|Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier
As of last year, babies from so-called “minority” communities became the majority born in the United States, and it’s by no means the only nation with a diverse population.
At the same time, representation of books by and about people of color, citizens of Native nations and those from the LGBT community are slim to statistically insignificant in the body of youth literature.
That’s a problem because it suggests to kids from those communities that people like them don’t belong in the world of books, because it suggests to everyone else that they don’t matter, and because we’re losing out on some amazing stories. It’s also discouraging to writers and artists who hail from those same backgrounds. It says to them that their artistic talents are not needed, possibly even that they’re not welcome.
All of us in the conversation of children’s-YA books are responsible for that reality.
We have to own it.
And here’s the harder part: we have to do something about it?
It’s personal to each of us and all of us. These are all our kids, these are the stories we’re producing and supporting and passing on. How are we doing? How can we do a better job?
Let’s take stock.
Move to your closest bookshelf. Start pulling relatively recent books by and/or about people from the underrepresented communities. How does that stack look? Should it be taller?
Here are the five books at the top of my stack:
|Bronxwood by Coe Booth (YA)
|The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami (MG)
|Chained by Lynne Kelly (MG)
|The Agency: The Traitor in the Tunnel (A Mary Quinn Mystery) by Y.S. Lee (YA)
|Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (YA)
What are the five books at the top of yours?
Could you share the titles in the comments to help raise awareness?
Is your stack looking a bit short? You don’t have (at least) five?
Hit your local bookstore or buy online. On a budget? Try the public library. If the books aren’t on the shelf, by all means, request them. Requests prove interest and audience.
Are you a children’s/YA book blogger or author blogger? Scroll through your posts—a few months of them. Do the books you feature include those with African-American protagonists? Those illustrated by Asian-American artists? Or is it a sea of white?
|Meet Yoshi Kitahara in Feral Nights
If the latter, are you sincerely interested in changing that? What practical day-by-day steps will you take?
Then start thinking bigger picture – in terms of diversity of region, socio-economics, factor in protagonists with physical or mental challenges, or from other countries other than your own.
You know what best connects “multicultural” books to young readers?
Word of mouth.
We think of effecting change through big words, and those do have a tremendous impact. But everyday, consistent speech can make a huge difference, too.
Am I making enough noise?