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1. Guest Post: Amy Rose Capetta on Something Good Happened in 2016: Where Does LGBTQ YA Go From Here?

By Amy Rose Capetta
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Amy Rose Capetta writing
While the goal of this blog series is to celebrate LGBTQ YA, there’s so much more room for growth.

It might seem like LGBTQ YA books are hitting new heights, when in reality they’re only beginning to find their audience.

In the words of Alex London, author of Proxy (Speak, 2015):

"The challenge remains getting books with overtly queer themes and characters in front of all sorts of readers. I've been lucky to have had my first YA included on many state reading lists, which brings it into schools and I've been lucky with some of my middle grade books to have the support of Scholastic Book Fairs--another route into the schools.
"But for kids without active librarians who seek out and promote LGBTQ books, those books might never find their way into the reading life of young people, straight or queer.
"You can't read a book you've never seen or heard of, so exposure and access remain the greatest challenges...as for all books, really.
"We've a long way yet to go, but it's a positive development that queer books are finally competing in the same marketplace as books without queer elements."

I asked Dahlia Adler, the founder of LGBTQ Reads, about the gap that seems to exist between LGBTQ books and readers.

"I think it's really, really important that people who have access to those readers - parents, teachers, booksellers, librarians - make it their business to have even just a bare bones rec list of LGBTQ YA handy.
"I've seen some people make amazing resources for that, like bookmarks with recommendations printed right on them that can easily be distributed, and that's a huge help. Things like that, that help get the word out, are gonna be hugely important.

"It's also tricky because you have this real divide in LGBTQ YA marketing - some of it is glaringly queer, and sometimes the queerness is completely hidden.
"And the fact is, we need both. If I could give every LGBTQ YA two different covers and blurbs, I totally would. Because it's important for there to be books that are easily identifiable both so kids can find them or, if they can't take any books home, to at least see themselves in the covers and blurbs.
"But there are also kids who really want to read these books but can't safely buy or borrow them if they're obviously queer. And that's a very, very tricky thing."

When I asked Vee Signorelli of The Gay YA the same question, they said:

"There are so many teens desperately seeking representation, and yet somehow, the connection never gets made that those books are out there…

"I think maybe one reason there's so much disconnect is that, even though there are all these amazing #ownvoices books being penned, the ones that still reach peak heights of attention are almost all written by straight, cis authors…
"So I guess I'd love to see those big name authors of LGBTQIA+ YA have a thorough knowledge of other books and use their platforms to promote them.

"One of the major angles missing right now is TUMBLR. Tumblr is where the teens are that are desperately seeking representation, and taking it in any form they can find.
"I once ran across a post in which someone talked about how they were crossing out the pronouns of one of the characters in a book and replacing them with she/her so that it would make it about an F/F couple. And my heart just broke a little.

"I think there’s also a lot that needs to be done in libraries and schools. The library I work at has kept our LGBTQIA+ display up, and those books are flying in and out like nobody’s business."


I asked authors if they had any messages that they wish could reach readers, publishers, librarians, booksellers and/or educators who want to support LGBTQ YA. Audrey Coulthurst, who wrote Of Fire and Stars (Balzer + Bray, 2016), said:

"It’s heartening to see the growing enthusiasm for LGBTQ YA and the efforts bloggers, publishers, librarians, booksellers, and educators are making to help increase visibility…
"The thing I would love most is for event organizers to try to focus less on putting together 'diversity' panels, and more on creating inclusive panels.
"Why not include SFF LGBTQ books on a broader fantasy panel about worldbuilding? Or LGBTQ romances on sex in YA panels?
"Being inclusive of LGBTQ books allows us to have deeper conversations and showcase broader perspectives, directly furthering the movement for better representation by reaching readers who might not already be aware of the push for that.
"I’d love to see a shift from acknowledging (but compartmentalizing) marginalized groups toward complete inclusivity.

"Also, the YA community is so fantastic and full of passion, which is one of the things I love best about it. One evergreen reminder is that the best way to make sure your favorite authors continue writing is to support them with your dollar. That doesn’t always mean it has to come right out of your pocket either!
"Ways you can support authors:
Audrey Coulthurst
  • Buy their books (for yourself or as a gift). 
  • Request their books at your local library.
  • Discourage people from pirating books or selling ARCs. This makes authors sad (and penniless). 
  • Leave reviews on retail sites like Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
  • Spread the word on social media.
  • Tell your friends about books you love."

The word absolutely needs to spread about the books that are out there.

Not all marketing budgets are created equal, and word of mouth is still one of the biggest factors in how all books, especially LGBTQ ones, reach their audiences.

That means we all have power in the publishing industry--to spread the word, to share books we love as widely as possible. In some ways, it’s a simple equation. The more LGBTQ books we buy, the more there will be.

There are also libraries to consider. Cori McCarthy and I looked for recipients for our Rainbow Boxes (a charitable initiative, connecting LGBTQIA fiction with readers across the U.S.), we chose many small community libraries because we knew that in many cases limited budgets meant they could only afford a handful of titles, the most visible and bestselling YA--which often leaves out #ownvoices LGBTQ books.

In other cases, organizations that raised money for library spending budgets wouldn’t allow the money to be spent on LGBTQ books.

If you don’t see LGBTQ books at your local library, talk to your librarian. Consider requesting titles or even donating books to the collection.

Talking to Becky Albertalli, author of Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda (Balzer + Bray, 2015), she pointed out some other factors at work:

"The most exciting part about writing and publishing LGBTQ YA has been, hands down, hearing from readers. I get the most beautiful emails from teens (and adults!) at different stages of the coming out process, and I feel so privileged to be a part of that moment.
"Interestingly, I haven't encountered as many challenges as I anticipated. The one recurring frustration has been with a small subset of middle school librarians who feel that Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda is inappropriate for their students.
"I 100% understand this judgment call, if they're concerned about cursing and adult language, but these libraries often feature comparable heterosexual titles. It's deeply upsetting that Simon's (very innocent!) love story is seen as less appropriate for middle school than hetero love stories with equal or more sexual content.

"I think the most important message I'd like to share is for librarians. I've been seeing really wonderful LGBTQ YA collections in so many library systems, but I'm not sure there's enough discussion around the importance of including electronic copies in public library collections.
"Having physical copies of LGBTQ YA on library and bookstore shelves is incredibly important as well, and it sends a powerful message to teens encountering these collections - but digital copies are often safer and more practical for LGBTQ teens, particularly in certain regions of the country."

Malinda Lo, author of Ash (Little, Brown, 2009) and Huntress (Little Brown, 2011), points out that when it comes to YA books that do include sexual content, there are even more barriers:

Guest Post: E.M. Kokie on Radical
"I'm excited that the publishing industry is now more willing to publish these stories, but I also know that the struggle is not over. There are still limitations to the experiences that publishers are supportive of portraying in YA books.
"For example, straightforward representations of sexuality remain taboo for many, which is why I'm also very excited by E.M. Kokie's fall novel, Radical (Candlewick, 2016), which delivers one of the most realistic sex scenes involving two girls I've ever read in YA.
"Teens and sexuality push a lot of buttons in adult gatekeepers, and that's one barrier that is still pretty high for representations of queer teens.
"However, now that so many more people in the industry are talking about representation, and with so many more authors writing these stories, I hope that it's only a matter of time before barriers like this are also overturned."

While some areas of representation are flourishing, others are still barely included in YA. There are a very small number of books about intersex characters and characters on the asexuality spectrum.

There are also strikingly few characters with nonbinary gender identities.

When I asked Bill Konigsberg, author of The Porcupine of Truth (Arthur A. Levine, 2015), what he’s excited about in LGBTQ YA, and what he wants to see more of, he said:

"I went on a road trip last fall to talk to LGBTQ youth across the south and Midwest about suicide and depression. It was an amazing, exhausting trip, and in the end I think I learned more than I taught.
"One thing that was especially valuable to me as a writer and as a human being was to learn about how pervasive gender fluidity is for this youngest generation. I don't think I really understood when I set out on my journey the entire spectrum of the transgender experience, and I got educated!
"I think it's extremely clear that what we are beginning to see on the shelves are books with gender-fluid characters, and that this needs to continue to grow as an area.
"I have a feeling that this young generation is going to change the world with its exploration of gender."

When I asked Marieke Nijkamp, author of This is Where it Ends (Sourcebooks, 2016), the same question, she said:

"I want to see more queer characters of color, disabled queer characters, reliqueer characters.
"I want more ace/aro rep. I want questioning characters. I want explicit rep of all orientations.
"I want to see the entire gender spectrum reflected in YA and I want to see those intersections too. (And all across genres, too!)

"I love seeing how our stories branch out. I love seeing increasingly more support and excitement for queer YA. I think we're making massive steps right now. But I'm a very hungry caterpillar. I want more." 

More seems to be one of the most important words to take from this conversation. We need more books, more representation, more people supporting inclusive fiction in more ways, both old and new.

Before the series ends, I want to share Vee Signorelli ’s story of how they started The Gay YA.

It shows how far LGBTQ YA has come in five years--and how amazingly important these stories really are.

"In May of 2011, Jessica Verday put up a post explaining why she’d pulled out of the Wicked Pretty Things anthology: one of the editors said they would not include her piece unless she changed her m/m pairing to an m/f one.
"Book Twitter exploded with criticism of the straight-washing, and support for LGBTQIA+ characters. A #YesGayYA hashtag was formed, and other authors began sharing similar experiences of straight-washing.
"It became very apparent that there was a huge problem going on behind the scenes in publishing.
"It wasn’t necessarily straight up homophobia fueling it-- it was more the (faulty) belief that it wouldn’t sell.
"My older sister and I both saw the same thing: tons of people calling out for representation, with no way to reach the ears of publishing, and no plans to build any sort of coalition to keep the energy going.
"We were only sixteen and twelve at the time, but it wasn’t even really a question in our minds: we knew how to do websites, and we knew social media.

"We both identified as straight at the time (ha ha), and we really knew nothing about the LGBTQ community. But, we had the time and the passion and the knowledge of websites to be able to do it. Then, due to life and health issues, we had to drop off for awhile. My sister started college, and it sort of looked like it would never get started back up again.

