Saturday, April 12, 2014

We Are Still Not Doing Enough for Diversity in Kid lit

I’ve written about Why Being a POC Author Sucks Sometimes. I’ve written about the importance of Diversity and Diverse Reading Lists. And I’ve even written about Diversity in Writing. The discussion about why diversity in children’s literature is continuing because POC are still greatly underrepresented at less than 10%. (see this fantastic post by Malinda Lo at Diversity in YA.) There’s even an article in CNN about “Where’s the African-American Harry Potter or the Mexican Katniss?" There’s a lot of good talk but there’s still no action. And furthermore, there’s a lot of lashing out that somehow when we ask for diversity, we are somehow anti-white. If we talk about our need for representation, our articles are just "race-baiting" and discriminatory toward whites. How can asking for more authors of color and characters of color in children’s literature mean we are anti-white? I will never understand this thinking and I have no use for it. Kelly Jensen, a librarian and true supporter of diversity, said in her excellent post “When you support one group of people, it is in not denigrating another group of people. Instead, it’s doing your part to raise everyone up.” And this is what we are fighting for. Raising us all up because diversity is good for everyone.

How bad is the problem?

Of the 3,600 books the Cooperative Children’s Book Center reviewed in 2012:
  • 3% were about Africans/African Americans; 1.8% were written by Africans/African Americans
  • 1.5% were about Latinos; 1.6% were written by Latinos
  • Less than 1% were about American Indians; less than 1% were written by American Indians
  • 2% were about Asian Pacifics/Asian Pacific Americans; 2.3% were written by Asian Pacifics/Asian Pacific Americans
Click here for a fantastic illustration by Tina Kugler that really highlights the problem based on statistics released by the CCBC.

There are a lot of good people out there fighting for more diversity in publishing. But it’s not enough. There’s even more people who nod their head and agree whole-heartedly that we need more representation. But it’s definitely not enough.

Today I’m pointing fingers. At publishers, librarians, teachers, booksellers, publicists, conference and festival organizers, reviewers, journalists, in fact our entire media. You are all not doing enough. There are some wonderful children’s books authors of colors out there publishing amazing books that are just not getting the attention they deserve. They are ignored. Where is their media coverage? Where are their book tours? Why isn’t their more diversity at book festivals and conferences? Why is it that any promotional materials talking about ALA award winning books don’t also highlight the Coretta Scott King or the Pura Belpré, etc? (See Meg Medina’s post on this.)

Publishing and promoting books that include diversity by white authors is a good start for diversity. But that is not enough. Publishing and promoting authors of color so that we break the arbitrary 10% cap is what is really needed. We need more published authors of color. But if current authors of color are not promoted, then it hurts the chances for all other potential POC writers. It becomes a vicious circle. A self-fulfilling prophecy that continues the belief that books by and about POC don’t sell. We are not doing enough to break this prophecy.

Recently there was a big controversy over the fact that BookCon was featuring an all white male power panel at BEA. Lerner Publishing Group editorial director Andrew Karre said in the PW article, “If they really want to put their money where their mouth is, they should have a panel on this topic, the issue of diversity in children’s books.” I want to put a rallying call out for this to happen. Meg Medina, the fabulous author of the award winning Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, and I were recently talking about how we wanted every conference and every festival in the country to have a diversity panel until the day comes when we don’t need to do it anymore. So yes, ReedPOP, please include a diversity panel to make up for your world class blunder. And please don’t fill it up with white people. We authors of color are here yelling into the crowd. We are writing our books and fighting to promote them in an ocean filled with white capped waves that wash over us. But we are here because there is a need for us. And we won’t stop fighting or raising our voices.

Several months ago, I was at a school event where a very young black girl was standing shyly off to the side as I was chatting with some 6th grade students after my presentation. She gave me her notebook and asked me to sign it, which I was glad to do. It was a book of her own poetry and short stories. I smiled and said “I’m so glad to meet a young writer!” She beamed at me and said “I love writing and I want to be a writer but I didn’t think I could because I’m not white.” I was surprised and asked her if she’d read any books by Walter Dean Myers, Angela Johnson, or Linda Sue Park. She nodded and shrugged her shoulder and said, “But I’ve never seen them in person.” To this young teen, an author of color was a mythical creature, not to be believed, until she’d seen one in person. She couldn’t believe in her dream to become a writer until she saw for herself that a real life POC had done it. This is why we must continue to fight for diversity in children’s literature. For all of our children, so that they can see that we exist and that they can believe that their dreams of becoming whatever they want, can come true.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Teen Librarian's Book Battle!

