August Releases

for a complete list of this years MG/YA books by Native American and Authors of Color click here.

The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw; Sky Pony Press. (ages 11-13). Debut author.
Yuriko is happy growing up in Hiroshima when it’s just her and Papa. But her aunt Kimiko and her cousin Genji are living with them now, and the family is only getting bigger with talk of a double marriage! And while things are changing at home, the world beyond their doors is even more unpredictable. World War II is coming to an end, and Japan’s fate is not entirely clear, with any battle losses being hidden from its people. Yuriko is used to the sirens and air raid drills, but things start to feel more real when the neighbors who have left to fight stop coming home. When the atomic bomb hits Hiroshima, it’s through Yuriko’s twelve-year-old eyes that we witness the devastation and horror.

This is a story that offers young readers insight into how children lived during the war, while also introducing them to Japanese culture. Based loosely on author Kathleen Burkinshaw’s mother’s first-hand experience surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, The Last Cherry Blossom hopes to warn readers of the immense damage nuclear war can bring, while reminding readers that the “enemy” in any war is often not so different from ourselves.

Born Bright by C. Nicole Mason; St. Martin’s Press.
While showing us her own path out of poverty, Mason examines the conditions that make it nearly impossible to escape and exposes the presumption harbored by many―that the poor don’t help themselves enough.

Zoe in Wonderland by Brenda Woods; Nancy Paulsen Books. ages 8-12
Zoe Reindeer considers herself “just Zoe”—never measuring up to her too-perfect older sister or her smarty-pants little brother. Truthfully, though, she’d rather just blend in with the plants at the family business, Doc Reindeer’s Exotic Plant Wonderland. She does have one friend, Q, and he’s the best one ever—but he’s moving away, leaving Zoe to fend for herself, and she doesn’t know what she’ll do without him. That is until a tall astronomer from Madagascar comes to the nursery looking for a Baobab tree. His visit starts a ball rolling that makes Zoe long for real adventures, not just imaginary ones—and shows her that perhaps her first real adventure is finally beginning.

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi; Dutton Books for Young Readers. ages 12 and up
There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other. But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. Her only companion is a boy named Oliver whose own magical ability is based in lies and deceit–and with a liar by her side in a land where nothing is as it seems, it will take all of Alice’s wits (and every limb she’s got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself–and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.

Lion Island: Cuba’s Warrior of Words by Margarita Engle; Atheneum Books for Young Readers; 10 and up
In a haunting yet hopeful novel in verse, award-winning author Margarita Engle tells the story of Antonio Chuffat, a young man of African, Chinese, and Cuban descent who became a champion of civil rights. Asia, Africa, Europe—Antonio Chuffat’s ancestors clashed and blended on the beautiful island of Cuba. Yet for most Cubans in the nineteenth century, life is anything but beautiful. The country is fighting for freedom from Spain. Enslaved Africans and nearly-enslaved Chinese indentured servants are for.ced to work long, backbreaking hours in the fields. So Antonio feels lucky to have found a good job as a messenger, where his richly blended cultural background is an asset. Through his work he meets Wing, a young Chinese fruit seller who barely escaped the anti-Asian riots in San Francisco, and his sister Fan, a talented singer. With injustice all around them, the three friends are determined that violence will not be the only way to gain liberty.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds; Atheneum. ages 10 and up.
Ghost wants to be the fastest sprinter on his elite middle school track team, but his past is slowing him down in this first electrifying novel of a brand-new series from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award–winning author Jason Reynolds.

Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. They all have a lot to lose, but they also have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves. Ghost has a crazy natural talent, but no formal training. If he can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons—it all starting with running away from his father, who, when Ghost was a very little boy, chased him and his mother through their apartment, then down the street, with a loaded gun, aiming to kill. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—and running away from them—until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who blew his own shot at success by using drugs, and who is determined to keep other kids from blowing their shots at life.

Makoons (Birchbark House) by Louise Erdrich; HarperCollins. ages 8-12
In the sequel to Chickadee, acclaimed author Louise Erdrich continues her award-winning Birchbark House series with the story of an Ojibwe family in nineteenth-century America. Named for the Ojibwe word for little bear, Makoons and his twin, Chickadee, have traveled with their family to the Great Plains of Dakota Territory. There they must learn to become buffalo hunters and once again help their people make a home in a new land. But Makoons has had a vision that foretells great challenges—challenges that his family may not be able to overcome.

