Where do I even start?

I often discuss diverse books with people, especially white people, who need the “101”—parents and other people who love children who want to give them good diverse books but don’t know where to start. And that’s GREAT! Saying, “I don’t know what I don’t know” is the perfect place to start when you’re looking to bring diverse books into your home or classroom, because that means you’re ready to learn.

This is a general post collecting some of the things I’ve been telling people lately, so I can point them to it, especially as you start shopping for holiday gift-giving.

First of all: buy my books! Because that’s what I do: publish diverse middle grade and YA books.

And next, be aware of older, problematic books that perpetuate racist stereotypes. (For example, did you know that The Education of Little Tree was written by a member of the KKK? Stop sharing that book with kids! Study it if you must with the real history behind it, but too few people actually know the true history behind it and think it’s a “sweet story.”) Some resources from children’s literature scholars and reviewers to help you evaluate texts:

These resources also review books that have quality representation and are a great source to find new books.

Looking for book lists broken down by age group, topic, genre, and more? Check out the Lee & Low Pinterest board–we’ve got more than 100 boards dedicated to all sorts of topics, including anti-racism, #WeNeedDiverseBooks, teachers and educators, getting published, and book lists galore.

Lee & Low Pinterest board

But most importantly, what I want my friends to remember when they’re thinking about buying diverse books for their kids this holiday season: remember that authors of color are the least represented, and often get the least amount of publicity for their books. You have to look for them, but they’re well worth looking for. If you want to introduce your children to authentic voices from communities different from your own, look at the authors of the books you’re buying. Are they writing from their own experience? (Inasmuch as that experience pertains to racism, sexism, ablism, Islamophobia, etc., not to whether or not they’ve lived in space or used magic…) Look for ways to support authors of color.

This is not to say to shun white authors, who often do a very good job at writing about characters of color, but just asking people who are often in white-centric communities to thoughtfully evaluate the voices getting the most time and attention in their home or classroom, and look for ways to be more inclusive. Often for white people that means actively seeking out authors of color, because we’re rarely going to be running into them naturally in our often-segregated circles.

This post is a work in progress and I’ll add resources to it as I have time or discover new resources.

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Submit your manuscript to the New Visions Award

NVAL_WinnerLogoIn case you missed it, I’m open again for submissions to the New Visions Award. Details can be found on this blog post.

This is the first year we’re taking only electronic submissions. You can submit via our Submittable site. There is no charge for any of our submissions, including the New Visions Award.

Please note that the New Visions Award is open only to authors of color resident of the United States (including non-citizens, but you must be a resident). This includes Asian Americans and other people of Asian descent, African Americans and other people of African descent, Pacific Islanders, South Asians, Native Americans and other indigenous peoples, Middle Easterners, Latino/as, and mixed race people.

If you are a white American, or any author who does not reside in the United States, you are welcome to submit to our regular submissions, guidelines for which can be found here.

Where I’ve been lately

Ink and Ashes updated cover JLGAs you can tell, I haven’t really blogged much in the past couple of years. I even forget to blog when I have a new book, though I’m sharing that news *everywhere* else. This blog isn’t quite dead, but I would encourage you to follow the links on the side of the page to my Twitter and Tumblr and to the Tu Books Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook pages for the most up-to-date information. Also, I’ve been blogging at least once a month on the Lee & Low blog, which I recommend you subscribe to.

Most recently, we’ve been talking about the New Visions Award finalists, which were just announced (winner to be announced in April), my talk at SCBWI NY about writing for a diverse audience, and revealing the cover of our upcoming spring book, Ink and Ashes by Valynne Maetani, whose book won our first New Visions Award in 2013 (and is a spring Junior Library Guild selection!). It’s our first mystery title, and I’m very proud of it.

Speaking of, I need to get back to editing that book. We’re in the final proofreading rounds, before the book gets sent off to the printer. More later—mostly in all those other places. 🙂

#WeNeedDiverseBooks kicks off today!!

I’m sure you’ve seen me talking about this EVERYWHERE else, but I’m posting this here too just to be sure. If you don’t know what #WeNeedDiverseBooks is, check out the original post on Tumblr. Then share YOUR picture that completes this prompt: “We need diverse books because ___________.”

