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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: PoC, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 36
1. People of color moving white, spec-lit world. Writing opp

My post last week about Project Hieroglyph and People of Color (PoC) is one more nail in the coffin (okay, maybe just a tiny tack) of privileged publishing of speculative lit exclusion of U..S. minorities. [Spec = sci-fi, fantasy, magical realism, horror, fables]. Members of Hieroglyph decided to answer in detail the questions I posed. I did mean to stir the waters, but not for my individual benefit. For the purpose of helping break down the cement ceilings in U.S. publishing, cracking under their own exclusivity. I'll post their response when it comes in. Or join Hieroglyph and add to their discussion.

PoC seem to be a hot topic, especially in spec lit. Rumors circulate about an East Coast anthology written by diverse authors. Also, the 2015 Spokan, Washington, WorldCon is named Sasquan, which should open up possibilities to Native American writers. Since the 2013 WorldCon in San Antonio included a dozen "Spanish" workshops, Sasquan would do well to build on its progressive moves to attract a more diversified attendance, especially from the black and latino writers concentrated in Calif.

However, it's not simply that dark people are trendy. Opening the U.S. publishing doors to PoC would definitely inject perspectives and worldviews into genres that some, like Hieroglyph, believe have become overly pessimistic, gloom-and-doom, robbing spec lit of vitality, instead of portraying futures of many possibilities, and Hope. YA lit is not the only genre thirsting for that.

As a former student and instructor of Clarion West describes it: "I am all for utopian visions of the future. We ARE the future. As children and grandchildren of immigrants and those who have worked the land, survived great hardships, and learned not to rely on the dominant society, Latinos are ideally positioned to inherit the earth, deal with cultures that differ greatly from our own, and take innovative approaches to high tech, low tech, and all the little techs in between. - Kathleen Alcalá

What she expressed about Latinos, applies as well to other PoC. We should not just see what develops. We should move to develop it. Join in where and as you can and bring along your bro's or amigos, including the progressive white ones.

Here's Ernesto Hogan's take: "This all keeps giving me flashbacks to the beginning of my career thirty years ago. You should let Hieroglyph know there are a number of diversity-oriented movements (postcolonialism, Afrofuturism, Latinonautica . . .) going on right now, in fact it seems to be the coming thing. The new generation, no matter of what ethnic group or where they live, sees technology as part of their natural environment, rather than a tool the oppressors are using to keep them down. And our Cultura tends to be anti-dystopian, pleasure-generating--we've won themover with our music, food and art in the past and present; this will continue. Maybe we can not only save science fiction from it's own stereotypes, but literature from being a means of expressing clinical depression. I better stop before I this becomes a silly manifesto."

I didn't think any of this was "silly."

Diverse stories wanted for Weird Western Antho

Another example of PoC-generated activity in the spec lit world came from a lively Facebook discussion this week. Cynthia Ward began with, "I would be curious to see a Weird Western anthology that didn't feature mostly white male writers." Over 130 posts later, she initiated a possibly breakthrough anthology. So, if you're not in it for the money, consider sending, or writing, your Weird Western short story, soon.
Yeah, Cynthia's white, but knows it. That won't satisfy Sherman Alexie, but she has at least one story in Indian SF.

What's Weird Western? - A literary sub-genre that combines elements of the Western with another literary genre, usually horroroccult, or fantasy. Steampunk has been added, SF could maybe get in.

Cynthia explains, "I want to put out this anthology with Native American contributors. Mexican, Chicano, Nuevo Mexicano, Californio, and other Latino/Latina/Hispanic perspectives are not only wanted, but necessary. I'm defining multi-cultural inclusively, not that a story featuring nothing but straight white cis-gender men is going to get in. I hope the anthology will prove worthy of the interest it has generated and hope it proves worthy of interest, attention, and excitement."

Initial guidelines: diverse authors/characters/viewpoints/perspectives [not the usual straight, white, able-bodied cis cowboys/ranchers/pioneers/etc]; approx 1k - 10k words; reprints preferred; pays $5/story + royalties; published by WolfSinger Publications. One story submission at a time, in DOC or RTF; time period(s) should be 1600s CE-1910s CE, although earlier time periods will be considered.
Setting(s) should be primarily in the US/Territories west of the Mississippi, northern Mexico, and/or in western Canada). E-mail for questions and submissions.

Cynthia Ward on her credentials for editing a multi-ethnic antho: "I'm a straight white/Anglo cis woman, which may be an element some writers will weigh when considering whether to submit a story. Also, I'm OK with people sharing considerations I should bear in mind as editor, given my various privileged statuses and the fact that, although I was born in Oklahoma and lived in the West for nearly all my adult life (since 1983), I'm not a life-long resident."

As author of this post, I'll say that until we have many PoC editors with the publishing resources and connections, Anglo editors progressive enough to publish us will be an avenue we might want to take advantage of. I'm going to attempt that.

If you have questions, you can contact Cynthia at marketDoTmavenDoTsubscriptionsATgmail.com or check her lit credentials.

Rushdie on Márquez

Speaking of PoC having unique perspectives, you'll probably enjoy Salman Rushdie's piece on Gabriel García Márquez, Magic in Service of Truth, where he re-examines magical realism. Two excerpts, but the entire piece is enlightening.

"In the Macondo of Gabriel García Márquez, imagination is used to enrich reality, not to escape from it."

"No writer in the world has had a comparable impact in the last half-century. [Márquez] was the greatest of us all."

Naia - one scientist discovers her male whiteness
BUT, white-male-dominated perspectives continue, with one scientist

A 12,000-year-old female skeleton found in Yucatan (that's in dark-peopled Mexico, scientists) was named Naia, but in describing HER, one scientist said SHE, a Native American, resembled the actor Patrick Stewart, a white male, who's not even indio or mexicano. Really?

