Wild Things: YA Grown-Up discussion

Multicultural Fiction > Multicultural YA Fiction?

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message 1: by Alexis (new)

Alexis (alexabexis) | 422 comments I debated with myself over how to start this topic, but it's something I think is important, and a recent article in The New York Times compels me to address it.

The article is about a New York City-based author named Jason A. Spencer-Edwards. He has self-published a few books, marketing and selling them directly to the NYC public school system. His books have become a hit with younger readers. From the article: "Mr. Spencer-Edwards’s stories of young black teenagers struggling with peer pressure, poverty and the temptations of money and crime have captivated students who have trouble relating to the white middle-class suburban world of Judy Blume or Sweet Valley High, said Karen Ford, the school’s principal."

Here is the link to the online article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/09/nyr...

After talking with Kandice about the book Monster by Walter Dean Myers, I became curious. That book was one of the bestselling teen novels in the Barnes & Noble I worked at, and it's required reading at many schools here. I was kind of shocked to hear that no one her kids knew had heard of this multiple award winner.

While working at B&N it became one of my pet projects to find more books - for ALL ages, board book to teen novel - centering around other cultures. I worked in Manhattan and I'm half Puerto Rican, and it amazed me how few books we carried with black or Hispanic characters, considering the diversity of the city and our customers, some of whom would (to my embarrassment) comment on it. It became my mission to seek out and order in and promote these books, and I was successful in it.

I realize that this is a potentially touchy subject. But I'm very curious as to how this is handled elsewhere. My B&N opted not to separate out the growing genre of "urban fiction" but my library has an "Urban YA" bookcase. (The adult books are even sold by vendors with tables on the street.) For me, this is the elephant in the YA bookcase, the lack of multiculturalism in stories. Yes, there are authors like Walter Dean Myers, Sharon G. Flake, Sharon M. Draper, Angela Johnson, Julia Alvarez, Gary Soto, Linda Sue Park, Suzanne Fisher Staples, etc.

I brought it up with the VP of Children's Book Sales, and there arose the issue: is it that these books aren't being displayed or made available, or is it that they aren't being written?

Thoughts? How is this subject handled where you live?

message 2: by Misty (last edited May 11, 2009 09:31AM) (new)

Misty | 1505 comments I am not sure how its really handled where I live (though I live in a very racially mixed neighborhood, I am not going to lie, my town is, for the most part, lily-white. It's kinda ridiculous.). I do know that I tend to get the same look when I read "multicultural" fic as when I read YA: the look that says 'why?'
I personally love to read things from all different cultures, nationally and internationally. How else can you slip into someone else's skin and get their perspective laid bare?

As far as the question "is it that these books aren't being displayed or made available, or is it that they aren't being written?" I think its a bit of both. It seems to me that there is this mentality in this country to not see merit in things outside of our circle, and if we do, its not equal merit. Many may read a mainstream "white" book and say its good, and then read something "ethnic" and say its good for that 'type' of book . As far as I am concerned, a good book is a good book, and one that is written outside of our limited scope is a great way to open ourselves and start discussion.

A few that I would recommend (not all YA) are:

Esperanza Rising (mexican, YA)
Interpreter of Maladies (Indian, adult)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Native American, YA)
The Complete Persepolis (Iranian, cross-over)
Number 9 Dream (Japanese, though written by an Englishman. Adult, but easily a cross-over to older teens)
a short story called Blue Winds Dancing by Thomas Whitecloud (native american, one of the most beautiful things I've ever read)
Passing (mixed, black and white, turn of century)
Angel Child, Dragon Child (chinese-american, one of my fave books as a child)
Anything by Lisa See (chinese) or Haruki Murakami (Japanese), or by the Englishman David Mitchell, who lives in Japan and writes about everywhere in a kinda stunning way.

I have many more on my to read shelves (including Anahita's Woven Riddle, Kabul Beauty School An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil, Monster,The Joy Luck Club, American Born Chinese, and Sold

message 3: by Fiona (last edited May 11, 2009 09:48AM) (new)

Fiona (bookcoop) Would you like a folder for these books and what would this folder be called? Urban fiction? I got no idea really what that is... or Multicultural?

message 4: by Carolyn (last edited May 11, 2009 10:25AM) (new)

Carolyn (seeford) | 67 comments I'd call it Multicultural, because not all multiculti fiction is set in an urban landscape, so I find "Urban" to be a misnomer (and a stereotype all it's own.)

