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Rogue_JKT_FINALMiddle grade fiction is hot right now and a bold new novel came out this spring—ROGUE by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Lyn and I go way back so I asked her to stop by and share some author insights about her latest book for young readers.

1. I recently had a teacher object to the mention of addiction in my author talk—even though she read BIRD with her students. I was struck by how daring ROGUE is; a meth lab is central to the story, and there’s also teen drinking in this middle grade novel with an undiagnosed autistic protagonist. Can you talk about your approach to writing for contemporary adolescents–how do you gauge just what is and is not “age-appropriate?”

I originally wrote the novel as a YA, but my editor, Nancy Paulsen, suggested I revise it for an older middle grade readership. The revisions were substantial, going much further than cleaning up the language and sexual references. I had to learn what is considered “age-appropriate” for middle school readers—an even more difficult challenge because, as someone on the autism spectrum myself, I have trouble understanding social rules and conventions. In fact, my YA novel Gringolandia broke a lot of the rules of the genre in its honest depiction of the effects of dictatorship and torture, and I received a lot of critical praise for my willingness to trust teens’ ability to appreciate hard truths.

In fact, the middle grade genre is full of outstanding books that take on tough subjects. My editor is also the editor of Jacqueline Woodson’s award winning After Tupac and D Foster, which takes on some of the same issues along with foster care and homosexuality, and more recently, Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s powerful debut novel One for the Murphys, the story of a foster child that also deals with child abuse, alcoholism, and bullying. Alcoholic parents regularly appear in fiction for this age group. In Rogue, Chad, the boy that Kiara wants to be her friend, is heading toward alcoholism, which might make the story a bit edgier because it’s a peer and not an adult. On the other hand, Kiara does not drink, and Chad is widely seen as a “bad” boy. It takes someone like Kiara—herself an outcast from society—to see the good in Chad and to work toward finding a place in the world for him as she also struggles to find such a place for herself.

2. Speaking of age-appropriateness, I was struck by the fact that Kiara is thirteen or fourteen, but she tends to act much younger. How does that affect the age level of the novel’s potential readership?

The rule of thumb is determining the age of potential readers is “one year younger than the protagonist.” However, autism is a developmental disability that affects the person’s social interactions and ability to communicate with others. So Kiara may be a young teenager, but she often acts like a child. Children and adolescents on the autism spectrum often feel more comfortable interacting with adults, as Kiara does with her neighbor, Mrs. Mac, or with much younger children. Even though Kiara at first only plays with six-year-old Brandon because she wants his twelve-year-old brother to be her friend, her relationship with Brandon turns out to be closer and less rocky than with Chad, who’s almost a peer.

Because Kiara doesn’t fit easily into age categories, the novel may well appeal to a wider age range, particularly for young people with special needs. When ROGUE was a work-in-progress, I read the first chapter and spoke about the novel at an alternative high school for boys who had been expelled or excluded from their neighborhood schools. Even though the boys ranged in age from fourteen to seventeen, they could all relate to Kiara and what she does.

3. I thought a lot about gender as I read ROGUE. Desperate for friends, Kiara finds a way to belong by filming boys who do BMX and skateboarding stunts. At times I worried that she was taking on a passive role yet at the same time I was happy to see a girl occupying space normally reserved for boys. Why did you decide to immerse your female protagonist in a very male world?

To the best of my knowledge, Rogue is the only novel for young readers with a protagonist on the autism spectrum, written by someone on the autism spectrum. As a child and teen growing up on the spectrum—but not diagnosed until adulthood—I tended to hang out with boys rather than girls. The girls consistently excluded me, while some of the boys tolerated my hanging around because I knew about sports and superheroes even though I was completely uncoordinated and didn’t actually play. In high school, I got my license to be a radio engineer, and several boys, who were less technically adept than I—had a comedy show that I produced. So when I did have the opportunity to spend time with kids my age, they were almost always boys. I also spent a lot of time hanging out with my younger brother and his friends, because I had a nice brother whose friends were generally nice too. (And if not, I was a lot bigger than they were.)

