my favorite parts of the writing process. To hear a professional’s insights on what you’ve written is illuminating and so helpful. I’m really proud of the way the book is shaping up and of how far it has come since I submitted the manuscript.

Otherwise, I continue to write – I am finishing a book for middle-grade readers, and I contribute regularly to newspapers and magazines as a freelance journalist. I also work for University of the Pacific, helping to lead an early literacy campaign. This is exciting – and so important. We know that the ability to read proficiently by the end of third grade is a make-or-break benchmark in a child’s education. Kids who aren’t strong readers when they leave third grade tend to fall behind, and it can be very difficult to ever catch up. Unfortunately, in my community, only 34 percent of third graders can read at grade level. For children of color, and for kids whose first language isn’t English, that percentage is even smaller. That’s one of the reasons it’s such an honor for me to work with Lee & Low – it’s crucial for all of us to support the literacy of all children.

More from our past New Voices winners:

Advice for New Writers from our New Voices Award Winners

New Voices Award Winners: “How I Started Writing”

New Voices Award Winners: Publishing Your First Book


Filed under: guest blogger, Musings & Ponderings, Resources Tagged: children's books, lee and low books, New Voices Award, writing, writing contests, writing resources

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12. Black History Month Beyond the Basics: Remembering Cortez Peters

Pamela M. TuckGuest BloggerAs February comes to an end, we round out Black History Month with a guest post by Pamela M.Tuck, author of As Fast As Words Could Fly. We asked her if there was one person she could choose to be as well-known or remembered as Rosa Parks, who would it be and why?

In a segregated all-black school, a young student was empowered by an African American motivational speaker from Washington, DC. It was 1960s North Carolina and this speaker, in the student’s mind, was famous. The young student was my mother, Pauline Teel, and the speaker was Cortez Peters.

Cortez Peters, Sr. taught himself to type, at the age of 11, on a used typewriter his father had received in a trade. His “hunt and peck” system later developed into a fast and accurate method that garnered him the title of World Typing Champion, with speeds over 100 words per minute. He was the founder of the Cortez W. Peters Business School, which debuted in 1934. It was one of the first vocational schools in Washington, DC to prepare African Americans for business and civil services. The opening of his school became a pivotal point in history for African Americans.

cortez petersCortez Peters, Jr. began typing at the age of 12. He eventually surpassed his father’s world record with a typing speed of 225 words per minute with no mistakes.

Both Peters Sr. and Peters Jr. made a career out of teaching their craft to others.

At that unforgettable school visit, Cortez Peters awed my mother and the other students with his rhythmic typing finesse. My mother remembers how his typing mimicked the tunes of many songs, and how he made artistic configurations on his paper. She stated, “He would use all A’s to form the letter A, and all B’s to form the letter B.” His phenomenal typing ability was an amazing entertainment for the students, but his accomplishments as an African American entrepreneur made him an empowering role model.

Cortez gave his formula of success to the students in 3 simple words: Determination, Inspiration, and Perspiration. Determined not to let anyone or anything stop them from reaching their dreams. Inspired to do whatever it takes to accomplish their dreams. And work hard (Perspiration) to make those dreams come true.

Cortez Peters’ formula for success became ingrained into my mother and was one of the driving forces that helped shape her into the successful woman she became. Enough so, that she passed the formula on to me and I have passed it on to my children.

With the impression Cortez Peters made on my mom, I guess it seems fitting that her high school sweetheart, my dad, turned out to be a local typing champion. Ironically, Cortez Peters and my dad unknowingly shared the same formula for success, and As Fast As their Words Could Fly, change was taking place, history was being made, and dreams were coming true.


Filed under: guest blogger, Musings & Ponderings Tagged: Black History, black history month, cortez peters, Pamela Tuck, Rosa Parks, typing

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13. The 86th Annual Academy Awards Wins for Diversity

The glitz, fashion, and the glamorous parties are over, but we at LEE & LOW BOOKS are still thinking about the 86th Annual Academy Awards. We were excited to see our infographic on the diversity gap in the Academy Awards shared in several places, including the New York Times Carpetbagger blog, MSNBC’s The Grio, and Colorlines. Even Ellen started off the night with a joke about diversity (“Possibility number one, 12 Years a Slave could win. Possibility number two, you’re all racists. Now please welcome our first white presenter…”). But the highlight of this year’s ceremony was seeing some big wins in diversity:

lupita nyong'o and cate blanchett

2014 Oscar winners Lupita Nyong’o and Cate Blanchett

Lupita Nyong’o, Best Supporting Actress for “12 Years a Slave”: Lupita Nyong’o's touching acceptance speech reminded every aspiring actor and actress that “no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”

Cate Blanchett, Best Actress for “Blue Jasmine”: Cate Blanchett’s empowering speech was an inspiration for women everywhere, as she addressed the stereotype that “female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.”

Steven McQueen and Alfonso Cuaron

Directors Steve McQueen and Alfonso Cuarón

Alfonso Cuarón, Best Director for “Gravity”: Alfonso Cuarón became the first Latino director to ever win an Oscar, and in response to a backstage interview with the world press, he said he would “love if that same support is given to some other films that are coming out of there with Mexican filmmakers, shot in Mexico, and with Mexican subject matters.”

Best Picture for “12 Years a Slave”: This film set in pre-Civil War America follows Solomon Northup, a free black man who is abducted and sold into slavery. This is the first time a film directed by a black filmmaker has won Best Picture. Director Steve McQueen dedicated the win to “all the people who have endured slavery. And the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today.”

Congratulations are also due to Robert Lopez, the first Filipino-American ever to win an Oscar for his song “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen,” and John Ridley for his Oscar for the “Twelve Years a Slave” screenplay, marking only the second time that a black screenwriter has won the award.

It was also a breath of fresh air to see new Academy Director Cheryl Boone Isaacs walk out onstage to introduce herself.

While the wins will certainly change the bleak numbers we reported last week, one year alone is not enough. Here’s hoping this year’s big wins mean more people of color in front of and behind the cameras in the future!


Filed under: Diversity Links, Musings & Ponderings, The Diversity Gap Tagged: 2014 Academy Awards, Academy Awards, diversity, diversity gap, inspiration, Lupita Nyong, Oscars

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14. 10 Great Women of Color Whose Stories You Should Know

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’ve rounded up ten of our books that feature some amazing women of color! From a baseball player to an American politician, these women have helped pave the way for many others.