This is an interesting topic...looking forward to following the discussion.

message 5: by Misty (new)

Misty | 1505 comments Carolyn wrote: "I'd call it Multicultural, because not all multiculti fiction is set in an urban landscape, so I find "Urban" to be a misnomer (and a stereotype all it's own.)

This is an interesting topic...loo..."

I absolutely agree.

message 6: by Fiona (new)

Fiona (bookcoop) Okay, folder is now made.

message 7: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn (seeford) | 67 comments Might want to move this discussion thread to the new folder...
I believe the OP and the mods can do that...
= )

message 8: by Fiona (new)

Fiona (bookcoop) Done. Didn't want people thinking it had disappeared off into thin air.

message 9: by Lauren (new)

Lauren (lmorris) | 38 comments I love reading cultural books but don't nkow how many of those I have read would be considered YA.

Touching on the urban fiction, my issue with many of those is the glamorizing of drugs, sex and fast dangerous living. This is not all of those books and having lived in a couple areas where gunshots were the back drop of evening TV shows, I'm not speaking from a simply "offended at the concept" viewpoint. There are many teenagers that deal with these things daily and want to read about people they can relate to.

That said, I love Siser Souljah's The Longest Winter Ever and Midnight:A Gangster Love Story. This is set in a drugs and sex for a living backdrop but looks at the consequences of seeking out those tings for a livelyhood. I found these thought provoking and conversation inducing. What do the decisions you make now have to do with the decisions you will be able to make in the future? What do you value in friendships and relationships? How do you want to make your living and what do you want your life to be colored by?

If there are other urban ficiton authors to check out, I would love some feedback.
Misty, thanks for the list. I will definately be checking some of those out.

message 10: by Alexis (last edited May 11, 2009 09:56PM) (new)

Alexis (alexabexis) | 422 comments Lauren wrote: "Touching on the urban fiction, my issue with many of those is the glamorizing of drugs, sex a..."

Do the YA novels glamorize those things, though? I think the content will have them, certainly, but I think the stories often deal more with the consequences of actions, trying to make a difference, learning a lesson, etc. And they'll raise the questions you mentioned and more. And I think we could argue that something like Gossip Girl glamorizes some pretty bad behavior.

I've got a long list of titles about many different cultures but I'm too tired to post it tonight. Although I did recently hear about a trilogy by Diana Rodriguez Wallach. The first book is called Amor and Summer Secrets, about a girl and her brother who are Puerto Rican, but born in America. They go to Puerto Rico to meet some relatives and deal with the cultural differences they haven't encountered growing up in Pennsylvania. The author is half-Puerto Rican, like me, and I'm really interested to see how she handles this. I rarely come across YA books about Puerto Ricans, and I either end up feeling like the author doesn't really get it (The Dead and the Gone) or like I can't relate to it, being 2nd generation. I have the feeling this author might be coming from the same place I am, so I've ordered the first book from the library.

message 11: by Jessika (new)

Jessika (jessilouwho22) Misty--The Joy Luck Club is an excellent choice. This past semester, I took a class called Women & Literature, and we read selections from that. Amy Tan's writing is thoroughly enjoyable.

We also had to read The Woman Warrior Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston. It is the story of a Chinese-American girl growing up and learning how to accept her mother's Chinese history while also assimilating into her American culture.

I'd definitely classify it as YA...maybe for more mature YA audiences. It is not graphic, by any means, but it does deal with some heavy topics--extramarital pregnancy, suicide, feet-binding.

This is one of those books that people either love or hate, but for those looking for multicultural reads, I'd recommend this one!

message 12: by Lauren (new)

Lauren (lmorris) | 38 comments Alexis-I don't think all urban lit glamorizes thatstuff but too many of the ones I read did and I stopped picking them up unless specifically recommended. I'd read Sister Souljah's memoir so when I saw she had a novel I new a little about how she thought and looked forward to reading it and loved it. Another really excellent one was PUSH. Against abuse and illiteracy, this girl wanted better for her child and sought it.
Piece of Cake was also an excellent memoir, though perhaps not YA.
I look forward to checking out that recommend. I really liked the books my Esmerelda Santiago starting with When I was Puerto Rican. I don't think it is strictly YA but as she is a youth I think it is good reading for teens.

message 13: by Cassie (new)

Cassie (cassielo) Your Push link is going to the Velveteen Rabbit...

