Celebrating the Multifaceted, Multicultural, and Multicolored World of YA Fiction

May 2, 2011

Diversity in YA Fiction (DIYA) is a website and book tour founded by two young adult authors, Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon, to celebrate diverse stories in YA. From the site:

“DIYA is a positive, friendly gathering of readers and writers who want to see diversity in their fiction. We come from all walks of life and backgrounds, and we hope that you do, too. We encourage an attitude of openness and curiosity, and we welcome questions and discussion. Most of all, we can’t wait to have fun sharing some great books with you!”

Cindy is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. The sequel to Silver Phoenix, titled Fury of the Phoenix, will be published in April 2011.

Malinda is the author of Ash (Little, Brown, 2009), which was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, and named one of the Kirkus Best Young Adult Novels of 2009. A companion novel to Ash, titled Huntress, will be published in April 2011. Cindy and Malinda will be joined on tour by a marvelously diverse array of award-winning authors across the country; with the launch just days away, Malinda took the time to answer a few questions for The Brown Bookshelf.

Where and how do you see the biggest changes happening regarding diversity in children’s literature?

I think that in recent years there has been a huge growth in books that feature diverse main characters but don’t focus on diversity as an issue. I really welcome that development, because while I know there’s a place for the issue novel in children’s literature, I personally am not drawn to those kinds of stories. I like to read books that focus on story, and in that story, it’s wonderful if the characters happen to be black or Asian or gay. I think that sometimes race and sexuality can be better understood when experienced sort of sideways, via a broader story that isn’t specifically about race or sexuality.

What would you like to see “gatekeepers” such as booksellers, librarians, educators, etc. do to support more diversity in children’s literature?

I know that gatekeepers are already encouraging readers to try out books that feature diverse characters, and I thank them for that! One thing I don’t want is for these books to be seen as chores, you know? I think that gatekeepers should consider booktalking these books without emphasizing the educational or politically correct aspect. Kids don’t want to read books that are good for them — at least, I never did! — they want to read books that excite them in some way. So many of the books I’ve seen from authors on our diversity tour are full of adventure and thrills and romance. I think it would be great to position these books based on those hooks.

Along with the blog and tour, can we expect other initiatives from DIYA? What are your goals for the project?

Although the majority of our tour will take place from May 7-14, we’ll definitely be around for the rest of 2011. This summer we’re launching a Diversify Your Reading Challenge for libraries and readers everywhere. Our goals are to challenge readers to read novels featuring diverse characters, and to invite librarians to focus on these books as well. We’ll have some great prizes!

Later this year in October, we’ll be doing some events in San Diego during the World Fantasy Convention. Our website will be going strong all year, so be sure to stop by and see what we’re up to. And we hope to see lots of folks out on the road during our tour in May!

The tour begins in a few days — find out when DIYA will be in your neck of the woods. And those great prizes? You can win one now! Leave a comment on this post for a chance to receive a book from one of the tour authors. (Winner and book will be chosen at random; giveaway open to U.S. residents only.)

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Blog Tour: Dork Diaries

June 5, 2009

1416980067On June 2, 2009, author Rachel Renee Russell released her debut middle grade  book Dork Diaries.   Never fear, being a dork is cool these days and Nikki Maxwell, the dorky protagonist, embraces her dork status.

To welcome Nikki and Rachel to The Brown Bookshelf family, I sat down with the two of them recently to talk about the book, Nikki’s life as a dork, Rachel’s journey to publication, and what’s next for the both of them.

Nikki, what makes you a dork?
 NM:  It all started when that snob, MacKenzie, called me a dork because I was always writing in my diary.  She said, “OMG!  Only a dork writes in a diary!”  And, I was like, “If I flush, will you go away!”  But, after a while, that word started to take on a different meaning for me.  Now, dork means independent, different and unconventional, which are all good things.  I call myself, dorkalicious :-)!

Dork Diaries is coming to the big screen.  Who are your ideal choices to play you, Mackenzie, and Brandon?
NM:  I would love to be cast as myself in the movie.  I was the understudy for Little Red Riding Hood back in second grade, so I know I can do it.  And, of course, I think Brandon should play himself too, especially since I have this huge crush on him.   I would NOT want MacKenzie anywhere near the movie set.  She is such a diva! I think that snobby girl from High School Musical, Sharpay, should be cast as MacKenzie.  I believe the actress’ name is Ashley Tisdale.

Who’s your celebrity crush?
NM:  I have two: Nick Jonas, from the Jonas Brothers and Corbin Bleu, from High School Musical.  I even drew sketches of both of them in my diary.

The remote control is in your hand, what’s on the TV screen?
NM:  I LOVE that brand new TV show GLEE!  It’s High School Musical on steroids!

I believe a lot of kids will be able to relate to various things that happen to you.  Do you ever plan to go from a written diary to an online blog?  Maybe have an advice column for fellow dorks?
NM:  Actually, I already have a blog  at  http://www.dorkdiariesblog.com.  The advice column is a good idea.  I think I’m going to consider adding one since being in middle school can sometimes be really traumatic.