Es todo, hoy,
RudyG, aka Rudy Ch. Garcia, author of the Chicano, alternate-world fantasy, The Closet of Discarded Dreams

0 Comments on People of color moving white, spec-lit world. Writing opp as of 5/17/2014 1:12:00 PM
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2. Book Love Road Trips!

Guess what... Today is my first guest post ever! You can find me over at The OWL as a part of the March of Middle Grade. Hope you come say hi!

image from here

11 Comments on Book Love Road Trips!, last added: 3/21/2012
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3. C'Mon Now, Are Girls in Pretty Dresses Really the Problem?

Lately I've noticed lots of complaining about the plethora of covers featuring girls in fancy-schmancy dresses. And yes, those covers do get old after a while. (Except the dress on the cover of The Selection - that dress is so Carrie Bradshaw, I will never get tired of it!) But are the girls in pretty dresses really the problem?

This month I was really reminded of something that I used to be much more cognizant of: all of the faces, on almost all of the covers, are... well... white.

When I took on my February personal challenge to read only books written by or about people of color, I had a pretty short reading list. I knew I wanted to read Mare's War and The Mighty Miss Malone, but after that... ? Building up my reading list for this month took a little research. I scoured blogs like Reading in Color, Fledgling, and The Brown Bookshelf for suggestions. While I did find some absolute treasures, it really is shocking how few books are published each year by/about people of color. And that deficit is pretty darn obvious if you just scan the covers in the YA section at your local bookstore.

I think there are several reasons for the lack of "color" on YA covers. First, there just aren't a ton of books being published featuring non-white main characters. Second, sometimes the books that are published "hide" the ethnicity of their main characters. Take Marie Lu's Legend. This book is outstanding - one of my favorites so far this year. But looking at the cover, you would never know that June's dominant ethnicity is Native American. I wonder how (or if?) a cover reflecting that face would have affected the public's perception of Legend?

So what's your take, book lovers? Do you really notice race or ethnicity when you're scanning book covers? Does that factor really even matter when choosing a new book? And why do you think so many of our YA covers are so pale?

12 Comments on C'Mon Now, Are Girls in Pretty Dresses Really the Problem?, last added: 2/29/2012
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4. My Month of More "Colorful" Reading

29 days ago, I challenged myself to read only books written by or about people of color. This challenge was partly inspired by Black History Month, and partly due to a realization that since leaving my classroom in Baltimore, I had pretty much stopped looking for books that reflected the faces of "my" students.

I can almost guarantee that I would not have read most of these books without taking on this challenge, and boy-oh-boy would I have been missing out! In an effort to summarize this month of reading, here are a few awards and a few "similar interest groups" for quick reference.

Favorite YA Read of the Month: Tie between Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis and Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Pena (these two couldn't be more different, but I'll remember them both for a long, long time)

Favorite MG Read of the Month: The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani (love, love, love this book)

Favorite New-to-Me Author: Ashley Hope Perez - I thoroughly enjoyed What Can't Wait and am eagerly awaiting The Knife and the Butterfly. I can't help but feel a TFA bond with Ms. Perez and I'm so thankful that teachers like her exist!

Favorite Blast from the Past: American Girl - Cecile's New Orleans series

Favorite Illustrations: Heart and Soul - The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson (Abigail Halpin is pretty fabulous too, but Kadir Nelson's paintings were just breathtaking)

Favorite Book that Brad Pitt Should Turn into a Movie: Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams

Novels in Verse:
- Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes
- The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba by Margarita Engle
- Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

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5. Good Fortune

Good Fortune by Noni Carter, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2010, 496 pp, ISBN: 1416984801

Ayanna was taken from her home, from her mother, in Africa when she was only four years old. Good Fortune traces her life's journey from the slave ship, through years on a southern plantation, and then across the country in her search for freedom.

I initially picked up Good Fortune because I read a synopsis and it sounded so much like one of my favorites: Copper Sun by Sharon Draper. Plus, that cover is just gorgeous

After reading all 496 pages... I think I'd just as soon have re-read Copper Sun. Yes, Ayanna (who becomes Sarah who becomes Anna) is a protagonist to admire. She is strong, courageous, and wants to be educated more than almost anything in the world. She is the embodiment of perseverance. Her story even has a little romance which, in my opinion, makes any good book better.

But I just couldn't help thinking that her story had already been told. There were many passages that just seemed redundant, and there wasn't a single surprise over the course of Anna's journey. In all fairness, the last few pages could have been a great surprise, but I felt like author Noni Carter had left plenty of foreshadowing hints along the way.

I do think that Noni Carter's journey toward publication was pretty phenomenal! She started writing pieces of what would become Good Fortune when she was only 12-years-old. She sold the manuscript to Simon and Schuster at BEA 2008, and they published it in 2010. Ms. Carter is only 19-years-old! That is just flat out amazing. While Good Fortune may not be my new favorite book, I do think we will see great things from Noni Carter in the years to come.

Good Fortune will appeal to readers who really enjoy historical fiction. That being said, I would eagerly recommend Copper Sun by Sharon Draper, 47 by Walter Mosley, or Numbering All the Bones by Ann Rinaldi to readers who are looking for a truly engrossing story about slavery. 47 is actually just as much science fiction as it is historical fiction; how's that for a twist?

4 Comments on Good Fortune, last added: 3/6/2012
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6. Mmmm... Not Lovin' It

I am on a mission. A mission to review everything I read this year. Well... all of the YA and MG that I read. (I'm sorry Sandra Boynton, Moo Baa La La La will not be seen here, even though we just read it 11 times this week.) But I've run into a little snag. And that snag is a sudden pile-up of books that I just don't especially care for. I hate writing negative reviews, but I also don't want to stop my review streak, so these are just going to be minis!

