A few weeks ago, I was lamenting the closing down of one of my favorite restaurants in San Diego. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how choked up it made me feel, but hear me out: This particularly eatery was so important to me because 1) It was the only place nearby that served the authentic South Indian cuisine I grew up eating and, 2) It’s where my husband and I grabbed lunch after our courthouse wedding nine years ago.
For years, my husband and I made the 30-minute drive to Madras Cafe – it would usually be packed with Indian families (many of whom were South Indian like mine). While perusing the menu, I would take comfort in being surrounded by the familiar strains of Tamil or Telugu – the languages spoken by my father and mother, respectively. The walls were also plastered with faded photographs of temples in the southern part of India, and food was served on traditional stainless steel dinnerware.
Because my parents live in Northern California, this place was the closest I could come to my mother’s home cooked meals. More than all of this, this restaurant represented a space where I belonged, and where I was not an outsider. This sense of belonging also applies to my feelings about diversity in literature – I continue to search for books in which I find my personal cultural experiences accurately mirrored. Discovering a story where the characters eat the same food as I do, pepper their English-dialogue with Indian language, and express the frustration of straddling two cultures elicits an internal sigh, like, “Finally! Someone else gets it!”
The month of May marks Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, and I’m excited to share a few YA literature titles that focus on the Indian-American experience and/or Indian culture.
A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman: I picked up this book from Penguin’s booth in January during ALA Midwinter because I was pleasantly surprised to see a mainstream publisher releasing a novel about bharatanatyam (South Indian classical dance). Growing up, my family and I watched a lot of Bollywood cinema which fuses Western and classical dance techniques; I also attended a few arangetrams (debut performances) with my parents. Even though Venkatraman’s book is set in India, it’s sure to resonate with the Indian diaspora.
Veda lives to be a bharatanatyam dancer, but when she tragically loses her right leg in an accident, she must overcome formidable challenges to keep her dream of dancing alive. Once she is fitted with a prosthetic leg, Veda proceeds, with the support of her family and a patient teacher, to dance again. Told in luminous, spare verse, Veda’s story packs an emotional punch.
Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal (2010 Lambda Literary Award Winner): Adult fiction with definite YA appeal, Satyal’s hilarious and heartwrenching story gave me all the feels. Set in Cincinnati, Ohio, during the early 1990s, Blue Boy is the story of tweenaged Kiran Sharma, who loves music, ballet dancing, and playing with Barbies and Strawberry Shortcake dolls. Unfortunately, all of these things mark him as an outsider among his closed-minded peers at school. The Indian children of his parents’ friends hardly accept him, either. When his mother catches him wearing her make-up one day, the inventive tween pretends that he’s divinely inspired by the Hindu blue deity, Krishna. Initially an excuse to throw his mom off, Kiran’s imitation of Krishna becomes an all-consuming pursuit of personal truths and individuality.
Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins (2008 Popular Paperbacks) “Jasmine “Jazz” Gardner heads off to India during the monsoon season. The family trip is her mother’s doing: Mrs. Gardner wants to volunteer at the orphanage that cared for her when she was young. But going to India isn’t Jazz’s idea of a great summer vacation. She wants no part of her mother’s do-gooder endeavors.
What’s more, Jazz is heartsick. She’s leaving the business she and her best friend, Steve Morales, started—as well as Steve himself. Jazz is crazy in love with the guy. If only he knew! Only when Jazz reluctantly befriends Danita, a girl who cooks for her family, and who faces a tough dilemma, does Jazz begin to see how she can make a difference—to her own family, to Danita, to the children at the orphanage, even to Steve.” (Description from Goodreads.com)
For additional suggestions on fantastic South Asian lit, check out these other posts on The Hub:
- Lalitha Nataraj, currently reading The Pomegranate King by Nishta Mehra
Vivacious Ada lives in West Berlin. Her life isn’t easy by any means, but at least she is free to live it as she pleases. Ada is in love with Stefan, who also lives in Berlin, not so far from Ada. But they might as well be thousands of miles apart, because Stefan lives beyond the Wall, in East Berlin. Residents of East Berlin cannot leave. Like prisoners, they risk death if they try to go over the Wall. It sounds like the plot of a fictional dystopian world, but it is not.
Although the communist Soviet Union had allied itself with capitalistic nations such as the United States, Great Britain, and France during World War II, it emerged as an inimical force in determining Germany’s post-war fate. Germany was divided into sectors, with each of the Allied Powers governing one sector. The portion of Germany under Soviet rule became known as East Germany, and was developed into a Soviet satellite. Everything, from the home East Germans could life in to the jobs they could work, was determined by the government.
