Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Kid-Lit Thursday: random thoughts

I'm with Chris. I, too, have to admit, I have not read one Harry Potter book — shhh. I've opened and read the dustcover flap of "Prisoner of Azkaban". I read the first page of "Goblet of Fire". I'm ashamed to confess the reason for not reading these books — to be honest — Harry Potter is a big hunk-of-book. Besides that, my interest simply don't extend into the arena of witchcraft and sorcery, warlocks and hobbits. Sorry. Maybe if somebody'd write a book staring a black hobbit. A jive-talking, do-rag wearing, baggy-pant sagging hobbit. Not to insinuate that Harry Potter is a hobbit, but, as far as I'm concerned, they all sort of fit into that same category of thanks-but-no-thanks.


Before taking off to Arizona, I visited a local bookstore. This is one of my favorite pastimes, being an illustrator and hopeful future author of children's books. But this time, I noticed a big change. There weren't very many new kids picture books. Publisher's are cutting back their picture book list big-time. Of the few new titles, a good number of those books were written by celebrity authors. Even fewer titles featured African American themes. What does that mean for me? Means the road to getting my writing published is a bit steeper now. Don Tate simply can't compete with the likes of Madonna.

People, and I'm specifically speaking to African American people, I can't encourage you enough to purchase and support those children's books that are published with your child in mind.

Not too long ago, I found myself sitting at a book signing table. This lady, an African American parent walks up to me, excited and smiling to see a brotha representin'. She picks up one of my books, but her smile was soon replaced by a sneer. She goes on to make a comment under her breath about the $16.00 price tag on the book. She walks away. She's probably the first, with her Tommy Hilfiger-wearing ensemble, to purchase her child an X-box, or maybe those $200 Jordans, while considering a book overpriced. She'll be the first one to complain once our books go away.

Publishers, as of late, have been more responsive to our needs. And over the past decade or so, they've been publishing more books featuring African American themes. This has not been an act of good will. This undertapped market had been seen as an boon to fatten their bottom lines by filling a need: our need for books that feature positive images and stories for African American kids. When publisher's lists are cut — believe me — our books will be cut first. Especially if we are viewed as nonbook (children's books) buyers. And sadly, I think we are seen that way.

I was saddened to learn today that my blog had been unlinked from a well respected colleague's website. It was brought to my attention by another children's writer who noticed that Devas T. Rants and Raves was suddenly missing from the list. Upon further investigation, I learned that my writings here weren't quite appropriate, possessing a "PG-13" rating as opposed to a "G" rating. Well, that's true, I can't argue that one. I'm an adult and my blog ain't written for 13-year olds. But neither were many of the others, although noone else seemed to have an aversion to spiders or fat people. So as of this day, I'm cleaning up my act. No more spouting off at the obese. Fat people are my friends. Literally. No more badmouthing pitbulls or Canadian geese.

It was an honor when I discovered my name on the list, so I felt sort of, maybe, dishonored when I was axed. Lesson learned over the past week: I am not going to escape criticism or the ax by jumping ship. Writers, and critics of writers, have axes, too.
On another sad note: You'll all be loath to learn, I've given up my word for the day. *sniff-sniff, I know* But, I've started a new blog over at LiveJournal and I will work on my words over there. In this blog, I will write the children's manuscripts I've been talking so much about. The blog isn't open to the public, at least I hope it ain't, and will be used to develop my stories. "But Devas T., why a blog?" You're asking, scratching your head with a quizzical look. Because blogging is funner<---(there's a word for those uppity literary folks) than Microsoft Word.

I blogged again. Two days in a row. Dang-it!


Christopher M. Beatrice said...

Humm I would have to say that I am against Harry Potter. I just don't see the point in poisoning our childrens minds with witch craft but hey. That just is my opinion. We need more childrens movies and books on good wholesome treating people with respect, living in unity, fighting against war and hatrid. What happened to our childhood books and movies back then no body wanted to watch each other get killed or beat up. Or turned into a frog. WOW. ok sorry I am rambling just my thoughts man

Kim said...

I am a HP fan. I used to laugh at adults who read those things, but I read three on vacation one year and was hooked. When I get a new HP, I stay up as late as I can to read every night until I've devoured the book. I am not a fantasy fan. I HATE most fantasy. I think I was hooked by the likeable characters. Welcome back to blogging. I missed you!

You made some good points about the African American books. I had never thought of it that way. What kind of groups or people, organized or unofficial, are working to get books into people's hands? (And, geez. What is it with those Tommy wearing people anyway? I could go off on an entire post about people who only wear Tommy :-) I'm related to one!

Lauren said...

If fat people are your friends....then that means I'm your friend! ;-) LOL Anyway....yea, the Harry Potter books. My sister is into them, but I just don't agree with what's in them. I guess that maybe I shouldn't be saying that since I've not ready any of the books, but I do not agree with witchcraft, whether it be the "good" or "bad"...I still think all witchcraft is bad. That's my opinion though.

Brea said...

I think YOU should write a book about a "jive-talking, do-rag wearing, baggy-pant sagging" black hobbit. I'd be the first to buy a copy!!

The Archivist said...

Harry Potter is amazing. The books are written brilliantly. So you don't like them. Oh well. Personally I can't stand Asimov.

Jdid said...

I got no real beef with Harry Potter would probably read them if I was a kid but to be honest I dont see why all the hype. The storylines from ehat I've seen arent that much different from other stuff I read as a kid.

As to the childrens books you've hit one of my issues right there man. a $200 x box vs a book, its a shame aint it. Oh well keep on doing your thing brother. I hope more black folk start to understand that books are important more important than video games. maybe it will take an nba player saying naa i dont play x box i read to start this trend.

