Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Contest Winner

I  have my winner for the autographed copy of Minority Of One. 

Janice Hanson, your name was selected. Please send an email to binns [at] babinns [dot] com to claim your prize.  Contact me within one week.  Note that I have picked an alternate, Lynn Lovegreen. If I have not heard from you by December 12, Lynn will move up from runner-up to winner.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Books Outside The Box - characters with physical disabilities

The annual United Nations' International Day of Persons with Disabilities is a time to focus on issues that affect people with disabilities worldwide. The theme is: “Break barriers, open doors: for an inclusive society for all.” More than a billion people, 15% of the world population, live with disabilities. This is the world’s largest and most disadvantaged group. And a perfect theme for the resurrected Books Outside The Box

Drowned citiesThe Drowned Cities features Mahlia, a heroine with only one hand. This book serves as a companion book, not a sequel, to Paolo Bacigalupi's debut YA novel, Ship Breaker. In this dystopian future, the US has been devastated by climate changes that lead to a flooded east coast and anarchy. Roving warlords fight for power over the remnants of the east coast. Chinese peacekeepers arrived on US soil and spent years trying to stop the violence. When they gave up and left, one left behind a daughter. 

Mahlia's hand was deliberately amputated by one warlord celebrating the departure of the hated peacekeepers. But she doesn't let the missing limb, or the missing father, plunge her into despair. She works assisting a local doctor in a small village and struggles to rescue Mouse, a young boy who is kidnapped by a gang and forced to become a soldier. 

This book covers more than just what a handicapped heroine can accomplish. It also deals with issues of prejudice and standing up for ones self, of being forced to be a child soldier and the sacrifices people sometimes have to make to survive.

pinned sharon g flake cover
Pinned, by Sharon G. Flake, published in 2012 by Scholastic Press, tackles the tough subjects of disability and stereotypes head-on. Autumn is a wrestler, the only female wrestler in her high school. She is in love with Adonis, the brilliant, hard-working, determined, and legless team manager. She has visions of a future where she sits in his lap as he wheels her into the prom. Unfortunately her low skills at reading and math threaten her position on the team. And the voices inside her head tell her to give up, she may be able to wrestle and takedown the big boys, but she will never be able to learn. But at least Autumn is sincere and speaks openly and honestly, admitting her faults and weaknesses. 

pinned - backAdonis may be in a wheelchair, but the star student has no patience with weakness. He views Autumn’s difficulties in school as a sign that she is weak, wasting her talents and abilities.  Adonis won’t be pitied. He is arrogant and never let his lack of legs keep him from standing tall—until the day bullies tossed him into the lake and left him to drown.

Now the boy who could do anything finds his self-confidence shattered.  He can't really believe that any girl really wants to date him.  He's always been confident about himself and can't see ever letting another person inside his innermost thoughts, not even the super strong wrestler who makes him cry out in his sleep.  This book gives readers two strong characters, both having to accept that they have faults, and both having to learn to overcome them.

shadow3Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card, is a companion novel to Ender's game, telling roughly the same story, but told from the point of view of Bean, a boy who grows up on the mean streets of a dystopian future Rotterdam. He is small for his age, extremely small, but that is not his handicap. He uses his difference effectively against everyone except Achilles, a boy with a crippled leg and a bad attitude. Achilles (pronounced Asheel) is the villain of the book, a street bully who has the brains to take advantage of everything including his crippled leg, and the cruelty to kill anyone who sees him as helpless. He isn’t the hero, but he is a reminder that being handicapped does not automatically make one a saint, or a target of bullies.  He knows how to work the system, especially adults who feel sorry for him or make the mistake of seeing him as a handicapped saint, making him one of the most effective villains I've seen in a long time.

