Finding Diverse Lit

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Diverse Lit is Out There

Last month, René Saldaña, Jr. wrote a guest post over at Latin@s in Kid Lit that sparked some excellent conversation around the availability and purchasing of diverse lit. If you missed it, the title does give a pretty good hint at the topic – “Forgive Me My Bluntness: I’m a Writer of Color and I’m Right Here In Front of You: I’m the One Sitting Alone at the Table.” He made some pretty clear statements and this stuck with me, “The books are there. All you have to do is look for them.” This wasn’t something entirely new either. Back in January of 2013, Shelley Diaz wrote “Librarians Sound Off: Not a Lack of Latino Lit for Kids, But a Lack of Awareness.”

I am all for the creation of a larger number of diverse books given the statistics that CCBC provides, but I would agree that librarians, teachers, readers, and others who make book purchases, may not be finding the diverse books that already exist.

Where to Find It

To help fulfill our mission to promote diverse young adult lit, we have a release calendar up in the menu bar along with our resource page and review archive. In addition, we post many book lists. Beyond the resources here at Rich in Color, there have also been some posts and lists published around the Internet in the past year that you can access for more titles:

Where Can I Find Great Diverse Children’s Books? (Lee & Low)

Embracing Diversity in YA Lit (Shelley Diaz – scroll down for the resources)

Resources Generated by CCBC-Net Discussion (Edi Campbell)

We Need Diverse Books Campaign – full of reading suggestions and resources

Reading Challenges – these challenges supply suggested titles and participants may provide reviews of the books they read

If we want a greater volume of diverse books in the market going forward, we need to buy and promote the ones that are already here. Many people are talking about the need for diverse literature. Talking about it is a step forward, but to make real change happen, we need to act.

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More Diverse YA Books = More Diverse YA Movies

I had intended to share another excerpt from my MFA paper, but a more pressing concern, or real world example expressed itself to me and I felt compelled to write about this instead. While we here at RiC focus on diversity in YA literature, it must be mentioned that the need for diverse characters is even more important when we look at the number of YA books being turned into movies. Those of us who are already reading diversely are able to balance out the pervasiveness of the dominate culture in movies with our literature, but what about the kids who aren’t as well versed, whose only exposure to literature is from the movies that are made from books?

This question popped into my head recently through an assignment I gave my students for our first unit. We are studying the elements of fiction and instead of having the entire class read one book, I thought it would be fun to have the students choose their own book, have them read something they are interested in. Last year when I did this, I had a number of students asking me for recommendations and you know I encouraged diverse texts. This year, not so much, and well, sadly most of the books the students chose were novels that hit the big screen in 2014. The books my students have chosen….

The_Fault_in_Our_StarsCatching_fireDivergent_(book)_by_Veronica_Roth_US_Hardcover_2011

ifistayThe_Maze_Runner_cover

I want to just let you think about something for a minute….my student population is 60% Hispanic and 40% African-American, and those 5 books are what most of my students chose. Let it sink in that none of my students are able to see a reflection of themselves as the hero, the love interest, in any of these stories. It was during a class activity when the students had their books out that I started to get irritated with the situation. I feel that if stories that featured characters of color were seen as “marketable” or “popular” (whatever that means), then my students would have more diverse reading lists. As it is, they’re only reading diverse stories because I choose diverse texts for class! I’m only one teacher, what about all the other teachers whose population numbers are similar to mine? Are they sharing diverse texts with their students or only teaching one voice, with the exception to a novel about slavery or the Civil Rights movement one month a year? I’d hope they’re not, but the sad reality is that many students, especially students of color in low-income areas, do not have access to diverse texts and only read books that have been made into movies, because the rational is “it must be a good book if it was made into a movie.” I find this unacceptable, do you? African-American and Hispanic teens throw down large numbers of cash on movies and movie tie-in stuff, is it so hard for a book that features a character of  color to be made into a movie? The audience is already there and I can guarantee that teens will run to the theaters. Hollywood and publishers do not get that “If they build it, we will come”. They don’t get that the reason why they are not seeing big numbers for diverse books and movies is that they are not putting the money behind the authors to get the word out, to find the audience. Again, the audience is there as the #WeNeedDiverseBooks juggernaut keeps proving time and time again.

