A Short List of Science Fiction & Fantasy That Celebrates Disabilitybarnesandnoble.com
“I want to discuss the work of disabled genre authors, or authors who celebrate disability in their work. Here’s five of them you’ve definitely heard of—some of them write about disability, some don’t, but ll of them have changed the landscape of SFF.”
Industry Q&A with Assistant Editor Melanie Cordova
Candlewick Press Assistant editor Melanie Cordova, with questions provided by
summer editorial intern Isabella Corletto.
Candlewick has been my first experience in publishing. What made you want to
get into publishing? How did your career begin, and how long have you been
working in the industry? Did you always know you wanted to pursue a career in
I didn’t know I wanted to work in publishing until my
freshman year of college. Back then, I desperately needed a job and after many
attempts, my boyfriend (now husband) convinced me to apply to a bookstore.
Luckily, the bookstore I applied to needed a children’s bookseller immediately
and they hired me on the spot. The experience changed everything. At the
bookstore, I rediscovered my love for books, especially children’s books. By
the end of my sophomore year I had changed my major from Journalism to Writing,
Literature, and Publishing. After that, I interned and worked at a couple of
publishing houses until I finally landed at Candlewick. If we count my
bookstore experience, which I obviously do, I’ve been working in publishing for
a decade now.
To be able to work
with a text when it’s in its earliest drafts and then see it published has to
be an incredibly special experience. So much more time, care, and hard work is
put into every single book than I could’ve ever imagined. What is one of the
most rewarding experiences you’ve had during your time in publishing?
When I was a sales assistant at Candlewick, I saw a press
release about Candlewick acquiring Juana and Lucas. The story appealed
to me so much, and I was so excited we had taken it up. After transferring over
to editorial, I found out that my boss was the book’s editor and had just
started working on it. From admiring this project from afar to working with the
incredibly talented Juana Medina to seeing it win the Pura Belpré Award,
working on this book has been one of my most rewarding experiences so far.
Black Stories Matter: On The Whiteness Of Children’s Bookstheestablishment.co
“Children are not just the passive recipients of what they read. They should be seen as active subjects, creating and recreating themselves in relation to the representations that surround them. In this way, literature is an arena in which children can safely play with and develop an understanding of the state, and their role and relationship to it. Children’s literature not only shows how important children have been to black social movements. It also highlights the power of books to rescue childhood from a culture that has dehumanized black children, and denied them healthy and expansive models for growing up.”
From Activist To Author: How 12-Year-Old Marley Dias Is Changing The Face Of Children's Literatureforbes.com
“I had a lot of choices about how I was going to address this problem. Option 1: focus on me, get myself more books; have my dad take me to Barnes and Noble and just be done, live my perfect life in suburban New Jersey. Option 2: find some authors, beg them to write more black girl books so I’d have some of my own, special editions, treat myself a bit,” she said. “Or, option 3: start a campaign that collect books with black girls as the main characters, donate them to communities, develop a resource guide to find those books, talk to educators and legislators about how to increase the pipeline of diverse books, and lastly, write my own book, so that I can see black girl books collected and I can see my story reflected in the books I have to read.”
We Need Diverse Books, But We Also Need Diverse Reviewerselectricliterature.com
More perspectives on Diverse reviewers from Electric Literature.
“re-design how we approach and conduct public discourse: so that it centers the voices and perspectives of those who have historically been at the margins, and so it that enables conversations from multiple viewpoints about writing and books, so that the discourse is more nuanced, considered, and critical.”
What do you read if you love fantasy and representation? I highly recommend the following:
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
A fantasy heist novel featuring a racially diverse cast of characters, including a bisexual gunslinger and a gay demolitions expert. Part of a duology (book two is called Crooked Kingdom).
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
What’s the opposite of bisexual erasure? Because basically everyone in this series is bi. V.E. Schwab has stated that “it is a world that cares about magical hierarchy more than heteronormativity.”
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
How many fantasy novels do you run across with an asexual main character? Not enough (and in fact, this one is technically a novella). Here you will also find a transgender character and explicit discussion about gender roles and nonconformity.
