Beach Reads, Good News, Another Deadline

I'm back from two weeks out west, where I reveled in freedom from my laptop and read blissfully. I thoroughly enjoyed Anne Tyler's delicate exploration of life between cultures in Digging To America, but would love to hear from Iranian-Americans about how the author depicts their community. Two YA reads that I devoured were E. Lockhart's The Boyfriend List and Sarah Dessen's This Lullaby. While some of the racier bits made the parent in me squirm, both authors treat their teen protagonists with immense respect and employ a fresh humor that was inspirational.

Finally, I read Scott Westerfeld's Uglies and Pretties ... interesting page-turners, but I found myself wondering how a teen with "squinty eyes" (Asian? This is how Westerfeld describes his protagonist when she is an "ugly") and/or "frizzy hair" (African-American?) would respond to the author's descriptions of the mesmerizing "pretties," with their big, wide eyes and straight hair. In his futuristic world, there's a "certain kind of beauty, a prettiness that everyone could see. Big eyes and full lips like a kid's; smooth, clear skin; symmetrical features; and a thousand other little clues." What do others think about this?

On the writing front, I came back to the delightful news that Charlesbridge made an offer on The Bamboo People, my novel about a teen soldier and a refugee boy who meet along the Thai-Burma border. Now I have to write like crazy, as the first draft of First Daughter Book No. 2 is due to Dutton by Sept. 1. I'm off to Peet's Coffee for three empty latte cups or 5000 words, whichever comes first.


Pooja said…
Yay! You're back. Hope you had a restful vacation.

You raise some interesting questions about Westerfeld's series. I haven't read them yet (I am currently working on Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series), but will get to Pretties and Uglies (and the new one) soon.

And congrats on our new book deal!

Ah, it's great to be back on the Fire Escape :).
Mitali Perkins said…
Pooja! It's great to have you back out here where it's cool and breezy! Thanks, by the way, for the fabulous article you wrote for Paper Tigers about the SAWCC conference. And doesn't the new issue of Kahani look great?

Yes, while I was trying to read without peering at the story without my constant life on the margins perspective (or chip on the shoulder), I couldn't help being struck by the absence of race in Westerfeld's book (other than Caucasians) and found myself wondering how a Japanese or Korean or Chinese reader would take the countless reference to "big, beautiful eyes." I'm looking forward to reading "Specials" to see if he adds anything to clarify.
Pooja said…
I am so glad you enjoyed the PaperTigers piece, and yes, the new issue of Kahani looks fantastic. I especially like "Made in India," the short story by my friend Sandhya Nankani.

Again, I haven't read the Westerfield series, but a question for you: Is it fair for readers of color to expect characters of color in *every* book? Why can't Westerfield (or whomever) create whatever kind of high school he wants?
Ameena said…
I haven't read the Westerfield series, either, but I have to wonder about creating (what sounds like) a world without diversity. Is it addressed in the book whether this is intentional? I know I have read sci-fi and fantasy books with worlds full of people that don't resemble humans on earth (intentionally), but usually, that was made pretty clear from the start.

However, is it fair that Caucasian readers can expect to see people similar to themselves in most books they read?