While boys often teased me and sometimes beat me up, I also fought back and in doing so, gained a bit of respect. The girls in my school were flat-out cruel. In addition to the incident that begins Rogue, when the popular girl pushes Kiara’s lunch tray to the floor because she tries to sit at their table, I experienced many other instances of exclusion and bullying. One of the girls’ favorite things to do was invite me to a party that either didn’t exist or was a set-up for them to tease and humiliate me while I was stuck at their house without a ride home. I was so desperate for friends and so clueless socially that I fell for the trick long after anyone else would have figured it out. Oh, and I have a hair story too, but that’s an essay unto itself.

I know that you’re very much a feminist, Zetta, and I regret to admit that I’ve always distanced myself from this type of activism because of the cruelty that I experienced from the other girls when I was younger. And when I look at my writing over the years, most of the stories are either written from a boy’s point of view, like Gringolandia, or feature a girl who by choice or necessity ends up in a very male environment.

That said I don’t want to romanticize boys, because there are many children and teens afraid to go to school because they have become the target of violent male bullies and live in fear of assault every single day. In fact, the YA novel I wrote after finishing Rogue portrays a fifteen-year-old boy whose dreams of academic stardom end at the hands of a trio of bullies.

Stay tuned! Lyn will be back later this week with an important guest post on bullying. You can learn more about Lyn at her website.

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untitledKelbian Noel was born on a warm June night in Moncton, New Brunswick. From a very young age, she loved to read. She found herself engulfed in novels by Janette Oke and L.M. Montgomery, but never seemed to find herself in the pages. At the age of 11 she declared she would simply have to rewrite them and become the youngest author in history. Decades later, having studied writing in college and pursued it as a career, she rediscovered her hobby. She is excited to introduce The Witchbound Series to the world with hopes readers will love the beginning of this saga as much as she does.

Kelbian lives in Toronto, Ontario with her two children. She is the founder of Diverse Pages and blogs there often in the company of some pretty cool people.

Kelbian’s first two novels are available *now* under special pricing. On April 1, Sprung will be available for $0.99, and Roots will continue to be free until the end of the day! Visit the author’s website for more information.

1. Your Witchbound Series is quite ambitious—can you tell us about the first two books and what we can expect from the other three?
untitledWitchbound tells the story of four very different girls. The five-book series follows each character as she discovers the truth about her magical destiny, how it affects her and the people around her. What I love most about writing this series is that it focuses on people with very different backgrounds and outlines how, despite those variances, they’re exactly the same.

Re-released on March 15, 2013, ROOTS (book one) introduces Baltimore Land, a biracial (African American and Native American) girl who, for the past two years, has lived in Utah with her Wiccan parents. She’s deeply averse to her parents’ religion and believes the only purpose Wicca serves is to make her life miserable.

After she receives a message from her twin brother, who disappeared prior to the move, she runs off to find and ultimately rescue him. But she soon discovers her exile to that small Utah town was the direct result of who she is, what she can do, and the danger it could bring to her and the lives of her family and friends. Baltimore must learn to embrace her identity in order to keep herself safe, but it may mean letting her brother go for good.

untitledSPRUNG (book two) will be released on April 1, 2013. In Solana Beach, California we meet Skye Jackson, a seventeen-year-old girl who believes everything Baltimore never did. Ever since she was introduced to it, magic has come easily to Skye. She uses it for everything from extending her curfew to her personal GPS. But when she decides to teach a guy a lesson in order to avenge her friend, she comes to the realization that there’s a lot more to her powers than she bargained for.

In a race to fix her mistakes, Skye stumbles across a family secret which reveals a twisted destiny that may mean giving up magic forever.

SMOLDER (book three) is set for release this coming August. At least that’s my hope! Currently, there is a contest taking place on my website. Readers can take a stab at guessing the name of the next Elemental. So I won’t reveal it here, but I will tell you a little bit about Elemental #3.

She’s a Latino orphan from Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from high school, she decides to spend the summer learning more about her family. Her magical journey leads her to a historical building, a long-lost family member, and a destiny that makes her more than she ever believed she could be.

The fourth book in the series is entitled SURFACE, and takes place in Hawaii. The fourth Elemental is a bit of a know-it-all. Well versed in the girls’ destiny and purpose, she leads them to their final battle.

The fifth book is still untitled but recaps the first four stories from the point of view of Ramon, a character readers will come to know well throughout the series.

2. Tell us about your childhood in the Maritimes. How did you evolve into the writer you are today?

I like to think of the story of my life as both unusual and interesting. I was born in Moncton, New Brunswick to Guyanese immigrants. My father was a Baptist minister who first settled in New Brunswick to study at St. Thomas University and what is now known as Crandall University. We lived there for the first few years of my life.

