There are two things wrong with the phrase, “I’m not a feminist, but…”
First, it’s wrong for me to couch my opinions with a disclaimer. Saying something like, “I’m not a feminist, but I feel like women deserve the same rights as men,” belittles not just the idea of feminism, but also the idea that what I’m saying matters. I’m dismissing my own words before I even speak them. I’m giving an excuse for why I should be allowed to say the words following the phrase, as if the only reason I would say those words is if I had such an excuse.
The second thing wrong about that phrase is the fact that it exists.
Our society has turned “feminist” into a bad thing to be. A screaming harpie seeking attention and trouble. A thing that we should distance ourself from. [read more]
Our editors often get asked for advice on writing cross-culturally, so we thought we’d round up some of the best links on the subject. Writing cross-culturally means writing about a culture that isn’t your own (and in this definition of culture, we include race, ethnicity, sexual identity, disabilities, and other identity markers). We have published many books by writers who wrote outside their cultures, and believe that it can be done well; in fact, writing cross-culturally is an essential component of boosting the numbersof books about diverse characters.
That being said, writing cross-culturally must be done thoughtfully and carefully. It requires research. Changing a core piece of a character’s identity is not the same as changing a character’s name or hair style; different cultures provide different lenses through which to view the world, and affect characters in a multitude of small ways.
Here are some good places to start if you are an author writing cross-culturally or thinking about writing cross-culturally:
- Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story“
- Nisi Shawl, “Transracial Writing for the Sincere“
- Nisi Shawl, “Appropriate Cultural Appropriation“
- N.K. Jemisin on describing characters of color in writing, parts one,two, and three
- Mitali Perkins’ “Writing Race: A Checklist for Writers”
- Uma Krishnaswami’s interview with Stacy Whitman, “Why Use Cultural Consultants?“
- “Tips for Writing Cross-Culturally“: Highlights from the Twitter chat between Stacy Whitman and author Karen Sandler
- Notes from Stacy Whitman’s SCBWI talk on writing multicultural books
- DiversifYA: A great blog featuring interviews with a range of writers with diverse perspectives. A great entrance into thinking about cross-cultural writing in a more nuanced way.
- Disability in KidLit: This terrific blog, run by three YA authors, offers great guest posts that explore the intricacies of daily life with a wide range of disabilities.
See the full post here. Did we miss any?
A lot of people around the world have ideas of what America is like, possibly thanks to Hollywood, or their local news channels, and maybe from what they’ve heard from families and friends. But then, they came here, to the grand old United States and their minds exploded.
"The publishing industry looks a lot like these best-selling teenage dystopias: white and full of people destroying each other to survive."
A young writer that I mentor reached out to me last week. “None of these agents look like me,” she said, “and they don’t represent anyone that looks like me.” She’s wrapping up a final draft of her first novel and I’d told her to research literary agencies to get a feel for what’s out there. “What if they don’t get what I’m doing?”
I got a message to make a phone call to Publishers Weekly this afternoon, following a strong response to the all-male, all-white panel for BookCon, which is ReedPop’s consumer-side show as part of Book Expo America. Here’s the piece.
I’m pleased with the fact there’s a piece about the backlash.
My one wish is that someone who wasn’t a white lady (me) were the one being heard. I wish, too, I hadn’t been the one female quoted in the piece. But that’s here and there, and I think if you want more context for why this is a concern of mine, help yourself to Sarah McCarry’s important string of tweets about privilege and publishing that came at the same time as yesterday’s backlash.
In short, I am not saying anything anyone else hasn’t been saying forever. I am not saying anything a person of color hasn’t been saying forever. But I have far less at stake if I keep pushing at it. I can handle being called a bitch and a feminist and misandrist and whatever other creative names people who disagree with my message can come up with.
A series of anonymous asks popped up today in aprihop's inbox today, as well as in summerscourtney's. The asks can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. I recommend reading them all and reading the follow-ups. Also read this post.
In short: when we speak up for women and poc having representation, we’re accused of being man-haters and throwing men under the bus.
Far from it.
When we call out privilege for what it is — all men on a conference panel, men being the dominant force in an industry, men having power and prestige a la the New York Times Bestsellers list, better publicity and marketing, even the label of being “better” storytellers, per one of the asks — we are doing no such thing. We’re instead looking at the system and pointing out the flaws.
Those men are not the flaws. And we need to stop apologizing for them or on their behalf. Of course it’s not their fault.
It’s the fault of a far bigger, more pervasive system. It is only by examining it and asking questions and pointing out homogeny and sameness that we make any inroads. And we have to also do our part to step back and examine our own part in the system.
