Thursday, November 30, 2006

Teen Book Video Awards

The winning short films from The Book Standard's Teen Book Video Awards are now available for viewing (and voting): The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, and A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. What a brilliant combination of media, especially for this generation -- watching the films leaves you desperately wanting to read the books. Hey, Dutton, listen up: the First Daughter series is ripe for a video promo, and a short film based on Sparrow's character could be light and funny, unlike these three intense films. Whaddaya think?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hooked on Heroes

It's no wonder teens like mine are devouring NBC's hit show. I'm addicted, too, despite my low tolerance for violence on the screen. I watch because (a) well, it's good entertainment, and (b) Heroes highlights so much of what I celebrate about teenagers:

This generation's relaxed take on interracial relationships. There's the lovable Japanese guy and sweet Southern redhead, the Italian-American hospice nurse and his elegant biracial-ish lady, and the violent, gorgeous blonde mother, her African-American husband, and their mixed-race child. Best of all, you don't even notice the different hues of skin as you watch these characters struggle through their relationships.

This generation's realistic grasp of human nature. As noted by Matthew Gilbert of the Boston Globe, this cast of imperfect heroes have weaknesses that are the shadow side of their strengths:
One of the brilliant strokes in creator Tim Kring's "Heroes" concept is that some of the superpowers are extensions of character. Nathan Petrelli is a dodgy person, and so he can literally fly out of bad situations. Niki Sanders is at war with herself, and when she looks in the mirror she actually sees a demon glaring back. Claire is the dearest of them all, though, as an intrepid teenager who adapts and recovers despite the psychological and physical blows the world throws at her...
And in keeping with this power-made-perfect-in-weakness motif, the most recent episode revealed that the cop with the power to read minds has, of all things, dyslexia.

The passion of teens to be part of a grand, noble mission. These characters must unite to "save the cheerleader," but even more important, they are called to use their gifts to "save the world."

An understanding of the deep bonds formed through adoption. Clare's father will apparently do anything to protect his non-biological and extremely beloved daughter.

Despite everything that's happened during the lifetime, their persistent openness to foreigners. A gorgeous, intelligent Indian guy (finally, a South Asian hero for my brown boys) attempts to bring these heroes together and make peace with his dead father and sister (named "Shanti," or peace).

Consider tuning into this show, perusing the graphic novels, or catching the episodes you've missed on-line, especially if you're called to the grand mission of serving and loving teenagers.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Wander The Edge Of The Forest

Head over to peruse this month's The Edge of The Forest (who thought of that fabulous title, anyway?), an online journal about children's literature. This issue features an interview with blogging writer Lisa Yee, author of Millicent Min, Girl Genius and other humorous middle grade novels. I love Lisa's books because they rarely get stuck in the "multicultural" pile even though they feature Asian American characters.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The White House, PaperTigers, and Just One More Book

Back from a weekend in D.C. where I kept imagining Sameera, the heroine of First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover (Dutton 2007) gazing down from the solarium on the third floor of the White House. As I tried to identify the languages in the myriad of conversations swirling around me, I thought of our first visit to D.C. about a year after arriving in America (pictured are my parents during that visit in the 1970s -- note the absence of wire across the fence.) Who knew I'd be writing a book years later with 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as a setting?

Now I'm wading through my in-box, and want to feature a few great links sent my way. First, from Aline Pereira, editor of PaperTigers:
And check out Just One More Book!, featuring podcasts about beloved books and interviews with their authors. Cyber goodies galore for children's book aficionados! Enjoy ...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Writing Process: Don't Do This

People sometimes ask about how I get inspired and push through writer's block, so I prepared this short video to demonstrate what I used to do. Do not, I repeat do not, try this at home.

Yes, that was eight pieces of double bubble gum in my mouth -- AT THE SAME TIME. The video (taken by my son -- that's his desk, not mine; mine is messier) is a re-enactment of an actual event that took place two years ago and marked the onset of TMJ in my life. I had to quit gum cold turkey (no seasonal pun intended) -- even soft Bazooka, my absolute favorite. So I'm still on the hunt for a replacement writer's block relieving strategy that won't damage body, mind, or soul. Any suggestions (PG only, please)?