I fondly remember, and still visit, the tiny town of McKee’s Mills, but vaguely remember time spent in Turtle Creek, New Brunswick and then on Ben Jackson Road in Nova Scotia. One of my earliest memories is when we lived in Scot’s Bay, Nova Scotia. I can still recall that little house on the hill, with a mile long driveway, tire swing, and cows in the pasture beside it. I was four or five when we moved.

LockeportWe ended up in Lockeport, Nova Scotia after that, where Dad was called to serve at the Baptist church in the middle of town. We were the only black family in Lockeport, as far as I knew. Those were some formidable years, but still filled with great memories. Our house overlooked the harbor and had a huge forest of bamboo-like plants we called Roman Sailors in the back yard. We’d go crashing through those in the summertime, playing “scouts” after hours of riding our bikes around town. It was that time (mid-eighties) and that kind of town where kids could pretty much roam free.

Memories of Lockeport are still firmly engrained in my mind: the “haunted” house just up the street, my first teacher (Ms. Nickerson), first best friends (Sarah and Gina), the beach, the waves, the smell of the salt water. Of course,those are accompanied with some less desirable ones. Like the first time I was told I was different from the other kids. My lips were bigger, my skin darker, and my parents talked funny. I was called the “N” word on the first day of school. I was five and didn’t even know what it meant.

Like most ministers’ kids, I had to learn to adjust and adapt to new surroundings very quickly. The years from age eight to fifteen were spent in rural Nova Scotia. In the small town of Morristown in the Annapolis Valley we were again the only black family around for miles. And there were still formidable experiences to be had. But, for the most part, the people in that town were accepting and I felt like I belonged. This is where I first discovered my love of writing. I spent hours in a cow pasture adjacent to our house, behind the church and right next to a graveyard. There was an oak tree in the middle of the field and I’d sit under it with a blue writing folder, loose leaf paper, and a pen.

untitledMy mother had been selling Christian books through one of those mail order companies. That’s when I discovered Janette Oke “Christian” romance novels. My sister introduced me to L.M. Montgomery. Every Anne of Green Gables book she brought home, I read too. I also read The Babysitter’s Club and R.L. Stine (my first intro to Speculative Fiction). But in all of those series, except for one (thank you for Jessi, Ann M. Martin!), there was no one who looked like me. I decided I’d just have to write those kinds of stories myself.

After we moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, I was excited to finally be around people like me. Only after years of living like and amongst “the other half,” I didn’t fit in. I was the Black girl who acted like she was white. That was fun. But I didn’t let it get me down. I was who I was and I liked it.

My first job was in the Halifax North Memorial Public Library where my love of books was fed on a weekly basis. I couldn’t get enough. But for years I forgot about my writing endeavors until I started studying it in college. In my first year, I was introduced to the works of Octavia E. Butler (who quickly became my favorite author) and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Still, it wasn’t until my final year during a Literary Theory class that I picked up a pen again and started writing a story, based on a dream, about werewolves in San Francisco. Since then, I’ve never stopped.

