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Archive for the ‘Books from/about Asia’ 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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It is official: Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) has gone digital.

There is now an ACK iphone app (offered on iremedi).

Picture 1

…and I also found that Chacha Chaudhary (the sort of ‘Asterix’ of India) and his sidekick Sabu even have their own Facebook page.

New social media — making international YA more accessible to a wider audience?

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RamaThe GitaIn North America, there is Marvel and DC Comics, but in India there is Amar Chitra Katha (ACK).

These comics, dating back to the late 1960s, have over 400 volumes with stories ranging from the traditional, like Ramayana, to the biographical, with stories about Shah Jahan (builder of the Taj Mahal and one of the great Muslim kings of India) and Gandhi – and sell over 1.5 million copies yearly, making it one of (if not the) most popular children’s series in India (ACK Media, 2009).

A North American religious studies professor, Karline McLain, has recently released a book all about these comics called, India’s Immortal Comic Books — a title that was just profiled in an article, ‘The Legacy of Amar Chitra Katha‘, from Business World (one of India’s most popular business magazines).

McLain notes that these comics, especially the ‘superhero’ like tales of Hanuman and other Hindu gods, have also had great global appeal through the widespread communities of the South Asian diaspora. McLain attributes this appeal both to ACK’s focus on Indian culture and heritage and its highly engaged superhero-like format and style. ACK is even a integral part of many Hindu temple libraries throughout N. America, according to McLain, with parents stocking the libraries with ACK as a way to educate, inform and engage with young adults and teens about their Indian religious heritage (McLain, p. 204).

As a source of international YA, ACK is excellent for its popular format (comics), its enduring history and appeal – and its accessibility. Though ACK was in decline through the 1990s–partially due to the massively popular televised versions of the Ramayana and Mahabharata– the brand has been reinvigorated through the work of ACK Media, which offers ACK titles in a variety of languages (including English, Hindi and Bengali), formats (including bound collected graphic novels) and ships titles worldwide for FREE on orders over $50.

Given that there is an identified lack of widespread YA literature produced in India versus the thriving North American YA market (Rangachari, 2009), these comics provide a great, accessible and easy way to begin a cornerstone collection of Indian YA books in the library. Perhaps surprisingly, I have seen ACK referred to in only a few subject guides for this area — Venture into Cultures (2001) being one of them. But, given ACK Media’s plans for ACK expansion – video games, an animated series and movies are but a few of their plans to bring ACK into the 21st century –  I think we will start to see more of these ‘immortal’ comics.

Amar Chitra Katha – a recommended purchase for any library.

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References:

shah jahan

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Moribito cover Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

Nahoko Uehashi

New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2009

230 pgs, hardcover, $20.00 (CAD)

ISBN: 978-0670069651

A long time ago in the land of New Yogo, the Yakoo people believed that once every hundred years, the cloud spirit, Nyunga Ro Im, picked a guardian to protect its egg. If this egg survived, the weather would be good and crops would flourish; if the egg or the host dies, however, the Yakoo believed that drought and famine would strike the land. But, people do not believe this myth any longer – not since the ascension of the Torugaru royal family to rule New Yogo. The old Yakoo ways are considered outdated and superstitious, even radical. And then something most unexpected happens….

For 30-year-old Balsa, mystical and fantastical concerns are far removed from her day-to-day life. A bodyguard for hire, Balsa lives by her sword and trusts what she can see before her eyes. Then, by chance, Balsa saves the life of a boy falling from a bridge and begins a surprising and unexpected journey. Because this is no simple boy. He is crown prince Chagum, 12-year-old second son of the Royal Mikado—and guardian of the spirit, egg bearer for Nyunga Ro Im. To protect this boy, Balsa must learn to trust beyond the physical and accept that the intangible –the magical – is real. She must also fight the entire royal guard who has been directed to kill Chagum on the orders of his own father, the King. Because if the Nyunga Ro Im is shown to be real, if Chagum survives, then the whole ideology of the royal family, of the ruling power structure in New Yogo, could fall.  The magical beliefs of the Yakoo, dominated by the Yogo people for two centuries, would be revealed as true – not backwards or superstitious.

Winner of the 2009 ALA Batchelder Award for best children’s book published in translation, Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is at once an adventure story with a unusual heroine, a wayward prince and vicious monsters, as well as a fictional re-imagining of medieval Japan full of magic, mystery and cultural transition. This is a recommended title for any YA library collection. It is exciting, engaging and – the best part – there is more Moribito to come. After the novel was originally published in Japan in 1996, it spawned several manga incarnations, a very successful anime series, and nine subsequent volumes in a Guardian series. The second volume in this series, Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness, was recently translated in English with more volumes on the way.

