Monday, August 30, 2010
Please tell me what you feel should be at the top of my TBR list. What have I missed that I must read? Brief descriptions or links to reviews welcome. Any review copies will be given priority and all donated reads will be made available to the community so feel free to recommend and send books.
What's on your fall reading lists? I want to read from children to adult, all genres.
There are so many books. For those who don't know, I've shed twenty pounds (trying to remain a breathing reader), unexpectedly though I hadn't planned to reduced my daily reading.
Can you help a brown girl out?
Notorious, an adult fiction from acclaimed author Kiki Swinson, is the sequel to the best-selling Playing Dirty published in April 2009. Yoshi, a once big shot attorney falsely accused of murder, finds herself on the run in the countryside and forced to adopt a lifestyle at the opposite of the luxury she experienced in Miami. An attitude and witty narrative voice set Yoshi apart. It is interesting to see a softer side of her emerge as she witnesses unsettling scenes of violence, scenes which include a murder that puts her and her newfound loved ones in danger.
Notorious opens with a narration of events that took place in the previous book, and that potentially alters the reading experience of one eager to follow up on the cliffhanger and to plunge without delay into Yoshi’s new troubles. Beyond that and despite a drastic (too drastic?) personality change in Yoshi, Kiki Swinson writing style takes the reader on a fast paced journey.
The first time reader should be aware that Notorious deals with drug dealers and life in the ‘hood, and as such is authentically seasoned with a generous foul language and detailed sex scene.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
A link I found interesting for the week has to do with a comment made Jodi Picoult in which she complains about how the New York Times review always raves about white male literary authors. I learned about the comment and the discussion that ensued here and the post is very interesting (and I completely agree with the author of the post).
This week we got....
Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes
When twelve-year-old Izzy discovers a beat-up baseball marked with the words "Because magic" while unpacking in yet another new apartment, she is determined to figure out what it means. What secrets does this old ball have to tell? Her mom certainly isn't sharing any especially when it comes to Izzy's father, who died before Izzy was born. But when she spends the summer in her Nana's remote New Mexico village, Izzy discovers long-buried secrets that come alive in an enchanted landscape of watermelon mountains, whispering winds, and tortilla suns. Infused with the flavor of the southwest and sprinkled with just a pinch of magic, this heartfelt middle grade debut is as rich and satisfying as Nana's homemade enchiladas.
Sellout by Ebony Joy Wilkins
NaTasha has a wonderful life in affluent Park Adams. She fits in, she has friends, and she's a member of the all-white ballet troupe. Being nearly the only African American in her school doesn't bother NaTasha. But it bothers Tilly, NaTasha's spitfire grandmother from Harlem, who decides NaTasha needs to get back to her roots or her granddaughter is in danger of losing herself completely. Tilly whisks NaTasha away to a world where all of a sudden nothing in NaTasha's life makes any sense: Harlem and Comfort Zone in the Bronx, a crisis center where Tilly volunteers her time to help troubled girls get on the right track. Girls who are completely unlike anyone NaTasha has ever encountered. These girls are rough, beautiful, streetwise, sure of themselves, and wield their secrets like knives--and they dislike NaTasha and her world of privilege with a passion.
If there is ever a time when NaTasha feels like running away from something, now is it. But she doesn't. She stands her ground. And what she discovers surprises everyone, especially NaTasha.
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
The acclaimed and inspiring international bestseller that is a tribute to the human spirit.
In a city ravaged by war, a musician plays his cello for twenty-two days at the site of a mortar attack, in memory of the fallen. Among the strangers drawn into the orbit of his music are a young father in search of water for his family, an older man in search of the humanity he once knew, and a young woman, a sniper, who will decide the fate of the cellist—and the kind of person she wants to be.
Notorious by Kiki Swinson
After the drama in Playing Dirty, Yoshi Lomax is on the run, but trouble follows her wherever she goes. . .
When things get too hot in Miami, criminal lawyer Yoshi figures she'll be safe if she goes home to Norfolk, Virginia, for a little while. But the streets there are just as mean, and a sistah needs to keep her head to avoid getting popped by a drive-by. And when Yoshi witnesses the brutal murder of a snitch by a ruthless drug dealer, she knows she'll be the next one in the gangsta's sights. Out of time and abandoned by everyone but her cousin Carmen, Yoshi's goin' to have to learn to fight back if she wants to live another day. . .All summaries from Amazon.com
So that's what we got this week. Leave a comment with a link to your own New Crayons post!
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
This is the story of two mothers and one daughter. It begins in a small village in India. The year is 1984. Kavita a young bride is in labor. In a country were the birth of boys are favored, Kavita can only watch as husband, Jasu takes away her daughter. No one speaks of the daughter that is taken to her death. Kavita will not lose another daughter this way. Somer is a doctor and happily married to Krishnan (Kris) also a doctor. The two live in San Francisco. Somer has everything she wants in life, expect a child. When we first meet Somer she's having another misscarriage. For much of the book the story alternates between the voices of these two women. I loved the beginning, it really pulled me in.
When Kavita has another daughter, she sneaks off to the capital of India with her sister. Kavita risks everything to take her daughter to an orphanage. Kris convinces Somer the best thing they can do is adopt a child from his home country of India. The two adopt Kavita's daughter. Asha is 1 yrs old when she makes her way to her new country.
Once I started reading Secret Daughter, I didn't want to stop. As Asha grows older, we see how both families lives differ. Kavita finally as a boy. Jasu moves the family to Bombay. Kavita misses the daughter she never knew. Kavita has the daughter she always wanted to and she's too scared to let Asha explore her Indian heritage for fear of losing her. Asha is in college when she first returns to her home country of India.
