Tag Archives: Swati Avasthi

10 Asian Pacific American YA Authors to Know

Swati Avasthi

Melissa de la Cruz

Andrew Fukuda

Jenny Han

Malinda Lo

  • Author of Adaptation and Inheritance, William C. Morris Award finalist for Ash, and co-founder of Diversity in YA
  • malindalo.com | @malindalo | Tumblr

Ellen Oh

Cindy Pon

  • Author of Silver Phoenix, Fury of the Phoenix, the forthcoming Serpentine (Month9Books, 2015), and co-founder of Diversity in YA
  • cindypon.com | @cindypon | Tumblr

Padma Venkatraman

  • Author of the critically acclaimed and award-winning novels A Time to Dance, Climbing the Stairs, and Island’s End
  • padmasbooks.com

Gene Luen Yang

  • Author of the National Book Award finalist and LA Times Book Prize winner Boxers and Saints, the Printz Award-winning and National Book Award finalist American Born Chinese, and co-author of Dark Horse Comics’ Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • geneyang.com | @geneluenyang

Laurence Yep

  • Author of dozens of books for children and young adults including the Gold Mountain Chronicles, winner of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, and two-time Newbery Honor winner
  • Wikipedia page

New Releases – September 2013

Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi, illustrated by Craig Phillips (Knopf)

“Avasthi (Split) delivers a superb novel about grief, friendship, and mental illness, mixing in graphic-novel elements and themes from Hindu mythology.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

Rumor Central: You Don’t Know Me Like That #2 by ReShonda Tate Billingsley (KTeen Dafina)

Book Description: Gossip show “Rumor Central” has gone beyond Miami to national syndication. So now’s the time for Maya Morgan to really make her brand blow up. But her brand starts to blow up in her face when a super-fan takes over her online life, trashing her reputation, and putting her gossip future at risk. Now Maya will need every down-and-dirty move–and a little help from her frenemies–to manage this disaster and save everything she’s dished so hard to get…

Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac (Tu Books)

“This near-future dystopia starring an Apache female superhero has the soul of a graphic novel, if not the art. … A good bet for fans of superhero fiction and graphic novels and readers in search of superpowered female warriors.” — Kirkus

Romeo and Juliet adapted and illustrated by Gareth Hinds, based on the play by William Shakespeare (Candlewick)

Book Description: “Gareth Hinds’s stylish graphic adaptation of the Bard’s romantic tragedy offers modern touches — including a diverse cast that underscores the story’s universality.”

The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer (Atheneum)

“This highly anticipated sequel to Farmer’s National Book Award–winning The House of the Scorpion (2002) begins soon after the funeral of the drug lord El Patrón and the murder of nearly everyone who attended the event. Fourteen-year-old Matt, the dead drug lord’s clone, was originally created to provide spare parts for El Patrón, but is now the Lord of Opium…. Once again, Farmer’s near-future world offers an electric blend of horrors and beauty. Lyrically written and filled with well-rounded, sometimes thorny characters, this superb novel is well worth the wait.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

Dead Ends by Erin Jade Lange (Bloomsbury)

“Lange (Butter) explores the friendship that forms between a rage-filled 16-year-old named Dane and his new neighbor, Billy D., who has Down syndrome. Although Dane is a bully, he draws the line at picking on the disabled (“Standards, y’know?”), and when he’s offered a chance to avoid suspension by helping Billy out, he accepts it reluctantly.” — Publishers Weekly

Inheritance by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown)

“As in the first book, dialogue rings true, and the characters are appealing. … The alien and political machinations provide menace, a brisk page-turning plot and lots of fun.” — Kirkus

Invasion by Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic)

“D-Day, June 6, 1944, is the setting for Myers’ powerful prequel to Fallen Angels (1988) and Sunrise over Fallujah (2008). … An action-packed novel that will help young readers understand the brutality of war.” — Kirkus

More Than This by Patrick Ness (Candlewick)

“This haunting and consistently surprising novel raises deep questions about what it means to be alive, but it doesn’t try to console readers with easy or pat answers. As the story opens, teenage Seth is experiencing his own death in painful detail. … As he tries to survive in and make sense of his strange yet familiar surroundings, he is plagued by intense flashbacks of his life before he died: his guilt over the tragedy that befell his little brother, his burgeoning romance with another boy in his small town, and the events that led to his (dubious) death.” — School Library Journal

Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices edited by Mitali Perkins(Candlewick)

“Ten writers and artists, including Varian Johnson, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Francisco X. Stork, offer brief works of fiction and nonfiction “about the between-cultures life.” As Perkins notes, “Humor has the power to break down barriers and draw us together across borders,” and the stories within bear that out, though few qualify as laugh-out-loud funny. Most offer a subtler, uncomfortable brand of situational humor.” — Publishers Weekly

Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan (Random House)

Book Description: In this second book in the Lynburn Legacy, the sorcerous roots of Sorry-in-the-Vale have been exposed. No one in the town is safe, and a decision must be made: pay the sorcerers’ blood sacrifice, or fight. Will the townspeople (magical and not) become “owned” by the sorcerers who believe it is their right to rule? If Kami Glass has anything to say about it, evil will not win.

