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GIVEAWAY + Diversity in YA Guest Post by Author Bethany Hegendus

We're huge fans of Diversity in YA, a website founded by authors Cindy Pon (Silver Phoenix, Fury of the Phoenix) and Malinda Lo (Ash, Huntress) to help promote diversity across the YA genre. Today, we're featuring a guest post by author Bethany Hegedus (with whom I share an editor!). Bethany will be joining the Diversity in YA tour in Austin.

(there is a giveaway at the bottom of this post!)

I recently got paid the best compliment. It wasn’t on my eyes. My hips. Or my hair. It was on the color of my skin—“I had to flip to the author pic at the end of Truth with a Capital T,” commented a biracial teacher/reader that I met in person. “I wasn’t sure if you were black or white as I was reading.” Ah! That was music to my ears. Funny thing is, a similar comment was also the response of my editor Michelle Poploff after she read the manuscript and was speaking with my agent upon acquiring the book.

I love it when readers have this response—the race of an author is usually assumed to be that of the main character. Thus far, the main characters—or the point of view characters rather—of my first two novels, Between Us Baxters and Truth with a Capital T have been Caucasian but both novels deal with the societal and the interpersonal implications of interracial friendships. (Does that sound too scholarly? I hope not. For the outstanding blog Dear Teen Me, I recently wrote a letter to my teen self about interracial dating. Loving who you love and liking who you like has always been important to me.)

Polly and Timbre Ann in Baxters are a-typical teens, or as Polly puts it, they’re the only “salt and pepper” friends in town. Baxters is a historical novel and the tension at the center of the book depicts that. It’s 1959 and there are a rash of racially motivated fires going on in Polly and Timbre Ann’s hometown. But the fires are not just racially motivated they are class-oriented too—thriving black owned business are being targeted—among them Timbre Ann’s father’s repair shop,

When I set out to write a historical novel, and one where race would be important, I wanted to be sure I was not writing a “white kid and black kid take on the world and get a pat on the back for doing so” book. There have been enough of those books over the years. I wanted to write a book with more complexity, where choices were not easy, where bonds between the races at a critical time in our nation’s history were changing, where allegiance to one another was tested and very few—if any—came out unscathed. Polly and Timbre Ann both grow and change as they fight, come together, deal with jealousy on a small scale—between themselves—and on a large scale with what is happening in their town and nation. Nothing about their friendship, or their individual lives, is easy.

In Truth with a Capital T, my motivations and obstacles were very different. I was writing a contemporary story and one where family—as well as friendship—was at the heart of the matter. Maebelle T. Earl, my protagonist, is at odds with her newly adopted African-American cousin, Isaac. It’s not the color of his skin that bothers her but the fact that he somehow inherited the “talent” gene that everyone in her super successful family has. Her grandparents are retired honky tonk legends, her parent’s are self-help gurus out on their first book tour and when Maebelle arrives in Tweedle, Georgia, having recently been kicked out of the Gifted & Talented program at school, she is not expecting the trumpet playing prodigy Isaac to be there.

Maebelle is nowhere near perfect. She is mouthy, mean, and as one reader has called her, “a beautiful mess” of a girl. When Isaac questions her—or rather tells her—that her family must have once owned slaves since they are living in a historic antebellum home, Maebelle sets out to prove Isaac wrong. Their friendship, strained as it is, becomes important to both cousins as they discover the “Truth, with a capital T”, together.

Neither book depicts my own experiences—as chronicled in the Dear Teen Me letter— but each draws on the complexities that I have felt as a white woman dating outside my race and having a cast of friends who don’t look like me. That’s why I am so taken with a reader forgetting what color I am. I don’t think race is something to transcend—it is a part of who we are—for better or worse—but it is nice to know the lines can blur—in life, in our imaginations, and in our creations.

About Bethany Hegedus
Bethany Hegedus’s second novel Truth with a Capital T debuted recently at the 2010 Texas Book Festival. Forthcoming, with Atheneum/Simon & Schuster is the picture book Grandfather Gandhi, co-authored with Arun Gandhi, grandson of the Mahatma. Bethany’s first novel Between Us Baxterswas named a Bank Street Books, Best Books of 2010 (starred) and a Top 40 Fiction Books for Young Adults by the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association. A feature article on Bethany’s joint school visit presentations with Kekla Magoon appeared in the summer issue of The Multicultural Review, a national subscription journal to schools and libraries. Bethany continues to serve as co-editor of the Young Adult & Children’s page for the VCFA literary journal Hunger Mountain and to speak at schools and libraries across the country. She writes from her home in Austin.

