she’s not there….but she was here!

Have you heard of Helen Oyeyemi? In 2004 or 2005, she was the talk of the literary world because she wrote a novel and sold it at the same time that she sat her A-levels, and that was amazing, because really young writers are amazing. I heard about this somewhere and became pretty obsessed with the idea that someone just a couple years older than I was had done what I wanted to do, so I got her book, The Icarus Girl, when it came out, and it was everything.

It wasn’t anything to anyone else I knew, which made me sad, because I couldn’t stop talking about. The boys at school (who I was always trying to impress or at least be seen as worthy in their eyes, even though by all high school social standards, they were not impress-worthy) who were in journalism with me made fun of me for this, especially when I wrote a book review for the school newspaper. Looking back, the way they treated me in that class and in high school in general was problematic on so many levels (once I brought The Norton Anthology of African American Literature to school because I needed it for something we were doing later that day in English, and one of these boys just ripped out a page out of nowhere, because he thought a poem called “Run Nigger Run” was hilarious. Who rips pages out of books?) and yet I didn’t have the vocabulary or the confidence to hit back or explain what they were doing or anything, and it was so frustrating.

Anyway. I loved The Icarus Girl and was always telling people to read it. Then I kept following Oyeyemi and was always buying her next books whenever they came out. Continue reading


on rating books

A couple years ago, I decided I was over rating books on goodreads.  This was for a few reasons.

  1. I had had a goodreads account since my senior year of high school, and my tastes had changed since then. Also, even at that point, I had been adding books I had read in the past and putting in my ratings that I would have given them as a 10-year-old. As I reread books, or even as I just think about them as an adult, I realize that’s ridiculous, like The Giver is amazing and all, but it has a million plot holes and is made worse by the existence of the three sequels. All of this is to say that I am embarrassed by my past tastes and also think that something as subjective as a rating becomes even more meaningless when you make it more subjective through time and mood and age. So I stopped doing starred ratings and just marked as read, tagged with various genres and subjects as appropriate, and sometimes wrote reviews or reactions. Continue reading

caring is not trying, trying is not succeeding

Diversity Cupcakes

“Diversity Cupcakes.” I love google. (Photo credit: clevercupcakes)

May 16, Charlesbridge, a children’s publisher in Boston, co-hosted a panel, with CBC Diversity, on diversity in children’s literature with authors, illustrators and editors. This happened awhile ago, obviously, but somehow I never had time to write about it. But I think it’s important to, because it was sponsored by CBC Diversity, which is trying to be this huge, multi-publisher effort to promote diversity, and yet I can’t really understand what it is they think they’re doing. For one thing, I keep seeing invitations to participate in their efforts and their blog on various listservs, other blogs, etc, and yet they don’t reply to (if they even accept) comments, they don’t respond to emails, and they basically keep it very much in their club of favorite people, which is the opposite of “Advocating for an inclusive and representative children’s publishing industry,” as they say on their blog tagline.

The usual questions were asked, like can authors write outside their culture, how can you avoid stereotyping or tokenizing, what’s it like to be a creator of color in the industry, how do you edit a book for authenticity if it’s not your culture, etc. Mostly the creators told funny racism stories, by which I mean the silly things people say that you can laugh about later, and then said how in general, they are treated just fine. Great for them. The editors basically said it’s hard to sell books about kids of color and how they wish they received more submissions. Not sure how those two work together, but sure. There was also this overarching thing behind many of the things said about how children are delicate creatures, and we need to hold their hands when it comes to reading things outside of their comfort zones, which is apparently white kids reading about Mexican kids, or something.

Ultimately, through the panel and the milling about afterwards, I learned that diversity will forever be more common in historical fiction, magical colored people, and noble savages, and that nobody wants to be the first to do anything remarkable. Continue reading