Based on Louise Erdrich’s own family history, this fifth book in the series features black-and-white interior illustrations, a note from the author about her research, as well as a map and glossary of Ojibwe terms.

A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Night) by Sabaa Tahir. Razorbill. ages 12 and up
Following the events of the Fourth Trial, an army led by Masks hunts the two fugitives as they escape the city of Serra and journey across the vast lands of the Martial Empire.Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—and save her brother, whose knowledge of Serric steel is the key to the Scholars’ future. And Elias is determined to stay by Laia’s side…even if it means giving up his own chance at freedom. But Elias and Laia will have to fight every step of the way if they’re going to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.  Helene’s mission is horrifying, unwanted, and clear: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.

Unscripted Joss Byrd: A Novel by Lygia Day Peñaflo; Roaring Book Press. ages 12-18
Hollywood critics agree. Joss Byrd is “fiercely emotional,” a young actress with “complete conviction,” and a “powerhouse.” Joss Byrd is America’s most celebrated young actress, but on the set of her latest project, a gritty indie film called The Locals, Joss’s life is far from glamorous. While struggling with her mother’s expectations, a crush on her movie brother, and a secret that could end her career, Joss must pull off a performance worthy of a star. When her renowned, charismatic director demands more than she is ready to deliver, Joss must go off-script to stay true to herself.

Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia; Disney Hyperion. ages 12 and up
Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all. What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote forHuffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent’s help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.

But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she’s already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success-a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.

Guest Post: What Does When We Was Fierce Mean for Latinx Kids?


Shortly after I started reading e.E. Charlton-Trujillo’s When We Was Fierce (WWWF), whose release has been postponed due the incredible and critical work of Edith Campbell, Jennifer Baker, K.T. Horning, and Zetta Elliott, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed by police. I already had a difficult time getting through the novel in verse simply because the language was difficult to follow. At first I thought it was me. I was with it on page one and then something happened on page two. I couldn’t follow the text anymore. I wasn’t sure what was being said and I had to go back to re-read the text several times. I found myself needing to translate the made up vernacular in my head in order to keep reading. I was rewriting as I was reading. Now, I don’t pretend to be than expert in all things cool and hip. I usually need my 16 year-old-sister to explain current slang terms to me. The youth I work with usually tease me because the slang I do use is “old school.” However, I don’t live under a rock and therefore know that the language in WWWF is not how black youth talk. I kept reading and I kept finding more issues with the story. I didn’t like that Ricky-Ricky, a black youth with an unspecified mental illness, is disposable. His death (which happens right away) is used as a catalyst to start Theodore’s, or “T,” own exploration of his manhood. Eventually, T’s own sexism and misogyny got to be too much for me. Despite almost having been stabbed to death, T still finds time to oversexualize the nurse between getting interrogated by the police and getting scolded by his mother. While the narrative is centered on the gang violence in the community there are various forms of violence all over the place—like, there really doesn’t seem to be a safe space anywhere. Youth are getting beat by their parents, mothers are overworked, fathers are absent, young women are pregnant and/or oversexualized. It was really too much. After learning about the deaths of Sterling and Castile I couldn’t bring myself to keep reading. I needed a minute.

My own research on Latinx children’s and young adult literature focuses on the ways the genre can be used as a tool for healing in the lives of Latinx readers. As a teaching artist, I use Latinx kid lit in K-12 spaces to encourage my students to use their personal experiences as a platform to find their voice and create new worlds. As a college professor, I utilize Latinx Kid Lit to complicate existing understandings of race, gender, sexuality, and citizenship. Basically, I genuinely believe that Latinx kid lit can improve the lives of Latinx readers because this genre has the potential to challenge existing oppressive knowledges. That is, if society says Latinxs are “others” then Latinx kid lit can demonstrate the opposite. However, the genre’s potential to transform the world around us and dismantle oppressions in our communities can’t be possible if we don’t ask more from the publishing industry and from our Latinx authors. When We Was Fierce is an example of what not to do. In 2016 alone over 100 black lives have been lost at the hands of police. A young adult book that centers black lives written by a Latinx author could have been an extraordinary opportunity to discuss black and brown issues, ally-ship and solidarity, blackness in our communities, and police brutality at large. Instead, there’s a book I couldn’t possibly give to any youth for fear that it would do more harm than good. The story exploits too many stereotypes about black communities and “at-risk” youth that, in my mind, only served to reinforce how deep anti-blackness runs in Latinx communities.

