One of the many reasons why I love Thanksgiving is that, in my mind, it’s really the start of winter coziness. Despite the fact that I’m always grumbling by February, I really do love this season.
But we’ve had a weirdly warm fall thus far here in NYC, which has forced me to turn to books to get myself in the winter spirit. Here are my top 5 books that get me in the mood for the snow and slush ahead— and of course, all of them are best enjoyed in pajamas, with a warm cup of hot chocolate in hand:
This weekend, The NYU Institute of African American Affairs hosted the A is for Anansi Conference on Literature for Children of African Descent. It was a great conference and I was thrilled to be a part of it – it’s always exciting to be in a room full of people who care about books, kids, and social justice issues. A few of the highlights I caught:
Author and publisher Andrea Davis Pinkney started things off with a good news/bad news keynote, sharing a few reasons why some say we are in a “Golden Age of African American Children’s Literature” – a new generation of talented authors and illustrators, more award recognition, etc. – but also shared these dismal numbers that tell us that the number of books by/about people of color has not increased at all since 1994. 1994! In other words, we’ve got our work cut out for us.
I spoke next on a panel about publishing/selling literature about children of African descent. Just Us Books owner Cheryl Willis Hudson moderated, and agent and former bookseller Joe Monti started off with some anecdotes about the resistance big book buyers have to selling covers with people of color. Ultimately, he said, he doesn’t believe race really makes a difference in sales. “A good cover will sell books, and a bad one won’t,” he said.
I had an interesting discussion the other day. Let me just start off by saying that I feel pretty strongly anti-censorship and would never advocate the banning of books. But I was speaking with a friend about the second Twilight installment and how uncomfortable it made me. At the beginning, Vampire Edward leaves Bella, after which she spends a year putting herself in all kinds of danger just to bring him back. She actually comes close to killing herself so he’ll come back to her. That is not OK with me. I said to my friend, “I’m afraid that teen girls will look at Bella as a role model and see this as an ideal relationship,” and it seemed to me that this was a story that could do real damage to readers.
Happy Friday! We begin this week with some progress on the publishing front: lots of conversations going on right now among booksellers about how to sell multicultural titles, especially to white readers. Check out this great post by Elizabeth Bluemle as well as a discussion by the fine folks at Random House. It’s heartening to see so many different kinds of book people—publishers, booksellers, and readers—assuming responsibility and making it their mission to support diversity.
Note: This post was originally written in 2010, however we continue to update the comments section with answers to your questions.
The New Voices Award is open to all authors of color who have not previously had a children’s picture book published. The winner receives a cash prize of $1000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor winner will receive a cash prize of $500.
We periodically get some questions about the Award, so I’d like to answer a few of them if I can:
What does it mean to be a person of color?
Well, that can be a pretty complicated question, but for the purposes of our New Voices Award specifically, we accept contest entries from people of African, Asian/Pacific Islander, Latin American, Middle Eastern, or Native American/Indigenous descent.
Why is the New Voices Award only open to people of color?
The New Voices Award was founded to encourage and support authors of color in a market where they’ve been traditionally excluded and underrepresented. That was true in 2000 when the award was started and it’s still true today (see these stats for some surprising figures about the number of books published by/for people of color). The New Voices Award is one of the ways in which we’re trying to close the gap.
Well, it’s HOT, and it seems like the urge to stay out of the heat has led to lots of thoughtful conversations around the web this week.
We begin with a new take on To Kill a Mockingbird, the classic by Harper Lee that celebrated its 50th Anniversary just this week. While it’s been taught for years as the quintessential anti-racism novel, Stuff White People Do has a fascinating argument for why the book can also be read as racist. Among the arguments: “The novel reduces black people to passive, humble victims, thereby ignoring the realities of black agency and resistance.” Even if you’ve got a deep love for To Kill a Mockingbird, it’s worth thinking about who it was written for, how it can be read differently by different readers, and how it fits into the larger picture of a literature curriculum heavily dominated by white authors.