Tag Archives: diversity

GEORGE–an amazing book… You should read it!

GEORGE_custom

I stayed up way too late a few nights ago reading this book. I knew I should close the pages and go to sleep. I knew the alarm was going off early the next morning, but I kept reading.

Not because this is a suspenseful story.
Not because this is a story with a relentless pace.
Not because I couldn’t imagine how this story would end.

I read the entire book in one sitting because George is a character I have never, ever before seen on the page.

Think about that for a moment. Frodo, Harry, Lyra, Katniss… we know this kind of hero. And we know (and love) books like THE GIVER or BRIDGE TO TEREBINTHIA. I could list a hundred books I adore that have their seeds in other stories. That is how literature works.

But I have never read a heart-warming, sweet, gentle, aching book about a person like George. I love her and I wanted her to be okay. That is why I kept reading.

And we need George to remind us of our human capacity for empathy and understanding. I hope that you will buy a copy and read it in one sitting and then share it widely. George has a lot to tell you about being real.

Hereville – Day Two #Readukkah Challenge

This year I’m participating in the 2015 #Readukkah Challenge hosted by the Association of Jewish Libraries. The goal is to spread the word about wonderful Jewish books during the eight days of Hanukkah. So here they are: eight days of good reads on Jewish themes. Enjoy!
DAY TWO #READUKKAH CHALLENGE:
HEREVILLE
by Barry Deutsch

Hereville

About this book:

Welcome to Hereville, home of the first-ever wisecracking, adventure-loving, sword-wielding Orthodox Jewish heroine. A delightful mix of fantasy, adventure, cultural traditions, and preteen commotion, this fun, quirky graphic novel series will captivate middle-school readers with its exciting visuals and entertaining new heroine.Spunky, strong-willed eleven-year-old Mirka Herschberg isn’t interested in knitting lessons from her stepmother, or how-to-find-a-husband advice from her sister, or you-better-not warnings from her brother. There’s only one thing she “does” want: to fight dragons!Granted, no dragons have been breathing fire around Hereville, the Orthodox Jewish community where Mirka lives, but that doesn’t stop the plucky girl from honing her skills. She fearlessly stands up to local bullies. She battles a very large, very menacing pig. And she boldly accepts a challenge from a mysterious witch, a challenge that could bring Mirka her heart’s desire: a dragon-slaying sword! All she has to do is find–and outwit–the giant troll who’s got it!

Why I think you should read it:

It captures a slice of Jewish life that is rarely depicted in so-called Jewish books. Mirka is a fun and funny heroine. Barry Deutsch is a master of the graphic novel format. This book wins in all ways!

*You will love this book and will want more. You are in luck since Barry has written two more books in the Hereville Series!

Happy Hanukkah

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Blue Thread – Day One #Readukkah Challenge

This year I’m participating in the 2015 #Readukkah Challenge hosted by the Association of Jewish Libraries. The goal is to spread the word about wonderful Jewish books during the eight days of Hanukkah. So here they are: eight days of good reads on Jewish themes. Enjoy!
DAY ONE #READUKKAH CHALLENGE:
BLUE THREAD
by Ruth Tenzer Feldman

Blue thread

About this book:

The women’s suffrage movement is in full swing in 1912 Portland, Oregon—the last holdout state on the West Coast. Miriam desperately wants to work at her father’s printing shop, but when he refuses she decides to dedicate herself to the suffrage movement, demanding rights for women and a different life for herself. Amidst the uncertainty of her future, Miriam’s attention is diverted by the mysterious Serakh, whose sudden, unexplained appearances and insistent questions lead Miriam to her grandmother’s Jewish prayer shawl—and to her destiny. With this shawl, Miriam is taken back in time to inspire the Daughters of Zelophehad, the first women in Biblical history to own land. Miriam brings the strength and courage of these women with her forward in time, emboldening her own struggles and illuminating what it means to be an independent woman.

Why I think you should read it:

It is not about the Holocaust. Books about WWII are important, and I never want to forget that period in Jewish history, but too often it feels like the ONLY Jewish stories are horror stories. BLUE THREAD connects the experiences of Jews in two other important historical periods – the early 1900s during the suffrage movement and Biblical times. Miriam is a wonderful heroine with a distinctly modern voice. Also there is time-travel!!!

