MCCBD 2019 Feature: Own Voices Young Adult Novels About Native Teens

The Children’s Book Council is excited to partner again with the team of Multicultural Children’s Book Day to celebrate diverse books all month long! Throughout January, 10 authors will be featured on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day blog where they have created lists of diverse books ranging from picture books, middle grade, and young adult novels under a variety of topics. Check our space for previews of these lists and links to the see the full lists and access the book giveaways on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day site. 

Please welcome Cynthia Leitich Smith today to kick off the #ReadYourWorld Book Jam 2019! The Multicultural Children’s Book Day blog is giving away one copy of Cynthia Leitich Smith’s newest young adult book, Hearts Unbroken. Please click the link below for the full list to access the Rafflecopter giveaway.

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Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Meet Louise Wolfe, a high-school journalist, covering the controversy around the diverse and inclusive casting of her high-school musical. Lou is a contemporary Muscogee girl, living in the middle-class suburbs, trying to navigate micro and macroaggressions, but still very much a work in progress herself. What I loved most about writing this story was crafting Lou’s supportive relationships with her family and community as well as, on the dating front, her choosing a healthier romantic connection. [young adult, ages 14 and up]



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Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Cassidy Rain Berghoff is Louise Wolfe’s cousin. A quieter, more poetic girl who scribbles in journals, hides behind her camera and mourns the sudden and unexpected loss of her best friend. Rain’s humor is gentle, wry, affectionate and rooted in small-town life. She’s living on the outskirts of an American Indian college community and is especially close to elders in her life. This is a tender story, my debut novel and a foundational work that, in part, helped inspired Hearts Unbroken. [middle grade, ages 10 and up]



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Apple in the Middle by Dawn Quigley

Apple is quirky, honest, gloriously awkward and at first uncertain around her Ojibwe relatives after having been raised by her white dad and stepmom. She’s gradually more and more sure of herself, her place in her extended family and tribal community as she confronts painful loss and the secrets her deceased mother left behind. Quigley’s new voice is especially welcome, delightful in its honesty and authenticity. [middle grade, ages 10 and up]



Click here for the full list and book giveaway.

Author Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith

By Jamie Tan and Stephanie Pando

2018 has been full of many ups and downs, and for me, one of my ups was getting to work with Cynthia Leitich Smith on launching her latest YA novel, Hearts Unbroken.

Cynthia tells the story of Louise “Lou” Wolfe, a Muscogee teen. As the story opens, Lou breaks up with her boyfriend after he mocks Native people. Newly single, Lou joins the school paper, connects with a new (more respectful) guy, and focuses on reporting a major story - the aggressive community backlash against the inclusive casting of the school’s musical production of The Wizard of Oz.

What follows is a contemporary and really important take on escalating microaggressions and how bigotry and prejudice affect everyday life.

Working with Cynthia is a blast – she is so enthusiastic, a fervent champion for diverse titles, and incredibly friendly to boot. She is behind the long-running Cynsations blog and has done so much to support and promote the children’s literacy community in Texas and nationwide.

Reading Hearts Unbroken for the first time was such a satisfying experience. It prompted me to reflect deeply on tough topics, and I appreciated how she balanced them with healthy dollops of humor and romance.

I have long admired her, and for this interview I wanted to get more of what I love best about Cynthia - her stories.

I grabbed one of my coworkers, Stephanie Pando, and together we came up with a few questions for Cyn.

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Candlewick Press: Can you tell us your favorite memory from your publishing career?

Cynthia Leitich Smith: The first memory that springs to mind was meeting a shy, teenage boy at a public library in New York City. He approached me holding a tattered copy of my novel Tantalize and proclaimed that it was the first novel he’d ever finished. His teacher confirmed that.

Author Interview with Anna-Marie McLemore

1. Tell us about your most recent book and how you came to write/illustrate it.

BLANCA & ROJA is a queer, Latinx reimagining of “Snow-White & Rose-Red” meets Swan Lake. It’s very much the kind of fairy tale where you’ll find enchanted woods and unpredictable magic, but it’s also a fairy tale about racism, colorism, queerphobia, transphobia, ableism, and so much else we’re sometimes reluctant to talk about. 

