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Archive for May, 2009

etisalat

I just came across this link from Publishers Weekly about a new Arabic-language children’s book prize , the Etisalat Award for Arab Children’s literature, that is due to launch in November 2009 during the annual Sharjah World Book Fair.

The Publishers Weekly article features an interview with Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, founder of the upcoming prize, and head of the new Arabic publishing house Kalimat. Sheikha Bodour names many reasons for why she has chosen to initiate this prize – to better foster a culture of parents reading to their children and to encourage the growth of children’s publishing in the Arabic-speaking world – but one reason that I found particularly interesting was her desire to have Arabic  children see themselves in their books.

As she notes, “there is a large trend in the Arab world to translate books from other cultures into Arabic…[h]owever, there also needs to be some homegrown books that are written and illustrated by Arabs who will be able to interpret the world the way an Arab child sees it. I set up my own publishing house precisely because of this reason. I wanted my books to portray Arab-looking children, with dark eyes and dark hair.”

I think this is one of the great benefits of a variety of books in our libraries. We want to be able to offer a range of reading materials so that children and young adults can read about different places and cultures, yes, but also so that they can see themselves in the pages too.

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This blog is all about reading ‘beyond borders’ and is comprised of reviews and news about international young adult (YA) reading materials – ‘international’ being literature published internationally, in translation, or written domestically in Canada or the United States by authors writing about their home countries.

The goal of this blog is to expand the overall scope and awareness of YA literature and the boundaries we place on it, both in terms of geographic location and in terms of subject matter.

As such, this blog will cover award winning international works of YA fiction and non-fiction, but will also discuss lesser known or considered works of ‘international’ YA literature like manga, fantasy and sci-fi and humor.

The idea for this blog was started after I gave a presentation in my YA reading materials class in library school on the topic of ‘international YA.’ When gathering resources for this topic, I found – to my surprise – that there was not a surplus of secondary readings or resource on the topic; in fact there were few comprehensive resources on this topic at all, save for works like Hazel Rochman’s excellent Against Borders: Promoting Books for a Multicultural World (1993).

In my research I also discovered something additionally surprising: not only were there few ‘international YA’ resources, there were also only a few different types of novels or subjects considered within the term, ‘international YA.’

Generally, international YA literature is considered within a pedagogical context – what it can teach teens about other cultures, places and people. Consequently, most booklists, YA awards, and the few international YA resources that I encountered tended to favor fictional or non-fictional accounts that detailed ‘serious’ historical and contemporary topics like war, conflict, and human rights and included popular works like Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, or Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner.

Missing from most booklists, award lists and resources are international works of humor, fantasy and manga – even though these three genres form some of the most popular international YA areas.

The benefits of international YA are many. It can promote tolerance and acceptance; it can be used cross-curriculum; and it can give young adults a range of new and exciting reading choices. But we should not be too hasty to draw borders around what ‘international YA’ is or how it should be labeled.

Books not borders.

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If our goal is to truly broaden young adults’ worldviews than we must not limit our own—and in the course of this blog I hope to do just that through the development of a new and updated resource list of reading and other materials that span genres and borders.

So check back often for new reading suggestions, thoughts on ‘international YA,’ and updates on international YA awards and news.

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