Certainly, there’s a great need for diverse stories in children’s literature but diversity can’t exist for diversity’s sake and Latinx authors definitely can’t ride on the coat tails of “diversity” in order to branch out. Who can write what and whether one can write outside one’s own culture are complicated conversations. What is clear though is that too many white authors benefit from writing about diverse experiences while diverse authors continue to struggle to get published in the first place. It is also widely known that as far as the dominant American narrative goes there are many stories that demean, stereotype, marginalize, or completely erase people of color and native people. Hence, the need for diverse stories. I’m not entirely saying that one cannot write outside their own culture. Matt de la Peña wrote a beautiful story that centered a black boy and his grandmother in The Last Stop on Market Street and went on to win a Newbery. Ashley Hope Perez’s historical fiction novel Out of Darkness, based on the New London school explosion in Texas, has also won multiple awards. Diverse stories outside of our own experiences can be done well if one takes the time to learn and respect the culture. However, when authors attempt to write about another’s culture and fail miserably they need to be called out. Charlton-Trujillo is a self-identified white-Mexican, which as far as I’m concerned means that WWWF is a conversation that needs to be had in Latinx kid lit circles. Honestly, we can’t claim de la Peña’s win for Latinx kid lit and shy away when another one of ours writes a story that ended up being real anti-black, despite her good intention. We can’t celebrate diversity when a Latinx author wins a coveted award for a story that centers a culture outside of his own and not say peep about a novel that unfortunately further marginalizes black youth. I kept reading WWWF and just didn’t get it. Some of T’s struggles definitely resonates with some of the struggles the youth I’ve worked with deal with on a daily basis. Gang violence is insidious and can dominate a lot of aspects of a youth’s life. But at some point, maybe immediately, in WWWF this realness got lost and replaced by an unfortunate consumption and nasty regurgitation of black pain. I couldn’t finish the story. I was too afraid to read about any more black people dying.

What then does WWWF and current conversations on the need for diverse stories mean for the future of Latinx Kid Lit? My hope is that this novel in verse can serve as an opportunity to have this conversation. It is just as important to encourage our Latinx authors in their writing as much as it important that we hold them accountable for the stories they present to us. And maybe I’m asking for too much. I’m not a published Latinx kid lit author (while I certainly have those aspirations) so I’m not too familiar with what happens behind the scenes of the publishing industry. But I am a Latinx kid lit scholar and I’ve researched and read enough books in the genre to know that yes, we need more of them and different types of them, but that it’s also time to have critical conversations about anti-blackness in our communities and about the ways it manifest itself in our kids’ books. There are certainly not enough Latinx kid lit books that center Afro-Latinx experiences. Off the top of my head, I can list more books with white-Latinx or light-skinned Latinx and their tears at not being able to fit in with their Latinx communities than I can name books that positively represent Afro-Latinx youth. It is also important that those of us who review Latinx kid lit be critical and point out books that can potentially do more harm than good. I know I need to be better about doing this. It has been easier to write reviews on books I love than to critique books that make me side-eye too often. Even though the release date of WWWF has been postponed, and maybe a lot of us don’t even have access to the book, it is still imperative to engage in conversations this novel has spurred. Again, WWWF can be an opportunity to create significant dialogues about what diversity means for Latinx kid lit, how anti-blackness in our communities impacts whose stories get told, and how we can hold each other accountable.

Dr. Sonia Alejandra Rodríguez’s research focuses on the various roles that healing plays in Latinx children’s and young adult literature. She is an Assistant Professor of English at LaGuardia Community College. She is a contributing writer for Latinx in Kid Lit. She is working on her first middle grade novel. Follow Sonia on Twitter, @mariposachula8.

book review: Perfect Liar

+-+286271684_140title: Perfect Liars
author: Kimberly Reid
date: Tu Books/Lee & Low; 2016
main character: Andrea “Drea” Faraday
young adult realistic fiction

I was excited to see a new release from Kim Reid and for the most part, I was not let down. Perfect Liars is an innovative story that reflect today’s teens in their high risk behaviors, engagement with technology and diversity in friendships.

