Essentials Working List: Latino/a and Caribbean

The most difficult challenge of creating a list of Latino literature is the danger of creating a single voice, of failing to dispel the belief that all Latinos are Mexican and that all Latinos, simply because they share a language, also share a culture. English is not the same in Australia and Canada and Spanish is not the same in Argentina and Cuba, nor is the food, history or holidays. A single story will also omit the strong ties between European, Native and African peoples in truly American stories. I can’t say this list does a dynamic job of developing those differences but it does introduce readers to outstanding Latino/a authors and to the history and culture of many different places. Yes, Edwidge Dandicat is here. Where else would she go?  Lists are problematic but they begin conversations, open our minds to other possibilities and give readers a place to start.

Allende’s Island Beneath the Sea happens to be set in Haiti. An interview was recently rebroadcast in NPR and provides a nice backstory for the book. I love it when she talks about magical realism and how this term is over used to define all Latino Literature, similar to how ‘urban literature’ has become synonymous with African American literature. Sometimes we need the backstories, dictionaries and history lessons to understand stories from others, but they stretch who we are, don’t they?

These lists aren’t final yet so please feel free to comment.

“We should acknowledge differences, we should greet differences, until difference makes no difference anymore.”Dr. Adela Allen

Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Krik! Krak!; Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Dandicat
Zoot Suit and Other Plays by Luis Valdez
Mexican White Boy by Matt de la Pena
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
Perfect Chemistry; Return to Paradise; Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles
Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Baseball in April; Buried Onions by Gary Soto
Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Sofi Medoza’s Guide to Getting Lost in Mexico;  Estrella’s Quinceañera by Malín Alegría
Poetry Speaks Who I Am; Twenty Love Poems; Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda
Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez
Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende
Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America by Juan Gonazales
Norton Anthology of Latino Literature by Ilan Stavans, Edna Acosta-Belé
Hunger of Memory by Richard Rodriguez
The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle
Latino Visions: Contemporary Chicano, Puerto Rican, and Cuban American Artists by James D. Cockcroft, Jane Canning

Getting Essentials: Native and Middle Eastern

I’m getting great suggestions for books to add to a core list of POC titles for teens. It’s hard for me to imagine a school library that would have a hard time adding books with characters of color, but I’m sure they exist. 21st century librarians realize the need to open up their students to the world around them and will want to add, or will already have most of these titles. I wanted to list only 10 from each ethnic group, but I dunno…  These are books every library should have!

In addition to what readers are giving me, I’ll looking at what I’d consider definitive sources for titles. This is what I’ve got so far for Native American and Middle Eastern. BTW– with respect to Middle Eastern books, I’m noticing YA/chidlren’s books are dominated quite heavily by books by and for female readers. Wonder why?

Native American
Code Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac

Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse
Rain is Not my Indian Name; Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Sees Behind Trees by Michael Dorris
The People Shall Continue by Simon Ortiz
As Long as the Rivers Flow: The stories of nine Native Americans by Paula Gunn Allen
Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and beyond by Joseph Medicine Crow
Walking the Choctaw Road by Tim Tingle
The Absolute True Story of a Part Time Indian; The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven  by Sherman Alexie

I could not have developed this list without the lists provided by Debbie Reese and Cynthia Leitich Smith

Middle Eastern American
Borderline by Alan Stratton
Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Extraordinary Women from the Muslim World, by Natalie Maydell and Sep Riahi, paintings by Heba Amin.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Does My Head Look Big in This by Randa Abdel-Fattah
19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye
Figs and Fate by Elsa Marston
Mosque by David Macaulay
Teen Life in the Middle Eastedited by Ali Akbar Mahdi
A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird
Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan
I consulted the Middle Eastern Book Award site to prepare this list

Library Essentials

If someone asked you what POC books belong in core collection for teens, what titles would you give them? You want to give them titles that in include Native, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern and African American and you’ll need to include fiction, nonfiction and poetry. But they need to be essentials. What would you list?

I’m trying to create an essential list. Let’s see what we can come up with.

And graphic novels! Don’t forget graphic novels!

School Library Grant

The NEGRO LEAGUES COMMITTEE (NLC) of the SOCIETY FOR AMERICAN BASEBALL RESEARCH (SABR) is pleased to announce their 2010 – 2011 grant opportunity for school libraries. SABR is a global team of almost 7000 individuals and nearly 30 research committees. Originating in 1971, the NLC is SABR’s only committee dedicated exclusively to the history of black baseball. Since 1998, the NLC has hosted a JERRY MALLOY NEGRO LEAGUE CONFERENCE. Some of our initiatives include:
1) donation of books to local schools and/or libraries

2) raising funds to purchase headstones for unmarked graves of former players and the

3) essay writing contest

For more information

MaleMonday: Walter Mosley

Male Monday is a meme that began with Ari @ Reading in Color



Take a listen to Walter Mosley over at the Big Think talking about what makes great literature, what makes something classic. It’s not about the maleness or Blackness but it is about telling a good story that can transcend boundaries because it’s so easy to relate. It meets us where we are.

