Review: That Asian Kid by Savita Kalhan

I (Leah) was delighted when Savita Kalhan asked if I’d liked to review That Asian Kid. I pretty much immediately said, of course, even before she had a chance to tell me anything about it! Last summer, I absolutely adored (even as it was an incredibly difficult read) Savita’s The Girl in the Broken Mirror, so I had high hopes for Jeevan’s story.

I wasn’t disappointed.

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It would be easy to identify That Asian Kid as a YA novel about racism. However, it is so much more. It’s the story of a British teenager, Jeevan, as he’s getting ready to sit his GCSEs (there isn’t really a US equivalent to this one!), hanging out with friends, meeting girls, navigating parents (and one brilliant grandmother), and social media. 

Indeed, social media – particularly the ethics of posting something that is technically yours, because you filmed it, but that is also to some degree not yours because it of other people, without their knowledge or consent – is central to That Asian Kid

Synopsis (from Amazon): Despite his hard work and brains, Jeevan, is doing badly in his GCSE English literature class. His teacher, Mrs Greaves, dislikes him intensely and Jeevan is convinced that he is the victim of racial prejudice. Can he stand up for what’s right? When he comes upon her in the woods outside school in a compromising situation with another teacher, Jeevan can’t help but film the scene on his phone. With this secret new ammunition at his fingertips – dare he upload it to social media?

If you’re looking to purchase the book,
I’d highly recommend your
local independent bookshop.
Even better, why not see if your local,
public library has purchased it
(if they haven’t, ask them to!)

Never would I give the plot away (go read it), but I will say: the ‘other teacher’ is Mr Green, Jeevan’s favourite, which certainly adds to Jeevan’s anxiety around posting, or not, the video, a question that becomes increasingly fraught as Mrs Greaves actions become increasingly racist.   

Interestingly, while I found Mrs Greaves utterly deplorable (there is a scene in the novel I’m sure I read just as wide-eyed and agog as Kalhan narrates Jeevan), I disliked Mr Green – yup, Jeevan’s favourite teacher – and Mr Rawson, the school’s head, more. These two ostensibly good men continually stand up for Greaves even in the face of mounting ‘evidence’ that her behaviour is racially driven and that she is explicitly targeting Jeevan. In Mr Green’s case, there is also a failure to immediately and publicly denounce her actions once racial prejudice becomes, even, utterly undeniable. 

Their support of Greaves, even as Green calls our her out in private, is tantamount to supporting her racism – in Green’s case, it felt even worse: he ‘gets it’ and yet doesn’t speak out and up. So, while Greaves is the ‘baddie’, Green and Rawson demonstrate just how embedded White privilege is. 

But, I mentioned above, the novel isn’t just about the racism Jeevan experiences; it’s also about being a teenager. And, the thing I loved most about That Asian Kid: Jeevan’s fabulous group of friends. Dread, Sandi, and Jeevan are such a great trio, despite and because of their differences. I loved reading their interactions with one another and the continued support and camaraderie throughout everything – even girlfriends!   

Definitely not one to miss – trust me, you need to know if he posts the video or not – and it’s now! Check your favourite local bookshop and tell your library to order it (if they haven’t already). 

You can also follow along with the rest of the blog tour…

Blog Tour Klaxon! We’re reviewing Savita Kalhan’s That Asian Kid

One to watch for, Leah Phillips will be reviewing Savita Kalhan’s latest book That Asian Kid on 2 September!

While you wait, check out my review for Savita’s The Girl in the Broken Mirror.

THIS book is out in August and follows Jeevan as he faces decides what to do with some dirt he has on a teacher who seems to have it out for him…

(What would you do?!)

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An Interview with Hafsah Faizal, Author of We Hunt the Flame

By Meriem R. Lamara @Meriem_Lamara

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People lived because she killed.
People died because he lived

 

 

 

 

 

 

Set in a fantasy world inspired by Ancient Arabia, Hafsah Fiazal’s debut novel We Hunt the Flame comes out May 14th 2019. YALMC’s North African Officer, Meriem, had the chance to ask Hafsah some questions about her writing inspirations, being a #ownvoices writer, and more!