"And then I turned fifteen and entered into what I affectionately refer to as “the year of hell.” (TW for suicidal ideation) I was suicidal, and full of self hatred, and I didn't know why. And then I realized I was queer and trans.
"I went through a lot of therapy, and that was really what stopped me from killing myself.
"But the thing that actually made me start wanting to live, the thing that made me think I might have a possible future ahead of me, was queer and trans fiction. Primarily, Far From You by Tess Sharpe (Disney-Hyperion, 2014), Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff (Carolrhoda, 2011), and The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan (Knopf, 2004).
"Those books meant so much to me. But, I knew from spending half of my life on tumblr that year, that most teens desperately seeking representation did not know about these kinds of books were out there.
"In a way, these books saved my life. I knew they could save other lives as well."

Vee chose to restart The Gay YA, and it’s become one of the most important sources online for LGBTQ fiction and community. Please take a look at the work being done there, as well as at LGBTQ Reads, Diversity in YA and Lee Wind's blog, I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?

Amy Rose signs Echo After Echo (Candlewick, 2017) contract
As a queer person, I know that the years ahead are going to be difficult. I have sat with this reality every day, and one of the few things that offer me hope right now are stories.

We will need YA books more than ever, as a source of catharsis and beauty, of comfort and resistance. This moment is more than just a trend in publishing--it’s a rare and necessary chance for LGBTQ people to share their truth with each other, and the rest of the world.

If you believe that these books are important, that LGBTQ young people are important, please do what you can to support these stories. And if you already do--thank you, thank you, thank you.

And keep watching for the next step from Rainbow Boxes! We’ll announce a new way that you can help spread the love for LGBTQ fiction in early 2017.

Cynsational Notes

Amy Rose Capetta is the author of three YA novels: Entangled and Unmade, a space duet (out now from HMH), and Echo After Echo (Candlewick, 2017), a queer love story wrapped in a murder mystery and set on Broadway.

She is on the writing team for the second season of Remade, a YA sci-fi thriller from SerialBox, and works with writers on their novels through Yellow Bird Editors (with a special interest in genre fiction and LGBTQ fiction of all kinds!)

She is the co-founder of Rainbow Boxes (@rainbowboxesya), and holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Amy Rose lives and writes in Michigan with her girlfriend Cori McCarthy, who is also a YA author, and their five-year-old, who wants to be a wizard.

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2. Guest Post: Amy Rose Capetta on Something Good Happened in 2016: LGBTQ YA Genre Fiction

By Amy Rose Capetta
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

One of the standout differences in the LGBTQ offerings in 2016, as opposed to previous years, is a boost in genre fiction.

While I love reading LGBTQ books of all kinds, in my truest and nerdiest heart, I’m a lifelong reader and devoted writer of genre fiction.

Stories with marginalized main characters tend to take a particular route through the publishing world--starting with “issue” books, expanding into a broader range of contemporary fiction, and finally arriving at genre fiction.

My first two published novels--Entangled (2013) and Unmade (2016)(both Houghton Mifflin Harcourt--are space opera and feature a f/f romance between two secondary characters.

The farther into the series I got, the more I knew that my heart was completely wound up in the story of those girls. I knew what I wanted to do--what I needed to do--write about queer characters in the kind of stories I love best.

Unfortunately, I could think of few traditionally published YA novels that fit into the categories I wanted to write.

I threw myself into the work, focused on crafting the best stories I could, and tried to cloak my worries in stubborn optimism. I’m beyond happy to say that my 2017 novel coming out from Candlewick is a mystery novel with a queer love story at its heart.

I know that I’ve been lucky. I have so many other stories to tell, as do so many LGBTQ authors. But the readers are what I keep coming back to.

Every time I find a new, beautifully crafted world with LGBTQ characters in it, that world changes mine a little bit. And if I’d had those books as a young reader--it would have changed everything.

One of the authors I looked up to as proof that LGBTQ YA genre fiction was possible is Malinda Lo.

Her science fiction fantasy (SFF) books featuring queer girls are among the handful published before 2016, including Ash (Little, Brown, 2009), a lush and lyrical retelling of Cinderella.

When I asked Malinda about her own favorites of new and upcoming books, she said:

"In November, Audrey Coulthurst's fantasy novel Of Fire and Stars (Balzer + Bray) [came] out.
"An early version of this book was Audrey's submission to Lambda*, and when I first read it I honestly wasn't sure if I trusted my own assessment of it because it checked so many of my personal reading faves. I was almost afraid it wasn't real!
"It's a high fantasy about two princesses who fall in love with each other against the backdrop of political intrigue and one girl's growing knowledge of her own magical talents.
"It also involves (to my eternal delight) plenty of romantic horseback riding lessons. Ever since reading Robin McKinley's novels as a teen, this has been one of my absolutely most favorite tropes in fantasy.
"And Of Fire and Stars is also such a delicious, slow-burning romance. Anyone who enjoys romances should love this book."

I had the opportunity to talk to Audrey Coulthurst as well, and ask her what she loves about writing genre fiction.

Audrey Coulthurst
"Perhaps the best thing about writing genre fiction is how boundless the opportunities are; writers of SFF are not obligated to create worlds that have the same social structures or prejudices that are present in ours.
"As a teen it would have been very meaningful to me to find a fantasy book that felt familiar in the ways I loved—the medievalesque setting, magic, and political intrigue—but also showed me that it was possible for a girl to fall for another girl in that imaginary world.
"Desire for that kind of book is what inspired me to write Of Fire and Stars.

"There still are not a ton of LGBTQ books in YA SFF, but that means a lot of opportunity exists for writers. I can’t wait to see what new releases arrive in the coming years.
"What I would love is not necessarily to focus on creating a SFF LGBTQ YA category, or expanding LGBTQ YA to include SFF, but for characters of all gender identities and sexual orientations to be present on the page in many different kinds of stories and for those to be accepted as part of the broader canon."

In the spirit of adding LGBTQ books to the broader canon, here are some excellent reads that will be at home in any collection.

Readers who loves high fantasy will no doubt embrace Of Fire and Stars, while those who enjoy high-paced adventures with pirates and sea monsters will delight in The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (Flux, 2016). Fans of myth retellings in contemporary settings, should run out and immediately read About a Girl by Sarah McCarry (St. Martin's Griffin, 2015).

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova (Sourcebooks, 2016) is a rich fantasy starring a bisexual Latina bruja. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (McElderry, 2015, 2016) features deftly written dystopian politics and a beautiful queer romance. Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee (Duet) is an exciting new addition to the YA superhero genre. Christopher Barzak’s Wonders of the Invisible World (Knopf, 2015, 2016) is a beautifully written contemporary novel that weaves in fantastical elements. Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz (Candlewick) is a fantastic sci-fi novel with a nonbinary main character.

While these novels will appeal to anyone who loves great storytelling, for queer readers, the expansion into genre fiction is positive for so many reasons.

As Corinne Duyvis, the author of the excellent YA fantasy novel Otherbound (Amulet, 2014), puts it:

"The delight of these books is that queer readers can see themselves in the same adventures that cishet readers can. Too often, queer characters only get stories about being queer, and aren't allowed much of an identity or adventures beyond that.
"While we need issue books, we also need more. Some readers want an escape from the real world. Some want to be empowered in a supernatural fashion. Some just love reading about dragons and are tired of being excluded from all the exciting dragon stories, damn it.

"You can't say it's 'representation' when it only exists within a very narrow kind of narrative, often dictated by cishet people. Representation means representation everywhere."

And she points out that queer readers aren’t the only ones who benefit.

"Queer genre books are also essential for cishet readers. Many who might not pick up a 'queer book' will still be exposed to queer characters that way. It helps normalize our existence.
"It's been proven in studies that exposure to positive representation of queer characters/people can actively increase acceptance, so it's important that books of all kinds accurately reflect our reality and the queer people in it.

"Finally, because these books often aren't about being queer, the flap copy often doesn't mention this aspect of the characters.
"This can be negative, since it makes the books harder for queer readers to find, but also positive, since it makes the books safer to read for teens whose parents who might not want them reading queer books."

It’s important to remember that just because a book has an LGBTQ main character, that shouldn’t be seen as limiting its readership to queer readers--any more than a book with a straight main character would be limited to straight readers. LGBTQ books shouldn’t be treated as “niche” or special interest.

When I asked Alex London, the author of dystopian YA novel Proxy (Speak, 2015), what he was most excited about in LGBTQ YA, he said:

"For me, I thought the most exciting part of publishing LGBTQ YA would be connecting with the young LGBTQ readers who were hungry for the kinds of adventure stories I write, where traditionally LGBTQ characters have been lacking.
"And the response has been touching and uplifting and inspiring (and sometimes, although rarely, heartbreaking--a book can provide some armor but it can't rescue a kid from homophobia and bigotry, especially when it comes from their parents and community).
"However, the LGBTQ response has not been the most exciting part for me. I have really delighted in the response from cis het kids and teens who are mostly willing to engage with queer heroes like they engage with any other character. They want someone they can root for and thrill with and if that character is queer, so be it.
"I've loved the anxious emails from straight readers pleading for one of the gay boys I've written to find a boyfriend. I love the emails from straight readers asking how to be better allies to their queer friends.
"Essentially, I've been thrilled that my books have acted as mirrors and windows, but most thrilled that, for some, the books have been, as [YA Goddess] Teri Lesesne puts it, '...doors books that offer them a sense of how to be powerful change agents.'"

Another highlight of my talk with Alex was his explanation of the delights of writing genre fiction.

"Writing genre, I think, frees up a part of my imagination to imagine sexual and gender identity politics beyond what our society currently can.
"I think sci fi and fantasy are freeing in that way, although I think we could all push these boundaries farther than we do.
"I love what Ursula K. Le Guin writes about the power of fantasy and sci fi not to offer prescriptions or predictions, but to dislodge the imagination from thinking that the way things are is the way they have to be. Imagining other possible realities, from our relationship to economics, our understanding of the natural world, or the bonds that connect us to each other and to our bodies--those are the joys of genre.
"I think genre fiction has the unique ability of queering our minds anyway, so it seemed natural to me to write queer characters within it."

This is one of my favorite elements of genre fiction--the expansion of possibility. The inclusion of a wider range of stories, worlds, people, and the ways they might live.

Seeing beyond our own time, place, and circumstances can be truly mind-expanding and life-changing.

As Lindsay Smith, author of the forthcoming A Darkly Beating Heart (Roaring Brook, 2016), reminds us, historical fiction is another genre we can look to for stories of LGBTQ characters who have grappled with different realities.

"My first published LGBTQ stories have been historical (“City of Angels,” in the A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls, edited by Jessica Spotswood (Candlewick, 2016)) and time-travel-y (A Darkly Beating Heart).
"I’ve always loved historical fiction, and taking into account the social pressures and situations LGBTQ characters faced in different places and periods provides an interesting challenge.
"I think across the board people assume things were always worse in the past, but there are so many more stories to be told."