So I just found out that PROPHECY won a book battle over at the Teen Librarian's first ever book battle in her library and I couldn't be happier!!

Here's the link to go read all about it!! Thanks so much Teen Librarian!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

NoVa Teen festival, Gilded Winner and other news...

Hi everyone! Sorry for being out of the loop for awhile. I caught a terrible cold that apparently didn't want to leave me. Ever cough so bad you bruise your ribs? Yeah, this is not fun. It hurt so much that it even hurt to eat! I find that unforgivable! But in any case, I'm on the mend and can actually focus on things like writing a blog post - which takes more brain power than I have had these days!

All right, first things first! The winner of my Gilded contest is Patrice Caldwell! Congrats Patrice!

Secondly, wanted to post up some pics of my fabulous time at NoVa Teen Festival.
The day before the festival, Jessica Spotswood, Lamar Giles and I had an event at a local high school. It was a lot of fun, plus I got to hang out with Jess (who is always wonderful to be with) and meet Lamar in person for the first time! Lamar and I have the same brilliant editor, Phoebe Yeh, for our first books, and we've been talking online for years now! Lamar is just as great in person as he is online! Plus, don't miss his new fantastic book Fake ID!!

Lamar and I got to be on the first panel of the festival (about Identity) with Sarah Guillory, Diana Peterfruend and Meg Medina. This was a fantastic panel and we had a great discussion and I would love to do this again real soon!

I have to take a moment to say that meeting Meg Medina was like meeting a long lost friend! Meg is the winner of the 2014 Pura Belpré Award for her excellent book Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass! I have wanted to read this book for a long time and I now have a signed copy to cherish for myself! Meg is also a huge supporter of diversity and so like minds started rocketing through all the things we should, could, and would do to keep diversity on everybody's minds.

 Next up was my Breakout Panel with my dear friend Marie Lu, who I adore and who you all know I'm a big big fan of! There's something very comforting about having a discussion with someone you really love and admire a lot. It makes for a great and stimulating discussion. Plus, it helps when you have a huge crowd of eager fans (mostly Marie's) with lots of smart questions.

And then it was time for the signing!
Here I am with Lamar, Sarah and Meg at the signing part of the day! I was grateful and so appreciative of everyone who came and bought Prophecy and/or Warrior! It was exciting to have such a great turnout! In fact, I underestimated and didn't bring enough SWAG, which I was sorry about, but what a great problem to have!

 I met some really lovely teen readers who were super sweet and smart and I just wanted to hug them all!

I got to see another teen reader who, btw, is going to be a big author one day in the near future! She's got the drive, the determination and some amazing story ideas! I got a good feeling about her.

Ok, last picture and an important one! Because this is with Danielle Ellison who is not only an author and an editor (for Spencer Hill Press) and a bookseller and YA event coordinator, wow, right?, but she came up with the whole NoVa Teen festival idea! Along with Nico Piro, Arlington YA librarian extraordinare, and Lelia Nebeker, YA book buyer at One More Page, these 3 amazing women put together one of the best events I've ever attended. I have so much respect for them. Even Marie Lu, who has been too many many events, couldn't get over how great the festival was for a first time event! There were tons of teens and authors and volunteers and books!! So to Danielle, Nico and Lelia, and all the wonderful volunteers that helped make Nova Teen festival happen, thank you very much. It was truly a splendid event.

I think there was one more thing I was supposed to blog about but my cold medicine has worn off and my brain has turned to goo. So here's me signing out for now!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

GILDED By Christina Farley

So my very dear friend, Christy Farley, has just released her debut book GILDED and I seriously couldn't be more excited!!! I love love love this book! Because it is set in Korea and has a Korean MC!!! Here's the summary:

