Monday, August 22, 2011

Novels W/ Foreign Language

By chance I happened to recently read three novels with sprinkles of a foreign language. It got me to thinking about my preferences for the way a another language is incorporated beside the principal one. Since my understanding of the three languages - Spanish, French and Russian, goes from passable to nothing, I figured this would be a good topic. I will begin with an example from each book.

The first one comes from a young adult novel* that will be released later in the year.

"Hola, Mrs Hernandez Hola, Mari, Coma esta? Luz's mom asked how I was doing as she opened the back door and let the smoke out. "Estoy, bien" I told her I was okay."

The second is from Paris Noire by Francine Thomas Howard.

"Non. Non. Je dois voir mon fils, mon" In her worry, she'd had spoken French.

The final one is from Wolf Mark by Joseph Bruchac.

Vlad straightens up, looks down at me, raises one eyebrow. "Blagodariu," I say. I thank you. "Da Eto figna," he replies. Nothing to it.

Out of these three languages Spanish is the only one I know. I think that's part of the reason I had the biggest reaction to how it was incorporated. One of my reading pet peeves is an instant language translation (ILT), especially when its greetings. Even more so when its Spanish.

I could be assuming too much here because I've studied Spanish. Not everyone learns Spanish. Or French or Italian, two similar languages that would make it easier to understand a basic phrase or two. Some study, Arabic, Chinese, German or one of the many other languages with no similarities to Spanish

Though I still have a difficult time believing American readers must be spoon fed a translation for "Coma Esta."

The use of Estoy
My Spanish is barely passable. Considering I've lived in a predominantly Spanish speaking neighborhood for the last three years it should be much better. However I am still 99.9% sure estoy is not used outside of the classroom.

I was reminded of that scene from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Maya Angelou is in a bar in Mexico with her father. When she starts speaking Spanish the formal way its taught in high school everyone laughs.

Paris Noire
I've never studied French but found it easy to follow. I don't know what the example says but in context I understand its meaning. Howard never stops the flow of the story to give translations. The understanding through context approach worked very well for Paris Noire since only a little French is used. Mainly greetings.

Wolf Mark
Finding out that Wolf Mark had a little Russian was a nice surprise. It also helps round out this (lengthy) post since its a language I am not at all familiar with. I found myself reconsidering my stance on instant language translation.

I did find the ILT helpful at first but I soon wanted it to stop. They started to feel clunky and not natural to the story . Even though I don't know Russian, hints would've been preferable.

One of my favorite novels last year was Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse (one of the best prologues ever) A lot of Spanish is intertwined in the novel. What I didn't understand through context I had to look up. It did slow me down a bit but I didn't mind at all, I prefer to work for it.

Instant language translations take me out of the narrative. It also implies - The reader won't know what this means, they won't be smart enough to figure it out and will be too lazy to look it up.

I like to get the gist of another language through context and with the help of a few hints. If that doesn't work I prefer to look up what I don't know.

*I felt the execution (I just finished watching Project Runway. Nina Gracia Don't Play) of including Spanish was very poor. This shouldn't to be anyone's first impression of this novel since it could turn readers off. I enjoyed the novel and don't want to do that so I won't reveal the title.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

100 YA/MG Releases ABOUT poc!

WE REACHED 100! If you go back to my original post to check out the full list, I admit that I didn't think we could find 100 YA/MG books about poc. But we did and I am beyond pleasantly surprised especially since we are currently at 102. I'm sure there's more 2011 releases though because we don't have any December ones and there are usually a few December releases. Now we just need to get to the point where we have at least 100 MG books about poc AND at least 100 YA books about poc. Keep those suggestions coming! Thank you so much for all your help and support.

And stay tuned for the December list of 2012 debuts, maybe I will separate them...

photo from

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Martha Southgate on The Help

Sometimes I will visit publisher sites to see if there's anything worth finding. Today I found my way to Algonquin Books. Author Martha Southgate's newest novel The Taste of Salt will be released at the end of September. I've had a chance to read it already. One the things I loved about it is the main characters very unexpected occupation. The writing is beautiful and many scenes broke my heart. Life is dramatic enough, the author doesn't use any tricks, simply letting it all unfold. There will be a proper review closer to the release date. Chapter One of The Taste of Salt

Though as the title states this is about Southgate on The Help. The author wrote a piece about bestselling novel turned movie by Kathryn Stockett in the most recent EW magazine.

"The current issue of Entertainment Weekly (August 12) has a wonderful cover story on The Help, the blockbuster book that was made into a movie, opening soon. As part of the photo-heavy spread, Entertainment Weekly asked Algonquin author Martha Southgate, whose new novel The Taste of Salt publishes 9/27, to write about the book. Her piece is below. Be sure to pick up a copy of the magazine–one of our favorites around here–on newsstands now."

Algonquin Books was kind enough to rerun Southgate's article, and it's worth reading. I do wonder when Southgate or any reader who thought they weren't going to read The Help changed their mind. What was the tipping point?

