Sunday, February 27, 2011

Some Changes & New Crayons

Before we get to New Crayons I want to prepare you. There's going to be a few more off color reviews popping up. As you may recall off color reviews are ones in which the book is by an author of color but the main character is not of color or the book is by a white author with a diverse supporting cast. Recently, I was offered the opportunity to be a part of an amazing opportunity. The literacy charity First Book which has provided over 80 million books to children in need. So where do I come up and what's it got to do with off color? Well each month a blogger (there are 32 of us I believe) picks a book from the First Book Marketplace (registered organizations and schools that serve low-income families can buy heavily discounted books from there) to read and review. The point is that on a given day all these bloggers will be reviewing YA books. The hope is that educators and librarians who work with teens will learn more about First Book and register with them. I wanted to participate because it's about giving books to kids who many not get that many, and that means the world to me. A bonus was that there are several diverse titles in the collection, I'm going to have a hard time narrowing down which book to choose when it's my turn! In short, some bloggers will pick books with white main characters and I will review them here. I hope that there will be diverse secondary characters as well (not so in this first book choice but maybe the next one :) You'll learn more tomorrow in my first review.

I've also decided to s-l-o-w-l-y start including off color reviews as books where the main character is Jewish (in heritage and/or religion). Why? Because I don't see many of those books being reviewed and I don't go to school with kids who are openly Jewish (i.e. i have no idea if they actually are because it's not mentioned) and I want to learn more about that culture and religion. I've already got several in my TBR on Goodreads so I should hop to it (and besides a few of them feature the main character being half poc, half Jewish. Like Orchards by Holly Thompson or I Wanna Be Your Shoebox by Cristina Garcia) I hope you don't mind, but hey it is my blog ;) Seriously though, I welcome your input on the subject.

Back to New Crayons!

Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang

Athletic and strong willed, Princess Emmajin's determined to do what no woman has done before: become a warrior in the army of her grandfather, the Great Khan Khubilai. In the Mongol world the only way to achieve respect is to show bravery and win glory on the battlefield. The last thing she wants is the distraction of the foreigner Marco Polo, who challenges her beliefs in the gardens of Xanadu. Marco has no skills in the "manly arts" of the Mongols: horse racing, archery, and wrestling. Still, he charms the Khan with his wit and story-telling. Emmajin sees a different Marco as they travel across 13th-century China, hunting 'dragons' and fighting elephant-back warriors. Now she faces a different battle as she struggles with her attraction towards Marco and her incredible goal of winning fame as a soldier.

-Won from Rebecca's Book Blog. whoo-hoo! Already read and enjoyed :) Review March 8th. Thank you Rebecca & Random House!

From the author

The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

Freak. That's what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna's own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.

When the darkest outcasts of Faerie—the vicious wood elves—abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend—even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect.

-Yes I'm friends with this author and OMG yes I was included in the acknowledgements! Ahhhh. Anyway *calms down* As I type this my camera's dead, but otherwise I would take a picture of this gorgeous cover. It's the UK version and it has this to-die-for gold foil that makes the book POP. I'm in love (and I haven't even had a chance to red it yet, I'm waiting for next week when I get out of school early so I can carve a few hours out of my day). Thank you Kaz!

The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee Frazier

The close relationship of a pair of biracial twins is tested when their grandmother enters them in a pageant for African American girls in this new story from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award winner Sundee T. Frazier.

When Minerva and Keira King were born, they made headlines: Keira is black like Mama, but Minni is white like Daddy. Together the family might look like part of a chessboard row, but they are first and foremost the close-knit Kings. Then Grandmother Johnson calls, to invite the twins down South to compete for the title of Miss Black Pearl Preteen of America.

Minni dreads the spotlight, but Keira assures her that together they'll get through their stay with Grandmother Johnson. But when grandmother's bias against Keira reveals itself, Keira pulls away from her twin. Minni has always believed that no matter how different she and Keira are, they share a deep bond of the heart. Now she'll find out the truth.

-We are studying genetics in science class and we briefly discussed how twins can be born looking white and black if they have white ancestors in their parents' past and/or have biracial parents. Which reminded me of Passing by Nella Larsen and how both Gertrude and Clare were terrified that their children would be born dark-skinned even though they were both light. Getrude says something like 'you never know how our kids are going to turn out' (meaning how they're going to look. They could be extremely light or darker than you expected. Obviously it doesn't matter but back then it did. And some people today are still stuck thinking light is better). Anyhoo, all that rambling is meant to convey that I'm very eager to read this book. Thank you Ms. Frazier!

What wonderful books did you get this week? Do you have any changes being made to your blog?


  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog post on Crystal Allen's book launch. It was a wonderful day and we are keeping our fingers crossed that Lamar will make it to the big screen. And thanks for all your book reviews; you are doing a great job.

  2. Awesome! I'm very excited for you. And great "New Crayon" I actually saw Daughter of Xanadu at B&N, and on a face out. :)

  3. I always think it's interesting which way Jewish swings on White/POC spectrums. I was raised in a neighborhood with a high Jewish population. On Jewish holidays about a third of my classmates were absent. At least one was descended from a Holocaust survivor - she had some creepy stories about what her grandmother had to do to survive in the work camp.

    Between my childhood, awareness of the Holocaust (Six million Jews were murdered in my grandmother's lifetime. Six million), awareness of Hollywood's anti-Semitism (hello, Mel Gibson), and the unthinking bigotry of people in my current neighborhood ("she's a Jewish princess, you Jewed me out of my money, don't be a Jew and buy the cheap one"), I have always considered the Jewish experience to be very different from the White (and/or Christian) experience.

    So it surprises me when I meet people who consider Jews White. Part of it could be the difference between Jew-religion and Jew-race, which don't always overlap, but I think it's more than that. I just don't know what.

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