Its the strength of the beginning that makes this a successful debut. It middle felt a little rush as if the author wanted to quickly get to the part where the main characters lives might cross. IKavita and Somer were nice characters with clear voices. Though, I wish they were developed them a tad more. This was made more difficult when chapters were given to the husbands. It thinned out the possible character growth of Kavita and Somer.
I didn't like the ending as much as I would've liked, I thought Kavita got cheated. She gave Asha the only thing she could, life. If Kavita could have, she would've given more but it wasn't her choice. So I really felt for Kavita in the end. I found Somer's fear of losing her daughter a little frustrating at first. By the end I realized these were realistic fears of some adoptive parents.
Secret Daughter is a good novel and well worth reading. Part of the reason why I wanted more from this story is because I think the author has it to give. Gowda is a gifted storyteller.
At the naming ceremony for Kavita and Jasu's son - "Everyone cheers, repeating the name to one another. Somewhere in the noise of the crowd, Kavita hears a lone voice, an infant's piercing cry. She looks at her son, who is sleeping. Her eyes dart around the room, trying to find the origin of the cry, but she sees no other babies. Jasu places the baby in a cradle decorated with garlands of bright orange marigolds, white and red chrysanthemums, and begins to rock it from sided to side. The other women in the room slowly come forward and surround them. Kavita is engulfed by their signing voices but even this cannot drown out the high pitched cry she still hears. For a moment, she is struck with the disturbing thought that everything in her son's life might be bittersweet for her."
There's something great about catching an author at the beginning of their career. I will definitely be keeping my eye on Shilpi Somaya Gowda.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Sunday, August 22, 2010
New Crayons is a meme we created. If you choose to participate in this meme you should leave a link to your own post. The New Crayons posts talk about what new books we got this week. Crayons is a metaphor for multicultural literature, get it? Good.
Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans
When Danielle Evans's short story "Virgins" was published in The Paris Review in late 2007, it announced the arrival of a bold new voice. Written when she was only twenty-three, Evans's story of two black, blue-collar fifteen-year-old girls' flirtation with adulthood for one night was startling in its pitch-perfect examination of race, class, and the shifting terrain of adolescence.
Now this debut collection delivers on the promise of that early story. In "Harvest," a college student's unplanned pregnancy forces her to confront her own feelings of inadequacy in comparison to her white classmates. In "Jellyfish," a father's misguided attempt to rescue a gift for his grown daughter from an apartment collapse magnifies all he doesn't know about her. And in "Snakes," the mixed-race daughter of intellectuals recounts the disastrous summer she spent with her white grandmother and cousin, a summer that has unforeseen repercussions in the present.
Striking in their emotional immediacy, the stories in Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self are based in a world where inequality is reality but where the insecurities of adolescence and young adulthood, and the tensions within family and the community, are sometimes the biggest complicating forces in one's sense of identity and the choices one makes.
And Then Everything Unraveled by Jennifer Sturman
Delia Truesdale has no idea her life's about to change forever. She's too busy enjoying the California summer. Her internet tycoon mother, T.K. Truesdale, is out of town, and that means Delia can spend all her time at the beach, surfing. That is, until everything unravels.
Her mother suddenly goes missing, and everyone thinks she's dead - except Delia, who knows T.K.'s way too organized to simply disappear. But Delia's still sent to New York to live with her two aunts - a downtown bohemian and an uptown ice queen.
And in case that's not bad enough, she also has to deal with a snooty new school and trying not to fall for the wrong guy. Oh, and finding her mother.
As she delves deeper into the tangle of conspiracies and lies surrounding T.K.'s disappearance, Delia begins to suspect that the wrong guy may be the right guy...and that some secrets - especially the dangerous ones - were never meant to be unraveled.
What PoC books did you get this week?
Saturday, August 21, 2010
NBC will film at Renée and Shadra’s August 24th event at Maple Street Book Shop in New Orleans, LA.
I squealed with happiness when I heard this news. A Place Where Hurricanes Happen is a wonderful story. The text and illustrations work so well together. Watson and Strickland were both kind enough to agree to do an interview with me back in June at my personal blog.
If your local bookstore doesn't carry A Place Where Hurricanes Happen don't just walk out. Please inform them (nicely) booksellers don't respond well to 'tude, that the book is going to be (or was recently) featured on Nightly News on August 26th. And while your at it ask if they have Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Tell your friends to do the same. The more people who make inquires the better.
If you want a copy signed by the author and illustrator contact Maple Street Book Shop
It would make a great gift and you'd be supporting the New Orleans economy. I haven't actually asked anyone at Maple Street Book Shop if they are accepting phone orders. Though I don't see why they wouldn't.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Amy's email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Let's help spread the word about authors of color and their books!!
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Full name: Grace Lin
Birth date: Year of the Tiger!
Hometown: New Hartford, NY
Current location: Somerville, MA
Website/Blog: www.gracelin.com; www.outergrace.blogspot.com; www.facebook.com/authorgracelin
Genre: children's books for kids pre-school to 6th grade
WiP or most recently published work:
Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same!, an early reader (1st, 2nd grade)
Author/illustrator of over a dozen picture books, including Dim Sum For Everyone! and The Ugly Vegetables. Author/illustrator of middle grade novels, including Year of the Dog and Newbery Honor Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.
How frequently do you update your site?
