Young Novelists of Color Take On Publishing

March 20, 2017, 4:35 PM UTC

And a little child shall lead them.

That’s my takeaway from some consistently good news coming from the world of long-form publishing, much of it driven by young makers and consumers who are hungry to see accurate representations of themselves while preparing to shape a world which does not always see them.

Here’s one story from the U.K. publishing world, which has its own long tradition of being overwhelmingly white and male. Now, young black women are determined to change the ratio of what gets published and why:

“Fed up of not seeing their lives reflected in print, a new generation of female writers are knocking at the door of publishing houses determined to change that. And if that doesn’t work, they’re prepared to go it alone,” says Buzzfeed News.

Then there are the extraordinary developments in the young adult novel category, specifically, some recently published books that are tackling tough issues of race and representation head on. This story from The New York Times highlights the opportunity in play. “The cluster of novels is also arriving at a moment when the children’s book industry is struggling to address the lack of diversity in the stories it publishes, and the scarcity of children’s books by African-American authors,” they write.

These novels, told unflinchingly through the lens of young people of color, are also becoming indispensable tools for educators desperate to both engage and teach. And that means that the messages they contain will gain traction with the people who need them most:

“Teachers and librarians across the country have embraced the new body of children’s literature dealing with racial bias and injustice. Hundreds of schools and libraries have ordered copies of “The Hate U Give.” Other recent young-adult novels about violence against black teenagers, including Kekla Magoon’s “How It Went Down,” have been used in high school classrooms to talk about racial inequality.”

The money is there. The most famous of these books, the aforementioned debut novel The Hate U Give, was an instant commercial and critical success. This from a profile of author Angie Thomas in New York Magazine:

One week after it was published, Angie Thomas’s thrilling debut young-adult novel, The Hate U Give, shot to the top of the New York Times best-seller list for young-adult books. The story follows 16-year-old Starr Carter, a basketball-playing sneakerhead who lives in a poor, predominantly black neighborhood and attends a rich, predominantly white school. After she witnesses her childhood best friend fatally shot by a police officer, Starr confronts the reality of racial injustice in America, grapples with how she can continue to straddle two completely different worlds, and is drawn into activism.

Buying, reading and sitting with the themes of these books is one way to make sure that art continues to play a leading role in shaping our collective understanding of each other. I think of them as empathy condensers for a troubled world. “I look at books as being a form of activism, says Thomas in a YouTube video. “Sometimes they’ll show us a side of the world that we might not have known about.”

On Point

Immigrant kids are killing it in science fairsHey, here’s one for the “What Pipeline Problem?” file: A new report from the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan organization that studies trade and education, has found that kids of immigrants outperformed in a leading science competition for U.S. students. Some 33 of the 40 finalists in last year’s Intel Science Talent Search were children of immigrants, 30 were kids of parents working on H-1B visas. Due to a recent policy change, H-1B visas are no longer eligible for expedited processing. "These outstanding children of immigrants would never have been in America if their parents had not been allowed into the U.S," said the foundation in a statement.Time

An eleven-year-old prodigy is about to become the youngest orchestra conductor
There doesn’t seem to be much young Matthew Smith can’t do. He plays multiple instruments with the facility of a much older genius, and has also professed an interest in math and engineering. But on April 2, he’ll be leading the Nottingham Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Johann Strauss' Operetta Die Fledermaus. Says our friends at Blavity, “[he] is quite literally setting the tempo for black excellence.”Oh maestro, my maestro.

