Sunday, August 29, 2010

School Reading List 2010-2011

I forgot to check my mailbox this week so I'm not sure what new books I got. I apologize if you sent me something last week and I still haven't thanked you yet!

I didn't want to not post today so I thought I would share a bit about what I'm reading for school. I'm curious if people want some school updates? Nothing too long, just what we are reading and whether I liked the book or not. Or something like that. Let me know in the comments (if there are no comments I'll assume that means no one cares about my school life, which I completely understand. Hearing about school is depressing).

Social Studies Reading

How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization by Franklin Foer

Soccer is much more than a game, or even a way of life. It's a perfect window into the crosscurrents of today's world, with all its joys and sorrows. In this remarkably insightful, wide-ranging work of reportage, Franklin Foer takes us on a surprising tour through the world of soccer, shining a spotlight on the clash of civilizations, the international economy, and just about everything in between. How Soccer Explains the World is an utterly original book that makes sense of our troubled times.

-Did this book explain the world? Was it utterly fascinating? Yes. I know how to play soccer but I don't watch it, I just hop on the bandwagon when the World Cup comes along. This book provided a great look at the world of soccer (it's not the best book to use as an introduction to the soccer world because at times I was a bit lost). We had to read a book over the summer for my Comparative Government class (which was a first. My school never assigns summer reading) and the choices included this book, The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria or Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni. Obviously I picked this book and while it wasn't my original choice (Lipstick Jihad was checked out of my library at the time), I'm very glad I read it.

Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran by Azadeh Moaveni

Azadeh Moaveni was born in Palo Alto, California, into the lap of an Iranian diaspora community longing for an Iran many thousands of miles away. As far back as she can remember she felt at odds with her tangled identity. College magnified the clash between Iran and America, and after graduating, she moved to Tehran as a journalist. Immediately, Azadeh's exile fantasies dissolved.

Azadeh finds a country that is culturally confused, politically deadlocked, and emotionally anguished. In order to unlock the fundamental mystery of Iran-how nothing perceptibly alters, but everything changes--she must delve deep into Tehran's edgy underground. Lipstick Jihad is a rare portrait of Tehran, populated by a cast of young people whose exuberance and despair bring the modern reality of Iran to vivid life. Azadeh also reveals her private struggle to build a life in a dark country--the struggle of a young woman of the diaspora, searching for a homeland that may not exist.

-I have a friend who doesn't like to read much (at least I don't think she does. I don't know, we never talk about books but I digress) but she really really liked this book. My teacher has talked about it a bit and I think it sounds like a great read. The first country we are studying is Iran and since I don't know much about Iran's history, I figured I would start reading this book while we study Iran. I'm heading to go get it today. Plus I'm eager to learn about youth culture in Iran, specifically the underground movement.

English Reading

Junior year is British literature. I'm not particularly pleased about that (dead white male authors), but I will try and have an open mind (based on the syllabus we received the only book we read by a white female is Daughter of Time by Josephine Fey. There are no authors of color on the list, even though our teacher told us that Brit Lit includes literature from former British colonies like Jamaica, India, etc. For the record my English teacher is not white, but is a male.)We are starting off reading The Book of Lost Things.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own -- populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

Taking readers on a vivid journey through the loss of innocence into adulthood and beyond, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly tells a dark and compelling tale that reminds us of the enduring power of stories in our lives.

-This was a surprise read. I had never heard of this book and I didn't think we read modern literature (published in 2007). We are currently reading it and it's very good. Very creepy, but I love the twisted fairy tale setting. I can't wait to finish this book (I usually read ahead in school reading but I don't have much time to do that this year) because I have a feeling the ending will be good.

Beowulf: A New Verse Translation (Translated by Seamus Heaney)

Composed toward the end of the first millennium, Beowulf is the classic Northern epic of a hero's triumphs as a young warrior and his fated death as a defender of his people. The poem is about encountering the monstrous, defeating it, and then having to live on, physically and psychically exposed in the exhausted aftermath.

-We read this next. I.DO.NOT.WANT.TO.READ.THIS. It sounds boring, the movie looks too long to watch and it had to be translated from Old English to modern English. UGH. I need someone to tell me that I will not despise this book.

The rest of our list consists of Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dickens.

I would love recommendations of British literature that is not by white males (Helen Oyemi comes to mind). I can't read it now, but maybe for the summer.

So has anyone read these books? If so, what did you think of them?

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.

Friday, August 27, 2010

All Eyes On: Lucy was Robbed

I first heard of Lawral and her blog lucy was robbed when she joined the PoC challenge. She posted reviews quite often and I really liked how in depth her reviews were (are). She provides a bit more information than most when she reviews a book. Publisher, year it was published, link to cover image, etc. I was also pleasantly surprised at how she would always make note if there were characters of color (forgive me for being presumptuous but I rarely expect that from a white reader. I have happily been proven wrong by other reviewers who are white and yet point out when a character is a PoC). I really like Lawral's blog not only because of all her PoC reviews but because of the quality of her reviews and how many of the books are older/less well known. She also does awesome reviews of LGBTQ books. Enough of my prattle, Lawral please take the floor!

Please tell us about your blog.

Basically, I started my blog because it was required for my Resources for Young Adults class in graduate school; we had to read and review a certain number of YA books per genre and post those reviews to the blog for our final.

When I decided to keep the blog going, I had to come up with a new name (my blog was titled "Lawral's Resources for Young Adults Blog" up until that point at the professor's request). I couldn't think of anything and so enlisted the help of my girlfriend, who had only movie adaptations of children's or YA books that I'd made her watch with me as a reference point. She kept wanting me to make my title something about Susan in the first Chronicles of Narnia movie, because she's so spunky and kick-ass. But in the books, that's really more of Lucy's character, and Lucy is really the star of the show! Hence, the name, lucy was robbed.

I love the title of your blog and I wholeheartedly agree. I don't love the Chronicles of Narnia but I was surprised at Lucy's passivity and Susan taking on the more spunky role. And I would love to be in a class that required me to make a blog!
What 2010 debut book are you most looking forward to? And non-debut?

The debut novels I'm really looking forward to are The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney and Jane by April Lindner. For non-debuts I'm really looking forward to Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja and Stringz by Michael Wenberg (which has been out and sitting in my TBR pile for a few months now).

was good. I'm not familiar with Under the Poppy but I am SO EXCITED for The Mockingbirds. It's probably one of my most anticipated non-PoC debuts. I like the idea of Jane too, should be an interesting read.
What are your top five favorite POC books?
First Part Last by Angela Johnson
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Libyrinth by Pearl North
Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson
Amiri & Odette by Walter Dean Myers
in no particular order and with no explanation, because if I think about it too much I won't be able to keep it narrowed down to five.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I haven't read First Part Last yet. I really need to remedy that. I recommend it enough. haha. This is a great list; I adore The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Saving Maddie. Your review of Libyrinth made me want to read it even more. I love ballet so I do want to eventually read Amiri & Odette

Talk about yourself =)

I was trained to be a youth services librarian, but I work in a college library. Dealing with professors and dealing with children often aren't all that different.

