Adam Silvera & a Call to Arms | Dive Into Diversity

Dive into Diversity Reading Challenge

Hello, readers!

Another month, and more time to diversify your bookshelf. We’re thrilled to have debut novelist (a.k.a. that tall guy who used to sell me books at my favorite bookstore) Adam Silvera on the blog today! His  highly-praised release, MORE HAPPY THAN NOT, turns ONE WEEK OLD today (aww) and Adam is sharing some thoughts about timing and introducing homosexuality in books. Hope you enjoy Adam’s Dive Into Diversity stop, and add his recent release to your reading lists! (Also, challengers, don’t forget to add your DID) links below!) Take it away, Adam!

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I don’t understand why people mistake homosexuality as a choice, but they do. I’m sure a lot of the misconception revolves around wanting the world to spin a certain “normal” way, but let’s dismiss that idiocy for a few minutes (and for the rest of our lives) and take a look at why homosexuality may feel foreign to well-intentioned others.

Teenhood is that time of independence and discovery that can be both exhilarating and frustrating, and for a lot of teens, it’s the first time they’re reading something that may involve gay characters. Homosexuality in middle-grade fiction exists on a very small scale, but you’re always more likely to see a wizard struggling with his magical life than you are a kid pondering his sexuality. Sure, some pre-teens are developing loveless crushes on each other, but for the most part they are chasing each other around the jungle gym, tattle-telling on some little nemesis, or playing Pretend, so you could argue it’s not necessary to roll out homosexual presence just yet. Except I did all these things and still had feelings for boys and knew not to talk about it because it wasn’t being talked about. I’ll admit to being the kind of reader far more interested in Harry Potter dealing with all his problems, both Muggle and magical, but seeing an outed Dumbledore, or even another Hogwarts student who’s gay, could’ve changed the game for me. But we shouldn’t be including homosexual characters just for those who are gay–it should be for EVERYONE.

My point to all of this is I believe we’re introducing homosexuality FAR TOO LATE to people by only addressing it in young adult novels, and it may be why it’s so alien to others who aren’t experiencing these feelings themselves. I would love to see a greater presence of LGBT characters for younger readers, and introducing them as young as the picture book crowd so they aren’t surprised by the different ways to love.

I totally understand more authority comes with teenhood, but we shouldn’t have to be a certain age to declare who we are, even if some of those declarations turn out to be wrong. Sexuality may not always be a choice, but how we define ourselves is.

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Thanks for stopping in, Adam!

MORE HAPPY THAN NOT: The Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto — miracle cure-alls don’t tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. But Aaron can’t forget how he’s grown up poor or how his friends aren’t always there for him. Like after his father committed suicide in their one bedroom apartment. Aaron has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it’s not enough.

Then Thomas shows up. He has a sweet movie-watching setup on his roof, and he doesn’t mind Aaron’s obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn’t mind talking about Aaron’s past. But Aaron’s newfound happiness isn’t welcome on his block. Since he’s can’t stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is (Soho Teen, June 2, 2015).

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Estelle: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin TalleyLies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Pages: 304
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: historical fiction, 1950s, segregation, LGBT, family
Format read: Paperback ARC from HarlequinTeen. (Thanks!)

Summary: Sarah is one of the first African American students to enter a predominately white Virginia high school in 1959. The other students are not happy about it and are determined to make the black students feel as uncomfortable and unwanted as they can. When Sarah is paired with Linda and her best friend, Judy, on a French project, they are not expecting to become friends and Sarah is increasingly enraged by Linda’s close-minded proclamations. While it’s not so surprising being that Linda’s dad is one of the town’s most prolific supporters of segregation, Sarah sees little hints that Linda might not be like the other students in school; perhaps she can get why this treatment is not okay. As if things aren’t difficult enough, Sarah finds herself thinking about Linda in a way she doesn’t think God will approve of…

Imagine starting a brand new school with no welcome committee. Instead people are calling you names, telling you that you smell bad, not wanting to sit next to you, automatically thinking you are dumb because of what you look like, and even going a step farther than verbal abuse. They want to hurt you and they want to hurt you bad.

This is exactly the situation that Sarah and her friends are walking into as they step in Jefferson High School for the first time in 1959 Virginia. There is very little support from the administration a.k.a. the adults of the school, and even keeping your head down doesn’t stop them from singling you out. Sarah is miserable. She loved her old school, enjoyed her classes, got to sing in the choir, and now she’s stuck in remedial classes, doesn’t have any friends, and can’t participate in extracurricular anything. It’s hard to think she is “making a difference” like her parents remind her when she is dealing with this crap every single day. Scared for herself, her sister, and her friends. Instead, she feels lost and she’s not sure she will survive the few months until graduation.