Simple, right? But it’s not all talk. There’s another step: recommend great diverse books, then go out and #DiversifyYourShelves (more at the link above). This weekend we’re heading out en masse to buy diverse books at our local bookstores and online. If the book you’re looking for isn’t in the store, ask for it! Booksellers pay attention to books they’re not carrying get requested a lot over time. If you don’t have the money to buy a book right now, ask for more diversity (request specific titles) in your local library.

Follow all the discussion—and there’s a LOT, as it’s trending right now!—on Twitter, and check out the pictures that have been submitted to the Tumblr starting at 1pm EDT.

Then today at 2, join us for a #diverselit chat on Twitter with Shannon Hale, discussing diversity, specifically writing “specific” vs. “neutral” characters.

#diversityinSFF is not superficial

Over the weekend, a discussion of diversity in SFF magazines has been brewing in SFF circles. I don’t read many SFF magazines, so I hadn’t been aware of the discussions until Janni Lee Simner pointed someone in the discussion to Tu as an answer for finding diversity in genre. So I won’t address the specifics of a need for diversity in SFF magazines, except to say, yes, it’s important.

Rather, I feel I need to address an article, and a tweet from the author of that article, who takes the position that diversity is “superficial” and therefore unnecessary.

Summer of the MariposasI couldn’t disagree more that diversity in SFF is superficial. In fact, it is at the root of some of the deepest, well-told stories I’ve read. Take Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s Andre Norton–nominated Summer of the Mariposas. It would be an entirely different story if it were set in a Midwestern town starring white girls of European descent, or set in Vancouver or Maine and crossed the U.S.-Canadian border. The entire weave of the worldbuilding is centered around the girls’ identities as both Mexican and American, and the multiple identities that “Mexican” entails—that of both Aztec ancestry and Spanish-influenced Catholicism. The magical people and goddesses the girls meet are straight out of Mexican folklore. There is nothing superficial about anything regarding the Mexican influences within the book.

Simply changing the color of a character to “blackwash” them for diversity’s sake is far from what anyone who truly advocates for “mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors” is looking for when we seek more characters of color, LGBT characters, etc. We’re looking for the heart-deep diversity of experiences that so seldom are reflected in science fiction and fantasy. We’re asking for the genre to deepen its idea of “what it means to be human”—a question that SFF excels at asking. Yes, we’re all human and we have common experiences, but how we answer the deepest questions of humanity’s existence vary with culture, ethnicity, religion, country, community. (Are we communal or do we seek individuality? To whom are people loyal? Who is in control? How do we judge goodness?) It has to do with power dynamics and experiences of privilege and the lack thereof, and how privilege is intersectional. And the genre is richer when we explore that full breadth, even when we have dragons and aliens as part of the mix.

Diversity in SFF is about human protagonists that not only welcome readers who might not feel welcome in the genre, but about opening up the world of the reader who isn’t familiar with the culture or personality of a protagonist from a community that hasn’t been as well represented in the past. It’s about awesome worldbuilding, excellent storytelling, and finding inspiration in places that aren’t the same old Western European tropes—tropes we love, sure, but they’ve been overplayed. There are fresh ideas and characters to be found from authors with different perspectives, in places and cultures that haven’t been as well represented.

What those of us advocating for diversity want is simply to see the world as it is reflected in our literature.

So for anyone who thinks that diversity is superficial—that the only thing it has to do with is the color of one’s skin—you’re the one missing the point.

Diversity is one of the most important things this genre needs right now, for the sake of great storytelling.

Another review roundup

Awakening Final cover low resThe Horn Book Guide reviews have come out for several of Tu’s recent books. Thought I’d share a couple of the highlights.

Review of Awakening by Karen Sandler

“The innovative premise, detailed world-building, and ethnically diverse cast make this a must-read for science fiction fans.”—Horn Book Review

Review of Diverse Energies edited by Tobias Buckell and Joe Monti

“Riveting protagonists—many LGBT and/ or characters of color—in eleven short stories by authors including Paolo Bacigalupi, Malinda Lo, and Ursula Le Guin grapple with agency, exploitation, disDiverse Energiescrimination, and familial tensions in impeccably built dystopian worlds. With robust treatment of an array of topics (global warming, robotics. mythology, etc.) this is compelling YA social science fiction.”—Horn Book Review

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ACat Girl's Day Offnd then the other day I discovered a short but sweet review of Kimberly Pauley’s Cat Girl’s Day Off on Amazon by Geography Club author Brent Hartinger: “Pauley, who’s been pretty good at reviewing books for years, has turned out to also be very good at writing them. Who knew? A breezy delight.

