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These Violent Delights and I

Have you ever known something was going to be big before it happens?

That was the feeling I had when reserving These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong months before it came out. While talk about the book online was a consistent hum, for the longest time I was one of only three reserves, and I could not help but wonder who else was in on this not-so-secret secret.

Then late November came along, and These Violent Delights was released – and appeared on the New York Times Young Adult Bestseller list. All the local papers wanted to tell everyone who this local success story was. In a matter of days the reserve list doubled, then tripled. One thing quickly became apparent to everyone who had not seen this coming. We needed more than the three copies we originally had!

So what’s the big deal?

Let’s first start with the book. These Violent Delights is a young adult historical fantasy novel that is also a reimagining of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. To break it down, it’s Romeo and Juliet + gangs in 1920s Shanghai + monsters = These Violent Delights. Juliet is now Juliette Cai, heir to the Scarlet Gang, while Romeo has become Roma Montagov, heir to rivals the White Flowers.

Who could say no to a book cover like that?

Gong wrote These Violent Delights in May 2018. That’s not a typo: she started and finished her first draft in the same month, while back in Auckland for the summer break of the University of Pennsylvania. Thanks to a year’s worth of notes and the eight novels she had previously written throughout her teens Gong was able to do what most NaNoWriMo participants can only dream of doing.

With a completed manuscript in hand, Gong went in search of an agent. She found one. Together they worked on making Gong’s manuscript the best it could be before submitting to publishers. After four months of submissions, the offer came through. And then another. There were enough editors and publishers interested that the book went to auction, where they all competed to be the one that got to publish the book. A sort of Publishing Games, if you will, only much much much less violent.

Long story short, the deal was announced in February 2019 and just over a year and a half later the book hit shelves and number three on the NYT bestseller list. Right between The Hate U Give and Once Of Us Is Lying. At twenty-one, with a book she had written when she was nineteen, Chloe Gong was now one of 2020s youngest bestsellers. Plus it’s the rare example of a book for teens that was written by a teen; a funny thing as when submitting Gong was often told that These Violent Delights was more adult than young adult. It goes to show that if you have a great idea and are willing to put in the hard work as well as take the leap you too can achieve great things.

The author stares enigmatically at the camera, leaning against an ornate wall in a forest setting.

Yes, she is the coolest. Photograph © JON STUDIO

If you’re interested in reading These Violent Delights, make sure you reserve a copy today as the queue is still quite impressive. Don’t forget to mark your calendars as its sequel, Our Violent Ends, is due for release November 16, 2021.

And if you think you think you have got it in you to be the next teen bestseller from New Zealand, check out Chloe Gong’s blog post about being a youth in publishing. Her website is also full of links to articles about and interviews with Gong, while her twitter feed is full of very excellent memes.


These violent delights / Gong, Chloe

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Books with Bodies Like Mine

When I was a kid and then a teenager, I never read about anyone in books that looked like me.  I have always loved to read, and have always found solace in stories, but never truly identified with any of the protagonists, because none of them ever looked like me.

The heroes and heroines of the books that were around when I was growing up were all thin.  Rarely were they ever described as being thin, occasionally the word skinny was used for a particularly thin character,  but  they were generally called average, or normal.  Which is something I, a kid in a fat* body, had been led to believe I was definitely not.

* Note: I use the word fat as a weight neutral term and simple descriptor, like tall or blonde.  Personally I prefer it to other euphemisms, but I acknowledge not everyone is comfortable with referring to themselves in that way.

Most of the books I grew up reading were about pretty, thin, blonde, American girls named Stacey or Jessica.  They had bouncy ponytails and couldn’t decide which boy they liked the most.  I was a fat, pimply Australian teenager with an old lady name and a mop of fluffy, mousy brown hair who was used to boys ignoring me.  Stacey and Jessica’s lives weren’t very relevant to me.

If there were fat characters, they were subjects of derision, sassy friends (who never got the guy) or had to have lost weight by the end of the book.  Not exactly relevant to most fat teenager’s lives to be honest.

It wasn’t until I was an adult, and stumbled across Kerry Greenwood’s Earthly Delight series, where the heroine was described as voluptuous, or at most, curvy, that I finally had a character that bore any relevance to me.  And while they’re great stories and Corinna Chapman is a badass heroine, they really skirted around her body size and shape, like actually saying she wasn’t thin was something shameful or wrong.

Thankfully, times have changed.  We now actually have books that are about more than just pretty, thin, blonde, American girls named Stacey or Jessica.  We are hearing stories about people in bodies that have long been ignored.  I can tell you, I’ve spent a lot of the past few years catching up!