Linda, a white girl in a few of Sarah’s classes and the daughter of someone who isn’t quiet about how these changes make him feel, feels like Sarah and the other African Americans have ruined her senior year. No prom, so much distraction. She can’t stand it. But so many of her opinions are formed from her father’s. A very busy man who has no time for his daughter and her opinions. Despite Linda not wanting Sarah and her friends in the school, she finds herself standing up for them a few times. When she is assigned a French project with her best friend (Judy) and Sarah, Linda acts like she has all the answers when it comes to Sarah returning to her old school and even why that school couldn’t afford enough books or equipment for all students. Calmly though passionately (most of the time), Sarah tries to explain why things are the way they are, and you can practically see the little cracks starting to affect Linda’s beliefs.

It was fascinating to watch Linda process what was happening around her and what was right vs. what she has always been told. So many times, I could see how close she was to realizing that her school’s treatment of Sarah and her friends was completely wrong. Then another wall would appear and we would move a few steps backward again. As much as people in this town and at Jefferson High did not want integration, it’s interesting to think how much of that was because they truly felt that way or because they were just listening to the arguments of others, believing that people with different skin type were actually lesser beings. Lies We Tell Ourselves does not shy away from how truly ugly people can get in the face of change and the unknown, and I had to close the book so much as I was reading because I was utterly disgusted. But by Linda’s character raising questions and asking why, we are able to gain more insight into this treatment without excusing it.

There is absolutely so much to discuss in this novel (book clubs and schools, take note!) but I wanted to say how nervous I was when I saw this book would also include a lesbian storyline. Conflicts because of integration is a lot to take on in the first place but to add in a plotline where Sarah and Linda fall for each other? Would it be too much? I shouldn’t have doubted Robin Talley and I won’t ever again; the feelings growing between the two never overpower the book and I thought that was a good move. It’s hard enough for the two to be seen in the same classroom, much less pursue a relationship but it was authentic and great to see each of their thought processes (was something wrong with them? were they going to hell?) and how the time period reflected their hopes for the future.

For all the pain and all the judgement in this book, there are also beautiful moments which shocked me with how much they affected me. (I would be crying and not even notice.) From the wonderful first moment Sarah shares her voice with two strangers, the bond between Sarah and her lil sister, Ruth, how Linda found strength in her own words, and the bravery that both girls had to tap into to move forward in ways I never would have predicted. Lies We Tell Ourselves  is an important book and not only for the treatment of this sensitive and confusing time in our history but for how well it manages to fold in the conflicts and changes between family, friends, and how we see ourselves.

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Lindsey Lane on Storytelling + Evidence of Things Not Seen

Evidence of Things Unseen by Lindsey Lane

(From Lindsey Lane:) When I go into a school for an author visit, I always tell students that the cool thing about writing is that there are no right or wrong answers. There’s spelling. There’s grammar and punctuation. But really, there is no right way to tell a story. For me, as long as I’m telling a story that is true to a character’s heart then I’m doing my job as a writer.

When I started writing EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN, it was a series of linked short stories, all of which occurred around a patch of dirt by the side of the road, which is called a pull-out. You see, I woke up from a dream and saw a boy standing in a pull out and wondered what the heck he was doing there. Then a lot of different characters showed up at the pull out, each for a different reason, each with a different desire. Eventually I discovered Tommy, a brilliant, socially awkward high school boy who goes missing from that pull out. Once I ‘found’ Tommy, I knew his absence could pull all the stories together. In a weird way, Tommy would be the negative space at the heart of the novel around which all the stories of the people in the town revolved, only their stories would be a bit off course in the way that things go a bit wobbly when someone is missing.

That’s also when I added the fist person sections of the kids talking to the Sheriff about Tommy. I needed the urgency of their voices and their knowledge of Tommy to weave the world of the novel together. I took a risk interjecting first person sections with the third person stories. I mean, in the end, the reader of EVIDENCE steps into the perspective of twenty-one characters. That’s a lot to ask a reader but I think we live in this crazy exciting time as storytellers. Graphic novels. Fan fiction. Flash fiction. Novels in verse. It’s insane. And that’s just the reading format. If you turn on the television or go to the movies and plays, writers are taking big risks with story telling. Leaps in time, point of view shifts, simultaneous realities are all pretty common now. Do they all work? Probably not. But if your story is true to a character’s heart, your reader will go anywhere with you.

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About EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN: When high school junior Tommy Smythe goes missing, everyone has a theory about what happened to him. He was an odd kid, often deeply involved in particle physics, so maybe he just got distracted and wandered off. He was last seen at a pullout off the highway, so maybe someone snatched him. Tommy believes that everything is possible, and that until something can be proven false, it may be true. So as long as Tommy’s whereabouts are undetermined, he could literally be anywhere.

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Lindsey Lane AuthorAbout LINDSEY LANE:  Award-winning author Lindsey Lane is proud to announce her debut YA novel EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN will be published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers on September 16, 2014. Her picture book SNUGGLE MOUNTAIN (Clarion, 2003) is now available as an iTunes app, which Digital Storytime describes as “heartwarming and adorable with rich illustrations and lyrical text.” In 2010, Lindsey received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Lindsey is a featured presenter at many schools where she gets kids (of all ages) excited about writing. When she is not writing, reading or being a mom, Lindsey loves sweating at Bikkram yoga, seeing movies and plays, and enjoying some of the outrageously good food at Austin restaurants with friends.

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