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Own-voices for Black American Children’s Book Authors 6 Percent: Still Below 10.

October 28, 2017

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This video done to Tee-Grizzley’s  “First Day Out!” is so empowering, with it’s “in spite of it all, I can succeed message” Girls in STEM!  It was shared to me on twitter and moved me to shot out their empowerment to the Big 5 Publishing Houses who don’t work to provide them voice and representation.  So since that is not their priortity, I thought I’d send the voices to them.  Not that I am anybody special. It’s just that every group of color was published at double digit percentages by the major publishers in 2016 except for black American authors writing for black American youth, which was at 6%. It’s been that way for 50 years. Latin American authors 61% Indigenous Nation authors 40%, Asian / S. Pacific Island authors 89% (huge increase with historical references to WWII issues, especially)… but 6% of books published for black American youth between birth and 18 years…That means 94% of the books published for black children is NOT being published by people that share their culture.
This is an issue with all our own-voice authors, but obviously there’s a critical wrong going on with black American authors, AND this is seriously NOT the time for the fragilities to emerge.  I’m sick of the race card debate.  I don’t know how to play cards anyhow.  I was not allowed at the table.   It’s not because there are no writers out there, either.
Why is this marginalization allowed? I am still sitting here waiting for these mega millionaire-music-moguls to underwrite a publishing house that specifically pushes authors of color who write for youth of color. When will they learn to use the ill-gotten or well-gotten means, whatever it is,  to establish something with a vested interest in the community…not as a money laundering interest aka Stringer Bell’s attempt on HBO’s The Wire, but at least Stringer was thinking of the needs of the many instead of the needs of the few.  Nothing in this world has worked with that philosophy.  It’s always the needs of whole that brings a stop to it.  Sometimes one entity has it with clarity aka David and Goliath.  David understood…somebody’s got to take this bully down. The consistency of marginalization from the major 5 publishing houses in this country, however does not exist in the manner they have maintained themselves, unless there is some type of under the table payoff to who ever the doorkeeper is.  So at this point I ask:
So, whose getting paid off?  I just have to go there? 52 years ago Nancy Larrick discovered 6.7% black American presence during the Era of the Civil Rights! Now here we are 52 years later still at 6%?!  Somebody’s just got to come clean.
As Chris Myers said, in a 2014 NYTimes commentary that ran simultaneously with an article by his dad…the cartography in the GPS is not working, and our youth of color, particularly our black youth, who use the books by own-voice authors, as a roadmap to a life structured guideposts, who use them as a source of strategy to help them survive navigating through their marginalized worlds….the cartography is not working because it can’t get updated…it’s not being embraced.
So many authors of color are going the route of independent and self publishing, posting their titles on amazon, but there is no platform to get a review out and many of these titles get little to zero coverage nor are they listed in the literature used by public and school librarians.

For an independently published and small press and self-published titles, unless you are the likes of Lee & Low.  Thank you Jason Lee for hearing that clarion call and crashing though with a blitz on the diversity gaps.
But I seriously think we should play a blitz the way it’s meant to be played…with one objective, and that is with the mindset of  organized chaos…all hands on deck, take the quarterback DOWN mindset , in other words, while the blitz is taking place WE HAVE TO GET BUSY and make create open up opportunities for the small voices to be heard.

…and the Big 5 is still in  Smashmouth formation.  My son calls it 3 Yards and a Cloud of Dust mode.  Come on people!  This in no way is a plea to take the majors down.  It’s a plea to get us  to start recognizing how utterly ridiculous this charade is! Teenagers lie better than this! 52% of public school children are of color and the majority of books these conglomerates publish for the largest  population of children of color that public schools have seen is 435 out of 3,400 titles?   (see 2016 count)

In organized chaos, the blitz is not distracted.  We cannot get distracted as educators…as school librarians…as children and young adult librarians…as researchers….as educators who teach the educators…persistence through the madness…Ella Baker understood it…Representative Lewis knows about it…Message to those who care:  Don’t give in and don’t give up.

