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#SJYALit: Walk A Mile In Their Shoes, a guest post by Christina June

sjyalitWhen I was in grad school, a required course for my degree was Multicultural Counseling.  An assignment in that class was to do something outside “your box” so you could experience what it feels like to be uncomfortable, maybe even upset, at what was happening around you.  It could be something as small as watching a movie or going to a restaurant.  My professor, an African-American woman, even offered to take any of us who wanted to go to her Baptist church.  One of my peers, a young white Morman guy, took her up on it.  She told us whatever experience we chose was to help us learn empathy for those who were different from us.  So we would be able to put our own biases aside when helping clients or students who came from different backgrounds.

 

At 22, I took that message with me not only during that assignment, but for every assignment, every client session, every interaction, then and now.  Though I’d been lucky to grow up in a fairly diverse area of the country, I’m aware that not everyone has the opportunity to interact regularly with people who are different from them.

 

With the chaotic political climate of the US, it’s hard not to see the cracks that have always been present widening into canyons.  The differences in philosophies on life are staggering and frankly, for me, confusing.  I think back to that class in grad school all the time and wish more people could get out of their boxes.  They way I see it, it all boils down to this:

 

  1. Some people are selfish.
  2. Some people are not selfish.

 

Sounds harsh, I know, but hear me out.  When I say selfish, I don’t mean a little kid who doesn’t want to share his toys.  I mean someone who puts their personal interests first, before the needs of the masses.  Someone who lacks empathy and compassion.  Someone who is unable to put themselves in the mind and body of someone else for a little while.  I’ll admit there are times when acting on one’s own behalf is important, but most of the time, when we think about the greater good, everyone wins.  Seems pretty simple, yeah?

 

But what if you’re not there yet?  This is where books can make a huge difference.

 

Books magically allow a reader to put themselves in the head of a narrator for several hours and feel what they feel.  They allow a reader to experience different ways of life—try them on for a little while—which can lead to greater understanding of others.  And once we realize that experiences are universal, it’s easy to see we’re more alike than not.

 

hate-uHave you lost a friend to tragedy?  Pick up THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas.

 

Is your romantic relationship complicated by your family dynamics?  Try IT’S NOT LIKE IT’S A SECRET by Misa Suguira or GIRL MANS UP by M-E Girard.

 

Feel like you’re the only one hiding something?  Check out THE THING WITH FEATHERS by McCall Hoyle.

 

 

It’s much easier to fight for your friends than strangers, right?  If you know someone, what they’ve been through, the specifics of their life and their struggles, you’re more likely to go to bat for them.  You’d probably think that fight was worth your time.  Books can help kids make new friends that’ll stick with them for their whole life and inform which battles they’re willing to walk into.  And the earlier they learn these lessons, the better off all of us will be.

 

Teachers, librarians, booksellers, mentors—they are all magicians.  They have the unique and tremendously important ability to put books in the hands of kids who need something.  Maybe they need that new friend.  Any book has the potential to change—or even save—a life.  Books can have a ripple effect for years and years and it is my sincere hope that the amazing books that are being written right now will make long-lasting impressions on young readers.

 

I don’t expect—or want—all my neighbors to look like me, love like me, or believe like me.  Many agree with me, but many do not.  However, I’m optimistic that the more we learn about others, the more we will consider them in our decisions.

 

Make new friends.  We’re all in this together.  There’s no I in Team.  Walk a mile in their shoes.  Together we stand, divided we fall.

 

We’re better when we lose the selfish and work to make sure everyone feels supported.  Books are a great starting point.

 

Meet Christina June

View More: http://hannahbjorndalphotography.pass.us/authorchristinajuneChristina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor.  She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters.  Christina is a voracious reader, loves to travel, eats too many cupcakes, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland.  She lives in Virginia with her husband and daughter.  Her debut novel, IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE, was released in May 2017, and a companion, EVERYWHERE YOU WANT TO BE, will be available in 2018.

 

About IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE by Christina June

goodbyeSixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night, which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client. If Tatum is reading his emails right, her virtual Prince Charming is funny, smart, and talented—and he seems to think the same about her. Too bad he’s spending his summer across the ocean in Ireland…not that Tatum would be allowed to go on a date anyway.

But over the course of the summer, Tatum will learn that sometimes going after what you want means breaking all the rules. And when Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way. A modern play on the Cinderella story arc, Christina June’s IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE will appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Perkins, and Jennifer E. Smith.