Nickelodeon or Disney?
NM:  I’m a Disney kind of girl.  Actually, I’m really hoping Disney will buy the film rights to my diary.  Then,  I can use the money to get that iPhone I’ve been wanting.  And, maybe buy some more art supplies and a new wardrobe from the Mall.  Oh!  And, since I don’t have a drivers license yet, I would need to buy a private jet like Oprah’s.

Rachel, what’s next for Nikki Maxwell?
RRR:  I’m currently working on Book 2 which will be released in the Spring of 2010.

What inspired you to create Dork Diaries?
RRR:  I wanted to write and illustrate a really funny book for Tween girls.  And, I wanted it to have a unique voice, be slightly quirky and contain a lot of pop culture.  I mainly wanted to make people laugh.

I loved the artwork in Dork Diaries.  What led you to create a graphic novel?  Who did the artwork for Dork Diaries?
RRR:  Actually, the book format is not a true graphic novel.  It’s usually referred to as a “hybrid” or “illustrated novel.”  I am the illustrator of the book.  However, toward the end, I started running a bit behind schedule so I took on two assistant artists to help get it finished by the deadline, which is not that unusual when you’re both writing and illustrating a huge project.

Every author has their own story about what led them to pick up a pen to write that first story and how their book was born.  What is your story?
RRR:  I started writing and illustrating homemade books for my family members back in grade school.  I also did several for my two daughters when they were younger.  So, it’s been something I’ve always loved doing.  In recent years, I’ve written a young adult book, a middle grade graphic novel and  Dork Diaries.  So, although this is actually my third book, it’s the first one to get published.

Your main character, Nikki,  is not an African-American. Why did you choose to do this?
RRR:  The character, Nikki, came to me as she is written.  At first I was hesitant, but I remembered reading an article about Shonda Rhimes, the creator, writer and executive director of the hit television show, Grey’s Anatomy.  She was my inspiration for attempting to write a main character very different from myself. The other two major characters in Dork Diaries are  Zoey, who is African-American and Chloe, who is Hispanic.  So, my book has quite a bit of diversity.  The three girls are best friends and are considered the biggest dorks in their school.  They get into all sorts of hilarious mischief.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid took the MG/YA audience by storm with its debut in 2007.  I’ve seen a lot of buzz about your book as well as the expected comparison and contrast to Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  How does that make you feel?  Is there more pressure for Dork Diaries to stand out from Diary of a Wimpy Kid’s shadow?
RRR:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a funny and well-written series.  So, I’m really flattered by any comparison.  Dork Diaries, however, is very different.  It’s from a female perspective and deals with issues Tween girls face on a daily basis.  My main character is a bit older and has an edgier voice.  And, my artwork has a slight manga influence.  However, I would be totally elated if  Dork Diaries does even half as well as Diary of a Wimpy Kid!

Rachel and Nikki have been busy blog hopping this week and it doesn’t end today.  Check out some of their other tour stops.

A Patchwork of Books

Peeking Between the Pages

Next week, she will be featured at Bildungsroman on June 8th, That Teen Can Blog on June 10th, and The Reading Zone on June 12th.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into a drawing to win a copy of Dork Diaries along with a very cool purse that contains items mentioned in the book.


And the winner of our giveaway is…

November 12, 2007

I put all the names in a hat, and asked my son to draw one. He was perplexed, yes, only because I offered no explanation. But our winner is Tammi Sauer!

Thanks for all the comments, we certainly appreciate everyone’s support. Tammi, your signed copy of Little Red Riding Hood, by Jerry Pinkney is in the mail…tomorrow. Today is Veteran’s Day. And I’ll also include a signed copy (signed by me) of Jump at the Sun: An African American Picture Book Collection.


Talk to us, giveaway

November 5, 2007

Little Red Riding Hood coverListen, I have a signed copy of Little Red Riding Hood, by Jerry Pinkney. Got my copy this weekend while attending the Texas Book Festival.

Now, let me establish something at the get-go: I like comments. If ya’ll aren’t talking to me, I’m going to assume you either don’t like me, or…well, that you don’t like me. So to get the comments rolling, I’m going to offer a signed copy of Little Red Riding Hood to a commenter on this blog*. Comment today, or within the next week.

You don’t have to respond to my posts only, though I won’t be mad at cha if you do. Comment on any post — mine, Varian, Paula, Carla or Kelly’s, and on next Monday (November 12), I’ll go through all the comments, write down the names, put them in a hat, and let my son draw one. I’ll post the winner here, that person can send me their mailing address, and I’ll send them Jerry’s book, and one of mine, too.

Now, I know The Brown Bookshelf is about highlighting authors and illustrators of color, who’ve “gone under the radar,” which Jerry surly hasn’t. But com’mon!— it’s a signed copy of a Jerry Pinkney title!

*Giveaway pertains to comments on this blog only, not the 28 Days submissions, however, please keep submitting. Contest closes Sunday, November 11,  midnight.