The Storm in the Barn
by Matt Phelan
I picked this one up because a) I'm trying to read more graphic novels and b) Matt Phelan was judging the first battle of the BoB and so I just felt like giving one of his books a go. Set in Kansas during the Dust Bowl, a young boy is feeling somewhat useless in the midst of his family's troubles. But then he discovers the storm in the barn, and a storm is just what his dust-filled world needs. I know that this is a graphic novel, so it's told in large part through pictures. But... I needed more words. It felt overly simplistic to me. And the personified storm was so creepy looking - that fantasy element felt out of place in the very realistic world of the Dust Bowl.

Glory Be
by Augusta Scattergood
I had heard good things about Glory Be, and planned to feature it in an upcoming MG guest post. But as I read this story about a little girl whose summer is turned upside-down over an influx of white "Freedom Workers" and the town council's efforts to fight integration, I was struck by the total lack of African American characters (with the one exception of Glory's maid). Glory was a tough little cookie, but her story would have had so much more oomph if she actually knew and interacted with some of the people who she was trying to stand up for. And maybe that's just what was realistic for a girl like Glory at that time, but it seemed like African Americans should have a voice in a story about racism and segregation. Emma (Glory's maid) was a good character, but we still very rarely got to hear her inner voice. It bugged me. The story felt incomplete.

The Way a Door Closes
by Hope Anita Smith
I'm on a NIV kick right now, and had heard fantastic things about this one. It is the story of a boy whose father loses his job and walks out on his family. Even though I knew that was coming, it was pretty shocking because the father seemed so close to his wife, children, and mother who lives with them. At one point the grandmother

11 Comments on Mmmm... Not Lovin' It, last added: 3/19/2012
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7. What Can't Wait

What Can't Wait by Ashley Hope Perez, Carolrhoda Books, 2011, 234 pp, ISBN: 0761361553

Marisa is the good daughter: cooking for her father and brother, babysitting whenever her sister asks, giving half of her paycheck to the family each month.

But Marisa dreams of going to the University of Texas to study engineering, and ber calculus teacher thinks that Marisa is actually smart enough to make it happen.

But her father has all but forbidden her to go to college.
Her mother doesn't want her to leave home.
Her sister needs her to be a full-time babysitter for her niece. 
So college can wait. Family can't, right?

What Can't Wait really struck a chord with me. I saw so much of myself in Marisa's calculus teacher. Ms. Ford was constantly pushing Marisa, telling her not to make excuses, emphasizing that college was her "ticket out." But as the reader of Marisa's story, I knew that she was barely keeping it together - that she was bound by duty and loyalty to her family, and most especially to her niece. I actually found myself getting angry at Ms. Ford for not cutting her some slack. Why couldn't she try to understand what Marisa was going through? At the same time, I kept flashing back to conversations that I had with my own students. Pushing, pushing, and pushing them to do their best, to be the best - even when I had no idea what they were up against outside of the confines of our school. But then at the same time, wasn't Ms. Ford ultimately right? No matter how valid an excuse is, it's still an excuse. At some point, everyone has to decide for themselves "what can't wait," and then follow through and live with that decision.

Ashley Hope Perez has written a novel that is sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes uplifting, and always 100% realistic. She has given her readers a candid look at what it might mean to be a part of a Mexican family. She has infused the Spanish language into nearly every paragraph, making her readers feel like they are truly listening in to Marisa's world. She has forced me to reexamine my own though

4 Comments on What Can't Wait, last added: 2/18/2012
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8. The Mighty Miss Malone

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis, Wendy Lamb Books, 2012, 320 pp, ISBN: 0385734913

It's going to be darn near impossible for me to recap this gem without going into a three page summary. So, here are the highlights.

- Deza Malone: quite possibly one of the best tween characters ever written. For real.

- The Malone Family: "We are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful." And they are.

- The Great Depression: No one is escaping this monster, and the Malones are hit harder than most.

- Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling: The fight the whole world watched, and a catalyst in Deza's own story.

If I had to describe this book in just one word, it would be Delightful. For about the first 89 pages I simply could not wipe the smile off my face. That Deza Malone is just a hoot and a half! After page 89, well... her story got a whole lot more depressing. But even when she could have been wallowing in the depths of despair (I think Roscoe Malone's penchant for alliteration is rubbing off on me), Deza was never anything short of delightful.

I haven't read dialogue this good since the amaaaaaazing Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. I have a bad habit of turning down pages when I want to remember a line, or two, or five, and I think I turned down about every other page. Whoops. Read the Quotable Quotes below to get just the tiniest idea of what I'm talking about.

Set in the midwest during the Great Depression, Christopher Paul Curtis takes his readers on a tour of the streets of Gary, IN - where work is all but impossible to find, then on to the homeless camp near the tracks outside of Flint, MI, and then finally to the glamorous speakeasies of Chicago. He also uses each distinct setting to illustrate the fact that even though these cities may be "geologically located" pretty near to each other, people's attitudes about race varied widely from place to place, dramatically impacting the Malones' opportunities at each stop.

Curtis also made a point of including the 1936 fight between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling. Initially, Deza couldn't imagine why everyo

7 Comments on The Mighty Miss Malone, last added: 2/21/2012
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9. American Girl: Cecile's New Orleans Series

The American Girl 1853 series: Cecile and Marie Grace by Denise Lewis Patrick and Sarah Masters Buckey, American Girl, 2011

Cecile Rey is one of the "gens de couleur libres" or "free people of color" living in New Orleans in 1853. Together, she and her friend, Marie Grace, experience all that the diverse, busy city has to offer: Mardi Gras parades and costume balls, outdoor French markets, helping to fight a yellow fever epidemic, volunteering at a local orphanage, and performing at a city-wide benefit for the orphaned children.

Happy Mardi Gras, book lovers! In honor of the holiday, today I'm featuring a series set in New Orleans, and the first two books take place during Mardi Gras!

