First Thoughts on the YMAs

Mom,

Since I just told a friend over email a couple days ago that I was refusing to make any public Printz predictions, I promise not to make too much of this, but I did say this a few week ago:

PS – I promise to tell you my thoughts on In Darkness one of these days–maybe after it unexpectedly wins the Printz.

Which I guess means I’m due.  Obviously, from the above comment, I wasn’t surprised to see it take home the gold, and I think it’s a pretty stunning piece of writing.  I also disagree with what Karyn said over on Someday about accuracy issues.  I think Lake’s afterword was more than enough to cover his bases, and after I read up a little on the historical context, I felt that the changes he made were basically just to streamline the story so that it didn’t get bogged down in historical minutiae.  I only had two problems with the book: 1) I wasn’t entirely convinced that Lake pulled off the connection between Shorty and L’Ouverture, and 2) As good as it was, I just didn’t think it stood up to the half-dozen or so best books of the year.

Speaking of those half-dozen or so books, Bomb! Yeah, I guess no one cared about the sourcing issues: YALSA Nonfiction, Sibert, and Newbery Honor.  I, obviously, think it deserved a Printz Honor or Medal too, but I guess we can’t have everything.  Congrats to Steve Sheinkin.  Couldn’t have happened to a better book. 

And also speaking of things I’ve said throughout the year, back on December 4, I said this about the YALSA Nonfiction Finalists:

I haven’t read STEVE JOBS yet (don’t much care for biographies; don’t much care for Steve Jobs), but I’m having a hard time imagining either the Newbery or the Printz committee coming up with a list of five books I’m as excited about as these – unless one or both of them includes a couple of these titles. Great, great, great year for nonfiction.

I pretty much stand by that statement.  Overall, I’m impressed by both the Newbery and Printz lists this year, especially with Bomb on the Newbery list, but I still think the trio of Bomb, Titanic, and We’ve Got a Job, beats out the top three on either of those two lists, and I was quite disappointed to see no nonfiction titles on the Printz list.

You were there–what were your thoughts (or do you have thoughts on any of the many posts I’ve been putting up while you’ve been away?)

– Mark

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “First Thoughts on the YMAs

  1. I may have spent too many years discussing diversity, microaggressions, and cultural appropriation in various faculty meetings and trainings, but despite the great writing I have some discomfort about In Darkness. I am with the Times reviewer, who spoke eloquently to these concerns while generally praising the book. Whether those issues are actually literary concerns is a big question that I am hoping to unpack sometime soon, but I recognize that maybe they aren’t, other than that niggling “accuracy” bullet point in the Printz P&P.

    • Mark Flowers

      Well, I admit to not having spent enough time discussing diversity, microaggressions, and cultural appropriation, so perhaps I should defer more to you and The Times.

      I am definitely drawn to this line in the Times review:
      ““In Darkness” paints a portrait of Haiti as a nation of almost nefarious subspecies: it’s all about zombies, corruption, murder, violence, infanticide. Not that these things don’t exist in this culture, but as in so many Western images of Haiti, they can eclipse all else.”

      Perhaps accuracy is not the best word to describe what’s going on here, but I do think that there is room for us to discuss cultural appropriation in the context of literary analysis. Presumably, we would not look kindly on a modern day minstrel show, no matter how good the music or funny the jokes. So maybe I need to go back and read this with a different lens.

      • Funny — I wasn’t thinking that you needed a different lens so much as I was thinking about the extra baggage I’ve accrued working in a school with a social justice aspect to the curriculum, which may have made me too sensitive! In this case, I hadn’t delved too deeply into my response because I was reviewing at the 11th hour and I thought it was a long shot. I absolutely believe it is an earnest and well-intentioned piece of writing, and there are searing images and some truly powerful passages, but… Now that it has the gold, I want to revisit it myself.

  2. Sarah Flowers

    I promise to share thoughts in more detail when I get back home tomorrow. I was pleased with all the lists (so excited about the Newbery for Ivan!), but apparently I am now going to have to go back and finish Aristotle & Dante, which was one of the books I started, thought “meh”, and gave up on.

    • And my face is red for talking down Aristotle and Dante when it was on the contender list at Someday. I think it was the pacing more than anything I took issue with which is usually code for your “meh”. I do suspect as all good Printz titles do that this one may improve on re-read. I’m not sure I’m invested enough to reread what was at any rate a pretty good book.

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