Even with the recent increase in genre fiction, there are still relatively few LGBTQ YA historical fiction titles. A recently announced anthology, All Out, edited by Saundra Mitchell (Harlequin Teen, 2018) features LGBTQ historical fiction short stories from a number of incredible authors. This is a good one to pre-order and put on the to-be-read list now.

I’d like to share some closing thoughts from Tristina Wright, author of the forthcoming 27 Hours, a thrilling sci-fi novel which features a main cast of queer characters that span many identities.

When I asked her what she values most about writing genre fiction, she said:

Tristina Wright
"Giving us the spotlight to be the hero, to solve the puzzle, to slay the monster, to get the romance, to do and to be instead of furthering a straight character's journey.
"Genre can reflect the hope and optimism for the future. It can reflect the universe we want. It can contain the people around us, but in better versions.
"We can write a world where horrible things happen, but homophobia isn't one of them. Some will laugh and insist that's not realistic but, then again, neither are dragons."

Thank you for checking out this post--it’s part three of a four-part series.

Check back for the final installment, about the future of LGBTQ YA, challenges that still need to be met, and where we go from here!

Notes from Amy Rose

*Lambda Literary holds a yearly retreat for emerging LGBTQ writers, where they are mentored by experienced professionals in the field.

Cynsational Notes

Amy Rose Capetta is the author of three YA novels: Entangled and Unmade, a space duet (out now from HMH), and Echo After Echo (Candlewick, 2017), a queer love story wrapped in a murder mystery and set on Broadway.

(See New Voice Amy Rose Capetta on Entangled from Cynsations.)

She is on the writing team for the second season of Remade, a YA sci-fi thriller from SerialBox, and works with writers on their novels through Yellow Bird Editors (with a special interest in genre fiction and LGBTQ fiction of all kinds!)

She is the co-founder of Rainbow Boxes (@rainbowboxesya), and holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Amy Rose lives and writes in Michigan with her girlfriend Cori McCarthy, who is also a YA author, and their five-year-old, who wants to be a wizard.

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3. Malinda Lo Posts a Free Short Story on Interfictions

Malinda Lo (GalleyCat)Young adult author Malinda Lo has written a short story called The Cure. Lo (pictured, via) has posted this piece online at Interfictions; readers can access it free of charge.

According to Lo’s blog post, she became inspired to write The Cure when she was researching the history of hysteria. The story focuses on a theoretical cure for this psychological condition.

Here’s an excerpt: “When the doctor slapped me, I fell silent in shock, and he told me that my emotions had gotten the best of me, that my delicate female constitution couldn’t handle so much education, that I had best withdraw for the rest of the semester and focus on more womanly arts: some light embroidery, perhaps, in preparation for my upcoming wedding. I broke into laughter, because his explanation was so ridiculous it warranted nothing less. As if the prospect of my marriage could cure me.”

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4. Kelly Jensen Inks Deal With Algonquin Young Readers

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5. About That White as Default Thing

WARNING: Extremely contentious topic ahead.

A while back, author Malinda Lo tweeted a story where she came across a woman who told her that she deliberately left her character’s race ambiguous so the reader could decide. Malinda’s response was that the woman should define her character’s race clearly.

Bear with me here. I’ll explain my comment to Malinda in a bit.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I’ve actually broached this topic a few times, particularly when it comes to describing a character physically. I’ve been fairly adamant about wanting to know straight away if a character isn’t white, although some people take umbrage with that.

Needing to know a character’s race or ethnicity “right up-front” with “irrefutable textual evidence of a character’s not-whiteness” smacks of prejudice. Why would anyone assume that every character is white unless she is told otherwise?

Look. Being identified as non-white is not prejudicial…unless you have a problem with non-whiteness. There is theoretically is no value judgment on being black, Korean, biracial, or gay. Theoretically. Being ethnically non-white is a fact; facts don’t have value judgment. We, as humans, assign value judgments to neutral facts.

Author Linda Sue Park wrote in a comment in a discussion with the Cooperative Children’s Book Center about the concept of a race neutral character.

I am not black, but as a nonwhite I can attest that my race is an everyday issue. For Asians such as myself, it has negative ramifications far less often than for blacks in daily U.S. life, but not a day passes that I do not confront the question in some form. This is perhaps the single most difficult aspect for those of the majority complexion to understand: There may be moments or even hours when my Asianness is not at the surface of my thoughts, but NEVER a whole day, much less weeks or months.

She also very succinctly why people—even and especially non-white readers—read “white as default” in her blog post here.

I want to deconstruct the idea of whiteness a bit.1 “White” isn’t a race; it’s a cultural construct. Caucasian is given as the racial designation, but not all Caucasians are “white”. For example, the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa are Caucasian…but they are not considered “white”. Neither, for that matter, were the Irish or the Italians at the turn of the early 20th century. Slowly, as these cultures became more assimilated to the “mainstream”, they became white.

This is what I meant when I said to Malinda that “white” is the absence of race. “White” erases all traces of Other. When people talk to me about living in a “post-racial” society, I have to focus all my efforts into not rolling my eyes so hard they fall out of my head. White people might live in a post-racial society; the rest of us do not. We cannot.

My dad is white. My mother is not. Because she is not, I am not. Because my features are more hers than my father’s, the world sees me as Asian. This is not something I ever “forget” or don’t think about.

My partner is also multiracial. His father is Goan-Indian, his mother is white. He is white-passing. Because his features are more his mother’s than his father’s, the world sees him as white. He has to constantly “prove” he is not.2

I describe myself as Asian. But white people don’t generally describe themselves as white; they have the privilege of not having to think about it. That’s why I will always, always read a character as white until told explicitly otherwise, and why I will never be able to see me in a racially “neutral” character.

Because white is the absence of color.

  1. Note: I’m being US-centric because that is the culture in which I was raised.
  2. He gets hideous questions like, “What kind of Indian are you? Dot or feather?”

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6. Guest Post: Amy Rose Capetta on Something Good Happened in 2016: Celebrating LGBTQ YA

Rainbow Boxes co-founders Cori & Amy Rose
By Amy Rose Capetta
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

In 2015, it seemed like there was a slowly growing list of excellent YA books with central LGBTQ main characters--but there were clearly still barriers making it difficult for readers, especially teen readers, to find them.

Fellow YA author Cori McCarthy* and I created Rainbow Boxes to help bridge that gap, to directly connect LGBTQ YA to young readers.

We raised funds that allowed us to send a box of fifteen YA titles to LGBTQ centers and community libraries in all 50 states.

Rainbow Boxes co-founder Cori McCarthy in our living room--with hundreds of LGBTQ books!

Then 2016 happened.

Looking forward at the beginning of this year, I saw new LGBTQ YA titles everywhere--seemingly more in a single year than we had seen in the past five put together.

Looking back now, while the publishing landscape has indeed changed in 2016, so has the world.**

Amy Rose, Cynthia & Sara Kocek
When I first talked to Cynthia Leitich Smith about this blog series, I hoped it would be a celebration of great LGBTQ YA: a call to uplift the excellent books that are being published while we continue to work for a wider range of stories and representation.

Now this series feels more urgently important than ever. In the coming years, LGBTQ people, especially young ones, will need stories. They will need adventure and friendship and truth and love, messiness and beauty, fluff and darkness, a place to see their humanity fully explored, even as other people seek to deny it.

Straight and cisgendered people need these stories, too. Without them, there will be no truthful narratives that push against the limited, distorted, and stereotyped portrayals of the past.

Amy Rose, Adam & Cori
The work is underway. Minds and hearts are changing. LGBTQ teenagers are brave and amazing. But there is still so much we can do. I’d like to start by waving my rainbow flag as hard as I can to celebrate some of the wonderful successes in LGBTQ YA.

Books about gay teenage boys have increasingly been enjoying mainstream success levels. Some of the breakouts include New York Times bestselling More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (Soho Teen, 2015), named as “mandatory reading” and selected as an Editor’s Choice by the NYT.

David Levithan’s many books about gay teenagers, which have been published for over a decade, are considered a YA staple.

Wildly popular Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (Balzer + Bray, 2015) won the coveted Morris Award for debut authors.

Books about queer girls have not enjoyed the same levels of visibility, but there are signs that might be changing. In 2016, Anna-Marie McLemore’s When the Moon Was Ours (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's Griffin, 2016) was long-listed for National Book Award, Emily M. Danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Balzer + Bray, 2012) was announced as an upcoming movie adaptation, and Marieke Nijkamp’s This is Where it Ends (Sourcebooks, 2016) hit #1 on the NYT bestseller list--and stayed on the list week after week.

I asked Marieke: how does it feel to have a #1 NYT bestselling title featuring queer girl main characters? What does it mean for you as a writer? As a queer person? She said:

"It means the world to me. One of the reasons why I started writing was to give a voice and stories to readers who struggled to find themselves in books.
"Like I did, growing up. And as it is, nothing fills my heart more than hearing from those exact readers, who recognize themselves--if only a little--in TIWIE.

"Of course I hoped and dreamed my stories would resonate, but to hear those reactions and to see this queer book of mine do so well...
"It's far beyond even my wildest dreams. It's out of this world. I'm so incredibly grateful for it, and I hope I can pay it forward."

I talked to Anna-Marie McLemore about how she sees the field changing. Her first book, The Weight of Feathers, came out last fall. Her second book, When The Moon Was Ours, features a queer girl and trans boy as main characters, and people of color compose the main casts of both books. She said:

"I have a lot of hope for the future of inclusive literature. We still have a long way to go, but thanks to the conversations taking place, many of them fostered by leaders like those of We Need Diverse Books, we’re moving forward."

I asked the same question to Malinda Lo, a well-known author in the LGBTQ community, whose books include Huntress (Little, Brown, 2011) and Adaptation (Little, Brown, 2012). She said:

"When my first novel, Ash (Little, Brown), was published in 2009, very little YA was published that included queer characters who did not have to struggle with coming out. This has changed significantly in the last seven years.
"This change certainly wasn't driven only by my books, because other authors had also been moving in this direction, but I think my books did contribute to the growing normalization of queer characters in YA.
"In other words, you can have a queer character in a book, but it doesn't always have to be about being queer. It can be about falling in love, or saving a kingdom, or simply coming of age, with sexual orientation one issue of many that a character engages with.
"I am really encouraged by this, because the struggle for LGBT rights and acceptance does not end with coming out; it begins there. We can only be full human beings when the whole of our lives and experiences count."