I update my blog approx. 3-4 times a week, my website twice a year.
Is your site designed for reader interaction?
My blog and Facebook page are, especially the Facebook page. The website, not so much.
Post of note, something in particular you want readers to check out:
For more about me, I was recently interviewed at the Smithsonian's BookDragon blog.
100 words or less: How would you describe your work?
For me, my work is not meaningful unless there is a personal element to it. Most of my books are Asian-American as that is what I am and is a part of what I want to share with my audience. But even before the multicultural aspects of my work, the most important thing is that the book is greatly enjoyable. So, I'd like my work to be described as fun and entertaining, but still meaningful & heartwarming.
100 words or less: Please share your thoughts on children and reading.
Sometimes writing for children gets looked down upon as lesser writing, especially for the younger reading levels. I can understand the fallacy as, of course, the vocabulary, sentence structure, and style is simpler. However, anyone who has studied haiku poetry knows that simpler does not mean less skillful or less important. Writing for children is perhaps the most important writing any author can do, it is the skill of a children's author that changes "a child who can read" to "a real reader." In other words, please do not look down on authors of children's literature. We are writing so that kids will love reading books so much that they will grow up and read forever!
Author photo credit: Alexandre Ferron
Monday, August 16, 2010
Chavela is very close to her grandmother, loves chewing gum (chicle) and making big bubbles. She can make bubbles in the shape of animals. One day Chavela chews a magic piece of chicle and flies to the Yucatan jungles.
She meets the chicleros who harvest the sweet fruit from sapodilla trees to make chewing gum. Chavela is welcomed by the children. Chavela goes on a wonderful adventure. There is a very nice unexpected surprise at the end.
Brown's text is beautiful as always. I am pretty sure Brown is blessed with an illustrator fairy. Once again, she is matched up with, an artist whose style is perfect for this story. Morales is not afraid of color (lucky us) The text curves, when word bubbles appear, making it a very visually fun book. You will be wowed. Its beautiful. A great read alound choice. Also a wonderful story for grandmother's to share with grandaughters. In the afterword, Brown includes some facts about chiclero farmers.
"On Saturdays, Chavela and her grandmother would split a piece of gum and go shopping on Market Street. Chavela's abuelita would tell her stories about the quiet town of Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where she grew up. One morning Abuelita was telling Chavela about the beautiful rainforest and the bird and the butterflies that lived there, when Chavela blew a big bubble shaped like a butterfly! "Bravo!" said Abuelita. "
Sunday, August 15, 2010
This week we got.
Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French
Libyrinth by Pearl North
Voodoo Dreams by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Usually summaries are included but this is a no frills edition of new crayons. Luckily all of these covers are very nice. So if you like one, click it and learn more about the book.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Simon & Schuster
Nancy Takhiro is a high school basketball star and she is in love with Raina Webber, her biggest competitor. Raina has a girlfriend and Nancy can't work up the courage to tell her how she feels. When Nancy's father falls in love with Raina's mother, the girls soon find themselves living together. They become good friends who are fiercely competitive with each other (they play on opposing teams). Together they will face the crazy world of college recruitment. Nancy isn't ready to leave the world of high school and L.A., Raina is ready to go.
The future is unforeseeable but their senior year is here and it's going to be one long journey.
"And there were certain topics we never touched upon-our missing parents, what my father might know about me, my utter lack of love life-because we couldn't have talked about anything real without talking about what existed, and didn't exist, between us. But the irony of our holiday crisis, the unforeseen result, was that our friendship, having survived it, was actually stronger. Because of the pain we'd experienced and the knowledge we'd gained, there was a fullness to our relationship that hadn't existed before. We appreciated it now, we meant more to each other." (pg.259) This quote is rather lengthy but it sums up the feelings of both girls for a large part of the book. The Necessary Hunger doesn't really seem to have a plot. It's mostly about Nancy trying to work up the courage to tell Raina how she feels and this takes an incredibly long time (368 pages). The book is a decent length, but I had a hard time concentrating in some places and it probably could have been pared down a little. I could only take so much of Nancy talking about her passionate feelings for Raina and then not acting on them. I also got tired of watching Nancy watch Raina and Toni (Raina's girlfriend) hang out and get in arguments. The end is extremely dissatisfying and yet, realistic of young, first love.
The best part of the novel is the snippets about the lives of Nancy's teammates. I LOVED all the basketball mentions in the novel. It's set in the 1980s before the WNBA was created, so the girls are wondering what's next for them after college. Some want to play pro overseas, others don't. Some of them make costly mistakes, some aren't good enough basketball players to get scholarships, others didn't apply themselves enough in school to get academic scholarships. Most of the girls are facing junior college. Nancy and Raina are one of the lucky ones from their neighborhood. At times, I wondered if people really treat high school basketball stars the way these girls get treated. Random people stop them on the street, especially young kids in order to praise them. We have a decent basketball team and the stars of the team are quite popular, but I doubt a junior high kid is going to stop the star girl or guy player. But that could just be me. Chicago is a big city and there's lots of star players so it's hard to know them all, but then again L.A. is a big city. Anyway, the author writes great descriptions of basketball games from the atmosphere of the crowd, the peeling paint of the gym, to the adrenaline of the players. It's an intense experience and while I don't play basketball anymore, it brought back some good (and painful) memories. The predictable ultimate basketball showdown occurs between Raina and Nancy, but you might be surprised by who wins.
