Friday, August 21, 2009

C.O.R.A. Diversity Roll Call: We're looking for a few good men

For this week's question, I'd like to take a comment from Doret and put it out there for the group to work on. Doret (The Happy Nappy Bookseller) has been a regular contributor to the Roll Call as well as reviews for the Diversity Rocks reading challenge. In the comments of my summary of the Gender & Book Cover posts, she had this to say:
One thing I have noticed regarding gender. Most YA featuring people of color, with the stories set in another country, tend to have a female protagonist. I am having a difficult time finding many with male leads of color set in other countries.

I wonder why this is so. And I would love any suggestions.
Okay, team, this one's for Doret. Let's get out there and find her some titles! We're looking for titles and descriptions (publisher's blurb or link to a review is fine), not necessarily books you've read or can vouch for. Could be fiction, memoir, biography, and so on. The criteria again are:
  • Has appeal to young adults (an adult book which might appeal to a teen is fine)
  • Setting is outside the U.S.
  • At least one person of color figures prominently
  • Lead character is male
Ooh, I just thought of one! It's a book I reviewed, where the main character is a black American male, the setting is a foreign country to him. Can anyone guess what it is?

I've also featured another book where the main character is a male person of color, most of the book takes place in the U.S. but there are some scenes in a foreign country--maybe more than I realize since I have yet to finish the book.

I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with. The next assignment will be posted in two weeks at Color Online.


  1. I can't think of any, but I'm excited to see what other people can come up with!

  2. Good point, Susan. I'll edit to include nonfiction. A memoir or biography could work especially well for this.

  3. That's so odd! I have also not read a single book with a mail protagonist... Let me think!

  4. You need to read Bali Rai's books. He writes books featuring protagonists of different ethnic backgrounds in England. I've read and enjoyed 2 books: (Un)Arranged Marriage and The Crew.

  5. Great tip, Pussreboots! Have you reviewed them on your blog? If so, feel free to add the links to the Mr. Linky!

  6. I think alot of YA has female leads because most YA readers are girls. Getting boys to read is always a huge challenge and the market responds to the lack of male readers by producing content aimed at girls. Kind of a circular effect. :-)

  7. I always want to participate in these, but the questions are usually too hard for me, meaning: I am greatly deficient in diversity reading!!! So it's good to learn about the many ways I could broaden my reading.

  8. Thanks for this Ali. Looking forward to reading the responses.
    I can think of one book I read this year that qualifies

    Leaving Glorytown by Eduardo F Calcines. A young boys memior about growing up in Cuba under Castro's regime.

    I really enjoyed it.

    I understand girls are the target YA audience but it doesn't seem right to ignore male protagonist. Besides its always said girls have no problem reading books with a male lead.

    Ali, I am guessing one of the books is Gringolandia by Lyn Miller Lachmann.

  9. I have a wonderful recommendation that I always try to mention on my blog. It's What is the What by Dave Eggers. While Dave Eggers is white, he is only the biographer. The story (loosely based on truth, so it's a fictionalized biography) is told through the eyes of Valentino Achak Deng, one of the Lost BOys of Sudan. It's an adult book but the writing style is so easy and fun, despite being so deep and compelling, that it looks to be a good read for someon younger as well.

    I haven't reviewed it on my blog, because I've read it in my pre-blogging days, but I've written a post about it which links to the book's website and where you can read a sample chapter and interviews and the preface from. Which should I post on Mr. Linky? My post or the direct post to the site? THis is my first time to comment on a C.O.R.A. post, I think, so have no idea.

  10. Marie, true, but I still think we can hunt some down that fit the criteria. :-)

    Rhapsody in Books, reading the posts and leaving comments is a valuable contribution, too. That said, we're always open to suggestions for topics, so if there's something you'd like to write about for a future topic that feels more doable to you, shoot me an email.

    Claire, Great suggestion. Please link to the post you wrote. Thanks! Your comment made me think of another book! I'm saving it for my response post.

    Doret, Good guess, but no. I haven't read Gringolandia yet.

