I feel pressured to make most of my characters a POC because of the tumblr community :/
The call and the pressure for representation did not begin with tumblr communities, but I can help you relieve this pressure:
Step One: When people call for diversity and representation for an underrepresented group of people, pay attention. Don’t get defensive. Don’t use a :/ in response as if characters of color are inferior or as if someone wanting representation is a bad thing.
Step Two: Research POC in fiction, research problematic portrayals, research what not to do, research why representation is important, research harmful tropes. and read blogs written by POC that are about POC in the media and in fiction.
Step Three: Write characters of color. Keep your research in mind when writing.
Step Four: If you make mistakes, learn from them. It’s okay to mess up as long as you correct your mistakes and respond to criticisms of your mistakes in a professional, calm, and respectful way. Keep writing.
Step Five: Don’t expect praise.
Step Six: For lgbt+ characters, well-written female characters, and for writing cultures or religions other than your own, repeat steps 1-5.
Step Seven: By following these steps, you are bettering yourself as a writer, as a reader, and as a person. Writing should not be a chore.
When you stop seeing the act of writing POC as a chore or as a burden and when you realize the importance of representation, the pressure will be lifted.
A panelist's take on the Diversity 101 ALA Midwinter Discussion
Contributed by Connie Hsu
This year, I had the honor of joining some very insightful, experienced, and passionate people on a panel sponsored by the CBC Diversity. The session touched on what CBC Diversity has been up to, with a focus on the Diversity 101 series we feature on our blog, as well as ALSC’s Día initiative, dedicated to helping librarians work with their community to build interest and excitement for literacy dedicated to all children from all backgrounds. You can find out more about Día (short for “Diversity in Action) here. (Shameless plug—their book list includes Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel by Diana Lopéz!)
Last year’s panel, which you can listen to here, introduced librarians to the CBC Diversity committee and our mission to increase diversity on all levels of publishing, from our authors and the stories they create to the professionals working in every level from this field. And we in turn learned from a few participating librarians just how brightly passions burned for more attention to this mission.
This year, we brought a little more diversity to the panel. By diverse I mean that we included a terrific librarian representative (Ana-Elba Pavon from the Oakland Public Library) as well as a larger group of editors from a range of publishers (Dan Ehrenhaft of Soho Teen, Wendy Lamb of Penguin Random House, Cheryl Klein of Scholastic, who was our moderator, and me, representing Little, Brown Books for Young Readers).
2014 AIYLA Announced - American Indian Library Associationailanet.org
The American Indian Youth Literature Awards are presented every two years. The awards were established as a way to identify and honor the very best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians. Books selected to receive the award will present American Indians in the fullness of their humanity in the present and past contexts.
We all know about the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, Coretta Scott King, and Pura Belpre, but here’s another very important award given out by the American Indian Library Association that should be on everyone’s watch list.
A huge congrats to all of the winners and honorees!
Please tell us about the most recent diverse book you published.
I have two answers for that, both examples of the different ways I would define “diversity”:
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson, a fully-illustrated work of narrative nonfiction, tells the story of the African American experience through the lens of an “everywoman,” an elder whose own family history has spanned decades and intersected with defining moments in American history. It’s an extraordinary book which received a Coretta Scott King Medal and an Honor, for writing and illustration respectively. Kadir is an African American writer and artist, writing about his own heritage, which is probably the first way anyone might define a diverse book.
The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas is a less obvious example. It is a teen fantasy, the first in a trilogy, set partly in 19th century England and partly in a magical world parallel to our own. What makes the book “diverse” for me is that Sherry is a Chinese immigrant who came to the States when she was thirteen years old.
While I actively look for stories in which the authentic experience of race, ethnicity, or religion is explored, I also think we need more diversity of authors, period, who just write great stories, whether or not they feature diverse characters. I would never want diverse authors to be pigeonholed.
Will you be at ALA Midwinter this year? CBC Diversity will!
After our very interesting introductory panel at last year’s ALA Midwinter, we’re so very excited about our upcoming panel focusing on our successful Diversity 101 series and highlighting ALSC’s Día initiative. If you’ll be at ALA Midwinter this year, please consider attending our event and continuing the diversity in children’s and young adult books conversation with us in person!
Mitali's Fire Escape: Race, Culture, and Power in Children's Storiesmitaliblog.com
Writer Mitali Perkins has been teaching a course at Saint Mary’s College of California called “Race, Culture, and Power in Children’s Stories.” She plans to lead discussions on topics such as analytical writing, authenticity in storytelling, and the messages about race and culture presented in children’s books.
At one point in the course, Perkins will talk about faces and question whether or not young adult and middle grade novels should depict faces on the jackets. Is it appropriate to feature faces on book covers? Perkins shared two presentations constructed by her students with points that support both arguments.
While the earthquake is the climax of the novel, Serafina’s story is about so much more than the natural disaster. Can you talk about how Serafina and her story took shape?
What struck me most about the Haitian people is their resiliency. The earthquake was a cataclysmic disaster, but it is not the only one the Haitian people have suffered. In addition to floods, mudslides, and other forces of nature, there is a daily struggle with poverty, hunger, and a lack of clean water. Constant political upheaval has also taken its toll. And yet, if you look at the faces of Haiti’s children, you will see bright, beautiful smiles. If you listen to their voices, you will hear laughter and song. They are part of a vibrant heritage, filled with music, dancing, rich customs, and traditions. I wanted Serafina to be an embodiment of that buoyant Haitian spirit. More and more, I’ve come to understand that writing is less about creating than it is about listening. When I listened to the voices of Haiti’s children, I heard the joyful hope that is the birthright of children everywhere. Eventually, a single voice—Serafina’s voice—began to play in my mind. I listened and followed.
“If you’re going to create an atypical hero—she’s a girl, she’s not as pretty, or maybe she’s clumsy—you’re going to raise her to the rank of hero and let her save the day. Why not go deeper and get that girl who’s really at the bottom of the pile? Around the world, girls of color are the most marginalized group. So if you’re going to write a story about the marginalized, why not reach down and pick the darkest girl?”—
–Award-winning Haitian-American speculative fiction writer Ibi Aanu Zoboi
Read the whole conversation between Zetta Elliott and Ibi Aanu Zoboi in the article Black Girls Hunger for Heroes, Too: A Black Feminist Conversation on Fantasy Fiction for Teens.
Diversity 101: Inserting Spanish language into the English text to create an atmosphere
Contributed to CBC Diversity by Alma Flor Ada
My Personal Connection
A few years ago I was asked to contribute a story to an anthology. The story, which contained some words in Spanish, had been edited and proofread. And then, the editor told me, very enthusiastically, that her son, who was taking Spanish in High School had caught a mistake in my Spanish.
She then went on to explain to me that, in Spanish, words that refer to feminine beings end with an –a not an –o, and thus, the mother in the story calling her daughter “cariño” and not “cariña” was a mistake detected by her son that she had hastened to correct.
The word “cariño” is used in Spanish as an endearment, similar to “darling, love, sweetheart.” It has only one form. The word “cariña” does not exist, that is, it has never been used by any group of speakers, anywhere.
We all can make mistakes and I will always be thankful to anyone who discovers a typo or that queries a statement. But to believe that an English speaking High School student by having taken some Spanish courses is qualified to correct, without consulting, a native speaker with a PhD in Spanish literature shows the kind of presumption that generates prejudice, racism, and the stereotypes we want to eliminate.
There are two morals to this story.
Knowing a little bit of a language can get one into trouble.
Respect is deserved by all language and all speakers.