Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Monday, December 21, 2015
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Monday, December 14, 2015
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Monday, December 07, 2015
Thursday, December 03, 2015
Wednesday, December 02, 2015
Friday, November 27, 2015
Monday, November 23, 2015
7. Religion is not necessarily in the same category of some of the other glaring omissions in the YA landscape. But again, if the idea is to represent the breadth of experiences out there, leaving religion out more often than not seems problematic.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Monday, November 16, 2015
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Monday, November 09, 2015
Thursday, November 05, 2015
Monday, November 02, 2015
I don't know if you knew that you were risking arrest when you pulled out your device in class to be ready to film the intervention of a school resource officer into a class discipline issue. But nonetheless I want to applaud your concern for your fellow student, your willingness to step in and stand up for her. I'm sorry that you even had to think like that. I'm sorry that the officers who are theoretically there to provide safety for students and teachers have in some cases created an environment such that you knew as soon as you heard which officer was coming in, that your fellow classmate was at risk, not of getting in trouble, which she already was, but of injury. I'm sorry that you were right. I hope this leads to change in the way discipline is approached in your school. It probably won't come swiftly enough to benefit you, but I have faith that you have already learned some important things about becoming a good citizen.
Monday, October 26, 2015
Now, I have worked with this teen for a while, so I did know that this was not an excuse but a genuine response to that thing that happens when you know you have suggestions or input that could be useful if people would only listen. (Sadly, this does not end when one's age no longer ends in teen. But it does get better.) But it speaks to an interesting thing about our views of teens. Absolutely, in our society, teens are in a particular phase where they explore all sorts of things, they are given more responsibility (um, well, sometimes) and yet are still treated as children. It's a weird, awesome, scary, fascinating time.
But, the reality is, that, hopefully, a lot of this experimentation stuff continues on. The list of things I have started (or re-started) doing since I was a teen include knitting, weaving (since abandoned), blogging, social networking, and pet owning. No one told me these things I was trying out were just a phase because of my age. It's possible people were thinking that, and just didn't tell me. No one also told me when I gave up weaving or car owning that, pfft, they knew I hadn't been committed. (I have had some people worry about my lack of car-ness, they all seem relieved to know I have owned, but chose to give it up. And have car-sharing membership. But that's probably a whole other post.)
I told one person who said her choice to go vegan was being touted as just a phase to tell people, "So what?" Because, seriously, even if it is/was just a phase, she wasn't demanding people cook special things for her, she was simply choosing not to eat certain things, and taking steps to make sure she got a balanced diet. So, if after a time she came to the conclusion that this was not her her, so what. When a co-worker decides to go on [insert name of current trendy diet here], people usually applaud. And look, if people's concerns had been for this teen's health or this teen's food preparer's sanity, then that's one thing, but they were discounting her because of her age. And that's ridiculous.
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Monday, October 19, 2015
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Monday, October 12, 2015
So, again, an author, this time an award winning picture books and YA novelist, said something silly about diversity. So, first, a recap here, because I am going to paraphrase what was said, but, if you follow the link, not by much. (Also, the book that inspired said silly author's ire was Myles E. Johnston's Large Fears which sounds great. Let's all go get that.)
So, hearing about this book getting praise for, among other things, representing a queer black boy for the young reader set, this author said, well, pfft (okay, I added the pfft) marginalized young people don't need more books, all the books are for everyone. And when folks pointed out that having mirrors, ie, characters that look like you in some way, is really meaningful to people, especially to children, this author said pfft. (Okay, I added the pfft.) This author said books don't need to be mirrors, there are news reports for people to find mirrors, books are just there to "teach you about the world".
And then later, when many, many people let this author know that they disagreed with this point, she said that her next book was about a black boy in love with an adult native American woman. (It is unclear to me if this was to prove that she didn't only write white people or to prove she could come up with a premise that distilled into 140 characters sounded wildly problematic.
But, so, let's unpack what this author was saying.
Books are for everyone. Yes, that's true. I...don't think anyone was disagreeing with that. I have read books about white people, black people, brown people, Asians, Africans, Americans, Europeans, and people from places and countries that don't exist (yet). I have read about upper class, lower class, and middle class people. I have read about slaves and slaveholders. I have read about heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, cisgender, transgender, and genderfluid characters. I have read about humans, rabbits, robots, elves, werewolves, and vampires. I am some of those things. I am not a lot of those things. So, if the point was that good stories speak to everyone, sure. But given the context of the statement, it's hard not to wonder if the subtext was, I shouldn't have to think about reflecting the world when I write, because that's too much pressure. So, if I choose to leave out segments of the populations in my books, who cares, good books are for everyone.