1. Wangari Maathai, Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace - the first African woman, and environmentalist, to win a Nobel Peace Prize

seeds of change

2. Marcenia Lyle, Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young  Girl’s Baseball Dream - the first woman to play for an all-male professional baseball team

catching the moon

3. Anna May Wong, Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story - the first Chinese American movie star

shining star

4. Florence Mills, Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights Up the Stage - an international dancing and singing superstar during the Harlem Renaissance

baby flo

5. Augusta Savage, In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savagea sculptor during the Harlem Renaissance who carved out her own special place in art history

in her hands

6. Pura Belpré, The Storyteller’s Candle / La velita de los cuentos - New York City’s first Latina librarian

storyteller's candle

7. Patsy Mink, How We Are Smart - an American politician from the U.S. state of Hawaii

how we are smart

8. Hiromi Suzuki, Hiromi’s Hands - one of a handful of women in the male-dominated world of sushi chefs

hiromi's hands

9. Rosa Parks, Dear Mrs. Parks: A Dialogue with Today’s Youth - Mrs. Parks changed the course of history when she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, sparking the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement

dear mrs. parks

10. Zora Neale Hurston, Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree - renowned African American writer

zora hurston and the chinaberry tree


Filed under: Book Lists, Musings & Ponderings Tagged: Anna May Wong, augusta savage, diversity, florence mills, hiromi suzuki, Marcenia Lyle, patsy mink, Pura Belpré, Rosa Parks, Wangari Maathai, women, women's history, women's history month, zora neale hurston

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15. How to deal with negative criticism, the Maurice Sendak way

Came across a link today to a terrific interview with the late, great Maurice Sendak. Authors and illustrators often wonder what the best way is to deal with negative criticism of their books, so I thought I’d share Mr. Sendak’s first-rate advice:

Interviewer: What kinds of things do children write to you about?

Maurice Sendak: Usually it’s awful, because they don’t feel the urge to write themselves—a few of them do, but usually it’s “Dear Mr. Sendak, Mrs. Markowitz said would you please send a free book and two drawings?” When they write on their own, they’re ferocious. After Outside Over There, which is my favorite book of mine, a little girl wrote to me from Canada: “I like all of your books, why did you write this book, this is the first book I hate. I hate the babies in this book, why are they naked, I hope you die soon. Cordially…” Her mother added a note: “I wondered if I should even mail this to you—I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.” I was so elated. It was so natural and spontaneous. The mother said, “You should know I am pregnant and she has been fiercely opposed to it.” Well, she didn’t want competition, and the whole book was about a girl who’s fighting against having to look after her baby sister.

Interviewer: You find the unvarnished truth consoling, even if it’s vicious and painful.

Maurice Sendak: If it’s true, then you can’t care about the vicious and the painful. You can only be astonished. Most kids don’t dare tell the truth. Kids are the politest people in the world. A letter like that is wonderful. “I wish you would die.” I should have written back, “Honey, I will; just hold your horses.”

You can read the rest of the interview in the November/December 2012 issue of The Believer here.


Filed under: Musings & Ponderings, Publishing 101 Tagged: Advice, author advice, illustrator advice

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16. Welcome to December!

Iguanas in the snow

from Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems


Filed under: Holidays, Musings & Ponderings

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17. What is dystopia? A chat with Diverse Energies authors

Before Thanksgiving we had a great chat on Twitter with some of the contributing authors from our new dystopian anthology, Diverse Energies. Authors Cindy Pon, Malinda Lo, Ken Liu, Rahul Kanakia, Rajan Khannaand K. Tempest Bradford joined us to answer some questions about their stories, dystopia, world-building, and more:

In one or two sentences, can you describe the dystopian worlds you’ve written about in Diverse Energies?

Diverse Energies

Malinda Lo: “The dystopian world in my story ‘Good Girl’ is a postapocalyptic NYC that politically resembles Communist China.”

Rahul Kanakia: “My story is set in a world where wealthy people have retreated into virtual reality and allowed the world to collapse. Also, there are pesticide-resistant bedbugs.”

Cindy Pon: “‘How had we drifted so far on what it meant to be human?‘ from my story sort of encapsulates it, in a world divided.”

Rajan Khanna: “Mine takes place in a world where an empire similar to the British Empire at its height uses child labor for mining.”

Ken Liu: “‘Pattern Recognition’ is about a school where children are safe. But only later do the children find out its real purpose.”

How did you decide on the specific settings where your stories take place?

Ken Liu: “My story took inspiration from a paper on human-powered computing & news about labor practices of Taiwanese manufacturers.”

Malinda Lo: “I wanted to write a story in a Big City that could be isolated in a disaster, and NYC fit well. As events have shown!”

Rajan Khanna: “I was inspired partly by a story about young kids in South Asia who ruin their bodies to make soccer balls.”

Cindy Pon: “The idea of setting it in Taipei came immediately. I was born there but left at age 6. So many memories are sensory based of Taipei. The city comes at all senses all the time.”

True or false: We are living in a dystopia.

Ken Liu: “I think far more of this planet’s population lives in a dystopia than most of us in the US are willing to acknowledge.”

Rajan Khanna: “I think from a teen standpoint, the world can often seem like a dystopia.”

K. Tempest Bradford: “Some people live in what others would see as a dystopia. It’s often a matter of perspective.”

Are oppressive governments a key part of dystopias?

Rajan Khanna: “For me, I associate that kind of oppression with dystopias. And I think that restriction of freedoms works as a YA theme.”

Malinda Lo: “My idea of ‘dystopian’ is firmly rooted in family stories/experience. I always think of oppressive governments first.”

Ken Liu: “I try to make my dystopias not about the government. I think other things are far more frightening than governments. . . . I think governments are often merely a symptom, not a cause. At least, not the cause.”

If not, are there elements that every dystopia needs?

Since these are short stories, any tips on how to build a world in very few pages?

Malinda Lo: “I think in short stories, world building must be done with some shorthand tricks. Can be hard. Shorthand tricks I like for worldbuilding in stories: food, names, twist on real-world setting that’s easily recognized. I cheated in the story by setting it in post-apoc NYC. Easy to “get”!”