 

Book Review: The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian

Publisher’s description

ra6The Authentics is a fresh, funny, and insightful novel about culture, love, and family—the kind we are born into and the ones we create.

Daria Esfandyar is Iranian-American and proud of her heritage, unlike some of the “Nose Jobs” in the clique led by her former best friend, Heidi Javadi. Daria and her friends call themselves the Authentics, because they pride themselves on always keeping it real.

But in the course of researching a school project, Daria learns something shocking about her past, which launches her on a journey of self-discovery. It seems everyone is keeping secrets. And it’s getting harder to know who she even is any longer.

With infighting among the Authentics, her mother planning an over-the-top sweet sixteen party, and a romance that should be totally off limits, Daria doesn’t have time for this identity crisis. As everything in her life is spinning out of control—can she figure out how to stay true to herself?

 

Amanda’s thoughts

authenticsDaria, the main character, and her friends Caroline, Joy, and Kurt feel like they are the only ones that are being their authentic selves all the time. Daria is an agnostic Iranian-American; Caroline is a lesbian performance artist; Joy is Nigerian American and raised by strict parents; and Kurt is super into astrology. They feel like they’re real in ways their peers are not, but a whole bunch of different revelations (both big and small) force them to rethink what’s real, what their identities are, and what it even means to be seen as authentic.

An assignment in English class about family trees and the journey of many students’ families to the United States propels the Authentics (which, yes, they rather insufferably refer to themselves as) to do a cheek swab DNA test to see what they might learn about themselves. Daria gets back information that she doesn’t understand, pushing her to do some digging into her family’s past, uncovering secrets that she can’t believe. While on a mission to reconnect with someone from her past, she meets Rico, a tattooed Mexican artist, who captures her interest (even though there are some very good reasons she should not see him as a potential love interest). As she begins to put together the pieces of her family’s past, Daria also learns that not everything is as it seems for all kinds of people in her life.

 

Examining culture, identity, and family, The Authentics is a compelling look at what happens when everything you thought you knew is suddenly uncertain. A good read full of memorable characters with diverse identities. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9780062486462

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 08/08/2017

ALA Recap: Libraries are Not Neutral Spaces (Things I Never Learned in Library School)

thingsineverlearnedinlibraryschoolThis past Sunday I had the honor of presenting with a panel of fabulous librarians about how libraries are NOT neutral spaces. Like most librarians, I spent a major part of my career proclaiming that we were. But over time, I have come to realize that we are, in fact, not. For example, if during the month of December you put up a Christmas tree or a Christmas display but don’t acknowledge that any other holidays exist, you are making a non-neutral statement and highlighting certain faiths and traditions over others. Did you choose to avoid putting up a Black Lives Matter display? That was not a neutral decision. This month is Pride, did you put up a Pride display? Whether you answer yes or no to this question, your answer is not a neutral decision. Every decision to do or not do something in our libraries is not a neutral decision, and it often reflects our own personal, cultural or institutional biases.

You can find the slides to our ALA Presentation here (a log in is required)

You can read tweets about the presentation under the #CritLibAla17 at #ALAAC17

It has been a process for me to learn how to examine and break down my personal biases in considering everything I do in my library, from putting up a display to deciding when, where, and how to program. The work of being inclusive and advocating for my teen patrons – ALL of my teen patrons – is ongoing and never done. It takes some intentionality on my part and I am working on training my staff to have that same type of intentionality.

In fact, for me, displays and collections are a big part of how I try and be intentional and inclusive. I didn’t have a term for it until this weekend thanks to someone one Twitter, but I regularly perform diversity audits of my YA collection. I will sit down monthly with some type of topic or focus in mind and go through my collection to make sure I have a well represented number of titles and authors that represent that topic. For example, with Pride approaching, I spent the month of April going through every single letter in GLBTQAI+ to make sure that I had a good representation of titles for each letter in my collection. And when doing so I go through and make sure that they include as many POC, LatinX, Native American, Asian and more authors as possible. I don’t want to just be diverse in having GLBTQAI+ titles, I want to make sure that those titles are as diverse and representative as possible.