When I was little, I wanted to grow up to be a ballerina/novelist. I was lucky enough to pursue both of those dreams long enough to realize that neither was for me, but having danced a summer with the San Francisco Youth Ballet Academy and earning a concentration in Creative Writing are still cool!

I spend almost as much time knitting as I do reading (and sometimes manage to both at the same time).

I'm a California Girl at heart, but living in Philly. The extremes of the weather, otherwise known as "seasons," really throw me for a loop. Every year.

That is so cool that you got to dance with the San Francisco Youth Ballet Academy! I'm so jealous :) Heehee at one point I wanted to be a ballerina/novelist too.

If you could have dinner with two POC characters from any book who would it be and why?

First, I would choose Maddie from Saving Maddie because I think we grew up with similar values and have come to the same grown-up life conclusions, and that is a rare thing. Also, she seems like she can switch from serious to not-serious pretty quickly which would be essential considering my other dinner guest would be Junior from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I'd pick Junior because he's hilarious and eventually someone would laugh so hard that their drink would come out of their nose, even if we were talking about Very Important Things.

Guess who's coming to dinner? I'm so crashing.

Finally any advice to those who want to read POC? And to those who are just starting to blog?

When I took that Resources for Young Adults class, one of the genres in which we had to read was "Realistic/Multicultural," the assumption being that most literature featuring POC is realistic fiction. This assumption might be a little bit true, but that is because most YA literature falls in the realistic fiction category, current paranormal romance trends notwithstanding. BUT you don't have to read a ton of realistic fiction in search of POC characters, or I would hardly ever find any books. No matter what genre you prefer to read, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, Christian fiction, sports stories, whatever, there are books available IN YOUR GENRE featuring POC. You may have to look harder to find them, they won't necessarily be on big book displays at Borders or recommended by amazon, but they exist. That's why blogs like this and Gal Novelty that promote books across genres featuring POC and blogs like Charlotte's Library that review within specific genres but make a point to feature POC books often are so important. By following blogs like these and reading through the reviews posted at the POC Reading Challenge blog you'll come across tons of books that you want to read, many of them featuring POC. And if you're just starting to blog (or even if you're not) join the POC Reading Challenge and any others that look interesting to you! It's a great way to get your reviews out there and gain followers as well as a great way to come across new blogs and books that you may have missed otherwise!

Thanks for having me, Ari!

Can I get an 'Amen'? I need to write a post on how there's more to multicultural lit than realistic fiction (although we never get any romance. But I digress). Anyway, thank you so much Lawral!

Everyone go show Lawral
some love (in the comments would be nice too)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Under the Mesquite

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Release Date: October 31, 2010

When Lupita sees Mami crying over a pesky mesquite growing in her rose garden, she knows something is wrong. Through the kitchen window, she overhears that Mami has cancer. After an operation, things seem to return to normal for Lupita and her family, and they go on with their lives, going back and forth between attending school, working, and living in the United States and visiting family and friends in Mexico. However, when Mami’s cancer returns, Papi doesn’t know whether he should accompany Mami during her long convalescence at an out of town cancer clinic or stay home to care for Lupita and her seven brothers and sisters. Suddenly, being a high school student, dealing with difficult friends, starring in the school play, even writing, become less important to Lupita than doing whatever it takes to save Mami’s life.

-I really like how this cover uses the light to illuminate Lupita gazing up at the mesquite. It's nice. It would suck (that's putting it mildly) to have deal not only with high school but also with one of your parents having cancer. My heart goes out to Lupita and I'm eager to read her story.

Summary from

Any PoC releases you are waiting on this week?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Male Monday: The Young Chieftain

The Young Chieftain by Ken Howard 2010
Tamarind Books/Random House UK

Release Date: September 2, 2010

Rating: 3.5/5

IQ "Life either went too fast when you were having a good time, he reflected, or slowed to a crawl when you weren't." Jamie pg. 119

The day Jamie MacDoran's father dies, he must travel with his mother from their home in Los Angeles, to his father's homeland of Scotland. The island seems to be in the middle of nowhere, and Jamie's father did not tell his mother (Jamie's grandmother) that he married a Black woman and has a biracial son. This causes some issues. On top of it all, Jamie's father was Scottish chieftain of the island. Now the clan needs a new head and they can't agree on who it should be. Technically it should be Jamie, but he doesn't want it and the islanders don't trust him. There's a mysterious stone that leads true chieftains to an 'all seeing eye' and Jamie wants to find it. All Jamie wants is to be accepted by his Scottish family and maybe stumble upon this 'all seeing eye.' Is that too much to ask?

Ken Howard is a screenwriter and it shows in this novel. The action moves quickly, never allowing for a dull moment. The story ends with a dramatic flourish that is expected and yet the exact way it works out is unexpected. The author is determined to make sure the reader gets a feel for Scotland, emphasising how old the island of Doran is, and yet it's very beautiful with its lochs, boats and Scottish Games. He doesn't tell the reader, he shows the reader. The boys act like your average teenagers, the clowns who sit behind you in class. Their dialogue made me smile, especially concerning Scotland. Jamie and his friends Lester, Chico, and Jeroo don't know much about Scotland and they don't have much respect for the country either (which is sad). The boys really came off the page, never regulated to merely being a background character. The same with the Scottish people Jamie met, they all had somewhat murky pasts, that they gradually shared.

Something that really struck out at me (not in a good way) was how Jamie and his friends from L.A. talked. They used "reckon" and "cos." I don't know many American born teens (especially not born in American Black teens) who speak like that. It's understandable for Jamie since his father is from Scotland, but it was unrealistic for his friends. Also this is a more minor point, but the boys have basketball practice at the end of the year. Basketball season starts in late fall and really picks up in the winter. It ends in the spring. Unless they play a summer league (which is plausible). The crush bit was predictable but it's nice all the same.

The Young Chieftain starts off as realistic fiction and ends up reaffirming the wonder and magic of Scotland. The characters are strong and the villains are not uncharacteristically evil, just as the good characters struggle. The issue of Jamie's race is not ignored, he's the only Black person on the island of Doran (besides his mother) and this causes quite a stir. Not to mention the fact that he's observant and not at all shy. I'm not sure how accurate the depictions of Scotland and issues that clans have are, but they seemed authentic. Some want the island to modernize, others want it to maintain its traditional appeal. All want a clan leader to step forward and tell them what to do. This story does not grow tedious and if you are able to suspend your disbelief at the language used by Jamie and his friends, it flies by, so sit back and enjoy your trip to the island of Doran, in Scotland.

