Wednesday, April 15, 2009

But That's Not What This Rants About

I wrote this last night. Slept on it and still wanted to post it, so here it is, in honor of April being national poetry month.

But that's not what this rants about
I like to play nice so I don't rant n rave
about race representation in YA fiction
and the kidlitosphere
or lack there of
Don't get me wrong, there are sites where
color can be found in abundance
Paper Tigers is all about the multicultural
Cloudscome rocks the diversity D
And Worducopia Ali has given it a home
Collecting stray reviews of color
to be
And Praised
Becky reviewed some sweet Jazz books
beyond nice, it was
hip cool and all that
All these beautiful examples
does not change the ugly truth
Day after day
visiting blog after blog
veiwing page after page after page (multiply by a large number of your choice)
And only see a handful of reviews of color
Can someone please tell me ,
is there some special dance or jig
authors of color must perform to get some
blogger love
why is out of the 10
the same 5 I see
Can someone please, pretty pretty please
I am begging like back in the day Spike Lee
Share the secret
I promise I won't tell authors of color if their books
are too ethnic
I could delve into this longer
But that's not what this rants about

I've been tempted to post about bloggers of color
who don't review authors of color
But we live in America, and thats their right
Though I'll still judge and be baffled
I couldn't fathom reviewing books
with male leads only
because I have ovaries,
And I see on this point we agree
Your female post cover the alphabet
from Anderson - Zarr
You've claimed your gender
now what about your race
Than maybe we can meet up
at Color Online
and together get our color and gender fix
I could easily continue with this
saying things like how can we expect White bloggers
to review authors of color on a regular basis
when bloggers of color don't
But that's not what this rants about
so you didn't just read that

365 days in a year
Some how I didn't hear a thing about
Charles R Smith Jr
beautiful 08 Chameleon
After that post I could've gone on and on
about Black boys getting screwed twice over
when it comes to YA fiction
thanks to race and gender
But did I no, because that's like saying Monday comes after Sunday
Contiuning this trend seems pointless
But lucky for me that's not what this rant is about

Shelfari's my cyber library
Where I add books like candy
Added Dr. Truelove himself
He's been around since 06
13 members claim
The Making of Dr. Truelove
When I saw that I was like
That can't be right,
Then I figured it out,
I got the paperback is what it is
Searched out the HC
ready to do a little addition
Surprise Surprise there is no HC
13 is low, right and wrong
All at the same time
I don't like to play the Card
But this this time I am licking the back
smacking it on my forehead and calling
And that's what this rant is about.


susan said...

You posted this last night and no one commented. This is why you call this a rant.

I feel just like you. And I know you know how overjoyed I was when I found you, Edi, Zetta and Cloudscome.

I created BES so I didn't leave out the guys and yes, we, bloggers of color read and review everybody.

You'd like to think diversity mattered to more folks, but hey, you're here. Stay here and remind folks we're not going anywhere.

Anonymous said...

I am guilty of not straying from my comfort zone, stories about white girls. I really don't even read books with male protagonists. The personal reader in me says "so what, you read what you like" but the librarian in me knows that by not straying I'm missing out on so much good literature. I've had great luck when I've tried something different -- Red Glass and Dooley Takes the Fall, for example. Plus, I'm not an effective librarian if I can only recommend books to a very small portion of my customer base.

Doret said...

Susan, I just posted this today. Wrote it yesterday but slept on it first.
Bookworm4life- I loved your Dooley Takes The Fall review. And step out of your comfort zone, you'll find some great books, I promise. Its easy to lose yourself in what you know but sometimes its nice to discover something new.

susan said...

What bothers me is the expectation that people of color read and can inject themselves in stories with white characters but white readers resist or reject do the same with black characters. And I may be wrong but white readers seem to be far more at ease reading books about other people of color, Asian and South Asian specifically but not AA.

I hear you, I think the individual reader reads what they like but I really am on the cusp of asking group YA sites why they don't do more to review and feature writers of color. There are more than 10 AA writers out there and I want to know why these writers are not promoted as agressively as white authors with white characters. Interestingly when a white author writes a black character then white readers jump on the wagon to read the book. I'm thinking about Chains for instance.