I recently went through the process of re-writing my display policy and procedures for my staff to help achieve this same goal. I want to make sure that every display we put up is inclusive. If we do a fantasy display, my staff is reminded to go through and check to make sure that there are books by diverse authors featuring diverse characters on that display. A display that solely features cis-het-white male authors is not acceptable in my department, but building them takes dedicated work on all levels. It means that I have to make sure I am building good collections for my staff to pull titles from and it means that my staff has to do the work of looking at the display daily to make sure they have a good balance of titles to choose from.

#SJYALit: Making a Social Justice Book Display that Engages Teens

Storytime Underground Libraries are Not Neutral Spaces Handouts

I discuss displays more here: The Display Must Go On. In the future I hope to add a statement to my display policy, which is included in the link, specifying that 50% or more of the display must feature diverse authors and main characters. And since we have a display notebook where we are making note of past displays so that we have good notes for future displays, I would like to create a form where we list the titles put on display and the theme of the display. This not only will provide us good info for doing RA or creating/repeating future displays, but it will help us do those diversity audits so that we can make sure we are being inclusive not just in our collections but in our displays.

sjyalit#SJYALit (2017)

The Social Justice in YA Lit Project/Discussion, using YA literature to discuss a variety of social justice issues including own voices, representation, discrimination, education, poverty and more.

Although I talked a lot about displays, many others on the panel talked about other good points and I highly recommend that you check out the slides and read the work of those I had the honor of speaking with. I learned a lot from my peers. For example, I have never processed what it means that Christian creation stories are catalogued in religion while Native American creation stories are catalogued as folklore. This was a profound moment of realization for me that finally helped me more fully understand what settler colonialism means. Doing the work means being engaged in the professional community and learning from your peers. It’s important to follow and read from librarians from different backgrounds.

I want to make one final note about holiday programming, which comes up frequently when we talk about libraries as neutral spaces. Many libraries engage in Christmas programming in their libraries and there is an ongoing argument that this is what our communities want and that Christmas is a secular holiday. For me, as a Christian, Christmas is a profoundly religious holiday and I decided when I had children not to discuss or introduce the concept of Santa to my children because I did not want to dilute the sacredness of this day. So no, our communities, even our Christian communities, don’t all want us to be doing holiday or Santa programming at the library. Even some of the fundamental beliefs we have about what our communities want may be wrong.

As I mentioned, this was truly an important and enlightening discussion for me. I continue to learn and grow as a librarian and appreciate every opportunity to talk with my peers, challenge my beliefs and make sure that I am heading in the right direction as a librarian for myself, for my teens, and for my community. I want to keep doing the good work, and sometimes that means changing what I think I know, what I believe, what I do, and the how and why of how I do it. It’s often uncomfortable, but I keep doing the work anyway.

Thank you to my co-presenters:

Nicole Cooke

Assistant Professor / Director of the MS/LIS Program, School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois

Cory Eckert

Librarian, The Post Oak School

Kendra Jones

District Manager, Youth & Family Services, Timberland Regional Library, Washington

Jessica Anne Liddell

Branch Manager, Grand Rapids Public Library

Debbie Reese

Founder and Editor, American Indians in Children’s Literature

Spotlight on Salaam Reads

salaam-readsLast year it was announced that Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing would launch a Muslim children’s book imprint called Salaam Reads. From the S&S website, a Feb 24, 2016 post says this about the imprint: “Salaam Reads will introduce readers of all faiths and backgrounds to a wide variety of Muslim children and families, and offer Muslim kids an opportunity to see themselves reflected positively in published works. The imprint, which takes its name from the Arabic word for “peace,” plans to publish books for young readers of all ages, including picture and chapter books, and middle–grade and young adult titles.

Salaam Reads will reside within the larger Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers imprint, led by publisher Justin Chanda and executive editor Zareen Jaffery. The imprint plans to publish a minimum of nine titles per year for all ages.”