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan
Each of Riordan’s novels is more inclusive than the last,but we don’t meet my favorite argyle-wearing pottery-making genderfluid einherji until book two (The Hammer of Thor). Book 1, of course, is still well worth the read (Muslim Valkyrie? Yes please.)
The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce
The Circle of Magic books were a staple of my childhood. Imagine my delight when one of the main characters comes out as a lesbian in book 9! Plus, in books 1- 8, we get Lark and Rosethorn, two ladies living together in domestic bliss who raise our main characters. Start this series with Sandry’s Book.
We are so excited to have S.K. Ali at Rich in Color today! Ali’s debut novel, SAINTS AND MISFITS, came out earlier this summer, and we’re thrilled to be able to interview her. If you haven’t read SAINTS AND MISFITS, you should definitely check out the summary before you read the interview. Also, check out K. Imani’s review here.
Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.
How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?
Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.
And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.
While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?
Janna is a great character that I feel many teens will connect with. Who or what was your inspiration for Janna?
Janna is a mixture of the teens in my life currently and the girls I grew up with and the girl I was – way back then. I wanted teens trying to figure themselves out to see themselves in her. I know I was mostly successful with this because some of the teens I know debate among themselves which one of them is MORE like Janna. Success!
I feel like Saints and Misfits is a wonderful feminist novel that explores what it is like to be a Muslim teen in society today. The diversity of beliefs and ideas of all the female characters was refreshing to read, including the different relationships Janna has with Sarah, Fizz, Tats, & Sausun. How important was it to you to truly show the complexity of female relationships?
Oh, this was SO important to me. I think it’s important for women – young and older – to cherish their friendships and connections with other women. We’re all in the fight for gender equity and justice together and it’s vital we see each other as supporters and allies of one another. This is something I emphasize as a teacher, even to my class of second-graders. It’s never too early for girls to see the importance of being there for each other.
I read that you are a teacher. How do you balance writing, teaching, and the other aspects of your life?
I try to remember what a very wise person said to me: balance doesn’t mean you’re perfect at everything. I’m always trying to remember this. Because, yes, when you have a lot going on, you can lose sight of the important things while trying your “best” to achieve your goals. One of the things I’m trying to learn to do is block chunks of time for different areas of my life – like week-long writing retreats. Also, I’m hoping it’ll be easier now because I’ve taken a year off of teaching to focus on my writing career.
How much of your writing life do you share with your students?
Not very much of my author-life but I do share my love of stories with them. I often tell stories (that I make up as I go along) to explain concepts or give examples. My students love this and often ask me to continue!
In January, you created the hashtag #MuslimShelfspace to bring awareness to Muslim authors. Why is diversity in young adult fiction important to you?
It’s important because I think good art is important. And good art involves integrity, authenticity and raw honesty. This only happens when we reflect our true realities. Sadly, literature in North America has a far way to go before reflecting the reality of our times. It’s sad that not much has changed from when I was a teen myself in terms of seeing narratives featuring teens from marginalized communities in bookstores and libraries. We’ve got to make sure the momentum started by the #WeNeedDiverseBooks and the #OwnVoices and, yes, the #MuslimShelfSpace, campaigns continue and stay vital in order for real change to take root.
Lastly, when I finished the book, I wasn’t quite ready to leave Janna, her family, friends and her community. Is there a hope that you might return to Janna’s world in the future?
Hmm, this is a good question and one that I’m being prompted to mull now that I keep getting questions like yours. So I’m going to say that I haven’t ruled it out. (I too maybe interested in seeing Sarah’s and Muhammad’s wedding plans come to fruition! And I’m curious about Sausun’s video stunt to save her sister! And, also, #TeamNuah and…) ☺
Thank you S.K. Ali for sharing your thoughts with us! You can find S.K. Ali at https://skalibooks.com, and @sajidahwrites (Twitter).
Such a great interview with S.K. Ali, author of SAINTS AND MISFITS (Salaam Reads, July 2017)!