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Dear YA, We Need To Leave it in 2016

Friday, 30 December 2016

2016 has been a heck of a year. It's honestly been ridiculously riddled with sadness, loss, heartache and in-between all of that, a little bit of sunshine. In regards to the book community, we have come a long way since January and we're still improving. However, we need to leave certain things in 2016, because I'm tired, really tired. As a Black Indigenous & Pacifika teen the community has me tired because of the nonsense that I constantly have to deal with that could easily be solved with a simple google search or a sincere "I'm so very sorry that I talked over People of Colour (PoC) like yourself and then have my husband harass you unknowingly" *sips tea*... Anyways, we got to talk about individuals who resist to the positive change and wish to stay in this bubble of "Keep YA Kind". So I'm here to pop that bubble... and several more with a list of what needs to be left in 2016.

Fam what exactly do you mean by this? The only thing I can conclude from a statement like this is that you wish that PoC and those who are marginalised stayed quiet. This statement is also only ever said when WoC, especially black woman like myself, speak up about problematic phrases, books and representation. It's as if once a black woman shares something that is problematic, people who are always silent about diversity or problematic representation tweet, "I miss the old book community". No you don't, you'd just rather silence people and further perpetuate stereotypes in books because they're your favourite or because you just rather not talk about it. This statement needs to be left in 2016.

I'm sorry but where have you been? Are you a subscriber to the blog? If you ain't, go to my side bar. Now underneath 'Follow by Email' put your email in their and hit that subscribe button. Don't be a fool and put in an email you never check. Put in an email that works too. Or better yet, click that follow button for 'Bloglovin'. You done that? Or you just playin'? I'm just trying to look out for you, cause how are you gonna say this when you should have read 'Dear YA, White Are You Doing' by now. It clearly states that 'google is your bestfriend'. Don't just expect people of colour to educate you for free. I swear I'm going to link the next person who asks for my time and knowledge after saying something problematic, to my paypal. Sis is tired and I'm not about to just burn out for you for free. Time is precious and I wasn't born to educate you.

Again, this relates to the first thing on the list. Discussion and critique is always labelled drama when WoC speak up and start a discussion or critique a book. Like guys, do you know what drama means? If you don't know what it means, here's a definition :)))

Still a little lost on what 'Drama' means? Want to learn more? Watch Jane the Virgin, that show is full of drama. Stop using drama to describe discussion and critique. Wanting better representation and stating that something is hurtful isn't drama.

Okay then? That doesn't mean that something isn't racist anymore, lol. If someone finds something offensive and racist, it's offensive and racist. You have no say and no place in saying that something isn't racist or problematic just because you don't find it racist or problematic. Stay in your lane. Boost those voices who are getting drowned out by those yelling "Drama!". Let them know that you're here for them. Educate yourself by using your bestfriend mentioned earlier on. It isn't hard. Google doesn't charge you or bite.

Sorry, but how did you find a correlation between having a PoC partner and you yourself experiencing racism? It's like saying that if you were heterosexual and your best friend was gay, you experience homophobia. How are you going to reach like that? It's not how it works. Don't say this while trying to justify your racism and why you talked over PoC. You will look stupid. Plain stupid. Also very racist.

That but basically means, "I'll only support diversity if it looks a certain way, if my white gaze is pleased with it and if you don't critique my harmful rep." You have automatically become irrelevant in the discussion about diversity once you say 'but'. I ain't here for that. Deuces.

I was off social media for myself, but I caught up on a little bit on what happened while I was away and damn, this statement is ugly. In addition to this statement there was another that said, "Diversity is only needed in Contemporary". How in the world does someone make such a reach? First of all, reading is a form of escapism for so many young adults and fantasy is one of the most popular genres. We need representation in all genres including fantasy. What kind of statement is this? People do realise that it's racist, ableist, biphobic, homophobic, transphobic, queerphobic and so much more to say this? It's erasing so much representation from books. Diversity is needed everywhere, not just in contemporary. Please take a seat if you think otherwise.