ABOUT KELBIAN

Name: Kelbian Noel

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

Education: B.A. Professional Writing & Communications Studies

School: York University

Major: Professional Writing

Minor: Communications

Occupation: Author & Freelance Writer/Editor

FAVORITE THINGS

Books: Kindred, Blood and Chocolate

Writers: Octavia E. Butler

Quote: There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~ Maya Angelou

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Pa’s name is Denny Elliott!!! This has been an unbelievable day. My body is sore and a bit bruised but I feel incredibly blessed. Unfortunately, I woke at 3:30am and couldn’t fall back to sleep—too many ideas percolating! I had breakfast at 7am to make sure I’d be ready for my pick-up at 7:30; the waitress in the dining room marveled at my desire to climb the mountain and said her teenage sister climbed it, then came home, fell into bed, and cried. And now I know why! Just a few words about Nevis Peak: it’s very steep (or, as I like to say, “practically vertical”). Now, I have zero experience climbing mountains and I am not super fit, but I’m no slouch either! My guide, Evenson, didn’t break a sweat, didn’t use the guide ropes, and wasn’t covered in mud by the time we got back to the bottom. I, on the other hand, was out of breath before we even got onto the mountain and that hike up a modest incline was *nothing* compared to what lay ahead. I realized within about half an hour that I was *not* going to complete the hike—imagine climbing the steepest stairs you’ve ever seen—two or three at a time. Then imagine those steps covered in slippery mud! I was naive, I guess—the peak is covered in rainforest and so as we climbed, the ground became wet and mucky. Sometimes there were ropes that you could use to haul yourself up the rocky mountainside; other times you simply grabbed roots on the ground. Evenson gave me plenty of breaks and pep talks, but we were eventually overtaken by a British couple with TWO KIDS who were loving the adventure. The wife warned me about the challenge of getting back down, and she was right—mud, roots, dripping foliage, slick tree trunks, and a wet rope to help you repel down the mountainside! I was covered in mud, I slid and slammed my hip into a tree (but Evenson stopped me from falling into the ghut). I have some lovely photos, and am proud that I even made it halfway—and I’m grateful that I didn’t seriously hurt myself! Know your limitations. That’s my motto. I seriously doubt I’ll be able to get out of bed tomorrow but if I can, I’ll be parking myself in that hammock on the beach…

Peak Heaven is absolutely wonderful—three generations of the Herbert family run the site and it’s the perfect place to learn about Nevisian history and culture. Kathleen picked me up from my hotel and we talked about the importance of developing and supporting native-run initiatives. There’s a piece of land for sale not too far from Peak Heaven, and I would *love* to open an arts center that could collaborate with them on their many community-based projects. I’ve already chosen a name for the center: Black Dog Arts…

I’ve met so many wonderful people here and today when I showed Mrs. Herbert the photo of my great-grandfather, she suggested that I talk to Rodney Elliott since she would know whether we were in fact related. Kathleen kindly drove me over to Rodney’s lovely cafe in Stoney Grove; I pulled up a stool at the bar, brought up the photo of “Pa” Elliott on my camera, and handed it to her. Rodney looked at the image, looked at me, and asked, “Why do you have a picture of my Pa?” You could have knocked me OFF that stool—it was like an episode of one of those genealogy shows! I quickly pulled out my notebook and started making a family tree. Turns out Rodney is the sister of the head librarian here in Nevis, and their father was my grandmother’s brother! And just as Rodney finished listing her siblings for me, her brother drove by in a black pick-up truck—she hollered to him and he came in to meet me and to inspect the photo of Pa. Both were surprised to learn that an Elliott could be so “clear” (pron. “clair”) when the Elliotts are known to be dark, but my forehead apparently removed any doubts. Rodney gave us some passion fruit juice to drink and shared some of her family photos; she’s certain I’m related to plenty of people over in Rawlins, so I definitely want to spend more time there. On the way back down the mountain I looked for a souvenir—something that will last longer than my aching muscles. I found a purple seed that opens like a star. Time for me to plant a seed in Nevis, I think.

Tomorrow will be a day of rest but Monday is going to be busy—my other cousin, Vannie, asked me to visit her school and I can’t *wait* to meet some Nevisian kids! Then I want to visit the registrar’s office and see how many birth certificates they can find for my ancestors. I’m hoping to be able to trace our family to a particular plantation, and my aunt told me yesterday that my great-grandmother lived in Braziers—a village named for a former estate. This afternoon another cousin in Canada, Carlene, sent me a priceless photograph of my great-grandfather Joseph Hood. I’m being inundated with assistance and I am *so* grateful. Before I left NYC I was feeling anxious and a little upset, and I realized that I was missing my Dad. I missed him when I went to Nevis for the first time in 2003 because he was still alive then and I wanted him to introduce me to his homeland—to keep me from feeling like such an outsider. But my Dad had been diagnosed with cancer by then and a trip simply wasn’t possible (not that he offered to go, and not that I asked); he attended my graduation from NYU and then I went off on my own the very next day. This time around I felt angry, resentful, and hurt—I still don’t fully understand why my father kept so much of his childhood from us. I know the mystery surrounding his mother bothered him; maybe the shame made him want to stay away and stay silent. But he rarely passed down any of his good memories, and I know there were some because he recorded them in his memoir. But then he died, and there are so many questions I can no longer ask him…which is why I’m so grateful that my other relatives are willing to talk to me. Almost every door has opened since I arrived in Nevis. I don’t know how my father would feel about my prospective move (back) to Nevis. He wanted to escape the past, I think, but sankofa means “there is no shame in going back to retrieve something of value you left behind.” And there’s value here…

