Blogger Spotlight is a mostly weekly feature where I interview bloggers. Let me know if you want to be featured. Also I'm open to more creative names for this feature!
Today I'm featuring Edi at Crazy Quilts I consider Edi another one of my blogging godmothers :) As a librarian, she has ready access to many great books and she's introduced me to some wonderful titles (perhaps most importantly, she sent me Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, haha). Along with book advice, Edi also has great advice in general and she has a good sense of humor. Also, more often than not we are cheering for the same teams (Butler). She's a tireless advocate for librians and the use of technology in libraries, along with championing POC literature and social justice causes.
1) Tell us about Crazy Quilts
I just checked. I started blogging on 3 June 2006. A whopping total of 8 people have read that first post! I started "Crazy Quilts" because I was tired of hearing people say they couldn't find books for teens of color. As a librarian, I'm also interested in literacy, so I decided to dedicate the blog to improving literacy for teens of color. I've grown to become more inclusive both in my efforts towards all ethnicities of color and to reviewing books rather than just to listing them. I address school library issues and cover technology as well. For some reason people like to think teens of color don't read, but I know for a fact that's not true. I also know that when it comes to literacy, technology and media literacy are critical to developing independent, critically thinking citizens and the resources too often are not provided or utilized in urban schools where we find high amounts of PoC students.
I was a quilter before I entered library school, hence the name of my blog. Isn't the world made up of random, colorful bits and pieces and tied together in books?
2) What 2010 debut book are you most looking forward to? And non-debut?
I think in May, the US is going to have a release of Carlos Ruiz Zafron's Prince of Mist which was released in Spain in '93. I read Zafron's Shadow of the Wind several years ago (when I happened to be traveling in Spain) and it became one of my all time favorite books. I love that book and am really looking forward to reading Prince of Mist which is a YA book. Shadow was considered adult, but I'm sure it would appeal to YAs. Non-debuts? I don't have access to my TBR pile right now, but there are so many books in that pile I want to read!!!! I'd love to have about a month in a cottage by the sea and I'd get them knocked out in no time!
3) What are your top five favorite POC books?
Wow. This will take some thought. I'm not good at listing favorites and get so annoyed when they're used for password security questions! Particularly when it comes to books, it's difficult for me to look past the recent 'good' reads to remember the 'great' reads I've had over the years, and there have been quite a few (years and books!). These are a few of the greats that would be on my least whether or not the PoC qualifier is used. (synopses are shamelessly lifted from Goodreads.com)
Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall "Meet Denver, a man raised under plantation-style slavery in Louisiana in the 1960s; a man who escaped, hopping a train to wander, homeless, for eighteen years on the streets of Dallas, Texas. No longer a slave, Denver's life was still hopeless-until God moved. First came a godly woman who prayed, listened, and obeyed. And then came her husband, Ron, an international arts dealer at home in a world of Armani-suited millionaires. And then they all came together."
I picked this up simply because I liked the cover. Although it started quite slowly, I was quickly caught up and personally challenged. I've shared this book with all of my children and they've in turn passed it on to their friends. We don't all share the same religious beliefs, but the basic goodness of the book shouldn't be missed.
Dirty Girl's Social Club by Alisa Valdez Rodriguez Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez has completely thrown out any literary pretensions whatsoever, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Dirty Girls is a fun, easy, ultimately charming read, not least because the girls themselves are so appealing. Six Latina women become fast friends at Boston University and thereafter meet as a group every few months. Now in their late twenties, they're each on the cusp of the life they want. The novel is narrated in turn by each woman. Feisty Lauren has a column at the Boston Globe, but can't help falling for losers; ghetto-elegant Usnavys is trying to find a man to match her own earning power and expensive tastes; uptight Rebecca is a successful magazine publisher and an unsuccessful wife; beautiful TV anchor Elizabeth has a secret; Sara leads a Martha-Stewart-perfect life as a homemaker; and Amber is a hopeful rock musician in L.A.
Yes, we can call this chica lit, but Rodriguez uses this approachable and enjoyable genre to challenge our stereotypes about contemporary Latinas and the feminism in general. She does this with wit, intelligence and humor.
So Long a Letter by Miriam Ba This novel is a perceptive testimony to the plight of articulate women who live in social milieux dominated by attitudes and values that deny them their proper place. It is a sequence of reminiscences, some wistful, some bitter, recounted by a recently widowed Senegalese school teacher. The letter, addressed to an old friend, is a record of her emotional struggle for survival after her husband's abrupt decision to take a second wife. Although his action is sanctioned by Islam, it is a calculated betrayal of his wife's trust and a brutal rejection of their life together.
I can't say it better than that! Reading Ba immerses us completely in another world and in the process leads to a better understanding of self. This is character development at its finest!
Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell looks at why major changes in our society so often happen suddenly and unexpectedly. Ideas, behavior, messages, and products, he argues, often spread like outbreaks of infectious disease. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a few fare-beaters and graffiti artists fuel a subway crime wave, or a satisfied customer fill the empty tables of a new restaurant. These are social epidemics, and the moment when they take off, when they reach their critical mass, is the Tipping Point." "Gladwell introduces us to the particular personality types who are natural pollinators of new ideas and trends, the people who create the phenomenon of word of mouth. He analyzes fashion trends, smoking, children's television, direct mail, and the early days of the American Revolution for clues about making ideas infectious, and visits a religious commune, a successful high-tech company, and one of the world's greatest salesmen to show how to start and sustain social epidemics.