 

We Hunt the Flame comes out in May 14th. How do you feel now that it’s almost here?

We’re little over a month away! It feels surreal. I still can’t believe I have an agent, let alone a book deal, despite it being nearly two years since it all happened. I think it’ll really hit me when I finally hold the hardcover in my hands!

The characters in the story represent a culture that we don’t often read about in YA Fantasy. What can you tell us about the characters of Zafira and Nasir? And what do their characters mean to you as a #ownvoices author?

Zafira is a huntress who will do anything for her people. Nasir is the crown prince and the greatest assassin alive. Both are legends, neither are content with their lives. By those descriptors alone, they could fit the bill for almost any YA fantasy, which is why they exist—one of the main reasons I set We Hunt the Flame in a Middle Eastern inspired world was to introduce readers to a world that isn’t as twisted as the media leads us to believe. You’ll find characters who wear turbans, who know the difference between dates, who speak Arabic, and know what it’s like to live amidst the ever-shifting desert.

As someone who has always been fascinated by the world of ancient Arabia with its rich history, mythology, and customs, I am very pleased to see it represented in YA Fantasy. What attracted you to it? And what type of research did you conduct for the story?

I think I was attracted to ancient Arabia because of my own ties to it! I wanted the world to feel fantastical, yet clearly inspired by the Middle East, so most of my research pertained to place names, language, weaponry and sometimes legends.

I am really curious as to how your process is when it comes to world building. What can you tell us about the world of Arawiya?

I love world-building, which I like to think stems from my career as a designer. The visual aspect of the story is my favorite—whether it’s constructing a palace down to the latticework along the wall or adding ornamentation to a character’s clothing. Having the Middle Eastern as a baseline for Arawiya most certainly helped. The world of We Hunt the Flame is lush and full of tiny details that I think work to immerse readers that much deeper into the story.

Did the title ‘We Hunt the Flame’ come to you fully formed or did you have to experiment with other ideas first?

It didn’t! The story was originally titled something else, which was more apt for what the story used to be (a tournament). It felt too concrete a title, so when brainstorming more abstract ideas, We Hunt the Flame made the list of a few titles I sent to my agent before we submitted the story to editors!

We can’t talk about the book without mentioning the stunning cover with Arabic Calligraphy nicely reflected in the title’s typography. Did you have any input on the design of the final official cover?

 Oooh, yes. My editor knew right from the start that I wanted to be a part of the cover design process. As a lettering artist (as well as a designer), typography is important to me, and creating something that emulated Arabic calligraphy was a dream come true, thanks to Erin Fitzsimmons! I was also asked for “scene” ideas for the cover artist, Simon Prades, to depict. Zafira standing before the shadow of an ominous palace is an unseen moment-between-moments that occurs in the story—it’s also a huge pivoting moment and I love that we were able to portray it so beautifully.

What do you think you’ve learned as an author in the process of writing We Hunt the Flame?

We Hunt the Flame is my fifth manuscript, yet I’ve always felt that it was, in my ways, my first. It was my first fantasy. My first time writing in the third-person, and my first time writing in the past tense. I’ve learned so much more while working with my editors—my favorite is how to differentiate the heart of the narrative from the bulk of the story—and I continue to learn as the days progress!

 What do you like to read? Was there any book that inspired We Hunt the Flame or inspired you as a writer in general?

Fantasy is my favorite genre. I also enjoy science fiction and the occasional contemporary, though I rarely read outside of YA. I’d say every young adult novel I’ve read over the years has contributed to my writing in some way. It’s taught me more than I could learn from any syllabus!

