#WeNeedDIverseBooks, Books, Diversity, Latina writer, Latino Literature, Self Identity

DiverseLit: 10 New Summer Reads 2014

beach, reading
A Nice Place to Read- flickr.com cc license

Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.–Vera Nazarian

 

The weekend was beautiful, sunny but not too warm, breezy but just enough to cool the face. It’s going to be an awesome summer to go to the beach, backyard, or lay out on the couch and read.

Even if it were dreary and rainy, I’d still read.

I’ve assembled my list of ten books for twelve weeks of summertime reading pleasure. My picks are based on authors whose writing I admire and other picks are based on the story they promise to tell.

These books are my travels, where I can go back in time, or to other cultures, or to hear words in other languages.

The subjects cover relationships, romance, loss, disability, prejudice, courage, and resilience.

Genres include historical fictions, contemporary lit, memoir and Young Adult novels.

China Dolls - Lisa See
China Dolls – Lisa See

1. China Dolls by Lisa See

Three young women from different backgrounds meet in San Francisco in 1938, forming a bond that will test their friendship after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.

2.The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman

Set against the backdrop of 20th century history, a Russian immigrant girl transforms herself into an ice cream mogul — one whose past threatens to trip her up. 

Book of Unknown Americans-C. Henriquez
Book of Unknown Americans-C. Henriquez

3-The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

A budding romance between a Mexican girl and Panamanian boy offers a glimpse of the struggles, fears and misunderstandings of Latin American immigrants. 

4.Take This Man – A Memoir by Brando Skyhorse

Brando Skyhorse was brought up in Echo Park in the 1970s believing he was the son of an incarcerated American Indian activist. This memoir explores his turbulent, five-stepfathered childhood and his discovery, decades later, of his true origins. 

5.Bulletproof Vest: The Ballad of an Outlaw and His Daughter by Maria Venegas

Brought up in the U.S., Maria Venegas had a tumultuous relationship with her gun-toting father back in Mexico. This debut book explores her relationship with this man and his often violent choices. (July 3, 2014)

6. The Amado Women by Désirée Zamorano

Southern California is ground zero for upwardly mobile middle-class Latinas. Matriarchs like Mercy Amado—despite her drunken, philandering (now ex-) husband—could raise three daughters and become a teacher. Now she watches helplessly as her daughters drift apart as adults. The Latino bonds of familia don’t seem to hold in this novel about four women linked by birth, separated by secrets of sex, money and death.

Diverse Lit, YA novel
Like No Other

7. Like No Other by Una LaMarche

Trapped in an elevator during a hurricane in Brooklyn, a Hasidic Jewish girl and a book-smart African American boy make a forbidden love connection that could lead to dire consequences. (July 24, 2014-YA novel).

8. Girl in Reverse by Barbara Stuber

When Lily was three, her mother put her up for adoption, then disappeared without a trace. Or so Lily was told. Lily grew up in her new family and tried to forget her past. But with the Korean War raging and the fear of “Commies” everywhere, Lily’s Asian heritage makes her a target. She is sick of the racism she faces, a fact her adoptive parents won’t take seriously. For Lily, war is everywhere—the dinner table, the halls at school, and especially within her own skin. (YA novel).

9.  A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman

Veda, a classical dance prodigy in India, lives and breathes dance—so when an accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, her dreams are shattered. For a girl who’s grown used to receiving applause for her dance prowess and flexibility, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling. But Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she starts all over again, taking beginner classes with the youngest dancers. (YA novel).

Pig Park -YA fiction
Pig Park -YA fiction

10. Pig Park by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez

Fifteen-year-old Masi Burciaga neighborhood is becoming more of a ghost town each day since the lard company moved away. Even her school closed down. Her family’s bakery and the other surviving businesses may soon follow. As a last resort, the neighborhood grown-ups enlist all the remaining able-bodied boys and girls into a scheme in hopes of luring visitors. Maybe their neighbors will come back too. But something’s not right about the entrepreneur behind it all. (July 1, 2014-YA novel-MOVED to SEPT. 14 pub date).

Ten books in twelve weeks. Now, get thee to the library or your favorite bookseller and start reading.

I think of life as a good book. The further you get into it, the more it begins to make sense-Harold Kushner

 

#WeNeedDIverseBooks, Diversity, Latina writer, Strong Women, Women Prisoners, Writing, Writing Process

Writing Strong Women

 

http://amzn.to/1kDIjNW Graphic by DigitalProduct-Mock book cover
http://amzn.to/1kDIjNW Graphic by DigitalProduct-Mock book cover

Last year, I read “The Sandoval Sisters,” an award winning historical fiction book by Sandra Ramos O’Briant and enjoyed it so much that I began to follow her blog, www.bloodmother.com.  I was pleasantly surprised when she asked me to be part of a blog adventure initiated on Twitter #weneeddiversebooks and #diverselit, in which we answer four questions about our writing life. 

In my third year of college, I took Criminal Justice classes and visited prisons and juvenile halls. I met many people who had backgrounds similar to my own: poverty, single parent homes, and abuse. Some of my friends achieved college degrees and became leaders, while others became gang members or drug addicts. This made me wonder what differentiated non-offenders from criminal offenders. 

After college, I began my 28 year career in the California Youth Authority, now part of the California Department of Corrections, as a Youth Counselor. Later, as a Manager, I wrote gender responsive treatment programs for young women and established an area for them to meet, discuss, and learn about themselves in a supportive environment. Their experiences and my own made their way into my stories. 

1-What are you working on?

