Daily Archives: September 6, 2011

News from Diversity in YA

It’s September already, can you believe it? We can’t either. But we’ve got some great news to tell you about:

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Diversify Your Reading Challenge deadline extended to Oct. 1

We have received some wonderful entries from book bloggers, readers, and librarians to our Diversify Your Reading Challenge. Thank you so much for entering!

The original deadline for the challenge was September 1, 2011, but we’ve decided to extend the deadline until October 1, 2011, which will enable school librarians to participate as well. So if you meant to enter the challenge but missed the deadline, you’re in luck! You now have an extra month to tell us how you have diversified your reading.

For more information, check out the Diversify Your Reading Challenge page (where you can find the entry forms), or read the FAQ on this blog post.

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Diversity in YA is coming to San Diego!

We’ve secured the location for our San Diego Diversity in YA event, and we’re very pleased to announce that we’ve added authors Cinda Williams Chima (The Gray Wolf Throne), Karen Healey (The Shattering) and Greg van Eekhout (The Boy at the End of the World) to our event! Here is the final event and lineup information:

Thursday, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m.
Diversity in YA: Highlighting fantasy and science fiction with authors Holly Black, Cinda Williams Chima, Karen Healey, Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon, and Greg van Eekhout
San Diego County Library Poway Branch
13137 Poway Rd.
Poway, CA 92064

Books will be available for sale from Yellow Book Road.

Karen Sandler on Tankborn

I’d like to say I grew up in an environment full of diversity, that people of all ethnicities came and went in my house, that all races attended my school. But that would be a lie. I grew up in an all-white neighborhood in Southern California and attended (nearly) all-white schools. Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians weren’t unwelcome in my grandmother’s house (she raised me from age 6 through 12), but we just didn’t know any.

So what did that mean in terms of my exposure to diversity as a child? I grew up hearing my grandmother, who most people would say was a pretty nice person (although she had a hell of a temper on her), frequently make racially insensitive jokes. My dad, who is of the Greatest Generation and the kindest, gentlest soul I know, would fret over the idea of me marrying a black man (because of the children, he said). I hated my grandmother’s jokes, I objected loudly to what my dad said. But that upbringing left its mark. Embarrassing, shameful thoughts sometimes stray into my mind that I just want to burn out of my brain cells.

Did I therefore include diverse characters in Tankborn out of some bizarre liberal guilt? Oh, God no. I wrote it that way because that was the way it had to be written. The story demanded it. In the first place, I’m writing science fiction for heaven’s sake, a story that takes place hundreds of years in the future. We may not all be holding hands and singing “It’s a Small World” centuries from now, but I think it’s safe to extrapolate any eventuality with regards to race. Including a scenario in which, although skin color is still a significant stratifier of society, it isn’t white/light skin that puts someone at the top of the heap anymore.

Do I sometimes worry if I, as a white woman, have the right to write main characters who are people of color? Absolutely I do. Often. Really, who do I think I am? I’ve lived my life in a white skin, haven’t walked in those shoes, etc., etc. But what if I wanna, wanna, wanna write this story? What if these are the characters talking to me, these are the characters barging into my book? Who am I to tell them no?

So I risk being flamed by those who might see me as co-opting their story or culture. I’ve also already opened myself up to some pretty disgusting reflections from the other side, i.e., those who don’t see any place for people of color in literature at all, let alone SF.

So I wrote Tankborn because I simply had to. I’m thrilled to see it in print, so glad that young readers will see a non-white face on its cover and read about a diverse cast of characters. And if anyone wants to flame me for it, so be it. I have my big-girl, flame-proof panties on. Have at it.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.diversityinya.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/090611karensandler.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Karen Sandler is the author of seventeen novels for adults, as well as several short stories and screenplays. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked as a software engineer, including work on the Space Shuttle program and communications satellites. This is her first novel for young adults. She lives in Northern California with her husband, Gary, and three cats, pleasingly plump Tenka, formerly feral Zak, and cranky diabetic Casper. She can often be found riding her Andalusian/Morgan mare, Belle. For more about Karen, visit www.karensandler.net.[/author_info] [/author]