2. Do you think of yourself as a diverse author/illustrator?

I’m Latina and queer, and I’m married to a trans guy, and I’m often writing about those identities, so I’m grateful to get to be one of many authors adding more diverse books to shelves. I also write magical realism, which is deeply connected to Latinx tradition, and it’s a world I love sharing with readers.

Announcing the 2019 CBC Diversity Outstanding Achievement Award Winners

New York, NY – September 28, 2018 – The CBC Diversity Committee is proud to announce the winners of the inaugural CBC Diversity Outstanding Achievement Awards. These awards will be given annually to professionals or organizations in the children’s publishing industry who have made a significant impact on the publishing and marketing of diverse books, diversity in hiring and mentoring, and efforts that create greater awareness with the public about the importance of diverse voices.

The winners were announced at the CBC Annual Meeting in New York City on September 27, and an official ceremony and conversation with the winners will take place on October 24 at a CBC Forum event. The winners will each select an organization to receive one thousand dollars’ worth of children’s books in their name.

Shifa Kapadwala, the CBC Diversity Committee’s moderator, said: “The committee had the great joy and responsibility of reviewing nominations from across the children’s publishing community. In making their selections, the committee has summarized the accomplishments of these inspiring people and organizations.”

Pride Month Feature: Reading & Writing Queer Novels

By Mark Oshiro

Pride season is upon us, and I have never been more proud to be a part of children’s publishing as a queer person. Whether you’re celebrating your own identity or supporting those you love, it’s important for us to reflect on why Pride is such a vital time for LGBT and Queer youth and how we can best reach LGBTQ readers.

Why Pride?

Pride celebrations around the world have evolved since Christopher Street Liberation Day, which most people in our community consider to be the “first” Pride celebration. It’s important to remember that Pride was born out of necessity; LGBTQ people have been and continue to be targeted because of who we are, both on a personal level and a systemic level. Until true equity and liberation is achieved, Pride holds a meaningful place for many people in our community! We get to be out, loud, and proud during this time of year, and that kind of affirmation often fuels us for months to come, long after the season is over.

Why LGBTQ Children’s Literature?

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Growing up, I had virtually no positive role models who were out. I still remember when Ellen came out; I felt seen and validated by Rickie Vasquez from My So-Called Life. But I didn’t have the sort of queer and LGBT-themed literature that is now available to readers today. Anything I found as a closeted teenager was usually: a) geared towards adults and pretty much inappropriate to me OR b) featured gay or queer characters who died, were villains, or only existed as a witty sidekick without their own stories. It wasn’t until I got to college that I discovered books geared at teens that contained meaningful depictions of LGBTQ characters. It made for a lonely experience in the library. I read voraciously, but I often had to force myself to identify with stories that were not my own.

We know that books have the power to change lives, and it’s important that children’s literature reflect the world around us. I think of books as exercises in empathy, as a chance to view the world through someone else’s eyes. The books that meant the most to me as a teenager weren’t just those that reflected my own experiences; they were also those that allowed me to expand my understanding of what it meant to be human.

What does LGBTQ YA look like today?

I set out to write an openly queer YA novel nearly six years ago, but at that time, I still worried about getting published. I had come to love the work of Malinda Lo, of David Levithan, of Benjamin Alire Sáenz; I had read Annie On My Mind perhaps a hundred times; the same fate awaited Ruby by Rosa Guy, which I was lucky to be handed after escaping to college after being outed. So, I knew young adult literature could have openly gay or queer characters within it. But I had also heard and seen so many horror stories. Would it be too much to write multiple queer characters in the same book?