This was a common refrain when I talked to authors. There will always be a place for coming out stories, and a need for excellent books that struggle with the varied and changing realities of coming out. (I’d love to see more books that deal with the fact that coming out isn’t always a binary experience dividing life neatly into “before” and “after”.)

But focusing on coming out as the only important narrative results in a limited literature that reduces LGBTQ people to a single experience.

I asked Kekla Magoon, author of 37 Things I Love (in No Particular Order)(Henry Holt, 2012) what she’s excited about in the field and how she sees it changing.

"It's exciting to contribute to the growing offering of books that deal with sexuality in big and small ways while intersecting with other storylines and multiple layers of character development.
"Around the time I sold 37 Things I Love (2010) and the time it came out (2012), people had begun talking about the need for more books that dealt with LGBTQ characters doing things other than coming out, and the need for books that showed LGBTQ characters of color.
"The need still exists for those books, but it seems as though the conversation has intensified, and is beginning to result in changes. There are more LGBTQ books now than there used to be, and that the door to the industry is cracking open even further now, as we collectively deepen our understanding of identity and intersectionality."

When I asked Corinne Duyvis, author of Otherbound (Amulet, 2014), what she’s excited about in LGBTQ YA, she said:

"I'm very excited to be seeing more #ownvoices*** books hit the shelves. The more the better!
"After all, no two people's experiences are the same. The more different voices we have, the more we can show the wealth and breadth of experiences of queer characters--and the less pressure there is on individual authors to 'speak for' queer YA.
"They can just be honest about that one character's experiences instead of being put into the position of representing an entire group.

"I would very much like to see more trans representation both on the pages and behind the scenes. There are still a lot of experiences out there that aren't being written about very much, whether in terms of trans identity or the various angles of intersectionality.
"It's essential that we listen, that we actively seek out and welcome trans voices, and that we do whatever we can to make the industry--and the world--more trans-friendly."

2015-16 saw the publication of a small number of #ownvoices books about trans characters--such as If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (Flatrion) and George by Alex Gino (Scholastic) in the middle grade category.

Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz (Candlewick) is an excellent sci-fi novel about a nonbinary character.

There is still such a long way to go. Trans characters are consistently underrepresented in LGBTQ fiction.

While celebrating how far LGBTQ YA has come, it’s important that we pay attention to areas where representation is seriously lagging. Almost every single person I interviewed for this blog series cited the need for more #ownvoices trans YA.

Vee Signorelli, the co-founder of The Gay YA, is currently running Trans Awareness Week. Please check out their work, starting with this post.

When I asked Vee about the delights and challenges of running a site that covers LGBTQ YA, they said:

"I’ve gotten to connect with other literary trans people. That… has meant so much to me. The literary community loves to herald any one trans person as the one and only, when in fact, there are many of us here, and that is unhelpfully isolating.
"There is something amazing about creating, theorizing, and working things through in community. Especially when you’re all part of such a marginalized identity that has been used and misrepresented, in culture, and in YA. There’s so much you’re able to reclaim.

"One of the absolute delights is how wonderful, strong, and vibrant the entire community is. Sometimes I get up in my head about the administration work, and I start freaking out about everything I have to do… and then I put something out to the community, like a call for submissions or volunteers, or opinions on a certain book, or anything and they are just there.
"I’m repeatedly amazed by everything the community does to keep this going."

Community is one of the most important words we can keep in mind, and foster moving forward.

Whether you’re a reader, a librarian, a teacher, a writer, a member of the publishing industry, a bookseller, there are things that all of us can do to keep this surge in LGBTQ YA going strong. And we can all work to make the YA book community a truly inclusive space.

One of the most obvious and wonderful is to enjoy and share the great books that are being published, so I want to leave you today with recommendations for new and upcoming books from Dahlia Adler, who runs LGBTQ Reads, and Vee Signorelli of The Gay YA.

These two websites are some of the most helpful resources and positive spaces for LGBTQ fiction, and I would greatly encourage anyone who doesn’t already check them out regularly to do so. (After adding these books to your TBR, of course.)

Dahlia said:
"I’m really, really into Jaye Robin Brown's Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit (HarperTeen, 2016). I think it does a really beautiful job with queerness and religion, and it's also just fun and cute and sexy and everything you want f/f YA to be.
"Anna-Marie McLemore's When the Moon Was Ours is not only remarkably beautiful in itself and its style, but in its representations of sexual orientation and gender identity and intersectionality.
"And for some books I think are just great that center queer characters but not queerness, check out Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova (Sourcebooks, 2016), A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith (Roaring Brook, 2016), As I Descended by Robin Talley (HarperTeen, 2016), and Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig  (Feiwel & Friends, 2016).
"One I haven't read but am super excited about is Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee (Duet, 2016) - it sounds like so much fun.

"Beyond 2016, I can already definitely recommend History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera (Soho Teen), How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (Katherine Tegen, 2017) -- I loved all of them and I'm positive many readers will too!"
Vee said:
"Queens of Geek by Jenn Wilde (Swoon) and Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinksi (Swoon) are two of my new all time favorite books. I’m also psyched to read Dreadnought by April Daniels (Diversion)(an #ownvoices YA featuring a trans girl), Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert (Little, Brown), 27 Hours by Tristina Wright (Entangled Teen), and It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura (HarperTeen)."

This post is the first in a four-part series. Please come back for part two--I’ll be talking about LGBTQ YA genre fiction!

Notes from Amy Rose

Rainbow Boxes co-founders and YA authors Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta
*Yes, Cori McCarthy is also my girlfriend. Thank you for scrolling all the way down here to confirm this happy fact.

**Please note that all interviews were given before November, which means all answers are reflective of a pre-election cultural landscape.

***If you’re not familiar with the term/hashtag "#ownvoices," please check out #ownvoices, where Corinne Duyvis, who coined the term, explains what it means. 

Cynsational Notes

Amy Rose Capetta is the author of three YA novels: Entangled and Unmade, a space duet (both Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and Echo After Echo (Candlewick, 2017), a queer love story wrapped in a murder mystery and set on Broadway.

She is on the writing team for the second season of Remade, a YA sci-fi thriller from SerialBox, and works with writers on their novels through Yellow Bird Editors (with a special interest in genre fiction and LGBTQ fiction of all kinds!)

She is the co-founder of Rainbow Boxes (@rainbowboxesya), and holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Amy Rose lives and writes in Michigan with her girlfriend Cori McCarthy, who is also a YA author, and their five-year-old, who wants to be a wizard.

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7. Diverse Energies

Now that it’s been circulating around for a while, I thought I’d show off the gorgeous Diverse Energies cover right here, in case you missed it in the hundred other places people are talking about it. In other news, I haven’t had much time for blogging lately, but I am working hard on Awakening by Karen Sandler (Tankborn 2) and New Worlds by Shana Mlawski (spring books) as well as books for next fall that include Joseph Bruchac’s next book. Here’s the description we sent to Publisher’s Marketplace:

Stacy Whitman at Lee & Low Books has bought world rights for Wolf Mark author Joseph Bruchac’s newest YA Killer of Enemies, a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel with a steampunk twist, for publication in fall 2013 under the Tu Books imprint. Described as “space cowboys in the new Old West,” it retells the story of Lozen, the monster slayer of Apache legend, in a world where space dust has rendered digital technology obsolete.  Barbara S. Kouts of the Barbara S. Kouts Agency did the deal.

Awesome, right? I’m SO EXCITED for it, you guys. And, without further ado, check out this gorgeousness from designer Ben Mautner. And the lineup? If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out after the cover.

 

No one can doubt that the wave of the future is not the conquest of the world by a single dogmatic creed but the liberation of the diverse energies of free nations and free men. No one can doubt that cooperation in the pursuit of knowledge must lead to freedom of the mind and freedom of the soul.

—President John F. Kennedy, from a speech at University of California, March 23, 1962

In a world gone wrong, heroes and villains are not always easy to distinguish and every individual has the ability to contribute something powerful.

In this stunning collection of original and rediscovered stories of tragedy and hope, the stars are a diverse group of students, street kids, good girls, kidnappers, and child laborers pitted against their environments, their governments, differing cultures, and sometimes one another as they seek answers in their dystopian worlds. Take a journey through time from a nuclear nightmare of the past to society’s far future beyond Earth with these eleven stories by masters of speculative fiction. Includes stories by Paolo Bacigalupi, K. Tempest Bradford, Rahul Kanakia, Rajan Khanna, Ursula K. Le Guin, Ken Liu, Malinda Lo, Ellen Oh, Cindy Pon, Greg Van Eekhout, and Daniel H. Wilson. Edited by Tobias Buckell and Joe Monti.

 

Originally published at Stacy Whitman's Grimoire. You can comment here or there.

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8. SATURDAY TRAILER: Adaptations

What better day for book trailers than a Saturday?

Adaptations by Malinda Lo

release date: 18 September

 


Filed under: trailers Tagged: Malinda Lo, saturday trailers

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9. Finalists Unveiled for the 25th Annual Lambda Literary Awards

The Lambda Literary Foundation revealed the finalists for the 25th Annual Lambda Literary Awards. The “Lammy” awards honor the best lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) published works from 2012.

The nominated works in the 22 categories were picked by more than 90 booksellers, book reviewers, librarians, authors, and previous Lammy Award winners. The winners will be announced on June 3, 2013 at a ceremony in New York City. We’ve listed a few of this year’s nominees below.

Here’s more from the release: “Lambda Literary Foundation set a new record in 2013 for both the number of LGBT books submitted for Lammy consideration, 687, and the number of publishers participating, 332. This beats the record-setting numbers in 2012 of 600 titles by over 250 publishers and is the fourth consecutive year of growth in submissions and publishers.”

continued…

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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10. Wednesday’s Harvest

It’s really hard to believe it was 97 degrees last week when we’re having 30 degree nights this week.

The garden is definitely winding down. I’m hoping for a red tomato or two but probably will get the last few green tomatoes, some rutabagas and whatever other surprises are left. One draw back to having a community garden is that people from the community wander into our garden and help themselves to the veggies. I’ll just hope I’m feeding someone who really needs it.

+-+757567409_140With sadness, I must mention the passing of Sonia Lynn Sadler, She was a talented artist and designed and recipient of the 2011 Coretta Scott King John Steptoe Award for Seeds of Change. May she rest in peace.