The capital city of Berlin happened to be in East Germany. Again, the victorious nations divided Berlin itself into sectors, with easternmost area under the rule of the Soviets. In 1961, the East German government began constructing a wall around its sector, allegedly because the West German government was a corruptive influence. In truth, it was to contain the thousands of East Berliners who were fleeing the constrictive Soviet government.
Once the Wall was built, it was guarded as Stefan and Ada describe. You could be shot and killed for trying to cross into West Berlin.
In the book, Ada falls into a fevered state, and while she is ill she hears the song 99 Luftballons by a German band called Nena. The presence of this song in the story is telling. Balloons sent into the air are perceived as a military threat, resulting in a war that destroys civilization.
-Diane Colson, currently reading This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready
“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe house, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.”
Like so many others, I remember the day I cracked open a used copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude and read the startling opening lines. It was the summer between high school and college, and I was tucked into my dim bedroom, attempting to escape the heat, feeling slightly intimidated but also quite sophisticated as I flipped through to the first page of this literary juggernaut. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I remember reading the book in one huge gulp, though of course that’s not true. What is true is that what I remember of the days that followed is reading the book, and very little else.
“Both described at the same time how it was always March there and always Monday, and then they understood that José Arcadio Buendía was not as crazy as the family said, but that he was the only one who had enough lucidity to sense the truth of the fact that time also stumbled and had accidents and could therefore splinter and leave an eternalized fragment in a room.”
I remember jotting down a short quote–“There is always something left to love”–and feeling like it meant something important. And I remember hazily nearing the end and wondering what in the world I would do when I had to close the book, and then reaching the last page and the “fearful whirlwind of dust and rubble” swept through Macondo, wiping out the city and exiling it from the memory of men, but of course not really. Not from our memories. Instead, those final lines sent me searching for more more more more and I stumbled from Márquez to Jorge Luis Borges, Alejo Carpentier, Mario Vargas Llosa, Isabel Allende, José Saramago, and my favorites, Julio Cortázar and Carlos Fuentes. I immersed myself in el realismo mágico, despite my inability to read or speak Spanish, pushing the Interlibrary Loan system of the early 90s to its outer limits. I started a small literary magazine–which I edited for almost a decade before it imploded in truly spectacular fashion—with the idea of cultivating and promoting North American magic realism.
And when Gabriel García Márquez died on April 17 all of this came tumbling out of the past and into the present and without thinking I cracked open One Hundred Years of Solitude, again but as always, for the first time. The tributes started rolling in immediately, of course, numerous obituaries and remembrances, all with the same basic facts but different spins, depending on how much attention was paid to his politics rather than his writing. A fair amount of ink (or pixels, I guess) was spent defining the term magic realism, despite the fact that Márquez himself eschewed definitions, famously insisting that his work was not fantastic and that everything in his books had happened to himself or an acquaintance.
I like the way Salman Rushdie described it, in his New York Times column on Marquez: “The trouble with the term ‘magic realism,’ el realismo mágico, is that when people say or hear it they are really hearing or saying only half of it, ‘magic,’ without paying attention to the other half, ‘realism.’ But if magic realism were just magic, it wouldn’t matter. It would be mere whimsy — writing in which, because anything can happen, nothing has effect. It’s because the magic in magic realism has deep roots in the real, because it grows out of the real and illuminates it in beautiful and unexpected ways, that it works.”
With that in mind, and with my battered copy of Solitude beside me, I scanned my shelves for books where that happens, where magic illuminates something real and true. Here’s what I came with:
- City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende
Alex and his new friend Nadia are accompanying his intrepid grandmother on an Amazonian expedition in search of the Beast when they are kidnapped by the People of the Mist, a mysterious tribe with remarkable powers.
- Skellig by David Almond (a 2000 Michael L. Printz Honor book)
Michael, struggling to adjust to a new house and a new neighborhood while worrying about his seriously ill baby sister, discovers the enigmatic Skellig hiding in a decaying garage and enlists Mina, the girl next door and the one person he can confide in, to help nurse the strange creature back to health.
- Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Antonio Marez is only six years old when Ultima, a curandera with the power to heal, moves in with his family, offering Tony guidance and protection as he navigates the demands of conflicting cultures and spiritual traditions.
- Green Angel by Alice Hoffman
Left alone when the city across the river is destroyed and her family lost, Green withdraws into a devastated land where nothing grows, until a strange boy encourages her to connect with other survivors and replant her garden.