And looking at my own action and inaction. I need to step up and write more. I read far more than I review.

Doret said...

Working at a bookstore I know White readers seek out auhtors of Color just not African American authors. I believe it has something to do with the separate AA lit section. I think non black readers see it has a that's for black readers only, which is so far from true. Though I have no idea if this trickles down into YA, because thankfully there is no separation.

I would just like to see more YA authors of color discussed online. Its 2009 we have our first African American President, this should not be an issue. Its just sad and frustrating, if no one is talking about these books they won't sell and if they don't sell another author of color won't get published. And when I say author of color that's not code for African American. YA should be as diverse as it can be.

I think White authors get praised for writing Black characters because its seen as taking a leap and stepping out of their comfort zone and giving life to a character of another race. When a Black author writes the same character it's looked upon as oh. Writers don't get any extra points or praise for writing a character of the same skin tone.

Color Online said...

Thanks for saying. I swear I feel like I'm a broken record when I explain of color is not code for just black folks. I mean people of color.

I don't think a white author or any other should could get bonus points for writing a character unlike them. Do we give special notice for men writing women? A good writer does his/her homework. They all strive for authenticity.

So like I said, how and when are we going to spread the message that we want more color on these blogs?

And how do we nuture more bloggers of color to write about books by people of color. Have you read a blog by an AA teen and was she reviewing literature across race, gender and ethnicity?

I have a young lady involved with Color Online who is currently interested in creating her own blog.

Claudia said...

These issues aren't unique to YA Fiction, but I can see how they would be especially important for thinking about young people's reading habits. I agree with Susan, Stay here and remind folks we're not going anywhere.By the way, I just ordered Charles R. Smith, Jr's Dance With Me for my daughter - I had never heard of him before, so thanks for that.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen the SLJ article ( written by Mitali Perkins (

susan said...

I read Mitali's article and I linked it to LLM last week, Doret. Definitely read it.

I come here first for YA recommendations because you read everybody. I just ordered two titles because of your reviews and my biggest problem area had been books for boys because I don't normally get requests for titles for boys, but when I did, I was lost, you've been a tremendous help in that area, too.

Keri said...

Thank you for this. I buy many, if not most of the YA fiction books written by writers of color that I know about for my library collection, but in spite of this, I don't read enough of them! I just looked back at my list of books read the past three years and confirmed that the number is probably even lower than I expected. Last year was the year I finally broke out of my "I don't read fantasy ever" rut, so this year, I'm going make some effort to read a lot more of the books by authors of color that I've been recommending to my teens for years.

I will say though that I disagree about the fact that Chains got so much attention because it was written by a white author - It was written by Laurie Halse Anderson! She's one of the top five YA writers and people will read whatever she writes (Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson also would fall under the category). If a no name debut person had written it, it wouldn't have the same buzz no matter what race they were. I agree with the sentiment though and I'm sure you can find many other examples where that is the case (Touching Spirit Bear versus authentic Native Lit, among many others).

Doret said...

Susan- I haven't come across any Black Teen blogs yet. If someone knows of one please leave the link in the comment box. You should tell her to go for it and start a blog. Since she's involved with Color Online, I know she has diverse reading habits

Claudia- You'll love Dance With ME. You may not dance but you'll be tempted to move about

Bookworm4life - Thanks so much for linking to Perkin's article. It was really good. She gives excellent examples. Hopefully it will make a few people think.

Keri- I used to not read fantasy but when I started working more in children's section, I couldn't not read it. A lot of its still over my head but I've been happily surprised by how much I do enjoy. I think once a reader begins stepping out of their comfort zone, it gets easier.

Apryl DeLancey said...

I like that you rant. You let it out as you should. Thank you for that.

susan said...

There is a forum at Shelfari that promotes a different theme/genre each month. They also host monthly challenges. Because of Play Book Tag I read a lot of books I would have never read. Some genres I won't go back to but just reading something from these genres taught me I could find books in themes/genres even if they didn't become part of my regular reading habits.

