Year-End Housekeeping

So far we haven’t been able to find any YA releases by or about people of color in December—if you know of any, please send us a message on our website, tumblr, or twitter. We want to make sure we get them up on our release calendar, especially since the holidays are right around the corner.

We have typically closed out the year with each of our reviewers compiling a list of their favorite books from that year. I thought it would be fun to turn that over to you today. Tell us in the comments, through tumblr messages, or by tweeting us what some of your favorite 2015 books by or about people of color have been, and we’ll share them with everyone else.

Personally, I think it has been a fantastic year for contemporary novels. I’m generally more of a science fiction and fantasy fan, so it has been a delightful change of pace to find several contemporary novels that I loved. But you’ll find out what my favorites were next week—what are yours?

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YA Asian SFF by the numbers

A few months back, I came across a graph of the CCBC Multicultural Statistics for 2015. The results were disappointing but unsurprising…

Multicultural Stat Bar Chart 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing that graph reminded me of a recent trend in YA lit — Asian fantasy. Or maybe it’s not a trend, and I only feel like it is because I’m Asian myself. Either way, I have mixed feelings about this type of book since it usually ends up being a) all my dreams come true, or b) a racist mess, or c) disappointingly mediocre and most likely written by someone who isn’t Asian. Some of my favorite (yay!) and least favorite (read: racist) books fall into this category.

Honestly, every time I hear about a new “Asian-inspired” YA fantasy, I feel a little shiver of dread. I wonder who’s it by, what’s the plot, and does it involve names pulled from a dictionary?

At any rate, I decided to figure out the ratio of “Asian-inspired” YA sci-fi and fantasy written by Asians and non-Asians (mostly white authors, let’s be real). Using the completely unscientific method of scouring goodreads lists and asking around, I came up with this list*:

Asian Sci-fi/Fantasy YA lit by Asians (17):

Ash by Malinda Lo (2), Half World by Hiromi Goto, Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon (3), The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu, Prophecy by Ellen Oh (3), Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda (3), Alpha Goddess by Amalie Howard, The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco (2)

Asian Sci-fi/Fantasy YA lit by non-Asians (34):

Spirit’s Chosen by Esther Friesner (2),  Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff (3), Soundless by Richelle Mead, Ink by Amanda Sun (3), Gilded by Christina Farley (3), Eon series by Alison Goodman (2), Cinder series by Marissa Meyer (4), The Walled City by Ryan Graudin, City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster (2), Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson, Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce, The Night Itself by Zoë Marriott (3), Fox and Phoenix by Beth Bernobich, Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine (2), The Fire Wish by Amber Lough (2), Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios (2), A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

*Note: I included SFF YA books involving elements of Asian cultures. I listed one book per author, but included the number of books in a series/standalone books that fit the criteria as well in parentheses. I didn’t count books that were obscure, fairly old, or arguably middle grade.

Well. I swear the perfect 1:2 ratio is a coincidence, but it seems to roughly match up to CCBC’s stats. This brings to mind two issues:

  1. What barriers to entry are there for authors of Asian descent in Western publishing? Especially those who want to write about their own culture, but are discouraged from doing so?
  2. What can be done to drive home the fact that Asia is not a monolithic culture or a convenient exotic backdrop?
To end on a happy note, here are a few of my favorite books from the two lists above: Half World by Hiromi Goto, Serpentine by Cindy Pon, and Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine. Do you have any favorites?

 

Related resources:
Tweets by Alyssa Wong on Orientalism
Cindy Pon on writing YA fantasy
Writing With Color, a great writing resource

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New Releases

Happy early book birthday to Monster: A Graphic Novel, which comes out 10/20!

MonsterMonster: A Graphic Novel by Walter Dean Myers and Guy A. Sims, illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile

Monster is a multi-award-winning, provocative coming-of-age story about Steve Harmon, a teenager awaiting trial for a murder and robbery. As Steve acclimates to juvenile detention and goes to trial, he envisions the ordeal as a movie. Monster was the first-ever Michael L. Printz Award recipient, an ALA Best Book, a Coretta Scott King Honor selection, and a National Book Award finalist. Now Monster has been adapted into a graphic novel by Guy Sims, with stunning black-and-white art from Dawud Anyabwile, Guy’s brother. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

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Banned Books Week

This week is Banned Books Week! As noted by the ALA last April, “books by authors of color and books with themes about issues concerning communities of color are disproportionately challenged and banned.” Four of the top ten most challenged books of 2014 were written by authors of color.

So in recognition of Banned Books Week, here are two of my favorite books that have been challenged:

18465566This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki

Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It’s a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

 

15798660Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away? [Image and summary via Goodreads]

 

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Banned Books Week (part 2)

BBW-logoI don’t own many books that could be considered middle grade, but Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is one that is near and dear to my heart. My late uncle, a teacher, challenged me to read all of the Newbery Medal Winners before I completed sixth grade, and this was one of the few that left a strong impression on me. It was one of his favorites, too–he taught it yearly in his own sixth grade classes. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry was the sixty-sixth most challenged/banned book from 2000 to 2009.

Roll of Thunder
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Why is the land so important to Cassie’s family? It takes the events of one turbulent year—the year of the night riders and the burnings, the year a white girl humiliates Cassie in public simply because she’s black—to show Cassie that having a place of their own is the Logan family’s lifeblood. It is the land that gives the Logans their courage and pride—no matter how others may degrade them, the Logans possess something no one can take away.

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Banned Books Week

BBW-logoIn honor of Banned Books Week, this week we’ll each have an extra post featuring a challenged/banned book we’ve enjoyed. While preparing my post, I found ALA’s Virtual Read-Out. Librarians, teachers, authors and others contribute videos of themselves reading portions of banned/challenged books. Here is one example: Jason Reynolds shares a passage from Black Boy, a book he read as a teen.

If you’re interested in participating in the Virtual Read-Out, instructions are posted here.


I chose to feature The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. It’s one of my all-time favorite books and has been repeatedly challenged.

alexie2
Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

With a forward by Markus Zusak, interviews with Sherman Alexie and Ellen Forney, and four-color interior art throughout, this edition is perfect for fans and collectors alike.  — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

In the following video, Sherman Alexie discusses the banning of books.

What are some of your favorite banned or challenged books?

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