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Writers Against Racism: Teen Writer, Arianna (aka Miss Attitude)

Arianna (aka Miss Attitude): I’m an Afro-Latina teenager in high school who loves to read and speak my mind.    
                                              ARI Writers Against Racism: Teen Writer, Arianna (aka Miss Attitude)

I’m shy but opinionated (what a contrast!). My blog is Reading in Color and it’s dedicated to reviewing YA books about people of color.
                                                   
Briefly describe the impact racism had on you as a young person.
 

I’m still young, but racism has affected me. I’ve only faced (to my knowledge) a few instances of racism, but those incidents have remained with me and I think they will always. The incidents hurt at first, especially when I first knowingly experienced racism at the age of 7 or 8. A boy started talking with lots of slang and almost like a hillbilly. I asked why he was talking like that and he said that was how black people talked. I said that wasn’t true and he said it was, that all Black people, including myself, talked like that and we were all stupid. Other comments have been more subtle like getting me or my parents confused with another black girl and her parents, being expected to act a certain way or be good at certain things, and so many other stories.

Has your personal experience of racism impacted your professional work?  

I started my blog not so much because of racism, but because I was tired of not seeing books with more faces of color on the covers, written by authors of color. I wanted to start reading more books about people of color and promoting the authors. So it wasn’t really racism, more like unintentional ignorance (does that make sense?) or naïveté.

In what way can literature/art be used to combat the effects of racism and promote tolerance?

Literature can be used to combat racism and promote tolerance simply by educating or informing. When writing a YA book about a teen who lives in another country or has a different culture, the author can share details about the culture/country and take a big step toward educating people, which helps stop racism. Racism after all is only ignorance. For example, in Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger I learned so many things about the Sikh culture. I really think that if everyone read this book, those few who think that all people who wear turbans are terrorists will stop thinking that. They will see the silliness of that way of thinking. Or another book that I think helps combat racism is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I really had no idea how tough Native Americans on reservations have it. I have so much respect for this culture and I really wish more books were written by/about Native Americans and their plight on reservations. White Americans stole their land. They should at least offer more help to Native Americans living on reservations or give the land back. Not just sit back and do nothing!

"Last, but not least all teens of color out there are my inspiration. I do what I do because I want all teens of color out there to see themselves in books. I want them to know that they aren’t alone in searching for books about people who look like them, I too am searching. I want to spotlight new up and coming authors of color writing for us teens. I want to create a change, to show the publishing companies that we want to see more YA books about people of color with colorful faces on the cover! I hope other teen book bloggers join me in reading and reviewing more books about people of color, we especially need more teens of color to be blogging!" (comes via Reading in Color, Arianna’s blog)

Arianna’s recommended reading list (originally posted at Justine Larbalestier’s blog):

For guys: Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher, The Hoopster by Alan Lawrence Sitomer, Dark Dude by Oscar Hijuelos, Tyrell by Coe Booth, The Making of Dr. Truelove by Derrick Barnes, First Semester by Cecil Cross, Sammy & Julianna in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Saenz, Monster by Walter Dean Myers, The Contender by Robert Lipstye, Sunrise over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers

For girls (chick lit, cliques or about girls dealing with cliques): Hotlanta series by Denee Miller & Mitzi Miller, It Chicks series by Tia Williams (more substance than GG), the Del Rio Bay Clique series by Paula Chase (no spoiled rich kids in these books), the Kayla Chronicles by Sherri Winston, Honey-Blonde Chica series by Michelle Serros, Haters by Alicia Valdes-Rodriguez

Sci Fi: A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott, The Black Canary by Jane Louise Curry, 47 by Walter Mosley, The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okroafor-mbachu (check out another one of her books Zarah the Windseeker), Rogelia’s House of Magic by Jamie Martinez Wood, City trilogy by Laurence Yep

Historical Fiction: Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis, Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith, The New Boy by Julian Houston, Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons by Ann Rinaldi, Copper Sun by Sharon Draper, Fire from the Rock by Sharon Draper, Wolf by the Ears by Ann Rinaldi, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson (series) (all AA, some biracial. I would love to have suggestions of Latino/Asian/Native American historical fiction)

Native Americans: The Brave and The Chief (both by Robert Lipstye), The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Latinos: Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa, White Bread Competition by Jo Ann Yolanda Hernandez, Estrella’s Quinceanera by Malin Alegria (she has other really good books), La Linea by Ann Jaramillo, What the Moon Saw by Laura Resau, In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez (she has many, many books and they’re all fantastic! really, read any of them), Graffiti Girl by Kelly Parra, The Brothers Torres by Coert Voorhees, Adios to My Old Life by Caridad Ferrer, The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales, Amor and Summer Secrets by Diana Rodriguez Wallach (series)

