Hi everyone! Just a reminder that this weekend I'll be at the Fine Arts Theatre (19 Summer St) in Maynard, for the library's book festival -- Saturday (April 7) at 10:30am! It would be awesome to see you there! (And DC folks, stay tuned for an exciting announcement hopefully coming soon!)
Hi lovely everyone! I'm doing an exciting event next weekend (Saturday, April 7) as part of the Maynard Book Festival and would love it if you can come join me! Maaaaaybe I'll read from Book 11, oooooooo...almost certainly I will inadvertently reveal things about it that my editor thinks I shouldn't....la la la... Hope to see you there!
What do we have for kids during Maynard Book Festival? We're bringing in NY Times best selling author Tui T. Sutherland!
Saturday, April 7, 10:30 am at Fine Ar...ts Theatre Place
Tui Sutherland is an author of and a contributor to a number of wildly popular book series for middle graders. She is best known for her New York Times bestselling Wings of Fire dragon fantasy series, now numbering 10 books with #11 coming this summer. Sutherland is part of the Erin Hunter team, contributing mainly to the Seekers series. And she contributed Book 5 (Against the Tide) in the Spirit Animals series, joining Garth Nix, Brandon Mull and Maggie Stiefvater as series authors. Sutherland has also written the Avatars trilogy, the Menagerie trilogy (with her sister), and writes under the pseudonyms Rob Kidd, Heather Williams and Tamara Summers. You can check out her website and blog here: http://tuibooks.com/wordpress/meet-the-author/
We're expecting a crowd too big for the library, so the event will be at the Fine Arts Theatre, just around the corner from us. No tickets are required. The theater's concessions stand will be open for the purchase of snacks, and Porter Square Books will be on hand with books to buy and get signed, if you are so inclined.
Hello lovely everyone! I have been remiss at keeping up with sharing the #KidlitWomen posts, mostly because of all the snow days (I get nothing done when the little bears are home!), but artist Mishka Jaeger has kindly been collecting them all in one place -- I hope you'll check them out when you have a chance!
Last #KidlitWomen post for today (since my children are leaping about downstairs waiting for me to take them to the movies!) -- from the brilliant Kate Messner (author of Ranger in Time, a series my kids love, and a million other great things!) with some concrete suggestions for how to change things... 😁
"We see conference panels that promote “FIVE FUNNY MEN!” and “ADVENTURE BOOKS FOR BOYS,” all by white male authors. When girls and people of color see these lin...eups over and over again, it sends a persistent and insidious message."
Kate Messner suggest that book festival and conference organizers ask themselves, "Who is invited?" in today's #kidlitwomen post.
And here's a great, thoughtful #KidlitWomen post by Erin Dionne (who is awesome and marvelous) about what happens when we talk about "strong female characters"...
"...by labeling our characters as “strong,”... we have set the expectation that all other female characters are weak."
Erin Dionne about how we fall for the fallacy of the strong female character:
I loved this #KidlitWomen post too -- a lot to think about here (and so lovely that the little boy chose a Babysitters Club graphic novel -- my sons love those so much!). 😊
"Did I fall victim to cliché stereotypes by selecting certain purses for boys vs. girls and basically set myself up for failure?" Librarian Eboni Darnell (@awa...kenlibrarian) shares with #kidlitwomen her conflicting thoughts in this post:
A #KidlitWomen post with so many amazing-looking book recommendations! 😍
Today at #kidlitwomen: "Highlighting the same books again and again at the expense of other diverse voices limits what they see and read. Period. Our readers de...serve better."
Tell us & the folks at @TheLittleCrookedCottage which books by women creators YOU are reading, sharing and spotlighting!
The fascinating #KidlitWomen conversations continue... 😊
Hello lovely readers! I've written a blog post for the #KidlitWomen project, all about my hilarious bears and their books...please feel free to come over to the #KidlitWomen Facebook page and chat about it (and see what the other authors have posted over there!). 😁💕 Happy March!