(I'm leaving the Fire Escape for T-day, so for a holiday-oriented tidbit, I offer you last year's post about how this is the absolute best holiday for immigrants. Be safe, be grateful, and come back to chat on Monday).

Monday, November 20, 2006

SLJ's Best Books of 2006

Books between cultures on the just-released School Library Journal's best books of 2006 list of 67 titles include:

LOOK, Lenore. Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything. illus. by Anne Wilsdorf. S & S/Atheneum/Anne Schwartz Bks. RTE $15.95. ISBN 0-689-86460-4.

Gr 1-3–The exuberant second grader befriends her deaf cousin, newly arrived from China, in what turns out to be a mutual learning experience involving sign language, vegetables, summer school, and friendship. A nifty chapter book about an earnest, if slightly misguided, heroine. (July)

YANG, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. illus. by author. Roaring Brook/First Second. pap. $18.95. ISBN 1-59643-152-0.

Gr 7 Up–This heartfelt coming-of-age story, illustrated with crisp cartoon panels, blends traditional Chinese fables and legends with modern humor and school yard dynamics. An engaging graphic novel that addresses issues of racism, sterotyping, and spirituality.

Min, Katherine. Secondhand World. Knopf. Tr $23. ISBN 0-307-26344-4.

YA—An insightful and engaging Korean American high school student struggles with her perceptions of herself, her parents’ seeming rejection of her as an individual, and the increasing expectations made of her by another outsider, an albino boy. (Oct.)

MirĂ³, Asha. Daughter of the Ganges: A Memoir. Atria. Tr $24. ISBN 0-7432-8672-3.

YA—Adopted from an Indian orphanage by Spanish parents, the author visited her birth country as a teenager and later returned to make a documentary film as she sought any evidence of her roots. Crossing cultures and choices of media with which to investigate her past, MirĂ³ offers considerable insight on how adoption affects one’s sense of identity. (Nov.)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Making Peace With Massachusetts

As I face the onset of my seventh winter in Massachusetts, I'm sensing that my friends are a wee bit tired of my annual whining spell: "... blah, blah, blah early nightfall, icy streets, can't hike, ergonomically not designed for skiing, blah, blah, blah..."

That's why I've decided to morph myself into a Massachusetts woman for the holidays.

Yes. You heard it here first, fire escape friends. No more indulging in futile longing for the white sands of Zuma beach or day hikes in the Mount Diablo foothills. No more late-night cyber JetBlue visits to ferret out deals on the Boston-Oakland flight. And enough with gazing lustfully at my tropical island screensaver when I should be writing.

The first step in this transformation was predictable. Like every good nerd, I took a quiz and scored a 100% on "How Massachusetts Are You?" That's an A+, people.

Step two .... presenting the top ten reasons I'm thankful to be a Massachusettsian -- er, wait, is it Massachusettser, or Massachusian ...? Aw, fuggedabouded. Here's the kid lit perspective on why it's been GREAT to reside in the Bay State (listed in no particular order):
  1. Membership in the Boston Author's Club gives me something in common with two of my favorite children's book writers -- Margaret Sidney and Dorothy Canfield Fisher.
  2. The New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators hosts topnotch regional events for beginners and established writers alike.
  3. The Foundation of Children's Books celebrates local writers, connects us to educators, and hosts wonderful events, so when you read about those fly NY parties that Fuse No. 8 describes, aim a nugget of your envy a bit further north and east.
  4. Charlesbridge is two miles away from my writing nook.
  5. I saw OzandEnds walking down the street as I was driving home today.
  6. Newtonville Books, an indie that knows exactly how to love on authors, is only three blocks away.
  7. My writer's group, founded by Karen Day (Tall Tales, Wendy Lamb Books, 2007), meets every month at the Newton Free Library.
  8. The library is four blocks from home and in and of itself enough reason to remain here until death do us part (and I'm talking about me and the library here, not me and the husband.)
  9. The welcoming house of Monika Jain (editor of Kahani Magazine) is on my daily drive to and from my kids' school, making it convenient to stop by and enjoy a cup of great chai every now and then.
  10. The Newton Public Schools included my author presentation in their roster of Creative Arts and Sciences programs, and invites from local schools fill my calendar every fall and spring.
So thanks, Massachusetts. And now for step three in the transformation plan: browsing the LLBean winter catalog ...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Ode To A Winter Tree: A Poem