Here are few of my favourite so far…

Dumplin’ / Murphy, Julie

Dumplin’ is a gorgeous story about Willowdean Dickson, aka Dumplin’ to her beauty queen Mom Rosie, who meets a hot boy named Bo, joins the local beauty pageant as a protest and has a fight with her best friend.  All to a soundtrack of Dolly Parton and supported by some fabulous drag queens.  My favourite quote from Dumplin’ is the way to get a bikini body is to put a bikini on your body.  Bonus Netflix TV series for this one, starring Jennifer Aniston as Rosie (perfectly cast).

Puddin’ / Murphy, Julie
If you like Dumplin’, you’ll love Puddin’.  Technically a sequel, Puddin’ is the story of Millie Michalchuck, one of Willowdean’s classmates and fellow beauty pageant constestant.  I loved Willowdean as a character, but I **ADORE** Millie.  She’s just so genuinely kind and open.  Millie is forced to spend time with the prettiest girl in school and over time, they realise they have a lot more in common than is obvious.

Heads up, a third book in the series is due out in 2021, called Pumpkin and all I know is that the tagline is “This year, prom’s a drag.”  Looks like we’re getting a queer character in the series.

Eleanor & Park / Rowell, Rainbow

This is the book I always wanted when I was a teenager.  Set in 1986 (confession, I was a teenager in 1986) it’s a first love story about two misfits from very different families.  Touching on themes of race, domestic violence, poverty and bullying, Eleanor & Park is the perfect story about two young people with very imperfect lives.  You may have read some other books by Rainbow Rowell, but this is her debut novel and she landed a #1 New York Times Best Seller on her first book!

Shrill : notes from a loud woman / West, Lindy

Another debut book that became a New York Times bestseller (fat gals got talent), Shrill is a memoir by brilliant writer Lindy West.  Yep, this one got made into a series too.  I followed Lindy right from her first big article about living in a fat body in The Stranger and it has been a delight to see her career just keep moving onwards and upwards.

Huge : a novel / Paley, Sasha

This is one I found through watching the TV series first.  Wilhelmina and April meet at Wellness Springs, a posh fat camp in California.  They have very different attitudes to being there and hate each other from the start.  It features a whole cast of fat characters and there is lots of nuance and depth to the story, which is unfortunately a rare thing.

Faith / Houser, Jody

An actual fat superhero in an actual comic.  I mean, it’s something I never thought would happen in my lifetime and I’m thrilled that I was wrong.  The artwork by Francis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage is gorgeous.

 

Happy fat : taking up space in a world that wants to shrink you / Hagen, Sofie

This one is a non-fiction book by the hilarious Danish comedian Sofie Hagen.  It has a little bit of memoir, but a lot more social commentary, Sofie writes about the reality and politics of living in a fat body, and how to liberate yourself in a world that is so often unwelcoming to those of us who live in fat bodies.

These are just a few of my favourites, I’m still working my way through a lot of other titles that have come along in recent years.  Have you read any that you can recommend?  Please share in the comments below.

 

 

New Non-fiction for People Who Care About the World

Dear readers, we understand that you are people who care about things. We are also  people who care about things — things like racism, climate change, the environment, mental health, LGBTQ+ rights, art and poetry. The absolute wizards who buy books for our collections — those to whom we humble blog administrators must show all due deference — have certainly not stopped buying the good stuff during this whole pandemic situation. Here’s a selection of recently-added non-fiction for you to really sink your teeth into.

Stamped : racism, antiracism, and you. / Reynolds, Jason
“A book about race. The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited.” (Catalogue)

Stuff that’s loud : a teen’s guide to unspiralling when OCD gets noisy. / Sedley, Ben
“Do you have thoughts that seem loud? Do your worries spiral out of control and then suck you in? Do intrusive thoughts show up and make you scared of doing certain things – or not doing things – a certain way? Do you ever get a feeling like something bad might happen? Does this loud stuff make you feel alone, or worse, crazy?

