“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, discrimination, 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
And 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.”
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!
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.
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!
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.
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
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, firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
I’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.
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 beforeEmma 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?
And 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.
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.
Colbert is “celebrating his Latino hermanos and hismanos even more than usual because it is Hispanic Heritage Month!”
All joking aside, want to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in a way that involves art created by Latinos about their culture? Over at the Lee & Low blog we’ve got five books for you to check out that truly celebrate Latino cultures, including Tu’s own Summer of the Mariposas by Pura Belpre Award-winning author Guadalupe Garcia McCall, which was nominated for an Andre Norton Award, got a starred review from School Library Journal, and was on several best-of lists. It’s a great read for older middle graders and young teens (a clean read!) as well as for older teens and adults. And for you teachers looking for ways to get your students excited about reading The Odyssey,Mariposas is the perfect book: it’s a contemporary Mexican American retelling of The Odyssey, but from the point of view of the eldest of five sisters. It’s a great mother-daughter read, too!
In celebration of their exhibit The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter, the New York Public Library has released a list of 100 great children’s books from the last 100 years. I’m pretty happy to see that 27 of the 100 titles are diverse (in humanity) titles, and that there’s even more diversity in the authors (Donald Crews’s Freight Train, for example, doesn’t feature human diversity in the text, because the main character is a train, but the author is African American). How many of them have you read?
If you’re in Brooklyn this weekend and interested in Latino/a culture and writing, you should be at Las Comadres y Compadres! I’ll be doing one-on-one consultations with writers. It’s too late to get a manuscript in for me to read and critique, but I’m still happy to meet with anyone who wants to discuss a project and get feedback that way, and I’ll be around for lunchtime as well. My coworker Jessica Escheverria, who focuses on picture books in the Lee & Low imprint, will also be doing one-on-ones, so if you’re more of a picture book person, she’s the person to meet with.
In addition, the conference bookseller will be La Casa Azul from East Harlem, who will have books on hand from many of the presenters. Who will be there? The keynote speaker is Reyna Grande, who is the recipient of an American Book Award, El Premio Aztlan Literary Award, and an International Latino Book Award. Panelists include Matt de la Peña, Daniel Nayeri, Jorge Aguirre, and Eileen Robinson. You should go!
I completely forgot to post here that I wrote all about my trip to Korea (which happened in May) over at the Lee & Low blog a few weeks ago. I keep meaning to post pictures from it—which will end up going on my Tumblr, I think—but if you missed the link a few weeks back on other social media, check out the post here. Basically, I went to visit a friend in Seoul and then traveled around the country from there. It was a blast. If you want to see more pictures as i post them from time to time on Tumblr, follow my blog over there (which I post at more often, because it’s easier to quickly share interesting things as I find them online and throw them into a queue).
On a whim tonight, I looked at what movies were playing, and I was really not impressed with the selection. It seemed like a lot of badly done action movies next to sequels to movies I never saw (and though I’ve heard that the first Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was fun, the second isn’t faring as well in the comments I’ve seen from friends).
I very nearly ended up going home instead of going to a movie. I hate feeling like going to a movie in the theater but not having anything to go see. But hey, there is a new episode of The Master’s Sun to watch on Hulu/DramaFever, after all, and I have plenty of reading to do anyway. Before I resigned myself to a movie-less night, I checked the theater I pass by on my way to the subway just to see if there was anything interesting. Sometimes they play indie movies I might not have heard of.
Serendipitously, a movie I’d seen a preview for months ago via K-drama friends (or maybe DramaFever?) about a Korean American guy who meets a girl in Korea and tries to have a long-distance relationship with her was actually opening tonight. Like Austenland(which you should see if you haven’t yet!), it’s an indie movie whose wider release will depend on how well it does opening weekend. It got reviewed in the New York Times yesterday, but I didn’t read the review before attending because I didn’t want to be accidentally spoiled. Turns out it was a good review without any spoilers, so you’re safe to read that one. Check out the trailer:
Wedding Palace begins with a wedding. Jason gets left at the altar when his bride, Jinny, runs off with the cake decorator. On her way out the door, she runs him over and he ends up in the hospital with multiple broken bones (and some massive old-school casts). Jason’s family thinks, “This is a sign! The family curse!”
That’s right, there’s a family curse, which puts a fun spin on the rom-com thing–the men in the family must wed before they turn 30 or they die, because one ancestor* canceled out on his bride sometime wayyy back. (The big-foreheaded cartoon style in the telling of the family curse was kind of jarring because I’m so used to Korean-style chibi (or whatever chibi is called in Korean), but it grew on you.)
And that’s where it all really gets going. Jason’s just a few months off from his 30th birthday and his parents are starting to get nervous. They start setting him up with any appropriate girl, but of course, the question is, what’s appropriate? The parents are portrayed as super traditional—they’re looking for high achievement, lots of money, traditional girl who cooks, that kind of thing. There’s this really awkward scene in which Jason’s best friend lauds how great the married life is to such a girl, because, among other things, she makes her own kimchi** and serves his every need (and talks to him in baby talk?)!