This is in relation on people telling those who speak up on how to actually speak up. Basically, people are tone policing. Don't do that. Stop telling people how to approach others or how to critique or discuss something. Let them have their voice, stop silencing them or making them sound a particular way to people who continually contribute to their oppression. What kind of nonsense is this? How did you suddenly flip the tables and make the person speaking up the bad guy? How are you more concerned on the way someone approaches someone else than the actual harmful rep/act/phrase. This is such a 'Keep YA Kind' statement. Don't do this, just don't.

Again, where have you been? Subscribe right now. In my very first Dear YA post I talk about the bias we have as a community. We tend to help allies more instead of those who are marginalised everyday. We tend to have a preference on who we deem is worthy of our help which is ridiculous. It's always WoC who get less attention. It's saddening, but as a community, we should leave this preference behind in 2016. We're slowly growing as a community and have slowly improved on this, but it's only improved when someone brings attention to how people have defended X but didn't do the same for Y. I've been in this situation and I've witnessed this situation, it's very clear that the community has a bias on who to help.

There's a lot more to add onto this list, but I'm actually tired (this isn't a scheduled post, it's 1:32am, I'm typing while listening to Chance the Rapper's mixtape) so I'll finish it up here. Feel free to make your own list and link me. I'd be happy to share. Anyways, don't bring these into the new year, because I'd be happy to leave you behind in 2016. That sounded harsh, but if you've seen what I've been through these past few weeks, this isn't harsh at all, just a fact.

with kindness,

Review: Arabella of Mars

Sunday, 25 December 2016
 Release Date: July 12, 2016
Publisher: Tor
Page Count: 320
Format: ARC
Genre: YA/Sci-Fi
Ever since Newton witnessed a bubble rising from his bathtub, mankind has sought the stars. When William III of England commissioned Capt. William Kidd to command the first expedition to Mars in the late 1600s, they proved that space travel was both possible and profitable. 
Now, one century later, a plantation in the flourishing British colony on Mars is home to Arabella Ashby. A tomboy who shares her father's deft hand with complex automatons. Being raised on the Martian frontier by her Martian nanny, Arabella is more a wild child than a proper young lady. Something her mother plans to remedy with a move to an exotic world Arabella has never seen: London, England. 
Arabella soon finds herself trying to navigate an alien world until a dramatic change in her family's circumstances forces her to defy all conventions in order to return to Mars in order to save both her brother and the plantation. To do this, Arabella must pass as a boy on the Diana, a ship serving the Mars Trading Company with a mysterious Indian captain who is intrigued by her knack with automatons. Arabella must weather the naval war between Britain and France, learning how to sail, and a mutinous crew if she hopes to save her brother from certain death.
*an ARC of this book was given to me during BEA 2016 from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review*

It was complete luck that originally made me pick up Arabella of Mars during BEA 2016 this past summer. I was walking to another book signing when I noticed that the line for Arabella of Mars was almost empty and I decided to go meet the author since it wouldn't take that long. If that line was longer perhaps I would have never picked up this book but I can say with complete certainty that out of all the books I picked up those three days, Arabella of Mars is one of my favorite ones and I count myself lucky that that stroke of luck allowed me to pick it up.

When it comes to covers I'm definitely judgmental (even thought everyone says not to judge books by their cover I can't help myself) and the cover of Arabella of Mars definitely passed my "criteria." The image of a traditional ship instead of a spaceship next to Mars in the distance mixed in with the interesting description of the book was what got me started reading after picking it up at BEA. If you've seen my other reviews you know that in terms of world building I expect the most from fantasy books and not as much from other genres. However, despite being sci-fi instead of fantasy, Arabella of Mars was really well written in that department. The settings used in Earth weren't anything new but being in another time period with various aspects of the world (like being an alternate time period different from ours) changed and the ship journey to Mars just made it so invigorating that I couldn't stop reading.

David Levine's writing is no slouch when it comes to characters either as the main character Arabella Ashby as well as the other characters like her shipmates, the Martians, and everyone else were all expertly written. My favorite part in the entire book was the chapters where we get to see Arabella working on the ship on the journey back to Mars. As she matures, grows up, makes friends, and ultimately becomes a much stronger character than she was when she first started. The captain of the ship she was on being Indian was also really interesting because that's the first time that I can remember an Indian character in any sci-fi book I've read. There was just so many small details in the writing that made me like Arabella of Mars so much, I know I've written nothing negative about it yet but that's because there are none (at least in my opinion); in fact I would go as far as to say that Arabella of Mars is one of my top five sci-fi books that I've read in 2016.