First, you aren’t alone – even if it sometimes feels that way. And second, you are not crazy. But you might be struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). And while OCD can be difficult, you don’t have to let it have power over you. Instead, you can live a life full of meaning, great relationships and joy with the help of this book. Life doesn’t have to stay stuck any longer.” (Catalogue)

Pandemic : how climate, the environment, and superbugs increase the risk / Goldsmith, Connie
“How close are we to having another worldwide health crisis? Pandemic epidemiologists have identified one they believe is likely to happen in the next couple decades: the flu. Learn about factors that contribute to the spread of disease by examining past pandemics and epidemics, including the Bubonic Plague, smallpox Ebola, HIV/AIDS, and Zika. Examine case studies of potential pandemic diseases, like SARS and cholera, and find out how pathogens and antibiotics work. See how human activities such as global air travel and the disruption of animal habitats contribute to the risk of a new pandemic. And discover how scientists are striving to contain and control the spread of disease, both locally and globally.” (Catalogue)

Have pride : an inspirational history of the LGBTQ+ movement / Caldwell, S. A.
“Have Pride gives an honest, chronological account of how life has changed for LGBTQ+ people and sheds light on the people that brought about this change. The heartfelt stories of LGBTQ+ revolutionaries are better understood as you realise what a revolutionary act it was to live openly as an LGBTQ+ person. In this book there is no hiding from the dark chapters of history and the persecution people faced for being true to who they were. But like Fred Rogers’ mother suggested, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people helping”, Have Pride highlights the LGBTQ+ heroes who ‘helped’ others, pushed for change and inspire pride in ourselves and our history.” (Extract from publisher review)

Hypnopompia: the thoughts of dawning minds : Re-draft’s 19th collection of writing by New Zealand’s young adults
The 19th in the brilliant Re-Draft series, Hypnopompia brings together New Zealand’s very best young writers in yet another dazzling collection. Wake up to the new world as seen by the most talented of our post-millennial writers. The 80 young writers featured in the collection have grown up with the century and Hypnopompia is their very woke report card on its perplexities, perils, passions and never ending variety. At times funny, at times dark, always engaging, their stories and poems are never less than perceptive and open-eyed. (Publisher summary)

Imaginary borders / Martinez, Xiuhtezcatl
“Pocket Change Collective is a series of small books with big ideas from today’s leading activists and artists. In this installment, Earth Guardians Youth Director and hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez shows us how his music feeds his environmental activism and vice versa. Martinez visualizes a future that allows us to direct our anger, fear, and passion toward creating change. Because, at the end of the day, we all have a part to play.” (Catalogue)

Trans+ : love, sex, romance, and being you / Gonzales, Kathryn
Trans+ is a growing-up guide for teens who are transgender, nonbinary, gender-nonconforming, or gender-fluid. This book explores gender identity, gender expression, gender roles, and how these all combine and play out as gender in the world. Includes chapters on medical, health, and legal issues as well as relationships, family, and sex.” (Catalogue)

Who Are We Really?

Dear readers, none have asked, but some may have wondered: who are the strange and wonderful people who write for this illustrious publication? Look no further. We’ve delved deep underground, into the very lairs of these mysterious bloggers, and we’ve brought forth poetic riches the likes of which have never been seen. That’s right, I forced them all to write haiku about themselves to introduce themselves to you! In alphabetical order, no less. Here goes.

First we have the ever-wise B. Spinach. When she’s not tirelessly working the fields to bring more of that herbaceous delight into her house and onto her plate, she can be found somewhere in the pages of Louis Sachar’s The Cardturner:

Aspires to paint a
mural, but so far just makes
tiny paper planes.

Next is the indomitable Catherine, whose book-treat of choice is Margaret Mahy’s The Tricksters:

I had to write a
haiku; this is the result.
Let’s all blame Stephen.

Truly moving. Next up is the enigmatic Maiph. Purveyor of knitted goods and slayer of the leviathan, their literary musings chiefly concern the excellent The Owl Service by Alan Garner, and their inscrutable poetic waxings and wanings are represented below:

Inscrutable, yet
easily scruted when I
am tangled in yarn.

Finally, it is I, Stephen, your humble administrator. The title that sparks the most joy for me currently is Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe:

Moonlight falls softly
upon a nerd; He sleeps, eats,
but mostly he sleeps.

You, too, can write a haiku. Or a novel. Join us over at our online creative writing group at the NaNoWriMo Young Writers’ Programme (classroom code is CWRNJDZH), and don’t forget to join our Discord once you get in!

Check Your History with Bridget Williams Books

You know those little white books with coloured spines you see by the counter at bookshops?  -back in the day when you were allowed to leave your house to go to bookshops and libraries, two weeks and a different world ago- Well, those little books are some of the amazing books published by Bridget Williams Books (BWB).

