Liz takes a moment to wish that those people who whine about "there are no good boy books anymore," and "whatever happened to strong female protagonists" could have a booklist exchange. I'm in full agreement that I don't believe in "Boy Books" and "Girl Books." There are certainly some things which have more appeal to guys or girls, but it's a slippery slope trying to divide books by gender.
Brian F., in the comments brings up another good question for writers constantly wondering if their characters sound genuine. When a female is writing a male character and asks the question, "Does this sound like a boy," what's the right answer? "What," pray tell, Brian F. wants to know, "does a boy sound like?"
That question echoed into my brain and brought me to something else: dominant culture assumption in novels, or how to make a character "sound black." Anyone want to touch that with a ten foot pole?
I've just spent a lot of time in the past week doing what my editor calls "polishing," which is making sure a character's country-flavored drawl and Southern colloquialisms are absolutely readable to the average person. Even as a minority, I had no one to ask if my character sounded appropriately ethnic or not -- yet there's always the niggling suspicion that maybe my version isn't the "right" one.
Is the characterization that I did enough? Despite the fact that I didn't mention coffee, mocha, chocolate, cinnamon or anything else edible in reference to her, do you think readers will understand that she has an African American ancestry?
Perhaps the only thing that can be said on the "boy" or the "black" issue is this: no one's got the final word on anyone else's perception. No one is the authority. Girl, boy, black, blue, go with what you know, do your best to depict things as you hear and see them, and you should be fine.
There will always be someone who disagrees, who thinks you didn't do enough, who wants to point out you didn't do it "right." Like so many other things in the writing life, one just has to take that in stride.
New poverty estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey indicate that about 13 percent of people nationwide were living in poverty in 2005. However, estimates from the American Community Survey (or ACS, a nationwide annual survey of households conducted by the Census Bureau) show that poverty rates in 2005 varied widely around the country, from less than 8 percent in New Hampshire to 21 percent in Mississippi. The ACS estimates also show that seven states had statistically significant increases in their child poverty rates between 2004 and 2005.
And now for a word from Colleen:
If you don't read about kids in your economic strata who make it, who study great subjects, or build great things, or create great art, then you don't think you can either. If you don't see success for those from "your world" reflected on tv or in movies or in books then you will come to believe that certain - or maybe all - levels of success are not possible for you.
You will never be rich enough to be anything.
Can it be said any more clearly that all young adults need to see themselves reflected in the literature they read? Though I am personally hesitant about titles which glorify violence and no copy-editing urban lit arguably reflects a socio-economic group that should also be represented. Definitely something to consider. Go, read Chasing Ray, and put in your two cent's worth.