“The idea is… and a lot of people who think about writers actually think about reading.  They’ll say, you know, they’ll think about the great novels, this oh, you must have read you know, Albert Camus and Virginia Wolff and Shakespeare, when really you know, the books that made you become a writer was “Tom Swift” and the “Hardy Boys” and “Nancy Drew.”  That the love of writing comes at a very early age, you know, like for me for instance, comic books so affected me.  And you know, a lot of people who come up to me and start talking about writing, when I start talking to them about the “Fantastic Four,” they look at me aghast.  They say, “’The Fantastic Four?’  That’s not literature.”  I say, “Yeah, but it was when I was 11 years old.”  This was literature.  This was telling me what life was about.  This was how I kind of entered life, through fiction.”  source:


Mosley’s books for teens:


This year you write your novel

Last days of Ptolemy Gray (adult with teen appeal)


I hope your Sunday is as peacefully and fulfilling as mine is feeling right now. I’m almost caught up on reading blog feeds and I’m really enjoying reading the lists of what people have read, what they’re looking forward to reading and how everyone is enjoying the holiday season. Authors are being inspired with new stories, librarians are amazing me with the projects they’re creating to excite readers and to spread the use of technology.  Be sure to check out your library services when you get your new ereaders because many public libraries have ebooks and audiobooks that can be downloaded to ereaders and computers for patrons to enjoy! I even have ebooks in my school catalog!

One of the books I’m seeing a lot of good buzz about it Christopher Grant’s Teenie. You’re not seeing a lot here simply because I don’t have a copy yet but Medeia Sharif (author of the upcoming Bestest. Ramadan. Ever.) has a wonderful interview with Grant on her blog. When I read the interview, I was reminded that the book is about a young lady who wants to be accepted into a study abroad program in Spain.  At the same time, in my email I’ve received and announcement from the EastWest Center announcing the “American Youth Leadership Program – Channeling the Story: A Cross-cultural Investigation of Modern Media,” a youth leadership program in Cambodia for American high school students, sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), US Department of State. They’re looking for 35 high school students and 5 teachers to travel to Cambodia this summer  to advance mutual understanding between the people of the United States and of other countries, prepare youth leaders to become responsible citizens, spark an interest in learning about foreign cultures, and develop a cadre of Americans with cultural understanding who are able to advance international dialogue and compete effectively in the global economy.  The application deadline is 31 January. More can be found on the organization’s website.  What an opportunity for students, particularly those of color!

I don’t know if you’ve ever taken the time to explore this blog. If not, I don’t want you to miss some of the resources here. If you looking up there in my header, you’ll find some pretty awesome links. There’s one that has an annual lists of books by authors of color. I admit, I wasn’t that good at it when I started, but the lists are a pretty good resource for books by authors of color. My 2011 list is pretty full and will be growing throughout the year.  Most are YA there’s a good supply of MG as well.

I took the long, long list of authors of color that used to line the side of my blog and put them on a separate page. You’ll find a link above as well as a link to coming of age movies for teens of color. All of these lists are continually updated. Feel free to send names and titles that need to be added or to let me know about dead or faulty links.

I think I’ll finish up this break getting some 2010 books read, practicing more with Prezi, getting to the state library to do some family research on and getting some more free books into my Nook.  My next SundayMorningRead will find us in a new year. I hope to see you there happy and healthy!

book review: Spies of Mississippi

Spies of Mississippi: The true story of the spy network that tried to destroy the Civil Rights Movement
Author: Rick Bowers
Date: National Geographic Society; 2010

I wonder how long it took Bowers to research and write this slim volume. His bibliography lists an extensive list of reports, articles and books that were consulted to create an authentic telling of how and why the governor of Mississippi allowed the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission to form on 1956 and how the Commission grew in scope and power. The book is a quite read that never talks down to readers. While the book is certainly YA non-fiction, the cover led me to expect a book that was indeed written for younger readers. A lack of continuity in the telling, along with a lack of visual elements incorporated into the book may make it challenging for readers who do not have a strong background in this era. I’m a bit surprised that National Geographic published the book without placing more images of people, places, documents and events throughout the pages. There is a center section with black and white photos and an afterwards with images of documents , but the impact is not quite the same.

At the end of the book, the author asks “Could Mississippi really change?” He presents what he has recently seen and answers the question. Taking this one step further would explain why we need books such as Spies in Mississippi, a book which uncovers terrorists activities perpetrated again Black citizens in Mississippi not quite 50 years ago. It teaches us to stay in the know, to question events and search for the back story. “These ghosts whisper that the principles of the past are still with us and remind us that history can always return as the future.”