I will admit that the only movie on this list that I have seen is Catching Fire, as I really have no desire to see the other movies (okay, maybe Maze Runner). I read all of the books and can honestly think of other, better books that feature diverse casts that should be made into movies. So, to end this rant on a positive note, here is a list of books that I would love to see made into movies.

otherthe living
every day pointe bloodofeden

I think the next big YA series made into a movie should be Julie Kagawa’s Blood of Eden series. It was just that good!

 

since you asked

This would make such a funny tv show as we follow Holly through high school.

What say you, dear readers?

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Social Justice and Activism in YA Lit

Yesterday, I started noticing tweets about literature related to the events unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri. The events there and the very different reactions to them just confirm that we need diverse literature.

One YA title that immediately popped into my mind was Kekla Magoon’s The Rock and the River. In that book and in the sequel, young people see injustice around them and are moved to action. What I really appreciated about The Rock and the River was that Magoon acknowledged that there are gray areas. Activism is messy and it’s not just perfect people against evil people. In her excellent blogpost, “The Violence in Missouri: Writers and Artists Respond,” Lyn Miller-Lachmann also mentioned Kekla Magoon’s books among others. In her own book GringolandiaLyn has also written about social justice issues and activism.

There are quite a few titles available for children and young adults that deal with social justice issues and activism. There are already a few lists circulating online. School Library Journal created a list of resources on their blog, Understanding Ferguson: Resources on Protest, Nonviolence, and Civil Rights. In that post, they pointed to the work that Left Bank Books (a bookstore in St. Louis) is doing. Left Bank is curating a list they have named #Ferguson – How We Got Here. Their list includes titles from picture books through adult. There are also two hashtags on Twitter that are related to this subject if you want more titles. For any and all ages see #FergusonReads and for children’s lit see #KidLit4Justice.

Here are a few titles that are specifically YA.

rockThe Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon
For thirteen-year-old Sam it’s not easy being the son of known civil rights activist Roland Childs. Especially when his older (and best friend), Stick, begins to drift away from him for no apparent reason. And then it happens: Sam finds something that changes everything forever.

Sam has always had faith in his father, but when he finds literature about the Black Panthers under Stick’s bed, he’s not sure who to believe: his father or his best friend. Suddenly, nothing feels certain anymore.

Sam wants to believe that his father is right: You can effect chnage without using violence. But as time goes on, Sam grows weary of standing by and watching as his friends and family suffer at the hands of racism in their own community. Sam beings to explore the Panthers with Stick, but soon he’s involved in something far more serious — and more dangerous — than he could have ever predicted. Sam is faced with a difficult decision. Will he follow his father or his brother? His mind or his heart? The rock or the river?

fire

Fire in the Streets by Kekla Magoon
Maxie knows all about how fire can erupt at a moment’s notice, especially now, in the sweltering Chicago summer of 1968. She is a Black Panther—or at least she wants to be one. Maxie believes in the movement. She wants to belong. She wants to join the struggle. But everyone keeps telling her she’s too young. At fourteen, she’s allowed to help out in the office, but she certainly can’t help patrol the streets.

Then Maxie realizes that there is a traitor in their midst, and if she can figure out who it is, it may be her ticket to becoming a real Panther. But when she learns the truth, the knowledge threatens to destroy her world. Maxie must decide: Is becoming a Panther worth paying the ultimate price?

revolutionThe Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano
There are two secrets Evelyn Serrano is keeping from her Mami and Papo? her true feelings about growing up in her Spanish Harlem neighborhood, and her attitude about Abuela, her sassy grandmother who’s come from Puerto Rico to live with them. Then, like an urgent ticking clock, events erupt that change everything. The Young Lords, a Puerto Rican activist group, dump garbage in the street and set it on fire, igniting a powerful protest. When Abuela steps in to take charge, Evelyn is thrust into the action. Tempers flare, loyalties are tested. Through it all, Evelyn learns important truths about her Latino heritage and the history makers who shaped a nation. Infused with actual news accounts from the time period, Sonia Manzano has crafted a gripping work of fiction based on her own life growing up during a fiery, unforgettable time in America, when young Latinos took control of their destinies.

angel Angel de la Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery by M. Evelina Galang
Angel has just lost her father, and her mother’s grief means she might as well be gone too. She’s got a sister and a grandmother to look out for, and a burgeoning consciousness of the unfairness in the world—in her family, her community, and her country.