- Everybody Sees the Ants (2012 YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults) and Please Ignore Vera Dietz (a 2011 Michael L. Printz Honor book) by A.S. King
Lucky’s secret dream life competes with the brutal reality of a dysfunctional family and persistent bullying, but even the jungles of Laos can’t save him from the dealing with his troubles forever.
Haunted by her ex-best friend Charlie after his death, Vera struggles to decide whether to help clear his name despite the fact that he betrayed her, while maintaining the lowest of low profiles, keeping her grades up, delivering pizza’s, and pursuing a complicated relationship with an older coworker.
- Every Day by David Levithan (2013 Teens’ Top Ten)
For as long as A remembers, each day has begun with A waking in a different 16 year old body, and A is good at living day to day and leaving no trace. But when A meets Rhiannon and experiences a real connection for the first time, the urge to form a relationship despite the obvious obstacles becomes overwhelming.
- A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (2013 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)
Conor’s nightmares, triggered by his mother’s cancer treatment, show him a very different monster than the one that appears outside his bedroom window, but the stories told and demands made by the real monster finally persuade Conor to reveal his own great and terrible secret.
- Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
When Haroun’s contempt for fanciful stories shatter’s his father Rashid’s ability to spin a tale, Haroun embarks on an epic quest to find and free the Sea of Stories, the source of inspiration and magic for all storytellers.
- Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
Uncannily charismatic Ruby, Chloe’s older sister, seems to have the entire town in the palm of her hand, but after a disastrous and ill-conceived swim uncovers a dead body, even Ruby can’t prevent Chloe being sent away, nor can she prevent Chloe from discovering the truth about that night when she returns two years later.
- I Am the Messenger by 2014 Edwards Award winner Markus Zusak
Underachieving Ed Kennedy is fully content to drift through life playing cards, hanging with his dog, and secretly loving his best friend Audrey, until the day he foils a bank robbery and starts receiving anonymous and vaguely threatening messages that force him to get involved in the lives of those around him.
–Julie Bartel, currently reading Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick
I love historical fiction. The drama, the intrigue and, oh– the fashion. I just assume all the period details regarding clothing are accurate. Or I did until my friend Liz shared it was her secret delight to troll the adult fiction section and find anachronistic apparel. Curious to know how Liz knows all that she does about fashion? Read her bio found in our first two collaborative blog posts for The Hub:
- Fashion Hits and Misses from YA Historical Fiction Book Covers
- Fashion Hits and Misses from YA Historical Fiction Book Covers, Part 2
- Fashion Hits and Misses from YA Historical Fiction Book Covers, Part 3
Turns out a lot of books from specific dates and locations feature outfits as cover art that either haven’t been invented yet or were way out of fashion. I was eager to know if these same mistakes were being made in Young Adult historical fiction. After all, how was I to know? Here are some examples of books that got it right and those that got it wrong.
Hit: The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare. This series takes place in Victorian London, 150 years before Clare’s popular Mortal Instuments series. The first book, Clockwork Angel, is a 2011 Teens’ Top Ten winner. The Victorian Era runs from 1837 to 1901 spanning the entire reign of Queen Victoria, and despite the inherent vagueness of generalizing fashion from one monarch’s rule, examples for men’s dress and women’s dress on these covers are very typical of the 19th century and are therefore good examples despite being in a magical fantasy setting.
“The design house Liberty & Company was known for its “artistic” dresses, with romantic and artisanal medieval effects, or faintly exotic and orientalizing motifs and silhouettes.” (Metropolitan Museum of Art) This evening ensemble by Charles Frederick Worth can only be viewed online. Be sure to read the entire description on the The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website which features exquisite details about the the textiles and other adornments used for this dress.
The Circle of the Rue Royale, 1868, artist James Tissot (French 1836-1902) Musée d’Orsay RF 2011 53.
The image is from Peterson’s Magazine, a popular ladies fashion magazine. Full volumes of Peterson’s Magazine can be read for free online from Google Books.
Miss: A Darkness Strange and Lovely by Susan Dennard has no exact date for its setting. While it’s clear the book is set in Paris, France, the year is more ambiguous. However, even saying the book is the 19th century is still not a broad enough time frame to encompass all the amalgamated fashions going on with this book cover. It is so wildly inaccurate it had to be included here. Each element of the outfit is accurate for the fashion of the time, but since each detail is from a different decade or century they could not appear concurrently in one look– even if the book is a fantasy. Start with the Bell-Shaped skirt which was the style in the 1850s -1860s. How then do you explain all the other myriad of other details?