Rahul Kanakia: “Most SF takes place in archetypical worlds: the Orwellian world; the gritty Blade Runner world, etc. The trick is knowing what mental image your reader starts the story with, and knowing how to deviate from that image. Most stories aren’t building worlds; they’re combining worlds that the readers have already ‘seen.’”

What is your favorite short story?

K. Tempest Bradford: “‘Even the Queen’ by Connie Willis. Far future story about menstruation (or lack thereof).”

Rajan Khanna: “‘There Will Come Soft Rains’ by Ray Bradbury.”

Rahul Kanakia: “Jorge Luis Borges’ ‘Library of Babel.’ Not sure the Diverse Energies readers will like it; when I made my students read it, they hated it. More apt example: ‘The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,’ by Le Guin.”

Malinda Lo: “Probably ‘The Bloody Chamber’ by Angela Carter.”

Cindy Pon: “Oh gosh. One of Stephen King’s I’m sure.”

You can read the whole chat on Storify.


Filed under: BookTalk, Musings & Ponderings, Publishing 101 Tagged: author advice, diverse energies, dystopia, Science Fiction/Fantasy, speculative fiction authors, Teens/YA, Tu Books

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18. Guadalupe Garcia McCall gets a visitor from beyond

A guest post by Summer of the Mariposas author Guadalupe Garcia McCall.

I’ve been travelling to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas a lot these days, visiting with some wonderful librarians, sharing my story with some amazing students, and just enjoying the adventures this burgeoning writing life is affording me.

Road trips have always been a meditative time for me, a time to be thankful for the blessings in my life and ponder the rest. I listen to the silence of the road, look at the scenery, and engage in prayer. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about being an author and wondering if this is going to be my next career, if I will be fortunate enough to have more books published. Not that I am doubting myself, no, it is more that I am feeling so privileged I don’t want to lose myself in the awesomeness of it all. I don’t want to let it go to my head. I want to always remain true to myself, my culture, and my faith.The Gravesite of Don Pedrito Jaramillo

Last week, as we were en route to Edinburg, I was looking out of my car window, asking for a sign, when quite literally there it was, a sign—a small billboard on the side of the road indicating the location of The Shrine of Don Pedrito Jaramillo, a Texas historical landmark.

Don Pedrito was a curandero, a healer, who was buried on the outskirts of Falfurrias, Texas in 1907. He came from Jalisco, Mexico, and got so sick he couldn’t sleep for days. He cured himself by applying mud to his injured nose and was finally able to get some much needed rest. It was while he slept that God spoke to him and told him he had to help heal the sick. Tales of his miraculous healings abound within the Hispanic community, and so I told my husband we absolutely had to stop.

Prayers at The Shrine of Don Pedrito JaramilloSo we visited the shrine and a sweet lady helped me pick the perfect candle, la vela de Santa Lucia—for personal elucidation. I lit my candle, gave thanks for this wonderful new writing career, and prayed for guidance and clarity as I embark on this path. That’s when it happened: I received a visit from a most unexpected guest.

It occurred just as I was about to get back in my car, when my husband stopped me and said, “Be careful, you almost closed the door on that butterfly.” I looked at the door’s edge, and there she was, a lovely mariposa. Not just any mariposa, but a brown winged, dark-speckled, many-eyed mariposa. A visitor with a message to deliver.

A Lovely Mariposa

The Aztecs believed that mariposas were the souls of their loved ones come back to visit them, to bring tidings of hope, and to reassure them that life, however brief, is beautiful. I firmly believe that mariposa was the spirit of my mother who came to remind me that she is with me on this journey, that her loving eyes are always upon me. That I have nothing to worry about because I am being taken care of—that she along with many others are “looking out” for me.

My lovely visitor crawled onto my hand, walked up my sleeve, and just sat there, splaying and displaying her brown, many-eyed wings, as I spoke to her. Some minutes later, she sat politely by while I pulled out my phone and took four close-ups of her. Then, when I thanked her for her unexpected, but much welcomed visit, she let go of the fabric of my jacket and just flew away—reminding me that life is an adventure and I should spread my wings and brave the wind with courage and conviction as I rejoice in the abundance of my blessings.


Filed under: Musings & Ponderings Tagged: guadalupe garcia mccall, Latino/Hispanic/Mexican, Summer of the Mariposas, Teens/YA, Tu Books

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19. What is Chinese New Year?

This Sunday is Chinese New Year and that means firecrackers, food, and family! You can greet someone by saying Gong Xi Fa Cai (Mandarin) or Gung hay fat choy (Cantonese), which means “wishing you prosperity in the coming year.”

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From Sam and the Lucky Money

Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar (the moon’s orbit around the Earth), therefore the actual day varies year to year. Many families will prepare for the new year by cleaning the house, shopping for new clothes, buying food to prepare new year meals, and stocking up on red envelopes to put lucky money in. Once the new year arrives, celebratory events continue for the next 15 days, including parades, feasting, red lanterns, and red paper cutouts and calligraphy.

One of the most exciting (and noisy!) activities is the firecrackers. According to old Chinese mythology, there was a mythical beast called Nian who terrorized villages and ate their livestock and crops on the first day of the New Year. One year, villagers noticed Nian running away from a child wearing red, and they realized that Nian was afraid of the color red. That is why the color red is used during Chinese New Year. Firecrackers are used to scare away Nian.

2013 will be the Year of the Snake. People born under this sign are thought to be very intuitive and insightful, and they tend to approach problems rationally and logically. There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, starting with the Rat and ending with the Pig. The legend of the Chinese Zodiac began long ago with the Jade Emperor. He wanted a way to measure time, so he told all the animals on Earth that there would be a swimming race.

The first twelve animals to cross the river would have a year of the zodiac named after them. The Rat and the Cat were scared they wouldn’t make it, but being the clever animals that they were, they asked the Ox if they could ride across on his back and the Ox agreed. Just as they were approaching the finish line, the Rat pushed the Cat into the river and jumped off the Ox’s back to race toward the finish line. This is why the Rat is the first animal in the zodiac and it also explains why cats hate rats and always chase them.

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From Amazing Faces

We wish everyone a joyous and prosperous 2013! Check out this heartwarming story to keep the Chinese New Year celebration alive!

Further reading:

What does Ramadan celebrate?

What is Diwali?