#KidlitWomen Day 7, post 2 -- this one from Miranda Paul, who also writes really lovely books, like Water is Water. She's so right about the books that are read or assigned in school, although I think a lot of teachers would love to change this! My son's second grade class is listening to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon right now, which just made me adore his teacher even more. 😊😊😊
Hi everyone! I wanted to make sure I didn't forget to post this #KidlitWomen blog from yesterday, since Susan Adrian has some great points here about the same topic I'm writing about. 😊
And another #KidlitWomen post, this one from Diana Rodriguez Wallach, about cultural stereotypes.
What It’s Like to Be a Latina Author in a Publishing Box: An Essay for #KidLitWomen
The third blog I ever wrote in my entire life was titled, “Hi, My Name’s Dia...na and I’m a Closeted Latina." http://blog.dianarodriguezwallach.com/…/im-diana-and-im-clo…
It was posted on Blogger, to give you an idea of how long ago that was, and it was right before my first YA novel, Amor and Summer Secrets, debuted. With reddish hair, freckles, and skin so pale I buy the “ivory snow” color of liquid foundation, I fly under the Latina radar at first glance. Yet my father was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and my last name is Rodriguez. It’s what Amor and Summer Secrets is all about. And in the publishing world, that book and my name, put me in a box.
Don’t get me wrong, the box isn’t all bad. For the first time in my life, I felt included by the Latino community. Amor was given awards by Hispanic associations, it was put on lists for diverse reading, and I was invited to speak at schools, conferences, and community groups serving Latino populations.
Then I wrote Proof of Lies.
It’s not about a Latina character. No one travels to Puerto Rico. There’s no coming to terms with ethnicity. Proof of Lies, and its new sequel Lies that Bind, are YA spy thrillers. I didn’t realize I was breaking any publishing rules when I penned Anastasia Phoenix’s story. I simply wrote the book of my heart.
I love kick butt heroines, like Buffy and Veronica Mars; I love espionage movies, like Jason Bourne and Spy Kids; and I love to travel, which is why my books are set in Italy, England, Brazil and Eastern Europe. Proof of Lies is the book I wanted to read when I was a kid.
Then I tried to sell it.
Let’s just say I was on submission for a long time. Like seven years and three different agents. I rewrote the manuscript constantly, absorbing tons of constructive feedback along the way, but there was one repetitive piece of criticism I refused to accept, “I’m surprised the main character isn’t Latina…”
I don’t know if this is an issue limited to female YA writers, or just Hispanic writers in general, but there seems to be an assumption in the publishing world that if your last name is Rodriguez (or anything like it), your books will feature Latino kids, Spanglish, issues with ethnic identity, and a few cultural stereotypes (like alcoholism, crime, or poverty).
Even when Amor and Summer Secrets came out, I had to negotiate with my publisher to change the cover image. The entire book is about a girl with red hair and freckles who doesn’t look Puerto Rican, and still they tried to put a dark-skinned, dark-haired model on the cover. Just look at the cover of book two, Amigas and School Scandals—there’s no one in the book who looks like that.
A prior agent once suggested I just revise Proof of Lies to make Anastasia Latina. I’ll admit, after staring down a few repetitive rejection letters, I considered it. But it wasn’t my vision. I wanted to write a traditional spy novel, only featuring a girl; I wanted to pay homage to the Czechoslovakian spy-turned-BU professor who inspired my espionage elements; and I wanted to give a nod to my mother’s Polish heritage. Frankly, I just didn’t see Anastasia’s parents as Puerto Rican spies, and it didn’t feel right that I should have to make that change simply because that was where my father was born.
So while I strongly agree in the #ownvoices movement, and I agree that #weneeddiversebooks, I also feel Latina authors shouldn’t be expected to only write stories about characters coming to terms with their ethnic identity.
For me, it’s an offshoot of the feminist belief that women should have the right to make any life choice—whether it’s working on Wall Street, opting out and being a stay-at-home mom, or not having children at all. True equality in publishing should mean authors, of any ethnic background, should be able to write books about anything they want. We know editors don’t snub their noses when men write from the point of view of females. Guys don’t hear, “I’m surprised the main character’s not male…” So why is there a box for us?
