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WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI and Sex Positive YA, a guest post by author Sandhya Menon and a GIVEAWAY

Today we are honored to host author Sandhya Menon as she discusses writing a sex positive YA story. We’re also giving away a hardback copy of this upcoming YA title, one of the most anticipated YA releases of 2017.

whendimplemetrishi

Growing up, my parents and I never discussed sex. It wasn’t even something that they considered discussing with me, I’m sure. In general South Asian parents don’t ever, ever talk about sex with their children. It was weird, in the South Asian community, if your parents were open about that kind of thing, and they were usually judged pretty harshly by the other parents; being that open was viewed as putting your kids on the path to promiscuity. I didn’t really figure out all of the ins and outs of sex—so to speak—until I was well into high school, and only then thanks to other overzealous, (non-South Asian, naturally) high school students who couldn’t wait to share their exploits.

So you can believe me when I say that putting in a sex scene into my debut YA, When Dimple Met Rishi, was something I agonized over. I knew South Asian people (and others who don’t typically discuss sex with their teenage children) would be reading this—strangers, acquaintances, friends, those in my family, etc. What would they think? Would they feel that the book would corrupt the youth of today? Would they glare at me for breaking the unspoken rule—no South Asian adult shall educate unmarried South Asian youth about sex until the night before their wedding, and only then in the vaguest terms? I spent many a sweaty day fretting.

In the end, with my editor’s blessing (she’s Cambodian American, and shared my concerns), I decided to put it in there. It’s not on the page, per se…I fade out once things get going. But I do also very plainly state what’s going to happen. Dimple and Rishi have a very frank and open conversation about sex and what it means to them, and even talk about using a condom to be safe. In some ways, I still can’t believe my family members in India might read this one day soon. (And that I’m not immediately begging Simon & Schuster to stop the presses.)

Why, then, given my anxieties about it, did I put the scene in and leave it there? Honestly, I feel like it’s time for adults in the South Asian community to begin having those conversations with our sons and daughters (especially our daughters, who’ve traditionally been kept in the dark the longest). Not talking about sex doesn’t prevent sexual activity. If anything, it only makes sex something carried out in shameful secret—which means more venereal diseases and unwanted pregnancies, more unneeded psychological pain and damage.

I certainly don’t think all teenagers need to have sex. Sex depends on the individual, and readiness will vary with emotional and physical maturity, among other factors. But I do think that talking about healthy sexual practices like consent, birth control, and readiness (and for South Asian teens, that may well mean considering their parents’ stance on premarital sex) should become more of a practice in our homes.

Most importantly, by writing the sex scene in When Dimple Met Rishi, I wanted to show that sex can be safe and positive, something that, when undertaken with care, is a normal part of a consensual, adult relationship even when the individuals in question aren’t married. I hope it opens the door for teens in households where sex isn’t a part of the conversation to approach it in a non-threatening, healthy manner.

About WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI

A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways. (Simon Pulse, May 30th)

Meet Author Sandhya Menon

Sandhya Menon author photo, credit Timothy Falls

Sandhya Menon is the author of WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI (Simon Pulse/May 30, 2017) and a second YA contemporary coming in the summer of 2018. She was born and raised in India on a steady diet of Bollywood movies and street food, and pretty much blames this upbringing for her obsession with happily-ever-afters, bad dance moves, and pani puri.

Sandhya currently lives in Colorado, where she’s on a mission to (gently) coerce her family to watch all 3,221 Bollywood movies she claims as her favorite.

Visit her on the web at http://www.sandhyamenon.com.

Social media:

Twitter: http://bit.ly/sandhyatwitter

Instagram: http://bit.ly/sandhyainsta

A GIVEAWAY

U.S. residents can enter by Saturday, May 20th to win a hardback copy of this swoon worthy book. Do the Rafflecopter thing below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Publisher’s description

ifi wasA new kind of big-hearted novel about being seen for who you really are.

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?

Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl is a universal story about feeling different—and a love story that everyone will root for.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

YA novel about a trans main character, written by a trans writer, featuring a trans cover model? YES!

 

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, so I’ll keep this review short. This book was fantastic. THE END.

 

Just kidding. Here’s a little more: This book is about changes in Amanda’s life, and not just the changes that come from transitioning. She’s in a new town, at a new school, living with a father she hasn’t seen in six years, and making new friends (for the first time in forever). She gets her first kiss and starts her first relationship. We see enough snippets of her past to know some of the things she’s been through, from suicide attempts to brutal assaults. She’s had varying levels of support, from a dad who still hasn’t “come to terms” with everything to a mom who quickly realizes that she’d rather her kid be trans than be dead. We learn a little about Amanda’s journey—understanding from little on that she was a girl, therapy, hormones, surgery, etc.

 

Amanda’s new friends and new start at a new school give her the chance to just live her life, for once, without being in constant fear. It takes her a little while to feel at ease, and there is a degree of worry underlying all the time, but she finally gets a chance to do things lots of teens typically do—go to football games and dances, be in a relationship, share secrets, and be supported and included. There is still fear and some ugly incidents, but for the most part this is a very positive, hopeful look at the life of a trans teen (something Russo addresses in the author’s note). At the beginning of Amanda’s story she tells us her goals for living in her new town: “I would keep my head down and keep quiet. I would graduate. I would go to college as far from the South as I could. I would live.” She soon realizes she has more options than that, than just simply trying to survive. She gets a chance to really start to live her life—the life she’s wanted to live for so long. A VERY welcome addition to the growing selection of books about trans teens—not to be missed. 

 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781250078407

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Publication date: 05/03/2016