Male Monday: Frank X. Walker

Frank X. Walker is an African American poet from Danville, KY.  In 2013, he became the Poet Laureate of  the Commonwealth of Kentucky. (Wikipedia) Hes’ the first African American and the youngest person to hold this post.In 2014, He won an NAACP Image Award for his poetry.

He’s founder of Affrilachian Poets and is a Professor of English at the University of Kentucky.


In the parking lot behind the funeral home, my eyes settle on
the bulky white noose my father has lost a wrestling match to.
Though he is not convinced Windsor knot know-how can plantwalker_frank_x
tobacco or drive a nail true, he concedes his flawed results,

abides my desire to fix it. Calling up knowledge passed to me
from a book, I execute the maneuvers with fluid precision
and imagine I am creasing and folding a Japanese paper swan.
He stares at my knuckles, smiling, perhaps seeing his own hands



Listen online to Walker reading from his work on a radio program produced by UK’s NPR affiliate, WUKY 88.1 FM, at

Male Monday: Juan Felipe Herrara

I am merely posing for a photograph.juan_felipe_herrera_163x249.
Remember, when the Nomenclature
stops you, tell them that—“Sirs, he was posing
for my camera, that is all.” . . . yes, that may just work.
Poet. Artist. Teacher. Activist. Writer. Poet Laureate of California.
“Your friends, and your associates, and the people around you, and the environment that you live in, and the speakers around you – the speakers around you – and the communicators around you, are the poetry makers.
If your mother tells you stories, she is a poetry maker.
If your father says stories, he is a poetry maker.
If your grandma tells you stories, she is a poetry maker.
And that’s who forms our poetics.”
~Juan Felipe Herrara

Male Monday: Guy Pals

BFFs. Buddies. Besties. Guy pals. Call ‘em what you like, I see a slow going trend in YA of male authors of color writing stories that explore male friendships.

Most often, YA male characters are either loners or involved with a female character, either as a friend or love interest. The following books not only have male characters who are friends, but they explore the friendship and what makes it tick.

Are there others?

Surf Mules by G. Neri (Putnam Juvenile, 2009) When Logan goes searching for the Perfect Monster Wave, he doesn’t expect his former best friend to be killed by it. Add to this a deadbeat dad who bankrupted his family and the possibility of college going down the drain, and Logan is suddenly in a tailspin.510Qq6rUCCL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_

So when small-time dealer Broza offers Logan and his dropout pal, Z-boy, a summer job that could make them rich, it seems his problems might be solved. But between Z-boy’s constant screwups, a band of Nazi surfers out for blood, and a mysterious stranger on their tail, Logan is starting to have some serious doubts about hauling contraband across country, and hopes just to make it home alive.

Aristle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (Simon and Schuster, 2012) When Aristotle and Dante meet, in the summer of 1987, they are 15-year-olds existing in “the universe between boys and men.” The two are opposites in most ways: Dante is sure of his place in the world, 515h0+SCp4L._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_while Ari feels he may never know who he is or what he wants. But both are thoughtful about their feelings and interactions with others, and this title is primarily focused on the back-and-forth in their relationship over the course of a year. Family issues take center stage, as well as issues of Mexican identity, but the heart of the novel is Dante’s openness about his homosexuality and Ari’s suppression of his. Sáenz (Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, 2004) writes toward the end of the novel that “to be careful with people and words was a rare and beautiful thing.” And that’s exactly what Sáenz does—he treats his characters carefully, giving them space and time to find their place in the world, and to find each other. This moves at a slower pace than many YA novels, but patient readers, and those struggling with their own sexuality, may find it to be a thought-provoking read.

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth (Arthur A. Levine, 2012) Lewis “Shoe” Blake is used to the joys and 510NQFcGy4L._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he’s not used to is white people being nice to him — people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family’s poverty from George. He also has to deal with the vicious Evan Reininger, who makes Lewis the special target of his wrath. But when everyone else is on Evan’s side, how can he be defeated? And if George finds out the truth about Lewis’s home — will he still be his friend?

Darius and Twig by Walter Dean Myers (Amistad, 2013) Darius and Twig are an unlikely pair: Darius is a writer whose only escape is his alter ego, a peregrine falcon named Fury, and Twig is a middle-distance runner striving 51m8s60I+BL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_for athletic success. But they are drawn together in the struggle to overcome the obstacles that Harlem life throws at them.

The two friends must face down bullies, an abusive uncle, and the idea that they’ll be stuck in the same place forever in this touching and raw new teen novel from Walter Dean Myers, award-winning author of Monster, Kick, We Are America, Bad Boy, and many other celebrated literary works for children and teens.

Male Monday: Matt de la Pena

Matt-de-la-PenaMatt de la Peña has released a new book. Infinity Ring Book 4: Curse of the Ancients is part of an MG series where each book is written by a different author. (A librarian’s nightmare to shelf!!)