Women of color have spoken out a lot recently about needing more inclusion in the feminist movement. While I can’t speak for other’s individual experiences, my Puerto Rican father and my last name put me in this group, and my belief is that we deserve the same freedoms to write about any topics we choose, featuring characters of any backgrounds we choose. If an editor isn’t going to say, “I’m surprised the main character isn’t Irish…” then they shouldn’t say it to us either. It’s like the old saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by the author’s last name.”
Celebrate Women's History month with 31 days of posts focused on improving the climate for social and gender equality in the children’s and teens' literature community. Join the conversation on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/kidlitwomenor Twitter #kidlitwomen
For #KidlitWomen, another important post from wonderful Christine Taylor-Butler, this time digging into the Coretta Scott King Illustrator awards...
In an equally sobering follow up to her look at the male dominance of Caldecott Awards, Christine Taylor-Butler looks at the gender breakdown of Coretta Scott King Illustrator awards. #kidlitwomen
I missed sharing this #KidlitWomen post from yesterday, but I love this essay by Holly Westlund about her daughter's library -- I'm hoping to write something like this for my post on Wednesday! 😊💕
MY DAUGHTER'S LIBRARY: An Essay for #kidlitwomen
A few days ago, I began an in depth analysis of my just-turned-four-years-old daughter’s library, taking a clos...e look at the kind of representation we’ve been presenting her. I’ll say right up front that my ideal stories contain: 1) female characters who lead their own adventures, 2) a range of racial representation (because if you aren’t concerned about race as a feminist, then you’re not really in it for equality), 3) male characters who are friends (just friends) with female characters, and 4) characters of either gender who break the toxic molds society has placed on us. Does my daughter’s library reflect these ideals? Sadly, not as well as I’d like.
Now, as my husband pointed out to me, some of what I want to find in books has only recently been introduced into the publishing world with enough oomph to make a greater number of books available. But that still doesn’t make me feel great about the fact that out of 56 picture books that feature human protagonists, only ten of them focus on definitively non-white characters. I’m also not feeling super great about the fact that out of 109 picture books, 49 of them feature male protagonists alone, while females star in 32 of them. Granted, when it comes to human protagonists, girls come out ahead 23 to 19, but… Really? Why doesn’t a feminist mom who worked in a bookstore and writes for children and teens have more picture books with female characters? And even more importantly to me right now, why don’t I have more female characters of color?
To be fair, we didn’t buy all the books in my daughter’s library ourselves. And only half of what we did buy for my daughter’s library was purchased after we knew we were having a girl. [Aside: But why are girl characters only an essential part of a girl’s library?] Also, a fair chunk of the male-focused picture books are classics that I either had in my childhood library or that were gifted to us. (Because everyone gives babies “classics.”) We have definitely sought out girl protagonists—particularly girl protagonists who are powerfully centered in their stories. And I do want my daughter to read about boys, because I don’t want her growing up to think that boys are another species entirely, and there are lots of great stories that center around boys. But I thought we had a lot more gender parity than we do.
I can only say that I’m still so steeped in our culture of male-focused story that I didn’t notice that most of the animal protagonists in our picture books are male (30 to 9, with 6 of the animal protagonists being of indeterminate gender, and 8 books containing a mix of protagonists.) What is up with the animals? I don’t have time to delve into it, since there are so many things to talk about, but think about this: Bears are one of the predominant picture book animals. Most of them are male. If a book centers on a female animal, she is likely to be a rabbit, or some other smaller, cuter creature.