Set against the backdrop of the second Philippine People Power Revolution in 2001, the contemporary struggles of surviving Filipina “Comfort Women” of WWII, and a cold winter’s season in the city of Chicago is the story of a daughter coming of age, coming to forgiveness, and learning to move past the chaos of grief to survive.

surrender The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle
It is 1896. Cuba has fought three wars for independence and still is not free. People have been rounded up in reconcentration camps with too little food and too much illness. Rosa is a nurse, but she dares not go to the camps. So she turns hidden caves into hospitals for those who know how to find her.

Black, white, Cuban, Spanish—Rosa does her best for everyone. Yet who can heal a country so torn apart by war? Acclaimed poet Margarita Engle has created another breathtaking portrait of Cuba.

 

gringo

Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Daniel’s papá, Marcelo, used to play soccer, dance the cueca, and drive his kids to school in a beat-up green taxi—all while publishing an underground newspaper that exposed Chile’s military regime. After papá’s arrest in 1980, Daniel’s family fled to the United States. Now Daniel has a new life, playing guitar in a rock band and dating Courtney, a minister’s daughter. He hopes to become a US citizen as soon as he turns eighteen.

When Daniel’s father is released and rejoins his family, they see what five years of prison and torture have done to him. Marcelo is partially paralyzed, haunted by nightmares, and bitter about being exiled to “Gringolandia.” Daniel worries that Courtney’s scheme to start a bilingual human rights newspaper will rake up papá’s past and drive him further into alcohol abuse and self-destruction. Daniel dreams of a real father-son relationship, but he may have to give up everything simply to save his papá’s life.

This powerful coming-of-age story portrays an immigrant teen’s struggle to reach his tortured father and find his place in the world.

march March: Book One by John Robert Lewis and Andrew Aydin with artist Nate Powell
Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

dreamer The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle
“I find it so easy to forget / that I’m just a girl who is expected / to live / without thoughts.” Opposing slavery in Cuba in the nineteenth century was dangerous. The most daring abolitionists were poets who veiled their work in metaphor. Of these, the boldest was Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, nicknamed Tula. In passionate, accessible verses of her own, Engle evokes the voice of this book-loving feminist and abolitionist who bravely resisted an arranged marriage at the age of fourteen, and was ultimately courageous enough to fight against injustice. Historical notes, excerpts, and source notes round out this exceptional tribute.

freedom The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell
To coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Summer murders, this will be the first book for young adults to explore the harrowing true story of three civil rights workers slain by the KKK.

In June of 1964, three idealistic young men (one black and two white) were lynched by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi. They were trying to register African Americans to vote as part of the Freedom Summer effort to bring democracy to the South. Their disappearance and murder caused a national uproar and was one of the most significant incidents of the Civil Rights Movement, and contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

yummy Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri with illustrations by Randy DuBurke In August of 1994, 11-year-old Robert “Yummy” Sandifer — nicknamed for his love of sweets — fired a gun at a group of rival gangmembers, accidentally killing a neighborhood girl, Shavon Dean. Police searched Chicago’s southside for three days before finding Yummy dead in a railway tunnel, killed by members of the drug gang he’d sought to impress. The story made such an impact that Yummy appeared on the cover of TIME magazine, drawing national attention to the problems of inner city youth in America.

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty relives the confusion of these traumatic days from the point of view of Roger, a neighborhood boy who struggles to understand the senseless violence swirling through the streets around him. Awakened by the tragedy, Roger seeks out answers to difficult questions — was Yummy a killer or a victim? Was he responsible for his actions or are others to blame?


 

While the final title (Yummy) is not really about activism, it brings up many questions about justice, violence, and our communities. These are issues that young people are seeing in the news and possibly experiencing in their own lives. Literature is one way to open the door for discussion. If you know of any other titles that would fit in with this list, please let us know in the comments.

— Cover images and summaries are from Goodreads

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#nErDCampMI Celebrated Diverse Books

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Logo designed by author/illustrator Laurie Keller

If you haven’t yet heard of #nErDCamps, they are EdCamps with a literature focus. They came into being through Colby Sharp and other members of the Nerdybookclub. As you may have guessed, the members of the Nerdybookclub are quite enthusiastic about reading. At this amazing “un” conference, the participants decide the session topics and each session is run collaboratively by the attendees.

