Let’s Talk: The Importance of Diversity in Children’s Literature

Recently there was a lot of angry talk on Twitter about something an author said about diversity in children’s literature and how she basically said that anything written about a queer black kid belongs in a pamphlet, not a book.

Um, sorry, what?

Edi from Crazy QuiltEdi did a post about the whole talk on Facebook that occurred over the weekend and I thought that it was a great to read about her perspective on it. The whole topic of conversation was sparked over a self-published children’s book about a black boy who loves the color pink, but you know, boys aren’t supposed to like pink… right? So it’s a story about fear and how this child wants to escape to Mars to be accepted by others.

I think that sounds like a great story! Regardless if the child is black, white, Asian, polka-dotted, whatever, it’s a story that should be shared with any and all children that go through much the same thing.

But for a white female author to go on and say that this kind of material should be in a pamphlet, not a book, because (according to her) books should have a “philosophical, spiritual, intellectual agenda that speaks to many many people – not just gay black boys” is really, well, absurd. Children need this kind of material to not only understand more about themselves, but to be able to grow compassion and empathize with those that go through the same kinds of problems.

Yes, authors of color have been trying to get published more and more, and stories about people of color have been trying to get published more and more, but there’s still not enough out there. The story and journey of a white boy or girl is fine and all, but we need more diversity. More Native Americans and traditional cultures and values; more Latinos and how they grow up in the U.S. or elsewhere; more queer black kids just wanting to be accepted and loved by others; more positive spins on Muslims, Buddhists, and other religious minorities, and heck, even majorities; more about bisexual white females and males, or really more about anyone, regardless of race, who is LGBTQIA+. We need these stories for our kids, and if people don’t begin seeing that, then where do we stand?

It’s sad to think that in the publishing world there is still such a stigma for POC authors and characters.

“It won’t sell.”

“It won’t be a best seller.”

“No one will relate.”

I beg to differ.

We want more, crave more, and need more. As a white female I, too, want to read these stories and be able to understand the mindsets, the cultures, the worlds in which these kids – and adults – live in.

Let me know your thoughts on diversity of kid’s literature. Is there enough of it? Do we need more? What kinds of topics do you want to see written about?

Everything, Everything Book Review

everything

Title: Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 307
Format: Purchased Hardcover

Synopsis from Goodreads: My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

This book was cute, and it dealt with friendships, first love, hope, and what it really means to live life.

I thought that the premise of the book was intriguing enough: a girl who is allergic to everything? How is that even possible? There are some snippets about what the disease Madeline has and it talks about how she’s not able to go outside because they don’t know what her triggers are. It seemed like a book that would tell about how it was difficult to live with this disease.

And it was, kind of, but it was mostly about relationships and friendships. Maddy had strong relationships with her at-home nurse, Carla, her mom, and then later, Oliver. I actually really liked that aspect of the book because it’s not very common in young adult books to have the parents or parental figures be around as constantly as they were in this one. I thought that the relationship she had with Carla, especially, was unique and wonderful – kind of like Carla was Maddy’s second mom.

Then the new kid next door, Olly, was introduced, and even I fell for him quickly. He loves to do parkour, he’s protective of his mom and sister, and the reason for that is because his father is a drunk jerk. But his personality seems quiet, but the way he’s described is that he’s always in motion, he’s fluid and languid all at once, and I found that to be kind of a beautiful metaphor.

Their interactions are comical at the beginning, but as they start to talk more, and even breach the subject of meeting in person, it becomes more apparent that yes, physical attraction is there, but it’s not insta-love.

I thought that Maddy’s character was genuine. She fully believed that she could be content in the life she was living until she met Olly, and even though they had a crazy adventure, I thought that it was needed for her to really discover the world and see it with her own eyes. She was fun and smart and curious, and I think her curiosity – that desire to know more and more about the world – was her best quality.

The end was bitter-sweet because of what happens, and I actually found myself angry. I won’t go into details so I don’t spoil anything, but I just didn’t understand why. But then, I did, and it almost broke my heart. I felt sorry, but at the same time I didn’t and I was happy with the decision Maddy made, even if it sort of seemed in spite.

The very end, though, was cute and I really wish there was more to the book because I just want more of Maddy and Olly’s relationship and I want them to be my friends and we can go on double dates and stuff.

Also, there were a lot of illustrations throughout the book that were done by the author’s husband, which I thought was neat. They’re simple and quirky, and I just thought that they really brought an extra bit of something special to this book.

