Debby Dahl Edwardson

writing from the top of the world

northernmost thoughts

some of my best friends are books of color: an uncommon competition

June 3, 2010

Tags: books of color, Competition, nerds heart ya, Blessing's Bead

Okay, the title of my very first ever blog post is, well, suggestive. It suggests a slightly negative attitude and I post with some reluctance.

Get this straight: I am extremely grateful for the recognition my books have received. Blessing's Bead was a Junior Library Guild Selection, was named to the International Reading Association's Best Books for a Global Society, was on the Booklist Top Ten Historical Fiction for Youth list and was nominated to the American Library Association's Young Adult Library Association's Best Fiction for Young Adults list. This is heady stuff!

That said, there is a ghetto for books of color. You've seen it, yes?

Case in point: I've had several reviews for Blessing's Bead that were riffs on, "this is a great book for people who like Eskimo books."

They mean well. Or not. But that's not the point. The point is, what does this say about us as readers? What reading lens do we wear and encourage others, by our words, to wear? Always the easy one, the one with the story we recognize?

But how many stories do we miss this way?

And what can we do to encourage reading diversity?

From this perspective, check out the Nerds Heart Ya competition. It's designed to encourage reading diversity in YA lit--and to recognize books that promote the same.

I'm honored that Blessing's Bead is included! In fact I am so honored that I am sponsoring a give-away in support of their efforts. I am calling it the I Spy BOC Honor Competition. Here's how it works. I am going to have a drawing. The winner will receive a copy of Blessing's Bead and a magical blue bead necklace. Here's how you get your name entered in the drawing:

  • Go to your local bookstore.

  • Find out if some or all of the books in the Nerds Heart Ya competition are in stock.

  • Email me the name of the bookstore and the titles of the Nerds Heart Ya books you spotted. (*Extra points for photos. Extra extra points for spotting and snapping a shot of Blessing's Bead)

  • And (here's the honor part) Request that they order at least one of the books they do not currently carry.

  • Email me that title, or those titles, too.

*Extra points earn extra entries. For those of you who live in remote areas, where there are no bookstores (that would be you, bush Alaska) go to Indiebound and find a nearly local independent bookstore, online. Note to bush Alaskans: airport bookstores count. Tell those airport bookstores to reorder Blessing's Bead if it is not in stock and I will enter you in the drawing.

And...drum's the list of titles:

Donut Days - Lara Zielin

Me, Just Different – Stephanie Morrill

Pure – Terra Elan McVoy

The World is Mine – Lyah B. LeFlore

Gringolandia – Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Wanting Mor – Rukhsana Khan

Devil’s Kiss – Sarwat Chadda

Jumped – Rita Williams-Garcia

Guantanamo Boy – Anna Perera

Shine, Coconut Moon – Neesha Meminger

Skunk Girl – Sheba Karim

Last Night I Sang to the Monster – Ben Alire-Saenz

The Rock and the River – Kekla Magoon

Purple Heart – Patricia McCormick

Alligator Bayou – Donna Jo Napoli

A Wish After Midnight – Zetta Elliot

Medina Hill – Trilby Kent

Lost – Jacqueline Davies

In the Path of Falling Objects – Andrew Smith

Funny How Things Change - Melissa Wyatt

Blessing’s Bead – Debby Dahl-Edwardson

The Blonde of the Joke – Bennett Madison

Say the Word – Jeannine Garsee

In Mike We Trust – P E Ryan

Evil? – Timothy Carter

Beautiful – Amy Reed

Tilmon County Fire – Pamela Ehrenberg

The Vast Fields of Ordinary – Nick Burd

Once You Go Back – Douglas A. Martin

Anything but Typical – Nora Raleigh Baskin

Border Crossing – Jessica Lee-Anderson

Rowan the Strange- Julie Hearn

Alright--go forth and make a difference and enjoy some great books, while you're at it! Drawing June 30.


  1. June 6, 2010 8:08 AM EDT
    Great idea. May you get tons of submissions!
    - marybk
  2. June 7, 2010 11:09 AM EDT
    Oh that's a well good contest (one of the NHYA organisers here). We are all about getting those books into people's minds and hands so this seems like a fantastic way to encourage that. We'll be sure to post it up on our Twitter feed.
    - Jodie
  3. June 8, 2010 9:36 PM EDT
    Thanks for doing this Debby. And what a great idea!

