book review · Shar

A Girl Like that: Diverse but how gritty is too gritty?

I’m about to start university again, so I’m thanking past me for writing a lot of book reviews. Will they be enough to get me through the semester? Only time will tell. However, this is a very good book and you should definitely read my review thx.  Continue reading “A Girl Like that: Diverse but how gritty is too gritty?”

book review · shanti

Children of the Faith review

It is hard to leave a cult. Apparently. I’ve never done it. The Children of the Faith series is by iconic New Zealand children’s author Fleur Beale. I mainly read this series (which I refuse to call the I am Not Esther series because that sounds wrong to me somehow) because it was recommended in the 1001 Books You Should Read Before You Grow Up book and I always felt like I should have read it in my childhood, but I never did. It’s good to support New Zealand authors and all that. I thought the discussions of faith might be interesting too.

Continue reading “Children of the Faith review”

book review · books · shanti

Review: Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now is an incredibly complex novel, and one that fits a lot into it’s short timeframe of seven days. I loved Tiffany Sly and I love all the pieces of her that Dana L. Davis uses for her story. It’s a story about figuring stuff out, and how the process is more important than any potential answers.

Continue reading “Review: Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now”

books · discussions · shanti

Wanted: Settings from Elsewhere (ideally, ownvoices)

Good day, Virtually Readers! (I’m trying to mix up the greeting, clearly at risk of sounding like a stuck up 19th century nobleperson) I love love love talking about settings (did The Bookish Planet or my guest post at The Silver Words clue you in?) so today I thought I’d talk about why I’m sick of some settings. (I kind of alluded to this in my North of Happy post) Also, why setting matters so much. I kind of did this in my ‘exotic’ post, but you know, it’s been a while and I’ve had more ideas. So.


Firstly, some settings I’m sick of

  • small town America
  • New York
  • LA
  • Medium sized town America
  • Boston
  • Rural America
  • actually anywhere in America
  • London
  • anywhere in Europe if the character is not European
  • Cruise ships
  • magical islands
  • magical forests
  • Medival European fantasy worlds

These settings aren’t inherently bad. There are a lot of people who live there—in fact, that probably includes most of the people who read and buy YA. But for me, who has never been to America, who hasn’t spent much time in Europe, I find that these settings don’t describe my lived experience. That’s fine. I have a vivid imagination; I can imagine myself in those places. In fact, at this point, I basically feel like I’ve been there. But I wish that there were more settings outside these narrative boundaries.

What makes me really sad is when stories bend to these expectations. A story doesn’t have to be #ownvoices for setting, but I’ve seen New Zealand, Australian, British, Mexican and Indian writers set their stories in the US, when the settings could just have been the countries they come from, which I’d prefer. I don’t know why this is; maybe they write it that way, maybe the setting proved a point, maybe the publisher asked for it. But it seems like a power imbalance to me.

When you belong to the setting you’re writing, it’s going to be more authentic. It’ll have details that generic, nameless settings won’t. That makes a difference to me, even if it’s not a setting I’m familiar with.

So I’m going to segway into part two: some settings that I do want to see more of—or that I wish existed.

  • South American settings/inspired tales. There are an okay number of Latinx characters in YA books, but very few Latin settings. Give me a story in the Yucatan peninsula or Bolivian highlands or Colombian coffee plantations or Atacama desert.
  • Sci-fi and dystopia that is outside of the US and is international. Something that always troubles me about dystopias like The Hunger Games and Divergent is that they never mention other countries. I want more stories like The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm (futuristic South Africa).
  • Contemporary Middle Eastern stories. This goes for China as well: there are lots of fantasies that use elements from these cultures, but I want more. (I’m very demanding)
  • More #ownvoices fantasy, with Pacifika people, or maybe Caribbean, like Brown Girl in the Ring.

I don’t really know what this post is about. The need for #ownvoices settings, I suppose. And that’s really on the publishing industry, what they decide is sellable. But readers are the ones who buy, and if I don’t buy bland American settings, if I buy ones like the ones I’ve described, or even ones I can’t imagine, whether it’s fantasy or sci-fi or dystopia, I can make a difference.

I’m a good like individualistic capitalist. The corporations are fond of me. (Sorry, I’m reading Beauty Queens right now and anarchy is on the mind)

I have a lot more to say about setting and why it’s important to me but I have a lot more time to say it, so I’m going to leave this here.

Do you like your settings to be ownvoices? What’s a setting you’d love to read about? (and yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to say ‘the place where I live’) Tell me in the comments!

book review · books · shanti

American Street Review

I read American Street last week. There were many things I love–the diversity, the examination of what it means to be in-between two cultures, how it evoked the nuance of being in a new place and making it your home. The story uses lwa’s, Voodou spirits, to add a touch of magical realism to the setting of Detroit. I did wish, however, that the story had shown Fabiola’s relationship with her mother in a more deep way, and why she has faith, the complexities of her belonging (at times it seemed a little easy and instant). But I am glad that I read this. Continue reading “American Street Review”