It’s a Technicolor World

By Gretchen McNeil

Sometimes I try to explain to people that where I grew up, I wasn’t necessarily the majority.

They tend to look at me funny, taking in my red hair, fair skin, and blue eyes.  I can see the skepticism, hear the derision in their voices when they ask the inevitable question: where did you grow up?

"A suburb of San Francisco."

"But that’s in the U.S."

Yes, yes it is.

Now look, I’m not going to pretend that I was the only white, Catholic kid in my Bay Area home town.  There were plenty of us.  But let me give you the ethnic breakdown of my tight group of friends senior year of high school:

-       1 (one) white Catholic girl (that’s me!)

-       3 (three) Chinese girls

-       1 (one) Korean girl

-       1 (one) half-Mexican, half-Scottish girl

-       1 (one) half-Irish, half-Filipina girl

-       1 (one) Pacific Islander girl

-       1 (one) Vietnamese boy

-       1 (one) white Jewish boy

-       1 (one) white-ish boy (he always referred to himself as “white-ish” because he looks Caucasian but he’s one quarter Filipino and one sixteenth Native American, among a variety of others)

This is pretty typical of the area where I grew up, and I remember not realizing until much later – until I started auditioning for graduate schools across the country – that this kind of diversity was uncommon in other parts of the United States.  To me, it was status quo.  I never felt “different.”  I never felt “other.”  And I never felt “less than.”

Sadly, that’s not everyone’s experience.  Not everyone who is in the minority due to their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or even economic status feels included, and I try to be incredibly mindful of that in my writing.  I want to show a world that reflects my reality, and I can’t imagine writing a novel that didn’t reflect the diversity not only of my childhood, but of my daily existence as an adult.

In POSSESS I wrote a half-Chinese, half-Irish main character with a Hispanic gay best friend.  In TEN I wrote a multi-racial cast and an African American love interest.  Again in 3:59 I wrote a multi-racial cast.  And now in GET EVEN, I’ve written four main characters: two white girls, one Chinese girl, and one Hispanic girl.

Is it important to the plot that these characters are POC?  No.  My characters just are who they are.  Kitty Wei and Margot Mejia in GET EVEN aren’t characters of color for a reason.  They just are.  Because where I grew up, I didn’t see my friends in the same way I itemized it above.  They weren’t my Asian friend, or my half-Mexican friend.  They were just my friends. 

Someday I hope that’s how we all see each other – where you notice the person before you notice the color of their skin.  We’re getting there in publishing, slowly, but it’s a long road to hoe.   

Author of YA horror novels POSSESS, TEN, and 3:59, as well as the new mystery/suspense series Don’t Get Mad, beginning in 2014 with GET EVEN and continuing in 2015 with GET DIRTY, all with Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins. Gretchen also contributed an essay to the Dear Teen Me anthology from Zest Books.

Gretchen is a former coloratura soprano, the voice of Mary on G4’s Code Monkeys and she sings with the LA-based circus troupe Cirque Berzerk. Gretchen blogs with The Enchanted Inkpot and was a founding member of the vlog group the YARebels. She is repped by Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

We should see color. We should see religion. We should see homosexuality. We should see gender identity. We should see all the things that make people and the world different and not pretend that we are colorblind or that one story is enough to represent a whole group of people.

But we should also remember that most people have the same kinds of feelings and wants. Everyone wants to be the hero sometimes.
“For some time now, I’ve been waiting for Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices. Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Leatherdale, it was getting buzz in Native networks on social media. …
“The publisher, Annick Press, tags it as being for young adults. Dreaming in Indian has a vibrancy I’ve not seen in anything else. A vibrancy that, perhaps, is characteristic of a generation at ease with technology and its tools… Native writers, that is at ease with technology and its use.”
— Debbie Reese reviews Dreaming in Indian (American Indians in Children’s Literature)

For some time now, I’ve been waiting for Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices. Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Leatherdale, it was getting buzz in Native networks on social media. …

The publisher, Annick Press, tags it as being for young adults. Dreaming in Indian has a vibrancy I’ve not seen in anything else. A vibrancy that, perhaps, is characteristic of a generation at ease with technology and its tools… Native writers, that is at ease with technology and its use.”

Debbie Reese reviews Dreaming in Indian (American Indians in Children’s Literature)

Forgive Me My Bluntness: I’m a Writer of Color and I'm Right Here In Front of You: I’m the One Sitting Alone at the Table →

Creation and Recreation

In Australian YA author Jack Heath’s latest thriller, lesbian teen Chloe wakes up to discover that she’s not human — she’s a replica.

By Jack Heath

I am someone who learns by replication.