 


Filed under: Holidays, Musings & Ponderings Tagged: Asian/Asian American, Chinese New Year, holidays

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20. Meet Our New Visions Finalists

New Visions Award sealLast month we announced the finalists of our first New Visions Award, a new writing award for a debut author of color for a middle grade or young adult science fiction, fantasy, or mystery novel. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting these talented finalists on our blog as they answer questions about what inspires them, the writing process, and more. Perhaps among these five finalists you’ll find your next favorite author!

Q: What brought you to Tu Books and to the New Visions Award competition in particular?

Ailynn Knox-Collins. Redmond, WA:

I came across Tu Books when I bid on a copy of Tankborn for a charitable cause. Soon after, I had the good fortune to sit next to the writer, Karen Sandler, at an SCBWI conference in LA. I was delighted to find an imprint that is dedicated to putting books out there that are written by and feature characters of color.

Why is it important, you say, that there be this need to highlight multi-ethnic writers and stories? Because to me the world is colorful and always has been, but many of the books I love haven’t always reflected it. Too much of my own childhood was spent thinking that to be a hero or heroine, I had to look a certain way, and mostly not like me. Yet, when I look at the amazing people in the world I grew up in, they came from all sorts of backgrounds, colors and cultures.

So I had to be a part of this endeavor and I congratulate Tu Books on their first ever New Visions Award. I submitted my science fiction story and (wow!) now I’m a finalist. The other finalists are remarkable writers from excitingly varied backgrounds. I am honored to be in this group with them.

I’m a person of mixed ethnicity. My Chinese mother married an Englishman at a time when that act alone could get you disowned by your quotefamily. I grew up in several countries from England to Singapore. As a child I had my hair stroked by strangers (“Interesting color.”), my nose pinched (“Your ‘bridge’ is so high” or “flat” depending on the country) and my eyes commented on (“Ooh! Double lids.”). I got used to being asked, “What are you?” and my answer eventually became a feisty, “Human!”

When I began writing seriously a decade ago, my fictional worlds reflected how I see the real world. My characters naturally look like people I’ve encountered in my life, and they are of all colors. In GENERATION ZERO, my entry to the New Visions Award, everyone happens to be of mixed ethnicity for a horrid, sinister reason — “Mixed breeds are sturdier, like mongrel dogs”. Strangely, someone actually said that to me long ago. Astonishing, isn’t it?

I am so excited to play a small part in bringing attention to something that has been close to my heart for so long. I fell in love with books the day a teacher sat our class under the shade of a giant Raintree and read to us from CS Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I longed to be one of the Pevensies, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that they, and many subsequent heroines I loved, looked nothing like me. I did my best to ignore descriptions, but I couldn’t help feeling left out. If, as a writer, I can make one child imagine herself the heroine of a story, and know that nothing, especially not the color of her skin, can stop her from achieving her dreams, then I will be satisfied and incredibly humbled.

Well done, Tu Books for your vision and congratulations to all the finalists of the New Visions Award.

Ailynn Knox-Collins is a mother and teacher, as well as a ‘crazy dog lady’ with four great rescues who slobber all over the furniture (well, what else is it for anyway). She is an unashamed Trekkie and is learning to speak Klingon to add to the other 6 languages she  already speaks. She loves to read everything and has been inspired to write science fiction so that young people today can experience the same wonder she did growing up. Please visit her at www.taknoxcollins.wordpress.com  and follow her on Twitter @talkc 

Valynne E. Maetani, Salt Lake City, UT

Initially, I heard about Tu Books when it was still Tu Publishing, and I was ecstatic about its mission . . .  and a little dismayed that I didn’t think my book qualified for submission.  At the time, I thought they were only interested in fantasy and sci-fi.  While my book had a fantasy fairy-tale element, it would definitely be classified as a mystery.

Imagine how excited I was when I heard about the New Visions Award given to a fantasy, sci-fi, or mystery novel.  Unfortunately, it was three weeks before the submission deadline.  With so little time and a manuscript in dire need of revisions, I realized I couldn’t make it.  block quote

Determined to support their mission, I told myself I would send a manuscript in through their regular submission process at some later date.

But then someone replied to the announcement for the award with the following response:  “I was slightly concerned to see that this publisher was seeking submissions for a contest, but only from writers ‘of color’ . . . It appears that the means to the laudable end of  ‘true diversity’ in YA/MG lit is more submissions by ‘authors of color.’”  The person went on to ask why it mattered if the writer was “white.”  S/he suggested they get rid of the term “of color” from all the fine print of their website.

I am the first to say that I have read many wonderful books, with diverse characters, written by authors who are not “of color”—books that were meaningful and shed light on different cultures such as The Good Earth by Pearl Buck or Under the Blood Red Sun by Graham Salisbury.   But to me, underrepresented voices are just as important.  This award matters.  I am a Japanese-American writer, who grew up in Utah, surrounded by people who looked nothing like me, reading books about people who looked nothing like me.  I am an author of color.  Our voices matter.

And so I worked hard to get my chapters ready for submission.

I truly appreciate that Tu Books seeks to encourage diversity in children’s literature as well as diversity in the authors who write these books.  I am humbled and awed by the talent of the other New Visions Award finalists, and I am proud to have my name listed with theirs.

Valynne E. Maetani received a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.  She has managed script editing for stories for disadvantaged youth and has edited several screenplays, including My Little War in Juarez, the winner of the 2010 Creative World Award. She can be found at www.valynne.com and on Twitter @valynnemaetani

Stay tuned tomorrow for part II as we hear from our other three finalists!


Filed under: Awards, Musings & Ponderings, Tu Books Tagged: diversity, New Visions Award, Power of Words, Race issues, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Teens/YA, Tu Books, writing contests

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21. Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part II

New Visions Award sealLast month we announced the finalists of our first New Visions Award, a new writing award for a debut author of color for a middle grade or young adult science fiction, fantasy, or mystery novel. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting these talented finalists on our blog as they answer questions about what inspires them, the writing process, and more. Perhaps among these five finalists you’ll find your next favorite author!

Q: What brought you to Tu Books and to the New Visions Award competition in particular?

