FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK, NY — The National Coalition Against Censorship (USA) has been joined by freeDimensional and PEN International in issuing a statement ( read online ) opposing the decision of the Singapore National Library Board to remove and pulp three children’s books:And Tango Makes Three, The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption, and Who’s In My Family: All About Our Families, reportedly over their portrayal of families with same-sex parents and calling for the immediate reversal of the ban and reinstatement of the books to the National Library Board.
Read the rest here.
Full disclosure up front: this is a post that asks more questions than it has answers.
I was speaking with a librarian the other day who told me that one of her challenges was handling the myriad restrictions parents put on their kids’ reading. In one specific case a mom complained about a middle grade novel that discussed how to tell the gender of one of the character’s pets. The parent felt this type of discussion was inappropriate. Of course it is important to be sensitive to a parent’s wishes when it comes to their children, and it brought into stark relief the difficult task that both teachers and children’s librarians have in recommending books to their students and patrons.
But my immediate reaction upon hearing that story was disbelief: surely, biology was not an off-limits topic in middle school? And the immediacy of my reaction forced me to face my own prejudices.
Although I was raised in a conservative Muslim family, there was one thing that was never policed in my household, and that was books. Maybe this was partly self-preservation on the part of my parents. As one of five kids, there was no way they would be able to keep up with helicoptering all of us. And maybe it was also a function of how we were being educated. My parents sent us to a Catholic school because they wanted remembrance of God to part of our daily life, and taught us our own faith through active discussions of the differences and similarities between what we were learning in school, and what we believed at home. I got used to learning all things comparatively, comfortable in the gray areas, and my knee-jerk assumption is that this is the best way to teach kids.
It’s not. Of course it’s not. It’s just one way.
La Casa Azul, a NYC bookstore, is holding a summer book drive for children who are currently in deportation proceedings in the area. The bookstore is working with the Unaccompanied Latin-American Minor Project (U-LAMP) and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice/Safe Passage Project on this initiative.
Books for the drive will be accepted from Thursday July 10th - Sunday August 10, 2014.
Learn more here.
“I do think that things have gotten better. Of course, as has been widely reported, if you look at the numbers of main characters of color in children’s books, the stats have stayed stagnant. But I do think that the quality of books featuring characters of color has improved (fewer stereotypical depictions, more variety), and also, if you look at the total number of diverse characters in books, I believe the numbers would be vastly improved. When I was a kid, I could probably count the number of Asian characters in the books I read on one hand. Now I see them everywhere.”
Alvina Ling, founding member of the CBC Diversity Committee, in an interview with Goodreads on how she found her way into publishing, why diversity in publishing is complicated (but improving), and her newest multicultural project. Check out the whole interview here.
More than ten years ago, David Levithan’s ‘Boy Meets Boy’ was released. Since that time, many more young adult books featuring LGBTQ stories have been published. In an interview with ‘The Associated Press,’ he talks about both the community and the state of these books.
"There is constantly a need for diversity within the representations. It’s just as limiting to say there’s only one kind of gay story, just as it’s limiting to say there’s only one kind of straight one."
Read more here.
Ezra Jack Keats, “So he made a smiling snowman, and he made angels.” Final illustration for The Snowy Day, 1960. Collage and paint on board. Ezra Jack Keats Papers, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi. Copyright Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.
An exhibit dedicated to the art of Ezra Jack Keats will be on display until September 7, 2014 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.
Learn more here.
“Within just a few hours of learning of your decision, I received an email from a teen reader going into her sophomore year of high school. Which means that, if we’re doing the math, she was in exactly the age group that you’ve deemed “not yet prepared” for my novel when she read it. This student told me a little about the difficulties she’s having getting her parents to accept her sexuality, adding: “…the way you describe Cameron and her challenges, made me fall completely in love with her as well as see parts of myself in her…Your writing completely captivated me, and I hope I will be able to do that someday.”
I think it’s incredibly unfortunate that your decision to remove my book from your summer reading list may well keep a student just like this one—a student who might be too embarrassed or unsure to, on their own, pick up a novel with subject matter like mine—from choosing my book “safely” as part of a larger class assignment.”