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Showing posts from March, 2008

Today in Methuen, Friday in Portland

I'll be speaking today (3/31) at 4 o'clock at the Nevins Memorial Library in Methuen and at noon on April 4th in Portland, Maine with illustrator Jamie Hogan for that library's First Friday Author Talk. Stop by and say hi if you're in the vicinity!

Review Copies of White House Rules

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Dutton just found and sent me a box of extra galleys of First Daughter: White House Rules, book two about First Daughter wannabe Sameera "Sparrow" Righton (ages 11-up). Interested in a review copy? Leave a comment below or contact mitaliperkatyahoodotcom with your snail mail address.

Poetry Friday: A Paper Tigers Celebration

If you're looking for poetry between cultures and more, head to one of my favorite sites in cyber world, Paper Tigers, where the celebration of poetry month is underway. To get started, check out the interview with poet Janet S. Wong and the essay called Pairing Poetry Across Cultures by professor Sylvia Vardell.

We Wanted Chikezie the Immigrant

Ann Powers of the Los Angeles Times argues that Americans might not have dinged Idol's one remaining black male singer if he'd shown off his Nigerian roots. Mourning the loss of the rich R&B and soul contributions of African-American male singers, Ms. Powers is troubled by "white America's seeming reluctance to universally embrace a strong black male voice, unless it belongs to a rapper selling blaxploitation fantasies to teens." We're okay with African-American male singers, she says, but only if they're relatively fresh off the boat: (Chikezie) should have taken a cue from the black male singer to find the greatest recent success -- Akon, who almost beat Daughtry for last year's top spot. Like Chikezie, Akon has African roots, and he's used his immigrant voice to shake up preconceived notions of what a soul singer should sound like. Chikezie kept talking about "Nigerian cultural music" during his interviews; he should have incorp…

The Mystery of the Children's Choice Awards

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I was glad to see that When The Shadbush Blooms, the only "multicultural" book on IRA-CBC's list of nominees for the Children's Choice Awards, was lauded by Debbie Reese and Oyate.

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised by the list -- the books were donated by publishers and chosen in six cities of the country not particularly renowned for a diverse demographic: Chico, California, Middletown, Delaware, Crete, Illinois, Starkville, Mississippi, Bellevue, Nebraska, and Omaha, Nebraska (here's a .pdf describing the process.) Of course, I've only been to Chico, which does have a fair share of immigrants, so maybe the other cities are home to all sorts of kids.

Unfortunately, on the official Children's Book Choices site, there's no explanation of selection criteria to be found -- or maybe I'm missing it. The nominees are great, I'm sure, but this award reminds me that for kids and adults to venture outside the story comfort zone, we often need a nudge f…

Sarah Dessen Lock And Key Party!

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All Sarah Dessen fans are invited to participate in the live readergirlz Lock and Key Sneak Peak Party with the author this Thursday 3/27 at 3 o'clock EDT. Prizes and giveaways abound, and Sarah's ready to answer questions and talk about her new book via readergirlz' MySpace site. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find the chats. And check out this month's issue featuring Sarah.

Enid Blyton, Disney, and Kahani Magazine

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Scholastic editor Sandhya Nankani is guest-blogging at the always stimulating Sepia Mutiny site this month, and tells us about Disney's plans to diversify and update Enid Blyton's beloved Famous Five characters.

Among other innovations, the Mouse Factory is inventing a hip anglo-Indian character named Jyoti who is the daughter of the original hero of the books. Mutineers' comments reveal the impact that Brit Kid Lit, and especially Ms. Blyton (who wrote 800 books in 40 years!), had on South Asia and mixed feelings about this new venture.

Sandhya ends her post with a quote about Kahani magazine, a children’s literary magazine illuminating the richness and diversity that South Asian cultures bring to North America: I feel so lucky that we have publications like the South Asian children’s literary magazine Kahani which ... just won the highly respected 2008 Parents’ Choice Award for magazines for the second year in a row. That’s a huge deal. This is a prestigious award from th…

Woburn Library Knows How To Do It

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An author visit, that is. 

It was a miserable, sleety school night in March when I approached the gorgeous building built in 1877 by Henry Hobson Richardson, the architect who designed Trinity Church in Boston.


I was hearing that familiar internal pep talk that comes before potentially sparsely-attended appearances: "Listen, chickadee. If even two teens show up, you give your presentation with as much grace and effort as you would to a crowd of a thousand bookstore buyers."

But I didn't need the talk, because teen librarian Christi Showman Farrar had done her work. She'd publicized the eventwidely, including good signage as a final touch:


Christi also invited people personally, read First Daughter with a group of her teens, and coordinated with the schools to offer extra credit for attending author visits.

