Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Do you subscribe to listservs? I do and I often exchange information with members of the group and lately, I’ve made it a point to sent two or three POC titles to librarians who can’t seem to find any good books about bullying or cooking for teens. I remember when I submitted books by Reshonda Tate Billingsly, Stephanie Perry Moore and Varian Johnson to a request for Christian fiction someone quickly pointed out that they were written by Black authors. A rather Christian thing for her to do, I’m sure.
Then there are those who request books written for Latino or for Black teens. I think they’re saying that Sarah Dessen, Scott Westerfeld and Jerry Spinelli do not write for teens of color but that Walter Dean Meyers, Alex Sanchez and Randa Abdel-Fattah only write for teens of color and probably only for those in their own ethnic group.
That bothers me because, well, it’s stupid. Books are written for whoever wants to read them, not just for members of a certain ethnicity. You do not have to be White to understand the pain in Cheryl Rainfield’s Scars or the humor of David Lubar’s Let Sleeping Freshmen Lie no more than you have to be Black to feel the emotions in Christopher Paul Curtis’ Watsons Go to Birmingham. So, why act like these books are meant only for ‘certain people’?
George Lucas gets that people think like this and he used it to his advantage in marketing “Red Tails”. He knew that White people would see Red Tails as a Black movie and not go see it. So he called them on it when he revealed all the money he put into the production and what an important story it is.
”Hey Matt, the responders here have said it as well as it can be said. I’ll what I can to bring as much light to this as possible. Let me know if you have ideas. I’ve been able to laugh off book bannings based on irrational right wing Christian fears (and politically correct left-wing fears as well) for years. There were even times I (foolishly) believed those folks wanted the same things for young people that I wanted; just had a different belief about how to get there. But this is racism pure and simple. I’m sick of living in a country in which it’s become more heinous to CALL someone a racist than it is to BE a racist. There will come a time, I hope in my lifetime, when the ethnic scales will tilt and these assholes will be voted out of office. Until then, let’s do what we can to make their lives interesting.”
We sit and look at the issue in Arizona and wonder how can this happen? How can books be removed from university and public school classrooms as well as be removed from school libraries? No doubt, reviewing the historic time line of events will provide supporting evidence, but no doubt we’re looking at groups of people who see racial issues as the other guys issues, who see learning Mexican American history, reading books by African Americans or listening to lectures by Native Americans as the other guys issues. It’s funny when you know that the state of Arizona rests on land that was purchase from Mexico in the Gadsden Purchase/Venta de La Mesilla in 1854. Learning their own history is subversive, I guess.
Next month, don’t just see it as Black History Month. The Civil Rights Movement changed the lives of Whites as well as Blacks. I mean, if you’re going to hold me down, you have to stay in place with your foot on my neck advancing little yourself. Learn what great Americans did for this country and make The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters as much a part of your cultural history as the AFL-CIO. It’s not a Black thing, It’s an American thing and it improves the lives of ALL our children, not just the Black ones.
Quite thinking books with characters of color are only for readers of color. Realize that not reading a book because of the color of the author or its characters is indeed racist. Not liking a book by an author of color based on merit is our US given right, but anything less is wrong. Pushing books aside because they’re written by “those people” (gays, differently abled or differently colored) is just how Arizona got where it is today. The racism in Arizona is NOT JUST A LATINO ISSUE. IT’S AN AMERICAN ISSUE.
I can’t say it much clearer than that. So I challenge you to do something.
- Join the Birthday Party Pledge and give POC books to ALL the children in your life.
- Join the Paper Tigers Reading the World Challenge.
- Join the Africa Reading Challenge at Kinna Reads.
- Join me, Doret and Vasilly for the African American Read In. The book will be announced Monday morning.
- Find out what your state mandates with regard to race and culture in schools. My state says this
- Follow Carleen Brice’s White Readers Meet Black Authors.
- Follow Debbie Reese on Twitter debreese or follow her blog to know what’s happening in AZ. The following suggestions are from her blog.
- Learn about a planned walkout by going to the Facebook page of DA Morales, or following his blog posts at Three Sonorans, or, by following his Twitter feed: ThreeSonorans.
- View excerpts–specially selected for the Teach In–from Precious Knowledge, the documentary about the MAS program that will be aired on PBS in May.
- In elementary classrooms or library read-alouds to elementary-aged children, tead aloud from one of the picture books used in the MAS program. Two suggestions are Pam Mora’s The Desert is My Mother, Gary Soto’s Snapshots from the Wedding.
- With older students, introduce them to Matt de la Pena’s Mexican WhiteBoy or Sandra Cisnero’s House on Mango Street.
- Share what you know with your family, friends, and colleagues.
- Purchase a copy of Rethinking Columbus or one of the other books that was boxed up and removed from classrooms, or, one of the books that was used in the program.
- Purchase a copy of Precious Knowledge. To order, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Individual copy is $28. Public library copy is $40. Rights for university or public performance are $200.) Request your local school and public library to buy a copy as well.
- Sign the petition set up by Norma Gonzales. She taught in the MAS program.
- Donate to the fund to support the work to fight the ban.
A. A SCHOOL DISTRICT OR CHARTER SCHOOL IN THIS STATE SHALL NOT INCLUDE IN ITS PROGRAM OF INSTRUCTION ANY COURSES OR CLASSES THAT INCLUDE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
1. PROMOTE THE OVERTHROW OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT.
2. PROMOTE RESENTMENT TOWARD A RACE OR CLASS OF PEOPLE.
3. ARE DESIGNED PRIMARILY FOR PUPILS OF A PARTICULAR ETHNIC GROUP.
4. ADVOCATE ETHNIC SOLIDARITY INSTEAD OF THE TREATMENT OF PUPILS AS INDIVIDUALS.
Have a vibrantly, colorful week!