People who anon ask are cowards in these situations. People who anon comment are no better.
People who won’t risk themselves when they have the opportunity to advocate for those who aren’t as privileged as they are are also part of the problem. To which end, I point out how much respect I have for Rick Riordan and his tweet regarding the BookCon panel he’s a part of. Support men AND women. Support white people AND non-white people.
When you support one group of people, it is in not denigrating another group of people. Instead, it’s doing your part to raise everyone up.
I don’t need to delve deeper. But I’ll post a few relevant things.
- A Censored History of Ladies in YA Fiction (my post)
- Kate Messner’s Owning Our Words
- Megan Frazer’s Speaking Up, Finding Fish
- When We Talk About Girl Problems (my post)
- The Reductive Approach to YA Fiction (my post)
- Diversity, The Zero Sum Argument, and Chicken Wings by Justina Ireland
- Race and Diversity in the 2013 YA Bestsellers
Got more suggestions for necessary reading related to gender, diversity, publishing, and the YA world? Lay it on me and let’s build a massive resource here.
caring is not trying, trying is not succeeding by Sarah Hannah Gómez
Why Being a POC Author Sucks Sometimes by Ellen Oh
Mad Words Turn To Positive Action at Rich in Color
The danger of a single story, Chimamanda Adichie
In my seventeen years as a bookseller and three years as a school librarian before that, if there’s one thing I have noticed, it’s that we adults make all kinds of erroneous assumptions about what will and won’t interest children. Time and time again, at the bookstore and at children’s book festivals, I have observed white children picking up books with kids of color on the cover, and heard adults express surprise at the choice. “Are you sure you want that one?” they’ll ask. Or, “Wouldn’t you like this book instead?” It’s not the kids who are the problem. Kids really, really, really only care about a great story. In twenty years of connecting children with books they love, I have only seen one child—ONE!—balk at a book cover because the main character was a different race from her own. It’s the adults who underestimate a child’s ability or desire to see beyond race.
The good news is that those same adults will usually respond well to bookseller enthusiasm for titles and allow their own reservations (which they aren’t even consciously aware of) to be shifted.
April 10, 2014: UCR Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies Program hosts April 30 event.Latino Science Fiction Explored
UCR Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies Program will host this April 30 event at University of California, Riverside. “A Day of Latino Science Fiction” – Wednesday, April 30, beginning at 10am. The free event will be held in the Interdisciplinary Symposium Room (INTS 1113) and is open to the public.
The day kicks off with a morning panel featuring spec novelists Mario Acevedo, Rudy Ch. García, Ernest Hogan, Beatrice Pita and Rosaura Sánchez.
After lunch and informal discussion, a short film screening and the panel “Latinos in Hollywood and Beyond” will feature: Jesús Treviño, writer and director of Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, SeaQuest DSV, and Babylon 5; Michael Sedano, La Bloga Latino literature blogger; and UCR Ph.D. candidates Danny Valencia, Rubén Mendoza and Paris Brown, who will address topics of Latino science fiction, SF as pedagogy in Latino communities, and Mexican dystopias and religion.
The event will culminate in the donation of Treviño’s papers to UCR Libraries’ Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy, the world’s largest publicly accessible collection of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and utopian literature, housed in Special Collections & University Archives of the Tomás Rivera Library.
Within the last few weeks, the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and CNN have all published articles examining the lack of diversity in children’s and young adult literature — and next month, School Library Journal plans to publish an entire issue devoted to diversity. While all this mainstream interest in diversity is to be applauded for bringing more people into the ongoing conversation about diversity, they still largely fail to tackle the problem of how we can change the status quo.
We at Diversity in YA obviously don’t have all the answers, and we aren’t the first people to talk about these issues. This conversation has been going on for decades. What we do have are ideas for how you can change the status quo right now. If you’re an ordinary reader, you don’t have to wait to show your support for books that show the world as it is. Here are five ways you can help make positive change right now:
1. Look for diversity.
Make a conscious effort to seek out books to read that feature characters of color, LGBT characters, and/or disabled characters. They may not be front-and-center at your local Barnes & Noble; you may have to look around a bit or go online to find them.
2. Support diversity.
Support the diverse books that are published today by buying them, by checking them out at your library, or by requesting that your library buy them.
3. Recommend diversity.
If you use Goodreads, Facebook, social media, or have a blog, talk up the books you love that happen to have diverse characters. Tell your friends! Word of mouth is still key in bringing awareness to books. And remember: You don’t need to recommend them solely for their diversity — they’re great books to enjoy, plain and simple.