Diversity in YA Giveaway!
To be entered to win a surprise book from the list below:

-- Follow YA Highway
-- Comment with your email address

US/Canada only. A winner will be selected at random Saturday, May 14th.

The books:
Deva Fagan - Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle
Holly Black - White Cat
Cindy Pon - Fury of the Phoenix
Bethany Hedgedus - Truth with a Capital T
Sarah Rees Brennan - The Demon's Covenant
Francisco X Stork - The Last Summer of the Death Warriors
Gene Luen Yang - Level Up
Dia Reeves - Slice of Cherry
Jacqueline Woodson - If You Come Softly & Behind You
Nnedi Okorafor - Akata Witch

Good luck!
Kirsten Hubbard

Kirsten is the author of Like Mandarin, Wanderlove, and the middle grade novel Watch the Sky.

Posts by Kirsten

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23 comments:

  1. I'm a follower. Thank you for the awesome giveaway! :)
    naruto_and_hinata(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  2. Great post and giveaway! I'm excited about the Diversity in YA website and wish I could attend one of the tour dates. Sigh, maybe another time!

    caldellizzi(at)gmail(dot)com

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  3. Absolutely wonderful post!!

    "I don’t think race is something to transcend—it is a part of who we are—for better or worse..."

    Precisely! I could not agree more. I don't want a colorblind world -- I want a world where we don't have to be blind to color. (Is that color-indifferent?) I want to be able to celebrate each and every color, and to do that, we have to be able to see them.

    Anyway, I'll stop rambling and just say thanks. Love this post, and love Diversity in YA.

    As for the giveaway, all of the books look great. weheartya at gmail.com

    KH

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  4. My book collection is in need of some diversity. I'd love a chance to win.

    You better believe I'm a YA Highway follower!

    jacqueline.c.goodman AT gmail DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  5. I follow you via GFC (Throuthehaze)
    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh man, I've been wanting to read A Slice of Cherry for months! I'm a follower and my email is cooperke87 (at) gmail (dot) com.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great post. I have had you in my feed for awhile now, but had neglected to 'tell you' so by following. That is corrected now.

    One note in response to Bethany - you said you do not believe race can be transcended. Maybe, but our ATTITUDES about race certainly can be. Too often we confuse race with culture when we say 'I am what I am'. Books like yours help draw that distinction. That is a transcendence we need more of!

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  8. I follow both "Diversity in YA" and "YA Highway." Might mention that I'm in my 30's, have no kids (and don't plan to) but have always loved YA.

    lisette.walker(at)gmail.com

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  9. Following! Thanks for the giveaway :D

    blissfulrains(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wonderful post, keep up the great spotlights!!
    Thanks again
    follower

    Vivien
    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  11. I love surprises! Follower.
    kr_moreau at doglover dot com

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  12. I would find that a high compliment, to have readers not know. It's wonderful that you've been able to blur those lines.

    I'm already a follower. thewarriormuse at gmail dot com.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Wonderful post; I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I follow you! Count me in as well :)

    jo.tee35 At gmail DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  14. A great post about an important topic (and thanks for the introduction to an author I don't know!).

    That's a great group of books, we'd love to win!

    lynnea.west(at)gmail.com

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  15. Diversity isn't a favorite genre of mine, though it's still very interesting.

    Thanks for the giveaway :)
    rivkarno1(at)Hotmail(dot)com

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  16. Interesting giveaway! GFC follower

    thegirlonfire27 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  17. How cool is this contest? Thanks! :)

    pamharris1981@yahoo.com

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  18. I feel like there isn't much Diversity in YA. Thanks for the chacne to read some!!

    findjessyhere at gmail dot com

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  19. I am loving all the focus lately on diversity in YA. I think it's awesome! I'm looking forward to reading more!

    basicallyamazingbooks [at] gmail.com

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  20. Already a follower.
    musingsofthegladelf(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  21. Sounds Good!:)
    tirachii@yahoo.com

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  22. What a great post -- I'd definitely like to pick up a copy of either of Bethany's books.

    As for the giveaway, I'm already a follower and my email is rachel.stark[at]hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'm a GFC follower, Brooke. Thanks so much!

    texas_gal45(at)hotmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete

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Item Reviewed: GIVEAWAY + Diversity in YA Guest Post by Author Bethany Hegendus Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kirsten Hubbard