Disability in Kidlit has been going strong for a year (big congrats!) and to celebrate they are embracing the discussion post format once again. Check out this question that they posed to some of their contributors and their thoughtful answers:
Why is it that diversity in young adult, middle grade, and children’s literature is often represented as an either/or, without intersectionality? Characters can either be autistic or gay, for example, or a wheelchair user or Black, but rarely both. Why do you think we see so few characters who are marginalized in more than one way?
Snippets of their responses:
Marieke Nijkamp: And if you feel characters have to have a reason to be multi-dimensional, multi-diverse? I’d love to see an equally legitimate reason for characters to be white AND straight AND able-bodied AND middle class AND AND AND.
S. Jae-Jones: In my opinion, it all comes back to this mainstream idea of a “default”. The “default” is relatable. Stray too far from it, and it won’t sell.
Corinne Duyvis: It’s such a multi-faceted problem: first there’s the fact that most people don’t even see the need for these characters–as though people like me aren’t just as real and valid as the cishet-white-abled people who are often written about, and as though we don’t need representation just as much or more.
s.e. smith: The fact is that many people have intersectional identities. Minority teens rarely get to see themselves in text at all, and those who experience multiple oppressions find it even harder to locate books that tell their stories.
Natalie Monroe: I personally think it’s because writers believe once a diverse element is added (ex: queer, ethnicity…), it’s done. Their book is now ‘diverse’ and ‘realistic’. But real life isn’t just one ball in a column, it’s a whole jumble of multicolored spheres across rows of columns.
Please tell us about the most recent diverse book you published.
I recently published Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott. This novel is about Sam, a Mexican American teen who’s in a depressed state due to the breakdown of his family. He’s pretty much getting by in life by being a slacker, always remaining under the radar so he can fade into the background. But then he’s paired in English class with the much feared Carlos, a Latino who is said to be in a hardcore gang. Together the two team up in a poetry slam contest and emerge, after much introspection and hard work, as very capable, talented students. It’s a book about breaking boundaries and stereotypes, as well as friendship, tragedy, and the power of words.
What is one factor holding you back from publishing more diverse books?
Nothing is holding me back from publishing diverse books — it’s very much something that I feel passionate about doing. I don’t feel I see enough submissions about diverse characters just living in the world and experiencing life through strong storytelling. In other words, submissions where the story is the story and the characters just happen to be Latino or African American rather than their diversity driving the storyline. I tend to see more agenda-oriented books on the topic and these can be harder to position and market, and are often less appealing to young readers.
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.