I was first inspired to cover this American Girl series after seeing a feature on author Denise Lewis Patrick on The Brown Bookshelf. I'd never given a thought to the authors behind my beloved American Girl books, and reading the story of how Patrick was asked to author the Cecile series piqued my interest. The Cecile series is unique from that of the other American Girls because she shares her books with a girl named Marie Grace. I read "Meet Marie Grace" and then all of the Cecile books in the series, and it's very clear that the two authors plotted the stories out together. Between the two "Meet ____" books, some lines were actually word-for-word the same. I'm really not sure why they chose to have two main characters this time. If any of you know, please fill me in!

On the surface, the Cecile/Marie Grace series follows the same "formula" as every other in the AG line.  We "Meet" the girls, they go through some "troubles" but eventually save the day, and everyone ends up stronger and wiser. A little didactic, yes... but these characters are brave, self-confident role models for little girls today. I really like the fact that each book includes a chapter of nonfiction in the back, explaining how the events in the story are a reflection of real events from the past.

Cecile's story is notable because, unlike so many black characters in historial fiction - including 10 Comments on American Girl: Cecile's New Orleans Series, last added: 2/21/2012
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10. The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba

The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba by Margarita Engle, Henry Holt and Co, 2010, 160 pp, ISBN: 0805090827

Fredricka Bremer - Swedish suffragette, novelist, and humanitarian - traveled to Cuba in the hope of discovering a modern-day Eden. Instead, she found an island of contrasts: sparkling, tropical waters carrying boats full of children in chains; lush, vibrant landscapes that Cuban women were not free to explore, or even learn about.

Together with Cecelia, the slave girl who was her interpreter, and Elena, her wealthy host's daughter, Fredrika tells the tale of the Cuba that she experienced - both the ugly and the beautiful.

Novel in verse: yay! Multiple narrators: double yay! These are two of my favorite writing techniques, and I believe that they elevated this extremely short story into something more like art.

The Firefly Letters is a sleek little novel - I think it only took me about a half hour to read cover to cover - but the themes that it tackles are huge: slavery, gender roles, education, and classism. Whew. Real life suffragette Fredricka Bremer traveled to Cuba in 1851. Author Margarita Engle was able to use Bremer's letters, sketches, and diary entries from that time period in order to write The Firefly Letters. Bremer was shocked and dismayed to find that slaves, some as young as eight-years-old, populated much of the island. On top of that, she protested against the limited rights and educational opportunities that were afforded to free Cuban women and girls. In The Firefly Letters, the other two narrators - Cecelia and Elena, are both confused and delighted by Bremer's "radical" ideas concerning freedom and women's rights. 

For me, Elena never became a very "real" character. Instead, she seemed more like a generic representative of all girls born into privilege on the island. And maybe that was because she was a product of Engle's imagination, while Cecelia was actually based on a real person - a young slave girl who Bremer described in her diary. Cecelia was clearly extremely intelligent; she could speak multiple languages and because of her skill as a translator, she was one of the most valuable slaves on the plantation. I imagine that her interactions with Bremer had a life-changing effect, and I hope that her baby was able to grow up as a free person.

For all of the weight behind this novel's history, it is truly a simply told story. It could easily be used in a classroom as part of a study o

4 Comments on The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba, last added: 2/22/2012
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11. Pull

Pull by B.A. Binns, WestSide Books, 2010, 310 pp, ISBN: 1934813435

After his father shoots and kills his mother, it's up to David to keep his family together. Determined to reinvent himself at his new school, David changes his last name and works to keep a lower profile. But even the best of intentions aren't enough to hide who a person really is inside. And for better or for worse, keeping a low profile just isn't in the cards for someone like David.

But as David stands out more and more - battling with Malik, aggravating the principal, dazzling on the basketball court, and winning the attention of the tempestuous Yolanda - will he continue being able to protect his family? Or is he only pushing them away?

Yes, Pull fits pretty perfectly in my February personal reading challenge, but I also picked it up because the boy on the cover looks exactly like one of my former students. The resemblance is just incredible. He's only in 7th grade now, but once he hits high school, I am recommending this book! Once he gets over his reflection on the cover, he is going to love David's story.

I was shocked to learn that author B.A. Binns was a woman. She has 100% nailed the voice of a teenage boy. Check out this article from Ms. Binns on how she learned to "write like a boy."In fact, she wrote so convincingly, that sometimes I actually wished we could hear less of David's thoughts. For example, do I really need to hear a detailed description of the...effect...Yolanda has on him every time that she comes close? No, I do not. But that (frequent) over-sharing is my only David-complaint. His voice was aggressive, strong, and at turns both arrogant and achingly guilt-ridden - depending on the topic of his thoughts. Just when he got a little too cocky, Binns would show David hard at work at his night job - a construction site - or give us a tender scene with David and his sisters and I would be back on his side again.

The general premise of David's story revolves around his mother's shooting, his and his siblings' guilt over not being able to stop it, and David's efforts to start over. While threads of that tragedy run throughout the entire novel, it gradually becomes much more about David's relationship with a girl named Yolanda and her boyfriend, Malik. It still turns my stomach a little just to write Malik's name down. He was a true villan - literally using and abusing any girl who would let him, and they all let him. That aspect of the plot was a sad, sad comme

1 Comments on Pull, last added: 2/22/2012
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12. Drawing From Memory

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say, Scholastic Press, 2011, 72 pp, ISBN: 0545176867

Allen Say uses photographs, cartoons, paintings, and of course, words to illustrate an autobiographical look at his early years as an artist.

When was the last time you met a twelve-year-old who lived on his own in an apartment in a huge city? Probably never, right? Well that was real life for Allen Say. 

Say had always known that he loved to draw, even when it was to the detriment of his school work and strongly discouraged by his own father. But when his grandmother told him that he could live alone in his own apartment if he got into a prestigious middle school, he suddenly got a lot more interested in studying. Once he was living on his own, Say tracked down the famous Japanese cartoonist - Noro Shinpei - and asked him to be his sensei, or mentor. Shinpei agreed, and forever changed the course of Say's life.