In honor of poetry Friday, I present the poem that won the Bonnie S. Baker Creative Writing Award at Valley View Intermediate School in 1976:
Ode to a Winter Tree
by Mitali Bose

Her scraggly arm is a silhouette against the winter sky,
The claw that scratches the empty air echoes her lonely sigh,
Gone is the warmth of green foliage that covers with sweet embrace,
She prays and pleas for blossoming buds to shelter her ugly face,
Her only answer is the callous snow that tries to bury her grief,
And slyly swallows the warmth that is left like a cold and sneaky thief.
Note #1: I was living in Pleasant Hill, California. It never snows in Pleasant Hill, California.
Note #2: There were only six other entries for the contest.
Note #3: The Bonnie S. Baker Creative Writing Award always adorns the wall of my writing space.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tasers In The Sanctuary

Libraries have always been havens for immigrants; they've certainly felt like that to me ever since I first walked wide-eyed into the Flushing branch of the NYPL all those years ago. Maybe that's why what happened Tuesday night in the UCLA library of all places is doubly disturbing. If you can stomach it, witness this cell-phone footage of campus security officers using a Taser stun gun on a 23-year old Iranian man who refused to show his ID during a routine random late-night check:

So it's come to this, has it? Strident, important words like "secure" and "safe" can no longer serve as adjectives describing one of my favorite nouns: "sanctuary." Still, that age-old whisper of desire isn't going anywhere, despite all the shouting.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Octavian Nothing Wins National Book Award


2006 National Book Award Winner

Young People's Literature

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party (Candlewick Press) by M.T. Anderson. Set against the disquiet of Revolutionary Boston, this novel, the first of two parts, re-imagines the past as an eerie place that has startling resonance for readers today.

You and Me at the Newton Free

No, it's not a folk song title, it's an invite. I'll be presenting "Life Between Cultures" at the wonderful Newton Free Library today, Wednesday, November 15th at 7 o'clock in the evening. The program is geared for anyone aged 9 and up, and I'll also be doing a brief reading of Rickshaw Girl (Charlesbridge, 2007). Come one, come all -- it's free, as the Friends of the Library organization kindly is sponsoring the event.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Bring Invisible Children To Your School

Want to help the young people in your school gain a vision to change the world? Check out Invisible Children's free assembly program, and introduce your community to the forgotten children of Uganda and their desperate hopes for healing now that a fragile peace has been brokered in their land.

Yaoi: Graphic Graphic Novels

No, I didn't make a mistake when I used the g-word twice in the title of this blog post. Check out this article (warning: lots of g-word content) in the Village Voice about Yaoi (mostly pronounced Yow-ee, I think) a boy-on-boy genre of erotic manga originating in Japan that more and more teen and even pre-teen girls in North America are consuming:
English-language manga is one of the fastest growing segments of the American publishing industry. Sales of that category amounted to about $175 million in North America last year, around triple the sales in 2002 ... National chain bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble are scrambling to find more shelf space for these hot-ticket items, and are installing benches and couches at which readers can lounge. In that context, yaoi is the success story within the success story ...

