Listen and read this interesting interview with caseworker turned writer Coe Booth on her new book Kinda Like Brothers. For a taste, check out one of the interview highlights below.
On a scene where young boys at the community center receive advice on what to do when stopped by the police
That scene begins with Jarrett walking up and seeing a counselor at the center getting stopped and frisked for no reason. And it really disturbs him; he’s just really angry. That afternoon a guy comes over to the center … and he just tells them, “I’m going to keep it real with you guys, you black and Latino boys are going to get stopped a lot. And it doesn’t matter what you do, or what you didn’t do. It’s just because of who you are. And in the meantime, I need to teach you what to do when the cops stop you — not if, when.”
I think any parent or anybody who is dealing with young black boys — as is what’s happening at the community center in this book — I think every single community center has had this conversation with their boys. And it’s just so sad that we have to do this, but we do, and I hope that changes. I don’t know if what’s going on in Ferguson will change that, but I do hope it at least continues that conversation, because it’s just exhausting that this is still going on in 2014.
Are We Really Ready For Unstoppable Characters Of Color?
When my first novel, The Skin I’m In was published in 1997, it was hailed for the distinct voice and spot-on insight of its main character, Maleeka Madison, who is being bullied in the novel and confronted with issues of colorism. In Begging for Change, my main character Raspberry Hill is a girl who knows what she wants and needs and goes for it by using her wits as well as her entrepreneurial skills. In Pinned, my most recent novel, Autumn is a teenager who exhibits her strength as the team’s star wrestler, despite her struggles in school. Autumn is strong, bold, courageous and open-minded. I receive letters from kids who want to be just like Maleeka, Raspberry, and Autumn – kids who are outspoken, resilient, creative, and aspire to become strong women once they’re grown.
But it seems that smart, outspoken, straight-ahead African American girls in books are still frowned upon by gatekeepers and those who serve up books to kids. In my latest novel, Unstoppable Octobia May, which will publish this fall, ten-year-old Octobia is sent to live in her aunt Shuma’s boarding house where she is given the gift of freedom. Freedom to dream, imagine, explore, question and walk the planet whole and complete.
“The goal is not to maintain the status quo but with more diverse faces. The goal is to address and repair the historical and present day injustices. There is no magic number at which you have “enough” diverse people on staff or “enough” diverse books on your shelf or “enough” diverse people shortlisted for the Giller Prize. We will not be successful until people who are marginalized are no longer marginalized.”—Léonicka Valcius, ‘Proportional Representation’ Has No Place In Diversity Discussions (via richincolor)
To Achieve Diversity In Publishing, A Difficult Dialogue Beats Silencenpr.org
Johnny Temple is the founder of the independent Akashic Books, which is located in a converted warehouse in Brooklyn. Akashic prides itself on its eclectic mix of titles and the ethnic diversity of its authors. The company’s motto is “reverse gentrification of the literary world,” because, Temple says, they want to attract readers from all kinds of racial and economic backgrounds.
“If the industry doesn’t get more economically and ethnically diverse, it’s just going to be a pit that people are not going to be able to climb out of, as this certain cultural sphere becomes less relevant to the population at large.”
What is needed, argues [Daniel José] Older, is an industrywide conversation that looks honestly at the role race and class play in the business of publishing.
“Everyone in the industry needs to be able to step back from their privilege, step back from defensiveness, and have conversations about how the industry and them being in their place of privilege in the industry is causing literature itself and writers in general to not be thriving in the way that it could be.”
–Lynn Neary, NPR Code Switch
What great food for thought to turn into action.
Make sure to read the full article and delve into the comments.
“The fact is, the only way to really make the superhero universe look like America (and by extension, the world) is to create fresh, new heroes who represent us in all our vibrant diversity, with origin stories that are authentic to their identities.”—–Jeff Yang, We need Asian-American superheroes
“This summer, the Islesford Historical Museum on Little Cranberry Island is hosting an exhibition about Bryan’s life and 70-year career as a painter, poet, children’s book illustrator and puppet maker. The exhibition, “A Visit with Ashley Bryan,” is on view through Sept. 20. It encompasses Bryan’s array of creative expression.
It also serves as a precursor to what friends and family hope will be a permanent study center dedicated not just to Bryan’s art, but his approach to life, which his friends describe as joyful and absent of cynicism.”