 

 

 

Malinda Lo (Inheritance, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013) just compiled a very interesting set of statistics on BFYA. Malinda’s analysis addresses several variations of diversity, helping us to realize all the different teens who are reading the ‘best’ books. Her closing:

The question is: Who is this “young adult” reader that this list is supposed to appeal to? Considering race alone, in a US where 37% of the population is people of color, and where “half of all children under 18 are expected to be non-white in five years” (MSNBC), should the BFYA lists attempt to diversify? How does quality — that slippery concept of “best” — relate to race and representation? These questions are further complicated when you bring in sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.

And what about authors of color? What can be done to increase representation in that arena, both in general and in lists and awards that seek to recognize the best of YA? Is that important? Should it be?.

She followed this with an interview with yours truly.

Getting listed in BFYA or other award lists is quite important to authors. Alaya Dawn Johnson (Summer Prince, Arthur A. Levine, 2013) Tweeted this after learning her book is on the National Book Award longlist.

But, getting your book made into a movie? WOW!! The Watson’s Go to Birmingham will premier on Hallmark this wtsonFriday at 8:00 pm.

You do know what day it is, right? HUMP DAY!! It’s all down hill from here!


Filed under: Diversity Issues Tagged: awards, BFYA, Malinda Lo

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11. Rambling on a Rainy Tuesday

This morning, I suddenly realized that one reason I don’t do as many informational posts any more is because I post what I find on Facebook. Please, feel free to follow me there!

Have you had a chance to read “Against YA”? I’ve read pretty lively attacks directed at the thoughts expressed in the article and interesting to note they all came from authors of YA and kidlit, librarians and others with a unique relationship to the industry. Did bankers pay this any attention? How do plumbers and astronomers react to news of so many adults reading books written for those years or decades younger? The decades? That would be me. I honestly doubt I would fill my world with YA if I were not a librarian who works in the field. I know I wouldn’t. Perhaps I would pick up a YA books now and then, but I wouldn’t have the steady diet. I don’t like a steady diet of any gene, any ethnicity or any one thing when I read. I really like this from BookRiot on reading beyond your depths. I feel a constant back and forth in my reading, from stretching my imagination with a good YA spec fic to relaxing into an adult romance to expanding the bounds of my knowledge with professional nonfic. #INeedDiverseBooks

Yesterday, I finally made it back to the gym and as always, I used my time on the treadmill to get some reading done. I’m reading Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Feral Nights at home but prefer reading on my Nook when I’m on the treadmill. So, I began reading Shieldwolf Dawning by Selena Nemorin. As works of speculative fiction, both of these books require world building. The writers had to create myth, place, names, and problems that do not exist in their day to day life. I looked at Cynthia’s blog to get an idea how authors tackle such a project and found Malinda Lo discussing Ash (Little Brown, 2009). Cynthia asked Malinda how she goes about building worlds in her writing.

I was an anthropology graduate student when I began working on Ash, so I approached the world-building from an anthropologist’s perspective. I thought a lot about the rituals that mark the turning points in life–birth, marriage, and especially death.

This was particularly important for Ash because the story begins when Ash loses both her mother and father. I studied funerary rituals in China when I was in grad school, and I relied heavily on that knowledge when I wrote about Ash’s parents’ funerals, and when thinking about how people in that world think about death and dying.

Another of the most significant aspects of the Cinderella story is the fact that the stepmother wants her daughters to make wealthy marriages. I read a lot of analysis of fairy tales, and discovered that many tales included stepmothers because mothers often died in childbirth, and fathers were forced to remarry because they needed a wife to help raise the children.

These family structures might set up a situation in which a stepmother is forced to raise both her own children and another woman’s, and in a world of scarcity, this naturally sets up a kind of competition.

For girls, marriage was basically their ticket to freedom–a girl had to marry in order to support herself later in life, and it was to her advantage to marry well.

If a stepmother is raising both her daughter and her husband’s daughter from his earlier marriage, and there are few eligible males around, it might not be surprising that she would favor her biological daughter.

Obviously not all stepmothers are like this! But doing this research helped me to understand why a stepmother might act this way.

So, I guess I thought about the worldbuilding in a fairly intellectual, anthropological way! But then when I wrote, I kind of just loosened my focus and allowed it to become the background–the motivator for characters’ actions. I didn’t bother describing all the rituals or reasonings behind decisions; I focused on how those rules and practices would influence a character’s behavior. source

As with any writing, authors bring what they know and how they’ve come to view the world into their creation process.

Eric Gansworth’s If I Ever Get Out of Here didn’t have to involve world building, but I think when Eric considered his audience, he realized he’d have to build his world for them to enrich the story. How skillfully he did that! He took us right inside his character’s world and made us feel as though we were accepted.

I wonder which is more difficult, writing about a newly created world or one we intimately know. How does one become aware of things they’ve come to take so much for granted and know they need to be described to an audience?

Some of the following have recently been posted on my FB page.

Saturday 16 August is the date of this year’s International Children’s and Young Adult Literature Celebration: Muslim Journeys. This one day workshop will feature authors Ali Alalou, Saideh Hamshidi, Rukhsana Khan and Naheed Senzai. “This year the celebration will focus on Muslim Journeys by exploring new and diverse perspectives on the people, places, histories, beliefs, and cultures of Muslims around the world, through presentations on literature, media, history and social organizations.”

Creative Child Magazine, published by Scooterbay Publishing (a company that doesn’t appear too focused on diversity), focuses on “helping parents nurture their child’s creativity”. Yesterday, they selected Chinese Fables: The Dragon Slayer and Other Timeless Tales of Wisdom (Tuttle Publishing) as the Book of the Year, kid’s books category.

Works of many outstanding authors appeared on this year’s Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year List, including the following authors. Congratulations! Lists were created for a variety of genre for under 5, 5-9, 9-13, 12-14 and 14 and up. I did not look at the 5-9 list.

Margarita Engle The Lightening Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Poet (HMH) (12-14 Historical Fiction and 12-14 Poetry)

Margarita Engle Mountain Dog (Henry Holt)

Rita Williams-Garcia: P.S. Be Eleven (Amistad Press/Harper Collins)

Lesa Cline-Ransome: Light in the Darkness: A Story about How Slaves Learned in Secret (Jump At The Sun)

Jewell Parker Rhodes Sugar (Little Brown Books for Young Readers)

Diana López Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel (Little Brown and Co.)

Andrea Cheng The Year of the Baby (Houghton Mifflin)

Andrea Cheng Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet (Lee and Low)

Cynthia Kadahata The Thing About Luck (Atheneum)

Angela Cervantes Gaby, Lost and Found (Scholastic Press)

Farhana Zia The Garden of My Imaan (Peachtree)

Eric Gansworth If I Ever Get Out of Here (Arthur A. Levine0

Crystal Allen The Laura Line (Balzer + Bray)

Nikki Grimes Words With Wings (Wordsong)

Shaun Tan The Bird King: An Artists Notebook (Arthur A. Levine)

Andrea Davis Pinkney Peace Warriors (Scholastic)

Tonya Bolden Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty (Abrams)

Matt de la Peña The Living (Delacorte Press)

Patrick Scott Flores Jumped In (Christy Ottaviano Books)

Carol Blythe Revenge of a Not-So-Pretty-Girl (Delacorte Press)

Gene Luen Yang Boxers (First Second)

Gene Luen Yang Saints (First Second)

Lynn Joseph Flowers in the Sky (Harper Teen)

Alaya Dawn Johnson The Summer Prince (Arthur A. Levine)

Sherri L. Smith Orleans (Putnam Juvenile)

Swati Avasthi Chasing Shadows (Alfred A. Knopf)

Walter Dean Myers Darius & Twig (Amistad)

I am really enjoying the BrownBookShelf’s Making Our Own Market series. Not only am I learning how African Americans are succeeding in various areas of the book industry, but I’m learning more and more about the industry itself. Most recently, Kirsten Cappy of Curious City discusses marketing African American titles. Here, she talks about how her work to promote Terry Farish’s The Good Braider (Amazon Children’s Publishing).

In “creating partners for the book by finding commonalities,” I reached out to a young Sudanese hip hop artist and shared a galley of the book with him.  A few months later OD Bonny told me the book reminded him of his flight out of South Sudan alongside his brothers.  I asked if we could pay to use one of his songs as the audio for a book trailer.  He responded, “Why wouldn’t you want a song of your own? I’ll write it. Tonight.”

When I heard his song, “Girl From Juba,” I realized that it was not just marketing, but a reader’s genuine tribute to a work of fiction. An author can have no greater gift.  I also realized that I did not need to be the one to produce this trailer. I transferred the book trailer funds to OD and the music video/book trailer was created with an all Sudanese American cast (save one Irish kid), crew, and director. The video had 1000 hits within a week, not of book professionals, but of Sudanese and African American young adults that follow OD’s music.

Ok, I have some writing of my own to do!

 

 

 

 


Filed under: Authors, awards, professional development Tagged: Bank Street Books, Brown Book Shelf, Cynthia Leitich Smith, diversity; World Read Aloud Day; World Book Night; Mike Mullin; Local Authors, Eric Gansworth, Malinda Lo

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12. Book Review-Adaptation by Malinda Lo

Title: Adaptation
 Author: Malinda Lo
Series:   Adaptation #1
Published:  April 3 2014 by Hodder
Length: 432 pages
Source: publisher
Other info: Malinda Lo has also written Huntress, Ash (review here), and Inheritance.
Summary: Flocks of birds are hurling themselves at aeroplanes across America. Thousands of people die. Millions are stranded. Everyone knows the world will never be the same.
On Reese's long drive home, along a stretch of empty highway at night, a bird flies into their headlights. The car flips over. When they wake up in a military hospital, the doctor won't tell them what happened.
For Reese, though, this is just the start. She can't remember anything from the time between her accident and the day she woke up almost a month later. She only knows one thing: she's different now. Torn between longtime crush David and new girl Amber, the real question is: who can she trust?

Review: It all starts when  Reese Holloway is waiting for a plane back from debating and  birds fall out of the sky. Stranded, she and the debate team decide to head home in a rented car, and things change even more. With no idea of the events after a crash, nor the later happenings or procedures, Reese finds some anwers that will change her life, and humanity, forever.
Huntress, I didn't enjoy especially, but Ash was one of my favourite books due to the writing style and the new take on an old story. Adaptation leaves the fantasy route and goes down the scifi men-in-black route, and it does this really well.
I love the characters. Amber's probably my favourite, because she's adorable and funny and I fell in love with her. I also liked that you had to constantly question her and her loyalties. David- CHINESE MC HECK YEAH (I get excited by chinese main characters) was also really adorable and smart. Reese isn't one of my favourite characters, she seemed a bit ordinary compared to a cast full of scientists and government agents and conspiracy theory website runners and things which I want to say but that's kind of spoilery, but I did like the fact that she constantly questioned things. Oh, and love to Reese's mum. See the lawyering badass love for her daughter and reaction to her coming out as bisexual. 
Nowhere in this book is a good place to stop reading-most certainly not the end.. Every point in Adaptation was either too intriguing or too exciting or too adorable to let you even think about putting it down, and I've had the must-never-stop-reading-this-feeling for very few books before.

