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Stealing these from The Angry Black Woman blog:

I Love My Dead Gay Husband I and II
I Love My Dead Gay Husband III
The Werewolf Ate My Homework

The first two are about historical romances, which aren't something I've ever read. (Or, if I have, I am in complete amnesia-inducing denial.) It's a very snarky, witty writeup of some of the tropes found in such books. Which you can find crossing over into books in genres I have read.

The Werewolf post is not actually about supernatural romances, which I would have found interesting to read her take on. The Homework part might clue you in it's about YA fantasy. Except it sounds like YA fantasy romances that she's talking about. The YA fantasy books that I can call up to my mind don't have a lot of the things she's talking about (with the huge glaring sparkly exception, of course). So I guess I'm reading the wrong (or right) YA fantasies.

Anyway, all three posts are well worth the read. I even had fun following her links in those posts to other posts she made, so I'm going to make a point of checking her blog in the future for other amusing tidbits.
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I just finished reading the last book in Ursula K. Le Guin's Annals of the Western Shore series. Well, last published one. I don't know if she plans more.

Some spoilers for the entire series will follow, but I'm not going to bother with a cut tag.

Taken as a whole, the series seems to me to be about two themes. One, slavery in several different forms and two, reading and knowledge.

I think when Americans think of slavery, the first thing that comes to mind is blacks working on Southern plantations. And if we think a bit harder, we might come up with examples from the Bible and Moses leading Egyptian slaves to freedom. And maybe that will lead us to think of Roman slavery. But it probably pretty much ends there. (Or, if we're geeky Americans like myself, we might think of the Tenctonese.) So the books provide for us a different way, actually several different ways, of looking at slavery. And it's even hard for me to explain the different types in each book in a succinct fashion, because Le Guin has done such a great job of creating a number of different rich societies in these books. You might call the first serfs, the second book an occupied city, and the third book something that comes closest to the history of US slavery. But they're all more complicated than that and tied to the notions of family.

As for the reading, that just touches my geeky little heart. And I imagine for any nongeeks who might pick this up, it'll at least touch their bookwormy heart, which is a close relative. The main character in the first book learns to read from his mother, while the rest of the community around him is illiterate and uninterested. The character in the second book, her city is occupied by soldiers to whom books are evil and have been worse than banned, but she learns in secret from the city's hidden cache of books. And the character in the third is living in a literate society in a family who believes in educating everyone, including the slaves. And he is meant to grow up to be the teacher of the next generation of the family's children and young slaves. So you've got an instant bond with all these main characters, as well as stories and knowledge continuing to be a theme throughout all the books.

I liked all the main characters quite well. The second book is the one with a female main character, though, and I ended up rather disappointed by the end of it. One of the problems with first person narration is that your main character needs to be there for everything important, or you'll be reporting things secondhand. And there were a number of times this happened in the book. It wouldn't have been true to the character, perhaps, to have been there as witness, but it was rather annoying to me as a reader to hear her talking about how she heard about this. It put me at a remove, and it took her out of the action. And I just find it particularly problematic because she's the only female lead in any of these books. She's not exactly passive, but the character from the first book who's coming over into this one seems to be playing more of a role in some of the crucial bits. If it wasn't Le Guin, I'd probably be a bit harsher in my criticism, but I do cut her some slack. I have to think she knew what she was doing.. but I just can't figure out why.

Another odd thing that struck me was skin color. In the first book, I didn't notice much reference to skin color. Was it me not noticing? Not caring? Or was it less of a big deal in that book in particular.. with the next two characters caring about their lineage and appearance a lot more? Did it have something to do with the cover? Because the editions I read, the first cover looked like this. Two small silhouettes. Whereas the next two books looked like this (a closeup of a young black woman) and this (a similar closeup of a black teen boy). No way a white reader can comfortably pretend to not know what color the main character (and everyone else) is.

