Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Quick links

Just a few quick links today. I have a deadline tomorrow and must sleep in between.

Condi Rice has a three-book deal with Crown.

The Dallas Morning News has a story about the integration of the NFL. The reporter mentions a book, Outside the Lines, by Dr. Charles Ross (his name is incorrect in the article), director of African American studies at the University of Mississippi.

Evelyn White, author of Alice Walker: A Life, will speak at the University of Texas at Austin on March 11. She is also going to lead a creative writing workshop. I'd love to be able to hear her. The biography was amazing.

Here's a story about the Coretta Scott King awards for children's literature. It mentions some new middle-grade titles featuring African American or biracial characters.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Resources on kids lit

A couple of years ago, a friend mentioned to me that 80 percent of her son's books featured African American characters. My own children's bookshelves were not nearly that diverse. This gave me pause because I had not done nearly as good a job as seeking out books for my children. They have (and had) hundreds of books, but I had not made the extra effort to diversify.

So I began to do it. And now, at the library and in book stores, I pick up books featuring African Americans, even when they don't. So our collection looks better and they see themselves in more books. But I'm always looking for more. Now, particularly, chapter books for my oldest child that feature boys of African descent.

He has read quite a few nonfiction titles about us, including titles that talk about slavery. So he knows about slavery and segregation.

Now I've found a list of some of the slavery titles in kids literature. Here's a link to that list from Carol Hurst's web site.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Review - land

As usual, Black/African American History Month is a hot one for books by and about "us." Every year this makes me a little sad, a little angry. I still want to know about the books, I want them to be published and read, but does it all have to happen in this month. What would be the harm in spreading the publishing love a bit?

end vent, begin links ...

Here is a 2 - in - 1 review of two new books about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. One that is an analysis of the "I Have a Dream Speech," by Eric J. Sundquist, the other, Through It All, by Christine King Farris, Dr. King's sister.

Two professors at Emory University have a new book, "Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus," that explores the tragic exhibition in life and death of a an African woman in the 1800s. Here's a review from the Los Angeles Times.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A handful of kid lit links

A few links to round out the week.

A CSMonitor review of Chains, by Laure Halse Anderson.

Here is the description of the book from Simon and Schuster's web site:
If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl?

As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight...for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.

From acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson comes this compelling, impeccably researched novel that shows the lengths we can go to cast off our chains, both physical and spiritual.

Check out Brothers & Sisters, a collection of poems about family, by Eloise Greenfield.

The bloggers at The Brown Bookself are again doing 28 days featuring authors/illustrators of African-American kids lit. I have already seen authors I haven't heard of before. I think my kids will be getting some new titles soon.

Also, at the top of the blog (may be lower by the time some readers click through) there's an interesting note about whether an author is actually African American.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday is for Kids

I should probably come up with a better title for my Friday dip into kids lit. But I haven't yet. Suggestions are welcome in the comments.

One of the most interesting things I read this week was this story in the NYTimes about how a watchdog group has called out Scholastic over their inclusion of electronics, toys, jewelry and other non-book stuff in their catalogs and book fairs at schools.

This is right on the mark. I have one child in elementary school at the moment and have been a volunteer at a school book fair. And seeing all the toys and electronics really has bothered me. The kids can't help but get excited about them, even though they are more expensive than the discount priced books.

It is especially sad to me when I see kids who may not have been sent to school with any money or very little to shop at the book fair and they are picking up toys or electronics that are nearly $20 - when there are $4 books available.

Hopefully they'll pull back on marketing the toys and stick to books, workbooks and activity books. Kids have plenty of ways to see marketing - school is not the place for that.

I'll post some links later today to new books or book lists.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hearing Tayari Jones

I want to use Thursday as an opportunity to highlight an author or a book blog. But I'm cheating a bit today by writing about a recent reading I attended.

The author reading was Tayari Jones, who is one of my favorite contemporary authors. I write about her - and link to her site,, a lot, so it feels like cheating to highlight her today.

But it is my little blog after all.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to check her appearances calendar in case she was coming to Florida. It seems rare that any of the authors I love come near my home, so it was really just a little hopeful check. Turns out she was going to be in a town about an hour away the very next week.

So of course I went.

She read at Stetson University in Deland, Florida. It's a small, private college. I've never been to the campus, but I think I've been through the town once before.

The event was full - students there get a "cultural credit" for certain events, which is cool. I sat in the back because I got lost and was a few minutes late. [College campuses can really be tricky if you're not a part of the student/faculty/staff there - signs, people!]

She read from The Untelling first. I haven't read it in years, but was really pulled in as she read a scene that involves sibling rivalry, a red velvet cake, a terrible accident and women who can stop traffic. I'm always surprised when, aurally, I lose the author and really hear her as the characters at a reading. That was the case with Tayari Jones - she was the character and I really wanted to go back and read The Untelling again.

Tayari next read a story she wrote for a contest that required the work to be three minutes long. It was wonderful and fun and really was a story. I am amazed by short stories that are that short.

Tayari was wonderful - the creative, sassy and intellectual spirit really shines in her.

And I was fortunate enough to introduce myself to her, chat a bit and have a picture taken with her. I've "friended" her on Facebook, but I'm really just a fan, not someone who actually knows her. She was very gracious and kind - and stylish. I was taking notes in case one day I am out there reading from my own work.

Now, here are a few things I found that were odd about the event.

When Tayari finished reading, the organizer stood up and said she'd sign books and that there was food in a side room. There was no attempt to see if there were questions.

It may have been because of the travel arrangements, which I understand. It just seems very unusual for a reading not to have any questions. Of course, I just wanted to hear more from Tayari - next time, I guess.

Also, in the days before the event, on the local NPR station, I heard an add that began with a mention of the university name. I was actually excited in those few seconds, because I thought they were actually advertising Tayari's visit. Cool!

Except they weren't. It was an ad for a Nobel prize winner in the sciences who would be speaking later in the month. I get that a Nobel laureate is a big, big deal. It was just interesting to me that they wouldn't not put the money toward advertising an author's visit. Especially since it seemed the crowd at Tayari's reading was only students and faculty - important and their number one audience, for sure. But it didn't seem like there was a big community contingent- I'm 90% certain of this, but since I didn't poll the group I can't say for sure.

So it was wonderful to meet her. I hope she'll come back to my area of Florida - or anywhere in Florida, soon.