Sunday MorningReads

A few days ago, Varian Johnson took to Twitter.

 

With the re-affirmation that the voices of Native Americans and people of color are not being heard; with the awareness that LGBT+ people, those with disabilities and/or from lower income groups and who are Muslim are threatened, attacked and denied rights; what do we caretakers of messages to our children do in the face of this election? How do we maintain our hope and have enough left over for young people who really need to hear from us? How do we communicate that we cannot rest in feeling the isolation, the insecurity and the bitterness? How do we remember our power? Our purponse?  And how do we tell allies we need you but we need us more? We need to hear from us, our #ownvoices.

It’s a messy place where we are because we ALL need to speak out and speak up regarding human rights and dignity up but allies, do not speak for me or over me. Do not explain me. Do not assume you know my pain because it is not new with this election. For me, its different, but it’s not new.

I want to say to Varian that  I need your voice to help our young people know how to navigate this world and to help them figure out how to create their own space in it. Varian, you give our young people hope when you normalize the day to day of America for them and you give them power when  you re-create and validate them on paper and when you expand their tomorrow by building worlds of ‘what if’. You give them tools of resilience and resistance when you visit their schools and libraries, look in their eyes and speak with honesty and with possibilities.

Librarians, booksellers and educators need to be aware of books that tell stories in our #ownvoices and incorporate them into booktalks, displays and into the curriculum under subject headings other than ‘diversity’. Decolonize those collections! LGBTQ+ books are not issue books to hide in the 800s or 300s. Tanita Davis’ Peas and Carrots is about families more than it’s about diversity.

The New York Times recently came out with its list of Best Illustrated Books of the Year which is beautifully inclusive.

Jason Reynolds’ As Brave As You just won the 2016 Kirkus Prize.

These works of fiction are definitely worth everyone’s attention and should be in library collections across this country from tiny rural hamlets to major urban centers. We’ve all talked about how segregated we are on Sunday mornings when we go to church, but we cannot ignore how segregate our library collections continue to be. Let’s work on organic, American diversity.

Our government is being disrupted. I can’t be mad at voters for wanting a change in our system, but I can be angry that the education system and that the media has failed to bring to light real issues that are confronting us thus letting voters be disillusioned and led down a path that will bring us all more harm than good. And, I can be angry about librarians who fail do what they should to provide free and open access to information, to provide information literacy skills and to provide materials that inform rather than entertain.

At some point soon we really need to talk about children’s non-fiction. Soon.

Varian’s question is real and while he was reflectively speaking aloud, it’s a question all information providers should be asking themselves.

added after publishing the post: Some of you on Facebook will be able to access this link https://www.facebook.com/groups/ALAthinkTANK/permalink/1257965614276256/. It will take you to a post by Debbie Reese the relates so much to my post here today, but gives a deeper context to what librarians, librarians and Dewey do to our users.

 

 

 

#AngryVoices

Children’s and young adult literature is overwrought with who gets to tell The Story.

The story is as personal as it is profound.

The Story is a colonized script we dictate to our children.

The Story, the body of work we call children’s literature, is in a messy, disrupted state that I can’t help but believe will eventually lead it to being filled with stories that are profoundly inclusive and as erudite as they are imaginative. #WeNeedDiverseBooks has become a game changer. But, this change can’t happen as long as Whiteness dominates, controls and colonizes literature.

Whiteness ≠ white people.

Indications that whiteness persists in children’s literature

To want to find someone to tell the stories of marginalized people is not enough. It is in fact a rather clueless response.

I get that the thing in publishing is to not want to work with people who seem to be difficult to work with and right now, it may seem that many of us who are advocating for paradigm shifts in the crap that’s fed to our children are difficult to work with, but we’re not. Make no mistake that some of us are angry and I think being a #nastyWoman is the moniker de jour for being a force. Yes, we’ve been getting angry for a long, long time but this anger and this passion is fueling the fires of change. I know that in The Academy, anger is detested and we much face every dilemma with ‘civility’. Our anger is not rage, not hostile and it is not brutal.

Our anger consists of  exerting the necessary amount of force to ladder up to #ownvoices in children’s literature. We are angry it has taken so long. We are angry that we have to get angry to get a response. We are angry that there are those who want to tell us we have no right to be angry, that we must remain docile and fragile creatures.

And yet, in our anger we are wise, poised, adamant, dynamic, forward-thinking, intent and purposeful. And, we are listening.

I listen because I really want to hear that story that explores our humanity and all its         –isms in ways that confound all of us; in ways that weave stories beyond stereotypes and misrepresentations of cultures. I want to see a book with a black male child who never touches a basketball and makes me LMBAO. I want to find a book with a Native American girl who solves a 21st century mystery without have to rely on the spirits of her ancestors. How about a queer Latinx protag who is a space pirate?

Yet, I listen and I hear about The Continent by Kiera Drake. While I haven’t been active on Twitter or in conversations about this book, I hear troubling things. I applaud those who have reached out to Harlequin TEEN to say ‘hey, can you fix this before you release it’? There is anger at having to do this again, but respect and wisdom for the author, the story and the process.

Who gets to tell the story? Whiteness lets profit margins rule; lets whatever will sell be written and denies any sense of integrity. Creativity honors the sacred, knows and understands the present while bending the possibilities. Decolonization removes the restraints and the Whiteness and lets books be windows, mirrors and sliding doors. I love that imagery from Rudine Sims Bishop. It fits so well with what I believe about books: that they help us find where we belong in the world.

It all starts with The Story.

Update 7 Nov., 7:40pm: Harlequin TEEN has issued a statement in which they have listened, they have heard and they have decided to push back the release date. The complete statement is here http://www.harlequinteen.com/image/152874005241