Category Archives: The Reader’s Board

#WeNeedDiverseBooks… And This Is What We Need To Do Next

 

For those of you who missed it, May 1st marked the kick off to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, voicing a demand that stories by and about people of colour, varying abilities and genders, and the LGBTQ community become more readily available to readers, particularly in children’s books and YA fiction.

Twitter and Tumblr users alike shared their reasons and support for diversity in literature, and the feeds are well worth checking out. They’ve also made an impact: The Book Con has finally added people of colour to their guest list.  Better very, very late than never, I suppose.

 So, what’s next?

What do we need to do now with all this feedback, not just at Sumbola as a start up publishing company, but as readers and writers?  After all, if feedback isn’t put to good use, well… it just isn’t useful.

For us, it comes down to empathy. We’re not here to lecture or patronize any reader, writer, or publisher, but what we want to advocate for is active consideration of others, particularly those of whom have experiences and perspectives that differ from our own. 

We believe that it is vital that every story teller and story lover place themselves in the shoes of the writers, and even the characters, with perspectives other than their own.  Secondly, we need to fully appreciate how important and wonderful it is to find ourselves and our loved ones in fiction, and everyone deserves this opportunity.

A little bit of empathy goes a long way; it leads to voting with our voices, voting with our dollars, doing the extra bit of research, and not accepting played-out ethnic or gender-based character tropes. It leads to a deeper understanding of literature (from comics to classics), and a better understanding of ourselves and the human condition. 

That’s it.  No six step guide, no infographic, no cartoons to help illustrate how to build a diverse bookshelf.  We’re just saying this: practice empathy, and keep on encouraging others to do the same.  Diverse and awesome stories will be the result.  

There is a fitting quote from Audre Lorde that encapsulates the importance and the blessing that diversity is:

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

This is why we need empathy.  This is why we need diverse books.

If you’re still looking for another reason, here are just a few of our favourites:

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#WeNeedDiverseBooks because it shouldn’t be easier to identify with a talking animal than with a human being who isn’t straight and white.

— Steve Foxe (@steve_foxe) May 1, 2014

 

Empathy.

So simple. So successful.

BREAKING NEWS: Articles Now Available

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Big and wonderful news everyone: Our tremendous and tireless technical team has added a brand new feature to Sumbola for writers and readers alike!  Now, Sumbola members can write and submit articles directly on to the site for others to browse through, read, comment and vote on.  It’s a big step in our efforts to allow you to self publish, and we can’t wait for you to test it out.

One of the biggest reasons we’re excited to launch our Sumbola Articles is that it gives a platform to both the casual and the consistent writer. If you maintain a blog elsewhere on the web with regular content, you’re free to copy and paste your own essays and articles from your site, exposing your work to a different viewing pool.  If you lack the time or desire to maintain your own blog to begin with, this is a great tool for you as well! You can post as frequently as you like, and your content can vary as much as you please.

An additional tool we’ve added to our Articles is the ability to attribute blog posts to content that is not your own.  This is a great way to share other perspectives and will link back to the original author or publisher’s site.  While it’s great in many ways, we do advise caution in what you link to: may sites will have strict rules about sharing their work even with attribution, and if not, it’s always polite to ask permission anyways.

If you have content that you’re ready to share, feel free to jump on in and start sharing- we would be delighted!  That being said, please check out and adhere to the Sumbola Terms of Service to know what types of content and activity is prohibited as well as our policy on copyrights.

While this is a big jump for us in terms in what we have offered so far, we are still looking to make this feature (and Sumbola as a whole) the very best it can be!  If you have ideas for new categories, we want to hear them! If something isn’t quite working for you, we want to fix it! Feel free to submit any and all feed back to us by commenting below, reaching us by our support email (support@sumbola.zendesk.com) or visiting our support desk!

Ready to start?  Great! Hop on over to Sumbola’s Articles Section to add your voice.

In related and also awesome news for all writers with books ready for publishing: we’re just about ready for you, so stay tuned for updates!

‘Tis the Season: 5 Ways to Give Back to the Book World

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credit: Paper Cat

Happy Hanukkah, and happy Thanksgiving to our US friends.

For many of us, this weekend means  celebrations with friends and family, marking the beginning of the holiday season. The hustle and bustle of winter is upon us.

The to-do lists are piling up.  There are turkeys to cook, presents to buy, friends to see, cards to sign, holiday parties, decorating, gift-wrapping, snow shovelling… and you really can’t skip out on your favourite seasonal movies marathon (Home Alone, anyone?).

There is a lot to do this time of year, no matter what you’re celebrating… how on earth are you to make time for a little literature appreciation, you may ask?  Fear not, fellow bookworm.  Here are 5 easy and inexpensive ways to give a little nod to your favourite readers and  writers:

1.  Shop indie.

While online book buying has its allure (pyjamas sans showering!), a visit to a few of your local bookstores is a little more special.  Whether it’s a friendly conversation with the shop owner, a treasure in the bookshelves, or that latte you were able to treat yourself to, you’ve made your day a little brighter than it would have been otherwise.  Plus, you’ve supported local business.  Good job!

