Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Color it Up II: Doret Talks Books

I usually don't know ahead of time what my non review post will be. This particular idea came to me while I was reading Amber Kizer's new YA novel Meridian. I've already finished and really enjoyed the book. ( my review )

Here's a quick back story: In the novel, since Meridian was small animals have been dying around her. As she got older the animals got bigger. On her 16th birthday Meridian sent to live with an Aunt, who will explain Meridian powers. She is a Fenestra, a window, helping people move on to the afterlife. For her safety Meridan must the bus to her Aunt's in Colorado. While at the bus depot Meridan helps translate for an older women. When they get to Colorado the woman's daughter Dr. Portalso -Marquez thanks Meridian for help her mother. When I read that, I was like What! a Latina doctor. That is just one example of color in this novel. I don't think it was a concidence that this was the last novel I read in 2009.

*I think its fitting that I would end the year reading a book with a protagonist that does not exist in a color free world. It made me think of all the other books that I've read like that this year that have embraced diversity.

Luv YA Bunches by Lauren Myracle - This is a great book. How often do you see a MG book with a Muslim girl that's not historical fiction. How often do you see an MG book where one of the main characters has two moms. Myracle has all of this diversity, like its the most natural thing in the world.

NERDS: by Michael Buckley This book is so much fun. Not only is the cast diverse, just like Luv YA Bunches so is the cover. Thank you Abrams books. This is book one in the series. Each character will get a chance to be in the spotlight. I have no problems with the author starting with the White male protagonist. Its always easier to start with the familar. Though I have my fingers crossed that the next character the author decides to show case is a character of color.

Ruined by Paula Morris - This is one of my favorite novels on the year. The Haitian ghost was unexpected and loved. The author gives alot of New Orleans history along with the history of Haitian in the city. My review If you get a chance watch the book trailer, it's great.

Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda - I thought this novel was great. I discovered it thanks to a wonderful interview with the author over at Finding Wonderland. Chadda said many things that made me want to pick up his first YA novel

What's interesting is the feedback I've had from some schools regarding the religious and ethnic mix of the characters. Again it was just how I see the world, so that's what I wrote.

Skunk Girl by Sheba Karim - I loved the main character Nina Khan. Some of my favorite scenes of this book were of Nina eating lunch with her friends and their boyfriends. The divesity with seamless and natural. It just was and it didn't hurt that the scenes were well written and funny.

The Ring by Bobbie Pyron -I really enjoyed this one and I loved the MC, Mardie. If any of these novels could have easily had an all White cast it would be this book. The story of a White girl in Colorado who starts boxing to deal with her problems. Though not only are there Black and Latino secondary characters, the author takes the time to develop their story lines.

Liar by Justine Larbalestier - Micah is one of the most original protagonist I've read in awhile. Though if you think Liar made this list just because the MC is Black, you'd be wrong. Its here because Liar is set in current day NYC and some of Micah's teacher last names give hint at their ethnicity. (imagine that) and Zach the boy who is murdered is called a White Latino by his friends. (I did a double take when I read that, didn't realize White people knew there was a difference)

All of these authors found their own way to add color to their novels. I hate the fact that I am still surprised when I find color in MG and YA novels. I shouldn't want to tell everyone that there is a Black, Latina, Muslim, Indian, Asian character in such a such novel. Its 2010 Color should no longer be the exception it should be the norm. Novels should reflect reality. I am over books with multiple White protagonists and no people of color . Now, I am not looking for forced diveristy. I hate that just as much as a colorless world. I don't expect or want every group of friends to be rainbow colored that is not reality. Though there is no excuse for a color free book with 3 or more White protagonists. I expect these friends to interact and talk to other people besides each other. (I am so over the TV show Friends the World is all White fake reality. ) I don't need want or expect a character of color be a main character or even a secondary character all the time. What I do expect is that people of color are recognized and not forgotten. It doesn't even have to be big. It can be something as small as an MC noticing that a store owner reads his national paper everyday.(insert the name of said paper, good to go) The diversity bar is so low right now. Readers who want it , love it and seek it out are willing to accept almost anything. So make the effort.

*originally this article appeared at Happy Nappy Bookseller.


April (BooksandWine) said...

OOOh I will have to add all of these to my TBR, well except for Liar since that's already on the TBR. You would think books having at least one character of color would be the rule rather than the exception. How lame.

I really look forward to checking out Luv Ya Bunches, and recommending it to teens, as I know first hand there's so many misconceptions about the Muslim religion/community. Discovered this while teaching my students a lesson about Muslims. (One student actually handed in a current event about how all American Muslims should be put in a concentration camp after Fort Hood. How depressing the only images of Muslims those students ever see are Muslims as terrorists.)

Mardel said...

April - OMG! I can't fathom that a kid in this day and age would even think a concentration camp would be solution. You know he's (she) is parroting talk from maybe parents. It's sad when bigoted parents raise bigoted kids. And the cycle continues.

It's got to be frustrating as a teacher to deal with these types of beliefs and stereo types from your students.

Jessie Carty said...

more books to add to my list! I can't remember if I mentioned "An Abundance of Katherines" here before where the MC's best friend is a teenage Muslim. Great read.

Also not sure if you suggested it but I read and loved "Aya of Yop City"

susan said...

I only know of one, but the Arab American Museum here is beautiful.

MissA said...

@April-That's horrible and soo so so disturbing and torubling and just gahhh. I hope you can give him a book recommendation that shows the true Muslim religion not the extremist side and that Muslims are so similar to people of all faiths.

Great post Doret and I really need to read Ruined. I think I'll read it next week for my Haiti week (I'm hoping that will happen, it's up in the air right now). I also want to read Luv Ya Bunches and Nerds. You're so right that The Ring could have so easily been all-white but it wasn't and that's what really drew me to the book along with Mardie's spirit and how realistic she was.

LOL i thought the same thing "White Latino" huh at least one white person knows the difference :) I'm sure others do too...