Buyea’s Timeless Voice for Middle Grades Scores a Perfect Mark

August 21, 2017

This is what it looks like in one corner of the house because I don’t have shelf space and am no longer working as a school librarian!  I will be dropping  titles off to the nearest “Little Free Library” for youth in the community, for there’s loads of children’s chapter books and YA from major and independent publishers.  Most prominent on the stack is one that I think is the best up and coming book in the promotion of literacy in a long time.  It fullout establishes the impact read alouds have on older middle grade readers whether they have poor comp skills due to learning gaps and other disabilities or not.  There’s also a cryout to support school and public libraries as well as innovative thought applied through community service and collaborative group work.  Which book am I sprouting about?   It’s the bright yellow ARC in the front left hand corner of the IMG_2121pile…Rob Buyea’s “The Perfect Score” which addresses the pressures children feel when faced with excelling, not only on standardized tests but in elite competitive sports.  The book is written in alternating POV short chapters w/a few scattered ones of medium length, and due out this October. Rob is also author of the Mr. Terupt series. Loads of life lessons presented with both humor and poignancy that is attractive to both male and female readers. Loads of conversation for readers on immigration, competitive sportsmanship, bullying, marginalization as seen among adults and youth, multi-generational interaction, and community and family bonding.  What I personally like about Buyea’s work is that it is so similar to the work of Beverly Cleary in that he catches the voice and psyche of the 9 to 12 year old youth, as well as the issues of the time period the young protagonists deal with.  Unlike Cleary, his characters are way more diverse and the issues he addresses are grittier, due to the times and life exposure our children have in today’s world.  Similar for both is the timelessness in the stories of self worth and empowerment, which provides a platform for the promotion of the voice for all children.

The Harlem Charade: History, Community, Friendship, Family

April 20, 2017
The Harlem CharadeSo here I am, in the midst of my Scholastic book fair for spring and I did not think this event would lead me to my next GR review, but it has.  After looking at the reviews in Goodreads and reading the text,  I have just discovered Scholastic has Natasha Anastasia Tarpley just-released book, Harlem Charade, in paperback. Needless to say I have ordered a classroom set for my 6th grade reading group.

There are several questions I have and several observations I’ve noticed from the reviews of this title in which some find it not interesting, while others are over joyed with its representation. I liked this book’s overarching premises of community, family, history, and culture as would be placed in today’s world. That it is set in contemporary Harlem with issues that touch headline news is vital, for it provides opportunities for our younger teen & tween readers to discuss this within their own age group circles, especially in a book club, classroom, or grade level placement.

The story characters are reflective of the children and classroom makeup of many schools in today’s world: Jin is Korean, Elvin is black, and Rose is white. I liked the Asian family running a neighborhood bodega. Look at the dicotomy of that situation alone! Not to give away any of the story, but there’s so much dialogue to come from this alone. A bodega in Harlem would mean a Spanish owned market or store of some kind. That an Asian (Jin’s family is Korean) family is running a neighborhood bodega should be a standout curiosity. There has been clashes with Korean businesses in Harlem for a long time…the Korean fruit stands that were at a time the only fruit stands in the Harlem neighborhoods…throughout the country the black hair supply stores ran mostly by Koreans are just a few.  There’s even the Chinese food takeouts ran by Koreans, and now the fried chicken shops all over Korea and showing up USA style in America. I really think if we looked closer at the  pop culture development of Korea, we would understand the Korean influx into the black and Latinx communities.   Do our children realize the migratory patterns of Korean immigrants across the world?… the Korean Diaspora? Do they know South Korea has one of the largest Afro-Asian populations of all Asian countries? Do they know there are people of Asian ancestry in general and specifically of Korean ancestry in just about every Caribbean Island…Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, Mexico’s …? This book opens up dialogue to those windows and sliding doors (Rudine Bishop’s 1990 plea for positive imagery and diverse contemporary life for our Children of Color).

