I had high expectations for ALAN because I had such a fantastic time last year. I wasn’t so sure as things began. Things began to feel so different from last year! I wasn’t ever excited about the idea of Vegas for a YAlit conference and even more so after getting here. The overpowering smell in the lobby made me sick and the walk to the convention center was too long and unnecessary. Once over there, the only amenities available were the restrooms.
I didn’t like my box of books, too much gore and romance. Too much centered on death. I had to ask myself why it’s so much easier for white readers to embrace books about serial killers rather than those by or about people of color.
I was so disappointed to see fewer than a dozen people of color in the audience and it seemed that even fewer authors were there as well.
I didn’t see anyone I knew and wasn’t connecting with anyone on Twitter. But then, @YABookBridges , someone I’d tweeted with since the last ALAN, contacted me to meet up for lunch and it was nothing but uphill from there.
I had so many wonderful encounters with authors! Because of this blog, those I connect with most are authors of color, however please do not think that I was not impressed to be in the same room with Lois Lowry, Sonya Sones, Blue Balliett, Anita Silvey and Lauren Myracle. Yes, I continue to be impressed by the strong presence of the many voices created for young women in YA, this year particularly through Raina Telgemeier and Faith Erin Hicks. I want to be more like Patricia McCormick, Deborah Ellis and Eric Walters. Sure, it would be wonderful to be able to tell other’s stories with such eloquence, but I’d settle with having their drive to make a difference.
Mike Mullin and Isamu Fukui spoke about empowering students to become writers by letting them write whatever they want. And, that’s what someone did for Gaby Rodriguez. Through her senior project, she went from being a young girl who was afraid she’d never amount to being anything to being a young woman so in control of her own destiny that she became an inspiration for others.
Interestingly, the most diverse panel was “Dystopia” with Isamu Fukui, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Mike Mullin and Marie Lu. I had to smile when Johnson said her book was inspired by Bahia, Brasil because my blog banner is from a quilt shop there. I did get a copy of her book and plan to review it and hopefully interview her soon.
Sharon Flake was there when the announcement was made that Pinned made it to Kirkus’ Best Children’s Books of 2012 list.
My first breakout session explored the literary aesthetic in Indian, Black and Latino literature was… interesting. My mind couldn’t get much past hearing someone say she was going to describe the aesthetics of Black literature having no had no personal with the culture, but having read one article.
I could have listened to Ann Angel, J.L. Powers and Varian Johnson for hours more. They come from places of authentic interactions with people who are culturally different from themselves but they see and dwell in the similarities. They write to overcome barriers. For Powers, its in stories of war, for Angel its biographic narratives and for Johnson, its sexuality. It was all about social justice.
This past year, I’ve noted a rapid decline in the number of books published by YA authors of color while the number of YA books in general is increasing. Few people of color attended this conference and indeed the number of POC authors was down as well. What is happening? How do we keep our voice in the mix?
I did have a great time at ALAN and my mind is exploding with ideas of what I want to do next. I went to Vegas alone and came back with so many new friends, new books and new ideas! It’s all about who did show up.