I think that lots of people never really think about the people who are involved in editing and publication.  They slip under the radar a lot. We think about the person or people who wrote the book and who end up reading it but the truth is that a LOT happens to the book between someone writing it and you reading it! If you’re a creative writer or do much writing for school you’ll probably know that it is an entirely different headspace and process between writing and editing. I wrote a very rough draft of this blog post in a scrappy old paper book before I ever touched the keys.

Bridget Williams has been publishing in Aotearoa/New Zealand since 1976. If you’ve ever read or seen The Oxford History of New Zealand, Tangata Whenua:  An Illustrated History or A History of New Zealand Women, she has been involved in all of these. These days she is the director and publisher of BWB and continues to be part of the creation of some of the most important local writing that’s being made.

BWB has a focus on telling stories from this country and puts emphasis on publishing with and for Māori. They are interested in exploring the experience of people who live on these islands and being a platform for voices that have historically not had a platform to speak from.

(Side note: Try looking at all the books on your/anyone’s bookshelf and count how many of them are: written by someone from Aotearoa/New Zealand, written by women or genderqueer people, written by indigenous people, published in New Zealand, have an LGBTQ+ author or content … Also how many different languages are on your bookshelf?)

As you can’t run down to the library right now (even though I know you really really want to) and check out these books in person, what you do have access to is their  amazing online resources. If you’ve got a research project for school, or are just looking for some words to fill the extra time you’ve got at home, these are awesome resources to explore: just plug in your library card number and your PIN and you’re good to go!

Bridget Williams Books – Text Collection: for all your bookish needs — we all know you have them!

Bridget Williams Books – The NZ History Collection: for all your historical needs.

Bridget Williams Books – Treaty of Waitangi Collection: for all your Te Tiriti needs.

Libraries in the Time of COVID

Peeps, it’s a weird time for all of us, librarians included, as we attempt to navigate the apocalypse with nary an open library in sight from which to retrieve the objects of our solace — books. But fear not! The library, in its wisdom, has foreseen such a calamity and from the depths of its vast reserves of online material has produced a bounteous temple of all things YA — the OverDrive Teen Reading Room. All you need is a library card (click here to grab one if you haven’t already) and all the reading material you could ever need is at your fingertips from the comfort of whichever anti-viral fortress you’re currently holed up in. Check the list below for some of my faves:

Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe / Sáenz, Benjamin Alire
Guys, I don’t want to freak you out but READ THIS BOOK NOW. This is the OverDrive eAudiobook version, so you don’t even have to read words, just zone out and let Saenz’s perfectly spare, searing prose transport you. This is a gorgeous story of family, friendship, love, pain, illness, recovery, and discovery that paints in poignant, pointillistic detail the agony and anticipation of leaving childhood behind and moving somewhere new. Waste no more time, and while you’re at it read everything else Saenz has ever written. You won’t regret it.

Feed / Anderson, M. T
It may seem a little on the nose to be recommending dystopian fiction right now, but hear me out. This modern classic is absolutely worth a read — it takes a peek beneath the veil and examines human nature with a kind of clarity seldom seen in any fiction. Unsettling? Yes. Frightening? Probably. Un-put-downable? Absolutely.

An unofficial encyclopedia of strategy for Fortniters / Rich, Jason
We understand it’s not entirely impossible that there may be some people out there who are choosing to spend their isolation period not reading, but gaming. We have you nerds covered as well! The Unofficial Encyclopedia of Strategy for Fortniters is just one part of a gaming eBook collection that includes titles on Fortnite, Minecraft, Terraria, and more. Can’t go outside? Make your own outside, inside!

Finally, I wanted to do a special plug for our wonderful OverDrive LGBTIQ+ Reading Room. We’ve pulled together our favourite titles from across the rainbow spectrum and curated the ultimate collection of LGBTIQ+ reads for you to enjoy. There’s heaps to choose from across fiction and nonfiction, eBook and eAudio — biographies, romance, YA fiction, the arts, crime and mysteries, social comment and social issues, personal essays, poetry, and much much more. Feel free to send through a request if we’re missing a title you think we should have!

Even though our physical sites are closed, we’re here for you still. Follow us on social media or comment on one of these posts if you want to stay in touch. We’ll be keeping you up to date with books, websites, resources and other cool stuff and general distraction during these spooky, spooky times. Stay safe and stay indoors!

It’s Fashion Week: books to make you think

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsI love fashion and I love fashion week. But with fast fashion causing 10% of carbon emissions (predicted to rise to 25% if nothing changes) according to the United Nations Environment Project, now is as good a time as any to think about how the clothes we love affect the world we live in. It’s important to do your own reading, though: this is a contentious issue, where privilege, monetary concerns and environmental matters intersect. This is just what Wellington Libraries has; there’s plenty more out there!

