New Initiative: #LargeFears

My next diversity initiative will be to begin a Twitter bookchat that focuses on all things in diverse book. I kinda smile thinking that I may be late to the table with something on Twitter, but it will put conversations about diverse books front and center in a public space.

LARGE-FEARS-LAYOUT.jpgI’ll be working with Sujui Lugo@sujeilugo, Guinevere Thomas @aravere and Libertad Thomas  and many others along the way. The #LargeFears incident moved me in this direction and it will be the first books to be discussed. Author MYles Johnson @CuratedByMyles and illustrator Kendrick Daye will take part in the discussion @kendrickdaye. If you haven’t read it yet, now is the time to get your copy.

The discussions will be held every first Tuesday from 7-8p.m, EST. [not A.M] and the hashtag will be #largefears. While this is an homage to the book that started this all, it also serves as a reminder that diversity is an issue because of our large fears. I’m afraid that my children and their children will be prevented from reaching their full potential because of their ethnicity, disabilities, gender identity and sexual orientation. And, the powers that be have fears of those with diverse ethnicities, disabilities, gender identity and sexual orientation. So, let’s talk out loud and overcome some of these #largefears.

We’re currently planning the chats for the next few months. Do you have any ideas for us? Feel free to share.

Sunday Morning Read

Maybe I’ve had CNN in the background too long this weekend. Maybe bombs around the world are waking me up. Or, maybe it’s the power of the words I’ve been reading. But, this call to change I’ve been feeling is getting deeper and my resistance is lessening.

I’ve been looking at PhD programs, funded research projects and new jobs all of which are pretty intense sorts of change on their own. It’s that call to keep learning that is propelling me further. But, I’ve had 12 years of a Catholic education and the call to do more and be more is very much ingrained in me. The call to serve even leaves me considering digging in, staying put and actually getting involved in this city I hate so much.

And I have to admit to a deepening fear that comes from a growing awareness of mortality. Not my own; get cancer, lose grandchildren and death is really no big deal. Rather, the mortality of all that surrounds me. ISIS frightens me in a sense because of what they do but in a bigger sense because of the world’s response to them. We don’t attempt to understand who ‘they’ are, it’s just easier to be fearful of any, I want to say any Arab (because it’s easy to think all Arabs are Muslim) but I have to believe that brown people from Southeast Asian are getting lumped into this too. It frightens me that we (I cannot deny my part in letting this happen) so easily lose our humanity and deny support to innocent civilians. It scares me that those in power conceal truths from us while bombing with one hand and buying oil and supporting regimes with the other. It scares me that the only options to this are Donald Trump or Ben Carson. While this sounds like political rambling, I believe life as we know it may be changing. And, I pick up another book to read for the Walter Awards, engage in another conversation about the lack of diversity in books and wonder why.

Certainly, this is an important fight, but there’s so much more.

I honestly believe that publishers are unintentional in their racism, that they’re simply doing business as usual.  I’m not excusing these institutions of racism but hoping I can get you to realize that racism is bigger that these institutions. Consider that if 60% of all books published featured characters of color our work would not be done. Teachers and academics, bookstores, parents… all need to give up exclusionary practices that directly impacts what young people read. And this is where I have to mention the stuff I’ve been bumping into across the Internet. Sure, there’s the stuff I bump into in everyday life, the opportunities denied, the woman in Walmart who looks the other way rather than offering me a cart, the students who look through me when I teach a class, the colleagues who swear they cannot understand what I’m saying or who question every detail of what I say.  But this stuff on the Internet is the American equivalent of ISIS. It’s those who want to annihilate Native American, Jews, Muslims and all people of color. I find their material when I’m doing a random search for something. They’ve linked to my blog and I’m sure they’ve linked to others in kidlit. They would want to destroy me and life as I and my family and friends know it simply because of the color of our skin.

I fight for books. I fight what to me is a benign fight because it’s such a small part of what I am up against. My pronoun has change because, even though I’ve connected to so many who are in this fight, the hate is personal and the fight seems that way, too. Here on this blog, I have a voice, I can tell my narrative and having a voice is what keeps people alive. Are the books more important, more urgent that I realize? No, there have been no threats or direct contact but I have seen these things and know this hate exists.

Yesterday, I looked through 62 photos from the ALAN breakfast and saw one brown face.  One. Did the photographer not realize how white the photos were, or did the organizers once again fail to take steps to achieve diversity? But, I saw that after reading a pdf about how to infiltrate  police departments written by white racists. Benign everyday acts of racism feed into this war of hate. I recently Tweeted something like ‘Bombs in France, Lebanon and Syria. Trump. Carson. Christmas commercials on TV. Bring on Santa’. The ugliness is absurd if you let yourself be considered a pawn. I often say that to effect change, one must define their corner of the world because you can’t change it all.

Ending this is hard! Usually, I post when I’ve made a decision or have had a revelation, but this time I’m thinking out loud.





#tbt Post: Trying Not to Go Too Far Off Topic

What a timely repost! I just finished watching West Wing for the third time AND just posted Paula’s SABA Award acceptance speech. 

Did you know that Paula Yoo, author of Good Enough and Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story was a writer for The West Wing? The show ran on NBC from 1999 to 2006.

I mention this because I recently finished watching the West Wing on DVD and noted some very interesting co-incidences. If you watched the show, you may remember that in the last season Jimmy Smits was the first Latino to run for president. The following happened during his campaign and his subsequent election.

  • Smit’s character was a young, revolutionary campaigner
  • Leo McGarry, a much older, White statesman, was selected to be his running mate.
  • During one of the debates between Smit’s character and his opponent, someone in the crowd yelled “Liar!”
  • Smit’s first term was going to be burdened by his predecessor’s actions which got the country involved in a war between India and China.
  • Smit, a Democrat, chose several Republicans for key offices in his presidency.
  • While campaign, Smit avoided issues dealing with his ethnicity

Does this sound familiar to anyone else?