Sera has a secret. She’s seen the future, and it is terrifying. Unfortunately, she can’t do anything to prevent the Cataclysm while stranded with Dak and Riq thousands of years in the past. Their only hope 511EObkUGHL._AA160_lies with the ancient Maya, a mysterious people who claim to know a great deal about the future. Is there more to these ancients than meets the eye?

I was surprised when he announced the release on Facebook because I hadn’t seen it coming. Looking at the age, it was recommending for ages 8-12. MG???

Sure, Matt wrote A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis and it appealing to younger readers, but having heard Matt speak twice, having read his books, I’d say his passion is YA.

He speaks about his own personal coming of age experience with his dad, how he connects with his high school readers and 51F91dNLIbL._AA160_what it has been like growing up as a Latino, finding his own voice. He’s so personable that you realize storytelling comes natural to him.

And perhaps that’s how he found himself writing this book that publishers recommend for 8-12 year olds.Honestly, I’m glad to see anything Matt writes, I just can’t get over this 8-12 thing. Here’s why.

Publishers consider middle grade (MG) books written for ages 8-12. Upper middle grade books are 10-14 and young adult books are 12-18.

Educators identify elementary grades as 1-5, middle grades as 6-8 and high school as 9-12.

Depending on local laws and when birthdays fall, children can enter the first  grade at ages 5, 6 or 7.  Using, the median age, a child would be 6 in the first grade and 8 in the third grade. When a child enters middle grades (6th grade) she would be 12 and 14 in the 9th grade, a freshman in high school.

51isy-OCVHL._AA160_Essentially, they’re recommending Matt’s book for third graders. Up to my shoulders in YA books, I don’t quite have time to read Curse of the Ancients to see where I think it will fit best, but I may be able to work in The Living which releases in November. It’s a YA book, Matt’s fifth novel.

Matt de la Peña is the author of four critically-acclaimed young adult novels: Ball Don’t Lie, Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here and I Will Save You. He’s also the author of the award-winning picture book A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis (illustrated by Kadir Nelson). Matt received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific where he attended school on a full basketball scholarship.

 de la Peña currently lives in Brooklyn NY.Matt received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific, where he attended school on a full athletic scholarship for basketball. source


Male Monday: Frederick McKissack

The Male Monday feature began with Ari at Reading in Color.

The world of children’s literature suffered a great loss on Sunday 28 April with the passing of Fred McKissack. In the books that he wrote, the stories he told and the life he lived, he paved the way!

Fred McKissack first worked as a civil engineer for the city of St. Louis and then with U.S. Army. mckissack_pat_fred_lgHe also owned his own general contracting company in St. Louis. In the early 1980s, he began writing children’s books with his wife, Patricia. Even when his name was not in the title, he was there in the research in the books his wife would write.

What was it that made their writing special? In reading through inteviews with the McKissacks, I find so many examples, both those stated directed and those implied through tone and sentiment 51m3DPrtWFL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_that explain why this couple managed to create over 100 books for children. Perhaps the most obvious explanation of what made them special is that they were always there, together  even for each interview. Once, an interviewer asked Frederick if only one could attend an award ceremony, who would go?

Neither one. Why? Because Pat wouldn’t dream of going without Fred and Fred wouldn’t go without Pat. We are a team, and a team is just that — we come as a package, and those who give awards know that. Now, Pat has won awards for her work, and Fred has won awards that have honored his work. That’s different. We go and cheer the other one’s success. But when we share an award we share it 50-50. Think of it this way. If we get a bad review or don’t win an award, that is certainly shared, then so should the rewards of our combined efforts.

If one can care that much for those inside their world, they can care almost as much for those of us on the outside as well.

What did they write about?

And our niche was that time period between 1800 and 1900 — that’s pre-Civil War, Civil War, post-Civil War, up through and until the Harlem Renaissance. And we just carved that out as our niche and we worked very, very hard to try to tell that story. And I hope that what we’ve done is to make our history a little bit clearer — something that doesn’t make the children feel ashamed or hurt.

It is not designed to point a finger or to make some child in a classroom feel responsible for all that happened back then, but we can’t shovel it under the rug and say that those things did not happen — they did. But let’s tell it by telling an even-handed, well-researched, well-documented story and that’s what we tried to do in Days of Jubilee, Rebels Against Slavery, and Goin’ Someplace Special. And even the whale men, White Hands, Black…I mean, Black Hands, White Sails.

“We could write 100 books a year for the next 100 years and still not scratch the surface of stories that have fallen through the cracks, ” says Pat McKissack.

Complete biographies can be found at Publishers Weekly or the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Male Monday: Jimmy Santiago Baca

I’m quilting it all together today with Jimmy Santiago Baca. He’s here on Male Monday this first Monday in April: Poetry month. From his biography:

   Baca has devoted his post-prison life to writing and teaching others who are overcoming hardship. His themes include American Southwest barrios, addiction, injustice, education, community, love and beyond. He has conducted hundreds of writing workshops in prisons, community centers, libraries, and universities throughout the country.