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Actually, it’s pouring. Good thing I went out early to get some groceries: two apples, soy milk, juice, and a mini Toblerone bar. I needed some little treat since today I plan to get ALL my grading done. I’ve got one exam left and about ten book reviews. Once grades are in I can turn my attention to my conference paper for ChLA, which is starting to take shape (in my mind, at least). I wake up visualizing the slides I plan to share, and then I sit down at the computer and my mind is filled with ideas for a new novel set in Nevis circa 1765…it’s about the two siblings who befriended Alexander Hamilton when he was a boy. The brother is thirteen, mixed-race, the emancipated son of a successful white trader; his younger half-sister is black, enslaved, and on the verge of being initiated into a secret society…

I learned yesterday that Horn Book will run a review of Ship of Souls in its summer issue. They chose a Canadian reviewer, which is interesting. She didn’t share the exuberance of The Book Smugglers, but that doesn’t really surprise me:

Elliott’s story is quick, clean, and briskly paced. Although the elements of the fantasy adventure wobble, Elliott engages some interesting content—the historic dead who lie beneath Brooklyn and Manhattan, and the three African American teens, all from different backgrounds.

It’s cold in Canada. Good thing I’m heading south…

Tomorrow I meet with Terry Boddie, a Nevisian artist who’s been giving me advice on conducting research and making art in Nevis. This morning I emailed the local radio station—there was an address specifically for “requests,” and I’m sure that meant song requests, but instead I asked for help locating listeners who might know something about my paternal grandmother. I could put an ad in the paper, too, I guess. This is new territory for me and I know I should show some restraint, but there’s been so much silence for so long…I feel like I don’t have time to ease into the past. It’s like a ship pulling away from shore. She who hesitates is lost…

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Last night before leaving work I checked my email and found an unpleasant message from across the border. I didn’t bother to respond and instead headed straight to the bakery where I bought a slice of banana cake. I could have done grading on the train ride home, but instead I mused over that email and the neverending drama that is my relationship with my sister. I’m heading to Toronto next week and my mother arranged a little get-together but now I’m pulling out. What’s the point? If you can’t be genuine in your relationships, then you might as well keep your real self to yourself. I got home and found my mailbox crammed full of books–I ordered 25 of Ruth Chew’s 29 books and three or four arrive every day. When I’ll find time to read them all, I don’t know, but the semester wraps up in three weeks and I’m already trying to make a work plan for the summer. I’ve got *18* school visits lined up for the month of May. And I should find out soon whether or not I got the grant to finish Judah’s Tale; that will involve spending a week in South Carolina in July studying maroon communities and rice plantations. I’ve booked my flight and hotel and will be heading to Nevis in June; I’m *really* looking forward to that trip, even though I’ll have to work on a conference paper while I’m there since I’m presenting at ChLA the day after I get back. Then I have a chapter to write on black magic in NYC parks. And then there’s Nyla’s story…

But as I sifted through all the packages I found in my mailbox, I noticed a plain envelope from the Canada Arts Council. Ever since I applied for a grant last fall, the CAC has been sending me stuff; my grant proposal was rejected in March, so I don’t generally bother to read the promotional material they send out. But before chucking this envelope into the recycling bin, I opened it and read the opening lines:

You recently received a letter from the Canada Council for the Arts advising you that your grant application for the Grants to Professional Writers – Creative Writing program was highly recommended. We are now pleased to advise you that your request will be funded.

I read it two or three times before finally moving AWAY from the recycling bin. I don’t understand how this happened, and I plan to call them today to double check, but I am thrilled! And humbled. I don’t have a particularly good history with my homeland, and I try to keep my expectations low to avoid further disappointment. But this grant will enable me to spend a month or so in Ontario researching my ancestors—those who passed for white and those who stayed black. As I scraped the icing off my banana cake last night, I thought about my sister and our ongoing feud—maybe my relationship with her will teach me something about my ancestors. They chose different paths, disowned one another, and—it seems—never looked back. But there had to be moments along the way when those siblings had doubts or wanted to reconcile. I’d like to believe that, at least, though I know that “passing” requires the fair-skinned family member to cut ties completely. I want to write a book about Nevis—two books, actually. And then there’s my academic proposal to write about black magic in YA lit. Something’s gotta give. I love cake but sometimes you have to take a few bites and push the plate away…

