Thanksgiving

This week is Thanksgiving! There’s lots to love about this holiday, and some of it doesn’t even have to do with food (although…pies! stuffing! MORE PIES!).

Thanksgiving is also a great opportunity for teaching and discussion. I know sometimes people have an adverse reaction to that–something like “Stop trying to make my holiday traditions politically correct!”–but so much of the Thanksgiving story is still relevant today. I like thinking about Thanksgiving as a celebration of a history that is still being written, a history that we can take an active part in.

On that note, Fourth World Journal points to a new teaching resource for Thanksgiving developed by a teacher and historian whose ancestors happen to be Quebeque French, Metis, Ojibwa, and Iroquois. He suggests that it’s time to move past some of the myths surrounding Thanksgiving towards historical accuracy, and insists that this will make the holiday more, not less, meaningful. I especially like some of the discussion questions, like this one:

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This Week in Diversity: Salad

I know, I know, salad isn’t a food we usually associate with Thanksgiving. (Stuffing is not salad. Nor is green bean casserole.) But in my reading this week, I came across a quote disagreeing with the concept of America as a melting pot. Instead, “Everyone keeps their different shapes and forms but still contributes something to the salad.” I like that; it’s both more accurate and a better ideal.

I’m still not going to eat salad on Thanksgiving, but we can give thanks for the great Salad Bowl of America, imperfect though it is.

And whence comes that great quote, you ask? From this great City Room post on a unique new college education program in a Connecticut prison. Selected for their essays and academic potential, these incarcerated students take classes from Wesleyan University professors, using the same syllabi and the same standards of grading as are used on Wesleyan’s campus. The classes are the same, but the students bring a much different perspective: a view from inside a justice system with, among other things, much higher rates of incarceration for Blacks and Latinos than for whites.

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Fact and Fiction

For the first time in its thirteen year history, the Young People’s Literature category of the National Book Award recognized a work of nonfiction:¹ Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose. It’s great to see children’s nonfiction getting more recognition, both because nonfiction can have just as much literary merit as fiction, and because kids need ways to explore and discover the world, past and present. And behind every great work of nonfiction is a true, and truly great, story. Without that truth, it’s not nonfiction. Nonfiction is more than just facts, but it needs facts.

But what if fact becomes fiction, or fiction is presented as fact?

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The Heritage Month Dilemma

First, celebrations are in order for both Soichiro Honda and Isamu Noguchi, who share a November 17th birthday. It’s a nice little coincidence that two very different creative minds from Japan should share the same birthday.

A peek at the calendar reveals all sorts of other special days and notable celebrations this month: It’s National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, for short) and of course, National American Indian Heritage Month. But looking at the calendar always brings up the same question: are special months a double-edged sword?

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This Week in Diversity: A Miscellany

Friday afternoon: time to read up on diversity around the web! This week we have a rather miscellaneous batch of links for you, so dig in.

Ah, Hollywood, will you never stop provoking discussion on race in casting? Not this week, certainly. Racialicious looks at the Screen Actor’s Guild’s annual diversity research and explains why the state of minorities in major acting roles is worse than the numbers suggest.

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How to Tell People they Sound Racist

It should come as no surprise that we here at LEE & LOW BOOKS are rather fond of the written word. A lot.

But we also like the spoken word, so in addition to great posts and articles on race and diversity, we’re going to be sharing some great videos we’ve found around the web.

Like this one, from Ill Doctrine:

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How to Plan a Successful Book Launch

guest bloggerToday I am conducting a joint blog with author/illustrator, Christy Hale. We are going to talk about the nuts and bolts behind planning a book launch.  A successful book launch doesn’t just happen all by itself. It takes a significant amount of planning, organization, and coordination. Over the years, we have sponsored many book launches and although they are a fun reason to get people together to celebrate a joyous occasion they are not usually very profitable for any of the parties involved. Yes, profitability is one of those subjects that people don’t like to discuss, but selling books acts as the unquestionable measuring stick to tell you if your book launch was successful or not.

East-West House cover

Recently, Christy held a book launch for her new book The East-West House: Noguchi’s Childhood in Japan. It was successful in both the amount of people who turned up and the amount of books sold. The launch also led to other connections and events that Christy was able to follow up with after the book launch had ended.

JL: Christy, can you detail for us some of the initial planning you conducted to get the book launch started?

CH: I’ve received invitations to launch parties at other Books Inc. stores in the Bay Area, so I knew the stores were open to this kind of event. I did not have an existing relationship with the local store, but two of the members of my writer’s group attend a book club meeting there regularly, and knew the person I needed to contact to set up my event. I e-mailed and together we selected a date.

JL: What kind of promotion did Books Inc. do for the launch?

CH: Though my book was published Sept 1, I didn’t contact Books Inc. soon enough for a September event—unless I wanted an event without the store’s publicity. 
I opted to postpone my launch until October. Books Inc. ran ads in newspapers. In addition they have their own newsletter that highlighted events for the whole month. They posted the event on their website, plus my book was reviewed on their blog prior to the event.

JL: What kind of promotion did you do for the launch?

CH: I designed an e-vite and e-mailed people in my address book. I created an event on Facebook, and sent out invitations to Facebook friends. Both of these are FREE ways of contacting people. I designed simple postcard invitations and sent them snail mail to people I could not contact through e-mail or Facebook. I also gave family members and friends stacks of these postcard invitations to give to their friends.

I contacted local elementary school librarians, and asked the librarian at my daughter’s old elementary school to put an announcement in their e-mail newsletter. I sent invitations to the public librarians. Members of my writer’s group extended invitations to their friends and their children’s school communities. I enlisted lots of help! My near and dear ones were excited for me and wanted to do what they could. I felt enveloped in good will.

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This Week in Diversity: Melting Pots and Purity

This week, we’re looking at the idea—the fallacy—of purity: racial purity, national purity, and cultural purity.

Let’s start with South Korea, which is experiencing a clash between its historical ideas of ethnic homogeneity and its increasing immigrant population. A New York Times article draws attention to both the prevalence of racism in South Korea and the new efforts that are being made to stem it. It also highlights how closely ideas of racial purity are tied to sexism.

England and the US have their own issues of purity, some of which Andrew Sullivan explores in Scratch white America and beneath it is black. As a born Englishman who moved to the United States decades ago, Sullivan shares how, to an outsider, the black influences on American culture are apparent in everything from music to books.

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What’s different about this book cover?

Baseball Saved Us, Revised

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Poll of the Week: E-Books

We’ve been thinking about E-Books a lot lately. For the first time ever, we have a book available as an E-Book: Alicia Afterimage over at Scribd.

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Exploring Children's Books Through the Lens of Diversity