Overall:  Strength 5 tea to a book I recommend to everyone, especially mystery, scifi, thriller, romance fans.

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13. 2014 in Review- The End of Year Book Survey

So, I wanted to do a roundup of this (rather quiet) year.  But I didn’t know how I’d put it together. And then I remembered that there was a giant survey from Jamie (The Perpetual Page Turner). Anyone can do it and I’m sure I should have started earlier as it’s 5 pages spaced and empty, but hey. Let’s try!


2014 Reading Stats
Number Of Books You Read: 110
Number of Re-Reads: 6 (Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Frankenstein,  The Huger Games, Mockingjay, and The Hobbit)
Genre You Read The Most From: I don’t know because I don’t keep track. I plan to work it out some day though, so watch this space.



Best in Books
1. Best Book You Read In 2014?
Out of a shortlist of Adaptation, Delete, and this, my favourite this year was probably A Kiss in the Dark by Cat Clarke.  

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
 Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith.  I’d heard many great things about it, but the writing style slowed it down and I couldn’t get into it as much as I wanted.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014? 
Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare.  I knew it was bloody, but four deaths within a few lines... well.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2014?
 Either This Book is Gay by James Dawson, or Persepolis by MarjaneSatrapi.

 5. Best series you started in 2014? Best Sequel of 2014? Best Series Ender of 2014?
 Series: Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens. Sequel: Inheritance by Malinda Lo. Ender: Delete by Kim Curran.

 6. Favourite new author you discovered in 2014?
 Joe  Hill. I’d seen good things about him, but never bothered to read anything. Then I read Heart Shaped Box and really enjoyed it.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
I read mostly within my comfort zone, but I think I’ll put down Phillip Larkin’s poetry from The Whitsun Weddings, which I read (and analysed) for school. initially thoroughly depressing, but it grew on me.
 
 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
Delete by Kim Curran. Another of my “cannot put down” reads 

  9. Book You Read In 2014 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley for school? Eh, I don’t know. Reread love comes and goes. But maybe Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, in preparation for Carry On.

10. Favourite cover of a book you read in 2014?
This Book is Gay by James Dawson. It’s bold, eye catching, simple, and it works exceedingly well.

 11. Most memorable character of 2014?
Laureth Peak from She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgewick.  It’s such a good book and so much more than it seems and fuller explanation will follow.

  12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014?
Persepolis, again.  Also, More than This by Patrick Ness, even if I really didn’t get on with the book as a whole.

 13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2014?
Persepolis, again.

  14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read? 
Persepolis, again *will try not to use this again*  Also, The Princess Bride by William Golding.

  15. Favourite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2014?
From Fanny and Stella by Neil McKenna, “French male prostitutes in drag... wore false bosoms made from boiled sheep’s...lungs... “One of the prostitutes complained to me the other day” the Parisian doctor François-Auguste Veyne reported “that a cat had eaten one of his breasts which he had left to cool down in his attic.”

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?
Shortest: The Card Sharp or The Snake Charm by Laura Lam.  Longest: Winter of the Worlds by Ken Follett.

   17. Book That Shocked You The Most
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan because it was SO MUCH BETTER than my expectations that were based on Boy Meets Boy. Does massive improvement count as shock? I don’t know, but it was definitely unexpected.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR
Reese/David/Amber from Adaptation by Malinda Lo.

19. Favourite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
Daisy and Hazel from Murder Most Unladylike. So much love and fun.

 20. Favourite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
Delete by Kim Curran.

 21. Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:
Can’t think of one.

 22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?
Amber from Adaptation.

 23. Best 2014 debut you read?
Trouble by Non Pratt. Looking forwards to Remix!

 24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
Best worldbuilding: The Wall by William Sutcliffe. Most vivid: The Mirror Empire by 
Kameron Hurley.

 25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
Fanny and Stella by Neil McKenna, or American Savage by Matt Whyman.

 26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?
Can’t think of one. Sorry.

 27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
Or one for here.

 28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan because COOPER.

 29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2014?
Grasshopper Jungle by Alexander Smith.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
More Than This by Patrick Ness. What feels like fifty pages of a character walking around and describing scenery with not much else happening just...ugh.


Bloggish/Bookish Life

1. New favourite book blog you discovered in 2014? 
I’ve mostly been keeping in contact with bloggers via means other than their blogs, and the people who I love, I can’t think of people who I definitely discovered in 2014. But down the side, there’s links to bloggers! Go check them out!

2. Favourite review that you wrote in 2014?
None of my book reviews stand out for me.  But I do quite like my theatre reviews, so if you’re interested, go have a look.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
Mr. Gove, you are the UK's education secretary. Educate. #saveourbooks
With the help of Georgia’s graphics, there were many of us speaking about against Gove’s reforms to the GCSE and Alevel English syllabus.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
Hmm... I loved the Ken Follett and Cat Clarke and David Levithan  and James Dawson talks and signings. Honourable mention for best event goes to the Divergent premier!

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2014?
Some of the many many conversations I’ve had with some people in the past year. You guys rock.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
I think my post on my We Need Diverse Books display counts by views, if you take into account its tumblr notes, after being reblogged by authors and the WNDB team!



8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
Ugh. Can’t think. Sorry.

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)? Hmm...shops. Two in Edinburgh which I found on the last day of my trip. Word Power, which does independent things, books I’d never heard of and sadly didn’t have money to buy. And Transreal Fiction, which is all the fantasy/ssf/specfic/pretty books that I’d ever need.
10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
No. *laughs* (goodreads doesn’t count becasue I’d adjusted it halfway through the year!)



Looking Ahead

 1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2014 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2015?
 The many on my ex-to read pile of doom. Especially Look Who’s Back by Tim Viernes.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2015 (non-debut)?
Prudence by Gail Carriger because I can’t wait to go back and maybe get bits of Alexia and Maccon, as well as seeing the new things.

3. 2015 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
Tatum Flynn’s  D’Evil Diaries. Looks funny, and has been compared to Good Omens, which I love.

  4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2015?
Does Carry On count as a tie-in or sequel to Fangirl? It’s going here.

 5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2015? Review books once they’re read! A post with further 2015 plans will come soon.

6. A 2015 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:
None.
  

Other things: 
Thank you so much for sticking with me, even though it’s been relatively quiet around here. That goes to all of you-readers, publishers, bloggers, authors, everyone. I hope be blogging more soon, and interact with blogs, not just the bloggers behind them, more. I also hope to pick up some failed projects from earlier on in the year- anyone still up for Bard to Bookshelf? 


Throughout the year, I have  had really bad days. You won't have heard from me about them, because when that happens I take myself off the internet and curl up in my bed. But I get through them, and then I'm back, with the things I've done on my good ones. 

 I've gotten involved in theatre, and did Godspell and Lucky Stiff with two separate, brilliant groups. I got into a program called Pathways to Law. I went to some blogger events and met people. I tried teaching myself Spanish and can now understand basic pieces. I did exams and ended up with a batch of A and A* GCSEs that I'm proud of myself for.  

I have read a  lot  this year, if you take into account the fact that this year I discovered my kindle can download mobi files off the internet and so I read many novel length fanfiction pieces (such as a 280k piece by SaraNoH and the_wordbutler called 180 Days and Counting about the Avengers being teachers at a primary school which is cute and funny and brilliant, which I started at noon one day and finished at 5pm the next).


Thank you, everyone. I hope that 2014 wasn’t entirely awful for you (anyone who says it was entirely brilliant must have had an exceptional year –and- have been ignoring the news), and I hope that 2015 is better. 

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14. Transformers: Reimagining the World

lo_ashBack in my late twenties, when I decided to finally, earnestly try to be a novelist, I chose to start with something I thought would be easy: a fairy-tale retelling. I figured that since I already knew the plot, I wouldn’t get stuck. (All seasoned writers who are reading this are probably laughing.) I settled on retelling “Cinderella” and immediately began to reshape some of the key elements. I turned the fairy godmother into a male fairy based on the Sidhe, a race of supernatural people who lived in the hills of Ireland. My fairy was even named Sidhean as a nod to that inspiration.

Initially, I thought that Sidhean was the major twist in my retelling, but I was wrong. It turned out that the main character, Ash, had no interest in Prince Charming; instead, she insisted on falling in love with a woman. This was difficult for me to accept at first. Even though I am a lesbian, the idea of transforming the Cinderella tale so radically seemed impossible. I tried to make Prince Charming more charming, but it was no use: Ash just wasn’t that into him. Eventually, I gave in to the demands of the story, and my novel Ash found its footing.

Part of the reason I had been hesitant to transform Cinderella into a lesbian was because I did not want to write a coming-out story. I wanted to write a fairy tale. Thankfully, during the course of editing out the failed heterosexual romance, I realized that I didn’t need to write a coming-out story. Ash was set in a fantasy world, and there was no need for same-sex love to be taboo there. I made the creative decision to let it be entirely normal, and Ash got to have her happily-ever-after.

The normalization of lesbian and bisexual identities has continued to be a theme in my books since Ash; it is probably the defining theme of my work.

In my fantasy novel Huntress, I took the story structure of the hero’s quest and wrote both within and against its confines. Instead of an orphan boy chosen to save the world, I imagined the daughter of a powerful noble joining forces with the magically gifted daughter of a poor farmer. I also wanted to flip the script on valorizing a lone hero; in Huntress, the world is saved through cooperation. And rather than having love be the reward for the lone hero, love is the reason the two heroines of Huntress are able to succeed. Their love for each other makes them stronger. It does not make them deviant.

In my science-fiction duology Adaptation and Inheritance, the stories I transformed came from contemporary myths about UFOs and conspiracy theories — the folklore of today. I also wanted to push the boundaries of identity and sexual orientation through the metaphor of the love triangle, one of young adult fiction’s most loved and hated tropes. That metaphor allowed me to continue my project of normalizing identities that are often depicted as deviant in mainstream fiction.

Over the last couple of years I’ve come to realize that this is the central project I’m engaged in: transformation of deviance into normalcy. My goal — subconscious at first, increasingly conscious today — has been to take story types that have traditionally excluded lesbians and bisexual women and change them into narratives where being queer is natural, universal. This metamorphosis is about reimagining the world to include people like me. I suspect this is what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.