We meet Drea as she pulls into her upper class Atlanta driveway that it stocked with some of the most expensive décor around. This materialistic display is necessary to set the book’s tone. Drea is an extremely intelligent African American high school student returning home from an advanced summer school session. She has conflicts with her family’s background and is trying to find her own path in life. [SPOILER] Her older brother, with whom she has a close relationship, recently graduated from the police academy.  The second voice narrative takes us inside his head and begins to give him a prominent role in the story, but this doesn’t continue throughout this book. Reid also begins to explore how Drea’s relationship with him changes once he joins the force, but this is not developed throughout the story. In today’s atmosphere where the police are so much under question, it could have made for an interesting story line. [END SPOILER]

Drea is an extremely wishy washy character, the influences on her past are strong and she has to find the resolve within herself to change. She struggles with how much she has and how she got it. She initially judges those who are less affluent than her by her own standards but, through Reid’s skillful writing, Drea comes to see these peers for who they are and all they bring to the table, not as individuals who are lacking in some way. Her development over the arc of the book is minimal, but this is clearly intended to be a series.

I’m really trying to avoid giving away too much in the series. Key figures disappear in the book and those most affected just don’t seem that worried. That felt odd to me. Most of what is written in a book review is sheer opinion, although there are times when inconsistencies, inaccuracies, stereotypes and such can be documented. One such opinion I have relates to a conversation between Drea and Jason, one of her peers.

“Who was the girl I saw you with last Friday?”
“Hello to you, too.”
“You aren’t one of those guys, are you?” Drea asked. “The kind who call girls females?”
“When guys use it that way, it sounds vulgar for some reason. Or, like we’re prey on one of the animal shows on TV.”
“Does every girl think that?” Jason asked, looking truly puzzled, as though this had never occurred to him.
“Yes, every one of us, including the girl you saw me with. Just a heads up, since you’re clearly interested.” (p. 239)

I felt a strong author voice here and I disagreed with it so much, particularly when this young lady used ‘girl’. The males in the book were guys, not boys. These are juniors and seniors in high school, not children. Yes, it hit a sore spot with me because I view ‘girls’ as children and other readers may not have any problem with this at all. But, this type of honest writing leads to discussion and gets readers considering the words they use, how they refer to others and the difference it makes. They may or may not agree with the author, but I’m sure she’ll have them thinking.

As with The Reader, I thought this one was much tighter at the end. Oh, these series! They have to hook us don’t they? And this one does.

Sunday Morning Reads

Twas a beautiful morning to be in the garden. I picked my first to red tomatoes, brought home a luscious handful of kale to bake into chips this evening and a fragrant bouquet of


Dill blossoms

basil for pesto. I love pulling weeds, it’s so cathartic! And although I like looking around on a Sunday seeing early morning gardeners, typically women alone or in pairs working their little plot of land, I really like days like today when I’m the only one there. My thoughts are uninterrupted as I consider all the ways gardening serves as a metaphor, perhaps even an allegory, for life. I really liked being in the garden today because my plants are finally growing. I’ve put up a fence that successfully keeps the pesky varmits out.

The varmits, aka rabbits, were eating everything as quickly as I was planting it. Given the number of projects, conferences and presentations I had in the spring, I just didn’t have time to plant and re-plant so I was quite annoyed with the pests. Nancy Tolson’s suggestion of “Kill the Wabbit” by Elmer Fudd echoed in my head and I posted on the garden’s Facebook page about the surge in sales of rabbit meat. I gave up thoughts of my mother and grandmother,



those who put soil in my blood, and channeled my grandfather, the hunter who brought us ‘coon, pheasant and yes, rabbit for Thanksgiving meals. It was clearly a matter of me versus them. I wait all year for my own, delicious, organic produce that I can stand right there in the garden and munch on and that I am able to freeze or can and enjoy over the winter.I decided to build a fence.



Problem solved.

Well, maybe not.

I get a text from my son saying he wants to talk. Essentially, he wanted to remind me that the rabbits (We’re talking plural now because those rascals multiply like, well rabbits. One could easily multiply into 100 by the end of the season.) were there first. He didn’t go so


The Fence

far as to say I was invading their home, but he did suggest that the fence was perhaps not the best way to handle this.

Huh?? If the rabbits simply found some other sucker’s unprotected plot then, well, I’d protected my food source. Right?

The problem is my word this year is HARMONY. That fence creates disharmony, particularly because it sends the varmits to my neighbors plot and essentially because this is the rabbits home.

