Feeds:
Posts
Comments

For the topic of international young adult literature there are not very many subject guides, and the ones that do exist are not recent. Hazel Rochman’s excellent guide, Against Borders, only provides suggestions for titles up until 1993; Carl Tomlinson’s related Children’s Books from Other Countries (which includes young adults under the umbrella of ‘children’) was published in 1998; and finally, Susan Stan’s more recent The World through Children’s Books (which also includes young adults under ‘children’) stops at 2000.

A lot has changed since 2000 in young adult literature. Manga, and graphic novels now dominate our shelves, and fantasy and humor have experienced resurgence. Not only this, but globally things have changed too.

Given changes since 2000, what does international YA look like today?

To try and answer this question (on a small scale), I have updated the site with a list of 25 new and recent titles from 2000-Present. Some are award winning, some are popular, and some are hidden gems, but I think they are all worth considering as new and notable international YA reads to add to our bookshelves.

Titles come from all regions (Africa, Asia, Australia/NZ, Europe, Latin America, and Middle East), most are category #3 and #4 selections only (titles originally published abroad in translation or in English), and the list also reflects emerging trends in international YA with selected graphic titles – like Shaun Tan’s The Arrival (below) – alongside a broader range of subjects, like fantasy and humor, than might normally be found on many international booklists.

Each annotated entry includes:

  • author
  • country of origin
  • country/region of story setting
  • domestic publisher
  • plot summary
  • recommended age ranges for readers
  • * lastly, if relevant, there is also a note on format – i.e. all graphic novels in this list are marked with a ‘GN’

_____________________________

theArrivalmain_061108050946837_wideweb__300x460Arrival, The (GN)

Tan, Shaun. (2007). New York: Arthur A. Levine Books. ISBN: 978-0439895293. 128 p. (12+). Country/Language of Original Publication: Australia; English. Setting: Australia/NZ (Australia)

Winner of numerous awards and accolades in Australian and internationally (including the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award and the New York Times Best Illustrated Book 2007), this picture book describes the story of immigration told through the eyes of immigrants. There are no words in  this work; instead amid the fantastical cityscapes that Tan creates through artfully rendered sepia tone drawings, there are unusual symbols that mirror the initial frustration and confusion upon immigration to a new place. The Arrival beautifully captures the loneliness, excitement, fear, and wonder of moving to a different place that is sure to resonate with any reader.

______________________________

Want to see more titles? Check out International YA Today: 25 New and Recent Titles….

…and for even more titles check out my Retrospective and Expanded International YA (organized by region and country) that goes beyond this list of 25 ‘International YA Today’ titles.

book listsSo if international YA award lists can sometimes be lacking, what about international YA booklists? What kind of reading do they encourage?

Well, there are a lot of them, and like the multiple definitions of what ‘international’ young adult literature, they do not agree on what ‘international’ books are and how international titles  do or do not overlap with ‘multicultural’ books. Instead the booklists I looked at  reflected a multiplicity of definitions and ideas about what should be included on these ‘international YA’ lists.

Broadly speaking, I identified three categories of booklists that international titles appeared on: ‘in translation’ lists, ‘international’ lists and ‘multicultural’ lists.

Here is a breakdown of these three categories and some (though not all) of the lists I looked at:

  • ‘Books in Translation’: booklists from The Horn Book and the librarian blog, the YA YA YAs; lists do overlap with the Batchelders – roughly 30%, but both introduce international titles and subjects not honored by the Batchelders like fantasy and humor though; both lists do, however, have a definite European language focus to their selections; a benefit of a list like this is the surety that all titles are from categories #3 and 4 of intl books (for a definition of my categories of international YA click here)
  • ‘International’ Books: booklists from YALSA, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (2 lists: non-fiction and fiction) and the San Francisco Public Library; these lists overlaps with ‘multicultural’ lists and the selected titles came from a variety of ‘international’ categories especially category #1 and #2; however, determining what category of international book these titles come from can be difficult – only San Francisco library includes information on title’s country of origin
  • ‘Multicultural’ Books: booklists from Vancouver Public Library (VPL) and the Santa Clara County Library; these lists overlap with ‘international’ lists in how they define and select their titles; but interestingly, there is also little convergence between the two lists evaluated in this category – the VPL’s list includes mostly ‘international’ titles (i.e. those set or published abroad) whereas Santa Clara’s list consisted of a (mostly) domestic multicultural titles set in the United States

