Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Westside Writers Schmooze Tackled "Political Correctness"

The advantage of this post on last month's meeting being so delayed (and I'm going super-positive with this) is that I get to remind you all that tomorrow, Wednesday Dec 9th, we'll be hosting a special guest speaker at our schmooze:

Paula Yoo!

Paula's written Two biography picture books ("Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story" and "Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story" as well as a great YA novel, "Good Enough." She's going to share her school visit presentation - give us some tips, talk craft, give us a writing exercise, and answer our questions - it's sure to be an AMAZING evening!

Wednesday December 9, 2010, from 7:00-8:45pm at the Fairview Branch Library Community Room, 2101 Ocean Park Boulevard in Santa Monica, CA.

Hope to see you there! (and you can check out Paula's website here.)

Now, on to sharing with you all about our November Evening on Political Correctness:

We spoke about diversity, stereotypes, and how much you have to know (or be like) your characters to write their stories convincingly.

Rita and Lee brought in a whole bunch of books that we own,

To use as examples of how stereotypes and race and minority points of view are handled in a range of picture books, middle grade and Young Adult novels.

Many of the attendees asked if we would post a list of the titles discussed. So, here's our best attempt to re-create it. (Disclaimer - These were just a smattering of books we already owned that we brought from home. Had we gone to the library and really started pulling titles, we would have needed more than 2 tables!)

Picture Books

Dim Sum For Everyone, by Grace Lin
The Red Thread, by Grace Lin
Bringing in the New Year, by Grace Lin
Surprise Moon, by Caroline Hatton, illustrated by Felicia Hoshino
Chinese New Year's Dragon, by Rachel Sing, illustrated by Shao Wei Liu
The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
Sixteen Years In Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story, by Paula Yoo, illustrated by Dom Lee
Bee Bim Bop, by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Ho Baek Lee
Peach & Blue, by Sarah S. Kilborne, paintings by Steve Johnson with Lou Fancher
Baseball Saved Us, by Ken Mochizuki, illustrated by Dom Lee
The Araboolies of Liberty Street, by Sam Swope, illustrated by Barry Root
The Big Orange Splot, by Daniel Manus Pinkwater
The Other Side, by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Our Gracie Aunt, by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Jon J Muth
And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole
Everywhere Babies, by Susan Meyers, illustrated by Marla Frazee
Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cezar Chavez, by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Angelina Ballerina, by Katharine Hollabird, illustrated by Helen Craig
Frida, by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Ana Juan

Middle Grade

The Year of the Dog, by Grace Lin
The Year of the Rat, by Grace Lin
Half Magic, by Edward Eager
The Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynn Reid Banks
A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park
The Horse and His Boy (from The Chronicles of Narnia), by C.S. Lewis

Young Adult

Confessions of a Closet Catholic, by Sarah Darer Littman
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Nothing But The Truth (and a Few White Lies), by Justina Chen Headley
Masks: Rise of Heroes, by Hayden Thorne
Freak Show, by James St. James
QUAD, by C. G. Watson

Also referenced:
Good Enough, by Paula Yoo
Parrotfish and pretty much all of the books by Ellen Wittlinger
In the Break, by Jack Lopez

Rita brought up the last one in the context of 1) A question Lee has asked in discussions past, on whether audiences are now ready for more books that feature diverse characters where the point ISN'T their being a minority or coming out as gay, and 2) these thoughts from this blog entry by Alvina Ling, Senior Editor at Little, Brown:

. . . YA novel In the Break by Jack Lopez. VOYA calls it a "captivating novel by an author who is a surfer about surfing, adolescence, friendship, and loyalty." Kirkus says: "Lopez's debut shares much of the atmosphere and elements seen in urban fiction, and he nails the conversations between Juan, Jamie, Amber and their friends with a gritty, dead-on teen-speak that surges through the pages, giving extra shots of hang-ten adrenaline to the already fast-paced plot."
. . .
There are many things I love about this book, but one interesting thing to note is that the author, Jack Lopez, is Mexican American, and the narrator of the book, Juan, is as well. But although there are some cultural details throughout, his ethnicity does not play a large role in the book, and I'm happy that this hasn't been pigeonholed as simply a "multicultural book." In fact, the reviews so far, which have been great, have not even mentioned his ethnicity. While I think there is still need now for ethnic-identity driven books, particularly when there isn't already a lot out there--such as Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies) for biracial teens--I hope there will be more and more books that feature main characters of color where their ethnicity is not the main subject of the book, and reviewers do not choose to direct the book towards a specific niche audience.

In the Break is an adventure novel with substance, and it should appeal to both boys and girls, teens and adults. It deserves a wide audience.
Overall, the evening wasn't so much one where we handed out all the correct answers - it was more of a great discussion around the circle...

And it was wonderful.

We hope to see you at Wednesday's Schmooze with Paula Yoo!

Lee & Rita

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