Next to the intense basketball scenes and the glimpses into the lives of mostly African American and Latina basketball players, the prejudices of the Black community is discussed. There is no grand coming out in this novel, Nancy and her father have never discussed her sexual orientation. Raina and her mother have talked about it and her mother accepts her. It's as simple and yet complicated as that. Nancy and the reader can't help wondering if her father knows that she's a lesbian. I was surprised by how many girls on Nancy's team were lesbians but not all their teammates knew everyone's sexual orientation (which leads to some hilarious conversations). The reactions of all the parents isn't really discussed so I'm not sure what the ratio of accepting to disbelieving parents is, but there is a good mix. Nancy and Raina must also deal with people who have a problem with their multicultural family. Claudia's (Raina's mother) friends are mostly supportive of her marriage to a Japanese American man, but she has one friend who has a real problem with the situation. It's very interesting to read about and it shows that even if you're discriminated against, you too can still discriminate against others (without even thinking about the irony). Of course there is also racism from the Japanese American community toward Claudia and racism from the white community.
The Necessary Hunger is a descriptive book with graceful writing about a wide variety of topics. it takes you on a trip to a part of L.A. that you may not see on vacation. You meet girls who really have to struggle and they don't always triumph. You witness how odd it is that those who are discriminated against think it's OK to discriminate against others. I thought Nancy's mother had an intriguing story that I wanted to learn more about (she left Nancy and Nancy's father and basically renounced her Japanese heritage) but that would have made the book even longer. The story does drag a bit, but have some patience. Almost everything about race, class, sexual orientation and basketball is covered in this book. It's a great read and I highly recommend it.
Disclosure: From the libraryPS The book was written when Michal Jordan was king (really he still is) but since it's set in the '80s, he's not really anything special just yet. There's one line that made me laugh and it went along the lines of "she wore baggy long shorts in the style of that young player Michael Jordan." (not an exact quote because I no longer have the book). I just love it, 'that young player MJ' :)
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Doret at TheHappyNappyBookseller shares this week's new releases
At BookGazing blog there is an interview with Sarwat Chadda, the author of Devil's Kiss and Dark Goddess. Devil's Kiss is amazing! I just started Dark Goddess and it's going great so far.
I found it really interesting that you made your main character female and gave her a Muslim parent, then made her part of a group that is almost exclusively male and Christian. What made you decide to make Billi a member of the Knights Templar? Did you consider making Billi part of a Muslim group, or a female warrior force, that is out to fight the forces of evil?
The name of the game is tension and how to create it as soon as possible. The standard cliché is the son following in the father’s footsteps, so how much more interesting it would be if we had a daughter taking the role, it is the 21st Century, after all.
By starting with the extremes a dynamic tension was created between Billi and the other knights, between her and her father, and her personal desires and her responsibilities. Devil’s Kiss is a story about these extremes.
With regard to Billi being part of other groups that is something that I explore in depth in Dark Goddess where she encounters the Polenitsy, a group of Russian Amazons. As Devil’s Kiss was centred around a powerful male group, so Dark Goddess centres around an equally powerful female group and Billi’s attraction to it.
If all goes well and there are more books, I would then explore Billi’s Muslim heritage. When I worked on an early draft of Devil’s Kiss there was far more in it regarding Billi’s Islamic upbringing but I realised the story was becoming way too crowded.
At My Brown Baby blog, Denene Milner declares We Need More Blacks Children's Books on Borders' Bookshelves It is both funny and sad. I hope it inspires more people to take action. Write a letter, send an email, buy books by/about PoC, and anything else you think would be helpful.
Me: I’m not really clear why there aren’t any books for or about children of color here.
Borders Chick: Well, if no one buys them, we don’t order them.
Me: Well if they’re not here to buy, then it’s kinda hard for us to buy them, isn’t it?
Borders Chick: It’s headquarters that decides what books will be stocked, so my guess is they have more of a selection at Stonecrest Mall. (Note: This would be the “black” mall. About 40 minutes from where I and many other black moms who buy books for our children actually live.)
Me: *massive side-eye* I don’t live near Stonecrest. I live two minutes from this store.
Borders Chick: I found one! *triumphantly waving in my face a copy of Sharon Draper’s “Sassy,” which she dug from the back of a dark shelf near the floor. As if she'd just found the solution to world peace.*
Me: *another massive side-eye and a lip twist* Y’all need to do better.
At Helen's Book Blog there is a review of Perfect Shot by Debbie Riguad
The characters in this book--mostly London, Brent, her best friend Pam, but with a host of secondary characters--are all believable. They have normal dialogue and actions and I liked the main characters. They would be people I would enjoy having as students. I especially like that London is a strong female. She plays volleyball well, is a good student, and gets along with her family. Yay, a "normal" teenager in a book.
Tarie at Into the Wardrobe has a review of Sweet 15 by Emily Adler and Alex Echevarria
Sweet 15 by Emily Adler and Alex Echevarria (Marshall Cavendish, 2010) is HILARIOUS. Destiny (the novel's narrator) and her family and friends all have a great sense of humor. And all of them - from Destiny's quirky and dorky best guy friend Omar to America's strong and beautiful best friends Hailey and Maritza - are colorful and likable characters. Destiny's mom and America are particularly wacky and have very funny exchanges about the quinceañera.
Sweet 15 is an entertaining story about a young woman discovering who is she and what she wants. It's sometimes packaged as a story about a young woman with a cultural identity crisis of sorts. Sometimes Destiny talks about feeling lost somewhere between the United States and Puerto Rico and "being pulled in different directions by my family with these two different cultures. . ." But these are all just explicit statements found in the book. Destiny doesn't spend time reflecting on this issue and there is no real evidence of this struggle in her life. Sweet 15 is really about Destiny finding her own voice instead of just pleasing her parents and living in her sister's shadow. It's about her figuring out what makes her happy and fighting for it instead of prioritizing what makes her parents, sister, or other people happy.
