Gabbing with the YA Diversity Book Club | Dive Into Diversity

Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

Greetings, friends! Estelle here. A new month and another opportunity to diversify your bookshelves! I’m so psyched to share May’s DID post with you today. I’ve been an avid reader of the YA Diversity Book Club posts — made up of Sandie at Teen Lit Rocks, Kristan @ We Heart YA, Lucy @ The Reading Date, and Kristina @ Gone Pecan — where the crew discusses one diverse read a month and talks with the book’s author too. Not only is a great example of expanding your reading but this group is an example of the book blogging community at its best – not only collaborating but thoughtfully discussing together. I’m so happy to chat with them about the book club, their definitions of diversity, and, of course, their book recommendations. (Psst. Kristina was knee deep in ACOTAR research for her moderating gig a.k.a. rereading all the sexy parts so she was unable to take part this time. Hope it went well, K!)

Happy (diverse) reading!

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1. Hello YA Diversity Club! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today for May’s Dive Into Diversity post. One thing I was not personally expecting were so many questions about whether specific titles were “diverse” or not when we started this reading challenge. It’s always a difficult question for me to answer so I pose it to you guys: what makes a book diverse to you?

The Reading Date: We have an author questionnaire for every book we read and I liked how Elizabeth Wein answered this question: “the world is a diverse place” and she just “writes about people!” Everyone should be able to see themselves represented in books, and reading diverse books can show how similar people are despite differences.

We Heart YA: I don’t think there’s a perfect set of rules, and our group has definitely discussed whether certain books meet our criteria. I guess sometimes you just have to evaluate case by case. For example, AN EMBER FOR ASHES was one we debated. I really enjoyed the book, but it doesn’t fall within my personal preferences for a diverse read. (Generally I want a diverse book to expand my understanding of an underrepresented culture or demographic.) Nevertheless, after a brief discussion, I agreed with the group that EMBER still fits the mission of diversifying YA literature, because it was written by a woman of color!

Teen Lit Rocks: Since I volunteer with the We Need Diverse Books organization, I have sort of adopted their stance on what makes a book diverse. I think for me the book has to pass a litmus test of either having an author or a main character who identifies as being from a non-majority group. But if it’s the latter, the author better have done his/her research to authentically represent that identity/culture.

2. Can you give a little background about how you started the YA Diversity Club up? Did you know each other beforehand? How do you make it work? How do you pick what titles you are going to read?

The Reading Date: Sandie invited me to join about a year ago and I’ll let her answer how the idea came to be. We keep up-to-date with new releases that may be a good fit for our group. We noticed that we were reading a lot of contemporary so we added some fantasy to the mix for some variety. We chat via Google Hangout or Google Docs. Sometimes it’s tricky to find a time to chat since we are in different time zones. But, I love our discussions and they give me a greater appreciation and understanding of the books we read.

We Heart YA: Ditto what Lucy (the Reading Date) said. 🙂

Teen Lit Rocks: I was part of a multi-blog group that read/reviewed/featured books together on a monthly basis. After a couple of years, we started to feel overwhelmed and pulled in different directions/ interests. One of those areas for me was the desire to promote diverse books, because I’d heard from other girls in the group that they weren’t interested in the movement, they just wanted to read good books, regardless of who wrote them or what they were about.

I talked a lot about this issue with Kristina from Gone Pecan (who had also been part of the other group), and she mentioned that she just needed more recommendations for diverse books/authors. She wasn’t sure where to start. I had the idea of starting an online book club with other bloggers to help other book lovers “discover” diverse books, and once Kristina said yes, I reached out to two other bloggers I respect and admire, Lucy at the Reading Date, and Kristan at We Heart YA.

3. What’s one book from your book club reading you can’t stop recommending?

We Heart YA: For me, recommendations always depend on who’s asking and what they’re looking for. But personally, BLACK DOVE WHITE RAVEN is probably my fave read from our book club so far.

The Reading Date: My fave so far is LIES WE TELL OURSELVES by Robin Talley.