Before 10 pages are up, there’s the discovery of a rare painting and the discussion of how much harder it is for artist from communities of color to become established and for their art to sustain…and the mention of  Zora Neale Hurston, who was given so much push-back for writing about a romance that is set in the oldest chartered all-black city to still be functioning today 6 miles south of Disney World, and who later died and was buried in an unmarked grave. There are questions that can be addressed as to why this country which is touted as the land of opportunity, is not a country that supports its fine arts. There are no platforms for them to display their art, and to be trained in the craft is often too expensive for young unknowns from underrepresented groups. Although I am digging deeper, this book addresses these issues and more…and I haven’t even touched on Rose and Elvin.

From a children’s book perspective, a country that is not supportive of the fine and performing arts and has major publishing companies that produce childrens’ books at a 90% annually rate with non-diverse protagonists in a country whose POC is approximately 48% is experiencing identity issues. Our history is not positive in its reflection of POC and there needs to be an adjustment. This novel seeks to address these issues with care and a sense of unity, as well as the reminder of how a community and family’s strength can be sustaining.

“When We Were Fierce” is Not So Fierce

August 20, 2016

Below is my response to a Rich in Color post on E. E. Carlton-Trujillo’s  When We Were Fierce which was pulled from release by the publishing company due to the pushback in the children’s literature field.  I addressed another response by a black American author who took the critical feedback as an attempt to censor an author’s voice, comparing the reaction to events surrounding the black community’s negative reaction to the play he wrote, St. Louis Woman,  which included Pearl Bailey and the Nicholas brothers.  As a literary reviewer, Cullen was controversial too.  He didn’t want  black authors to sound black or include cultural vernacular in their work.  No one is asking E. E. Trujillo to not be authentic.  That, in essence is what the critique is all about.   The author angrily stomped off the page saying she will no longer read any more Rich in Color posts.

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 2.57.00 PMTo not involve yourself in dialogue whether you agree or not is to deny yourself knowledge and insight. I have read E. E. Carlton-Trujillo’s book and the issues are authentic and relavant. They were however being portrayed through extremely stereotypic one dimensional characters, which in my opinion, fed the media’s decades old portrayal of urban POC. In a society where a Donald character can trumpet out to masses of white Americans that most black Americans are poor and with little hope to succeed, and need to vote for him; where young Olympian Danielle Douglas was lambasted across the Internet because the media caught her in melancholy post-competitive performance moments accusing her of being nonAmerican thus bringing her to tears in an interview, while no one has attacked the white swimmers that lied about being robbed by black guys with guns as being nonAmerican…I’m finding it incredible that anyone cannot see this blatant double standard.

The narrative that cries out for writers to be more responsible when they write language for our youth of color to read is nothing new! In contemporary times, about 51 years old Nancy Larrick brought this issue to national attention when she looked at 5000+ books published between 1962 and 1963 to seek positive portrayals of black Americans. She found with the exception of one book, blacks portrayed as buffoons, servants, and Africans in their traditional indigenous bush settings…in other words wild heathens. There was no excuse then and today there still is no excuse for the lack of people of hues, but to purposely make an effort to promote a blanketed misrepresentation of urban POC is irresponsible.

Freedom of expression is an inherent right to our country’s citizenry, but equitable and authentic accuracy should be the responsibility of children and young adult authors in their expression. To have to consistently keep this narrative alive against pub-houses, as well as authors with their heads in the sand, school district curriculum planners, as well as the general public who have never participated in dialogue with the counter narratives that are supportive of POC in YA and children’s books…the repetitiveness over the generations is at ad nauseum level.

The above response to this much needed article is yet another example of someone who walks with eyes wide shut. To deny the consistent outcries that say something is wrong with the portrayal of youth in literature OR the absence of youth of color, is an act to maintain the marginalized status and relevancy for the culture and lived experiences for well more than half of the American population. As K. Imani has said it is not just about one group of color…when one group wins we all win: Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, white, and black. Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 3.36.50 PMAlso, To compare the critical feedback on “When We Were Fierce” to the works of Countee Cullen is not an accurate analogy of the assault on this great writer. He was not irresponsible in his authenticity of lived experiences or language. Beyond the cardboard pigeonholed characterizations, the vernacular in “When We Were Fierce” was made up and reinforced widely preconceived notions for blackness in urban settings.