It was fascinating to read about an life that was so completely foreign from my own experiences. Independent from his parents, he spent the vast majority of his time with Shinpei, other teachers, or other art students. He was committed - heart and soul - to developing his craft, willing to spend whole months on a single sheet of paper, learning to draw with charcoal. 

Not surprising when you consider the fact that Say is an artist, the illustrations are critical in reading and understanding his story. In fact, Drawing From Memory reads almost more like a scrapbook than anything else, with a collage of photographs, archived cartoons, and "drawings from memory" filling in the gaps left by the words.

I picked up Drawing From Memory only because it was a contender in this year's Battle of the Books. While I was presently surprised by how engaging it was, I have to admit I'll be surprised if it makes it out of Round 1 of the BoB. It just seems a little too simple. Then again, I've yet to read its opponent - The Grand Plan to Fix Everything - so who knows? *Update! I recently finished TGPtFE and wasn't a huge fan... In fact, I think Drawing from Memory now has my vote for this round!
2 Comments on Drawing From Memory, last added: 2/25/2012
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13. The Grand Plan to Fix Everything

The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Una Krishnaswami, Illustrated by Abigail Halpin, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011, 272 pp, ISBN: 1416995897

Eleven-year-old Dini and her best friend Maddie are in love. They are in love with Dolly Singh, the most beautiful and talented actress/singer/dancer in all of Bollywood. But they have been picking up on signs - signs that only a true fan would notice! - that Dolly is in some kind of trouble. When Dini's family suddenly moves to India, she knows this is her chance to find Dolly and fix everything. The only problem is, she'll be leaving Maddie behind...

Doesn't this book just look adorable? I love the fact that the protagonist is Indian-American and that much of the story takes place in India. That is certainly a country we don't get to see much of in MG or YA literature. And the introduction to Bollywood, complete with song lyrics and descriptions of big dance numbers, was a welcome break from more typical tween obsessions.

Dini and Maddie's friendship was very sweet, and I can envision two little girls giggling over this book together in real life. In fact, it could be a perfect "going away" present for a friend who has to move - proof in print that distance doesn't end friendships!

And I need to mention that the illustrations throughout are just as charming as the cover.  I think Abigail Halpin just might be my new favorite artist. Check out this interview with both Halpin and author Uma Krishnaswami for more images and details on the creation of The Grand Plan to Fix Everything.

But... something about this story just didn't sit right with me. The third person narration was a small factor in that I never truly connected with Dini. It was also a little too convenient that Dolly just so happened to be living in the same remote, rural village that Dini had moved to. *Don't worry: That's not really a spoiler. Dini figures it out the day that she moves.* In fact, all the way through the book, the narrator makes it seem like Dini is having such a hard time "fixing everything" for Dolly, when really everything just kept (very unrealistically) falling into place.

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14. The Whole Story of Half a Girl

The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2012, 224 pp, ISBN: 0385741286

Sonia is half Indian and half Jewish, but that has never really seemed to matter. At Community, all of the kids in her class are unique, and their teacher - Jack - makes a point of teaching them about all different cultures. But Sonia won't be going to Community any more. Her dad has lost his job, and she will be starting 6th grade at the public middle school.

At her new school, everything is different. Her skin is too dark for some kids, and too light for others. She dresses all wrong, brings the wrong food for lunch, and can't even make the cheerleading team - even though she's definitely better than some of the girls on the squad. On top of all of that, her father is becoming seriously depressed since he still hasn't found a new job. But when Sonia starts hanging out with Kate, it seems like everything is going to change for the better.

The Whole Story of Half a Girl is 100% wonderful. I mean seriously, completely wonderful. This is Veera Hiranandani's first novel, and she needs to write another pretty much immediately.

This is the second middle grade novel featuring an Indian main character that I've read this week, and I hope that Indian culture is slowly becoming more of a trend in MG/YA lit. That being said, I would have loved to have gotten more details about what makes Indian culture unique and different. Sonia has to tell a kid at her new school that her father doesn't wear a turbin, or a feathered headdress for that matter, but other than a brief mention of a family trip to Bombay and a beautiful Indian dress, she really doesn't elaborate on that part of her background. Sonia is also half Jewish, although her mom makes a point of saying that Judaism is a religion, not an ethnicity, so she can't actually be "half" Jewish. As Sonia's mother isn't particularly religious, Sonia herself has received little exposure to Jewish customs, so readers hoping for a mini-lesson on Judaism may be disappointed.

Now I know I'm starting to sound a little negative, but remember what I said: 100% wonderful. Every character is written so realistically, it wouldn't be surprising if Sonia's story turned out to be nonfiction. This could be partially due to the fact that the main character is partly based on Hiranandani's own experiences growing up half Indian, half Jewish

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15. One Crazy Summer

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. Amistad, an imprint of Harper Collins. 2010. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

The Plot: 1968. Delphine Gaither, 11, is the oldest sister, the responsible one, who is in charge of Vonetta (age 9) and Fern (age 7) as they travel from Brooklyn to Oakland, CA to visit Cecile, the mother who left them shortly after Fern's birth.

In One Crazy Summer, the three girls learn not just about their mother and about themselves, but also about the larger world. The world of 1968 is one where grown ups argue with children about whether they use the word black or colored; a seven year old is taken to task in public for having a white doll; and poetry is not just words on a page.

The Good: I love the Gaither sisters! I love how they stick up for each other in public, yet get mad at each other in private. I love how they have this thing where they don't just finish each others sentences -- when taking on someone, they converse as if one, a solid family unit.

