Thursday, June 18, 2009

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

I love asking questions on Twitter (where I tend to focus on "professional" subjects) and Facebook (seems better suited for the personal stuff). Here are a few I've posed lately, in case you want to weigh in:
  • Booksellers, tell me the truth. How tough is it to sell a YA novel with a nonwhite protagonist? If your answer is "quite," any exceptions?

  • Why do sci-fi or fantasy authors import our society's current mores about sex and romance into their imagined worlds lock, stock, and barrel?

  • What can Google Wave offer our Kid/YA book community?

  • I'm compiling a list of great father-son children's and YA books. Recommendations?

  • When they meet me in person, my virtual friends inevitably exclaim, "Oh, you're actually tall!" Does this happen to anybody else?
Social media provides a great venue to get input on many subjects. As in real life, though, whether or not we get a straight answer depends on how we ask the question. Sometimes I get no response. A few questions lead to more in-depth thought and discussion. The last one above, for example, which at first I thought was frivolous, prompted several people to weigh in about physical stereotypes and race.

Through trial and error, I'm getting better at virtual conversations, and hoping that stimulating discussion, both online and in person, helps the gray matter survive.


  1. I love your blog because it completely keeps me informed. Thanks for asking the questions that so many inquiring minds want to know! :-)


  2. I thought of you as shortish, too. How about that? (Someday we WILL meet!)

    I was very surprised to learn today that Jada Pinkett Smith, who I think of as an Amazon, is five feet tall.

  3. I love your questions and have been thinking how to create the same kind of exchanges at Color Online. Like you, I'm always thinking how to create dialogue. I hope I'm getting better at how I engaged readers.

  4. What great questions! They stimilate some good positive thoughts and discussions. I want to hear what answers you will get for the first question.

  5. Great fathers and sons: I took that to mean good relationships. I came up with a few, then checked by website and found that most of the books I read have absent fathers or terrible fathers.

    Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
    Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher
    On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck
    Last Exit to Normal by Michael Harmon - sort of Dad wants to be there and do the right thing, but obnoxious son is, well obnoxious.
    Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian
    Dishes by Rich Wallace - again sort of. Kid goes to spend summer to get to know absent dad and realizes that he's just a big overgrown kid, but they both grow.

  6. Loved Whale Talk and Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian.

    Dopesick by Walter Dean Myers
    The Watsons' Go To Birmingham & Bud, not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
    Unwind by Neal Shusterman

  7. I took question to mean great titles for sons and fathers to read and discuss. Is that what you wanted?

  8. I find it easier to sell YA novels with non white protagonist to customers I already have a buyer/ seller relationship with.

    Some father/son books
    Alvin Ho by Look
    Tales from Outer Suburbia by Tan
    Chameleon by Smith
    Marcelo in the Real World by Stork
    Little Brother by Doctorow
    Bird by Elliott
    Chess Rumble by Neri
    Mudville by Scaletta
    Brooklyn Nine by Gratz
    12 Brown Boys by Tyree
    Sunrise over Fallujah by Myers
    Dope Sick by Myers
    Rock and the River by Magoon
    The Prince of Fenway Park by Baggott
    Knights of Hill Country by Tharp

  9. Onion John and It's Like This, Cat are both super old-school and probably a difficult sell, but have outstanding father/son content.

  10. Hmm. Mitali, why shouldn't fantasy/SF writers import our society's current mores about sex -- or anything else -- into their worlds? By definition, they're imagining new worlds. Mixing and matching (or creating out of thin air) political systems, religions, clothing styles, medicine, magic, etc., and mores of all kinds is part of the tradition of the genre, isn't it? That's the freedom that comes with creating your own new world.

    Admittedly, it can get messy. My own fantasy world has a lot of medieval feel to it, but there's also no overarching organized religion. Yet, I am undoubtedly importing a million medieval-type things into the books that wouldn't have existed in medieval times if it hadn't been for medieval religion. (It also makes it hard for people to swear when no one is allowed to say, "Oh, hell!") It becomes a difficult balance, and the author just has to hope no one notices how often she's falling off...

    Anyway, thanks for asking the question -- I've been thinking about it ever since I first saw you ask it. Thank you!

  11. Father/son books:
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
    Brendan Buckeley's Universe and Everything In It by Sundee T. Frazier -- it's more of a son/granpa book, but the relationship with Dad is a good one
    Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

  12. Uh. It's "Buckley." Sorry about the extra E.

  13. A really twisted version of father/son -- House of the Scorpion

  14. Arguably, fantasy (one of the roots of which is utopian/dystopian literature) may have more freedom not only to import the social mores of the day, but to take them to the extreme and comment upon them with impunity - an example du jour being Hunger Games. The job of literature, on some level, is to raise public consciousness. Fantasy is an opportunity to do that more subversively.