Highly Recommended.

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town boyfilm projectorI have updated the site with two new lists: a list of ‘Great Global Graphix‘ with graphic novels and picture books from a variety of locales and a list of ‘Fantastic Films from Afar,’ which has suggestions for animated films, docudramas, and even horror films from afar.

Though the central focus of my blog and research project is to collect and evaluate international young adult books, I have chosen to expand the scope of my collection to also include films and graphix both due to emerging multi-media trends within the library, as well as very real issues of accessibility in collecting for this topic. These two formats are very popular and circulate well within the library, yet they appear on few ‘international’ lists I have seen, in spite of the relative ease of access in obtaining these titles — i.e. international films are much easier to access with subtitles than books in translation might be, and manga and graphic novels are some of the most popular works of ‘international YA’ currently on our shelves.

These lists are organized by title, and each include summaries and country designations – both for publication and, if different than country of publication, for story setting. These lists are a work in progress though so if there are titles or films I have overlooked, please comment with any suggestions for additions.

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ny name is number 4Mountain Girl, River GirlTing-Xing Ye left China in 1987 for Canada after years of hardship, including a period in a Chinese work camp as a teenager – an experience chronicled in her biographical memoir, My Name is Number Four: A True Story of the Cultural Revolution.

Since immigrating to Canada, Ye has written novels for children, adults and teens including the children’s books: Share the SkyThree Monks, No Water, Weighing the Elephant and a memoir for adults, A Leaf in the Bitter Wind (originally published in 1998 and later abridged for a YA audience as My Name is…).

Ye’s books have been lauded in Canada and the United States for their rich description of Chinese culture, as well as their detailed (and personal) depictions of events like the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

CM Magazine (Canadian Review of Materials) notes of My Name is… that, “teachers will find the book useful as it provides students with a personal perspective from someone who has lived through the Cultural Revolution….” The CM review further adds that, “…Ye’s work portrays the personal and collective tragedy of a misguided revolution and its detrimental effects on family, friendship, and Chinese society as a whole.” Of Mountain Girl River Girl – a fictional account that follows two teen migratory factory workers – Quill and Quire writes that, “this is a well-written and thought-provoking tale that refuses pat resolutions or Hollywood endings. The girls’ futures remain bleak at best, and audiences will learn a lot from this sobering novel….”

What is interesting is how well these books fit into the trope of ‘Chinese’ YA literature that has recently made its way onto library and school shelves and includes similar novels like: Socialism is Great’: A Worker’s Memoir of the New China about author Lijia Zhang’s experiences as teen factory worker in a missile production plant in China; Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang, another memoir about life as a teen during the Cultural Revolution; or Ye’s own novel for young adults, Throwaway Daughter, written with her husband, acclaimed Canadian author, William Bell, about the impact of China’s one child policy on the female infant abandonment and subsequent foreign adoption of these ‘throwaway daughters.’

These novels, while excellent first hand accounts of life in China during the Cultural Revolution, do enforce a particular view of China under communism prevalent in the West. Furthermore, as ‘international YA’ it should be noted that all of these books were originally published in North America by authors who have since become US or Canadian citizens (or ‘category #1’ as I discussed in an earlier post) – they are not Chinese-published accounts.

Why I note this is that there are very few Chinese produced books in libraries or on award winning YA lists. The ALA Batchedler Award, for example, which recognizes ‘the best’ in translation young adult book each year, has never nominated or awarded this accolade to a book originally published in China and its surrounding regions, including Hong Kong or Taiwan – and the Batchelders have been around since 1968.

Yet, I do think that it is important to note this disparity between Western-produced ‘Chinese’ books and those actually being produced in China, Hong Kong or Taiwan to be aware of the ‘gaps’ in our collections, and also certain themes, market influences, and most importantly, the issue of audience, in category #1 international YA.

As noted in a review of Valerie Zenatti’s When I was a Soldier, a memoir detailing Zenatti’s time as a teen soldier in the Israeli Army, Zenatti’s book is not written for a Israeli audience. For while Zenatti did spend her teens in Israel and did serve in the army, she was born and raised in France, and after her army service returned to Paris where her published her memoir, written in French and for a French audience. Similarly, Ye’s novels, though based on her childhood and subsequent experiences in China, are written for a North American audience – not a Chinese one, and this is something we need to remember when collecting. That while these books are about and set someplace other than North America, they are, in many ways, ‘North American’ books as they reflect market and publishing trends here, but also, and importantly, in that they are written for Canadian and US audiences.

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