Thanks for agreeing to do this, Alyssa. The first diversity question today is how do you self identify?
Growing up in Hawaii, I thought of myself as Japanese American, when I thought of race at all. Because Hawaii is something like 50% Asian, I didn’t think of myself as “Asian”—until I moved to the Mainland for college. Suddenly I was aware of myself as a “minority” and a “person of color.” I started thinking of myself as Asian American, which I still do today.
How did your background influence your early reading habits, if at all?
I didn’t really pay much attention to my Japanese heritage, sad to say. I read whatever I liked—whatever the library had. The same childhood classics as everyone else. After Narnia and Middle Earth, lots and lots of fantasy.
Did you envision the characters in the fantasy books you read as white or as other races and ethnicities?
White mostly. When you’re reading about someone with red hair and violet eyes, well, she’s white. And when everyone you see in movies, TV, and books is white, you make assumptions. It was actually difficult for me to wrap my head around Ged (from Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea books) being brown-skinned—even though he’s clearly pseudo-Polynesian in the text. It took me a while to figure it out; the cover of my beloved paperback whitewashed him. The only other non-white characters I ran into were in Laurence Yep’s books. He seemed to be the only author at the time writing fantasy about Asian characters.
Children’s Book Council to Receive BookExpo America’s Industry Ambassador Awardcbcbooks.org
Norwalk, CT, May 19, 2015: BookExpo America (BEA) is pleased to
announce that the Children’s Book Council has been singled out to
receive this year’s Industry Ambassador Award. This will be the fifth
annual Industry Ambassador Award which is administered by BEA and which
has recognized major innovators and creative business leaders in the
book industry. While this is the first year that the award is being
bestowed on an organization in place of an individual, BEA show
organizers note that the Children’s Book Council’s work is both personal
and special for its dedication to fostering literacy, diversity and
education, making it eminently qualified to receive the award.
The Industry Ambassador Award will be presented by Steven Rosato, Show
Manager of BEA to Jon Colman, Executive Director of CBC at a ceremony at
this year’s BookExpo America on Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at 4:00pm in
Room 1E12/1E13/1E14 at the Javits Center in New York City. BEA, which is
North America’s largest trade book industry event, takes place May 27 –
(or Why I’m Grateful for Being Forced to Watch a Kid’s Show About Mermaids)
I was visiting my sister in Boston a month ago, and found myself amused (and strangely inspired) by watching, of all things, the kid’s show Bubble Guppies. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s basically a cartoon about a group of merperson preschoolers who go on adventures and learn life lessons in the sea (is merperson correct? Mermaid boys and girls who go to school in the ocean…I’m not sure why I’m looking for any of it to make logical sense. It’s cute and draws my two nephews in like flies).
The point is that this show follows your typical preschool cartoon formula. Present children with a group of very enthusiastic (one might say too enthusiastic) preschool characters who sing, smile a whole lot, and are oh so happy to make learning fun! What caught my attention in watching this show with my two-year-old nephew Cole one morning was that there was one kid in the group (named Nonny) who was clearly different than the rest. I’m not talking about the color of his skin or his cultural makeup (which this show represents nicely with a diverse cartoon cast), but his personality. Unlike the others in the show, Nonny rarely smiles (even when singing, which is amusing to watch. He has a permanent skeptical face). He’s shy, always looks wary of the goings-on around him, and is thoughtful and reserved. Basically he’s the kid I was as a child, the kid I see some of my friends have now, the kid who stays on the outside of the group until it’s safe to come in and play.
A Post That Has Nothing to Do with Sookie Stackhouse
Contributed to CBC Diversity by Christian Trimmer
“What are you?” “Uh…” “I mean, where are you from?” “Oh! Chicago.” “No, where are you from from?” “America?”
Throughout my life, I’ve had conversations like the above. It’s human nature to put people into categories, and I was not easily placed. I inherited my Vietnamese mother’s eyes and cheekbones and my white father’s nose and skin tone, giving me what has been called an “exotic” look.
From an early age, I made efforts to define my racial identity (something kids do as early as two years old, for themselves and others, according to a number of studies). As a boy, I identified as white. Other than my mom, who was the only one in her family to move to the United States, all of my relatives were white. The neighborhood I lived in was predominantly white. Plus, everyone on the TV shows I watched and in the books I read were white (or animals). On top of that, when I went to Little Saigon in Chicago with my mom, I felt distinctly “other.” It’s not surprising that I would choose to identify with my white half. Dr. Erin Winkler, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin, notes, “[C]hildren pick up on the ways in which whiteness is normalized and privileged in U.S. society…picture books, children’s movies, television, and children’s songs…all include subtle messages that whiteness is preferable.”
Every child in the world
deserves reading and literacy, not just those whose parents live in the free
Contributed to CBC Diversity by Deborah Jiang-Stein
At a time when most babies coo along with lullaby wind-up toys, my ambient sounds were women’s voices in small clusters and the wail of a siren across the prison compound for count time. Count is when prisoners report to their bunks in their cells or living units while the guards count the population. Three times a day for a year, the siren blasted in my backyard—the prison yard.