I liked Push, but it was so graphic! The poor girl could never catch a break.

One of my favorite black lit books is Imperium in Imperio. It was self-published by the author, who went door-to-door selling his book in 1899. It's online at http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/...

message 14: by Alexis (new)

Alexis (alexabexis) | 422 comments Lauren wrote: "I don't think all urban lit glamorizes that stuff but too many of the ones I read did and I stopped picking them up unless specifically recommended."

Out of curiosity, were they YA or adult? Before the genre starting growing, people kept recommending Zane's books to me. I finally looked at a copy while at work and realized it was just sex, not really a novel. And there are tons of teens who read it. I once rang up a bunch of teen girls who were buying Sex Chronicles by Zane, and I was hearing one of them talk about being pregnant and giving birth. I think I remember another saying something about being 14, and I wanted to cry and refuse to sell them the book. But obviously I couldn't. And then I had to remind myself what it actually is to be that age in the city. I admire all the parents who try to monitor what their kids are reading and read the same things, but then I remember when I was 15 and I realize it doesn't matter.

Sapphire, who wrote Push, is a family friend. I kind of feel bad that I still haven't read the book! I think Esmeralda Santiago usually gets classified under memoirs or cultural studies or something, but I agree, When I Was Puerto Rican could definitely be considered YA.

message 15: by Jennifer W, WT Moderator (new)

Jennifer W | 1289 comments Mod
Firstly, thanks Alexis for raising this tough question! Second, thanks for everyone listing some great books and authors I'll have to check out!

Imani All Mine has been on my TBR list forever! I also read The First Part Last while in college. Those are just 2 I remember off the top of my head. I try to read as many different types of books by as many authors, but I find it can be tough to get exposed to some aspects of multicultural books. Are there Judy Blume type books that feature other races? I don't think I've ever seen them. What kind of message do we send to young people when your choice of books are either white kids concerned about growing up (puberty, friends, parents) or black/Hispanic/etc.. kids worrying about avoiding preganacy, drugs and gangs?

I live in a small city, but our public library is great. They do not appear to shy away from having and spotlighting multicultural books. I think it is very delibrate on the part of the library because Ithaca is such a multicultural (and usually tolerant) town, and I'm thankful I live here.

message 16: by Alexis (new)

Alexis (alexabexis) | 422 comments I love Ithaca! :) I'm going in August.

Jennifer wrote: "Are there Judy Blume type books that feature other races?"

You've raised some interesting questions, Jennifer. I'm going to look into them tomorrow morning and try to compile the list I keep promising.

Off the top of my head, there is a series about a school called Bluford High I've been meaning to mention. It's really popular in NYC. The 15 books are each less than 200 pages, and they are written by at least a few authors, including Anne E. Schraff and John Langan. The first is called Lost and Found, and they've all been reprinted in the last couple years with new covers in the current style (close up photographs of attractive teens). (Look them up on GR under "Bluford Series.")

I have not read these books. However, based on the information from the Townsend Press website, they seem to be really well thought out, and I know for a fact that they sold well in my store, probably because there are so few series like it. This link explains the goals of the series, and the topics discussed. It only takes a minute to read but explains it well, I think.

JG (The Introverted Reader) I live in an area that is very pre-dominantly white and rural. Our small city has a reputation for being very tolerant of pretty much anything, but, again, we're still pretty homogeneous. My local branch of the library really doesn't stock much multicultural stuff. I enjoy reading what I've managed to pick up. But I'm afraid to spend money at the bookstore on books that I just don't know anything about. I have to say that my work supervisor, a black woman, has asked me several times if I ever read any African-American fiction. And then she starts talking about The Left Behind series and I never get to ask for recs. I rarely see her, so I really need to try to remember to ask her about this some time. The only books I see my co-workers reading that could be even remotely considered multi-cultural are books written by Zane. Not for me. That's my story/excuse. :-) I'll have to check into some of the recs from this thread.