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The prices from our Friends & Family sale are slowly changing back (it takes time for these things to process, even though the sale ended on Friday), but so far they’re still reduced on several vendors, so if you haven’t had a chance to check out Cat Girl or other books published by Tu, you might still be able to snap up a deal on the e-book versions. Only, be quick about it—they’ll go back up soon.

If you’ve already taken advantage of the sale—or have already read our books—please consider leaving a review on one of the online booksellers, or on your own blog. We’d love to hear what you think!

Tu Books fall Friends & Family sale: a reader’s guide

If you haven’t noticed me talking about it EVERYWHERE, this week is Tu Books’ Friends & Family sale! We’re offering some pretty amazing discounts on our books—in particular, Cat Girl’s Day Off by Kimberly Pauley and Vodnik by Bryce Moore are only $1.99 in e-book format! And all our paper books are on sale for 35% off plus free US shipping. See the sale announcement for more details.sale

There’s not much time left, so hurry and take advantage of the sale while it’s still available!

And please share this link on with any friends or family who you think might be interested. Books depend on word of mouth to succeed, and no books more so than those published by small presses. If you believe diversity in books for young readers is important, or you just plain think we’re publishing awesome books, please spread the word!

For those who have already bought/read the books, please consider reviewing the books on Amazon or requesting the book at your local library if it isn’t carried there. Here are a few more things you can do, too.

If you’re not really sure what you should pick to read, though, I have put together a handy guide, according to interests and mood. Find your next weekend read here!

For older readers (young adult and adult):

If you’re looking for comedy, or you’re a fan of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, or you love cats, or you have always wondered what your superpower would be, read Cat Girl’s Day Off—Kimberly Pauley’s love story to Chicago, John Hughes, and snarky cats who talk. Not to mention mystery (kidnapping of a celebrity blogger, murder plots) and adventure (literal cat herding).

If you love rich worldbuilding, inspiration from less-well-known fairy and folk tales, sympathetic characters, and complicated, dark humor,  read Vodnik—about a teen trying to avoid being drowned by a creature out of Slovak tales to capture his soul and put it in a teacup. Oh, and having to make a deal with Slovakia’s goddess of death to accomplish it.

If you’re looking for a (literal) kick-butt superheroine in a post-apocalyptic world, defending her family from despotic rulers and making the world safe for humankind, read Killer of Enemies—postapocalyptic Apache steampunk.

If you like dystopian tales with strong science fiction and human rights issues elements, read Tankborn and its sequel Awakening—hard science fiction with a romantic subplot set in a strict caste system in which “non-humans” are at the bottom rung.

Love books about reinterpreting old stories anew? Looking for a complicated father-son relationship, or love stories about genies and monsters and golem? Or a magical coming-of-age set in a rich historical time period? Read Hammer of Witches. Also the perfect classroom tie-in to a unit studying the events of 1492, particularly Columbus’s first journey westward, and particularly for reluctant readers who might need a “fun” story to get them into the history.

Read Summer of the Mariposas if you’re looking for a strong sisterhood story with no romance, a Mexican American retelling of The Odyssey, or a book that can best be described as Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants meets Weekend at Bernie’s. This is a great gentle read for your advanced older middle grade readers and young teens looking for a clean read, as well as a great classroom tie-in to an Odyssey unit.

Wolf Mark is great for readers who love paranormal romance and science fiction. It’s best described as Burn Notice with werewolves—Abenaki skinwalkers, actually, written by one of the best Native American writers working today.

Diverse Energies is a collection of 11 dystopian stories that all star people of color—if you’re looking for where the people of color are in the future, here’s one collection of tales exploring that lack elsewhere. Stories from Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon (both of Diversity in YA here on Tumblr), Paolo Bacigalupi, Ursula K. Le Guin, and more.

For younger readers (ages 8-12), we also have a couple of fun books: The Monster in the Mudball and Galaxy Games: The Challengers.

Monster in the Mudball is the perfect first “real” middle-grade novel for your readers who have just graduated from chapter books, and it makes a great read-aloud as well. I like to think of it as Warehouse 13 for kids–an artifact inspector comes to town, and Jin, our main character, has to help her find the monster that hatched from the artifact before it eats Jin’s baby brother!

Galaxy Games: The Challengers is a hilarious romp of a book that basically involves the Olympics in space. Aliens come to Earth to recruit Earth kids for the biggest sporting event in the galaxy—and our hero is mistaken for the best kid athlete on Earth because he got a star named after him for his birthday.

