Book Review: Surviving Santiago

FC9780762456338title: Surviving Santiago
author: Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Date:Running Press Kids; 2015
main character: Christina “Tina” Aguilar

We first me Tina Aguilar in Lyn’s previous book, Gringolandia. There, she was a minor character in her brother’s story but here, she takes center stage when she returns to Chile to spend time with her papá. The deal her parents made was that Tina would spend time with papá if he were to sign divorce papers so that his wife, Tina’s mom, could remarry. Rather than spending time with her friends, Tina is on a plane to visit a father she no longer knows. She does have good memories of him, but they’re from when she was really little and before he spent time in prison in Chile. Papá seems to have a level of respect for his outspokenness, but Chile in the 1980’s was not a country that freely provided such privilege. Papa’s isn’t safe and is surrounded by bodyguards. The stress of the oppressive regime and the pain of his injuries has taken its toll on him and is numbed by alcohol.

He’s been to America before, yet he remains in Chile. One has to wonder why he would maintain such an allegiance to his homeland, why not leave for a safer, more secure life. While his daughter sees him as a weak, pathetic man, we come to realize a richness to him that speaks volumes not only about him but also about the country to which he is so loyal. His loyalty is exemplified by both the fact that he stays and because he fights for his country. He doesn’t give up. This theme of loyalty plays out elsewhere in the book, relationships that make us question when do we give up, when do we move on? And, when do we fight?

Miller-Lachmann became interested in Chile under the Pinochet regime after spending time there in the 90s. She authenticates the story through personal and professional research which she documents in the Author’s Notes. In her story, she’s able to document the politics and economics of life under this regime, including the oppression faced by gay and lesbian individuals. In Surviving Santiago, Lyn writes about a country and a time that really isn’t that far from where we are now. She uses teen angst and budding romance to interest today’s readers in the past, something that few writers can do so well.

In full disclosure, Lyn Miller-Lachmann is someone I know personally and truly admire for her dedication to young people and to social justice. And, yes to Legos. Lyn is the former Editor of MultiCultural Review. For Gringolandia, she received a work-in-progress award for a Contemporary Young Adult Novel, given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in New York City, New York  and is active in organizations for peace, human rights, and a sustainable environment.

Saturday Trailer: Stella By Starlight

What better day for a book trailer than a Saturday? Coretta Scott King Award winner Sharon Draper used her own family th-1history to write Stella by Starlight (Atheneum, January 2015). While the book is set in the early 20th century, many of the societal issues still exist. Draper’s writing of the past provides young people today an opportunity to understand our world in ways that they can relate.

In describing her relationship with her grandmother, Draper states

“My grandmother was my spirit muse, my writing inspiration, and neither she nor I knew it. She was a little girl living in 1915, yearning for more than working on a farm.  She wrote in a journal at night, under the stars, because that’s the only time she could do it.  Seventy-five years later, when she passed away, she gave the last remaining notebook to my father, who eventually gave it to me with the instructions, “Write my mother’s story.”  It took me a very long time to finish what he asked me to do.  The novelStella by Starlight is fiction, but the essence of the story is based on pure truth.”

Read more of the interview here.

Indentification

Her problem is not that she identified with Black culture, that she lied about who and what she was. Was it a personal connection with Black and Native culture that led to the misrepresentation, or a disconnect with her own? Honestly, those two sentences are the most thought I’ve given Rachel Dolezal since the story broke. I’ve found the fallout more interesting.

She appeared on the Today Show this morning and stepped around very direct questions from Matt Lauer. This issue, which we’re going to label a ‘race’ issue actually became an American issue. I’d never heard so many white people comfortably use the term ‘white’ or ‘Caucasian’ (which I equate with “Negro” and, by the way, why is it so difficult for so many people to say ‘White” in connection to people?). It’s not often that the Today Show crew has addresses an issue upon which they do not comment. Heaven forbid that the all white crew openly talk about a white women identifying herself as black. That’s a black issue, right?

Black books, Latino books, those are for those readers, right? Please don’t write about being a lesbian, what it truly means to navigate the world as a lesbian and do not explore any issues of identity that relate to race, religion, gender or disabilities. Not entertaining enough, right? 21st century media must entertain.

We debate back and forth about White authors writing characters outside their specific identity. To me, it works when you’ve immersed yourself in that world, but too many think a little research will carry them a long way. And, I also think it works when author’s of color are provided the same opportunity to be published.