I'm probably most interested the books by Hispanic authors. My father-in-law is Cuban, and I really enjoy reading books that help me sort of understand where he's coming from. This one isn't really YA, although it would probably be fine for that audience, but I truly enjoyed reading Waiting for Snow in Havana Confessions of a Cuban Boy. We bought that for my father-in-law for some occasion, and he was so excited when he read it. He said the guy wrote about everything exactly the way he remembered it. I read it later and liked knowing more about the country/revolution.

message 18: by Jennifer W, WT Moderator (new)

Jennifer W | 1289 comments Mod
Yay Ithaca! I love it in the summer, there's all the parks and it's quiet because all the college kids are gone!

Do let us know what you discover in your digging. The Bluford series looks good, I'll have to see if the library here has it.

JG I grew up in a rural area and it was almost impossible to see any sort of multiculturalism when I was younger. *A lot* of people I grew up with were and are very racist, so I'm glad that your town is more accepting. I understand your hesitancy to pay for something you might not like (regardless of who wrote it or who stars in it). Can you inter-library loan some books from a larger library?

message 19: by Alexis (last edited May 15, 2009 08:41AM) (new)

Alexis (alexabexis) | 422 comments Okay, it's list time! We'll see what I come up with. Oh, how I miss Bookmaster! (B&N's store search system.)

If I included all the awards some of these books have won I'd be here all night. Many of these authors also write middle grade or picture books. For authors with a huge amount of books I've only included a small selection.

In no particular order:
-Walter Dean Myers:
Monster, Slam!, Bad Boy: A Memoir and many others.
-Sharon G. Flake:
The Skin I'm In, Money Hungry, Begging for Change, Bang!
-Sharon M. Draper:
Romiette and Julio, The Battle of Jericho, Double Dutch, Tears of a Tiger (Book 1 in The Hazelwood High Trilogy), Forged in Fire (Book 2), Darkness Before Dawn
-(as Sharon Draper, Sassy series for middle grades: Little Sister Is Not My Name and The Birthday Storm)
-Angela Johnson:
The First Part Last, Heaven
-Nikki Grimes
Bronx Masquerade, The Road to Paris
-Christopher Paul Curtis:
Bud Not Buddy, The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963, Elijah of Buxton
-Virginia Hamilton:
Cousins, The House of Dies Drear, M.C. Higgins, the Great, Bluish
-Julius Lester:
Pharaoh's Daughter : A Novel of Ancient Egypt, Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue
-Mildred D. Taylor:
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry and many others
-Coe Booth:
Tyrell, Kendra
-Suzanne Fisher Staples:
Shabanu, Haveli, The House of Djinn
-Linda Sue Park:
A Single Shard, Project Mulberry, When My Name Was Keoko
-Bluford High Series by Paul Langan and Anne Schraff
-The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

message 21: by Alexis (last edited May 15, 2009 08:23AM) (new)

Alexis (alexabexis) | 422 comments -Shine Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger
-Lensey Namioka:
Ties That Bind Ties That Break, -April and the Dragon Lady
-Journey to Topaz by Yoshiko Uchida
-Beneath My Mother's Feet by Amjed Qamar
-Good Enough by Paula Yoo
-Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier
-The Necessary Hunger by Nina Revoyr
-Jacqueline Woodson:
Feathers, Locomotion, After Tupac and D Foster, If You Come Softly
-Gifted by Nikita Lalwani
-Necessary Roughness by Marie Myung-Ok Lee
-Motherland by Vineeta Vijayaraghavan
-What I Meant... by Marie Lamba
-She's So Money by Cherry Cheva
-Fresh off the Boat by Melissa De La Cruz
-Zazoo by Richard Mosher
-Sophomore Undercover by Ben Esch
-Koyal Dark Mango Sweet by Kashmira Sheth
-Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata
-Stephanie Perry Moore:
Payton Skky series and Perry Skky, Jr. series

This is by no means a complete list, and I do have to check the links (tomorrow), but it's a big list of YA books encompassing a wide range of cultures. And I think this answers my earlier question. There are more multicultural books being written, but I don't think they're given anywhere near the same shelf life or space, unless they've won huge awards, like Monster or The First Part Last.

message 22: by Ashley (last edited May 15, 2009 07:41AM) (new)

Ashley (Affie) | 468 comments What exactly counts as Urban Fiction. I have been hearing people talk about them a lot lately, but can't seem to put my finger on what it is that actually classifies a book as "Urban Fiction".