Disclosure: Received from Tamarind Books. A division of Random House UK that specializes in multicultural literature, yay! Thank you so very much :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

New Crayons, Cool Link & Summer Reading List Update

New Crayons is hosted by Color Online

In this meme we talk about what books we got this week, from the library, bookstores, giveaways, gifts, etc. Crayons being an unique metaphor for multicultural literature.

But first it's time for you to primp yourself! Why? Because you need to get caught reading a book by an Author of Color! This is being sponsored by Amy Bowllan and her goal is to get 100 pictures sent in by September. Let's send in more than that, I might even said in my own :) Please go check out the post and then email Amy your picture.

Other by Karen Kincy

Gwen Williams is like any other modern teenager with one exception: she's a shapeshifter. Never having known her Pooka-spirit father, Gwen must struggle with the wild, wonderful magic inside of her alone—and in secret. While society may tolerate vampires, centaurs, and "Others" like Gwen, there are plenty of folks in Klikamuks, Washington, who don't care for her kind.

Now there's a new werewolf pack in town, and Others are getting killed, including Gwen's dryad friend. The police are doing zilch. In the midst of terrible loss and danger, Gwen meets a cute Japanese fox spirit who's refreshingly comfortable with his Otherness. Can Gwen find the courage to embrace her true self and find the killer-before she becomes the next victim?

-I won this book from YABC (Young Adult Books Central), thank you so much! Why am I reading it? April's review 'cute Japanese fox spirit'

And Then Everything Unraveled by Jennifer Sturman

Delia Truesdale has no idea her life's about to change forever. She's too busy enjoying the California summer. Her internet tycoon mother, T.K. Truesdale, is out of town, and that means Delia can spend all her time at the beach, surfing. That is, until everything unravels.

Her mother suddenly goes missing, and everyone thinks she's dead - except Delia, who knows T.K.'s way too organized to simply disappear. But Delia's still sent to New York to live with her two aunts - a downtown bohemian and an uptown ice queen.

And in case that's not bad enough, she also has to deal with a snooty new school and trying not to fall for the wrong guy. Oh, and finding her mother.

As she delves deeper into the tangle of conspiracies and lies surrounding T.K.'s disappearance, Delia begins to suspect that the wrong guy may be the right guy...and that some secrets - especially the dangerous ones - were never meant to be unraveled.

And Then I Found Out the Truth by Jennifer Sturman
This is a sequel to And Then Everything Unraveled so I won't be sharing the summary (in order to not spoil the ending for myself and my readers).

-Won from MarjoleinBookBlog. Thanks so much! I think the main character is half Chinese, I'm in the mood for a good mystery and many bloggers I respect have really liked this book. Yay :)

What new books did you get this week? Any PoC ones?

Summer Reading Update

Classics Reading List
1. Middlemarch by George Eliot (I am still currently reading this except I had to turn it in at the library. So I technically haven't read this book in quite some time. I keep it up on Goodreads so that I can remember what page I was on. There's a 99% chance I won't get to read this book till next summer)
2. Kindred by Octavia Butler (my library doesn't have this book so I'm going to have to ask them to order it)
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
5. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
6. Persuasion by Jane Austen (currently reading, enjoyable so far. I like the humor)
7. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
8. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
9. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw (I want to read this next so badly)
10. The Living is Easy by Dorothy West (I really liked this novel along with The Wedding, Dorothy West is an excellent writer and I intend on reading her one other book, The Richer, The Poorer)

Adult Fiction
1. Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
2. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
3. Children of the Waters by Carleen Brice
4. Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
5. Tryin' to Sleep in the Bed You Made by Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant
6. Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley (Book 1 in Easy Rawllins series)
7. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
8. Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan
9. Feminista by Erica Kennedy (plan to read next)
10. Bloody Waters by Carolina Garcia-Aguilera (Book 1 in Lupe Solano Mystery series)

Off Color (To reiterate: These books will not be reviewed here. I may review them on Goodreads)
1. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (plan to read next)
2. Graceling by Kirsten Cashore
3. Rampant (Killer Unicorns #1) by Diana Peterfreund
4. Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev
5. The Deathday Letter by Shaun Hutchinson
6. The Daykeeper's Grimoire (Prophecy of Days #1) by Christy Raedeke
7. Violet on the Runway by Melissa Walker
8. The Eternal Kiss: Vampire Tales of Blood and Desire (anthology), edited by Trisha Telep
9. White Cat by Holly Black
10. Levithian by Scott Westerfield

So obviously I didn't do so hot with my list. Oh well, better to aim high from the get-go. I'm going to use this list as a reference point throughout the school year and hopefully I will have time to finish all these books before next summer so that I can create a new summer reading list.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Middle East Reading Challenge

I have an addiction to challenges. Hooray!

Middle East Reading Challenge.

Starts August 1, 2010

Ends July 31, 2011

I'm starting this challenge because I want to learn more about people from the Middle East. At my school there are very few Asians/Middle Eastern people so I know very little about that culture. I'm eager to learn more. The books need to be by an author from the Middle East or set in the Middle East. There are no levels so I decided to give myself 10 books as a starting list. They are all YA and none of the titles cross post from my other challenges (makes things so much more difficult doesn't it? haha). Feel free to leave me any YA/MG recommendations.

1. Where the Streets Had A Name by Randa Abdel Fattah

2. Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers

3. A Bottle in the Gaza Sea by Valerie Zenatti (also known as Message in a Bottle in the UK/France)

4. In the Name of God by Paula Jolin

5. Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye

6. Beast by Donna Jo Napoli

7. Alphabet of Dreams by Susan Fletcher

8. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (this is actually non fiction)

9. The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles #1) by Rick Riordan

10. Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji (turns out it's not YA, oh well)

11. A Stone in My Hand by Cathryn Clinton

Thank you to everyone who helped me via Twitter! I so appreciate it =)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Step It Up

This is a guest post I wrote that originally ran at Genre Reviews: OCD, Vampires and Rants, oh my! Thank you ladies for asking me to guest post and letting me share my ideas with new (and long time) readers :)Link

I’m terrible at coming up with guest posts when I don’t have a prompt. I asked my family, I asked Twitter. But ultimately, Bernice McFadden and Cheri P. Edwards helped me decide after I read their respective articles, without my asking them for advice. Go read them. I’ll wait. Are you back? Good. Weren’t they interesting? Both articles talk about how the publishing industry needs to change because in its current state, it’s extremely difficult for writers of color to get published. However, it’s not solely the publishing industry’s fault. We also need the agents, writers and consumers to step it up. We need more people of color in the publishing industry. I’m going to focus mostly on agents and writers because many articles have already talked about what the publishing industry needs to do and what editors need to.