Reads4Pleasure reviews Substitue Me by Lori Tharps. It sounds like a great novel!
It's important to note that while Zora is black and the Carters are white, their races are not necessarily the central issue. It seems to me that the issue is one woman completely giving power over her life to someone else and then questioning it when that person steps in and does a better job at it. Kate and her mother make racially charged comments about Zora, but if they were being honest with themselves, they would realize that her race has nothing to do with the situation Kate finds herself in.
In Jodi Picoult fashion, Lori L. Tharp has crafted a nanny story that gives the reader all sides. Often the story is only told from the point of view of the nanny. In Substitute Me, you really get a chance to learn the characters and understand that perception really is reality
Books About Hurricane Katrina at White Readers Meet Black Authors
August 29 marks the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting the U.S. This year, there are a few books being released to coincide with the anniversary
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Date of Birth - July 11, 1975
Location - Oakland, CA
Website/Blog - Carolinaderobertis.com , facebook
Genre - Literary Fiction
Most recently published work - The Invisible Mountain
How frequently do you update your site? - Quite reguarly
Is Your site designed for interaction - No, but my facebook page is
Can you tell us a little about The Invisible Mountain?
It’s a novel chronicling ninety years of Uruguayan history through the lives of three generations of women, exploring the various political and personal upheavals that affect their lives. Emigration, poetry, gender transgression, revolutionary movements, dictatorships, resilience. Love and sex, of course. That’s there too.
Many female authors tell the story of a family through its grandmothers, mothers and daughters. There's Garcia's Dreaming in Cuban, Tadema's Red River and Llanos-Figueroa 's Daughters of the Stone, and so many more.
Why do you think female authors have embraced generational stories through the matriarch?
So often history—familial and societal—is traced through paternal lines. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, as men’s stories have great worth, but women’s do too. All too often, women’s experiences of history are lost, buried in silence. Novelists have an opportunity to excavate that silence and breathe new life into those stories, through the aclhemy of storytelling.
I loved Invisible Mountain. All the praise and awards are well deserved. It was a wonderful look at the rich and sad history Uruguay.
Why do you think there aren't more novels set in this country?
Thank you so much! Yes, Uruguay is very rich—but it’s also very small. As a nation of 3.5 million people, it often goes forgotten on a global scale. This makes it additionally powerful for its stories to get told. One of the pieces of grafitti I’ve seen on the streets of Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, is “El Sur También Existe” - “The South Also Exists.”
Eva the mother is a poet. Salome, the granddaughter, is active in the revolution. What are your thoughts on writing and activism?
They’re deeply connected—or, at least, they can be. Stories have power. The transformation of silence into voice has power. The day I met Sandra Cisneros, she said, “stories save lives.” And she should know.
For those who have read Invisible Mountain and those who will, what is mate? I know its a beverage but what exactly is it? Is there a recipe?
I could write a whole web site on this! We Uruguayans are very passionate about our mate. It’s a kind of strong, green, caffeinated tea indigenous to parts of South America, traditionally drunk out of a hollowed-out plant gourd and a metal straw called a “bombilla” that has a strainer on the bottom. There’s a whole ritual to how the gourd is passed around and drunk in community. It’s not so much a recipe as a collection of customs. For example, if an Uruguayan hands you their mate gourd, know that you’ve been brought into a circle of hospitality. You can drink all the water down, you can hand it back if you don’t like it, but whatever you do, Don’t. Stir. The. Straw.
Are you working on anything now?
Yes! I’m working on my second novel, Liquid City, about an Argentinean Navy captain's daughter who, twenty years after the dictatorship, discovers the ghost of one of the disappeared in her living room, and is forced to confront the secret that connects them.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with Color Online?
Thanks for the incredible work you do!
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
I heard nothing but great things about this 2009, fiction debut. This novel definitely lived up to the praise. Invisible Mountain is the story of three generations of Uruguayan women. Through Pajarita, Eva and Salome we also learn about the history and politics of Uruguay. The story begins with the birth, disappearance and reapperance of baby Pajarita.
As a married woman, Pajarita calls Montevido, the captial of Uruguay home. The miracle and magical element of Pajarita's beginnings set the tone for her daughter and granddaughter. These were going to be very special women.
One of the many things that stood out for me is the beautiful language. Its had a musical quality to it.
"Montevideo was unspun wool, full of rough billows, gray mazes, raw promise. Monte. Vide. Eu. I see a mountain, one of the first Europeans to sight this land said. Pajarita had never seen a mountain, but even she could tell there were none here. This city had no slopes. No, that was not true: its ground lay flat, but buildings pushed up everywhere, gathering their height into the sky. If only she could be a bird in more than name she'd soar above the city and then what would she see?"
Pajarita, Eva and Salome are wonderful characters. They are equal amounts strength and softness. Its was a pleasure to lose myself in their stories. Especially, Salome's who becomes active in Uruguay's 1960's revolution. At one point I found myself crying so hard I was choking. Though, it was an everything is going to be alright cry. The politics of the country and Salome's story go hand in hand.
The paperback edition of The Invisible Mountain was released today.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Earlier in the year I was so excited when I found out Jewell Parker Rhodes had a middle grade novel coming out. If the name sounds familiar its because Rhodes is an award winning author of adult fiction.