Welcome April, month of poetry!

from Healing Earthquakes (1989)

If it does not feed the fire
of your creativity, then leave it.jimmy400px
If people and things do not
inspire your heart to dream,
then leave them.
If you are not crazily in love
and making a stupid fool of yourself,
then stop closer to the edge
of your heart and climb
where you’ve been forbidden to go.
Debts, accusations, assaults by enemies
mean nothing,
go where the fire feeds you.
Turn your attention to the magic of whores,
grief, addicts and drunks, until you stumble upon
that shining halo surrounding your heart
that will allow you to violate every fear happily,
be where you’re not supposed to be,
the love of an angel who’s caught your blood on fire
again, who’s gulped all of you in one breath
to mix in her soul, to explode your brooding
and again, your words rush from the stones
like a river coursing down
from some motherly mountain source,
and if your life doesn’t spill forth
unabashedly, recklessly, randomly
pushing in wonder at life,
then change, leave, quit, silence the idle chatter
and do away with useless acquaintances
who have forgotten how to dream,
bitch rudely in your dark mood at the mediocrity
of scholars who meddle in whimsy for academic trifles–
let you be their object of scorn,
let you be their object of mockery,
let you be their chilling symbol
of what they never had the courage to do, to complete, to follow,
let you be the flaming faith that makes them shield their eyes
as you burn from all sides,
taking a harmless topic and making of it a burning galaxy
or shooting stars in the dark of their souls,
illuminating your sadness, your aching joy for life,
your famished insistence for God and all that is creative
to attend you as a witness to your struggle,
let the useless banter and quick pleasures
belong to others, the merchants, computer analysts
and government workers;
you haven’t been afraid
of rapture among thieves
bloody duels in drunken brawls,
denying yourself
the essence of your soul work
as poems rusted while you scratched
at your heart to see if it was a diamond
and not cheap pane of glass,
now, then, after returning form one more poet’s journey
in the heart of the bear, the teeth of the wolf,
the legs of the wild horse,
sense what your experience tells you,
your ears ringing with deception and lies and foul tastes,
now that your memory is riddled with blank loss,
tyrants who wielded their boastful threats
to the sleeping dogs and old trees in the yards,
now that you’ve returned form men and women
who’ve abandoned their dreams and sit around
like corpses in the grave moldering with regret,
steady your heart now, my friend, with fortitude
long-lasting enduring hope, and hail the early dawn
like a ship off coast that’s come for you,
spent and ragged and beggared,
if what you do and how you live does not feed the fire
in your heart and blossom into poems,
leave, quit, do not turn back,
move fast away from that which would mold your gift,
break it, disrespect it, kill it.
Guard it, nurture it, take your full-flung honorable
heart and plunge it into the fire
into the stars, into the trees, into the hearts of others
sorrow and love and restore the dream
by writing of its again-discovered wild beauty.


Male Monday: Laurence Yep


Laurence Yep was born 14 June 1948 in Sacramento, CA.

Ari, of Reading in Color began this meme!

How many of Laurence Yep’s books have you read?

Laurence Yep has published over 30 children’s and young adult books. His most recent book, Dragon child: A story of Angel Island is based on an actual conversation between Yep and his father and on his niece’s research on the family’s immigration history. He has authored several book series, stories set in historical and modern times, and has been awarded the Newbery Honor twice. The first time in 1976 for Dragonwings and again in 1994  for Dragon’s Gate. Yep also received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 2005. This Medal is adminstered by the Association for  Library Services to Children and is awarded to writers and illustrators who have, over several years, made lasting and meaningful contributions to children’s literature.


Click to read an excerpt.

I have no doubt that Yep’s works will be lasting because they are meaningful.

Laurence Yep’s Reading Rockets interview.

“I love writing. I think of writing as a special way of seeing, because good writing brings out the specialness of ordinary things.”

Laurence Yep’s papertigers blog interview in which when he is asked “How has being of Chinese heritage been important to you?” And he responds:
“The answer to that question has changed dramatically more than once. As a child I hated Chinese school. I wanted to be as American as possible. Then, in my early twenties, I became very interested in my Chinese roots. For years after that, I thought that my function as a Chinese-American writer was to act as a bridge between two cultures. Now, though, I am not so sure that it is possible to blend two cultures together. Asian cultures are family- and cooperation-oriented. American culture on the other hand emphasizes the individual and competition. The two cultures pull in opposite directions. So I see myself now as someone who will always be on the borer between two cultures. That works to my benefit as a writer because not quite fitting in helps me be a better observer.”

“I only knew that there was a certain rightness in life–the feeling you got when you did something the way you knew you should.”
― Laurence Yep, Dragonwings


click for an excerpt


click for an excerpt