 

To read more about this great imprint, check out the following articles and blog posts:

Simon and Schuster Launches Muslim Imprint for Children’s Books (Publishers Weekly)

Simon & Schuster launches Muslim kidlit imprint Salaam Reads (YA Interrobang)

Salaam Reads: A Q&A With a New Publisher Imprint for Muslim Children (Education Week)

Salaam Reads Aims to Publish Muslim YA Stories (Teen Vogue)

Read an exclusive excerpt from Hena Khan’s new book, Amina’s Voice (Entertainment Weekly)

Read an exclusive excerpt from Karuna Riazi’s debut novel, The Gauntlet (Entertainment Weekly)

Cover Reveal: SAINTS AND MISFITS by S. K. Ali (YA Highway)

 

You can also follow their social media accounts and check out their website: Website, TwitterInstagramFacebook

 

These are the books that have been announced so far (summaries from the publisher):

 

amina's voiceAmina’s Voice by Hena Khan (ISBN-13: 9781481492065 Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers Publication date: 03/14/2017)

 

A Pakistani-American Muslim girl struggles to stay true to her family’s vibrant culture while simultaneously blending in at school after tragedy strikes her community in this sweet and moving middle grade novel from the award-winning author of It’s Ramadan, Curious George and Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns.

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.

Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.

(READ MY REVIEW HERE)

 

gauntletThe Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi (ISBN-13: 9781481486965 Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers Publication date: 03/28/2017)

A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.

When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how.

Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, the Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?

(READ MY REVIEW HERE)

 

Ali - Saints and MisfitsSaints and Misfits by S.K. Ali (ISBN-13: 9781481499248 Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers Publication date: 06/13/2017)

Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?

 

yo soyYo Soy Muslim by Mark Gonzales, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini (ISBN-13: 9781481489362 Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers Publication date: 08/29/2017)

From Muslim and Latino poet Mark Gonzales comes a touching and lyrical picture book about a parent who encourages their child to find joy and pride in all aspects of their multicultural identity.

Dear little one,
…know you are wondrous.
A child of crescent moons,
a builder of mosques,
a descendant of brilliance,
an ancestor in training.

Written as a letter from a father to his daughter, Yo Soy Muslim is a celebration of social harmony and multicultural identities. The vivid and elegant verse, accompanied by magical and vibrant illustrations, highlights the diversity of the Muslim community as well as Indigenous identity. A literary journey of discovery and wonder, Yo Soy Muslim is sure to inspire adults and children alike.

 

 

salam aSalam Alaikum by Harris J, illustrated by Ward Jenkins (ISBN-13: 9781481489386 Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers Publication date: 09/05/2017)

From “the Muslim Justin Bieber” (NPR) Harris J comes a picture book that celebrates spreading peace, love, and happiness throughout the world, using the lyrics of his international YouTube hit of the same name.

Salam Alaikum means “Peace be upon you.” It is the greeting that Muslims around the world use to say “hello” and “good-bye.” International music sensation Harris J has taken that greeting and created a call to action.

Spread peace on the earth…
Treasure the love, let it surround us
Always be kind, always remind one another
Peace on the earth every day

Using the lyrics to the hit song of the same name, and accompanied by heartwarming illustrations that depict the power of paying it forward, this sweet and charming picture book celebrates kindness and community.

Books for Trying Times: A Resource List compiled by members of KidLit Resists!

aram kim

Art by Aram Kim Available for use here http://ow.ly/d/5Q4v

Today’s list of resources is brought to you by the members of KidLit Resists! We’re a Facebook group for members of the KidLit community (authors, illustrators, editors, youth librarians, booksellers, and others who create and support picture books, MG books, and YA books) who wish to organize against the current administration’s agenda and support those communities targeted by the administration.

 

If you have other resources to suggest, please put them in the comments or tag me on Twitter, where I’m @CiteSomething.

 

 

 

KidLit Resource List – Books for Trying Times
Compiled by members of the KidLit Resists! Facebook page

 

Lists of recommended books

 

Jane Addams Peace Award books (1953 – present) “The Jane Addams Children’s Book Award annually recognizes children’s books of literary and aesthetic excellence that effectively engage children in thinking about peace, social justice, global community, and equity for all people.”

 

35 Picture Books for Young Activists (from All The Wonders)

 

BOOK LIST: PICTURE BOOKS ABOUT MUSLIM OR MIDDLE EASTERN CHARACTERS (from Lee & Low Books)

 

8 Empowering Middle Grade Novels for Kids Interested in Social Justice (from Barnes & Noble)

 

KitaabWorld: South Asian and diverse children’s books

 

The Brown Bookshelf: United in Story

 

AMELIA BLOOMER PROJECT: RECOMMENDED FEMINIST LITERATURE FOR BIRTH THROUGH 18

 

Refugee picture books (on Pinterest)

 

20 BOOKS ABOUT REFUGEE & IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCES (from All The Wonders)

 