Now, it's maybe a tiny bit possible that the thing she meant to say was we shouldn't be like, yay, book about a queer black boy. We should like books for being good. (That isn't really at all what she said, but it's possible that maybe she meant that. Deep down.) And I agree with that. I agree that we shouldn't treat diverse books like vegetables. You don't like books because they are diverse. You like books because they tell a story you want or need to hear. Now of course, if the story you needed or wanted to hear was about a queer black boy, well, the easiest way for you to find such a thing would be if people were able to point you to such a thing. And look, the Library of Congress has been tagging books with various labels (gay, suicide, homeless, etc) for some time. I get emails from book sellers that say since you liked that one book about teen bullying and depression, here's some more. If you haven't been waiting on a book about a queer black boy, that's fine. There are people who are. Snarking on that gets a little like stalking the line for the midnight movie just to tell them the movie is probably stupid.
And well, this idea that since you have written and are again writing about underrepresented characters, this means what? Totally ignoring the problems of the premise, is the point that since you have written outside yourself that you couldn't possibly be racist? Are you saying you have black character friends? Or, are you saying that since you are writing characters of color, we're done and no one else needs to or is allowed to?
Look, here's the deal. It seems super ridiculously obvious, but I have not heard of one single author being told their story about middle class white people can't get published this year because we already had one of those. If you don't want to write in a manner that reflects the diversity of the world, no one is making you. And if you do, or are already doing it, then, I'm not sure why you would care if someone else does.
Do I wish we lived in a world where writing a queer black boy wasn't unusual? Hell yeah. Just like I wish we didn't live in a world were people of certain sexualities weren't expected to announce it in some fashion. But that's not where we are yet. Yes, as writers we should write the stories that speak to us. But that means all of us.
There are some wonderful other posts about this:
Kaye M has an open letter to the author.
Celidhann over at Bibliodaze broke out some numbers about representation.
Thursday, October 08, 2015
Wednesday, October 07, 2015
Thursday, October 01, 2015
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Monday, September 21, 2015
Thursday, September 17, 2015
Monday, September 14, 2015
So, here's the thing. Yes, some people are more willing to trust various, for lack of a better term, alternative travel arrangements. I would however argue, that stories of backpackers relying on the kindness of strangers pre-date the internet. It's very sad that she died. I resent that implication that she died because of a generational trust in the internet. Let's face it every journey on public transit, every ebay transaction, every time you walk into a restaurant you've never been to, there's an element of risk. Yes, staying on a stranger's couch carries a larger amount of risk, then some choices, but to imply that the only reason this woman is dead is because of this, well, it's straight up victim blaming. I feel certain that not everyone who stays on a stranger's couch ends up dead. I feel certain that people who kill people do not have to rely on the internet to bring them victims. (This article indicates he killed her for her money and phone.)
Thursday, September 10, 2015
Tuesday, September 08, 2015
In addition to the National Book Fest there were also two panels of YA authors at Politics and Prose this week so I have a lot of things to catch up on.
First up Jennifer E. Smith not only came to Politics and Prose but had also agreed to meet up with my book club before her talk. I missed most of that due to the day job, but I hear they had a great time chatting with her. I had just finished Hello, Goodbye and Everything In Between which was fun. At the Politics and Prose chat she spoke about how sometimes her editorial background makes it that she is unable to utilize text speak or IM speak because it just hurts her too much. (I do hear now that character limits are less of a thing, text speak is somewhat less prominent with current teens, although certainly looking around the internet indicates that's not true for all). Smith's inspiration for Hello, Goodbye and Everything In Between was the very strong memory of the night before you left for college and how it felt wonderful and scary and full of such importance as you stand on the precipice of this huge change. She also wondered what would it be like if, in addition to all of that, you were in the middle of a serious relationship with someone where the two of you were headed in literal opposite directions. Smith also talked a little bit about the MFA she had done at St Andrews. (!!!)