When sixteen-year old, Jae Hwa, is uprooted from her home in L.A. to Korea, she thought her biggest problem would be fitting in with her classmates and dealing with her dismissive grandfather. But she was wrong. A Korean demi-god, Haemosu, has been stealing the soul of the oldest daughter of each generation in her family for centuries. And she’s next.
Jae trains with a Korean master, confident her taekwondo will be enough to fight Haemosu. But she’s wrong again. Desperate, Jae delves into the ancient arts of metamorphism and uses her growing power in the Spirit World.
And then there’s Marc. Irresistible, charming, and mysterious, Marc threatens to break the barriers around Jae’s heart. But Marc has a secret of his own. One that could help destroy Haemosu. As Jae grows closer to him, she must decide if she can trust him and whether putting his life in jeopardy is worth the risk.
Jae thought she knew all the answers. It turns out that she’s been wrong about a lot of things: her grandfather is her greatest ally, even the tough girl can fall in love, and Korea might just be the home she’s always been looking for.
I've been  so happy and excited about Gilded and now that it is out, I want everyone to go read it. So I'm doing a giveaway for a copy of Gilded!!! All you have to do is tweet or tumble back to me or leave a comment on the blog! The giveaway will be open for one week!!!

Monday, February 24, 2014

NOVA Teen Book festival

I'll be at the NOVA Teen book festival on March 8th, 2014. Just take a look at all the amazing authors who are going to be there!! If you are in the area, please come by! It's going to be awesome!!

Friday, January 31, 2014


Hey guys!

Tonight at 7PM, I am part of a panel with some fabulous authors at HOORAY FOR BOOKS in Alexandria!

Megan Shepherd - The Madman's Daughter
Victoria Schwab - The Archived
Stephanie Perkins - Anna and the French Kiss

Tomorrow, this same group of ladies, plus Jessica Spotswood (Born Wicked), will be at the Bethesda Library at 2PM.

If you come, you will get to hear an old ancestor story that I've been holding on to for quite a while. it will be worth the commute!!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Heading to ALA Midwinter!

I've been invited to be part of the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association's annual author talk dinner this Saturday in Philadelphia. I'll be attending with the fabulous Soman Chainani who wrote one of my favorite fantasy books School For Good and Evil, as well as my wonderful former editor Phoebe Yeh, VP and Publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers, Random House. What's particularly exciting about this, besides being able to hang out with 2 of my favorite people in the world, is that I also get to see a whole lot of librarians.

I adore librarians! They made my life better.  I'm not kidding. Growing up, I spent most of my time in a library. And I always got wonderful help and support from public librarians who showed me the way to world after world of wonderful and magical stories. When you are poor, the library is a haven, a safe place to go and lose yourself. Or find yourself. I owe a lot to librarians and the public library and I'm pretty excited to be going to ALA and meeting not only APALA members, but librarians from all over the country.

So I'll be walking the floor of the convention on Sunday morning. If any librarians out there see me, please don't hesitate to say hi! I'd love to meet you!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Today is the release day for WARRIOR, the second book in the Prophecy Series. It's been an amazing year seeing Prophecy published and now Warrior. These books are labors of love and I am so grateful to have a fabulous publishing house, HarperTeen, to send my books out into the world. I have also been blessed with hearing from so many wonderful readers that have touched my heart. Thank you to all of you! I am so glad to be able to share Kira's journey with my fabulous readers!

So today, for WARRIOR's release, I get to share with you my oldest daughter, Summer's portrait of Nara, the kumiho, a nine tailed fox demon. Given Nara's importance in WARRIOR, I think it is only fitting to have another picture of her to commemorate the release date!

I can't wait to hear back from all of you and see just how you feel about Nara and Gom, the new Warrior characters. I hope you get to love them as much as I do!!

Monday, December 30, 2013

More Warrior Fanart!!

Today I get to share with you the cutest little goblin drawing I've ever seen! This is 14 year old Sharon's illustration of Gom from WARRIOR! Gom is a dokkaebi, goblin like creatures that always carry magic cudgels. I am dying from the cute!!

Gom is another new character in WARRIOR that I love. I can't wait for all of you to meet him and tell me what you think. Thank you Sharon for this amazing artwork!!! If I could make a plush from this picture, I would, I love it so much!!

WARRIOR releases tomorrow!!! YAY!!!!

Friday, December 27, 2013

WARRIOR Fanart!!!!!

I've said it before and I'll say it forever, the best part of being an author is FANART!!!

This beautiful rendition of Nara, my kumiho (nine tailed fox demon) character from WARRIOR is by the incredibly talented 13 year old Erica. She sent me Nara and my heart just melted. WARRIOR comes out on New Year's Eve, only a few days away! And Nara is one of my favorite new characters in the book. So imagine my joy when I received Erica's artwork! I'm in love!

Thank you Erica! This is truly a beautiful kumiho!!!

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