12 yr old Lanesha was born with a caul on her face. Thanks to this, Lanesha can see ghost including her mother, who died giving birth to her. Lanesha lives with Mama Ya- Ya in New Orleans, Ninth Ward. Mama Ya Ya is 82 yrs old, she's seen a lot and helped bring alot of babies into the world.
Mama Ya Ya senses the hurricane before its announced on the news. Mama Ya Ya knows something else is wrong, but she can't put her finger on what. Lanesha must prepare as best she can.
Tashon, the quiet neighbor boy, finds his way to MaMa Ya Ya's house after the hurricane. Together Lanesha and Tashon must survive the broken levies. When the water won't stop rising they end up on the top of the roof. Rhodes paints such a clear picture, I could see everything.
"I start trembling and look around my neighborhood. The horizon is none like I'd seen before. Just the tips of houses. Tops or halves of trees. Lampposts hacked off by water. Rooftops -some flat, some anglar most empty. Far left I see a man and a woman sitting on a roof their feet in the water."
Lanesha's abililty to see ghosts, adds a magical element to this story.
"Now, ghosts in baggy pants, their underwear showing, wearing short sleeve T-shirts and body tattoos, are from my time. They're mostly boys killed in drive-bys or fights or robberies. Sometimes, I know them from school. Like Jermaine. One day I'm seeing him in the cafeteria eating macaroni, the next day, he's a ghost, dull eyed, high fiving me."
Lanesha's mother's ghost can't move on, until Lanesha is safe. Though, Ninth Ward is only 207 pages, its never feels rushed. Rhodes tells a beautiful well paced story.
Many bestselling adult authors have a difficult time creating authenic middle grade voices, that was not the case here. Lanesha is smart, independent and excels at math. I loved Lanesha's voice.
This is the first middle grade novel about hurricane Katrina. The novels that come behind it, will have a lot to live up to. Like Williams- Garcia's One Crazy Summer, the characters and writing felt familar. This doesn't happen often when I read middle grade fiction, when it does its refreshing. Ninth Ward is one of my favorite middle grade novels of the year.
Whenever, I read a novel with a character born with a caul, I think of The Baby of the Family by Tina McElory Ansa. Being reminded of this story added to my enjoyment of Ninth Ward.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
~Dianne Ridley Roberts
Have you read Ari's most recent post? Are you a letter writer, protester, parent who speaks up at school board meetings or city council meetings? What motivates you to get involved? Have you been silent and wish you weren't? Have you been active and gotten off course or burned out? When do you feel compelled to speak up?
I'll share a few thoughts but I want to hear from you. Do read and please respond to Ari's call to action.
Friday, August 6, 2010
To Whom It May Concern,
I am a regular customer at Borders. As a teenager I don’t have as much money as I would like to spend on books, but I’m there at least once a month and I always buy something because I love books. My experience at Borders has been mostly positive. The sales people are very friendly and the overall atmosphere is very welcoming. My only negative experience is the lack of diversity on the bookshelves. Specifically, I would like to address the lack of diversity in the Young Adult section.
I recently noticed that Borders had expanded its YA section. This excited me because I knew it meant Borders would be able to offer more books. Unfortunately, the books offered were not what I was looking for. I’m looking for books written about people who look like me or differ from the white norm that I see on TV and in magazines. I’m tired of wandering the bookshelves of the YA section and only seeing a handful of titles with brown faces on the cover. I started my blog, Reading in Color, in order to find more titles by and about People of Color (PoC) as well as to promote them. I knew that I couldn’t possibly be the only teenager of color looking for books that were about teenagers like me and not about white people.
Borders has provided me with some great books; Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves, It Chicks by Tia Williams, Hotlanta by Denene Millner and Mitzi Miller and many others. These are all books that I really enjoyed (Bleeding Violet is now one of my favorite books). However, Borders lack of diversity in its books also forced me to look for certain books elsewhere, namely; Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins, Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger, We Were Here by Matt De La Pena and Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon. To be fair, I was able to order a copy of Silver Phoenix while I was searching for it in Borders, but I was immensely disappointed that it wasn’t on the shelf.Admittedly, Borders does a decent job of showcasing titles by and about African Americans, but other minorities are barely represented. As a half Black, half Latina teenager, this saddens me. It’s hard enough for me to find a large number of books with a Black main character. It’s harder still to find a book with a Latina main character. Why? Before I started blogging, I assumed the books simply weren’t being written, thus Borders obviously couldn’t stock them. I’ve since learned otherwise. Through my blog, I’ve received countless recommendations of titles of books by/about Latinos, Asians and Native Americans. The books are being written. Yet if I was to rely solely on Borders, I would never know this. I would continue to only see books with white faces on the cover, being written by white authors. Without my blog and Internet book browsing, I might have never discovered the enticing world of Xia (Silver Phoenix), how hard life is for Sikhs post 9/11 (Shine, Coconut Moon), met the most interesting teenage criminals who are so much more than criminals (We Were Here) or learned about what life was like in India in the 1970s (Secret Keeper). These books have all taught me something, some lessons bigger than others, but all important in their own way. In addition to teaching me something, they have entertained me immensely and some have even brought me to tears. These are all books I couldn’t find at Borders and it pains me to think of all the people who might be missing out on such wonderful stories.
