Because of the young age at which she began blogging, Ari worked to seclude her identity. She never even posted a picture of herself! That didn’t stop her from posting a letter that brought her to the attention of the ALA and an invitation to speak at a midwinter conference. She presented in 2011 (I think) at ALAN in Chicago along with Lyn Miller-Lachmann, Maggie (another teen blogger) and myself.
While she is not blogging at this time, Ari is on both Twitter and GoodReads. She attends college on the east coast where she majors in International Relations. According to her Twitter bio, she’s “aiming to be an Anonymous Extraordinare/renaissance woman via my love of blogging, community service, dancing, ’30s-’40s films, politics, reading and sports”.
Chicago (for now)
Ari, What kind of courage did it take for you to begin blogging about diversity in YA books? What did it feel like to begin posting reviews and your thoughts and opinions about the industry? Did you ever tell your parents, friends or teachers about your blog? How did blogging change you?
I was apprehensive about writing this post. I would never describe myself as courageous nor could I have imagined myself writing an essay on courage to be featured alongside great writers that Edi invited to submit essays for her blog. Thus I am thankful for this opportunity Edi, though it is one that I hardly think I deserve!
That being said, when I first began blogging at Reading in Color (my now mostly-defunct blog) it was easy. I didn’t really expect people to find my blog to be perfectly honest. I didn’t worry much about my blog’s physical appearance, my reviews were mostly free of grammatical errors because I tend to be a stickler for that stuff, not because I feared turning off my potential audience. Then I began to discover other blogs, such as Color Online. TheHappyNappyBookseller. Zetta Elliott’s personal blog, Fledgling. These blogs focused on diversity in children’s books and they pushed me to raise the bar, to actually attempt to make something out of my blog. I wanted my blog to be good enough to be a part of the conversation on the lack of diversity in youth literature, specifically young adult literature. Good enough meaning I needed to spend a bit more time and effort on my book reviews and discussion posts. I then began to struggle with courage as my blog gained more readers and industry attention. Editors wanted to send me books, this required me telling my parents because they couldn’t figure out why so many book-shaped packages were being sent to our house and I eventually bought a post office box. My parents have always been extremely supportive of all that I do and my mother wanted to promote my blog to her friends. I was not courageous enough to say yes. I asked her to not mention it to her friends and for the most part she respected my wishes. She did tell one of her best friends and my English teacher and this would result in certain classmates at my high school learning about my blog. I am ashamed to say that when asked about my blog by anyone outside my family I would quickly answer the question and change the subject, or deny that I even had a blog. This is one of my biggest regrets now, as I wonder if I had been able to get over my shyness and embarrassment over blogging, perhaps I could have helped further the cause of championing the need for diversity in YA books.
I loved posting book reviews and my thoughts and opinions about the industry. I especially enjoyed posting discussion posts because they taught me a lot about the publishing industry (such as the fact that authors have relatively little say in choosing their book covers. Or that there are very few people of color who work as editors). Plus those posts tended to produce the most comments, which led to me discovering new-to-me blogs, and I liked visiting other blogs and learning about all kinds of YA books but especially YA books about people of color that may have flown under my radar. The scariest post I ever wrote was my letter to Bloomsbury after the second white-washing incident mainly because I worried that I sounded childish and that it would not be seen as eloquent. I almost didn’t publish it but I was so angry and upset that I knew for my own peace of mind I had to post it. And it’s one of my most popular posts to date and allowed me to meet new people as they commented on the post and wrote their own responses and by reading these other posts I learned a lot about how people think regarding diversity overall.
Reviews were fun to write because they helped me articulate my thoughts. I tried to be concise although it is still a mostly-losing battle, I do love to talk and that translates to my reviews! Reviews also provided me with a better understanding of what I looked for in a book. And when I had to deal with an author responding harshly to a negative review, the book blogging community gave me the tools to handle the issue as I researched other people’s posts about a similar issue and reached out to friends for advice and was overwhelmed by their support.
Book blogging changed me specifically in that I did not realize how bad the publishing industry was in regards to diversity in YA. I honestly thought that if I started my blog I would discover that I was wrong and just wasn’t looking in the right places for books that featured protagonists who not just acted like me but also looked like me. I wanted authors to see color, embrace it, but not make it a big deal and the book blogging world helped me articulate this thought. Blogging also changed me by forcing me to stop hating technology and learn to use Blogger and get a Twitter handle. I am now obsessed with Twitter so that was a very good thing for me! Blogging has changed me in general, although to be honest I’m not sure how but I do know that it changed me. It introduced me to a fantastic book blogging community, some wonderful mentors and friends and great books and for that I will always be grateful. I hope to be able to post more on my blog in the future although the odds of that are slim due to college being so time-consuming, who knew? ;p I still follow the book industry closely and read articles about diversity in YA, I’m just more silent than I used to be but I want that to change because I’m still very opinionated!
Happy New Year everyone!
Thank you, Ari!
The final post in this series will be on Wednesday!