Raise Your Voice 2016 with Lily Anderson

Raise Your Voice is a special annual month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader whose purpose is to celebrate diversity and inclusivity in literature, with a particular emphasis on #OwnVoices stories. In it, authors recommend books with sensitive, positive and accurate representation that will help to create a resource of diverse books that marginalized readers can turn to when they need them most. Your voice matters. Raise it! For a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates, click here.

About Lily Anderson

Lily Anderson is a school librarian and Melvil Dewey fangirl with an ever-growing collection of musical theater tattoos and Harry Potter ephemera. She lives in Northern California, far from her mortal enemy: the snow.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterTumblrFacebookGoodreads

(You can add Too Many Tamales to your Goodreads shelves Here!)

As an adult, I refer to myself as Afro-Latinx, but growing up I always dutifully listed my ethnicities like they were a check list, “Black, white, and Puerto Rican.”

On my mother’s side, we’re all mixed race. And, among the cousins, we’re all girls. My grandmother, an elementary school teacher, always had quality kids books around: books I recognized from Reading Rainbow and Coretta Scott King award winners, books that we’d now call diverse, but back then were just new and exciting. It was thanks to my grandmother’s picture book selection that I never had to hunt for books about other children of color. There was Mary Hoffman’s Amazing Grace and John Steptoe’s Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters and Virginia Hamilton’s The People Could Fly, but there was one story in particular that stood out most: Gary Soto’s Too Many Tamales.

Too Many Tamales is a fairly simple Christmas story. While helping make tamales for Christmas Eve, Maria tries on her mother’s diamond ring and loses it in the masa. She doesn’t realize her mistake until the tamales are already cooked, so she enlists the help of her cousins to eat all of tamales until they find the ring. Hijinks ensue, lessons are learned, the end.

Unlike the book, there weren’t actually tamales at my grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve. Usually we had gumbo. And there wasn’t snow. We were in Vacaville, California in the early 90s, where the creeks flooded sometimes, but it never got much colder than fifty degrees. But the characters in Too Many Tamales looked like us. The girls are all wearing holiday dresses with lace collars, just like the ones my cousins and I all ended up inheriting from each other. Their shoes are patent-leather. Their hair is pulled back with big bows and headbands. It’s the early 90s, baby, and everyone’s clothes are ruffled and itchy.

Truly, Too Many Tamales could be an episode of a sitcom of the same era – Michelle from Full House loses something precious and resorts to shenanigans to fix it, ultimately learning her lesson as synth music plays – except that it’s not about white people. It’s a Christmas book where literally everyone is a person of color. And, in 1993 when it came out, that was totally revolutionary to me. There was no codeswitching, no unfamiliar white American dishes (marshmallows on sweet potatoes? what the what?), and no Christmas miracle ending.

What it had was a family that felt like my family, my first inkling that there were other people like us – big families full of brown girls wearing ridiculously fancy dresses and getting in trouble and then eating something homemade and yummy and decidedly non-white.

It felt like being seen.

Title The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You
Author Lily Anderson
Pages 352 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Published May 17th, 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West – and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing – down to number four.

Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben’s, including give up sleep and comic books – well, maybe not comic books – but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it’s time to declare a champion once and for all.

The war is Trixie’s for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben’s best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben’s cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie’s best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they’re on – and they might not pick the same side.

One response to “Raise Your Voice 2016 with Lily Anderson”

  1. Thank you Pop! Goes The Reader for doing this annual month-long series about diversity and inclusivity in literature. It is a great motivator for those of us who feel are not represented enough in literature. I would add that minorities are not represented enough in much of anything.

    Reading in this post that Lily Anderson is part Puerto Rican, like me, was an enormous encouragement.
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