2.  Share some Twitter love.

Give a little shout out to your favourite authors this season.  Mention them with your appreciation, link to their website, or let your followers know where they can find their books!  Isn’t it great when people say nice things on Twitter?  Total cost is two minutes and one hundred and forty characters (or less).

3.  Participate in a book drive.

If you’re overstocked on kid’s books, classics, cookbooks or contemporaries, you’re in luck: you can donate them to a community in need!  Whether your books are destined for your local library, high school or across the world, all you have to do is ensure that the condition and content meets  the needs of the drive.  Easy as pie.

4.  Host a book swap.

Some of us may leap at this idea with excitement: it’s another opportunity to get together with friends and food!  Yes!  Alas, some of us really don’t need to add another social event to an already packed calendar.  If you fall  into the second group but are loving this idea, why not combine it with an already planned party?  Instead of a Secret Santa, ask your guests to a bring a book, or box of books for fellow party goers to trade or lend to each other.  This is a great option if some of your books look a little too loved to donate.

5.  Start a tradition.  

Make a little time to share the love of reading with someone else, amidst the craziness of the season.  If you have little humans that call you things like mom, or dad, why not choose a favourite story to read every year?  That story, not matter how silly it seems with hold memories of every Christmas, Hanukkah, December 10th, etc.

No little ones adding to your Christmas to-dos?  That works too!  Curl up with your favourite book, yuletide beverage and read to your heart’s content!  How is this giving back you ask?  It’s keeping the reading spirit alive and well.  Excellent job.

How do you celebrate reading over the holidays?  Let us know by tweeting us @sumbolacosi, #booklove.

Don’t Panic!: 5 Tips for Parents about Young Adult Fiction

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credit: Carissa Rogers

On Monday, the TODAY show drew attention to the wildly popular Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, posing the question: Should parents let their children feed on The Hunger Games?  “-or any of the dark, disturbing young adult fiction now crowding bookshelves?”.

The article above goes on to discuss how “content is more frightening and gory than ever” how impressionable youth are, and even speculation that Collins must “have issues” to write such a violent, dystopian trilogy.  What should parents do about their children reading such things?

This is certainly not the first time YA fiction has come under fire from concerned parents (or school boards, child health practitioners, religious groups, literary critics, or book sellers), but concern isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Censoring, or limiting access to books based on subjective opinions?   That may be going too far.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with parent or guardian being concerned about what their child reads (or watches, plays, listens to, ingests, etc.) Since we all want children and teenagers to grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults, the question isn’t should we be concerned, the question is:

What does a parent do with that concern?

Before we talk about mandating a  rating system for young adult fiction books or discrediting authors by reducing their creativity to a deranged mental state, let’s talk about a few helpful first steps:

1.  Remember your high school reading list.

If you believe that young adult content is getting darker or more gruesome, take a moment to consider the required reading from your school days:  To Kill a Mockingbird Lord of the fliesCatcher in the Rye.  Beloved. Any thing by Shakespeare. Racism, sex, loss of innocence, drinking, murder, savagery and colourful language. Lots of colourful language.  This isn’t meant to equate the literature of Toni Morrison to today’s dystopian teen reading, but it is to say that serious or dark content is not new to the eyes of young adult readers.

2.  Read it (or at least read about it).

If you’re concerned about a specific young adult novel, the best way to understand exactly what its about, is to simply to read the book yourself. If you lack the time to do so, try Google.  You’ll be sure to find a few reviews to give you the gist of the story, and a better grasp on its content.

3.  Accept the young adult realities.

Teens and preteens are confronted with larger issues than a high school dance or failing a math test, more often than we would like to believe.  Sex, drug use, prejudice, bullying, violence, eating disorders, depression, poverty and crime are just a few of the scary subjects that they are already familiar with.  Not every teen or preteen directly experiences these issues, but sheltering them from other perspectives is not the answer… which leads us to the next point:

4.  Talk about what they read.  

This is one of the suggestions the TODAY Show got right. Engage with your kids about their book selection.  What they like about the novels they choose, their themes, the characters, etc.  If you didn’t like something in the story (provided you read it) tell them, and ask about their opinion on it! Make yourself available to discuss the good, bad, and the ugly about the book with them. Critically thinking about the novels they have read will lead to critical selection of their book choices in the future.

5.  Give kids a little credit.  

Don’t worry about the content of young adult fiction being too difficult for adolescents to understand.  It’s Harry Potter, not Finnegan’s Wake.  Most youth are perfectly able to process the difference between reality and fiction while acknowledging the elements that connect them.  While they understand that the settings of stories like The Hunger Games, Divergent or Ender’s Game are fictional, they can connect on a very real level with the themes of the books, or the emotions of the characters. Fear.  Loneliness.  Confusion.  Hope.  Perseverance.  Resourcefulness.  YA fiction is a great way to identify with these messages and ideas.  Extend to them that opportunity.

Sadly, not all young adult fiction will be well-written, thought provoking or helpful.  Not all books will instill virtues in their readers, or align with your sensibilities, but the solution isn’t restriction or censorship.  It’s asking questions.