I was able to attend this fantastic event earlier this month. In the morning we met to decide what sessions would be happening. I was super excited to see Cindy Minnich and Sarah Andersen offer up the topic  “Finding Diverse Lit for Diverse YA Readers.” Cindy started out the session highlighting the work of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and encouraging everyone to participate and spread the word about the campaign and about diverse books through blogging and social media. Cindy and Sarah have a website called YA Lit 101. “Cindy and Sarah created this course so teachers can read and discuss YA, try new genres, and find ways to incorporate it in their curriculum.” (quote from their site) They explained that after participating in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, they were going to have a diversity focus this year for YA Lit 101. Yesterday, they officially announced their plan. I am looking forward to seeing what they have in store for the coming year.

In addition, the people who attended the session (and there were many – yay!) spent a lot of time asking for specific types of titles and sharing great titles they have found. A list of titles and resources was compiled here. I was encouraged that there were so many teachers and librarians that wanted to learn and share about diverse lit. I look forward to seeing the conversation continue throughout the education and library communities. More than that though, I am eager to see actions taken as a result of these types of discussions.

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Diverse Lit Conversations & Summer Reads

My head has been spinning with all of the discussions and activism around diversity in children’s and YA lit lately. It has been a wild ride since February actually. The CCBC-Net discussion in February was centered around Multicultural Literature. I loved that Sarah Hamburg asked us what activism would look like to each of us. It made me stop and think about the many possible ways that an individual could work toward change. I responded and many others did also. Ultimately, Sarah gathered the results and they were posted on many blogs such as Crazy QuiltEdi. During that discussion, School Library Journal announced that they would be devoting an entire issue to Diversity in May. I was able to write an article from the Teacher Librarian perspective. In case you missed it, the issue is still available online and has many excellent articles.

Next up was the announcement of a BookCon panel of all stars from the kid lit world which they planned with all white men. Kelly Jensen explained it well here. The result of that particularly glaring example of ignoring diversity inspired the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign. Amazing things have been happening ever since and I am excited about the potential for change.

One of the best ways to support diverse lit is to buy it, read it, and let other people know about the amazing books you find. Here are some of the books I plan to read and talk about this summer. Do you have some books on your summer reading list? Have you read any amazing books already this summer? We’d love to hear about any that have caught your attention.

dance

14290364

revolution

Rebellion FC

firefly

ldsjd

proxy

other

 

 

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The World Agrees: #WeNeedDiverseBooks Panel Recap

Thanks to the awesome Eunice Kim for recapping the #WeNeedDiverseBooks panel for a Rich in Color guest post!

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The #WNDB Panel (L-R): Ellen Oh, Marieke Nijkamp, Aisha Saeed, I.W. Gregorio, Lamar Giles, Mike Jung, Matt De La Pena, Grace Lin, and Jacqueline Woodson

Last Saturday I was lucky enough to attend the #WeNeedDiverseBooks (WNDB) Panel at Bookcon with my friend Kacie. When Bookcon officially announced the panel a few weeks back, Kacie, and I knew this would be the panel we wanted to attend the most. Kacie and I arrived to the panel room about a half an hour before the panel was scheduled to start to wait on line. Author Lamar Giles (author of FAKE ID) and other co-organizers generously passed out some cool freebies, including WNDB buttons, pins, and bookmarks during this time before doors opened. Next to the panel stage, there was an ongoing slideshow featuring photos from the WNDB campaign. By the time the panel started at 10 am, the room was soon packed with every available seat taken, and a ‘standing-room’ only section towards the back, where attendees stood against the back and side walls. Additional attendees were turned away when the room had reached its capacity.

The panel began with remarks by moderator I.W. Gregorio (author of NONE OF THE ABOVE) who gave a “virtual mic drop” for everyone who tweeted and submitted photos, but also for the overall love and support for the WNDB campaign. Gregorio then introduced key members of the WNDB team, including its founder Ellen Oh (author of the DRAGON KING CHRONICLES series), Aisha Saeed (author of WRITTEN IN THE STARS), Mike Jung (author of GIRLS, GEEKS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES), Marieke Nijkamp (founder of DiversifYA), and Lamar Giles. Special guest panelists included authors Matt de la Pena (THE LIVING), Grace Lin (WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON), and Jacqueline Woodson (BROWN GIRL DREAMING).