Larrick’s Research Article:  http://www.longwood.edu/staff/miskecjm/384larrick.pdf

Romeo and Juliet Look-Alikes

March 14, 2016

OK so I finally broke down, and bent to pressure with a few of the Romeo and Juliet Look-Alikes! So here are 2 I have review over the past 12 months, as well as 7 others I think are knockout reads!

Amiri & Odette: A Love Story  The Fault in Our Stars  Like No Other

 Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles  Romiette and Julio by Sharon M. Draper

 Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles  Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors    Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman
  1. Amiri and Odette:  A Love Story by Walter Dean Myers & Javaka Steptoe
  2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  3. Like No Other by Una LaMarche
  4. Noughts & Croses by Marlorie Blackman
  5. A Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
  6. Romiett & Julio by Sharon Draper
  7. Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles
  8. Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfor
  9. Son ofthe Mob by Gordon Korman
  10. Starred Review for SLJ FEB 2016- redstarLORD, Emery. When We Collided. 352p. ebook available. Bloomsbury. Apr. 2016. Tr Lord, Emery. When We Collided$17.99. ISBN 9781619638457.

    Gr 8 Up –Filled with raw, descriptive truths and told through the alternating voices of the protagonists, this story takes place in the idyllic, picturesque setting of Verona Cove, CA. Small enough for everyone to know one another yet large enough to handle a summer tourist season, this background locale is a perfect nesting spot for the poignant love story between Vivi Alexander and Jonah Daniels. The collision between the teens crests and ebbs in what seems like a far too small window of time. Instead, the story dares to allow the action to rise and fall in an organic way. Teeming with in-your-face realism, the work exposes readers to the emotional ups and downs of Vivi, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and Jonah,… to continue, go to:   http://www.slj.com/2016/02/reviews/books/when-we-collided-by-emery-lord-slj-review/

  11. MCLEMORE, Anna-Marie. The Weight of Feathers. 320p. ebook available. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne. Sept. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250058652.   Gr 7 Up –For almost an entire generation, the Palomas and the Corbeausweightoffeathers
    have been rivals in a steadily escalating feud that is fueled by hearsay and fantasized superstitions. Both families’ livelihood is dependent on their itinerant performances, from one town to the next, and both family shows have turned com
    petitive, with the Corbeaus performing tightropelike acts in the trees and the Palomas presenting mermaid exhibitions in the natural waterways. Members of the families are born with particular marks that brand them according to their lineage. ..to continue, go to:  http://www.slj.com/2015/09/reviews/books/its-a-circus-out-there-slj-spotlight/

Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely’s “All American Boys” is Working on Building Houses – 1 Book at a Time

October 22, 2015

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Reynolds, Jason & Brendan Kiely. All American Boys. 320p. ebook available. Simon & Schuster.   September 29, 2015.  $17.99hb. ISBN 9781481463331.  Ages 12 and Up.  Artistically inclined Rashad Butler preferred sketching and painting over ROTC, but to please his father he played the role of the dutiful son and joined.  According to Rashad’s father, the opportunity to serve in the military was a huge factor in waylaying the prejudgement-factor currently aimed at young black American and Latino boys.  Scared of how society has been recently reacting to teen boys, Mr. Butler was adamant about how he wanted his son to present himself in public:  no slang, so slouched walk, no hoodie on your head, and no sagging pants.  When Rashad ended up being the victim of assault by the off-duty-cop recently hired for security at Jerry’s neighborhood store, his father’s worse nightmares came true.  The officer in question reacted to the store clerk’s scream that Rashad was robbing and attacking another customer, dragged Rashad from the store, and preceded to pound his face into the sidewalk.  Unbeknown to the officer, the assault was witnessed by Quinn, a young boy he had been mentoring for years and who held him in the highest levels of esteem.  Unbeknown to Quinn, the off-duty cop, and Rashad, several observers recorded the entire incident and posted it to the Internet, causing the videos to go viral.  Told in the alternating voices of Quinn and Rashad, Reynolds and Kiely are able to deftly handle the aftermath of confusion, fear, and anger which split the community in half.   A large amount of viewpoints are presented among those living in each of the narrators’ world.  Readers are allowed to experience on how issues of race, privilege, media manipulation, and policing are viewed from the point of view of the adults and youth who are involved.

