An Informal Study: Do Book Challenges Suppress Diversity?slj.com
In an informal study of the top banned books since 2000, young adult author and Diversity in YA cofounder Malinda Lo reveals that 52 percent of challenged titles have diverse content or are written by a diverse author.
In an e-mail to School Library Journal Malinda Lo comments on the reaction she received after sharing her research publicly:
“I’ve been very gratified by the positive response to the post, and I hope it makes everyone involved with censorship issues look beyond the stated reasons for a book challenge, because I suspect those publicly stated reasons are sometimes hiding ulterior motives.”
Researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, are revolutionizing reading for the visually impaired. The ‘Tactile Picture Books Project’ uses 3-D printing to create books that children can explore through touch.
“But why are so many of these characters white, straight, able-bodied and middle-class?” asked Dawson. “Malorie did not say there are too many white faces in children’s books, but I will. There, I just did. Put that on Sky News.”
Dawson attributed the lack of diverse books to the quest for sales. “Marketing is key here, clearly, but what it boils down to is fear that a book won’t reach its biggest possible audience and lose money. To me this creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we think books about minorities don’t sell, we don’t put them in bookshops where they – big surprise – can’t possibly sell.” His mixed-race character Alisha would not be on the cover of his novel Cruel Summer “because of market research about what readers bought”, he added, saying there is “an abundance of white faces on covers” in children’s sections in bookshops.”—
A month after UK Children’s Laureate Malarie Blackman was harassed for her thoughts on the need to diversify children’s literature, UK author James Dawson speaks up against the inequity of the publishing industry to industry professionals at the Patrick Hardy annual lecture.
Read the full article, James Dawson: ‘There are too many white faces’ in kids’ books, here.
Call for 2015 Carter G. Woodson Book Award Nominationscbcbooks.org
The National Council for the Social Studies is now accepting submissions for the Carter G. Woodson Book Award. Established in 1974, the award honors the most distinguished non-fiction books for young readers that document ethnicity in the United States. All nominated books must be received postmarked no later than October 10, 2014.
ALA Committee to Focus 2014 Banned Books Week On Comics & Graphic Novelscbcbooks.org
Every year, the American Library Association organizes Banned Books Week to celebrate literacy and counteract censorship. This year, the committee plans to shine the spotlight on comics and graphic novels. Some of the titles that have come under fire in the past include the Bone series by Jeff Smith, the two-volume Persepolis books by Marjane Satrapi, and The Amazing Spider-Man series created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
Cassandra Clare & Holly Black On the Importance of Diversitycbcbooks.org
‘The Iron Trial,’ the first installment of a middle grade series written by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, has been published. Both authors sat down for an interview and talked about the importance of diversity. They agreed as partners that their book should feature diverse characters.
When writing diverse books, we’re writing about choices—and the things we can’t choose. Harry Potter could have chosen not to go to Hogwarts, but spending the rest of his youth with the incorrigible Dursleys would’ve sucked for all involved—Harry, the Dursleys, and the readers who became readers because of the boy wizard. Katniss Everdeen didn’t have to volunteer as tribute in The Hunger Games in place of Prim, but life in District 12 was bleak enough without watching someone act like her younger sister’s name wasn’t announced for a battle to the death. There are choices characters—and people—make because the alternative is simply unspeakable. But then there are the ones who don’t have a choice at all. They don’t choose to be Latino, they don’t choose mental illness, they don’t choose their sexual orientation. Who gives them a voice? I, along with many others, volunteer as tribute.
When I write a story, I often don’t think about diversity. I don’t think about how many characters I should have of a certain ethnic or cultural background, or about whether I meet a quota on how many different types of people I have on the page. I don’t think about if what I am doing is unique or perhaps not as mainstream. If I thought about all of those things, I probably wouldn’t have written the books that I have, or will hopefully, continue to write.
When I do write a story, I think about people I know in real life. I think about issues I would like to explore or think need more attention. I think about books that I wish I had as a teenager and think about the books I appreciated from that period of my life. I think about how I still have so much to learn, not just about writing, but about the world, and people that make the world complex, interesting and beautiful.
As proud members of the CBC Diversity Committee, we—Wendy Lamb and Dan Ehrenhaft—volunteered back in March to write a blog post, scheduled for this week. It was to be about unacknowledged, unconscious racism in YA. Our idea at the time was to make the blog post funny. Well, maybe not funny, but lighthearted. Sort of in the vein of the song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” from Avenue Q. We wanted to laugh at the truth as a conversation starter.
That’s the future. Right now is no time for a joke.
What’s going on in our country is deadly, and dead serious.
I have an eight year old son. He is funny, and charming, and clever. He likes giraffes. And robots. A lot. I think if there were a giraffe robot somewhere his heart would explode from joy. Based on the debris in his room, he may be building one. He likes to build things. We made a lab in his closet so our parental need for a clean room wouldn’t impinge on his creativity. (I’m sorry to say it still does sometimes, but I’m happy to say his lab is seriously awesome.)
There’s one other thing I’d like to tell you about my son. I fear for his life.
Young black men are a target in this country. Make no mistake about it. No matter what their personality traits, or their achievements, or their virtues, for some people they represent only one thing: a threat.
These are only the most recognizable recent deaths. There are many others. It has been going on since before Emmett Till.
The publishing industry seems very far away from the incidents in Ferguson and other places where young unarmed black men were killed for no reason. But there is something that we as book creators can do about it. We can make more books by black writers that feature black protagonists. I don’t have to tell anyone reading this blog that reading builds empathy, that books can bind us together. But I do want to say that books can stop bullets. Systemic racism can be subverted by systemic acceptance. And it’s up to all of us.
“Let’s start with what we don’t know: the precise circumstances under which a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., shot dead an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown.
But here’s what evidence does strongly suggest: Young black men in America suffer from widespread racism and stereotyping, by all society — including African-Americans themselves.
Research in the last couple of decades suggests that the problem is not so much overt racists. Rather, the larger problem is a broad swath of people who consider themselves enlightened, who intellectually believe in racial equality, who deplore discrimination, yet who harbor unconscious attitudes that result in discriminatory policies and behavior.”—–Nicholas Kristof starts his op-ed piece for the New York Times entitled Is Everyone a Little Bit Racist? with the above statements. Read the full article to see how employers, doctors, and the general population playing a video game showcase attitudes that result in discrimination.