Realistic and diverse YA

I am so thankful that these books exist. They tell specifict stories and break stereotypes not because the characters do the opposite of what we expect them to, but because they are nuanced and have so many aspects to themselves. I think we are starting to see that minority characters are here not to make a book diverse, but that they can have full range in their own right. The characters in each of these books is flawed, complex, privileged in some way, and most of all, they are fighting internal battles. All of the struggles compounded to make the stories here very powerful, heartbreaking, but also more realistic.

Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar

I loved this book about resistance. It’s set in 1940s India, a time when Indians were fighting for independence from the British as well as fighting internally between Hindus and Muslims. They are also acknowledging the inequality within Indian society, namely the Untouchables, a group that can never change their fate. It was interesting that the main character is super privileged, a Brahmin girl, and she had to acknowledge that her savior attitude was actually harmful to the people she was trying to help. It was very honest the way Anjali was called out for calling the Untouchables “God’s children”–the term was dishonest and in fact, insulting. They preferred to be called the Oppressed, or Dalits. Only when we acknowledge things for what they are can we begin to make changes. Ahimsa can be used to introduce kids to activism and talk about how to check your privilege and the angle you are coming from, as well as recognize intent vs. impact.

After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay

Oh my gosh, this was such a powerful book. This book is NOT reductive and you won’t find black/white conflicts. Rather, you will see the ways that varying opportunities and privileges strain relationships within the African-American community. Every character here is different: Bunny, the talened basketball star with promises of going pro; Keyona, the girlfriend who is grounded and sensible; Wallace, the orphan who has been abandoned by every one; and Nasir, Bunny’s best friend and Wallace’s cousin who is torn in the middle of it. None of these characters are perfect or token anything and I think that is the best thing about this book.

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

My first thought reading this was “How does the author know so much about us?” It does have the same narrative vibe as Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Gilbert writes about high school life in Cupertino, CA and it was just spot-on in describing the Asian American high school experience. Students are ultra-stressed and there is tremendous pressure to excel academically. College admissions is such a huge part of life and it affects social life and all your high school relationships. It resonated with me so much that I felt like I knew these people. I knew Regina, and Harry, and Danny. The best thing about this book is that it is not only about Asian Americans OR queer friendships, but also about immigration status, mental health, and teen challenges. It is one of my favorite books because it does such a good job of describing the uncertainties of life and how nothing is as it seems.

Calling My Name by Liara Tamani

One conversation that’s been going on is that diverse books should not only feature the struggle of minorities, but also allow them to have joy and the full range of emotions and experiences that protagonists usually do. Taja, the main character in this book, is a good example of that. She experiences doubt about going her religion, loses her virginity, breaks up with her boyfriend, and applies to college. She doesn’t find herself in extraordinary situations, but her story is still worth telling because many teens do experience those exact same things.

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

I still have to finish this. Really glad that these YA characters are multi-dimensional and not limited to their tragedies or their one strength. ❤

Writing and editing

  • Deciding to acquire a book is a gamble
  • Agents act as filters and they manage writers’ careers
  • It’s a very slow and long career full of hits as well as misses
  • It’s not a huge moneymaking business; you will need a second job
  • It costs A LOT to make a book and it’s a long before the books makes any money
  • Editing is diagnosing a book’s problems and writing a prescription to make it better
  • Finding the book a home is kind of a matchmaking business
  • Think of editing as developing a manuscript into its best form
  • There are a lot of criteria to consider in acquisitions
  • Readers’ reports offer a synopsis and your recommendation
  • One good part of the job is that you meet smart and interesting authors!
  • It’s a very social job in an industry full of introverts
  • There are so many variables: social trends, current events, and saturation
  • Having a mentor would be really helpful because it’s so hard to get into this field
  • Sandra Bond, literary agent, said she likes it after getting into the field at 45 and knowing her strengths

I feel like this field is very suitable for me and I am so, so glad I have found it! And I finally get what they mean when they say something “is a feature, not a bug.” The fact that I have a hard time, am patient, and have a heart is a feature, not a bug. When I heard Cory speak today it made me realize that I can let go of assigning judgment and qualities to certain jobs. As recent as a year ago, I felt that teachers had to be the greatest human beings ever because they had to be firm, fair, consistent, and kind of be an infallible person. But today, I heard someone I admire speak, and I thought to myself, she would not have thrived in a classroom. Nonetheless, she is so good at her job!!!!! I think I am starting to let go of using “teacher” as a marker for greatness. This is probably a great thing for my mental health and I will be talking to Dr. Won about that! I am really reall glad to start to accept myself INCLUDING my imperfections and I realized there is actually a lot wrong with me and that’s okay. I love my past self too even though I often felt that I *should* be more ____ or less ___,

My shadow self is becoming my outside self. My flaws are features, not bugs.

  • Feeling anxious helps me relate to other anxious people.
  • Being calm and passive helps me observe different situations.
  • Having struggled helps me be more mature and relate to other people,
  • In terms of guys, I like who I like and am not ashamed of it even if they dump me.
  • I love how I try to include every one even if people don’t include me.
  • I have a lot of insecurities because I’m human <3.
  • I like how I get myself into good trouble.

When I love myself, it doesn’t mean I will never feel bad. In fact, I have the same insecurities that I had before. It means that it matters less whether people approve of me or not.

Summer recipes & feelings

* I love Babble, this website for parents that is no longer being updated. I always loved their DIY and food section. I’m not a hipster parent but their style totally speaks to me. Someday, I will live out the Babble life! Here are some recipes for the summer / light meals.

