Rap It Up

My original plan was simply to get a pass for the exhibit hall, spend a couple of days at ALA Midwinter in Chicago, and head home. But these were not the best laid plans, as they grew exponentially. I was invited to the ALSC Day of Diversity on Friday, I embraced the opportunity to room with Debbie Reese and also to present at the Ignite Session. (20slides/15 seconds per slide. Topic: “The Kids are Not All White”)

I still wonder what I was doing in the Friday event filled with movers and shakers in kitlit diversity. Selfishly, I’ll claim the day was a personal victory as I was able to make real life connections with people I’ve connected with virtually for years. I met such inspiring people, such ordinary people doing such great things. I’m not going to name drop because I will miss names and I do not want to do that, but if you followed events on Twitter or FB, you’ve seen the photos. I’ll post some that I have to the blog later, too difficult to work that right now.

On a bigger scale? The flaw in any diversity event is that you end up preaching to the choir. Those lacking a social consciousness see it and think it’s not about them. Event organizers assume everyone attending is on the same page, has similar motivations and expectations and we end up beginning the conversation in the middle. My needs often lack profundity; I can be extremely plebian in my approach and I did find satisfaction in the connections I made and quite humbly I have to say the recognition I received. I do often feel like giving up my blog. I don’t feel like I’m making a difference, that I’m just fighting the same old fight again and again. But I met Satia Orange. My word for the year is ‘diligence’ and Satia certainly embodies the spirit of diligence. Satia challenged us not with what we could do to continue the struggle, but what would we do tomorrow? Those of us in that room were called together for a purpose and if all we got out of it was a reminder of why we do what we do, who else is doing it and new ways we can do it, I want to say that’s a good thing. But, lets remember as Violet Harris reminded us, this fight has been going on since the 1847 with the publication of the Anti Slavery Alphabet.

Pat Mora reminded us that this struggle is based on power. We may think we simply want more diverse books for our children to read, but this is a power issue, one of racial power that expresses itself in economics and the control of the stories we tell. Pat Mora, Maya Gonzales and Jasmin Cardenas spoke the words Saturday evening at Reforma’s annual Noche de Cuentos: we all have stories to tell. When those stories are censored, we lose our identity.

Every turn I made in McCormick Center, I ran into someone I had been trying to connect with, trying to make appointments with and there they were. I’ve seized opportunities and am finding new ways to grow. That, I think is what conferencing with others is all about. We can have the best laid plans, but there’s magic in the air. I was able to connect with Readers to Eaters and several academic librarians who work in reference and instruction as I do as well.

So, right now I’m on the train home. There’s a poem I used to know about getting up this morning feeling good and Black. Putting on my black shoes, coming my black hair, opening my door and Lord! White snow.[1,968 Winters by Jackie Early] Let’s keep fighting the good fight. The train whistle is blowing loud and clear. Beware! We’re coming through!

I just finished listening to the ALA Youth Media Awards. Listening?? I was on Twitter! HA!! An amazing array of diverse books (that’s another post!) But don’t be fooled. Don’t let anyone make you think those books were chosen because of their diversity. It doesn’t work that way, not on ALA committees. Those majority white selectors are all about the integrity of the writing. Yes, they may have made a greater effort to find diverse books this year, but the books and authors won because they are outstanding literary achievements.

Monday! Another week filled with possibilities!

book review: The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond

FC9780147514301title: The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond
author: Brenda Woods
date: Nancy Paulsen Books; 2014
main character: Violet Diamond

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond is for those at the younger end of the YA spectrum. Violet Diamond’s universe blossoms as she learns about what makes her who she is. She’s a biracial child growing up with her white mom, step-sister and grandparents. They’re a very close and loving family.

Violet finds out that she can meet her other grandmother, her dead father’s mother, the grandmother who has rejected her daughter-in-law and seemingly also her granddaughter. They meet, the past is easily forgotten and Violet is able to spend time with her grandmother, whom she calls Bibi. With Bibi, Violet begins to learn more about the father she misses and she’s learning about her family members she never knew she had. Nothing really drives the story. For most of it, Violet is just hanging out with grandma having a great time. A smooth, easy breezy read.

book review: Book of Wonders

FC9780062010070title: The Book of Wonders
author: Jasmine Richards
date: Harper Collins; 2012
main character: Scheherazade; “Zardi” “Zee”

Zardi is a 13 year old girl who lives in Taraket, a large city in the mythical kingdom of Arribitha. The land is ruled by Sultan Shahryar, a tyrant who has banned all magic. Young girls in the kingdom marry early so that the sultan doesn’t kidnap them into becoming first a praisemaker and then being hunted and killed by the sultan himself.