Fantastic yet realistic Columbus Day reading

Columbus Day is a complicated holiday—after all, we really shouldn’t be honoring a man who introduced the slave trade to the Americas for “discovering” the New World. His legacy includes the decimation of native Caribbean and American populations, a greedy search for gold that involved horrendous atrocities, and all sorts of other terrible things. Love him or hate him, though, Columbus’s first journey marked a huge turning point in history, and it’s one that young readers should know the true history of (at a developmentally appropriate level).

If you’re looking for a book for teens or mature middle readers that explores the complexity of the year 1492 in a fantastic setting, you should be reading Hammer of Witches by Shana Mlawski. The book is about a boy’s journey with his half genie friend to find his father, but he boards Columbus’s ship as part of that quest. And it includes a thorough author’s note detailing what we know and don’t know about that era, and what the author made up—a handy reference for use in schools. The only content warning I’d note for young readers is that the book doesn’t flinch away from the truth of what happened on Ayiti to the Taino—though it doesn’t show it in detail, there is reference to rape and other atrocities.

On the back cover of the book, we printed a short quote from award-winning and prolific Abenaki author Joseph Bruchac, but that isn’t all he had to say about it. Here’s his full review (my emphasis added):

This is a truly enjoyable energetic tale, a hero’s journey that is filled with as much magic—and wry humor—as I’ve ever seen crammed into one story. The narrator is intelligent, engaging, and grows throughout his New World voyage of personal discovery in as way that should make him truly sympathetic to any young adult  reader.

A more or less historical fantasy, it’s an altogether original take on one of the most important events in human history—the first voyage of Columbus. In fact, with its emphasis on a totally different point of view—that of a converted Jewish Christian in late 15th century Spain who finds out his father is actually an infamous Moorish warrior and magician—it turns history and storytelling upside down.

Interesting, though this is an action-packed fantasy filled with everything from genies and giant monsters to magical caves, it is grounded in real history.

In fact, anyone who reads this may end up learning more about this period than is taught in most classrooms—including about the complex Taino cultures of Ayiti.—Joseph Bruchac, author of Killer of Enemies and Code Talker

Read it today in e-book or hardcover! (Links to online booksellers on the book page I just linked, or you can ask your local bookseller to order it.)

Or sign up for our e-news, because there will be an announcement later this week about an upcoming sale on the hardcover…

 

 

Call for Papers: Authenticity, Artifacts, and Publishing Patterns in Multicultural Texts

Sharing on this Call for Papers that was just brought to my attention. I know several people who might be interested in this (I’d love to myself, but I don’t have time to write a paper).

 

Call for Papers: Authenticity, Artifacts, and Publishing Patterns in Multicultural Texts

The Diversity Committee of the Children’s Literature Association is seeking papers for its sponsored panel at the ChLA 2014 Conference to be held in Columbia, South Carolina, June 19-21.  (For more information on the conference, visit the ChLA conference website at www.chlaconference.org.)

We are looking for papers that address how “other” cultures are represented in translated, multi-cultural, and cross-cultural texts. Are texts considered “authentic” if they do not conform to common expectations regarding the representation of minority or foreign cultures? Do mainstream perceptions of “authenticity” realistically represent “other” cultural points of view? Does referencing quotidian cultural behaviors, which would not be noted by members of the culture itself, reflect a tendency to treat other cultures as anthropological subjects? Have certain artifacts, narrative structures and themes appeared repeatedly, and through repetition, come to signify authenticity? Have identifiable patterns come to be the publishing and literary equivalents of museum artifacts under glass?

Questions? Contact Claudia Pearson, pearsoncrz@earthlink.net. Email your 500-word abstract and 2-page CV by 30 November 2013, attaching it in .rtf, .doc, or .docx format, and including your email and phone number.

Once Upon a Time season 3–spoilers ahoy

once-upon-a-time-s3-premiere-banner

tumblr_static_season-3-poster-once-upon-a-time-34970321-500-660I’m sitting at home, waiting for the dizziness to stop (stupid sinuses, stupid vertigo) and thinking about last week’s and night’s episodes of Once Upon a Time. Ever since Mulan showed up at the beginning of season 2, I’ve been pondering on how diversity is handled in the fairy tale world. After all, this is a fairy tale world that includes (real) tales from China, not to mention the genie from Aladdin, so we’re not limited to the tales of white western Europe (and medieval western Europe was a whole lot more diverse than many people give it credit for). One of the seven dwarves appears Asian, the guy who plays Sidney Glass/the Mirror/Genie is black. There are a (few) others, but few who are named and whose backstory we see anything of. Though the actress who plays the Evil Queen/Regina is Latina, she’s not portrayed as Latina, so it’s hard to count that as one in the win column.