Oricon Ailin said...

Ahhh, don't get me started on the Harry Potter thing. I am a very spriritual and religious person, and I see NOTHING wrong with Harry Potter.

Honest. I will blog about this next week when I am able to sit longer than five minutes. hehe

Don...I am VERY sorry that that author took your blog off their blog. That's just not cool. You shouldn't have to change who you are just to make others happy. *sighs*

The Gig said...

Did I really find myself in the blog of a person who said they were going to stop blogging everyday? I just came in here to prove that I was wrong about Devas and the fact that I just knew he would keep blogging.

You know what I have to say about anyone, including yourself, who would have anything to say or do toward you that is negative. Consider yourself on the curb and out the door until you realize what a great talented guy you really are. That goes for the person who axed you from their blog (I am a Christian, but sometimes even I get pretty bogged down with, I will say, politics in anything) so consider yourself "flipped off" -- oh did I say that?

Friar Tuck said...

I think you should do a top ten list of illustrated childrens books, and another of books with more minority sensitivities in the same category.

I occasionally buy childrens books for my mother, who was a first grade teacher and is now a third grade teacher.

When I do this, I usually try to find at least one with more diverse sensibilities, since where she lives is more monoculturally Northern European than Northern Europe, with the exception of the Alaska Native population.

My fave book so far she has not purchased though, and is a telling of Psalm 23 from the perspective of an urban, African-American child in a low-income neighborhood. I discovered it while working at an inner-city outreach center.

Kim said...

Great idea, Don Juan! As if Devas T. has lots of extra time...but I'd love to see what kind of blog linkage one could get with a good, targeted list of books and a few instructions to buy a kid a book, read a kid a book, buy a book for a teacher, take your kid to the library, etc. A worthy cause! You know who would be great spokes people? Will Smith and Jada. They both have books out and when you hear Will talk one of his big messages is learn to read; reading is power. Whew, I got excited about that...but I see such potential in this idea! (and, what a way for an author/illustrator to make a name for himself!)

Luke Cage said...

She goes on to make a comment under her breath about the $16.00 price tag on the book. She walks away. She's probably the first, with her Tommy Hilfiger-wearing ensemble, to purchase her child an X-box, or maybe those $200 Jordans, while considering a book overpriced. She'll be the first one to complain once our books go away.

Now, this is just plain sad because it's the truth. Isn't it tragic that mentality exists man? And it's a book. Some form of educational tool to admire and learn from. Unreal!

As for Harry Potter, well I'm not into it and never really had an affinity to read it. From what I've heard it's a helluva series, but it's just going to pass me by I guess. NO more word of the day? Siiigh... Oh well, this day just keeps getting better and better. First the Fat Boys break up, now this...

Nikki said...

I own every single Harry Potter book and dvd. I think what really drew me in was the character of Hermione Grainger. She's so smart and a positive, strong female character.

Myrah said...

I'm with Chris on this Harry Potter too. Garbage!

Too bad you were axed from this site. The second site you are doing should be the one for the writers to list maybe. Too bad cause I thought it was pretty wholesome around here!

Don Tate II said...

@gig: Lets not go as far as flipping this author off. Thats not my intentions at all. In all fairness, this author writes for children, and I'm sure she doesn't want a child wandering onto her site, clicking my link and discovering the word 'lesbian" "damn" or "beer" The author has a career and contracts to protect. My blog does not speak to kids, although my books do. I know that some kids might visit my blog considering kids often do research on the internet, and my books are in their library. So although my blog can get edgy, I try not to go raunchy. I just felt that after looking around at some of the other folks linked there, others weren't necessarily speaking to kids either.

Rinda M. Byers said...

Don, I left a comment for you in more detail on the getting XXXXED on my blog!

Just to let you'all know that in the last three weeks, I have gotten very G-rated,genuinely helpful nice, not personally insulting, with no swear words comments removed from at three very well-known, respected writers for children blogs!!!

I regard this as censorship, pure and simple as I feel the writers of these blogs are not interested in providing an arena where issues with differening opinions can really be discussed and debated. So! I feel HONORED to be xxxxeD! what I said in the comments was valuable and worth saying. And there is no shame in being censored for honest, well-spoken, courteous opinions.

I'm not an HP fan either, mainly because things like demons and witches and evil spirits and spells and things were all too sadly real for folks in the country where I grew up, in Thailand, and it would be impossible for me to read those books as fantasy. There are huge differences between HP and Tolkien and C. S. Lewis' fantasy works, which I won't take space for here.

I do agree with Don about the concerns about African-American picturebooks. It takes courage to be different. It takes courage.

Rinda M. Byers

Yolanda said...

I must agree with you on the Harry Potter books. I have absolutely no interest in them. I've browsed a copy, but found it to be outside of the realm of books I consider interesting or worthy of the purchase.

I'm also with you on our folks who will purchase $100+ Coach bags for themselves, but will forgo great books depicting us positively for their kids. Something's not right with that picture. Another sad state of affairs.

I can't help but hit on each important portion of your "ramble." LOL

So, you got axed from someone's site. Big deal. Please don't stop writing you. We get enough diluted information from the media. We don't need diluted blogs. Blogs are meant to be entertaining, controversial, thought-provoking, humorous, etc. It's difficult to be any of those, if you're constantly watching your every word. To me, that would represent the worst case of writer's block.

I maintain 2 sites myself. One is a Web site I send editors to; the other my personal blog. What's on my blog is a part of me. People can either choose to like it or leave it. It doesn't matter. I will continue to do what I do best--wield my pen (well, really my keyboard). LOL