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The only good thing about bigots is that they usually hang themselves if you give them enough rope. That’s just what happened on The Daily Show when Al Madrigal traveled to Arizona to interview a school board member who voted to ban Mexican American Studies in Tucson schools (based on “hearsay,” not facts). If you haven’t seen the segment, you can watch it here. Debbie Reese has also transcribed the interview and you can find that on her blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature. You want to laugh because it’s so ridiculous, but the ramifications of this kind of ignorance are very real—and harmful to our youth and the future of the country. This week Amy Bodden Bowllan is featuring Matt de la Peña on her School Library Journal blog; Matt recently visited AZ after his novel, Mexican Whiteboy, was pulled from the shelves. Amy also gave me a chance to reflect on the Trayvon Martin case and its impact on young readers. THIS is what I’m talking about when I say that “the lack of books for children in our communities IS A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH.

Yesterday I told my students that I never used to talk in class; they were amazed to learn that I used to sit in class in college and even in graduate school with my lips sealed shut. And even at the conference in France last month—the keynote speaker was making some really problematic statements, and I sat there hoping someone else would speak up. But no one did, so that’s when I raised my hand and tried to keep my voice from shaking with rage…most days I’d rather disappear, but we don’t only speak for ourselves. We speak for those who have been silenced. We speak because we’ve been given a platform and so many others have not.

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I have finally got my conference paper down to 12 pages! Unfortunately, in my effort to include as many quotes from my interviewees as possible, I cut a really strong passage and *forgot* to paste it into the footnotes. Crap. In that passage I analyzed a troubling review Ship of Souls received from a Canadian bookseller—and one of her critiques was the “unnecessary” inclusion of crude language (“crap” and “pissed off”). I use crap in order to avoid using “sh**”—which is what lots of kids use every day. But that was a minor issue for me. I had more of a problem with her description of Hakeem as “a stereotypical black jock.” She did note that he was Muslim, but made no mention of the fact that he’s biracial (Senegalese father, Bangladeshi mother), that he’s determined to graduate from high school AND college despite his athletic ability, and that he dreams of becoming a chef and opening his own restaurant someday. If he really is a stereotype, I’d love for this reviewer to list the other books that feature a kid like Keem. She couldn’t, of course, (especially not in Canada, where there are NO books about contemporary black boys) which was the point I was trying to make in my paper. Bad reviews are part of life for an author; generally we read them, fume a bit, and move on. But when there are only two review journals for children’s literature in the country, you really need those reviewers to be on point.

I wanted to say something in my conference paper about the competency of reviewers—cultural competency, which for the most part has nothing to do with race. As I tried to explain to the editor of the journal that ran the review, I’m not qualified to teach Black Studies because I’m black—I’m qualified b/c I’ve been trained in the field. And several other reviewers—white and black—have noted that the cast of kids in SoS is remarkably diverse. They note that, I think, because they’ve read enough speculative fiction and African American kidlit to know just what’s stereotypical and what’s not. Queer kids of color don’t often see themselves reflected in MG/YA lit, so my choice to have Nyla question her sexuality was deliberate; this particular reviewer felt the “odd reference to lesbianism” was “unnecessary to the story.” But this was the comment that stunned me:

…Canadian children will have to do some quick double think to incorporate the views of the American Revolution presented here in which their ancestors are clearly portrayed as the enemy of the brave Americans.

I still don’t know how to process this remark. Is the reviewer saying that Canadian children will feel conflicted because they’ll conjure British loyalists while reading the book? There are no references to the British in my novel—in fact, the patriot ghosts recount fending off German soldiers (Hessians). So what’s the problem? And I have to wonder which Canadian children she’s worried about. I seriously doubt that black children in Canada would read this story and experience anxiety around their loyalty to the Crown. There were black loyalists, of course, but I doubt that’s what she’s talking about. I suspect this reviewer worries that WHITE Canadian children will be unable to identify with the African American protagonists, and will therefore align themselves with the whites who aren’t even present in the novel—the British. Good grief. This reviewer gave Ship of Souls two stars out of four, yet still declared it “recommended.” Thanks.

Other African Canadian authors made more concise statements about the issue of race and reviews, so I’ll focus on them in my paper. Which it’s time to get back to…

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