*The companion novel to BLUE THREAD is called THE NINTH DAY and it is also an excellent read.

 

Happy Hanukkah

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The paralysis of trying to “do it right”

Cosplayer Ryosama as Cowgirl Ed (Photo by Digital Celsius)
Cosplayer Ryosama as Cowgirl Ed (Photo by Digital Celsius)

Children’s literature is powerful.

I know this because certain books have changed my life. They have changed the way I view the world and my place in it.

I know this because of the brouhaha that explodes whenever some journalist writes about whether young adult fiction is too dark, too complex, too negative, too whatever.

I know this because of the  #YAsaves response to criticism of darkness in YA.

I know this because the campaign to increase diversity in children’s literature has taken over my internet feeds and sent reverberations through media culture in general. (Check out #WeNeedDiverseBooks)

The companion to the power and influence of children’s literature upon real, live, beating-heart humans is the pressure it puts on me as a writer of children’s literature to “do it right.”

Author Christa Desir captured this exactly in her review of THE BUNKER DIARY by Kevin Brooks. (Read the whole thing here.)

I’m fascinated by the burden of responsibility that seems to fall on the shoulders of those of us who write for children. I’m not completely clear who decided on the rules about YA books, but there seems to be an insistence that if the books are going to be about difficult things, then they need to somehow “save”. I have long hesitated at this notion that YA Saves because I think it puts us in the position that we must then acknowledge that the opposite can be true too. That if we’re going to assert that YA books save lives, then we have to allow that they can damage people. And this power makes me very uncomfortable.

I am only me and yet I am trying to write about people different from me with experiences far broader than my own. I want to “do it right.” I want to be authentic and reflective and respectful and honest. I want my books to be “true” even in fiction.

And in all this striving to tell stories that stretch beyond me, there is a very real danger of paralysis as a writer. In a recent conversation with my coauthor Kiersi Burkhart about our middle grade series Second Chance Ranch, I found myself expressing some very real fears about my ability to write diversity. I care so much about doing it right that I was afraid to do it at all. I can’t write about gamers. I can’t write about an overweight character. I can’t write about a black girl.

But the alternative?

Not writing.
Or worse, only writing about a bunch of skinny white girls who love horses.

I can’t face either of those alternatives.

In the midst of all this angst, I found Kate Brauning‘s wonderful post on Pub Hub about Writing Ethical YA. You absolutely must click here and read the whole thing, but let me leave you with the line I found most encouraging, the one that allowed me to shake off the paralysis.

If you’re showing real life and helping fill in the gaps, you’re doing just fine, and I want to read your book.

Thank you, Kate. This is exactly what I needed to hear. Now to get back to that black cowgirl who loves cosplay and isn’t super psyched about her weight…

Speaking Up

Voice.

Voice is connection.
Voice is speaking our own truth.
Voice is the driver of our narratives.

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After being raped, Maya Angelou didn’t speak for years. In an interview with Terry Gross, she told how she found her voice so she could love poetry.

The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign blew up the internet because stories are the most profound way for us to connect across differences. We need to hear the voices of those who experience life outside of our own private bubbles.

My son overheard a friend making a comment, presumably in jest, about killing himself. He could have brushed off the throwaway comment, but instead he came to his parents. And we went to the boy’s parents. And the boy is still mad.

The recent attack in California and its anti-woman underpinnings have prompted many women to speak out about the sexism they face every day.

Voice.

The imperative is to find it and use it.
Use it big and use it small.
Never go mute.

I wish…

Yesterday, a writer friend and I were leaving a restaurant and our very young male server said, “Thanks, Girls.”

We paused at the door, looking at each other. “Did he just call us girls?”

We laughed and walked out. The easy thing. But I wish I’d turned around and gently, very gently, reminded him about respect. It would have been a small thing. A small response for a small ignorance.

But I would have used my voice.
And he might have faced the world differently from then on.

 

 

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

WeNeedDiverseBooks.001Today is the start of a three-day  social media campaign to highlight the need for diversity in books for kids and teens.

All the details are right here. Post your own picture or reshare mine. Let’s plaster the internet with a call to action.

Thanks to the Diversity in YA bloggers Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo as well as Oregon author Chelsea Pitcher for us fired up.

Books should be windows into lives different from our own and also mirrors where we find ourselves reflected.

#WeNeedDiverseBooks