Teen Lit Rocks: I have really enjoyed several of the books we’ve read; my favorites are “Black Dove White Raven” by Elizabeth Wein; “My Heart and Other Black Holes” by Jasmine Warga; “Lies We Tell Ourselves” by Robin Talley; and our very first pick, “Like No Other” by Una LaMarche.

4. What diverse topic would you like to see in YA that you haven’t seen yet (or seen enough of)?

The Reading Date: One way I felt isolated as a teen was from my social anxiety. It would have been helpful to read a book with a character that dealt with the same issue. (I still would like to see more books about mental illness and social anxiety!) I’m also very passionate about LGBTQIA books.

We Heart YA: I don’t think we have progressed far enough for me to identify just one weak spot… YA lit stills needs a lot more diversity of all kinds. But I’m glad we’re at least moving in the right direction!

Teen Lit Rocks: I think there’s sort of a golden age of LGBTQIA books for teens, but I think there still needs to be more progress with books about underrepresented minorities like Latinos (especially those who aren’t Mexican) and teens dealing with disabilities or size issues. And because my kids are multi-ethnic, I wish there were more books where the characters were “other” rather than just one minority.

5. Can we talk about “token” diverse characters? I saw a comment about this on Twitter recently, and while I understand and I’m sensitive to this happening, I wondering — how do you really know? What if the author doesn’t think about the character as a “token” and the reader interprets it this way? Is this up for debate or am I just thinking too much?

We Heart YA: Everything is up for debate, haha. It’s what makes conversations about diversity so hard — but so important, too.

The Reading Date: Agreed: I think it’s up for debate. I don’t think we’ve come across this in any of our books so far.

We Heart YA: For a moment I was going to disagree with Lucy (the Reading Date) but upon reflection, I agree that we haven’t seen tokenism in any of our picks. To me, tokenism is checking off a box and wanting brownie points. “Look, I put a black character in! Aren’t I great?” Whereas I think what we saw in one book was actually just an author who was enthusiastic about diversity but overly ambitious. For me, this author’s portrayals of diversity didn’t ring true enough or deep enough — but it wasn’t for lack of good intentions. And I guess that speaks to your question: How do we know? Truthfully, we don’t, really. We can only go off what’s on the page and the impression that we get. But that’s how reading works…

Teen Lit Rocks: Nothing is more disheartening than seeing your culture or identity depicted in a half-assed, phoned-in manner. It’s always obvious to me when an author didn’t get his or her facts straight or had someone “vet” her characters. For example, when an author randomly has Latino characters speaking in Spanglish or eating foods that are from a different Latino culture, I just nod my head, roll my eyes and want to throw the book against the room. Anyhow, I do think it’s up for debate, but any author attempting to write outside her experience (something I applaud) should take the extra steps necessary to make sure that voice and character is authentic and not just a stereotype.

6. Personally, what are your hopes for the emphasis on diversity in reading as of late?

The Reading Date: I want to keep the conversation going. This isn’t a fad, and there’s still a long way to go.

We Heart YA: I hope that people will understand that the emphasis on diversity isn’t some literary Affirmative Action program; it’s simply a desire to reflect the world that we already live in. A world that has always been diverse. A world that is only going to become more diverse as we progress.

Teen Lit Rocks: Ditto what Kristan said. I hope that the word doesn’t scare people away the way it seems to in certain circles. I want my friends to ask questions and be open to responses. I want my white, straight, comfortable friends (for lack of a better way to describe them) to take a chance and read about characters who aren’t anything like them, and on the flip side, I want people who don’t fit into the majority to discover books with characters that ARE like them, at least a little bit.

YA Diversity Book Club


What’s up next for the YA Diversity Book Club? This month, they’ll be reading Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. I hope you’ll follow along! Big hugs to Sandie (Teen Lit Rocks), Lucy (The Reading Date) and Kristan (We Heart YA) for hanging out today!

BEA Part of It 2014: The Crew + a Roundup

BEApartofitNYNY: Tips, tricks, and recommendations for those attending BEA and New York City.

