“Applications are now being accepted for the Annual Virginia Hamilton and Arnold Adoff Creative Outreach Grants for Teachers and Librarians. Two grants up to $1,000 each will be given. One grant will be given to a teacher and another to a librarian for proposals to develop new classroom or library programs that raise awareness of multicultural literature among young people; particularly but not exclusively through the works of Virginia Hamilton. The application deadline is Feb. 28 for that year’s award. Complete instructions and proposal guidelines are available on the Grant Application.”
“’They’re so hard to find’ is no longer a valid excuse when you teach.” ~Zetta Elliott.
All over the blogosphere this week, you’re going to find the following action list created by Sarah Hamburg that delivers charges throughout the kidlit industry on what we can do to promote books by and about people of color and to amplify our demand for more books. The list is the result of a month long conversation on CCBC-net. This listserv routinely discusses issues that face the children’s and young adult book community but this past February, decided to focus on the issue of diversity. Highlighting the month were online discussions of When I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle and If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth. Debbie Reese did a wonderful job of framing the entire discussion.
From this discussion, I added material to my resource page.
I’m amending the list to add what has been provided by others that have posted this online. Continue to add to the list, continue to be part of the movement. DO SOMETHING!!
- Many of the ideas focused on personal activism: actively buying books representing a diverse range of voices; committing to ongoing challenges (Crystal Brunelle mentioned The Birthday Party Pledge, Diversity on the Shelf Challenge, and Latino/as in Kids’ Lit. Challenge); recommending and promoting diverse books to others when and wherever possible; asking for them at bookstores, schools and libraries; using social media in those efforts and to draw attention to issues of representation; writing reviews on Amazon, B&N and Goodreads; and stepping out of personal comfort zones to make connections and advocate on these issues.
- For writers and illustrators, people also suggested personal activism would include: stepping out of artistic comfort zones; consciously considering questions of representation, audience and perspective in one’s work (including whether the perspectives and voices of people of color tend to be explored/presented in a heavy context); soliciting and listening to feedback from members of the communities one is writing about when going outside one’s own culture; and also considering questions of cultural bias and representation while conducting research and evaluating sources.
- The same considerations hold true for those publishing, buying and using books with children, promoting books to parents and teachers, creating library and bookstore displays… etc. including whether those books receive the same quality and quantity of promotion, and whether they are somehow held apart from other books.
- Many came back to the importance of smaller presses in making space for new voices. This included Tim Tingle’s publishers Cinco Puntos Press and RoadRunner Press, and Lee & Low Books. (Would it be helpful to create a list to share here of independent publishers who are actively publishing “multicultural” books?) Lyn Miller-Lachmann talked about visiting smaller presses at conventions to order books and create buzz. Jason Low talked about “liking” Lee & Low on Facebook and using social media to promote them and their titles, and purchasing their books through independent bookstores. Are there other ways people can actively support small presses, or that smaller children’s publishers can perhaps share resources to further cross-promote with one another? (Some consortium, such as an umbrella website?)
- People also mentioned the importance of writers’ events and conferences, such as the Native American Literature Symposium, VONA Voices, the Lambda Literary Foundation, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, the Muslim Voices Conference, the Comadres and Compadres Writers’ Conference, and the Carl Brandon Society. [I have additional annual events on my Resource Page]
- Along with such conferences, people talked about the possibility for individual outreach to writers/ artists who are working in other areas, but who seem like they might be suited to the children’s book field (like Debbie Reese introducing Eric Gansworth to Cheryl Klein.)
- It’s exciting to see new businesses forming, like Cake Literary and the Quill Shift Literary Agency (where you can sign up to be a reader.)
- People have also started an amazing array of blogs, websites and tumblrs that focus on aspects of diversity in children’s books. These include Diversity in YA, Rich in Color, American Indians in Children’s Literature, The Dark Fantastic, CBC Diversity, Lee & Low’s blog, Cynsations, CrazyQuiltEdi, BookDragon, Latinas for Latino Literature, Latin@s in Kitlit, All Brown All Around, Into the Wardrobe, Shannar Reed Miles-A Blerd Girl Writes, Bad NDNs, Miss Domino, Miss Domino’s FireEscape, Disability in Kidlit, Visibility Fiction, I’m Here I’m Queer What the Hell Do I Read?, The Naughty Book Kitties, Kristi’s Book Blog. This list in is not all inclusive, but it’s a start. It does not include the multitude of authors of color who blog or allies who don’t devote their entire blog to diversity, but are there for the cause.
- In addition, people asked that “diversity” be an inclusive idea, and not limited to one group or set of groups.
Uma Krishnaswami has added several thoughtful additions to this list.
I’ll add just one other thing.
This is the season for state library associations to issue their calls for proposals. Getting to the big conferences is expensive. Librarians don’t have the funds nor do authors of color who often can’t get the backing from their publishers. Attending state library conferences is an important and often overlooked way authors can reach readers. Authors can proposal sessions, and librarians can reach out to authors to creative fun, interactive and informational sessions that get bring important resources (i.e., local authors) into local schools and libraries. Simply Bing your state’s library association (eg, Indiana Library Association) and find out what they’re looking for and when it’s due.