I was born in prison during the beginning of one of my birth mother’s many prison sentences. She was a heroin addict sentenced for drug-related crimes, much like many in prison today. She was in the first months of pregnancy at the time of her sentence, and I lived in the prison for a year until Child Protection Services removed me for placement into foster care. Later, I was adopted into a family of academics, my parents both English teachers.
But sometimes I’ve wondered: Did anyone read to me in prison? Was my birth mother allowed board books in the room I shared with her for the year we spent together?
It’s 1961. I’m 10, and in bed reading a book. My mother isn’t telling me to go outside and play because, first, we live on the 11th floor in an apartment building in New York City, and second, because playing outside always makes me wheeze.
The book I’m reading could be anything—though, if I’m really sick, it’s likely to be The Swiss Family Robinson. The Swiss Family is mostly male and much older than I, but the practical details of their island life and the girl who has built her own house all by herself are endlessly fascinating to me.
This is my special comfort book, but I also love The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and the Narnia series and the biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine from Mama’s nightstand, The Wind in the Willows, Nancy Drew, and A Wrinkle in Time. As an adopted only child, I find books about big, warm families of colorful siblings exotic and fascinating. But I like Little Men even more than Little Women. The boys of Plumfield School feel like a family even though they aren’t related by blood. I particularly identify with the musician Nathaniel, who is delicate and sensitive and lies a lot.
I’m a girl and I can’t read music, but I understand why he lies. I lie to stay out of trouble, too.
Publishing Professionals Provide Career Advice at Virtual Career Fairs
On April 1-2 and April 7-8, approximately 15 publishing professionals volunteered their time throughout the days to provide council and support, as well as advertise open jobs at their publishing houses, to the 100+ students who entered the Children’s Book Council chat room. At one point, 17 students clamored to ask their questions to the three publishing professionals assigned to the chat room.
Over the four days, it became clear that the students–mostly undergraduates attending schools in the Midwest or Southeast–were in one of two categories. They either knew they wanted to go into publishing and wanted answers on job openings and how to stand out amongst the crowd or they had never previously thought of publishing but were intrigued by the prospect and yearned for information on how their current interests would transfer into the industry.
The wise publishing professionals from various CBC Member publishing houses were more than happy to shed light on the application process, give chin-up advice, and relay their own tales of how they broke into the industry. The departments represented included sales, marketing, editorial, publicity, and human resources. Even though not every department in publishing was represented by a chat leader, many of the participants had held positions in various departments during their publishing tenure and others were able to discuss how they interacted with other departments to create the finished book.
The publishing chat leaders also pointed participants to many sources of information for further research.
Where to find publishing jobs, besides directly on the publishers’ websites:
Where to find information about how people got their start in publishing:
CBC Diversity How I Got into Publishing Series
Where to find information about what jobs are best for your major and where to look for summer internship information:
Useful Information to Break into the Book Business
At the end of each chat session, students showed their appreciation:
I just wanted to say that this has been the most informative chat I have been a part of today! Thank you for all of your help!
Thanks for your time and excellent advice!
I just wanted to let you know how helpful you and your coworkers were and I really appreciate all the advice you all have given me. Thank you.
Thank you all for your input. I have found this to be the most informative chat session for the career fair. I appreciate your sharing your career background and different sites/resources to explore.
This is a fascinating conversation and I plan to do some research with the links after this is over to explore what the publishing industry has to offer!
Thanks for answering my questions! You’ve given me some new things to consider - and helped me broaden my search!
With that amazing feedback, we thought it might be even more helpful to list a few of the most commonly asked questions with the real answers from the publishing professionals.
Here’s a snippet from an interview with Kim Firmston, author of Lorimer’s Stupid, a novel in the SideStreets series for reluctant readers, which covers teen angst, physical activity, and art. It also touches
on more serious issues like the misdiagnosis of ADHD and dyslexia and preserving self-esteem, even
in the face of parental disapproval.
What were your experiences growing up with dyslexia?
I was diagnosed with a learning
disability at an early age. I went to a special school in Edmonton for
the first two years of my life. I really liked school back then, but
even at that I struggled with reading. In Grade 3 I ended up at a
regular school, and that’s when things really fell apart. I had a hard
time. It wasn’t until I went to summer school that year that I actually
learned to read well. But even back then I loved reading and writing. I
wrote every day and I read mountains of comic books. In grade four I
went to a new school and my teacher was told I had a learning
disability. As a result I was sent to the back of the classroom to
colour for the year. In my teacher’s mind, having a learning disability
meant one simply could not learn. Later during my journey through
school I met up with some wonderful teachers who were able to help me
discover the best ways for me to learn – even if they were different
from everyone else’s. Now I tell people I have dyslexia right off the
bat. That way when they say, “Good afternoon.” and I blurt out “Good
morning.” we can laugh it off. Dyslexia always seems to make the
opposite thing come out of my mouth. It can be really frustrating, like
when I’m trying to give directions, but most of the time it’s just good
for a giggle and no big deal.