EMPATHY: STEAD’S COMMON THREAD (from All The Wonders)

 

STORIES ABOUT REFUGEES: A YA READING LIST (from Stacked)

 

Activist biographies (YA)

 

TEN YOUNG ADULT BOOKS THAT REFLECT THE US IMMIGRATION EXPERIENCE (from Nerdy Book Club)

 

Books That Respect Kids with Unique Abilities (from All The Wonders)

 

Girl-empowering Books (from A Mighty Girl)

 

We Need Diverse Books

 

Penny Candy Books: A Mission Becomes a Moral Directive (from Publishers Weekly)

 

Teaching Tolerance – a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center

 

30 Of The Best Books To Teach Children Empathy (from TeachThought)

 

19 books to help children find hope and strength in stressful times: A librarian’s list (from The Washington Post)

 

13 Books to Teach Children About Protesting and Activism (from GeekMom)

 

Books inspiring activism and tolerance

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land by John Coy, photos by Wing Young Huie

March (trilogy) by John Lewis (Author), Andrew Aydin (Author), Nate Powell (Artist)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: I dissent by Debbie Levy

The Seeds of America Trilogy by Laurie Halse Anderson

Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton

This Side of Home by Renee Watson

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

What Does It Mean To Be Kind? by Rana DiOrio

The Hunt (coming in 2/17) by Margaux Othats

A Gift From Greensboro by Quraysh Ali Lansana, illustrated by Skip Hill

Ambassador by William Alexander

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up by Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi, illustrations by Yutaka Houlette

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle

 

Recommendations for preschool storytime

A Chair For My Mother and sequels by Vera B. Williams

More, More, More Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams

A is for Activist and Counting on Community by Innosanto Nagara

The Bus for Us by Suzanne Bloom

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Leslie Staub

Jacqueline Woodson’s picture books

Kadir Nelson’s picture books

SPPL

 

#SJYALit: Making a Social Justice Book Display that Engages Teens

After the election, we noticed that some of the teens we talked to were seriously worried about many themes: GLBTQA+ rights and safety, racism, and women’s rights, to name just a few. We heard them talking about them with each other. And sometimes, they talk with us. So we wanted to signal boost books about social justice that really addressed their concerns. But we wanted to do it in a way that wouldn’t put any preconceived politics on our teens. So here’s what we did:

socialjusticedisplay

Why did we choose to do it this way? There’s not slogan, no wording, no heading – nothing that tells our teens what to think or feel about the topic. In fact, there’s nothing that even tells them what our topic is. We pulled books that covered any topic that fit under the social justice theme, including feminist YA, GLBTQA+ YA, Civil Rights, Own Voices, Religious Freedom.

display3

We made lists and we checked them twice. In fact, we went out and found lists online and checked them against our collections to make sure we were doing a really good job of having a diverse collection for our teens. Since I do this fairly regularly as a part of my collection development, we found that we had a pretty well represented collection. But we want to make sure and get it into the hands of our teens.

Here’s what we’ve found: Because there is no heading or signage, just books and a background, teens walk up to the display much more frequently. They are forced to pick up the books and read the back jacket copy to learn what the book is about. And they are pulling books off the display more often then they have seemed to when we have thematic displays with labels. It’s been an interesting experience.

As you can see from the notes above, we talked about naming our display Books Fight Hate, based on a hashtag that was popular on Twitter in the days after the election and with the rise of hate crimes. In the end, we decided to go with a more subtle display and see what would happen. We have been very happy with the results. The books have been moving and that’s what we like to see.

PS, that beautiful painting on the left was painted by one of our teens. We put all their artwork on display in the Teen MakerSpace. It wasn’t designed to go with our social justice display, but man is it a beautiful painting that just happens to work really well in that space.

Book Review: Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl

Publisher’s description

RADFrom the authors of the New York Times bestselling book Rad American Women A-Z, comes a bold new collection of 40 biographical profiles, each accompanied by a striking illustrated portrait, showcasing extraordinary women from around the world.