Rahul Kanakia, Baltimore, MD:
My novel has a number of autobiographical elements. I mean, obviously, I didn’t grow up in a plague-wracked authoritarian dystopia, but I did share many of the troubles and experiences of the character in my novel. I went to Catholic school and I was confused regarding my sexual orientation and I had body image issues. And when I started the first draft of my very first YA novel, all of that came out of me in a crazy rush. Nothing was filtered. Everything was on the paper. Never before nor since have I experienced that kind of pure mind to keyboard translation.

quote 2Except for one thing. The protagonist of that first draft was white. That’s because (kind of funnily, since I’m currently enrolled in an MFA program that’s more-or-less devoted to the creation of fine literature), I’m relentlessly commercial. I can’t ever get up the motivation to write something that I don’t think will sell. And, you know, I believed it was possible to sell a YA novel with a queer protagonist. And I believe it’s possible to sell a YA novel with a protagonist of color. There are (a few) examples of both of those things. But I just was not at all sure that it was possible to sell a YA novel with a protagonist who was both. Somehow, the intersection felt too narrow. I don’t know. Perhaps I was the unimaginative one there. Perhaps I didn’t give the publishing industry enough credit. But before I could even start to write that book, I felt like I had to choose one identity and discard another.

Fast forward a year. I’d had a story appear in Tu Books’ Diverse Energies anthology of YA dystopian fiction. And, because of that, I got forwarded an email where Tu called for submissions to their first contest: they actually wanted novels about people of color. I had this YA novel, which still hadn’t really been marketed to publishers, and, after thinking about it for awhile, I decided to go back in and rewrite it to fit the vision that I hadn’t originally been courageous enough to realize. Because of this contest, my novel exists in a form that it wouldn’t have otherwise had: I was able to overcome that mental block and write that book about a queer Indian kid that I always should have been writing.

I think that’s the benefit of having a publisher for books about and by people of color. It doesn’t only publish diverse and inclusive books…it also widens the entire marketplace. Just knowing that there is a potential home for books that explore all kinds of PoC experiences will do a lot to foster the writing of more and broader types of books.

Rahul Kanakia is a science fiction writer who has sold stories to Clarkesworld, the Intergalactic Medicine Show, Apex, Nature, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. He currently lives in Baltimore, where he is enrolled in the Master of the Fine Arts program in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University. If you want to know more about him then please visit his blog at http://www.blotter-paper.com or follow him on Twitter at @rahkan 

Ibi Zoboi, Brooklyn, NY

I’ve known about Tu Books since its Kickstarter campaign.  I did get a little teary-eyed watching that video because a whole world had opened up for me.  Not just for me as a writer, but for me as a reader, educator, and parent.  I was probably one of Tu Books’ first contributors, having prematurely sent an unpolished manuscript.  I’ve been at this writing thing for quite some time—submitting, revising, re-submitting—all while reading the online conversations around diversity in children’s books.  There were some good discussions but they were just that—discussions.  I was doing my part as a writer by working on my craft and submitting work.  What were agents and editors on the other side of the gate doing to actually shift the dynamics and raise the number of books published for children of color?

Lee & Low Books was one answer.  Tu Books was even better by filling the humungous need for genre MG & YA books featuring characters of color.  This was actually doing something!  The New Visions Award was a huge clarion call for us writers of color to step forward and shout like the Whos in Whoville, “We are here!”

I would’ve been first in line sending my manuscript off by Owl Post Express the day the contest was announced, but I’d just gotten into an MFA program and was at the mercy of my adviser.  I planned to work on my manuscript the whole semester and if she said that it needed work, I wasn’t applying.  I’d made a commitment to really learn the craft and wouldn’t dare send out work that wasn’t ready (I’d done that too often).  But she told me, “Get your application in yesterday!” And “yesterday” ended up being almost at the last minute on the heels of Hurricane Sandy.

I’d agonized over whether a story about a Haitian girl was good enough, whether I should send one about a regular black American girl instead and not dig so deep into culture and mythology.  It’s one thing to write fantasy as a person of color, it’s another thing to write as an immigrant and pull from your own culture to tell a story that can resonate with anyone.

There are lots of us writing, and it would be such a disservice to children who are desperately in need of mirrors and windows to not provide resources for writers of color to hone their craft. Prizes, awards, grant money, scholarships—just about anything that would close the gap in some way.  Yep, the New Visions Award is one step towards that, and SCBWI did something similar with their On-the-Verge Emerging Voices Award.  Hopefully, with time, more avenues will open up.

And yes, congratulations fellow Whos!  I’m honored to be a finalist and in such great company.

Ibi Zoboi’s short stories have been anthologized in The Caribbean Writer, Dark Matter 2,  and Haiti Noir edited by Edwidge Danticat, among others.  She’s received grants in Writing from the Brooklyn Arts Council and is studying Writing for Children & Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.  She’s a mom of three, married to a visual artist, and teaches writing in New York City public schools. You can find her at www.ibizoboi.com.

Akwaeke Zara Emezi, Brooklyn, NY

I came across Tu Books by chance, while going through the contest listings on the Poets & Writers website. The New Visions Award struck me because of how specific its guidelines were, and as a writer of color, I leapt at the opportunity to be part of something geared specifically towards children of color. I’m the Igbo and Tamil child of a Nigerian man and a Malaysian woman, and I grew up in Nigeria, straddling cultures like most mixed kids do, marked as ‘half-caste’ and essentially a foreigner in my home community. Finding places where I belong has always been important to me.  quote 4

Both my parents loved reading and made sure I had a constant supply of books as a child growing up in Aba. Most of these books were written by authors such as Enid Blyton and C.S. Lewis, and they all featured white children as the characters. Therefore, when I started writing books as a child (here’s one of them), all the people I created in my make believe worlds were also white and with Western names, even though I was born and raised in a deeply Igbo region of Nigeria. The books I’d read were the usual portal into other realities, which I ruthlessly applied to my childhood, convinced that pixies lived in the patch of grass in front of our house and that fairies filled my bedroom, entertained by my sister and I playing. It was easier to fit into these imaginary places.

My love for speculative fiction developed from this, and the chance to develop a fantasy world for the New Visions Award was a perfect match for me. I actually wrote Somadina specifically for this award after I found out about it, penning down a few chapters to meet the submission deadline and drawing heavily from Igbo culture and history to craft a world that I would have liked a portal to myself. I wrote with young adults in mind and worried that perhaps some elements of the story would be a little too dark, but I kept reminding myself that the reality for many young adults of color is that they are likely to personally witness or experience the ‘dark’ themes that are present in my narrative. I had to stay true to the story and tell it the way it was insisting on being told.

