New Releases

We have three books on our calendar this week. It almost seems like I ought to say this Rich in Color post was brought to you today by the letter ‘F’ and the number 3.

flawed(Flawed #1) by Cecelia Ahern
Feiwel and Friends

The Scarlet Letter meets Divergent in this thoughtful and thrilling novel by bestselling author Cecelia Ahern.

Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.

But then Celestine encounters a situation where she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule. And now faces life-changing repercussions.

She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED.

In her breathtaking young adult debut, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society where obedience is paramount and rebellion is punished. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her-everything. Cover image and summary via Goodreads

princeThe Fallen Prince (The Riven Chronicles #2) by Amalie Howard
Sky Pony Press

Riven has fought for a hard-won peace in her world, and has come to shaky terms with who and what she is—a human with cyborg DNA. Now that the rightful ruler of Neospes has been reinstated, Riven is on the hunt for her father in the Otherworld to bring him to justice for his crimes against her people.

But when she receives an unwelcome visit from two former allies, she knows that trouble is brewing once again in Neospes. The army has been decimated and there are precious few left to fight this mysterious new threat.

To muster a first line of defense, her people need help from the one person Riven loathes most—her father. But what he wants in return is her complete surrender.

And now Riven must choose: save Neospes or save herself. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads


fifteenFifteen Lanes by S.J. Laidlaw
Tundra Books

Noor has lived all of her fourteen years in the fifteen lanes of Mumbai’s red light district. Born into a brothel, she is destined for the same fate as her mother: a desperate life trapped in the city’s sex trade. She must act soon to have any chance of escaping this grim future.

Across the sprawling city, fifteen-year-old Grace enjoys a life of privilege. Her father, the CEO of one of India’s largest international banks, has brought his family to Mumbai where they live in unparalleled luxury. But Grace’s seemingly perfect life is shattered when she becomes a victim of a cruel online attack.

When their paths intersect, Noor and Grace will be changed forever. Can two girls living in vastly different worlds find a common path?

Award-winning author S.J. Laidlaw masterfully weaves together their stories in a way that resonates across class and culture. Fifteen Lanes boldly explores the ties that bind us to places and people, and shows us that the strongest of bonds can be forged when hope is all but lost. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads



New Releases

Happy early book birthday to Future Shock, which comes out this Friday, April 1st!

futureFuture Shock by Elizabeth Briggs
Albert Whitman and Company

Elena Martinez has hidden her eidetic memory all her life–or so she thinks. When powerful tech giant Aether Corporation selects her for a top-secret project, she can’t say no. All she has to do is participate in a trip to the future to bring back data, and she’ll be set for life.

Elena joins a team of four other teens with special skills, including Adam, a science prodigy with his own reason for being there. But when the time travelers arrive in the future, something goes wrong and they break the only rule they were given: do not look into their own fates.

Now they have twenty-four hours to get back to the present and find a way to stop a seemingly inevitable future from unfolding. With time running out and deadly secrets uncovered, Elena must use her eidetic memory, street smarts, and a growing trust in Adam to save her new friends and herself.  Cover image and summary via Goodreads


Twitter Round-Up

A lot of the best online commentary and discussions on diversity in publishing happen on Twitter — which makes sense, considering it’s a great place for conversations between authors, bloggers, editors, readers, and so on. Here are my favorite storify-ed tweets:

sofia samatarKu’daa (thank you), Ellen Oh! by Debbie Reese (@debreese)
Books that feel like home and the false neutral by Daniel José Older (@djolder)
Alyssa Wong on Orientalism by Alyssa Wong (@crashwong)
Notes on SaraNAhmed’s “On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life” by Sofia Samatar (@SofiaSamatar)



Being an Ally

When I was writing the review for “The Love that Split the World”, I debated on what I wanted to say about the book because I was unsure about how I felt on some elements of the book. I thought, “I’d love to know Debbie Reese’s take on the book” and I wanted to ask her some questions about the stories Henry integrated into the novel. Alas, I waited until late the night before the review was to be posted to write it and had to make my own conclusions about the stories. And what I wrote was…

“One part about this novel I do want to mention is the parables that Grandmother shares with Natalie. Henry did a great job of presenting different types of parables from different American Indian nations and even includes a Biblical parable. Like any elder, the stories Grandmother shares with Natalie not only teach her about different cultures, but also provide lessons and insights into Natalie’s situation, helping her solve the mystery of who Grandmother is and how Natalie needs to save him. Well, not all the parables add to the mystery, sometimes a story is just a story that elders tell to their children, and that is what really endeared me to many of the tories. In her acknowledgements, Henry gave credit to the nation’s stories that she used and it was clear she did proper research.”

A few days later,  Ellen Oh’s blog post “Dear White Writers” was published. On Twitter Debbie came out in support of Ellen, but also spoke on “Love that Split the World” and knowing that Debbie always has profound words, she and I had a conversation about the novel. And from her I learned that Henry didn’t actually do her research well and misrepresented the stories of the people she borrowed them from. From our conversation, I realized that I had made a mistake with my review. I felt horrible and felt like I had failed Debbie and many American Indian youth. For that I am sorry.