Every seat (pictured above before the talk) was full by the time I finished, book sales were brisk, and Christi (pictured below to the left with permission) had even ba…

Take Us Away, Driscoll Students

At Brookline'sDriscoll School last week, I offered my Creating A Sense of Place in Fiction workshop, and once again the 8th graders took us to a myriad of places through the power of imaginative writing. Some samples excerpted below for your reading pleasure. I sit in the car with the heated seats warming my insides. I look up through the roof at sky scrapers slowly passing by. A slight snow drifts down from the gray clouds. The car zigzags through traffic. The snow crunches under the tires and then we stop. The door opens and I step out, the umbrella shielding me from the snow.

The sun glinted off the freshly painted walls. The wind blew the curtains gently into the room. The mirror reflected the rays of sun so they fell across my bed lighting up the colorful stripes. The door hung open. Honey and fresh cut flowers spiraled up the the stairs and hung lingering in the air.

The tennis stadium filled with 70,000 people cheering, singing. My heart beating at an extreme level, my palms …

Senator Obama's Speech, the R-word, and the Generational Divide

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Senator Obama's recent speech about race was an Emperor's New Clothes moment for this nation. A lot of Americans had been feeling pretty darn good about our progress in racial reconciliation, embodied by our first viable biracial presidential candidate. But this speech and the split reaction to it revealed the true condition of race relations in America: generally, white people still don't get how black people see things, as Nick Kristof eloquently argues.

That is, if we're over twenty-five or so.

Mr. Kristof's thesis might not hold as true for young Americans. Teens and twenty-somethings think and talk about race so differently that it's almost as if our country's divided by age instead of race. Granted, I live in Boston, which likes to think of itself as this society's hub but might actually be a strange little island unto itself. But tune in to the humor about race in youth culture, where people of all races are processing the pain in a raw, real way. …

Hey! Drop Those Books NOW!

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Written a book for teens? Any book? Or got an extra one on your shelves to spare? The American Library Association's Young Adult Division, aka YALSA, and we at readergirlz are inviting you to participate in a fabulous opportunity.



We're starting our second joint teen literacy project, Operation Teen Book Drop (TBD) (the first was the 31 Flavorite Authors for Teens program last October.) To build awareness for April 17, 2008, Support Teen Literature Day, readergirlz and YALSA are organizing a massive, coordinated release of 10,000 publisher-donated YA books into the top pediatric hospitals across the country.

We now invite you to celebrate Support Teen Lit Day with us. How? Donate one or more of your books to your community and join an unprecedented online book bash: The TBD Post-Op Party!

Web-Based Stuff To Do
If you want to share a teen book you own and love, download a TBD bookplate here. Paste this bookplate into the book you plan to donate. If you're the author of the b…

May The Force Be With Your Book

Here are somenicementions and reviews of First Daughter: White House Rules. Thank goodness for library and web love when it comes to books that don't get too much attention at big chain stores.

I have to confess that it's a guaranteed downer to visit one of those name-brand bookstores. Inevitably, even though I know I shouldn't, I wander over to the teen lit section and discover the place on the shelf where my First Daughter books coulda-shoulda have been, especially in an election year.

My hope, like that of many other authors, is in jedi indies with their handselling power, and in the force, a.k.a. net buzz, which might actually decide to be with us.

On Blogging: Tips For Newbies

Taylor Rogers, Publicity Assistant at Charlesbridge Books, interviewed me for a course she's taking on marketing at Emerson College. With her permission, I share my answers to her questions about promotion and blogging with my Fire Escape visitors.

1. Why did you decide to start blogging? What purpose does your blog serve?

I love to rant and rave about all kinds of things, and I've always kept a journal. I also wanted to ruminate on my way of seeing things as an immigrant writer in the children's book world. I started the Fire Escape for fun and continue to write it mostly because I love it.

My blog's goals are to (1) SERVE educators, parents, and young readers who might be interested in reading and writing "between cultures," (2) PROMOTE books by other authors trying to stay afloat in the huge sea that is publishing, (3) INFORM visitors about my own books and events, and (4) INTRODUCE readers to my voice and heart.

2. How often do you blog? How often do you th…

My Woo-Bin Author Visit

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That's how you pronounce Woburn, Massachusetts if you're a member of Red Sox Nation. I'll be appearing at the Woburn Public Library this Wednesday evening, 3/19, at 7 p.m. You're welcome to come and have a peek if you're in the area or interested in sampling my author visits to schools and libraries. Here's what the local paper is saying about the event: Award-winning children’s and young adult author Mitali Perkins will be visiting the Woburn Public Library on Wednesday, March 19, at 7 p.m. for an evening presentation and discussion on what it means to “live between cultures.”