After panelist introductions, Aisha Saeed spoke generally about the campaign, and noted that despite changing demographics in the US, “children’s literature has remained anything but diverse.” Saeed specifically cited a recent study by the Children’s Cooperative Book Center (CCBC) documenting this lack of representation, noting that out of the 3,000 books used in the study and published in 2013, only 7.5% had any diversity. Saeed also emphasized the grassroots aspect of the campaign, noting that the hashtag alone garnered over 162 million Twitter impressions, and “while we [the WNDB team] many have organized this campaign, it was your [the audience] collective voices that made the world stop and listen.”

Next, Marieke Nijkamp of DiversifYA emphasized how “representation matters,” so “when our books don’t include [diverse] characters that our readers can relate to by shared experiences, shared backgrounds, and shared abilities, our books continually erase those characters. We teach readers that their stories and voices don’t matter. We teach them that they don’t matter.”

Ellen Oh discussed the next WNDB initiatives, and probably the most exciting among them included the current planning for the first Children’s Literature Diversity Festival to be held in Washington, D.C. in Summer 2016. Oh stated that this will be a “a festival where every panel, every event, will be to celebrate diversity in all of its glory.”

Gregorio then went on to ask specific questions for the panelists, and there were great anecdotes and answers. When the authors were asked ‘what was the first book that you read that reflected your diversity?” Giles discussed growing up, how “librarians kept trying to point me to books about slavery and black power,” but coming across Walter Dean Myers’ FALLEN ANGELS when he was 11 or 12, really instigated the first “spark.” However, it would take a few years later before Giles stumbled upon the type of work that he felt really represented him.

Matt De La Pena noted that he was a reluctant reader growing up, but Sandra Cisneros’ THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET and Junot Diaz’s DROWN proved to be instrumental books for him. On the other hand, Mike Jung recalls that growing up, he doesn’t recall “ever reading a book that reflected my ethnicity. Ever,” and subsequently thought about his kids (a three-year-old and seven-year-old) when writing GIRLS, GEEKS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES. Jung specifically noted that he “could have chosen to create a world that wasn’t racially or ethnically diverse, but I would have needed a reason for this, and I didn’t have a good, compelling reason not to make it diverse.” So, Jung wanted to create a daily reality that reflected not only his own daily reality, but also that of his children. Jacqueline Woodsen also highlighted the importance of dialogue when first coming across a book that reflected her diversity, with characters calling their mothers “mama.” This caused Woodsen to realize “what I’d missed until I saw it on the page, and then being hungry for it for the rest of my life.”

The panelists also emphasized that diverse reads aren’t just for marginalized readers, with De La Pena stating that “it’s incredibly powerful for the suburban white kid to read my books,” and Lin explaining that “we need to sell diverse books to people who don’t know that they need them.” Lin particularly touched upon her own background as a former bookseller in Cambridge, MA. During this time, when Lin would show a when book featuring a person of color to white customers, they would immediately reply, “Oh, that’s not for us,” but often without realizing why. Thus, Lin emphasized that it’s important that “we need to talk about diverse books differently,” citing that her Newbery winning fantasy novel, WHEN THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON, as a fantasy adventure tale featuring a female heroine and a dragon, thus it should appeal to all readers, and not just Asian-Americans. Lin then cited her “Cheat Sheet For Selling Diversity” which is available on her blog.

The panel concluded after a quick Q&A session, but ultimately left on a positive note, and probably best by this quote by Jacqueline Woodson after she was asked what her vision for WNDB is next: “My biggest vision is that we don’t have to have this panel anymore…where ‘there is no ‘other.’ These books aren’t just for the people who look like us. They’re for all of us.” The panelists also commended the audience for their support, with Mike Jung pointing out that “Everyone here is speaking out and stepping up…and this is vital, necessary, and absolutely important to do so to effect change.”

After the panel, Kacie and I were also lucky enough to meet Ellen Oh, who kindly signed my copy of PROPHECY!

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My signed copy of PROPHECY!

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Some freebies I picked up!


Eunice Kim is a recent graduate of Sociology, but has always been, and will always be an avid bookworm at heart. She currently works as an Editorial Associate at Simon and Schuster. You can reach her at her tumblr!

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