I’ve said this many times before; if not for blogging I would have kept on thinking that people of color simply weren’t writing. Now I know otherwise. We need the publishing industry to invest in urban communities; we need them to not only encourage future writers of color, but to talk about other jobs in the publishing industry. We need them and other organizations to sponsor writing contests and actively promote them to students. I didn’t know much about jobs in the publishing industry aside from CEO, editors, writers and the people who made covers. I absolutely recommend that anyone who wants to go into publishing read Moonrat’s Guide to Getting Into Publishing Personally, after I finished reading that post, my eyes were opened to so many new job ideas. Maybe I will be an agent, or marketing manager or actual Publisher. The possibilities are endless and yet I didn’t know about many of them. Why is that publishing industries don’t actively promote jobs to youth? On Career days we got doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, movie critics, etc. These are all important jobs. But what about those kids who don’t want to have those jobs, they want to work with books but they can’t write (or just don’t want to)? They probably think the only way they can join the publishing industry is by writing books or becoming an editor (if that, since I didn’t know about editors before blogging. I swear, I would have kept thinking that authors write books and they are magically put together in a pretty package by anonymous people). We need internships, scholarships and any other way you can think of to help get people of color interested in working in the publishing industry. Writers can only do so much. It’s up to us, the consumers to step up as well. Let’s get some people of color working in sales, being publicist, contracts managers, and lawyers in the publishing industry, book designers and more.

Now let’s say publishers do everything right. They hire POC, and are actively seeking manuscripts written by authors of color but they just can’t find any. Then we need agents to step it up. Editors can’t find those amazing writers of color if their books aren’t being shopped around. We can’t have agents having some self-imposed quota of only supporting one or two writers of color. That’s just wrong. I understand if you only want to take authors of a certain genre, that’s fair. But you CAN NOT only support white authors of color. Maybe you do this sub consciously. Agents, look at your client list. How many authors of color do you represent? If you only represent 2, that’s a problem (the numbers may vary depending on how many clients you have. The point is a close to equal ratio of white and POC writers represented would be nice). Also, if you have an equal ratio of white to POC writers but all your POC writers write street lit or erotica, that’s a problem too (since there is no white equivalent of street lit, that just won’t do. This does not apply if you only represent authors of erotic fiction) If you represent writers across genres, you need to make sure you represent a diverse number of writers (diverse meaning not just cultural background but story wise). I would like to hear about more agents representing POC who write contemporary fiction, sci fi, etc.

Alright so publishers are doing what needs to be done and agents are looking to represent more authors of color. Authors of color I cannot stress how important it is to have an INTERNET PRESENCE. I understand, many writers have a day job and don’t have time to read all their fan mail and blog every day. But if you want to be a published author, you need to be prepared to interact with your fans. This means you need to at least have an updated WEBSITE (don’t get me started on some authors that are near impossible to find online because they don’t have a website. Or haven’t updated their websites in years. Grrr). It’s even better if you have a Twitter account and blog at least twice a month. Not only will this help your fans feel like they are in the know, but it will help you gain new fans. I’ve picked up quite a few books because of an author’s Internet presence. Social networking is an amazing tool that the 21st century is blessed to have; it can really help established authors and aspiring authors. It’s also important for aspiring authors to have an active Internet presence. Have a website/blog, join online critique groups, and get a Twitter account (seriously I got a Twitter account about 6 months ago and it’s fantastic. I’ve “met” so many established authors as well as aspiring authors that I need to watch out for). Promote your book online (especially if you are a debut author); enlist the help of a publicist if your publishing company cannot or will not help you promote your book (often the case for writers of color). A great example of this is the Manifest campaign. Manifest is by Artist Arthur, an established author in adult fiction who is making her YA debut. I have seen that book popping up in so many blogger’s In My Mailbox posts (even before I got my ARC). On the back cover, it lists the marketing campaign which includes; sending out ARCS, doing interviews, appearing at BEA and ALA, etc. These are all GREAT ideas because as a result of this enormous marketing campaign, I have seen this book everywhere. If you don’t have the money, try and do it yourself, if you have the money but not the time, hire your own publicist to do it for you (or make time since this is the career you chose). Blog tours really work, make yours creative and fun (Fantastic example is Y.S. Lee’s. Each blog stop was either an interview or a guest post. The guest posts were all about little known facts about Victorian England, which ties into her book. It was brilliant and a lot of fun to follow and I’m not just saying that because I participated). Basically get your name out there. I have a very close friend that I met through blogging, she now has a book deal (and a gorgeous cover), but when I met here, she had yet to sell her manuscript. If an aspiring author is constantly Tweeting, leaving comments on blogs, writing awesome posts, etc. I guarantee that your name will be noticed by book lovers (plus I bet agents or editors might notice this as well) and when you share the news that YOU GOT A BOOK DEAL, you will have fans already in place. Established and aspiring authors of color need to step it up.

I realize that the title of this post sounds rather mean (or you might have seen the title and thought I was about to talk about the movie, which was pretty good. Alas that is not what this particular post is about, sorry to disappoint), but its tough love. I so desperately want to see quality books by POC being published in all genres for people of all ages. I think that’s happening in picture books and early chapter books, we just need more writers of color being published in MG/YA and up. Obviously consumers need to help too. BUY books by POC (it’s no longer enough to buy books about POC not written by POC. I don’t have a problem with those books, but I do have a problem with editors thinking that “we publish books about POC therefore we are diverse”, never mind the fact that the books are not being written by POC. WOC and white writers have different perspectives, both are perspectives that need to be shared, but sadly, we usually just hear the white perspective (best example: The Help. I love this book, but the question most POC are asking is: would it have done as well if it was written by a POC? I don’t know the definite answer to that, but my guess is no.) If you can’t afford to buy books by POC (believe me, I understand) then go to your library and check them out. If they don’t have any, REQUEST them.

Everyone in the publishing industry needs to step it up to promote diversity from editors to agents, to publicists, writers and consumers. Once people start taking those steps and rise to the challenge, we will see change in the publishing industry.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Zora and Me + Winners

The winners of my Yummy giveaway are...

Laurie AB!, Kailia Sage!, Jennifer K!

Congrats winners :) I will be emailing you shortly and you will have 48 hours to get back to me. Thank you everyone for entering! I appreciated people sharing their favorite Lee and Low book with me, I cant wait to check them out.

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

This week I'm waiting on...

Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon

Release Date: October 12, 2010

Whether she’s telling the truth or stretching it, Zora Neale Hurston is a riveting storyteller. Her latest creation is a shape-shifting gator man who lurks in the marshes, waiting to steal human souls. But when boastful Sonny Wrapped loses a wrestling match with an elusive alligator named Ghost — and a man is found murdered by the railroad tracks soon after — young Zora’s tales of a mythical evil creature take on an ominous and far more complicated complexion, jeopardizing the peace and security of an entire town and forcing three children to come to terms with the dual-edged power of pretending. Zora’s best friend, Carrie, narrates this coming-of-age story set in the Eden-like town of Eatonville, Florida, where justice isn’t merely an exercise in retribution, but a testimony to the power of community, love, and pride. A fictionalization of the early years of a literary giant, this astonishing novel is the first project ever to be endorsed by the Zora Neale Hurston Trust that was not authored by Hurston herself.