I am still firmly in the I will not read camp. I had many customers try to convince me otherwise but I won't budge. Part of the reason for this hard line in the sand has to do with working in a bookstore in the South and having White customers tell me every day I just must read The Help.

In my head, all I could think was no I don't. I refuse to believe the authenticity of Black voices created by a White author by White readers who don't read Black authors. These were my customers so I know what they read. Not a single White customer that requested The Help asked for a novel by a Black author.

Stockett's novel was liked by many of my Black customers as well. I was a bit more curious, but knowing that a Black author would never have this amount of success with the same story, I still can't bring myself to read The Help. Now I know how some Asian readers probably felt with the success of Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha.

Monday, August 8, 2011

2011 Decatur Book Festival

The Decatur Book Festival is held every Labor day weekend. Decatur is only a few miles from Atlanta. I love this festival which started in 2006. There's always a great turn out and its put together very well.

Tananarive Due is going to be attending. OMG I am so excited. Yes, I am seriously fan gushing. The first book I read by Due was The Living Blood. I picked it up because of the cover, which screamed read me, which I did. I've been hooked ever since. The author's latest My Soul to Take comes out at the beginning of September, right on time for the festival. I've already had a chance to read it, loved it.

I've banned myself from buying any more books until I get a new job. Though I am very tempted to break that for an autographed copy of My Soul to Take. I have a job prospect so hopefully it won't be an issue.

Due will be signing with debut author Alma Katsu. Katsu's novel The Taker comes out at the beginning of September as well. I've seen the book in passing, its been getting excellent reviews. It hasn't been on my reading radar because of the romance aspect but I want to give it a try before the festival.

If I go to a panel event I like to be familiar with, if not all then most of the authors who are presenting. It can't be easy for debut authors to be on a panel. All the attention is on the established and bestselling authors. So I will do my best to get a review copy of The Taker and have a question ready for Katsu.

Elizabeth Nunez will be signing her latest Boundaries. I haven't read Nunez before but her name sounded familiar. Then I remembered why, author and educator Ashley Hope Perez's guest post on Women Writers of the Caribbean.

Tayari Jones will be signing Silver Sparrow. I haven't been enforcing my no buying book ban, and I already have a signed copy. So I probably won't go to this appearance, I don't want to be that fan that shows up every time an author is in town. Ain't nobody calling security on me.

If you live in Atlanta and haven't had an opportunity to attend one of Jones signings I highly recommend going. The author is from Atlanta and it shows in the turn out. Its nice to get caught up in that good energy and Silver Sparrow is one of the best books of the year.

Perisa Walker will be signing Black Orchid Blues, the third book in her Harlem Renaissance mystery. The book has a Lee Child blurb and I love me some Child. Mystery is my favorite genre, so I don't know how I've missed Walker. Better late then never.

There are many more authors I want to check out thanks to the Decatur Book Festival. If you plan on coming to Atlanta for the book festival or DragonCon which is also Labor Day weekend, you can get away with not renting a car for the weekend. Marta, Atlanta's public transportation system is not great but its perfect for a weekend convention or event.

All the major host hotels can be easily accessed via Marta. There's also an airport line stop which is very convenient. Towards the end of the month I may do a Marta for visitors post. It'll be fun and relevant filibuster.

The book festival is in downtown Decatur. The area is very nice and is right next to the train station. Dragon Con is in downtown Atlanta, the turn out is always huge. Sci fi/fantasy fans do it up right. I like all the detailed costumes. I remember some of my co-workers who went to Dragon Con would be working on their costumes for months.

Friday, August 5, 2011

World Fantasy Nominees/ In Honor of L.A. Banks

Recently the World Fantasy Nominees were announced

Nominees for Best Novel

Zoo City, Lauren Beukes (Jacana South Africa; Angry Robot)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
The Silent Land, Graham Joyce (Gollancz; Doubleday)
Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay (Viking Canada; Roc; Harper Voyager UK)
Redemption In Indigo, Karen Lord (Small Beer)
Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor (DAW)

Congratulations to N.K. Jemisin, Karen Lord and Nnedi Okorafor on their nominations.

I squealed with happiness when I saw this short list. I loved The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Who Fears Death, and I've only heard great things about Redemption In Indigo.

Since this is a female authors of color fantasy related post, I am going to take a moment an mention a great way to remember author L.A. Banks, which I learned about via White Readers Meet Black Authors

Of course, please purchase all her books and please feel free to get them where you like to buy books. The idea with Amazon is that if everybody goes to one place at the same time, it will drive the ratings and put her book on top. As Lutishia said yesterday, she was #1 to us, let's make her #1 one more time.

In honor of L.A. Banks readers are encouraged to buy her last novel Surrender the Dark, from Amazon, today, Friday 5.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

L.A. Banks - Will Be Missed

Author L.A. Banks died today. Minion is the first book in her most popular series, The Vampire Huntress. I doubt it was easy for Banks to get this published but she did it. Anyone who thought Black Vampires wouldn't sell was seriously mistaken. Banks didn't have fans she had FANS. She left her mark on the literary world and will be missed.

In Remembrance of L.A. Banks , 1959 -2011 @