Reflecting the multiplicity of definitions that exist for  ‘international YA,’ these booklists reflect, overlap and diverge on what titles they include under the umbrella of ‘international’ YA and what type of titles they have selected for their booklists. The YALSA list for example, includes many retrospective adult titles on their international list like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, whereas the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and the San Francisco Library included more contemporary and popular titles like Louise Rennison’s Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging and Ineke Holtwijk’s Asphalt Angels (for more info on the exact specificities of these lists click here and here).

garciagirlsThen there is a title like Dominican-American author Julia Alvarez’s novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, which focuses on the identity struggles of four sisters originally from the Dominican Republic who move to New York City. This title is alternatively classified as ‘international’ (as on YALSA’s ‘international’ booklist, 2009) and ‘multicultural’ (as on the Plymouth District Library’s nominally multicultural ‘Teens of Different Cultures and Places’ booklist, 2009).

The multiplicity of definitions and titles chosen can make international YA booklists on the whole a confusing tool to use. Some lists use a definition of ‘internatinal’ that seems to be more multicultural, and others (like the VPL) use the term ‘multicultural’ when their lists actually seems more international. Further, many of the titles selected on these lists give no indication of where the books were originally published  – which can make creating a balanced collection with books from both categories #1 and #2 (published domestically, but stories set abroad) and categories #3 and #4 (titles originally published abroad) more difficult. For my earlier discussion of these different categories of international YA click here.

However, there is great a variety on these lists though — though few graphic novels and manga appear on these lists, and while there is more subject variety, there is still a slight preference for ‘serious’ titles over fun, fantasy or ‘light’ reads.

Still librarian-created booklists are good tool to compare what titles other libraries are identifying and promoting to teens as good international reads.

In putting together library collections, we often rely on tools like award lists to inform and justify our selections—to assert that a particular book is ‘worthy’ of purchase and circulation. This is especially true for  international YA with its paucity of available and updated subject guides.

In previous posts, I looked at a variety of prizes such as: international YA awards (like the Batchelder Awards, the IBBY Honor List, and The White Ravens), general YA awards (like the ALA Alex and Printz Awards), genre awards (like the René Goscinny Comics Prize), and region specific prizes (like the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Lit and the Davitts for Australian mysteries).

However, what are the consequences of depending on these lists to represent international YA in the library – how comprehensive are they, and do they cover a range of topics and/or popular reading?

There has been some research into the disjuncture between what is award winning and what is popular amongst children and young adults. Ujie and Krashen (2006) found that Newbery or Caldecott award winners often circulated considerably less in the library than bestselling or popular titles (pp. 33).

So what does this mean for international YA in the library?

Broadly speaking, this has 2 impacts:

  1. Genre books like manga and graphic novels are most often always left off these lists (except for genre awards like the Goscinny) – in spite of their extreme popularity with international teens, especially manga in Japan and graphic novels in Europe
  2. Popular ‘light reads’ like humor or fantasy are often similarly left off in favour of more serious tomes on war and violence that tend to get labelled with ‘the best’ labels in far greater number — note the large number of WWII award winning YA novels for example

So my recommendation for international YA…?

Commit to going beyond award lists. They are great starting points but do not capture all the variety of popular reading world wide. Instead compliment award lists with publishers’ catalogues (I have linked some good ones in the toolbar on the right under the archives section), librarian booklists and corresponding subject guides (like Susan Stan’s The World Through Children’s Books (2002) which, while it doesn’t explicitly focus on YA titles, does include a good number as Stan defines ‘children’ up to the ages of 16) to get a more complete picture of international YA.

Because award list do tend to recognize what they define as ‘the best’…and leave out the rest.

And coming in my next post…international YA booklists.

_____________________________

References:

  • Ujie, J. and Krashen, S. (January/February 2006). Are Prize-winning Books Popular among Children? An Analysis of Public Library Circulation. Knowledge Quest. 34(3), 33-35.

With the rising popularity of YouTube viewing parties at the library as part of YA events, I was thinking about how this forum can be used for international YA — and after doing a quick search I found all episodes of the anime series for Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit and clips from the film Brave Story uploaded to YouTube, as well as many others.

Given often widespread problems with obtaining international YA titles in print and in translation, digital clips from anime, film and TV on YouTube provide a great alternative and complimentary way to promote international YA in the library

Picture 1Named after Africa’s first Nobel Laureate, the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa honors exceptional literature written by African citizens in the Pan-African diaspora. Awarded by the Lumina Foundation in Nigeria, the Wole Soyinka Award is given out every two years — and the most recent winner, Zahrah the Windseeker, is a YA novel of speculative fiction set in West Africa by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, an American writer originally from Nigeria.

