Last week author Lisa Yee revealed the full cover for her upcoming YA novel, The Kidney Hypothetical, which is coming March 31, 2015, from Arthur A. Levine Books. Here’s the description:
Higgs Boson Bing has seven days left before his perfect high school career is completed. Then it’s on to Harvard to fulfill the fantasy portrait of success that he and his parents have cultivated for the past four years. Four years of academic achievement. Four years of debate championships. Two years of dating the most popular girl in school. But of course this shining picture is painted over cracks, some of them deep and painful. And for Higgs it’s about to come apart.
We can’t wait!
YA meme: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
A hundred years ago eighteen-year-old guys were out there fighting wars with bayonets and holding a man’s life in their hands! They lived a lot of life by the time they were our age. What do kids our age know about love and life?
How important, then, that published stories come from diverse sources; from the voices, experiences, subjectivities and realities of many rather than from the imagination of dominant white culture. For even as we’ve been enriched and enlightened by tales from Western tradition, stories are also carriers and vectors for ideologies. And the white literary tradition has a long legacy of silencing, erasing, distorting and misinforming. […]
Readers and fans now have the capacity, in ways they’ve never had before, to effect change upon what kinds of stories will reach the public sphere. The one-way control that traditional publishing has held is being eroded by the needs and the desires of a reading public that will not be defined by an older colonial ideological imperative.
Being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent and harder-working:The key to understanding the positive influence of diversity is the concept of informational diversity. When people are brought together to solve problems in groups, they bring different information, opinions and perspectives. This makes obvious sense when we talk about diversity of disciplinary backgrounds—think again of the interdisciplinary team building a car. The same logic applies to social diversity. People who are different from one another in race, gender and other dimensions bring unique information and experiences to bear on the task at hand. A male and a female engineer might have perspectives as different from one another as an engineer and a physicist—and that is a good thing.
That said, as well as characters, I also think it’s important for publishers to look at the diversity of their authors. For one thing, I think children of all and any background should be able to aspire to do what I do and be able to see authors they recognise as a part of their own community. If that little Congolese boy thinks stories are about white people, how likely is he to become a storyteller? What I love about writing is that it’s a meritocracy one that’s, in theory, open to all walks of life. Young, old, gay, straight, black, white, rich or poor. Why is it then that we seem to have so many debuts coming from very pretty, white, posh seventeen-year-old girls?
Happy early book birthday to three books being released on 9/30!
Love Is The Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Emily Bird was raised not to ask questions. She has perfect hair, the perfect boyfriend, and a perfect Ivy-League future. But a chance meeting with Roosevelt David, a homeland security agent, at a party for Washington DC’s elite leads to Bird waking up in a hospital, days later, with no memory of the end of the night.
Meanwhile, the world has fallen apart: A deadly flu virus is sweeping the nation, forcing quarantines, curfews, even martial law. And Roosevelt is certain that Bird knows something. Something about the virus–something about her parents’ top secret scientific work–something she shouldn’t know. The only one Bird can trust is Coffee, a quiet, outsider genius who deals drugs to their classmates and is a firm believer in conspiracy theories. And he believes in Bird. But as Bird and Coffee dig deeper into what really happened that night, Bird finds that she might know more than she remembers. And what she knows could unleash the biggest government scandal in US history…
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever… Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily. Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”
Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.
The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond
It’s been nearly 80 years since the Allies lost WWII in a crushing defeat against Hitler’s genetically engineered super soldiers. America has been carved up by the victors, and 16-year-old Zara lives a life of oppression in the Eastern America Territories. Under the iron rule of the Nazis, the government strives to maintain a master race, controlling everything from jobs to genetics. Despite her mixed heritage and hopeless social standing, Zara dreams of the free America she’s only read about in banned books. A revolution is growing, and a rogue rebel group is plotting a deadly coup. Zara might hold the key to taking down the Führer for good, but it also might be the very thing that destroys her. Because what she has to offer the rebels is something she’s spent her entire life hiding, under threat of immediate execution by the Nazis.
