February. Way back when I began teaching, I hearted February as it gave me the opportunity to do veer from the tried and true and do some really creative things with my students. Because the student population at the Catholic school where I taught was 100% African American, we would celebrate Valentines Day as “I Love My Black Me Day”.  My 7th and 8th graders wouldn’t have to wear uniforms and we’d have guest speakers on topics such as relationships, health, children in the civil rights movement, and sharing our talents.  Throughout the school, the month would be filled with biographies, viewings of “Roots” and kente print. That was 15 years ago and thngs really haven’t changed.

Here on the blogosphere, I see White bloggers and journalists feel that it’s now safe to talk the lack of presence of Blacks (and other minorities) in YA literature. To be clear, there are Whites who keep this topic at the forefront, but not enough, not nearly enough. I’ve notice on the YALSA listserv, there has been a surge of people asking for books with Black characters. It often starts as the request for “urban books”, that nebulous term for “African American books”.  The conversation becomes muddled and one or two will respond with straight up urban fiction, some will throw in Stephanie Perry Moore and Paul Volponi and sometimes there’s even 8th Grade Superzero and some Sarah Dessen. I often wonder why librarians can’t effectively describe exactly what they’re looking for on these listservs in terms of genre, setting, ethnicity, reader age…?

In responding to a recent request on a listserv, I created such a major faux pas!! Someone was looking for sources for African American YA books and well, of course I listed my own. I then mentioned Reading in Color and The HappyNappyBookseller and that was it. AHH!!!! Can you believe I forgot the BrownBookShelf and Miss Domino?? Then there’s Multiculturalism Rocks that promotes books of color, as well as Diversity in YA, PaperTigers. Fledgling and??? Who else am I forgetting that promotes books for teens and children of color? Since I dwell in the world of YA I know I’m missing children’s books blogs.

I’d be remiss in my duties of a promoter if I didn’t mention the thorough list Zetta Elliot compiled a while ago of African American YA speculative fiction books. I admit, this isn’t particularly my favorite genre, but when it comes to building imaginations and getting readers to wonder about possibilities, this is it. So, why aren’t there more books here?

I admit, I am doing special reading for February. I’m reading Bleeding Violets for our online discussion and I’m reading the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for a discussion with my teachers. Are you reading anything special for Black History month?


8 thoughts on “SundayMorningReads

  1. That’s not a faux pas, Edi–we all cross-post so much that people are bound to find us all if they just follow the links. And, of course, “my” lists are group efforts, so give yourself credit for that!

  2. Thank you for this post. I posted on the listserv about my need for diverse books and I have to admit, I was purposely vague. The main reason was that I was looking for books that really were diverse, books about LGBT, Asian, Black, Native American, really anyone besides White girls and their vampire boyfriends. I have emailed a few publishers and they said they have had other people comment on the lack of diversity coming out too. I hope that by including more of the population in my presentation and by emailing the publishers, I can help in some small way.
    I appreciate the resources you listed and I plan to take full advantage of them. Thanks again!

  3. Thanks so much for this post. There is a lack of diversity in the children’s book/teen book world and I’m glad there are bloggers like you and others out there sounding the alarm. I manage a blog, called Teen Writers Bloc, which represents the New School MFA in Writing For Children, class of 2012, and features author interviews, along with discussion on craft and business, publishing news, book reviews and other topics in the realm of young adult and middle grade fiction. We get up to 300 views a day — and have had more than 5,000 uniques since we started the blog in October.

    I’m committed to posting about multicultural children’s/teen books and the publishing issues surrounding it, alongside mainstream issues so that everything gets talked about.

    I’ve been collecting answers to a special Black History Month Round-Up Question from authors of color, bloggers, and writing students and Ari over at BlackTeenReads suggested I contact you for a response as well.

    Let me know if you’re interested.

    Dhonielle Clayton

  4. Hi Ardith!
    I think you were asking about getting diverse ARCs for an upcoming presentation? It really should work well to contact publishers of the books have on my 2011 books list, however I don’t think anything on there is also GLBTQ. You might try Let’s Get Beyond Tolerance Blog for some titles
    good luck!
    @Dhonielle, of course I’d be glad to work with you! It’s going to take all of us working together with a consistent message to get publishers to realize our students need to see themselves in books! I think I recently friended your group on FB.

  5. Thanks for the reminder about Bleeding Violets! I definitely need to start that book soon in time for the read-in. I’m trying to read and review as many books as I can that were written by African Americans. Between weird viruses and school work, my reading has been lacking. I can always continue to do this year-round! 🙂 I hope your week is off to a great start!

    • Vasilly,
      I’m always behind with my reading. I think I’m the slowest reader in the blogosphere. I pushed myself to go to the gym today cuz I love my Black me!! LOL If I don’t take care of me who will, right? I feel much better for going!
      Take those vitamins and fight those yucky germs!

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