So, what happens when an Asian or African American writer creates a character outside their identity? Are these books marketed to White readers? Black? Asian? All of the above? Are these authors seen as sellouts to their skin? Have they mastered the economics of the game? Or,  are they creative geniuses?

It matters and I wonder if it will ever, ever not matter.

I try to blog about non-racial issues as often as I can so that my readers will know I don’t think about race constantly and continuously. Seriously, people who know me in real life would wonder who really writes this blog because I hate talking about race. But, I have a mission here and I have children under my wings. Diverse books won’t change the world, but they do expand the complexion of our collective identity and they do get us closer to having that discussion. Who doesn’t want to talk about a good book?

There are conversations that should be had, long overdue conversations that would allow cultural diffusion to continue, for that pot to melt and for people to self identify as they may. The problem is that she lied and the bigger problem is that we don’t let people be who they are.

Futures Report-JUNE

Is kidlit really becoming more diverse, or is diversity being treating like a trend? We’d really have to look at what’s published 2-3 years from now to know the difference that we’re making today. And, we can do that! I hope continue this as a regular feature that announces books 2-3 years out. I’ll come back to this page as more deals are announced for the month.

1 June

Grace Kendall at Farrar, Straus and Giroux has preempted a chapter book series by Debbi Michiko Florence, about headstrong eight-year-old Jasmine Toguchi and her Japanese-American family. The first book, Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen, is about yearning to be part of a fun family tradition, even if it’s not something girls typically do. Publication begins in spring 2017; Tricia Lawrence at Erin Murphy Literary Agency brokered the four-book deal for world rights.

8 June

Mark Siegel at First Second has bought world rights to a YA graphic novel from Nidhi Chanani. Pashmina tells the story of an Indian-American girl who struggles to fit in at high school, then discovers more about her family’s history with the help of her mother’s magical pashmina. Publication is slated for 2017; Judy Hansen at Hansen Literary negotiated the deal.

Caitlin Dlouhy at S&S’s Caitlin Dlouhy Books has acquired Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely‘s All American Boys, a YA novel that follows two teenage boys – one white, one black – who offer dueling perspectives, told in alternating chapters, on an act of police brutality. The book has been fast-tracked by S&S for release in fall 2015 because of its timely subject matter. Elena Giovinazzo at Pippin Properties represented Reynolds and Rob Weisbach at Rob Weisbach Literary Management represented Kiely in the deal for North American rights.

Kelly Delaney at Knopf has bought Alice Pung‘s Lucy and Linh, a literaryMean Girls meets Fresh Off the Boat that follows Lucy as she tries to balance her life at home surrounded by her Chinese immigrant family, with her life at a pretentious private school. Publication is set for fall 2016; Sophy Williams at Black Inc. Books in Australia sold U.S. rights.

15 June

Stacy Whitman at Lee & Low’s Tu Books has acquired world rights to Pura Belpré Award winner Guadalupe Garcia McCall‘s Joaquin’s Rebellion, in a two-book deal. It’s a YA Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1915 Texas during the height of the Mexican revolution, about a Mexican-American teen trying to protect his family’s ranch and his sweetheart’s safety while caught between the Texas Rangers and Mexican revolutionaries. Publication is set for fall 2016, with a sequel,The Long Journey Home, scheduled for 2017. The deal was unagented.

Susan Van Metre at Abrams has acquired Sheela Chari‘s Find Me in Dobbs Ferry, a middle-grade mystery in which 12-year-old neighbors Myla and Peter search for clues surrounding the link between a coveted necklace and the disappearance of Peter’s brother. Along the graffiti-covered train lines north of New York City, the unlikely pair encounter parkour-performing thugs, cryptic street art, and missing diamonds before uncovering the family secret that started it all. Publication is set for spring 2017; Steven Malk did the deal for North American rights.

Catherine Onder at Bloomsbury has secured, in a pre-empt, Piggy in Love and a second book in the series by author-illustrator Trevor Lai, founder of Up, an animation and content studio in China. The picture book tells the story of a young pig who is eager to make a new friend. Publication is slated for December 2016; Jennifer Rofé at Andrea Brown Literary Agency negotiated the six-figure deal for world rights.

Caitlyn Dlouhy, for her eponymous imprint at S&S/Atheneum, has acquired debut novel Genesis Begins Again by Alicia Williams at auction. The middle-grade novel deals with family and body image, as 13-year-old Genesis struggles with the shade of her skin. Dlouhy also acquired a second, untitled novel by Williams. Publication is scheduled for winter 2017; Brenda Bowen of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates did the two-book deal for world English rights.