Me, My Daughter, and The Babysitter’s Club
One of my favorite people in the world is Claudia Kishi. Maybe you’ve heard of her?
She has a killer fashion sense.
She’s super talented at art.
And oh … she’s not exactly real.
Claudia happens to be a character from The Babysitter’s Club series, which I devoured like Snickers bars when I was elementary school. (And I can eat a lot of Snickers bars!) But do you know what’s funny? I actually don’t have very much in common with Claudia. She has a real gift for art whereas I struggle to mix paint. She doesn’t like studying for school whereas I was that annoying kid who hyperventilated over getting a B in biology. But none of that mattered to my childhood self. What mattered to me was that I saw myself in Claudia.
She was Asian-American.
I was Asian-American.
Here was a girl who looked like me! In a book that I loved!
When I read my very first BSC novel, my 9-year-old mind was honestly blown. I had never come across an Asian American character in a novel before. It felt as if Ann M. Martin had pointed a finger at my nose and said, “Hey, you! Yeah, you, I see you. And you matter.”
Over twenty years later, I hope that my own book might have the same impact on a young reader. And maybe it’ll impact a biracial reader in particular because the main character of my novel The Only Thing to Fear is half-Japanese and half-Caucasian. I can’t seem to find very many children’s novels with biracial protagonists, which makes me sad because the multiracial population has increased 50 percent — that’s right, 50! — since the year 2000 in America. These children are craving to find faces like their own in the books that they read. They’re yearning to find their own Claudias.
That’s one of the reasons why I created Zara St. James, the main character of my debut. She lives in a world very different from our own — one where the Nazis won WWII and colonized the United States — but she’s up against many of the same issues that multiracial people face in our society. For instance, Zara battles racism and bullying in her homogenous town in the Shenandoah valley because her face sticks out from the crowd. And she feels split between her two halves because she’s deemed not “white enough” or “Asian enough” to fit in with anyone else. She’s biracial and she has no problem with this fact, but some people make her feel like an outsider anyway. But Zara refuses to let these people get to her and, as the novel progresses, she’s ready to show everyone in her town and all of the Nazis in the US — even the Führer himself— that she won’t be underestimated.
It’s my humble hope that one day we won’t have to pore over the shelves at the bookstore and library to find books that feature diverse characters. I really want to read these books — and I want my biracial daughter to read them too. After all, doesn’t she deserve her own Claudia Kishi?
I think so.
And together, we’re going to find her.
* * *
Caroline Tung Richmond is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Highlights for Children, and USAToday.com, among other publications. The Only Thing to Fear is her debut novel and will be published by Scholastic Press on 9/30/14. A self-proclaimed history nerd, Caroline lives in the Washington, DC area with her husband; their daughter; and the family dog Otto von Bismarck.
The Only Thing to Fear is available 9/30/14. Order it here.
But why are so many of these characters white, straight, able-bodied and middle-class?” asked Dawson. “Malorie did not say there are too many white faces in children’s books, but I will. There, I just did. Put that on Sky News.”
Dawson attributed the lack of diverse books to the quest for sales. “Marketing is key here, clearly, but what it boils down to is fear that a book won’t reach its biggest possible audience and lose money. To me this creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we think books about minorities don’t sell, we don’t put them in bookshops where they – big surprise – can’t possibly sell.” His mixed-race character Alisha would not be on the cover of his novel Cruel Summer “because of market research about what readers bought”, he added, saying there is “an abundance of white faces on covers” in children’s sections in bookshops.
A month after UK Children’s Laureate Malarie Blackman was harassed for her thoughts on the need to diversify children’s literature, UK author James Dawson speaks up against the inequity of the publishing industry to industry professionals at the Patrick Hardy annual lecture.
Read the full article, James Dawson: ‘There are too many white faces’ in kids’ books, here.
Geetings, DiYA readers! Today we’re launching a brand-new end-of-the-month roundup called the Diversity Digest (we enjoy the alliteration), which will not only round up all the links we post on tumblr over the month, but also recap buzzy book deals and cover reveals.
Click through to catch up on all the news from this past month.