-Zora Neale Hurston was one of the most important writers of the Harlem Renaissance and I loved Their Eyes Were Watching God. Naturally, I need to learn more about her because I really don't know much. Zora is portrayed as a detective which will be cool to read about and I'm curious as to what Florida was like for African Americans when she was growing up.

Summary from

What book are you waiting on this week? Any PoC releases?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mini Reviews: 32 Candles, Devil in a Blue Dress, (Off Color) Moonshine

32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter 2010
Harper Collins

IQ [Chloe] "'Are you crazy?'
[Davie] 'Yes, I said.' 'Yes I am. That's pretty much been proven already. But I think you're a little off, too, which is why I cannot watch you kill another relationship with kindness.' I semi-quoted from a book I had once read about supposedly kind people in a supposedly kind relationship who still ended up crashing and burning into a love wreck. 'Killing with kindness is still murder.'" pg. 265

32 Candles is one of my favorite books of the year. Everyone should read it (the hardcover is SO worth the money). I don't know what else to say. Can I just leave it at that? I wish I could list 32 reasons you should read 32 Candles but I'm not that creative. The list would end up simply saying 'read it' 32x. Instead I'll do 16 reasons

1. Davie is one of the most unforgettable heroines ever. She's funny, crazy, a bit vindictive and vulnerable. I was so proud of her (you can tell I'm really losing it when I'm proud of a book character, heehee) when she reinvented herself. Screw the dorky kids from her high school days.

2. Davie loves 16 Candles. Really she likes all John Hughes films. Even though they don't have any black people in them. I completely understand :)

3. James! He is an excellent leading man/crush whatever you want to call him. He has a few jerk moments but for the most part he is justified (except in not recognizing Davie. I understand it but I was mad at him for awhile). And he understands Davie so well. *happy sigh*

4. Did I mention Davie is crazy? You read up till the middle of the book and everything is going swimmingly (for the most part). Then all hell breaks loose. It's great. It will make your head spin and it will make your heart hurt because Davie has clearly lost it a little bit.

5. All the secondary characters are awesome. Especially Mama Jane. her presence can be felt at key moments in the story even though she doesn't have that many appearances.

6. Nicky is also a wonderful character. Gotta love the tough guy who refuses to part with his money. And who is willing to fire you over stupid stuff. A golden friend

7. It gives a pretty good glimpse of life in LA for those who are struggling to become famous. well I don't know how true it is, but it seemed authentic to me. (I loved the part about the self-help coach. If you've read the book you know what I'm talking about)

8. Life in Mississippi. My mother is from the South so I'm familiar with a lot of the expressions/ways of life but I obviously don't know everything about life in the South and this was both sad and enjoyable to read about.

9. This quote (goes with #8): "You see, in the South, football is like the army. You don't question orders, you just do whatever the coach tells you to. So James refusing to sit down was a big deal. Unheard of. Like a black child suddenly saying in an English accent to its mama, 'No, madam, I will not retrieve a switch so that you may beat me with it. I believe your request to be not only abusive, but absurd.' And say that did happen. Of course country logic would say that the mama must now beat her child even worse than she first intended, so that they would never have to have that kind of conversation again." pg.45 (LOL at the child trying to get out of a beating! As if that would ever work. I still giggle when I see that line)

10. All the nightclub scenes. I have a love/hate relationship with the '20s-'40s. I LOVE the music from that time period and Davie sings it all. I want to go to Nicky's nightclub.

11. Even the villains of the story become human. Maybe not really nice humans, but they aren't just evil through and through. I'm mainly thinking of a certain character who gets in a fight and messes up his/her nose. I wanted to slap him/her 98% of the time and then the author had to go and give him/her a 2% decent storyline.

12. Cora is Davie's mother and she is horrible. Well sort of.

13. It's blurbed by Carleen Brice. Listen to Carleen. She is an amazing writer herself so her word is bond ;)

14. Davie is dark skinned and most of the popular kids at her school are light skinned. Yes we have to keep talking about the world's fixation with light skin. In this book it's discussed seriously but with a hint of humor (and sadness).

15. The ending scene is SO PERFECT. I had a goofy grin on my face when I read it

16. When you see this book in a store, it's an Invitation to Crazy. If you know what's good for you, you will accept. After all, it'd be terribly rude not to.

I CAN NOT wait to see what Ernessa T. Carter writes next =)

Disclosure: Won from the amazing Jeanette at Today's Book On the Train. Thank you so much Jeanette!

Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley 1990
Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster

IQ "'Easy, walk out your door in the morning and you're mixed up in something. The only thing you can really worry about is if you get mixed up to the top or not. '" Mr. Albright pg. 19

I finished this book feeling dazed. Not confused, but dazed. I knew the basics of what was going on, but I never could guess who did what and why they did it. There isn't a lot going on this novel, but everyone spins lies with ease (heehee, sorry). It doesn't help that Easy is a flawed main character and while I love him for it, it does make the narrative a bit frustrating. He gets distracted by liquor and women a few times. I really liked Easy because of how reacted to some dangerous situations he got himself in. He was afraid. Sometimes I like the constantly-brave-main-character, but more often than not, I like the genuine character who shows a little fear. Easy is also very clever. He knows a lot more than he lets on and can read people extremely well. In addition to Easy, Mouse also stands out. Mouse is crazy and he's scary. I'm not sure I completely understand why they're friends, but I'm not sure Easy understands it either. I liked that the author through Easy explains the basic story of each person Easy comes into contact with. It does interrupt the flow of the story at times, but it's helpful.

Besides the deceptively simple plot (that turns into a great big mess over a few days), and the wonderful main character, the setting really makes this book stand out. I don't read many mysteries (this is the third one I've ever read) but I think what makes Easy Rawlins such an interesting detective of sorts is that he has a lot of extra crap to deal with. Sure it's hard for a woman during the 1950s (I think that's when this book is set, it's post WWII) to be a detective but it's even harder for a Black man. The police won't work with Easy, they are too busy trying to pin him to various murders or coming up with any excuse they can think of to get him arrested and eventually killed. It's infuriating to read about the racism Easy has to face at the hands of the police. He has to deal with it from other people, but you would at least expect the police to try and protect ALL its citizens. There's a great quote about racism in the book, "[i]t was the worst kind of racism. The fact that he didn't even recognize our difference showed that he didn't care one damn about me." (pg. 119)Like many people, I both enjoy reading about post-World War II society (the music, the dancing, the fashion) and dislike reading about it (the racism, sexism). Regardless, the author's writing is excellent, there's a good attention to detail about life in California in the 1950s. The characters are chilling and authentic, the setting is fantastic and the mystery (made my head spin, but I might be a bit slow when it comes to mysteries) is well thought out. I look forward to reading the next book in the series ( I think it's A Red Death). After you finish the book you MUST watch the movie. Don Cheadle as Mouse is one of his greatest parts. He made the character come more alive for me. Although the plot and ending changed significantly from that of the film. So maybe watch the film first.

