Saturday, August 28, 2010

PoC Down Under

I had a lot of fun researching PoC Across the Pond and many people seemed to like it so I decided to tackle Australian YA by/about PoC. This was a bit harder but just as fun =) I included one book by the author along with its summary and I linked to the author's websites. Many of these authors have written multiple books about PoC, so do check out their websites.

I am indebted to Adele of Persnickety Snark, Angela of Bookish Blather, Steph Bowe of Hey! Teenager of the Year and all those who answered my plea on Twitter (including @RipOffRed and Trisha). Without them I could not have made this post as thorough. Any mistakes with cover images, websites, etc. are my own

Enter the Parrot by Kiki Lon

Meet Jade, the White girl in the Wong family. On the surface, Jade fits in perfectly. But just below the surface lurks the fragrance of ginger, ginseng, and a secret kung fu society. When her crazy grandpa's deluded parrot goes missing, Jade must dive deep into the seedy underbelly of Chinatown to find him, keeping secrets from her best friends and her cute eco-mentor, Cedric: aka the hottest guy in school. She'll need her wits about her to solve the riddle, especially when more than one bird goes missing. Could TF, the hot Chinese guy with the washboard abs, hold the key to the mystery? One girl. One parrot. One ancient kung fu mystery. Got kung fu?

-She had me at 'hot Chinese guy'. I mean seriously, how many times are any guys of Asian descent described as hot? Even Brian from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is first described as geeky (although Leonardo Nam looked adorable in that movie. Fun fact: Leonardo Nam lived in Australia!). *Ahem*, moving on. A kung fu series could be very cool and I love strong female heroines which Jade seems to be. Plus you need to check out this author's upcoming projects (especially Totally Cooked which sounds awesome). From what I can gather from her website, these books all feature Asian main characters who don't play into the Asian stereotypes that Hollywood has created (hot Asian guys, Asian dancers, etc. When will Hollywood get a clue?)

Magic or Madness Trilogy by Justine Larbalestier

For fifteen years, Reason Cansino has lived on the run. Together with her mother, Sarafina, she has moved from one place to another in the Australian countryside, desperate not to be found by Reason’s grandmother Esmeralda, a dangerous woman who believes in magic. But the moment Reason walks through Esmeralda’s back door and finds herself on a New York City street, she’s confronted by an unavoidable truth— magic is real.
Justine rocks. I've only read one book by her, Liar, which I loved. I love the active presence she has in the blogsphere and that she passionately speaks out on a wide variety of topics from sports, race, feminism, books, etc. I'm interested in reading more books about the almost old fashioned or traditional magic, less of the paranormal type. If that makes sense. Magic or Madness seems to fit that bill. I think we all must have a little madness in us to believe in magic ;)

Samurai Kids #1: White Crane by Sandy Fussell

Niya Moto is the only one-legged samurai kid in Japan, famous for falling flat on his face in the dirt. The one school that will accept him is the Cockroach Ryu, led by the legendary sensei Ki-Yaga. He may be an old man overly fond of naps, but Ki-Yaga is also known for taking in kids that the world has judged harshly: an albino girl with extra fingers and toes, a boy who is blind, a big kid whose past makes him loath to fight. A warrior in his time, Ki-Yaga demands excellence in everything from sword fighting to poetry. But can the ragtag Cockroaches make the treacherous journey to the Samurai Trainee Games, never mind take on the all-conquering Dragons? In a fast-moving, action-filled tale that draws on true details of feudal Japan, Niya finds there’s no fear they can’t face as long as they stick together — for their friendship is more powerful than a samurai sword.

-This story is a lot of fun and tells a wonderful story of friendship. Reading about the samurai trainees learning to embrace and work with their disabilities is heartwarming and will give you pause (in a good way). My review

Brown Skin Blue by Belinda Jeffrey (the author's current website isn't working)

Barry Mundy has brown skin and blue sin and, at seventeen, those two colours define his life. When he gets a job at the Croc-Jumping cruises on the Adelaide River in the Northern Territory, he carries a list of names of the men who could be his father. They’re all dark for different reasons and Barry hungers to know whose blood flows inside him. All he sees when he looks in the mirror is a brown mask that hides a blue secret.