4. Talk up diversity.
When discussions around diversity in literature occur online, join in the conversation if you can to express that you do want more diverse books to read and that the issue is important to you.
5. Don’t give up.
There will always be people who dismiss “diversity” as meaningless. They are the reason we must keep fighting for representation. We’re all in this together.
* * *
Want a list of diverse YA books you can get started reading right now? Here are a dozen YA books of all kinds (contemporary, fantasy, sci-fi, mystery — something for everyone!) that happen to have characters of color, LGBT characters, and/or disabled characters.
Want even more book lists? Here’s a link to all of our book lists.
Anthony Mackie being the first black superhero (and making Bill O’Reilly uncomfortable) on Jimmy Fallon (x)
I am so happy that Anthony Mackie is a person that exists.
For anyone who’s going: “But what about Storm/Hancock/Frozone/War Machine etc etc?”: they’re referring to the fact that the character Falcon was the first African-American superhero* created (debuted in Captain America #177 in 1969). If you’ve watched the clip, you’ll notice that Mackie corrects Jimmy Fallon when he says first black superhero. This is because the first black superhero was Black Panther - debuted in Fantastic Four #52 in 1966 - whom lives in the fictive African country Wakanda, and is thus not a citizen of the USA.
(* = the word “superhero” is usually not used for hero characters that pre-date Superman, nor actually very often used outside the mainstream comic book companies aka DC Comics and Marvel Comics. This is why such characters as The Phantom, created in 1936 aka 2 years before Superman, and whom wears spandex and a mask and punches evil guys in the face, is not generally dubbed a super hero. Anyway, the point of this asterisk is that I have no idea how many fictional, non-“super” hero characters there were of African decent before 1966)
Reblogging for uncomfortable O’Reilly and awesome comic book information.
This is absolutely magical.
A Diverse Dozen
Looking for some YA books that just happen to have characters of color, LGBT characters, and/or disabled characters? Here’s a diverse dozen titles with something for every reader — contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, and mystery too. (Descriptions are from WorldCat.)
Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac (Tu Books) — In a world that has barely survived an apocalypse that leaves it with pre-twentieth century technology, Lozen is a monster hunter for four tyrants who are holding her family hostage.
Pointe by Brandy Colbert (Putnam) — Four years after Theo’s best friend, Donovan, disappeared at age thirteen, he is found and brought home and Theo puts her health at risk as she decides whether to tell the truth about the abductor, knowing her revelation could end her life-long dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer.
If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth (Arthur A. Levine Books) — Seventh-grader Lewis “Shoe” Blake from the Tuscarora Reservation has a new friend, George Haddonfield from the local Air Force base, but in 1975 upstate New York there is a lot of tension and hatred between Native Americans and Whites–and Lewis is not sure that he can rely on friendship.
Fake ID by Lamar Giles (Amistad) — “An African-American teen in the Witness Protection Program moves to a new town and finds himself trying to solve a murder mystery when his first friend is found dead.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (Simon & Schuster) — Lara Jean writes love letters to all the boys she has loved and then hides them in a hatbox until one day those letters are accidentally sent.
Pantomime by Laura Lam (Strange Chemistry) — Gene, the daughter of a noble family, runs away from the decadence of court to R.H. Ragona’s circus of magic, where she meets runaway Micah, whose blood could unlock the mysteries of the world of Ellada.
Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Tu Books) — In an adventure reminiscent of Homer’s Odyssey, fifteen-year-old Odilia and her four younger sisters embark on a journey to return a dead man to his family in Mexico, aided by La Llorona, but impeded by a witch, a warlock, chupacabras, and more.
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina (Candlewick) — One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away?
Rogue by Lyn Miller-Lachmann (Nancy Paulsen Books) — An eighth-grade girl with Asperger’s syndrome tries to befriend her new neighbor, facing many challenges along the way.
More Than This by Patrick Ness (Candlewick) — A boy named Seth drowns, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying. So how is he here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What’s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonizing memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, trapped in a crumbling, abandoned world.
Prophecy by Ellen Oh (HarperTeen) —A demon slayer, the only female warrior in the King’s army, must battle demon soldiers, an evil shaman, and the Demon Lord to find the lost ruby of the Dragon King’s prophecy and save her kingdom.
Far From You by Tess Sharpe (Hyperion) — After Sophie Winters survives a brutal attack in which her best friend, Mina, is murdered, she sets out to find the killer. At the same time she must prove she is free of her past Oxy addiction and in no way to blame for Mina’s death.
What a great list! (And thanks for including Killer of Enemies and Summer of the Mariposas!)