It might seem presumptuous to say so, but there are days where I feel like we are in the midst of an LGBTQ renaissance within children’s literature. In 2018 alone, I’ve devoured so many books in which characters across the broad spectrum of our community were center stage. I started 2018 with the powerful and hopeful Let’s Talk About Love (Claire Kann), the first novel I had ever read with a main character who is biromantic asexual. I wept over Kheryn Callendar’s Hurricane Child, and I recommended They Both Die At The End (Adam Silvera) to every person who would listen to my shrieking. (Surprisingly, a large number of people.) I’ve recently finished books by Caleb Roehrig (Last Seen Leaving & White Rabbit), who writes incredibly gay murder mysteries, and Amy Spalding, whose The Summer of Jordi Perez (And The Best Burger In Los Angeles) is the exact sort of romantic book I desperately needed when I was living in Los Angeles myself.

Of course, it certainly helps that we’re living in the age where Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda became the cinematic sensation that was Love, Simon. And while Becky Albertalli’s moving and touching writing is part of the reason for its success, it’s also clear that readers want more stories with LGBTQ characters. There is a whole generation of kids that are learning to come out, to wrestle with their identities, to discover the right word for what they feel. We should be there for them. We should be able to provide stories that help them explore a confusing but ultimately rewarding part of their lives. This Pride month is the perfect time to reflect on this!

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Mark Oshiro is the Hugo finalist (in the Fan Writer category) creator of the online Mark Does Stuff universe (Mark Reads and Mark Watches), where he analyzes book and television series unspoiled. He was the nonfiction editor of Queers Destroy Science Fiction! and the co-editor of Speculative Fiction 2015 with Foz Meadows. He is the President of the Con or Bust Board of Directors. His first novel, Anger is a Gift, is a YA contemporary about queer friendship, love, and fighting police brutality. It will be released on 5/22/2018 with Tor Teen. When he is not writing, crying on camera about fictional characters, or ruining lives at conventions, he is busy trying to fulfill his lifelong goal: to pet every dog in the world.

MCCBD Feature: Books for Teens Featuring African-American Protagonists

Mike Mullin, author of Surface Tension, shares his book list “​Books for Teens Featuring African-American Protagonists.” Check out the preview below and the full list & 5 book giveaway on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.

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1. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

I first read this novel the same year I first saw Star Wars, when I was ten or eleven. Both experiences linger in my memory nearly 40 years later. It wasn’t the first time I’d read books with Black protagonists (that would be Ezra Jack Keats’ brilliant picture books), but it was the first time I’d read about the brutality of racism. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry is set in 1930’s Mississippi—Taylor sets the scene so well that by the time you’re done reading you’ll be able to taste the rust-colored dust of the dirt roads.

Cassie is an indomitable heroine. Every time I read her story, I alternate between feeling terror and elation as she confronts everything from racist insults to horrific threats against her person. But the true brilliance of the novel is the theme of fire running throughout it, beginning with the horribly burnt body of Mr. Berry and ending with a forest fire—it serves as a stark metaphor for the all-consuming nature of racism. [chapter book, ages 11 and up]


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2. M.C. Higgins the Great by Virginia Hamilton

I think I loved this book because I identified so strongly with the protagonist: Mayo Cornelius Higgins, a brainy, disaffected young man who watches the world from atop a 40’ steel pole. Like M.C., I climbed everything in sight. (Trees, buildings… I never had a 40’ pole, but I have no doubt I would have tried to climb it. My favorite place was a tree covered in vines—I could climb up, stick my head out the top, and gaze over what looked like a leafy meadow suspended 60’ above the ground.) I also identified with the alliance M.C. builds with his neighbors, the light-skinned, red-headed Killburns. I never tried to build a wall with the Black kids who lived next door to me—Mark, Todd, and Glen—but we did build some wicked BMX ramps together! Years after I first read M.C. Higgins the Great, I met Virginia Hamilton and she signed a copy for me. I wish I’d bought a hardcover, but at that point I was in college and nearly broke. I also wish my handwriting were half as lovely as hers:

If you enjoy M.C. Higgins the Great, don’t miss The Planet of Junior Brown and The House of Dies Drear, my other favorite Hamilton novels. [chapter book, ages 11 and up]


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3. Monster by Walter Dean Myers

I could have put lots of Myers books on this list, but this is the one that haunted my dreams for months after I read it. The protagonist, Steve, is facing 25-years to life for a crime he didn’t commit. Myers tells the story entirely through diary entries and a screenplay Steve is writing. But the real story here is Steve’s inner battle, as he struggles to reject the label society has already branded him with: Monster. [young adult, ages 13 and up]


Read the full list and enter the giveaway here.