Williams-Garcia brings 1968 alive. Take this passage about the girls and how they watch TV, where they look "to find colored people on television. Each week, Jet magazine pointed out all the shows with colored people. My sisters and I became expert colored counters. We had it down to a science. Not only did we count how many colored people were on TV, we also counted the number of words the actors were given to say. For instance, it was easy to count the number of words the Negro engineer on Mission Impossible spoke as well as the black POW on Hogan's Heroes."

The words are those used at the time (colored, black, Negro); the story involves something (television) that today's kid can relate to; and it shows how few people of color were on TV and how they were utilized in those programs. All entertaining; yet also informational. Most importantly, it conveys something about 1968 and about these three girls. Cecile may be the parent who is now a poet, who works with the Black Panthers. Grandmother "Big Ma" and their father have raised them to think how "they" will look at you, to "make sure they don't misbehave or be an embarrassment to the Negro race." Big Ma and Papa have also taught them pride and taught them to judge the world they are in.

Because the girls are visiting an unknown mother, they serve as "outsiders" to the world they encounter, where the Black Panthers at the People's Center provide free breakfast and summer camp. Oh, they have some knowledge, of course, just not the day-to-day life experience. So, too, the reader is introduced to the Black Panthers.

Cecile. Cecile is not a dream mother out of a book. There is the whole abandoning her daughters; even when the girls arrive for a month's stay, Cecile continues to act as if she doesn't want them around and doesn't care about them. Let me add, how much I love their father who took the chance and risk of sending these girls to be with the woman who left him. I love nuanced portrayals of adults, especially those who do

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16. 2011 Reading Challenges

Obviously my blog has the same look. The new look is coming, I promise. Also, I've been sick with sinuses (ugh), so this week, I won't be blogging as much. Next week, I'll be back in the game!

Now, on to other things. It's that time of year again...time to join reading challenges. Here are a list of challenges I've decided to join. At the end of this post, I'll list the names of some of the books I plan to read and the challenges they belong to. Some of the books qualify for more than on challenge. Now, the thing this year for me is to actually review the books. Last year, I completed most of my challenge lists, but forgot to review. This year, I'm trying to do more book reviews this year.

This challenge is hosted by The Story Siren . The goal is to read at least 12 from new Young Adult/Middle Grade authors.


Ok, I saw this one and knew I had to join! I absolutely LOVE kick ass heroines! Yvonne over at Diva Bookcase is hosting it. All you need to do is read at least twelve books featuring kick ass heroines. The heroines do not have to be the main character, but a big part of the story. The books must be read in 2011.

The purpose of this challenge is for readers to diversify their reading and send a message to publishers: we want more PoC literature and less of white washing of covers. You can sign up here. I'm going for Level 4 or 5.
  • Level 1: Read 1-3 POC books
  • Level 2. Read 4-6 POC books
  • Level 3. Read 7-9 POC books
  • Level 4. Read 10-15 POC books
  • Level 5. Read 16-25 POC books

This challenge is hosted by Jamie at For The Love of YA. Anyone can join. There are four levels. I'm thinking I'm gonna go for Level 3.

  • The Mini YA Reading Challenge – Read 12 Young Adult novels.
  • The "Fun Size" YA Reading Challenge – Read 20 Young Adult novels.
  • The Jumbo Size YA Reading Challenge – Read 40 Young Adult novels.
  • The Mega size YA Reading Challenge – Read 50+ Young Adult novels.

This challenge is hosted at I Eat Words. Books must be MG or YA and all series must have at least 3 books by the end of 2011. I'll start with Level 3.
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17. ARC Review: Kick

Author: Walter Dean Myers and Ross Workman
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Middle Grade
Release: February, 2011
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 4/5

Description: For the very first time in his decades-long career writing for teens, acclaimed and beloved author Walter Dean Myers writes with a teen, Ross Workman.

Kevin Johnson is thirteen years old. And heading for juvie. He's a good kid, a great friend, and a star striker for his Highland, New Jersey, soccer team. His team is competing for the State Cup, and he wants to prove he has more than just star-player potential. Kevin's never been in any serious trouble . . . until the night he ends up in jail. Enter Sergeant Brown, a cop assigned to be Kevin's mentor. If Kevin and Brown can learn to trust each other, they might be able to turn things around before it's too late.

Review: Okay, so how cool is it that high school student, Ross Workman, got a chance to write with Walter Dean Myers? He emailed Myers and Myers replied with an invitation to write a story together. I mean, seriously. So. Cool.

And I loved the story they came up with. Kick follows 13 year-old, Kevin Johnson, who gets caught driving a car that belongs to his friend's father. He faces serious charges, but he gets a second chance. Because he is a child of a fallen officer, he's paired with Officer Jerry Brown. The book alternates between Kevin and Officer Brown's point of view. We find that there's more to what happened the night Kevin was caught.


  • The book is so short...less than 100 pages long.

  • The issue of domestic violence isn't resolved. The wife of one of the characters is severly depressed. Not knowing what to do, he tries to beat it out of her. Eventually, she gets help, but he doesn't.


  • Kevin's character. He's seen in a positive light despite the mistake he made (remember there's more to the story).

  • I love the sports subplot. While all of this is happening, Kevin and his soccer team is trying to get to the State Cup.

  • Kevin's growth from the beginning to the end.

  • The fact that Myers teamed up with one of his fans to write a story. Again, how awesome is that?

Despite the fact that the story is short, I truly enjoyed it. The character is 13, which puts the book more at a middle grade level, but the issues are more young adult. The short length may very well work with a ge

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18. Diversify Your Reading Challenge

This summer, Kimberly is embarking on the Diversify Your Reading Challenge! Authors Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo of Diversity in YA are challenging readers to read beyond their comfort zones. Publishers have provided some awesome prizes for a library and one lucky blogger/reader to win. There's still time to join! You can get all the details on the challenge page. The deadline for entries is September 1, 2011.