You couldn't have told me I read a fantasy/romance set in Scotland and enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

See! here here is why our problem persists. Even those who you would think would know better, would know that there are writers of color who are of merit and more than deserving of attention, even they ignore Black, Latino, Asia and Native American authors. Who? None other than Queen Oprah. Check out her new reading list for kids 12 and above

Doret said...

Many people who see this list will think its okay to continue not reading YA authors of color. If I knew Maya Angelou I would so tell on Oprah. I know she doesn't compile the list but she could at least ask whoever does it to make sure its diverse. It does have her name on it after all.

Ali said...

Beautiful, heartfelt poem--and words that need to be said. I don't know the answer, I don't even know if I have any insight at all, but I hear you. I do.

Shalonda said...

Wow! What a powerful poem.

As an African American blogger, I am ashamed to admit that I have very rarely featured cultural diversity. So, I was actually on a mission earlier this week to locate books by authors or featuring main characters of diverse cultures. I was able to locate many on my own bookshelf, but was disappointed the number of YA books found on the shelves in stores and even at my public library. I live near Atlanta and found it unbelievable that my HUGE public library only has one copy of The Making of Dr. Truelove in the whole system.

I will definitely be featuring some different titles on my blog in the coming months. Thank you for the wake up call.

mbpbooks said...

Just reading through the comments proves the power of your poem, creating a circle of conversation that is going to ripple out, and out, and out.

Could be we'll have to challenge blogging book reviewers to check their last ten books and see if they featured any authors who weren't white. Maybe I'll tweet about it.

Thanks for speaking truth in love.

Doret said...

Thank you Ali, Reading authors of color seems like such an easy thing but its deceptively difficult for many. Making a solution even harder.

Thank you Shalonda, for stopping by and commenting. You should check out the diversity rocks challenge. It's pressure free and it will keep you honest on your new goal to review more authors of color. And hopefully soon you can get some of your blogger friends to do the same.

Mitali - I have no idea how you found your way here. My guess is you got lost somehow, either way thanks so much for your comments.

Paula said...

*snapping fingers*

I felt like I was in some hip jazz club on spoken word night!

Paula said...

Blogging is so much easier when one is moved to do so. I've blogged about this linking back to your rant. It'll go live on The Brown Bookshelf on Friday.

Doret said...

Thanks Paula for the link and putting over 20 comments

Literaticat said...

Great post. I have been wrangled to be on some panel on cultural diversity at NESCBWI, and this gives me a lot of food for thought. Thanks!

Summer said...

This is a great post and a great discussion. I'm happy I read it.

Doret said...

Thanks Literaticat and Summer for stopping by and leavind a comment. Come back anytime

susan said...

Doret, I read Mitali's article and not to take undue credit, but I might have mentioned it on her blog. At any rate, she wasn't lost, she found you. Those of us who are passionate about this issue are always hoping and looking for the like-minded.

I am so glad you posted your poem.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

I'm glad to have found this conversation too. I find so much joy and interest and thought by reading diversely, and reading blogs by people of color, I don't understand why everyone else doesn't do the same... on one level. On the other hand I know only too well the pressure to go with the status quo. Unfortunately it is just easier to pretend the world is mostly white when one is white (any maybe even if one isn't). I have to constantly work at not slipping into reading books mostly about white girls. I could wonder about that but maybe the answer is obvious.

It's so worth the resistance though. So rewarding to step out of the comfort zone! I want to say thanks for the Diversity Rocks challenge, for Color Online, for Doret and Mitali's work... all of it!

Doret said...

Thank you Andromeda Jazmon for taking the time to comment. I can glad you stumbled upon this conversation as well.

Charlotte said...

Thank you for your powerful rant.

MissA said...

I loved this!!! Doret you are so talented. Preach it! :D
I'm happy to say you can add Taste Life Twice and Reading in Color to your poem now!

Anonymous said...

I. Love. This. Poem. Drooool. I'm gonna go post about it now.


Doret said...

Thanks Ari and Tashi and I appreciate the link love.