Tag Archives: diversity

Fellow Fifteener: Aisha Saeed–Written in the Stars

21793649As a member of the Fearless Fiteeners, I was able to read an ARC of Aisha Saeed’s young adult novel, Written in the Stars (3/24/2015; Nancy Paulsen Books). ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) are the uncorrected proofs that are sent to reviewers, librarians, and book bloggers to promote the book. My fellow fifteeners and 2k15 classmates are sending their ARCs on tour, which allows us a sneak peek at these upcoming new releases. I’ve decided to let you all know about the ARCs I’m reading to help support my 2015 debut colleagues.

Here’s the description: Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.

What I liked about it: Books can act as mirrors, reflecting one’s self, or as windows, allowing us to look into another culture or world. Despite all my years as a student and teacher, my knowledge about certain parts of the world remains limited. Aisha Saeed’s novel gave me a window into Pakistani culture and the issue of arranged marriages in particular. Saeed, who is happily married through arrangement, shows us another possibility through Naila, a teen who has both Pakistani and American values. She respects her family and her culture, but she wants to make her own decisions when it comes to her future husband. Any reader with immigrant parents or grandparents could easily relate to being pulled between two cultures, trying to make room for both. But, when Naila’s family takes her to Pakistan, she slowly realizes this is will not be a temporary vacation. Naila’s new reality is brutal, heartbreaking, and representative of what some girls experience, as Saeed notes at the end of the novel. Naila’s story ends on a hopeful note. We can only hope for a similar outcome for real girls in the same situation.

About the author: Aisha Saeed is an author, mama, lawyer, teacher, and maker and drinker of chai. She is also the Vice President of Strategy for We Need Diverse Books™. Aisha has been blogging for over a decade and her writing has also appeared in places such as The Orlando Sentinel, BlogHer, Muslim Girl Magazine, and Red Tricycle.She is also a contributing author to the New York Times acclaimed anthology Love InshallahHer debut YA novel WRITTEN IN THE STARS will be released in 2015 by Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books. She is represented by Taylor Martindale at Full Circle Literary Agency. You can connect with Aisha at her website, or follow along on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, orTumblr. You can also reach her by e-mail at aishacs@gmail.com

Writing Process Blog Tour

I’ve been tagged! Writers across the blogosphere have been tossing a particular Q&A around the writing community. It’s the Writing Process Blog Tour. Lila Quintero Weaver published her responses last week and tossed it over to me. First, here’s some info on my tagger.

DarkroomI haven’t met Lila in person yet, but I consider her una amiga nonetheless. We have been collaborating on the Latin@s in Kid Lit site since July 2013. Lila has been an enthusiastic blogger for the site, posting great book talks, Q&As, and personal stories. An author and illustrator, her debut novel was Darkroom: Memoirs in Black and White. She is currently working on a middle grade novel.

 

 

Here are the questions and my responses:

What am I working on?

aesop

An image of Aesop

I am revising Aesop’s Curse, my second young adult novel. During the school year, I teach middle school reading full time and college composition part time, so my goal is to finish revising Aesop’s Curse this summer so that my agent can review it and submit it to editors. The story is about a high school freshman named Alexandre Hart who learns he is the reincarnation of Aesop, the fable writer. Aesop cursed a village before he was executed, and now Alex has to somehow fix this or things will get ugly. (I don’t want to give too much away). I am also steadily working on plans to promote my debut novel, When Reason Breaks, which will be published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books on February 10, 2015.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

Both of my novels have a literary element. Aesop’s Curse includes information about the author and some of his most famous fables. When Reason Breaks includes Emily Dickinson’s poetry, and the characters represent the poet and other people who existed in her life. For example, the two main characters, Emily Delgado and Elizabeth Davis, represent Dickinson, and the character Tommy Bowles represents two important men in Dickinson’s life: Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Samuel Bowles. While there are lots of YA books linked to famous authors and/or literary works, there are fewer about Dickinson and Aesop.

Each of my novels also has a diverse cast of characters, which is important to me personally as a Latina, mom, and teacher. I think it’s important to represent our diverse reality in children’s books, and to not consider these “minority” books, but rather books with minorities in them.

Why do I write what I do?

I write what interests me. I fell in love with Dickinson’s work during graduate school, I have first-hand experience with depression, and I have been a teacher for 13 years, which means I have known and learned from lots of interesting, complex, remarkable teens. When Reason Breaks combines these elements. When planning Aesop’s Curse, I again pulled from topics of interest. I found the story of Aesop’s execution fascinating, I have read a lot about the metaphysical and reincarnation, and I have known plenty of young men like Alex who fly under the radar and dread taking risks for fear of failure.

How does my writing process work?

My process is not methodical. I don’t use charts and graphs or color-coded note cards, and I don’t write every day, which is the #1 piece of advice given to writers. I scribble in notebooks and on post-it notes, and I think about my work in progress constantly, plotting scenes in my head. This way, when I have time to sit and write, I’m ready. I do most of my writing during child-free weekends (when my parents babysit), snow days, sick days, school vacations, and when my daughter is doing an extra curricular activity. Marathon writing sessions with days of no writing in between doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me.

SusanAdrianMay2013_200pxI will now toss these questions to Susan Adrian, the leader of the Fearless Fifteeners, a group of middle grade and young adult authors debuting in 2015. Susan’s debut YA novel is titled Tunnel Vision and will be published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. Here’s a brief description: A teenage boy who has a power he calls tunneling—he can decipher where anyone in the world is (and what they’re doing) by holding something they own—is brought to the attention of the U.S. government. Sounds cool, right? Susan will tell us all about her writing process next week.