Disclosure: We own the book (I didn't know we owned it so I bought my own company. Then I found my mother's old copy and promptly returned my new one.) The move was free On Demand ;)

Moonshine by Alaya Johnson 2010
St. Martin's Press

IQ "For all her faults, Lily was an excellent reporter. She observed, instead of just grafting her own expectations onto events. She dug beneath the surface. Enough of that, and no matter what sort of drivel she'd been raised with, she would understand the living nightmare that gripped so many people in this city. It was happening already. In some ways, I felt sorry for her. It was hard knowledge to live with, and even harder to experience every day." Zephyr pg. 207

Zephyr Hollis is known as the "singing vampire suffragette." She is dedicated to helping all those in need, even if it means giving away all her money. Zephyr soon realizes that she needs money in order to maintain a decent lifestyle of living (meals, clothes, a roof over her head) and still help people. The rent is almost due and with no money to her name, Zephyr accepts a proposal from Amir. He was a student in her class for one day (she teaches night school to immigrants and Others). He wants her to use her job as a social activist to bring down a notorious vampire mob boss (Rinaldo). Zephyr goes undercover, tutoring a member a child member of Rinaldo's gang, attending parties thrown by New York's most elite. She also has a side project of trying to learn more about a new street drug for vampires, called Faust. It gives vampires an euphoric high that is blood based and it doesn't last long. To top it all off, Zephyr must defy some social norms, and try to learn more about the mysterious Amir and the world of Others (paranormal creatures, consisting of djinns, vampires, skinwalkers, etc.)

First of all, this cover is awesome. The blood red lipstick and two neck bites contrasted with the pale skin give the book a very dark and appealing cover. That's what really drew me in at first. To top it all off, the book is set during the Prohibition Era. Zephyr is going to speakeasies, listening to jazz, promoting the equal rights of immigrants and taking up a host of other issues that needed to be addressed during this time. The setting of the 1920s is meticulously researched and it never seems to be inauthentic or completely improbable. It's only natural that vampires do exist and live in New York City's Lower East Side, they are not supposed to feed off humans, instead they go to blood banks. Naturally there are some renegade vampires and the gangs all consist of vampires. I was sucked in (heehee pun not intended) immediately by Zephyr's narrative. The book does start off rather slow and there's a lot of details, but Zephyr is marvelous, so it doesn't matter. She is so passionate and yet not naive. She knows that she can't save everyone, but she does want to help everyone she can while still having a little fun. I love Zephyr. She is so independent, outspoken and occasionally impractical, which makes for the most winning combination. She is not perfect, she has her own biases that she needs to get over and she has some family issues (she's from Montana and comes from a family of famous demon hunters. She refuses to demon hunt anymore). One of the questions Zephyr struggles with is over who is evil. "It occurred to me for the first time that Nicholas didn't see himself as evil. But did anyone?" (pg. 107)

Amir is another fascinating character. He shows very little emotion and refuses to tell Zephyr why he wants to see Rinaldo taken down. Learning more about him and his world is one of the highlights of this novel. Although Zephyr and Amir are the main characters, the supporting characters are just as interesting. They aren't simply flat people in the background, they have their own dramas unfolding. I was a bit bothered by how the action was interrupted. A dramatic scene would start to unfold and then the scene would change and we would learn about it from Zephyr. I would have rather been shown the scene than told about it. Other than that, this entire novel is a WIN. I love Zephyr, the setting of 1920s NYC, the presence of social activism, cool yet scary paranormal creatures, twisted and clever mysteries and Amir. Oh Amir. *happy sigh* I need to get my hands on the next book in this series (surely it will be a series, there are so many loose ends and good stories waiting to be told!).

Disclosure: Won from the wonderful Terri at Brown Girl Book Speak. Thank you, thank you, thank you Terri!

PS This is an off color review since the author is Black but the main character is white.

PPSS To show off the wonderfulness that is Amir, I will share an exchange about his love of hot dogs (which I don't understand since I think hot dogs are kind of gross, but nevertheless the dialogue is entertaining)

"'let him burn your carpets. Give him some hot dogs.'[Zephyr]
Kardal billowed in surprise. 'Djinni don't benefit from animal sacrifice.'
Amir's laugh seemed to warm the room. 'A snack, brother. A strange human snack, that might involve actual dogs but everyone hopes doesn't.'" (pg. 234)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Male Monday: White Crane (Samurai Kids #1)

White Crane (Samurai Kids #1) by Sandy Fussell , illustrated by Rhian Nest James 2010
Candlewick Press

Rating: 3.5/5

IQ "Zen questions are easy for me because I know the secret. It's NOTHING. The answer to every question is some sort of NOTHING. If you say nothing, you are wise because you already know the answer and don't need to speak it. If you jump up and yell NOTHING, you are wise and generous with your knowledge." Niya pg. 29

Ki-Yaga teaches at the Cockroach Ryu, where he accepts many students that other schools might not. At the Cockroach Rye, he trains his students to be samurai. His students include Niya (our narrator) who has one leg, Kyoko (extra fingers and toes), Mikko (one arm), Yoshi (no fighting spirit, even though he is strong and tall) and Taji (blind). As Ki Yaga says "A cracked bowl can hold water. There is nothing wrong with the bowl. It just needs to be held properly." (pg.6-7). Ki Yaga teaches the students everything ranging from sword fighting to swimming to writing haikus. He does this while taking many naps. The Cockroaches are preparing for the Samurai Trainee Games, which they've never won, instead they usually face mocking from the other samurais-to-be. The Cockroaches don't have any hope of winning, they just don't want to be last anymore.

Niya is such an entertaining main character. I found some of the humor in this book to be a little juvenile, but it's perfect for kids in middle school and younger (4th or 5th grade). He is unafraid to poke fun at himself, however he also teases the kids at his Ryu and his teacher. I would have preferred less explanation of everything that the samurai did, I think readers can figure it out from the context, but I know there are readers who might be more impatient and don't want to have to look things up. I knew a little bit more about the samurai from my World Religions class and Samurai Shortstop, so that might also have contributed to my impatience at all the translations and explanations. One thing I didn't understand was the spirit animals (Niya's is the white crane). I couldn't figure out if the spirit animals were real or if the kids simply referred to their spirit animals to give them courage.

