Posts Tagged ‘awards’
Everyone in Eatonville, Florida knows there’s something special about Zora. But no one else in town knows her quite like her two best friends, Carrie and Teddy, do. Together, the three spend all the spare time they have exploring, getting into one mischief or another, and – of course – listening to Zora’s stories. When a man turns up dead on railroad tracks not long after Zora talks of seeing an alligator man in the swamp, no one believes her. Except Carrie and Teddy, of course. So it’s up to the young trio to get the bottom of the mystery before more people get hurt.
I was skeptical at first of the premise of the story: focusing on the childhood of a famous person; books like that can often be rather generic and present a very standardized and inaccurate view of history. Instead this lovely, slim novel is full of detail and nuance, of complications and implications. The language is just absolutely beautiful, a fitting tribute to Hurston’s work, and yet it’s still readable by the middle graders it’s marketed to. Highly recommended. This should be in every public library’s collection.
Inside this book you will find Pusheen the Cat’s guide to petting, acquiring treats, sleeping, and much more. Round, silly, and adorable, Pusheen is a delightful teacher with personality and opinions to spare.
This is a bit of an odd book in that it doesn’t quite fit into normal categories – it’s the kind of book that would simply be labeled as a “gift” book in most bookstores. Children may enjoy it, but much of the humor references adult experiences. Many adults may enjoy it too, but the format and illustration style makes it look more like a children’s book. Still, it’s entertaining and I’m glad I read – and it would, indeed, make a fun gift a great many cat lovers.
Daja, and her mentor Frostpine, have come to the northern city of Kugisko so that the latter may visit with old friends. Their restful trip is soon interrupted, of course. In turns out that their hosts’ twin daughters are natural mages, and since it was Daja who discovered their gifts, it’s up to her to make sure that they are trained properly. Frostpine has troubles of his own to take care of, as he’s asked by the governor to look into counterfeit coins – preferable before the public finds out and panic ensues. And both mages are worried about the mysterious fires that appear to be accidents, but seem to keep happening more frequently than is normal.
This wasn’t a bad book, in fact I think I liked it best of this second quartet so far. Daja’s characterization is a good mixture of older-than-before yet-still-very-young and this story has a nice mix of cultures and customs. Unfortunately, it’s far from Pierce’s best. Also, I was tired of the plot idea of our four friends discovering natural mages – and being required to become teachers themselves – before I was finished with the first book.
The arguments against authors listing which of their works are eligible for awards confuse the hell out of me.
I’m sure a certain amount of that is me not understanding where the people making such arguments are coming from, but I also feel like there’s a lot of assumptions in many of those arguments about how people come to be Readers of the genre. Not people who simply read books in the genre, but people who read enough and care enough that they would be willing to pay money to vote on an award. So this post isn’t so much an argument for authors doing anything in particular as it is an attempt to banish those assumptions.
Point the First:
To say that “speculative fiction has always had a very permeable barrier between fan and pro” (as Martin Lewis does in his post on the topic) is not only understating the case, but describes the dynamic in a way that does nothing to illuminate how fan-author interactions actually work in a world in which the internet exists.
I’ve mentioned before that the internet is the reason that I started reading science fiction and fantasy again, after having stopped in my teens.
This is an exaggeration, of course, as I never really stopped reading speculative fiction entirely. What actually happened is that it ceased to be the bulk of what I read, and instead became something I occasionally read, often with a significant amount of caution. The reason for this being that every bookstore that I walked into was happy to promote works by male authors that wrote about manly men who did manly things (which tended to include treating women like shit), and appeared utterly oblivious to the fact that women read and wrote in this genre as well. Even worse, as I transitioned from children’s books to adult books, it became increasingly difficult to avoid stumbling across books that, quite frankly, were deeply NOT FUN because of the way they depicted gender and adult relationships. A problem made worse by the way that female writers were marginalized by the publishers and bookstores, because, in the absence of any sort of feminist analysis in reviews and promotional materials, my best bet at avoiding those books was to look for the female authors that were so hard to find.
It’s also more accurate to say that the internet is how I began to find adult speculative fiction. I was working in a bookstore and reading all kinds of teen and middle grade speculative fiction when I first began seriously using the internet as a tool for finding books. This was back in the mid oughts, when people outside of young adult literature were beginning to notice that young adult fiction had really taken off. Right in the middle of Harry Potter Midnight Magic Parties (I worked two of them).
What’s is true and important about this story is that despite always being a reader, despite having read The Lord of the Rings in elementary school, despite reading middle grade and young adult speculative fiction at the time, I didn’t start looking for adult speculative fiction on purpose. I stumbled across it.