On Friday there was a multi-author panel with Daniel José Older, Libba Bray, and Jon Skovron. I was part way through Older's Shadowshaper (which I have since finished and it is wonderful) and still need to catch up on the next installment in the Diviners series, as well as Skovron's latest. Older talked about how so much of fantasy and urban fantasy author takes place in a very light clean city or in the falling down projects and there just wasn't enough in between. Working as an EMT and also having grown up Brooklyn he certainly saw lots and lots of in between in the city. Also that so much of fantasy involves a character spending 75% of the book being surprised to discover that there is magic or are demons. Worldwide more cultures believe in ghosts believe in supernatural creatures than don't and if you wrote a fantasy that involves a character from one of those cultures you could save yourself chapters of this surprise. I will also say that part of my interest in Shadowshaper stemmed from a comment I saw about it's take on anthropology and the idea that the people who do the studying often treat their subjects as less than. Libba Bray talked about how sometimes she has trouble finding the source of what sparked an idea for a book since she thinks of her writing brain as a giant sticky ball rolling along and picking up stray factoids that then turn into a story. Bray said the Chinese Exclusion Act was a fascinating example of a shift in our country since it was the first policy that specifically immigration policy that specifically addressed a particular race and therefore led to things that we still see the echoes of today. Skovron talked about how being raised Catholic the Bible is full of references to angels and demons that he certainly read as literal as a child. He also talked about how in the first book Man-made Boy it was a road trip across the US that in this book he wanted to expand out to the world and take a closer look at that.
On Saturday with the National Book Fest we arrived a little late and only caught the tail end of Kwame Alexander. Again I will say this man attracts all the teachers. He read a quick poem and also talked about keeping his inner child alive.
After Alexander came the wonderful Ellen Oh who had a slideshow presentation to help discuss what spawned the We Need Diverse Books movement and also how she is starting to see that the problem is not just getting the books there, getting the authors there, and supporting all of that but that once the books are available that gatekeepers steer children away from books that don't look like them.
There was a presentation for The Book That Shaped Me where multiple children who had written essays about books of importance to them were awarded including some special prize winners who had written about Steve Jobs, Homesick, Rules,and Harry Potter. (The Harry Potter winner had an adorable Harry Potter bow in her hair.) Let me tell you these kids were all poised and amazing and wow.
Jenny Han was up next and she talked about how changes in her family with her sister getting married led her to think about the kinds of changes that teenagers experience which inspired To All the Boys since the main character is dealing with becoming the new oldest after her oldest sister goes off to college (which by the way is to St Andrews, I'm just saying). She also said the book's success proved that any character could be the every girl since the main character with an Asian American.
We then snuck out to grab some lunch but made it back to see Sabaa Tahir who had slides and a copy of her book trailer to talk about An Ember in the Ashes. Tahir said her reporting experience led her to look at a story from two opposing sides. Also her brother is involved in the current movie production and so she expects that the adaptation will be good since she can tell on him to mom.
Not too long after that I donned the red shirt (they were really red) and did my volunteer bit. It did mean I was cross scheduled against romance which was sad but I was happy to help the wonderful festival and I hear the romance room was well packed. I was handing out programs which meant I had a lot of people asking me where things were including Metro. I also had a lot of people who showed up with no idea what this was other than it was a thing and what should they go see or do none of them had very little children in tow and arrived somewhat after most of the children's programming had to completed. Normally I would argue that it was a bit of a failure to research but given the Library of Congress is website was down much of the preceding week I could understand why people might have found pre-planning a bit of a challenge. It was a great festival I hope next year they have even more romance author in addition to all the wonderful speakers that they've been getting.
Friday, September 04, 2015
If you hang in YA centric spaces on Twitter, you may have seen Patrick Ness, heartbroken over the latest news of the goings on in Europe decided to start a little fundraiser for Save the Children: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=PatrickNess
Save the Children happens to be near and dear to my heart, particularly the UK branch of it, although I have nothing against the US or worldwide bits of it. In college, since I was without work visa, I could not work for pay while in Scotland, but I could volunteer. So, I volunteered briefly with a local youth group (this seems very appropos now, I really had no idea I kept picking similar things to do with my spare time) and then also at a charity shop. St. Andrews, for whatever reason had a large number of charity shops, and I was assigned through the student charity group to Save the Children the first year. And after that, I was known the the lovely woman who organized all the volunteers so after I got my class schedule, I would go straight to Betty, and she would put me on a shift. The shifts were short (two hours I think) and we would either sort donations in the back, or run the register in the front. It was a pretty easy job, and yet, the sales of the donations and some Save the Children branded items went to a good cause, and also, hey cheaply priced clothes and such too. (I actually ended up getting my student gown there, after someone donated their pristine one.)