From the May/June 2015 special issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Transformations.

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15. Ash (YA review)

I've been reading reviews all over the blogosphere on Ash, written by Malinda Lo and was so glad to finally get to it myself. The concept of a reworked Cinderella story was incredibly intriguing, as was the unique idea of the main character falling in love with a woman, instead of a handsome prince, as our typical fairy tales go. A very refreshing concept!

Jacket description:

"Pushed into indentured servitude for her stepmother in the City to pay off her father's debts, Ash is consumed with grief. She misses her family and her happy life at the edge of the Wood where old magic used to linger in the air like fairy breath. Her only joy comes from the brief, stolen walks in the woods with the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean. Ash's single, unspoken hope is that someday he might steal her away, as fairies are said to do.

But on the day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, from Kaisa she learns the art of the hunt, how to ride and track. Their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, but it grows and changes, and with it, Ash reawakens her capacity for love-and her desire to live."

Though I really loved the Ash/Kaisa dynamic, the rest of the plot fell short for me. I felt the storyline moved very slowly and the intertwining of the fairy world/Sidhean dilemma, with the real world/Kaisa dilemma, was almost too much for this one book. I could see almost two plots, rather than one, though only featuring a single main character.

Ash, was a powerful character, first in grief, then in determination to live and be happy and Kaisa was incredibly refreshing as a character. Melinda Lo definitely pulled me in with her characters, I just wasn't feeling the overall story.

Love, love, love the cover! The story will appeal to fantasy fans and those enjoying fairy tales and the like.

Thank you to Little, Brown for the review copy :)

Ash
Malinda Lo
272 pages
Young Adult
Little, Brown
9780316040099
September 2009

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16. Ash


Ash by Malinda Lo. Little, Brown. 2009. Reviewed from ARC. From BEA or ALA, not sure.

The Plot: A Cinderella retelling. Aisling, nickname Ash. Mother dies, father remarries to woman with two daughters, father dies, stepmother turns Ash into a servant, the Prince is looking for a wife, there's a ball, with fairy help Ash attends the ball. You know the rest. Or do you?

The Good: This retelling unfolds slowly, deliciously. It's an internal story; a story about Ash grieving the loss of her parents, shutting down from it, and eventually choosing life and love. This is a tale about recovering from grief and unbearable loss.

Cinderella has a fairy godmother, right? So it's only logical for Lo to create a world where fairies are real. They are dark and dangerous; the fairy world where girls risk enchantment and death for dancing and eating with these other-worldly folk. In Ash's time, fairy tales are viewed as stories to be told, except for a handful of people who still believed and followed other old ways. Ash's mother was one such; but not her father. Ash, 12 at her mother's death, believes that somehow, the fairies and her mother are connected; and that if she joins the fairy folk she will be reunited with her mother. This belief grows both with the death of her father and with her meeting those that she sought -- the fairy. Yes, they are real.

The metaphor here is obvious; joining the fairies will be a death, a rejoining with her parents. Her life as servant is so devoid of love, of anything, that this choice is not grim. In fact, as Ash reads fairy tale after fairy tale (Lo includes a number of them, all haunting) she is comforted by the promise of being lost to the fairy world, even when those tales are cautionary ones to keep young girls away from that world.

Here, Ash is thinking about Sidhean, the only fairy we meet by name, who revisits Ash again and again, promising that eventually she will join his people. "[Ash] felt the distance between her and Sidhean for the first time, and it made her long for him. She turned over onto her side and closed her eyes, trying to force herself to sleep. But in her mind's eye all she could see was him, and she wanted to be with him, all of his cold strangeness."

His cold strangeness; her death. Part 1, The Fairy, is about her obsession and longing for this strangeness, this escape, this reunion with the dead; Part 2, The Huntress, begins when Ash is 18 and is about her slowly coming alive again and wanting the living world. Instead of Ash and her books and her fairy stories, there is Ash getting to know other people (servants at another house), exploring the Wood, and meeting Kaisa, the King's Huntress.

Ash has been called a lesbian Cinderella; it says so right on Lo's website and it's also how I heard it pitched to librarians and reviewers. So I'm not giving much away when I say that Ash does not want Prince Aidan; she wants Kaisa. Another twist is that Sidhean is the fairy who helps Ash attend the Ball, fairy godfather rather than godmother. Considering the Ash/Sidhean relationship, I'd call this more a bisexual Cinderella.

Ash's friendship with Kaisa begins slowly; they meet in the Wood. They talk. Ash looks forward to meeting Kaisa; but, in part because of her connection to Sidhean, doesn't realize the depth of her feelings for Kaisa. It's someone else's observance that makes her realize it: "She wondered uncomfortably if she had done something to suggest it. And if she had -- did she feel that way? The idea was unsettling; it made her feel vulnerable." Note it's unsettling not because "I'm in love with a girl;" it's unsettling because it makes Ash vulnerable. Vulnerable to life, to love, to feeling, to not having her feelings returned. In Ash's world, no one looks askance at the thought of a female/female pairing. While we don't see another such couple in the book, in all honesty, Ash's world is so limited by being a servant that she doesn't see many couples at all in the book. This makes the story a "falling in love and recognizing love" story, not an issue story. Which is awesome.

I'm a bit of an author junkie, even though I know the book should stand alone. Still, after reading a book, it's fun to discover via a website more about the author. When I read The Devil's Kiss, I found that Sarwat Chadda is very, very funny. After Carter Finally Gets It, I visited Brent Crawford's website and found some fascinating information on jeans and the denim industry. Here, at Malinda Lo's website, I found she's an entertainment reporter and other fascinating stuff.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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17. Morris Awards Shortlist



The William C. Morris YA Debut Award "honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature." The Morris Award Committee announces the shortlist in December; which means we know the five finalists, so have plenty of time to read them all prior to the announcement of the winner on January 18 at the Youth Media Awards press conference.

This is the second year for the Morris Award; last year's winner was A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce.

From the Morris Award webpage: "This supernatural novel retells the story of Rumpelstiltskin, setting it at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution and centering it around the life of Charlotte Miller. When the bank wants to repossess her mortgaged mill, Charlotte strikes a bargain with the mysterious Jack Spinner, (a creature who knows the art of turning straw into gold), but then discovers she must free her loved ones from a generations-old curse.

At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, Charlotte Miller strikes a bargain with the malevolent Jack Spinner, who can transform straw into gold, to save her family’s mill. With masterly writing and vivid characterization and setting, Bunce weaves a powerfully seductive tale of triumph over evil.

“Bunce has crafted a story that superbly embodies the criteria for this award. Her work is compelling and has broad teen appeal,” said Chair Bonnie Kunzel. “Thoughtful reflection and spirited discussion characterized this outstanding committee’s work as its members selected a shortlist that honors the influence of William C. Morris on the field of young adult publishing.”"

The five finalists for the Morris Award are:


Ash by Malinda Lo.

From my review:

"This retelling unfolds slowly, deliciously. It's an internal story; a story about Ash grieving the loss of her parents, shutting down from it, and eventually choosing life and love. This is a tale about recovering from grief and unbearable loss. . . . Take note, librarians and teachers looking for a great book with both literary merit and one that encourages deep discussion; you'll want this one."



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18. An Interview with Malinda Lo

Tarie interviews Malinda Lo

Why did you choose to retell Cinderella? What did you find compelling about it?

The short version is, I loved "Cinderella" when I was a little girl, and as I grew up, I wished that my favorite author, Robin McKinley, would retell it. She never did, so I decided to write the book that I wanted to read.

For a longer version, feel free to check out my FAQ, where I answer this question here

What was the research and writing process you used for Ash? Did you do a lot of research on the different versions of Cinderella? What literary and non-literary influences and inspirations did you draw from while writing Ash?

When I began working on Ash, I was a graduate student studying cultural anthropology, so I used a lot of that training in my research. I did read many different versions of "Cinderella" from all over the world. I also read critical analyses of fairy tales that unpacked the meaning of these stories. I especially enjoyed Marina Warner's From the Beast to the Blonde (http://www.marinawarner.com/beast.html), which delves into the storytellers behind the stories, as well as feminist criticism.

I also read a lot of folklore collected in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Britain and Ireland. I'm especially indebted to the work of British folklorist Katharine Briggs. Those stories heavily influenced the kinds of fairies that are in Ash, as well as the fairy tales I tell in the book.

My other literary inspirations for Ash include Robin McKinley's Beauty, Rose Daughter, and Deerskin, three amazing fairy tale retellings; and the fairy tale retellings of Angela Carter in The Bloody Chamber (not for children!).

Of all the different versions of Cinderella you read, which one did you like the most or find the most interesting, and why?

I'm sorry to say I don't really remember liking one particular version better than any others. During my research phase, I wasn't reading them to see which ones I liked; I was reading them to see what they did differently from each other. I wanted to see which elements of the tale repeated across retellings, which ones didn't, etc.

However, I also watched a lot of Cinderella movies (there are a ton), and among these, I did really like Ever After, starring Drew Barrymore. It was sweet and kinda cheesy, but enjoyable. And I thought it did a great job of maki

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19. YA Lit Symposium Pre-Conference: On Beyond Stonewall

The morning began with Michael Cart giving an overview of some of the important social and political events related to LGBTQ issues. Next, Cart and Christine Jenkins presenting a list of all of the books with LGBTQ content from 1969 to 2010. They booktalked many of these, highlighting some trends (resolution by automobile crash, melodrama, impossibly good looking gay men and the women who love them), the breakthrough books, and the real dingers. It was like being back in library school, taking a class on LGBTQ YA Lit, but it was compressed. If you want to spend more time with these books and these issues, check out Cart and Jenkins’ book from Scarecrow Press, The Heart Has It’s Reasons.

If you get your hands on their bibliography and were not in attendance, please note that this is not a list of recommended books. Some are good and some are not so good. During introductions, we each chose books from the list to highlight. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan and Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and Levithan got the most nods, along with the graphic novel Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki. Please add your own recommendations in the comments.

After lunch of sandwiches and delicious chocolate cupcakes, there was an author panel consisting of: Lauren Bjorkman, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Malinda Lo, and Megan Frazer (hey, that’s me!). We talked about what brought us to write our books, the challenges we faced, and what we hope to see in the future. We compiled a list of links that are on Malinda’s site.

