Friday, December 27, 2013

Dasani; Invisible Child

You absolutely must go read this enthralling and shattering story about Dasani, a 12 year old girl living "homeless" in New York.

Journalist Andrea Elliot observed and interviewed Dasani and her family for over a year. She paired with photographer Ruth Fremson to provide some of the best journalism I have seen in a long time.

The story follows Dasani from the fall of 2012 and describes her life with her parents and seven siblings in a one room "apartment" in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn. The family eventually ends up living there for over 2 years, sharing communal showers and toilets and a community kitchen.

It discusses the sad facts that there are more homeless children in New York now than at any other time in history, including the Great Depression. This combined with the fact that the shelter system is very broken means that homeless families have trouble breaking out of the cycle of poverty and homelessness.

Dasani's parents don't have jobs, both have criminal records and have spent time in jail. Where are the programs to help them find jobs? To train them in a trade or educate them about how to look for and get a job in today's economy? Do they not deserve help or a job just because they made some mistakes in their past?

Of course this story isn't about her parents, it's about Dasani herself. It's about how such a smart, tough and determined girl is floundering in a society that doesn't care enough about what happens to her. She seems to have teachers that care deeply about her, perhaps they are the ones who pointed her out for this journalist to follow? She has a promising future, but only if her intelligence and spunk can be harnessed and used in a constructive way.

How many other Dasani's are out there?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Women Dominating YA Part 2! Now with a conversation from Twitter!

So part 2 of the 'Are Women Dominating YA" conversation is up on the Stacked Books blog. 

There was also a great twitter conversation between authors E. Lockhart, Maureen Johnson, John Green, Maggie Stiefvater, and librarian 'Teen Librarian Toolbox' about what this blog post means and what the bigger picture of gender on the NYT list means.

It should be known that I follow E. MJ and John Green on twitter so I was sort of reading this as it unfolded but the link provides an inclusive view of the whole conversation. I adore these authors and I think that they are so smart, and MJ in particular has taken on gender in YA before with her cover flip article.  Also, here's the awesome slideshow of cover flipped books. 

The twitter conversation brings up some great points. First of all, is the biggest problem here with the NYT best seller list? Or is it with gender in YA (and the idea of females dominating YA). MJ clearly believes gender is the problem, although agrees that the NYT best seller is rife with issues as well.

I think that perhaps the NYT issue is a big deal, but as MJ points out it is more concerning for writers themselves, not the public as a whole. I mean I can see the issues with judging ALL of the YA books out there by placing them on one list that only has 15 spots, but the issue of gender in YA is so much bigger than one problematic list.

John Green also makes a good point by saying that the NYT bestseller list probably shows more clearly which YA books adults are buying. Rather than what YA books teenagers are buying. Although, full disclaimer I am an adult buying lots of YA books and I certainly don't think that there is anything wrong with adults reading YA. But it is interesting, where is the list that tells us which YA books teens are really reading?

John also states that he believes that list of which YA books teens are buying would be largely by female authors and perhaps this is true. I don't know where such a list exists, and yes there are a lot of female YA authors so this could be very possible. But I don't think that is the main point in this blog post and discussion. I think that the main point is that regardless of the fact that there are MANY female YA authors who write lots of amazing books, the NYT YA bestseller list is disproportionately full of books written by male authors. So, male YA authors are still the ones getting the 'acclaim' for their books, even if male YA authors are technically in the minority.

Kelly over at Stacked Books also brings up some problematic tweets from the twitter conversation between the authors and a librarian:

"1. Green's comment that we need to accept this is happening and "begin a conversation about why."

There is no "beginning" this conversation. It has been on going for a long, long time. But it's interesting that the moment a male steps in to the gender conversation, it's a beginning. Just because someone decides to enter a conversation, doesn't mean it's the beginning of a conversation."


"And so I revert to the question I keep wondering about: how much does a revered male's voice help a female's career? When a man who is seen as someone with power and authority within a field -- be it the YA world, the librarianship world, the teaching world, the publishing world, the corporate world, and so on and so on -- why is it his word is what can make (or break) a woman's chances in that same field? What is it that allows him continued authority and respect? And hell, he doesn't necessarily even need to be revered. It's likely having a male voice is enough to help a lady out in many, many places."

As Kelly states, this is not about John Green specifically. I adore John Green. This is about a sexist marketplace and a sexist world, where because a critically acclaimed male author writes a review or blurb for a female author the book may be better received or sell more copies. This just happens to be a good example of what the widespread sexism in our world means in the YA lit world.

I'll leave you with this quote from the second stacked books article,

"It is clear there is an issue to discuss here, and I am so glad it's bring discussed.

But it should also be clear that in discussing this issue, there are even messier, sometimes more problematic, knots to untangle." 

Monday, November 4, 2013

On Women "Dominating" YA literature

There is an interesting blog post over at Stacked Books that discusses the idea that women writers are "dominating" YA literature by looking at the data for the New York Times Bestseller List.

From the blog post:

"As should be absolutely clear, there has never been a time women have outnumbered men on the NYT List in the top ten. Never.
It gets more interesting if you look at how few spots individual women have had on the top ten list. There have been nine weeks when only one woman has had a spot on the top ten. That woman is, of course, Veronica Roth."

"Books written by women have never once -- never once -- had at least half of the spaces on the top ten list. They've had a few weeks occupying four spaces but never have they had five books in the top ten slots in the 47 weeks that the YA List has existed.

A couple of other factoids to include at this juncture: there have only been five weeks where a woman held the number one spot on the New York Times List for YA. Five. They were held by Veronica Roth (for four weeks -- three of which were in mid-July, on the 14th, 21st and 28th, which would reflect a bump in sales immediately following the release of the first stills of the movie and the fourth week, September 15, likely reflects sales following the release of the film's trailer) and Kiera Cass for The Elite, which stayed for one week only. Cass's novel debuted at #1 on the May 12 list, which reflects the sales for the week her book was available for purchase.

Again, in 47 weeks, there have only been two women to see the top spot. They only held it for a combined five weeks."

Click on over to the article here to see all sorts of nifty graphs and tables explaining the gender breakdown of YA authors on the NYT bestseller list. 

This is a great and necessary blog post because so often we hear that YA is all female writers or that female authors dominate YA. While this may be true in sheer numbers of YA authors out there, it is not true in the critical acclaim or public representation of YA authors. 

I'm not trying to say that there should be more female authors on the YA list than men, that's not my point. My point is that anytime women participate in something in large numbers, they are suddenly seen as "DOMINATING" it. Regardless of whether they actually are, in fact, dominating it. 

I think all of this goes back to the idea that books and writing by female authors are not seen as prestigious or "serious" work. Men are the "great American authors" and their stories are serious, profound works of art. Whereas women's work is perhaps less likely to be regarded as serious and more likely to be seen as fluffy, chick lit. 

There's a second part of this article coming tomorrow from Stacked Books. Check it out and let me know what you think. 

Does the representation of female authors on the NYT bestseller list mean anything? Does the list impact what readers are reading??