As frustrated as I was with the gender and race breakdown in our picture books, I was pleasantly surprised when I started looking at our graphic novel collection. Graphic novels seem to be where equality of all kinds is happening best. While I am sure that the bookshelves still lean toward male main characters, since graphic novels were born in the comic universe where male superheroes still dominate the narrative, we’ve managed to collect series where the female protagonists outnumber the male 11 to 7, and another 4 feature a balanced cast of main characters. Even better, of the human characters, 6 are white, 6 are nonwhite, and 1 is of indeterminate race (meaning the character could be a black-haired white kid, Asian, or Hispanic—there are no racial identifiers in the world, so kids are free to imagine themselves in the story.) I also love that in graphic novels, girls have stories where they are just as clever and action-oriented as boys. (Star Scouts, Cleopatra in Space, Zita the Spacegirl, and Little Robot all feature girls—mostly girls of color—who take charge, fix things, and make friends.) And I can’t wait until my daughter is older and can enjoy the fantastic identity and friendship story found in The Prince and the Dressmaker. Graphic novels really are leading the way to better representation. For everyone.
I’m afraid early readers are letting me down, though. There are extremely limited books available on this level, and a lot of them are classics, like Frog and Toad, Little Bear, and Little Critter (all male). And since I have a personal opposition to licensed characters, I don’t buy Disney princess books or books based on TV characters. (Though if someone did some early readers based on “Sarah and Duck,” I’d change my mind.) We’ve opted instead for Princess in Black, which allows the main character to enjoy frilly things, be afraid of snails, and kickass, using other people’s expectations to her advantage. But as much as I love a lot of the books we have on this reading level (Mr. Putter, you will always be my favorite), Katie Woo is our only nonwhite human character. And that’s not okay with me.
Part of why there are so few characters of color in my daughter’s library is because there just haven’t been that many of them until recently. But it’s also because I have a strong bias toward books that I know my daughter will identify with on a story level, even if the character’s skin is a different color than hers. I’ve realized that it’s my privilege, as a white person, to be seeking stories where other races are “just like you”—a message that I think has been appropriate for my young daughter. But school is starting soon, and that means she is going to encounter prejudice among her peers and the adults who supervise them. It’s time to start building more awareness of what difference means in our society. Kinship matters—but being “colorblind” is not an option. Even for children.
After realizing this gap in my daughter’s library, I went to my local indie bookstore with the full intention of buying a book with a female character of color to begin to fill the gap. But I couldn’t find any that I didn’t already have. I found a few boy-centered books with characters of color, but no new girls. I even went digging through the nonfiction section, thinking, “Now would be a great time to introduce her to Rosa Parks, or someone else with a story like that!” But all I could find were books about Jane Austen, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and a number of short story books designed for older readers. I went home empty-handed after combing the shelves for at least an hour, looking for books that were meant for kids my daughter’s age. There is a sad lack of girls of color in picture books and early readers. And if I’m this sad about it, I can’t imagine how heartbreaking it must be for parents of color.
As a whole, the publishing industry is improving its content. It’s much easier to find fantastic “princess” books like Dangerously Ever After. Or STEM-centered books like Ada Twist, Scientist, which also features a black family. Or books that feature equal and beneficial friendships between genders, like Dill and Bizzy. Or even a fantastic science book with a mixed race family, like Water is Water. But when someone who actively seeks books that will better situate her daughter in this world realizes she only has ten picture books with characters who are not white… That 70 out of 162 books/series (graphic novels and early readers counted by series, not number of books) feature male protagonists only… That the only way female protagonists surpass the males is when she adds in all the books with protagonists of both genders…
Publishing can do better. For girls. For people of color. For all of us.
Some ideas for how you can make a change:
1. Stop gifting classics. If you don’t know any current books, take the time to read a few at your local bookstore. Or ask a bookseller to help you find those extra special new releases.
2. Buy books with female protagonists for boys.
3. Buy books with characters of color for white kids.
4. If you don’t see books you want on the shelves, ASK for them. Booksellers buy by perceived demand, and if they don’t know that their customers are looking for books that bend gender stereotypes and/or feature characters of color, they aren’t going to bother stocking them. Diversity is still new to publishing, and many booksellers haven’t caught up yet. Let them know it’s wanted and that YOU will buy it.
Today, a #KidlitWomen post from Meg Medina, author of the lovely picture book Mango, Abuela, and Me, as well as great books for older readers, too!