Gyoza dumplings & miso eggplant

Huevos rancheros

Fruit rainbow rolls

Buffalo cauliflower

Roasted cauliflower recipes

Watermelon salad

*Current feelings: I feel unmoored. To be honest, I have avoided the news a lot from 2016-2018 because I was in survival mode pretty much the entire time. Now that I have learned how awful things really are out there, I feel anxious and helpless–what can we do? I used to think politics had nothing to do with me, and no matter who was elected president or who was in power, my life would stay the same. After all, I’m not the people they’re making laws about or targeting.

When I got out of survival mode earlier this year, I learned that politics has everything to do with our lives. No one can avoid it. Racism, sexism, and victim blaming are real and the fact that I didn’t notice it means that it is so deeply ingrained that I accept it as normal.

Beliefs to unlearn:

-It’s the victim’s responsibility to deal with it or change so it doesn’t happen to them. The perpetrator is a given, even if they are wrong.

-If only you had done ___ instead of ___, the bad thing would not have happened to you.

-Success is earned. If I’m not successful, I must have made the wrong decisions or been deficient.

-Sexism look like a bad evil guy. The scary thing about sexism is that you can’t really tell who your allies and perpetrators are. Women and men can both enforce the patriarchy.

-Racism does not always look and sound like racial slurs or segregation signs. It can be subtle but all the more evil because it means people do not think they are being racist. Also, even though you are already the victim, the perpetrators are taking away the grounds for you to fight by saying that racism doesn’t exist.

Some ways that I’ve been motivated/inspired:

-Journalists who are doing amazing work and exposing what has been hidden for so long. I want to think like a journalist and observe everything as well!!!!

-Be more vocal and learn about issues that concern women, such as menstruation, career ceilings, family live, management, and the messages we send to adolescent girls.

-Continue staying in the loop about education and kidlit! I really do believe that little people grow up to be big people, and it’s all of our responsibilities to make sure that we help them be good.

-Sometimes, you don’t want to follow the law. You want to do better than the law. Law and ethics are not always the same, and in fact, laws can totally be tools for evil.

-Be present and take care of myself so that I can fight the good fight longer. 💛💪 This is probably my biggest takeway. If I want to work for good and live a happy, supportive life, I need to be strong and healthy emotionally, mentally and physically. This means taking the best care of myself, such as eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, drinking water, pushing out of my comfort zone, and going to therapy.

*Last feelings: It gives me faith that even if I am far away, time and distance wise, the people that matter to me will never disappear. For example, I was talking to Judith, my middle school stand partner today!!!!! It’s been 18 years!!!!!! This gives me hope that even if I do not talk to or even see someone for a long time, they are still in my life. I fear erasure or disappearing. But it doesn’t have to happen. I picked up viola again this year after not playing for 10+ years and it feels like a way to honor my connection to Dr. Little, even though I was a terrible student at the time. Being here, in a different state, is like a trial run for when I live on my own. Will I be able to make connections? In what ways will I honor people like Suzana, Carrie, Elaine, and my mentors? How will I keep the connection to my friends alive, such as Shirley, Britney, Coryell, Maki, Sophie, Claudia, and Floey? How will I make room for new connections?

My takeaway is that I don’t make meaning based on where I live, what city I am in, or even necessarily what job I have, although all those have serious effects and consequences. I make meaning based on how I spin my past lives into something beautiful and apply the lessons I’ve learned from people. I can tell this is going to be an emotionally challenging month so I will be documenting. ❤

YA fever

For the month of June, I decided to branch out and read what I normally don’t read. This includes romance, contemporary YA, and mysteries! I have always wanted to read those genres but as a creature of comfort, it was easy to pick out the realistic and fantasy books I normally read.

Trying something different is good!

Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds – What a wonderful debut!!!! This is much more than a teen romance. I love the time loops and the concept of this book is hard to pull off, but Justin did it and we wanted to follow Jack King wherever time takes him. I love Kate, and Franny and Jillian. My favorite thing about this book is that it could’ve become so many tropes and other things, such as winding into a large cast or become gimmicky, but it didn’t. The author showed a lot of restraint and the plotting was A+.

Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi -I did not finish this because although the cover and premise are very promising, and looks like a very fun, teen romance read, the writing was not my style. Teen speak is tricky to master and too much of it is usually not a good thing.

Just South of Home by Karen A. Strong – The cool thing about this is that I follow the author on Twitter for a while before I was able to read the book! It’s so cool to know authors as real people who have emotions and witness the work they put in in order to make a book come to life. This was a good MG ghost story! I think ghost stories and horror are going to be the next big thing in kidlit and YA. It’s a way to deal with mature themes, and it’s totally appropriate and respectful too. I loved responsible protagonist Sarah, city girl Janie, cute Elis and mature Jasper. Really nice reading a debut and I can’t wait for Karen’s sophomore novel. Hopefully it will be another ghost story!

Miraculous Miranda by Siobhan Parkinson – This is kid speak done right! I loved Miranda and her fantasies, and I’m always a fan of Harriet the Spy-esque characters. Kids who are cynical and kind of battling life in their own snarky way, with really spot-on observations. Miranda reminds me of Ray from Uptown Girls. You will never catch them being hurt or sad, but inside their steely and sharp wit is vulnerability and fierce hope. I love characters like Miranda.

The Jigsaw Jungle by Kristen Levine – I love books composed of letters, e-mails, other documents, and look like a scrapbook. I did not love Claudia’s dad because what he did was so irresponsible, but I loved Claudia and her friend’s determination to get to the bottom of it. The format of this book reminds me that I would really love books about local history, consisting of documents, yearbooks, photographs, and letters!

What stories catch your eye this summer?