Presented by the Friends of the Woburn Public Library, Perkins’ appearance is free and open to the public. A book sale and book signing will take place after the presentation, with books provided by Book Ends of Winchester at a discount to attendees.Wow, no pressure. I'd better be good.

The poster above is provided by the Pike School librarians, who have a wall of fake READ posters fea…

Can You Say Mitali?

Want to talk about or introduce an author but not quite sure how to pronounce her name? Head over to Teaching Books' great pronunciation guide where gobs of authors and illustrators have phoned in and introduced themselves, offering mnemonic devices or little stories to help keep their names in mind. Here's mine for example.

KABA Modern, JABBAWOCKEEZ, and FUSION STORIES

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Anybody catch Randy Jackson's America's Best Dance Crew this week? The show is down to fifteen great dancers, including eleven Asian Americans who are rocking Planet MTV. This type of fusion hip makes the embarrassment of William Hung a distant memory -- in fact Asian American teens today can hardly remember that American Idol contestant.
Times are definitely changing. That's why, in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month this May 2008, ten of us are launching FUSION STORIES, a menu of delectable next-gen hot-off-the-press novels for middle readers and teens.

A wave of middle grade novels (ages 7-11) featuring Asian American protagonists is catching the attention of readers, teachers, librarians, and parents – and not just within multicultural circles. Children’s literature experts are calling Grace Lin’s Year of the Rat (sequel to the popular Year of the Dog) a “classic in the making” along the lines of Besty-Tacy. Janet Wong’s forthcoming novel Minn and Jake's…

Poetry Friday: Light By Tagore

Yesterday I sent my editor Françoise Bui of Delacorte a close-to-the-end revision of Secret Keeper (Random House, January 2009), so today I offer a brief excerpt of the draft that includes a poem by Rabindranath Tagore, Bengal's Nobel Laureate.

The scene is set on a train, and Asha's mother is telling her daughters about how she met their father:"We were visiting relatives in Calcutta,” Ma started, keeping her eyes fixed on the blur of rice paddies outside. “One afternoon, I was on the veranda combing out my hair. It was long then, down to my knees, and thick as a shawl. I was singing; I remember the song still, it was a Tagore love song I’d learned only weeks before.”

She began to hum, and then sing in her low, rich voice: “Light, my light, the world-filling light, the eye-kissing light, heart-sweetening light! Ah, the light dances, my darling, at the center of my life; the light strikes, my darling, the chords of my love; the sky opens, the wind runs wild, laughter passes…

My SORMAG Interview

I'm today's featured author interview over at SORMAG, an online magazine for readers and writers of multicultural literature.

Simon and Schuster Pulse Blogfest

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Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing is about to launch the first annual Simon Pulse Blogfest, a two-week event taking place March 14-27th, 2008. The event will bring together over one-hundred top teen authors and their fans to one online destination. Readers are submitting questions for the authors in advance via MySpace, and fourteen final questions will be selected -- one for each day of Blogfest. Simon & Schuster authors will answer the "question of the day," which will be posted on the Simon Pulse Blogfest. Teens will be able to post their own thoughts about the question and respond to the authors' answers.

Does this idea sound vaguely familiar? We at readergirlz realize imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and are thrilled that divas Lorie Ann Grover and Janet Lee Carey are participating, along with (deep breath) Kim Antieau, Marc Aronson, Avi, Lauren Baratz-Logsted, Lauren Barnholdt, Hilari Bell, Phi Bildner, Franny Billingsley, Holly Black, J…

The Pen Is Mightier Than A Prison

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When I'm done writing this post, I will hit the "publish" button. Then I will go fearlessly about my day without a second thought. I could have denounced google and the blogger platform. I could have ranted about the government. It doesn't matter -- my words will still fly freely into cyberspace.

Not so in many parts of the world.

Take China, for example, where 40 journalists are in prison for the crime of expression. Why not join PEN in advocating for their release before the Beijing games by signing this petition?

My Books Float Across The Atlantic

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Yes, that's my little Rickshaw Girl, the French edition, aka De père en fille, releasing this month from Flammarion.

Meanwhile, at the Irish Society For The Study of Children's Literature Conference last month, here was a session presented by Shehrazade Emmambokus:How children’s literature of the South Asian diaspora responds to the media’s vilification of South Asian minority groups following the 11 September attacks.