I did also take my conversations with Debbie as a learning moment, where I sat and listened to what she had to say and understand her point of view. To understand the hurt that books like “Love that Split the World” bring. To step outside of my own world view as an African-American woman, and to step into Debbie’s shoes and see the world as an American Indian woman. And this thought brings me to the second point of my post. Debbie and I are fighting the same battle, but our experiences, our point of view, has us fighting the battle from different perspectives. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we get it wrong. In this instance I was wrong and it was my job to shut my mouth and listen. It was my role, as an ally to Debbie’s fight, to listen to what she had to say and not to turn it around and make it about me. It was for me to take in her words, process them and then act (which is today’s post). That, my friends is the role of an ally. That when people of color are expressing their experiences, their hurt, we do not respond with “but I..”.  No, we close our mouths and open our ears. We take off our own shoes, put on the shoes of another and take a walk with their experience. When we do that, we become enlighten to experiences other than our own and with that knowledge can call out others when they make mistakes.

In the past few weeks, there have been instances where people of color have spoken out about an experience and “allies” have responded negatively. There has been hurtful words slung at people I greatly respect, and they did not deserve such vitriol thrown in their direction by people who believed they supported the cause. I say this, and will probably get words thrown at me too, that if you are unable to be empathetic to the words of a person of color who is sharing with you their pain, can you really call yourself an ally?

It is hard to say, “I’m sorry,” but it is the right thing to do. To humble yourself and own up to your mistake is hard, but again, it is the right thing to do. When you humble yourself, and actually open your mind (and your heart), you end up learning more about another person, another culture. And that, is an ally.


Changing the Conversation

As much as I gripe about it, I love YA lit, and I love watching the landscape change into one more welcoming of POC representation. Things have definitely changed for the better over the last few years… but obviously, there’s still a long way to go.

One thing that bothered me, several years back when I first started paying attention to the diversity movement in YA lit, was how often the conversation repeated itself. First step, establish that diversity is important! Second step, discuss how to ‘write diversely’ and encourage writers to be brave! The weight of media representation weighs heavy on your shoulders, unnamed white author. Rinse and repeat.

The YA lit conversation always seemed to circle back to this “writing diversity 101” business, and it was clear by the tone and information given that the target audience was white, privileged. Ironic, no? I recognized that this as important, and figured the conversation would shift as everyone grew, the shadows turned, the earth orbited.

Surprise! The conversation didn’t change. It’s expanded to include more complex discussions, hashtag campaigns, beautifully compiled book lists, and so on. But still, the conversation always returns without fail, to the same refrain. “How do I write diversely? I’m afraid to get it wrong. Can you tell me that I did it right?” Occasionally, bloggers would point out that being able to ask these questions was a mark of privilege. That demanding reassurance and kudos for writing diverse representation was a microaggression in itself. That the privileged are centering the conversation on themselves, even when they try to be allies.

There’s something rotten in the state of Denmark, etc etc. So today, I’m linking to a few things that are helping change the conversation. Maybe not perfectly or even efficiently, but at least it’s not the same-old, same-old.

Bare Lit Festival with Media Diversified – read about the UK festival for writers of color here
Lee & Low Books’ New Visions Award – promoting and publishing new writers of color
We Need Diverse Books’ Mentorship Program – partnering industry writers and illustrators with up and coming writers
Diversireads’ Reviews – some of the most thorough, honest YA lit reviews around
Decolonise, not diversify – an important reframing of representation discussions
I’m Still Here | YA Highway – still an incredibly relevant post… here’s a quote:

There’s this weird thing that happens when we talk about the overwhelming whiteness of publishing and it assumes that because publishing is overwhelmingly white that the only people we should ask about fixing this are the white people in the structure. Or that because you can’t see us, we’re not talking. And it ignores first that most of us have set up our own groups and communities to talk this out, because we’re safest among people who understand the macro and microaggressions we experience day to day without judgement or fear. And second that we have been having this conversation for a long, long time…

I’m not advocating for silence, but for a restructuring of how we think about those of us underrepresented in the young adult publishing community. Instead of thinking of us as people that need to be lifted up or spoken for, consider us equals and the people who should be driving this conversation, instead of just grateful to sit at the table.


Diversity and Promotion

Yesterday, Lee & Low revealed the results of their 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey, which took a look at the diversity in 8 review journals and 34 publishers along race, gender, orientation, and disability lines. The results weren’t exactly surprising, especially not when “the number of diverse books published each year over the past twenty years has been stuck in neutral, never exceeding, on average, 10 percent.”

Here at Rich in Color, our focus has been (and will continue to be) reading and reviewing young adult books by or about people of color. Aside from the occasional link roundup, interview, or book list, we haven’t been able to do much active promoting for books we don’t have the time or opportunity to review. As we approach our third anniversary, we decided it was time to have an official promotion policy that would allow qualifying authors (or their agents/editors) reach out to us for activities such as guests posts, interviews, previews, giveaways, etc. We are particularly interested in highlighting the upcoming works of authors of color—especially debut authors of color.

We hope that this policy will allow us to better connect with authors so that we can further the discussion—and celebration—of diversity in young adult books.