LGBT community says YouTube is filtering out their videos
YouTube was forced to respond to accusations of discrimination yesterday, after high-profile LGBT YouTube makers claimed that their videos referencing same-sex relationships were being hidden by the platform. At issue is the “restricted mode” setting on YouTube, which is supposed to screen out only “potentially objectionable” content. Instead, hundreds of otherwise innocuous videos are being hidden. In protest,  #YouTubeIsOverParty began to trend over the weekend. “I think it’s really important to look at why LGBT content has been deemed as inappropriate,” one popular YouTuber told The Guardian. The platform tweeted out a response under @YouTubeCreators: “…LGBTQ+ videos are available in Restricted Mode, but videos that discuss more sensitive issues may not be. We regret any confusion this has caused and are looking into your concerns.”
The Guardian

Meet Julia, Sesame Street’s latest Muppet. She has autism
Julia will arrive in April, and was introduced in 2015 as a character in an online-only digital storybook called “Sesame Street and Autism: See the amazing in all children. The team behind the character worked closely with autism experts, educators and families. “It’s tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism,” says one writer. It’s reflected in Julia’s design: She has a different type of eyes, so she can close them when she gets overwhelmed, arms that can swing to signal distress. Click through for a 60 Minutes overtime clip with Muppet designer Rollie Krewson, who shared the specific decisions made in creating the character.

California waiter refuses to serve Latina customers until they provided proof of residency, is fired
But not without a public fuss. Four women out for a "girl’s lunch" at a tony Huntington Beach restaurant, were asked by their waiter to provide their papers before being served. “I need to make sure you’re from here,” he said. The women decided to leave after complaining to the manager, but one, a 24-year-old business analyst from Orange County, posted about the incident on Facebook. The widely-shared post got the attention of the restaurant’s manager who offered to make amends with a VIP visit and a donation to a group of their choice. But the incident still stings. One young woman said she’d been warned about this kind of treatment by her mother but had never experienced it firsthand. “She always told us, ‘I can handle discrimination,’” she told the Washington Post. “I know it’s part of my life.” 
Washington Post

The Woke Leader

It’s hard to be proud and brown when even your homeland values whiteness
This is the difficult message that American-born Stephanie Jimenez shares in this beautiful essay. The child of Colombian immigrants, it took a Fulbright teaching position to help her get to Colombia for the first time; she was at first bemused, then alarmed by the local custom of treating her “Hispandering” white peers with a deference and admiration that they didn’t deserve. “For people like Eric, speaking Spanish is seen as a virtue; but for Latinos, it’s seen as proof that we don’t belong in the U.S. and might not deserve to be here.” The complications of race, history, and identity weigh heavily on her. “In order for people of color to exist in this country—and to be seen as fully American—we are often forced to denounce parts of our identities,” she writes. 
Yes Magazine

Opinion: Travel is not just for the able-bodied or weekend athletes
When travel writer Salil Tripathi broke his ankle while visiting Jaipur, his temporary disability turned him into a permanent ally for people with disabilities who want to travel. “I spent the next few days in Jaipur on a wheelchair, seeing the world from a lower height and with different eyes,” he wrote. People were helpful and courteous, he said, but the experience was illuminating. “I realized what I had, until then, taken for granted—that many destinations in India, especially those which attract a large number of people, are not friendly to the disabled,” he says. The tourist industry as a whole, needs to do better for the millions of people who are older or need some sort of assistance. “The disabled may not climb the mountains, but there are other ways through which they can experience the joy of reaching the top of the trail.”
Live Mint

The fantasy coffins of Ghana
The Ga tribe have an extraordinary tradition when celebrating the lives of their loved ones – the coffins are designed to represent an aspect of the deceased person’s life– a car if the person was a driver, a sewing machine if they were a tailor, etc. Click through for the photos – there are incredibly lifelike depictions of farm animals, cars, planes, soda bottles, even a Nokia phone. The coffins can cost as much as an entire year’s salary – about $400 in U.S. currency. But all the artistry begs a bigger question about what we value and our personal brands. What coffin would best symbolize you?
Amusing Planet


Every time I speak I want the truth to come out. Every time I speak I want a shiver. I don’t want them to be like they know what I’m gonna say because it’s polite. I'm not saying I’m gonna rule the world or I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee you that I will spark the brain that will change the world.
—Tupac Shakur

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