Immediately following the World Trade Center and the Pentagon attacks on 11 September 2001, the international news media was gripped by the events that took place. However, not only did the news media respond to these events, but other forms of cultural media did too: the music industry, the film industry, the books and literature industry which also includes children’s literature.

Examples of children’s books which engage with these events include, amongst others, Jeanette Winter’s September Roses (2004), Randa Abdel-Fattah’s Does My Head Look Big In This? (2007),…

What Makes Ethnic Humor Funny?

Try, if you can, to see this movie trailer of Mike Myers' forthcoming flick The Love Guru through the eyes of an Indian-American teen with Hindu parents:



I'm a bit befuddled by my own responses to ethnic humor. Why does the Love Guru trailer strike me as not-so-funny and racially offensive, while bits of this trailer (warning: iffy content) of Harold and Kumar at Guantanamo Bay made me smile (although I'm pretty sure I'd find a lot in this flick offensive for other reasons)?

In Which We Create A Sense of Place

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I spent two days last week doing assemblies and workshops on writing place at Pike School in Andover, Massachusetts.

When I arrived, I was totally intimidated to learn I was the second author they'd invited to come, with the first being the hilarious Jack Gantos. The librarians were extremely hospitable, though, and the kids so kind that I managed to get over myself quickly.

Here are a few excerpts from the students' (fifth and seventh graders) excellent writing during the creating a sense of place workshops, with the first-person voice being my requirement:...The door swings open and my brother is on the floor licking a bottle of coke, my twin sisters fighting over a doll, my scared brother hugging a bear in the corner, the bathroom door ajar with the dog drinking from the toilet, and the cat skipping across the piano playing her own tune. I drop my bag and grab a mop to clean up the puke on the rug ... The twins are scribbling on each other now, I take the markers and throw t…

Poetry Friday: And The Oscar Went To

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And The Oscar Went To
by Mitali Perkins

At the end, your name hovers
like a half-orb on the horizon.

It's not aflame like the noonday name,
dazzling with glare and heat and drama.

Once it was new on the scene,
fêted with an ovation of birdsong.

Now you can barely hear the sizzle as it melts into the water.

People glance at their wrists and move on.


© Mitali Perkins 2008, all rights reserved

Photo courtesy of cybertoad via Creative Commons. Find today's Poetry Friday Roundup at Simple and Ordinary.

I Have Eerie Powers

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I am freaking myself out. Not to mention the librarians at Cincinnati Public Library.

In 2006, when I wrote First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover, nobody was running for president and the election seemed far in the future.

Thanks to my between cultures fixation, I decided it would be fun to put a Muslim-background person in the White House, so I created a main character who was adopted from Pakistan.

Given my techno-geekiness and love of blogging, I made my first daughter wannabe a popular blogger who has an impact on the campaign.

Dutton told me to pick a party, so I thought, what the heck, I'll make her Dad a Republican and wrote her mom as a tall blonde.

Flash forward two years.

John McCain, married to tall blonde Cindy McCain, clinches the Republican race.

His daughter Bridget was adopted from a Muslim country (I had NO idea when I wrote the books, I promise!)

His daughter Meghan is blogging the campaign to much acclaim.

Did I cause these events to happen in that mystical, powerfu…

In The News And On The Web

The Boston Globe and the Providence Journal gave their readers the scoop on sparrowblog and my First Daughter Books, as did the Stanford MagazineandIndia New England.

On the web, bloggers Teen Book Review and Jessica Burkhart hosted me for interviews, and Harmony and Bookworm both loved First Daughter.

Paper Tigers' blog celebrated International Mother Language Day by featuring my novel Rickshaw Girl, saying it "would make a great readaloud, especially for a mother and daughter to share."

Librarian-blogger Cloudscome agreed, "highly recommend(ing) it for middle grade (8-10 year old) readers, as a read aloud, or a kid's book club book."

Sarah Dessen at readergirlz!

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We're celebrating our one year anniversary over at readergirlz with a makeover and a March Sarah Dessen extravaganza, including a Sneak Peek Lock and Key (her forthcoming wonderful novel) Party on Thursday, March 27th at 12:00 PM PST / 3:00 PM EST at the readergirlz forum.

The readergirlz divas -- Dia Calhoun, Lorie Ann Grover, Justina Chen Headley, and moi -- also invite you to join us, YALSA, and publishers in a never-done-before book release program, Operation Teen Book Drop (TBD). We're putting new and amazing books into the hands of over 10,000 teen patients in Children's Hospitals across the country in April. More details to come, so get in touch with us over there to find out how you can read and release a book with us!