Yaoi's success with its target audience has surprised even comic industry insiders. "When it was first presented to us, we were very skeptical," says Joshua Hayes, associate director of sales and marketing for Diamond Book Distributors of Maryland, the largest U.S. distributor of graphic novels. "Even though everyone told us that it was going to be sold to female consumers of a certain age level, we just couldn't believe that was true. I was looking at the first volume, untranslated, and thinking, 'There's no way; surely this would sell to a homosexual audience.'"
Apparently Yaoi novels have more sexualized content and art, while a genre called Shounen Ai focuses more on romance, but both are about boy-on-boy love and read mostly by girls. I want to find out more about these young female readers who are passionate, devoted consumers of Yaoi and/or Shounen Ai. Do they share a lot in common culturally (i.e., white, middle-class, non-conforming, etc) or is it difficult to define a Yaoi-fan archetype? Do their parents know they're reading these novels? And are libraries buying them? Teen girls have long been lured by bosom-heaving romance paperbacks, but this development in pop chick lit (no bosoms involved) seems like uncharted territory to me.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Two Blog Takes on Rickshaw Girl

"Girl Power, Bangladeshi Style," declares Readers' Rants in a review of Rickshaw Girl (Charlesbridge, 2007). And the hand that rocks the cradle has oodles of power -- especially when it comes to books. That's why I was delighted to read MotherReader's nice review as well. Thanks for your support, kid lit bloggers!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Real Macaca: S.R. Sidarth

If you're curious about the Virginia high school student (now collegian) who inadvertently may have changed the course of American history simply by being brown, check out this interview. (Source: Sepia Mutiny, of course.)

Bulletin's Rising Star: Lenore Look

The challenge of a "multicultural" author is to win that knowing nod from young readers who share your cultural heritage as well as to engage and entertain readers from all backgrounds. As the Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books points out, author Lenore Look seems to be pulling off this challenging feat:
In the chapter books Ruby Lu, Brave and True, an ALA Notable Children's Book, and its sequel, Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything, Look has created an enduring and appealing heroine, with boldness and creativity enough to appeal to readers from any background and with cultural resonance that will entice outsiders and welcome insiders. Ruby's life brings a bicultural flair to the early reading format through the seamless incorporation of such details as lessons and activities in Chinese school, the differences between American and Chinese sign language that are raised as Ruby gets to know her deaf cousin who is a recent immigrant, and the infusion of Cantonese words in the text into her daily life.
Look is featured as the Bulletin's November Rising Star author. Congratulations from the Fire Escape!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Cynsations Interviews Yolanda LeRoy of Charlesbridge

Life's not fair. Yolanda LeRoy really is as mega-glam as she appears in this photo, and a Harvard grad to boot. But fuggedaboud that stuff -- what we care about here on the Fire Escape is her innovative vision as editorial director of Charlesbridge, right? With two novels coming from Charlesbridge, Rickshaw Girl (2007) and The Bamboo People (2010), I've been experiencing firsthand the author-coddling that Yolanda describes in an enlightening interview conducted by Cynthia Leitich Smith:
As far as the benefits for an author or illustrator working with us, I like to think there are many: individual attention, a greater proportion of our focus on each person's book (one of fifteen per list, as opposed to one of 150), the flexibility to publish projects that might not work elsewhere, not being beholden to shareholders or large governing boards, and a team-oriented, family business atmosphere, to name a few.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Bollywood Countdown to Christmas


On my daily jaunt to Sepia Mutiny's wonderful blog, I came across this video created by boymongoose, an animated boy band about to release a Christmas album with other songs like "Hark The Herald Angels Singh" and "We Are Wishing You A Merry Christmas." Enjoy about four minutes of procrastination, courtesy of Sepia Mutiny and the Fire Escape.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The English Language Is Bare Sick, Bluds