Asians: Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger, Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos, Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen Headley, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, Sold by Patricia McCormick, Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa-Abdel Fattah, First Daughter:Extreme American Makeover by Mitali Perkins (read any of her books they’re great! ), Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Sherri L. Smith, The Fold by Anna Na, Good Enough by Paula Yoo

African American: Kendra by Coe Booth, The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake, Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia, Jason & Kyra by Dana Davidson, My Life as A Rhombus by Varian Johnson, Romiette & Julio by Sharon Draper, When the Black Girl Sings by Bil Wright, Hip Hop High School by Alan Lawrence Sitomer, Drama High series by L. Divine, Hot Girl by Dream Jordan, Can’t Stop the Shine by Joyce E. Davis

Comments

  1. Mayra Lazara Dole says:

    Hi Miss Attitude. I applaud you for the work you’re doing in promoting POC books. It saddened me to hear that you experienced racism at such a tender age… I just opened an email Zetta sent about your site and asking authors of color to send you books. Thanks Zetta! I’ll check out Reading in Color now and recommend it to everyone I know. You’re an inspiration!

  2. George Edward Stanley says:

    Arianna, you are indeed an inspiration, and thank you for this reading list! I’m making sure all of our lit faculty read these WRITERS AGAINST RACISM stories! I’m even going to suggest this as a possible workshop course. Our students need to know this! In fact, I’m also going to suggest to the dean of the School of Education that her programs somehow incorporate these stories/this movement into the education courses for our future teachers.

  3. WindyA says:

    What a great post. Arianna, you are insightful and aware beyond your years. It is amazing this sort of thing still happens and that we have to go out of our way to bring attention to the matter, but with people (like you) speaking loudly and clearly, this issue will not be ignored. Thanks!

  4. Zetta says:

    I don’t mean to put words in Ari’s mouth, but a friend of mine who hails from the hills of Tennessee objected to her use of the term “hillbilly.” I think Ari meant to suggest that the boy imposed a narrow, inaccurate identity onto her and all black people. She meant no disrespect, but my friend was right to point out the problematic use of that term (even though he self-identifies as a hillbilly).

  5. Edi says:

    Ari,
    It is amazing to see you take something as simple as a love of reading and turn it into such a powerful tool! You’re able to network with people all over the globe, sharing your interest in books. Nope, you don’t let anything as silly as racism stop you!!

  6. Doret says:

    When I saw Ari’s blog for the first time, my first thought was finally, a blog by a teen that talks about YA featuring people of color. Ari’s blog is great and is very much needed.

  7. Ari Miss Attitude says:

    Zetta- I didn’t realize hillbilly was offensive! I’m so, so sorry!! Tell your friend (and to anyone else who was offended) that I aplogize.
    Thanks Doret!
    Edi that’s my goal. I hope I inspire at least one person to pick up a book about someone who is different from them and read it.
    windyA-I have so much more to learn and I will not stop speaking out!
    Georgre-I’m so glad that your having your faculty read this wonderful series, I’ve learned a lot from it and it’s such an awesome idea. Thanks for recommending that some color be added to future courses!
    Mayra- All I can say is thank you. It’s mindblowing that an ordinary person like me can be seen as inspirational.
    Thank you Amy for letting me do this post and for creating this wonderful sereis “Writers Aganist Racisim” is a truly wonderful idea!
    Also a big thank you to everyone for all their gracious words and encouragement! :D

  8. tanita says:

    As always, Miss Attitude amuses and inspires. Thanks for being such a vocal and articulate young woman! The future looks bright with you in it.

  9. The Brain Lair says:

    Thanks for posting Arianna. I love your blog. I showed it to my daughter. You are an inspiration.

  10. Justine Larbalestier says:

    Wonderful interview. I’ve been loving your blog, Ari. Thank you for introducing me to so many wonderful authors and books I might not otherwise have found.

  11. Joyce E. Davis says:

    Thanks so much for including my book, Can’t Stop the Shine, in your post! I really appreciate it. Great blog and Arianna is fantastic! I appreciate the interview and her wonderful passion. JD

  12. Viola Canales says:

    Arianna, Thank you for speaking out. For your courage in doing so. The article in today’s NY Times: “Report Cites an Atmosphere of Anti-Immigrant Hatred in Suffolk County”, where mostly Latinos are being “beaten with baseball bats . attacked with BB guns . and run off the roads while riding bicycles…” shows how much misunderstanding and fear still exists.

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