Happy Sunday + Happy Mom’s Day to all the fun, awesome, nurturing moms out there! (Especially my lovely bff, Magan!) With just a few weeks left until BEA and your upcoming trips to NYC, we hope you enjoyed the BEA Part of It series this year! Today we are wrapping it up with our favorite NYC books/anticipated BEA releases/memorable NYC spots. Thanks so much for following along and be sure to add your own suggestions to the comments if we are missing something awesome! xoxo

alexa (alexa loves books)

Favorite NYC book: Brooklyn Girls by Gemma Burgess! Picked this one because it’s fun to read, it features five girls who are friends and live together in Brooklyn and it very much reminds me of my experience as someone who moved to New York and is trying to carve out a life for one’s self.

Favorite NYC spot: the Stephen A. Schwarzman building, a part of the New York Public Library! I pass this building often when I’m heading to work, and it always reminds me of two things: (1) how awesomely epic architecture can be and (2) how much I love books. Plus, it’s fun to sit out in front of it in the summer, or to go in to visit the beautiful rooms or see special exhibits.

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elena (novel sounds)

fav NYC book: Eloise is my idol and she lives on the tippy-toppy floor of the Plaza Hotel. I love, love her because she’s a whirlwind of adventure, stomping around in her signature black Mary Janes. The Plaza always seemed so magical to me because of Eloise. She’s a fashion icon and literary icon and one of the most delightful children’s icons ever. And she’s only six! 

dying for BEA: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

fav NYC spot: il laboratorio del gelato is an NYC must for me. they changed their flavors daily and they such a wide range that there’s something for everyone. my personal favs that I’ve tried are apple calvados, honey lavender, and tarragon. this holds a special place in my heart because I always go here with friends! plus, the famous Katz’s is right next to it and a SoHo is a short walk away. perfect all around!

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estelle (rather be reading blog)

Favorite NYC Book: Going to go for a “grown up” pick. How to Kill a Rock Star by Tiffanie DeBartolo is a pre-9/11 novel about a girl moving to NYC to write about music. She falls in love with a rock star, 9/11 happens, and things get a little crazy from there. This book is about making your dreams coming true in the big apple + also finding our a lot about yourself. One of my most treasured books.

Favorite NYC Spot: Battery Park + Table Green kiosk. My husband and I actually discovered this spot during last year’s BEA weekend. For those of you who weren’t in town, OMIGOSH it was so hot, so warm… I think I was just sweating and never stopped. We decided to take a break, go sit near the water, and just relax + it really did cool us down. Gorgeous views of the Statue of Liberty, lots of interesting tourists to people watch, and some nice local brews at Table Green (near a fountain! a few weeks after this we went to the fountain and just got soaked). It’s a really nice little spot just to sit back and relax. (Oh, and read too.)

Battery Park Rather Be Reading Blog

gaby (queen ella bee reads)

Favorite NYC Book(s): Also Known As by Robin Benway and Where She Went by Gayle Forman (It’s a tie, sorry, I can’t follow rules). As a native, I’m always afraid New York books will make me mad, but Robin Benway and Gayle Forman totally get NYC. Also Known As pokes at the hidden nooks and crannies of the city. It makes you feel like an insider – Robin Benway should seriously give tours. Gayle Forman should also give tours (perhaps they should give tours TOGETHER?). The places Mia takes Adam in Where She Went are so perfect. I’d love to follow that path. Oh, and these books I’ve mentioned? They’re absolutely fantastic. Also Known As is perfect for quirky spy book lovers and Where She Went is what’s up for the feels – and those who’ve already read If I Stay.

(Notable Third Favorite: The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle. That’s it. I promise.)

Favorite NYC Spot: My official favorite NYC Spot is the path along the Hudson on the Upper West Side – North of 91st and right around the Boat Basin on 79th (the in between bit is pure bike/running path, no room for lounging). I love being on the water. The sounds and smells are so comforting and it’s the best place to read. It’s also the best path to bike up and down during the summer (as noted in other posts). Nothing makes me happier on a not-too-hot Sunday than filling my bike’s basket with snacks and books and just going.