An interesting thing about this award is the parameters of who it honors. It is a new award only begun three years ago in 2006, but in the planning stages before the award was announced, there was debate whether the award should be given only to African residents – or those in the Pan-African diaspora who have African citizenship. Eventually it was settled that it should be open to all those citizens in Africa and throughout the diaspora to better represent a range of African viewpoints and talents worldwide. This is an interesting precedent to consider when defining ‘international’ literature. Though a title like Zahrah the Windseeker, or the previous award winner (and also YA title) Everything Good Will Come by Sefi Atta, were originally published in the United States, the ‘audience’ that they speak to is much broader then simply a North American one.

In researching this topic I have come across a variety of opinions of what ‘international’ should mean: strictly those titles published abroad; titles published abroad + those written domestically by an ex-pat writer about their home country; or the broadest spectrum including all these titles + titles written by Canadian or American authors about a different country. Though I think it is important to try and capture as much literature from this first category as much as possible (especially as this type of international book tends to be in the smallest numbers on our shelves), seeing the scope of Wole Soyinka Award has made me reconsider the parameters of what ‘international’ is. Because in spite of being published domestically, these novels are not just written for a domestic audience – they are also written for an African one.

Wole Soyinka Award winners and shortlist:

Zahrah PBeevrythigngood


kite-runnerbook-thief-2The Alex and Michael L. Printz Awards are awarded every year by YALSA to honor noteworthy children’s and young adult literature. The Alex and Printz Awards, however, do not specifically recognize international titles, but global YA titles have often appeared on these award lists – especially in recent years.

The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that YALSA has identified has having special appeal for YA readers. In 2004, the Alex Awards honored two international books – The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (published in the US but set in Afghanistan) and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (published originally in France but set in Iran around the time of the Islamic Revolution).

The Michael L. Printz Award nominates one book a year as an ‘exceptional’ work of YA literature, and honors four additional titles as ‘honor books.’ The current 2009 Printz winner, Melina Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road is from Australia and other international books recognized by the Printz Awards include Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief (also from Australia), an honor book in 2007, and Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton (published in Canada but set in sub-Saharan Africa), which was an honor book in 2005.

It is notable that these titles are, for the most part, books published in the US, Canada or Europe — and set elsewhere. Many of these tiles  are written by authors who grew up in these countries as children – like Satrapi writing about Iran or Hosseini about Afghanistan – but it interesting again to see both the prominence of these more ‘Western’ international books (or categories #1 and #2 of international YA that I have defined here) and the continued notoriety and attention given to international books that deal specifically with war, genocide, and mass violence. This includes a title like the The Book Thief – a WWII story narrated by Death himself and centred around Nazi book burning and the attempt to preserve knowledge through this fire.

But this is not always the case with the Alex or Printz Awards. In 2001, the Prinz Award nominated a very different type of international title as an honor book – Louise Rennison’s hilarious and confessional tale from the perspective of a teen girl, Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging (from the UK).

rose-blancheThe Hans Christian Andersen Award is presented once every two years by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) to both an author and illustrator who had made a mark on children’s publishing over their lifetimes; as such, the award is often called the ‘little Nobel prize.’ In 2008, Jürg Schubiger from Switzerland was named the winner of the 2008 Hans Christian Andersen Author Award and Roberto Innocenti from Italy the winner of the 2008 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration—Innocenti won notoriety in North America for his graphic Holocaust picture book, Rose Blanche (1985).

The René Goscinny Prize (named after the comic creator of Asterix) is awarded annually at the Angoulême International Comics Festival to encourage new and upcoming international comic artists; previous winners have included Jean-Philippe Stassen from Belgium for his graphic novel of the Rwandan genocide, Deogratias, in 2000. The Angoulême International Comics Festival also awards a prize, the Fauve d’Or, for best comic book. Previous winners of this prize include Fax from Sarajevo by Joe Kubert, a non-fiction documentary-style graphic novel about the siege of Sarajevo that won in 1998.

The Angoulême prizes and the Hans Christian Andersen prize do tend to favor more more established authors and illustrators (except for the René Goscinny Award), and entries from European countries are most prominent. As well as the IBBY selections for the Hans Christian Andersen Award cover the whole spectrum of ‘children’s litertaure’  — with some works like Inncoenti’s Rose Blanche being very appropriate for young adults, while other works are more targeted to very young children. Yet, these award lists are excellent ways to become aware of international picture books and graphic novels—both of which are very popular items in the library and bookstore right now.

deogratiasAfaxfromsarajevo