The ending of Arabella of Mars wasn't really a cliffhanger but it ends in such a way that I know the author has a lot of space to expand on later in sequels. I'm not sure if there is a sequel planned yet but I definitely hope so because this amazing book still has so much to explore and I haven't had nearly enough of Arabella's adventures. If you're a sci-fi or fantasy fan I would definitely recommend this book, you'll love it just as much as I did if not more.

5/5 - One of my favorite sci-fi books of 2016

Sister Heart Broke My Heart

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Release Date: August 1st, 2015 
Publisher: Fremantle Press
Page Count: 251
Format: AUS Paperback
Genre: Contemporary (Written in Verse)
RRP: $19.99
Source: Inside A Dog (Gold Inky Award Finalist)

A young Aboriginal girl is taken from the north of Australia and sent to an institution in the distant south. There, she slowly makes a new life for herself and, in the face of tragedy, finds strength in new friendships.

Poignantly told from the child’s perspective, Sister Heart affirms the power of family and kinship.

Sister Heart was a story that stuck with me even after finishing it. It just makes me love my people even more, love their stories, love their strength and love how we've survived and have existed for more than 60,000 years, becoming the longest living culture and race. I have never had a book where it both empowered me and crushed me. It's very hard to explain my feelings for this book. I loved it very much when I read it for judging as a Inky Award Judge. It opened up a door that was halfway open. It made me want more books written from my people. It was a book that gave me strength to write my own story. So, thank you Sally Morgan.

  • IT'S WRITTEN IN VERSE. It's so beautifully put together and a story told through verse. I couldn't stop reading it. How could I? It demanded you pay attention, that you read all the way through in one sitting.
  • THE WRITING WAS INCREDIBLE. The descriptions of certain smells, scents and imagery brought me back home. I loved how Sally described fire and the smell of it outside, the imagery of family and children all together, the description of singing and how it touches ones soul, how precious ones language name is and so much more. Sally really changed the way I read. She's really raised the bar on what I consume as a reader and what I write as a writer.
  • SISTER HEART TELLS A SMALL PART OF OUR HISTORY. Sister Heart tells a story of a child named Annie being taken away from her family, from her country, from her home and being put into a mission with other children. This happened in Australia. Children who were considered 'half-caste' or had lighter skin were taken away from their homes and put into missions where they were mistreated, abused and violated. These children are still alive today, as the stealing of children stopped in 1970. Sister Heart gives readers a glimpse into this history through the eyes of the protagonist, Annie.
  • ANNIE, JANEY AND TIM ARE SO PRECIOUS. These characters are just so precious. You'll want to protect these children with everything and anything. Annie is the rebellion, not wanting anyone else taking away pieces of her identity. Janey is the one who tries to make everyone happy and does so hilariously. Lastly, Tim is the youngest of the group and was taken away as a baby. He didn't learn about where home was until he met Janey. Janey loved Tim very much, their bond was indescribable and only something siblings would understand.
  • IT WAS HOME IN A BOOK. The way the children interacted with each other and talked made me feel like I was back home, in a place where I understood everyone and everything.
  • A EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER. The writing, as mentioned before, is incredible. The characters are amazing and so is the dialogue. Another aspect to the book that really captivates me is the story itself. We experience heart ache, rebellion, the want and need for survival, family love and bonds, the need of protecting these bonds, the connection to home and country, the strength of our songs, our voice, our stories, the innocence of childhood and so much more. Sally enchants you with words, having you wanting more. 
  • THERE ARE SO MANY PHRASES THAT STICK WITH YOU! Here are a couple of my favourites. (They are presented without any context)

The following isn't a Dislike, its an observation/statement.
  • We never get to know Annie's real name. Sally Morgan shared a reason for this. It was because Annie feels like that if she were to share her real name, her language, her home, that they'd be taken away from her too, hence why she doesn't share it. She's already been taken away from them, she doesn't want anything else taken from her either.

