Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Guest post from Ari of Reading in Color: POC Historical fiction

For my second monthly historical fiction feature (for March I blogged about Tudor historical fiction) I have a guest post from Ari of Reading in Color about POC historical fiction. I will also be doing a post of my own with some of my favorite book recommendations.

Many of you may not know that I love historical fiction. I read all kinds and I love Rebecca's blog because of all the recommendations I get, one of my favorite time periods is the Tudors. However, my blog is dedicated to reviewing YA/MG books about people of color (POC). When I first started Reading in Color, I feared that I wouldn't find enough historical fiction to spotlight that fit my criteria. While there isn't nearly as much as I would like, there is a good number of titles, the main problem is the lack of diversity and originality in them. By that I mean, they mostly discuss slavery and civil rights. Those are both very important, but they can become redundant and uninteresting. In compiling this list, I tried to spotlight my favorite historical fiction POC reads that go above and beyond slavery and civil rights.

Middle Grade

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia

Escaping the Tiger by Laura Manivong (I haven't read this one yet but I've read good reviews of it)

A Million Shades of Grey by Cynthia Kadohata

Young Adult

The Firefly Letters by Margarita Engle-The story of Frederika Bremer's visit to Cuba. Frederika was a vocal proponent of equal rights for women and while in Cuba she befriends Cecilia, an African slave (and real person) and Elena (the daughter of a wealthy sugarcane mill owner, fictional character). This story is told in beautiful, simple, prose.

A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott-More than just a Civil War narrative. AWAM starts off with the main protagonist, Genna, living in Brookyln in 2001. She makes a wish at a fountain and ends up in 1863 Brooklyn. Right before the Draft Riots break out. Genna's story is quite unique, we are immeresed in Brooklyn and the prejduces of the North. The timetraveling and complex story is woven together smoothly, lovers of history and fantasy will really enjoy this book.

Mare's War by Tanita Davis-Tally and Octavia don't realize how incredibly cool their grandmother, Mare is. They are sisters forced to go on a roadtrip with their 'crazy' grandmother who insists they call her, Mare. She smokes, speeds and hates baking. As they travel on the roadtrip, Mare tells them about her days in the Women's Army Corps. If African American male soldiers were treated bad, African American female soldiers were treated even worse. Mare is so brave and I really admire her and it was interesting to read about life in France during World War II for AA female soldiers.

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith-Set during WWII, all Ida Mae wants to do is fly. She is inspired by her brother's decision to fight and so she decided to pass as white in order to become a pilot. This book details the benefits and disadvantages of passing as white. It's truly heartbreaing that Ida Mae had to pass. While this story doesn't have much action, it makes up for it with the well rounded and fun characters.

Gringolandia by Lyn-Miller Lachmann-A sad but powerful story. This book shows how the torture of a family member affects not only that family member, but the whole family. I loved how Daniel was nonchalant about Chile. He's become the typical American boy and focuses mostly on his music. He doesn't have any desire to go back to Chile. His girlfriend, Courtney on the other hand, is very passionate about getting rid of Pinochet and she wants to visit Chile and fight in the revolution. An interesting clash of personalities. This family must face their demons (especially Daniel who blames himself for his father's arrest and his sister, Tina who hardly remembers her father).

The Rock & The River by Kekla Magoon-A rare novel that not only portrays the Black Panthers, but it remains neutral in its portrayl. The good and the bad of the non violent civil rights movement and the Black Panthers are explored and readers must make up their opinions of whose methods were most effective. Usually only negativity surrounds the Black Panthers and glowing praise surrounds the work of the civil disobedience civil rights faction so it made for an interesting read.

Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins-Set during the tumultous time of 1970s India (while Indira gandhi is Prime Minster), this story will have all women appreciating the fact that they live in the 21st century. The story is quite well told with an ending that I found to be almost devastating. Random facts about Indian culture are not thrown at you, rather they are weaved naturally into dialogue and setting. Most importantly, you will finish this book wanting to watch or even play cricket.

Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez

Codetalker by Joseph Bruchac-Codetalkers were Navajos who used their language to send secret messages on behalf of the Americans during World War II. The Najaos were used because their language was so complex that the Germans and Japanese could not crack it. Codetalker focuses on the American war efforts aganist the Japanese and it portrays the racisim Native Americans faced (no distinction was made between tribes and they were all called "Chief"). What's worse is that the Navajos mission had to be kept a secret and they never received recognition until the '60s and unlike other veterans of WWII, they could not use the GI Bill to build homes on their reservations.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Vols I & II by M. T. Anderson-I've only read the first one but it was brillant).

Books Where the main character is not a POC but deal with race relations

Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher-Not only is this about taxi dancers (if you don't know what that is, read this book and even if you do, read it anyway) and set in 1940s Chicago, it also provides a glimpse at how Flipinos and African Americans were treated at this time.

The Agency: Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee-Mary Quinn is one of my new favorite detectives, she does everything Sherlock Holmes does but in a skirt. She's brave, resourceful and almost always a lady. Lascars play a key role in this novel. Lascars are soldiers from Asia. Some of them would travel to England, intermarry and settle down with their families in England. They were treated poorly and lived a hard life. Author Y.S. Lee did a guest post on her novel and the people of color in Victorian England on my blog, which you can read here.

Upcoming Releases

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

90 Miles to Havana by Enrique Floris-Galbis

Want more? I haven't read these yet but I plan on also reading;

1. Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman

2. Keeping Corner by Kasmira Sheth

3. An Ocean Apart, a World Away by Lensey Namioka (I'm currently reading this)

4. Samurai Shortsop by Alan Gratz

5. Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji

6. Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers


Jessica said...

I loved "Samurai Shortstop." Great book!

Maggie Desmond-O'Brien said...

I've read OCTAVIAN NOTHING and GRINGOLANDIA but pretty much everything else is new to me...taking notes as to which to request from the library! :)

MissA said...

@Jessica-I MUST read that one. Everyone recommends it and raves.

@Maggie-I still need to read Octavian 2, but I really liked Gringolandia. Original, interesting story. I hope you're able to get some of these books!

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