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsWardrobe crisis : how we went from Sunday best to fast fashion is a good overview – written by a fashion insider- of how the fashion industry encourages consumption, where fast fashion started, and some interesting suggestions on how to change your own fashion habits. I haven’t had the chance to read Fashionopolis: The Price Of Fast Fashion & The Future Of Clothes as it’s a new order but it has got good reviews so it’s a must read on the costs of being on-trend.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsChange is in the air, though. Slow fashion : aesthetics meets ethics showcases new companies and new approaches to making fashion ecologically and socially friendly. If you want to apply these to your own wardrobe, there’s The Conscious Closet : The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good, another new order, which will focus on personal changes. My own favourite is Craft of Use: post-growth fashion, which has many inspiring stories of clothes that endure.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsSecondhand/thrift shopping is another way to maximize your look while being eco (and budget) friendly: Thriftstyle : the ultimate bargain shopper’s guide to smart fashion has some great tips and is a great read.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsDIY is becoming more and more popular, so if sewing your own clothes is a bit too intimidating, try mending the ones you have: Mending matters which teaches you how to repair your denim, and Visible mending : artful stitchery to repair and refresh your favorite things are great places to start.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThen you could try altering your clothes: DIY wardrobe makeovers : alter, refresh & refashion your clothes is amazing. I also love Stylish remakes which has some really cool ideas about how to change up what you already have. Then there’s Simple tailoring & alterations, a more technique-heavy book which will instruct you on how to hem and alter.

If you do want to start making your own clothes, we have so many books to help you get going. Dewey numbers 646 (sewing) and 746 (textile arts, which include knitting and crochet) are good places to get started.

Webcomic collections

Webcomics are one of the best (although this may be controversial) things to come out of the internet. Creators has a direct path to new and diverse audiences, without meddling from publishers and often a better understanding of the current social climate than more mainstream titles. It seems that there’s a webcomic for any interest! WCL has to be a bit more…selective in the webcomic collections we acquire, but if the thought of clicking through hundreds of pages doesn’t appeal, we’ve got a decent selection.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsHomestuck has been called the internet’s “Ulysses.” Possibly due to its length, possibly due to its devoted fanbase and its equally vocal detractors. It’s also incredibly hard to describe its plot. It’s also very hard to translate to a book format, as the author notes but he helpfully provides links to the actual pages where the plot is conveyed in gifs and flash animations. And it was created in MS paint, which is quite something. You’ll never read anything like it.

“A young man stands in his bedroom. It just so happens that today, the 13th of April, 2009, is this young man’s birthday. Though it was thirteen years ago he was given life, it is only today he will be given a name! What will the name of this young man be?”
-Homestuck, first lines.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsGirl Genius has been running since 2005. It’s still going, and updates on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. That’s a lot of material. It is based around the adventures of Agatha Clay, who discovers that she has an ancient and mysterious birthright, as well as having the “spark” – a strange group of personality traits, which predisposes the person to acts of mad…genius. It’s one of the preeminent Steampunk works, although the author prefers the term “gaslamp fantasy.” At any rate, it’s a great webcomic but works so well in a printed format – it’s much easier to catch up! Here’s book one.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsYou probably never thought of seeking out a comic written by a five year old and professionally illustrated and you never thought you’d need it in your life but Axe Cop is really something else. It’s silly, anarchic, and really nice to look at; the comedy webcomic holy trinity. It’s really funny as well. The plot is basically the title. An axe-wielding cop fights crime, which consists of whatever a five year old deems as criminal (hint: dinosaurs are heavily involved). As a side note, the writer and the illustrator are brothers, which is adorable.

Other webcomics we have in printed format include Gunnerkrigg Court and Hark: a vagrant.

YA classics (part one)

I tend to feature a lot of new books on this blog but perhaps it’s time to highlight some YA “classics”.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe Outsiders, S.E Hinton (1967)

This is the archetypal story of young men living on the wrong side of the tracks, as defined by an often hostile society. Told from the perspective of Ponyboy, a member of a gang of Greasers who details their rivalry with the “socs” another gang, and the disaster and violence their conflict causes. There are plot elements which would be familiar to readers today; abusive or neglectful parents, class differences, crime and the strength people draw from their friends.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsI am the cheese, Robert Cormier (1977)

