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Archive for the ‘Books from/about Africa’ Category

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’

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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.

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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.

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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


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