I grew up reading books by diverse authors and thinking about the characters who lived in them and the questions they raised. I went to a “good” college where we often discussed issues of race, culture, ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexuality. Yet here are a few of the things I wasn’t aware of when I started working as an editorial assistant in 2000:
The Clark Doll Experiment
The Indian burial ground trope
The term “white privilege”
That skin tone is a major source of sensitivity in many non-white communities
The strong dislike or discomfort many cultures feel toward anthropologists
The white savior cliche, in which a white person discovers the wonders of a native group, eventually becomes part of the group, is acclaimed as the best of them all, then leads them into battle against the white culture, which is trying to dominate the natives (see especially Dances with Wolves and Avatar)
That for all its charms, The Story of Babar ultimately reproduces a colonialist narrative about the superiority of European life to African life
Tell us about your most recent book and how you came to write it.
My most recent book is Minnie McClary Speaks Her Mind. Like most authors, I invest a lot of myself in my characters and I’ve had a lot to say apparently about things that aren’t right, that should be right. About how people should be treated regardless of ethnicity, gender, class, disability, sexual orientation, etc., etc. And I believe that children should be encouraged to think, not just fill in bubbles on state-mandated standardized tests. Miss Marx, Minnie’s teacher, is the kind of teacher I wish I had been when I taught middle-school years ago. She encourages the students to think, to question, and to write about the things that concern them. It takes courage, especially these days, to be the kind of teacher she is.
Do you think of yourself as a diverse author?
I hadn’t, I suppose because as a white woman I’m not considered “diverse”, but my beliefs certainly fall into that camp.