Congratulations to the finalists for the 2014 Lambda Literary Awards in the LGBT Children’s/Young Adult category!
- Better Nate Than Ever, Tim Federle, Simon & Schuster, Inc./ Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
- Boy In Box, Christopher R. Michael, Hubbub Publishing
- Girls I’ve Run Away With, Rhiannon Argo, Moonshine Press
- If You Could Be Mine, Sara Farizan, Algonquin Books
- Openly Straight, Bill Konigsberg, Arthur A. Levine Books
- Rapture Practice, Aaron Hartzler, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Secret City, Julia Watts, Bella Books
- The Secret Ingredient, Stewart Lewis- Author, Rebecca Short-Editor, Delacorte Press (Penguin/Random House)
- The Summer Prince, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Arthur A. Levine Books
- Two Boys Kissing, David Levithan, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
- What Makes a Baby, Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth, Seven Stories Press/Triangle Square
Back in January, I wrote a post about the reading challenges that I would be guiding my reading this year. During the CCBC-Net diversity in literature discussion in February, someone (I wish I could remember who) mentioned one more that I am excited to add to my list. First though, a recap of the ones I have been participating in already:
The Latin@s in Kid Lit Challenge has been a lot of fun and is focused around reading children’s and young adult lit written by Latin@s or starring Latin@s. I’ve read many picture books (since I am an elementary school librarian), but the YA books I have read and enjoyed are Saving Baby Doe by Danette Vigilante (coming March 20th), The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer, and Death, Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez (which Jessica reviewed last year).
The Diversity on the Shelf Challenge is great because the books from the Latin@s in Kids Lit Challenge also count in addition to anything that I would review here on Rich in Color. This challenge is to read books that are written by an author of color or have a main character that is a person of color. My favorites from this challenge were The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang (available digitally in installments over the next several months and in hardcopy in July), Inheritance by Malinda Lo (reviewed by K. Imani last year), Romeo and Juliet adapted by Gareth Hinds, and Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices edited by Mitali Perkins.
The Africa Reading Challenge is the new one that I was reminded of during the CCBC-Net discussion. I’m excited to get started on this one. It’s focus is concentrating on literature by African authors or taking place in Africa. The host, Kinna, encourages readers to try reading from a variety of countries. After reading Jessica’s review of Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, I knew I wanted to read it so I bought it recently. It’s fantastic so far. As with the other two challenges, the host provides resources and suggestions so I won’t have a shortage of titles to choose from once I finish Akata Witch.
I am loving the exposure to many titles through the lists, but also through the reviews of the participants. There are still ten months left in the year, so it is not too late to get started. You don’t need to have a blog either. You can create a list in Goodreads or find some other creative way to keep track on your own just so long as you are reading and venturing out into new territory. Do you know of any other diverse lit challenges? Are you participating in one or more? Let us know and have a great time exploring diverse lit this year.
I wrote down this speech that I had no time to practice so this will be the practicing session. Thank you Alfre, for such an amazing, amazing introduction and celebration of my work. And thank you very much for inviting me to be a part of such an extraordinary community. I am surrounded by people who have inspired me, women in particular whose presence on screen made me feel a little more seen and heard and understood. That it is ESSENCE that holds this event celebrating our professional gains of the year is significant, a beauty magazine that recognizes the beauty that we not just possess but also produce.
I want to take this opportunity to talk about beauty, black beauty, dark beauty. I received a letter from a girl and I’d like to share just a small part of it with you: “Dear Lupita,” it reads, “I think you’re really lucky to be this black but yet this successful in Hollywood overnight. I was just about to buy Dencia’s Whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me.”
My heart bled a little when I read those words, I could never have guessed that my first job out of school would be so powerful in and of itself and that it would propel me to be such an image of hope in the same way that the women of The Color Purple were to me.
I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin, I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I was the day before. I tried to negotiate with God, I told him I would stop stealing sugar cubes at night if he gave me what I wanted, I would listen to my mother’s every word and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter. But I guess God was unimpressed with my bargaining chips because He never listened.
And when I was a teenager my self-hate grew worse, as you can imagine happens with adolescence. My mother reminded me often that she thought that I was beautiful but that was no conservation, she’s my mother, of course she’s supposed to think I am beautiful. And then … Alek Wek. A celebrated model, she was dark as night, she was on all of the runways and in every magazine and everyone was talking about how beautiful she was. Even Oprah called her beautiful and that made it a fact. I couldn’t believe that people were embracing a woman who looked so much like me, as beautiful. My complexion had always been an obstacle to overcome and all of a sudden Oprah was telling me it wasn’t. It was perplexing and I wanted to reject it because I had begun to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy. But a flower couldn’t help but bloom inside of me, when I saw Alek I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny. Now, I had a spring in my step because I felt more seen, more appreciated by the far away gatekeepers of beauty. But around me, the preference for my skin prevailed, to the courters that I thought mattered I was still unbeautiful. And my mother again would say to me you can’t eat beauty, it doesn’t feed you and these words plagued and bothered me; I didn’t really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be.
And what my mother meant when she said you can’t eat beauty was that you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul. It is what got Patsey in so much trouble with her master, but it is also what has kept her story alive to this day. We remember the beauty of her spirit even after the beauty of her body has faded away.
And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside.
There is no shade to that beauty.
Molly, by Golly!: The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter
This legendary tale introduces young readers to Molly Williams, an African American cook for New York City’s Fire Company 11, who is considered to be the first known female firefighter in U.S. history. One winter day in 1818, when many of the firefighting volunteers are sick with influenza and a small wooden house is ablaze, Molly jumps into action and helps stop the blaze, proudly earning the nickname Volunteer Number 11. Relying on historic records and pictures and working closely with firefighting experts, Dianne Ochiltree and artist Kathleen Kemly not only bring this spunky and little-known heroine to life but also show how fires were fought in early America.
You know what’s funny? I think a lot of people view these images as interesting because they’re “unrealistic” or specifically because they feature men of color, anachronistic. I do like them, but I just wanted to add something….
For each of these implied anachronisms, there is a real painting of a real Man of Color from European Art History. (The text for each image is a link to learn more!)
P.S. my favorite from the OP is will.i.am!!!
Everyone loves a good list but finding lists that reflect the intelligence of experts in a given field can sometimes be tricky. Consider, if you will, books about American Indians for the kiddos. I can’t tell you how many summer reading lists I see every year that have The Indian in the Cupboard, The Matchlock Gun, or even Rifles for Watie on them. Just once it would be nice to see a Top 100 list of books that could serve as guidelines for folks searching for good books about indigenous peoples.
And here’s that list!
Here are all of February’s diverse new releases, gathered up in one post. Happy reading!
Last month, the mailing list of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison hosted a discussion of multicultural literature for children and young adults. During the course of the discussion, many suggestions and ideas were raised about how to keep spreading the word about diversity and supporting more of it in children’s and YA lit. Some of those ideas are in the link above.