Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hey, We Need More Latino Books ... and More

Popping back on the Fire Escape to share a table we compiled in my month-long course on "Race, Culture, and Power in Children's Books" at Saint Mary's College of California. We'd love to hear your responses to and thoughts about this data. (Thanks, US Census and CCBC!)


10 comments:

Andrea Blythe said...

It would be great to have YA and children's books more accurately reflect the diversity in the country. I enjoy reading such books, and I especially enjoy reading scifi and fantasy books (where it seems the diversity is even lower) with diverse characters and points of views.

I like seeing the way different cultures are all equally human, while representing different perspectives and showing that there is not one way of being, but many ways.

Ilima Loomis said...

Wow -- that is really striking. Thank you so much for posting this survey. I live in Hawaii, which has a much different ethnic makeup than the rest of the country. I am so proud that local Hawaii publishers of children's books, including my publisher, Island Heritage, feature a diversity of characters who are Asian, Pacific-Islander or more than one ethnic group -- just like the real people of Hawaii! Just another reason why we think Hawaii is "no ka oi" -- the best!

Yael Levy said...

Thank you for sharing. I'd be interested in knowing what percentage of "ethnic" books highlight social problems as opposed to novels with characters that are not diverse.

Cathy said...

I knew there was a big gap, but it's exponential!

marcy prager said...

This is important information, Mitali. Good for you for teaching your college students to research what is necessary to know about books. There is also a need for more narrative informational texts, given the new Common Core Standards, informing students about real-life global experiences.

KateCoombs said...

Thanks for the chart. I'm picturing the SCBWI national conference, which is full of white librarians and teachers who want to write children's books. (Most of them are women.) I think the only American Indian I've seen there was guest speaker Sherman Alexie. The number of black and Asian attendants is a little better, but still a striking minority. How exactly do we change that?

Marjorie said...

Yes, very interesting and challenging. These are definitely figures that need to be shouted about. Exponential indeed.

Sherry Nelson Rosso said...

We definitely need more cultural diversity in literature. We have a diverse school population here in the SF Bay Area. Reading to kids in classrooms, I've witnessed when illustrations of people of color grab kids' attention - namely, grab the attention OF THE KIDS OF COLOR. They hunger for that identification. Does it make them feel like they belong in the world of literature, that their culture is worthy of respect and literary attention? You bet! If they continue to grow up with more and more examples of their culture in literature, will they be eager to read more? I bet they will. I'm happy to have your books to introduce to young readers.

Micala burns said...

I find the comment about a lack of color in sci-fi and fantasy interesting. I read a lot of sci-fi, and often write it too, and always felt there was more because sci-fi writers either A) don't specify race as much, so it's your own fault if you don't catch that, and B) often include mixes of races, sometimes alien ones as well, and often set in multiple countries/planets.

However, so glad you posted this! It's a really good point, and very startling. I never realized there was such a difference. I'm African American and the reason I've started looking into race in books is because once someone asked why I write all "white" (hate that word for people) books when I'm not "white". I replied, "I don't. When did I say even half of these people are of a tan, peachy, or buttery complexion?" They were like "Well you didn't say they weren't either..." I don't know, it just weirded me out. I'm sixteen, so maybe I'm just oblivious, and my parents were always good about having me read everything and anything. I'm glad I got the comment, but am disappointed that in so much of literature it is assumed everyone is American or of European decent. It's so silly.

I also wonder if this chart takes into account those people who's race is left unidentified. Are those books lumped into the "white/European" category? Left out? A lot of this is perception and bias, not just cold hard fact :P

Mitali Perkins said...

Micala, I love your comments. I might repost them in a blog post if that's okay with you.