I’d just began watching Criminal Minds, of all things, having caught some episodes in reruns over the summer. Curious to see if anyone else had thought about how the show played with gender, I typed a few words into google and stumbled across Elizabeth Bear’s livejournal. I started out reading her posts about Criminal Minds, and ended up reading her books. I also found other people to talk about books with! People who listened to what I said and didn’t try to tell me that what I really needed to do was read [author that I’ve tried and whose books left me feeling slightly ill]. It was amazing and, I have to admit, slightly life-changing.
What’s is true and important about this story is that I found Bear’s books because she talked about them, not because other people did.
I found joy in reading adult speculative fiction again because that barrier that Lewis mentioned is permeable, not despite it. My first experiences with discussing adult speculative fiction in a way that did not make me feel small or silenced involved authors discussing their own works. So this idea that authors discussing their own works taints the discussion by definition is not one that I understand. It can certainly happen – and does happen often. But I also honestly cannot imagine finding speculative fiction nearly as interesting without having access to essays and posts and tweets about it – about their own work even – by women like Amal El-Mohtar, Kate Elliot, Kameron Hurley, Sylvia Kelso, Lois McMaster Bujold, N.K. Jemison…and well, you get the idea.
Now, I’m not saying this dynamic doesn’t change at all when one is talking about awards – the power differential matters a lot more, for starters – I’m just trying to explain why “awards are for readers and not authors” is not an argument that makes sense to me. Not just because these aren’t clear distinctions, but because my experience has been that my options as a reader are improved when authors have more options as well.
Point the Second:
Anyone who thinks that every author who posts an eligibility list is “lobbying for awards” (as Martin Lewis calls it) or “self-pimpage” (as Adam Roberts does*) doesn’t understand how imposter syndrome works. (I’m guessing they also aren’t reading the twitter feeds of the women who are talking about this.) I can’t think of a time that I’ve submitted my art somewhere because I thought it was the best or expected it to get chosen. I submit it for the same reason I attempted rock climbing and hiking Angel’s Landing, even though I knew I’d chicken out of both: because there’s more value in failing than there is in never trying.
My guess is that for a lot of the authors making these posts – women in particular – they are not so much about trying to convince readers to nominate and vote for them as it is an attempt to remind readers who are about to get busy talking about all the usual names that they still exist and would you please remember to read me too? They are lobbying for themselves, yes, but it would be more accurate to say that they are lobbying to be read and discussed, to be considered rather than forgotten.
You can see this dynamic happening in the discussions on twitter, where an author will say something about not being sure about if they should put up such a post, and other people – readers and writers both, and often women – will rush in to encourage them to do so. The value of those posts is as much in that exchange as it is in the posts themselves.
Point the Third:
To me, Amal El-Mohtar’s argument about diversity isn’t really about who is getting nominated for this specific round of the Hugos, etc. It’s about how people see themselves and the choices they make because of that.
I tried out for the soccer team my first year of college, despite being far too out of shape to have a chance. On the first day, when we were doing timed laps and I was not only the last person in, but struggling to make it to the end of the run long after everyone else was done, the rest of the women trying out began cheering me on. One of the senior team members jogged back onto to track and ran the rest of the way with me, making sure I didn’t give up. I didn’t make the soccer team. I didn’t even make it to the end of try-outs. But I carried that moment with me for the rest of my time at school. The knowledge that the women around me wanted me to do well kept me going far beyond that one run.
Roberts may see people in an arms race and trying to “level the playing field.” I see people helping each other, affirming that they want others to do well.
This discussion isn’t just about authors, either. It’s also about readers like me. And whether the books I read and like deserve to be part of the discussion, to be considered or not. About whether my opinions have merit, or whether I should leave the serious discussions to the people that can be more “objective.” To the people who were part of the discussions back in the good old days when awards were about merit – and I didn’t even bother reading adult speculative fiction because I had no idea how to find books that didn’t insult me.
There’s been a lot of changes to publishing in the last few decades, and I don’t doubt that their impact on awards hasn’t been entirely positive. The problem is that these changes have been also useful for a lot of readers like myself. There seems to me to be a lot of focus on judging authors actions in reaction to these changes rather than actually looking at the system as a whole. There also seem to be a lot of potentially good arguments about wanting to focus on literature being sidetracked by the assumption that the status quo is neutral. Not to mention the implication that those of us who appreciate reminders, or can’t devote enough time to keep track of this all by ourselves, are somehow polluting the process by participating. Which leaves me feeling like I’m being told it would have been better if I’d never joined the discussion – and a lot of other people whom I disagree with, but who I suspect have good ideas, sounding rather defeated.
It would be nice if we could move the discussion past this, but I admit that I’m not sure how to do that.**
*Am I the only one who went O.o at that phrasing? Perhaps it’s just the experience of coming to this as a woman, and therefore as someone who runs the risk of being called a “whore” in the literal sense, but that…was really not the way to convince the people who are in favor of eligibility posts that you aren’t being blind to how differing experience and privilege affects how people approach this issue.