This timely and powerful narrative takes its cues straight out of our most recent and controversial headlines.   Loaded with abundant opportunities for readers to apply critical thinking in discussions surrounding the social justice issues raised, this is a must have for library collections.  Educators who have considered books such as James Preller’s Bystander (Feiwel & Friends, 2009) which has  been an added curriculum choice due to the issues of bullying,  will be inclined to feel the same way about Reynolds and Kiely’s All American Boys (Simon & Schuster, 2015) due to the issues of social justice.

Jason Reynolds aligns his job as an author to a builder of houses.  Some houses are built from scratch while others need structured adjustment.  The exterior of the house is the image the world has of most black American youth, while the structured adjustments deal with  mending the neglected walls and ceiling of the interior.  This constructionist vision has led to him being this year’s recipient of the Coretta Scott King John Steptoe New Talent Award for young emerging authors.  His commitment to the portrayal of black men and young black boys in a more positive and enduring light affords the readers of his narratives a more authentic view of black American family dynamics, void of the stereotypical media display. Jason is the author of three novels and has co-authored both his recent publication,  All American Boys, and an autobiography with his college roommate.  Jason lives in Brooklyn and will be visiting Miss Marie’s Library December 11, 2015.  Visit Jason’s website for a deeper look at this wonderfully talented rising star.

https://i2.wp.com/cdn.i0.cz/public-data/e9/67/c9f7d5f43501b941bf410572881c_r16:9_w640_h360_g1767982c0b6611e5ae1b002590604f2e.jpgBrendan Kiely’s debute title, The Gospel of Winter (McElderry, 2014) has been translated into eight languages and shows debuts his skill at handling hard subject matter.  In The Gospel of Winter, Brendan tackles the headline news issues of child abuse between young boys a popular priest.  This book has won him wide appeal.  All American Boys, wihich deals with youth and police brutality is masterfully handled in the same way…with depth of knowledge, the ability to communicate hard issues, and I’m sure…a lot of research.  Brendan used to live in Boston, and is now a resident of Greenwich Village.  More about Brendan can be found in his website.

Finally! A Beautiful Black Fantasy Heroine Who Embraces Her Natural Beauty

August 1, 2015
ShadowshaperI couldn’t say this any better than Goodreads’ Fountain Pen Diva.  My BFF Jackie Johnson shared news of Daniel’s latest fantasy book with me because she absolutely loved it.  With Jackie being a writer (her latest book of poetry), my interest was really peaked so I looked Daniel up on Amazon and Goodreads.  Here’s an excerpt from the Fountain Pen Diva.  Her written review echoes Jackie’s verbal review. 
Sierra Santiago is one of those awesome heroines. She’s proudly and fiercely Afro-Latina with a gorgeous mane of fluffy fro and lots of teen attitude (I kept seeing the killer Esmeralda Spalding as Sierra). She’s an artist full of cultural pride despite the colorism that sadly is as much a part of Latino life as it is here in America and other places. I loved how Sierra put her color-struck aunt in check after making a disparaging comment about Robbie, a young Haitian artist, whom Sierra is digging on. And while she digs on Robbie, when it’s time for the mission, finding out exactly what shadowshaping is and how to use her powers, she’s not wasting time hung up on the guy. I really hate when authors do that to the heroine, and far too many YA authors are guilty of what I call “heroine hijacking”…
 Click here for the full review, and look for this book as a new additional to Ms. Marie’s Library this fall! View Daniel’s Youtube video of him talking to a literature class at Princeton University this pass April 2015, which is exactly 2 months before the June 2015 publication of Shadowshapers.

Daniel Jose Older is a NYC young adult author who has written Daniel José Older5 previous titles. This is Daniel’s first hardcover.  Daniel’s band Ghost Star gigs regularly around New York and he facilitates workshops on storytelling from an anti-oppressive power analysis. You can find his thoughts on writing, read dispatches from his decade-long career as an NYC paramedic and hear his music at ghoststar.net/, on youtube and @djolder on twitter.  His blog is at http://ghoststar.net/.

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