At about age 14, I taught myself to play the piano by listening to Charlie No. 3 by The Whitlams on a loop. Once I knew exactly how it was supposed to sound, I started prodding the keys one by one until I heard the note which matched the noise in my head. (If this sounds dull, note that Facebook didn’t exist at the time.) When I found it, I started looking for the rest of the chord. After that, I could move on to the next bar.

Once I had a few tunes down pat, I knew how they worked. I was able to mix and match — this melody with that chord, this chord with that bass line. Pretty soon I was composing songs of my own, but I should confess that they were not good. One particularly sanctimonious number rhymed Buy and sell the latest drug with Let her have the grave she’s dug.

I learned to write fiction in the same way. My first few stories were duplications of Escape From Jupiter episodes. Later I started borrowing characters and settings and plots from various sources to create something more original. Or perhaps “original” is the wrong word; my first published book was little more than the protagonist from Final Fantasy VIII dropped into the world of Alien and forced to follow the plot of Metal Gear Solid. Yet at the time it was often described as just a rip-off of Maximum Ride.

Perhaps this is how everyone learns. Tara Moss’ childhood writings were mostly Stephen King rip-offs. A great number of popular novels — The Dark Griffin, 50 Shades Of Grey — started out as fan fiction. I assume this is not unique to writers. If one attends a sculpture class, the first assignment is probably to duplicate the Venus de Milo. (Or perhaps a shoebox, or a beach ball. Either way, the students would be copying something.)

Nor does it apply only to artistic endeavors. My brother-in-law is seeking to better understand robots by building one. The Raspberry Pi foundation provides low-cost processors so children can assemble their own computers and grow up with an appreciation of how they work. And when my wife and I were deciding whether or not to have a child, I had the selfish thought that perhaps the best way to understand human beings would be to create one.

If replication brings understanding, many human endeavors could be interpreted as attempts to understand ourselves. Computer scientists are obsessed with the race to write a program which can be mistaken for human in conversation, and as such pass what’s called the Turing test. As soon as Dolly the sheep was born, human cloning was all anyone wanted to discuss.

In my new book, Replica, a teenager builds a mechanical duplicate of herself out of parts ordered over the internet. When she is murdered, the duplicate is forced to assume her identity in order to avoid ending up in a police evidence locker.

The hard part, I thought, would be to convince the reader that someone would actually go down to the basement and try to make a copy of themselves. But I was wrong. The more I wrote, the more plausible it seemed. The drive to recreate oneself — not so much for immortality, but for understanding — is almost universal.

And this helped me realise why I fell in love with writing in the first place. With every character I create, I learn something about myself — both from the similarities and the differences.

It may seem absurdly meta that I replicated Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by writing a novel called Replica in which a girl replicates herself, and that writing it taught me that writing was a process of self-replication. But it was much more fun than poking a piano key, listening, dismissing, and poking again.

* * *

Jack Heath started writing his first novel in high school. It was published when he was 19. Since then, he has written several award-nominated books for teenagers, which are published all over the world. Jack is a regular guest on various Australian television programmes and his YouTube channel has had more than 30,000 views. He lives in Canberra with his wife.

Emma Crees, Courtney Gilfillian, and s.e. smith review SAY WHAT YOU WILL | Disability in Kidlit →

disabilityinkidlit:

Today, Disability in Kidlit is hosting a discussion of Say What You Will by Cammie McGoverntitled Amy and Matthew in the UK–which is a contemporary YA novel released this summer by HarperTeen.

Our participants are Emma Crees, Courtney Gilfillian, and s.e. smith, who discussed the portrayal of both main characters’ disabilities–cerebral palsy and obsessive-compulsive disorder–as well as several other disability-related issues that came up in the book …

[read the discussion!]

Breaking Stereotypes About Young Hispanic Women

Susan Bradley’s YA mystery series is about Autumn Covarrubias, a green-eyed Nancy Drew who also happens to be Mexican.

By Susan Bradley

I sat across from the interviewer and stared at her in disbelief. She repeated her question, “Do you really consider yourself Hispanic?”

I was still very young and didn’t have the filters I have today. My reply was, “Um, both my parents were born in Mexico, 95% of my extended family lives in Mexico, I spoke Spanish before I spoke English, and I spent summers in Mexico with my grandparents. So hell yes, I consider myself Mexican.” I could tell she didn’t believe me.

So why I am telling this story? Sometimes people, like the interviewer above, have these preconceived ideas about what a Latina should look like. Beauties like Penelope Cruz, Selena Gomez, and Selma Hayek come to mind.