22 June

Nancy Paulsen at Penguin’s Nancy Paulsen Books has acquired Written in the Stars author Aisha Saeed‘s second novel, This Promise I Will Keep. In it, a Pakistani teenager enters indentured servitude to pay her family’s debts, and must choose between pursuing an education and freedom or the chance to save her village from a dangerous threat. Publication is scheduled for 2017; Taylor Martindale Kean at Full Circle Literary brokered the deal for world rights.

Liz Szabla at Feiwel and Friends has acquired I Wonder by Doyin Richards, the founder of the Daddy Doin’ Work blog. The picture book includes photos of his children and those of his fans alongside inspirational thoughts about fatherhood. Publication is scheduled for spring 2016; Frances Black of Literary Counsel negotiated the deal for world rights.

29 June

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JCLC

Just as I was planning posts to highlight the American Library Association’s Ethnic Caucuses, I received the following via email.

The five ethnic affiliates of the American Library Association have collaborated to officially form the Joint Council of Librarians of Color, Inc.(JCLC Inc.), a nonprofit organization that advocates for and addresses the common needs of the ethnic affiliates.

Coming together through JCLC Inc. are the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA), the Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA), the American Indian Library Association (AILA), the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) and REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking. These five organizations each have a decades-long tradition of promoting the library and information needs of their constituent communities through various endeavors, including providing scholarships for students, awarding grants to libraries for cultural programing, acquiring and donating relevant library materials and advising ALA and other professional organizations of constituent concerns.

The newly formed nonprofit follows and takes its name from two successful joint conferences co-sponsored by these organizations; the first held in 2006 in Dallas and the second in 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri. Serving as the first officers for the Joint Council are Dr. Jerome Offord, Jr. as president, Dr. Kenneth Yamashita as vice president, Dora Ho as treasurer, Heather Devine-Hardy as secretary and Isabel Espinal as director at large.

“The JCLC concept was just too powerful not to establish an organization that could keep it going strongly forward,” Offord said. “When our organizations come together as a united front and put our energies and numbers together, we are better able to confront and address certain critical issues. We believe there is great power in this unity.”

JCLC Inc.’s official purpose statement is: “To promote librarianship within communities of color, support literacy and the preservation of history and cultural heritage, collaborate on common issues, and to host the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color every four to five years.”

JCLC Inc. has not yet established its Web presence, but each member organization has a web site where the public can find more information: BCALA (www.bcala.org), CALA (http://cala-web.org/), APALA (http://www.apalaweb.org/), AILA (http://ailanet.org/) and REFORMA (http://www.reforma.org/).

Passing It Forward

The following is news I’ve received via emails that’s meant to be shared. Please forgive me for simply cutting and pasting. Not only is it quicker, but it allows for fewer typos.

First, a little self promoting: A link to a printable brochure of the We’re the People Summer Reading List.

From the Fabulous Deborah Menkart at TEACHING FOR CHANGE:

Now more than ever, it is important for young people to understand the crucial role that youth, women, ImageProxyand other community members played in organizing for voting rights. Teaching for Change helps students make the connections between past struggles for liberation, current attacks on voting rights, and today’s #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Please give today.

A new project has launched by Sarah Hannah Gomez​, Angie Manfredi, Faythe Arredondo, and Kelly Jensen called Size Acceptance in YA. They’ll be exploring fatness, fatphobia, body image, body objectification, and more in YA lit.

Young Adult LIbrary Services Association (YALSA) needs your help! We’re compiling resources on our wiki to help our members improve their services to diverse teens. If you know of any articles, reports, tools, e-learning, etc. that can help library staff build cultural competence skills and better serve diverse patrons, please share your items on our totally edit-able wiki! The pages are here:

Serving Diverse Teens: http://wikis.ala.org/…/index.php/Serving_Diverse_Teens_@_Yo…
Cultural Competence:http://wikis.ala.org/yalsa/index.php/Cultural_Competence

Along the same lines from YALSA: The U.S. teen population is becoming increasingly diverse, and with it, the communities we serve in our libraries. Join Amita Lonial as she discusses cultural competence in the library: its definition, its impact on behaviors, attitudes, and policies; and how essential it is for library staff to develop these skills in order to serve teens more effectively and work more collaboratively with fellow library staff. 100 seats available to YALSA members only. Register here.

And finally, an interview you won’t want to miss: Sharon Draper at School LIbrary Journal.