** I do want to give props to the people who have put together the Hugo Award Eligible Art(ists) tumblr. I don’t think that I’m ever going to be against artists talking about their own work in their own space, but as a reader and fan this kind of project is really what I find to be most useful. It’s also a good example of how focusing only on what authors should and shouldn’t do is really limiting our discussion – and consequently our solutions as well.
A teenager wakes up a train station with no memory of who he is or why he’s there, with only $15 in his pocket and a copy of On Walden Pond in his hand. After falling in with some “street kids” and escaping from their unsavory “protector,” the boy with no name heads for the woods, hoping to find some answers at Henry David Thoreau’s cabin.
I’m not entirely certain why authors/publishers keep making books about middle class white kids having meaningful experiences when circumstances force them to slum it, but they do. Again and again. Verdict: skippable, very skippable.
Jonas’ world is comfortable and orderly. Like all other children in The Community he got his front-buttoned jacket when he was seven, and his bicycle when he was nine, and now that he’s becoming a twelve, he’ll be assigned an occupation. But when Jonas isn’t picked to be an Engineer or a Nurturer or any of the other typical occupations, but instead is chosen to be the next Receiver of Memories, his world is turned upside with the truth that his training reveals.
The world-building here is rather sparse, leaving more than a few holes, but it works for the intended audience. It’s definitely a child’s point of view that we get of this dystopian world, which actually makes a certain amount of the opaqueness not only believable but necessary. It’s clearly meant to raise questions more than answer them, and does a good job of that. Lowry does an excellent job here of not only slowing revealing the communities secrets but also pacing out reader’s exposure to customs that will seem strange to them, encouraging children to get to connect to Jonas and his family despite their differences.
What fascinated me the most while reading The Giver was how clearly you can see traces of Lowry’s modern classic in so many of the currently popular young adult dystopias. It makes me want to spend the next few months just writing about the influences of modern science fiction for middle grades and young adults, and most particularly the extent to which the latter is dictated by readers experiences with the former, as opposed to being shaped by trend in adult genre novels.
Betsy, Tacy, and Tib are now twelve, which means they are finally old enough to do things like walk downtown by themselves and go sledding after supper – in the dark! The whole world seems to be growing up as well, now that the first horseless carriage has come to town. But are Betsy, Tacy, and Tib quite as ready for all these grown-up adventures as they think they are?
I will always remember this as the book in which the girls go to the Opera House. To see Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Which meant that blackfaced minstrelers provided the entertainment during intermission. (One assumes the actors in the play were in blackface as well.) Other than that, it’s just as lovely as it’s predecessors. But, well…that’s not precisely a small thing to overlook.
Colby, North Carolina isn’t where Colie Sparks expected to spend her summer. She was supposed to spend it at home, with her friends. Instead, her mother has shipped Colie off to spend the summer with her aunt, Mira, while Kiki Sparks tours Europe selling her multitude of fitness products. But could Colby be just what Colie needs?
(hint: this is a Dessen novel, so the answer, of course, is yes)
Small town. Quirky characters. Wisecracks followed by heart to heart conversations. Just what you’d expect from a Dessen novel. This isn’t my favorite of hers (it didn’t click for me the way others have, and parts of it rubbed me the wrong way), but it was a light, quick read.
Cordelia Naismith never thought that marrying Aral Vorkosigan would be without its ups and downs, but neither did she expect to end up married to the Regent for Barrayar’s four year old Emperor. Risking her own life is nothing new for Cordelia, but when her family is threatened as well she decides that she may have had just enough of Barrayan politics.
How much do I love this book? Too much to write a proper review for it. It’s just excellent. If for some reason who haven’t read this series yet, you need to do so now. Also, I want more books about Cordelia and more heroines like Cordelia.
This was the week we read about bears during preschool story time. Which led to me reading lots of (new to me) picture books about bears. And so week four Reading Round-up has been divided up into two parts.
Little Mouse has found a nice, red, ripe, yummy strawberry. But can Little Mouse keep the big, hungry bear from taking the strawberry for himself?
This book is definitely a (modern) classic, and it’s not just because it get kids giggling. The authors have managed to create a story that is clear and simple enough for very young children to follow, while telling it in a way that encourages analysis.
The text turns the reader into a character in the story: a narrator speaking to the small mouse. The mouse in turn answers not with words, but with actions shown in the illustrations. The basic story of a mouse scared of a bear is incredibly easy to figure out, but understanding all the small jokes requires that children see the cause and effect between the words and the illustrations. Also, that they think critically about the fact that the bear is never seen. This clever set up not only allows the story to work for a wide range of ages, it also provides children with much needed practice in comprehension and critical thinking.
