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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Young Adult Teen Tuesday-iii

Ethnocentric Much?

It's hard to admit, but many of us view the world through a very narrow set of cultural norms--OURS. And it's totally understandable because we've known our culture from birth. Unless we're exposed to other world views through travel, contact with people from different parts of world who live near us or in books that open our minds to different ways of looking at the world we use our standards as the RIGHT ones.

Last week in Young Adult Teen Tuesday I applauded the multi-cultural books that revealed different cultural norms and held up stereotypes scrutiny. Today I'm welcoming a writer with a new book that does exactly that. I think you'll enjoy meeting STEPHANIE JEFFERSON and learning about her book, PRINCESS KANDRAKE.




Hello Lee, thank you for this opportunity to share some of my thoughts here on your blog. When asked, I usually tell people the story of how I came to write this book in the first place.

One afternoon my 3 year-old granddaughter who loves to play dress-up came to me saying, “Nana, I want to be a princess. Where are all of the beautiful brown princesses?” She was pointing to a Disney ad at the time. It was imperative that I find a ‘beautiful brown princess’, immediately. The research began and once that was complete I started writing PRINCESS KANDAKE.



Coming up with the story wasn’t that difficult, but getting the publishing world to accept it was another thing. Once the novel was complete I had to sell it. I shopped it everywhere! I got great feedback, but no takers. This manuscript even made it to the semi-finals of the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. It got an outstanding review from Publishers Weekly. I was told by editors and agents alike that the writing is perfect, but… 

Here were some of the controversial issues of this story:
  • The main character is considered an adult at age 14. Frankly, I boosted her age for the sensitivities of western culture.
  • I refused to remove the reference to the baring of breast as an indication of coming of age. This is a cultural norm.
  • The fact that the main character is female and training to become a warrior is not treated as an oddity, or anything special for that culture.
  • The idea that Kandake would not want to rule is not treated as an issue of immaturity.
  • The historical fact that a female can rule in her own right, not because she married the king.
  • The idea of a brown princess.
  • The fact that a girl can do anything if she is willing to work hard enough.
These are all thoughts that go counter to western culture, particularly American culture. 
This is a story with a message: Being born brown or female or brown female does not stop you from being able to go after whatever dream you have. You don’t need to wait for someone to rescue you or tell you that you can. You do the rescuing. Your hard work will open the doors.

The book, PRINCESS Kandake: Warrior by Choice…Appointed to Rule, tells the story of a young girl who dreams of being a warrior, but life dictates that she will rule the kingdom of Nubia. Kandake decides to do what is best for her and for the kingdom. To do this she must learn the value of both—become both, queen and warrior.
Given the way western culture struggles with accepting cultures different than their own, I have two questions for you.



If the publishers had their way and put a ‘less ethnic-looking’ Kandake on the cover, how would that affect the book’s attractiveness to you?

In ancient Nubia (and many other cultures) young women announce their coming of age by the baring of their breasts. Does including this as part of the story offend you?



Writing this novel brought me more joy than I can tell. Knowing that my granddaughter will read a story that speaks to her particular beauty and strength puts my soul at rest. But this story is not only for her. It is for EVERY girl who wonders if she can. The answer to that is a resounding YES!

PS. The cover model is one of my beta readers. She’s beautiful, bright, and has a heart full of “I CAN!” By the way, I made the costume she’s wearing.

Get your copy of PRINCESS KANDAKE. It’s available in print and digital formats.


www.smashwords.combooks/view/118541 (for many other digital formats such as Sony, iBook, etc.)

Visit Stephanie at her WEBSITE  and her BLOG.

Thanks for your wonderful post, Stephanie. I've already looked up Nubia and want to know more about the country and its people. I appreciate your opening this culture to me.

34 comments:

  1. The cover model is gorgeous!

    Nothing irritates me more than one culture trying to change another because it offends their delicate sensibilities. Children need to learn about other ways of doing things, and if we change practices to suit our own ways, they'll never understand that.

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    1. That's right on, Talli. And travel is one of the best ways to open minds about those who are different than we are and see the world in different ways. Different shouldn't mean "wrong."

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  2. I agree with Talli. It's stupid that people would shy away from activities in other cultures just because it's different from their own.

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  3. The book looks amazing! I love learning about other cultures, and the story of a real world princess like this is wonderful. It's true that I don't write enough of other cultures, mostly because I'm afraid of getting it wrong.

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    1. We'd all get it wrong, but as long as it's our perception and it's honest that opens up all kinds of dialog that would otherwise not happen. We're different. That's what makes us all interesting. Thanks, Lisa. Great to have your comment here.

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  4. This book sounds awesome! Definitely something I will let my daughter read in a few years. She's 8 and very much into anything princess, and this story would show her that not all princesses, or even all girls, have to wear pink and find their prince. Thanks for this wonderful post!

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    1. How true that is, Adrienne. Princesses come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Isn't that wonderful?