Again, I have no words. I am emotional as I write this review; how could I not be? A book like Sister Heart needs to be on everyone's shelves. I have given Sister Heart 5 stars, even though it deserves more. Its a book that'll open peoples eyes and change lives. I recommend this book to all of you, as it's a light and quick read and a story that you'll automatically be invested in.

Are you keen on reading Sister Heart yourself? Want to further discuss how life changing and eye opening Sister Heart is? Comment down below!

Q&A with Zoraida Cordova: Brought to You By Diversity December Bingo

Sunday, 18 December 2016

I wanted to write a Latina version of Charmed for a long time. I always loved the sister dynamic. Latinxs are very family oriented, and the bond of magic was something I wanted to explore. How does that affect each sister differently? 

I love fairy tales and myths. But instead of writing a retelling, I really wanted to create my own magical system. Even though there are some Latinx superstitions that I used in Labyrinth Lost, there isn't a Latin-American mythology that exists. This is because Latin America isn't a country. So I created my own gods, spells, and magical system to go with the brujas of the story. 

I'd say the scene in the Meadow del Sol is my favorite. I had a lot of fun writing it, and wish it was longer. 

It's a toss up between Mama Juanita, who is a composite of women in my family, and Alex herself. Alex is complicated. She comes from a working class family. They get by, but Alex's mother is a single parent, and she has three daughters to care for. So Alex struggles with wanting to be the best she can be so she can take care of her mother and sisters one day. But still feels that she has to choose between being magical and being human. Alex has a lot of fears, and the entire book was me trying to help her overcome them until she discovers her potential.
Alex - Slytherdor 
Lula - Gryffindor 
Nova - Slytherin 
Rose - Hufflepuff
Rishi - Gryffindor 
Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon, Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones, Allegedly by Tiffany M. Jackson

This is a tough one because there are so many different reasons to own a book. But I'll say The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz because it is incredible.

New Adult is one of those things that's more of an age group than anything else. My take on NA is girls in their mid-twenties who are fucking up at life and have to figure out how to fix things. Also find true love. I just want to write honestly about what it's like being a young woman circa-now. My NA is contemporary romance, so it fills a different need than writing fantasy. Though I believe romance is a fantasy in its own right.

My stepdad reads all of my books. Even the romance ones. He's brutally honest. Most of the adults in my family aren't readers, and the ones who are, like my grandma don't read in English. If I ever get a Spanish translation contract, my grandma is the first one who gets a copy. Mostly they wonder why I spend all day at home on my computer crying on deadline (just kidding).

Dhonielle Clayton because we want to change the world for the girls we used to be, and the girls out there now.

Thanks so much to Zoraida for answering questions you guys had!

Dear YA: Meet The Squad

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Okay. For those who don't know a couple of days ago I teased about something involving reviewers, writers and authors who are marginalized. If you didn't see the teaser here it is.

Okay, okay, for real though, here's my tweets about "really cool thing that was cooler than it's definition". 

Now guess what! It's Thursday! It's the day I said I was gonna share something. So here is the something. I've been thinking about the community and how it's big (I mean it truly is BIG) and I've always wondered if I've met all the people. Like, have I truly seen all the voices that belong to the community or have I been a small part of it? Have I been tucked away in a small corner and have yet to explore the rest of the community? Is there another voice that needs exposure and a boost? Are there more people in the community who love food as much as I do? or kpop ? Do all white people like avocado like the media says? All valid questions I've yet to answer.

The other day I thought of something really cool. What if there was a way for those who are marginalized and belong to the book community to get to know each other? Then I got thinking again and I had come up with this really cool thing that I will name "The Squad". I know, what an amazing name. A+ for effort. Anyways, The Squad is basically you guys (marginalized reviewers & authors) coming together and well, introducing yourselves! It's basically like Friday Features, but supporting the marginalized. I'll be interviewing you guys or you guys can guest post (again, exactly like Feature Friday's) and making Squad Cards with your short bios. These interviews I'll be conducting go onto the blog on Fridays. It's a great way to really get to know you all and expand on the voices I support and boost. Sounds cool? or cooler than it's definition?

Here's the sign up forms. I cannot wait to get to know more people like myself in the community. If you know someone who'd be a great addition to the squad, please let them know about it.

