A Clarification About the Hunger Games

I realized the other day that a Guardian write up from a few months back has me coming out strong against the Hunger Games books for lack of diversity and saying Suzanne Collins lacks imagination. The HG trilogy is actually one of my favorite Young Adult series and is one of the few dystopias out there that stars a woman of color and has a variety of skin-tones in its cast of characters.

This is not to say I was misquoted – (Ashley Ford is one of my favorite writers, a writer I want to grow up to be like one day) – I’m pretty sure I got excited and didn’t express myself clearly, so let me go on record right now and say this:

The Hunger Games movies whitewashing of Katniss was a tremendously unimaginative and useless act, although I’m glad they diversified the general cast quite a bit as the series progressed. In general, the popular surge of YA dystopias that followed in the wake of the HG trilogy has been wildly undiverse, and that is indeed a failure of the imagination of those authors. It’s disheartening, as POC, not to see ourselves in the future. Visions of the post-apocalyptic world that are so focused on oppression and power but can’t fathom how racism might function always ring dishonest and hollow. The 89% white publishing industry clearly has a much easier time reckoning with racism as something in the past rather than in the present or future. All of that is a genre-wide problem, particularly in books that stress over and over how only the strong survive and somehow have no POC. This is a deeply troubling message to send out to young people. The Hunger Games, whose success inspired so many of these books, doesn’t deal explicitly with race/power but it does make it clear that Panem isn’t a lily white world, and I’ve always loved that about the series. I also appreciate its nuanced and complex take on revolution, trauma, and violence. It’s a series that I’ve taught and referred back to many times when pondering narrative technique and how to weave in deeper thematic issues.

The SHAPE YOUR SHADOW Workshop Series

There’s so much talk about diversity and literature these days, a much needed conversation that has been rocking all the right boats. Moving into a new era of a more equitable book world will mean strategizing new ways to change the demographics of writing and publishing and lifting up voices that haven’t been heard enough.

Shadowshaper_coverSo I’m beyond thrilled to announce the CHAPTER IN MY LIFE: SHAPE YOUR SHADOW workshop series, which I’ll be conducting the week of June 22 at the Global Citizens school in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (one of the neighborhoods where SHADOWSHAPER takes place) in collaboration with the Department of Youth and Community Development. The young women will learn about narrative structure, character and plot development, worldbuilding and craft. They will also get first hand experience as they go through the editing and contract negotiating and getting paid process of publishing, and they’ll get to see their work posted at the soon-to-be unveiled SHADOWSHAPER website, shadowshaper.net.

This, of course, is only the beginning.

Below is the official press release.

Press contacts:
Dayana Perez (DYCD), 646-343-6739 / dayperez@dycd.nyc.gov
Saraciea Fennell (Daniel José Older), 212-343-6351 / sfennell@scholastic.com


NEW YORK—The Department of Youth and Community Development’s (DYCD) “A Chapter in My Life” Literacy and Writing project will partner with activist, composer and critically acclaimed author Daniel José Older (Shadowshaper) for a three-day workshop, A Chapter in My Life: Shape Your Shadow. The event will focus on teaching young people in DYCD’s COMPASS NYC Transition to High School (THS) program about narrative structure, plot and character development, creating meaningful contexts, and tips on how to navigate the publishing industry.

The project brings together a group of young women from Brooklyn— the neighborhood in which Shadowshaper is set—to attend a series of advanced fiction writing workshops. The students will be required to write their own supernatural short stories based on places in their neighborhood. Older will edit and publish each of the short stories on the “Shadowshaper” site (www.shadowshaper.net ), and participants will receive a stipend for their participation, and experience handling a contract through publication.

The A Chapter In My Life: Shape Your Shadow workshop will take place at the High School for Global Citizenship (883 Classon Avenue, Brooklyn, NY):

Monday, June 22, 2015, 2:00 PM – 3:15 PM
Wednesday, June 24, 2015, 2:00 PM – 3:15 PM
Thursday, June 25, 2015, 2:00 PM – 3:15 PM

Daniel José Older is the author of the ghost noir collection, Salsa Nocturna, and the adult books in the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series. His short stories and essays have appeared in Tor.com, Salon, BuzzFeed, the New Haven Review, PANK, Apex and Strange Horizons and the anthologies Subversion and Mothership: Tales Of Afrofuturism And Beyond. Shadowshaper is his first YA novel. Visit him online at www.GhostStar.net for his thoughts on writing, his decade-long career as a NYC paramedic, and to listen to his music. Follow him on Twitter @djolder.

The Comprehensive After School System of NYC (COMPASS NYC) comprises more than 800 programs serving young people enrolled in grades K-12. Through its network of providers, COMPASS NYC offers high quality programs with a strong balance of academics, recreation, enrichment and cultural activities to support and strengthen the overall development of young people. The Transition to High School Program (THS) is designed to help incoming high school ninth graders navigate their new surroundings with targeted academic and social and emotional supports, and advocacy within the school community. For more information, visit DYCD at www.nyc.gov/dycd or follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.





My first Young Adult novel is available for pre-order!!!!!

Amazon  *  Barnes & Noble  *  Books A Million  *  IndieBound  *  Powell’s  *  iBooks

and you can request an autographed copy from WORD Books here.

Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears… Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.

With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one — and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family’s past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come.

Full of a joyful, defiant spirit and writing as luscious as a Brooklyn summer night, Shadowshaper introduces a heroine and magic unlike anything else in fantasy fiction, and marks the YA debut of a bold new voice.

“Sierra’s masterful adaptability is most apparent in her language, which moves among English and Spanish, salsa and rap, formality and familiarity with an effortlessness that simultaneously demonstrates Older’s mastery of his medium.”

-Publishers Weekly, starred review

“This story about ancestors, ghosts, power, and community has art and music at its core; Sierra’s drawing and painting turn out to be tools for spirit work. Sierra’s Puerto Rican with African and Taíno ancestors; her community is black and brown, young and old, Latin and Caribbean and American. Sometimes funny and sometimes striking, Older’s comfortable prose seamlessly blends English and Spanish.

Warm, strong, vernacular, dynamic—a must.”

Kirkus, starred review 

“Poetic and magnetic, Daniel José Older’s prose integrates authentic street dialogue, Spanish phrases, and vivid descriptions of the setting and its multicultural inhabitants as the action unfurls with scintillating suspense and a salsa beat.”

– School Library Journal, starred review

“Even if readers don’t recognize Older’s crafty commentary, they will find plenty to like in the unique fantasy elements, entertainingly well-wrought characters, and cinematic pacing. Smart writing with a powerful message that never overwhelms the terrific storytelling.”

-ALA Booklist, starred review

“I highly recommend Shadowshaper…it is exceptional in a great many ways.”

-Debbie Reese, American Indians in Children’s Literature, starred review

“One of my favorite books of the year, period.”

-Rebecca Schinsky, BookRiot

SHADOWSHAPER has been listed on recommended summer reading lists at the LA Times, the New York Post, Book Riot, BuzzFeed, and Bustle.