But honestly, the most important thing to remember about NYC is that I can tell you where to go or what to do but the best thing is to just wander. Don’t eat at a chain, don’t follow instructions to the letter, and get a little lost. NYC is huge and, who knows? Maybe you’ll find something awesome I’ll want to try!

jamie (perpetual page turner)

Fav NYC spot: I really just like hanging out in Central Park a whole lot and eating or reading or just hanging. Especially as a non-native I feel like I’m constantly finding a new favorite “spot” in Central Park!

Fav NYC book is Dash & Lily…I just loved traipsing across the city with them around Christmas time! Plus the book made me giggle quite a bit + YAY CHRISTMAS TIME READ!

Perpetual Page Turner

rachel (hello, chelly)

Favorite NYC Spot: The Flatiron Building. There’s nothing super special about this particular spot although the Flatiron Building is a NYC landmark. But this is my favorite place! It’s both pretty and comforting to me, at least. My first job was right around the corner from here and I worked there for 8 years so this is a very familiar spot to me. I’ve walked past it every day. Had coffee with friends in the seating area next to it. Plus there’s a lot of shopping, Books of Wonder and Madison Square Park (Shake Shack!) nearby.

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Favorite NYC Book: Where She Went by Gayle Forman. I don’t know why but I totally blanked on which books take place in NYC. I had to look up a list on Goodreads and when I saw Where She Went by Gayle Forman, it immediately jumped out at me. When I read it, I remember feeling like I was walking through NYC with Mia and Adam because I knew all the landmarks they mentioned. In fact, I think it’s time for a re-read considering the movie is coming out!

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alexa: coffee + tea picks (2013: touristy | bookstores )
elena: sweet stops pt 2.  (2013: sweet stops part 1)
estelle: broadway + beer (2013: broadway | spirits/caffeine )
gaby: parks + rec
jamie: bea bucket list (2013: food trucks + bea eats!)
rachel: finding your way around the city (2013: shopping spree | foodie heaven )
(2013: tara from fiction folio on what we need to know for BEA)

Big thanks to these ladies for taking on this project with me! Have fun at BEA, pals! And don’t forget
to take a moment and make the most of your time in NYC! It’s one of the best cities ever. Muah!

Who’s Who? Can You Guess the Baby Blogger?

Where do you get your best ideas?

Mostly I get mine in the shower or right before I fall asleep. But last week (or was it two weeks ago), I had a massive brainstorm while sweating on some kind of contraption at the gym. I wanted a way to involve more of the community in this celebration of Magan and Baby E! (Check out yesterday’s post from moms around the community!) But how?

A game, of course!

Think of this as a virtual baby shower of sorts. (Though, this particular game might be harder to play with a room full of strangers.) But I emailed a bunch of wonderful bloggers who didn’t think I was crazy, asked their moms to scan pictures, and left their darling baby faces to me. What responsibility! (And what fun I had looking at them all and piecing this together. Even James was getting a chuckle out of it!) I’m proud to announce …

GUESS THE BABY BLOGGER GAME.

It’s as simple as it sounds: can you match up these adorable faces with a book blogger?

Guess the Baby Blogger

Here’s a list of who you will find up above:

Addicted 2 Novels (Lena)
Alexa Loves Books
(Alexa)
Along for the Read (Liz)
Anna Reads (Anna)
The Artsy Reader Girl (Jana)
Belle of the Literati (Kelly)
The Book Barbies (Raquel)
Book Rock Betty (Betty)
Books With Cass (Cassie)
Books, Etc. (Natalie)
Books Take You Places (Alyssa)
Chick Loves Lit (Shanyn)
Consumed by Books (Liz)
Gone Pecan (Kristina and Daphne)
Gone with the Words (Jess)
GReadsBooks (Ginger)
Fiction Folio (Tara)
Hello Chelly (Rachel)
Novel Sounds (Elena)
Novel Thoughts (Jen)
Paper Riot (Judith and Ellice)
Perpetual Page Turner (Jamie)
Pop Goes the Reader (Jen)
Pure Imagination (Lori)
Queen Bee Ella Reads (Gaby)
Rachel Reads (Rachel)
The Pretty Good Gatsby (Leah)
That Cover Girl (Capillya)
Rather Be Reading Blog (Estelle)
Sasha and Em (Sash and Em)

Hint: The last picture (bottom right corner) is a celebrity bonus. If you know us, you will figure it out!