 

We Hunt the Flame is out on the 14th of May 2019!
Hafsah Faizal, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with Meriem. ❤

CFP: Radical Young People’s Literature & Culture

Hosted by
The Irish Society for the Study of Children’s Literature

Friday 29th and Saturday 30th March 2019 Marino Institute of Education, Dublin 9, Ireland

Keynote address: Professor Kimberley Reynolds

It is now over ten years since Kimberley Reynolds highlighted the importance of radical dimensions of children’s literature in her book, Radical Children’s Literature: Future Visions and Aesthetic Transformations in Juvenile Fiction. Texts for young people have always been embedded in norms, concepts and systems regarding socialisation, education, and enculturation and offer empowering and disempowering possibilities for everyone who engages with them. Concepts of childhood, youth literature and youth culture are situated and operate within diverse contexts and contested spaces which are negotiated by readers, audiences, publishers, creative industries, authors, librarians, teachers, families, gate keepers, institutions, cultural movements, and political and religious groups. Radical youth literature challenges dominant expectations and norms about childhood, society, socialisation, and young people’s reading, acts as a force for change and encourages children and young adults to question the authority of those in power. In today’s world, the role and liberating possibilities of radical youth culture and literature have become even more urgent.

This conference will explore the experimental, subversive and/or disruptive potential of Irish and international literature and culture for young people. The conference will also consider the extent to which children’s and young-adult texts and culture can promote, cultivate and/or establish radical representations and ideas. In what ways is today’s radical youth literature different from that of earlier decades? What contemporary issues are addressed in radical youth literature and culture and how? To what extent have publishing, schools, libraries, multimedia and entertainment industries engaged with radical youth texts and radical youth culture? How is radical children’s and young adult literature and culture created, distributed, enacted and experienced?

Please email an abstract and a biographical note to isscl.committee@gmail.com by 5pm Friday 7th December 2018. You will be notified of the outcome of the selection process in mid January 2019. 250-350-word abstracts are welcomed but not limited to the below areas and themes. Cuirfear fáilte roimh pháipéir trí Ghaeilge.

  • Class
  • Gender
  • Sexualities
  • Age and ageing
  • Ethnicity
  • Nationality
  • Embodiment
  • Performativity
  • Social engagement
  • Children’s rights
  • Engagement with new media, technologies, film, television, theatre etc.
  • Adaptation and/or translation
  • Visual narratives e.g. picturebooks, comics
  • Radical forms and/or genres
  • Fandom and fan cultures
  • Disruptive texts

 

A Database: YA Lit, Media, & Culture, Key Texts

Hello!

A few weeks ago, one of those “I wish there was” conversations happened. In this case, I wish there was an easier way to find YA scholarship. YA scholars are acrobats. They publish EVERYWHERE. Coupled with the absence of a journal dedicated to YA* (as a distinct field related to, but different from children’s lit), it can be difficult to find things. So, we’ve started a database.

Approaching YA Literature, Media, and Culture: Key Texts

At the moment, it’s an editable Google Sheet, but I am looking for more user-friendly options.

Have fun!

Yours,
Leah

 

 

 

What I Read in August (@Le_Phill)

Highlight Your Personality (2)

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I kicked August off with Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun, a heartwrenching story about love, loss, sibling relationships, growing up, and art. It did take me a while to get through the novel — it’s hefty and the chapters — told alternatively from Noah and Jude’s perspectives — are long. If you’re also a “read a chapter before pausing” person, you might find it difficult to find a pace for this one, but doing so is WELL worth it!

 

 

 

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Alongside I’ll Give you the Sun and at least one of the novels that followed, I read Roberta Seelinger Trites’ most recent monograph Twenty-First Century Feminisms in Children’s and Adolescent Literature. In a “where are we now” look at feminism in literature for young people, Trites engages many of the 21st-century’s key feminist themes as they intersect with children’s and young adult literature studies: critical race theory, ecofeminism, embodiment and neoliberalism, gender and disability studies. I’ll save a more extensive unpicking for my monograph! 😉

 

 

 

15750874The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons followed I’ll Give you the Sun. In the story world, women are property, sex slaves really. If captured — and the novel’s heroine Aya is caught by Trackers at the novel’s start — girls are groomed for auction where they’ll either become a Wife or sent to the whore houses. The Glass Arrow would be a great read for anyone who loved Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (novel or series). Thinking about the novel again today, I can’t help but think about Yandy’s utterly bizarre and downright appalling decision to market a ‘sexy’ Handmaid’s Tale costume for Halloween — take a look at Rachelle Hampton’s “Yandy’s Sexy Handmaid Costume Is the Perfectly Logical Merger of Halloween Sexification and Consumer Feminism“. Thankfully, the costume has been pulled.