Anyway, I recommend this book if you’re looking for a quick, cute read that is different, diverse (Maddy is half Japanese, half African-American), hopeful, and holds the promise of what living a life can really mean.

I rated this 4/5 stars.

April 2015 Wrap-Up & May TBR

Another month has come and gone. I can’t believe it’s already May.

In the month of April I read a total of four books. That’s not bad considering I was mostly focused on Camp NaNoWriMo the past month, so reading wasn’t really an option for me.

So the books I read this past month were:

  • None of the Above” by I.W. Gregorio. A book about a girl who, after having painful intercourse, goes to an ob-gyn and learns that she is intersex. It’s a story that really opened my eyes to the topic and made my heart swell with compassion for those who deal with these kinds of things. I rated it 5/5 stars. Read my review!
  • Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli. A story about not-so-openly gay teen, Simon, and how his secret emails between him and another boy from his school (code name: Blue) are threatened to be leaked if Simon doesn’t help the guy threatening him get a girl to go out with him. I loved this book so much. It had me laughing and squeeing and I just couldn’t stop turning the page. Highly recommend. I rated it 5/5 stars. Read my review!
  • My Heart and Other Black Holes” by Jasmine Warga. A trigger of suicide follows this book. A girl makes a suicide pact with a boy. The date is nonnegotiable and as the two become closer, the girl realizes that maybe there is more to life than what her father has done or what she potentially could be. I rated it 5/5 stars. Read my review!
  • Clockwork Angel” by Cassandra Clare. The prequel to The Mortal Instruments, this book follows Tessa as she discovers the Shadow World, and also just what she is and what it means for her now that she knows. We also follow Will and Jem, two Shadowhunters who work at the Institute in London and how there’s a war about to brew between them and someone very powerful. I rated it 5/5 stars. Read my review!

I had a good reading month in terms of content and how much I enjoyed the books I read, either for the subject matter or the characters or plot.

Now, I didn’t complete my TBR Jar Challenge, which was to finish a series. Heck, I didn’t even read the books on my TBR for April. So that was a flop. Oh well. I’m okay with it because I was having a really hard time reading wise last month, so… I just said eff you to the TBR and read what I wanted.

For the rest of April, I did quite a few discussions, as well as a movie review and a book unhaul (and haul). The discussions I held were:

  • We Need Diverse Books – A topic about how we need to read more diversely, whether that’s in subject matter (LGBTQIA+, religious minority, disability, etc) or from an author of color or different gender.
  • Always Having a Current Read – I talked about always having something that you’re reading, whether you started it that day or a year ago. But sometimes it can feel restraining to read so many books in one month or trying to reach a goal of reading a set amount of books in one month.
  • Do You Ever… – I talked about wanting to just toss away the books you planned on reading for the month and reading whatever the hell you like. And wanting to literally read every single book on your shelf at the same time. And rearranging shelves. It’s a hard life, bro.
  • Giving Honest Reviews – I talked about the importance of always giving an honest review. Sometimes people will try to bribe for a positive review, but really giving your honest opinion is the best thing you could do for yourself and the author.

April was a fairly productive month. I’m rather proud of myself for having done so much this past month here on my blog.

Now for the May TBR! So I do have just a few books I really want to read in May, and they are:

  • An Ember in the Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir. This book has been wicked hyped up and I’m really excited to read it. It’s about a girl, Laia, and how she goes undercover as a slave to try to free her brother from captivity. And it’s also about a solider, Elias, who’s very reluctant to be a soldier and wants his own freedom. Eventually the two meet and their destinies intertwine.
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J Maas. Of course I’m getting this book! Loosely following the tale of Beauty and the Beast, this book follows a girl named Feyre and how she is a hunter for her family (you don’t hunt, you don’t eat) and one day she accidentally kills a faerie in his animal form and she is taken away to essentially be a prisoner. This comes out May 5th.
  • The Heir” by Kiera Cass. This is twenty years from the original Selection story where it follows Princess Eadlyn and her own Selection story. Once the Selection begins she discovers that maybe finding her own happily ever after won’t be as impossible as she had originally thought. This comes out May 5th.
  • P.S. I Still Love You” by Jenny Han. The sequel to “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” (I did a review), this book follows Lara Jean and how she fell for Peter, even though they were pretending. And when a boy from her past returns to her life, she falls for him, too. Can it be possible to love two people at once? Love is never easy, but maybe that’s what makes it amazing. This comes out May 26th.

So those are the books I plan on reading in May. As for my TBR challenge for the month, it is to read a book that’s not a novel. So, since I’m still working on the “Assassin’s Blade” novellas, I’m including that.

