1) Why do you think there’s such a dearth of diverse children’s books?
In a couple of words: white supremacy. The
fact that there are more books published about animals than about black kids
says a lot, not only about our
society, but about “Western” sensibilities and colonization on the whole. About
the perception of “race” and the role of literacy in the development of
societal hierarchies. The English staked their claim on land in various places
around the world and forced the people in those places to learn the English
language, but literature and the arts were reserved for members of the highest
social classes. Who were all white.
The fact that we’re almost two decades into
the 21st Century and just now
beginning to see books written in English that reflect the realities of the
English-speaking world says a lot about who, historically, has been expected—or
even allowed—to achieve English
literacy. When all the business-related rhetoric is stripped away (“Those types
of books statistically don’t sell well.” “The numbers don’t suggest that this
would be a good investment.”), the implications are that 1) certain groups of
people don’t read and 2) the people who do
read wouldn’t want to read about x-type of people. The marginalized wind up
doubting the validity of their very existence, and the privileged continue to
see themselves as the protagonists of the only stories that matter. I’m sure I
don’t have to explain why this is detrimental to everyone.
We’ve Been Waiting in the Wings Forever: A Queer Theater Story
By Amy Rose Capetta
I discovered the joys of theater in middle school for a sad
but simple reason: I was quitting dance. At the age of twelve, I was told by my
teacher that I couldn’t continue at an advanced level without losing a
significant amount of weight. The issue of body policing in the performing arts
comes up in my YA novel Echo After Echo,
specifically for the main character, Zara, who is not the waifish ingénue
people have come to expect. Fortunately, when I chose to leave dance behind, I
fell into theater, and despite being a different body type than many of my
fellow actresses, I found roles and fell in love with acting.
My new life of green rooms and backstage bonding brought my
first queer friends. It’s no real secret that the theater world, from the
professional stages in NYC to the drama clubs in most schools are havens for
creative and hardworking LGBTQIAP folks. Before I even knew I was queer, I
found my people, and they shared my fervor for story-making, a heady mix of
love and ambition that still drives me. We collected, we rehearsed, we
constructed sets with questionable structural integrity, we held our hearts
outside of our bodies night after night, we threw AMAZING cast parties.
Tell us about your most recent book and how you came to write/illustrate it.
BEAUTY is about queer Latina girls and enchanted, murderous gardens. The
Nomeolvides women, including the youngest generation of five cousins, tend the
grounds of La Pradera, a famously beautiful garden known both for enthralling
visitors and killing those who break its rules. This story grew from my love of
flowers and from wanting to write girls like me and my cousins into the world
of fairy tales.
Do you think of yourself as a diverse author/illustrator?
queer, Latina, and I’m married to a trans guy, so in a way I didn’t set out to
write diverse fiction any more than I set out to live a diverse life. Writing
inclusive stories was a matter of letting the truth I already know have a place
in my work.
Check out our Q&A with Nikki Grimes, author of THE WATCHER (
Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers, October 2017)!
What inspired you to write The Watcher?
few years ago, I was invited to write a Golden Shovel poem for The Golden
Shovel Anthology, a collection honoring the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning
Poet, Gwendolyn Brooks. This new poetry form, created by Terence Hayes
specifically for this anthology, was brand new, and so this was my first
introduction to it. I fell immediately in love with the form and could
not wait to use it again, for a project of my own. One of the first two
ideas that came to me was to apply the form to the exploration of a
Psalm. It seemed perfect. The Psalms are poetry, after all, and the
Golden Shovel is all about borrowing lines from existing poems to create new
ones. The question, of course, was which Psalm. I had a picture
book in mind, and in order for this treatment to work for a picture book, the
Psalm had to be relatively short, and so I searched for just the right
one. Psalm 121 is one of my favorite passages of scripture, and the length
seemed exactly right.