Rhidan, with violet eyes and white hair, was adopted by Zardi’s father 12 years ago when he found the child on the banks of the Tigress River. The child was wearing only an amulet to provide a hint of his origins. Over the years, the Zardi and Rhidan become close friends and constant companions.

When her sister is kidnapped by the sultan, Zardi runs away to save her. As she’s sneaking out of the house, she runs into Rhidan who is also running away. For him, it’s to find out more about his origins. The two join forces and set out on an adventurous tale.

The Book of Wonders is an action driven middle grade story. While it has a level of predictability, it also turns a few unexpected corners. I think the strength of the book is the author’s ability to spin a rich story that is cohesive and believable. Rarely do we read action stories with a female lead and even less often does she save herself.

The Book of Wonders, refernced in the title, is has a fleeting reference in the story and it’s made by Oli, a djinni who guards the Windrose. It is a simple leather covered book that is a “library filled with people’s lives”. The purpose of the book as well as what is waiting on the Black Isle will be revealed in future volumes.

Jasmine Richards grew up in London and was the first in her family to attend college. After graduating from Oxford, she began a career in publishing. She is currently a senior editor at Oxford university Press Children’s Books. The Book of Wonders is her first book.

Time To Check In


OK, are you going to ALA Midwinter? What do you plan/hope to do while there?

I’ll be there!

I’m at the Day of Diversity on Friday, Presenting an Ignite Session on Saturday, searching the Exhibit Hall for books by authors of color and looking to meet those same authors every chance I get. I’m connecting with old friends, meeting with new friends and hoping to have a fantabulous time. It’s also Restaurant Week in Chicago!

Will you be there?

LIving Together the MLK Way

Sure, they’re just books, but their stories are fulfilling a dream. Sign up for the Birthday Party Pledge. Support our newest authors of color. Follow the more established voices who are struggling to build their careers. Our voices and our stories speak to the content of our character, indeed of America’s character.

I’ve matched a few recent books to Martin Luther King’s dream for America.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” MLK

Saving Baby Doe by Danette Vigilante; Putnam Juvenile
The revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano; Scholastic
The Surrender Tree Poem’s of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle; Henry Holt and Company
The Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrik Henry Bass and Jerry Craft; Scholastic

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” MLK

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis; Scholastic
Act of Grace by Karen Simpson; Pint of Pennies Press
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz; Simon and Schuster
House of Purple Cedar by Tim Tingle; Cinco Puntos Press

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” MLK

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero; Cinco Puntos Press
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
A Thunderous Whisper by Christina Diaz Gonzalez; Knopf Books for Young Readers
Bird by Crystal Chan; Atheneum Books for Young Readers
A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman; Nancy Paulsen Books

“Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.” MLK

I Lived On Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin; Atheneum Books for Young Readers
I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached; Graphic Universe
Caminar by Skila Brown; Candlewick
The Cat at the Wall by Deborah Ellis; Groundwood Books

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Saturday Trailer: Dreaming in Indian

What better day for book trailers than a Saturday? Dreaming in Indian is a non-fiction book that was released in 2014 by editors Lisa Charleyboy (Tsilhqot’in) and Mary Beth Leatherdale. Charleyboy is the Editor in Chief of Urban Native Magazine and Leatherdale writes, edits and consults on books, magazines and digital resources for children and youth.

New Releases: January 2015

A late post for a slow starting year for authors of color.

Please, let me know what I’ve missed.

Emeralds and Ashes by Leila Reshad (Disney Hyperion)
The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum)
X A Novel by Ilyash Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
Stella by Starlight by Shapon Draper (Atheneum)
Chasing Freedom : The Life Journeys Of Harriet Tubman And Susan B. Anthony, Inspired By Historical Facts by Nikki Grimes and Michele Wood (Orchard Books)
Tech Jacket vol 3 by Emilio Lopez; Image Comics

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