Summary from the author's website. The summary doesn't really say that much but it sounds interesting. I wonder if he will find his father and if so will his father claim him (they rarely seem to)? Also Barry would be indigenous right? I want to learn more about the cultures of the indigenous people of Australia.

Galax-Arena by Gillian Rubinstein

Peter, Joella, and Lianne are forced onto a spaceship and taken to the planet Vexa where they are made to perform death-defying stunts for their alien captors. Joella has never been a good gymnast and now she faces the unspeakable alternative--becoming a Vexan's pet. Then she discovers the hair-raising truth--they've never left Earth! Who's behind this elaborate hoax and why?
I'm not exactly sure if this book is about PoC but I think it is due to the cover. Also Justine Larbalestier sent it to me along with other books written by Australian authors about Poc so I assume this one is too. Funny story. I've actually sort-of read this book before. I didn't recognize the Australian cover but when I saw the U.S. one, I realized that I started to read it in grade school. I didn't get very far because back then I couldn't read about slavery. Even if the story wasn't real, slavery would give me nightmares. I'm going to read this book. I'm just not sure how soon.

Little Paradise by Gabrielle Wang

As Mirabel watched him, she could not bear the thoughts creeping up on her. JJ was in the Chinese army and his mission in Australia would one day be over. Then she would be just like the others, a girl left behind in the wake of war. 'I'm afraid,' she whispered. 'When the war ends . . . what's going to happen to us?'

He put his arm around her and stroked her face. She knew he could not answer that question. But she wanted him to lie, to say that he would take her with him, that they would be together always.

Melbourne, 1943, and Mirabel is seventeen. She's leaving school, designing dresses, falling in love. Then fate intervenes, her forbidden affair is discovered, and JJ is posted back to China where a civil war is raging. Despite all warnings, Mirabel sets off for Shanghai to find him . . .

Little Paradise is inspired by a true story.

-This is probably the book I covet the most on this list. True I don't read much romance but it's set in Australia during WWII and it's a love story between two PoC which is incredibly rare in YA. Summary from Penguin Books Australia. Something else that I find appealing is that it's about immigrants living in Australia. I didn't want to just spotlight books about indigenous people, Australia has a thriving immigrant community that I would love to know more about. There's also a lovely cover story

Dougy (Gracey Trilogy) by James Moloney

Dougy is a young Aboriginal boy. "I'm nobody much," he thinks of himself. But when his little outback town erupts in violence and the brooding river breaks its banks, isolating the townsfolk, it is Dougy who must save his sister, Gracey.

-I can't find any summaries of this book apart from the one I got from the author's website. From what I've gathered based on reviews is that it deals with the Australian's government policies concerning its indigenous people. New covers were made for the trilogy but I don't want to show them because they are racially ambiguous, the faces are covered by a shadow.

Deadly Unna? by Phillip Gwynne

'Deadly, unna?' He was always saying that. All the Nungas did, but Dumby more than any of them. Dumby Red and Blacky don't have a lot in common. Dumby's the star of the footy team, he's got a killer smile and the knack with girls, and he's a Nunga. Blacky's a gutless wonder, needs braces, never knows what to say, and he's white. But they're friends... and it could be deadly, unna? This gutsy novel, set in a small coastal town in South Australia is a rites-of-passage story about two boys confronting the depth of racism that exists all around them.

-I struggled in reading this book because I didn't understand Australian slang, but I either figured it out or just moved on. This was the first book I ever read that described the discrimination Aboriginals face. It was quite a surprise. My review I own the sequel as well, Nukkin Ya. Summary from Puffin Books Australia

Tomorrow When the War Began (The Tomorrow Series #1) by John Marsden

When Ellie and her friends go camping, they have no idea they're leaving their old lives behind forever. Despite a less-than-tragic food shortage and a secret crush or two, everything goes as planned. But a week later, they return home to find their houses empty and their pets starving. Something has gone wrong--horribly wrong. Before long, they realize the country has been invaded, and the entire town has been captured--including their families and all their friends. Ellie and the other survivors face an impossible decision: They can flee for the mountains or surrender. Or they can fight.