For a handy dandy chart, just print out this linked Google Document!

Big thanks to the bloggers who sent in pictures, Elena for making this adorable header, Liz for helping me out with some last minute details, and Alexa for matching my enthusiasm for the idea and pushing me to make it happen!

HAVE FUN + HAPPY FRIDAY! xo

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Added 2/23/2014: The answers.

‘A’ is from Appreciation

book blogger appreciation post 2012, how to spread the love to bloggers

Happy Saturday friends!

Magan and I were very late to the party when it came to participating in Book Blogger Appreciation Week so we wanted to present you with a list of ways we like to show love for our fellow bloggers.

First and foremost, Magan and I started as fans of the book blogging community. Our love of books and the inspiration and fun we found on those blogs were the two reasons why we decided to team up and blog together in the first place. After almost a year, it’s surreal and wonderful to be fans and friends of many brilliant people in the community.

We’ve teamed up with one of our favorite pals Alexa of Alexa Loves Books to come up with a list of how we like to make our bloggers know we appreciate their work and really value what they are saying. As a sidenote, it must be said that Alexa is very special to both Magan and I. When we were brand sparkley new, Alexa was one of the first to reach out and really make us feel so welcome in the community. Since then we have all shared brilliant burgers together, and she is one of my favorite buddies to attend book events with in New York. She’s enthusiastic about reading, she is a loyal commenter, and just all around one of the most down to earth and wonderful people you could meet.

Modern Love Note Cards from Oh So Beautiful Paper

Without further delay, the ways we like to make our fellow bloggers swoon a bit during the day:

  1. Goodreads is a great tool for a plethora of reasons, but one of my favorite is the “Recommended by” text box that you can edit with each book. In the past, I’ve kept a small notebook and marked where and who I read about it from heard about a book, but using Goodreads is just so much easier for me. It’s how I pick the books I’m going to read next and also the ones I’m going to borrow from the library. It’s always great to see that you were mentioned in someone’s review and they heard about the book from you first!
  2. There’s nothing like having a support system when you want to discuss a book you just finished or even while reading it. In the past, Magan has “bookclubbed” with fellow book friends, Elena and Alexa, about Cinder and Throne of Glass. Most recently, I’ve experienced play-by-plays withover Comeback Love (an adult fiction novel) and  even formulating discussion questions with Sasha over Stealing Parker. It really brings so much more depth to reading, and also feels like the best part of English class (a.k.a. no tests!).
  3. The best thing about books? They can lay the foundation for some great friendships. Alexa and I both love theater and New York City, while Tara and I are huge fans of Harry Potter and the Wizarding World in Orlando. I have also finally found someone to talk to about Miley Cyrus. (That’s you, Elena.) Ginger and Magan both share a love for animals; Sasha and Magan are huge shopping fans. And then there is Mandee over at Vegan YA Nerds who we know to run to with all our nail polish needs.

So, I guess what we’d like for you to take away from this little post is that we love lovin’ on our friends. Our book buddies have become more than just bookish friends. Books have been a phenomenal starting point, but we’ve developed some pretty fabulous friendships through this little blog. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone and shower them with a great and thoughtful comment to let them know you appreciate them. Reading is an independent activity, but discussing books knits us together.

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Don’t forget to check out Alexa’s Book Blogger Appreciation post about how she spreads the blogger love. Also, don’t be shy! If you have any tips or stories about spreading the love, let us know!