Regular visitors to the Fire Escape may recall that I'm fascinated with the Urban Dictionary, a site that tracks the morphing, wonderfully-flexible English language this side of the Atlantic. I was interested to learn from the Independent that, thanks to (1) the ability of immigrant teens to move fluidly between cultures and (2) the power of music in youth culture, English-speaking teens in the U.K. are also becoming bilingual:
(Sue) Fox and her colleagues have studied the speech patterns of a sample of teenagers across (London). "One of our most interesting findings," she says, "was that we'd have groups of students from white Anglo-Saxon backgrounds, along with those of Arab, South American, Ghanaian and Portuguese descent, and they all spoke with the same dialect. But those who use it most strongly are those of second or third generation immigrant background, followed by white boys of London origin and then white girls of London origin."
The researchers have dubbed this "Multicultural London English" (MLE), and classify it as a dialect, not slang. While MLE may have more of a Jamaican patois flavor compared to the more Latin-oriented American version of teen-speak, I was interested by the cross-Atlantic overlap in vocabulary. If you're a teen or someone who serves a teen, test yourself on how many of these London street terms (with synonyms) you already know:
  1. Air, Dissed, Deadout, Dead.
  2. Bait, Waste, Clown.
  3. Ballin', Flossing.
  4. Bare, Nuff, Over.
  5. Blud, Bredrin, Bruv, Cuz, Fam, Man Dem.
  6. Boyed, Chiefed, Hotted, Had Up.
  7. Brapp! Zoop! Zoop!
  8. Breading, On His Balls.
  9. Bubblin'.
  10. Bustin', Rocking, Pushing.
  11. Choong, Buff, Fly.
  12. Chops, Bling, Ice, Chaps.
  13. Clown, Joker, Wasteman.
  14. Cotch, Chill.
  15. Creps, Kicks, Boogers, Sneaks.
  16. Cussin', Burying, Burnin', Ripping.
  17. Endz, Hood, Ghetto, Road.
  18. Far.
  19. Flow, Delivery.
  20. Freestyle, Bars, Spitting.
  21. Garms, Threads.
  22. Grimy, Fierce.
  23. Grind, Struggle, Hustle.
  24. Hype, Blowing up.
  25. Jokes.
  26. Long.
  27. Reach it, Touch it.
  28. Regs.
  29. Repping, Shouts.
  30. Shiffed, Nabbed, Pulled up.
  31. Swag, Wack, Waste.
Answers:
  1. Air, Dissed, Deadout, Dead: Something that's rubbish. Also used to describe being ignored. "You got air."
  2. Bait, Waste, Clown: Obvious, stupid. "You're so bait man."
  3. Ballin', Flossing: Making or having lots of money. "What you ballin' now?"
  4. Bare, Nuff, Over: Lots, many; high in quantity and quality. "I got bare jokes, man."
  5. Blud, Bredrin, Bruv, Cuz, Fam, Man Dem: Friend. "What's happenin' blud?"
  6. Boyed, Chiefed, Hotted, Had Up: Being insulted, publicly put-down or humiliated. "You got boyed!"
  7. Brapp! Zoop! Zoop!: Exclamation of approval, usually accompanied by "throwing" gun-shaped hands in the air to mimic some Jamaican badman's habit of firing gunshots in the air to show the DJ their approval. "Brapp! Brapp! That bar was heavy!"
  8. Breading, On His Balls: Sucking up to someone. "Why you breading?"
  9. Bubblin': Feeling the vibe
  10. Bustin', Rocking, Pushing: Wearing something. "My man's bustin' his trousers low."
  11. Choong, Buff, Fly: Attractive. "That girl is choooong, blud."
  12. Chops, Bling, Ice, Chaps: Jewelry. "I can't find my chops!"
  13. Clown, Joker, Wasteman: Idiot. "Shut up, clown.
  14. Cotch, Chill: To kick back and relax at home alone or with close friends, to do as little as possible. "I'm cotchin' in my crib for time."
  15. Creps, Kicks, Boogers, Sneaks: Athletic shoes. "Yo, fresh creps, blud."
  16. Cussin', Burying, Burnin', Ripping: Insulting. "Why you cussin' for?"
  17. Endz, Hood, Ghetto, Road: Local area, estate or neighbourhood. "Grime is big on the endz."
  18. Far: Shortened way of saying something is too far away or too much of a hassle to get to. Requires extra emphasis. "Deptford is far, blud."
  19. Flow, Delivery: Describes the speech pattern, speed and style used when someone raps. "His flow is tight, G."
  20. Freestyle, Bars, Spitting: Rapping without any pre-written lyrics. Nowadays used to describe lyrics that aren't in song format, not necessarily unprepared. "Drop a freestyle, man."
  21. Garms, Threads: Clothes. "Yeah, nice garms, blud."
  22. Grimy, Fierce: Positive term for something or someone that appears raw and tough, but not necessarily related to grime music. "This beat is over grimy."
  23. Grind, Struggle, Hustle: Working hard to make ends meet. "I've been grinding for time man."
  24. Hype, Blowing up: A good artist with a big fan base who is getting lots of interest. Also used to describe someone who is either excited or excitable. "This MC is hype!"
  25. Jokes: Used as an adjective to mean ridiculous or rubbish. "That show is jokes, man."
  26. Long: Overly complicated, boring, difficult or time-consuming. Requires particular emphasis. "Homework? Nah, that's long, man."
  27. Reach it, Touch it: Going to a place. "Yeah, I'm gonna reach it."
  28. Regs: Often, frequently, short for regular. "I juice on the regs."
  29. Repping, Shouts: An MC will represent or big up their area or crew to show they have not forgotten where they have come from. "I'm repping my endz, blud."
  30. Shiffed, Nabbed, Pulled up: Caught by the Police, arrested. "I got shiffed outside the KFC."
  31. Swag, Wack, Waste: Not very good, rubbish. "That's swag."