  11. Okay, I've linked to it. My post is on the serious side as it was a Weekly Geeks post a few months back. The book doesn't appear YA from the outset, but really it can be read and appreciated by a teen. :)

  12. Hmm...the only one I can think if is Swimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai. It's a YA novel set in Sri Lanka, and the protagonist, Amrith, is a teen boy struggling with his sexual orientation and with growing up in general. I was going to ask if I can include the link even though it's an older post, but I see that Claire already asked :P

  13. Wow, this was hard. After a cursory look through my booklist I found pretty much what I expected. There aren't many male protags. I know my taste veers toward female protags. One book that caught my eye was Fallen Angels Walter Dean Myers. It's about an African-American boy during the Vietnam war who enlists and is sent over to fight. I haven't read it yet, but the reviews on seem pretty positive.

    I wonder if the lack of male protags in YA fiction is because boys seem to skip right to adult fiction or if they skip the YA section b/c there is nothing in it for them to relate too.

    It's interesting that in the early part of the 1900s it was the girls who had a lack of novels written for them. It was thought that girls didn't need novels specifically for them because they were more likely to read the books for boys or skip right to adult fiction.

  14. Thanks, Nymeth! Perfect.

    Mia: Ah! The one you thought of is by the same author as the first one I thought of.

    There's been such a shift in our culture regarding the gender issues--it is really interesting. A friend in education told me recently that boys have now lost their advantage in math and science, and in fact have slipped behind.

    I'm not sure if the boys are skipping to the adult section--given the fact that adult men read far less than women do, I fear that they simply stop reading for pleasure if they tire of sci-fi/fantasy. Whether that's cause or effect, I'm not sure.

  15. It's a depressing thought that as girls get better in math and science boys get worse. Or is it that boys and girls are failing equally. Which is even more depressing.

    Are you thinking of Sunrise Over Fallujah? That's also on my to-read list.

  16. *bows* I'd like to thank Good Reads for it's wonderful book archive, Ali for the hint, and myself for remembering where the home row is long enough to type in the search. ;)

  17. I loved Sunrise Over Fallujah. I added Swimming Over the Monsoon Sea to my reading queue. It sounded great. Thanks Nymeth

  18. What a great focus for a post, Doret & Ali. Here are a few that come to mind:

    - Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers (same author as Sunrise Over Fallujah) (Americans fighting in the Vietnam War) - absolutely amazing - main character is African American.

    - Grab Hands and Run, by Frances Temple - follows Felipe's escape from El Salvador, with his younger sister. Unfortunately, it's out of print, but it was a great read.

    - Taste of Salt, also by Frances Temple - I haven't read it, but it sounds interesting - about contemporary Haiti - follows a Djo, a bodyguard to Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

    - The Buddha's Diamonds, by Carolyn Marsden and Thay Niem - story of a 12 year old Vietnamese village boy who struggles to be responsible. His family's boat is destroyed in a storm, and he tries to help his family repair it. I liked the way it showed a young boy realizing that the real treasures we have are our family and the moments, not our material things. But I'm not sure how kids would react to the story - it's quite slow, and I found it difficult to understand where and when it was taking place.

    Hope these give some good ideas!

    Mary Ann

  19. Fabulous, Mary Ann. Thank you!

  20. I thought of a couple I'd read (

    I really, really want to read 'Guantanomo Boy' soon - it sounds like it would make a good recommendation for this roll call.

  21. Thanks so much for doing this Roll Call, Ali - discovering a lot of new titles.

    Taste of Salt sounds really good.

  22. Came here from Doret's blog. I just remembered a good title: Vikas Swarup's Q & A--the book Slumdog Millionaire is based on.

  23. I just finished reading The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.

    It's the true story of a 14 year old boy in Malawi who despite having had to drop out of school because they couldn't afford to pay tuition created a windmill from materials he could scavenge from his small village and from what library books that he'd read.

    It's wonderfully written, a great story, and the money helps him bring electricity and water to his area. He's been able to go back to school and to pay for his cousins and siblings, friends, and neighbors to attend school.

  24. Most of Salman Rushdie's lead characters are male.

    Midnight's Children
    Haroun and the Sea of Stories

    I'm not sure if Enchantress of Florence and Satanic Verses have male leads as well.

    Plus, One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez have male lead characters.