The Glass Arrow also links quite nicely to Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours, but with a more fantasy feel.

I wrapped August up with Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan, and I wasn’t able to read another book for nearly two weeks. Book hangovers are the best kind of the worst. The WONDERFUL team at Hodderscape sent me an arc, and there’s a full review coming soon (short version: Girls gets ALL THE STARS, all of them). And – super secretly, don’t tell anyone – we may even have a little Q&A with the fabulous wonderful, Ngan in the build-up Girls release!! Shhhh.

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Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honour they could hope for…and the most demeaning. This year, there’s a ninth. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

Girls due for release on the 6th of November 2018. Do yourself a favour, pre-order it. #PaperAndFire

 

  And that’s what I read in August, what did you read?

— Leah

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Flash Review: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera – Jennie Gouck

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From the blurb:

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it. Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when the boys have a chance meeting at the post office, they leave wondering what exactly the universe does have in store for them.

What if – in a city of eight million people – they can’t find each other again?

What if they do … and then can’t nail a first date even after three do-overs?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

What if it’s us?

 

Review by Jennie Gouck:

If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts…well, this novel would have a very merry Christmas.

Set in New York City, this collaborative title from (LGBTQ+) YA powerhouses Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera capture the essence of young love in one of the most vibrant places on earth.

Arthur Seuss, a dreamer and musical-lover from Georgia, is in the Big Apple for the Summer, having taken up an internship at his mother’s lawyer’s firm. He sees New York as a city of opportunity, the kind of place you can only look at with awe as your eyes drink in the bright lights of Times Square and dizzying heights of the skyscrapers on every corner. He dreams of seeing Hamilton on Broadway, of one day going to Yale, and of falling in love.

Meanwhile, Ben Alejo, a New York native from Alphabet City is more pragmatic. He’s been burned by The Universe one too many times and carries a hurt from his recent break-up with his boyfriend, Hudson. While he’s creative, privately writing his fantasy novel The Wicked Wizard War, school hasn’t gone so well for him, either, and he finds himself spending his holidays in Summer school in a desperate attempt to pass Junior Year and become a Senior with the rest of his friends. Ben’s Puerto Rican, working-class heritage is a sore-spot for him. Yale (or any college, really) is a pipe dream. Plus, he looks ‘too white’ and doesn’t speak enough Spanish to hang out with the other Puerto Rican kids, yet doesn’t feel at home with his peers who aren’t of colour. Ben, it seems, is an occupant of The Inbetween.

What If It’s Us follows Arthur and Ben as they attempt to navigate the beginnings of their relationship in the city that never sleeps, all the while tumbling toward Summer’s end. ‘Do-overs’ are a theme throughout the book; first dates and second-first-dates, writing and re-writing their story to find a scenario that matches who – and what – they want to be. The chapters alternate between Arthur and Ben’s point of view, sweeping us up in their whirlwind romance. The narrative is unstable. It’s rocky. It climbs to the top of the rollercoaster before throwing us through the loop-de-loop with reckless abandon. It reminds us that, even in New York, relationships aren’t what they seem in the movies. They aren’t Broadway musicals with a strongly defined beginning, middle, and end (although the tri-partite structure of What If It’s Us tries to trick us into thinking otherwise).

Most importantly, though, What If It’s Us is another book for the LGBTQ community – one which shows that not all queer narratives are ones laced with unimaginable sadness and hardship. The hardships here, from first date and first kiss nerves to meeting the parents, are like those faced in any other teenage romance. And that’s perfectly okay.

‘What If It’s Us’ (9781471176395) is due for release in the UK on 18thOctober 2018