I try to read some multicultural books, and am starting to branch out more. I live in a really small, ultra conservative, farming/college town. We have a small hispanic population, and on campus is a little different, with a little more diversity, but in town, we have almost no cultural diversity. Because of that, I tried to read a little more, so I'm not in a vacumm or bubble...

Alexis, this is an awesome list! Thank you for taking the time to post this! I have read a few on there, but not tons, and I am excited about reading some more!!

message 23: by Alexis (last edited May 15, 2009 07:51AM) (new)

Alexis (alexabexis) | 422 comments Urban Fiction is a weird classification. I can't say I like the name of the category, but it's been getting used more and more.

Basically, they're contemporary books about black or Hispanic characters in an urban setting.

message 24: by Ashley (new)

Ashley (Affie) | 468 comments Alexis wrote: "Urban Fiction is a weird classification. I can't say I like the name of the category, but it's been getting used more and more.

Basically, they're contemporary books about black or Hispanic chara..."

Oh, thanks! That's good to know, and that makes sense.

message 25: by Jennifer W, WT Moderator (new)

Jennifer W | 1289 comments Mod
Wow, wow, WOW! Way to go Alexis! There's several books here I've read and several more I've heard of, so I think at least some effort is being made somewhere to make these more widely available.

My poor TBR shelf... it has no idea what's coming! :)

JG (The Introverted Reader) Jennifer W, I can interlibrary loan if I know titles to ask for. Without browsing the shelves, that's been an issue.

Thanks, Alexis! It looks like you put a lot of thought into this. I'll be sure to check these out!

message 27: by Jennifer W, WT Moderator (new)

Jennifer W | 1289 comments Mod
Duh, gotcha JG. Well, hopefully Alexis has given you a few to go looking for! She certainly has for me!

message 28: by Alexis (new)

Alexis (alexabexis) | 422 comments Yay! I'm glad you all find it helpful. I found some of these at my library, so I think I might spend some of this summer reading books about Hispanic characters to compare them. There's one that I think I might be able to relate my own experiences to, judging from what I've read about the author on her website.

message 29: by Diana (new)

Diana (DianaRodriguezWallach) Alexis wrote: "Lauren wrote: "Touching on the urban fiction, my issue with many of those is the glamorizing of drugs, sex a..."

Do the YA novels glamorize those things, though? I think the content will have the..."

Thanks, Alexis, for recommending my books! I will say that I wrote my YA series in part because I agree that there aren’t enough multicultural novels out there—and there were even less that represented the way I was raised. My father grew up in Puerto Rico, my mother is Polish, and I was raised in the Philly suburbs. It definitely wasn’t “urban.”

So I wanted to feature a character who is raised in a well-off family and isn’t particularly connected to either of her parents cultures. She doesn’t speak Spanish, she doesn’t look like a stereotypical Latina, and thinks and acts like any average teenage girl. But by the end she starts to develop a better understanding of her Latina roots and a better appreciation for where her family came from. All the while she’s dealing with boys, selfish friends, an immature brother, and all the other things a teenage girl faces. I hope you’ll check it out.

And if you’re looking for more multicultural YA reads, Mitali Perkins (one of the Reader Girlz Divas, http://www.readergirlz.com/) has a great blog on the subject with lots of recommendations, http://www.mitaliblog.com/.

Thanks again for recommending my books! I hope you enjoy them!

-Diana RW

message 30: by Jennifer W, WT Moderator (new)

Jennifer W | 1289 comments Mod
I just finished Kira-Kira as part of the challenge. It's about Japanese-American sisters growing up in Georgia in the 1950s and the older one gets cancer. I think it dealt well with the fact that they were "different" while still being a book mostly about being teenage sisters. I'd recommend it.

message 31: by Ashley (new)

Ashley (Affie) | 468 comments I really liked Kira-Kira when I read it. I don't remember a lot of details, because it was 2 years ago, I think, but I do remember loving their father, and really feeling for the family, for several reasons...
I agree that it was written very well.

message 32: by April (new)

April (booksandwine) | 312 comments I have Walter Dean Myers on my TBR!
In answer to your question about whether or not YA glamourizes certain seedy things like drugs, I don't think it does. I think for a lot of inner-city kids, it's something they deal with on a daily basis, as well as kids in the suburbs. I hate to say this, but drugs are all around, who hasn't tried weed in high school or college? (that's rhetorical, I know a few people who haven't but am trying to make a small point) I also feel like when I graduated high school pretty much everyone except me had had sex. It's what teenagers do, like it or not.

