Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Armchair Bea 2016: Day 1 Introductions and Diversity in Books

This is the first day of Armchair BEA and I am excited to be here this year.  Today is the day we get to know one another using questions that were posted by the organizers of Armchair BEA, so here goes:

Group 1:
1- What is the name you prefer to use?

The name I prefer to use Alex (and no, I'm not a guy).

2- How long have you been a book blogger?

I began blogging at The Children’s War in June 2010, which I originally envisioned as “a guide to books for young readers about World War II…and other interesting bits” and continue to see it that way, although the other interesting bits is sheer indulgence on my part (music, movies,recipes, etc).   And judging by the emails I receive, and some of the questions in the comments I get, people do find The Children’s War helpful. 

Why such a narrow topic?  Oddly enough, in graduate school, children’s books about Nazi Germany ended up being my area of expertise and more and more, I became interested in how books shape the thinking of young readers.  

I started receiving all kinds of kid's and YA books from publishers and as part of the Bank Street Children's Book Committee, I found myself reading so many children’s books that had nothing to do with WWII, that in September 2012, I decided to start a second blog called Randomly Reading.   

3- Have you ever participated in ABEA before?

This is the first year I am participating in Armchair BEA and I’m very excited about it.  I live in NYC, so in the past I just hopped on a bus to the Javits Center, but Chicago simply wasn’t in the cards for me this year.  My travel budget is limited and I have a Baugh Cousins reunion in July and I am thinking about going to KitLitCon again this year in Wichita, KS.

Group 2:
1- Do you have a favorite book?

I don’t really have a favorite book, but there are lots of books I really love.  I just finished reading The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk and Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett, so at the moment these are my favorites.  I found all three books to be very well written and I was deeply affected by them.   

2- What is your favorite genre and why?

My favorite genre is historical fiction, though contemporary fiction is a close second.  I suppose they are favorites because I can see how the past is never really past, it still influences our present and what we do now and I think that that is very apparent in well-written, well-researched books.

4- Which day of ABEA are you looking forward to the most?

The day I am most looking forward to is the day we discuss Aesthetic Concerns.  These are the kinds of questions I think about most often as far as blogging is concerned.

5- If you could create a playlist that reflects your bookshelf, what would be the first song you choose?

The first song on my playlist for The Children’s War would be Teach Your Children by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.  As far as Randomly Reading, I think Give Me Love (Give me Love, Give Me Peace on Earth) by George Harrison because that’s how I like to think about the books I read, love, and keep.

Diversity in Books:

This topic focuses on diversity.  Whose voices do we see?  Whose voices do we need more of? Where do we find representation lacking and what can we as bloggers do to address that? What about negative or stereotypical representation?

I live in what is probably the most diverse city in the world (NYC), so the idea of finding diversity in books is a natural to me - except it isn’t.  The fact is that most of my reading in the past unintentionally had white protagonists, with a some exceptions.  The We Need Diverse Books movement, however, made me see what I hadn't seen before.  Ever since, I have made it a point to read and review well-written books with diverse characters.  It isn’t always easy.  This month (May) is Asian and Asian Pacific Heritage Month and I was looking for some good books by Asian American authors for some blog posts, and became aware of how few there are out there.  And this lack of representation is also true for other People of Color.  Yes, there are books out there, but the operative word is GOOD, not a book that has been thrown together, or an opportunistically written book, or a book about a protagonist of color by a white author who doesn't really get it.  

As bloggers, though, we have to power to promote.  Think of how often an author asks you to review a book.  Why? because of our power to promotion! The more diverse books we read, the more publishers will (hopefully) realize that is also what we want.  And we have the power to promote not just books but diverse authors as well by interviewing them on our blogs.    

I’m sure we have all read books that had negative or stereotypical representations of People of Color, and there’s been a lot of heated talk about some of the books that have been published lately. And there are some old books that are still read that have these kinds of representations.  As bloggers, if we find these negative depictions in a book we are reading to review, we have the power of the teachable moment.  If the book is otherwise good, but there is an objectionable depiction of a diverse character, talk about it on your blog.  It's a good chance to discuss how and why those negative representations could be written and see how far we have come in changing them. How else will authors and publishers know what we want.  


  1. Welcome, newbie! I hope you enjoy ABEA. I always have. :-)

  2. I'm a first timer too! I'm so jealous that you've been to BEA.

  3. Hello, Alex! This is my first time participating in Armchair BEA as well. What an interesting time period to focus on for your blog. I'm not a big historical fiction reader, but there are some books I love which take place during WWII like The Book Thief. I agree, bloggers have some serious promotional powers and it would benefit everyone if we worked together to promote more diverse books.
    My Armchair BEA Intro & Diversity Post

  4. Hi glad I found you here.

    Too bad we can't go to the BEA in NY.

    Have fun this week.

    Silver's Reviews

  5. Welcome to ABEA! This is my third year. I also used to attend BEA in person when I lived in the Hudson Valley and could hop on a train and go down to the city for the day, but I haven't been able to go since moving to Maryland - and I definitely couldn't have made it to Chicago. But this is the next best thing. Enjoy!

  6. Hi Alex, this is a really thoughtful and well written post. It was lovely to get to know you a little better through your replies.


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