I noticed that the newer edition of the first book looks like this (a closeup but with dark hair obscuring more than half the face). This leads me to the conclusion that the publisher wanted all the books to look alike once they had a series on their hands. But that first cover is still odd. You can't see his face. And I couldn't tell you what color he is.

Is this meant to sucker in the white readers? Hey, look, here's a cool book. Oh, now you liked that book? Then you won't mind we put a black girl on the next one, right?

What's going on here exactly?

Me, personally, while I love Memer's hair, it's the cover of the third book that appeals to me the most. Though.. on further thought, it's probably the second book that would stand out the most on a shelf and is probably the one I noticed first. Not that I read them on the basis of the covers, but because I knew they were new Le Guin YA fantasies.

Covers aside, let me conclude this post by highly recommending this series to anyone who likes fantasy, regardless of age. You're allowed to get books out of the YA section, honestly you are. And they're not all about teenage vampire angst. (Though some of them are good too.)

And if you haven't read any Le Guin, well, then.. as good a place to start as any, just so long as you do start!
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All this talk of YA has generated an SF Signal Mind Meld collection of author recommendations.

MIND MELD: Young Adult SF/F Books That Adults Will Like, Too

It'll take you a good while to read through the replies here. Let alone how long it'll take you to look up the books at the library or on Amazon. And then you can get to reading! At least I've read a couple of them already.

It's interesting to see which ones got mentioned several times.
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Since I got thanked for posting links about this subject, here's some more links. :)

John Scalzi posted again: "Who Lost Scott Westerfeld?". Where he counters the argument that one more sf/f writer writing ya is one less sf/f writer writing adult, which is a sad loss to the adult sf/f market. This post, like Scalzi's first one, has a lengthy comment thread that's worth perusing.

I have no idea who Raph Koster is, but his post is entitled "YA SF/F is rockin'". (Which would look better as a title if you turned off smartquotes in WordPress. Just sayin'.) He gives us some authors and titles to look out for. If you were looking to add to your reading list.

The Website at the End of the Universe has a good roundup of recent blog posts in "Explore the strange new world of YA science fiction". Which also mentions OSC's homophobic, sexist rant at J. K. Rowling.

Don't think I linked to that earlier, so here is Feminist SF - The Blog!'s take on it. "Orson Scott Card is a misogynistic homophobic wanker".

And Googling also dug up this interesting post: "Do teens really prefer their books without eyeballs?". If you usually browse with images off (as all the coolest people do), then turn them on for this one.
julieandrews: (Default)
In the comments, particularly on the John Scalzi post that I linked to in my previous post, some men are chiming in with a reason they don't go to the YA section of bookstores.

They feel that if they go there, they'll be seen as creepy sexual perverts or predators. They don't seem worried so much that they'll be chased out, but that people will look at them funny or think it.

I won't go so far as to say it's an invalid feeling. The media is at least partly to blame here (aren't they usually?) as you hear and see this sort of thing in the news and on crime dramas. And sitcoms don't help when they decide it's a funny situation to have a guy or guys hanging out around kids and doing creepy things that aren't intended to be creepy. Then isn't it hilarious when the mothers yell at them or the police show up?

It's probably made parents and caretakers of children hyperaware of the potential for danger. And it's also made at least some adult men hyperaware of doing something that might be seen as creepy.

But I don't see it as a valid reason to avoid the YA section of libraries and bookstores.

So let me try to alleviate some of your fears here and dispell some of the beliefs you may have about the YA section.

Firstly, YA means 'Young Adults' also called 'Teens'. You might find 9 year olds reading this sort of stuff, but it's not for young kids. It may be adjacent to or near the children's section of the bookstore or library, but it's quite likely its own section. Many stores have it separated by a row of shelves or a wall or the full distance of the store. Libraries may have it on an entirely different floor. In other words, you won't necessarily be going anywhere near where the little kids and their parents hang out.

Secondly, you're there to browse for books, aren't you? That means you'll be looking at the shelves and the displays. Why should anyone think it's creepy that you're looking at books in a place full of books?

Don't feel you need to bring a beard with you in the form of your 11-year old nephew. You're allowed to shop by yourself!