Just when you start to think the ending will be predictable, the author slices (with a samurai sword of course) your predictable thoughts and inserts a fun twist in the end. The artwork was very well done. Each chapter has a relatively simple illustration to start it off, along with one full picture in each chapter. What I found most interesting was how tasteful the drawings of the students were. There's no gore or anything, in some pictures you can see Niya's one leg or Mikko's one arm but for the most part the missing body part is artfully hidden. The pictures are in black and white which suits the book more and the illustrations added to the fun and vivid imagery of the story.

White Crane is an engaging story set in feudal Japan when the rules of the samurai are slowly changing to become more modern. There is a lot of struggle going on between teachers vs. students and students vs. students over what traditions should stay and what should go. I love that the author gave each of these students disabilities that were seemingly impossible to overcome. They have a long way to go, but they are slowly learning how to adapt to their missing limb/blindness/extra limbs. I loved reading about Niya and his friends, they were loyal to each other and true friends. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Disclosure: Received from April at Good Books & Good Wine Yay, thanks again April!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

New Crayons

New Crayons is hosted and created by Color Online. In this meme we discuss what new books we got for the week. Crayons being a metaphor for multicultural literature.

This week I got a fantastic package from Random House UK. Thank you so much!

City of Ghosts by Bali Rai

It's 1919 and Amritsar is a city on the brink of rebellion. Riots, violence and tension spill onto the streets ...Bissen Singh fought bravely for the British Empire during World War One. Now he waits patiently for news from England. Gurdial, a young orphan, is desperate to marry Sohni, the daughter of a rich and evil man. And Jeevan, Gurdial's oldest friend, is swept up in the revolution and changing beyond all recognition. Bissen, Gurdial and Jeevan are looking to the future whilst trying to escape ghosts from the past. But as the fight for Amritsar reaches a terrifying climax, their lives will be changed for ever. This is an epic story of love and life, war and death from multi-award-winning author Bali Rai.

-Historical fiction set in India that is not during the time of Gandhi? Win. I love Gandhi, but I want to see more historical fiction about India not set during his time (like Secret Keeper which is set in 1970s India. Climbing the Stairs was set during his time but it mostly focused on the role of women and the impact WWII had on India so I count it as more unique). And it's described as EPIC. Plus Lauren recommends it and really that's enough for me.

The Young Chieftain by Ken Howard

Release Date: September 2, 2010
Has life ever ganged up on you? That's just what happens the day Jamie MacDoran's dad is killed. Suddenly, Jamie and his mum find themselves burying him on a remote Scottish island that's nothing like their LA home. There, in the run-down family castle, Jamie hears rumours of power and inheritance. He begins to discover that he's not just your average LA skater boy. But how far is he willing to go to prove it?

-Black boy in Scotland? Sold. I'm serious, I've often wondered if there are any Black people in Scotland or Ireland. I finished the book already (I LOVE long car rides) and it was great. A wonderful vacation to Scotland. Review coming soon

Bang, Bang, You're Dead by Narinder Dhami
When a mysterious gunman takes a class hostage, the rest of Mia's school is evacuated. But Mia is determined to stay behind. She knows it's a life or death situation but there's something she fears more than dying. Mia thinks she might know who the gunman is, and, if she's right, then she may be the only one who can save her schoolmates...

-This sounds like an intense read, although it looks short. I'm looking forward to it, I want to know who the gunman is! And will everyone turn out OK?

I also got Naughts & Crosses but I can't find find a picture of the new cover. I don't have time to take a picture either. If anyone knows where I can find a picture of the new cover (purple font, brown hand and white hand form an X), let me know. I like this new cover so much better! Also if anyone is interested in a very battered copy of Naughts & Crosses, (with the old cover) let me know.
What new books did you get this week? Any books by/about PoC?

*I just got back from a family emergency. I haven't had a chance to check my mailbox so I'm not sure if I got any more new books this week.
Summaries from
PS I will announce the winners of the Yummy giveaway on Wednesday. I may pick the winners later tonight and email them.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Guest Post: Let Us Write Our History

Today I am super excited to host Ah Yuan from Gal Novelty. She is beyond amazing. Her reviews always bring a new insight to the book blogging world (A great example is her review of Eon. Everyone loves it but she points out some troubling things about the Asian fantasy aspects of it). A great introduction to Ah Yuan (besides her blog) is the Blogger Spotlight interview I did with her. Enough of my ceaselssy chatter, take it away Ah Yuan!

As any reader passing by this most esteemed blog by Ari will figure out, we all know that she is very dedicated to promoting YA/MG POC books. A long-time reader may also discern the fact that Ari’s favourite genre is historical fiction. She has in fact already written a brilliant post on the lack of POC in U.S. history, which everyone should of course read immediately if you have not yet done so. In honour of this, I thought I would give some of my thoughts on this historical fiction discussion.

Here is one thing I ought to confess right off the top of the bat: I am not the biggest fan of the historical genre. I will not bore the readers here on my long-winded reasons for my general distaste of the genre as a whole, but I thought I would at least admit this bias before delving further into my post. I mean, I do enjoy learning history, how people have lived in the past and, more importantly, how it connects with our future, but short of it is that I’ve often been let down by how historical fiction and how it chooses to depict the past and the people of its time.

I’ve been particularly disillusioned by how the English (language) Literature has chosen to depict the past of Asian people and our history in our ancestral lands.

I’ve struggled with articulating all the reasons for my distaste, and I think, I will start with a cover image of a fairly recent book out in the YA market called Spirit Hunter by Katy Moran

This book? Is set in Ancient China.

I have contacted the publisher (@WalkerBooksUK) through twitter before about this, and I was assured that the female lead in the story was of European descent. Thus as it’s showing a female on the cover, who would quite logically supposed to be depicting the female lead, no foul has been done….???

Now, you may be wondering, but Yuan! The cover girl is supposed to be European! No whitewashing here. What is the problem here?

If we see this book in a vacuum, then sure, no foul done. The publisher has every right to make the decision to put a female white lead on the cover as oppose to the Chinese male lead in the story, it is all perfectly legitimate. But here’s the implicit consequence of this cover decision: the face of a white person is once again considered to be capable of representing the histories of Asian people.

No story exists in a vacuum. This novel is only singled out for the simple fact that this is the most recent example I can think of, to show that privileging a white perspective on Asian cultures and histories is not a thing of the past, but that of an ongoing problem that still rears its head in 2010, and probably will continue to be the trend year after year unless the attitudes of entire book industry changes.

For every copy of Memoirs of a Geisha made widely available in the stores and winning award after award for the author’s (white, male) achievement in masterfully depicting the ‘way of the Geisha’ and praise lauded for his supposed sensitivity towards the female sex and otherworldly culture, the real story of Mineko Iwasaki is left by large unheard and unread, no awards, no offers of movie adaptations for her story from her own mouth. Because a white man can always, always tell our stories better than ourselves, see? Don’t you see?