Strapless dresses, like the one on the cover, started to make an appearance in the 1930s and gained popularity with 1950s bustline seen on the book cover and this silk and sequin dress by Christian Dior.
The Jeweled Belt is a turn of the century or later addition to eveningwear. The astrology themed accessory seen here is made of glass and rhinestones from the 1930s.
The Crochet mitts are in the 1840s style.
“The use of feathers as a decorative element, rather than as stuffing, is a relatively new idea in the 1870s; by the 1880s the whole bird becomes a prevalent feature.” (Bonnet)
Still want to know more about the history of fashion? There are many resources available at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Audio, video and podcasts are available on topics like punk and wigs and fashion icons like Alexander McQueen.
-Laura C. Perenic, currently reading Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar
There’s one type of fantasy book I’m always getting requests for: dragon books! Since they are so popular at my library, I was thrilled to find not only quite a few new releases featuring dragons, but the selection is quite diverse. There are dragon books inspired by Asian mythology, those that take their inspiration from tales of medieval Europe, and those that imagine our world if dragons were real, or even a post-apocalyptic future where dragons are kept on reservations. Dragons can be the “bad guys,” sympathetic creatures, or even humans who can shapeshift into dragon form. It’s a good time to be a fan of dragon stories! Here’s a chart to help you select which one might be your new favorite:
The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
Magic is waning in the modern world, which makes life working for a magician employment agency rough. But what happens when the last dragonslayer kills the last known dragon?
The Story of Owen by E. K. Johnston
Dragonslayers can make it big in our world protecting big cities from fossil fuel guzzling dragons, but this leaves rural areas unprotected. This is the tale of Owen, reluctant teenage dragonslayer, told by his bard, Siobhan.
Eon by Alison Goodman (2010 Best Books for Young Adults)
This is a tale of sword fighting and magic and finding oneself.
Prophecy by Ellen Oh
Kira can spot demons hiding in human bodies, making her a valuable asset to the King.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (2013 Morris Award Winner)
This is for music-loving dragon fans! In this rich fantasy world in which dragons have bartered a truce with humans, Seraphina learns her own connection to the world of dragons.
A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn
This new dragon book is out next week, and is about a half-human, half-dragon girl choosing between being a princess in a kingdom where she is not wanted or a father she has never known and happens to be a dragon.
Other dragon books out this year that hardcore fans need to check out: Petra K and the Blackhearts by Ellis M. Henderson, Talker 25 by Joshua McCune, and Talon by Julie Kawaga.
–Molly Wetta, currently reading Great by Sara Benicasa
Good morning, Hub readers!
Last week, asked which YA lit character you’d want to follow into adulthood and read about how their life turns out. Your top pick was Cath from Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, capturing 46% of the vote– and dare we suggest that if Rowell doesn’t take readers all the way through Cath’s life… well, there’s always fanfiction? Ha! 32% of you would want to follow the life Junior from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and 13% would want to see how Doug’s life turns out after the last page of Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!
This week, we’re revisiting a previous poll topic with a whole new set of options: we want your opinion on the coolest pet in YA lit. Which one would you want to take home for your very own? Vote in the poll below, or add your suggestions in the comments.Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.
Not signed up for YALSA’s 2014 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since February 3 counts, so sign up now!
Happy Spring (and happy May the Fourth for Star Wars fans)! While it has technically been Spring for some time, it is only just starting to feel consistently warm and pleasant where I am, so it is finally the perfect weather to grab a book and read outside. Finish up your Hub Reading Challenge books in the great outdoors or curled up by your favorite window. Even if you haven’t started yet, sign up now! There is still plenty of time to read 25 books before the end of the competition!
Regardless of where you are in the Challenge, let us know how it is going for you. What’s the latest book you’ve finished? What is the best book you have read so far? Have you added anything new and exciting to your Hub Reading Challenge to-be-read list? Personally, my favorite book that I finished since my last check-in post was Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos. I can’t wait to see what else I will discover on the Challenge list.
The 2014 Hub Reading Challenge will run until 11:59PM EST on June 22nd, so even if you haven’t started reading yet, you still have plenty of time to read 25 books! Just be sure to keep track of what you are reading/listening to as you go along. We’ll be posting these check-in posts each Sunday so you can share your thoughts about the book(s) you read/listened to that week and share links to any reviews you post online. If you just can’t wait for our weekly posts, share your thoughts via social media using the #hubchallenge hashtag, or join the 2014 Hub Challenge group on Goodreads. We will be compiling posts from various places online into a Storify collection. You can see the social media conversation so far below!