As I spoke to my son, I realized my approach with the garden was to build this barrier that protects my space and says ‘oh, well’ to all others, both rabbits and other gardeners. I realized this is my general modus operandi: to build barriers for protection, security or isolation. It’s just more visible with this rabbit proof fence.

I realized my best solution had to create harmony and while this sometimes might be a balance, it isn’t always that. Harmony isn’t always a win-win but it is about me realizing how small and insignificant I am in the grand scheme of things, that love needs to win every time. It’s finding my god in every movement, every decision and every thought.

Even with the daggone rabbits.

As near as I can figure, the best solution would be to overplant to feed the rabbits. Once my plants get beyond a certain size, the picky little varmits won’t eat them, and of course they don’t eat all vegetables, so I would have a fighting chance of growing produce in the garden. But, the fence is up. I installed it all by myself and if you’ve ever worked with chicken wire, you have to appreciate the work it took to unroll that fencing particularly as the roll got smaller and the fencing got tighter. See how I’m justifying by centering my own needs here? Disharmony.

I think disharmony bites you in the ass every time.

The thing with fences (besides the fact that they don’t make good neighbors) is that they become the perfect barrier to catch seeds. So, right there where that chicken wire meets

sweet potato

a volunteer sweet potato in the midst of my black-eyed peas.

the ground is where Johnson grass, binder weed and dandelions dig in and grow up, almost as if they know how difficult they’d be to pull. This borderland is so metaphoric, isn’t it? (I think the weeds are, too.) It could be a space for beautiful harmony but fencing that creates a border exists as a clearly defined separation. The border fence only works for the power that installed it.

“Harmony” sounded like such and easy, gently word but it is truly a struggle for me this year and I guess that’s a good thing. No struggle, no friction: no growth.

Oh, these rabbits!

review: The Reader

+-+098926394_140title: The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold series)
author: Traci Chee
date: G. P. Putnam and Sons; September 2016
main character: Sefia
YA speculative fiction


Nin had taken care of Sefia everyday since her parents were killed but when Nin is attacked and kidnapped, there seems to be nothing Sefia can do. As Nin is dragged away, Sefia resolves to save her.

Just weeks prior to this, Lon is recruited by Erastis to join what he describes as a society of readers.

As these stories eventually intersect, we learn what it means to be a reader, not only of The Book, but of people, the sea and the land. I enjoyed the story’s complex portrayal of literacy as well as the emphasis placed on the value of the written word. Of course, it would be important to characters in such a book that they leave their mark and be remember.

The Reader is Traci Chee’s YA debut. Chee is an Asian American author, a self described geek and a resident of California. There were no doubt some shortcomings in the story’s architecture, but the last chapters were razor sharp and focused, leaving me primed for the next installment in this series. Chee deftly let the world of Kelanna unfold and present itself with just enough suspense to keep us wondering but not enough to make readers feel confused about this unknown place.

Sefia, the book’s protagonist is set on saving Nin.  She eventually teams up with a young man who does not speak and she names him Archer. Not often do we see young men who are rendered invisible in this way. Archer proves to be quite a worthy companion. While Sefia proves capable of saving herself, there are battles that surround her and she’s left cradling someone’s head or engaging in other benign acts that keep her out of the action.

As Sefia’s story begins to intersect with Lon’s we meet Assassins, Master Librarians, Captains, sailors and others without really getting an understanding of their hierarchy in this society. Some are kidnapped and forced into what they do, but we don’t really know how people get access to their position. Characters have a variety of skin colors and neither this nor gender seems to affect one’s social ranking. Neither material wealth nor poverty seem to exist. Most people seem to earn a living through some sort of skill or craft.

It seems Sefia has been prepared for this journey for many years. She’s reading the signs, trying to figure out who to trust and trying to save the woman who saved her. It’s a pretty interesting book!

[This review is based upon an advanced copy.]

Can You Hear Us Now?

As a teenager of the 70s, I really enjoyed buttons and bumper stickers and posters. I was attracted to cute, clever posters such one with a quote that read something like “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no one because I am the baddest (ass??) in this valley”. I cut out the image of the poster and placed it in the back of one of my notebooks. When one of my friends saw it, she gave me this weird, blank, stunned look but said nothing. Her response surprised me, and I really didn’t understand it until a few years later when I read the real quote in the Bible and realized I should “fear no evil because Thou art with me”. What can I say? I grew up Catholic and Catholics did not read the Bible. To this day, I do not understand why my Pentecostal friend never bothered to enlighten me. I imagine her still praying for my misguided soul.