While the show has its problematic side, I am enjoying the direction the main storyline is heading in this season—going to Neverland, reuniting a complicated family across generations and adoptions, digging into the nuances of heroes and villains. The idea that Henry can have two moms who both love him, and that he doesn’t have to choose between them, is a good direction for the story to be going. And I like that they’re finally going to be confronting Emma’s emotional distance between herself and her parents, her orphan-ness, this season, because that was kind of hinted at but never really taken head-on in previous seasons. I like that there seems to be some chemistry between Emma and Hook, which will be complicated when Neil/Baelfire finally reaches them.

But I’m highly disappointed with how the show handles its characters of color. Have you noticed how many of them die or get locked away to be forgotten compared to other characters? Sidney (who disappeared to star on Revolution, never to be mentioned again), the fiance who was trying to sabotage magic and kidnapped Henry (who could as easily have joined up with their team, but no, just got killed off; granted, so did her white partner in crime). Lancelot, who is dead before we ever meet him.

We’ve got a spinoff coming up later this week (Once Upon a Time in Wonderland) and it would have been a perfect opportunity for exploring a story for one of the surviving characters of color, like Mulan, who seems to exist only as a helper character for the white characters so far, not a hero in her own right—she’s even in a love triangle with Sleeping Beauty and Prince Philip, rather than with her own love interest from her Disney story, Li Shang. We never see very deeply into her backstory—season 2 really dropped the ball on her potential. Though perhaps we’ll see some chemistry between her and Neil while Emma’s feeling a little drawn to Hook? I don’t know. Not really feeling that direction. I’d rather see her be a hero in her own right, rather than a love interest who’s only important because she helps the main characters.

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I think it’s a missed opportunity in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. And it’s also just plain confusing: instead of spinning the story of Alice in Wonderland off from the Mad Hatter we met in Wonderland (who also disappeared, never to be spoken of again—so many dropped threads in this show)—who was supposedly Alice’s father, somehow the 10-year-old daughter of the Mad Hatter in Once Upon a Time’s world morphs into a teenaged girl from Victorian England. There’s never been time travel in this world before—Baelfire spent quite a bit of time in Neverland before Emma was born before all the curse stuff happened, and we know about this passage of time because he landed in Victorian England before getting taken to Neverland.

But in this new spinoff, Alice’s father is a normal Englishman who has had Alice institutionalized for delusional thoughts and mental illness (i.e., she imagined Wonderland as a girl, but it wasn’t real, they claim). Whatever happened to the Mad Hatter from Wonderland who we met in OUAT who had been so crucial to the plot at one point?

1384131_552128391509326_1605211370_nAnd Alice is older than she was in Storybrooke. Yet the Knave of Hearts leaves during the storm when magic comes at the end of season 1 in Storybrooke, so we know it’s the same world—that is, Alice was in that town as a 10-year-old at the same time—so what’s going on?

And the genie from Aladdin was Sidney Glass, who ran The Daily Mirror, the Genie who became the Mirror because he loved Regina so much. So who is this genie? And related, why is Jafar coming into the story at all?

ETA: Also, wasn’t Cora the Queen of Hearts? Where does this new Queen of Hearts come from? I’m utterly confused about the entire premise of this as a spinoff of Once Upon a Time.

551244_551440014911497_777492047_n(1)I could be wrong about the guys who play the love-interest genie Cyrus and the Knave of Hearts (perhaps they are multiracial or of Latino or Middle Eastern origin, but it doesn’t appear so), but what it seems so far is that the only person of color in the spinoff is Naveen Andrews, who plays Jafar. Given Once Upon a Time’s track record of trying to redeem bad guys, perhaps this isn’t the case of “guy of color is the bad guy,” and I hope that’s the case… and I hope that Jafar doesn’t end up dead by the end of the mini-series.

What does this mean for POC in the Once Upon a Time world? So far, not much good. I’d love to be proved wrong by this season of OUAT or OUATiW, but I have little hope that I will based upon their track record.