Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Crossing the Color Lines

The world of YA is all abuzz about the cover for Justine Larbalestier's new book Liar:

Specifically, the issue is with the cover. It's not that it's a bad cover, in fact, it's a perfectly lovely cover and will probably sell a lot of books. The controversy comes with the fact that the main character in the book is an African American girl with short black hair. I'm not going to go into the controversy surrounding it, mainly because Justine herself talks about it better than I ever could on her blog. If you have a few minutes (or half an hour), take a look at her post and all of the comments that follow. This has all got me thinking about race and it's role in my books.

I don't think about race that much when I write. For those of you who know me, you may be surprised by that. I actually don't think about race all that much in my daily life, which may also be surprising - here's the photo from the back of my picture book that may illustrate why it's surprising:

My family is nothing if not a study in race relations, but most of the time we're so busy trying to finish homework and get to soccer/baseball/hip-hop practice that it doesn't come up. We're lucky to live in a place that is really diverse and allows us not to think about it so much, so that when someone gives us the fish-eye out in public it comes as somewhat of a shock. I've been with my husband for fifteen years, so you'd think I live in a very racially aware world. You'd think.

I have a confession to make. When I got the first art for When It's Six O'clock in San Francisco, I was startled that Randy had drawn the San Francisco character as African American. Don't really know why I was surprised - Randy DuBurke is African American illustrator, and he has won a John Steptoe award - a prestigious award given to a black illustrator as part of the Coretta Scott King annual literary awards. I was thrilled when they chose him to do it. The book is about children all over the world and features Asian kids, African kids, South American kids and Pakistani kids. I even made my sole editorial note to him saying that the character from Sydney has an Aboriginal name, to make sure he drew her that way. But I was still surprised that Jared was Black. Pleased, but surprised.

The first novel I ever wrote is called Armadillo Season and deals with race in an interesting way - the main character is raised white in a small Texas town, but finds out later that his father was black. You only have to look at my youngest son to figure out where the inspiration for that story came from. Hopefully, someone will buy it and someday it will become a real book. Dirty Little Secrets has a love interest who is Asian-American (although you may not even notice) and the YA I'm writing now has a biracial love interest, mainly just because. All of these characters I felt that I could tackle, but I'm not sure I could write a first-person book in the voice of a character from another race. Apparently I can write from a boy point of view, but for some reason it feels like it would be just too difficult to write convincingly from another race. Just like I tried to write a book set in a place where it snowed, - because I'd never lived in snow, I couldn't make it authentic and had to change the location of the story.

Anyone who thinks that just because we have a brown family in the White House that we live in a post-racial society (I read that word on Justine's blog and I love it) is mistaken. It's a fact that brown faces on book covers don't sell as well as white ones. It's a fact that there are not enough authors of color, and that those who do manage to make it in the biz are relegated to the Urban Fiction part of the bookstore. It's also a fact that even I assumed that just because a kid in a book is from San Francisco, that he would be white.

On this date: In 1868, the 14th Amendment is adopted, given African Americans full citizenship and the rights therof. (I didn't pick this date on purpose.)

Friday, July 24, 2009


My first bit of promo for When It's Six O'clock in San Francisco - I'm the author of the week over at Grand Magazine.com. The site is great and I love the little blurb about the book - it's so awesome to see the cover out and about - check it out!

On this date: In 1911, Machu Picchu is discovered by Europeans.

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Book, New Website!

Don't adjust your monitors...this is the new look of CynJay. Today is a momentous day as it is the day that When It's Six O'clock in San Francisco is officially released and the day that my new website goes live! Look over on the right for the link to my website, or login to www.cjomololu.com (or www.cynjay.com) to see the fabulocity for yourselves. My designer, Madeira James did an amazing job and I can't recommend her services highly enough. You can find her at www.xuni.com.

Some of my favorite features are the webcams for the cities in Six O'clock under Resources (except Beijing and Lahore - there weren't any) - click on the one for San Francisco...it's interactive and you can really see a lot of the bridge and the marina. Soon, we're going to have a great teacher guide from my pal Cassandra (the webcams were her idea too - must give the proper shout-out) and watch the Events section for upcoming doings.

Let me know what you think - I'm pretty proud of it!

On this date: In 1987, my sis Jessica was born - happy birthday Jess!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On Air

Because we happen to be here (and because my mom is good at this promotion stuff), my mother got me my first radio interview here on a local Texas radio station. I've never done anything remotely like this before, so I have to say I was a little nervous (not to mention the fact that we were a little jet lagged at 8am) but it ended up being a great experience. I had a half hour of back and forth chat about writing and Six O'clock with Richard "The Ham", host of the morning show on KYOX FM, and then a few minutes on their AM sister station after that. I didn't swear (something I was a little worried about), I didn't say "um" or "you know" or even "like" and the kids said I didn't sound like an idiot, which is good enough for me.

It was really fun, and I'm looking forward to doing it again, now that I know I won't throw up when a microphone is placed in front of me.

On this date: In 1919, Iris Murdoch is born.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lost Generation

I love being the parent of almost-teenagers because they know about the coolest stuff. Thanks to Devon for passing this on to J:

On this date: In 1979, Skylab crashes to earth.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Books in the Wild!

I had not one, but two friends contact me to say that When It's Six O'clock in San Francisco was front and center in the window of a great bookstore in Oakland on Saturday (thanks Dede and Alice!). So, of course I had to run over there today and take photos like a true geek. Can you see my little book right there in the middle? The guys that were working were really nice and didn't mind that I was squealing a little bit ;) They even had me sign the copies that they had on hand - face out no less, which any author will tell you is very, very cool, especially when you haven't even had to bribe them to do it!

On this date: In 1957, Althea Gibson is the first African American to win Wimbledon.