I hope you don't feel so self-conscious that you make a special effort to only go to these venues when school is in session. Or that you need to have an offhand comment ready that may or may not be true: I'm looking for something for my granddaughter.

Don't be timid about picking up a book that features a young girl on the cover, even if she has her arms wrapped around the cutest wittle pony ever. Chances are the person who'll help you check out won't even comment on it. If they do, it'll probably be to say they really like that book or they were considering reading that book or you should try such and such book which is like that book. Those are the only comments I ever recall receiving, no matter what I was buying/borrowing. And heck, some stores and libraries have self-checkout if you feel like avoiding the encounter entirely.

So walk into the YA section with pride and browse to your heart's content.

If anyone starts watching you suspiciously, rest easy. Maybe they've just decided you're a shoplifter.
julieandrews: (Default)
I have to admit I was Googling again! (Just so you know, I was a Google early adopter. So, y'know, I'm way cooler than the average public who only picked it up in the last five years. In case you were wondering.)

I found this post on Ann Halam's Young Adult SF. It mentions Siberia, which I actually thought of in relation to science fiction for girls. I totally didn't realize (or it didn't stick in my head very long) that Ann Halam is Gwyneth Jones. Duh. And it turns out she has some other YA I now need to check out.

The post references John Scalzi's take on YA. He points out that that's where the best-selling SF/F is, so you'd better not ignore it. He mentions Scott Westerfeld in particular, who I actually hadn't heard of until Clarion. Which is pretty sad and pathetic. I just don't know if it's pathetic of me, or a sad state of affairs that the world was conspiring to make me oblivious.

And that post in turn referenced Cory's BoingBoing post: A Parallel Universe of Little-Regarded Awesomeness. (And, btw, Cory, I would've copied and pasted the entire title, but BoingBoing doesn't let you -- easily -- so I didn't, so I was lazy and didn't type the entire title. BoingBoing also makes my browser slow, but this post isn't about that.) In which he points out that if you're looking for his new book Little Brother, it's probably in the YA section, not the adult SF section.

I'm not an alien to the YA section. There's cool stuff in there. I'll even venture into the children's section and not be embarassed to be seen reading the stuff. I've grabbed manga from the YA room. I've read A Series of Unfortunate Events, a whole bunch of Diana Wynne Jones, most of Diane Duane's Wizardry series, Harry Potter of course, Luna, some Nancy Garden. I've read some of the classics, back when I actually was YA myself and later. I started reading Stephenie Meyer after her book got a(n error-filled) mention on Stephen Colbert. But almost all of those are mainstream or fantasy... though I did call the Wizardry series science fiction in a previous post.

It took actual questioning and searching for me to find the new YA science fiction that might be good. Why is that?

I thought maybe I'd blame Amazon, but when I go to My Recommendations -> Books -> Teens -> Science Fiction and Fantasy -> Science Fiction, it does show me a fair number of them. Though I really have no clue what definition of 'science fiction' they're operating with. They almost all look like fantasy or mythology to me. I'd have to do my own sorting, apparently. So maybe I will blame them after all. It doesn't seem to have that problem so much in the Adult recommendations. (And is pretty insistent today that I read more Connie Willis and Octavia Butler. Which I really should.)

Granted I have not been reading as much science fiction lately as I did as a teenager. Maybe it's just science fiction ignorance rather than YA ignorance. If I get bored at some point, I'll categorize my read lists and figure out how much I've read of what in the last 5+ years. See if I can spot any trends.

In summary, go read all of the YA authors I just mentioned. And please recommend more to me!
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Aren't new cons exciting? Julie Holderman and Tamora Pierce found a gap in the con world. There's no cons for readers and writers of YA sf/f.

I've been lax on my blog reading, or I would've found out about this sooner.

If you're interested in finding out more or volunteering, head on over to The YA FSF Con livejournal community. Be sure to read the Community Guidelines.

At least one of my Clarion classmates beat me to it!


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