Tag Archives: Power of Words

Protesting Injustice Then and Now

In August we wrote to you about the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Our publisher said then that the matter of representation was urgent; now, four months later, we see that urgency for what it is: a matter of life or death. Michael Brown’s name now sits alongside new names like Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Akai Gurley. How many more names will need to be added before things change?

Continue reading

New Voices Award Winners: “How I Started Writing”

New Voices Award sealThis year marks our 14th annual New Voices Award writing contest. Every year, LEE & LOW BOOKS gives the New Voices Award to a debut author of color Guest Bloggerfor a picture book manuscript.

Did you know that last year, children’s books written by authors of color made up less than seven percent of the total number of books published? As a multicultural publisher, we’re dedicated to increasing those numbers. The New Voices Award is one way we can help new authors of color break into publishing.

In this new blog series, we thought it’d be fun to bring together some past New Voices Award winners on the blog to see how they got their start as authors, what inspires them, and where they are now.

Q: How did you start writing picture books?

Author Linda BoydenLinda Boyden, The Blue Roses

Continue reading

Growing Up without Books: Discovering DeShawn

Tony MedinaIn light of our grant from First Book we asked our authors to reflect on why diverse books are guest bloggerimportant. Guest blogger, author/poet Tony Medina talks about growing up in the projects without books and later as an author witnessing the true power of connecting multicultural books with children of color.

As a child in the Throgs Neck Housing Projects in the Bronx, I did not grow up with books. The only person I saw reading was my grandmother, who occasionally read mass-market paperback fiction and her Bible that was as big as a phone book. If the Bible fell from the top of the dresser where she kept it, it could take your kneecap off and crush your foot in the process! The only time I recall being exposed to children’s books was at school when the teacher took us to the school library and the librarian allowed us to take out Curious George books.

Continue reading

Reading Biographies to Reflect on Core Principles and Create Belonging

Katie CunninghamGuest blogger Katie Cunningham is an Assistant Professor at Manhattanville College. Her teaching and scholarship centers around children’s literature, critical literacy, guest bloggerandsupporting teachers to make their classrooms joyful and purposeful. Katie has presented at numerous national conferences and is the editor of The Language and Literacy Spectrum, New York Reading Association’s literacy journal. 

Spring is here and with that spring fever for many students who will be graduating from a significant milestone and moving on to the next stage of their lives. Graduating students will hear speeches that urge them to seize the day, to work hard, to stand out amongst the crowd, and to answer the question “Who will you be?”. The Common Core State Standards are written with this day in mind. While the standards are designed to raise the level of education that any child receives regardless of socioeconomic status, race, gender, and language, the standards alone do not put children on the path to college and a career. We cannot overlook that some students see themselves from a very early age as “card carrying members” in college settings while others feel displaced. Before we can ask our students “Who will you be?”, we need to wonder “Who do our students believe they can be?”

Katie Cunningham quoteThe last few springs I’ve hosted seventy-five fifth graders to the college campus where I’m an Assistant Professor. These fifth graders attend a school where 93% are of Latino descent, 85% have reduced or free lunch, and almost 40% have limited English proficiency.  For many of them this experience is their first time on a college campus and the vast majority will be the first generation in their families to attend college. The trip is only five miles by school bus, yet our campus is a world away for many students. The trip is designed to give fifth graders the sense that they are card-carrying members. That they belong here. That they are on the road to college as a pathway to a career.

As educators and parents, we know that college and career-readiness cannot simply be reduced to a series of skills-based standards. Rather, it’s a complex topic with social, cultural and political considerations that go far beyond the classroom. I believe we can enact curriculum that centers the standards in engaging and joyful ways, but what can we do to rewrite history for many of our students who face obstacles inside and outside our classrooms everyday? We can bring them to college campuses and support them to see themselves as members of intellectual communities. We can also support students beyond single events to routinely consider what guides us and what has guided people before us to reach their dreams. Harvard Professor Ronald Ferguson established five core principles I believe our schools must teach long before and alongside any reading, writing, or math lessons:

Continue reading

The Only Book in the House

guest bloggerJoseph BruchacIn light of our recent grant from First Book we decided to ask our authors to reflect on the idea of receiving one’s very first book. Guest blogger, author Joseph Bruchac talks about the influence books have had on his life and the continued importance of books in the lives of children today.

What does a book mean to a child? A book all his or her own? I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have books. I was raised by my grandparents in a house full of books that belonged to my grandmother. I loved to pull the books off the shelves and look through them, even when I didn’t understand most of the words.

But what meant the most to me was having my own books. It wasn’t easy to get books when I was a child. This was long before Borders, Barnes & Noble, and ordering books online. We lived in a small rural town, far from the nearest bookstore. One of the most exciting things for me was when my grandmother drove me to Glens Falls, twenty miles away, where there was a bookstore with a small children’s section. For the two dollars saved from my monthly allowance, I could buy a book—usually about nature—such as one of those in the Old Mother West Wind series by Thornton W. Burgess. All the way home I’d sit in the back of our old blue Plymouth, clutching that new book, eager to open its pages and be lost in the world it created for me.

Continue reading

Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part V: Diversity in Genre Fiction

New Visions Award sealIn January we announced the finalists of our first New Visions Award, a new writing award for a debut author of color for a middle grade or young adult science fiction, fantasy, or mystery novel. Over the last few weeks, we’ve highlighted these talented finalists on our blog as they answer questions about what inspires them, the writing process, and more. Perhaps among these five finalists you’ll find your next favorite author!

guest bloggerPreviously, our New Visions finalists shared their experiences as young readers, and whether they saw themselves represented in books.

In this last post, they share their final thoughts on diversity in genre fiction for middle grade and young adult readers:

Ailynn Knox-Collins

I applaud the efforts that publishers like Tu Books are making to bring diversity into children’s lite  rature. I am humbled and grateful to have been given a small part to play here. I may not ever be published but I will always be writing and will most certainly be a reader for the rest of my life. As a teacher of children from all over the world, I am excited to introduce them to a new stage of diversity in books, where they may find themselves reflected in the stories.

From where I stand, the future of children's fiction is looking up."From where I stand, the future of children’s fiction is looking up. They will see more and more books where the covers feature people like them, of all races and creeds, beliefs and lifestyles. Everyone will have a chance to be a hero and every reader will find a place for themselves in the thrilling worlds of mystery, fantasy and science fiction. I can’t hide the huge smile on my face because the child in me is thrilled. I am so proud to be a part of this movement. I hope more writers of color will be encouraged to write from their cultural backgrounds and enrich the book world with new ideas. It wouldn’t surprise me that although the names and settings have been changed, in the end, we’ll discover that there is much that we share with each other; that we have more in common than we realize.

Continue reading

Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part IV

guest bloggerNew Visions Award sealIn January we announced the finalists of our first New Visions Award, a new writing award for a debut author of color for a middle grade or young adult science fiction, fantasy, or mystery novel. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting these talented finalists on our blog as they answer questions about what inspires them, the writing process, and more. Perhaps among these five finalists you’ll find your next favorite author!

Previous posts by our New Visions finalists:

Q: What was your relationship to books and reading as a child or teenager?  In what ways did you see yourself represented in books?

Ailynn Knox-Collins

I was seven when I attended my first boarding school. Determined to hate the experience, I succeeded at being miserable. Over the next few years, I changed school six times. I was always the new kid, but I wasn’t the nice one. I got into fights, defied teachers and even started a gang to beat up boys (I didn’t actually beat up anyone). Adults whispered about me when they thought I wasn’t listening. I was the poor child whose parents were getting a divorce. Because of that, I got away with everything which just made me more miserable.

Continue reading

Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part III

guest bloggerNew Visions Award sealLast month we announced the finalists of our first New Visions Award, a new writing award for a debut author of color for a middle grade or young adult science fiction, fantasy, or mystery novel. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting these talented finalists on our blog as they answer questions about what inspires them, the writing process, and more. Perhaps among these five finalists you’ll find your next favorite author!

Q: What has been your experience writing from a different cultural background that may be unfamiliar to most young readers? 

Ibi Zoboi, Haiti.

While most readers are familiar with Edwidge Danticat, there are, of course, other Haitian and non-Haitian writers telling stories about Haitian children. M. Sindy Felin’s Touching Snow was a National Book Award Finalist.  The recent winner of the Printz Award is In Darkness, a story about a Haitian boy during the earthquake written by Nick Lake. One of my favorite Haitian YA books is Taste of Salt by the late Frances Temple.

Haiti has an amazing literary tradition and under a brutal dictatorship, writers either risked their lives or were sent into exile. So, for me, writing about Haiti is very political.  Though, my stories are cloaked in a world of magic.  What better way to convey Haiti’s complex history and mythology than in a young adult fantasy novel?  This simply adds another layer of depth to what young readers already know about Haiti, or any given culture.  They must know that culture is multi-dimensional and is not regulated to the superficial “facts” in the media. This is why mythology breathes life into everything I write.  While the names and magical systems differ, there is an interconnecting power in world mythology that can resonate with any reader.

Continue reading

Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part II

guest bloggerNew Visions Award sealLast month we announced the finalists of our first New Visions Award, a new writing award for a debut author of color for a middle grade or young adult science fiction, fantasy, or mystery novel. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting these talented finalists on our blog as they answer questions about what inspires them, the writing process, and more. Perhaps among these five finalists you’ll find your next favorite author!

Q: What brought you to Tu Books and to the New Visions Award competition in particular?

Rahul Kanakia, Baltimore, MD:
My novel has a number of autobiographical elements. I mean, obviously, I didn’t grow up in a plague-wracked authoritarian dystopia, but I did share many of the troubles and experiences of the character in my novel. I went to Catholic school and I was confused regarding my sexual orientation and I had body image issues. And when I started the first draft of my very first YA novel, all of that came out of me in a crazy rush. Nothing was filtered. Everything was on the paper. Never before nor since have I experienced that kind of pure mind to keyboard translation.

quote 2Except for one thing. The protagonist of that first draft was white. That’s because (kind of funnily, since I’m currently enrolled in an MFA program that’s more-or-less devoted to the creation of fine literature), I’m relentlessly commercial. I can’t ever get up the motivation to write something that I don’t think will sell. And, you know, I believed it was possible to sell a YA novel with a queer protagonist. And I believe it’s possible to sell a YA novel with a protagonist of color. There are (a few) examples of both of those things. But I just was not at all sure that it was possible to sell a YA novel with a protagonist who was both. Somehow, the intersection felt too narrow. I don’t know. Perhaps I was the unimaginative one there. Perhaps I didn’t give the publishing industry enough credit. But before I could even start to write that book, I felt like I had to choose one identity and discard another.

Continue reading

Meet Our New Visions Finalists

guest bloggerNew Visions Award sealLast month we announced the finalists of our first New Visions Award, a new writing award for a debut author of color for a middle grade or young adult science fiction, fantasy, or mystery novel. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting these talented finalists on our blog as they answer questions about what inspires them, the writing process, and more. Perhaps among these five finalists you’ll find your next favorite author!

Q: What brought you to Tu Books and to the New Visions Award competition in particular?

Ailynn Knox-Collins. Redmond, WA:

I came across Tu Books when I bid on a copy of Tankborn for a charitable cause. Soon after, I had the good fortune to sit next to the writer, Karen Sandler, at an SCBWI conference in LA. I was delighted to find an imprint that is dedicated to putting books out there that are written by and feature characters of color.

Why is it important, you say, that there be this need to highlight multi-ethnic writers and stories? Because to me the world is colorful and always has been, but many of the books I love haven’t always reflected it. Too much of my own childhood was spent thinking that to be a hero or heroine, I had to look a certain way, and mostly not like me. Yet, when I look at the amazing people in the world I grew up in, they came from all sorts of backgrounds, colors and cultures.

So I had to be a part of this endeavor and I congratulate Tu Books on their first ever New Visions Award. I submitted my science fiction story and (wow!) now I’m a finalist. The other finalists are remarkable writers from excitingly varied backgrounds. I am honored to be in this group with them.

Continue reading