I also may or may not read more Cassandra Clare books as reading “Clockwork Angel” really got me wanting to continue, but we’ll see. I may just focus more on my writing this month so I don’t overwhelm myself with reading.

Accompanying video: April 2015 Wrap-Up & May TBR

What are your reading plans for May? Let me know!

Happy World Book Day!

Today, April 23, is World Book Day, a day that was created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This day is special because it is the day that three authors – Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega – all died in 1616. It is also the birth or death date of some other prominent authors. It’s a day in which UNESCO wanted people to celebrate books, especially young people, so that they’d gain a new found appreciation and love for reading.

On this day, many are celebrating their love for reading. I know I am. I actually didn’t know about it until I saw it was trending on Twitter, but that’s okay. I’m still celebrating my love of books by currently reading “Clockwork Angel” by Cassandra Clare (among others at the same time, one e-book, one audiobook).

World Book Day is a wonderful thing and I think we should all celebrate in our own way. Reading is a door to other lives, to the past, present, and future; to other worlds, dimensions, time periods; to every gender and color and species under the sun. Reading is beautiful and fun and magnificent.

Please pick up a book today and enjoy the love of reading. Read something you love, something that’ll make you cry, get angry, feel all mushy inside. Whatever you pick up, just remember how much you love books. Read diversely, read series, read comics, read non-fiction, read religion, read politics, read whatever makes you happy.

Happy reading and happy world book day!

My Heart and Other Black Holes Book Review

myheartandotherblackholes

Title: My Heart and Other Black Holes
Author: Jasmine Warga
Publisher: Balzer + Bray – an imprint of HarperCollins
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Genres: Young Adult – Contemporary
Pages: 302
Format: Purchased Hardcover

This book has a trigger warning for suicide. If this topic makes you uncomfortable, step lightly into reading this review or book.

“My Heart and Other Black Holes” by Jasmine Warga is a book about sixteen-year-old Aysel (pronounced Uh-zell) who is extremely depressed after the murder her father committed three years prior. She has lost all of her friends and she feels outcast by her family. She goes on this website called Smooth Passages and finds an ad for a “suicide partner” and says she’ll do it with this guy on the specific day that he requested, about six weeks later from that point.

But as she keeps on thinking about how much her death from the world will help her, she realizes that maybe there is more to the world.

I started reading this with a lot of sensitivity brewing in me because of my personal past (and present) and how much I can relate to Aysel’s feelings of depression and suicide.

That being said, that is not why I rated this 5/5 stars.

The writing was fantastic and kept the plot moving forward. Yes, at times I thought it was a bit slow and dragged out, but I also understood the importance of those scenes when they made a reappearance later in the book.

The plot itself was something I’ve never read about – or have chosen to read about. As it’s such a personal topic for me, I have a very sensitive heart when it comes to it. But the story itself was gripping and I wanted to cheer for the characters to get better and to realize it wasn’t their fault and that it does get better. But I understand how depression works and how that black slug that Aysel kept on referring to just squirms around in your heart and your whole being to now allow you to see the light behind the darkness that’s enveloping you.

The plot consisted of a concept I wish also didn’t exist: suicide partners. They were planning the day in which they would do it, they found a spot where they wanted to it, and they made some conditions in which they would used to keep themselves on track. But I think that Aysel and Roman slowly developed that friendship and kinship and chemistry over their short time together because of their common bond in depression. Roman felt he was to blame for his sister’s death; Aysel was afraid of how others would think of her if she turned out exactly like her murderous father. As they developed the kinship and really got serious about everything, and slow buds started to open Aysel’s heart and shine in that light, I loved it when it became a turning point.

I thought there was great character development. I saw the transformation in Aysel and was so glad when I saw it. Roman was the tough one and the stubborn one, but I completely understood where he came from and why he blamed himself so heavily for what happened.

Yes, there were some parts that could have been explained more or actually happened (I really wanted her to confront her father) and maybe some things should have been different, but for the subject matter of the book, this was beautifully written.

As I stated, I rated this book 5/5 stars.

And please. If you or someone you know is in a situation like this, please have them (or you) talk to someone who can help and be a positive bright light in that darkness. You have no clue how much that light will be of value to that person one day.

These resources can be found at the back of Warga’s book:

Suicide is and never will be a joking matter. Don’t make light of it. Not all stories end like Aysel’s and Roman’s, so please, just reach out for help if it’s needed.

Accompanying video: My Heart and Other Black Holes Book Review