Jason decides to give up, and his parents get even more worried because family curse! But he can’t think about it now, Mom and Dad, because he has to work hard on a project he’s going to be presenting in Seoul the next day.
Seoul, you say?
Mom and Dad’s ears perk up then. He gets set up on blind dates in Seoul, too, including one with a girl who thinks “Dahmer was pretty cool.” Crash and burn. But as he’s sending off that drunk date in a taxi, he runs into a woman he met earlier that day during his presentation at work, Na Young. And the cute romance begins, contrasting first generation Korean American parents and grandparents who came over in the 70s against modern-day Koreans from Korea, suggesting that the former are actually more traditional than the latter.***
All in all, a cute rom com with a twist that you won’t see coming— after watching the trailer again, I realized that what I thought was a twist was actually in the trailer, so I won’t worry that’s a spoiler—but that you’ll realize was set up perfectly in hindsight. It has some flaws in the storytelling—moments that went on too long, that kind of thing. But it was funny and cute and well worth my time, and it was great to see a different perspective of Korean culture in the media than that of a Korean drama. I love dramas, but they have their own tropes and stereotypes, and most of them seem to have a particular point of view that is very different from the POV of Wedding Palace.
I must say, though, my favorite character had to be Halmoni (Grandma). First she has a heart attack when she learns Na Young’s secret, then she escapes from the hospital and convinces a couple of Latino guys in a car outside the hospital—in excellent Spanish—that she needs a ride to stop a wedding. SO CUTE. Watch the movie for Halmoni alone, even if a rom com isn’t your thing. And I love Margaret Cho in anything.
After the movie was over, the director Christine Yoo—this is her feature film debut—came out and did a Q&A, so I was pretty lucky to have run into this screening tonight! She talked about the challenges of making an indie movie, of finding the funding they needed and of finding distribution, of trying to get it into film festivals and not making it, and how this weekend was all-important to whether the movie would get a wider release.
I raised my hand and asked if she’d seen interest in the movie from K-drama fans, and she turned it around on me and asked how I’d found out about it, because she hoped that was the case! I hope that DramaFever fans are talking it up to each other–I’m going to go check after posting this.
And that’s where we get into the diversity in the media part of the post. Ms. Yoo is third generation Korean American, and a woman. She said that something like six percent of the academy of directors (or whatever it’s called—I missed the name) are women, and we’ve talked here and elsewhere about how bad representation is across the board for minorities in the movies and TV. She spoke of the opposition she faced at getting the film out there, that higher-ups questioned what kind of universal appeal a movie about Korean Americans and Koreans with an all-Korean cast could have in the US, and even tried to get her to cast the best friend as a white guy for that “appeal.”
It’s a problem across the board—not just in movies and TV, but in the Tony Awards, and—as we know—in children’s books. It’s why I started Tu Books, and it’s why Lee & Low is in business in the first place. And she spoke to exactly the thing we’ve been discussing across the L&L social media: If we want diverse media to happen, we need to be sure to support it. Word of mouth is supremely important, as is supporting a new movie like this in its first weekend so it lives to see another weekend. I’d also say the same for TV, books, etc.—which is why I’m giving Sleepy Hollow a few more weeks before I make a final judgement on it, because it really is doing great at the diversity, and it’s a very beautifully made show, even if it’s weaker in other parts. The more we support diversity by putting our money where our mouth is, the more of it we’ll see getting a chance to continue to be made—and the cream will rise to the top. Too often, Hollywood seems to have the idea that movies flop because “women don’t sell” or “minorities don’t sell” when they only give one movie a chance, but no matter how many flops starring white men, they never say “white men don’t sell.” So it’s an uphill battle and we can make a difference as consumers just by supporting the good ones—and even the medium-quality ones—with support, with word of mouth, and so forth. So this is me, doing what I can, and I hope that you’ll take a chance on this one. If not this one, then on The Butler (which I haven’t had a chance to go see yet) or Austenlandor any other movie or TV show which might not make it without our support.
*well, not direct line, obviously, because he died before he had the chance
**I’m not sure the making-her-own-kimchi thing is all that different from most Korean women I’ve known from Korea who have been my roommates and friends, but maybe I’m just friends with more traditional people? After all, most of my Korean friends are Mormon, and Mormons tend to be pretty traditional about their cultures in many ways.
***Again, not sure how true that is more widely, but among the Koreans I know, that doesn’t seem to be the case, and Korean dramas (which are such a reflection of reality, I’m sure!) imply that there’s certainly at least a strong contingent of more traditional Koreans as well, though perhaps not stuck in the 70s, as the main character thinks of Korean Americans.