I think maybe certain multi-cultral YA books bring up these issues, because they are issues kids can relate to. Personally, I would much rather read a book with characters I can relate to, personality-wise, or with the issues they go through (i.e. whether to have sex or not). I think it's the same with a reluctant reader, they would probably enjoy a book which has a character they can relate to.

Great topic Alexis!

message 33: by April (new)

April (booksandwine) | 312 comments Oh, another great multicultural book I have to recommend because it's so girly and angsty and romantic is Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier! It's about this girl who is Indian as in from India, who has a crush on this boy who is dating her best friend, an American girl who is blonde. Anyways drama ensues, but the writing is pretty solid and it's a real page-turner!

message 34: by Emily (new)

Emily | 25 comments I love this thread so hard. I am so excited to start working on that list you compiled, Alexis, thank you. One book I read recently that had an African American young woman as the main character was Stormwitch by Susan Vaught. It's historical fiction, but also a little bit SF.

As for "multicultural fiction" as a classification, I mostly vote "ick." Lumping together books featuring African American, Hispanic, Asian American, and Native American literature together seems a little heavy handed. It treats books featuring white characters as "normal" or culture-less. And all too often, really good books by African American or Hispanic authors get pulled from Multicultural Fic sections and put in general fiction because white audiences might be interested in it. However, lists like this that connect readers with books that reflect their experiences are fantastic.

message 35: by Misty (new)

Misty | 1505 comments I agree. I think it's critical to be exposed to a lot of viewpoints as a kid, and literature -- good literature that doesn't pander to stereotypes and isn't just a hack job -- can do a great job of it in a fairly unobtrusive way. I really feel that most violence and anger and shame in this world stem from ignorance and uncomfortability with the unfamiliar.

message 36: by Misty (new)

Misty | 1505 comments I had a teacher in college that would sing that to me every time he saw me in the hall. It was...interesting. People would look at us, like why is he serenading her?

message 37: by Lydia (new)

Lydia (LoverofInformation) | 596 comments I want to ask -- would you consider gay fiction/non-fiction as being multicultural?

message 38: by Misty (new)

Misty | 1505 comments I think in the broad sense it could be. Anything non "mainstream" could be considered multicultural. I don't know that it would be in the general definition of it, though.

Anyone else?

message 39: by Emily (new)

Emily | 25 comments Misty wrote: "Anything non "mainstream" could be considered multicultural."

That's kind of why I dislike the term "multicultural." It feels like a PC/code word for people of color, like they're automatically a distinct culture for having a different skin color than white people. And really, how many "multicultural" books actually have more than one culture represented in them? Would a book set in Germany and Sweden (definitely two different cultures) be shelved as multicultural? Thoughts?

message 40: by Misty (new)

Misty | 1505 comments By me it would, because anything that is new to me and outside my "realm" is for me. Actually, I have to classifications that are grouped together: international/multicultural. This way I cover everything that is outside my realm, including who wrote it/where/about whom, etc...

message 41: by Lauren (new)

Lauren (lmorris) | 38 comments Has anyone had an experience like this (I was intrigued...)

I love reading books that are outside of my experience and understanding, whether they are in a different country, an American's experience in another country, immigrants new experiences when coming to America or other American experiences. One of the ladies I work with was looking for a book and I asked what she liked (she is Puerto Rican with much of her family still living in Puerto Rico). I mentioned a couple books with Puerto Rican protagonists and she wanted to borrow one. When I brought it in she said, "Why would you pick up a book like this?"

That response seems quite indicative of why "multicultural" is the catch all non-white category for books. It seems that as an American I am expected to live only in my little world with no interest in the lives of others.