I hate to reveal this to my literary friends, but I don't remember the details of what I read. I only remember broad strokes. Maybe I have the opposite of a photographic memory?? Nonetheless, I find bits and pieces of Gladwell coming through my memory from time to time. His insights in the to ordinary wreak of economic theory and have so much significance that they're impossible to forget!
What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Alusio Every day, millions of families around the world gather—at the table or on the floor, in a house or outdoors—to eat together. Ever wondered what a typical meal is like on the other side of the world? Or next door? Cultural geographers Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio visited twenty-five families in twenty-one countries to create this fascinating look at what people around the world eat in a week. Meet a family that spends long hours hunting for seal and fish together; a family that raises and eats guinea pigs; a family that drinks six gallons of Coca-Cola a week.
I'm really surprised that this book didn't get more attention last year. The writing style, graphs, photos and layout make it quite attractive to teens and I don't know of a subject other than 'food' that would draw students into another culture. The information in the books is presented in a way that invites discussion and further analysis. I think it's a great teaching tool as well as a fun read.
I'm leaving out Like Water for Chocolate; The good earth; The dark child; Nervous conditions; Balzac and the little Chinese seamstress; Sold; Mister Pip, Sundiata, Tales Julian Tells...
Sometimes, I think people think all I read is PoC, so I have to add that some of my other all time favorites include Poisonwood Bible, Shadow of the Wind, A prayer for Owen Meany, I am the messenger, Whale Talk, Onion John, Maniac McGee and Pride and Prejudice
RiC note: I really enjoyed The Dirty Girl's Social Club, Whale Talk and Like Water for Chocolate. I agree with Edi, people do seem to think we POC only read about POC, but we have diverse and varying literary tastes!
4) Tell us about yourself =)
I was born in Toledo, OH, went to undergrad in Cincinnati and am currently looking for a new place to reside.
I have three beautiful adult children and I'd rather talk about them than me!
I once spent the night in a jeep stuck in the mud in the rainforest in Cameroon.
I think pizza will always be my favorite food, the super hero power I would most like to have is the ability to fly and I cannot swim.
5) If you could have dinner with two POC characters from any book who would it be and why?
LOL wow...Okay... First, I'd say Claudette Colvin. I was doing some research on her recently and was really intrigued by a newspaper interview she granted. I think I could learn a lot from her experience, wisdom and insights.
Second, probably Chanda of Chanda's Secret and Chanda's War. I'd like to see her enjoy a good meal. I'd enjoy listening to her experiences, again learning from her wisdom and insights. I'd like to see her smile and let her know how wonderful she is.
Finally, any advice to those who want to read about POC? To those who are starting a blog?
Want to read POC: just do it! Find something that sounds like a good book and read it! I've always assumed that like me, everyone reads to expand their world but I've come to realize some read to validate themselves.and that's good, too. However, if you're going to read something written from someone who has a different world view, you may have to really stretch to find validation. You may have to open up to accept differences that you may or may not be able to come to terms with. While race and oppression are not always a major theme in PoC books, you may be surprised to find so many similarities with your own culture thus not validating your beliefs. Heck, if you can read and enjoy vampires, why would it be so difficult to read and enjoy Asian-, Native-, Latino- or African- American?
Want to start a blog? Take some time to look at the blogs that are out there. Look at the service most of them use so that you can decide where you'd like to set yours up and what gadgets you'd like to put on it. Decide what you have to say that people would like to read about and be sure to let bits of your real life trickle through from time to time.
Decide how you'll define your blogs success. If you're planning to become rich and famous through blogging, it will take lots of work! It can take lots of work just to get connected! Perhaps you'll be happy to get your close friends and relatives to read and comment? What you want to do with your blog may change over time and you can implement most shifts without having to start a new blog, just let your readers know what you're doing. Reply to people who comment on your blog. Be nice! Meanness and snarkiness somehow amplify themselves in print, so be careful how you say things.
If you want people to visit your blog, you have to visit theirs. Leave comments. Subscribe. Keep your blog updated: check you links, change your look and add new gadgets from time to time.
I think the biggest 'secret' to success is all that's done in the background: the huge amount of research that goes into a post, the numerous drafts that may or may not eventually get posted, the work to find photos, learning new gadgets, getting the memes posted in time, emailing blogger friends, posting to Twitter and Facebook ...
As a book blogger there are numerous activities to get involved in which I don't, but if you want to be rich and famous...
See why I turn to Edi for advice? Kind, funny, and down to earth. She has some common sense advice for bloggers, but I've noticed that many bloggers seem to forget one of the most important things Edi mentions: being nice. Edi follows her own advice; I've seen her handle negative incidents with class that I hope to one day emulate. Also, she's one of the best examples of a librarian that blows away the whole 'strict-scary-old-librarian' stereotype.
So go stop by Crazy Quilts and meet the awesome Edi!