-Set in Australia and the main character has a crush on an Asian guy, but he's more than just a crush. He's part of the group. I know it sounds like I'm stretching a bit, ah well. I like the fact that it's dystopia (sort of) and features a character of color. It's going to be a movie released in Australia

The Divine Wind by Garry Disher
On the eve of WWII, suspicion runs rampant in Hartley Penrose's small town. Even though they've done nothing wrong, the town is turning against its native Japanese residents - including Mitsy Sennosuke, the girl Hart loves despite himself. The result is a wrenching, unforgettable story of romance, betrayal, and the turmoils that rock both the world and the heart.

-This sounds predictable but if it executed right, I won't mind. I'm so ignorant, I really had no idea that Australia had a large population of Asians.
At least I'm educating myself now. We haven't studied anything about Australian history in school.

So what country should I tackle next? I'm thinking Canada. Leave any Aussie YA recommendations in the comments and/or what country I should research next.

PS I left out Eon for this reason so please don't recommend it.

PPSS ETA: People have been asking where they can find these books. Sadly I did not research this but I do know that you can order books from the Book Depository with free shipping worldwide. I would recommend people try that website. If anyone knows of any other websites/bookstores that sell these books with low shipping costs, let us know in the comments.


  1. I feel a little lame for not knowing more about Australia and it's Asian population.

    Some of these books look really interesting. The first one sounds cool. (btw, I didn't even know Brian in the Sisterhood books was Asian, *sigh*, granted I read the first 2 books like 7 years ago)

    I wish there was a way to get these books without crazy shipping fees.

  2. Ari,
    Do you know which of these is available in the US? I know Magic of Madness is because it's in my media center.
    Don't forget the Australian classic "Walkabout".

  3. I've been wanting to read MAGIC OR MADNESS for a while now. A lot of these other books sound good, too!

    A POC Aussie YA I'd recommend is THE DREAMING trilogy by Queenie Chan. Yeah, this is a manga, so it's probably not the kind of book you're looking for, but I still recommend it, because it was just that good. I've reviewed the entire series over at my blog, and you can learn more about it at the author's site here:

  4. I have Little Paradise and I think it was like $10 to ship it, ugh! But I love unique historical fiction so it was worth it for me.

  5. I grew up in Australia as an Asian Australian so I can assure you we definitely have a large Asian population lol.

    In school, we learnt about how there used to be a White Australia policy that slowly got lifted to allow for official immigration. That and how our tourism campaign tends to show a whitewashed version of Australia might influence an overseas perception.

    I hope you enjoy Tomorrow, When the War Began :) I can't wait to watch the movie.

    Shaun Tan is also a brilliant artist/writer that tells the story of immigration in an amazing picture book - The Arrival. I also love his work in Rabbits and The Red Tree (which dealt with depression).

    If you want to learn more about the history of Indigenous Australians - the Rabbit Proof Fence is a brilliant film. I also enjoyed the film - The Whale Rider - which is about the Maori culture from New Zealand.

  6. What a great collection of stories! Like Glaiza, I loved (and wept over) Rabbit Proof Fence. Are any of these suitable for middle grade readers? That's who I review for.

  7. I think Little Paradise is the only book on the list that people may not be able to find through a US book dealer. The Divine Wind & the Tomorrow series have been released in the US (my local library & bookstores have both had the whole Tomorrow series), so people should be able to find them fairly easily. The others, with the exception of Little Paradise, I have seen available through Amazon booksellers shipping from the US.

  8. Yay, I just added some more books to my wishlist! LOL

  9. I love your blog. What a wonderful idea to review books of 'colour'. In Australia we haven't begun to whitewash yet. I hope it never comes.
    I grew up in Australia but have always felt like an outsider. Therefore my main characters are ones that don't quite fit in. I'm fourth generation Australian but because I look Chinese I will always be a foreigner to many people here. There's still a lot of racism.
    I'm glad you enjoyed Little Paradise. Unfortunately to be on Amazon you have to have been published in the US. Hopefully one day....
    Keep up the great work!


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