KQED Hosts a Panel on Children's Literature and People of Color

On Monday, I was honored to be part of a group invited by KQED Forum to speak on the radio about the Cooperative Children's Book Center's (CCBC) 2013 findings on diversity in children's literature. I joined host Mina Kim, Nina Lindsay, children's librarian at Oakland Public Library, and illustrator LeUyen Pham in the studio. K.T. Horning of the CCBC provided a pre-recorded introduction, and Christopher Myers, whose recent New York Times article, "The Apartheid of Children's Literature," precipitated the public interest, joined us live from Brooklyn.

Let me offer some thoughts on live radio. First, it moves fastthe hour barreled by. Second, a good host must be excellent at multi-tasking; it was fascinating to watch Mina's brain and body move in marvelous synchronicity as she steered the conversation. Three, you can't edit your words.

I said things with which I generally agree but left wishing I could have tweaked a sentence or two. For example, I wish I could clarify that I encourage authors to hold back from writing main characters from historically marginalized communities if we didn't grow up in those communities. And that I invite us to hold back only to ask tough, self-reflective questions about the reasons to write that story—as all powerful storytellers must when writing about less powerful children—but that I see no hard and fast rule about who can write for whom.

Afterwards, to celebrate that it was all done, LeUyen and I partied with Big Bird, and I schmoozed with the aristocrats of Downton Abbey.

Here's the show, or you may listen below if you'd like.


tanita✿davis said...

Yes indeed! I think that's what most stood out to me - how fast it all went.

Thank you for your clarification. I don't often read adult (and old school, by which I mean Heinlen, Asimov, etc.) science fiction with female main characters as written by men, because sometimes it goes badly, especially the stuff written in the 50's. I don't have as much trouble jumping the color gap in YA lit, by any means, or in MG stuff at all -- and as an African American I hadn't given a lot of thought to having been historically silenced or whatnot, though we, and all other people of color, have been... like Christopher, I'm more on the lines of, "write, please write!" but maybe I just mean to write truly inclusively, not the "gay best friend," 4-H kid with beads (where did she live??) and exotic minority love interest -- but with real characters that the author "knows."

Anyway, it was a good, good talk, and while I know it's still a huge adjustment to be here, I"m so glad your in the SF Bay Area. You're more welcome than you know.

Mitali Perkins said...

Thanks so much for your encouragement and support, Tanita! We need to meet for coffee soon if you're up for it.