In Rad Women Worldwide, writer Kate Schatz and artist Miriam Klein Stahl tell fresh, engaging, and inspiring tales of perseverance and radical success by pairing well researched and riveting biographies with powerful and expressive cut-paper portraits. Featuring an array of diverse figures from Hatshepsut (the great female king who ruled Egypt peacefully for two decades) and Malala Yousafzi (the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize) to Poly Styrene (legendary teenage punk and lead singer of X-Ray Spex) and Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft (polar explorers and the first women to cross Antarctica), this progressive and visually arresting book is a compelling addition to women’s history.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

I’m going to crib from my review of their previous book, Rad American Women A-Z, because the same sentiment applies here:

“Please go buy this book. Buy it for your library, your classroom, your kids, your friends’ kids, your neighbors, yourself. Maybe, just to be safe, buy like 10 copies, so you have plenty to hand out for gifts. This book would make a great graduation present, a birthday present for kids of all ages, and a great gift for your adult friends, too.”

Just as you would expect, this book tells about “the lives and accomplishments of bold, brave women who lived awesome, exciting, revolutionary, historic, and world-changing lives” (as the introduction tells us). Some of the women are more well-known than others. Many of the women I already knew about thanks to an extremely extensive education in college while getting my women’s studies degree. Even though college was now 20 years ago, so many of their stories have stuck with me specifically because I never heard about their lives anywhere except my women’s studies classes. 40 women from 30 countries are highlighted. Readers will kick off their education by learning about Enheduanna (2285-2250 BCE, Mesopotamia), the world’s oldest known author. From there we jump all over the place, both in time and location. We learn about Kalpana Chawla, an Indian astronaut; Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s ardent supporter of democracy and peace; Qiu Jin, China’s revolutionary leader known as the “Chinese Joan of Arc;” Fe Del Mundo, from the Philippines, the first woman admitted to Harvard Medical School; Kasha Jacqueline Nagabasera, the “Mother of the Gay Rights Movement” in Uganda; feminist and Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; Colombian street artist Bastardilla; punk singer Poly Styrene from the band X-Ray Spex (I wouldn’t be much of a punk if this wasn’t one of my favorite songs from my youth); and the Argentinian activist group Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (who I had the honor to hear speak back in the mid-90s). Those are just some of the phenomenal women included in this book. These women, and the other women written about, are many things: musicians, athletes, rulers, spies, activists, leaders, explorers, linguists, fighters, healers, educators, scientists, programmers, and more. The end of the book includes a list of 250 more rad women from around the world to check out. The bold, bright paper-cut art is dynamic and makes this already extremely appealing book even more likely to get noticed on a shelf. An excellent overview of many important women and a fantastic addition to any collection.

 

Review copy courtesy of the authors

ISBN-13: 9780399578861

Publisher: Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony

Publication date: 09/27/2016

Setting a New Default for Readers and Myself: A Guest Post by LABYRINTH LOST author Zoraida Cordova

Today we are very honored to host a guest post by LABYRINTH LOST author Zoraida Córdova. Labyrinth Lost is book one in the Brooklyn Brujas series published by Sourcebooks Fire. It is the story of Alex, a girl who wants to reject her magical destiny and in doing so banishes her family to another plane where she must journey to find them before they become victims of the Devourer.

labyrinthlostI started my writing career very young and never had a back up plan. When I was 13 I decided this is what I wanted, and I started writing. When I was 16 and 17, I attended the National Book Foundation’s writing camp. Though camp no longer exists, it was the most defining experience in my life, both as a person and writer. Led by poet and author, Meg Kearney, a group of students spanning all ages and backgrounds took summer workshops in Bennington College in Vermont.

There are two lessons I remember the most from camp, and still use when writing. Cornelius Eady, poet and co-founder of Cave Canem, would tell us to “trim the fat.” Every time I have a massive first draft, the kind of draft that makes my agent and editor pause, I tell myself to “trim the fat.” The second lesson was by Jacqueline Woodson. First of all, it was incredible having someone like Jackie teaching us. As we shared our short stories, Jackie always pointed out the white default in our characters. I was a teen, the fourth youngest in our group. I went to public school. I knew about metaphor and symbolism, but I’d never heard of the “white default” before. Looking back, I’m guilty of this as well. My tv shows, my books, my movies, my music, my magazines. Everything I read was predominantly white. As an adult, I went back to my very first manuscript: a ground breaking teenage epic at 20 something pages, based on the Jessica Simpson song “Final Heartbreak.” You can laugh. I certainly do. “Final Heartbreak” was written by a thirteen year old who had internalized the white default. All of my beautiful characters were white. The two exotic characters were the only ones described as having slightly darker skin. This was the first time I ever wrote the white default.

