Jacqueline Howett Rant: Compassion or Pitchfork?

I blogged about this yesterday here and am still bothered by it:

The attacks on Amazon are vicious and growing in number. Just because someone completely melts down on line is no excuse for others to pile on WAY beyond what is necessary to express disapproval of her behavior. Two wrongs and all that...
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My Effort to End Whitewashing (the angry version)

There is some strong name calling (http://editorialanonymous.blogspot.com/2010/07/phoenix-will-rise-from-its-own-ashes.html) going on about my publisher and whitewashing book covers. You know the ones...they put an Asian girl on the cover of the SILVER PHOENIX hardcover. They put an African American girl on the cover of ONE CRAZY SUMMER. They put TWO Asian kids on the cover of my book, ESCAPING THE TIGER. So unless you're a consumer who is helping to create the demand, with your dollars, for books that feature people of color, then maybe you should think twice about who you're calling racist.

So in regards to the whitewashing of Cindy Pon's sequel, HarperCollins tried to do the right thing the first time around. And the chains didn't pick up the book. And the public didn't go out of their way to buy it. The author did her best by writing a book that got reviewed well. So really, who's left to point the finger at?

My book isn't selling well either. Is it the cover? Who knows? My book got reviewed well too. Cindy Pon and I are both active on Facebook, Twitter, and in the blog world. So if I'm lucky enough to have Harper spend more money on me with a cover redesign for the paperback edition, I'll thank them for trying to salvage my story, not call them racist for getting it right the first time around.

Here's my first not-as-angry post about the issue:

Kirkus calls Escaping The Tiger "essential."

So Kirkus is alive and well! Their review is below, as well as a review from Booklist. Thanks for dropping by!

Kirkus: “After fleeing across the Mekong River and nearly drowning in the process, 12-year-old Lao Vonlai, his older sister, Dalah, and his parents are confined to an overcrowded refugee camp in Thailand in 1982 to wait for resettlement in a Western country. Food is scarce, and camp conditions are horrific, with little to sustain the family but a sense of community and dwindling hope, as months of confinement become years. Vonlai befriends an aging Lao colonel who teaches him woodcarving and determination, and he valiantly protects his sister from the ever-present danger of sexual assault. Even after eventual resettlement, it is clear that many challenges remain for the teen and his family. Basing the story on her husband’s childhood experiences, the author documents the refugees’ harrowing plight in riveting episodes that capture the hardships endured by these too-often forgotten people and also illustrate Vonlai’s difficult coming of age. A sad afterword that pairs perfectly with the fictionalized tale summarizes the real-life experiences of Anousone Manivong, adding further depth to an already moving tale. Essential.”

Booklist: “Based on the author’s husband’s experience, this first novel about escape from Communist Laos in 1982 is told from the viewpoint of Vonlai Sirivong, 12, who flees with his family across the border to Thailand. The focus is on his four years spent in a cramped, miserable UN refugee camp, where he is unable to attend school after sixth grade, and he waits for admission to the U.S. Brutality is always present: in one scene, Vonlai protects his older sister from attempted rape. He also bonds with an older man who lost everything and dreams of life in America . Finally, his family is interviewed, they say good-bye to the camp, and they travel to Kansas, where Vonlai hates the food, loves the snow, and plays sports. The specific details about camp life may be too repetitive for some readers. But refugee families and their friends everywhere will recognize the cruel dislocation, the interminable wait, and the search for home.”

Escaping The Tiger 1st (and now 2nd) Review

I've been hanging out here lately (http://bit.ly/9Irpd), but thought I'd drop in . And if you're not on Twitter, Facebook, or Verla Kay's blueboards, then you might not have heard me breathe a huge sigh of relief. So just in case, here's ESCAPING THE TIGER's first review from Uma Krishnaswami. It's wonderful to share this with other book lovers, so thank you!

This debut novel for upper elementary and middle school-aged readers tells the story of Vonlai Sirivong who is twelve at its opening and sixteen at its conclusion. In between we witness his first frantic escape with his family from their native Laos, then in the hands of the dreaded Pathet Lao. We follow them to refugee camps in Thailand before they finally gain admittance to the United States. Escaping the Tiger is a deeply felt story, simply told. Vonlai’s relationship with his older sister Dalah, and his shifting role relative to his parents, constitute the heart of this story. As he forges a place for himself despite the gritty conditions of the camp, playing soccer and waiting for an endless series of papers that bring in turn food, education, and finally freedom, he comes to understand what really matters in life. Manivong has created a believable protagonist, and she does not shy away from depicting the difficult living conditions in the Na Pho refugee camp. There are many threats to Vonlai’s family, including the near-rape of his sister. Nor does the story default to an undilutedly happy ending—instead we come to care about characters who make unexpected decisions, or who are left behind. Based on the author’s husband’s own experiences, this is a vivid and lovingly drawn tale of people caught in the crossroads of history and struggling to retain both dignity and hope.

BIBLIO: 2010, HarperCollins, Ages 10 to 14, $15.99.
REVIEWER: Uma Krishnaswami
FORMAT: Middle Grade
ISBN: 978-0-06-166177-8

Edited to add:
And now this from Linda Sue Park!

How will I ever top this day?