All in all, I’m deeply honoured to be a finalist with all these other amazing writers, and extremely grateful to Tu Books for its existence and for this opportunity.

Akwaeke Zara Emezi is an Igbo and Tamil writer who was born and raised in the south of Nigeria. She started writing at five and in the succinct words of her seven year old self- “Her ambition is to be a world famous writer and artist. She has a family of 5 and loves art and books. Her hobby is writing.” Akwaeke now lives in Brooklyn and can be found online at www.azemezi.com.

Meet Our Other Two New Vision Finalists


Filed under: Awards, Musings & Ponderings, Tu Books Tagged: diversity, New Visions Award, Power of Words, Race issues, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Teens/YA, Tu Books, writing contests

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22. The Origins of the Coretta Scott King Award

In this guest post, Dr. Henrietta M. Smith, Professor Emerita and the first African-American professor at the University of South Florida, School of Information shares her memories of how the Coretta Scott King Award began:

The news of the damage sustained by the boardwalk in Atlantic City during Hurricane Sandy brought back memories of where the Coretta Scott King Award started. This writer’s mind went back to an earlier time, to an American Library Association annual meeting in Atlantic City. Never since the inception of the Newbery Medal...The year was 1969. Two librarians walking through the exhibit hall stopped by a booth where a poster of the late Martin Luther King Jr. was on display. This was the start of a genial conversation that evolved into the observation that never since the inception of the Newbery Medal in 1922 and the Caldecott Medal in 1938 had any award committee recognized the work of a person of color.

John Carroll, a publisher from a small company in New York, overheard the conversation. It was reported that he said, rather matter of factly, “Then why don’t you ladies establish your own award?” The seed was planted. Before the conference ended, in an informal meeting on the boardwalk in Atlantic City under the leadership of Glyndon Greer and Mabel McKissick, the idea of a award for African American authors was shared with a group of African American librarians, including Augusta Baker, Charlemae Rollins, Ella Mae Yates, and Virginia Lacy Jones, to name a few. At this seaside gathering, the struggle for recognition began.

CORETTA KING SEALThe ALA questioned the need for another award. A majority of publishers informed the committee that they did not have enough children’s books by African Americans to provide for evaluation. And many librarians were skeptical of anything becoming of this fragile brainchild. Undaunted and unconvinced that this venture was fruitless, the committee moved on. In 1970, the first Coretta Scott King Awards breakfast was scheduled in a hotel that just “happened” not to be on the ALA list of official hotels. After a meager meal and short program, the first recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award was announced. A school librarian from New Jersey, Lillie Patterson, went down in history as the first winner of the award for her elementary level biography, Martin Luther King, Jr.: Man of Peace.

Ray Charles

from Ray Charles

It was not until 1974 that the award breakfast was held in an ALA conference site, but even then, the CSK Award was not recognized as an official ALA award, nor was the award committee recognized as an official ALA body. But to the joy of all, publishers were now sending more quality books, and attendance at the 7:30 a.m. breakfast was steadily growing! Another change came in 1974 when the committee presented its first illustrator award. George Ford, who is still painting today, won for the illustrations he created for Sharon Bell Mathis’ biography Ray Charles.

In the years that followed, a major breakthrough came when E. J. Josey was elected president of the ALA. One of his first concerns was to bring the Coretta Scott King Committee into the official folds of the American Library Association. In 1980, the Coretta Scott King Committee became the Coretta Scott King Task Force, a viable part of Social Responsibilities Task Force (since 1993 a part of EMIERT), with founder Glyndon Greer as its first chair.

Growth and changes can be seen as the benchmark of this dynamic group of librarians. Artist Lev Mills designed the medal that is placed on each award-winning book. The symbols in the medal’s design each carry a special message; even the colors of the winner and honor book medals, and the more recent new talent award medal, have significance. The monetary prize for the winners was first given through the efforts of the late Basil O. Phillips of the Johnson Publishing Company, and today the encyclopedias from Britannica and World Book have moved from print into the digital age.Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award seal

Following negotiations with the ALA parent body on Awards and Recognitions, and the late John Steptoe’s son, illustrator Javaka Steptoe, in 1995, the New Talent Award was established. It was named in honor of John Steptoe, whose first book, Stevie (1969), won national acclaim when the author/illustrator was only nineteen years of age.

With each meeting of the Coretta Scott King Task Force, new ideas for growth are on the docket. Among the newest is the Coretta Scott King/Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, which goes to an African American author, illustrator, author/illustrator, or practitioner (such as a librarian) for his or her body of work or contributions to reading programs involving African American literature. Changes are constantly in the works too. New ideas for creating greater visibility and wider use of Coretta Scott King Award books and materials are a part of every Task Force meeting.

To think that all this started with a meeting on the boardwalk in Atlantic City! The very spot may not be there now, but surely the news reports about Hurricane Sandy conjured up many of these same memories for those who met on the boardwalk way back in 1969.

Dr. Henrietta M. Smith, native New Yorker, received her MLS degree from Columbia University and EdD from University of Miami, Florida. She teaches in the Materials for Youth in the School of Information (University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida). Longtime member of the ALA, Smith has served on Newbery Caldecott, Wilder (Chair), and Pura Belpré Award committees for ALSC and has chaired the Coretta Scott King Task Force and the CSK Award Committee. Smith received the ALSC Distinguished Service Award in 2008 and in 2011 was the first practitioner recipient of the Coretta Scott King/Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement in Librarianship.


Filed under: guest blogger, Musings & Ponderings, Publishing 101, Resources Tagged: African American history, African/African American Interest, american library association, awards, black history month, coretta scott king awards, Why I Love Librarians

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23. Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part III

New Visions Award sealLast month we announced the finalists of our first New Visions Award, a new writing award for a debut author of color for a middle grade or young adult science fiction, fantasy, or mystery novel. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting these talented finalists on our blog as they answer questions about what inspires them, the writing process, and more. Perhaps among these five finalists you’ll find your next favorite author!

Q: What has been your experience writing from a different cultural background that may be unfamiliar to most young readers? 

Ibi Zoboi, Haiti.

While most readers are familiar with Edwidge Danticat, there are, of course, other Haitian and non-Haitian writers telling stories about Haitian children. M. Sindy Felin’s Touching Snow was a National Book Award Finalist.  The recent winner of the Printz Award is In Darkness, a story about a Haitian boy during the earthquake written by Nick Lake. One of my favorite Haitian YA books is Taste of Salt by the late Frances Temple.