I don’t look like that. I do have the dark hair, but I have green eyes (a dominant gene in my Hispanic family) and fair skin. Not to mention, that my last name is Bradley — the surname of my Irish grandfather. He was my only grandparent who was not born in Mexico. He was a New Yorker that came to teach in Mexico and fell in love.

Europeans settled in Mexico just as they did in America. Those are some of my ancestors. In my young adult mysteries series, I purposely gave my main character, Autumn Covarrubias, green eyes. She is smart, feisty, and fiercely loyal to her family. It was paramount that I try to show different facets of the Hispanic community. She intends on putting her education and career first. Romance is second.

I didn’t purposely set out to write about a diverse character. I wanted to write about my experiences and show my community in a different light. There was not a Hispanic Nancy Drew-like character I could relate to, so I set out to write about a Mexican female sleuth — someone who would resonate with Latinas who love to read mysteries, like me. They deserve to see themselves on the page and know what is possible. Autumn is a gifted student and intends to be the first person in her family to go to college. Her parents support this dream 100% because they want what is best for their daughter and didn’t think that dream was possible for them.

In Unraveled, she solves her sister’s murder. In Uncovered, she helps the local police investigate a series of kidnappings that are part of an online survivor game. My goal in continuing to write about Autumn is to break some of the stereotypes surrounding young Hispanic women. I want to give them a heroine they can be proud to claim as their own.

* * *

Susan Bradley grew up in South Texas, about ten miles from the U.S.-Mexican border. Her first young adult mystery, Unraveled, was published by Evernight Teen in 2013 and the sequel, Uncovered, is on sale now. Susan loves spending time with her daughter, estates sales, traveling, and discovering new books. She holds a MFA from Seton Hill University.

Who Should Decide What High School Kids Are Allowed to Read? →

This week’s diverse new releases are:

No One Needs to Know by Amanda Grace (Flux)

“A surprisingly sweet take on two girls falling in love and struggling with their feelings, their families, and their baggage, but not with any homophobia. … ‘Wholesome’ is a strange word to describe a YA book that deals with tricky class issues, sexual orientation, mean-girl bullying, and love triangles, but this story earns that description.” — School Library Journal

Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Book Description: Jazz Dent has been shot and left to die in New York City. His girlfriend Connie is in the clutches of Jazz’s serial killer father, Billy. And his best friend Howie is bleeding to death on the floor of Jazz’s own home in tiny Lobo’s Nod. Somehow, these three must rise above the horrors their lives have become and find a way to come together in pursuit of Billy. But then Jazz crosses a line he’s never crossed before, and soon the entire country is wondering: “Like father, like son?” Who is the true monster?

The chase is on, and beyond Billy there lurks something much, much worse. Prepare to meet…the Crow King.

Hunt for the Bamboo Rat by Graham Salisbury (Wendy Lamb Books)

“Zenji Watanabe is Nisei, an American with Japanese parents, living in Honolulu on the eve of World War II. … This title is a welcome new angle in historical fiction on the Japanese-American experience during the war, and it is based on a true story.” — School Library Journal

Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White (HarperTeen)

“Jessamin Olea earns her way into a boarding school in Albion where she is considered second class by the other students and referred to as ”Island Rat“ because she is from the island of Melie. She spends most of her time studying and alone until she meets Finn, a young lord who belongs to the nobility of Albion. … This well-written historical fantasy has romance, suspense, a fairy-tale feel, and a great ending that will leave readers cheering.” — School Library Journal

thenovl:

ATTENTION PLEASE. We’ve got a book to put on your radar and a sick cover reveal to go along with it.
Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic, kick-butt, Muslim American heroine, ready to take on crime in her hometown of Las Almas. 
When a new case finds the private eye caught up in a centuries-old battle of evil genies and ancient curses, Scarlett discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks—and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father’s murder. Jennifer Latham delivers a compelling story and a character to remember in this one-of-a-kind debut novel.
It’s a voice-driven mystery perfect for fans of Veronica Mars and it’s coming out in May 2015, so mark your calendars. In the meantime, you can check out author Jennifer Latham’s website and chat with her on Twitter. 

thenovl:

ATTENTION PLEASE. We’ve got a book to put on your radar and a sick cover reveal to go along with it.

Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic, kick-butt, Muslim American heroine, ready to take on crime in her hometown of Las Almas. 

When a new case finds the private eye caught up in a centuries-old battle of evil genies and ancient curses, Scarlett discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinksand that cracking the case could lead to solving her father’s murder. Jennifer Latham delivers a compelling story and a character to remember in this one-of-a-kind debut novel.

It’s a voice-driven mystery perfect for fans of Veronica Mars and it’s coming out in May 2015, so mark your calendars. In the meantime, you can check out author Jennifer Latham’s website and chat with her on Twitter.