MCCBD Feature: 8 Australian Multicultural YA Books

Melissa Keil, author of The Secret Science of Magic, shares her book list “8 Australian Multicultural YA Books.” Check out the preview below and the full list on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website. 

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1. Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

Josie Alibrandi navigates life with her wealthy Catholic school peers and her Italian-Australian family, while dealing with the reappearance of her estranged father, and the complexities of romance. With a wonderfully realized protagonist and heartfelt prose, Alibrandi is a modern Australian YA classic. [young adult, ages 13 and up]




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2. Laurinda (published in the US as Lucy and Linh) by Alice Pung

At an exclusive private school for girls, Lucy Lam enrolls as a scholarship student, finding herself tangling with a group of girls known as the Cabinet, who wield extraordinary influence over their peers and teachers. Timely and relevant YA that tackles the thorny issues of power, privilege, class and race. [young adult, ages 14 and up]


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3. Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Sixteen-year-old Amal decides to adopt the hijab full time, and deals with the repercussions from her schoolmates, parents and friends. With a great voice in the character of Amal, this book is a funny and moving look at confronting stereotypes and staying true to yourself. [young adult, ages 12 and up]



Read the full list here.

We’ve Been Waiting in the Wings Forever: A Queer Theater Story

By Amy Rose Capetta

I discovered the joys of theater in middle school for a sad but simple reason: I was quitting dance. At the age of twelve, I was told by my teacher that I couldn’t continue at an advanced level without losing a significant amount of weight. The issue of body policing in the performing arts comes up in my YA novel Echo After Echo, specifically for the main character, Zara, who is not the waifish ingénue people have come to expect. Fortunately, when I chose to leave dance behind, I fell into theater, and despite being a different body type than many of my fellow actresses, I found roles and fell in love with acting.

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My new life of green rooms and backstage bonding brought my first queer friends. It’s no real secret that the theater world, from the professional stages in NYC to the drama clubs in most schools are havens for creative and hardworking LGBTQIAP folks. Before I even knew I was queer, I found my people, and they shared my fervor for story-making, a heady mix of love and ambition that still drives me. We collected, we rehearsed, we constructed sets with questionable structural integrity, we held our hearts outside of our bodies night after night, we threw AMAZING cast parties.

Staying Hyphenated

 By Mitali Perkins

My dad—technically a refugee from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)—became a harbor engineer, traveled far and wide, stood in the presence of Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Queen Elizabeth, and settled his family in California when I was in the seventh grade. He died this year, and I’m grieving hard, mourning the loss of his humor, loving company, and joyful spirit. I also miss his stories of Poshora, the village where seven generations of my family lived on a jute farm. Thanks to Dad’s deep roots in that particular place, no matter how people saw us, we didn’t identify ourselves as Asian-Americans, Indian-Americans, or even Bengali-Americans. I knew as a child that the Bose family was from Poshora in Faridpur, East Bengal.The problem is that now, without Dad’s witty, adept use of the Bangla language, recitations of Tagore’s poetry, and reminiscences from his childhood, it feels like the hyphen connecting my identities has taken a blow. Will it be fatal? My parents’ shift from country to country—something that I didn’t choose—has already cost me, leaving me to grow up far away from a supportive network of relatives and grandparents. Dad’s life and stories provided my particular connection to that faraway village in East Bengal. With Dad gone, will I tilt even more to the American side?

The CBC Diversity initiative was founded in 2012, as part of the Children’s Book Council’s commitment to promoting diverse voices in literature for young people.