Any thoughts about the response or the general perceptions of Americans?

message 42: by Misty (new)

Misty | 1505 comments I get the all the time. I took an African American lit class, and every time I would tell someone something about it, I would get a weird look or someone would say 'Why are you taking that?'
I saw something recently about the world literary community's perception of the American literary scene. Apparently, we are not accepting of world lit, we ignore it and never nominate it for things, and we act like it doesn't exist or is lesser than mainstream white American lit. I can't remember where I saw this, but it was a reputable source (like BBC or PBS or something), not someone being bitter on a blog.
And as much as I hate to admit it, it may not be far from the mark.

message 43: by Hayes (last edited Aug 25, 2009 01:46PM) (new)

Hayes (Hayes13) Unfortunately true... just look at the various "100 best books" lists that are circulating... lots and lots of Anglo-American, some south African, very little Australian and certainly nothing much else.

message 44: by Emily (new)

Emily | 25 comments Honestly Lauren, I didn't start actively seeking out books "multicultural" books until I decided to become a teacher. Since the district I plan on teaching in is very diverse, I realized that I need to make sure my classroom library reflects all of my students, not just the ones who look like me. And that's when I found out how much I had been missing.

This blog is focused on works by authors of color with a focus on African American authors, if anyone is interested (and I'm guessing many of you are). They did an excellent job covering the debacle over the new cover of Justine Larbalestier's book Liar and have author interviews fairly frequently.

message 45: by Heather (new)

Heather Ohana (blackdotbug) Eugene wrote: "Lauren wrote:

"Any thoughts about the response or the general perceptions of Americans? "

you would have to ask those responsible for the portrayal of your people and your culture to the rest of..."

Totally! The times I have traveled outside the US I have experienced not wanting to be recognized as an American because there's an established view of what that means and what type of person that must make me. But I try not to shy from it, because I realize how important it is to dispel those myths.

message 46: by Heather (new)

Heather Ohana (blackdotbug) *beams*

Thank you Eugene! :)

message 47: by Lauren (last edited Aug 26, 2009 11:14AM) (new)

Lauren (lmorris) | 38 comments I don't know when I started becoming interested in "multiculteral" literature but I started making an effort to seek it out when I saw the prevalence of "white" literature that I was feeding myself.

Because of where I live, I look more for African-American and S. American authors to get a glimpse into a world unlike my own but reflective of the demographic of the area. I also love books that take place in Asia because of friends I have from Philipines and China.

I do think when we travel, whether we want to or not, we are reflective of our whole country and I would like to show something different than the Hollywood portrayal. I think of an article I read in a travel magazine? about young back-packers putting Canadian flags on their bags because they didn't want to be seen as an American-perhaps if they'd gone as Americans they would have openned some minds to alternative thought.

This is rambling, sorry. My other thought was that as we become more aware of this lack, we are able to inform the habits of those people that we have some influence over and, while it takes time,these changes may start being visable. A line in (I think) It's the Little Things says (paraphrasing): Black people are always aware of race, White people have to make a point to think about it.

the more people making a point to think about it and actively do something about it...that's progress.

message 48: by Mia (new)

Mia Alexis, my to-read list is soon going to hate you.

I love this topic and the recommendations sounds great! This is actually something that's being talked a lot about on some of the blogs I read. Check out Taste Life Twice and Reading in Color. Also, if you're interested and not familiar with it I suggest checking out Justine Larbalestier's Blog and reading about the cover controversy over her new book Liar.

And my suggestions for some books with POC protags or POC authors:
Asian-American Protags in YA fiction Book List
Anything by Justine Larbalestier (try her Magic or Madness trilogy)
Returning My Sister's Face by Eugie Foster - Not YA, but I'd still recommend it. Beautiful short stories that retell and draw inspiration from Japanese myth and legends.

There are probably a lot more in my book list but as I don't sort my books by culture and book covers are not a lot of help I'd have to take a lot more time to sort them out.

message 49: by Heather (new)

Heather Ohana (blackdotbug) Lauren wrote: "A line in (I think) It's the Little Things says (paraphrasing): Black people are always aware of race, White people have to make a point to think about it.

the more people making a point to think about it and actively do something about it...that's progress. "

That's an excellent quote.. reminds me of Peggy McIntosh's essay "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack". Here's a link: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/files/mc...

message 50: by Lydia (new)

Lydia (LoverofInformation) | 596 comments Heather,

Well, there is another way to think of it -- my world is made up of black people; the rest are "unblack" or "other".

Something I had to consider as I raised my interracial children and thought about what they would be reading.

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Authors mentioned in this topic

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