And, of course, it’s funny and cute.
At night, Otto the Book Bear steps out of his book and plays and talks with all the other book characters. Until one day he goes off exploring and comes back only to discover that his book is gone! In a plot reminiscent of the many stories about lost, forgotten, or outgrown toys, Otto sets off in search of a new home – and finds it in a library.
This was one of my favorites among all the bear books I read recently that were new (to me); mostly for personal reasons that should be quite obvious. I haven’t yet read it aloud to the kids, but I expect it will work well, especially as the illustrations are cute, pleasant, and easy to see from a distance.
A circular story that will likely never become a classic (it doesn’t have quite enough personality) but is nevertheless a good, clever read with very pretty illustrations.
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
My first introduction to this book was a former bookstore coworker complaining to me about how awful it is. Oh, silly adults with no sense of humor. * shakes head *
This book is brilliant. Even if you never ever ever read picture books, grab a copy to flip through next time you are in a bookstore with a children’s section. (It’s a recent award winner, so most stores should carry it – even Mysterious Galaxy had a copy on display last time I was there.) You will not regret it. I’m not going to ruin the punchline for you, but I do want to point out that the awards are in recognition of not only the clever plot and sublime yet distinct illustrations but also because of the way that the structure of the story is leveraged into repetitive yet far from boring text that works for newer readers. Also, Klassen’s use of space and color and repeating elements is just first class.
This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
Sequel, of a sort, to I Want My Hat Back. Same humor and art style, similar set up – but different enough to make it interesting, equally brilliant, and also an award winner.
I Miss You Mouse by Greg Foley
Thank You Bear by Greg Foley
Make A Wish Bear by Greg Foley
Good Luck Bear by Greg Foley
These adorable books are perfect for toddlers and younger preschoolers. All four stories follow the same pattern of following Bear around as he interacts with the other animals, each exchange echoing all the others in both sentence structure and futility – until Bear meets up with mouse, who provides a solution. The art is nicely graphic and manages to be simplistic without looking flat.
I Miss You Mouse also has flaps and thicker pages, making it especially appropriate for the toddlers these books will appeal to most.
Laurie Halse Anderson is best known for her award-winning young adult and middle grade novels, particularly Speak, Wintergirls, Fever 1793, and Chains. She is also the author of a rather interesting non-fiction picture book (illustrated by Matt Faulkner) about Sarah Hale, a 19th century American woman who transformed Thanksgiving from a regional holiday into a national one.*
Now, I haven’t had a chance to read this new picture book (the local bookstores sent their copies back after the holidays) so what I am about to say is informed solely by the covers as well as the fact that Hale, as I understand it, is hardly a well-known person to be writing about,** but…WOW. If that cover is any indication of what is inside, I’m perplexed to say the least. A bit annoyed and insulted too.
Anderson and Faulkner’s Thank You, Sarah frames Hale as a woman who engages in intellectual pursuits and commands respect. The title casts Sarah as a hero and invites us to thank her for what she has done. The patriotic symbols that surround her are everyday ones that Hale, as an American citizen (albeit a non-voting one) could claim as her own and her due.
The Amelia Bloomer honored title, according to its cover, focuses on Hale’s experience with the domestic pursuit of cooking and frames her actions as being grateful and offering domestic niceties to others. The patriotic building in the background is one that symbolizes power held, in Hale’s time, only by men. It is possible that the intent was to create a type of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” vibe, but the combination of target audience, title, and pumpkin pie does quite the opposite.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Thank You, Sarah was never honored by the Amelia Bloomer Project despite (as far as I can tell) being eligible for it.
Weird stuff happens, praise-worthy does not mean perfect, books aren’t always like their covers (although picture books certainly ought to be), it is (in very specific circumstances sometimes) possible to praise men for work that women have also done and not undermine feminist goals, it is very possible to praise women for traditionally feminine tasks and not undermine feminist goals, the apparently derivative nature of the second work may merely be a matter of coincidence and the subject matter, and I’m quite certain this was not at all a deliberate insult to Anderson by the Amelia Bloomer Project.
Still, I am totally giving the Amelia Bloomer Project the side-eye right now. Also Allegra, Gardener, and Albert Whitman & Co.
*Hale was a rather fascinating person and not without flaws. Raised by parents who believed in education for women as well as men, Hale went on to write and edit for major US publications. She was critical of slavery but supported sending freed slaves to Liberia. Also, she popularized a holiday that celebrates genocide. So.
**I’m hardly going to argue that Hale is worth only one picture book. I just find a second book about her within the span of a decade an interesting choice considering both how well known the first author is and how many other wonderful women don’t have any picture books about them at all.