Dear YA, White Are You Doing?

Friday, 2 December 2016

This article wasn't something I thought I'd be writing. I've put aside a couple of articles because this one is, well, really important. I'm not white, but I live in a colonised and westernized world. The way we think, the morals we have and so much more are influenced by the ideas that are shared in this world. As someone who isn't white, I can easily decolonise my thoughts and opinions because I don't have that white privilege. I do however have white passing privilege, but that's another topic and a seasonal thing. I think because this topic is so huge, I'm going to break it down into a series within the "Dear YA" series.

So as mentioned before, we live in a westernised world (most of us do) and in YA this influences what we consume and write. It also influences how people review books. Over the weeks I have seen ableist, racist and degrading reviews written by white people. It is because of the "White Lens" that these people have, they cannot see what or how they went wrong.

The first step of understanding where you went wrong, is listening to critique. I have seen people sharing why a review was offensive and racist. I have then seen these people who are subject of this critique retaliating and calling themselves allies, when in fact they have been shutting down the voices that belong to People of Colour (PoC). You are not an ally if you cannot listen and see how hurtful your words were. I’ve seen reviewers and readers say “But I see nothing wrong with that” when shown proof of their racism. Stating that you see nothing wrong is part of the problem. You have to realise that the world is not all white and is apart of a westernised society. You must educate yourself. learn from your mistakes and apologise.

However, there are those who ask for education and then make fun of those who refuse to educate. "How am I suppose to learn if you won't teach me" is now a White Proverb. For one, we do not exist for the sole purpose to educate White people. We were not put on this earth as your educators. There’s this magical thing called Google, that can educate you for free. You also have eyes, you can read books on this topic. Stop demanding to be educated by People of Colour, we are not here for this.

Reviewers and readers are responsible for doing their own research for a book. If you haven’t done the research, it is on you for misunderstanding the book. The values and characters written in books by People of Colour or with People of Colour are not always written in the context of a westernised society. Research is key to understand non-western contexts in books because your White Lens ultimately influences your reading and reviewing negatively. For example, readers and reviewers who complain about teens who aren't white, that "aren’t mature", or "are na├»ve" or "are annoying" need to check their privilege and step back to see the cultural context. In this westernised world we expect teens to be mature, observant and know everything about what is right and wrong. This isn’t the case for the rest of the world. Someone can become an adult when they turn 21, or when they get married, or when they have children or when they turn 30, you need to research to know this, to get context. Google is great. Make it your best friend. Try to find a lot of places to do your research. I do research too, I have to. I don’t know everyone’s culture or their values. So I research to understand, to clarify and to understand the context of books. Using that new found knowledge then helps your review to become safe to read without hurting people and even helps you decode misunderstandings and misconceptions that you had in books.

Readers, reviewers and bloggers who are wanting to help with diversity and marginalised voices need to listen. If you want to become culturally aware and become an ally, network with #diversebookbloggers. Read their reviews because I know for sure we’re calling out the problematic language and characters in books. We’re doing the hard work while you think it’s appropriate and totally fine to do no research, call the book messy and then say it’s a really important book. That’s not how it works. You cannot alienate a culture and then tell everyone it’s an important book.

Diverse book bloggers exist. Support us, read our reviews and if you want, ask us to collaborate or guest post. Or build a discussion surrounding a book. Stop saying you’re the victim to bullying when in fact it’s just critique. Don’t deflect critique and call us the bad guys when you’ve just obliterated our culture and existence after questioning it.

Those with the White Lens, I hope this article was helpful, if not, you’ve missed the point, again. But if you have understood and know that research is key, thank you. I’m not here to educate. My existence needs no explanation or definition. Don’t demand one. No one’s asking you, so don’t ask us. Don’t make fun of PoC who don’t educate you. Don’t question someone’s cultural, ethnic or racial background because they have the same skin colour as you (this has happened when a reviewer was critiqued. You do not have the right to question someone’s identity. Take a seat). Don’t come for WoC after they’ve critiqued your work, listen, learn, research and apologise.

Are you white and have learnt something today? Or are you a Person of Colour who’s thankful for this post which is just a collection of all our thoughts that we have been saying and repeating for, well, forever? Comment down below with your thoughts!