After hearing Jackie Woodson tell us, “If you describe one person’s race, you have to do it for everyone else. Otherwise, they’re white by default,” my world changed. Thanks to discussion that’s at the forefront of publishing thanks to We Need Diverse Books, Diversity in YA, and other like-minded organizations, we know what the white default is. But as a teenager who wanted to write fantasy novels, it felt like everything had shifted. When you don’t see yourself represented in media, you start to erase yourself. The default has to change.

Changing the default starts with the authors. Daniel José Older tweeted, “If a character’s white I say it. Otherwise, assume they’re not. The default is POC.” Reading this made me think about what Jackie Woodson said all those years ago. Even though, I was conscious of what the default was, I was afraid. When I wrote The Vicious Deep, I did my job. I designated an ethnicity for all my characters. But that wasn’t enough. What was I so afraid of? Four years later, I know. When you’re an author of color, you fear being “too” diverse. You wait so long for the market to be ready, not just for your book, but also for you as a person.

Writing Labyrinth Lost was liberating. I’ve written Brooklyn before, but even that Brooklyn was white washed. In this world, the default in characters is POC. One of the reasons I started reading fantasy was because I hated contemporary stories as a kid. The only books I could find were about poor or struggling Latinxs (never Ecuadorian like me). And while those stories are brilliant and important and still need to be read, I also wanted to be a superhero. I wanted to be Buffy and Sabrina and Prue Halliwell. The issue in Labyrinth Lost isn’t my protagonist’s ethnicity or bisexuality. These are things that should’ve been normalized a long time ago. The issue that Alex Mortiz has is her magic and power. Being afraid to have power is something that everyone can relate to, especially when you’re a girl. How are you influenced by the people who surround you? How do you deal with feeling abandoned by a parent? How do you cope with the pressure of being sixteen and the pressure of school? These are the things that make Alex relatable to teens, no matter where they come from, and despite that the default in this book is POC.

Alex lives in an untraditional house. If you take the magical aspect for a second, what am I left with? A single mother. A working class home in a (made up) part of Brooklyn. A huge extended family. A girl with anxiety. A trio of sisters. A girl trying to find her place in the world.

I’m twenty-nine and sometimes I still feel like I haven’t fully understood my place in the world, so in my book, Alex Mortiz is already on the right track. In setting a new default for myself and for my readers, I hope others will see themselves in Alex’s strength.

Publisher’s Book Description

“Enchanting and complex. Every page is filled with magic.”-Danielle Paige, New York Times best-selling author of Dorothy Must Die

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Praise for Labyrinth Lost

“Zoraida Cordova’s prose enchants from start to finish. Labyrinth Lost is pure magic.” -Melissa Grey, author of The Girl at Midnight

“Magical and empowering, Labyrinth Lost is an incredible heroine’s journey filled with mythos come to life; but at its heart, honors the importance of love and family.” -Cindy Pon, author of Serpentine and Silver Phoenix

“A brilliant brown-girl-in-Brooklyn update on Alice in Wonderland and Dante’s Inferno. Very creepy, very magical, very necessary.” -Daniel Jose Older, author of Shadowshaper

“Labyrinth Lost is a magical story of love, family, and finding yourself. Enchanting from start to finish.” -Amy Tintera, author of Ruined.

Karen’s Thoughts

This was a unique and interesting twist on magic from a cultural perspective that I am not very familiar with. It was fascinating, dark and compelling. I highly recommend it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Zoraida Córdova was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York. She is the author of the Vicious Deep trilogy, the On the Verge series, and Labyrinth Lost. She loves black coffee, snark, and still believes in magic. Send her a tweet @zlikeinzorro

Book Review: Pride: Celebrating Diversity & Community by Robin Stevenson

Publisher’s description

PRIDEFor LGBTQ people and their supporters, Pride events are an opportunity to honor the past, protest injustice, and celebrate a diverse and vibrant community. The high point of Pride, the Pride Parade, is spectacular and colorful. But there is a whole lot more to Pride than rainbow flags and amazing outfits. How did Pride come to be? And what does Pride mean to the people who celebrate it?

 

 

 

Amanda’s thoughts

First of all, let’s talk age groups. This is a great primer for kids ages 9-12. I plan to pass it along to my 4th grade son, whose favorite book is GEORGE by Alex Gino. Teens will certainly learn a lot from this book (as would adults looking for a quick crash course in LGBTQ issues), but I’d say its intended audience is more the middle school set.