I presume that since you work at Borders, you love books. Let me remind you of why people love books; books transport us to new places and experiences and (this is especially true for teenagers) they show us that we are not alone. Books can also promote tolerance. Why would you deny the joy of opening up a new book and discovering a new world to any child? Why are you permitting a generation of children to grow up knowing very little about cultures that are not white or American? Let me be clear, there are certain experiences in life that are universal (parenting struggles, peer pressure, falling in love) and it doesn’t really matter what the cultural background of the main character is. There are also certain experiences in life that not everyone will have to go through (racism and prejudice being the most obvious, although at some point, most people will experience prejudice of some kind). However what message are you sending by only selling stories about white teens? Borders may not realize this, but the reason many children of color do not read is because they feel that the books being written by white people, about white people, are not for them. They do not believe they can relate. Or worse yet, they begin to accept the subtle message sent by rows upon rows of books with white faces on the cover; YOU ARE WORTHLESS, NOT WORTH WRITING ABOUT OR SHOWING ON A COVER, YOU ARE ALONE. In short: YOU ARE INFERIOR. I’m sure I’m not the only one when I say that I don’t want to spend my money at a store that doesn’t value or respect me or my needs.
Case in point is Silver Phoenix. I was horrified when I discovered that the beautiful cover of Silver Phoenix was being changed. I’m aware that covers are sometimes changed for the paperback editions, but in Silver Phoenix, the change is drastic. It goes from having a Chinese girl on the cover, to having a racially ambiguous girl on the cover. The most obvious way of determining if the girl on the cover is Asian (by looking at the eyes) is covered up. Borders may take the position that it’s the publisher’s fault, not Borders. That would be convenient but wrong. The publishers are wrong for removing the Asian main character from the cover and replacing it with a girl who is racially ambiguous at best, whitewashing at worst. BUT the publishers (Greenwillow Books) are sticking with the author, they want to see her book reach a wider audience. In a way, they were forced to make this awful cover change because of Borders. You refused to even stock Silver Phoenix, based on the cover alone. Borders prevented thousands of readers from reading a book about someone who is different from them, and yet the same. Borders prevented Asian readers from seeing a strong and determined Asian girl on the cover of a book. As pointed out by blogger Ah Yuan at Gal Novelty, you wouldn’t refuse to sell a book based on the cover alone if there was a white girl on it. Borders wouldn’t blame the low sales on the white model on the cover of the book, but if a book with a PoC on the cover doesn’t sell, it’s because of the brown model on the cover.
I realize that Borders is a business, therefore it’s all about the money. Did you know that studies have shown that Latinos are the biggest minority consumers? If this is the case, why are Latinos not being aggressively pursued by large chain bookstores? If Borders invested a little more money in buying books that are by/about Latinos, they could tap into a huge market. It’s not enough to have a tiny section entitled ‘Hispanic Studies’, we need more bilingual books for young children and books with Latino/a teenage main characters. It’s not Latino buying power that is expanding, all minority consumer power is growing. I understand not always wanting to take a chance on debut authors and I can even understand why you would only display certain books in certain stores. But Borders doesn’t even have that. As a start, try featuring more books for people of all ages (but especially middle school and teenage readers) by/about African Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans in stores where there is a large ethnic majority of that particular culture. Mind you, that’s only a start. The end goal is to have multicultural bookshelves. Why is it that the only book I can find in the YA section with a Native American main character is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie? It’s a fabulous book, but there are more books about Native American teenagers out there than just that ONE book. If you need suggestions, do a little research. Check out blogs like Color Online, Multiculturalism Rocks!, theHappyNappyBookseller, Gal Novelty, Voracious YAppetite , Asia In the Heart, World On the Mind and the blogrolls at these blogs for suggestions of more titles. Don’t buy into the myth that minorities don’t read and won’t spend money on books. Maybe, just maybe, we “don’t read” because we are tired of being told that we don’t matter. Maybe, just maybe, once we see more brown faces on bookshelves and realize that we are respected customers, we will want to spend our money on books.
You can ignore this as the rant of a young and perhaps in your opinion, misinformed teenager. That is your prerogative but bear this in mind, I have given this a lot of thought and talked to many teenagers of color as well as blogged about it. I have found an overwhelming number share my opinion and would love to spend more or in some cases, some money at Borders on books that are written by people of color, for people of color, specifically teenagers of color.
Postscript to blog readers: This is the actual letter I'm sending to Borders. To learn more about writing your own letter, check out my post here please also leave links to your own letter in the comments at that post.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
But what we, over many other racial and ethnic groups, have acquired is a passive acceptance of the beliefs and treatment others subject us to. Many Asians do not have that much of a problem being considered the nerd-smart, obedient, socially awkward race. Better than being considered the hoodlum, or the troublemaker, or the good-for-nothing...right? It is, however, our own quiet acceptance of others' assumptions of what our race is like that ensures our position as a racial doormat.
The Hip Hop Facade at GLBT Reading
From the looks of it, it seems like hip hop has become a facade of machismo when, in fact, one of its best features used to be self expression. For the male rappers, it does not come as a surprise that there isn’t a famous one who is openly gay. Men find it harder to deal with a gay public image, so they bury their real self in public denial. Aside from Man Parrish, who was among the few that set the path for Hip Hop, I don’t know anyone as big as Jay Z or lil Wayne who’ll admit they are gay.
In the meantime, people like Deadlee, Cazwell, Katastrophe and a lot more are here to stay. Although they are less famous, they are definitely realer than most and offer a voice to the minority, the GLBT.
There is a particular mystical element to the story. Twelve-year-old Lanesha can see spirits. In what way did that creative decision guide your choices in the novel?