So, Save the Children is a charity that is meaningful to me, partly for silly personal reasons, and yet they do great things. Certainly plenty of charities and other organizations and governments are chipping in to try to assist with this. This article from the Independent has a number of suggestions. The governmental ones are Euro-focused, but this is a many pronged problem and there are lots of ways help is needed.
Thursday, September 03, 2015
Monday, August 31, 2015
I say this as someone who loves reading romances, and enjoys World War II fiction a lot, but not every story lends itself to romance. And yes, I realize I have once again compared, "Star Wars", dystopian, and WWII fiction.
Friday, August 28, 2015
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Monday, August 24, 2015
*Remember my family disagrees with books, they are not anti-fact, but they are anti-conceding arguments, and those who want to suggest I fit in, can stuff it. What? I'm kidding.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Monday, August 17, 2015
Saturday, August 15, 2015
So, the first two episodes of "Project Runway" have aired, and we are still at the point where I barely remember these contestants names but a few things seem to be clear.
1. Tim Gunn is concerned. Normally Tim Gunn starts off the season convinced that this batch of contestants might be the most talented they have ever seen. Now, sure. I am aware that Tim Gunn is paid to hang out there, he doesn't show up out of the kindness of his heart (although I have the firmest belief that Tim Gunn's heart is kind). And there is no reason not to start each season with great optimism. But, he seemed extra worried in the first challenge that too many of them were just not pushing hard.
2. I am concerned. The reasons for this are many. But let's start with a number of the contestants all showing particular excitement that they were THERE, on "Project Runway", with Edmond saying he had auditioned every year (but clarifying that he got closer every time, which does not seem possible when you consider that this is season 14, and I don't think there are 14 stages of the audition process, but that's hardly the biggest problem.) Maybe, I thought to myself, these people are going to be ready for things. But then we discovered 3 of them showed up without a scissors to their name. Now, two of them were international and one did mention a luggage overage issue. I still would have kept my scissors and tossed a pair of shoes, but airport desk decisions are not always made in the best of circumstances. I also understand thinking that scissors might be provided given they provide sewing machines, but given every sewer I've known is very protective of their scissors, I am still surprised.
3. I realize the producers encourage statements of disbelief, but a number of them have already exclaimed that these challenges are fast, they hate working fast, they hating working with others, they don't like working near other people, they are not here to make friends, and they don't like working with non-fabric. This seems like the wrong attitude for being on this show. I realize this show presents a special spotlight, but, that's only if you survive long enough for people to remember you, and honestly, I think lotto tickets are probably slightly better odds, and you could get a job that paid you for thirty days while you bought your tickets.
4. There are a high number of problematic comments being made, right now about Swapnil. Sandya, on the prior season was also Indian, and certainly she was not universally loved, but the comments the audience saw were about her sense of style, which befuddled the designers because she was doing well with the judges, doing things that the other contestants were not fans of. Swapnil, and yes, he was one of the scissor-less, has already gotten on camera comments from Merline about how since he's Indian he could do something with pattern, he could do something Bollywood, and that he was hard for one of the other contestants to understand because Blake doesn't speak "Indian". Swapnil was speaking English, accented English sure, but not even accented heavily enough that they were adding captions, the way they already had with two other contestants. (Full disclosure, I usually watch with captions on, not because I can't understand the contestants, but because that way if a truck starts backing up outside, I can still tell what is going on. But I can still spot when they add captions for viewers who haven't turned the captions on.) Now, this is a classic example of micro-agressions. Saying someone is good with pattern is a compliment, right? Except when you are saying they must be good with it because of their country of origin, and not because they are wearing pattern (he was wearing black) or have actually made something that you can see that demonstrates pattern deftness. Saying someone can do a Bolllywood number because they are Indian, is just as ridiculous as assuming any random American contestant could contribute a square dance. And, look, these contestants (although it will only get worse) are operating on little sleep, in an unfamiliar situation. People say stupid things. If you meant to say, sorry, I'm not used to your accent yet, so I don't quite know what you said, and instead said, "I don't speak Indian" it's, well, it's not okay, but it's a thing that could be recovered from with an apology. And, assuming the editors do not have it in for Blake, the idea, that his way to talk about it in his mannequin chat was to say, "Oh, I just don't have a filter...but I'm adorable" (slightly paraphrased there), um no. Unless the part in between was "I don't have a filter, so sometimes I say terribly ignorant things, but thank goodness I'm adorable so when I apologize to people they tend to forgive me".