Speaking up makes a difference. It seems easier with strangers and with true friends, but not so much with acquaintances, work friends or associates with whom we have rather tenuous relationships. I think it seems easier after 5o, too. After 50 we know ourselves and have confidence in our convictions, a confidence similar to what we have with those we know best. With strangers, we think we have little to lose.

Speaking up about When We Was Fierce required absolutely no forethought or discussion between any of us who have recently written about this issue. We did it on the heels of discussion regarding Lane Smith’s There is a Tribe of Kids and we did it not knowing what the backlash might be. We did it because we have to. Who else would have done it?

So many have openly discussed their initial love (yes, love) of the book and eagerness to share it with their students until they were walked through some the flaws. Speaking up changes minds. I hope conversations have continued among those who select and promote books on how they’ll read a book in the feature as well as how they’ll read book reviews. I hope the conversation continues.

This is very much a process. I know if anyone took the time to scour through this blog, they could find several reviews I’ve written that are just wrong. People of color and Native Americans are on this journey as much as white people are. Living on the butt end of white supremacy tends to make us a bit more aware of how things play out and makes us want to understand the nature of, deconstruct, name and create mechanisms to overcome it. But, not all people of color are at the same point on this learning curve, no more so than all whites. Most of us have had to learn quicker for our survival. It’s weary wearing the yokes of colonialism and it’s frightful to daily proclaim our humanity, to have to state that black lives matter. Should we have to be the ones expected to speak out every time? Oh, we will but we get sick. and. tired.

My call for more diverse books has always been to get more books published by authors of color and yet I know there are many interpretations of what other people want in terms of diversifying children’s literature.

The call came out for more diverse books and white authors asked ‘how can I write diverse characters’ when they should have asked how can I support authors of color. Native Americans and people of color are not always heard when we speak out on issues; speaking out doesn’t always work when your voice is marginalized. And, we don’t always have access to the networks that get us in the door.

It seems publishers want to have heard that we simply want more books with characters of color and they’re disregarding any sense of integrity in how they portray diversity, in the authenticity of these characters. Books now being called to question include Cloudwish by Fiona Wood and Truman and Nell by Greg Neri. I know there are others. Please, speak up!

Several have asked me what I expect from the publisher. None have asked what to expect from the author and I’m not sure why. Perhaps because she maintains so little web presence? Or, perhaps because she’s with Candlewick, a publisher known for nurturing their talent. No, I don’t expect them to stop the release of the book, but I will not be disappointed if they prove me wrong. I’d like to see them enter this open and honest conversation and simply admit they published a book that was offensively racist and they’re also learning. I’d like to see them make a firm commitment, a specific commitment to diversify their staff, from adding people of color to staff diversity training similar to what Lee & Low did in 2015. And, I’d like to see them work with librarians or educators to develop curriculum material that uses this book as a tool to help young readers to identify stereotypes. One print of the book would be enough! We all have our fantasies.

Publishers have direct access to our children through what they print. I believe that in knowing this, they’ve held whiteness as something very precious. The new majority will no longer accept the status quo. We speak up with our voices and with our dollars. While it seems things are slow to change, in the 21st century, we can speak up. And when we do, our true friends are with us and some of those strangers come on board, too.

Additional posts relating to When We Was Fierce include:

Zetta Elliott Black Voices Matter “There’s the actual annihilation of Black bodies that’s reported on the nightly news, and then there’s the symbolic annihilation where White editors and agents show preference for non-Black writers and their narratives that distort our image/voice.”

Ibi Zoboi The Rocky Unpaved Roads of Good Intentions “There is a self-perceived burden of doing something, making it right, and fixing things for the Other—that this Other cannot help themselves, even if this help comes from members of their own community.”

Laura Pohl Bad Representation is Bad Writing: “When someone calls you out on bad representation, it means you’re a bad writer because you HAVEN’T DONE ENOUGH RESEARCH.”

Pernille Ripp Review: When We Was Fierce: “And I have been ashamed.  Ashamed at my own idiocy.  Ashamed at how little I know.  Ashamed at how quickly I bought into the same tragic story as a way to make my students think, where instead I should be looking for stories that combat this one-track narrative.”