 

This is a visually appealing, quick, and thorough look at Pride parades and celebrations, how they came to be, and what they celebrate. Stevenson covers large pieces of history and movements in accessible ways, often throwing in her own personal stories, which lend themselves to a conversational tone. The pages are covered in large, vibrant, fantastic pictures from celebrations, parades, and marches from all over the world. Pull-out quotes, smaller pictures on the sides, and text boxes with Queer Facts adorn the pages, providing extra information and helping break up the longer sections of information.

 

Stevenson looks at the history of discrimination, abuse, laws, resistance, fighting back, organizations (like The Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis), demonstrations for basic civil rights, and the Lavender Scare of the 50s and 60s. She highlights activists, looks at changing policy and attitudes, covers the Stonewall Riot, and looks at the new groups, rallies, and marches that grew from that. She also often notes the sexism, racism, and classism within the movement and the additional discrimination and struggle many groups faced. She examines the roles of youths in various movements and looks at high school-based activism. Other chapters look at the rise of Queer Nation, marriage equality, PFLAG, community and subgroups within the community, coming out, acronyms, and pronouns. Short sections detail stories of teens coming out, trans kid, and LGBTQ families. As the title promises, Stevenson looks at Pride parades, the politics of Pride, intersectional activism and considerations, and symbols commonly seen at Pride. She includes sections here on drag queens and kings, dyke marches, trans marches, and alternative pride marches. Finally, she looks at rights, activism, and pride all around the world, covering many countries. A glossary, resources, and an index round out this title.

 

As you can see, Stevenson covers a lot of ground in this book. She gives just enough information to explain the significance of an event or idea without bogging young readers down with too much information. Is there a lot more to say about every single subject covered here? Of course. But this book is an excellent resource for the younger set. It gives a quick but thorough look at LGBTQ history (mainly in North America) from the 1950s on and really does focus on the activism, community, and celebration of not just Pride but the LGBTQ movement as a whole. This book is an excellent and necessary addition for all collections. Buy Stevenson’s book and pair it with Gay & Lesbian History for Kids by Jerome Pohlen, which is great for the 12 and up crew. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the author and publisher

ISBN-13: 9781459809932

Publisher: Orca Book Publishers

Publication date: 04/19/2016

 

12 Blogs of 2014: Rich in Color

Did I mention that choosing just three blogs to share has been agonizing? There are just so many awesome blogs out there and I want to tell you about all of them! I hope you’re adding all of the blogs we’re featuring to whatever blog reader you use and following the blogs and their creators on Twitter. I’m always looking for more blogs to read, so make sure you share your favorites with us, too! You can find me on Twitter @CiteSomething. 

Today’s featured blog

Rich in Color

From the blog:

Rich in Color is dedicated to reading, reviewing, talking about, and otherwise promoting young adult fiction starring people of color or written by people of color. We believe that teens (and adults!) should be able to find themselves in the kinds of books they love to read. At Rich in Color, we want to showcase a wide variety of multicultural books so that kids will be able to see themselves as more than just the sassy best friend, the very special lesson, or the extra in the background.

The discrepancy between books that feature people of color or are written by people of color and the actual composition of the U.S. population is a concern for us. We think it’s important to support these books/authors, and one way we can do that is to talk about them.

Find the blog on Twitter @Rich_in_Color and check out their tumblr.

 

Who runs it

Audrey, an editor and copywriter (Twitter @audrey_gonzalezMy Writing Life); Crystal, an elementary school teacher and librarian (Twitter @librarygrl2Reading Through Life ); Jessica, a bookworm to the core (These Mortals Be); K. Imani Tennyson, a teacher and writer (Twitter @K_ImaniImani Scribbles); Jon, a writer and the site’s webmaster (Twitter @jayang, Website)

 

Why I like Rich in Color

Extensive information on YA books featuring characters of color and authors of color. A handy reference with their release calendar. Reviews, booklists, topical posts, roundups of new releases, links to diverse resources, and so much more.

 

Some posts to check out

 Finding Diverse Lit

Shorter Days Equal Shorter Stories

 The Thorny Issue of Race

Getting Graphic

Five YA Books Featuring American Indians

#BlackLivesMatter