–Bob Keyes, Author and Illustrator Ashley Bryan comes of age
“As people who work with youth, we must continually examine our culture and engage with teens to break down these harmful stereotypes. One way to do this is through collection development. Whatever our personal bias, we must actively develop diverse collections, and seek and purchase titles with varying discussions about teenage sexuality.”—–School Library Journal, How To Create Safe Space From Slut-Shaming: A Librarian’s Guide
“You know those basic lessons we try to teach to our littlest patrons? The ones we hope will foster empathy, growth, thoughtfulness in them? The ones we hope will make them better people as they grow? They can – and should – apply to us too. It can be a much easier first step if you’ll just think of it along those lines.
Stop. Consider. Listen. BELIEVE. Change.
from We Can Do Better: Continuing the Conversation on Anti-Racism by Angie Manfredi
Your must-read post. Whether you’re a librarian or not, this is about being a better person and understanding another person’s lived experience.
A PERSONAL MOMENT OF REFLECTION – COURTESY OF THE LITTLEST OF READERS
One of the things that I enjoy the most about working in the children’s publishing industry is the fact that I have three little nephews (all under the age of four) who LOVE to read. Love to read in the way that I love to read, devouring every book they can get their hands on, ooh-ing and aah-ing over the interactive eBooks on my iPad, and uncovering new worlds through the pages. It’s fun and a delight for me to see just how much they adore the books that my colleagues and I work so hard to bring to the attention of the world.
One of the most entertaining things to see is just how these little boys decipher and discover books, and how they connect with each story on an individual level, all very differently, but with one thing in common – they all connect to specific characters inside the books they love. The oldest (age 3 ½) now play-acts regularly as the characters inside his favorite books – imagining himself within the story and within the worlds he’s read about.
On my most recent visit, this connection that I saw formed in real-time to these books at such a young age cemented a simple truth with me (that I often forget). What kids read from the youngest age can shape so much of who they are, and who they see themselves becoming – from the superhero who saves the day to the kid who successfully conquers his fear of the monster under the bed. Before becoming jaded or overly affected by the world beyond the comforts of mom and dad, kids are influenced so much (at the least the ones who are encouraged to celebrate story time!) by what they see on the printed (and digital) page, and how those characters relate and connect to them, and the people they know.
At the beginning of 2014, the Diversity Committee finished its first meeting of the year with answering the questions “How do we want to move forward?” and “What perspectives haven’t we covered on the blog just yet?” After discussing some of the interesting high points of 2013, one aspect kept sticking out.
The committee loves hearing from actual kids.
The term “actual” is important here because we’re referring to hearing kids’ and teens’ opinions, not their “collective” opinions through librarians and teachers—the adults in their lives with which publishers are more likely to communicate.
We all know that kids have opinions, and they are very honest about them, so the Committee wanted to find a way to give the youth of our nation a way to speak up about the diversity in the literature they see, what they want more of, and what they want to change.
Serendipitously, Rebecca Lallier, M.Ed., the School Counselor for the Dothan Brook School in Vermont found the Children’s Book Council and presented a project she facilitated with the school’s 5th graders. Here’s the project in Rebecca’s words:
One of the most pressing conversations in the YA Lit world is the need for more diverse books. A panel in the LeakyCon Lit Track let us explore that topic with a few of our Leaky Lit authors: Gayle Forman, Laurie Halse Anderson, Malinda Lo, Alaya Dawn Johnson, and Varian Johnson. The panel was moderated by Cheryl Klein, senior editor at Arthur L. Levine Books. The panel brought out fascinating conversation, criticism, passion, and emotion. It’s an issue no one takes lightly and everyone knows must be discussed and changed. As more than one of the authors noted, authors need to write the stories they never had the chance to read.
Since it would take an all-out transcript to really get to everything that was discussed, I pulled out four key take-aways from the Diversity in YA panel.
Gene Luen Yang's Chat with GalleyCatmediabistro.com
When we last spoke with graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang, his advice for writers is to “give up TV.” Since then, he has been hard at work on a collaborative project with artist Sonny Liew reviving the story of an Asian American superhero called The Green Turtle. First Second, an imprint of the Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, released the print edition of The Shadow Hero earlier this week. We spoke with Yang to learn his insights on diversity, collaboration, and mapping out a career in publishing.
Intersectionality and Disability | Disability in Kidlitdisabilityinkidlit.wordpress.com
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.