If you have already completed the challenge by reading or listening to 25 titles from the list of eligible books, be sure to fill out the form below so we can send you your Challenge Finisher badge, get in touch to coordinate your reader’s response, and, perhaps best of all, notify you if you win our exciting grand prize drawing! Be sure to use an email you check frequently and do not fill out this form until you have completed the challenge by reading/listening to 25 titles.
Roundup of some bookish news this week:
- @YABliss: This week’s YA RELEASES! http://www.yabliss.net/2014/04/ya-releases_28.html … #yalit
- @PWKidsBookshelf: Raising readers: How to share a love of literature with your kids by Anna Quindlen http://pwne.ws/1nVXoOe
- @PWKidsBookshelf: Wimpy Kid and Family to Hit the Road in ‘The Long Haul’ http://pwne.ws/1hHi37M
- @Kim_Harrington: Study shows students’ reading comprehension higher with paper books than ebooks on iPads. http://time.com/77751/e-books-reading-children/ … (via @PWKidsBookshelf)
- @gayleforman : Wait, what? There’s MORE to the Willem/Allyson story in #JustOneDay/#JustOneYear? The long answer: http://gayleforman.tumblr.com/post/84221162978/so-if-you-have-not-already-seen-it-here-is-the …
- @4everYA: Movie News: STAR WARS 7 cast, Stephenie Meyers’ new film, A MONSTER CALLS, PETER PAN & JUNGLE BOOK casting and more! http://foreveryoungadult.com/2014/04/29/ya-movie-news-roundup2/ …
- @Hypable: First look at Ben’s banishment from ‘The Maze Runner’! – http://www.hypable.com/2014/04/28/first-look-at-bens-banishment-from-the-maze-runner/ … pic.twitter.com/FvEVRYfqAb
- @GalleyCat: Steven Spielberg to Direct an #Adaptation of The BFG by #RoaldDahl http://bit.ly/1klI8cB @PenguinKids #Movies
- @PWKidsBookshelf: MT @PageToPremiere Our brand new extended @TheFaultMovie trailer is here! http://pwne.ws/1kdPSvS
- @PWKidsBookshelf: Universal Acquires ‘Egg and Spoon, Next Book from ‘Wicked’ Author Gregory Maguire http://pwne.ws/1mRdwmP
- @catagator: Jump into the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign http://bookriot.com/2014/04/30/jump-weneeddiversebooks-campaign-help-change-world/ …
- @EpicReads:8 Surprising Jane Austen Adaptions via @clairelazebnik ––> http://ow.ly/wfsYx | pic.twitter.com/kFanov1wBo
- @katiesbookblog: On the blog: 2014 Book Blogger Summer Reading Program! http://goo.gl/fb/plTQ8
- @MundieMoms: Check out @epicreads‘s list of 17 YA books with Dragons in them.… http://instagram.com/p/nVkc-rzeR-/
- @sljournal: A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy blogger @LizB Bids Farewell — http://ow.ly/wbsiU
- @catagator: Reader’s Advisory and Contemporary YA Fiction from the CLA Conference: This morning, I’m in Connecticut, prepa… http://bit.ly/1kmlvn3
Just for Fun:
- @4everYA : How well-read are you? Find out with our Ultimate YA Checklist! http://foreveryoungadult.com/2014/04/28/ya-checklist/ …
- @yainterrobang: HarperCollins released an iPhone app for fans of @kelleyarmstrong: http://www.yainterrobang.com/?p=3893
- @GalleyCat: You Are What You Read: INFOGRAPHIC http://mbist.ro/1kep9zd
- @LibraryofCT : Feel-good video for a rainy day! Library staff and patrons in Hungary dance along to Happy by Pharrell Williams http://ow.ly/wjUtM
~ Jennifer Rummel, currently reading QB1 by Mike Lupica
There’s an ongoing and much-needed conversation about the need for more diversity in youth literature– and as much as we talk about it, the problem hasn’t been solved yet.
Did you read Entertainment Weekly’s analysis of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s report on the representation of people of color in children’s books? Notably, out of the 3,200 children’s books examined by the CCBC, only 93 were about black people. It’s not a pretty picture.
While there are fantastic YA and children’s books with representations of all kinds of diversity out there– several recent Printz titles come to mind, such as Eleanor & Park, Maggot Moon, In Darkness, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, The White Bicycle– we here at The Hub are always looking for more, more, more. And we’re not alone. There’s a campaign happening right now called We Need Diverse Books, intended to raise awareness of this important issue.
We’re participating by sharing photos of the many reasons we need diverse books.
-Allison Tran, currently reading The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin