Summer is rapidly approaching and that means our New Voices Award Writing Contest is now open for submissions! Now in its fifteenth year, the New Voices Award was one of the first (and remains one of the only) writing contests specifically designed to help authors of color break into publishing, an industry in which they are still dramatically underrepresented.
Change requires more than just goodwill; it requires concrete action. We were heartened by First Book’s recent commitment to purchasing 10,000 copies of select books from “new and underrepresented voices.” Likewise, the New Voices Award is a concrete step towards evening the playing field by seeking out talented new authors of color who might otherwise remain under the radar of mainstream publishing.
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a lot of talk lately about the need for more diversity in books. We already know that the population of the United States is rapidly changing, and people have been demanding books that reflect this. From the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign to this recent article from School Library Journal, the demand for diverse titles grows louder every day. One category we often get asked about is recommendations of books featuring Middle Eastern and Muslim characters, so we thought we’d put together a list of some favorites:
The Butter Man, by Elizabeth & Ali Alalou, ill. by Julie Klear Essakalli: As young Nora waits impatiently for her mother to come home from work and for her father to serve the long-simmering couscous that smells so delicious, her father tells her about his childhood in Morocco.
Coming to America: A Muslim Family’s Story, by Bernard Wolf: With captivating photographs and engaging text, Bernard Wolf invites us into the life of this close-knit family — a family whose love and courage speak for all immigrants who work hard and make sacrifices in the pursuit of a better life.
Deep in the Sahara, by Kelly Cunnane, ill. by Hoda Hadadi: Lalla lives in the Muslim country of Mauritania, and more than anything, she wants to wear a malafa, the colorful cloth Mauritanian women, like her mama and big sister, wear to cover their heads and clothes in public.
The Flag of Childhood: Poems From the Middle East, selected by Naomi Shihab Nye: In this stirring anthology of sixty poems from the Middle East, honored anthologist Naomi Shihab Nye welcomes us to this lush, vivid world and beckons us to explore.
Today is Mother’s Day, a time when we tend to think happy thoughts about our mothers or other maternal figures in our lives. We might buy them cards and presents, or take them out to eat. There’s no right way to celebrate it, but we each have our own special ways or traditions.
While most people think of Mother’s Day as a joyous day, the founder of the holiday, Anna Jarvis would probably think we’re celebrating it all wrong. Jarvis originally created Mother’s Day as a way to honor her own mother after she died. She worked to get several states to recognize it as a holiday. In 1914, Woodrow Wilson declared that the second Sunday of every May would be Mother’s Day. It was a day to honor your own mother, not mothers in general. Prior to this, Jarvis, who was a peace activist and cared for wounded soldiers during the Civil War, tried to create Mother’s Day to honor women who had lost sons during the Civil War. When Hallmark and other card companies latched onto the holiday, it became greatly commercialized, much to the chagrin of Jarvis.
Stacy Whitman is Editorial Director and Publisher of Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS that publishes diverse science fiction and fantasy for middle grade and young adult readers. This blog post was originally posted at her blog, Stacy Whitman’s Grimoire.
Yesterday, Sarah Hannah Gómez wrote about people of color in dystopias. Today I thought we’d look at the post-apocalyptic genre (which overlaps with, but is not always the same as, dystopias) from the craft side. A while back, as I was going through submissions, a few thoughts formed for me about worldbuilding in the genre due to things I was seeing again and again. This isn’t by any means a comprehensive list of things to think about—just a few things that struck me as a pattern in some recent reads (and something I notice when it’s done well).
I guess everything I want to say actually falls under the old (and very useful) “show, don’t tell,” – which of course is relevant whether or not your novel is set after the apocalypse. So, here you go:
If you include newspaper clippings/stories as metatext to support the main narrative, make sure that it actually sounds like a news clipping. Use inverted pyramid structure, starting with the most important details and filling in backstory and history only once important details have been included. Who, what, why, where, when: these are the most important things to focus on in the first paragraph.
In case you haven’t heard, we acquired SHEN’S BOOKS last winter, and we couldn’t be more excited! Shen’s Books published great children’s books emphasizing cultural diversity and tolerance, with a focus on introducing children to the cultures of Asia.
Jan Reynolds is a writer, photographer, and adventurer who has written over fourteen nonfiction books for children about her travels. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including National Geographic, The New York Times, and Outside Magazine. Reynolds is an avid skier, mountain climber, and adventurer who held the record for women’s high altitude skiing, was part of the first expedition to circumnavigate Mount Everest, and performed a solo crossing of the Himalayas.
You are a world-class adventurer and athlete in addition to being a children’s author. Were you always a writer, or were you inspired to begin writing by your travels?
I’ve always been a writer…. I had a short story, fiction, that was published when I was in high school. I’m working on a young adult fiction book right now!
What was your hardest trip or exploration? Was there ever a moment in your travels when you wanted to turn back? What inspired you to keep going?
When I was crossing the Himalaya solo, I almost turned back, I was so sick (I talk about this in my documentary video, “Cultural Adventure with Jan Reynolds”). I lived in my tent alone for about four days and nights, and was found by a Sherpa and his son who nursed me back to health, and I finished my journey going from Nepal into Tibet over the Himalaya following the salt trade. I kept going because I needed to complete my trade on this salt trade route. I was working for National Geographic magazine, and I wanted to get my story!!
Marilyn Singer is the author of more than one hundred children’s books, including many poetry collections. Her works have won numerous honors, including the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor and the Orbis Pictus Honor. A Full Moon is Rising is a collection of poems that bring readers on a whirlwind tour of the world to discover an amazing collection of full moon celebrations, beliefs, customs, and facts. You can find out more about Marilyn Singer and her work on her website here.
Since April is National Poetry Month, we asked author Marilyn Singer to tell us a little bit more about what inspired her to write A Full Moon is Rising:
Andrea Cheng is the author of several critically-acclaimed books for young readers. Her most recent novel, Etched in Clay, tells the story in verse of Dave the Potter, an enslaved man, poet, and master craftsperson whose jars (many of which are inscribed with his poetry and writings) are among the most sought-after pieces of Edgefield pottery. Etched in Clay recently won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award.
April is National Poetry Month, so we asked author Andrea Cheng to share one of her favorite poems from Etched in Clay:
We’re excited to announce a new release from our recently acquired imprint, Shen’s Books: Summoning the Phoenix, a musical and informative journey through the history of traditional Chinese instruments.