Here's what Kimberly is reading for the challenge:

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19. ARC Review: Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson: Moon Called Volume 1

Author: Patricia Briggs
Genre: Urban Fantasy; Graphic Novel
Release: March, 2011
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 3.5/5

Description: Mercy Thompson inhabits two worlds without truly belonging to either. To the human inhabitants of the Tri-Cities she's an oddity, a female mechanic operating her own garage. To the town's darker residents, werewolves, vampires, and fae, she's a walker, a last-of-her-kind magical being with the power to become a coyote. Mercy warily straddles the fine line dividing our everyday world from that darker dimension... 'till a boy, mauled by vicious werewolves and forever changed by the attack and on the run from those who committed the crime, appears at her door. Now her two worlds are about to collide! Outnumbered and out-muscled, can Mercy possibly save the boy... or even herself?

Review: Mercy Thompson is a one-of-a-kind shapeshifter who can shift into a coyote. She's also a car mechanic who has her own shop. When Mac, a runaway werewolf shows up on her doorstep, Mercy takes him in. Eventually, she saves him from thuggish wolves, killing one of the wolves in the process. Afterwards, she hands Mac over to Adam, the local Alpha wolf. One night, Mercy finds Mac dead and Adam wounded, causing her to search for who's responsible.

What I Didn't Like
  • Mercy is half Native American, so I'd think the artist would make her skin color a little browner.
  • Sometimes, it was hard to tell the difference between some of the male characters. It tripped me up when I thought the character portrayed was someone only to find that he was someone else.
  • The extra chapter at the end. Tho I'm glad I got a look at how Mac came to be, the writing just didn't catch me. And the illustration wasn't on the same level as the illustration throughout the novel.

What I Liked
  • Mercy is such a

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20. Mare's War

Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2009, 352 pp, ISBN: 0375857141

Octavia and Tali may not realize it yet, but Mare didn't used to be anybody's grandmother. 

Spending the summer on a cross-country road trip in Mare's little red sports car should have made for the most boring summer of their lives. But both girls are in for a few surprises. Before this trip is over, Octavia and Tali are going to get a whole new perspective on their grandma, their own family, and their country.

Holy smokes, I could not have chosen a better book to kick off my BHM reading challenge!

I've always wanted to read Mare's War because I L.O.V.E. that cover. The original cover (below) is just fine, and reflects a little bit more of the story, but the paperback cover... wow. That is one gorgeous, powerful image! For more information on the cover, check out this post and this post from thatcovergirl. 

Author Tanita S. Davis used one of my favorite techniques to tell the story of Mare's War: duel narrators. Octavia, the younger granddaughter, narrates the chapters titled "Now," giving us the scoop as their road trip progresses, and reacting to Mare's narrative, titled "Then." Octavia and her older sister Tali's commentary certainly wasn't the real meat of the story, but their present-day relationship created an interesting parallel alongside Mare's remembrances of her own relationship with her little sister Feen.  The presence of the two girls also helped to flesh out the image of Mare as a grandmother:
"Mare mutters something under her breath and turns toward Tali. Tilting down her enormous sunglasses, she stares down at my sister.'Talitha, you're not going to be a pain in my behind this whole trip, are you?'"
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21. Carmen: An Urban Adaptation of the Opera

Carmen: An Urban Adaptation of the Opera by Walter Dean Myers, Egmont USA, 2011, 122 pp, ISBN: 1606841920

When Carmen - a gorgeous, young, Dominican woman - sees Jose - the boy she had a crush on so many years ago - it doesn't matter that he is a police offer (who will soon be arresting her!), all of the old feelings come rushing back.

Jose quickly falls deeply in love, but it isn't long before he begins to show the darker side of his feelings. Carmen always thought true love was dangerous, but she still wasn't prepared for this.

Walter Dean Myers is the man. 145th Street, Street Love, Handbook for Boys... these books are phenomenal, convincing kids who think they hate reading that books might not actually be so bad. 

But Carmen? This was a big miss for me. Written like the script of a play, or an opera in this case, Carmen is an extremely quick read. I initially envisioned using it for readers theater once I'm back in a classroom again. But as the story progressed, I felt increasingly disenchanted.

The main characters, Carmen and Jose, fall madly in love in the space of about one page. And then a few pages later they've broken up. And then a few pages later they're in love again. And then... you get the idea. The cycle repeats. And it was all the more irritating because there wasn't any real, rational backstory on WHY they were seeming to fall in and out of love. Carmen thought Jose didn't love her anymore because he had to go to work. Jose thought Carmen didn't love him because she wouldn't move to Puerto Rico. Sheesh.

And I typically think Mr. Walter Dean Myers is an outstanding writer. But the dialogue here? Not so much. It just felt choppy and stilted, like there wasn't a real person behind it. Here's just one example:
"Pain? Not love? Jose, maybe we need to slow this train down. I don't know if I'm ready to make a lifetime thing of this."
 "Carmen, don't... Don't think of being away from me. I've given up my whole car

3 Comments on Carmen: An Urban Adaptation of the Opera, last added: 2/7/2012
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22. 8th Grade Super-Zero

8th Grade Super-Zero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010, 336 pp, ISBN: 0545096766

"Say to them,
say to the down-keepers,
the sun-slappers,
the self-soilers,
the harmony-hushers,
'even if you are not ready for day,
it cannot always be night.'" - Gwendolyn Brooks, from "Speech to the Young: Speech to the Progress-Toward"

Reggie is a zero. After vomiting in front of the entire student body on the first day of school, more people now know him as "Pukey" than as "Reggie." He has his two best friends, Ruthie and Joe C, but it's tough to be thankful for two when you're teased on a daily basis by pretty much everyone else.

Reggie's youth group, made up of kids from all different schools, is the only place where he gets to just be himself. When the group gets involved at a local homeless shelter, Reggie stops trying to shrink into the background and actually starts stepping up to lead some things. And it feels pretty good.

