A Diverse Walk in the Park

The flowers are all in Balboa Park. This is the "Crown Plant" from India—Calotropis gigantea.

The flowers are all in Balboa Park. This is the “Crown Plant” from India—Calotropis gigantea.

Finally, I’m getting to more of the books purchased at the 2014 SCBWI conference. Since I first read them so long ago, I’m currently rereading for the second and, in some cases, third time. Confession: I tend to gobble when I read. So I’m getting the subtler flavors on the second readings. These dishes are like the recipes I try out and decide to save to cook another time.

They also help me learn how to concoct original meals—how to present the appetizer, pair ingredients, gauge cooking time—how to achieve peak flavor.

I need to stop thinking about food now.

Skin I'm InWhen I finished the second reading of The Skin I’m In, my first thoughts (after “great book”), were “Maleeka had to learn to be brave enough to be who she is” and “Isn’t that what we all have to do in life?”

The ingredients: a protagonist who feels too tall, too skinny, too poorly-dressed and too dark-skinned; a classmate who bullies through “friendship”; a sweet early romance; a character we question, friend or foe. Sharon G. Flake’s story becomes a case of the whole being more than the sum of its parts.

But don’t just take my word for it. The Skin I’m In, published by Jump at the Sun and reissued in 2007, won the John Steptoe Award for New Talent.

I never really liked hibiscus—such showoffs and I didn't like that pink much, but the zoo has hibiscus that deserve to flaunt it.

I never really liked hibiscus—such showoffs and I didn’t like that pink much, but check out the stamen on this one.

Fake IDFake I.D. Stop before you read past the title. What do you think the book will be about? Wasn’t what I expected.

Even though I already knew what the fake i.d. refers to on this second reading, I liked the book as much as I did on the first read. I’m more aware of the strength of the voice. When Nick cranks up his iPod to drown out his parents’ argument, he says he “fell asleep with a rapper shouting at me. At least his yelling had a good beat.”

And thinking about his specific voice helps me understand more of how to approach it as a writer since we so often hear editors and agents say they

Another one to challenge my previous limited ideas about hibiscus

Another one to challenge my previous limited ideas about hibiscus

are looking for a “unique voice.” Nick’s voice is true to his character which isn’t over-the-top flamboyant or regional or any of the things we might think of as a “distinctive” voice. He is real within his point of view.

Fake I.D., written by Lamar Giles and published by Amsted in 2014, is a young adult coming-of-age, murders (plural)-mystery thriller. If you don’t want any violence in your YA reading, be forewarned, but it’s not a horror book.

When you read it, check out the dedication. Sweetest murder mystery dedication I ever read.Kira-Kira

Kira-Kira, the middle grade novel written by Cynthia Kadohata and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers in 2004, won the Newbury Award. That should be enough to write.

But I won’t let that stop me.

Katie is a Sansei child born in Iowa in 1951. She adores her older sister, Lynn, who “always said she would teach me everything in the world I needed to know.” When the family has to move to Georgia, together they navigate the prejudice and struggles their family encounters.

A true case of "if you've got it, flaunt it!"

A true case of “if you’ve got it, flaunt it!”

But some things the heart needs to know cannot be taught. They have to be experienced directly. This heartbreaking and heart-mending story is the kind of book I would have treasured as a child and do as an adult.

A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2010, intertwines two stories, both set in Southern Sudan. In 2008, eleven-year old Nya spends her day obtaining the family water. I don’t know if this character is an actual individual or a composite based on the reality of daily life for many.A Long Walk to Water

The second story is based on the life of Salva Dut, one of the Lost Boys. In 1985, Salva was eleven years old when his teacher told his students to escape gunfire by running into the bush and to not return to his village, which would be a target for soldiers. Silva’s story is gripping and inspiring.

Final thought: The more we celebrate our diversity, the more we find the depth of our common humanity.

While I’m trying to shed more of my possessions, these books are staying to be read again.

One last hibiscus from the zoo. This one is delicate and fading, but still beautiful.

One last hibiscus from the zoo. This one is delicate and fading, but still beautiful.

