Saturday, January 2, 2010

Color: The New Reality

I usually don't know ahead of time what my non review post will be. This particular idea came to me while I was reading Amber Kizer's new YA novel Meridian. I've already finished and really enjoyed the book. ( review to come)

Here's a quick back story
In the novel, since Meridian was small animals have been dying around her. As she got older the animals got bigger. On her 16th birthday Meridian sent to live with an Aunt, who will explain Meridian powers. She is a Fenestra, a window, helping people move on to the afterlife. For her safety Meridan must the bus to her Aunt's in Colorado. While at the bus depot Meridan helps translate for an older women. When they get to Colorado the woman's daughter Dr. Portalso -Marquez thanks Meridian for help her mother. When I read that, I was like What! a Latina doctor. That is just one example of color in this novel. I don't think it was a concidence that this was the last novel I read in 2009.

I think its fitting that I would end the year reading a book with a protagonist that does not exist in a color free world. It made me think of all the other books that I've read like that this year that have embraced diversity.

Luv YA Bunches by Lauren Myracle - This is a great book. How often do you see a MG book with a Muslim girl that's not historical fiction. How often do you see an MG book where one of the main characters has two moms. Myracle has all of this diversity, like its the most natural thing in the world.

NERDS: by Michael Buckley This book is so much fun. Not only is the cast diverse, just like Luv YA Bunches so is the cover. Thank you Abrams books. This is book one in the series. Each character will get a chance to be in the spotlight. I have no problems with the author starting with the White male protagonist. Its always easier to start with the familar. Though I have my fingers crossed that the next character the author decides to show case is a character of color.

Ruined by Paula Morris - This is one of my favorite novels on the year. The Haitian ghost was unexpected and loved. The author gives alot of New Orleans history along with the history of Haitian in the city. My review If you get a chance watch the book trailer, it's great.

Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda - I thought this novel was great. I discovered it thanks to a wonderful interview with the author over at Finding Wonderland. Chadda said many things that made me want to pick up his first YA novel

What's interesting is the feedback I've had from some schools regarding the religious and ethnic mix of the characters. Again it was just how I see the world, so that's what I wrote.

Skunk Girl by Sheba Karim - I loved the main character Nina Khan. Some of my favorite scenes of this book were of Nina eating lunch with her friends and their boyfriends. The divesity with seamless and natural. It just was and it didn't hurt that the scenes were well written and funny.

The Ring by Bobbie Pyron -I really enjoyed this one and I loved the MC, Mardie. If any of these novels could have easily had an all White cast it would be this book. The story of a White girl in Colorado who starts boxing to deal with her problems. Though not only are there Black and Latino secondary characters, the author takes the time to develop their story lines.

Liar by Justine Larbalestier - Micah is one of the most original protagonist I've read in awhile. Though if you think Liar made this list just because the MC is Black, you'd be wrong. Its here because Liar is set in current day NYC and some of Micah's teacher last names give hint at their ethnicity. (imagine that) and Zach the boy who is murdered is called a White Latino by his friends. (I did a double take when I read that, didn't realize White people knew there was a difference)

All of these authors found their own way to add color to their novels. I hate the fact that I am still surprised when I find color in MG and YA novels. I shouldn't want to tell everyone that there is a Black, Latina, Muslim, Indian, Asian character in such a such novel. Its 2010 Color should no longer be the exception it should be the norm. Novels should reflect reality.

I am over books with multiple White protagonists and no people of color . Now, I am not looking for forced diveristy. I hate that just as much as a colorless world. I don't expect or want every group of friends to be rainbow colored that is not reality.

Though there is no excuse for a color free book with 3 or more White protagonists. I expect these friends to interact and talk to other people besides each other. (I am so over the TV show Friends the World is all White fake reality. ) I don't need want or expect a character of color be a main character or even a secondary character all the time. What I do expect is that people of color are recognized and not forgotten.

It doesn't even have to be big. It can be something as small as an MC noticing that a store owner reads his national paper everyday.(insert the name of said paper, good to go)

The diversity bar is so low right now. Readers who want it , love it and seek it out are willing to accept almost anything. So make the effort.


Colleen said...

I am right there with you on the all Caucasian casts for so many titles. What drives me nuts is that it is unnecessary. I don't want forced diversity either but I feel we are getting the reverse - forced uniformity. I'll go one step further and say that I'm sick of WHITE people who are completely devoid of ethnicity. When I was growing up white was a color not an ethnicity. I'd love to see Irish, Italian, Polish, French Canadian, Haitian, Cuban, African etc kids in books - different names, different religions, different food or traditions, just something to make these kids individuals.

Off soapbox now, but I'm so with you on this one!!!

Anonymous said...

I hear ya, loud and clear! Keep talking...thanks.

susan said...

Okay, we are going to rerun this when it falls off your front page because it needs to be on the radar for a long time.

Well said, Doret.

Doret said...

Colleen - You need to read Ruined by Paula Morris. You will love it

Laura thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I just check out your site

Much congrats on the Kirkus review of Escaping the Tiger. I enjoyed the excerpt

(to all lurkers - If you delurk, you too can have a personalized response. Especially if you wrote a book with people of color)

Thanks Susan - These books were all great.

These authors prove that it is possible to recognize other races and religions in MG and YA.

Lyn Miller-Lachmann said...

Thanks for the post. In my adult novel, I addressed this issue, and a lot of people appreciated the fact that the upscale suburb had a diversity of families--it wasn't all the white-bread stereotype.

yuan said...

I'm looking forward to your review of Meridian! =D
I just bought Luv Ya Bunches recently, am looking forward to it.
Liar was such an awesome book. <3333
Love this post. Diversity is a reality of our world and I like to find books that reflect this reality.

Lauren said...

Really interesting post. I'm planning to read Luv Ya Bunches and Meridian so great to say some positive words about both of those.

I also read and really enjoyed Devil's Kiss this year. I loved the way the book made it easy for readers from different cultures to relate to the same mythology.

MissA said...

I MUST read devil's Kiss and Luv Ya Bunches. I want to read Ruined too (I just follow all your recommendations :) Looking forward to seeing your review of Meridan, I didn't know there were any poc in it. Awesome post! hopefully 2010 will be the first year of color with many more to come :D

stacy said...

Why have I not heard of Meridian? That book sounds fabulous. Now I'll have to look it up. Thanks for being one of my sources! It's hard to find out about books like this in good old Happy Valley (Utah Valley). We've got a great children's literature community here, but diverse titles require more hunting than in other places I've lived.

Carol H Rasco said...

Thank you for this wonderful post that both gave me some new titles to explore as well as food for thought on the whole POC issue so highly discussed this week. I appreciate your attitude, your outlook and you state it well! Happy 2010!

Lori W. said...

This is a great post. I agree w/Susan about re-running it at some point so it stays near the front page! Luckily, I found it, and you make some excellent observations here. I appreciate your book reviews as well.