But stepping up at school, in front of Donovan, Hector, Sparrow and all of the other kids who love making him miserable... it would take a super hero to do that.

This is NOT at all what I was expecting. I vividly remember seeing this title on at least 6 different blog posts over at Reading In Color last year. I had wanted to read it because Ari was such a huge fan, but just kept putting it off. When I decided to take on the personal challenge of reading ONLY books by or about people of color for this month, 8th Grade Super Zero was at the top of my list. 

Honestly, even though it had such stellar recommendations
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23. Ninth Ward

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010, 224 pp, ISBN: 0316043079

With Hurricane Katrina on its way, twelve-year-old Lanesha is all alone with Mama Ya Ya. Well, all alone unless you count the ghost of her Momma and a dog named Spot for company. Goodness knows her uptown family - her blood relatives - sure aren't going to do anything to help her. 

And Mama Ya Ya was right when she foresaw that the storm wouldn't be the worst of their troubles. Lanesha's real work would be surviving what came after.

Ninth Ward may be told through the voice of a child, but there is absolutely nothing childish about this story. Giving a warm, love-filled glimpse into what life was like in the Ninth Ward, prior to Hurricane Katrina, Jewell Parker Rhodes eases her readers into Lanesha's tale.

In the person of Lanesha, Rhodes crafted a character that I hope students will look up to - socially on the fringe because of her ability to see ghosts, Lanesha wastes no time pitying herself because she isn't popular. Instead, she works her tail off in school, befriends the friendless, and lavishes love on those who do love her. Mama Ya Ya, the woman who raised her, taught her to love herself and that's exactly what she does.
"At lunch, I eat my tuna sandwich and apple juice at my table. I call it "my table," 'cause no one else will sit with me. But, unlike TaShon, I don't try to be invisible. I sit right in the middle of the cafeteria. I'm not ashamed of me."
Much of Ninth Ward gives an inside look into what life was like for residents of New Orleans' Ninth Ward in the days leading up to, and after, one of our country's most notorious hurricanes. Many people there, like Mama Ya Ya, were too poor to own a car or too old to leave on their own two feet, so they were forced to stay in their homes for the duration. The flooding that followed was perhaps more terrifying than the storm itself - a disaster that Lanesha simply and powerfully illustrates.

It bears mentioning that Ninth Ward is also a ghost story. Lanesha can see spirits and Mama Ya Ya has an uncanny ability to interpret dreams and foretell future events - an ability that saves more than one life in this story.

A gem of a middle grade novel, and one that will surely resonate with older readers as well, Ninth Ward deserves a spot on you

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24. Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson, Balzar + Bray, 2011, 108 pp, ISBN: 0061730742

"Most folks my age and complexion don't speak much about the past. Sometimes it's just too hard to talk about... [but] you gotta take the good with the bad I guess. You have to know where you come from you so can move forward. Most of us are getting up in age and feel it's time to make some things known before they are gone for good. So it's important you pay attention, honey, because I'm only going to tell you this story but once." - Heart and Soul

First off, the cover is pure gorgeous. I would like to frame it and hang it on my wall. And this weighty book is bursting with similarly stunning paintings - all by author and illustrator Kadir Nelson. What incredible talent.

With a sub-title like "The Story of America and African Americans," you know that this is book is going to be full. Full of history, full of emotion, and full of questions and connections and feelings that come up, long after one has finished reading.

It is told through the voice of an "everywoman" character, whose family history can be traced back to Africa and connects throughout history with both Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. Her strong, comforting voice comes through crystal clear. Tracing the path of her family from slave ships, through cotton fields, across multiple wars, into Reconstruction and the Great Migration, and ending around the dissolution of Jim Crow, there isn't much that this story doesn't touch on. President Barack Obama made his appearance in the Epilogue. 

An incredibly deserving recipient of both the Coretta Scott King author award, and Coretta Scott King illustrator honor for Heart and Soul, Kadir Nelson is a force to be reckoned with. He has made decades of history engaging and accessible for both school children and adults - no easy feat. 

6 Comments on Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, last added: 2/16/2012
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25. Mexican Whiteboy

Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Pena, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2008, 256 pp, ISBN: 0385733100

Danny is half Mexican, half white, and completely lost. His dad left him, and now he doesn't feel at home with his mom at his fancy private school in San Diego, or with his dad's family in National City. He used to feel at home on the pitching mound, but lately even that part of his life has been spinning out of control.

Now Danny is in National City for the summer, staying with his dad's brothers and his prima Sofia. He figures that if he can just make himself more Mexican, if he can just learn to speak some Spanish, if he can just get his pitching back under control, then maybe he'll finally make his dad proud. And then maybe his dad will come home.

I have found my new favorite author. So many authors can spin a great story, but it's rare to find a writer whose voice hums like a heartbeat through every page. Matt de la Pena is one of those writers.

I feel like Danny and Sofia and Uno are actual people - alive and walking around southern California. I can vividly picture Uno laughing under his breath, wearing his Steelers jersey. I can see Danny's faded Vanns toeing the dirt on a pitcher's mound. I can hear Sofia busting on them both while she types out a text to one of her girlfriends. Seriously - Matt de la Pena wrote each character so clearly that I wouldn't be surprised if Mexican Whiteboy turned out to be nonfiction.

Through Danny, a wildly talented but also deeply depressed teenage boy, de la Pena describes what it can be like to come from a mixed background, and never truly feel like you belong. Danny's longing was so intense in some passages that my heart literally ached for him.

But Mexican Whiteboy isn't a sad story. It is a brightly painted picture of what life is like for a group of teenagers one summer: the sad and the joyful, the painful and the laugh out loud hilarious. De la Pena writes about young love, but romance really isn't the heart of this story. It's about finding one's family, coming to terms with one's heritage, and developing true friendships. And it is one phenomenal read.

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