Growing up in the suburbs of 1960s Connecticut, I was surrounded by WASPs. I was a Protestant, too—Episcopalian. My father was Catholic, though, so I knew that I wasn’t a true WASP. I was alert to such distinctions. I also thought I understood what it meant to be Jewish. I had a Jewish friend. Her mother was Christian; they had a Christmas tree. I thought that the difference between being Jewish and Christian was like the difference between being Methodist and Congregational.
In sixth grade I fell in love with two books. I found the first one in my mother’s room, Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk, a bestseller of the 1950s. It’s not terribly racy, but I knew my parents would think it was too old for me, so I hid it under my bed, reading it over and over. Marjorie is 17 when it opens, from a traditional Jewish family in 1930s New York City, and she dreams of being an actress. I was fascinated by this Jewish girl and by her New York, her view of Central Park from her apartment in the El Dorado. I learned Yiddish words, and about such things as a kosher home, a bar mitzvah, the meaning of Passover, of opening the door to Elijah, the festival of lights at Hanukkah.
Click to view CBC Diversity Newsletter November v. 3 on GLOSSI.COM
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Click to view CBC Diversity Newsletter October 2013 v. 2 on GLOSSI.COM
Click to view CBC Diversity Newsletter October 2013 v. 1 on GLOSSI.COM
Diverse Worlds Grant
We’re starting to see a trend here at CBC Diversity of grants popping up to support writers from diverse backgrounds…and we like it!
Unlike the wonderful Vermont College of Fine Arts’ Angela Johnson Scholarship made possible by Barry Goldblatt Literary, LLC, the making of the above grant allows everyone who feels this need in publishing (the need for more “writers from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented”) a chance to be a part of the change. That’s right, we’ve got ourselves an awesome crowd-funding campaign!
Ellen B. Wright and Faye Bi are publicists at Hachette Book Group and science fiction and fantasy lovers who need help to make their grant with the Speculative Literature Foundation, Inc a reality. Check out their campaign page to find out more and support their cause!
SLJ spoke to industry professionals who are raising awareness on the need for different perspectives in young adult books, and compiled a list of resources to find these titles.
A comprehensive, helpful article and list of resources for librarians on increasing diversity in YA lit. (And I was interviewed for it, too!)
DiYA is in it too! And yes very good resources at the end.
Fabulous article! Three of CBC Diversity’s founders are interviewed. What a great resources section at the bottom. Way to go, Shelley!
“Write about picking cotton,” my family said when they heard I wanted to be a writer. “Write about how we used the fabric from flour sacks to make our dresses, and how Grandma hates fish because that’s all she ate during the Depression, since it didn’t cost anything for them to go fishing for food.”
Closely examine my family, or any family, and you’ll discover all the drama of a telenovela. Naturally, I wanted to write about being chastised for speaking Spanish, about living on a ranch in San Diego, about my grandmother being “Rosita the Riveter” during World War II. I tried to write those stories. But my only experience working the land comes from fifteen minutes in a field off Old Robstown Road where my parents showed us how to pick cotton. It was interesting to feel the texture, so unlike a T-shirt, which is what I had imagined.
My grandmother might have hated fish, but I loved it. We had a boat that we’d take to Laguna Madre, where we’d compete to see who could catch the most, the biggest, or the strangest. (Once, my brother caught a seagull when it chomped on the bait as he cast.) Back home, Dad filleted the fish in the backyard, the cats begging and fighting over scraps. Then, Mom used cornmeal batter to fry the fish, and we ate, delicately picking meat off tiny bones.
All this to say that my family’s experiences and the emotions associated with them are not exactly mine.
And what is personal perspective? Is it the body I am in? This physical, sometimes smelly, sometimes sunburnt, sometimes arthritic shell? Is it the color of my skin? The house I grew up in? The amount in my parents’ bank account in 1984? Is it my family’s traditions during holidays? How often we went to church—or the fact that it wasn’t often? This question of personal perspective concerns me because it seems to be the thing a writer is supposed to transcend when he or she writes a novel. It’s also the thing a writer is supposed to plug into. It’s tricky like that.
When thinking about my characters and how they relate to me and more importantly, how they don’t relate to me, I find the dissimilar parts the least important. For example: I am not a young man. I never have been a young man. I am also not a child from a poor home, I’ve never lived in a trailer park, neither have I lived in a gated community of mini-mansions. So how do I write authentically from the point of view of a young man? How do I write authentically from the point of view of a poor girl who lives in a trailer park? A boy who lives in a mini-mansion?
Back in April, Riky Stock, director of the German Book Office in New York reached out to me with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—to join a group of children’s book editors on a trip to Frankfurt and Hamburg to meet with German publishers and agents. The German Book Office hosts this annual trip for editors to experience the wonders of beer, brats, and books in hopes of building a bridge between our two countries, for both American books that could succeed in Germany and vice versa.
My fellow editors for this year’s trip included Stacey Barney from Putnam/Penguin (and one of the founders of CBC Diversity!), Sheila Barry from Groundwood Books in Canada, Grace Maccarone from Holiday House, Ben Rosenthal from Enslow, and Reka Simonsen from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Our group had a great vibe, and by the end of the trip, we had our fair share of inside jokes and insightful discussion about books and, in particular, why foreign translations are so difficult for the North American market.
The CBC Diversity Initiative is committed to bringing diverse experiences to our book market, and this includes stories told from a non-American point of view. After learning some eye-opening numbers about the German book market, it’s evident that while the American perspective is pervasive worldwide, we in turn are reluctant to embrace stories from other cultures.
Here’s the breakdown:
- 24.8% of all new fiction titles in Germany are translations—and more than 70% of those are books from the US and the UK. Meanwhile, in the US, only 3% of all new titles are translations.
- The biggest bestselling series in Germany mirror the American market:
- Harry Potter
- Hunger Games
- YA and children’s translations into German have almost doubled in the last five years.
- In 2011, a total of 46 German translations were published in the U.S.