For every story like The Painted Veil and Empire of the Sun, for every movie like The Last Samurai, Hildalgo, The Conqueror and Lawrence of Arabia, we are told over and over that same damnable narrative, that our histories are convenient backdrops and stage props to draw out the white lead’s story, that we can not star in our own stories, that we are deemed to have nothing worthy to say beyond serving the needs of our white hero, teach him or her valuable enlightening exotic ways of our culture and have them speak for us.

In essence, these stories which chooses to use a white person as a stand in, a representative of a historical context in whatever exotic Asian country’s locale of the day, rob us of our own abilities to tell our own stories.

When we engage with these stories we are robbed of our voices.

I have seen praise for a new recent turn in the dominant historical regency romances, as the new 21st century Regency authors start branching out their settings outside of London, England to the vast colonies of the British Empire. But I cannot rejoice when I am told to cheer for the memsahib entertaining her romance with the latest British visitor under the heat of the Indian sun, I cannot rejoice every time I see the ladies and gents of Great Britain sip their damn tea with their damn sugar without the text ever acknowledge the blood shed for their happy consumption, I cannot rejoice when we can have movies like Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland wherein our lead can find emancipation from the restrictions of a 19th Century British woman’s life by making trade with China and we the audience are supposed to cheer the fact that our lead essentially will win her fortunes in her glorious future through the ruinations of a country in the remote exotic Far East. I cannot be satisfied with these stories insistently repeated to this day that refuse to acknowledge the ugly parts of their history, the devastation their colonizing ways wrought upon numerous Asian countries, I cannot be satisfied when there is blood on the ground and no one will acknowledge the deaths of millions for the simple fact that we are Other, we are not part of that shining white umbrella, our stories, our histories are not worth the acknowledgement we ask for.

No, if our stories must be told, they are loudly told in those wretched stories you call musicals like Madame Butterfly and Miss Saigon, stories set in an exotic Asian land wrought with war and a forbidden tragic love we Asian women have towards the white men, those soldiers who come bringing war to our shores. Because we can’t help but love the white colonizer, and we will die tragically for it and all the audience will cry and mourn and go back home telling themselves what a great story that was without ever having to think about any real true consequences of war and what it means to the people of that distant land. In the popular girl’s series The Princess Diaries starring princesses all over the world, Kathryn Lasky can wax poetic about how Repressed and Confined our princess Jahanara suffers from a Muslim dominated Moghul India without ever giving Jahanara a glimpse of a future beyond confinement and no thought of her own agency until she meets a white man and falls in a tragic unrequited love that can never take off. As if this narrative of our backward culture repressing our womanhood and needing the white hero to come save us from our backward men is not tired and beaten to hell and back with a stick, and if I never ever have to see this crap of a narrative troupe employed ever again, it wouldn’t come close to being soon enough.

Engaging in the English language literary canon will always mean that I am participating in a literary phenomenon that mostly erases my ethnic identity, and when the rare piece of fiction that comes along that does engage with some form of any Asian culture or history, I will often find it descends into caricature making and stereotypes that make me recoil from the book in disgust. I must learn to pick and choose, to ask myself how much fail I must accept in order to enjoy a what is otherwise well written or engaging story, I must learn where to stop when a book goes too far for me to emotionally handle, and I must learn to get used to the idea that if ever I drop a book or a story because it offends me to the point of sickness, voicing this opinion may well and have indeed already invited me ridicule, accusations of just Not Getting It, because a body of work being offensive is never ever a good enough reason to stop reading, my feelings be damned. I have learned all these things, I have thought hard about these acquired lessons and I will speak out and insist on my right to say that these types of works offend me anyways, and you will have to forgive me about being sceptical on the latest widely touted Asian!historical novel because if your hand has been burned too many times, you become weary, you do not jump towards what experience has taught you that this may give you great pain. If I am judged to be irrationally judgemental against this genre for these feelings of mine, I can only say that experiences have helped shape my perceptions and will make do with shrugging off criticisms of my character.

I have spoken on and on in this soapbox not to say zomg Asian!Historicals suck--because despite bad experiences I have indeed enjoy the rare Asian!Historical that manages to not hurt or demean, and besides, such statements are hardly conductive to a public discussion—but to lay out narrative troupes of this genre I find distasteful and anger-making, and ask, no, demand for a representation that doesn’t demean or dehumanize us. For people who choose to write in such historical contexts to think about all the implicit messages within their works, that when you create fiction on a historical time period not familiar to your own that there is history in that, years and years of others telling our stories for us and hurting us for it. How many times has our histories been distorted, maligned, silenced, and continue to be so, there’s a history in that too.

We cannot strive to make changes for our future without recognizing the wrongs of our past, the persistence of the harmful status quo in our present, and I truly want change for the historical depictions of Asian peoples. I do, I truly do. It is for this--underneath all my rambles, underneath all my words fuelled by cold rage and hurt and pain in my heart--that I speak now.

I say all this not because I truly expect change to occur from these words of mine, when so many times I tried whispering my discontent I’ve been shut down and my concerns drowned out by the laughter and indifference of others, but because I am not okay in remaining silent. Even if no one listens, I will not be deemed as complicit in my approval of such bullshit narrative troupes by upholding silence on my part.

I will end this post linking to an elegantly written blog post, far more eloquent than what I have said here, by a blogger I deeply respect and admire. (I do highly, highly encourage everyone to read the whole of the article though, and to please think carefully about the topics presented, checking your privilege in your responses to these articles before choosing to engage, please.)

ephemere’s haunting No Country for Strangers is an article that speaks directly to white authors wishing to depict the Philippines in their works.

So (and I address this now to the theoretical audience of those on the other, privileged end of the inequality) if you, as a white person, are afraid of writing about us: then be afraid. Carry in your heart the fear of doing further injustice to a people into whose blood oppression has become so incorporated that our institutions and our media echo with the dual strains of self-loathing and adulation for those who are not us. Live with the anxiety of questioning your assumptions about a people that is not more American than America, not a race composed only of tourist guides and call-center agents and overseas foreign workers and shoe-crazy society matrons and celebrity politicians, not your "little brown brothers and sisters"; whose richness and diversity and pursuit of individual identity all too often escape the surface view to which most observers are confined. Confront your blind spots and your privilege in having the luxury of overlooking this inequality because you aren't disenfranchised by it. Cast away the viewpoints that tag our similarities as proof of the good points of the Philippines and relegate our differences to the status of "disadvantage" or "compensation for..." in those instances when you do choose to acknowledge that we aren't "just like you". Grasp the difficulty that comes with having to ask yourself whether you are condescending, whether you are offending beliefs that are not held without reason, whether you are perpetuating a mindset that plays at well-intentioned assistance while diminishing fundamental freedoms to choose our own goods. We've had 'well-intentioned assistance'; the Americans called it benevolent rule. Delve into our history, the blood of our politics and our wars; soak yourself in it, in the grit and the grime of our daily living, until you understand why we rage and why we have cut out our tongues.