Haiti has an amazing literary tradition and under a brutal dictatorship, writers either risked their lives or were sent into exile. So, for me, writing about Haiti is very political.  Though, my stories are cloaked in a world of magic.  What better way to convey Haiti’s complex history and mythology than in a young adult fantasy novel?  This simply adds another layer of depth to what young readers already know about Haiti, or any given culture.  They must know that culture is multi-dimensional and is not regulated to the superficial “facts” in the media. This is why mythology breathes life into everything I write.  While the names and magical systems differ, there is an interconnecting power in world mythology that can resonate with any reader.

Ailynn Knox-Collins, Earth.

I’ve lived in six countries and been a citizen of three, so it’s hard to decide where my origins lie. I immersed myself into the language and culture of each of the lands that have housed me and made me feel welcome. Yet, I belong to none in particular. Many people live in a culture different from their ancestors or like me, have ancestors from all over. We learn to hang on to the crucial values and adapt to others within our environment.

As a child, for example, I learned to ‘chameleon’ my accent simply to fit in. I write to discover who I am and I believe I’m not alone in this journey. In my books, I place my characters in almost sterile environments just to see what happens, so what is truly important can bubble to the surface. It seems appropriate in my form of science fiction, where the story is set in space, and humanity must rebuild itself by deciding what to keep and what to leave behind. I pepper the stories with values and beliefs I’ve picked up on the way, hoping that many of these are universal, since in the end, we are all but citizens of this one tiny planet.

Valynne E. Maetani, Japan.

Though I am fourth-generation pure Japanese, there were many traditions that my family maintained.  As a child, I removed my shoes before I entered the house, ate certain kinds of foods on holidays, and threw salt over my shoulder on New Year’s Day. But I had no idea why we did the things we did. For me, writing about the Japanese culture has been a way of sharing and understanding the meaning and purpose behind the traditions.

I like writing for young adults because it’s an age where kids no longer do things just because their parents tell them to. It’s an age where they begin to question why on a much deeper level. In order for traditions to be preserved, I think it’s important to first understand the why and the rich history behind those traditions and second, important to share that knowledge with others.

Rahul Kanakia, India.

There is a lot of literature about the Indian diasporic experience. And, when I was around fourteen years old, I went through a phase where I read a fair amount of it.

And I hated it.

The standard Indian immigrant narrative is about the angst and the pain of being trapped between worlds. It is about attempting to assimilate and finding that assimilation was impossible. It is about attempting to recover an Indian cultural identity and finding that to be impossible as well. It is, fundamentally, about always feeling alone in the world. Kind of a grim future to outline for a fourteen year old who just wants to, you know, experience the world and make friends and write books and be happy.

So I try to write stories where Indian protagonists aren’t oppressed by their heritage. I think part of the reason I like writing science fiction is that in an SF novel, there’s always something else going on. You might be struggling to fit in…but you’re also struggling to fight off the zombie hordes.

Akwaeke Emezi, Nigeria + Malaysia.

My cultural background is blended- I was born in Nigeria and lived there until I left for college, so I identify very strongly with being Igbo. I was also raised with my mother’s Malaysian culture, so although I can’t cook Nigerian food to save my life, I tie my own saris, wear jade, and ritually stockpile Baba’s Curry Powder. However, moving to the States brought my nationality to the foreground as an immigrant, and that was when I realized how much growing up in Nigeria impacted my identity.

I deliberately reached for what felt like home and birthright while I was writing Somadina. I was born where my father was born and his father before him, so I constructed a fantasy world around Igbo culture and traditional religion. Other than Nnedi Okorafor’s delightful work, I hadn’t seen my culture represented in speculative fiction, so I saturated this story in it.

I also write from different points of myself outside of my ethnicities, but elements of my cultures often seep through in a name/food/phrase. After all, where I come from shapes who I am now, with half a body in the otherworld, stories coming through my teeth, and all.

Further Reading:

What brought our New Visions finalists to Tu Books and to the New Visions Award competition in particular?

Ailynn and Valynne answer

Ibi, Rahul, and Akwaeke answer


Filed under: Awards, Musings & Ponderings, Tu Books Tagged: cultural diversity, different cultures, diversity, New Visions Award, Power of Words, Race issues, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Teens/YA, Tu Books, writing, writing contests

3 Comments on Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part III, last added: 3/1/2013
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24. Black History Month: Why Remember Bill Traylor?

Everyone knows Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr., but there are many other African Americans who have contributed to the rich fabric of our country but whose names have fallen through the cracks of history.

We’ve asked some of our authors who chose to write biographies of these talented leaders why we should remember them. We’ll feature their answers throughout Black History Month.

Today, Don Tate shares why he wrote about Bill Traylor in It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw:

cover

Bill Traylor was an “outsider artist.” He learned to draw in much the same way that I learned to paint: by trial and error. He taught himself to draw. Somehow I felt an immediate kinship to Bill. In his day, Bill’s art sold for about 10- to 25-cents and was panned by art critics as “primitive.” Today Bill’s art is collected by top art connoisseurs, and is on display in museums all over the world, selling for thousands of dollars. I love these kinds of stories where the “outsider” gets the glory.

Bill had an inborn – I believe God-given – talent that came forth in time of great need. That spoke to me, too. It supported my belief that all people are born equipped with everything needed to overcome great obstacles in life and do great things.

bill1

I think it’s important for children to be exposed to a variety of historical figures. Black history is not limited to the one or two people that are so often written and published about. In addition to civil rights, African Americans have made great contributions to science and technology, arts and literature, sports and entertainment, education and business. Bill Traylor was an artist, but he was also a journalist, though he may not have realized it. And a historian, too.Through his art, he documented an important part of American history that will be appreciated for many hundreds of years to come.

Further reading:

Black History Month: Why Remember Florence “Baby Flo” Mills?

Black History Month: Why Remember Robert Smalls?

Black History Month: Why Remember Toni Stone?

Black History Month: Why Remember Arthur Ashe?

