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Posts Tagged ‘books in translation’

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.

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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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translation

The Batchelder Awards are amongst the most popular and widely utilized awards for international YA – especially in North America, due in large part to the general prominence afforded the American Library Association (ALA)’s list of yearly awards (including the Batchelders, the Alex Awards, the Printz Awards and others). The Batchelder Award is awarded annually to the 1 children’s book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States (Batchelder Awards, 2009). The award is also given to the American publisher who published the book in translation.

The Batchelder also nominates 1 to 3 ‘honor books’ and publishers each year for their noteworthy achievements. The Batchelder Awards are named after Mildred L. Batchelder, a former executive director of the Association for Library Service to Children, and 30 year member of the ALA who believed that the promotion of international books in translation could better foster understanding and acceptance across national and cultural borders (Batchelder Awards, 2009).

The ALA established the Batchelder Award in 1968, but prior to 1994 the award was only given solely to the American publisher of the book in translation — not to the book or original author. This precedent of awarding American publishers was part of an effort to support and encourage the publication of books in translation that can be a costly and time-consuming process for publishers—issues that still result in a lack of books in translation (Batchelder Awards, 2009). As noted by educator Gretchen Schwarz in 1996, “finding [international YA] titles is easier than obtaining books…[e]specially [because] books in translation may never come out in paperback, and they go out of print very quickly.” The scarcity of titles that Schwarz’s comment refers to is also found in recent publishing statistics: in a 2006 review of Publishers Weekly and other publishing resources, authors Maczka and Stock estimated that at any given time, the number of translated titles on US shelves may account for only 2-6% of total books (pp. 49-54).

Given these challenges, what books and publishers are the Batchelder Award honoring? This year’s award was given to Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc. for Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, by Nahoko Uehashi and translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano (click here for my review of Moribito). This title was originally released in Japan in 1996, and was later made into a successful Japanese anime in 2007 (Anime News, 29 April 2009).

This is the 2nd time in 2 years that a Japanese novel has won this award—in 2008, Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe also won the Batchelder. Brave Story is about a 10 year old boy who tries to change his destiny by undertaking a magical journey. Like Moribito, Brave Story was very successful in Japan upon its original publication and spawned a popular anime film (Anime News, 16 January 2008).

However, prior to Moribito and Brave Story winning in 2009 and 2008 respectively, the 27 previous Batchelder award winners and honored books of the past 10 years (since 2000) have almost exclusively been from Europe, save for 2 winning entries in Hebrew from Israel—2001 Batchelder winner Samir and Yonatan and 2004 Batchelder winner Run, Boy, Run. Beyond this, representation from Europe disproportionately favors Germany and France, which have 8 nominations/wins each since 2000. Furthermore, since the awards inception in 1968 there has been only 1 Spanish language entry (a 1994 win for The Apprentice by Pilar Molina Llorente) and one Turkish entry (a 1995 honor book for Sister Shako and Kolo the Goat by Vedat Dalokay).

Given these oversights, it is useful to remember that ‘the best’ that the Batchedler recognizes is very culturally and linguistically defined.

It does not cover international countries that originally publish in English such as Australia, India, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and many others.

It also does not cover a broad range of countries or regions.

Since the award’s inception in 1968, only the following countries have been nominated or received the ultimate prize (# in parentheses indicates how many times the country has been nominated and/or won the award):

* Denmark (2)
* France (10)
* Germany (23)
* Greece (3)
* Holland (6)
* Israel (5)
* Italy (2)
* Japan (4)
* Norway (2)
* Russia (1)
* Spain (1)
* Sweden (5)
* Turkey (1)

No countries from Latin America, Africa or Asia (save Japan) have ever been nominated — and Germany has won and/or been nominated 23 times since 1968 — or roughly 35% of the time.

Given these oversights, as well as the Batchelder Awards lack of range within language and country groups (of the 5 times that a Hebrew language book has won or been honored, 4 of those books have been the work of author Uri Orlev), I think that any library should use this list as a good starting—not ending—point to compiling a list of great international YA.

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References

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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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