My Young Adult novel, Strong Women Grow Here, is a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. After 10,000 entries, Amazon whittled the group to 2,000 entries and then to 500 entries. The next stage, on June 23, 2014,  is the selection of the top five novels in five categories. 

The story is about 17 year old immigrant, Juana Maria Ivanov, who is torn from her baby after she flees from her husband. He was alive when she ran from his beating but when the police arrive, they find him dead and she is sentenced to prison.  When evidence surfaces that her husband died from injuries inconsistent with his fall, her hope helps her navigate not just the unspoken rules of incarceration, but the drugs, violence, racial tensions, and the maze of love triangles where she finds herself entangled.  The answer to who is responsible for her husband’s death may be what frees Juana from prison and reunites her with her daughter. 

To download a free 17 page excerpt click here.

I am searching for an agent to represent a second YA novel, working title “The Ding List,” about 15 year old, Jacqui Browne, whose pending expulsion from St. Bernadette High, for late tuition, will impact her chance at a Stanford scholarship. Her dad is in prison and her mother tries to support five kids. In desperation, Jacqui lies about her age to find a job and is unknowingly manipulated into trafficking drugs. She has to find a way out of this mess without putting her family in danger. 

Currently, I’m revising an Adult Contemporary book, working title “A Winter Without Flowers,” about a woman in mid-life who is arrested for drunk driving. This sets off a series of crises with her kids, her best friend, and her ex-husband who is a police captain.

2-How does your work differ from others in your genre?

The YA novels that I’ve written are realistic, urban, and feature very young women, who are mothers, in prison or involved in drug trafficking. Although my protagonists and most of the secondary characters are from different ethnicities, cultures, and lifestyles, they suffer similar teenage angst, feelings of isolation, and confusion. Themes in these novels are similar to others in the genre. They include coming of age, self-awareness, love, loneliness, hope and friendship. 

3-Why do you write what you do?

I feel compelled to write about young women whose voices aren’t heard, who were abandoned and abused and made wrong decisions. How they pick themselves back up (or grab onto a helping hand) and do better are stories worth telling.  I’ve seen the worst in people and also the best. Some of my writing comes from my own challenges and choices.  

4-How does your writing process work? 

“Pantser,” best describes my writing process. I type by the seat of my pajamas, early in the morning, with plenty of coffee. When I begin a story I don’t know where it’s going. I know the beginning but not the middle or end. I follow the voice of the main character and keep typing until I’m finished with a rough draft. This takes about two months. I write five to six times a week for two to three hours. Reading two to three novels a month also helps my writing process. I’m a late comer to writing and reading poetry, but I’ve found this to be incredibly helpful when writing fiction.

I belong to a fantastic writing group, “WOmen Who Write,” (WoWW) where seven of us critique pages twice a month. I’ve been with them since I began writing in 2008. Working with a supportive group of writers is essential when it comes to meeting deadlines, inspiring creative thinking and for revisions. 

My thanks again, to Sandra Ramos O’Briant, who invited me to participate in this series of posts about diverse literature.

On June 2, 2014, look for posts from Linda Rodriguez, author of the award winning Skeet Bannion police series. You can find her blog here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ALA Awards, Authors, Best Books 2012, BookNook, Books, Coretta Scott King book awards, Diversity, Pura Belpre Awards, Youth Media Awards

American Library Awards 2012

It’s been a long time since my kids were tots or tweens but we still have favorite books like “I’ll Love You Forever,” whose cover captures a little boy playing with the toilet paper. (My sons thought it was about playing with TP so of course they wanted me to buy it). The last page still makes me cry. My boys are now young men but they still remember that book. 

If the Pulitzer Prize is the Oscar of the book world, the American Library Awards for books is up there with the Nickelodeon Awards, sans the green slime. The ALA announced their Youth Media Awards of 2012 on January 25, 2012. These books represent the best of the best. As a parent and ‘nano’ bookstore owner (BookNook) this makes my book choices easier. And I’m all for easier, saving time and money. 

The ALA awards guide parents, educators, librarians and others in selecting the best materials for children and youth. What I like about these awards is their quest for diverse protagonists and characters, settings, and cultures. They also recognize book illustrators. 

One of these books won two awards and is quite different in that it is a novel that reads like poetry-a verse novel.

The Pura Belpré Award presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

Author Book Winner  
“Under the Mesquite,” written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall. This author was also a finalist for the William C. Morris Award for first time author writing for teenagers. The story is about the healing power of words.
Best Illustration award given to “Diego Rivera: His World and Ours,” illustrated and written by Duncan Tonatiuh.

The Association for Library Service for Children awards the Newbery Medal annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.Winner“Dead End in Norvelt,” written by Jack Gantos. Fictionalized biography of history, mystery and humor.

The Caldecott Medal is awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
Winner “A Ball for Daisy,” illustrated and written by Chris Raschka. The joy and sadness of special toys.

Given to African American authors for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions, the Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream. The award is designed to commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.

Author Book Winner Kadir Nelson, author and illustrator of “Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.” This covers the colonial days until the civil rights movement.

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults:“Where Things Come Back,” written by a teacher, John Corey Whaley. It’s a story about brothers, love, loss, and faith.

Another winner was announced today, (not ALA). The Amelia Bloomer Prize for “…recommended feminist literature from birth to age 18..” is Meg Medina‘s “Tia Isa Wants a Car.” 

If your library or school doesn’t carry these books, ask them to do so. Or you can accompany your kids to the library and seek out the books together. If you have any book recommendations, let’s hear them.

For a complete list of ALA awards and winners or to view the Honor Mentions please visithe ALA website. Keep on reading and instilling a love for reading in your children.