Takedown by Allison van Diepen (Simon Pulse)

“Multidimensional characters convincingly play on the sympathies of readers in this realistic and suspenseful urban drama. … A smart and believably gritty tale of the streets with genuine heart.” — Kirkus

Asher’s Fault by Elizabeth Wheeler (Bold Strokes Books):

“A study of how sad and treacherous it can be for an LGBTQ teen—or any teen—to achieve self-acceptance. The rhythm of the text often falls into short phrasing, making it read the way photographers might digest their surroundings: in rapid-fire observations of the tiniest details. A book of subtlety that … could make a world of difference to LGBTQ teens grappling with identity.” — Kirkus

The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White (HarperTeen)

“Sixteen-year-old Isadora talks a bit like a spoiled California teen, but she doesn’t actually become one until her mother sends her to San Diego to keep her safe. Until that point, Isadora lives in an ancient temple complex in the Egyptian desert—this is because her mother is the goddess Isis, and her father is Osiris. … White (Mind Games) uses her technical prowess with narrative forms to break up the story, and she brings an irreverent sense of humor to Egyptian myth.” — Publishers Weekly

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang (First Second)

“With a superbly executed “diptych” of graphic novels, Yang (American Born Chinese) employs parallel storylines to represent two opposing Chinese experiences during the Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the 20th century. … Yang’s artwork and storytelling are sober and accessible, and his character-driven approach brings compassion to a complex historical clash.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

Tapping Into My “Ethnic” Voice

By Swati Avasthi

0924-avasthi-chasingI wrote my second novel, CHASING SHADOWS, in two points of view – one from an 18-year-old Indian girl, Savitri and one from an 18 year-old white girl, Holly. At its heart, the novel is about their friendship and how that gets tested in the face of over-whelming, reality-shattering grief when Holly’s brother, who is also Savitri’s boyfriend, is shot and killed.

Given that I’ve been an 18-year-old Indian girl, you’d think that writing Savitri’s point of view would have been easier.  But I struggled with it, whereas writing from Holly’s point of view was a breeze. Her voice felt immediately authentic.  Savitri’s felt tentative and fearful, (which as a freerunner, she certainly wasn’t).

Who was fearful?  Me.  And I was interfering with the clarity of her voice as my apprehension slipped in.

Harold Bloom wrote about “the anxiety of influence” – how authors become nervous given all the greats that have come before them.  But perhaps equally concerning is the anxiety of the unknown:  that insecurity involved in broaching a topic that was unexplored – interracial friendships.  Was this experience was universal enough, I wondered, for anyone to relate to?  Would it have cultural resonance to first generation kids?  Would others “get” that interracial friendships can be, by their very nature, uneven?

I grew up with two other Indian families who were close to mine – so close that we just call each other cousins to try to explain the intimacy. But the nomenclature was about more than inter-ethnic intimacy; it was also to claim a piece of the relationships and communities our parents talked about.  In India, family is everything; community is vitally important. Like my parents, we assumed we’d find connections like that in the US; it was so natural, so expected.  But, as we each discovered when we were in high school, the relationships we had with our white friends were uneven.  While our friends would fade and return, we wanted a constancy that we could never find – except in each other. It made our friendship more valuable, but also taught us that that kind of loyalty wasn’t to be expected, that what was natural there is overreaching here.

What we couldn’t articulate at the time was that unevenness in friendships could manifest in lots of different ways:

1) Knowledge.  The person of the mainstream culture (in this case, white) does not have a “need to know” the minority culture but the person of the minority culture must know the mainstream culture in order to get by.  So, for instance, I can quote from the Bible, without having to explain what the Bible is, but few know what the Ramayana is or that that calling its stories “mythology” is as inappropriate as calling Biblical stories “mythology”.

2) Misappropriation.  In CHASING SHADOWS, Holly elects to know Savitri’s culture, but then, misappropriates one of these stories.  Because the unevenness can present itself in another way:  a passing interest in a culture in an effort to adopt it, change it, own it, and sometimes profit from it without much regard to the original. We’ve seen enough of this to recognize it easily (Miley Cyrus, Selina Gomez).

Or 3) Exoticizing. I am the only PoC in my neighborhood and when I moved in, one man immediately started asking me questions about my heritage. Oh, he loved India; he’d studied India; he’d even been there.  He could get his “India fix” just down the block after he’d finished his morning of mispronouncing namaste while doing yoga. Grabbyiness does not equal good friends.

When I discovered that this element of uneven friendships was a huge part of the novel, that Holly’s loyalty does not match Savitri’s, I called my cousins.  Did they remember this? Did they still experience it? Sure, but that was only two people.  Universal enough? I contacted PoCs I knew via facebook, via twitter.  Did they share these experiences? “Well, not exactly.”  “Um, no.”

Turns out those replies that gave me the understanding I needed to write from within my own race: it wasn’t my responsibility “to get it right” because who’s to judge when it’s “right?”

Maybe I just need to tell my truth about race through the novel, that power can be uneven, that friendships can fracture because of it, and that some friends – those who are comfortable enough to even out the ground– are the ones that last.  No matter what their race.

Maybe not every first gen’s experienced uneven interracial friendships, but it was mine. And, as it turns out, maybe that’s enough.

* * *

Swati Avasthi is the author of two YA novels: CHASING SHADOWS (releasing tomorrow!) which is a Junior library guild selection, and received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus, and SPLIT which received the International Reading Association Award, Cybils Award, a silver Paren’ts Choice award and made numerous “best of lists” including YALSA, CCBC and Bank Street.  Swati teaches at Hamline University and lives in Minneapolis with her two dogs, two kids and one husband, though he is worth two.

Chasing Shadows on Indiebound.