Hot Topic: France, Syria, Lebanon

What struck me most when I binge watched MadMen were the sensibilities of the era portrayed in the series. I remember the show incorporating the assassination of President Kennedy and the mother would not let her children see any of it on television and she herself was distraught and in tears. I don’t think she even talked about it with her husband with the children around.

As assassinations, attacks, mass murders and other horrific events have been covered in more and more detail on television we become less and less sure of what children can and should know, and when. I believe this is a legitimate concern for librarians, educators and teachers.

I have a few suggestions that stem from both my time as a social studies teacher and as a school librarian. Please, continue the discussion of what has worked for you and your children in the discussion section so that we can work together to find the best ways possible to educate young people about the world around them.

  1. Know the child or children you’re working with. Be aware of their age, cognitive development and personal histories. Younger children are not as able to perform high level critical thinking and lack historical, geographic or political facts that are necessary to thoroughly understand situations. They may benefit from learning where countries are located on a map, the major immigrant groups who have settled in your community or reading stories or folktales that help them appreciate differences.
  1. Keep your opinions to yourself. Because of their level of cognitive development, children’s lack of factual understand, young people are easily influenced by the opinions of adults. They’re most likely to accept what authority figures say is correct and true. We may want children to agree with our opinions on hot topics (because our opinion is The Right Opinion, right?) but it’s best to raise children who are able to make their own decisions. This will be very hard to do with younger children, they’re just not ready for that and as parents, it may sometimes be impossible. Children may learn about local immigrants and decide ways to celebrate their presence or develop social service projects. Some may have seen the news and have questions, tell them what they’re ready to hear. I like this father’s approach with his young son.

Present older children with both sides of an argument so that they can form opinions. Find good articles or editorials that dig into an opinion. Ask the students to understand how each article tries to position them (even if it’s a fact based article), have them identify the facts and opinions and even have them fact check.

  1. Don’t focus on the horror of the event itself. Look for causes. Celebrate heroes. Follow the aftermath with older children to find actions, legislation and other outcomes from the tragedy. This will help them understand how events, even in Beirut, shape our lives. Guide young people to fully understand issues so they don’t look like these journalists. 
  1. Invest in your own knowledge. If you’re a teacher, don’t present books or articles you’ve not read yourself. Build your background knowledge but, don’t be afraid to learn with children. Guide them in the research process so that they can find credible sources and accurate information. Parents and educators don’t have to know everything, but it we need to know where to go for answers.
  1. Incorporate current events into your curriculum, your dinner table conversation or long car drives whenever you can and in ways that are age appropriate. The world is getting smaller and young people need to be aware of events around them. Quiz them on capitals or world leaders. Teachers and librarians can work with colleagues that combine curricular areas to make meaning lessons that approach topics from different perspectives. Interpreting refugee artwork can be as meaningful calculating how far a refugee will travel to get from Damascus to a port in Italy.

Adults are involved in extremely heated debates about permitting refugees into our states. It’s easy to repeat the sound byte from the loudest politician, but our nation will not be a strong nation of that’s all we do, if we don’t teach our older children to question why ISIS exists, why we’ve heard so little about bombings in Beirut or what actions the US president and military have taken in the days since Paris was bombed. Younger ones can learn that you can’t judge people by the color of their skin, that you can’t trust strangers and that when bad things happen we have to care for one another. It’s a tough world our there and while we’d like to avoid these discussions with children, we have to be responsible and find the best way to do it.



Saturday Morning Trailer: Starring Me!

What better day for a book trailer than a Saturday? I’m starting to record book trailers and book talks to promote books in my library’s Teaching Materials Collection. Since I just finished the video and have never reviewed Dreaming in Indian here, well! Here goes!

Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices
Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale
Annick Press, 2014

November Releases

For the Record by Charlotte Huang; Delacorte Press
As the new lead singer of the band Melbourne, Chelsea has only the summer tour to make the band–and their fans–love her, or it is back to boring high school. (ages 12 and up)

Seeing Off the Johns by Rene Perez; Cinco Puntos
For Concepcion “Chon” Gonzales, the year that high school athletic stars John Robison and John Mijias left for college and never made it was the beginning of a new life in his small town and the first time he understood about love. (ages 12 and up)

See No Color by Shannon Gibney; Carolrhoda Labs
Alex has always identified herself as a baseball player, the daughter of a winning coach, but when she realizes that is not enough she begins to come to terms with her adoption and her race. (ages 12 and up)

The Middle School Rules of Charles “Peanut” Tillman by Sean Jensen and Max Smith; Broadstreet Publishing 
A collection of stories from the childhood of Charles “Peanut” Tillman, who would grow up to play as a cornerback for the Chicago Bears and have his off-field work recognized with the 2013 NFL Man of the Year award. (ages 8-12)

In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall and Jim Yellowhawk; Amulet Books
Teased for his fair coloring, eleven-year-old Jimmy McClean travels with his maternal grandfather, Nyles High Eagle, to learn about his Lakota heritage while visiting places significant in the life of Crazy Horse, the nineteenth-century Lakota leader and warrior, in a tale that weaves the past with the present. Includes historical note and glossary. (ages 10-14)

This Way Home by Wes Moore and Shawn Goodman; Delacorte
Elijah, seventeen, has always been sure of just one thing–basketball–and believes it will be his way out of West Baltimore, but when gang violence knocks him down, helping a veteran repair his rickety home helps Elijah see what really matters. (ages 12 and up)