    Congratulations and best wishes for your new blog. I look forward to exploring the site and reading your upcoming posts.
    - Lyn Miller-Lachmann
  4. June 12, 2010 12:12 PM EDT
    Thanks for stopping by folks and thanks for playing. Together we make a difference.
    - Debby Dahl Edwardson
  5. June 13, 2010 3:49 PM EDT
    Hi, Debby. I am sitting in NYC with Kekla Magoon as I type. She mentioned that she has a friend who lives in Barrow and I had to find you immediately. My name is Aeriale Johnson. I have been teaching in bush Alaska, in the NANA region, for the past five years. I am on my way to Kaktovik in the fall. I will be in Barrow for inservice in early August and would love to meet you! I knew that we must meet as soon as I read the title of this blog post. I am an African-American, who has been given the moniker Blackskimo. :)
    - Aeriale Johnson
  6. June 16, 2010 10:22 AM EDT
    Hello Debby!
    I am a book blog reviewer. I loved this book, loved it. I am working on a challenge of my own this year in reading books on children from other people groups, so far several have been read. I am having a harder time finding books on children from Asian groups (from my public library). I did review your book today Blessing's Bead and I loved it, for many reasons. I am headed over to Amazon to post a review.
    It is a shame that someone said it was a good book for people that like Eskimo books. In reading books of children or even adults of other cultures it gets me out of my little box of my own Caucasian/Texas culture. I feel more connected to these people that I read about and this is a very good thing!
    - Annette
  7. June 18, 2010 12:14 PM EDT
    Thanks for the wonderful review, Annette, and thanks for posting it on Amazon! It really makes a difference.

    Hi Aeriale [waving furiously at Kekla, one of my favs] and welcome to the North Slope Borough School District--you will love Kaktovik. And I will be at, and look for you at, the inservice. In my "other life" I am president of the school board.
    - Debby Edwardson
  8. June 20, 2010 4:46 AM EDT
    this is a great idea! love it!
    - Rachel, yes your daughter Rachel. :)
  9. June 24, 2010 1:14 AM EDT
    I love this idea! Nerds Heart YA is such a fabulous idea and I'm thrilled that so many good books (like yours) that often go unnoticed are getting much deserved attention.

    Thank you for doing this :)
    - Ari Reading in Color
  10. June 28, 2010 7:47 AM EDT
    Well Kekla didn't mention all of that! You know, that you're the woman who signs my contract. It's very nice to meet you, Madam President. :) For some reason, I don't think you'll miss me. Just look for the woman with the gargantuan afro. :) See you in another month or so.
    - Aeriale
  11. August 8, 2010 2:04 PM EDT
    Hi Debby,

    This is Loyla Leavitt. I was doing research on writing children's books and decided to look you up. I'm looking you up simply for the fact that you're a pioneer in writing from our part of the world. I've started on a children's coloring book and several other minor childrens theme books. Thanks for paving the way and I'm sure I will be in touch with about how to publish! Aarigaa Taikuu!
    - Loyla T. Leavitt
  12. January 26, 2011 8:01 AM EST
    Nice to know that some of your best friends are books of color. My thinking is similar that books should be the best friend. We have to buy only once then book never want anything more from us but give much more.
    - shop for books
  13. December 28, 2011 2:02 PM EST
    Don't forget things like schools of color that are typically the worst in the country, or banks of color (non-existent), but maybe we make up for that with prisons of color (in some areas the incarcerated population exceeds the normal expectations by 5 times or more). And of course the issue of 11:00 Sunday morning still remaining the most segregated hour of the week.
    - Duke Morrow
  14. March 9, 2012 1:07 PM EST
    After finally getting to read BLESSING'S BEAD and MY NAME ISN'T EASY (my first order never arrived from Amazon, so I picked mine up in Anchorage) I have been rolling around your idea of the ghetto for books of color. I am sure this is true. Pub. tend to call these books regional when they often have the most needed and universal messages inside. After working on a history of ANCSA for short months in 2010, I can't tell you how important both of your novels are for everyone, and the writing rushes through you like a river going backwards.
    - teri sloat
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My Writing

" extraordinary tale of love, betrayal, and above all, survival." Ellen Levine
Writing for Young People
a novel for young people about love, loss and finding your way home.
A celebration of family and community.