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  5. The baring of the breasts doesn't offend me and I'm glad you stayed true to the culture in your book, Stephanie. Now, I bet Hollywood would change that if it's made into a movie. Some of my friends thought I was terrible when I let my kids watch The Emerald Forrest when they were young. The women were topless. The movie was based on a true story about a little white boy who was raised by a South American tribe. In this case Hollywood stayed true to the culture, but I'm sure many parents were up in arms about letting their kids watch it. I didn't keep my kids from looking through National Geographic magazines with photos of bare breasted women, and I also let them look at the photos from the book "A Child is Born," showing women giving birth and nursing. I don't consider myself a liberal but I think that if kids grew up with these things, they wouldn't be so taboo or offend so many people in Western culture.

    I love this post, Stephanie. Thanks, Lee, for having Stephanie guest post. I'm so glad you're doing this YA series!

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    1. I've always wondered what was so bad about our breasts that they had to be hidden. Thanks for your super comment, Lyn. And thanks for introducing me to Stephanie. I loved meeting her.

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  6. Hi Stephanie: I met you as a young, married, woman, then birth mother of the tiniest little "princess" I had ever seen (smile). I watched you grow and be adored "as a princess", always with a smile and encouragement. I have grown old now and watched you grow and mature to this point with much work and sacrifice. For you to strive, in writing, to put flesh on your little granddaughter's "princess dream" is no surprise, and I find it certainly fascinating that you found "Princess Kandrake" and have completed this beautiful work. Congratulations and God bless you. Sis. Sarah

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    1. How sweet. Thanks for stopping by Sis Sarah.

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  7. AS long as its true the the culture, no problem with the baring of breasts or anything else unconventional about this book but I'm so SAD that publishers wouldn't take it on for these reasons! I think it is a magnificent story idea and I plan to read it and hope my daughters will too.

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    1. Great, Margo. And I couldn't agree with you more. We need to see beyond what our own culture dictates as right and wrong. YA books would be a perfect way to promote that.

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. [Edit] Oopsie. Typo. :)
    -------------------------
    What a talented woman! Thanks for introducing her to us, Lee!

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  10. Interesting that the publishers wanted to change the look of the princess on the cover. When I saw the cover I immediately mentally applauded the authenticity of her look. We lived in a 'third world' (I hate that term) black country when my kids were younger and my 13 year old was regarded as an adult (not to mention her 15 year old sister). It was quite an eye opener but my kids thrived. Thank you for introducing me to this book.

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  11. What a fantastic story! Congrats to the author for writing a book that is so well-written and received so much praise. I think it is amazing that she made the outfit on the cover and knows the model. How brave to write a story as it needs to be written- not as others want it to be written. This sounds like a great story and I would love to read it!

    ~Jess
    http://thesecretdmsfilesoffairdaymorrow.blogspot.com/

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  12. Wow. This book sounds amazing. I love learning about other cultures. Thank you for this!

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  13. Lee, thanks for hosting Stephanie! Her book definitely sounds worth fighting for! Julie

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  14. If a book was about a lion would they expect you to put a picture of a cute kitten on the front? I think your cover is striking and fantastic, I would certainly pick it up and having read the story I'd read it. I have three teenage daughters, one bookworm and two who really are not into books (if I hadn't been there at the birth that alone would make me question their parentage!) Finding good stories with a strong female protagonist who is human (i.e. has failings, questions herself and makes mistakes) is very hard. Congratulations, I've just bought the kindle edtion to read myself :)

    Gillie

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    1. Good point! Thanks for buying the book and supporting this author.

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  15. I love how this book reeks of strong female energies! :) WE need more books like that in the world, and less of those damsel in distress things. :)Stephanie, great work, and Lee thanks for hosting!
    Happy weekend!

    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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    1. Great response! I loved the feel of this book, too! Thanks for stopping by.

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  16. What a great idea (and a great way to say thank you) using a beta reader for the cover model!

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    1. It is a great idea, and that teen is going to be the envy of a lot of readers.

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  17. There's not enough diversity. I get frustrated when the person on the cover isn't the same ethnicity as the character described inside the books. Cover skin tends to be lighter and hair is blonde instead of brown. What exactly are publishers afraid of?

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    1. And is every girl in the world slim and beautiful, even in those fantasy worlds where are the ones with a few warts?

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  18. Oh my gosh! Thank you all for your kind words of encouragement. Your words alone prove what I believe the world to be - a beautiful world of different and delicious scents to be thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed! It is my desire that we all become as Princess Kandake, women of purpose and strength. I know that the seeds are there, let's cultivate our crop and bring it to harvest! Thank you again.

    Stephanie Jefferson

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  19. Hello Stephanie, hello cleemckenzie!! I say GO FORTH AND CONQUER, Princess Kandake - you are beautiful, powerful and just all round amazing - an inspiration to all girls!

    Take care
    x

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  20. Stories should take us somewhere we don't know or can't go, not morph into something that fits snugly into our routine world. This sounds like a beautiful book.

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  21. This sounds a wonderful story. Thanks for featuring! I, of course, love to read about all other cultures.

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