This year, I’m joining Doret@HappyNappyBookseller and Vasilly@1330V to host a book event for the National African American Read-In sponsored by the Black Caucus of the NCTE and the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English). We’ll be reading a book for the month of February and discussing it online. To decide the book, the three of us selected six books for participants from which the book we read will be selected.
Good Fortune by Noni Carter
Fences by August Wilson
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines
Topdog/Underdog by Suzi Lori Parks
Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Pull by B.A. Binns
The poll is on Vasilly’s blog. The title selected will be announced on Monday 30 January. The Read-In will begin on 22 February and discussions will be held throughout the week on each of our three blogs.
I hope you’re able to choose just one!
I noticed a lot of conferences tweeting this week but the most prominent on my radar has been #ALA12 meeting in Dallas. Seven short years ago when I entered the library profession, midwinter was a very small conference mainly for committee meetings. My, how it has grown! The conference also hosts the ALA media award winner announcements. This year, they can be following via webstream live on Monday 23 Jan at 8:45 ET. 18 awards announce. . http://www.webcastinc.com/client/ala-webcast/ Or follow via #alayma
The NAACP Image Award nominees were announced today. Justin Torres is mentioned for Outstanding Literary Work by a Debut Author. Lyah LeFlore crossed over from YA to co-write a book in this category. Tayari Jones is nominated for Outstanding Literary Work Fiction for Silver Sparrow, which is often noted for its YA crossover appeal. Reshonda Tate Billingsley, former YA Christian fiction author also was nomimated in this category.
And then there are the Youth Teen Winners. It’s a rather disappointing list that the list throws so many middle grade fiction and nonfiction books into one category of winners. While in other categories, the NAACP is able to embrace the concept of being an organization for people of color by incorporating Latino authors, they don’t in this category. Nominees here are
Eliza’s Freedom Road: An Underground Railroad Diary by Jerdine Nolan /Author, Shadra Strickland/Illustrator (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing – Paula Wiseman Books);
Jesse Owens: I Always Loved Running by Jeff Burlingame (Enslow Publishers, Inc.)
Kick by Walter Dean Myers AND ROSS WORKMAN(HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books)
Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)
One final thought on these awards. Just a thought, mind you. In my opinion, if the NAACP wants to be seen as a player in the literary world, they have to do more than just give awards. They really ought to address the lack of diversity in the publishing industry, the need for a greater availability for books for all people of color to read and the importance of diversifying hiring throughout the industry. They, more than authors, bloggers or readers, have the clout to really make a difference.
Librarians in Arizona have stepped up to make a difference. Debbie Reese (@debreese) recently tweeted the Porgressive Libarian’s Guild’s Statement on Censorship and the Tucson Unified School District.
Regarding the political aspects of this situation, A.R.S. §15-112 was signed into law in the spring of 2010 on the heels of the state’s anti-immigration law, considered by many to be racist and neocolonial. The law is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. PLG considers A.R.S. §15-112 to have arisen from a climate of racist sentiment among lawmakers in the State of Arizona. This sentiment has been promoted by Judge Kowal in his siding with Department of Education expert witnesses against TUSD and MAS, which placed TUSD “between a rock and a hard place” – either suspend MAS or lose state funding for the entire school district. Given the budgetary problems facing school districts across the nation, TUSD’s decision to sacrifice MAS over funding is understandable, but unacceptable.
TUSD is aware its MAS program did not teach “racial resentment” but historical literacy. It is also is aware there is absolutely nothing in the MAS curriculum that affronts civic values or clashes with classes that teach “ethnic solidarity.” In the face of absurd, draconian laws, the only ethical position to take is one of complete opposition. Today’s capitulation to A.R.S. §15-112 will be tomorrow’s capitulation to the next absurd, racist law enacted by the Arizona legislature. The law should be abolished.
The Progressive Librarians Guild opposes the actions of all officials in the State of Arizona responsible for the passage, enforcement, and/or compliance with A.R.S. §15-112.
Are you on Twitter? I really enjoy losing hours on Twitter. I get so much information there, way more than my blogroll these days which I avoid like crazy to limit my time online. A few of the people I love to follow:
@kishizuka Technology Editor, School Library Journal, mother, second best cook in the house http://www.slj.com
@librarycourtney academic librarian (info lit, advising, technology, diversity), ALA, military brat, social butterfly, NFL fan, shopping, the total package http://librarycourtney.blogspot.com/
@pammoran as an educator I’m for 21st c community learning spaces for all kinds of learners, both adults and young people; comments reflect my personal point of view. http://spacesforlearning.wordpress.com/
@freduagyeman Poet. Writer. Reader. Promotes African Literature. Agricultural Economist.Accra http://freduagyeman.blogspot.com/
@tonnet Education, Translation, Math, Physics, Technology, Social Media, Blogging. http://www.educationandtech.com/
I’m not a real fan of blog posts that list favorite tweets. Retweet it on Twitter, I think! Nonetheless I have one, just one tweet to share this week.
That says it all, my friends. Shall we keep an eye on the ALA?
For 20 years Kiva has been serving the poor in the Phillippines.
For 20 years Candlewick has been publishing books.
20 years ago I was just finishing work on my Teacher Certification. My children were 9,8, and 6 years old. I was doing word processing on an Atari computer and knew absolutely nothing about the Internet. A lot has changed in those 20 years!
Embrace your week with tenderness.