Lanesha sees spirits because you can’t live in New Orleans without experiencing remnants of the past. The architecture, the churches, the above ground cemeteries, and even the music, all incorporate ghosts and echoes of slavery and French and Spanish colonization. Particularly, for African Americans, New Orleans is where African-based spiritual beliefs blended with Catholicism. It is the birthplace of ragtime and jazz, rhythms inspired by African drums. It is a place where medicinal healing by slaves and native peoples produced a “roots” based, holistic tradition. In New Orleans, many African Americans do not believe that the dead are inaccessible. It is not uncommon for someone to talk about receiving comfort and guidance from their ancestors. Dreams, spiritual visitations, and talking with the dead are all part of folklore and cultural and religious traditions.
Lanesha, when she first spoke, told me she was “born with a caul.” A caul is a portion of the amniotic sac that forms a veil over a newborn’s face. This is interpreted to mean the child will have “sight,” visions. In many cultures, cauls are preserved and used for healing or buried with reverence. By announcing her gift, Lanesha was heralding her southern heritage. She was telling me, matter-of-factly, that she accepted and experienced mysteries.
-Just reading that alone makes me even more eager to get my hands on Ninth Ward!
Neesha Meminger has done it again. Read her fabulous post On Terminology (specifically the word Caucasian).
here is the term as defined by dictionary.reference.com:
"Anthropology. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of one of the traditional racial divisions of humankind, marked by fair to dark skin, straight to tightly curled hair, and light to very dark eyes, and originally inhabiting Europe, parts of North Africa, western Asia, and India: no longer in technical use."
Please visit these links and share your thoughts. And/or comment back here and discuss :) Feel free to share any other links you think are noteworthy; discussion posts, reviews, author interviews.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Date of Birth: January 16
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Website/Blog:- 32candles and Fierce and Nerdy
Genre: Women's fiction.
Most recently published work: 32 Candles
How frequently do you update your site?
I put new stuff up at 32 CANDLES weekly and my community blog, Fierce and Nerdy is updated every weekday.
Is your site designed for interaction ?
Yes, I love to talk with folks on both sites.
Post of note, or something in particular you want readers to check out.
People really seem to like this post about my writing process and how I came to get my book deal.
Can you tell us a little about 32 Candles?
Davidia Jones, a girl growing up poor and unpopular in Mississippi, sees "Sixteen Candles" for the first time and decides that she wants to have her own Molly Ringwald Ending. Disaster ensues when she falls in love with the most popular guy in school. She ends up running away to Los Angeles, only to have him show up on her doorstep fifteen years later, forcing her to answer the question, "Can someone have a Sixteen Candles ending at the age of 32?
I loved Davidia. She is one of the most original characters of the year. Was it difficult selling people in the book industry on the idea of a poor Black girl from Mississippi who loves John Hughes movies?
Actually no it wasn't. There were a few editors who didn't get the concept, but mostly the response was hugely positive. When I was writing it, I wondered who would want to read about a strange black girl. Now that I'm on the other side of the process, I see that different is what a lot of publishers are looking for. My editor straight up said in an interview, that she only wants to acquire works of fiction that are completely fresh and unlike anything she's ever read before. I think a lot of writers worry about being too different, but in my opinion more should worry about not being different enough.
You've been active on facebook and twitter promoting your debut, long before it was released. Do you think this has turned into sales?
I haven't seen any sales numbers yet, but I hope the fact that even my most distant acquaintances know about this book is a good sign. Also I've made way more connections than I would have without the promotion. Figuring out promotion has been the great privilege of getting my book deal. I don't think many other people ever get the chance to say, "Hey, let's not only learn a whole new skill set but also throw a bunch of stuff against the wall and see what sticks." I really do enjoy promotion, and yes, I hope that translates into sales.
32 Candles appeals to a wide audience. Usually when I mention the book's connection to "Sixteen Candles," customers eyes light up. How have the crowds so far been for the booksignings? Mixed or mostly Black?
Mostly white so far! The only time it wasn't was in my hometown, St. Louis and when I signed at the NAACP convention and the Leimert Park Book Festival, which focuses on black authors. And even at the NAACP convention, I had white women coming up to tell me how much they loved Sixteen Candles. You're the first person that's asked me about that.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with Color Online.
I love hearing from readers, even the ones that haven't read my book. So please feel free to drop me a line at etc at 32candles.com!
Monday, August 2, 2010
It's nice summer day, a girl enjoys a neighborhood get together. She does many things including jump double dutch, chase after the ice man, watches boys play basketball and eat foods as diverse as the people in her community. Brown does a beautiful job showing the happiness and joy of the people on neighbors' day. As well as the togetherness of the community.
"Blue sky, no clouds. No one stares. Or cares That loud music blares. Hustle bustle, salsa sway. Wild day, around our way."
Riley Webb's colorful illustrations bring life to the neighborhood. Around Our Way On Neighbors' Day is a rhythmic story. Writing such a story not easy. One word can throw off an entire verse.
At times I do feel Brown used words that hurt the flow of the story. Though overall this is very good picture book debut, that's well worth reading. I especially loved the portrayal of a diverse community. I look forward to reading more books by Tameka Fryer Brown.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
The Tooth Fairy Meets El Raton Perez by Rene Colaton Lainez illus by Tom Lintern
The Firefly Letters by Margarita Engle
32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter
Where I Belong by Gillian Carter
No summaries this time. Thankfully all the covers are lovely. What new crayons did you get for the week?