So, there are two possibilities here. Either, for the first time "Project Runway" has a larger number of contestants unprepared to experience and or work with people from differing backgrounds. Or, this is all leading up to something that we, the viewer at home, need to know about. And that makes me worried. For Swapnil, who seems to be the target of most of this (even though he is not the only foreign contestant, accented contestant, or contestant of color). And also for us. Certainly, if this leads to opportunities for viewers at home to further examine micro-aggressions, then great. But I worry, that much like the problem "Big Brother" has experienced, the show is not set up to address such behavior, so they have been keeping it off camera until now. If so, I'm not convinced they are now better able to address it. Nor do I think Swapnil should need to be the guy to educate his fellow contestants or the viewers at home why this behavior is unacceptable. I recognize that existing at any intersection of marginalization requires one to develop a thicker skin for it. I realize that reality show contestants sign up to deal with all manner or ridiculous behavior from their fellow contestants. But man, this is shaping up to be a memorable season for all the wrong reasons.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Ferguson woke me up. The challenge of reaching a certain level of, ahem, maturity is finding that there are things that make you unhappy, but not always as outraged. There are things I cannot believe we still haven't fixed, and things I wasn't sure I'd live long enough to see fixed. I learned I had previously untapped stores of outrage, of sadness, and of not-in-my-freaking-country-ness. As with many of the things we've been talking about here on the blog of late, this is a giant cultural, systemic problem that will not untangle easily. But that doesn't at all mean we don't try.
Monday, August 10, 2015
I truly believe that the board of RWA meant well with this statement about various people's concerns about one of the RITA nominated books this year. But, I read this and thought, ugh. Because, yes, writing rules to say that certain content cannot be included in nominated books is unwieldly and problematic. But, as it's worded, it kind of sounds like they are saying any change in the rules would lead to censorship. I think what they meant was adding rules to attempt to restrict content would be problematic, but come on guys, we're writers, if anyone understands the subtleties of wording, it should be us. And yes, I'm sure a number of people, including some of the legal persuasion had their hands on this statement, but ugh.
I have also heard rumblings that the Nazi romance wasn't the only nominee that garnered complaints. I understand why the Board would choose not to name names, but let me spitball for a moment. This year three gay romances were nominated, and the erotic romance category has been controversial for some.
Ultimately I agree that the contest should remain peer-reviewed. I agree that the responsibility therefore rests with the peers. But we're going to open a forum so people can talk about concerns is, let's face it, the very least that could be done. I want people to know about the RITAs and Golden Hearts because they elevate some of the best examples of romantic fiction. Not because of this. And yes scandals pass. Things fade. And I realize, given that my own post essentially said this is something we need to fix at the community level, it's a little silly for me to be this let down by this response. But I am.
So, I'm going to link to a few more posts on this. (For what it's worth, Newsweek did get a statement from the author who stated that the book comes from her great love of Jewish people, but given that article also quoted unironically an author who has been attempting to game another set of awards so that people with books with characters of color or gay content wouldn't get awarded, well, you'll understand why I'm not linking to that mess.)
Also India Valentin put together a post on reading up for anyone who wishes to learn more about the history of anti-Semitism.
Dahlia Adler has been putting together a resources for writers writing outside their perspective.
Here's what I wish the statement had said. I suspect there are some corporate/legal reasons it couldn't. The first paragraph is fine. I realize some of this is rearrangement, but again, writers, order matters. So, in my fantasy version it would say: The RITA is a peer-reviewed award that currently receives 2000 entries each year. The Board believes the process should continue. Adding rules or language to prevent entries or nominations based on content that could be deemed controversial is not something the Board supports, since it could also be used to censor content.
However, we think that this has started an important discussion, and opened up an opportunity for better community education and as part of that we will open an online forum to assist and support that discussion.
Now, I am obviously putting words in the Board's (figurative) mouth here, but I think that says the same thing at the core, and yet those changes, to me at least, change it from well, we can't change anything because censorship is bad, into we are choosing not to change the overall process and yet we hope that ultimately we can help create a better community of writers.
Friday, August 07, 2015
Thursday, August 06, 2015
While I have read some inspirationals, I tend to enjoy less the ones that suggest there is only one acceptable set of beliefs (rather than accepting have a belief system may be useful) and ultimately this means I am not the target audience for many inspirationals. And I think that may be the problem.