A Checklist to "See" Race/Culture in Kid/YA Books

I was honored to present at the Kidlitosphere's 8th Annual Convention in Sacramento, California, where I shared ten tips for adults interested in messages about race and culture that might go unnoticed "under the waterline" in books for children and young adults. I've offered these in other contexts, but here they are for bloggers and reviewers. As always, I welcome questions, corrections, and clarifications.
  1. Look for overused tropes like an older magical negro or a noble savage.
  2. Notice a smart/good peer of color whose only role is to serve as a foil for a flawed hero. 
  3. Check the cover art for whitewashing or overexoticization.
  4. Pay attention to when and how race is defined, if at all.
  5. Notice if the setting, plot, and characters are in charge of the casting.
  6. Pay attention to how beauty is defined.
  7. Notice outsider “bridge” characters and generic versus specific cultures.
  8. Check for a “single story” that underlines a stereotype about another culture.
  9. See who has the power to make change and who has the power to be changed.
  10. Ask questions about the storyteller’s authenticity, privilege, and power. 


mclicious.org said…
It was a great list. Thank you for being at the con!
Ms. Yingling said…
Very good points, and thanks for posting them. Great to meet you, and looking forward to reading your new book!
Alex Baugh said…
Thanks for this checklist, which I have copied into my blogging notebook for future reference. This is just the kind of guideline we can use whenever we read diverse books.
I wish I could have been to this year's KidLitCon but it just wasn't in the cards.
Mitali Perkins said…
I loved being there. I was preaching to the choir.