Diversity Continued

But first a word from our sponsors:

Encinitas Street Fair on 4/26/15—I’ll be with the Read Local group from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. I’d love to see you and talk books. I’ll have copies of Secrets of the Flame: The Power to Protect for purchase at a discount.

The amaryllis are spectacular this year. It's been so dry, there are no ravenous snails to eat them before they fully bloom.

The amaryllis are spectacular this year. It’s been so dry, there are no ravenous snails to eat them before they fully bloom.

Earth Day is coming! And doesn’t Earth sponsor us all? In that spirit, you are encouraged to view a fascinating Ted Talk by Allan Savory titled: How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change. It’s about 25 minutes long and has been on my mind ever since I saw it. I’m also wondering if a few goats or llamas in our suburban yard will help.

On Sunday, 4/19/15, I’ll be with the St. Paul’s booth at Balboa Park’s Earth Day celebration (sans books).

Links to the Encinitas Street Fair and the Ted Talk are at the bottom of the post.

A moment before brother and sister were bathing each other. Then something outside caught their attention.

A moment before brother and sister were bathing each other. Then something outside caught their attention.

And now for our regularly scheduled program:

In my last post, I wrote about a few of the children’s books that support diversity. I also promised to write about two books for adults that I purchased at Bookfaire.

Nina Revoyr and Eduardo Santiago, authors and compelling speakers, are bridges. Many people are open to finding and crossing bridges to bring people together. Other people are bridges themselves. They straddle what divides groups of people and stand with one foot in one culture and one foot in another.

I don’t think that’s an easy place to live. When I was a kid, I had a frequent image of myself trying to balance with one foot on one ball and the other foot on a different ball.

And the two balls rolled away from each other.

To this day, I don’t know what those two balls represented to me.

Riff-Raff and Frankie follow the trail of a feline invader

Riff-Raff and Frankie follow the trail of a feline invader.

I only know how unsafe it felt.

Nina Revoyr was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and a white American father. She lived in Japan for five years, until her family moved to the United States—back to her father’s small Wisconsin town. She knows what it’s like to be the outsider in two places when she should belong in both.

Her story isn’t mine to tell. But Wingshooters (published by Akashic Books in 2011) is her novel with elements of her own story. I bought two of her books but didn’t read Wingshooters yet. I’m looking forward to it.

The novel I did read is Southland (Akashic Books in 2003). Jackie is a young Japanese-American woman whose grandfather owned a grocery story in the LA district of Crenshaw. The book moves between 1945, when her grandfather served in WWII;1965, when four young black men were killed during the Watts Riots; and 1994, when Jackie is drawn into the mystery of their deaths.Southland

Revoyr has won a number of awards, and Southland was on the Los Angeles Times “Best Books of 2003” list.

Midnight RumbaEduardo Santiago’s family left Cuba for the United States when he was ten years old. He is a child of both countries and longs for his estranged “parents” to mend their fight. He’s a writer who pens such lovely lines, you sometimes have to stop, reread and savor.

In Midnight Rumba, published by Cuban Heel Press in 2013, Estalita travels around Cuba with her father and his troupe as they go from village to village performing. We follow Estalita and other not-so-ordinary ordinary people as their paths diverge and criss-cross before and during the Cuban Revolution.

Santiago is also an award-winning author.my wine glass

Since I usually write about books for kids, I think I should repeat that these are adult books with some sex scenes and an occasional hangover within the context of a larger story.

It occurs to me that both Nina Revoyr and Eduardo Santiago not only add to our shared diversity, they are individually diverse. I’m grateful to the people willing to share their sometimes painful journey. Probably all of us have some version of those two balls to stand on. And, if we examine ourselves, we can empathize with the struggle to find and keep one’s balance. And maybe learn more about doing it ourselves.

Hummingbird rescue. It later flew off. A hummingbird in the hand is worth . . . well, it's priceless.

Hummingbird rescue. It later flew off. A hummingbird in the hand is worth . . . well, it’s priceless.

And now a reminder from the sponsors:

Info about the Encinitas Street Fair: http://www.encinitas101.com/events/annual-aprilstreetfair-2/

Ted Talk for Planet Earth: https://youtu.be/vpTHi7O66pI