Score:

1-10: Swag.
10-20: Bubbling.
20-31. Fierce.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Creating a Sense of Place

Feel free to download a .pdf file of my article, "A Whole New World: Three Ways To Create Magical Places on Paper," which originally appeared in the October 2006 issue of Weekly Reader's Writing, a classroom periodical published six times a year for middle and high school audiences. The magazine features author interviews, how-to articles, timely features, teacher's guides, and a blog. (For subscription information, click here.)

The article includes a writing exercise I use in my workshop (Weaving The Magic Carpet of Place) for teen or adult writers. If you're looking to procrastinate and be inspired by a new generation of writers at the same time, check out the samples of in-class writing produced by eighth-graders at Devotion Middle School as well as a few of their responses to my visit.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

2007 Best Books For Young Adults

232 books have been nominated for YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults 2007. For between cultures fiction fans, a few titles of note are:

La Perdida by Jessica Abel

From the Harvey and Lulu award–winning creator of Artbabe comes this riveting story of a young woman’s misadventures in Mexico City. Carla, an American estranged from her Mexican father, heads to Mexico City to “find herself.” She crashes with a former fling, Harry, who has been drinking his way through the capital in the great tradition of his heroes, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. Harry is good—humored about Carla’s reappearance on his doorstep—until he realizes that Carla, who spends her days soaking in the city, exploring Frida Kahlo’s house, and learning Spanish, has no intention of leaving.

Jimi and Me by Jamie Adoff

After his father is murdered, a 13-year-old biracial boy named Keith and his mother try desperately to pick up the pieces of their lives. But his father’s death has left them devastated—both emotionally and financially. Forced to leave Brooklyn and move in with his aunt, Keith urgently clings to every last reminder of his dad, discovering comfort in his own music and that of the late legend—and his father’s idol—Jimi Hendrix. In Jimi’s music, Keith finds solace, and brief moments of reprieve from his chaotic new life. But just as he begins to get a handle on his father’s death, he discovers the secrets of his father’s life--secrets that threaten to tear apart what’s left of his fragile family.

Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos

Nadira and her family are illegal aliens, fleeing to the Canadian border -- running from the country they thought was their home. For years since emigrating from Bangladesh, they have lived on expired visas in New York City, hoping they could someday realize their dream of becoming legal citizens of the United States. But after 9/11, everything changes. Suddenly, being Muslim means being dangerous, a suspected terrorist. And when Nadira's father is arrested and detained at the border, Nadira and her older sister, Aisha, are sent back to Queens and told to carry on, as if everything is the same. But of course nothing is the same. Nadira and Aisha live in fear they'll have to return to a Bangladesh they hardly know. Aisha, always the responsible one, falls apart. It's up to Nadira to find a way to bring her family back together again.