After the author panel, I had to dash to the Body Positivity and Fat Acceptance in Contemporary YA Fiction pre-conference (which I hope someone else blogs about, because when I came in they were sharing some awesome ideas and resources), so I cannot give a first-person account of the breakouts that occurred — if anyone else would like to chime in, please do.

If you are in Albuquerque but missed the pre-conference, you can still hear about LGBTQ issues today at 1:30 at the breakout session: The New Gay Teen: Moving Beyond the Issue Novel.

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20. YA Lit Symposium: A Side Trip…

As I was unable to make it to the YA Lit Symposium’s Pre-Conference Session: On Beyond Stonewall, I decided to head to a local bookstore Friday night for an intimate and informal discussion about LGBT issues in teen literature.  Present were authors Malinda Lo (Ash), Lauren Bjorkman (My Invented Life), Megan Frazer (Secrets of Truth and Beauty), Alexandra Diaz (Of all the Stupid Things) and Kirstin Cronn-Mills (The Sky always hears me and the hills don’t mind), all of whose books feature characters dealing with LGBT issues.

After a generous offering of chocolate-covered cherries from Diaz, the authors began by introducing themselves and their books, then dove into answering audience questions.  First up:  for what age are your books appropriate?

The authors all agreed that their books are for teen audiences, though Cronn-Mills described her novel as “edgy” (for sexual frankness and language), and therefore felt it was more for older teens, 14/16 and up.  Amusingly, Lo mentioned that she’d originally written Ash as a young woman out of her teens, but that her editor suggested she lower her age to hit the YA audience, and while Ash is recommended in the U.S .for ages 12 and up, it was published in the U.K. for ages 8-12.  Several authors pointed out that sexual encounters tend to up the recommended age level – for instance, Diaz’s book is often labeled as 14 and up, and contains two sexual encounters, one between a heterosexual couple and another between a same-sex couple.

Also regarding age-appropriateness: Why write for a teen audience?  Also, as YA authors, do you face any legal issues/constraints from your publishers or editors for writing of the sexual experiences of teens under eighteen?

The answers to “why write for this age-level” varied: it’s simply a fun age to write (Diaz); the characters are based on people from the author’s teen experience and so had to be teenagers (Cronn-Mills); and technical reasons, such as a character needing to drive, and so had to be at least sixteen (Frazer).  On the subject of legal issues, all the authors agreed that while none of them had been told to tone down scenes or to take anything out, if publishers or editors were squeamish, it was probably less about the actual content and more about heading off parent complaints and challenges.  Lo pointed out that while it may seem that book challenges are good in that they get a book publicity and make it attractively ‘taboo,’ it’s actually a bad thing, as the controversy might lead to librarians/teachers choosing not to purchase a title in order to avoid the possibility of a challenge.

When asked for their personal favorite LGBTQ books or authors, we in the audience found ourselves nodding along and/or scribbling furiously to keep

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21. YALSA Teen Lit Symposium: Author Happy Hour from the Authors’ Perspective

The thing I was looking forward to least about the whole YALSA Teen Lit Symposium was the Author Happy Hour. Neurotic me imagined me sitting by myself at a table while all the other tables were mobbed.

When the librarians started streaming in, I took a picture because it was just this mob of people coming in, like the Running of the Brides at Filene’s Basement in Boston. And then you mobbed us all! It was thrilling.

The general consensus was that this was one of the most fun and successful signings we’d each attended. Allen Zadoff joked that he’d discovered a new business model for moving his books: “Give them away!”

I wanted to let you know how impressed the authors were by you. Several commented on how nice and smart and warm all of the librarians were. You made us feel like a million bucks with your reactions to our books or our presentations. We all loved chatting with you, hearing about your libraries and your patrons. Most of all, we wished we’d had more time.

So, on behalf of all the authors, thank you, and we hope you had as much fun as we did. Oh, and brava to whoever asked Malinda Lo to sign her chest!

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22. New Site Encourages Diversity in YA

Two young-adult fiction authors, Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon, have partnered on the “Diversity in YA” (DIYA) website. Every month, they feature new books that embrace diversity. In January, they spotlighted nine middle-grade titles and fourteen YA books.

Here’s more from the site: “DIYA is a positive, friendly gathering of readers and writers who want to see diversity in their fiction. We come from all walks of life and backgrounds, and we hope that you do, too.”

An author tour is in the works with kick off set for May 2011. Some of the participating authors include fantasy series novelist Holly Black, children’s writer Matt de la Peña, and graphic novel illustrator & writer Gene Luen Yang. The tour will make stops in five cities: San Francisco, Austin, Boston, New York City, and San Diego.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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23. Cover Stories: Huntress by Malinda Lo

Malinda Lo stopped by to talk about her debut cover for the lovely Ash a while back, and she's here once again because her latest book, Huntress, just hit the shelves in April.

Once again, Malinda has a stirring cover with a great back story. Here she is:

"While I was writing Huntress I truly didn't have any idea what the cover might look like, and I didn't even spend much time thinking about it. I absolutely adore the cover that my publisher created for Ash, and I would never have come up with that as a cover concept — I'm definitely a writer, not a designer! So I was excited to see what they came up with for Huntress.

"The first cover concept I saw was this one (right). I was immediately struck by the meditative quality of the image, which I thought reflected the book pretty well — and the snow! I loved the snow! A little known fact about me is that I'm kind of obsessed with the idea of ice. Most people want to vacation in Hawaii; I desperately want to take a trip to Antarctica. (Yes, I'm strange.)

"Anyway, a good part of Huntress involves the main characters crossing a giant glacier, and I was thrilled that this aspect of the book was reflected on the cover.

"I did have a few suggestions, though, because I felt that the girl on the cover didn't entirely reflect my vision of Kaede, the main character. Of course, I know that book covers are designed to sell books, not to look exactly the way an author sees her characters (and, you know, the girl on the cover of Ash doesn't really look like her, but I think it very nicely fits the mood and feel of the book).

"One of my main concerns in this case was that the girl looked a little too young, because Kaede is 18 in the book, and I wanted to make sure this looked like a YA title..."

Read the rest of Malinda's Cover Story on melissacwalker.com.

PS-If you're lucky you can catch Malinda on the Diversity in YA Tour this month (amazing lineups)!

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24. SLJ’s 2011 Day of Dialog: “The best thing about being a writer is that you have readers” – Katherine Paterson

So let’s get a grasp on what exactly it is I’m talking about here.  Day of Dialog.  A day when School Library Journal and roughly 1.5 billion children’s book publishers (read: 16, give or take) get together and attendees (who are mostly children’s librarians and children’s booksellers) get to witness a variety of interesting panels and previews of upcoming children’s books for the Fall season.  It tends to be held on the Monday before BookExpo so that it doesn’t conflict with anything going on at that time.  And since my library was closed that day for it’s big time Centennial celebration, I thought to myself, “Why not go?  I could report on what went on and have some fun along the way.”

Of course I had forgotten that I would be typing all that occurred on Dead-Eye the Wonder Laptop: Capable of carrying at least two hours of charge in its battery . . . and then dying altogether.  So it was that I spent much of the day seeking out outlets and either parking myself next to them or watching my charging laptop warily across a crowded room.  Hi-ho the glamorous life.

I was hardly the only person reporting on the day.  Swift like the bunnies are the SLJ posts on the matter including the article BEA 2011: Paterson, Handler, Gidwitz a Huge Hit at SLJ’s Day of Dialog.

Day of Dialog is useful in other ways as well.  It means getting galleys you might otherwise not have access to.  It means sitting in a nice auditorium with a belly full of muffin.  Interestingly the only problem with sitting in the audience when you are pretty much nine months pregnant (aside from the whole theoretical “lap” part of “laptop computer”) is that you start eyeing the panelists’ water bottles with great envy.  I brought my own, quickly went through it, and then found myself wondering at strategic points of the day and with great seriousness “If I snuck onto the stage between speakers, do you think anyone would notice if I downed the remains of Meghan McCarthy’s bottled water?”  I wish I could say I was joking about this.

Brian Kenney, me boss o’ me blog and editor of SLJ, started us off with a greeting.  He noted that he had placed himself in charge of keeping everything on track and on schedule.  This seemed like a hazardous job because much of the day was dedicated to previews of upcoming books, and there is no good way to gently usher a sponsor off of a stage.  Nonetheless, Brian came equipped with a small bell.  Throughout the day that little bell managed to have a near Pavlovian influence on the panelists.  Only, rather than make them drool, it caused them to get this look of abject fear that only comes when you face the terror of the unknown.  For some of them, anyway.  Others didn’t give a flying hoot.

“It wasn’t wallpapering.”
Keynote Speaker Katherine Paterson

Luann Toth came after Brian to introduce our keynote speaker though, as she pointed out, “Does anyone really need to introduce Katherine Paterson?”  Point taken.  Now upon entering the auditorium this day, each attendee had been handed a signed copy of a new novel by Ms. Paterson and her h

4 Comments on SLJ’s 2011 Day of Dialog: “The best thing about being a writer is that you have readers” – Katherine Paterson, last added: 5/31/2011
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25. book review: Huntress by Malinda Lo

"I LOVED all the characters in this book but most especially I loved the two girls Kaede and Taisin and each of their arcs – how they started separately, then combined and then…well. I will leave for you to find out." ~ The Book Smuggler

title: Huntress

author: Malinda Lo

date: Little, Brown and Company; 2011

main characters: Kaede; Taisin

Something is not right in the kingdom and Taisin’s dreams only seem to verify it. The King decides to send an envoy which include his son, Taisin, and specially selected guards to answer the Fairy Queen’s summons to make things right. They’ve had a truce with the Fairy Queen, but stories from the areas they must travel through indicate possible danger. And then, there is the fact that Kaede is the subject of Taisin’s dreams. Neither girl has completed her studies at the academy; neither really knows her own strength or understands what challenges that may lie ahead, including challenges of the heart.

Kaede and Taisin are both indeed on a hero’s journey. Lo carries us on this journey with them, allowing readers to learn of the girl’s physical and spiritual powers as they themselves do. While they are learning to trust their own strengths, the girls also begin to trust and love each other. Only together can they conquer their foe and only two people who truly love one another could come together in such a way to fight pure evil.

It is obvious that Lo is quite comfortable with romance, legends and sheroes. This is her zone! I usually fold over corners as I read so that I can share noteworthy pages as I read but, this time, I was too caught up in the story.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to finally read a book by Ms. Lo. I suppose the only negative comment I can make here is that I should have read it sooner. This book is a prequel to Ash, which I have not yet read.


Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: book review, Malinda Lo 1 Comments on book review: Huntress by Malinda Lo, last added: 4/26/2012
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