Black History Month Book Giveaway


Filed under: Musings & Ponderings Tagged: African American interest, bill traylor, biography, black history month, don tate, dreams and aspirations, It Jes' Happened, nonfiction, overcoming obstacles, painting, slavery, united states history

1 Comments on Black History Month: Why Remember Bill Traylor?, last added: 2/28/2013
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25. Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part IV

New Visions Award sealIn January we announced the finalists of our first New Visions Award, a new writing award for a debut author of color for a middle grade or young adult science fiction, fantasy, or mystery novel. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting these talented finalists on our blog as they answer questions about what inspires them, the writing process, and more. Perhaps among these five finalists you’ll find your next favorite author!

Previous posts by our New Visions finalists:

Q: What was your relationship to books and reading as a child or teenager?  In what ways did you see yourself represented in books?

Ailynn Knox-Collins

I was seven when I attended my first boarding school. Determined to hate the experience, I succeeded at being miserable. Over the next few years, I changed school six times. I was always the new kid, but I wasn’t the nice one. I got into fights, defied teachers and even started a gang to beat up boys (I didn’t actually beat up anyone). Adults whispered about me when they thought I wasn’t listening. I was the poor child whose parents were getting a divorce. Because of that, I got away with everything which just made me more miserable.

Then one day, a teacher introduced me to CS Lewis and his worlds brought a spark into my self-imposed misery. Books became my escape. I devoured every story, mostly fantasy at first. I began to write as well, putting myself in places where I could be somewhere or someone else. Meeting Austen, Hardy and the Bronte sisters began my love affair with classical English literature. Those were wonderful years. Finally, Asimov came along and that opened the world of science fiction to me. Life became hopeful even while aliens were invading and snatching bodies, because the heroes always triumphed. And that’s where I kept seeing myself, whether or not the characters looked like me or spoke like me. They came out on top at the end and in my darkest moments, that was what I needed the most.

Ibi Zoboi

I was one of those statistical kids who did not own books. My mother worked two jobs to send me to Catholic school and we lived in a part of Brooklyn where little girls did not skip to the library on their own.  We did own encyclopedias, though, but not novels and picture books.  This had more to do with culture rather than economics.  For students in Haiti, reading was more for rote memorization of textbooks. That’s what my mother made me do with the encyclopedias.

I was dealing with some q3serious identity issues by the time I got to high school.  We’d moved to suburban Queens and I went to a mostly white Catholic high school.  I desperately wanted mirror stories but I’d settled on having some sort of movie star idol instead.  Halle Berry was just starting out then and she had starred in the TV movie Alex Haley’s Queen.  That’s what led me to reading the actual book. Then I read Alex Haley’s Roots and looked for other titles in that section of my high school’s library—slave narratives (which at some point led me to Octavia Butler’s Kindred).  Then I got mad at the world and worked in a bookstore all throughout college and read everything I could afford on my employee discount (RIP Waldenbooks).

It all started with wanting to see an image of beauty and success that was real to me. Halle’s hair was short and she was black and she’d been a heroine. I don’t think I would’ve been so superficial if I’d seen some of those images in books as a child.

Rahul Kanakia

My mom gave me Isaac Asimov’s Foundation when I was around 10 years old. She’d first read it as a kid in Mumbai in the 1960s. I loved the book’s thought-provoking premise and epic scope and I knew that I wanted more of that. Until I went to college, I only read science fiction and fantasy novels: mostly hard science fiction, space operas, military SF, epic fantasy, and swords and sorcery.

All of these subgenres are largely comprised of adventure stories. They’re about heroes who triumph over tremendous obstacles. And, because I read hundreds and hundreds of these books, I wanted to grow up and become a hero. Many SF fans of color go through a period of disillusionment when they realize that the genre doesn’t care to represent them. That did not happen to me. For whatever reason, I had no trouble identifying with the square-jawed white protagonists.

My disillusionment arose when I realized that heroism is a bit of a sham. It doesn’t exist in real life. Or, at least, not in the way that they write about it in the stories. Of course, everyone realizes that eventually. And, after growing up, some people are still able to find value in the metaphor: the hero represents some spiritual transcendence or state of striving. But I was never able to get over my disappointment. To this day, I find it difficult to read a traditionally-structured SF novel.

Valynne E. Maetani

In the third grade, I skipped recess so that I could read a series of non-fiction books. Each detailed the life of someone famous in history. Only one of those books was about a woman: Marie Curie.quote2 Shewas smart and brave, and I wondered if I could ever be like her. Often, my father would surprise me with books. Each had strong female characters like those in Little Women or The Good Earth. In our Asian culture, where emotions are rarely exposed, this was his way of telling me that he believed I could be brave and strong like Madame Curie, the March women, or O-Lan.

At some point, I fell in love with mysteries, devouring Encyclopedia Brown and eventually books by Agatha Christie. Yet I realized there were rarely characters of color. So a few years ago I decided to write a book for my youngest sister’s eighteenth birthday. I had a vague idea of the storyline but knew it would be a mystery; the protagonist would be a strong young woman; and she and her family would be Japanese. What I wanted to share through my writing is that as much as we try to fit in with those around us, we will always be different. I realized, once I was older, that being different is the precise thing my friends loved about me and my family. At the heart of it, we are all humans at the mercy of human experiences, and our differences should be embraced and appreciated rather than dismissed.

Akwaeke Emezi

My relationship to reading has always been a huge part of my life and luckily, both my parents were avid readers who happily loaded me up with books. I read everything I could find; my favorites were authors like Lewis Carroll, Kipling, James Herriot, Enid Blyton, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, etc. I also reaquote1 smalld several classics as a child/teen simply because they were in my house and I needed things to read: Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, The Odyssey, A Tale of Two Cities, etc. I remember reading Flowers in the Attic before I was ten…that was quite an experience!

I was always reading at the dinner table, at school while on break, by candlelight because the power was always out, in the bathroom- I was insatiable and churned through books quickly. We had an outdoor book market at the Post Office in my town in Nigeria, where you could bring second hand books and swap them out for more, which was a great resource.

As a child/teen, I always felt there was a place for me in all the books I read because that’s what fantasy and fiction had taught me, that I could belong anywhere because everything was possible.

Further Reading:

Meet Our New Visions Finalists I

Meet Our New Visions Finalists II

Meet Our New Visions Finalists III


Filed under: Awards, guest blogger, Musings & Ponderings, Tu Books Tagged: diversity, New Visions Award, Power of Words, promoting diversity, Race issues, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Teens/YA, writing contests

1 Comments on Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part IV, last added: 3/5/2013
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