Monday, May 2, 2011

On Overcoming Adversity by Neesha Meminger [Guest Post]

When I first agreed to write this post, the subject was emailed to me as "Overcoming Adversity With Diversity." I loved the idea of that--that adversity is overcome through diversity. That it takes a diversity of perspectives and experiences to help us, collectively, to work through challenges. That the only way to move forward now, in these difficult times, is through valuing the input of diverse and marginalized voices. I was really excited to write that post.

But the second time the topic was sent to me, it was put forth as "Overcoming Adversity in Getting Books With Diverse Characters Published." Very different. On this second version of the topic, I was stumped. I have to say that I honestly don't know what the secret is to overcoming adversity in getting books with diverse characters published. The numbers, as far as books published each year featuring characters of color, are meager. And the number of authors of diverse backgrounds being published are even more so. This is not something that is in our imaginations. It is in the numbers. Go to any large chain bookstore and count how many books there are in total, and how many of those are written by marginalized voices. The numbers speak for themselves.

The types of stories that feature characters of color all too often fall into Adichie's "single story" trope and, while more authors are taking it upon themselves to reflect their world as it truly is (kudos to them!), writing by people of color, queer folk, people who are differently abled, and working class folk is still routinely relegated to the periphery.

I decided to independently publish Jazz in Love, my second novel for young adults, during a time of great change in the industry. And I am very glad I did. The reviews have been fantastic, I just shipped one hundred and fifty copies to a school that will use the book in their curriculum and there are copies available all throughout the Brooklyn Public Library system. And this is all above and beyond the steady sales I've had through bookstores and the even steadier stream of ebook sales.

Given that, I'm afraid the only suggestion I have in overcoming adversity in getting characters of color published is to write because you absolutely cannot live without it. That way, when adversity does block your path, you will stick with the craft. And you will stick by your wonderful tale. And you will do what is necessary to get that story to the readers who so desperately need to read it. The beautiful thing is that there are more options now for writers. If you are writing for your readers, there are many ways to reach them. And if you are keen on the traditional publishing route (nothing wrong with that), there are a lot of voices out there advocating for more diversity in reading options. More and more voices are helping to forge new paths. And again, if you are committed to the love of writing, you will stick with it through the trials and tribulations of the traditional publishing route.

I am glad to be part of the Diversity in YA tour as it is a joyous celebration of what some of those voices advocating for change have been able to accomplish. What a group of talented and dedicated authors! Because the truth, really, is that every single voice brings another element of truth to light. And no adversity was ever overcome without the full chorus of voices on the spectrum.
Bio: 
Neesha Meminger's first novel, SHINE, COCONUT MOON made the Smithsonian's List of Notable Books in 2009 and was listed on the New York Public Library's "Top 100 Books for Teens - Stuff for the Teen Age". The book was also nominated for the Best Books for Young Adults list and the online CYBILS award. Neesha's second novel for young adults, JAZZ IN LOVE, released in January, 2011 to glowing reviews. She writes paranormal romance under a pen name and is hard at work on her third novel for young adults.


IHM Disclaimer:  We didn't change the topic on Neesha, the topic was tweaked by the publicist on accident, but we're still thrilled that Neesha wrote such a fantastic post for our site!!

21 comments:

Terri M. said...

I've seen a number of authors lately independently publish books that mean a great deal to them. It is very exciting to be a reader right now!

Giada M said...

Fantastic post! I agree with everything you have written and now I'm very curious to read Jazz in Love.
Thank you for posting! :D

Anonymous said...

I would have liked to have read more on the first subject given, "Overcoming Adversity With Diversity." I totally agree with Neesha Meminger's idea "that adversity is overcome through diversity. That it takes a diversity of perspectives and experiences to help us, collectively, to work through challenges." Really, if you consider it, life without diversity would be nothing but boring!

marybelle said...

It IS a fantastic post. A new author to me & I always love finding treasures.

marypres@gmail.com

kai (amaterasu) said...

I've read Jazz In Love, and it was fantastic! Despite all the things happening to authors independently publishing their books, I'm glad Neesha decided to published her novel on her own. It was wonderful, and I just love the topic "overcoming adversity through diversity", Jazz In Love is a perfect example of books with characters of color, and it's just as wonderful as all the other YA books published out there.

Great post! :)

~Enamored Soul~ said...

"Jazz in Love" is on my TBR list, and I am really excited to read it. I commend you on your determination, and your sheer will to get yourself published - but above all, for your generosity, and your attempts at educating young adults about "overcoming adversity through diversity".

That was a wonderful post, thank you so very much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.

~Hira~
GFC Follower: ~Enamored Soul~
Email: Enamoredsoul(at)gmail(dot)com
Twitter: @inluvwithbookz

Misha said...

Fantastic guest post! How generous of the author to ship 150 copies of her book to a school!
I have Jazz in Love on my wishlist - can't wait to read it!

florentine said...

so interesting the idea about Diversity.. nice!! nice!! nice!!

florentine_frinda@yahoo.com

Book Loving Mommy said...

Sounds like a very interesting book! I can't wait to read it!

gjmanningATwildblueDotnet

Chelsea B. said...

Fantastic post!

Jay said...

I love that idea! Beating adversity with diversity. The novels also sound great! I love to look for passionate. Definitly going to my TBR list. Thanks for the post Neesha!
Jay
jazzy_jay673@hotmail.com

FairyWhispers said...

Go for independency in book publishing!

support.support!

:)

regards,

Jessy said...

I see a lot more self publishers now that e books are big.

Judit said...

Very thoughtful post. I have to admit I've never read any self published books, but this one really caught my attention thanks to Neesha's article.
I wish her lots of success!

Dovile said...

There's definitely a shortage of books with diverse characters.

spamscape [at] gmail [dot] com

Bookish in a Box said...

"Write because you absolutely cannot live without it." That's great advice!

Llehn said...

I love how generous people in the industry are, don't you?

BrittanyGale said...

What a great post :D

lostinbelieving said...

Wow! That's insane that you shipped that many books :) Geez, I wish I went to that school! Awesome post!

Diana said...

Great post! Neesha Meminger seems very nice person.

Meagan said...

I love that you sent your books to a school and they will use them.

I agree with the fact that it is difficult to publish books with characters of color, just as it is difficult to publish books with characters that have a disability.