I’ve never read a book quite like I am the cheese. It’s a twisting, complex tale of identity and corruption, told through the eyes of a young boy who has witnessed something truly traumatic and must deal with the consequences. To describe it any further would spoil the plot, so if you are intrigued, I suggest you pick it up. I think the only book that comes vaguely close is E. Lockhart’s We were liars, although the stakes are much, much higher in Cormier’s book.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsSkellig, David Almond (1998)

Magical realism is a common genre for YA fiction at the moment but Skellig was a pioneer in the genre. It manages to capture the soaring heights of the “magical” whilst also effectively depicting the realism; the two are beautifully balanced. The main character, Michael, is struggling to cope in a new home and with a baby sister who is dangerously ill. Then he finds a strange creature – possibly angelic, but never defined- in his shed, the titular Skellig. The two plots interweave and it’s a particular favourite of mine.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsAnnie on my mind, Nancy Garden (1982)

LGBTQ fiction has come along way since 1982 but Annie on my mind was groundbreaking when it was first published. That being said, the themes of love, heartbreak and identity are still being written about. It’s worth reading anyway, if only to see how far writing on these themes have come. It’s also 48 on the ALA’s most challenged books from 1990 – 2000.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsNoughts and Crossses, Malorie Blackman (2002)

Examinations of race and racism are coming to the forefront of YA fiction; The Hate u give by Angie Thomas is probably the most recent and most well-known of these books. But before then, the Noughts and Crosses series examined race relations with a twist – in this alternate universe, noughts (people with white skin) are disadvantaged and crosses (people of colour) occupy positions of ultimate privilege. It’s also a love story, thriller, and a brilliant read. It’s also the first book in a series.

You might like…books about art and artists (Part 1 of ? )

Book cover courtesy of the SyndeticsI’ve been inspired to write this post by a visit to our neighbour, the City Gallery, and their excellent exhibition This is New Zealand, which is based around how New Zealand artists convey national identity. But this post isn’t just looking art, it’s looking at artists as well. I’m sticking with drawing and painting this time – there may be more entries on this subject. Artists’ lives can be as interesting as the work they produce…of course this isn’t an exhaustive list, but these are some top picks. Think of this selection like a jumping off point: find something you like, and investigate further!

Book courtesy of SyndeticsLet’s take a look about our fiction first. The guy, the girl, the artist and his ex by Gabrielle Williams is a great look at love, death, human emotion and, of course, art. Then we have Dear Vincent, from New Zealand’s own Mindy Hager. This is a heart-wrenching novel about a young woman who finds comfort – and similarities – in the life and art of Vincent Van Gough. Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older has a more fantastical integration of art into the narrative; in Brooklyn, Sierra Santiago notices that the murals that are a feature of her neighbourhood start to change, revealing a strange and dangerous new world. Finally, we have another testament to the saving power of art; Draw the line, which is written and illustrated by Laurent Linn, deals with a young artist who uses his obsession with superheroes to work through a hate crime that happens in his small town.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThen there’s our non-fiction collection. For the sake of brevity, we’ll leave graphic novels aside. For a look at the creative process of one of my favourite artists, Shaun Tan, pick up The bird king : an artist’s notebook. One of my other favourites is Subway Art, which is huge, so bring your bag if you want to take it out!

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsMoving on to the adult collection now: there’s certainly not shortage of amazing books here. Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring deals not only with art, but the artist, his model and the historical and social context in which this famous painting was created. An artist of the floating world by Kazuo Ishiguro deals with similar themes, but also asks harder questions of complicity and integrity – not just artistic, but personal. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood focuses on the female artist and her own past feeds into her development.
Finally, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt examines the theft of a famous painting by a teenager and the impact it has on his life. Like I keep saying, this is by no means an exhaustive list. If you’re looking for a more thorough booklist, here are some: female artists from Electric Literature, a top ten list from the Guardian and this utterly insane (667 books) list on Goodreads.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsAnd now, on to the non-fiction section. Try to pick a selection from this would be an act of madness, so here’s a few (and I mean A FEW) call numbers for you to investigate:
1) 704.03994 : Maori art and artists
2) 709.45 : Renaissance Art
4) 751.73 : Graffiti
5) 741.5 : Comic book art (I couldn’t resist, after all!)

If you’re looking for some great documentaries and movies, we have some of those as well!

I recommend:

1) Jean-Michel Basquiat: the radiant child (documentary)
2) Maudie (film)
3) Exit through the gift shop: a Banksy film (documentary)
4) Simon Schama’s Power of art (documentary)
5) Séraphine (film)

That’s all for now. I think my next one will be on photography! Stay tuned.

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