Cinder, written by Marissa Meyer and published by Feiwel & Friends in 2012 features a cyborg Cinderella in Beijing China…that is, New Beijing, (after all, this is the future.) Lihn Cinder is missing a foot. The teenaged cyborg has outgrown the model she wore as a child and her stepmother refuses to buy a bigger one. She is also a gifted mechanic, a talent that brings her to the attention of Crown Prince Kai, who sees her as a girl, not a machine. Cinder’s life becomes intertwined with Prince Kai’s but what can a cyborg who has no rights, is only barely considered human, and an artificial foot, do with a prince?

stolenGirl, Stolen written by April Henry, and published 2010 by Henry, Holt & Co. introduces readers to a blind Cheyenne Wilder. in this contemporary novel,  Cheyenne is a teen sick with pneumonia and left to sleep in the back of the car while her mother runs into the pharmacy to fill her prescription. Then the car is hijacked and readers are taken along in this quiet thriller with a sick, blind heroine and a young man who never intended to be a kidnapper. But now that he has, his father intends to make use out of having the daughter of a corporate executive in his power. 

Think about being kidnapped. And then imagine being kidnapped and being in the power of a man who hates everything your parents stand for when you are sick, and blind.

crazyCrazy Beautiful, written by Lauren Baratz-Longsted and published in 2009 by Houghton Mifflin, is a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast featuring Lucius Wolfe and Aurora Belle. Lucius is a double amputee who blew his own arms off.  Lucius tells readers:
I don't blame my parents for what I became, and never have. It wasn't my parents' fault I wanted to blow something up. It wasn't my parents' fault I was so angry with the world. And why was I so angry? I suppose—and I know this is no excuse, but it is the reason—I was exhausted with being so different from everybody else. Sure, many, many people survive extended abuse of bullying and never snap. But some do snap. It is a thing, I think, worth thinking about.
Now he wears hooks to scare people and keep them away, and to remind himself of the monster inside.  But in spite of those hooks he is still a young man in pain.

If you have other books about teens with disabilities, please add them to the comments.  I would love to hear about them.

See other Books Outside the Box columns on TheHub by clicking here.

Return to Books outside the Box in January for YA books deal with mental illness.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Books Outside The Box reloaded

A brief history of Books Outside The Box:

During 2013 I began a series of blog posts on the YALSA book blog, TheHub, that I called Books Outside The Box.  My focus in those posts, and on others I created, was to be diversity. I wanted to talk about books that included something extra: a diversity element, books from small presses or independently published, that still held quality.  Unfortunately, in October after leadership of the blog changed hands, I was told the books I selected, intended for a fun Halloween post, were unacceptable because it featured unacceptable books.

Early in October I asked TheHub's manager about the possibility of doing a Halloween post featuring authors dressed as one of their characters and letting that character speak. I was told "This is a fantastic idea! I love it; please run with it and let me know if there's any way I can help. How fun!" However, once I had responses I was told it would not be posted because "I really like what you've done and I appreciate the authors' contributions, although I'm concerned that the number of self-published/ebook authors featured in the post may not fit The Hub's mission and guidelines."

I questioned this, and the next response was "I'm sorry to say I've concluded that this post isn't the right fit for The Hub. The self-pub/ebook issue is complicated," adding that she thought it was a fun read - which had been my whole intention for the Halloween post, creating a cute piece for the season.  When I protested the censorship, I was told I could publish the post on my own blog. She also told me she would work with me more closely in the future, I guess to be certain that I toed the line with my book/author selections.

After I made a final protest regarding self-published books, the language about the rejection suddenly changed. I was told "Please know that neither I nor YALSA have anything against self-published books or e-books, and that YALSA has no practice or policy in place that omits them from being discussed or shared via any of our communication channels, including our blogs...The reason I decided not to publish your post on the Hub is that it was too promotional in nature, and came across as a series of book pitches. "

So much for the post being a "fun read."

I chose not to deal with the censorship and  gave the only response I felt I could under the circumstances. I resigned, reminding her that I joined TheHub to write on diversity themes, to be different, and to be fun. I can't do that if my book choice is going to be censored. If writing about a diverse set of books is no longer allowed then there is no longer a place for me.

But I have decided to follow her advice. For December I am restarting Books Outside the Box here, with a post at least once a month celebrating diversity. I will begin on December 3 with a post highlighting characters with disabilities, in recognition of the United Nations' International Day of Persons with Disabilities.