La Linea by Ann Jaramillo

Miguel's life is just beginning. Or so he thinks. Fifteen-year-old Miguel leaves his rancho deep in Mexico to migrate to California across la linea, the border, in a debut novel of life-changing, cliff-hanging moments. But Miguel's carefully laid plans change suddenly when his younger sister Elena stows away and follows him. Together, Miguel and Elena endure hardships and danger on their journey of desperation and desire, loyalty and betrayal. An epilogue, set ten years after the events of the story, shows that you cant always count on dreams -- even the ones that come true.

Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata

Twelve-year-old Sumiko feels her life has been made up of two parts: before Pearl Harbor and after it. The good part and the bad part. Raised on a flower farm in California, Sumiko is used to being the only Japanese girl in her class. Even when the other kids tease her, she always has had her flowers and family to go home to. That all changes after the horrific events of Pearl Harbor. Other Americans start to suspect that all Japanese people are spies for the emperor, even if, like Sumiko, they were born in the United States! As suspicions grow, Sumiko and her family find themselves being shipped to an internment camp in one of the hottest deserts in the United States. The vivid color of her previous life is gone forever, and now dust storms regularly choke the sky and seep into every crack of the military barrack that is her new "home." Sumiko soon discovers that the camp is on an Indian reservation and that the Japanese are as unwanted there as they'd been at home. But then she meets a young Mohave boy who might just become her first real friend...if he can ever stop being angry about the fact that the internment camp is on his tribe's land.

Wait For Me by An Na

Mina is the perfect Korean daughter. Bound for Harvard, president of the honor society, straight A student, all while she works at her family’s dry cleaners and helps care for her hearing-impaired little sister. On the outside, Mina does everything right. On the inside, Mina knows the truth. Her life is a lie. At the height of a heat wave, the summer before her senior year, Mina meets the one person to whom she cannot lie. Ysrael, a young migrant worker who dreams of becoming a musician, comes to work at the dry cleaners and asks Mina the one question that scares her the most. What does she want? Mina finds herself torn between living her mother’s dreams, caring for her younger sister, grasping the love that Ysrael offers, and the most difficult of all, living a life that is true.

American Born Chinese by Gene Yang

A series of three linked tales in graphic novel form about Jin Wang, a teen who meets with ridicule and social isolation when his family moves from San Francisco's Chinatown to an exclusively white suburb, Danny, a popular blond, blue-eyed high school jock whose social status is jeopardized when his goofy, embarrassing Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee, enrolls at his high school, and the Monkey King.

These books, along with the other nominated titles, will be discussed at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Seattle in January, where the final list will be decided.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Multicultural Children's Book Festival

If you're in the D.C. area, head over to this free festival at the Kennedy Center on Saturday, November 4th from noon to 5 o'clock. Be sure to watch a live demo of Grace Lin's gorgeous illustrations and listen to excellent writers like Pooja Makhijani read their work.

Turns Out Fusion Is Good For You

Taz of Sepia Mutiny reports on this interesting London-based study of teens between cultures, which divided subjects into four groups:

  1. integrated identity: adoption of attitudes and behaviors from both the culture of origin and the newly encountered culture.
  2. marginalized identity: both sets of attitudes and behaviors are rejected.
  3. assimilated identity: host culture is preferred over culture of origin.
  4. traditional identity: culture of origin is retained and host culture rejected.
Apparently, studies in the past have found that "integration is the most healthy outcome, marginalization is the most risky outcome, and traditionalism (also called segregation) and assimilation carried intermediate levels of risk for mental health problems." This particular study, however, took a look at friendships, and found that "fewer mental health problems were found among adolescents making culturally integrated friendship choices."

Given these findings, making friendships with lots of different kinds of people must be good for everybody's mental health. Here's part of the survey instrument the study used -- why not take it and see how you rank?

DO YOU HAVE MANY GOOD FRIENDS WHO BELONG TO YOUR RACE/ETHNIC GROUP?

  • None
  • Some
  • Quite a lot
  • Most or all of them belong to my own race/ethnic group

DO YOU HAVE MANY GOOD FRIENDS WHO BELONG TO OTHER RACES/ETHNIC GROUPS?

  • None
  • Some
  • Quite a lot
  • Most or all of them belong to other races/ethnic groups