I am so excited to be taking part in the blog tour for All Four Stars by Tara Dairman. This tour is brought to you by the ladies over at The Midnight Garden Blog Tours and the novel is one that I loved! Later this week I’ll be posting my review but today you can read Tara’s guest post about diversity in her life (and the novel) & enter to win a pretty finished copy for yourself!
Guest Post by Tara Dairman
Diversity is Delicious
Unlike Gladys Gatsby, the star of All Four Stars, I didn’t grow up eating adventurously. I was actually a lot more like her picky friend Parm Singh—content to subsist on spaghetti, cereal, and multivitamins, and never try anything new.
That all changed—as unlikely as it may sound—in my high school math class.
Well, I guess I should say after math class. See, my math teacher, Mr. Rudolph, ran a kind of arts appreciation club called Club X. Several times a year, he would chaperone the members into New York City to see a performance at the ballet, opera, or philharmonic. But before we arrived at Lincoln Center, we always stopped to eat an ethnic restaurant.
This part of the outing was nonnegotiable—there was no sneaking off next door for McDonald’s if, like me, you didn’t have the most daring palate. So, faced with the options of trying something new or starving, I decided to try.
The names of the symphonies I heard on those trips have long since faded from my memory, but the restaurants haven’t. I can still see the round tin bowls in which my first Indian curries were served. I can picture the dining room of the Japanese restaurant in which I first learned (by necessity—Mr. Rudolph had banned forks) to use chopsticks. I remember my first taste of satay at a Malaysian restaurant, my first spongy bite of injera at an Ethiopian one. Bite by delicious bite, I overcame my pickiness and fell in love with the cuisines of many faraway places.
Mr. Rudolph really only had one rule for the members of Club X, and it was that we were not allowed to list the club as an extracurricular activity on our college applications. The whole point of Club X outings was to have experiences for the experiences’ sake. At the time, I thought that was a pretty stupid rule, but now I realize that it was probably the most important lesson I learned in high school. Those Club X outings taught me to embrace new experiences rather than dread them, and directly set me up to become the cook, traveler, and writer I am today.
There’s been a lot of excellent discussion of late about diversity in children’s literature, and one issue that I’ve seen brought up a lot is that of authenticity. Can a writer who belongs to one culture step outside of his or her own narrow experience to convincingly, and respectfully, create a character who comes from a different culture?
I certainly don’t have all of the answers—but when I’m creating a new character, I’ve found that food can serve as an excellent starting point. What does this character like to eat? How do his preferences jive—or clash—with his parents’? Does food bring her family members together, or drive them apart? For me, asking these questions is an easy way to get outside of my bubble. Eating is universal (everybody does it!), but it’s also specific, since differences in the ways people eat can highlight the uniqueness of their cultures, their families, and themselves.
My bubble has certainly expanded since high school, and I’m proud that a lot of the diverse foods I included in All Four Stars are favorites of mine from real life. But I’m still seeking new experiences—culinary and otherwise—all the time. “Write what you know” is a popular adage for authors who seek to write with authenticity, and at this point I feel pretty confident that I know a good deal about a lot of different kinds of food. But that wasn’t the culture I grew up in—and I never would have developed that expertise if someone hadn’t challenged me, at a tender age, to let myself be uncomfortable; to try something new; to know more.
About the Author
Tara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering round-the-world traveler (two years, seventy-four countries!). She grew up in New York, received a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College, and worked for several years as a magazine editor, managing freelance writers that she never met face-to-face. While in that job, Tara realized that she could probably be tricked into publishing an article by a kid if the writing was good enough and the kid sent professional-sounding e-mails. Voilà: the premise for her first novel, All Four Stars, was born.
This post is part of The All Four Stars blog tour. Be sure to check out all of the other stops:
Tuesday, July 1st The Midnight Garden (Kick Off Post!)
Wednesday, July 2nd The Reading Date
Thursday, July 3rd For What It’s Worth
Friday, July 4th The Spirit of Children’s Literature
Monday, July 7th Xpresso Reads
Tuesday, July 8th For the Love of Words
Wednesday, July 9th Finding Bliss in Books
Thursday, July 10th Candace’s Book Blog
As part of the All Four Stars blog tour you can enter to win one of 8 finished copies of the novel!
- Open to US and Canada only
- Full contest terms and conditions found on Rafflecopter