Author: Eric Gansworth
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books; 2013
Main character: Lewis Blake
Lewis is a smart kid who tested out of the Indian school on the Tuscarora Reservation and is now attending the nearby all white school. He wants to go to college and to have a better life so, he wants to know how to maneuver a world that is new to him. As a result, he’s trying to figure out how to come of age both on the rez and in the white world. Up until now, Lewis has been pretty much a loner; it’s difficult making friends when you live in two worlds. Then, along comes George. A new kid who’s literally been around the world. His father’s military career has taught him how to fit in, how to live by a code and probably how to recognize enduring qualities in others. George reaches out to Lewis and they bond over Beatles music. This bond extends to George’s family who immediately takes to Lewis.
In return, Lewis is embarrassed to bring his friend’s home because his home, indeed his reservation, appears so lacking. These two settings, the home and the reservation are central places in Lewis’ life. While they’re places he wants to get out of, they’re also places he cannot and will not leave behind. Gansworth does an excellent job of creating these spaces in our minds, both their physical presence and their cultural elements. We know these places are central to his identity. We understand why these places embarrass him on a physical level but we are not embarrassed for him because we knew their greater importance. Nonetheless, we want him to get out of there. We hope he find some of the wisdom that Uncle Albert has found.
Gansworth’s writing has a rhythm that builds in the nuances of planets, music and friendship and in the way all these elements all blend together. This is a book about being an Indian, a much needed book about being an Indian because most Americans know so little. At the same time, it’s just a very well written book about a kid who wants to be accepted for who he is and isn’t that something we all want out of life?
I’ve been complaining for the past couple of years about the shrinking numbers of books written by authors of color. The CCBC’s number came out not too longer ago, only to validate this complaint. The number of books by African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and American Indians has been steadily decreasing since 2008, while the numbers of children of color in this country steadily increases. Zetta Elliott said it better than I can.
Despite this downward trend, Malinda Lo’s numbers indicates that BFYA continues to grow in its ability to embrace all teen readers.
The Feral Librarian speaks to the number of some of the gatekeepers, specifically librarians. Has anyone seen numbers on diversity in the gatekeepers in publishing?
Cynthia Leitich Smith speaks her mind on “Writing, Tonto & The Wise Cracking Minority Sidekick Who is the First to Die”.
My inspiration for this post was a Jan. 17th article in Indian Country Today, reporting that the real “Lone Ranger” was an African American who lived with the Muscogee Creeks and Seminoles. It made me to think about the Hollywood version of the story, about my own stories for young readers, and, in turn, the body of youth literature more globally…
While writers can (and increasingly do) successfully write beyond our own identity markers, life experience does matter, and voices from underrepresented communities should be nurtured, sought out and held up as models.
Cynthia’s mention of the minority sidekick immediately led my mind in two different directions. First, to Knockout Games by G. Neri where in the pages I just read, the main character, Erica (a white girl, red-head) was schooled by Kalvin (a very tall black male) on the realities of characters of color in movies: they’re expendable and die first.
I also thought about one of the best Twitter convos I’ve ever witnessed: #imnotyourasiansidekick
Librarians try to be more inclusive.
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Society of American Archivists (SAA) are now accepting applications for the second cohort of the ARL/SAA Mosaic Program. This program promotes much-needed diversification of the archives and special collections professional workforce by providing financial support, practical work experience, mentoring, career placement assistance, and leadership development to emerging professionals from traditionally underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups. An important objective of the program is to attract and retain individuals who demonstrate excellent potential for scholastic and personal achievement and who manifest a commitment both to the archives and special collections profession and to advancing diversity concerns within it. More information at: http://e2.ma/message/5i40f/x4rnfo
Please, don’t miss my review of Yacqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass! at Latin@s in Kidlit! Have you read this multiple award winner yet?
In a listserv reply, Crystal Brunelle reinforced that the forces that change what’s published in YA, that change anything, occur at the micro level. It’s like what I learned as a classroom teacher. Like many, I became a teacher to make a difference. What I soon realized was that to make a difference, I needed to define my corner of the world and make a difference there. The effects will ripple out. I’m glad you’re reading this blog, but please do some real work to make a real difference.
- Take the Birthday Party Pledge. I’ve work with a group of bloggers and writers to develop this tool that makes it easy for others to make a statement. Take the pledge and then, give books written by authors of color as presents this year. The site recommends numerous books for children of all ages.
- Join an online book discussion group! In March, Vamos A Leer will be discussing The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle. Join the Latina@s In Kidlit 2014 Reading Challenge or the 2014 Africa Reading Challenge. If you prefer something more adult, MochaGirlReads blog will be discussing Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston in March.
- Look for a couple of the February releases by authors of color at your school or public library. If you don’t see them, request them!
One of the most important events during BFYA occurs on the Saturdays of the ALA conferences when students who have read the books recommended for the list come to share their opinions. There were two striking comments in Philadelphia. While most of the students commented several times during the afternoon, there was one black girl (and there were very few black students at these events) who only commented on one book. It was one of only two books recommended this year with a black female protagonist. (Neither made the final list.)
I also noted several students who commented on the authenticity in what they’d read. Students remarked how spot on books set in foreign countries, past decades and even in the future were.
Yes, we have a real responsibility in what we make available to young readers.
I’m going out with an article I’ve just begun reading. Leave your thoughts if you get a chance to read it. Maybe we do a little discussing right here!